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MONDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2009
GALLUP ON OBAMA - at 7:57 P.M. ET: The Gallup organization has polled the public on President Obama's initial decisions, and finds the public quite approving...except on two significant items. The results:
COMMENT: What these results tell us is that the abortion issue is very much alive. Allowing funding for overseas groups that provide abortions has only a 35-percent approval. And closing Gitmo registers only 44 percent. Americans are not giving automatic approval to everything The One does.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE? - AT 6:01 P.M. ET: From AFP:
US President Barack Obama has already used experts within the last few months to hold high-level but discreet talks with both Iran and Syria, organizers of the meetings told AFP.
Officially, Obama's overtures toward both Tehran and Damascus have remained limited.
In an interview broadcast Monday, Obama said the United States would offer arch-foe Iran an extended hand of diplomacy if the Islamic Republic's leaders "unclenched their fist."...
...However, even before winning the November 4 election, Obama unofficially used what experts call "track two" discussions to approach America's two foes in the region.
TEXT: Wait a minute. Wasn't Obama the guy who refused to comment on foreign policy right up to his inauguration because "we only have one president at a time"? And now we learn he was in secret negotiations with Iran and Syria during the same period. Why do I feel we're being conned? And, by the way, were our allies consulted? Obama made a big deal out of George W. Bush's so-called "unilateralism," but he seems to be the biggest unilateralist of them all.
ENOUGH ALREADY - AT 4:32 P.M. ET: From AP:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Barack Obama is heading back to his home state for the first time as president.
The White House says he will travel to Springfield, Ill., on Feb. 12 in honor of one of his heroes, Abraham Lincoln.
Presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday that Obama will attend the commemoration of Lincoln's 200th birthday and speak at a banquet in Springfield. The spokesman says Obama is returning to Illinois for the festivities at the request of Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin.
COMMENT: Okay, we'll give the president a pass on this since it's Lincoln's 200th. But the Lincoln thing is being way overdone. Obama has only been in the White House two weeks. It reflects a certain adolescence in our society that some are already comparing him to Lincoln. Enough.
MORE GENIUSES - AT 4:13 P.M. ET: From ABC News:
Despite a near collapse that required $45 billion in federal taxpayer bailout funds, Bank of America sponsored a five day carnival-like affair just outside the Super Bowl stadium this past week as President Obama decried wasteful spending on Wall St.
The event – known as the NFL Experience – was 850,000 square feet of sports games and interactive entertainment attractions for football fans and was blanketed in Bank of America logos and marketing calls to sign up for football-themed banking products.
COMMENTS: It seems to me that the Bank of America executives who planned this should be given huge bonuses - $10-million is about right - just because of the stress involved.
DOW DOWN - AT 4:01 P.M. ET: The Dow closed down about 64 points, to 7937, below that psychological 8000 level.
COMMENT FROM JIMMAH CARTER WANTED - AT 9:07 A.M. ET: From AP:
Iran played a "big role" in helping the Palestinian Hamas during Israel's recent offensive in the Gaza Strip, Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said Monday, thanking his Teheran patrons for their assistance.
The remark by Mashaal, Hamas's political leader who lives in self-imposed exile, came during a visit to Iran.
COMMENT: Perhaps Mr. Carter, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, etc., etc., can explain this, since he is so clearly a big fan of Hamas.
MORE BRILLIANCE FROM BANK "EXECUTIVES" - AT 8:40 A.M. ET:
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -- Even as the economy collapsed last year and many financial workers found themselves unemployed, the dozen U.S. banks now receiving the biggest rescue packages requested visas for tens of thousands of foreign workers to fill high-paying jobs, according to an Associated Press review of visa applications.
The major banks, which have received $150 billion in bailout funds, requested visas for more than 21,800 foreign workers over the past six years for senior vice presidents, corporate lawyers, junior investment analysts and human resources specialists. The average annual salary for those jobs was $90,721, nearly twice the median income for all American households.
COMMENT: What really impresses us is the banks' keen sense of public relations. Sharp. Really sharp. Clearly, the bank executives who did this deserve big bonuses. I'd start at ten million.
Posted at 8:24 a.m. ET:
Dorothy Rabinowitz, of The Wall Street Journal, is a favorite of ours. One of the great investigative journalists of our time, she finally won the Pulitzer Prize after it was denied her for years by the forces of political correctness. She dared to ask questions in the wrong places, and you know what that brings.
Here, Dorothy takes on the new president, wondering whether the Obama style will actually hold up for long. Her analysis is superb:
His view of America's new position in the world...was amply clear, its tone familiar. America had entered upon a new day -- we once were lost and now we're found, a people restored to the paths of principle and honor. Hillary Clinton, speaking as secretary of state, would a few days later add her voice to the general thanksgiving for our rebirth, declaring, "There is a great exhalation of breath going on in the world."
Yes, we can feel all the breathing on us. Or is it laughing?
To hear Mr. Obama speak now on matters like the national defense is to recognize that the leader now in the White House is in every respect the person he seemed on the campaign trail: a man of immense moral certitude, prone to an abstract idealism, and pronouncements that range between the rational and the otherworldly.
I'm glad someone said that. Dorothy quotes Obama:
"It is precisely our ideals that give us the strength and the moral high ground to be able to effectively deal with the unthinking violence that we see emanating from terrorist organizations around the world."
What can this mean? What moral high ground, exactly, would have enabled us to deter the designs of the religious fanatics in search of martyrdom and the slaughter of as many Americans as possible on September 11?
Hmm. What gives this woman the right to ask intelligent questions? Why doesn't she accept the wisdom and goodness of The One?
In this new day of our national salvation, then -- in a post 9/11 America that had seen 3,000 of its inhabitants murdered by terrorists -- it was now acceptable to characterize strenuous efforts to avert more such catastrophes as "expediency." It was not only acceptable, but proof of a higher moral intelligence.
The Obama campaign was always based on the idea that Obama and his legions have a higher moral intelligence, and a higher intelligence in every other area as well. Why, just look at those sheepskins.
Mr. Obama, who has always been much better than his vocal supporters on the far left, better than the cadres in MoveOn.Org, is no extremist. Still, there is no reason to think that his views on security issues and Guantanamo and interrogations, his tendency to minimize the central importance of armed might, are not deeply rooted. They are clearly core beliefs.
And that, along with those trumpeting declarations to the world that new leadership had now come to the United States, that we were now a nation worthy of the world's trust -- those speeches suggesting that after years of darkness America had now been rescued, just barely, from the abyss -- will be in the end this president's Achilles' heel. Those are not, Mr. Obama may discover, tones that wear well in the course of a presidency.
COMMENT: No, they don't wear well. That will become apparent when Mr. Obama learns, to his anticipated horror, that hostile nations will not change their designs just because he is in the White House. Only he can choose whether to become another Jimmy Carter, that very little man with the very big ego. We hope he wakes up in time to choose wisely.
February 2, 2009. Permalink
THE GREGG DEAL - AT 7:30 A.M. ET: Republican Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, a state with a Democratic governor, is apparently going to be named secretary of commerce. We worried about that here because the addition of a Dem senator would bring the Democrats within one vote of the 60 they need to break a filibuster. That vote could come if Al Franken were to win in Minnesota. However, a deal has apparently been made with the governor of New Hampshire to appoint a Republican to succeed Gregg, easing the problem. From The Washington Times:
President Obama was poised to tap Republican Sen. Judd Gregg as his commerce secretary, but officials cautioned Sunday the move would not deliver Democrats complete control of the Senate as they had hoped.
Leading the pack to replace the fiscal conservative was his former chief of staff and a veteran of the Reagan White House, Bonnie Newman. Officials expect New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, would name her to fill the final two years of Mr. Gregg's term. Miss Newman would not seek the seat for a full term in 2010.
The move would allow Mr. Gregg to join the Cabinet without giving Democrats' unchecked power in Congress. It also would spare him a difficult re-election bid.
COMMENT: That eases our worries. But the Democratic strength in the Senate makes clear the importance of the 2010 elections, which are just around the corner.
STILL IN THE TANK - AT 7:17 A.M. ET: There were hints in the first week of the Age of Obama that at least some journalists would start asking some tough questions of the administration. But don't despair. It was only a brief threat. In-the-tank-for Obama journalism is roaring ahead. In a Washington Post piece on Obama's view of bipartisanship, we are treated to this. You will not believe:
To Obama, they said, fixing "broken politics" is less about making concessions just for the sake of finding common ground and more about elevating the debate -- replacing cynical gamesmanship and immature name-calling with intellectually honest arguments and respect for the other side's motives. In his book "The Audacity of Hope," Obama waxes nostalgic about the fellowship and vigorous debate of Congress's halcyon days in the mid-20th century more than about the centrist deals the era produced.
COMMENT: Say what? In other words, the results don't count. Only the style counts. Obama seems to feel, "I'll get everything I want, but I'll have a high-toned discussion with you." Well, maybe someone should clue in the new president, informing him that the public expects results, not just intellectual posturing. This isn't school. The wars are real. The bullets are real. The economic slump is real. Is our language too rough here, too unintellectual? Tough.
IF YOU CAN MAKE IT HERE - AT 7:02 A.M.: I hate to say it, as a New Yorker, but the culture of New York is so sick, so corrupt, that it even infects our museums. The New York Post exposes the wild salaries paid to museum executives at the same time that programs and staff are being cut. These museums receive huge subsidies from taxpayers:
City- and state-funded cultural institutions are cutting programs and slashing staff - even "firing" the Bronx Zoo's porcupine - and yet their CEO pay packages would make Wall Streeters blush.
The American Museum of Natural History, citing a budget crunch, laid off 50 workers last week, but its president, Ellen Futter, gets more than $1 million in compensation. And her perks include an Upper East Side apartment and a full-time maid, The Post has learned.
COMMENT: Imagine, the head of a museum is paid two and a half times the salary of the president of the United States. Of course, the fat-checkbook crowd that sits on the boards of these institutions will ask, "If we don't pay these salaries, how are we going to get good people?" I mean, who would really work for half a mil? The Post story has a chart showing other salaries in the city. I haven't seen reports showing that any of these places are notably better than they were 20 years ago, when salaries were more sane. This is a social disease, and taxpayers are expected to pay for it.
KENTUCKY ICE - AT 6:55 A.M. ET: From the AP:
CANEYVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Thousands of National Guard troops swinging chainsaws cut their way into remote communities Sunday to reach residents stranded by a deadly ice storm, freeing some to get out of their driveways for the first time in nearly a week.
The soldiers went door-to-door handing out chili and beef stew rations to people cooped up in their powerless homes as authorities ratcheted up the relief effort for what Gov. Steve Beshear called the biggest natural disaster ever to hit the state.
COMMENT: Is the White House interested in this? Is the national media pursuing the story? Where is FEMA? Where are the reporters who wept and wailed over Katrina? Why are there no questions about federal action? If George W. Bush were in the White House, MSNBC would be suspending all programs to trash him every second. Cold. Indifferent to human suffering. A Texas buffoon. But now there are no questions asked. It's much more important to get the president's view of the Super Bowl. Kentucky just doesn't make the cut.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2009
FASCINATING COMMENT - AT 5:35 P.M. ET: Frank J. Tipler is professor of mathematical physics at Tulane University, and a man whose interests range beyond physics, into religion and social organization. Here he comments on an item we ran earlier in the week. I thought you'd be interested in his informed observations:
I was struck by your discussion on The Center for Constitutional
Rights, and "the collusion between the extreme left and Islamo-fascism".
I think that the left and Islamo-fascism agree on far more that hatred
of America. I think the alliance has to be interpreted via Friedrich
Hayek's classic paper, "The Reactionary Nature of the Socialist
Hayek claimed, and I think he was correct, that the essence of
socialism is tribalism. If one studies proposed socialist utopias, one
realizes that they all picture the tribal social system writ large.
It's not surprising many people desire such a society. It is the
society we humans evolved to fill. What is remarkable is not that
there are socialists. What is remarkable is that there are people
supporting a free-market society.
Islamo-fascism, like American socialism, like the original Italian
fascism, and like the German National SOCIALIST LABOR Party, are all expressions of a desire for a tribal society. In Islam, the religion
IS the state, and the state is a tribal state writ large, exactly as
America is essentially a society based on individualism,
fundamentally at odds with tribalism. The Islamo-fascists and the left
hate America for this reason, that it is by its nature opposed to
I might add that, by necessity, the left and Islamo-fascism are opposed
to civilization itself, since cities indeed supplanted tribal society.
So the left believes in Global Warming, and opposes nuclear power, and
opposes dams, because by shutting down all hydrocarbon power, and
nuclear power, and hydroelectric power, they will automatically shut
Interesting, provocative view.
OH, I FORGOT - AT 12:30 P.M. ET: From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — President Obama’s choice for health secretary, Tom Daschle, was aware as early as last June that he might have to pay back taxes for the use of a car and driver provided by a private equity firm, but did not inform the Obama transition team until weeks after Mr. Obama named him to the health secretary’s post, senior administration officials said Saturday.
As Senate Democrats rushed to save the nomination of Mr. Daschle, their former leader, the White House spent the day trying to explain how he survived its vetting process despite his failure to pay $128,000 in taxes.
COMMENT: Do you get the feeling that this team isn't quite as smooth or capable as it appeared during the campaign? The reason? Maybe it's because, during the campaign, the Obamans had the support and help of a compliant media.
Posted at 10:10 a.m. ET:
Reader James Birdsall alerts us to an excellent column by economist Thomas Sowell, taking apart the Obama stimulus plan, which seems to be falling apart as we speak:
Everyone is talking about how much money the government is spending, but very little attention is being paid to where they are spending it or what they are buying with it.
The government is putting money into banks, even when the banks don't want it, in hopes that the banks will put it into circulation. But the latest statistics shows that banks are lending even less money now than they were before the government dumped all that cash on them.
How hard did you work to pay your taxes last year? Think about it.
Spending money for infrastructure is another time-consuming way of dealing with what is called an immediate crisis. Infrastructure takes forever to plan, debate, and go through all sorts of hearings and adjudications, before getting approval to build from all the regulatory agencies involved.
Ah, but when those roads are named for congressmen, all the congressional effort is worth it.
Using long, drawn-out processes to put money into circulation to meet an emergency is like mailing a letter to the fire department to tell them that your house is on fire.
If all this sound and fury in Washington was about getting an economic crisis behind us, tax cuts could do that a lot faster.
That and defense spending. The military needs to replace equipment, and it could be ordered tomorrow morning.
If the Beltway politicians aren't really trying to solve this crisis as quickly as they could, what are they trying to do?
One important clue may be a recent statement by President Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel, that "A crisis is a terrible thing to waste."
Yup. The word "crisis" can be used to justify almost anything. In the 1950s Congress attached the term "national defense" to an education bill because it sold better.
This is the kind of cynical revelation that sometimes slips out, despite all the political pieties and spin. Crises have long been seen as great opportunities to expand the federal government's power while the people are too scared to object and before any opposition can get organized.
What are the Beltway politicians buying with all the hundreds of billions of dollars they are spending? They are buying what politicians are most interested in-- power.
In the name of protecting the taxpayers' investment, they are buying the power to tell General Motors how to make cars, banks how to bank and, before it is all over with, all sorts of other people how to do the work they specialize in, and for which members of Congress have no competence, much less expertise.
Who knows what bright ideas this administration will turn into permanent institutions for our children and grandchildren to try to cope with?
All true, all true.
February 1, 2009. Permalink
A BIT TACKY - AT 9:14 A.M. ET: One annoying thing about President Obama is that, although he's normally elegant, he manages to get in his pointless little digs at President Bush. And, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, there he goes again. The president commented on yesterday's Iraqi election, from ABC News:
US President Barack Obama has praised Iraq's provincial elections as an "important step forward" for the future of the country.
"This important step forward should continue the process of Iraqis taking responsibility for their future," Mr Obama said in a statement after millions of Iraqis went to the polls to elect councils in 14 or Iraq's 18 provinces.
Security for the country's first ballot since 2005 was extremely tight, with Iraqi police and military deployed in force, and Mr Obama praised the technical assistance by the United Nations and other organisations to Iraq's electoral commission, which he said "performed professionally under difficult circumstances."
COMMENT: The election was made possible because of the vision of George W. Bush. This was a chance for Obama to note that. He did not. He could have started leading his party away from the sickness of Bush Derangement Syndrome. He did not. Nor did he mention the word "democracy," a word also missing from his interview on Arab TV earlier in the week. Why am I getting worried?
NOW HE TELLS US - AT 9:01 A.M. ET: From The Jerusalem Post:
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees does little to check whether its staff or clients are terrorists, its former chief attorney, James Lindsay, says in a newly published report.
COMMENT: Well, I guess their lawyer should know. But when Americans or Israelis make the same charge, it's ignored or ridiculed.
A THUD FOR JUDD - AT 8:50 A.M. ET: From The Washington Post:
President Obama appears set to nominate Republican Sen. Judd Gregg as commerce secretary, a move that could happen in the next day or two, Democratic officials said yesterday.
COMMENT: What's going on here? Gregg is a GOP senator from New Hampshire, which has a Dem governor. If he leaves the Senate, a Democrat takes his place. If Franken wins in Minnesota, that gives the Dems the 60 votes they need to break a filibuster. How can any Republican do this to his party, simply to become window dressing in an opposition administration? Secretary of Commerce? You don't even need a new suit for that job. In the presidential line of succession, it ranks behind Agriculture and Interior. Say it aint' so, Judd.
OH PLEASE - AT 8:21 A.M. ET: Some people still can't get over their Bush-bashing. It's in their DNA, or whatever biological material they're working with. Consider this extract from an AP article today dissecting the term "war on terror":
According to the White House, Obama is intent on repairing America's image in the eyes of the Islamic world and addressing issues such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, unrest in Pakistan and India, Arab-Israeli peace talks and tensions with Iran.
Using language is one way to help effect that change, said Wayne Fields, professor of English and American culture studies at Washington University in St. Louis.
"One of the contrasts between the two administrations is the care with which Obama uses language. He thinks about the subtle implications," said Fields, an expert on presidential rhetoric. The Bush administration "didn't set out deliberately to do things that were offensive but they liked to do things that showed how strong they were, and to use language almost in an aggressive sense."
COMMENT: Note to Professor Fields: First, administrations also must speak to the American people, in their language. Being nice to the other guy isn't their only function. Second, it seems to me that Mr. Bush went out of his way to express friendship with the Muslim world. But the Bush haters won't relent in their vision of him as a "cowboy," which he wasn't. Millions voted in Iraq yesterday because of George Bush, not because of his Democratic opposition.