WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2009
DISGUSTING - AT 10:53 P.M. ET - That's the best word to describe the widely rumored impending appointment of Charles Freeman Jr. to head the National Intelligence Council, which produces the highly influential National Intelligence Estimates. The administration could have done better with Bill Ayers or the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Freeman's sins go well beyond the fact that he's essentially a front man for the Saudi government, already reported here, and is a world-class Israel basher. It turns out he also bashes the armed forces of the United States, and - you can't make this up - has defended China's Tiananmen Square massacre. From the Wall Street Journal:
The specter of a Chinese threat, he remarked during a China forum at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in October 2006, is nothing more than "a great fund-raiser for the hyper-expensive advanced weaponry our military-industrial complex prefers to make and our armed forces love to employ."
Nice, huh? Maybe someone should introduce this clown to the families of America soldiers who've died using those weapons against armed enemies of the United States. And now this:
On the massacre at Tiananmen Square in 1989, Mr. Freeman unabashedly sides with the Chinese government, a remarkable position for an appointee of an administration that has pledged to advance the cause of human rights...
..."The truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities," he wrote there in 2006, "was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud." Moreover, "the Politburo's response to the mob scene at 'Tiananmen' stands as a monument to overly cautious behavior on the part of the leadership, not as an example of rash action." Indeed, continued Mr. Freeman, "I do not believe it is acceptable for any country to allow the heart of its national capital to be occupied by dissidents intent on disrupting the normal functions of government, however appealing to foreigners their propaganda may be."
Mr. Obama speaks of American ideals. And this is the man he'll reportedly put in charge of one of our most sensitive intelligence units? This is the face of American ideals?
Naturally, most of the mainstream media hasn't noticed. But I hope enough decent Americans have noticed, and that this disgraceful appointment can be blocked.
BULLETIN - AT 10:15 P.M. ET: From the horse's mouth, from the main oracle, from the very top, from the chief of spookdom - we are authoritatively informed that there's still a war on terror. I'm so glad to know we weren't wrong here. From a Politico story on CIA Director Leon Panetta, although you'll have to dig deep into the story to find it:
The phrase “war on terror,” a hallmark of President George W. Bush’s White House, is rarely used in the Obama administration, but Panetta that “there’s no question this is a war.”...
...“There’s no question this is a war,” he said. “There are those who threaten us to come here and kill Americans. … CIA is engaged on the front lines to try to develop the intelligence necessary to make sure that that doesn’t happen.”
COMMENT: Does this mean Panetta won't be invited to the next Daily Kos convention? Or even to the White House?
HUH? - AT 7:16 P.M. ET: From Abe Greenwald at Contentions:
The AP reports that Eric Holder was impressed with Guantánamo Bay.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday the Guantanamo detention center is a well-run, professional facility that will be difficult to close-but he’s still going to do it.
Well, naturally. The Obama administration is only interested in keeping poorly run enterprises going. There’s more:
He said he did not witness any rough treatment of detainees, and in fact found the military staff and leadership performing admirably.
“I did not witness any mistreatment of prisoners. I think, to the contrary, what I saw was a very conscious attempt by these guards to conduct themselves in an appropriate way,” he said.
Talk about being a “coward.” The head legal advisor of the United States government witnesses our most important detention facility being run efficiently, legally, and humanely, and can’t even bring himself to question its gratuitous closing.
LONDON (Reuters) - Abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay has worsened sharply since President Barack Obama took office as prison guards "get their kicks in" before the camp is closed, according to a lawyer who represents detainees...
...Admiral Patrick Walsh, the review's author, acknowledged on Monday that reports of abuse had emerged but concluded all inmates were being treated in line with the Geneva Conventions.
"We heard allegations of abuse," he said, asked if detainees had reported torture. "And what we did at that point was to go back and investigate the allegation... What we found is that there were in some cases substantiated evidence where guards had misconduct, I think that would be the best way to put it."
Walsh said his review looked at 20 allegations of abuse, 14 of which were substantiated, but he did not go into details. Generally he said the abuse ranged from "gestures, comments, disrespect" to "preemptive use of pepper spray."
COMMENT: Gestures, comments and disrespect? That's abuse? Talk to John McCain about abuse.
Will someone please reconcile these two stories? Please. Will someone try to get at the truth? Please. Will someone give us a mature, adult definition of abuse? Please. The scandal here may not be Gitmo, but the reporting of Gitmo.
DOW CLOSE - AT 4:40 P.M. ET: The Dow closed down 80 points, at 7271.
JOB FRONT PAINFUL - AT 1:01 P.M. ET:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Employers took a large ax to their payrolls in January, the government said Wednesday, and the cuts are likely to get worse over the next few months.
The Labor Department reported that mass layoffs, or job cuts of 50 or more by a single employer, increased to 2,227 in January, up almost 50 percent from the same month last year. More than 235,000 workers were fired in last month's cuts.
COMMENT: One huge flaw in the Obama stimulus package is that it hasn't given employers the confidence to keep people on the payroll. That flaw can be economically fatal.
DOW NOT WOWED - AT 12:53 P.M. ET: The Dow is down 147 points, to 7204, as Wall Street signals that it was less than wowed by the president's speech to Congress.
IN THE REAL WORLD - AT 9:23 A.M. ET:
BUSHEHR, Iran (AP) -- Iran's nuclear chief says the country has increased the number of centrifuges enriching uranium to 6,000, the latest show of defiance to U.N. demands it halt the enrichment program.
In November, Iran said it had 5,000 centrifuges running at its enrichment plant in the central city of Natanz.
COMMENT: Note the absence of any reference to Iran in the president's speech last night. We are asleep, and the president is feeding us more sleeping pills.
RESPONSE TO OBAMA - AT 9:14 A.M. ET: From The Politico:
Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) hoped to step into the national spotlight Tuesday night to sound a hopeful yet defiant note in countering President Barack Obama as the GOP’s fresh and exciting face.
Instead, he got panned.
“I think he had a really poor performance tonight, I’m sorry to say,” National Public Radio’s Juan Williams said on a Fox News panel immediately following Jindal’s remarks. Williams went on to call the governor’s remarks “sing-songy” and said Jindal looked “childish” compared to Obama.
“This was not the best from the young man from Louisiana,” he said.
COMMENT: The story makes the point that responses to presidential addresses almost never work. They're too hurried and it's impossible to match the grandeur of the presidency. But Jindal was particularly disappointing. He clearly needs a speech coach - he swallows his words - and the braininess and dynamism of the man didn't come through. A Rhodes scholar, he's easily the intellectual equal of Obama. However, we weren't allowed to see it. There's an old definition of a Rhodes Scholar - someone who's got a great future behind him. I hope that's not the case with Bobby Jindal, who's a rare talent.
THE PRESIDENT'S SPEECH III - AT 8:13 A.M. ET: From Bill Kristol in the Washington Post:
This was not the speech of a man who even contemplates the possibility of using force within the next year to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. This was not the speech of a man who thinks America needs to be reminded about the dangers out there in the world, because Americans might have to be summoned to deal with them. This was not the speech of a man who thinks of himself as a war president.
But he is.
COMMENT: Absolutely true, and chilling. It is foreign policy that is my greatest worry. Obama can wind up making Jimmah Carter l ook like a hard- liner.
February 25, 2009. Permalink
THE PRESIDENT'S SPEECH II - AT 7:50 A.M. ET: I sent the following thought to a colleague last night: The president is a great speaker, but not a great speechmaker. Have you noticed that you never remember anything that he says? Great speechmakers - Churchill, FDR, Reagan - always leave you with something etched in your mind, usually a memorable phrase. Obama, like Bill Clinton, leaves you remembering how good he sounded.
THE PRESIDENT'S SPEECH I - AT 7:38 A.M. ET: Given the AP's in-the-tank-for-Barack history, this is surprising:
President Barack Obama knows Americans are unhappy that the government could rescue people who bought mansions beyond their means.
But his assurance Tuesday night that only the deserving will get help rang hollow.
Even officials in his administration, many supporters of the plan in Congress and the Federal Reserve chairman expect some of that money will go to people who used lousy judgment.
COMMENT: As analysts pick apart Obama's speech, they're likely to find a number of sleight-of-hand tricks. It was too good to be true. Read the whole AP piece. It exposes a number of gimmicks. Praise to AP.
AL QAEDA ON THE ROPES? - AT 7:07 A.M. ET: From The New York Times:
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — American missile strikes have reduced Al Qaeda's global reach but heightened the threat to Pakistan as the group disperses its cells here and fights to maintain its sanctuaries, Pakistani intelligence officials said.
The officials acknowledge that the strikes and raids by the Pakistani military are proving effective, having killed as many as 80 Al Qaeda fighters in the past year. But they express growing alarm that the drone strikes in particular are having an increasingly destabilizing effect on their country.
COMMENT: I can't comment on the effect on Pakistan, but it's good to know that Al Qaeda's global reach is being weakened. These attacks were begun under President Bush. Let's see if President Obama gives his predecessor any credit at all. Thus far, he's refused to acknowledge that the former president did anything right.
STILL AROUND - AT 6:53 A.M. ET: From the New York Daily News:
The Rev. Al Sharpton was still not satisfied Tuesday after New York Post owner Rupert Murdoch issued an unprecedented personal apology over a controversial cartoon that was branded racist.
Standing on the steps of City Hall, flanked by several City Council members and civil rights leaders, Sharpton continued his calls for a boycott over the illustration, which critics say compared President Obama to a chimpanzee.
He also demanded that the billionaire businessman explain how he will ensure that a similar gaffe will not occur in the future.
COMMENT: Sharpton has been eclipsed by Barack Obama and doesn't like it. The man has contributed nothing to society, but much to Al Sharpton. The cartoon was in poor taste, but the apology has been issued. Sharpton just wants to stay in the spotlight. I wish the media would ignore him.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2009
GET THIS - AT 11:52 P.M. ET - Real Clear Politics has a video, with sound, in which someone at MSNBC is heard muttering "Oh God" as Bobby Jindal walks to the microphone. Watch it here.
LUNTZ - AT 10:55 P.M. ET: Frank Luntz, at Fox, is getting responses from a focus group. Half the group voted for Obama, half for McCain. The reponse from the group is split, pretty much as expected.
OVERALL - AT 10:51 P.M. ET - The snap polls taken after the president's speech show that he made a substantial impact. I'm not surprised. As we said earlier, he's a terrific speaker. The speech will give a temporary boost to his expansive government programs. But events in the real world will determine whether that boost will last.
10:37 p.m. ET: Jindal has finished. We'll look for better speeches from him in the future. He's a brilliant and effective guy.
10:34 p.m. ET: Jindal's speech pattern is a bit difficult to follow. What he says makes sense, but it lacks the poetry of a great political speech. I'm a little disappointed. Jindal seems somewhat stiff. I've heard him much better.
10:28 p.m. ET: Jindal is a dynamic guy, but he's following a majestic speaker with the aura of the presidency. Jindal's speaking style is vigorous, although I have to concede that Obama is the stronger speaker.
10:27 p.m. ET: Governor Jindal is now speaking. He's standing in what looks like a large hallway in the governor's mansion.
We are awaiting the Republican response from Governor Jindal.
10:11 p.m. ET: Speech over. Look, the president is an extremely effective speaker. He is not a great phrasemaker. I didn't hear anything memorable. He is no Churchill. But he's a great salesman and this speech will be effective with the American people. However, the impact of a speech generally lasts only a few days, so we shouldn't place too much emphasis on it.
10:06 p.m. ET: The speech is starting to get long. He should try to wrap it up in a few minutes.
10:03 p.m. ET: Mr. Obama is recognizing outstanding people in the galleries. It's the old Ed Sullivan routine: "Sitting out in our audience..."
10:01 p.m. ET: The president says the U.S. doesn't torture. Okay, good. But it's a simplistic statement. His own administration is setting up a mechanism under which enhanced interrogation techniques might be permitted. So there's an asterisk here.
9:57 p.m. ET: Mr. Obama says he wants to end the war in Iraq responsibly and leave Iraq "to its people." The purpose of bringing democracy to Iraq was to give the country to its people. I wish Mr. Obama would recognize that, and give his predecessor some credit.
9:54 p.m. ET: The president promises to eliminate "cold-war" defense programs. Worry now. Cutting the defense budget in this time of peril is not smart...at all.
9:50 p.m. ET: Lots of talk about education. The proposals will be popular with the American people. And the president's talk about the responsbility of parents is perfectly proper. The problem, of course, is that many education programs founder in mediocrity and under the crushing pressure of teachers' unions. No comments about that.
9:44 p.m. ET: I notice that Speaker Nancy Pelosi keeps jumping up faster than anyone else in the chamber. There are pills for this, Nancy. There are pills.
9:42 p.m. ET: There is an underlying, disturbing theme in this speech - government knows best. The words themselves are not used, but the idea permeates almost everything the president says.
9:41 p.m. ET: Talking about energy independence. A good sales talk, but he's not discussing anything in detail. Nor is he making any commitment to nuclear energy, which is opposed by some of the neanderthals in his party.
9:34 p.m. ET: Look, this guy is a great speaker. A lot of this sounds good - I'm for the little guy, we've got to regulate the bad guys. No details, but the audience at home will lap this up.
9:30 p.m. ET: The president is attacking irresponsible bankers, and says he'll hold banks responsible for their actions. It's populism, but it's rhetorically effective.
9:26 p.m. ET: The president praises the vice president. Fortunately, the vice president doesn't say anything.
9:24 p.m. ET: Mr. Obama pays tribute to the stimulus package. Democrats cheer and fall in prayer. Republicans are absolutely silent. Really silent.
9:20 p.m. ET: Once again we see the president's excellent campaign speaking style. But we'll be listening for the substance of what he says
9:17 p.m. ET: The president speaks. He says the economy is in crisis.
9:11 p.m. ET: Obama is entering. There is lightning from the heavens. There are rumors he has little stone tablets in his pockets. Holy holy holy.
9:02 p.m. ET: The Cabinet officers are entering, followed by IRS inspectors.
9:01 p.m. ET: The Supreme Court justices are entering. Democrats are carefully assessing the health of each one.
9:00 p.m. ET: The president will soon enter the House chamber. Cameras just flashed to the captain of that airliner that went down in the Hudson River. Yeah, he's here too.
WE'RE ABOUT TO START OUR LIVE BLOGGING OF THE PRESIDENT'S ADDRESS TO CONGRESS. THERE ARE ADVANCED TEXTS, BUT THE EVENT HAS ITS OWN FEELING. WE'LL FOLLOW WITH A LIVE REPORT ON THE RESPONSE OFFERED BY GOV. BOBBY JINDAL OF LOUISIANA.
NOT SMART, NOT SMART - AT 7:57 P.M. ET: This is not change we can believe in:
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano avoids the terms "terrorism" or "9/11" in remarks prepared for her first congressional testimony since taking office, signaling a sharp change in tone from her predecessors.
Napolitano is the first homeland security secretary to drop the term "terror" and "vulnerability" from remarks prepared for delivery to the House Homeland Security Committee, according to a copy obtained by The Associated Press.
Tom Ridge, who headed the agency when it was launched in 2003, mentioned terrorism 11 times in his prepared statement at his debut before the oversight committee in 2003. And in 2005 Michael Chertoff, the second secretary, mentioned terrorism seven times, according to an AP analysis of the prepared testimonies.
Napolitano, a former Arizona governor, instead charts a course in very different terms than Chertoff, who used law enforcement and military jargon - "intelligence," "analysis," "mission" - to describe the agency's objectives.
COMMENT: Absurd. I guess they're afraid of "offending" our good friends in certain countries.
YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE - AT 7:42 P.M. ET: As they say, you cannot make this up:
BLOOMINGTON, Ind., Feb. 24 (UPI) -- The major U.S. broadcasters demonstrated bias towards Republicans in their coverage of presidential campaigns between 1992 and 2004, a new book contends.
Maria Elizabeth Grabe and Erik Bucy, both associate professors of telecommunications at Indiana University, are the authors of "Image Bite Politics: News and the Visual Framing of Elections" published by Oxford University Press. They analyzed coverage of the elections on ABC, CBS and NBC and concluded all three networks showed a slight tilt to the Republican side.
COMMENT: All right, just try to contain the laughter. You know, if you laugh too hard you can strain something. Oh, by the way, one of the authors, Ms. Grabe, used to work for the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation, which may explain things.
DOW WOW - AT 5:02 P.M. ET: We don't maintain the fiction here that the stock market has anything to do with real investing, but we do follow the averages to see what "the street" is thinking. Today the Dow soared 236 points, to 7351, the greatest gain in a month. Apparently, "investors" were responding to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's statement that banks need not be nationalized.
OUR NEW SYRIAN FRIENDS - AT 4:58 P.M. ET: Americans of the Democratic persuasion have been traveling to Syria of late, heralding a new era in U.S.-Syrian relations, now that The One is in the White House. Unfortunately, Syrian actions don't seem to acknowledge the coming of the New Age:
VIENNA (AP) -- Syria has revealed that it has built a missile facility over the ruins of what the U.S. says was a nuclear reactor destroyed by Israel warplanes, diplomats said Tuesday.
Citing comments by Syrian nuclear chief Ibrahim Othman at a closed meeting Tuesday, the diplomats said the new structure appeared to be a missile control center or actual launching pad. The two -- both from Western delegations to the IAEA -- demanded anonymity for divulging details about what Othman told the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board.
COMMENT: Pay no attention. Pay absolutely no attention. This isn't important. What's important is recognizing the love between Syrians and Americans, and the rudeness that BUSH (!!) displayed toward the revered Syrian president. Got that?
DOW HIGHER - AT 2:20 P.M. ET: In an other expression of irrational exuberance, the Dow is up 196.
DOW UP- AT 1:44 P.M. ET: The Dow is showing some strength, for some reason, and is up 155.
REMARKABLE POLL - AT 1:40 P.M. ET: From Rasmussen:
Confidence in how America is doing in the War on Terror has dropped dramatically in the past two weeks. Just 47% of voters now believe the United States and its allies are winning.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 23% believe the terrorists are winning, while 25% say it's a draw. Six percent (6%) are undecided.
Just over two weeks ago, 62% said the United States and its allies were winning the war, a new record high. Only 14% said the terrorists were winning at that time. The latest results are similar to those found in early January.
COMMENTS: Maybe Americans are noticing that our enemies aren't exactly buckling under because The One is in the White House.
DOW UP - AT 1:23 P.M. ET: The Dow is up 87.
STUNNER - AT 10:03 A.M. ET: My Iranian activist friend, Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, alerts us to this stunning report from Britain's Telegraph:
Iran offered to halt attacks on British soldiers deployed in Iraq in return for a secret pact that would enable it to continue its nuclear programme, a senior British diplomat has said.
Sir John Sawers, the British ambassador to the United Nations, revealed that Iranian officials openly acknowledged complicity in attacks that killed scores of British soldiers in southern Iraq...
..."The Iranians wanted to be able to strike a deal whereby they stopped killing our forces in Iraq in return for them being allowed to carry on with their nuclear programme: 'We stop killing you in Iraq, stop undermining the political process there, you allow us to carry on with our nuclear programme without let or hindrance'."
COMMENT: We wonder what Barack Obama would have done if presented with that deal? What will he do in the future? What will Samantha Power advise him to do?
NO IMPACT - AT 8:12 A.M. ET: From The New York Times:
SEOUL — North Korea announced Tuesday it was preparing to send a satellite into orbit in what American and South Korean officials believe will be a provocative test of a long-range missile capable of reaching parts of North America.
The announcement came only days after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and South Korea’s foreign minister, Yu Myung-hwan, urged the North not to carry out the test, calling such a move “very unhelpful” and “provocative.”
COMMENT: Hillary certainly had an impact, didn't she? Maybe if she had a president with some backbone, the North Koreans might have gotten the message.
WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL - AT 8:01 A.M. ET: Readers will recall the superb reports sent by Renee Nielsen, our contact in Mumbai, India, during the recent terrorist siege in that city. Now Renee reports on the reaction in India to the whopping success of "Slumdog Millionaire" at the Oscars:
All of India is celebrating the eight Oscars the film "Slumdog Millionaire" received at Sunday night's 81st Annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles. Mumbaikers (as residents of Mumbai are known), are especially filled with pride and joy because so many local sons and daughters have achieved international recognition. This is something previously unimaginable for many, including the families of the youngest stars of the film, who live in some of the poor enclaves in this enormous and impossibly crowded city. Rubina Quereshi (youngest Latika) and Mohammed Azharuddin (youngest Salim) are actually neighbors living in shanty houses within the upscale northern suburb of Bandra. Their families struggle with unemployment and, in the case of Azharrudin's father, severe tuberculosis--a disease from which many of the poor in Mumbai suffer.
For weeks there has been discussion in the newspapers and on television about why the producer and director of "Slumdog Millionaire" would need to portray India in such a negative light? Mumbai, some were afraid, would only be seen as a cesspool of crime and poverty, and a city that didn't care about its poor. That could damage tourism, they fretted, which is slowly coming back after the terror attacks last November.
Many others, however, were happy to get the real problems of the slums, such as Dharavi--another area featured in the film--out in the open for the West to see, and perhaps get some help. According to today's Times of India, some of that much-needed help is arriving in the form of permanent housing. The Times states: "In another cheerful development besides the Oscars, 14 consortia of infrastructure developers, including foreign companies, have come forward for Dharavi's makeover."
"Slumdog Millionaire"has raised the hopes of many, from the poor residents featured in the film, to the artists and actors internationally recognized for their craft and looking for future sucess. However, it is a safe bet to say that all Indian citizens would like this current worldwide interest to translate into pushing the Indian goverment to assist the urban slum population of India, numbering 80 million, to live with more dignity than theydo now. That would be the real success story.
COMMENT: We love Renee's reports. She has a keen eye, and sees things that more traditional journalists don't. And where else have you read that residents of Mumbai are called Mumbaikers?
February 24, 2009. Permalink
OBAMA'S NUMBERS SLIPPING - AT 7:21 A.M. ET: Once you get beyond the in-the-tank hype in the Washington Post and The New York Times, you begin to realize that recent polls spell some trouble for Mr. Obama. We reported on some polling data last night. Now Andrew Malcolm, of the L.A. Times's great "Top of the Ticket" blog, goes further:
One month in, Barack Obama's approval slips, disapproval doubles
And Barack Obama's poll numbers have slid almost 10% already. According to the latest Gallup Poll, the new president's approval rating of 68% in January has slipped now to 63%, about average for recent new presidents one month in.
What isn't average, however, is Obama's new disapproval rating -- 24%, or 50% higher than the 16% average for a month-old new presidency.
And it's twice the 12% disapproval rate that Obama had last month.
COMMENT: The in-the-tank crowd continues to tell us that the president is dazzlingly popular, loved, admired, respected, godlike, maybe higher than godlike. But underneath, we detect the beginnings of real concern, a sense that the man is in over his head. He will speak to the nation tonight, doing what he does best - selling himself - but there will be a limit to public tolerance. Key question: Will some of the strange goings-on in Obama's foreign policy, discussed here in recent weeks, finally get the scrutiny they deserve?
MAJOR MEDIA EVENT - AT 6:59 A.M. ET: From Jim Geraghty at National Review Online:
Meltdown on MSNBC: The Leg Tingle Is Gone?
I can hardly believe what I'm watching on MSNBC right now. Chris Matthews is almost critical — no, not even almost, he's flat-out critical of President Obama on the economic front. He mentions an earlier conversation with CNBC's manic stock analyst Jim Cramer and a University of Maryland professor (Peter Morici?) knocking Obama for several economic decisions — that the stimulus bill needed more real infrastructure and less pork, that the housing bill isn't inspiring confidence and doesn't look like it will work, and that no one has faith in Tim Geithner's solution for the banks.
COMMENT: If the left ever learns that Chris Matthews no longer feels a tingle up his leg when he sees Obama, then Matthews will have to be sent to a neurological facility for observation. It's the way these people must be dealt with. Period.