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FRIDAY, JANUARY 2, 2009
MORE FROM THE NATION THAT FOUGHT HITLER ALONE - AT 11:25 P.M. ET: From The Times of London: When is a school not a school? When it is “a place for learning." Watercliffe Meadow Primary in Sheffield has adopted the new phraseology because it thinks that the word school may have negative connotations for pupils and parents. Linda Kingdon, the head teacher, said that the change would bring the school (or place of learning) closer to real life. But critics condemned it as laughable political correctness.
COMMENT: We're deeply grateful that these "educators" weren't around when the Luftwaffe was overhead. They would have probably referred to the Nazi pilots as "alienated aviators."
A GOOD GUY - AT 8:05 P.M. ET: Informed reader Jacqueline Reckseit alerts us to a Muslim reformer who's doing some very good work and needs your support. Please check out his website here. These are the people we need.
FRANKNESS ABOUT FRANKEN - AT 4:25 P.M. ET: From The Politico: GOP campaign chief John Cornyn (R-Texas) vowed Friday that Republicans would block any attempt by Democrats to seat Al Franken when the Senate gavels into order next week. Franken is leading Republican incumbent Norm Coleman by a slim 49-vote margin, but more than 1,000 votes have yet to be counted and legal challenges remain.
COMMENT: Sounds reasonable. The Minnesota count is murky, and legal challenges should be settled before comic and comedic candidate Al Franken is permitted to take a seat in, laugh, the world's greatest deliberative body.
DOW WOW - AT 4:03 P.M. ET: The Dow soared 254 points today, closing above 9,000 for the first time in many weeks.
COMMENT: This would be encouraging if Wall Street had much to do with the real economy. There is no solid basis for this rally, and it may simply be temporary. The real economy continues to generate tough news.
A KIND WORD FOR BUSH
Posted at 8:42 a.m. ET
Bush Derangement Syndrome has not been cured. Sadly, the vaccine, rumored to be in the testing stage, was not ready in time to benefit the president while he's still in office. The usual carriers are still out there, spreading the disease, even making it worse as they await the coming of the New Age of Obama.
But some rational voices are being heard. For the second time in two days, talk-show host Mike Scully alerts us to some very good stuff. Nile Gardiner, a British conservative in the Thatcher tradition, has written a fine piece in London's Telegraph pointing out some of the positive things about the Bush presidency:
On much of the world stage, President Bush has been widely reviled as one of the worst U.S. leaders of modern times, and it is hard to think of an American president who has received a worse press since Richard Nixon...
...Some of the criticism of Bush's foreign policy is fair.
Much of the condemnation of his policies though is driven by a venomous hatred of Bush's personality and leadership style, rather than an objective assessment of his achievements. Ten or twenty years from now, historians will view Bush's actions on the world stage in a more favourable light. America's 43rd president did after all directly liberate more people (over 60 million) from tyranny than any leader since Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
It's time someone said that, and said it well.
Widely seen as his biggest foreign policy error, the decision to invade Iraq could ultimately prove to have been a masterstroke. Today the world is witnessing the birth of the first truly democratic state in the Middle East outside of Israel...
...The success of the surge in Iraq will go down in history as a turning point in the war against al-Qaeda. The stunning defeat of the insurgency was a major blow both militarily and psychologically for the terror network. The West's most feared enemy suffered thousands of losses in Iraq, including many of their most senior commanders, such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Abu Qaswarah. It was the most successful counter-insurgency operation anywhere in the world since the British victory in Malaya in 1960.
This man may need personal protection after this article.
The broader war against Islamist terrorism has also been a success. There has not been a single terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11...
But, of course, this argument only appeals to those who value human life, which leaves out the left-wing fringe.
Significantly, there have been no successful terrorist attacks in Europe since the July 2005 London bombings, in large part due to the cooperation between U.S., British and other Western intelligence agencies. American intelligence has proved vital in helping prevent an array of planned terror attacks in the UK, a striking demonstration of the value to Britain of its close ties to Washington.
It's good to see a British writer acknowledging that.
Tony Blair may well have been labeled Bush's "poodle" over his support for the war in Iraq, but his partnership with George W. Bush marked the high point of the Anglo-American alliance since the heady days of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.
Hooray again. Those were indeed heady days, and they contributed mightily to the fall of the Soviet Union, for which the left will never forgive Reagan and Thatcher.
The decision by Bush, with Blair's support, to sweep the Taliban out of Afghanistan was a brilliant move, one that not all U.S. presidents would have taken. A weaker leader would have gone to the United Nations Security Council and sought a negotiated settlement with Kabul.
Does the name Kerry come to mind? Obama? We hope not.
If superpowers do not demonstrate an ability and a willingness to wield power (as Britain did on numerous occasions at the height of the Empire) their hegemony will be increasingly challenged. President Bush exercised U.S. military power to stunning effect in both Iraq and Afghanistan, an important reminder that America was still a force to be reckoned with after the 1990s humiliation of Somalia and the half-hearted missile strikes against Bin Laden in Sudan. In an age of growing threats and challenges, the projection of hard power matters, and America's next president would be wise to take heed.
Good thoughts. Please send to Barack Obama, the White House, Washington, and mark "hold for arrival."
January 2, 2009. Permalink
IT'S THE KENNEDY THING - AT 8:14 A.M. ET: From The New York Times: ALBANY — Gov. David A. Paterson sought to tamp down some of the political brinksmanship over his selection of a new United States senator, insisting on Thursday that he was still interviewing people for the position and felt no pressure to appoint any particular candidate. Mr. Paterson’s remarks, which he made to reporters during a New Year’s Day open house for the public at the Executive Mansion, were a sign that he is trying to reassert some control over a process that has been overrun by speculation, highly visible lobbying and harsh criticism.
COMMENT: Translation: Caroline Kennedy has done so poorly in interviews that her appointment is no longer a done deal. The governor doesn't want to be embarrassed. But he doesn't want to be knifed by the Kennedys either. Paterson became governor when Elliot Spitzer had to step down after being caught with prostitutes. The state doesn't need more sleazeball politics.
DIDN'T THEY INVITE CYNTHIA McKINNEY? - AT 7:48 A.M. ET: From AFP: Communist Cuba marked the 50th anniversary of its Revolution Thursday faced with an uncertain future, its iconic, ailing leader Fidel Castro withdrawn from power and the economy in dire straits.
COMMENT: If you want some laughs today, just read the tributes from every wacky leftist in the world. This is their day - 50 years of oppression and poverty. What could be better?
NOT SO FAST, GUYS
Posted at 7:38 a.m. ET:
Occasionally an idea arises that is so awful that, even when it is off the main political radar screen, it is being fought by thoughtful people. There is a union-sponsored idea around called the "card check." It would essentially do away with the secret ballot in union organizing elections. In other words, workers could no longer expect privacy in deciding whether they want a union or not. It is an obnoxious, terrible idea. I'm reluctant to use a charged term like "un-American," but this is un-American.
We're not anti-union here. The American tradition holds that workers have a right to engage in collective bargaining. Both political parties support it. I am a union member myself, a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America. Okay, it's more of a professional association than a union, but you get the picture. I've been grateful for Writers Guild services over the years. However, there are things no responsible union member should support, and card check is one of them.
Now, even during this political lull, I'm happy to report that resistance is building to the idea in the one camp that must support it for the practice to become law - the Democratic Party. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Take Mark Pryor, Democratic senator from Arkansas. In 2007, Mr. Pryor voted to move card check, Big Labor's No. 1 priority. And why not? Mr. Pryor knew the GOP would block the bill, which gets rid of secret ballots in union elections. Besides, his support helped guarantee labor wouldn't field a challenger to him in the primary.
Postelection, Mr. Pryor isn't so committed. He's indicated he wouldn't co-sponsor the legislation again.
Wise move. Why buy a ticket for the Titanic?
It hasn't been much noticed, but the political ground is already shifting under Big Labor's card-check initiative. The unions poured unprecedented money and manpower into getting Democrats elected; their payoff was supposed to be a bill that would allow them to intimidate more workers into joining unions. The conventional wisdom was that Barack Obama and an unfettered Democratic majority would write that check, lickety-split.
But a funny thing happened to card check on the way to...
Instead, union leaders now say they are being told card check won't happen soon. It seems the Obama team plans to devote its opening months to important issues, like the economy, and has no intention of jumping straight into the mother of all labor brawls.
Ah, the political numbers don't match the promises to Big Labor:
Paradoxically, it's Mr. Reid's bigger majority that is now hurting him. In 2007, he got every Democrat (save South Dakota's Tim Johnson, who was out sick) to vote for cloture. But it was an easy vote. Democrats like Mr. Pryor knew the GOP held the filibuster, and that Mr. Bush stood ready with a veto. Now that Mr. Reid has 58 seats, red-state Democrats in particular are worried they might actually have to pass this turkey, infuriating voters and businesses back home.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has bolstered opposition by turning card check into a litmus test of Mr. Obama's promise to work with the other side. Even Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter, the lone GOP vote for card check in 2007, is backpedaling, worried about a 2010 primary challenge.
Credit for this new environment goes to a business community that has been uncharacteristically unified in a sweeping campaign against the bill.
Time is not on card check's side:
Mr. Obama will never be stronger than in his opening months, and he'll need muscle to strongarm reluctant party members to support such an unsupportable measure. The initial union strategy was to whip this through before Americans understood the debate, but in that they've already failed. The more time goes on, the more likely this issue turns into trench warfare.
For the unions, that wouldn't just be a shot to the heart, but to the ego. Democrats may try to fob them off with less controversial legislation -- "fair pay" or more unionization of public safety officials -- but Big Labor feels it is owed much more. We may be about to discover just how patient, or forgiving, those union bosses are.
Kill the idea. It's an embarrassment.
January 2, 2009. Permalink
THURSDAY, JANUARY 1, 2009
STARTING THE NEW YEAR WITH VULGARITY - AT 7:04 P.M. ET: From The Los Angeles Times: Reliably left-wing moonbat Rosa Brooks launches the new year with a vulgar column chiding Israel for daring to defend itself in Gaza. Her column contains this gem. Get the seasickness pills:
In a strictly military sense, Israel will "win" this battle against Hamas. For all its threats and bravado, Hamas is weak, and its weapons -- terrorism, homemade rockets -- are the weapons of the weak. Since 2001, Hamas has fired thousands of unguided Kassam rockets at Israel, but the rockets have killed only a handful of Israelis.
How does this woman stay employed? The rockets have killed "only a handful of Israelis"? How many Israelis have to die before Rosa Brooks cares? Is there a set, secret figure? The issue, of course, is not the number killed, but the terror those rockets bring. How would you like to send your child to school in a community where ten "unguided" rockets are likely to strike that day? What do you say to your kids? "It's okay. You have a statistically good chance of surviving. Study hard."
With all the layoffs at the L.A.Times, you'd think someone would have thought to pink-slip Rosa Brooks.
YOU WON'T BELIEVE THIS EITHER - AT 6:28 P.M. ET: From AP: ALBANY, N.Y. -- Despite early reservations, New York state's most powerful legislative leader now says he'll support Caroline Kennedy for the U.S. Senate if the governor names her to the seat expected to be vacated by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told the New York Post he's rethinking his views on Kennedy because he feels Gov. David Paterson will soon pick her to replace Clinton, President-elect Barack Obama's choice as secretary of state.
COMMENT: This is absolutely shameful. It's machine politics at the mud level. With all the scandals coming out of New York's Wall Street these days, you'd think New York leaders would at least try to present an appearance of propriety. Paterson will name Kennedy only because he's being pressured into it. She has been a disaster in interviews. She has no known views on major issues. Her accomplishments are minimal. She won't release her financial records. But the politicians are falling in line. Where is the pressure coming from? I don't know, but Barack Obama owes the Kennedy family big time. You can draw your own conclusions.
If Burris in Illinois and Kennedy in New York make it to the Senate, then all three of the Senate seats vacated by the change in administrations will have been filled in a shameful manner. The third in Biden's, in Delaware, which will go to a political ally, who, it is widely believed, will keep it warm for Biden's son.
I guess this is the change we can believe in.
YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE THIS - AT 4:59 P.M. ET: Well, it's Illinois, so you probably will. Solid talk-show host Mike Scully - I'll be doing his show on Wednesday - alerts us to the fact that Roland Burris, appointed to the U.S. Senate by disgraced Governor Rod Blagojevich, has already built a monument to himself in an Illinois cemetery, complete with a listing of his accomplishments. You can find the photos here, at Free Republic.
COMMENT: This man is weird. Normally we wait for the unfortunate event before building the memorial. This will just mean more ridicule, and more embarrassment for the president-elect, whose Senate seat Burris was appointed to fill.
CRISIS IN ASPEN - AT 4:49 P.M. ET: ASPEN, Colo. (AP) -- A one-time resident of this city who had been bitter over its transformation into a playground for the rich left four gift-wrapped bombs downtown in a bank-robbery attempt, turning New Year's Eve celebrations into a mass evacuation, police said Thursday.
COMMENT: But it was so exciting, dearies. Rushing out of town in a Rolls - why, there's nothing like it.
THANK YOU, SILVIO CANTO, JR. - AT 10:38 A.M. ET: Silvio Canto Jr. runs a fine and influential website, with particular interest in the Hispanic-American community. He's named Urgent Agenda as his favorite blogger of 2008, and we are deeply appreciative. We will work hard to maintain the trust.
HAMAS BIG IS BIG NO MORE - AT 9:03 A.M. ET: From the Israeli press and news agencies: An Israel Air Force strike on a home in the Gaza Strip on Thursday killed a senior Hamas political leader, Hamas security sources said. Nizar Rayyan, the most senior Hamas leader to be killed in a six-day-old Gaza air offensive, was an outspoken advocate of renewing suicide bombings against Israel who served as the liaison between the group's military and political wing.
LAND OF LINCOLN
Posted at 8:46 a.m. ET
New Year's Day brings more evidence of the moral purity of Illinois politics. Lincoln would like to turn over in his grave, but hasn't yet made the required "turning over" payment to Illinois cemetery authorities.
The latest: The Illinois secretary of state is refusing to certify the appointment, by embattled Governor Rod Blagojevich, of prominent African-American politician Roland Burris to the Senate seat vacated by the president-elect. Mr. Obama has made it clear he disapproves of any appointment by the governor, who was caught on tape trying to sell the seat to the highest bidder. The governor is facing possible impeachment. But Obama has done nothing beyond issuing a tut-tut statement.
Burris, though, thinks the appointment is perfectly valid and has gone to court to force the secretary of state to certify it, meaning he would have the proper credentials to present to the United States Senate. Without those credentials, the Senate could block the appointment. Senate Democratic leaders have threatened to do just that, stating that any appointment by the governor is fatally tainted.
At the heart of the matter is the race card, being played directly and bluntly. The question: Will the Democratic Party refuse to seat an African-American appointee, at a time when there are no African-Americans in the Senate? The race card has inflamed the entire controversy, as John Kass points out in the Chicago Tribune:
Since he was federally charged with trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder, Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been wrongly caricatured as some kind of hapless jester prancing on the edge of madness...
..Jesters don't pick up the race card in a nationally televised news conference and slam it into the face of every Democrat in the U.S. Senate, a palm heel strike to the tip of the nose, leaving all of them watery-eyed, their lips stinging.
Yet that's what Blagojevich—aided by former Black Panther-turned-Daley-machine-functionary Bobby Rush—did at that stupendous news conference in Chicago on Tuesday. That's when the governor appointed Democratic empty suit Roland Burris, an African-American, to fill the Senate seat vacated by Obama.
Congressman Bobby Rush of Chicago, a former Black Panther, was at the press conference to inject race right into the muscle:
"I would ask you to not hang or lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointer. Roland Burris is worthy," Rush said.
Isn't that the old politics of race that Obama was to have transcended for us?
Apparently not in the Democratic politics of Illinois.
"And I don't think any senators want to go on the record to deny an African-American from taking a seat in the U.S. Senate," Rush said, ominously.
Grown-ups have seen such theater before. The only things missing were cameo performances by those two prolific race card players, Al Sharpton and Chicago's own Rev. Jesse Jackson.
This is getting very ugly, with the president-elect's name involved, whether he wants it involved or not.
That talk about transcending race was just talk. Skin pigment trumps ideas, and Blagojevich, who may be facing a jury soon, wants all the friends he can get.
Of course, Tuesday's fiasco could have been avoided. Democrats in the state legislature could have stripped Blagojevich of his appointment powers and imposed a special election. Obama also could have demanded it. But as he has done so often in his career, Obama avoided a confrontation and looked the other way.
Stay tuned. This is one of the most intriguing political stories going. What does Obama do if confronted with a Roland Burris, holding his old seat, in the U.S. Senate? Shun him? Embrace him? Endorse him when Burris is up for election? Support someone else?
January 1, 2008. Permalink
Posted at 7:41 a.m. ET
Gaza remains the top international story, but the story isn't limited to Hamas rocket attacks and Israeli air action, both of which continue. One of the fascinating aspects is the verbal war against Hamas waged by Egypt, the most important Arab country. From The Jerusalem Post:
Stepping up the rhetoric in what has escalated into an all-out verbal war between Hamas and Egypt over the Gaza government's perceived responsibility for the devastating results of Operation Cast Lead, a senior Egyptian parliamentarian on Thursday accused Hamas leaders of abandoning the Palestinians of Gaza to their fate.
"Where are the Hamas leaders now, when the residents of Gaza are getting killed? All of Hamas's leadership is in bunkers," Muhammad Bassiouny, the head of the parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee, charged in an interview with an Egyptian television channel.
This is extraordinary, coming from an Arab country. But the statement masks an even larger issue: Hamas is seen as a puppet of Iran. Egypt, in particular, views Iran as a dire threat, a non-Arab country attempting to impose itself on the Arab world. So the Gaza issue has implications well beyond the local military action.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported Thursday that Egyptian security forces were in pursuit of a Hamas terror cell that had recently infiltrated Egypt - for fear of a terror attack on Egyptian soil. According to the report, Egyptian authorities were also concerned over the possibility that the cell would try to target security forces along the Gaza border.
The paper reported that Egyptian forces had arrested 59 Palestinians in the city of Al Qantarah El Sharqiyya in the northeast of the country. The fugitives from Gaza were unarmed, the report said, but authorities were nevertheless taking steps to return them to the Strip.
Meanwhile, the fighting goes on, with the possibility of an Israeli land incursion into Gaza to punch out Hamas strongholds.
Some American journalists are expressing surprise that the president-elect has issued no statement on the Gaza situation. Some in the media don't completely buy the Obama stand that we have "one president at a time," a line originated, by the way, by Richard M. Nixon during the transition of power from Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968-9. We can speculate that Obama hopes the Gaza fighting will be over by the time he's inaugurated, and wants to deal with Mideast issues with a clean slate.
January 1, 2009. Permalink
WELCOME TO 2009 - AT 7:30 A.M. ET: And New Year's greetings from White Plains, New York, where it's 12 degrees. This global warming really has us in its grip. If it gets any hotter here, the hearts of Wall Street brokers will start to melt.