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WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 28, 2009
GORE BORE - AT 6:07 P.M. ET:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former Vice President Al Gore presented lawmakers on Wednesday with a new inconvenient truth: Action on global warming cannot wait until the economy recovers.
In three hours of testimony that at times looked like a sequel to the Oscar-winning documentary based on his book ''An Inconvenient Truth,'' Gore pressed Congress to pass President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan as a first step to bringing greenhouse gases under control.
COMMENT: Note the first paragraph. That's not a news report. That's an editorial comment. There's no bias in journalism. Nothing to see here, nothing to see.
YOU DON'T HAVE MAIL - AT 5:32 P.M. ET: From The Washington Post:
Saying the U.S. Postal Service "is in a severe financial crisis," Postmaster General John E. Potter is asking Congress to allow him to cut mail delivery from six days to five days a week.
In testimony prepared for a Senate hearing this afternoon, Potter said he needs "flexibility in the number of days we deliver mail."
COMMENT: Have you noticed over the years that, no matter what is done to help the postal service, it never seems to help? I wonder why.
DOW WOW - AT 5:10 P.M. ET: The Dow closed up 200 points, to 8375. There seems to be some optimism on a new bank bailout plan:
Jan. 28 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. stocks rose, extending a global rally, as President Barack Obama prepared to set up a so-called bad bank to absorb toxic investments and Yahoo! Inc. and Germany’s SAP AG reported better-than-estimated earnings.
COMMENT: We'll see what actually works. Optimism doesn't really cut it in this environment. Thousands of jobs are still being lost, and with them the tax revenue to pay for all these federal gimmicks.
APPEASEMENT ALERT - AT 4:58 P.M. ET: From The Times of London:
Russia has held out an olive branch to President Barack Obama by suspending plans to deploy missiles in Europe.
Defence Ministry officials said that the move had been made because the new United States leadership was reconsidering plans to establish a missile defence shield in Eastern Europe. Deployment of Iskander short-range missiles, which can carry nuclear warheads, in Russia's Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad had been halted in response.
COMMENT: If true, if we're reconsidering missile defense for Eastern Europe, it's outrageous, sickening. The East European nations are our new allies. We made commitments to them, defense commitments. The missile shield is designed to protect against a rogue state, like Iran. What do these nations do now, if Obama pulls out? There used to be a saying that held that one of the worst things you can be in this world is a friend of the United States. Is Obama resurrecting that idea? We're cautious here, and jump to no conclusions until definitive facts come out. But this looks like something right out of the Brent "shaft our allies" Scowcroft playbook.
ANOTHER INDISPENSABLE MAN - AT 10:19 A.M. ET: From The Wall Street Journal:
WASHINGTON -- The new chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was a top lobbyist for Goldman Sachs Group Inc. until last year, and will have to recuse himself from some government duties under new White House ethics rules.
COMMENT: What is it about Geithner? After all his tax troubles, you'd think he'd find someone absolutely clean to be chief of staff. There's a French proverb that holds that the graveyards of the world are filled with indispensable men. Secretary Geithner has apparently never heard the proverb.
AJAMI ON OBAMA
Posted at 9:56 a.m. ET
This is required reading. Johns Hopkins Professor Fouad Ajami has written the best critique so far of the Obama foreign policy, at least the policy we can make out. Ajami doesn't like what he sees. His arguments are worth studying:
"To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect," President Barack Obama said in his inaugural. But in truth, the new way forward is a return to realpolitik and business as usual in America's encounter with that Greater Middle East...
...Say what you will about the style -- and practice -- of the Bush years, the autocracies were on notice for the first five or six years of George. W. Bush's presidency. America had toppled Taliban rule and the tyranny of Saddam Hussein; it had frightened the Libyan ruler that a similar fate lay in store for him. It was not sweet persuasion that drove Syria out of Lebanon in 2005.
As Johnny Carson used to say, "How quickly they forget."
The irony now is obvious: George W. Bush as a force for emancipation in Muslim lands, and Barack Hussein Obama as a messenger of the old, settled ways. Thus the "parochial" man takes abroad a message that Muslims and Arabs did not have tyranny in their DNA, and the man with Muslim and Kenyan and Indonesian fragments in his very life and identity is signaling an acceptance of the established order. Mr. Obama could still acknowledge the revolutionary impact of his predecessor's diplomacy, but so far he has chosen not to do so.
Wonderfully stated. Obama did not use the word "democracy" once in his interview with Arab TV.
The fact is that, on the left, democracy means so very little.
In his desire to be the "un-Bush," the new president fell back on an austere view of freedom's possibilities. The foreign world would be kept at an emotional and cultural distance. Even Afghanistan -- the good war that the new administration has accepted as its burden -- evoked no soaring poetry, just the promise of forging "a hard-earned peace." The nation had cast a vote for a new way, and had gotten the foreign policy of Brent Scowcroft.
Scowcroft, Bush 41's national security adviser, never saw a dictatorship he didn't like.
Thus far the political genius of Mr. Obama has been his intuitive feel for the mood of this country...
...I suspect that he is on the mark in his reading of America's fatigue and disillusionment with foreign causes and foreign places.
How sad. Sounds somewhat like the 1930s.
But foreign challengers and rogue regimes are under no obligation to accommodate our mood and our needs. They are not hanging onto news of our financial crisis, they are not mesmerized by the fluctuations of the Dow. I know it is a cliché, but sooner or later, we shall be hearing from them. They will strip us of our illusions and our (new) parochialism.
September 11th, anyone?
This war was never a unilateral American war to be called off by an American calendar. The enemy, too, has a vote in how this struggle between American power and radical Islamism plays out in the years to come.
In another time, the fabled era of Bill Clinton's peace and prosperity, we were mesmerized by the Nasdaq. In the watering hole of Davos, in the heights of the Alps, gurus confident of a new age of commerce pronounced the end of ideology and politics. But in the forbidding mountains of the Afghan-Pakistan frontier, a breed of jihadists that paid no heed to that mood of economic triumphalism was plotting for us an entirely different future.
Here we are again, this time led by our economic distress, demanding that the world abide by our own reading of historical challenges. We have not discovered that "sweet spot" where our economic fortunes intersect with the demands and challenges of an uncertain world.
Superb. Please read the whole thing.
January 28, 2009. Permalink
THE ASTIRISK - AT 8:36 A.M. ET: From The Washington Times:
President Obama's executive order closing CIA "black sites" contains a little-noticed exception that allows the spy agency to continue to operate temporary detention facilities abroad.
The provision illustrates that the president's order to shutter foreign-based prisons, known as black sites, is not airtight and that the Central Intelligence Agency still has options if it wants to hold terrorist suspects for several days at a time.
COMMENT: Hmm. Someone should tell House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr., who wants criminal investigations of the Bush administration for doing the same thing. Put the file away, Johnny.
HILLARY SPEAKS, MASS CONFUSION - AT 8:05 A.M. ET: From Reuters:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested on Tuesday the world was breathing a sigh of relief that President Barack Obama had replaced George W. Bush and was working to fix the damage he had caused...
The world? The whole world? She hears it breathing? She knows this?
..."There is a great exhalation of breath going on in the world as people express their appreciation for the new direction that's being set and the team that is put together by the president," Clinton said.
"We have a lot of damage to repair."
Pressed, Clinton said her remarks should not be viewed as a wholesale repudiation of the Bush administration, adding there would be continuity on some policies.
COMMENT: So "the world" is breathing a sigh of relief, we have a lot of damage to repair, but that's not a wholesale repudiation of the Bush administration. And this is the clear, eloquent, transparent world of Obama.
OBAMA AND IRAQ - AT 8:02 A.M. ET: From AP:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Barack Obama often has said he will issue orders to swiftly close down the Iraq war. Now military leaders are getting a chance to tell the new commander in chief how they could comply, and why he might want to wait.
Obama was to hear the opinions of the four U.S. military service chiefs on Wednesday in a meeting the White House called one more step toward fulfilling his promise of withdrawing all combat troops from Iraq. The Joint Chiefs of Staff will be ready with a rough sketch of what would be required to fulfill the president's timetable for a 16-month withdrawal.
COMMENT: This will be a real test of Obama's abilities as commander-in-chief. Will he act wisely, in America's interest, or succumb to the instincts that made him the most liberal member of the Senate? We're only in week two of his administration, and things are already getting sticky.
OUTRAGEOUS, UTTERLY OUTRAGEOUS - AT 7:30 A.M. ET: From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — The economic stimulus plan that Congress has scheduled for a vote on Wednesday would shower the nation’s school districts, child care centers and university campuses with $150 billion in new federal spending, a vast two-year investment that would more than double the Department of Education’s current budget.
COMMENT: This isn't change we can believe in. It's outrageous - more checks for "education" with no questions asked, no idea how the money will be used, no inquiry as to what's being taught - nothing. But you know how they'll sell it: It's for the children. No it's not. We're all for education here, but I'd love to know how the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress define the word.
BRIEF HONEYMOON - AT 7:24 A.M. ET: From The Politico:
It was the love affair that could never be, President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans.
The two sides came together en masse Tuesday for the first time since Obama took the oath of office. Despite the niceties, both sides walked away spurned.
COMMENT: Republicans are lining up to oppose the stimulus package, and the opposition is led by John McCain. The Republicans are right. The package isn't very stimulating. The GOP is beginning to find its voice, and that voice will become even firmer if Mr. Obama goes wobbly on foreign policy.
ESTEEMED LEADER REPLIES TO OBAMA - AT 6:49 A.M. ET: From Reuters:
The new U.S. administration must apologize to Iran over past actions if it really wants to effect change, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday.
"Those who say they want to make change, this is the change they should make: they should apologize to the Iranian nation and try to make up for their dark background and the crimes they have committed against the Iranian nation," Ahmadinejad told a rally in western Iran, broadcast live on state television.
"We welcome change but on condition that change is fundamental and on the right track," he said.
COMMENT: Well, President Obama, welcome to the real world. You make a gesture, this is the reply you get.
My fear - that Obama will apologize, telling Americans it's the mark of greatness. This is getting very thick.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 27, 2009
COUNT SARAH IN - AT 9:55 P.M. ET: From NewsMax:
In a major step closer to a future run for national office, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on Tuesday established SarahPAC, a political action committee expected to play a key role in financing upcoming political endeavors.
“SarahPAC believes the Republican Party is at the threshold of a historic renaissance that will build a better future for all,” the SarahPAC.com Web site announced Tuesday. “Health care, education, and reform of government are among our key goals.”
COMMENT: Sarah can be a major player. She has a great deal going for her, but she must prepare - really prepare - for the next race. She will.
JIMMAH SPEAKS, WE WORRY - AT 9:51 P.M. ET: I was monitoring the TV news outlets and caught Jimmah Carter with Larry King. Carter said that George Mitchell, appointed by President Obama to be Mideast envoy, is "the greatest American" for the job. Considering Carter's views on the Mideast, maybe it's time to start worrying. I've started.
OUR NATIONAL IDENTITY - AT 8:02 P.M. ET: From The DC Examiner:
Among the millions of people who are excited by the election of President Obama is Ashley Judd, as she demonstrated at the 40th birthday luncheon for NARAL Pro-Choice America at the Hilton Washington Tuesday...
...After a brief slide show featuring Bush and other anti-abortion politicians, during which the crowd booed and hissed, Judd remarked, “It’s so nice to live in America again.”
COMMENT: As the great philosopher, Jerry Lewis, once said, "Bad looks you can change. Stupid is forever."
THE TALIBAN LOVES US - AT 7:55 P.M. ET: From Reuters:
LONDON, Jan 27 (Reuters) - The Taliban told U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday that his plan to close Guantanamo Bay prison camp was a "positive step" but peace was only possible if he withdraws U.S. forces from Afghanistan and Iraq.
COMMENT: Why do I worry when we get praise from the Taliban? I'm starting to agree with critics who said that President Obama's interview with Arab TV yesterday was too apologetic. I also note TV reports that pointed out that the president, during his interview, didn't mention democracy once. We'll soon find out if he's a shrewd operator and skillful diplomat, or another Jimmy Carter. Mr. Obama also spoke with the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, and said he wanted to stop the drift in U.S.-Moscow relations. Question: Why must our president make these initiatives? How about some initiatives from other countries.
CURIOUS - AT 3:49 P.M. ET: There was this quote, which we overlooked earlier, from President Obama's interview with Arab TV yesterday. From The New York Times:
He added that “we sometimes make mistakes,” but said that America was not born as a colonial power and that he hoped for a restoration of “the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago.”
COMMENT: Say what? Will Mr. Obama please define this respect and partnership? Twenty or thirty years ago? In that time frame we had the Marine barracks blown up in Beirut, the hostages taken in Iran, the oil extortion from Saudi Arabia and other "allies," armed air clashes with Libya, the shootdown of Pan Am 103, and a host of other acts of respect and partnership. This is a disturbing quote from the president. Has he drunk the Kool Aid? I don't know, but we will watch closely.
FOLLOW THE MONEY - AT 11:58 A.M. ET: From Fox News:
Republican lawmakers are raising concerns that ACORN, the low-income advocacy group under investigation for voter registration fraud, could be eligible for billions in aid from the economic stimulus proposal working its way through the House.
House Republican Leader John issued a statement over the weekend noting that the stimulus bill wending its way through Congress provides $4.19 billion for "neighborhood stabilization activities."
COMMENT: What's included in this bill is incredible. Basically, it's pork. There may be one victory coming, though. There are reports that House Democrats will drop family-planning funds from the "stimulus" bill after an appeal by the president to do so. Mr. Obama is trying to attract Republican support for the package, and including family planning in an economic stimulus bill is not the way to do it.
THE IRANIAN BOMB - AT 11:27 A.M. ET: From Britain's Sky News
Iran will have enough enriched uranium to make a single nuclear weapon later this year, the prestigious International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) predicts.
The think tank's Mark Fitzpatrick made the announcement at today's launch of its annual global review of military powers.
"But being able to enrich uranium is not the same as having a nuclear weapon."
However, the survey reports doubts over US Intelligence estimates that Iran halted its work on nuclear weapons six years ago.
This points to Tehran's continued development of long-range ballistic missiles able to reach targets in Israel and beyond.
COMMENT: That US intelligence estimate was a disgrace to this country, clearly the product of people with a political agenda. We await a real strategy by the Obama administration for dealing with the Iranian bomb.
QUOTE OF THE DAY - AT 10:09 A.M. ET: From Spiegel Online International, quoting a resident of Gaza:
"Many people are now against Hamas but that won't change anything," he says. "Because anyone who stands up to them is killed."
COMMENT: And Jimmah Carter was on TV yesterday, suggesting that Hamas isn't a terrorist group. Jimmah should live there for a while.
THRIFT NOTE OF THE DAY - AT 10:05 A.M. ET: From Bloomberg:
Jan. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Citigroup Inc., which has received $45 billion in U.S. government funds, won’t take delivery of any new aircraft, according to a spokesman for the New York-based bank.
COMMENT: How lovely of them. You'll recall yesterday's story that they'd ordered a $50-million jet for their executives. Now they've reconsidered. Good thinking, boys. Good thinking. Now learn how to run a bank.
Posted at 9:38 a.m. ET
This story will outrage you. It focuses on what our kids are being taught in institutions of "higher education." Dennis Prager, the conservative talk-show host, was on a flight to Denver and encountered a student. Read on:
She: Who did you vote for?
Me: Smaller government and the war on terror.
She: Terror is the new communism.
Me: Communism killed about a hundred million people. And who do you think attacked and killed 3,000 of us on Sept. 11?
She: The government.
Yup. A college student. Prager found out that she attended the University of California at Santa Barbara. Surprised?
Truth is she had to be a student at a major university. She would never have come up with “Terror is the new Communism” on her own. It is a moral obscenity that one has to learn.
Of course, there is an irony to this statement. Meant in the opposite way she meant it, I could largely assent to the proposition that terror is the new communism. Communism was an enslaving and murderous threat in its time and the Jihadism is such a threat in our lifetime.
But that is not how this young woman meant the statement. As she has learned history and the contemporary world, communism was a bogeyman in its time and terror is a bogeyman in our time.
The way it's often stated by some "educators," communism is just another lifestyle choice, or another "narrative."
Prager tried to explain to this young woman what communism is, and what it had done. It had no effect.
In her belief that neither communism nor terror were/are real threats, I suspect this young woman represents many college students. If one wants to understand what left-wing dominance in university social sciences departments produces, one merely had to meet this young woman.
At most universities, communism is a non-evil, indeed, largely a non-issue. The most enslaving and murderous movement in history is almost never taught as such. When communism is mentioned at all, it is usually solely in order to show how vile anti-communists were. Thus, as little as students may know about McCarthyism, most students far more readily identify it with evil than they do communism. Indeed, more could probably identify Joseph McCarthy than Joseph Stalin.
That is very well stated, and completely accurate. On some college campuses, even disagreeing with a Marxist gets you labeled as a McCarthyite.
And that, quite frankly, breaks my heart. I am currently reading “Mao: The Secret Life,” almost universally regarded, even in the mainstream media, as the most important book on Mao ever written. According to the authors, in 1930-31 alone, Mao and his gang developed 120 types of torture for use on innocent people he wanted to force into phony confessions so as to rule by terror...
...These poor souls have no memorial. Least of all at an American university.
We think we won the Cold War. We did...except in our own universities and in parts of the press.
A commentator several years ago remarked that American parents spend years trying to guide their kids so they'll get into select colleges. And then those same parents never ask one question about what is being taught to their children.
I'm hoping that the economic pressure of these times will force the nation to take a cold look at our colleges and universities, and start asking some very tough questions before doling out federal billions in "aid to education." Too often it's not education that's being aided, but propaganda.
We'll return to this theme often.
January 27, 2009. Permalink
CAR TROUBLE - AT 8:33 A.M. ET: From The New York Times:
DETROIT — Automakers said Monday that they were working toward President Obama’s goal of reducing fuel consumption, but rapid imposition of stricter emissions standards could force them to drastically cut production of larger, more profitable vehicles, adding to their financial duress.
Mr. Obama ordered the government on Monday to reconsider whether California and other states could regulate vehicle emissions to help control greenhouse gas emissions, a reversal of a position taken by the Bush administration.
COMMENT: While we have no great love here for the performance of American auto makers, it seems a bit quaint to allow individual states to dictate what those companies should make. There has to be a balance between environmentalism and sound economic policy. If the president knuckles under to the environmental religionists, especially in California, he can destroy the very car companies he's trying to save.
OBAMA SPEAKS TO MUSLIMS
Posted at 7:46 a.m. ET
President Obama gave the first TV interview of his presidency to an Arab news outlet, the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya Network. The interview coincided with his dispatching of special envoy George Mitchell to the Middle East. The Politico reports:
President Barack Obama presented a humble and conciliatory face of America to the Islamic world Monday in the first formal interview since he assumed office, stressing his own Muslim ties and hopes for a Palestinian state, and avoiding a belligerent tone — even when asked if America could "live with" an Iranian nuclear weapon.
"I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries," Obama said, according to a White House transcript. "My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy."
Remember, during the campaign, what happened to anyone who brought up Mr. Obama's Muslim links? They were called racists.
But the president was careful during the interview. He showed respect for the Muslim world, but maintained, at least on the surface, a tough line toward militants:
He even dismissed "bankrupt" ideas and policies that don't improve children's health care, jabbing at "nervous" Al Qaeda leaders in language that echoed his campaign against George W. Bush.
A bit odd to compare comments he made about President Bush to comments about Al Qaeda, but we won't make too much of that.
Obama's shift Monday was one of tone, not of policy, and he also affirmed America's support for Israel.
"Israel is a strong ally of the United States. They will not stop being a strong ally of the United States. And I will continue to believe that Israel's security is paramount," he said. "But I also believe that there are Israelis who recognize that it is important to achieve peace. They will be willing to make sacrifices if the time is appropriate and if there is serious partnership on the other side."
That's a basic restatement of American policy, and the president was wise to say it on an Arab channel.
Most of the interview was unexceptional. It was the part about Iran that might be troubling:
"Will the United States ever live with a nuclear Iran? And if not, how far are you going in the direction of preventing it?" asked the interviewer, Al Arabiya Washington Bureau Chief Hisham Melhem.
Obama responded only generally, expressing disapproval of an Iranian bomb but not the flat condemnation that is standard from American officials.
"... Iran has acted in ways that's not conducive to peace and prosperity in the region: their threats against Israel; their pursuit of a nuclear weapon which could potentially set off an arms race in the region that would make everybody less safe; their support of terrorist organizations in the past -- none of these things have been helpful."
During the campaign and transition periods, Obama's condemnations of an Iranian nuclear weapon were more direct: "[T]heir development of nuclear weapons would be unacceptable," Obama said on Meet the Press on December 7.
A senior Obama aide said Monday night that Obama had not changed his views on Iran.
But what are his actual views on Iran? Time is on Iran's side, as its nuclear program proceeds. We'll be watching Iran policy closely. If Iran gets the bomb on Obama's watch, that could be his foreign-policy disaster.
January 27, 2009. Permalink
GORE RETURNS, LEAVE WHILE YOU CAN - AT 7:12 A.M. ET: From The Washington Times:
Former Vice President Al Gore returns to Capitol Hill Wednesday to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Sen. John Kerry, who chairs the committee, had kind words for his fellow former Democratic presidential nominee: "Al Gore has been sounding the alarm on climate change for over three decades, and he understands the urgent need for American engagement and leadership on this issue."
COMMENT: Aren't you excited? If you're in the Washington, D.C. area, rush right down. You can see John Kerry and Al Gore in the same room, together again. But bring your iPod. You'll want to stay awake.
BULLETIN AT 6:58 A.M. ET: This just in from NewsMax.com:
Barbra Streisand has sent out an e-mail urging support for President Barack Obama’s controversial choice for attorney general, Eric Holder.
Streisand calls Holder “my friend” and writes: “Eric Holder is a man of unique integrity, as committed to liberty, the rule of law and our constitutional rights as anyone I know. He has enormous experience pursuing justice … He has worked with people on both sides of the political aisle.
“That's why I'm so angry that Republicans in the Senate have chosen to make him a target.”
COMMENT: Well, that should make Holder a shoo-in. If Barbra's for you, what else do you need? And now that Barbra has shown her displeasure with Republicans, they really should be silent. After all, Barbra knows.
PERSONAL ASIDE: I was, so to speak, present at the creation of Barbra Streisand. While I was a student at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, Walter Kerr, the renowned drama critic, came in to give a lecture. He mentioned that he'd just seen the new musical, "I Can Get it For You Wholesale," and remarked (approximate quote), "There's a young singer in the show - Barbra Streisand. Note the spelling of her first name. It's B-a-r-b-r-a, not the usual spelling. She's going to be a very big star. Follow her."
So we followed her, and wrote about her, and only God knows what we helped create.