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THURSDAY, JANUARY 29, 2009
POWER PLAY - AT 10:27 P.M. ET:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Samantha Power, the Harvard University professor who earned notoriety for calling Hillary Rodham Clinton a "monster" while working to elect Barack Obama president, will take a senior foreign policy job at the White House, The Associated Press has learned.
Officials familiar with the decision say Obama has tapped Power to be senior director for multilateral affairs at the National Security Council, a job that will require close contact and potential travel with Clinton, who is now secretary of state. NSC staffers often accompany the secretary of state on foreign trips.
COMMENT: Absolutely unacceptable. Power is a flake, and her relationship to national security is nonexistent. She's also an Israel hater of the first rank. We hope this will be a payoff job with no influence, but I'd be happier if this individual had no connection with the administration. The fact that Obama is putting her in the White House gives legitimate cause for worry, a lot of worry.
NO CAIR - AT 9:43 P.M. ET: From the Investigative Project on Terrorism:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has cut off contacts with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) amid mounting concern about the Muslim advocacy group's roots in a Hamas-support network, the Investigative Project on Terrorism has learned.
The decision to end contacts with CAIR was made quietly last summer as federal prosecutors prepared for a second trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), an Islamic charity accused of providing money and political support to the terrorist group Hamas, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
COMMENT: It's about time.
UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE DAY - AT 8:02 P.M. ET: From AP:
Blagojevich Says He's Saddened by Ouster
NOTE FROM A READER - AT 7:28 P.M. ET: Reader Katharine Winterer makes the following point about the Wall Street bonuses:
All in the eyes of the beholder. I defy the Democrats to show how their giving themselves a bonus in the PORKULUS bill is any different from Wall Street.
Because each won - the former the election, the latter the bailout - he thinks he deserves to have whatever he wants. In this time of recession, neither should be driving his company or country bankrupt!
COMMENT: Well put, I think.
HITTING THE STREET - AT 6:26 P.M. ET: From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — President Obama fired a warning shot at Wall Street on Thursday, branding bankers “shameful” for giving themselves $18.4 billion in bonuses as the economy was spinning out of control and the government was spending billions to bail out many of the nation’s most prominent financial firms.
COMMENT: On this the president is absolutely right. There's an old saying that there's room on Wall Street for bulls and bears, but not for pigs. These are pigs. They've looted their own companies, and thought the corrupt party would go on forever. They have nothing to do with free enterprise or real markets. Now, because of their behavior, the government may become the heaviest player in the economy, and that's a crying shame.
DOW DOWN - AT 6:21 P.M. ET: The Dow closed down 226, to 8149.
THE END - AT 6:16 P.M. ET: From Fox News:
Illinois senators stripped Rod Blagojevich of power Thursday in the final act of a political drama filled with twists and turns that will likely end Blagojevich's political career and hand the reins of state government over to Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn.
Senators voted unanimously to convict Blagojevich, 59-0. The outcome was never in doubt. In fact, Quinn went to the state Capitol earlier in the day in preparation of being sworn in immediately after the vote.
COMMENT: Now we await the Blagojevich book deal, the Blagojevich talk show, and the Blagovevich movie of the week. Don't laugh. There are people thinking about that. And in Washington there sits Roland Burris, in the United States Senate, appointed by this disgraced governor to fill the seat left vacant by the president of the United States. What a commentary on Illinois politics.
MASTERS OF THE GAME - AT 5:34 P.M. ET:
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Families of two Saudi detainees who committed suicide in June 2006 while being held at Guantanamo Bay have sued the Pentagon, alleging Thursday that torture and brutal conditions at the offshore prison led the men to their deaths.
The New-York based Center for Constitutional Rights said the parents of Yassar Talal al-Zahrani and Salah Ali Abdullah Ahmed al-Salami are seeking unspecified damages for the ''illegal detention, torture, inhumane conditions, and ultimate deaths'' of their sons.
COMMENT: The Center for Constitutional Rights is an America-hating, red front operation, showing once more the collusion between the extreme left and Islamo-fascism. They are united by one thing - hatred for the United States. While there are descriptions of a number of people and institutions in the story, there is none for the Center, fairly typical for mainstream journalism.
MOST RIDICULOUS COMMENT OF THE DAY - AT 3:17 P.M. ET:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the economy won't improve without the billions of dollars for schools in President Barack Obama's recovery plan.
COMMENT: Oh please.
GRIM - AT 3:03 P.M. ET:
Jan. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Prospects for an economic recovery this year dimmed after reports today showed new-home sales collapsed, durable-goods orders slumped and a record number of Americans collected unemployment benefits.
“There really isn’t any hiding place in this economy,” said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts.
COMMENT: Speed is important here because confidence must be restored quickly. One problem with the Obama stimulus package is that too much of it takes too long to take effect. See Marty Feldstein's advice in our 7:58 a.m. entry.
DOW DOWNER - AT 1:40 P.M. ET: The Dow is down 206.
DOW DOWN - AT 9:56 A.M. ET: The Dow is down 120.
EVEN OBAMA WASTES SOME TIME - AT 9:40 A.M. ET: From a Ben Smith posting at The Politico:
Carter also said he "spent a long time with President Obama" the evening before the five living presidents met at the White House January 7.
As Rosalynn Carter and David Axelrod took notes, they talked policy, he said.
"I would say he was most interested in the Middle East because I had been to that region twice in the previous year and had met with some people that others usually don’t meet with as you probably know," Carter said.
COMMENT: I love it, I love it, I love it. Rosalynn was taking notes. Why?
TAKE AWAY THEIR WORD PROCESSORS - AT 9:01 A.M. ET:
LONDON (Reuters) - Officials in U.S. President Barack Obama's administration are drafting a letter to Iran from the president aimed at unfreezing relations and opening the way for direct talks, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday.
The U.S. State Department has been working on drafts of the letter since Obama was elected last November, the report said. It was a response to a letter of congratulations sent by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after Obama's poll victory.
The letter gives assurances that Washington does not want to overthrow the Iranian administration, but instead seeks changes in its behavior, the paper said.
COMMENT: This wouldn't surprise me. The left-wing Guardian is a conduit for the more leftist members of the Obama club. The letter would, of course, shatter the morale of Iranian dissidents and freedom fighters. But that doesn't seem to be much of a concern. Welcome to "realism," the kind of realism that always blows up in our face.
OUR HEART BREAKS - AT 8:25 A.M. ET: From The Times of London:
Opec members need an oil price above $50 a barrel to make exports worthwhile, the head of the cartel said today, adding that more production cuts were possible later this year.
“We are not happy with $40 even $50 a barrel,” Abdalla Salem El-Badri, Opec Secretary General, told a panel discussing energy security at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
COMMENT: If they don't export the oil, what are they going to do with it? It doesn't make a good hot-fudge sundae.
NO LEARNIN' GOIN' ON - AT 8:12 A.M. ET:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- States are not doing what it takes to keep good teachers and remove bad ones, a national study found.
Only Iowa and New Mexico require any evidence that public school teachers are effective before granting them tenure, according to the review released Thursday by the National Council on Teacher Quality.
COMMENT: Does the term "teachers' unions" ring a bell?
SOME REAL EXPERTISE
Posted at 7:58 a.m. ET:
Conservative Harvard economist Martin Feldstein (a contradiction in terms) launches a direct frontal assault on the stimulus plan. It's always nice to read someone who actually understands the situation. Feldstein, who was chief economic adviser to Ronald Reagan, hits one bulls-eye after another in demanding that the huge package be radically altered:
In its current form, it does too little to raise national spending and employment. It would be better for the Senate to delay legislation for a month, or even two, if that's what it takes to produce a much better bill. We cannot afford an $800 billion mistake.
...the tax changes should focus on providing incentives to households and businesses to increase current spending. Why not a temporary refundable tax credit to households that purchase cars or other major consumer durables, analogous to the investment tax credit for businesses? Or a temporary tax credit for home improvements? In that way, the same total tax reduction could produce much more spending and employment.
Computerizing the medical records of every American over the next five years is desirable, but it is not a cost-effective way to create jobs. Has anyone gone through the (long) list of proposed appropriations and asked how many jobs each would create per dollar of increased national debt?
The largest proposed outlays amount to just writing unrestricted checks to state governments...
...The plan to finance health insurance premiums for the unemployed would actually increase unemployment by giving employers an incentive to lay off workers rather than pay health premiums during a time of weak demand.
Do you get the feeling the Republicans were right to reject this package?
If rapid spending on things that need to be done is a criterion of choice, the plan should include higher defense outlays, including replacing and repairing supplies and equipment, needed after five years of fighting. The military can increase its level of procurement very rapidly. Yet the proposed spending plan includes less than $5 billion for defense, only about one-half of 1 percent of the total package.
It's World War II that got us out of the Depression. No one wants war, but defense spending is a great economic stimulant. However, when the left writes a stimulus package, defense is at the end of the list. Not too popular in Manhattan or Beverly Hills.
In addition, a temporary increase in military recruiting and training would reduce unemployment directly, create a more skilled civilian workforce and expand the military reserves.
Can you imagine the reaction of the Daily Kos and the Huffington Post?
The problem with the current stimulus plan is not that it is too big but that it delivers too little extra employment and income for such a large fiscal deficit. It is worth taking the time to get it right.
Wisdom, wisdom. But will the pork-crazed Democratic congress listen? Bets anyone?
January 29, 2009. Permalink
GOP COURAGE - AT 7:34 A.M. ET: From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — Without a single Republican vote, President Obama won House approval on Wednesday for an $819 billion economic recovery plan as Congressional Democrats sought to temper their own differences over the enormous package of tax cuts and spending.
As a piece of legislation, the two-year package is among the biggest in history, reflecting a broad view in Congress that urgent fiscal help is needed for an economy in crisis, at a time when the Federal Reserve has already cut interest rates almost to zero.
COMMENT: Republicans are showing enormous courage and discipline in opposing this pork-laden plan. Polls show that the American people back the plan, but the numbers aren't strong. Only 52 percent are in favor, one week after a new president took office. If the plan works, or the in-the-tank media claims it works, the GOP can look foolish. If it doesn't work, Republicans are geniuses.
TROUBLE ALREADY - AT 7:19 A.M. ET: From The Jerusalem Post:
In a sign that the international community's position on Hamas is weakening, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana would not say unequivocally Wednesday during an interview with The Jerusalem Post that the EU should stick with the three preconditions it set for talking with the Islamist group.
Solana's comments came as US special Mideast envoy George Mitchell arrived in Israel on what Israeli officials described as a "stock-taking" mission.
COMMENT: Are you getting worried? There are signals coming out of Washington, and they don't add up to the word "firmness." Jimmah Carter has been all over TV, happier than a clam. What does he know? What has he been told by the Obama people. We make no definitive judgments, but uneasiness is growing.
MORE GENIUSES AT WORK - AT 7:08 A.M. ET: From The New York Times:
By almost any measure, 2008 was a complete disaster for Wall Street — except, that is, when the bonuses arrived.
Despite crippling losses, multibillion-dollar bailouts and the passing of some of the most prominent names in the business, employees at financial companies in New York, the now-diminished world capital of capital, collected an estimated $18.4 billion in bonuses for the year.
COMMENT: Every story like this is a nail in the coffin of free enterprise. What's wrong with these people? How much is enough? This isn't free enterprise. It's legal thievery. Those of us who believe in the market system should be the first to the barricades in exposing the greed and corruption that is eating at the greatest economic engine in history.
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.