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"The left needs two things to survive. It needs mediocrity, and it needs dependence. It nurtures mediocrity in the public schools and the universities. It nurtures dependence through its empire of government programs. A nation that embraces mediocrity and dependence betrays itself, and can only fade away, wondering all the time what might have been."
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WEDNESDAY,  MARCH 18,  2009


ANOTHER ONE - AT 7:28 P.M. ET:  From The Washington Times:

Commerce Secretary nominee Gary Locke, whose job would include approving sensitive exports to China, has performed legal work for companies doing business with Beijing and was forced to refund several political donations that he received in the 1990s from key figures in a Chinese influence-buying investigation.

The former Washington state governor is expected to face questions about both issues during his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Senate aides and an Obama administration official familiar with the vetting told The Washington Times.

COMMENT:  I think he's the third guy to be picked for the job.  Let's see, there was Bill Richardson, who was under investigation.  There was the Republican, Judd Gregg, who finally couldn't stomach Obama's policies, and now there's Gary Locke.  And he has some 'splainin' to do.  Doyou get the feeling that there's a competence problem in this administration?  I mean, here we are almost two months after inauguration, and we still don't have a secretary of commerce in the midst of the worst financial crisis of our time. 

March 18, 2009   Permalink


GOOD FOR ANN - AT 7:10 P.M. ET:  Whether you like Ann Coulter or not, I hope you'll read her magnificent tribute to the late actor, Ron Silver.  It's here, and one of the best things Ann has ever written.  She writes about a truly brave man.

March 18, 2009  Permalink


DOW UP AGAIN - AT 4:07 P.M. ET:  The Dow continued its remarkable climb today, up 92 points, to 7487.  Have we bottomed out?  No one knows.   There are bear-market reallies in the middle of recessions.  We'll have to see what happens in coming weeks.

March 18, 2009


FROM A READER - AT 3:47 P.M. ET:  
Reader Alan Weick sent in this report:

A good  friend of mine travels to Bulgaria on business regularly.  I quote his  last email:

"I'm in Europe again (Bulgaria for the month) and they all think  the US has flipped out electing these people."

Why am I not  surprised?

COMMENT:  Many countries are realizing that a new messiah has not come to America.  A new president has.  Some may wish for the old one.

March 18, 2009   Permalink


U.S. BIRTHS - THE GOOD AND THE BAD - AT 2:46 P.M. ET:

ATLANTA (AP) - More babies were born in the United States in 2007 than any year in the nation's history, topping the peak during the baby boom 50 years earlier, federal researchers reported Wednesday.
There is both good and bad news from the more than 4.3 million births:

_The U.S. population is more than replacing itself, a healthy trend.

_However, the teen birth rate was up for the second year in a row.

The birth rate rose slightly for women of all ages, and births to unwed mothers reached an all-time high of about 40 percent, continuing a trend begun years ago. More than three-quarters of these women were 20 or older.

COMMENT:  Forty percent of births are out of wedlock.  Not great.  I'm not disparaging single mothers.  Many will do their best, but the economic pressure on them will be enormous.  The family used to be called America's fortress.  The fortress is developing cracks. 

March 18, 2009   Permalink


GUESS THEY DIDN'T GET THE MESSIANIC MESSAGE - AT 1:12 P.M. ET: 
From The Wall Street Journal:

Kremlin Signals a Harder Line on Relations With the U.S.

MOSCOW -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev struck a Cold War tone on Tuesday, pledging to press ahead with an ambitious rearmament program in response to what he described as NATO's military expansion close to Russia's borders.

His hawkish comments come ahead of his first meeting with President Barack Obama early next month at the Group of 20 meeting, and were paired with even tougher rhetoric from Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. Mr. Serdyukov accused the U.S. of trying to push Russia out of its traditional sphere of influence -- the former Soviet Union -- in order to secure raw materials and energy supplies.

Dmitry Medvedev, standing, spoke to Russian military leaders Tuesday.
Analysts said the comments were designed to send a signal to Mr. Obama that the Kremlin wouldn't be an easy negotiating partner.

COMMENT:  See our 7:18 a.m. post.  We're getting this same message from adversary after adversary.  And who visits the White House today?  Jimmah Carter.  (See our post right below this one.)  What great imagery.  This administration is not up to speed on foreign affairs.  It's still in campaign mode.  The campaign is over. 

March 18, 2009   Permalink



TRAVEL NOTE - AT 12:51 P.M. ET:  Reuters reports that Jimmah Carter made a quiet visit to the White House today.

COMMENT:  Yuch.  That is the wrong message to send, especially with so many commentators saying that the Obama administration is Carter II.  Carter is a failed president and an embarrassing ex-president.  I suppose he was at the White House to tell President Obama that Hamas is a social club that sells cookies and flower seeds.

March 18, 2009   Permalink


GOP GAINS IN GENERIC CONGRESSIONAL POLL - AT 12:47 P.M. ET:   From Rasmussen:

Support for the Democratic Congressional candidates fell to a new low over the past week, allowing the GOP to move slightly head for the first time in recent years in the Generic Congressional Ballot.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 41% said they would vote for their district’s Republican candidate while 39% would choose the Democrat.

COMMENT:  Obama's coattails have been trimmed.  Republicans can make great gains in next year's elections if they have a coherent attractive program.  This poll should give them encouragement, which may or may not translate into wisdom and vision.

March 18, 2009   Permalink


QUOTE OF THE DAY - AT 8:19 A.M. ET:   From The Washington Times, on Iran's race for the nuclear weapon:

The Obama administration's “grand bargainers” seek an opening to the Islamic Republic while a confident President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sneers at “childish” U.S. sanctions and has declared Iran a space power and nuclear power. “You take your decisions, and we do our work,” he said. “You are too small to block our path.” The Obama administration has yet to prove him wrong.

COMMENT:  Once again we see that the rise to power of The One has had no impact - none whatever - on the goals and actions of America's adversaries.

March 18, 2009   Permalink


HYBRID HIBERNATING - AT 7:58 A.M. ET:  From the Los Angeles Times:

The Ford and Honda hybrids due out this month are among dozens planned for the coming years as automakers try to meet new fuel-efficiency standards and please politicians overseeing the industry's multibillion-dollar bailout.

Unfortunately for the automakers, hybrids are a tough sell these days.

Americans have cut back on buying vehicles of all types as the economy continues its slide. But the slowdown has been particularly brutal for hybrids, which use electricity and gasoline as power sources. They were the industry's darling just last summer, but sales have collapsed as consumers refuse to pay a premium for a fuel-efficient vehicle now that the average price of a gallon of gasoline nationally has slipped below $2.

COMMENT:  You can be sure that some "environmentalists" in Washington, educated beyond their capacity, will say that the answer to this problem is to drive gasoline prices up to five dollars a gallon.  Logical, isn't it?  Of course, these people drive Schwinns to work.  With training wheels. 

March 18, 2009   Permalink


SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW? - AT 7:53 A.M. ET:

BERLIN (Reuters) - Roughly one in twenty 15-year-old German males is a member of a neo-Nazi group, a higher proportion than are involved in mainstream politics, according to a study released on Tuesday.

Many politicians fear a resurgence of right-wing extremism as unemployment creeps higher in Germany, which is facing its deepest recession since World War Two. Government figures have shown anti-Semitic crimes rose at the end of last year.

"It is shocking that right-wing groups have more success recruiting male youths than the established political parties," said Christian Pfeiffer, author of the report issued by Lower Saxony's criminal research institute.

COMMENT:  Pretty creepy, but not entirely shocking.  It's very difficult to rid a nation of the darker parts of its history.  We don't know how far this will go in Germany, but the Nazis were bound to try for a comeback at some point.  Even if they don't achieve substantial status again, they can still influence elections, even swing them. 

March 18, 2009   Permalink


OUR MISUNDERSTOOD FRIENDS, THE RUSSIANS - AT 7:48 A.M. ET:  From AP:

Russian news agencies reported on Wednesday that a top defense official confirmed Russia had indeed signed a contract to sell S-300 air-defense missiles to Iran, but that none of the weapons had been delivered.

Russian officials have consistently denied claims that it already provided some of the powerful missiles to Iran, and had not clarified whether a contract existed...

...Supplying the S-300s to Iran would markedly change the military balance in the Middle East.

COMMENT:  It sure would.  It would also up the risks of an air attack on Iran's nuclear facilities considerably.  We have to wonder why this information was made public right now.  Is it a bargaining chip that the Russians want to use to get us to drop our missile-defense system in Eastern Europe?  Are the Russians just flexing their muscles?

Many believe that Iran will be the key foreign-policy test for this administration.  The S-300 issue makes passing that test even harder.

March 18, 2009   Permalink 


DO THEY DARE TELL THE PRESIDENT? - AT 7:21 A.M. ET:  From AP:

HONOLULU — The U.S. military says its ground-based mobile missile defense system has successfully shot down a medium-range ballistic missile during a test in Hawaii.

The military says the target missile was shot down Tuesday over the Pacific Ocean.

The target missile was fired from a mobile launch platform off the island of Kauai.

COMMENT:  Now, repeat after me:  "Missile defense does not work.  It has no chance of working.  All the tests are failures.  The billions we spend on it can be better spent by sending money to failing school systems to boost their morale.  It is also provocative, and it is so BUSH (!!)."

There.  Now you're a liberal.  Membership card to follow.

March 18, 2009   Permalink


CHAVEZ PREPARES - AT 7:18 A.M. ET:  If you don't think President Obama looks vulnerable in the eyes of America's opponents, consider this:

CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Tuesday that he is preparing plenty of verbal "artillery" for his first encounter with President Barack Obama at an upcoming summit.

Chavez — long a fierce critic of Washington — said he expects that the future of U.S. relations with Latin America will begin to take shape at April's summit of leaders from across the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago.

"Our artillery is being prepared. There's going to be good artillery," Chavez said during a televised Cabinet meeting.

"What will Mr. Obama come with? I don't know. We're going to see. We'll see what the pitcher throws," Chavez said.

COMMENT:  I'd also be interested to see what the pitcher throws.  So far, his administration has thrown a series of softballs, all over the world.  My Iranian friend, Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, refers me to an article by Amir Tahari that's headlined, PRODUCING PANIC IN AMERICA'S ALLIES, relating the early adventures in Obama foreign policy.  It begins:

THE Obama administration has offered to talk to America's enemies across the globe, especially in the Middle East. So far, though, the offer has few takers.

Iran has called for "substantial changes in US foreign policy" as a precondition for talks. Syria wants the US to shut down the UN investigation into the murder of Lebanese ex-Premier Rafiq Hariri and insists on reviving its domination of Lebanon before "substantive talks" with Washington. The Taliban insists on "the complete withdrawal of foreign troops" from Afghanistan before it will consider talks.

Welcome, as they say, to the real world.  Mr. Obama must choose his words wisely in dealing with Chavez.  He should take his teleprompter.  But, of course, he always does.

March 18, 2009   Permalink


STILL ROOM UNDER THE BUS - AT 6:53 A.M. ET:  Stories are circulating that the secretary of the treasury, whose tenure began with revelations that he had problems figuring his income tax, might be advised not to get too comfortable in his new office:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- If not distancing itself from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the White House is placing firmly on his shoulders responsibility for how the government handled the $165 million in bonuses paid to about 400 executives and traders at American International Group Inc...

...But his future could soon be as murky as the economy's. His short tenure has been shaky at a time when the new president and the Democratic-led Congress are trying to project confidence to the markets and the nation.

COMMENT:  This president has no trouble throwing folks under the bus.  It started with his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., who proved an embarrassment during the campaign.  Even grandma, who, Obama reported, held racist views, found room next to the rear axle.  Tom Daschle is shielded from the sun's rays by the bus's frame.  There's room for a few more.  The company and conversation down there are excellent.

March 18, 2009   Permalink

 

 

 

TUESDAY,  MARCH 17,  2009


RUSSIA RESURGENT - AT 7:47 P.M. ET:  From the International Herald-Tribune:

MOSCOW: President Dmitri A. Medvedev said Tuesday that Russia would begin a "large-scale rearming" in 2011 in response to what he described as threats to the country's security.

In a speech before generals in Moscow, Mr. Medvedev cited encroachment by NATO as a primary reason for bolstering the military, including nuclear forces.

Mr. Medvedev did not offer specifics on how much the budget would grow for the military, whose capabilities deteriorated significantly after the fall of Soviet Union.

COMMENT:  We will be downsizing our military budget, at least in some areas.  We hope the president and all the "smart" people around him are going about this with two eyes, both of them looking toward the real world, not the world of the Daily Kos.

March 17, 2009   Permalink


THE REALITY - AT 5:17 P.M. ET:  If you think I've been exaggerating in my references to political correctness in Hollywood, please note this item from the New York Post's "Page Six," about actor Ron Silver, who died over the weekend:

THE Hollywood blacklist still exists. It's no longer aimed at Communists and their fellow travelers from the Cold War. Now it's aimed at Republicans. Long before Ron Silver was diagnosed with cancer, the brilliant actor who co-founded the Creative Coalition was dead as far as his career was concerned. "After I made that speech for President George W. Bush at the Republican Convention here in Manhattan [in 2004], Hollywood and Broadway dried up on me," Silver told radio station magnate William O'Shaughnessy last year when they saw each other at Le Cirque. "The phone stopped ringing . . . nada . . . not a thing."

COMMENT:  Many people think of political correctness as a kind of joke, or mild harassment.  It is not.  Political correctness is an ugly, often brutal form of discrimination that destroys careers, and worse.  It is wrong no matter which side practices it.  It is very much alive in Hollywood today.  I know.  I've felt it.  You have no idea.

March 17, 2009   Permalink


WELL, IT'S SOMETHING - AT 4:53 P.M. ET: 

WASHINGTON (AP) - Housing construction posted a surprisingly large increase in February, bolstered by strength in all parts of the country except the West.

The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that construction of new homes and apartments jumped 22.2 percent in February compared with January, pushing total activity to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 583,000 units.

While the surge in housing construction was far better than the continued decline economists had expected, experts viewed the rebound as a temporary gain given all the problems the housing industry still faces.

COMMENT:  There's actually been some good economic news in the last week or so.  We have to be careful.  One month doesn't make a trend, but it's better than nothin'.

March 17, 2009   Permalink


DOW UP - AT 4:40 P.M. ET:  Contrary to what we reported earlier, the Dow did continue its rally today, up 179 points, to close at 7396. 


OBAMA APPROVAL STEADY BUT UNSPECTACULAR - AT 12:25 P.M. ET:  Rasmussen's tracker shows, as it did yesterday, that 56% approve of Obama, 43% disapprove.  That figure has been fairly steady for several weeks now.  But if the president suffers the normal attrition, and a possible setback, he can slip below 50%, which would be a major blow.  We should point out that other polls show higher approval numbers, but not by much.

March 17, 2009   Permalink


DOW RESTING - AT 12:23 P.M. ET:  The Dow is up 39 points, to 7255.  It appears that last week's big rally is over, but that judgment must be tentative.


CAN THIS BE CORRECT? - AT 7:50 A.M. ET:  There is a proposal circulating in the Obama administration that is so stunning that it violates the most fundamental ideals of this society.  Consider

WASHINGTON, March 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The leader of the nation's largest veterans organization says he is "deeply disappointed and concerned" after a meeting with President Obama today to discuss a proposal to force private insurance companies to pay for the treatment of military veterans who have suffered service-connected disabilities and injuries. The Obama administration recently revealed a plan to require private insurance carriers to reimburse the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in such cases.

"It became apparent during our discussion today that the President intends to move forward with this unreasonable plan," said Commander David K. Rehbein of The American Legion. "He says he is looking to generate $540-million by this method, but refused to hear arguments about the moral and government-avowed obligations that would be compromised by it."

The Commander, clearly angered as he emerged from the session said, "This reimbursement plan would be inconsistent with the mandate 'to care for him who shall have borne the battle' given that the United States government sent members of the armed forces into harm's way, and not private insurance companies.

COMMENT:  It is almost impossible to fathom this.  We have given out hundreds of billions of dollars to corporations, and yet look how the Obamans want to handle our veterans.  I don't wanted a wounded vet to be at the mercy of insurance companies, or caught between the companies and the VA.  We, the American people, take care of our soldiers.  Period.

March 17, 2009   Permalink


QUOTE OF THE DAY - AT 7:07 A.M. ET:  From Charles Murray, in the Wall Street Journal:

Drive through rural Sweden, as I did a few years ago. In every town was a beautiful Lutheran church, freshly painted, on meticulously tended grounds, all subsidized by the Swedish government. And the churches are empty. Including on Sundays. Scandinavia and Western Europe pride themselves on their "child-friendly" policies, providing generous child allowances, free day-care centers, and long maternity leaves. Those same countries have fertility rates far below replacement and plunging marriage rates. Those same countries are ones in which jobs are most carefully protected by government regulation and mandated benefits are most lavish. And they, with only a few exceptions, are countries where work is most often seen as a necessary evil, least often seen as a vocation, and where the proportions of people who say they love their jobs are the lowest.

What's happening? Call it the Europe syndrome.

COMMENT:  Coming soon to a location near you...if certain people in Washington get their way.  But please remember that there's a congressional election next year, possibly one of the most important in our recent history.  Even President Roosevelt lost seats in Congress in the first congressional election after Pearl Harbor.  Mr. Obama, should his ideas fail to produce real and sustainable progress, is extremely vulnerable.  Should he implode during a foreign crisis, sure to come, his vulnerability becomes that much greater...assuming the Republican Party is well organized, and with an attractive program to sell.

March 17, 2009   Permalink


MORE THUMBS ARE DOWN FOR OBAMA - AT 6:59 A.M. ET:  The president still remains personally popular, and there is much good will toward him by a respectful public.  His policies are another story.  Wes Pruden, in the Washington Times, notes the change in tone:

The president is learning with the rest of us that the damage his early panic did to feed the Wall Street selling frenzy won't be corrected by warm and fuzzy optimism. His “State of the Union” speech to Congress and the bad news in his budget message revealed the breadth and scope of how he intends to expand the government in a way that it can never be cut down to size, no matter how sane and sensible a successor might be. Like all presidents, he talked a very different talk when he was campaigning. But he was unique. Sensible people actually believed the magic tricks. Rabbits actually did live in his hat. He actually could saw the girl in half and paste her back together again.

Ouch.

He would never countenance earmarks; his budget includes 9,000 of them. He scoffed at John McCain's idea of taxing health care benefits to pay for health care for the poor; now he thinks that might not be a bad idea. He never expected anyone to notice the difference.

COMMENT:  More ouch.  We're seeing more and more columns like this.  This one is worth reading in full.

March 17, 2009   Permalink


AIG CHOKES OBAMA - AT 6:47 A.M. ET:  It's often one symbolic incident that becomes a presidential administration's nightmare.  In Obama's case, it has the initials AIG.  From the Washington Post:

President Obama's apparent inability to block executive bonuses at insurance giant AIG has dealt a sharp blow to his young administration and is threatening to derail both public and congressional support for his ambitious political agenda.

Politicians in both parties flocked to express outrage over $165 million in bonuses paid out to executives at the company, demanding answers from the president and swamping yesterday's rollout of his efforts to spark lending to small businesses.

The populist anger at the executives who ran their firms into the ground is increasingly blowing back on Obama, whom aides yesterday described as having little recourse in the face of legal contracts that guaranteed those bonuses.

COMMENT:  The image of a group of failed executives receiving huge payouts, and an American president unable to stop them, is toxic to the administration.  After all, the United States government owns about 80 percent of AIG.  The behavior of AIG is another knife in the back of responsible free enterprise.  Legal contracts must be honored, but there are ways - tough, political ways - to persuade people to waive their bonuses.  Most of these people want to continue working in the industry, after all. 

March 17, 2009   Permalink

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"What you see is news.  What you know is background.  What you feel is opinion."
    - Lester Markel, late Sunday editor
      of The New York Times.

 

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