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I have a new piece up at Hudson New York called "The Trouble With Deterrence," regarding the prospect of an Iranian nuclear bomb. For those interested it's here.
THURSDAY, MARCH 11, 2010
GOOD! – ROTC RISING AGAIN – AT 9:18 P.M. ET: An optimistic report from Fox:
After being shunned by scores of colleges across the country for more than 40 years, the U.S. Army's ROTC program is making a comeback.
Roughly 32,000 cadets are currently enrolled in the Reserve Officer Training Corps on the university level -- a modest, yet notable, increase from previous years, says Lt. Col. Michael Indovina, chief public affairs officer with the U.S. Army Cadet Command. He said the program had 30,721 cadets a year ago and 28,489 the year before.
There are even some modest inroads among so-called "elite" schools:
Even Stanford University, which barred the military training program from its campus during the height of the Vietnam War, is considering bringing ROTC back to campus. A faculty committee, spearheaded by historian David Kennedy and former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry, is reportedly planning to study the possibility of welcoming the program back to the California campus.
It's still a tough fight at some of these "top" colleges. There are leftists on the faculties, some of them leftovers from the 1960s, who will come up with any excuse to keep the military off campus. The "don't ask, don't tell" policy is the current excuse. If that falls, there'll be others. But progress, nationally, is being made.
A spokesman for the ROTC program agreed that, while many young people enter ROTC to serve their country, others may also consider the economic benefits. "Do we have some cadets who are doing this because of the economy? Sure, but it's not something we track."
Don't knock those who look at the economic benefits. They're part of a long and rather honorable tradition. Early in the 20th century many young men saw the service, and the service academies, as a way up, a means of advancement. The education at West Point attracted a young Dwight D. Eisenhower, who'd actually wanted an appointment to Annapolis. He did pretty well for the United States.
And remember that one of the reasons the Navy had such good petty officers at the time of Pearl Harbor was the Depression. So many men had wanted to enlist in the Navy in the thirties, for economic salvation, that the service could pick the best candidates.
The sixties generation is fading, replaced by the 9-11 generation. It won't be a total change – a great deal of damage needs to be repaired – but there is hope in these new cadets.
March 11, 2010 Permalink
DOES NANCY HAVE THE VOTES? – AT 7:30 P.M. ET: President Obama is going off to Indonesia, where he spent part of his youth, late next week. (Remember when we couldn't discuss this during the campaign because it was "racist"?) Nancy Pelosi would love to give him a going-away present of a health-care bill. But does she have the votes? Michael Barone has his doubts:
Are there enough votes in the House to pass the Senate's health-care bill? As of today, it's clear there aren't...Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indeed shown mastery at amassing majorities. But it's hard to see how she'll do so on this one. The arithmetic as I see it doesn't add up.
The House bill included an amendment prohibiting funding of abortions sponsored by Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak. The Senate bill did not. Mr. Stupak says he and 10 to 12 other members won't vote for the Senate bill for that reason...
...Mrs. Pelosi may have some votes in reserve—members who would have voted yes if she needed them in November and would do so again. But we can be pretty sure she doesn't have more than 10...
Other Democrats who voted yes seem to be wavering. "I don't think reconciliation is a good idea," Indiana's Baron Hill was quoted recently in Bloomberg News. New York's Michael Arcuri says he's a no for now. "There would have to be some dramatic changes in it for me to change my position," he recently told the Utica Observer-Dispatch.
"I think we can do better," California's Dennis Cardoza told the New York Times last week.
There are other, deeper problems with the Democrats' math:
There's a more fundamental problem for the Democratic leadership: Their majority is not as strong as their 253-178 margin suggests.
A Democratic House majority tends to have fewer members with safe seats than a Republican majority.
...more than 40 House Democrats represent districts which John McCain carried. Most voted no in November and would presumably be hurt by switching to yes now. Moreover, Mr. Obama's job approval now hovers around 48%, five points lower than his winning percentage in 2008. His approval on health care is even lower.
Another 32 House Democrats represent districts where Mr. Obama won between 50% and 54% of the vote, and where his approval is likely to be running under 50% now. That leaves just 176 House Democrats from districts where Mr. Obama's approval rating is not, to borrow a real-estate term, under water. That's 40 votes less than the 216 needed.
The Democrats' struggle to get 216 votes is high stakes poker.
COMMENT: This is real political drama. We're talking about one sixth of the nation's economy, and the central issue for President Obama. If Obama can't get this through, he'll be a dramatically weakened president. But if he does get it through, he'll be doing it against the will of the American people, as shown in poll after poll.
Obama may well be in a no-win situation, something he didn't expect on election night, 2008. My how the flighty have fallen.
March 11, 2010 Permalink
AH CHOO – AT 7:08 P.M. ET: We're following the health-care drama as closely as possible. Remember that President Obama, whose deadlines have as much impact as those of the old League of Nations, has given Congress until a week from today to pass health care. Or else. Or else what? Who knows.
Here are some late bulletins: Republican sources say that the Senate parliamentarian will rule that the House must pass the full Senate version of the health-care bill first – the one already passed by the Senate – and that it must be signed by the president before any reconciliation process can take place.
If that's true, it may all be over. Many members of the House hate the Senate version, and won't vote for it. The president goes on a foreign trip late next week, which means he won't be around to lobby members directly. Without his pressure, it's hard to see anything getting done.
The March 18th "deadline" (next Thursday) is slipping away. It's being taken as seriously as Iran takes our nuclear deadlines. If the date slips, members must go home and face their constituents, the people for whom they presumably work. This the White House does not want.
It's being widely reported that the Democratic congressional leadership has lost patience with the House pro-life caucus and will try to ram a bill through without making any changes in the Senate's abortion language, which the pro-life community believes is far too lax. This is a dangerous game. In effect, Nancy Pelosi will dare the pro-lifers to vote against the bill. They just might.
March 11, 2010 Permalink
LATEST SOCIAL TREND – AT 9:57 A.M. ET: As part of our service we like to keep readers informed of the latest social styles:
CHICAGO (AP) -- Tania Unzueta has kept a secret for more than 10 years and is finally ready to come clean: She's an illegal immigrant.
The 26-year-old University of Illinois at Chicago graduate was among dozens of young illegal immigrants who publicly "came out" during protests Wednesday in several cities. They hope their stories will call attention to the plight of an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. and renew calls for federal reform - even at the risk of deportation.
"It's scary on one hand, but it's also liberating," said Unzueta, of Chicago, one of eight people who disclosed their immigration status at a downtown ceremony. "I feel like I've been hiding for so long."
Several hundred people, many holding American flags and signs that read "Undocumented and Unafraid," observed as each of the eight took the microphone and vowed to continue telling others about their status.
Students took similar approaches Wednesday in Detroit, New York and at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., with more events in the coming weeks in Los Angeles and New York. Some activists dubbed Wednesday a "National Coming Out Day" and quoted gay rights activists, like the late Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials, in their testimonies.
COMMENT: Well, what can one say? On the one hand, we admire people who want to come to the United States. But, on the other, most go through the legal process and observe our laws. The issue here is illegality, not immigration. All Americans, except Native Americans, come from immigrant families.
I suspect that these "coming out" parties will become trendy, and will soon be held in fine homes in Manhattan and Beverly Hills. I can see Hollywood stars and New York media personalities "adopting" an undocumented immigrant. Watch: There'll be a new TV series called "Not-Quite-American-Idol." Big ratings.
March 11, 2010 Permalink
DOES THE MAN GET ANYTHING RIGHT? – AT 9:21 A.M. ET: No Cabinet officer has given President Obama more political grief than Attorney General Eric Holder, author of the brilliant plan to try the mastermind of 9-11 in a crowded neighborhood in New York City.
Now Holder has another problem. Apparently, his view of a confirmation hearing is, "You can ask, but I won't tell." From Fox News:
During his confirmation more than a year ago, Attorney General Eric Holder failed to notify lawmakers he had contributed to a legal brief dealing with the use of federal courts in fighting terrorism, the Justice Department acknowledged on Wednesday.
“The brief should have been disclosed as part of the confirmation process,” Justice Department spokesman Matt Miller said in a statement. “In preparing thousands of pages for submission, it was unfortunately and inadvertently missed.”
How do you miss something like that? It's like missing the Hoover Dam.
Still, the “amicus brief,” filed with the Supreme Court in 2004, resonates years later as Holder finds himself defending the handling of some recent terrorism cases, particularly the interrogation of alleged “Christmas Day bomber” Umar F. Abdulmutallab.
The brief – filed by Holder, then a private attorney, former Attorney General Janet Reno and two other Clinton-era officials – argued that the President lacks authority to hold Jose Padilla, a U.S citizen declared an “enemy combatant,” indefinitely without charge.
In making their case, Holder and the others argued that using federal courts to fight terrorism, which includes providing Miranda rights to terror suspects, would not “impair” the government’s ability to obtain intelligence, which they called “the primary tool for preventing terrorist attacks.”
COMMENT: Had Holder disclosed the brief, he would have been questioned about it, probably in detail. We would have had a much clearer knowledge of how he intended to approach terrorism as attorney general. Instead, we got blindsided.
Holder continues to be a problem, but he is apparently a favorite of the president, so I wouldn't look for a change anytime soon. But we have a right to expect more disclosure, and more wisdom, from the nation's chief law enforcement officer.
March 11, 2010 Permalink
GRIM – AT 8:23 A.M. ET: Fox News has become a major success story in the United States because it has given conservatives a voice. Fox is the most-watched cable news network.
But what of the future? Some signs make us uneasy. Did you know that Fox is seven-percent-owned by Saudi interests? Fox is run by Rupert Murdoch, who has been intensely pro-American. His son, though, is gradually taking over operations, and he apparently does not share his father's views. A new announcement by the elder Murdoch (surprisingly) cannot make us happy:
ABU DHABI (AFP) - – News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch announced on Tuesday that the Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi is to become the headquarters of his global media empire in the Middle East.
Addressing some 400 delegates at the opening of the Abu Dhabi Media Summit, Murdoch said his corporation had started out as a small Australian firm to become a US-based international company that employs 64,000 people.
"I have every confidence that Arab companies can do the same and more. I also believe that Abu Dhabi can lead the way."
Murdoch said News Corp would headquarter its Middle Eastern global online advertising operations in Abu Dhabi, and move a number of satellite television channels to the capital of the United Arab Emirates from Hong Kong.
"We will (also) establish a production office here for one of our documentary film-making companies," he said.
"When we look to the future, News Corporation is betting on the creative potential of the more than 335 million people who make up the Arab world," he added.
Frankly, I hadn't noticed that potential. I wish they'd direct it toward democratizing their societies and improving their treatment of women.
This is a disturbing development. A major news organization, which has been an alternative to the leftist news outlets we already have, will be influenced by its commitment to a part of the world where free journalism is emphatically not the norm. When the son takes over, watch out.
By the way, Halliburton, in better times headed by Dick Cheney, moved its worldwide headquarters from the United States to Abu Dhabi in 2007.
But remember, 25 years ago we were told that Japan would take over the world.
And we were once told by Charles Lindbergh and his crew that fascism was the wave of the future.
Some "intellectuals" said the same thing about Marxism.
We Americans have a way of pulling it out. Let's look for the next Fox News.
March 11, 2010 Permalink
DOES OBAMA HAVE A CALENDAR PHOBIA? – AT 8:12 A.M. ET: Julie Mason, in the Washington Examiner, points out that this is a presidency of missed deadlines. No one at the White House seems to care:
The White House fondness for deadlines is once again playing havoc with President Obama's agenda, this time on health care.
"If you don't set a deadline in this town, nothing happens," Obama said last year, just before Congress missed an earlier deadline to pass health care reform.
The administration is pressuring House members to pass a Senate version of health reform by March 18, when the president departs on an overseas trip.
But the many moving parts of Congress are balking at the administration's timetable -- and have learned from several previous forays that missing them carry virtually no consequences.
"Any talk of deadlines is an absolute waste of time," said Sen. Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.
Obama last year admonished Congress to pass health care reform by August, and vowed to sign a reform bill in 2009. The Senate finally passed one in late December.
Lawmakers also missed a 2009 deadline from the White House to pass an energy bill, and a financial regulatory bill.
But ignoring White House deadlines is not restricted to Congress. Tehran is currently ignoring a deadline from the Obama administration and the United Nations to come clean about its nuclear program. They were given until the end of the year -- 2009.
As Obama's clout diminishes, his deadlines become more and more laughable. Mason gives the sad history in a summary:
Missed deadlines pile up for Obama
* Promised to close Guantanamo Bay prison within a year of taking office
* Set an August, 2009 deadline to pass health care reform
* Then, Christmas
* Now, March 18
* Vowed to sign health care bill in 2009
* Called for an energy bill by the end of 2009
* Sought a financial regulation bill by the end of 2009
* Demanded Iran prove by the end of 2009 that its nuke program was peaceful
* Pending: Iraq combat troop withdrawal by Aug. 31; Afghanistan troop withdrawal beginning in July 2011.
We'll mark our calendars. The president apparently won't be marking his.
March 11, 2010 Permalink
STARTLING – AT 7:44 A.M. ET: We have a historic week coming up. The president is demanding that Congress pass his health-care plan by March 18th, a week from today, essentially placing one sixth of the economy under federal control.
Many in Congress, in the president's own party, are resisting, some over the abortion issue, others over cost. And some, zombie-like, oppose the president's plan because it isn't radical enough. Calming pills are on the way.
The bottom line, though, is that many Democrats fear that if they vote for the plan, their congressional careers will be terminated in November. And they don't want to go back to the family business. There is a widespread feeling in Washington that, if the president can't get the plan passed within the next week, it will eventually be lost, as members of Congress will be going home during the winter recess and will face angry constituents.
There is good reason for the Dems to have political worries, as The Politico reports:
The anti-reform business coalition StartOver put out some startling poll numbers today on what reform means to people in the districts of 11 vulnerable House Democrats. The move coincides with an effort by Senate Republicans to scare moderate Dems into voting against the bill, especially now that Senate Majority Leader Reid has the votes to pass a reconciliation bill.
Here are some of the findings. We point out that the survey, taken among likely voters, was conducted by the Republican polling firm, Tarrance Group:
IN-9 Baron Hill
76% worry the health bill will raise their taxes.
87% say it’s very or somewhat likely that his vote will matter in November.
31% favor the health bill while 52% oppose.
PA-4 Jason Altmire
81% worry the health bill will raise their taxes.
93% say it’s very or somewhat likely that his vote will matter in November.
30% favor health bill while 58% oppose.
29% favor use of reconciliation 60% oppose
NJ-3 John Adler
80% worry the health bill will raise their taxes.
90% say it’s very or somewhat likely that his vote will matter in November.
34% favor the health bill while 57% oppose.
NV-3 Dina Titus
73% worry the health bill will raise their taxes.
89% say it’s very or somewhat likely that his vote will matter in November.
40% favor the health bill while 58% oppose.
NY-24 Michael Arcuri
77% worry the health bill will raise their taxes.
88% say it’s very or somewhat likely that his vote will matter in November.
32% favor the health bill while 53% oppose.
Please note that support for the president's bill doesn't go above 40% in any of the districts polled. That pattern also prevails among the remainder reported in the full story.
This will be a spectacularly important week in the modern history of Congress. The Japanese had their kamikaze. The Democrats have their Barack Obama. The difference is that the kamikaze flew themselves and perished. Obama is sending others to do the same job.
March 11, 2010 Permalink
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 10, 2010
BREAKING KNEES AND OTHER POLITICAL ART FORMS – AT 8:58 P.M. ET: There is an increasing understanding that the age of Obama is becoming a reflection of the Chicago we knew and loved...in the thirties. The New York Post notes:
President Obama's attempts to ram health-care reform through an increasingly reluctant Congress are starting to resemble a really eventful episode of "The Sopranos."
Whether or not you believe former Rep. Eric Massa's bizarre accusations of locker-room confrontations and conspiracies to drive him from office, there is no doubt that the Obama administration and its congressional allies are willing to use every trick in the book to get this bill passed.
They've already bought votes with pork and special deals -- the "Louisiana purchase" ($300 million to bolster that state's Medicaid program, which swayed Sen. Mary Landrieu); the "Cornhusker kickback" ($100 million to Medicaid there, sweetening the pot for Sen. Ben Nelson), and Florida's "Gator Aid" (a Medicare deal potentially worth $5 billion, a hefty price for Sen. Bill Nelson's vote). Plus the millions for Connecticut hospitals, Montana asbestos abatement and so on.
Nor were the Obamans willing to let a little thing like election laws stand in the way. They rewrote Massachusetts law to allow for an appointed senator to hold office for several months, hoping to get the bill through before the special election that Scott Brown ultimately won. Their plans spoiled, they even considered holding up Brown's seating to let the appointed senator continue to vote on health care -- until public outrage forced them to back down.
And, of course, there has been an unprecedented willingness to ignore congressional rules -- from the failure to appoint a "conference committee" to negotiate differences between the House and Senate bills, to their current plans to use the reconciliation process to bypass a Republican filibuster.
Expect the tactics to get even dirtier now.
Those who support the president can expect favors. No sooner had Rep Jim Matheson (D-Utah) suggested that he might be willing to switch his vote and support the latest version of ObamaCare than his brother was nominated for a federal judgeship.
Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) is also on the undecided list. And, purely by coincidence no doubt, the Justice Department just announced that it is dropping an FBI investigation that has been swirling about the congressman. Gosh, if only Charlie Rangel were one of the undecideds.
Those who oppose the president can expect the political equivalent of a horse head between their sheets.
COMMENT: The most important question, though, is this: Who will play these guys in the movie? Cagney is dead. So is Edward G. Robinson. Brando is gone. For Obama, I'm rooting for Yaphet Kotto, who was in "Live and Let Die," with Bondsman Roger Moore:
What do you think?
March 10, 2010 Permalink
WHAT HATH BARACK WROUGHT? – AT 7:48 P.M. ET: Leave it to the European left to mess things up royally, and attribute its thinking to Obama:
Strasbourg - NATO's tactical nuclear weapons in Europe are a 'strategic anachronism' that needs to be gradually eliminated in cooperation with Russia, the European Parliament said in a resolution approved Wednesday.
Unbelievable. They must be dancing in the ministries in Tehran tonight. Iran is testing missiles capable of hitting Europe, and developing nuclear warheads, and look what Europe is thinking. These are the old socialists at work.
The move follows on from the letter sent in February by the foreign ministers of Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Norway to NATO's secretary general, asking for a review of the defence alliance's nuclear policy at an upcoming summit in April.
In a resolution approved in Strasbourg, France, members of the parliament (MEPs) 'drew attention to the strategic anachronism of tactical nuclear weapons and the need for Europe to contribute to their reduction and to eliminate them from European soil in the context of a broader dialogue with Russia.'
Nothing like a little unbiased reporting. Europe is under great threat, but doesn't seem to want to realize it. And the "dialogue" with Russia is a joke. The Russians will "dialogue" when it benefits them.
You kind of wonder whether foreign ministries keep hiring the same kind of people over and over. European diplomacy still has that 1930s ring, doesn't it?
They also stressed that withdrawal of European tactical warheads could contribute to the vision of a 'world without nuclear weapons,' expressed last year in Prague by United States President Barack Obama, during his first trip to Europe.
The parliament's initiative - which has no legally binding value - was welcomed by the leader of the social-democratic grouping.
'President Obama has created the opportunity to move closer to a nuclear-free world. We expect EU ministers to support this commitment and to propose an ambitious timetable for achieving it,' Martin Schulz said.
COMMENT: Barack, you've done it again. You've inspired the world...at least that part of the world that was also inspired by the 1960s, the North Vietnamese, George McGovern, and Yassir Arafat.
If I were a sane European, and there are some, I'd want those tac nukes kept just where they are until all nuclear threats to the continent are neutralized. And that could take a long time.
March 10, 2010 Permalink
VIEW WITH CAUTION – AT 7:41 P.M. ET: There may be some movement in the campaign to reform the fatally damaged science of "climate change" or "global warming," or whatever today's favored phrase is. Even the UN, where corruption is an honored craft, is getting into the reform act, as Fox reports:
In an apparent slap at the embattled chief of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has ordered a newly formed outside scientific panel to review its "procedures and practices" -- and more significantly, its management.
The hastily assembled panel will be headed by Prof. Robbert H. Dijkgraaf, head of the Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and co-chairman of the InterAcademy Council. The investigation will be carried out by the Council and will be composed of unpaid volunteer scientists. The panel's formation, it was acknowledged at a press conference Wednesday, was a direct reaction to criticism of the way the IPCC put together its last report on climate change.
The Council is composed of the heads of national science academies in 15 countries, according to Dijkgraaf, a theoretical physicist.
The IPCC is a U.N.-funded organization that gathers and publishes authoritative reports on the state of climate research. Governments and policy makers rely on its findings to battle climate change, because it is expected to present the best analysis and assessment of data available.
COMMENT: Not necessarily good news. Who are the people involved? What are their interests? Their biases? Their histories? A review can easily turn into a whitewash. Will dissenters be permitted a voice?
Remember that the UN has a vested interest in promoting "climate change" hysteria because the "solutions" often involve transfers of wealth from advanced countries to "developing" countries that never seem to develop. There are a lot of the latter, and the palms are outstretched.
So we'll have to wait and see on this one. I would have preferred a much more open discussion before this panel was named.
March 10, 2010 Permalink
AT LEAST LIMITED GOOD NEWS – AT 7:27 P.M. ET: Maybe the anti-war "movement" in the House of Representatives isn't as strong as we'd thought it was. From The Politico:
In a first election-year test of President Barack Obama’s military buildup in Afghanistan, the House soundly rejected a war powers resolution seeking to force the withdrawal of American forces no later than Dec. 31.
The lopsided 356-65 win gives new momentum to the White House going into what promises to be a more difficult battle next month over new war funding.
For the moment at least, the old antiwar left of past Iraq debates appears fractured over how much time to give the president to implement his strategy.
COMMENT: What must be exposed is the sheer hypocrisy of many of the "anti-war" activists in the Democratic Party. They'd said they were against the war in Iraq, and blamed BUSH (!!) and Cheney (!!!!) for conniving to get us into it.
But, in fact, these people are against any war the United States is involved in, something obvious from the vote today. This was about Afghanistan. We'd been assured that Afghanistan was the "good" war. But these "anti-war" politicians don't believe any American war is a good war, unless the ideological left gives its approval.
Remember that the left was opposed to our entry into World War II until Germany invaded the old Soviet Union. Then the ideologues did a 180, condemned Hitler, and approved the war effort...until Japan surrendered in 1945, whereupon they went right back to their old propaganda and opposed our resistance to to Soviet expansionism.
March 10, 2010 Permalink
OBAMA AT THE BOTTOM – AT 9:52 A.M. ET: Today's Rasmussen tracker brings the grimmest news for President Obama. He has equaled his lowest numbers, and those numbers are spectacularly bad:
The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday shows that 22% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -21. That matches the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President...
...Among those not affiliated with either major political party, 17% Strongly Approve and 45% Strongly Disapprove...
...Fifty-seven percent (57%) believe that passage of the proposed health care legislation will hurt the economy. Just 25% believe it will help...
...Overall, 43% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President's performance. That, too matches the lowest level yet recorded for this President. Fifty-six percent (56%) disapprove.
And here's another smile:
Republican candidates lead Democrats by seven points in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot.
The new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 44% would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate while 37% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent. Voter support for GOP congressional candidates held steady from last week, while support for Democrats is up a point.
Voters not affiliated with either major party continue to favor the GOP by a 42% to 22% margin, showing little change for several months now.
COMMENT: Or, as the Democrats used to sing, "Happy days are here again."
These numbers are a disaster. They show once again that the health-care bill, if it passes, will be an extra burden for the Democrats in November. They also show that the president and his party are failing to make any kind of a case for continuation in office.
Obviously, all this can change. But the word "failure" is written all over the Democratic Party. The idea now is for the Republicans to build on the political situation, and not be content with it, which is the old GOP malady.
March 10, 2010 Permalink
AN OBSCENE TRANSFER OF PUBLIC FUNDS – AT 8:49 A.M. ET: We've all read stories recently, shocking stories really, that the average public employee now earns considerably more in wages and benefits than does the average employee in the private sector.
Now the Wall Street Journal, in a superb editorial, examines the impact that giveaways to public employees are having even on other public services, especially education. California college "students" have been protesting tuition hikes and cutbacks in services, reminding us of California campus protests of the 1960s. Even the pro-Communist signs are the same. But the "students" have little understanding of the source of their plight:
In 1999, the Democratic legislature ran a reckless gamble that makes Wall Street's bankers look cautious. At the top of a bull market, they assumed their investment returns would grow at a 8.25% rate in perpetuity—equivalent to assuming that the Dow would reach 25,000 by 2009—and enacted a huge pension boon for public-safety and industrial unions.
The bill refigured the compensation formula for pension benefits of all public-safety employees who retired on or after January 1, 2000. It let firefighters retire at age 50 and receive 3% of their final year's compensation times the number of years they worked. If a firefighter started working at the age of 20, he could retire at 50 and earn 90% of his final salary, in perpetuity. One San Ramon Valley fire chief's yearly pension amounted to $284,000—more than his $221,000 annual salary.
In 2002, the state legislature further extended benefits to many nonsafety classifications, such as milk and billboard inspectors. More than 15,000 public employees have retired with annual pensions greater than $100,000. Who needs college when you can get a state job and make out like that?
It has always been my dream to be a billboard inspector in California.
This year alone $3 billion was diverted from other programs to fund pensions, including more than $800 million from the UC system. It is becoming clear that in the most strapped liberal states there's a pecking order: Unions get the lifeboats, and everyone else gets thrown over the side. Sorry, kids.
The governor's office projects that over the next decade the annual taxpayer contributions to retiree pensions and health care will grow to $15 billion from $5.5 billion, and that's assuming the stock market doubles every 10 years. With unfunded pension and health-care liabilities totaling more than $122 billion, California will continue chopping at higher-ed.
Mr. Schwarzenegger has routinely called for pension reform, but the Democratic legislature has tossed aside the Terminator like a paper doll.
And the politicians?
California has a governor's race on, and the candidates are semi-mum on this catastrophe. Democratic candidate Jerry Brown has supported modifying public employee benefits but hasn't offered specific proposals and opposes defined contribution plans. Republican Meg Whitman supports increasing the retirement age to 65 from 55 and asking employees to contribute more to their benefits, but she won't support a reform ballot measure for fear it would drive up union turn-out in November.
COMMENT: It's the same story in many liberal states, like New York. These are the states in the most trouble. You can be sure they'll go begging to Washington for help.
We just learned, here in New York, that a local school superintendent earns almost as much as the president of the United States. And the schools aren't getting any better.
March 10, 2010 Permalink
THE BRILLIANT LEADER, SECOND TO NONE IN WISDOM – AT 8:02 A.M. ET: Once again we turn to the British to inform us that the emperor has no clothes. From Toby Harnden in London's Telegraph, describing an interview with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband:
Miliband stated: “Even for governments as brilliant as the Obama administration, 2009 was a difficult year.”
What planet is he on? Not even the most starry-eyed, Kool-Aid-drinking Obamaphile would describe the current administration as “brilliant." White House advisers privately concede that they have suffered a series of self-inflicted wounds and need to do a lot of things differently.
I love it when the Brits state the obvious, and state it so well.
And let us add a comment by our own Michael Barone, in today's Washington Examiner, over the most brilliant president in all of human history's handling of health-care legislation:
In fall 2009 Democrats could have pivoted on health care to craft a popular bill or a watered-down unpopular bill to be passed by a bipartisan safe-seat coalition. Instead they plunged ahead and rammed through unpopular bills on party-line votes.
Pelosi got a 220-215 margin in the House in November after accepting an amendment by Bart Stupak that banned funding of abortions.
In the Senate in December, Majority Leader Harry Reid predictably had to pay a high price -- the Cornhusker kickback and the Louisiana purchase -- for the 59th and 60th votes. That's always the case when you need 60 out of 60.
Scott Brown's election in January in Massachusetts deprived Reid of his 60th vote. The only way forward for the Democrats is for the House to pass the Senate bill and then trust the Senate to fix it through the reconciliation process. Pelosi has had six weeks to get the votes for that and hasn't done so yet.
It's beginning to look like the goal of health care legislation was a bridge too far. There's a reason it's hard to pass unpopular legislation on party-line votes. It's not the Senate rules. It's called democracy.
COMMENT: Dems can blame their Congressional leadership from now until Sunday, but it's the man at the top who guided, or failed to guide, the process. Obama came to office with vastly more public support than the new Congress, and look what he did with it.
Political reporters are now saying that the House vote on health-care "reform" may well be pushed past the Easter recess, when members go home and face their constituents. The prevailing belief is that it will be even harder to pass the legislation if that delay comes to pass.
Brilliant president? Carter-like brilliance.
March 10, 2010 Permalink
AT WHAT POINT DO YOU SCREAM? – AT 7:48 A.M. ET: After a year of apologizing to just about everyone around the world for just about everything, the Obamans apparently haven't learned that it hasn't gotten them anywhere. From Gateway Pundit:
The Obama State Department apologized to Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi for offending the dear tyrant with offensive language.
The BBC reported:
The US State Department has apologized for comments made about Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s call for jihad, or holy war, against Switzerland.
Department spokesman PJ Crowley, who made the dismissive comments, said they did not reflect US policy and were not intended to offend.
Col Gaddafi had criticised a Swiss vote against the building of minarets and urged Muslims to boycott the country.
Mr Crowley described it as “lots of words, not necessarily a lot of sense.”
Libya and Switzerland are embroiled in a long-running diplomatic row.
“I regret that my comments have become an obstacle to further progress in our bilateral relationship,” Mr Crowley said.
Last week, Libya’s National Oil Corporation warned US oil firms of possible “repercussions” over Mr Crowley’s reaction. The Libyan ambassador to the US sought to clarify Col Gaddafi’s remarks saying the Libyan leader meant an economic boycott not “an armed attack”.
“I should have focused solely on our concern about the term jihad, which has since been clarified by the Libyan government,” Mr Crowley added.
“I understand my personal comments were perceived as a personal attack on the president,” he said.
Hat Tip Dan Friedman
Libyan dictator Moamer Gaddafi warned the Swiss in December that their minaret ban invited attacks by Al-Qaeda on Europe.
In September it was reported that the Obama Administration planned to give $400,000 in funding to a Libyan charity run by the Gadhafi family.
COMMENT: The families of victims of Pan Am 103, murdered by Gaddafi's henchmen, must be appalled.
It's apparently about oil, and about "respect" for third-world thugs. So goes our foreign policy. Can you think of one success under Obama?
March 10, 2010 Permalink
ANOTHER BRAVE PROTECTOR OF THE PUBLIC SAFETY – AT 7:31 A.M. ET: Still one more Obama nominee is in trouble. You wonder who examines the records of these people. From Fox News:
The Senate Judiciary Committee has postponed the hearing for a controversial Court of Appeals nominee after the panel received a letter from a home-state prosecutor blasting the candidate as a judicial loose cannon and after Republicans raised concerns about bias in favor of sex offenders.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Chatigny gained notoriety in 2005 for his role in trying to fight the execution of convicted serial killer and rapist Michael Ross, also known as The Roadside Strangler, whom Chatigny had described as a victim of his own "sexual sadism."
His conduct in that case, which included threatening to go after Ross' attorney's law license, as well as his ruling in 2001 against sex offender registries created under Megan's Law, has caused a commotion among Republicans on the judiciary panel.
"I've never seen conduct like this," said a Republican source. "I'm shocked that the White House vetted this guy ... and still put him up for a judgeship."
The nomination is relatively fresh. President Obama submitted his name Feb. 24 for a seat on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, calling him a "first-rate" legal expert and "faithful" public servant.
COMMENT: The Republican request for postponement was granted immediately by committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, pristine liberal of Vermont. It's an election year. Even Democrats may well be getting sensitive to some of the eccentric characters nominated by this president.
March 10, 2010 Permalink