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I have a new piece up today at the Hudson New York website, entitled "Will America Make it?" For those interested, it's here.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2009
AND AGAIN - AND AGAIN, AND AGAIN, AND AGAIN - AT 10:58 P.M. ET: From the Washington Post:
Five young men from Northern Virginia have been arrested in Pakistan at the home of a man linked to a radical jihadist group, and Pakistani authorities are questioning them about any possible links to terrorism, diplomatic and law enforcement officials said Wednesday.
Any possible links to terrorism? What other reason could they be there, except of course for the fine shopping and world-class restaurants?
The men, all Muslims from the Alexandria area, were reported missing by their families last week and taken into custody near Lahore on Monday. One of them left behind a video that quoted Koranic verses, cited conflicts between Western and Muslim nations and showed wartime footage. A Muslim leader described it Wednesday as a farewell statement. Law enforcement sources said the video had jihadist overtones but cautioned that they have no evidence it was intended as a farewell. They said they have no information about the men's intentions.
So a guy makes a video with Koranic verses, and even a Muslim leader says it's a bye-bye statement. And our law enforcement? Why, there's no evidence. Maybe it was a little film for a class.
Law enforcement officials also said they have no evidence that the men had been trained at terror camps or were planning an attack. But the arrests came at a time of growing concern about homegrown terrorism after the recent shootings at the Fort Hood, Tex., military base and charges filed this week against a Chicago man accused of playing a role in last year's terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India.
The men were taken into custody at the home of an activist affiliated with a radical group that has been banned by the Pakistani government, an official at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington said.
COMMENT: I know, I know - you have to have evidence, and law enforcement must proceed carefully. But I wish some of the guys with badges would exhibit a bit more public spine, and some sense of urgency.
We've had incident after incident in the last year, and still not a single comment from the president. Far from expressions of public concern, we get a decision to try the mastermind of 9-11 in a New York civilian court, as if he'd stolen a pencil sharpener.
December 9, 2009 Permalink
WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL - AT 7:32 P.M. ET: We love stories about language here, but don't do enough of them. This one, from Britain, in defense of English (remember English?) is just terrific:
LONDON, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Britain's Plain English Campaign awarded its "Foot in Mouth" prize to an official who said people should look "round corners more thoroughly."
Business Secretary Peter Mandelson was given the campaign's satirical "award" for his use of language while discussing lawmakers' expenses, Politics.co.uk reported Tuesday.
"Perhaps we need not more people looking round more corners, but the same people looking round more corners more thoroughly to avoid the small things detracting from the big things the prime minister is getting right," Mandelson said.
The Plain English Campaign also awarded a Golden Bull to the Department for Health for a statement reading: "Primary prevention includes health promotion and requires action on the determinants of health to present disease occurring. It has been described as refocusing upstream to stop people falling in the waters of disease."
COMMENT: The people who are writing the health "reform" bill in the Senate might be eligible for one of these commendations. I'd love to hear other nominations from readers.
And what about those warning labels on prescription drugs? "There's a slight chance of death..."
December 9, 2009 Permalink
OH DEAR, OH DEAR, WHAT CAN THE MATTER BE? - AT 5:54 P.M. ET: A new Quinnipiac poll out today provides no relief for the politically oppressed White House. The president is hurting in the polls, and the trend, in the last month or two, has been relentless:
American voters give President Barack Obama a split 46 - 44 percent job approval, his lowest ever, and both the health care reform package that he wants Congress to pass and his personal rating on handling health care now win support from less than four in 10 Americans, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.
Voters disapprove 52 - 38 percent of the health care reform proposal under consideration in Congress, and they disapprove 56 - 38 percent of President Obama's handling of health care, down from 53 - 41 percent in a November 19 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh- pe-ack) University.
But Republicans must beware. The news isn't all good:
American voters trust Obama more than Republicans in Congress to handle health care 44 - 37 percent, down from 45 - 36 percent three weeks ago. Voters disapprove 58 - 30 percent of the way Republicans in Congress are doing their job, and disapprove 56 - 33 percent of Democrats in Congress.
So Obama's poor numbers appear to reflect Obama. They do not appear to reflect any sudden great love for Republicans.
More on the president's decline:
American voters disapprove 54 - 41 percent of Obama's handling of the economy, down from a 52 - 43 percent disapproval November 18 and his worst score ever on this issue. The biggest shift is among Democrats who approve 71 - 24 percent, down from 77 - 18 percent three weeks ago.
The biggest drop in Obama's overall approval is among independent voters, who disapprove 51 - 37 percent, down from 46 - 43 percent disapproval.
The President's support declines as one goes up the age and income scale. Analyzed by religion, Obama gets a thumbs up from 32 percent of white Protestants, 42 percent of white Roman Catholics and 52 percent of Jews.
These are the people who turn out on election day in greater proportions than, say, young voters.
It will still be a fight for Republicans, with nothing certain. Americans are catching on to Barack Obama, but it doesn't mean they'll automatically latch on to the GOP.
December 9, 2009 Permalink
TRANSITION - AT 5:26 P.M. ET: This may not seem to be an important story, but it is, and I will explain why. From The New York Times:
Procter & Gamble, the company that invented the soap opera and gave the genre its name, is no longer in the soap opera business.
CBS announced on Tuesday that it was canceling “As the World Turns,” the 54-year-old soap that is the last daytime serial owned by Procter & Gamble. The show chronicled generations of characters in fictional Oakdale, Ill., as they survived love and loss, but they couldn’t survive the harsh realities of modern television, where scripted dramas have become too expensive to justify dwindling ratings.
The demise of “ATWT,” as it is known to soap fans, means that the two most venerable examples of the genre have been given cancellation notices in the same year. “Guiding Light,” a CBS daytime staple, had been on the air through radio and television for 72 years. CBS informed Procter & Gamble of the cancellation “a couple of days ago,” according to Jeannie Tharrington, a spokeswoman for Procter & Gamble.
“It’s a part of our business that we will miss, and it’ll be hard for us to say goodbye to the show,” Ms. Tharrington said. Procter & Gamble said it would try to find a new home for the series. Given the current economic climate, though, that is considered unlikely.
COMMENT: Why is this story important? Well, to fans of ATWT, that's obvious. But there are other reasons. First, actors and writers are thrown out of work, and a great training ground is being eliminated. Soap operas have traditionally provided employment for up-and-coming actors, writers, and directors. Many of the biggest names you know got their start in "soaps." They learned their craft while setting their sights on higher things.
Further, soaps appeal to older women, and they are simply not wanted by advertisers, another example of the marginalization of older groups in the society.
But perhaps most important, soaps are usually "client-owned" shows - shows that were originally brought in by advertisers, rather than developed "internally" by network programming departments. In the early decades of television, that was the norm - one sponsor for each show. Dinah Shore was Chevrolet. Milton Berle was Texaco, and then later Buick. Jack Benny was Lucky Strike, in the days when cigarette ads were accepted. The result was, often, a kind of diversity. Today, what you often see on TV are the values of Los Angeles and New York. There was, in the earlier days, a greater attention to the standards and tastes of middle America.
That doesn't mean it was all wonderful. It wasn't. There was plenty of mediocrity and blandness, and copycat programming. And yes, there was a blacklist, unacceptable in a free society. But there was also Philco Playhouse, Studio One, and The Twilight Zone. The gold may have been tarnished, but it was a golden age.
About eight years ago I ran into a representative of the advertising industry while waiting for a meeting at CBS, Hollywood. He told me he was trying to interest the network in trying, once more, to have sponsors bring in shows that reflected the family values of most Americans. I don't think he got very far. One problem, of course, is that, since the early sixties, it's been virtually impossible for a single sponsor to finance an entire show, the cost of programming having risen dramatically. What you see today, as you know, is a commercial "block" filled with many sponsors in back-to-back commercials. When the block comes on, you know you have time to do something else.
So, another icon falls, and with it memories of another television age. Was it better? Not necessarily, but it was more interesting, and, in an odd way, more diverse.
December 9, 2009 Permalink
RESPECT FOR CONGRESS DIVES - AT 9:49 A.M. ET: More polling fun. From Gallup:
PRINCETON, NJ -- For the first time in Gallup's annual Honesty and Ethics of Professions poll, a majority of Americans -- 55% -- say the honesty and ethical standards of "members of Congress" are low or very low -- slightly worse than "senators," whose ethics are rated low by 49%. By contrast, 83% of Americans say nurses have either very high or high ethical standards, positioning them at the top of Gallup's 2009 ranking of various professions.
Maybe we should have the nurses write the health reform bill.
The percentage of Americans now believing that members of Congress have low ethics is up from 46% in 2008 and 45% in 2007, and has more than doubled since the start of the decade -- rising from 21% in November 2000 to 55% today.
Ah, what Democratic victories bring.
But, you ask, what about other professions like...journalists?
Did you have to ask?
Journalists rank in the middle of the ethics chart, with nurses and pharmacists at the top and car salesmen and HMO managers at the bottom. Some 23% of those polled thought journalists had high or very high ethics, 45% said average, and 31% said low or very low. Journalists were grouped in with psychiatrists and bankers. Figure that one out.
December 9, 2009 Permalink
PUBLIC OPTION GOES - OR DOES IT? - AT 9:16 A.M. ET: From Fox News:
WASHINGTON -- After days of secret talks, Senate Democrats tentatively agreed Tuesday night to drop a full-blown government-run insurance option from sweeping health care legislation, several officials said, a concession to party moderates whose votes are critical to passage of President Barack Obama's top domestic priority.
In its place, officials said Democrats had tentatively settled on a private insurance arrangement to be supervised by the federal agency that oversees the system through which lawmakers purchase coverage, with the possibility of greater government involvement if needed to ensure consumers of sufficient choices in coverage.
COMMENT: I'd look at that with two eyes. This is only a tentative agreement on the Senate version. That would have to be reconciled with the House version, which contains a strong public option. And then there is the abortion issue, with Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska threatening to filibuster the whole thing if the bill contains federal funding for abortion.
Health "reform" is not a done deal, which is good news. The public is against the current bills. The whole subject requires further study, journalistic examination (hah), and discussion with patients and physicians.
December 9, 2009 Permalink
I LOVE THIS STORY, JUST LOVE IT - AT 8:50 A.M. ET: Sometimes, the best way to fight political correctness is to enlist the people it's designed to protect. A delightful story from - I have to give them credit - The politically correct New York Times:
GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Sometime soon, the Fighting Sioux of the University of North Dakota were to be no more, another collegiate nickname dropped after being deemed hostile and abusive to American Indians.
Except that some members of the Spirit Lake Tribe, one of two groups of Sioux in the state, say they consider the nickname an honor and worry that abandoning it would send them one step closer to obscurity.
“When you hear them announce the name at the start of a hockey game, it gives you goose bumps,” said Frank Black Cloud, a tribal member. “They are putting us up on a pinnacle.”
Well, well, well, someone finally got it. Yes, you toiling members of the nation's delicate intellectual elite, when a team names itself after a tribe, it is honoring that tribe.
Now the question is, does the state of North Dakota get it? You won't believe this:
And so, in a legal standoff that has turned some preconceptions upside down, North Dakota’s top state lawyers will be in court on Wednesday to oppose members of the Spirit Lake Tribe who have sued to preserve the Fighting Sioux name and logo, an image of an Indian in profile, feathers draping down.
COMMENT: The absurdity of it all. I remember, some years ago, when some leftist Asian-Americans, learning the tradecraft of radicalism, protested the "stereotype" that Asian kids are good at math. Doesn't the PC crowd know a compliment when they see it?
I can see the day when a college will have a football team named "The Multicultural Engagers." Obama will throw out the first ball...I mean, playing device.
December 9, 2009 Permalink
AND IT ISN'T ONLY NORWAY (SEE STORY JUST BELOW) - AT 8:15 A.M. ET: When this president snubs, he goes all out. And if you want to show that you can snub an ally, the obvious big-time choice is Britain. You get extra credit on the left, and all that.
Since his first day in office, President Obama has gone out of his way to snub Britain. Silvio Canto Jr., on whose radio show I often appear, alerts us to a piece by Nile Gardiner, in London's Daily Mail, on the damage done by Obama's immature behavior:
Last week, when President Obama got to his feet at the U.S. Military Academy to outline his administration's plans for America's future in Afghanistan, one subject was conspicuous by its total absence from his 40-minute speech.
For while he made much of the surge in troop numbers and the controversial phased withdrawal planned for 18 months' time, there wasn't a single mention of America's main ally in the region, Britain.
It's typical. This is the least gracious administration in memory. Example: This president spends a disturbing amount of his time attacking President Bush, and blaming him for everything, including the weather.
Never mind that we have 10,000 troops on active service there - far more than any other of America's so-called allies - and never mind that 237 of our brave soldiers have already lost their lives there, Great Britain wasn't even a footnote.
Given the level of sacrifice by British troops, it was the most extraordinary and insulting oversight...
...The only conclusion that can be drawn is that while the special relationship may not be dead yet, it's certainly dying, a fact that should be enormously worrying to politicians - and voters - on both sides of the Atlantic.
Once again a British writer nails Obama better than his American counterparts:
We cannot say, however, that we weren't warned.
This, after all, is a man who, within days of being sworn in as President, ordered that a bust of Winston Churchill - a gift from the British people to the U.S. in the dark days that followed 9/11 - be removed from the Oval Office...
...Nor have things improved since, with Obama apparently keener on sitting down with President Ahmadinejad of Iran, or cosying up to his new friends in France or Germany than he is on spending time with the Prime Minister. Indeed, he singularly failed to do just that when both men were in New York in September for the United Nations' General Assembly.
Once again, Obama's refusal to grasp that opportunity to stress the special relationship was seen as an insult to Britain.
Britain, meet Norway, and Israel, and Canada, and...
One of the greatest forces for good, liberty and freedom - not to mention the defence of the free world - is in very real danger of being banished to the history books for ever.
Obama, however, seems to be a president with no real grasp of history, as one of his first major acts on gaining office showed.
By withdrawing plans for a missile shield to be located in Eastern Europe, he not only appeased the Russians, he also betrayed the Poles and the Czechs, people who have only just been released from the yoke of Soviet control and have since become enthusiastic and valuable Western allies.
But he's such an intellectual, isn't he? I mean, he lived in Hyde Park, in Chicago, where the leftist intellectuals meet.
Maybe that's the problem.
Obama must be made to realise what a dangerous diplomatic game he is playing. Time and again, history has shown - most recently, of course, in Iraq and Afghanistan - that when it comes to taking decisive military action, the only country the U.S. has ever been able to rely on is Britain.
When the U.S. marches in, it's only ever the British who can be depended on to march alongside them.
Well, let's add Australia and Canada, two other countries he's snubbed.
Britain needs America - of that there is no doubt. But recent history shows that America needs Britain, too. Barack Obama needs to wake up to that; before it's too late.
COMMENT: He will not wake up. Snubbing our allies is in his DNA. It's part of his world view. There is a reason why his popularity is plunging. The American people are catching on that, while Barack Obama is president of us, he is not of us.
December 9, 2009 Permalink
TAKE THAT, NORWAY! - AT 7:46 A.M. ET: Someone, in one of those Washington briefings, probably whispered to President Obama that Norway is, more or less, an ally. How else could we explain his snobbish treatment of the country where he's about to receive the Nobel Prize? Today Norway, tomorrow, oh, Italy?
OSLO (AFP) – A majority of Norwegians consider "impolite" US President Barack Obama's decision to snub parts of the official Nobel Peace Prize programme in Oslo this week, a poll showed on Wednesday.
Obama, who will formally receive the award at a ceremony at Oslo's City Hall on Thursday, will limit his attendance at the normally-scheduled events to a strict minimum.
Maybe he understands just what that prize is worth. How would you like to be on a list of "winners" that contains so many losers, like Al Gore, Jimmah Carter, Yasir Arafat, and the guy who ran the UN's nuclear watchdog agency? What was his name again?
Faced with two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the fallout of the economic crisis, the US leader has declined the traditional lunch with the king of Norway, and, unlike previous laureates, will not hold a press conference nor attend the Nobel concert held in his honour the day after the prize ceremony.
Norway has a king? How could Barack know? How do you address him? "Your blondeness?"
Press conference? Too much chance for an embarrassing question like, "Do you really think you deserve this?"
Concert? Yeah, right. I'm sure Barack digs that kind of music.
According to a poll conducted by the InFact institute and published in daily Verdens Gang (VG), 44 percent of 1,000 people surveyed said it was "impolite" of Obama to not lunch with the king, while 34 percent said it was okay.
More than half, 53 percent, said it was "impolite" not to attend the Nobel concert, while 27 percent disagreed.
Obama is due to arrive in Oslo on Thursday morning and will leave Friday morning, staying in the Norwegian capital less than 24 hours. The official Nobel programme is usually spread out over three days.
COMMENT: Another country visited, another country snubbed. The Obama outreach goes on. If this were Tehran, he'd attend the concert.
December 9, 2009 Permalink
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2009
AND NOW FOR SOME GOOD QUOTES - AT 8:13 P.M. ET: We published a bad, bizarre quote from the academic world at 6:12 p.m., but do not fear. Academics can say some very wise things. Consider Tom Sowell, one of our favorite academics and columnists. Reader Jacqueline Reckseit sends us some recent quotes from Sowell, which show the man's intelligence and common sense:
In response to news of President Obama receiving the Nobel Prize for peace, an e-mail from a reader recalled a black classmate's comments upon graduating from high school many years ago. When asked to list the advantages and disadvantages of being black, the black student facetiously listed as an advantage "being praised for infinitesimal accomplishments."
President George W. Bush called this the "soft bigotry of low expectations." It is insulting and ultimately racist to hold blacks to a lower intellectual standard than whites.
No one likes to admit having been played for a fool. So it will probably take a mushroom cloud over some American city before some Obama supporters wake up. Even so, the true believers among the survivors will probably say that this was all George Bush's fault.
No doubt. Blame Bush. And the centrifuges in Iran, under the control of a crazed government, continue to spin.
There has probably never before been as drastic a decline in the quality of vice presidents as there has been when Dick Cheney was replaced by Joe Biden.
People who are urging us to do things to win the approval of other countries seem to put such an excessive value on other countries' approval, as distinguished from their respect, that we can lose by such bowing to "world opinion." Do the world champion New York Yankees try to curry favor with teams that are also-rans?
Tom Sowell. Savor.
December 8, 2009 Permalink
HEALTH "REFORM" LATEST - AT 6:32 P.M. ET: From the Washington Post:
The Senate narrowly rejected an amendment that would have restricted abortion coverage in the pending health-care bill, leaving in question whether Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) has the 60 votes needed to move the bill toward final passage.
The measure, which failed 54-45, addressed the scope of restrictions on coverage of abortion services for people who receive subsidies to buy insurance. The outcome was expected, but could cost the support of Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who has threatened to filibuster the $848 billion bill unless abortion restrictions are tightened.
Reid told reporters earlier Tuesday afternoon he would consider other language to allay Nelson's concerns. "If in fact he doesn't succeed here, we'll try something else," Reid said.
The vote came amid intense final negotiations on the bill, as Reid aims to wrap up debate on amendments and begin a long procedural stand-off with Republicans -- possibly extending 10 days -- before the bill can come to a final vote before Christmas.
COMMENT: What a complete mess. Does anyone know what's in this bill? There seems to be a drive to pass anything. We can only hope that Republicans, joined by "moderate" Democrats, will filibuster the monstrosity to death.
But, sadly, in the end, we will probably see a few liberal Republicans, like Olympia Snowe, going along, and moderate Dems caving in, even if it costs them their jobs. And we will probably see something passed by a narrow margin.
And then the trouble begins.
December 8, 2009 Permalink
AWFUL QUOTE OF THE DAY - AT 6:12 P.M. ET: As I've said before, I love academic people - real academic people. That may exclude a disturbingly large chunk of college faculties today.
One of the things that drives me crazy is the corrupt moral equivalence posed by some academics today. As you know, a professor in Binghamton, New York, was murdered several days ago by a Muslim graduate student who'd exhibited violent tendencies earlier. In response to this crime, members of the Binghamton University (State University of New York) anthropology department did their usual thing. From The New York Times:
Those from the anthropology department met for about 90 minutes on Monday in the same building where Dr. Antoun kept his office. Some of those who attended the meeting said that the group talked about how it was not only a tragedy that Dr. Antoun had been killed, but also that a member of their community had been accused of committing the act.
“We are all stricken with sadness for both parties,” said Prof. H. Stephen Straight. “It’s a terrible tragedy what happened to Dick, and it is a tragedy that the alleged suspect was one of us.”
That is bad. That is very, very bad - setting up a moral equivalence between victim and perpetrator. Of course, on the left that's normal talk, which is why the left can never deal effectively with violent crime.
I'm amused by the prof's name - Professor Straight. You'd think he'd change it just to be politically correct. Maybe "Professor Sexual Choice."
Dr. Straight said that university officials had advised those at the meeting not to speak with the media, but he chose to speak publicly because of a relationship with Dr. Antoun that extended back to the 1970s, when they both began teaching at Binghamton.
Does the term "cover-up" come to mind? Why shouldn't they speak to the press in an institution that, presumably, celebrates academic freedom and the free flow of ideas. We all know why.
“It’s tragically ironic that he would fall victim to someone who had been paranoid and delusional about his identity,” Dr. Straight said. “Dick had spent his whole life trying to understand people and their identities.”
Yup. There it is. The Major Hasan defense. He was just one screwed-up guy. Nothing more, folks, nothing more.
According to Andrew Merriweather, the director of anthropology graduate studies, Mr. Zahrani, who is Saudi, was well regarded and had planned to travel to Dearborn, Mich., to do his fieldwork for his dissertation.
“We admitted him, we are very selective,” Dr. Merriweather said. “He came in with a master’s degree and he did very well in his classes compared to other students.”
Just a great student with a bit of a problem.
Can you believe this stuff?
December 8, 2009 Permalink
THE NEXT WAVE - CHECKBOOKS OUT, PENS READY - AT 6:01 P.M. ET: Isn't it remarkable about the Democrats: They think the money in the federal treasury is theirs. From McClatchy:
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Tuesday made the case for spending some of an expected $200 billion left over from last year's federal bailout of banks to pay for new small-business tax cuts and short-term job creation as well as deficit reduction.
The plan the president described in a speech at the Brookings Institution, a center-left research center, didn't include an overall price tag, and several Republicans say that Troubled Asset Relief Program leftovers must go toward deficit repayment and shouldn't be transferrable to new spending.
Obama and his aides, however, said that TARP money was fair game for job creation and that the president would work with Congress to consider funding questions.
COMMENT: Praise to the writers of the story for describing Brookings as "a center-left research center." That kind of specific description, especially when the story deals with the left, is sorely lacking in today's journalism. Instead, we get terms like "ant-war activist."
As to the specifics, we'll have to see what's proposed. But returning these funds to the American people, where the money originated, wouldn't be a bad idea.
December 8, 2009 Permalink
WHAT THEY'RE NOT TELLING US - AT 10:03 A.M. ET: Just as the Dems' health-care "reform" bill contains many hidden goodies that are not discussed with the public, so the proposed global-warming treaty being kicked around in Copenhagen contains some things that the American people might find, to put it mildly, surprising. American Thinker has the facts:
The draft of the treaty encompasses 181 pages and recites that it shall be the obligation of the developed countries (Europe, United States, Japan, Australia, etc.) to pay the developing countries (China, India, Africa, etc.) huge reparations, annual sums to erase poverty and to share technology with them. Australian lawyer Janet Albrechtsen explains the most recent draft of the treaty:
Clause after complicated clause sets out the requirement that developed countries such as Australia pay their "adaptation debt" to developing countries. Clause 33 on page 39 says that by 2020 the scale of financial flows to support adaptation in developing countries must be at least $US67 billion ($73bn), or in the range of $US70bn to $US140bn a year.
And the "developing" nations, some of which have trouble developing anything, are making huge demands:
In the behind-the-scenes negotiations, the developed countries have already agreed to pay $167 billion per year, but the developing countries are holding out for $400 billion per year according to BusinessGreen.com.
And, of course, we know that money will be wisely spent. Right.
It is not clear what share will come from the United States. But based upon the totals cited by BusinessGreen, it safely can be assumed that Obama will volunteer somewhere between $50 and $200 billion per year by 2020 as the U.S. share.
You read that correctly. Two-hundred billion.
Naturally, we will be deemed the guiltiest of the guilty:
The largest share of the burden would be borne by the United States. Students of history may remember that the reparations forced upon Germany by the victors of World War I, resulted in hyperinflation, destroyed the German middle class, and eventually brought Adolf Hitler to power, causing World War II. Economist John Maynard Keynes predicted this disaster at the time.
Basically what this treaty proposes is that the United States go ever further in debt to China, selling China our remaining assets, so that we can pay reparations to the developing countries, so that they can afford to buy windmills and solar panels from China.
The result would greatly accelerate the present trends. We would become a nation unable to get out of debt, even with the falling dollar. We would stop being an "ownership society" and become, in the words of Warren Buffett, a "sharecropper society."
Fortunately, a treaty requires ratification by two thirds of the Senate. I suspect that's where this crazy scheme will die. But you never know. A campaign by the left wing of the Democratic Party, joined by zealots in the press, and by some misguided Republicans, might result in an upset.
Watch this one with two eyes. Will Obama be foolish enough to back such a treaty? Only if he wants to be a one-term president.
December 8, 2009 Permalink
GATES USES THE "W" WORD, KEEPS HIS JOB - AT 9:30 A.M. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates apparently didn't get the memo. He actually used the word "win" in discussing Afghanistan. This means there will be no honorary degree from an Ivy League school. Fox News reports:
KABUL -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived late Monday in Afghanistan with plans to assure officials and American troops there that the United States is committed to winning the war despite plans to begin pulling forces out in 2011.
"We are in this thing to win," Gates told reporters while traveling to Kabul, where he plans to meet privately with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and later with troops bearing the brunt of combat.
It's nice to hear "win" occasionally. We haven't heard the word from the president.
The secretary's trip to Afghanistan is the first by a Cabinet member since President Barack Obama's announcement last week that he will deploy 30,000 more troops with the intention of starting to bring them home in July 2011.
As Gates took his message abroad, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the overall military commander in Afghanistan, will try Tuesday to convince a skeptical Congress that more troops are needed to fight a growing enemy insurgency. More than 920 U.S. troops have died in the 8-year-old war.
COMMENT: Comments by administration officials following the president's West Point speech have been sharper and better than Obama's remarks. Men at war must have a will to win. If leaders won't even use that word - and the president won't - who supplies that will? Gates spoke intelligently.
December 8, 2009 Permalink
MR. SMALL TIME - AT 8:53 A.M. ET: Colin Powell got his State Department portrait yesterday, as if anyone cares. I've always regarded Powell as vastly overrated, self-righteous, and, in the end, petty and selfish. Here is a man who opposed Ronald Reagan's "tear down that wall" Berlin speech; who seemed spectacularly indifferent to the first Gulf war; who was so vague on advancing the American interest that he even frustrated Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton's secretary of state; who didn't even bother to visit Ground Zero, in his home city, after the 9-11 attacks; who spent most of his time as secretary of state in his desk chair; who has sniped repeatedly at his own president, George W. Bush, but didn't have the dignity to resign in protest; who turned his back on John McCain to endorse the inexperienced machine politician, Barack Obama; and who didn't even have the class to acknowledge members of the Bush administration, including rivals, who came to his portrait's unveiling. From the Washington Post:
Though all of Powell's colleagues from the Bush Cabinet were invited, Rumsfeld, former Bush chief of staff Andy Card and a couple of others were outnumbered among attendees by a media contingent that included Tom Brokaw, Diane Sawyer, Sam Donaldson, Wolf Blitzer and Joe Scarborough.
Powell singled out none of his Bush colleagues, instead acknowledging former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer. "Many of you will remember the disagreement that we had with Germany over the Iraq situation in 2003, to the point where our leaders were somewhat estranged from each other, but Joschka and I and our fellow diplomats on both sides were never estranged from each other," he told an audience that included Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), former senators John Warner and Paul Laxalt, and Obama adviser David Axelrod.
Acknowledging Rumsfeld, who came to honor Powell, and praising Rumsfeld's efforts at national defense after 9-11, would have been the class thing to do. But lack of class always shows.
Powell praised the resurgent notion of "respecting the right of other nations to disagree with us and often dealing with regimes that do not share our values."
George W. Bush dealt with plenty of regimes like that. Powell's memory is conveniently defective.
It was a repudiation of the administration Powell served from that very building. Maybe that's why the Clinton State Department, even in these lean times, spared no expense for its Powell party. Waiters in black tie carried silver trays with wine and hors d'oeuvres to Powell's 300 guests. A musical trio played softly.
COMMENT: Now Powell should retire, not write his memoirs, and leave us alone.
December 8, 2009 Pemalink
MASSACHUSETTS SENATE - PRIMARY VOTE TODAY - AT 8:28 A.M. ET: Voters in Massachusetts vote in primaries today to select candidates to run in the January 19th special election. The winner in January will succeed the late Edward M. Kennedy. CNN reports:
A University of New Hampshire poll conducted for The Boston Globe in late November showed state Attorney Gen. Martha Coakley leading her closest rival, U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, by 21 percentage points. Of those surveyed by UNH, 43 percent chose Coakley, 22 percent picked Capuano, 15 percent selected Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca and 6 percent said nonprofit executive Alan Khazei was their choice. The UNH/Globe poll is consistent with surveys conducted by other academic institutions.
The Republican candidates, state Sen. Scott Brown and attorney Jack E. Robinson, were not included in the poll. But Brown, who was endorsed by the Globe and The Boston Herald, is expected to win the GOP primary.
COMMENT: There is a depressing sideshow going on in lefty, trendy, Massachusetts politics: The Democratic candidates are doing back flips to distance themselves from President Obama's surge in Afghanistan. The leading candidates have all come out against it, the better to win Cambridge, home of Harvard, and the Democratic equivalent of Mecca.
December 8, 2009 Permalink
SARAH AND BARACK - IN A WAY, TOGETHER AGAIN - AT 8:18 A.M. ET: Andrew Malcolm, in the L.A. Times' Top of the Ticket blog, reports that Sarah Palin is closing the polling gap on Barack Obama. This should bring smiles:
The new CNN/Opinion Research Poll shows Palin now at 46% favorable, just one point below her fellow basketball fan.
(The same poll, btw, has bad news for Dick Cheney-haters; the outspoken former VP has climbed out of the 29% basement back up to 39% now. How do you suppose he's done that without a new book? But that's another story.)
Not that either Palin or Obama will admit caring about such trivial things as disparate political polls....
...1,071 days before the 2012 election, when Republicans will have the concept of change on their side. Although Obama's camp is already using the looming Palin pall as a fundraising tool. Never let any potential threat go unmonetized.
The new numbers seem to indicate that despite oft-cited predictions about the dire impact of Palin resigning her Alaska governor's job last July, a lot of people who don't live in Alaska (and, come to think of it, most people don't live in Alaska) don't seem to care. She wasn't their governor then and she still isn't.
The comeback has begun. And more:
Palin critics -- and, by golly, there still are some, believe it or not -- say that she's a polarizing political figure.
And they're dead-on correct: 46% like her (including 8 of 10 Republicans), 46% don't (including 7 of 10 Democrats) and only 8% are undecided (no doubt including many who've been living underground since John McCain unveiled his VP GOP running mate in Dayton some15 months ago).
But here's the fascinating, little-noticed catch:
The very same polarization now holds true for Obama, the fresh fellow from the old Chicago Democratic machine who was supposed to bring hope and change to a nation tired of divisive politics and the harsh partisan tone of Washington.
Fully 83% of Democrats approve of him, but only 14% of Republicans do.
Among independents, who provided the crucial winning boost for the Democrat ticket in November 2008, Obama's support has melted to 42% today, in large part over immense spending and deficit concerns.
COMMENT: It is a far cry from these numbers to a successful run for the presidency, but Sarah's numbers are heading in the right direction, whereas the president's are not.
What's that old saying about he (or she) who laughs last?
December 8, 2009 Permalink