Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 17, 2009

Re: How Troubled Are They?

Well, here is the latest from Sen. Roland Burris:

U.S. Sen. Roland Burris has acknowledged he sought to raise campaign funds for then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich at the request of the governor’s brother at the same time he was making a pitch to be appointed to the Senate seat previously held by President Barack Obama.

Burris’ latest comments in Peoria Monday night were the first time he has publicly said he was actively trying to raise money for Blagojevich. Previously Burris has left the impression that he always balked at the issue of raising money for the governor because of his interest in the Senate appointment.

So the one concern for the Senate before seating Burris was to make sure there was no financial quid pro quo between Blago and Burris. He testified under oath that there was none and that he had no contact with Blago’s oepratives. Now we know there was. And the Senate isn’t moving to expel him immediately because. .  . because why?

Yes, they are on vacation having worked so hard for a full month. But when everyone gets back perhaps the Senate Republicans might start raising one heck of a fuss about this. Let Harry Reid and the Democrats explain why Burris should be sitting there with full voting privileges. And Russ Feingold, by the way, has about the best evidence he’ll ever gather in support of his Constitutional amendment to require vacant Senate seats to be filled by special elections.

Well, here is the latest from Sen. Roland Burris:

U.S. Sen. Roland Burris has acknowledged he sought to raise campaign funds for then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich at the request of the governor’s brother at the same time he was making a pitch to be appointed to the Senate seat previously held by President Barack Obama.

Burris’ latest comments in Peoria Monday night were the first time he has publicly said he was actively trying to raise money for Blagojevich. Previously Burris has left the impression that he always balked at the issue of raising money for the governor because of his interest in the Senate appointment.

So the one concern for the Senate before seating Burris was to make sure there was no financial quid pro quo between Blago and Burris. He testified under oath that there was none and that he had no contact with Blago’s oepratives. Now we know there was. And the Senate isn’t moving to expel him immediately because. .  . because why?

Yes, they are on vacation having worked so hard for a full month. But when everyone gets back perhaps the Senate Republicans might start raising one heck of a fuss about this. Let Harry Reid and the Democrats explain why Burris should be sitting there with full voting privileges. And Russ Feingold, by the way, has about the best evidence he’ll ever gather in support of his Constitutional amendment to require vacant Senate seats to be filled by special elections.

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Commentary of the Day

Richard F., on Jennifer Rubin:

Obama’s correct on this one. There are numerous military-political issues that beg for definitive policies; until these have been decided upon, to simply add more troops is the height of irresponsibility. This is all the more so since basic logistical issues have presented in the past month that affect our ability to support both Afghan and Coalition forces. (Specifically, the closing of the air base in Kyrgyzstan (Khazakstan has offered their territory but for “non-lethal” supplies only.) Other important issues that, until properly scoped, would preclude more troops:

1. Anti-corruption policies at all levels of Afghan government;
2. Greater commitment by NATO; if not forthcoming, what to do?
3. Dealing with the opium fields.
4. Whither Pakistan, and what kind of presence to insist on within FATA?

RCAR: What Gates knows, doesn’t know, wanted to do but couldn’t do about these issues is unknown. I suspect we’re going to find out quite soon.

Because of Afghanistan’s tribal makeup, as well as rather flexible definition of who and what a “Taliban” is, the answer is both military, pacification, and outright political-deals must be made. But which deals? And with what parties?

Current troops levels must be sustained, but there should be nothing more until we have policies for these problems.

Richard F., on Jennifer Rubin:

Obama’s correct on this one. There are numerous military-political issues that beg for definitive policies; until these have been decided upon, to simply add more troops is the height of irresponsibility. This is all the more so since basic logistical issues have presented in the past month that affect our ability to support both Afghan and Coalition forces. (Specifically, the closing of the air base in Kyrgyzstan (Khazakstan has offered their territory but for “non-lethal” supplies only.) Other important issues that, until properly scoped, would preclude more troops:

1. Anti-corruption policies at all levels of Afghan government;
2. Greater commitment by NATO; if not forthcoming, what to do?
3. Dealing with the opium fields.
4. Whither Pakistan, and what kind of presence to insist on within FATA?

RCAR: What Gates knows, doesn’t know, wanted to do but couldn’t do about these issues is unknown. I suspect we’re going to find out quite soon.

Because of Afghanistan’s tribal makeup, as well as rather flexible definition of who and what a “Taliban” is, the answer is both military, pacification, and outright political-deals must be made. But which deals? And with what parties?

Current troops levels must be sustained, but there should be nothing more until we have policies for these problems.

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They Did It

The MSM is obsessed with coverage of the stimulus signing. But they should be worried by the massive panic — and I do not use that word lightly — gripping the financial markets. The New York Times explains:

Financial gloom was everywhere on Tuesday.

Markets from Hong Kong to Stockholm to London staggered lower. On Wall Street, the Dow came within sight of its lowest levels in more than a decade. Financial shares were battered. And rattled investors clamored to buy rainy-day investments like gold and Treasury debt.

It was a global wave of selling spurred by rising worries about how banks, automakers — entire countries — would fare in a deepening recession.

Shortly after 3 p.m., the Dow Jones industrial average was down more than 235 points as losses in General Motors, Bank of America and American Express dragged the blue chips lower. The only Dow stock in positive territory was Wal-Mart, which rose after reporting better-than-expected profits.

The broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index slid 3.7 percent to drop below 800, which analysts said was an important trading threshold. Crude oil closed down $2.58 to $34.93 a barrel.

[. . .]

“If we get substantially below 800 then look out below,” said Marc Groz, chief investment officer at Topos, a hedge fund in Greenwich, Conn.

Analysts said investors were still nervous about the Treasury Department’s plans to shore up the financial system and help remove billions of dollars in troubled mortgage-related assets from the balance sheets of major banks.

“The administration is great at floating the rumors, but we need concrete plans to back that up,” said Ryan Larson, head equity trader at Voyageur Asset Management. “Without any further concreted details, the market’s really left to wonder. And in this environment, they wonder the worst-case scenario.”

Maybe the duo of Geithner and the president succeeded in finally freaking everyone out.

The MSM is obsessed with coverage of the stimulus signing. But they should be worried by the massive panic — and I do not use that word lightly — gripping the financial markets. The New York Times explains:

Financial gloom was everywhere on Tuesday.

Markets from Hong Kong to Stockholm to London staggered lower. On Wall Street, the Dow came within sight of its lowest levels in more than a decade. Financial shares were battered. And rattled investors clamored to buy rainy-day investments like gold and Treasury debt.

It was a global wave of selling spurred by rising worries about how banks, automakers — entire countries — would fare in a deepening recession.

Shortly after 3 p.m., the Dow Jones industrial average was down more than 235 points as losses in General Motors, Bank of America and American Express dragged the blue chips lower. The only Dow stock in positive territory was Wal-Mart, which rose after reporting better-than-expected profits.

The broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index slid 3.7 percent to drop below 800, which analysts said was an important trading threshold. Crude oil closed down $2.58 to $34.93 a barrel.

[. . .]

“If we get substantially below 800 then look out below,” said Marc Groz, chief investment officer at Topos, a hedge fund in Greenwich, Conn.

Analysts said investors were still nervous about the Treasury Department’s plans to shore up the financial system and help remove billions of dollars in troubled mortgage-related assets from the balance sheets of major banks.

“The administration is great at floating the rumors, but we need concrete plans to back that up,” said Ryan Larson, head equity trader at Voyageur Asset Management. “Without any further concreted details, the market’s really left to wonder. And in this environment, they wonder the worst-case scenario.”

Maybe the duo of Geithner and the president succeeded in finally freaking everyone out.

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Repeating a Myth About Refugees

Fareed Zakaria writes in the latest Newsweek about the rise of Avigdor Lieberman being due to the internal threat to Israel posed by its Arab minority. Much of this covers the usual litany of complaints about the treatment of Arabs in Israeli society, though at least Zakaria acknowledges that “the antipathy is mutual” and quotes former Knesset member Azmi Bishara saying that it is unfair to ask Arabs to be loyal to Israel.

But a good deal of this debate revolves around history, and in that respect Zakaria blunders when he repeats some of the usual myths about the birth of the Palestinian refugee issue. He refers to “the forced expulsion of most Palestinians from the Jewish state in 1948.”

Such a broad generalization undermines his credibility. If he has read the works of historian Benny Morris that he cites, he knows that the answer to what caused the flight of Arabs from the territory of Israel in 1948 is a lot more complex than that simple phrase. Some were forcibly expelled. But most of those who fled did so before any Jewish soldiers appeared on the scene. Arab refugees were caught in the crossfire of a war that had been fomented and launched by their own leaders. Those leaders refused to countenance any sort of Jewish state in any part of the country and never tried to build a Palestinian state in the areas allotted for one by the same United Nations resolution that called for a Jewish state. As in many other wars of that era, the factor that mandated flight was fear, not an actual direct threat.

And let’s not forget that hundreds of thousands of Jews fled or were forced from their homes in Arab countries as the result of pogroms and discrimination. They were largely resettled in Israel or elsewhere in the world. By contrast, Palestinian refugees remain stateless so as to keep alive the Arab and Islamic world’s war to wipe Israel off the map.

For more about 1948, read Efraim Karsh’s “1948, Israel, and the Palestinians – The True Story,” from the May 2007 issue of COMMENTARY.

A hat tip to Alan Luxenberg of the Foreign Policy Research Institute for pointing out Zakaria’s blunder.

Fareed Zakaria writes in the latest Newsweek about the rise of Avigdor Lieberman being due to the internal threat to Israel posed by its Arab minority. Much of this covers the usual litany of complaints about the treatment of Arabs in Israeli society, though at least Zakaria acknowledges that “the antipathy is mutual” and quotes former Knesset member Azmi Bishara saying that it is unfair to ask Arabs to be loyal to Israel.

But a good deal of this debate revolves around history, and in that respect Zakaria blunders when he repeats some of the usual myths about the birth of the Palestinian refugee issue. He refers to “the forced expulsion of most Palestinians from the Jewish state in 1948.”

Such a broad generalization undermines his credibility. If he has read the works of historian Benny Morris that he cites, he knows that the answer to what caused the flight of Arabs from the territory of Israel in 1948 is a lot more complex than that simple phrase. Some were forcibly expelled. But most of those who fled did so before any Jewish soldiers appeared on the scene. Arab refugees were caught in the crossfire of a war that had been fomented and launched by their own leaders. Those leaders refused to countenance any sort of Jewish state in any part of the country and never tried to build a Palestinian state in the areas allotted for one by the same United Nations resolution that called for a Jewish state. As in many other wars of that era, the factor that mandated flight was fear, not an actual direct threat.

And let’s not forget that hundreds of thousands of Jews fled or were forced from their homes in Arab countries as the result of pogroms and discrimination. They were largely resettled in Israel or elsewhere in the world. By contrast, Palestinian refugees remain stateless so as to keep alive the Arab and Islamic world’s war to wipe Israel off the map.

For more about 1948, read Efraim Karsh’s “1948, Israel, and the Palestinians – The True Story,” from the May 2007 issue of COMMENTARY.

A hat tip to Alan Luxenberg of the Foreign Policy Research Institute for pointing out Zakaria’s blunder.

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Re: Obama The Thoughtful

Shmuel, aside from the gratuitous and misleading swipe at the Bush administration (it seems that their thoughtful re-evaluation of a failed strategy was precisely what lead to the surge, which Klein and others on the Left vehemently opposed), Klein has a point. It makes no sense to rush to action in Afghanistan (and precipitously pull troops out of Iraq in large numbers ostensibly to accomplish that goal)  until we really know what it is we are doing there.

Frederick Kagan wrote last week (as part of his comprehensive assessment of the situation in Afghanistan):

Adding more troops to a failing strategy rarely works. Current military and political leaders recognize this, which is why reviews are underway in CENTCOM, the Joint Staff, and the White House to develop a new strategy for Afghanistan. At the end of the day, however, the detailed campaign plan for implementing a new strategy has to come from the commander in the theater. That commander, Gen. David McKiernan, suffers from a number of significant handicaps that Generals Petraeus and Odierno did not face in Iraq in 2007.

[.  .   .]

[General McKiernan’s] staff is too small and is a hodgepodge of U.S. and allied officers whose main function, when the staff was formed, was the coordination of an allied reconstruction effort. The much larger number of allies in Afghanistan, and the fact that NATO took control of the operation in 2006, places an enormous burden on McKiernan and his staff that Petraeus did not face. There is no corps headquarters in Afghanistan, moreover—no equivalent to Odierno’s III Corps and the staff that actually developed the war plan in Iraq.

In other words, there are enormous challenges in just putting the right personnel in place so we can figure out what we’ve got there, what is doable and how, for example, to coordinate with the multinational forces (as insufficient as the NATO contingent is). So if the Obama administration is taking time to assemble the correct component parts needed to even begin to develop a plan, I for one would applaud it. They might still get it wrong or lose patience (as many on the left are already beginning to do), but, as we learned in Iraq, getting the (revised) strategy right is critical. We likely won’t get yet another chance.

Shmuel, aside from the gratuitous and misleading swipe at the Bush administration (it seems that their thoughtful re-evaluation of a failed strategy was precisely what lead to the surge, which Klein and others on the Left vehemently opposed), Klein has a point. It makes no sense to rush to action in Afghanistan (and precipitously pull troops out of Iraq in large numbers ostensibly to accomplish that goal)  until we really know what it is we are doing there.

Frederick Kagan wrote last week (as part of his comprehensive assessment of the situation in Afghanistan):

Adding more troops to a failing strategy rarely works. Current military and political leaders recognize this, which is why reviews are underway in CENTCOM, the Joint Staff, and the White House to develop a new strategy for Afghanistan. At the end of the day, however, the detailed campaign plan for implementing a new strategy has to come from the commander in the theater. That commander, Gen. David McKiernan, suffers from a number of significant handicaps that Generals Petraeus and Odierno did not face in Iraq in 2007.

[.  .   .]

[General McKiernan’s] staff is too small and is a hodgepodge of U.S. and allied officers whose main function, when the staff was formed, was the coordination of an allied reconstruction effort. The much larger number of allies in Afghanistan, and the fact that NATO took control of the operation in 2006, places an enormous burden on McKiernan and his staff that Petraeus did not face. There is no corps headquarters in Afghanistan, moreover—no equivalent to Odierno’s III Corps and the staff that actually developed the war plan in Iraq.

In other words, there are enormous challenges in just putting the right personnel in place so we can figure out what we’ve got there, what is doable and how, for example, to coordinate with the multinational forces (as insufficient as the NATO contingent is). So if the Obama administration is taking time to assemble the correct component parts needed to even begin to develop a plan, I for one would applaud it. They might still get it wrong or lose patience (as many on the left are already beginning to do), but, as we learned in Iraq, getting the (revised) strategy right is critical. We likely won’t get yet another chance.

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“Contest 2″ Contest

The Guardian reports on a new British government proposal to expand the official definition of extremist:

According to a draft of the strategy, Contest 2 as it is known in Whitehall, people would be considered as extremists if:

• They advocate a caliphate, a pan-Islamic state encompassing many countries.

• They promote Sharia law.

• They believe in jihad, or armed resistance, anywhere in the world. This would include armed resistance by Palestinians against the Israeli military.

• They argue that Islam bans homosexuality and that it is a sin against Allah.

• They fail to condemn the killing of British soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan..

Protesters say that the new guidelines would brand most Muslims in Britain as extremists, but an interesting parlor game can be made out of figuring out which British non-Muslims would get snared by Contest 2. The British government might be forced to launch an entire Useful Idiot Division. The Archbishop of Canterbury will bite the dust on the second criterion. George Galloway won’t make it past the third bullet point. Ditto Robert Fisk.

More names?

The Guardian reports on a new British government proposal to expand the official definition of extremist:

According to a draft of the strategy, Contest 2 as it is known in Whitehall, people would be considered as extremists if:

• They advocate a caliphate, a pan-Islamic state encompassing many countries.

• They promote Sharia law.

• They believe in jihad, or armed resistance, anywhere in the world. This would include armed resistance by Palestinians against the Israeli military.

• They argue that Islam bans homosexuality and that it is a sin against Allah.

• They fail to condemn the killing of British soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan..

Protesters say that the new guidelines would brand most Muslims in Britain as extremists, but an interesting parlor game can be made out of figuring out which British non-Muslims would get snared by Contest 2. The British government might be forced to launch an entire Useful Idiot Division. The Archbishop of Canterbury will bite the dust on the second criterion. George Galloway won’t make it past the third bullet point. Ditto Robert Fisk.

More names?

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Economic Stimulus, Palestinian Style

It is always hazardous to rely on Jimmy Carter for facts — a reviewer of his new book, commenting on Carter’s idiosyncratic view of some of the events he recounts, observed diplomatically that a “beginning student of the Middle East should not learn diplomatic history from this text.”

If Carter’s description of his conversation last year with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is accurate, however, Carter may have inadvertently hit upon a microcosm of the failure of the Palestinian Authority.  Describing a meeting he held last April, Carter writes (on page 140) that:

Prime Minister Fayyad pointed out that full pay was going to about eighty thousand Fatah employees of his government in Gaza, although he did not permit any of them to work.   

One might have expected Carter to ask a follow-up question about the 80,000 non-working employees (in Gaza alone) — or at least to reflect on the implications for Palestinian society of the PA’s huge payments to a bloated bureaucracy for non-work.

But Carter simply observes that “This steady influx of money is a great stimulus to the isolated economy.” 

It is always hazardous to rely on Jimmy Carter for facts — a reviewer of his new book, commenting on Carter’s idiosyncratic view of some of the events he recounts, observed diplomatically that a “beginning student of the Middle East should not learn diplomatic history from this text.”

If Carter’s description of his conversation last year with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is accurate, however, Carter may have inadvertently hit upon a microcosm of the failure of the Palestinian Authority.  Describing a meeting he held last April, Carter writes (on page 140) that:

Prime Minister Fayyad pointed out that full pay was going to about eighty thousand Fatah employees of his government in Gaza, although he did not permit any of them to work.   

One might have expected Carter to ask a follow-up question about the 80,000 non-working employees (in Gaza alone) — or at least to reflect on the implications for Palestinian society of the PA’s huge payments to a bloated bureaucracy for non-work.

But Carter simply observes that “This steady influx of money is a great stimulus to the isolated economy.” 

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The Only Man In America

This report seems to confirm the view that Tim Geithner is not up to his job:

Just days before Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner was scheduled to lay out his much-anticipated plan to deal with the toxic assets imperiling the financial system, he and his team made a sudden about-face. According to several sources involved in the deliberations, Geithner had come to the conclusion that the strategies he and his team had spent weeks working on were too expensive, too complex and too risky for taxpayers.

So they belatedly realized the plan was a nonstarter and in essence tried to fake their way through the rollout, offering only the barest outline of a plan for which they’d have to fill in the blanks later. (Sort of like when you didn’t read the right book and had to fake your way through the book report in class.)

Now, remember we had to look the other way and ignore Geithner’s tax cheating because he was the only guy in America who could do this job. But this sounds like amateur hour:

Public acceptance of the plan suffered from several missteps, said sources involved in the decision-making or in close contact with those who were.

The Obama administration, they said, failed to rein in the grand expectations built for the plan on Wall Street and in Washington, concluding that they would rather disappoint the markets with vagueness than lay out a lot of details they might have to change later — a failing they saw in the Bush administration’s handling of the crisis.

Meanwhile, the sources said, Obama’s senior economic advisers were hobbled in crafting the plan by a shortage of personnel. . . .Moreover, the department made a strategic decision to limit input from the financial industry and other outsiders, aiming to prevent leaks and avoid a perception they were designing the plan for the benefit of big banks.  . .

At the center of the deliberations with Geithner were Lawrence H. Summers, chief White House economic adviser; Lee Sachs, a Clinton administration official likely to be named undersecretary for domestic finance; and Gene Sperling, another former Clinton aide. The debates among them were long and vigorous as they thrashed countless proposals and variations. Sometimes, Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila C. Bair and Comptroller of the Currency John C. Dugan joined in.

So to review: they raised expectations, they had insufficient personnel to do the real work and too many uber-cooks stirring the pot, they didn’t get input they needed and they went ahead with the roll out anyway. Oh, and Geithner had really been thinking about this for nineteen months. And this is what he came up with.

You have to question the executive skills of both the Treasury Secretary and his boss (who is ultimately responsible for Geithner and the disastrous roll out). And next time someone explains that he has been too sloppy, inattentive and distracted to abide by simple rules in governing his own life, it’s probably a clue we shouldn’t put him in a job with huge responsibilities demanding astute judgment and keen executive leadership skills.

This report seems to confirm the view that Tim Geithner is not up to his job:

Just days before Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner was scheduled to lay out his much-anticipated plan to deal with the toxic assets imperiling the financial system, he and his team made a sudden about-face. According to several sources involved in the deliberations, Geithner had come to the conclusion that the strategies he and his team had spent weeks working on were too expensive, too complex and too risky for taxpayers.

So they belatedly realized the plan was a nonstarter and in essence tried to fake their way through the rollout, offering only the barest outline of a plan for which they’d have to fill in the blanks later. (Sort of like when you didn’t read the right book and had to fake your way through the book report in class.)

Now, remember we had to look the other way and ignore Geithner’s tax cheating because he was the only guy in America who could do this job. But this sounds like amateur hour:

Public acceptance of the plan suffered from several missteps, said sources involved in the decision-making or in close contact with those who were.

The Obama administration, they said, failed to rein in the grand expectations built for the plan on Wall Street and in Washington, concluding that they would rather disappoint the markets with vagueness than lay out a lot of details they might have to change later — a failing they saw in the Bush administration’s handling of the crisis.

Meanwhile, the sources said, Obama’s senior economic advisers were hobbled in crafting the plan by a shortage of personnel. . . .Moreover, the department made a strategic decision to limit input from the financial industry and other outsiders, aiming to prevent leaks and avoid a perception they were designing the plan for the benefit of big banks.  . .

At the center of the deliberations with Geithner were Lawrence H. Summers, chief White House economic adviser; Lee Sachs, a Clinton administration official likely to be named undersecretary for domestic finance; and Gene Sperling, another former Clinton aide. The debates among them were long and vigorous as they thrashed countless proposals and variations. Sometimes, Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila C. Bair and Comptroller of the Currency John C. Dugan joined in.

So to review: they raised expectations, they had insufficient personnel to do the real work and too many uber-cooks stirring the pot, they didn’t get input they needed and they went ahead with the roll out anyway. Oh, and Geithner had really been thinking about this for nineteen months. And this is what he came up with.

You have to question the executive skills of both the Treasury Secretary and his boss (who is ultimately responsible for Geithner and the disastrous roll out). And next time someone explains that he has been too sloppy, inattentive and distracted to abide by simple rules in governing his own life, it’s probably a clue we shouldn’t put him in a job with huge responsibilities demanding astute judgment and keen executive leadership skills.

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The One Form of Acceptable Prejudice

The New York Times reports today that the Tennis Channel has decided to cancel its coverage of the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships this week because the United Arab Emirates refused to grant an entry visa to Israeli tennis star Shahar Peer. Peer, who is ranked as the 48th best women tennis player in the world, was scheduled to play in the tournament. The reaction of the Tennis Channel (available on some local cable networks as well as on channel 217 on Direct TV) was in contrast to that of the WTA Tour which has decided not to cancel the event itself even though its director voiced his dismay about Peer’s exclusion.

As Times sports columnist Harvey Araton reported on Sunday, WTA director Tony Scott gave the impression that it was too late to spike the whole affair. However Scott has warned his business partners in the Emirates that they will lose the tournament, one of the more important events on the women’s calendar after the four grand slams, if they pull a stunt like this next year. Also interesting was the reaction of Peer. In Araton’s article, he quotes Scott as saying that Peer’s family called for caution.

“They didn’t want all the players to be harmed because of one,” Scott said. “We talked to our players and told them that something terrible has happened here, but every single one would be punished if we were to cancel.”

Let’s be clear about the “punishment” he is referencing. Nobody on the tennis tour is going to be arrested. He is talking about the large sums of money each of the WTA players have been guaranteed by the Dubai promoters in order to get them to play in their desert resort. Araton quotes American star Venus Williams as saying: “All the players support Shahar …. We are all athletes, and we stand for tennis.” That’s nice but they don’t support the right of a Jewish player traveling on her own Israeli passport to play in places that the rest of the tour’s pros are allowed to visit. Araton applauds Williams for standing up for Peer and notes that as African-Americans, Venus and her sister Serena have good reason to worry about the precedent. But if Peer’s fellow tour members merely say they “support” her and then go and play in tournaments where she has been banned, that is hardly a courageous stand. It would be more or less as if members of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 had said they supported Jackie Robinson’s right to play baseball in segregated cities but then went ahead and played without him in places where he was banned. Of course, that is exactly what all major league players did, to their shame, prior to 1947 when the color line was broken by Robinson.

One suspects that Peer is reluctant to make trouble for her fellow players because to do so would be difficult in the close-knit tour. It’s also possible that she will wind up, one way or the other, getting her share of the loot from the Dubai tournament. And Scott and the WTA stand to lose a lot of money if they stand up for their principles. Still, that’s all the more reason to applaud the Tennis Channel and its CEO Ken Solomon for not letting the Emirates get away with this rank bit of anti-Israeli prejudice.

Israel’s treatment by international sports associations has always been a scandal. In sports like soccer and basketball, their national teams have always been forced to play in European regionals where they have little chance of success, rather than against other Asian competitors because Arab and Islamic countries refuse to play against Israelis. The Peer case is just one more example of how anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish prejudice is the one form of acceptable bias in international forums.

The New York Times reports today that the Tennis Channel has decided to cancel its coverage of the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships this week because the United Arab Emirates refused to grant an entry visa to Israeli tennis star Shahar Peer. Peer, who is ranked as the 48th best women tennis player in the world, was scheduled to play in the tournament. The reaction of the Tennis Channel (available on some local cable networks as well as on channel 217 on Direct TV) was in contrast to that of the WTA Tour which has decided not to cancel the event itself even though its director voiced his dismay about Peer’s exclusion.

As Times sports columnist Harvey Araton reported on Sunday, WTA director Tony Scott gave the impression that it was too late to spike the whole affair. However Scott has warned his business partners in the Emirates that they will lose the tournament, one of the more important events on the women’s calendar after the four grand slams, if they pull a stunt like this next year. Also interesting was the reaction of Peer. In Araton’s article, he quotes Scott as saying that Peer’s family called for caution.

“They didn’t want all the players to be harmed because of one,” Scott said. “We talked to our players and told them that something terrible has happened here, but every single one would be punished if we were to cancel.”

Let’s be clear about the “punishment” he is referencing. Nobody on the tennis tour is going to be arrested. He is talking about the large sums of money each of the WTA players have been guaranteed by the Dubai promoters in order to get them to play in their desert resort. Araton quotes American star Venus Williams as saying: “All the players support Shahar …. We are all athletes, and we stand for tennis.” That’s nice but they don’t support the right of a Jewish player traveling on her own Israeli passport to play in places that the rest of the tour’s pros are allowed to visit. Araton applauds Williams for standing up for Peer and notes that as African-Americans, Venus and her sister Serena have good reason to worry about the precedent. But if Peer’s fellow tour members merely say they “support” her and then go and play in tournaments where she has been banned, that is hardly a courageous stand. It would be more or less as if members of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 had said they supported Jackie Robinson’s right to play baseball in segregated cities but then went ahead and played without him in places where he was banned. Of course, that is exactly what all major league players did, to their shame, prior to 1947 when the color line was broken by Robinson.

One suspects that Peer is reluctant to make trouble for her fellow players because to do so would be difficult in the close-knit tour. It’s also possible that she will wind up, one way or the other, getting her share of the loot from the Dubai tournament. And Scott and the WTA stand to lose a lot of money if they stand up for their principles. Still, that’s all the more reason to applaud the Tennis Channel and its CEO Ken Solomon for not letting the Emirates get away with this rank bit of anti-Israeli prejudice.

Israel’s treatment by international sports associations has always been a scandal. In sports like soccer and basketball, their national teams have always been forced to play in European regionals where they have little chance of success, rather than against other Asian competitors because Arab and Islamic countries refuse to play against Israelis. The Peer case is just one more example of how anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish prejudice is the one form of acceptable bias in international forums.

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Pakistan Spirals

Over the weekend, Pakistan’s President Zardari appeared on “60 Minutes” and told America that his country has been “in denial” about the danger posed by Taliban militants in the tribal region on Afghanistan’s border, and that he himself sees the threat for what it is. How disheartening then to read this today: “Pakistani officials concluded a peace deal with a Taliban-linked group that will lead to the enforcement of Islamic law in a part of the country that is supposed to be fully under government control.” In the Swat Valley  only 150 miles north of Islamabad – female education will be outlawed, as will most forms of recreational entertainment, and public executions will continue with the regional government’s consent. (UPDATE: I was corrected by a commenter on this point and referred to this.)

As is always the case with Pakistan, criticism of its leadership must allow for the tinderbox reality of that land. Whatever stability the country has is often immediately undermined when Islamabad overtly cooperates with Washington. (Not that this fragile state of affairs prevented George W. Bush’s critics from lambasting his “coddling” of  Pervez Musharraf.)

Moreover, there are reports that Taliban members are  increasingly becoming al Qaeda members and contributing to a lethal “shadow army” that is, according to Bill Roggio in the Washington Times, “well trained and equipped, and has defeated the Pakistani Army in engagements in North and South Waziristan, Bajaur, Peshawar, Khyber, and Swat.” If the Pakistani Army is simply being overrun by the Taliban and al Qaeda’s superior fighting forces then no amount of American hectoring of Zardari is going to change things. President Obama has made a show of pledging big amounts of non-military aid to Pakistan. But unless we want to see Taliban rule creep closer and closer to Islamabad, he’s going to have to move past the P.R. gestures and help Zardari regain control of his own country.

Over the weekend, Pakistan’s President Zardari appeared on “60 Minutes” and told America that his country has been “in denial” about the danger posed by Taliban militants in the tribal region on Afghanistan’s border, and that he himself sees the threat for what it is. How disheartening then to read this today: “Pakistani officials concluded a peace deal with a Taliban-linked group that will lead to the enforcement of Islamic law in a part of the country that is supposed to be fully under government control.” In the Swat Valley  only 150 miles north of Islamabad – female education will be outlawed, as will most forms of recreational entertainment, and public executions will continue with the regional government’s consent. (UPDATE: I was corrected by a commenter on this point and referred to this.)

As is always the case with Pakistan, criticism of its leadership must allow for the tinderbox reality of that land. Whatever stability the country has is often immediately undermined when Islamabad overtly cooperates with Washington. (Not that this fragile state of affairs prevented George W. Bush’s critics from lambasting his “coddling” of  Pervez Musharraf.)

Moreover, there are reports that Taliban members are  increasingly becoming al Qaeda members and contributing to a lethal “shadow army” that is, according to Bill Roggio in the Washington Times, “well trained and equipped, and has defeated the Pakistani Army in engagements in North and South Waziristan, Bajaur, Peshawar, Khyber, and Swat.” If the Pakistani Army is simply being overrun by the Taliban and al Qaeda’s superior fighting forces then no amount of American hectoring of Zardari is going to change things. President Obama has made a show of pledging big amounts of non-military aid to Pakistan. But unless we want to see Taliban rule creep closer and closer to Islamabad, he’s going to have to move past the P.R. gestures and help Zardari regain control of his own country.

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Liberals and the Stimulus

Nothing captured quite so perfectly the manic state among those eager for the passage and implementation of the so-called “stimulus” as the wild remark by Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, that “every month we do not have an economic recovery package, 500 million Americans lose their jobs.”

There are only 300 million Americans in all, among them 75 million under the age of eighteen and 36 million over the age of sixty-five. The number of employable Americans is thus somewhere around 190 million. If one were to calculate using Pelosian math, by the end of this month alone, the United States would be facing an unemployment rate approaching 1,200 percent.

“I do not think we can move fast enough,” Mrs. Pelosi added. That is literally true, although substantively false. Literally true, because it would not be possible without the application of a physics yet to be discovered to create hundreds of millions of Americans in one fell swoop and then instantly destroy their jobs.

Her words are substantively false, however, because “we” certainly can move all too fast. What matters here is the perspective of the observer. Pelosi surely would have thought a bill that radically cut marginal tax rates in response to the deepening recession would have passed too quickly even if it had taken two years to reach the President’s desk.

Of course, Pelosi’s “500 million” remark was a slip of the tongue; we all have them, and most of us do not have them when we are being filmed, and so perhaps she should be cut a little slack, for, as Hamlet put it, “Use every man after his desert, and who should escape whipping?”

But it was an instructive slip nonetheless. It is more than bad enough to note that, should the unemployment rate rise by the number of half a percentage point every thirty days, the current horrific pace, something like 600,000 Americans would lose their jobs each month. Why would Pelosi’s unconscious therefore direct her tongue to such a bizarre exaggeration?

Click here to read the rest of this SPECIAL PREVIEW from our March issue.

Nothing captured quite so perfectly the manic state among those eager for the passage and implementation of the so-called “stimulus” as the wild remark by Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, that “every month we do not have an economic recovery package, 500 million Americans lose their jobs.”

There are only 300 million Americans in all, among them 75 million under the age of eighteen and 36 million over the age of sixty-five. The number of employable Americans is thus somewhere around 190 million. If one were to calculate using Pelosian math, by the end of this month alone, the United States would be facing an unemployment rate approaching 1,200 percent.

“I do not think we can move fast enough,” Mrs. Pelosi added. That is literally true, although substantively false. Literally true, because it would not be possible without the application of a physics yet to be discovered to create hundreds of millions of Americans in one fell swoop and then instantly destroy their jobs.

Her words are substantively false, however, because “we” certainly can move all too fast. What matters here is the perspective of the observer. Pelosi surely would have thought a bill that radically cut marginal tax rates in response to the deepening recession would have passed too quickly even if it had taken two years to reach the President’s desk.

Of course, Pelosi’s “500 million” remark was a slip of the tongue; we all have them, and most of us do not have them when we are being filmed, and so perhaps she should be cut a little slack, for, as Hamlet put it, “Use every man after his desert, and who should escape whipping?”

But it was an instructive slip nonetheless. It is more than bad enough to note that, should the unemployment rate rise by the number of half a percentage point every thirty days, the current horrific pace, something like 600,000 Americans would lose their jobs each month. Why would Pelosi’s unconscious therefore direct her tongue to such a bizarre exaggeration?

Click here to read the rest of this SPECIAL PREVIEW from our March issue.

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How Troubled Are They?

It’s hard to argue with Norman Ornstein on the Roland Burris scandal:

There is no question that Roland Burris, under oath, misled the Illinois legislature as it considered the possible impeachment of the governor, as significant a proceeding as a legislature can engage in. He was asked a question specifically about contacts with five people, including Blagojevich’s chief of staff (implicated along with him) and gave a misleading (at best) answer.

Ornstein’s conclusion is : “If it turns out that there is more to his contacts, including what now appears to be a direct attempt to be considered for the Senate seat, he ought to be expelled from the Senate.” Well, so far Harry Reid isn’t tripping over himself to rev up an ethics investigation.

Meanwhile, Illinois Democrats are “troubled” by Burris. Troubled enough to institute perjury proceedings or explore whether a special election is still possible? Well, maybe not that troubled.

In short, it seems like business as usual — the White House is mute, Reid is paralyzed and the Democrats fret. You might be amazed that the party that rode to power on the promise to end the “culture of corruption” could be this oblivious to the implications of the behavior of so many of their own (e.g. Dodd, Blago, Murtha, Moran, Rangel and the Obama tax cheats). But politicians rarely learn these lessons — until they lose an election and vow to never let it happen again.

It’s hard to argue with Norman Ornstein on the Roland Burris scandal:

There is no question that Roland Burris, under oath, misled the Illinois legislature as it considered the possible impeachment of the governor, as significant a proceeding as a legislature can engage in. He was asked a question specifically about contacts with five people, including Blagojevich’s chief of staff (implicated along with him) and gave a misleading (at best) answer.

Ornstein’s conclusion is : “If it turns out that there is more to his contacts, including what now appears to be a direct attempt to be considered for the Senate seat, he ought to be expelled from the Senate.” Well, so far Harry Reid isn’t tripping over himself to rev up an ethics investigation.

Meanwhile, Illinois Democrats are “troubled” by Burris. Troubled enough to institute perjury proceedings or explore whether a special election is still possible? Well, maybe not that troubled.

In short, it seems like business as usual — the White House is mute, Reid is paralyzed and the Democrats fret. You might be amazed that the party that rode to power on the promise to end the “culture of corruption” could be this oblivious to the implications of the behavior of so many of their own (e.g. Dodd, Blago, Murtha, Moran, Rangel and the Obama tax cheats). But politicians rarely learn these lessons — until they lose an election and vow to never let it happen again.

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Pulling It Together

Tomorrow Shimon Peres enters Israel’s election landscape. He has always been into peacemaking, and now his job is to make peace between enough members of the Knesset to allow a government to rule.

The way things are shaping up, it will be Benjamin Netanyahu, who defeated Peres in a Trumanesque hairline finish in 1996, to whom Peres gives the task of forming a government. According to today’s Jerusalem Post, Netanyahu’s Likud now has arranged the support of 50 members of the Knesset — the whole right side of the map except for Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu — while Tzipi Livni’s Kadima has only 28, which is to say only Kadima itself.

What happened? Apparently, nobody on the left is willing to sit in a government with Lieberman. Meretz and Labor have pulled their support because of Livni’s overt courting of Lieberman.

Which is as it should be. Lieberman is not just right but fairly far right. Parliamentary democracy works only when the parties actually stick, more or less, to the ideological and political platforms on which they were elected. For all their enormous ideological differences, it is still easier for religious parties like Shas to sit in a government with Lieberman than for Meretz to do so.

Tomorrow Shimon Peres enters Israel’s election landscape. He has always been into peacemaking, and now his job is to make peace between enough members of the Knesset to allow a government to rule.

The way things are shaping up, it will be Benjamin Netanyahu, who defeated Peres in a Trumanesque hairline finish in 1996, to whom Peres gives the task of forming a government. According to today’s Jerusalem Post, Netanyahu’s Likud now has arranged the support of 50 members of the Knesset — the whole right side of the map except for Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu — while Tzipi Livni’s Kadima has only 28, which is to say only Kadima itself.

What happened? Apparently, nobody on the left is willing to sit in a government with Lieberman. Meretz and Labor have pulled their support because of Livni’s overt courting of Lieberman.

Which is as it should be. Lieberman is not just right but fairly far right. Parliamentary democracy works only when the parties actually stick, more or less, to the ideological and political platforms on which they were elected. For all their enormous ideological differences, it is still easier for religious parties like Shas to sit in a government with Lieberman than for Meretz to do so.

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Not What They Wanted

Some observers, both conservative and liberal, think the only thing that matters is whether the stimulus plan “works.” The economy matters a great deal, of course, but in the end there won’t be agreement on the cause and effect relationship, if any, between the plan and any economic revival. Moreover, I think these onlookers forget that there is a price to be paid for the way in which Obama won.

Bill McGurn writes that Obama should be concerned when his formal rival John McCain, who shared much of Obama’s bipartisan sentiments and budgetary concerns during the campaign, decries the president’s approach to the stimulus. McGurn continues:

Michigan Rep. Thaddeus McCotter suggests, for example, infrastructure as one area popular with some of his fellow Republicans. Had Democrats added, say, a few more infrastructure projects, perhaps a half-dozen Republicans in the Senate and as many as 30 or 40 in the House might have signed on. But the White House went the other way.

“President Obama has never been able to say ‘No’ to the left of his party,” he says. “So instead of having Rahm Emanuel keeping Congressional Democrats in line, they left this bill to the most partisan members of Congress, starting with Nancy Pelosi.”

Mr. McCotter has a point. For all of Mr. Obama’s eloquence on the need for Democrats to be more respectful of religion, more willing to confront the teachers’ unions, and more open to the opportunities of the market, when it comes time for action it’s a different story. On issues from abortion to free trade, Mr. Obama’s votes suggest a man careful not to do anything to offend the Democratic Party’s most entrenched interest groups.

That’s not just “inside the Beltway” chatter or a minor detail. What McCain, McGurn and McCotter are all objecting to is a fundamental decision by Obama, perhaps a decision still in progress, about the direction of his presidency and the manner in which he intends to govern. Millions upon millions of new voters, and even some Republicans, supported the Obama who promised to be less divisive, more inclusive, more fiscally responsible than his predecessor and less beholden to special interest groups. If that’s not the Obama we’re getting as president there’s no reason to believe those voters will turn out again, at least not in numbers as great, to support him or his Congressional Democrats — whether the unemployment rate is 5% or 7%. It just isn’t what they wanted.

Some observers, both conservative and liberal, think the only thing that matters is whether the stimulus plan “works.” The economy matters a great deal, of course, but in the end there won’t be agreement on the cause and effect relationship, if any, between the plan and any economic revival. Moreover, I think these onlookers forget that there is a price to be paid for the way in which Obama won.

Bill McGurn writes that Obama should be concerned when his formal rival John McCain, who shared much of Obama’s bipartisan sentiments and budgetary concerns during the campaign, decries the president’s approach to the stimulus. McGurn continues:

Michigan Rep. Thaddeus McCotter suggests, for example, infrastructure as one area popular with some of his fellow Republicans. Had Democrats added, say, a few more infrastructure projects, perhaps a half-dozen Republicans in the Senate and as many as 30 or 40 in the House might have signed on. But the White House went the other way.

“President Obama has never been able to say ‘No’ to the left of his party,” he says. “So instead of having Rahm Emanuel keeping Congressional Democrats in line, they left this bill to the most partisan members of Congress, starting with Nancy Pelosi.”

Mr. McCotter has a point. For all of Mr. Obama’s eloquence on the need for Democrats to be more respectful of religion, more willing to confront the teachers’ unions, and more open to the opportunities of the market, when it comes time for action it’s a different story. On issues from abortion to free trade, Mr. Obama’s votes suggest a man careful not to do anything to offend the Democratic Party’s most entrenched interest groups.

That’s not just “inside the Beltway” chatter or a minor detail. What McCain, McGurn and McCotter are all objecting to is a fundamental decision by Obama, perhaps a decision still in progress, about the direction of his presidency and the manner in which he intends to govern. Millions upon millions of new voters, and even some Republicans, supported the Obama who promised to be less divisive, more inclusive, more fiscally responsible than his predecessor and less beholden to special interest groups. If that’s not the Obama we’re getting as president there’s no reason to believe those voters will turn out again, at least not in numbers as great, to support him or his Congressional Democrats — whether the unemployment rate is 5% or 7%. It just isn’t what they wanted.

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Smashing Atoms

Recently in the North Atlantic, two nuclear submarines (this means 2 reactors and 32 nuclear-armed missiles, carrying as many as 144 nuclear warheads) tried to occupy the same space at the same time. Fortunately, there were no nuclear incidents, let alone injuries to the roughly 240 British and French sailors aboard the HMS Vanguard and Le Triomphant.

On the one hand, it is astonishing that two submarines would collide in the depths of the Atlantic. On the other, it’s surprising that it hasn’t happened before.

Both boats are designed to be as undetectable as possible. They arevery quiet, and at depth sound is all-important.

Submarines in the depths have been compared to two men stalking each other in a pitch-black football stadium, each carrying a flashlight. They can move about quietly, listening to each other, but dare not use their flashlights for fear of giving up their positions.

Submarines have two forms of sonar: passive and active. Using passive sonar is similar to listening very carefully. Active sonar is the “flashlight”: it’s making noises and listening for the echoes.

Ballistic missile submarines (“boomers”) almost never use their active sonars. Their entire purpose is to remain undetected. Indeed, the best of them are often described as “holes” in the ocean: they are actually quieter than the normal seas.

In the case of the Vanguard and the Triomphant, the two collided almost head-on. And this was actually a good thing.

First up, it explains how they collided. The most noisy part of these boats are their reactors and their propellers, situated at the subs’ rear ends. Since they were heading almost straight at each other, most of what little sounds they emitted was blocked by the rest of the boats.

Second, the bows of these boats are the most expendable parts. That is where their active sonars — their “flashlights” — are located. The Triomphant’s sonar was crushed, and the Vanguard was dented and scraped down one side.

Third, the nuclear missiles are carried amidships of these boats. The reactor is carried towards the back of the missiles. A far worse catastrophe would have seen one ramming the other in a “T-bone” collision, as that could have directly involved the missiles or the reactor.

Realistically, the chances of such a collision triggering a nuclear explosion was almost nil. The safeguards  against accidental detonation are not foolproof, but near it. The reactors that power these boats are almost as secure.

Both boats returned to their home ports under their own power (initial reports concerning the Vanguard to the contrary), and will be repaired and sent out again. Great Britain and France will probably start coordinating their nuclear missile boats’ movements a bit more closely, defining large areas where their vessels will be operating to minimize the chances of another collision.

Recently in the North Atlantic, two nuclear submarines (this means 2 reactors and 32 nuclear-armed missiles, carrying as many as 144 nuclear warheads) tried to occupy the same space at the same time. Fortunately, there were no nuclear incidents, let alone injuries to the roughly 240 British and French sailors aboard the HMS Vanguard and Le Triomphant.

On the one hand, it is astonishing that two submarines would collide in the depths of the Atlantic. On the other, it’s surprising that it hasn’t happened before.

Both boats are designed to be as undetectable as possible. They arevery quiet, and at depth sound is all-important.

Submarines in the depths have been compared to two men stalking each other in a pitch-black football stadium, each carrying a flashlight. They can move about quietly, listening to each other, but dare not use their flashlights for fear of giving up their positions.

Submarines have two forms of sonar: passive and active. Using passive sonar is similar to listening very carefully. Active sonar is the “flashlight”: it’s making noises and listening for the echoes.

Ballistic missile submarines (“boomers”) almost never use their active sonars. Their entire purpose is to remain undetected. Indeed, the best of them are often described as “holes” in the ocean: they are actually quieter than the normal seas.

In the case of the Vanguard and the Triomphant, the two collided almost head-on. And this was actually a good thing.

First up, it explains how they collided. The most noisy part of these boats are their reactors and their propellers, situated at the subs’ rear ends. Since they were heading almost straight at each other, most of what little sounds they emitted was blocked by the rest of the boats.

Second, the bows of these boats are the most expendable parts. That is where their active sonars — their “flashlights” — are located. The Triomphant’s sonar was crushed, and the Vanguard was dented and scraped down one side.

Third, the nuclear missiles are carried amidships of these boats. The reactor is carried towards the back of the missiles. A far worse catastrophe would have seen one ramming the other in a “T-bone” collision, as that could have directly involved the missiles or the reactor.

Realistically, the chances of such a collision triggering a nuclear explosion was almost nil. The safeguards  against accidental detonation are not foolproof, but near it. The reactors that power these boats are almost as secure.

Both boats returned to their home ports under their own power (initial reports concerning the Vanguard to the contrary), and will be repaired and sent out again. Great Britain and France will probably start coordinating their nuclear missile boats’ movements a bit more closely, defining large areas where their vessels will be operating to minimize the chances of another collision.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The impact of the stimulus is perhaps already being felt: “Following Congressional passage of the economic stimulus bill, consumer confidence has fallen to another record low.”

Letting Congressional Democrats have their way on the stimulus has its drawbacks: “The approach has already sparked criticism even from some Democrats that Mr. Obama isn’t forceful enough in leading the government. Republicans charge that his coziness with Democratic leaders has come at the expense of bipartisanship.” Oh, and you also get junky legislation.

In you think the Speaker of the House has been getting unfair criticism , this is worth a read. Defending the “Buy American” provision in the stimulus, she declared: “We’re looking out for their interest as we look to grow the U.S. economy. I don’t think that’s protectionism. I think that’s what any country would do for its workers.” It’s not protectionism, it’s just protecting our workers, you see.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is threatening to start laying off  20,000 state workers unless another Republican state senator can be found to vote for the massive tax hike. Wait. Why is that a threat – shouldn’t they be doing that before they even discuss tax hikes?

Of all the things for conservatives to be worried about, I don’t think Michael Steele’s press releases should rank very high. His avalanche of media ,including his weekly video address, his House GOP retreat speech, his Chris Wallace interview and his appearance on This Week, suggest he’s among the better spokesmen for Republicans and fiscal conservatives.

This is a startling development: “[T]he Justice Department has removed the prosecution team that won the corruption conviction of former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) from any further litigation in the case, according to a new court filing.” The DOJ lawyers had been held in contempt for failure to comply with a court deadline to turn over relevant material. If Stevens’s conviction is overturned, where does he go to get his senate seat back?

With the Obama administration nixing the car czar and hinting  that they are going to be shoveling more money to GM, don’t expect too much to come of  the GM-UAW negotiations.

As one observer put it: “A panel not czar means there will be more White House influence on what’s being done . . . The UAW will have more protections in rewriting their collective agreement.” Indeed they will.

Eugene Robinson must be kidding when he asks to “explain to me how even Washington could do a worse job with these two companies than Detroit is doing.” Sigh. You see, Washington gets no demerits for having already spent $20B of the taxpayers’ money. And as for the core of his question: Yes, virtually every business that the government has tried to operate — from trucking to the airlines to Amtrak to mail delivery — has been a bust. (Even the New York Times  and Obama agree.)

Most of the nineteen categories of rejected absentee ballots won’t be counted in the Minnesota senate post-election proceedings. Unlike some observers, however, I am not so certain the remaining ballots (approximately 3500) being considered will necessarily benefit Coleman.

The Washington Post editors want preconditions on any presidential visit with Hosni Mubarak. I think it was the other presidential candidate who believed in preconditions. Obama was the one who would meet with anyone, anytime. But Obama also believed in transparency and bipartisanship, so perhaps this too will change.

Jack Kelly writes: “Candidate Obama promised a new openness in government. But the biggest spending bill ever was drafted behind closed doors. Candidate Obama pledged to weaken the influence of lobbyists. But lobbyists received copies of the “stimulus” bill before lawmakers did. Candidate Obama pledged a bipartisan approach to government. But not a single Republican in the House, and only three in the Senate, voted for it. Mr. Obama is fond of the appearance of bipartisanship. He nominated three Republicans to his Cabinet. He’s dined with conservative columnists, and invited several GOP lawmakers to watch the Super Bowl with him.  . . If he were more concerned about the substance of bipartisanship, he’d have insisted upon a stimulus package more Republicans could support, and he wouldn’t now be looking for his third nominee for Secretary of Commerce.”

The impact of the stimulus is perhaps already being felt: “Following Congressional passage of the economic stimulus bill, consumer confidence has fallen to another record low.”

Letting Congressional Democrats have their way on the stimulus has its drawbacks: “The approach has already sparked criticism even from some Democrats that Mr. Obama isn’t forceful enough in leading the government. Republicans charge that his coziness with Democratic leaders has come at the expense of bipartisanship.” Oh, and you also get junky legislation.

In you think the Speaker of the House has been getting unfair criticism , this is worth a read. Defending the “Buy American” provision in the stimulus, she declared: “We’re looking out for their interest as we look to grow the U.S. economy. I don’t think that’s protectionism. I think that’s what any country would do for its workers.” It’s not protectionism, it’s just protecting our workers, you see.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is threatening to start laying off  20,000 state workers unless another Republican state senator can be found to vote for the massive tax hike. Wait. Why is that a threat – shouldn’t they be doing that before they even discuss tax hikes?

Of all the things for conservatives to be worried about, I don’t think Michael Steele’s press releases should rank very high. His avalanche of media ,including his weekly video address, his House GOP retreat speech, his Chris Wallace interview and his appearance on This Week, suggest he’s among the better spokesmen for Republicans and fiscal conservatives.

This is a startling development: “[T]he Justice Department has removed the prosecution team that won the corruption conviction of former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) from any further litigation in the case, according to a new court filing.” The DOJ lawyers had been held in contempt for failure to comply with a court deadline to turn over relevant material. If Stevens’s conviction is overturned, where does he go to get his senate seat back?

With the Obama administration nixing the car czar and hinting  that they are going to be shoveling more money to GM, don’t expect too much to come of  the GM-UAW negotiations.

As one observer put it: “A panel not czar means there will be more White House influence on what’s being done . . . The UAW will have more protections in rewriting their collective agreement.” Indeed they will.

Eugene Robinson must be kidding when he asks to “explain to me how even Washington could do a worse job with these two companies than Detroit is doing.” Sigh. You see, Washington gets no demerits for having already spent $20B of the taxpayers’ money. And as for the core of his question: Yes, virtually every business that the government has tried to operate — from trucking to the airlines to Amtrak to mail delivery — has been a bust. (Even the New York Times  and Obama agree.)

Most of the nineteen categories of rejected absentee ballots won’t be counted in the Minnesota senate post-election proceedings. Unlike some observers, however, I am not so certain the remaining ballots (approximately 3500) being considered will necessarily benefit Coleman.

The Washington Post editors want preconditions on any presidential visit with Hosni Mubarak. I think it was the other presidential candidate who believed in preconditions. Obama was the one who would meet with anyone, anytime. But Obama also believed in transparency and bipartisanship, so perhaps this too will change.

Jack Kelly writes: “Candidate Obama promised a new openness in government. But the biggest spending bill ever was drafted behind closed doors. Candidate Obama pledged to weaken the influence of lobbyists. But lobbyists received copies of the “stimulus” bill before lawmakers did. Candidate Obama pledged a bipartisan approach to government. But not a single Republican in the House, and only three in the Senate, voted for it. Mr. Obama is fond of the appearance of bipartisanship. He nominated three Republicans to his Cabinet. He’s dined with conservative columnists, and invited several GOP lawmakers to watch the Super Bowl with him.  . . If he were more concerned about the substance of bipartisanship, he’d have insisted upon a stimulus package more Republicans could support, and he wouldn’t now be looking for his third nominee for Secretary of Commerce.”

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Obama the Thoughtful

Joe Klein praises President Obama for his decision “to think carefully” before sending new troops to Afghanistan. Who wouldn’t?

Thinking before acting is always advisable, and Klein congratulates Obama for this only to imply that Obama’s predecessor was incapable of doing the same.

Let’s not forget, a slow and methodical process can also become a liability. On Afghanistan,  Klein thinks that Obama is best off taking his time before deciding on a surge of troops. While postponing action may allow the the president to get more information, it could also come with a price tag. It might signal to others that this president is a procrastinator. It might create an opportunity for those trying to sabotage American plans. The many virtues of deciding slowly have to be weighed against the possible costs on a case by case basis.

Klein claims the following:

It is becoming an Obama signature that he doesn’t deal with foreign policy issues in isolation–he doesn’t just look into Putin’s (or Musharraf’s, or Karzai’s) eyes and decide whether he can trust them. He sees the problems in context: what happens in Afghanistan has an impact on what happens in Pakistan, in Iran, with Russia and India, and vice versa.

First, on foreign policy there is not yet an Obama “signature” worthy of discussion. The batch of foreign policy decisions the new president has made is too small to paint a coherent picture. And besides, this approach to assessment risks conflating process with outcome. Suppose Obama does see world-affairs in “context” more than his predecessor (which I don’t think is so) – if he is mistaken about the context, he may very well be in worse shape than someone who sees things in isolation, but accurately.

Klein should know better than most about this great show of thoughtfulness. He made a career of chronicling Bill Clinton, whose habitual “thoughtfulness” often yielded foreign policy folly we’d not want to see again.

Joe Klein praises President Obama for his decision “to think carefully” before sending new troops to Afghanistan. Who wouldn’t?

Thinking before acting is always advisable, and Klein congratulates Obama for this only to imply that Obama’s predecessor was incapable of doing the same.

Let’s not forget, a slow and methodical process can also become a liability. On Afghanistan,  Klein thinks that Obama is best off taking his time before deciding on a surge of troops. While postponing action may allow the the president to get more information, it could also come with a price tag. It might signal to others that this president is a procrastinator. It might create an opportunity for those trying to sabotage American plans. The many virtues of deciding slowly have to be weighed against the possible costs on a case by case basis.

Klein claims the following:

It is becoming an Obama signature that he doesn’t deal with foreign policy issues in isolation–he doesn’t just look into Putin’s (or Musharraf’s, or Karzai’s) eyes and decide whether he can trust them. He sees the problems in context: what happens in Afghanistan has an impact on what happens in Pakistan, in Iran, with Russia and India, and vice versa.

First, on foreign policy there is not yet an Obama “signature” worthy of discussion. The batch of foreign policy decisions the new president has made is too small to paint a coherent picture. And besides, this approach to assessment risks conflating process with outcome. Suppose Obama does see world-affairs in “context” more than his predecessor (which I don’t think is so) – if he is mistaken about the context, he may very well be in worse shape than someone who sees things in isolation, but accurately.

Klein should know better than most about this great show of thoughtfulness. He made a career of chronicling Bill Clinton, whose habitual “thoughtfulness” often yielded foreign policy folly we’d not want to see again.

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