Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 18, 2009

Playing Nicely to Take Away the Secret Ballot

Today we got mixed messages on the progress of the Employee Free Choice Act. First, as if hot off the presses, at the ALF-CIO we learn:

With successful passage of the $787 billion stimulus package in their rearview mirror, organized labor is returning to their top political priority: convincing Congress and the President to pass and sign the Employee Free Choice Act, or card check, which would remove significant barriers to unionizing.  Labor’s working with a coalition of Democratic allies, including the Center for American Progress Action Fund, which will release a  report tomorrow on the benefits of unionization for the U.S. economy.  The grassroots field campaign of the unions continues to be gradually ratcheted up; events will be held in 16 states. And labor is working nicely together: the state-based events are being done in complete coordination between AFL-CIO, Change to Win, and SEIU, who will be working in total coordination to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.

That “barrier” to unionization is the secret ballot, in case it wasn’t crystal clear from that bit of propaganda. But it’s always nice when Big Labor works “nicely” with others. Oh, and ACORN is on it too.

But wait. There is trouble afoot in the fight to “remove significant barriers” (this really sounds like the Soviet Union, not the AFL-CIO to be honest). It seems the Blue Dogs in the House prevailed upon the Democratic House leadership not to hold a vote until the Senate does. You have to love the creative explanation:

“Their concern is that the House will pass something, then the Senate will take up the bill and do something different,” the senior leadership aide tells me. “The Blue Dogs don’t want to end up voting on something that won’t even become law. They’re saying, ‘See what can get through the Senate first, and then we’ll vote on it.’”

Translation: they don’t want to vote on this ever. You recall when last we heard from Harry Reid he wasn’t going to bring this to a vote until he had 60 votes. But with Blanche Lincoln, Mark Pryor, Arlen Specter, (don’t count on that vote) and even Susan Collins (who beat back a heavily union-backed campaign to hold her senate seat) Reid doesn’t have the 60 votes.

So those “significant barriers” — that is, the right of workers to decide by secret ballot whether they want a union — don’t seem in danger of crumbling anytime soon. But there’s no telling what can happen with all those Democratic allies playing so nicely.

Today we got mixed messages on the progress of the Employee Free Choice Act. First, as if hot off the presses, at the ALF-CIO we learn:

With successful passage of the $787 billion stimulus package in their rearview mirror, organized labor is returning to their top political priority: convincing Congress and the President to pass and sign the Employee Free Choice Act, or card check, which would remove significant barriers to unionizing.  Labor’s working with a coalition of Democratic allies, including the Center for American Progress Action Fund, which will release a  report tomorrow on the benefits of unionization for the U.S. economy.  The grassroots field campaign of the unions continues to be gradually ratcheted up; events will be held in 16 states. And labor is working nicely together: the state-based events are being done in complete coordination between AFL-CIO, Change to Win, and SEIU, who will be working in total coordination to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.

That “barrier” to unionization is the secret ballot, in case it wasn’t crystal clear from that bit of propaganda. But it’s always nice when Big Labor works “nicely” with others. Oh, and ACORN is on it too.

But wait. There is trouble afoot in the fight to “remove significant barriers” (this really sounds like the Soviet Union, not the AFL-CIO to be honest). It seems the Blue Dogs in the House prevailed upon the Democratic House leadership not to hold a vote until the Senate does. You have to love the creative explanation:

“Their concern is that the House will pass something, then the Senate will take up the bill and do something different,” the senior leadership aide tells me. “The Blue Dogs don’t want to end up voting on something that won’t even become law. They’re saying, ‘See what can get through the Senate first, and then we’ll vote on it.’”

Translation: they don’t want to vote on this ever. You recall when last we heard from Harry Reid he wasn’t going to bring this to a vote until he had 60 votes. But with Blanche Lincoln, Mark Pryor, Arlen Specter, (don’t count on that vote) and even Susan Collins (who beat back a heavily union-backed campaign to hold her senate seat) Reid doesn’t have the 60 votes.

So those “significant barriers” — that is, the right of workers to decide by secret ballot whether they want a union — don’t seem in danger of crumbling anytime soon. But there’s no telling what can happen with all those Democratic allies playing so nicely.

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Commentary of the Day

David S. Mazel, on Jennifer Rubin:

I have worked at government sites, sitting next to government employees. And I now work at a private company. I can tell you that Jennifer is dead-on about the incentives and forces that managers see in these two very different settings.

Government managers are hamstrung and often have little control. Sure, they can approve time cards, monitor contracts with non-government companies (i.e., private companies) but they have little control over employees. (Once, I was directed to work with a government analyst by her manager. This analyst told me that she wouldn’t do the work, no matter what her manager said. And he, the manager, could not do anything about that.) What’s more, the incentives for government managers have nothing to do with profit or product. The incentives have everything to do with simply pleasing your boss or finding a position with a higher pay grade.

In a private company, the situation is quite different. Profits are of utmost importance, spending is kept low, and costs are always reduced, as much as possible anyway. The money belongs to the company so saving money is good for the company and, therefore, good for the employees. There’s an incentive to work to save.

What’s more, managers in private industry consider the bottom line constantly. It’s how they are graded. Managers will fire employees who don’t perform or demote them. That is a rarity in the government.

So, technocrats, as Jennifer notes, are trained differently from private industry managers.

That leads me to Chrysler and GM. It seems here Jennifer is spot-on again. The unions have made these companies too much like government employment. Unlike the government, the companies can’t tax people and force them to pay money. People, customers!, have a choice, unlike taxpayers. Unfortunately for GM and Chrysler their customers are deciding to spend their money elsewhere.

David S. Mazel, on Jennifer Rubin:

I have worked at government sites, sitting next to government employees. And I now work at a private company. I can tell you that Jennifer is dead-on about the incentives and forces that managers see in these two very different settings.

Government managers are hamstrung and often have little control. Sure, they can approve time cards, monitor contracts with non-government companies (i.e., private companies) but they have little control over employees. (Once, I was directed to work with a government analyst by her manager. This analyst told me that she wouldn’t do the work, no matter what her manager said. And he, the manager, could not do anything about that.) What’s more, the incentives for government managers have nothing to do with profit or product. The incentives have everything to do with simply pleasing your boss or finding a position with a higher pay grade.

In a private company, the situation is quite different. Profits are of utmost importance, spending is kept low, and costs are always reduced, as much as possible anyway. The money belongs to the company so saving money is good for the company and, therefore, good for the employees. There’s an incentive to work to save.

What’s more, managers in private industry consider the bottom line constantly. It’s how they are graded. Managers will fire employees who don’t perform or demote them. That is a rarity in the government.

So, technocrats, as Jennifer notes, are trained differently from private industry managers.

That leads me to Chrysler and GM. It seems here Jennifer is spot-on again. The unions have made these companies too much like government employment. Unlike the government, the companies can’t tax people and force them to pay money. People, customers!, have a choice, unlike taxpayers. Unfortunately for GM and Chrysler their customers are deciding to spend their money elsewhere.

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Mrs. Clinton Versus Mr. Kim

So far, Secretary of State Clinton’s trip to Asia has been long on symbolism, as a maiden excursion should be.  It was important to reassure our “cornerstone” ally, Japan, and in Tokyo she was pitch-perfect.  In Jakarta, she said the right words about Indonesian democracy.

So much for the easy part.  The next stopover is Seoul.  There, the secretary of state will have to confront one of the planet’s most vexing problems, North Korea.  No nation has ever had satisfactory relations with Pyongyang.  Consider the United States. Over six decades, the most abhorrent regime in history has, at almost every turn, bested the world’s strongest power.  Whether bearing carrots or carrying sticks, Republicans and Democrats have failed to accomplish all but minimal objectives.  Lack of achievement, unfortunately, is a bipartisan legacy.

Selig Harrison, writing in the Washington Post yesterday, unwittingly outlined how badly we have failed.  The Korea specialist correctly noted that Pyongyang has taken a hardline turn in recent months and then attributed the change in approach to Kim Jong Il’s stroke last August.  The medical excuse sounds a bit too convenient — it is more likely Mr. Kim never contemplated giving up his most destructive weaponry and recent negotiations on verification have flushed out his real intentions.   In any event, Harrison, perhaps America’s leading advocate of soft policies toward Pyongyang, suggested we just live with a nuclear North Korea.  Unfortunately, some in the Obama administration feel the same way.

Does Mrs. Clinton?  There are strategies for defanging Kim and taking away his arsenal of nukes — such as squeezing him harder and putting China on the spot for supporting Pyongyang.  When America’s top diplomat rolls into Seoul tomorrow, she will have to begin to tip her hand as to how she will deal with the seemingly impossible Kimist state.  Up to now, Clinton has gotten away with saying that a North Korean missile launch would be “very unhelpful” and repeating generalities about reaching out to Pyongyang — statements made yesterday from Tokyo — but that won’t be good enough when she is on Korean soil.  Maybe it’s not fair for the South Koreans to demand specifics so soon into her tenure, but no one should have expected Kim to give her time to formulate policy.

And when it comes to Washington’s Korea policy, she has to get it right the first time.  After all, the Iranians, about a year away from building a nuclear device of their own, are watching to see whether she can disarm Pyongyang.  Mrs. Clinton’s trip gets serious tomorrow.

So far, Secretary of State Clinton’s trip to Asia has been long on symbolism, as a maiden excursion should be.  It was important to reassure our “cornerstone” ally, Japan, and in Tokyo she was pitch-perfect.  In Jakarta, she said the right words about Indonesian democracy.

So much for the easy part.  The next stopover is Seoul.  There, the secretary of state will have to confront one of the planet’s most vexing problems, North Korea.  No nation has ever had satisfactory relations with Pyongyang.  Consider the United States. Over six decades, the most abhorrent regime in history has, at almost every turn, bested the world’s strongest power.  Whether bearing carrots or carrying sticks, Republicans and Democrats have failed to accomplish all but minimal objectives.  Lack of achievement, unfortunately, is a bipartisan legacy.

Selig Harrison, writing in the Washington Post yesterday, unwittingly outlined how badly we have failed.  The Korea specialist correctly noted that Pyongyang has taken a hardline turn in recent months and then attributed the change in approach to Kim Jong Il’s stroke last August.  The medical excuse sounds a bit too convenient — it is more likely Mr. Kim never contemplated giving up his most destructive weaponry and recent negotiations on verification have flushed out his real intentions.   In any event, Harrison, perhaps America’s leading advocate of soft policies toward Pyongyang, suggested we just live with a nuclear North Korea.  Unfortunately, some in the Obama administration feel the same way.

Does Mrs. Clinton?  There are strategies for defanging Kim and taking away his arsenal of nukes — such as squeezing him harder and putting China on the spot for supporting Pyongyang.  When America’s top diplomat rolls into Seoul tomorrow, she will have to begin to tip her hand as to how she will deal with the seemingly impossible Kimist state.  Up to now, Clinton has gotten away with saying that a North Korean missile launch would be “very unhelpful” and repeating generalities about reaching out to Pyongyang — statements made yesterday from Tokyo — but that won’t be good enough when she is on Korean soil.  Maybe it’s not fair for the South Koreans to demand specifics so soon into her tenure, but no one should have expected Kim to give her time to formulate policy.

And when it comes to Washington’s Korea policy, she has to get it right the first time.  After all, the Iranians, about a year away from building a nuclear device of their own, are watching to see whether she can disarm Pyongyang.  Mrs. Clinton’s trip gets serious tomorrow.

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Are We Post-Racial Yet?

Eric Holder, our first African American Attorney General serving under out first African American President, has these words about his fellow citizens:

Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial, we have always been, and we, I believe, continue to be, in too many ways, a nation of cowards,” Holder said in remarks to his staff in honor of Black History Month. His comments appear on a transcript provided by the Justice Department.

Even as we fight a war against terrorism; deal with the reality of electing an African-American, for the first time, as the president of the United States; and deal with other significant issues of the day, the need to confront our racial past and to understand our racial present, and to understand the history of African people in this country — that all endures,” the attorney general added.

Someone should have asked him about that at the confirmation hearing. I have no idea what he could possibly be thinking other than to throw crumbs to the liberal professional civil-rights lobbyists and perpetual-victimization crowd. But it sure isn’t going to go over well with all those “cowards” out there in America.

Eric Holder, our first African American Attorney General serving under out first African American President, has these words about his fellow citizens:

Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial, we have always been, and we, I believe, continue to be, in too many ways, a nation of cowards,” Holder said in remarks to his staff in honor of Black History Month. His comments appear on a transcript provided by the Justice Department.

Even as we fight a war against terrorism; deal with the reality of electing an African-American, for the first time, as the president of the United States; and deal with other significant issues of the day, the need to confront our racial past and to understand our racial present, and to understand the history of African people in this country — that all endures,” the attorney general added.

Someone should have asked him about that at the confirmation hearing. I have no idea what he could possibly be thinking other than to throw crumbs to the liberal professional civil-rights lobbyists and perpetual-victimization crowd. But it sure isn’t going to go over well with all those “cowards” out there in America.

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Re: The Durban Dilemma

Shmuel, I think we are heading toward an inevitable conflict, but not one that Israel has the power to avoid. You write that Israel’s objections to U.S. participation will have “unfortunate consequences — either because Obama will choose to take part and give credence to the conference or because the enemies of Israel will be able to argue that by lobbying against Durban it has damaged American interests.” But Israel cannot, of course, remain indifferent or mute in the face of a conference premised on the notion that it is a racist country. This is not an incidental matter. It goes to the core of Israel’s right of existence as a Jewish state.

Perhaps Obama will work his wonders and steer the conference in a totally different direction. Or maybe he will, as Colin Powell did in Durban I, recognize the U.S. has no place at an anti-Semitic hate-fest. Powell’s statement in September 2001 is worth recalling:

I know that you do not combat racism by conferences that produce declarations containing hateful language, some of which is a throwback to the days of “Zionism equals racism”; or supports the idea that we have made too much of the Holocaust; or suggests that apartheid exists in Israel; or that singles out only one country in the world, Israel, for censure and abuse.

Israel simply can’t pull its punches on this one. Perhaps Powell, who thought so highly of Obama that he crossed party lines in the election, might set him straight on this. If not, the chips will fall as they must.

Shmuel, I think we are heading toward an inevitable conflict, but not one that Israel has the power to avoid. You write that Israel’s objections to U.S. participation will have “unfortunate consequences — either because Obama will choose to take part and give credence to the conference or because the enemies of Israel will be able to argue that by lobbying against Durban it has damaged American interests.” But Israel cannot, of course, remain indifferent or mute in the face of a conference premised on the notion that it is a racist country. This is not an incidental matter. It goes to the core of Israel’s right of existence as a Jewish state.

Perhaps Obama will work his wonders and steer the conference in a totally different direction. Or maybe he will, as Colin Powell did in Durban I, recognize the U.S. has no place at an anti-Semitic hate-fest. Powell’s statement in September 2001 is worth recalling:

I know that you do not combat racism by conferences that produce declarations containing hateful language, some of which is a throwback to the days of “Zionism equals racism”; or supports the idea that we have made too much of the Holocaust; or suggests that apartheid exists in Israel; or that singles out only one country in the world, Israel, for censure and abuse.

Israel simply can’t pull its punches on this one. Perhaps Powell, who thought so highly of Obama that he crossed party lines in the election, might set him straight on this. If not, the chips will fall as they must.

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Cairo’s Latest Crackdown

Last week, Egyptian authorities released Philip Rizk, an Egyptian-German who had organized a march in support of the Palestinians in Gaza, after four days of detention.  In today’s New York Times, Cairo-based correspondent Michael Slackman contextualizes Rizk’s arrest as the latest example of the Mubarak regime’s crackdown on dissidents:

… what made Mr. Rizk’s case extraordinary was how routine it actually was, according to political activists, political scientists, bloggers, Islamists, former prisoners and human rights groups here and abroad. It is all too common for the security services to grab citizens, detain them without charge, refuse to release any information concerning their whereabouts and deny them even the minimal protections, under an emergency law passed decades ago to help fight terrorism.

Yet — as usual — Slackman gets the significance of this event dead wrong.  After all, activists and bloggers are typically arrested in Egypt for protesting the Egyptian government and its authoritarian ways — not for protesting Israel.  Actually, the regime traditionally gives dissidents who protest Israel — such as Rizk — relatively free reign, believing that anti-Israel activism will divert the attention of domestic critics and discredit Egyptian dissidents to American policymakers.

In turn, Philip Rizk’s arrest is significant insofar as it reinforces a point that I made over a month ago: since the beginning of the Gaza war, Egypt has been heavily invested in Israel’s success vis-à-vis Hamas.  In stark contrast to its conduct during the 2006 Lebanon war – when the Mubarak regime permitted mass protests in Cairo and used these as an excuse for backtracking from its initial support for Israel just as it appeared that Hezbollah would emerge successful — Egypt suddenly feels no need to hedge.  It is therefore taking no chances, going as far as arresting Rizk — a dual citizen whose march included a mere fifteen fellow protesters.

Remember: the Mubarak regime owes its long-term survival to the careful choice of horse to bet on.  The ultimate significance of Philip Rizk’s arrest, therefore, is that Israel is expected to emerge strengthened from its ongoing ceasefire negotiations with a weakened Hamas.  But don’t expect Michael Slackman to tell you so.

Last week, Egyptian authorities released Philip Rizk, an Egyptian-German who had organized a march in support of the Palestinians in Gaza, after four days of detention.  In today’s New York Times, Cairo-based correspondent Michael Slackman contextualizes Rizk’s arrest as the latest example of the Mubarak regime’s crackdown on dissidents:

… what made Mr. Rizk’s case extraordinary was how routine it actually was, according to political activists, political scientists, bloggers, Islamists, former prisoners and human rights groups here and abroad. It is all too common for the security services to grab citizens, detain them without charge, refuse to release any information concerning their whereabouts and deny them even the minimal protections, under an emergency law passed decades ago to help fight terrorism.

Yet — as usual — Slackman gets the significance of this event dead wrong.  After all, activists and bloggers are typically arrested in Egypt for protesting the Egyptian government and its authoritarian ways — not for protesting Israel.  Actually, the regime traditionally gives dissidents who protest Israel — such as Rizk — relatively free reign, believing that anti-Israel activism will divert the attention of domestic critics and discredit Egyptian dissidents to American policymakers.

In turn, Philip Rizk’s arrest is significant insofar as it reinforces a point that I made over a month ago: since the beginning of the Gaza war, Egypt has been heavily invested in Israel’s success vis-à-vis Hamas.  In stark contrast to its conduct during the 2006 Lebanon war – when the Mubarak regime permitted mass protests in Cairo and used these as an excuse for backtracking from its initial support for Israel just as it appeared that Hezbollah would emerge successful — Egypt suddenly feels no need to hedge.  It is therefore taking no chances, going as far as arresting Rizk — a dual citizen whose march included a mere fifteen fellow protesters.

Remember: the Mubarak regime owes its long-term survival to the careful choice of horse to bet on.  The ultimate significance of Philip Rizk’s arrest, therefore, is that Israel is expected to emerge strengthened from its ongoing ceasefire negotiations with a weakened Hamas.  But don’t expect Michael Slackman to tell you so.

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Guess Who’s Back for More

It should come as no shock that GM and Chrysler are asking for nearly $22B in additional taxpayer funding. Nor should it come as a surprise that the UAW hasn’t reached agreement on renegotiating the terms of the trust fund for retiree health-care. This is, of course, madness. No rational person thinks this will be the end of the gravy train for the car companies or that they’ll be viable anytime soon. But the Obama administration, I would wager, is going to keep on driving down the road to auto company nationalization, begun so imprudently by the Bush administration.

Such a course is unwise for multiple reasons. First, since the car companies themselves are cutting tens of thousands of jobs, none of this can any longer be justified under the premise of “keeping jobs.” (By the way, do those come out of the 3.5 million jobs Obama’s stimulus is going to save?) For that amount of money we are talking about hundreds of thousands per job “saved.” Why not give each of the remaining workers the cash and send them on their way?

Second, we essentially are looking at an auto industry run by government committee — the car czar’s new incarnation, the inter-agency task force. (It does sound like a bad joke that this will be co-headed by the person whose bank bailout debut spooked the markets.) David Boaz of CATO explains:

Summers, Geithner, and the president are all smart men. But none of them has ever run a successful company. Putting technocrats in charge of business firms is only a slight improvement over direct control by politicians. Business firms should be run by entrepreneurs and managers who face the challenge of making or losing money according to their success at satisfying consumer demand. When government officials run companies, they don’t focus on consumer demand. We’ll hear a lot about “balancing competing interests” — that is, responding to the political lobbying from managers, unions, environmentalists, mayors, governors, the Japanese government, and more. With officials in charge, no doubt we’ll produce companies with the world-beating dynamism of French firms.

And finally, there simply isn’t any moral or economic rationale to explain why taxpayers whose income is less than auto workers should be subsidizing them. We are piling up more and more debt, which will need to be repaid by those same taxpayers, for a project with virtually no chance for success.

Even decidedly non-conservative observers agree.  Robert Reich is telling us to send GM to bankruptcy (call it “chopped liver,” he says, if it makes them feel better). The Washington Post editors concur: “The outright collapse of General Motors and Chrysler might be one more shock than the fragile U.S. economy can absorb at the moment. But we can think of something even worse: propping them up through an endless series of government bailouts, with no prospect of long-term viability.”

Call it socialism or corporate welfare. It is just an awful idea. And it will open the floodgates for other ailing businesses to step forward, escape the consequences of their failure, and step permanently onto the public dole.

It should come as no shock that GM and Chrysler are asking for nearly $22B in additional taxpayer funding. Nor should it come as a surprise that the UAW hasn’t reached agreement on renegotiating the terms of the trust fund for retiree health-care. This is, of course, madness. No rational person thinks this will be the end of the gravy train for the car companies or that they’ll be viable anytime soon. But the Obama administration, I would wager, is going to keep on driving down the road to auto company nationalization, begun so imprudently by the Bush administration.

Such a course is unwise for multiple reasons. First, since the car companies themselves are cutting tens of thousands of jobs, none of this can any longer be justified under the premise of “keeping jobs.” (By the way, do those come out of the 3.5 million jobs Obama’s stimulus is going to save?) For that amount of money we are talking about hundreds of thousands per job “saved.” Why not give each of the remaining workers the cash and send them on their way?

Second, we essentially are looking at an auto industry run by government committee — the car czar’s new incarnation, the inter-agency task force. (It does sound like a bad joke that this will be co-headed by the person whose bank bailout debut spooked the markets.) David Boaz of CATO explains:

Summers, Geithner, and the president are all smart men. But none of them has ever run a successful company. Putting technocrats in charge of business firms is only a slight improvement over direct control by politicians. Business firms should be run by entrepreneurs and managers who face the challenge of making or losing money according to their success at satisfying consumer demand. When government officials run companies, they don’t focus on consumer demand. We’ll hear a lot about “balancing competing interests” — that is, responding to the political lobbying from managers, unions, environmentalists, mayors, governors, the Japanese government, and more. With officials in charge, no doubt we’ll produce companies with the world-beating dynamism of French firms.

And finally, there simply isn’t any moral or economic rationale to explain why taxpayers whose income is less than auto workers should be subsidizing them. We are piling up more and more debt, which will need to be repaid by those same taxpayers, for a project with virtually no chance for success.

Even decidedly non-conservative observers agree.  Robert Reich is telling us to send GM to bankruptcy (call it “chopped liver,” he says, if it makes them feel better). The Washington Post editors concur: “The outright collapse of General Motors and Chrysler might be one more shock than the fragile U.S. economy can absorb at the moment. But we can think of something even worse: propping them up through an endless series of government bailouts, with no prospect of long-term viability.”

Call it socialism or corporate welfare. It is just an awful idea. And it will open the floodgates for other ailing businesses to step forward, escape the consequences of their failure, and step permanently onto the public dole.

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We Can Win in Afghanistan

There is no doubt that the situation in Afghanistan is getting worse — see this report that civilian casualties increased 40% from 2007 to 2008. Given the difficulty of the task ahead, it is entirely appropriate that there should be a vigorous debate, in and out of government, about the best way to proceed. But I am troubled to see analysts whose views I generally respect, and who have considerable on-the-ground experience in the region, making arguments that I think will lead us in precisely the wrong direction.

First there was Ann Marlow in the Wall Street Journal arguing that Afghanistan doesn’t need a surge of U.S. troops. Instead, she argues, we should support an expansion of the Afghan National Police. This should be coupled, she believes, with an administration statement “that the U.S. prefers Mr. Karzai not seek another term” and that we would like to see major changes in the Afghan Constitution to allow provincial councils and parliamentarians to be elected on a district rather than a provincial basis, and for governors to be elected rather than appointed by the central government.

I’ve already explained in the Washington Post why I think it’s foolish to blame all the problems of Afghanistan on Karzai’s supposed incompetence and/or corruption. This is part of a pattern, one that we saw in Iraq as well as previously in Vietnam: When things are going well in a foreign war, we take the credit for ourselves. When things are going badly, we blame our local allies — whether Diem in Vietnam, Maliki in Iraq, or Karzai in Afghanistan. This approach ignores the reality that if we do a better job of creating security on the ground, then local leaders will be able to exercise more authority — as has happened in the past year in Iraq.

Sure, countries like Iraq and Afghanistan need more and better local security forces. But if there’s anything Iraq should have taught us it’s that trying to place the burden of fighting hardened terrorists on inexperienced local troops and cops — as Marlowe now proposes in Afghanistan — is a formula for failure. U.S. troops need to take the lead initially. Only once they have blunted the worst of the insurgent threat can local security personnel come to the fore. By all means we should fund and train more Afghan police and troops. But we can’t expect them to defeat the Taliban in the short term. For that we need a U.S. “surge.”

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive.

There is no doubt that the situation in Afghanistan is getting worse — see this report that civilian casualties increased 40% from 2007 to 2008. Given the difficulty of the task ahead, it is entirely appropriate that there should be a vigorous debate, in and out of government, about the best way to proceed. But I am troubled to see analysts whose views I generally respect, and who have considerable on-the-ground experience in the region, making arguments that I think will lead us in precisely the wrong direction.

First there was Ann Marlow in the Wall Street Journal arguing that Afghanistan doesn’t need a surge of U.S. troops. Instead, she argues, we should support an expansion of the Afghan National Police. This should be coupled, she believes, with an administration statement “that the U.S. prefers Mr. Karzai not seek another term” and that we would like to see major changes in the Afghan Constitution to allow provincial councils and parliamentarians to be elected on a district rather than a provincial basis, and for governors to be elected rather than appointed by the central government.

I’ve already explained in the Washington Post why I think it’s foolish to blame all the problems of Afghanistan on Karzai’s supposed incompetence and/or corruption. This is part of a pattern, one that we saw in Iraq as well as previously in Vietnam: When things are going well in a foreign war, we take the credit for ourselves. When things are going badly, we blame our local allies — whether Diem in Vietnam, Maliki in Iraq, or Karzai in Afghanistan. This approach ignores the reality that if we do a better job of creating security on the ground, then local leaders will be able to exercise more authority — as has happened in the past year in Iraq.

Sure, countries like Iraq and Afghanistan need more and better local security forces. But if there’s anything Iraq should have taught us it’s that trying to place the burden of fighting hardened terrorists on inexperienced local troops and cops — as Marlowe now proposes in Afghanistan — is a formula for failure. U.S. troops need to take the lead initially. Only once they have blunted the worst of the insurgent threat can local security personnel come to the fore. By all means we should fund and train more Afghan police and troops. But we can’t expect them to defeat the Taliban in the short term. For that we need a U.S. “surge.”

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive.

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Forge W.

Today, the New York Times acknowledges that Barack Obama is more-or-less copying George W. Bush’s anti-terrorism policies.  Citing the continuation of prisoner transfer overseas, the retention of state-secret privileges, and cooperation with allies in protecting sensitive information, Charlie Savage writes, “These and other signs suggest that the administration’s changes may turn out to be less sweeping than many had hoped or feared – prompting growing worry among civil liberties groups and a sense of vindication among supporters of Bush-era policies.”

Not so much vindication as relief. George W. Bush constructed an anti-terrorism architecture that kept the U.S. improbably safe for over seven years. If Obama dismantled this program and exposed us to future attacks in order to please a few conspiracy-minded bloggers and filmmakers, my first thought wouldn’t be about vindication for Bush.

Now, the danger lies in what anti-Bush scraps Obama may feel compelled to throw to the disillusioned base. According to the Times, “[White House Counsel, Greg] Craig also said President Obama intended to avoid any ‘shoot from the hip’ and ‘bumper sticker slogans’ approaches to deciding what to do with the counterterrorism policies he inherited.” But that’s not strictly true.

However the Obama administration will soon learn, with their Guantanamo stunt, that bumper sticker gestures are bigger headaches than they’re worth – specifically because, as policies, they don’t correspond to real world challenges. Keeping Guantanamo up and running wouldn’t have created half the problems that trying to shut it down now poses. Let’s hope we’ve seen the last of the unserious campaigner on matters of national security. Mark Steyn once suggested that the slogan, “No More Bumper Stickers” would make for  a good bumper sticker. He’s right, but it makes an even better foreign policy.

Today, the New York Times acknowledges that Barack Obama is more-or-less copying George W. Bush’s anti-terrorism policies.  Citing the continuation of prisoner transfer overseas, the retention of state-secret privileges, and cooperation with allies in protecting sensitive information, Charlie Savage writes, “These and other signs suggest that the administration’s changes may turn out to be less sweeping than many had hoped or feared – prompting growing worry among civil liberties groups and a sense of vindication among supporters of Bush-era policies.”

Not so much vindication as relief. George W. Bush constructed an anti-terrorism architecture that kept the U.S. improbably safe for over seven years. If Obama dismantled this program and exposed us to future attacks in order to please a few conspiracy-minded bloggers and filmmakers, my first thought wouldn’t be about vindication for Bush.

Now, the danger lies in what anti-Bush scraps Obama may feel compelled to throw to the disillusioned base. According to the Times, “[White House Counsel, Greg] Craig also said President Obama intended to avoid any ‘shoot from the hip’ and ‘bumper sticker slogans’ approaches to deciding what to do with the counterterrorism policies he inherited.” But that’s not strictly true.

However the Obama administration will soon learn, with their Guantanamo stunt, that bumper sticker gestures are bigger headaches than they’re worth – specifically because, as policies, they don’t correspond to real world challenges. Keeping Guantanamo up and running wouldn’t have created half the problems that trying to shut it down now poses. Let’s hope we’ve seen the last of the unserious campaigner on matters of national security. Mark Steyn once suggested that the slogan, “No More Bumper Stickers” would make for  a good bumper sticker. He’s right, but it makes an even better foreign policy.

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Viet X. Luong, American Colonel

This is a great “only in America” story: Colonel Viet X. Luong is taking command from Colonel Dominic J. Caraccilo of the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment (the famed Rakkasans) of the 101st Airborne Division.

Luong left South Vietnam with his family in 1975, making him the first Vietnamese refugee to take command of a U.S. military brigade. He will likely lead the brigade into combat in about a year’s time in Afghanistan. The Rakkasans are a first-rate outfit, one of the most-deployed units in the entire armed forces and one that I have been privileged to spend time with in Iraq. It says something great about this country that we entrust our most precious commodity — our fighting men and women — to the leadership of immigrants and the offspring of immigrants.

I only hope the Pentagon will widen and extend a draft program that allows the recruitment of immigrants who do not yet have Green Cards or citizenship. Immigrants have always been the strength of our country, and the armed forces should take full advantage of this great resource.

This is a great “only in America” story: Colonel Viet X. Luong is taking command from Colonel Dominic J. Caraccilo of the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment (the famed Rakkasans) of the 101st Airborne Division.

Luong left South Vietnam with his family in 1975, making him the first Vietnamese refugee to take command of a U.S. military brigade. He will likely lead the brigade into combat in about a year’s time in Afghanistan. The Rakkasans are a first-rate outfit, one of the most-deployed units in the entire armed forces and one that I have been privileged to spend time with in Iraq. It says something great about this country that we entrust our most precious commodity — our fighting men and women — to the leadership of immigrants and the offspring of immigrants.

I only hope the Pentagon will widen and extend a draft program that allows the recruitment of immigrants who do not yet have Green Cards or citizenship. Immigrants have always been the strength of our country, and the armed forces should take full advantage of this great resource.

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A Third Lebanon War?

The Lebanese-Israeli border has been calmer during the last two and a half years than it has been in decades. Hezbollah replenished its arsenal of rockets after the 2006 war, but has chosen to lay low in the meantime. Not one Israeli soldier has been kidnapped since the war’s end, and not a single Hezbollah rocket has landed in Israel. Nothing stays the same in the Middle East for long, though, and Israel and Lebanon may be headed for confrontation again.

One year to the day after Hezbollah military commander Imad Mugniyeh was assassinated by a car bomb in downtown Damascus, Alice Fordham published a piece at NOW Lebanon that makes for sobering reading. She quotes a number of analysts in both Lebanon and Israel who fear another round of violence is coming. Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah blames Israel for killing Mugniyeh, and he vows vengeance. His threat appears to be credible. Terrorist attacks against Israeli interests by Hezbollah cells have been foiled on three continents — in Europe, Egypt, and Azerbaijan.

I wrote recently that Nasrallah appears to have been deterred by Israel’s devastating air and ground assault in July and August of 2006. “We did not believe,” he said on Lebanon’s New TV station, “even by one percent, that the captive operation would result in such a wide-scale war, as such a war did not take place in the history of wars. Had we known that the captive operation would result in such a war we would not have carried it out at all.” Not even during the recent war in Gaza, while the Israelis were busy and distracted fighting Hamas, did Nasrallah think it wise to risk a repeat of 2006. Unless every reported terrorist attempt since Mugniyeh’s assassination is fictitious, though, Nasrallah still seems to think it’s okay to attack Israel outside Israel.

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive.

The Lebanese-Israeli border has been calmer during the last two and a half years than it has been in decades. Hezbollah replenished its arsenal of rockets after the 2006 war, but has chosen to lay low in the meantime. Not one Israeli soldier has been kidnapped since the war’s end, and not a single Hezbollah rocket has landed in Israel. Nothing stays the same in the Middle East for long, though, and Israel and Lebanon may be headed for confrontation again.

One year to the day after Hezbollah military commander Imad Mugniyeh was assassinated by a car bomb in downtown Damascus, Alice Fordham published a piece at NOW Lebanon that makes for sobering reading. She quotes a number of analysts in both Lebanon and Israel who fear another round of violence is coming. Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah blames Israel for killing Mugniyeh, and he vows vengeance. His threat appears to be credible. Terrorist attacks against Israeli interests by Hezbollah cells have been foiled on three continents — in Europe, Egypt, and Azerbaijan.

I wrote recently that Nasrallah appears to have been deterred by Israel’s devastating air and ground assault in July and August of 2006. “We did not believe,” he said on Lebanon’s New TV station, “even by one percent, that the captive operation would result in such a wide-scale war, as such a war did not take place in the history of wars. Had we known that the captive operation would result in such a war we would not have carried it out at all.” Not even during the recent war in Gaza, while the Israelis were busy and distracted fighting Hamas, did Nasrallah think it wise to risk a repeat of 2006. Unless every reported terrorist attempt since Mugniyeh’s assassination is fictitious, though, Nasrallah still seems to think it’s okay to attack Israel outside Israel.

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive.

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It Worked for Tom Daschle

When the New York Times called for Tom Daschle to step down from HHS, it took less than twenty-four hours. The Chicago Tribune and the  Washington Post call today for Roland Burris to go, in light of his revelation that, well, yes, there really was a quid pro quo of some type and Burris hadn’t been forthcoming about it under oath.

So will the “deux ex op-ed” do the trick this time? Well, that would mean Burris was capable of being shamed into resignation as Daschle was. Or it would require that the Democrats decide to boot out Burris, which seems possible but not imminent. And then what — another appointee?

This three-ring circus is the result of allowing the Illinois political machine to run amok. It sounds like the job of the Agent of Change to clean up his own state and party. Let’s see if the White House can get it right this time. Two sentences will suffice: “Burris must go. An election must be held.” If they can’t manage that, I suspect they’ll be in for a heap of trouble.

When the New York Times called for Tom Daschle to step down from HHS, it took less than twenty-four hours. The Chicago Tribune and the  Washington Post call today for Roland Burris to go, in light of his revelation that, well, yes, there really was a quid pro quo of some type and Burris hadn’t been forthcoming about it under oath.

So will the “deux ex op-ed” do the trick this time? Well, that would mean Burris was capable of being shamed into resignation as Daschle was. Or it would require that the Democrats decide to boot out Burris, which seems possible but not imminent. And then what — another appointee?

This three-ring circus is the result of allowing the Illinois political machine to run amok. It sounds like the job of the Agent of Change to clean up his own state and party. Let’s see if the White House can get it right this time. Two sentences will suffice: “Burris must go. An election must be held.” If they can’t manage that, I suspect they’ll be in for a heap of trouble.

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Peres, Wrong?

Shimon Peres, a man who has surely been a far greater success in the role of president than he was as a politician, just dropped what for him is something of a bombshell. If the report in today’s Jerusalem Post is accurate (and my only reason to doubt it is that it sounds so hard to believe), he has, like so many other Israelis, concluded that the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, known as “disengagement,” was a mistake. “Whatever will happen in the future, we shall not repeat the mistakes we made in leaving Gaza,” he says now. “It should have been done otherwise. I was for leaving Gaza. I consider myself as one of the persons mistaken.”

Of course, this can be read in more than one way. Aside from the objection from the Right, that disengagement would embolden Israel’s enemies and lead to a much worse conflict, there was also an objection from the Left: that Israel should be reaching negotiated settlements rather than taking unilateral actions. Peres’s ambiguous words let him hint in both directions at once. Peres is a master at this sort of thing.

But what timing! We are just days before Peres has to choose between giving the reins of coalition-forming, and probably government itself, either to Kadima or to Likud. It will be recalled that the whole reason that Kadima exists was that Ariel Sharon failed to get support for disengagement from within his own party, so he broke away to form Kadima, got Peres to come on board, and on this basis went ahead with disengagement anyway. In other words: Peres has chosen this particular moment to distance himself forcefully from the party with the most seats in the Knesset, the party that he himself helped create.

In still other words: It looks like he’s preparing his old friends in Kadima for the disappointment that his next move will bring.

Shimon Peres, a man who has surely been a far greater success in the role of president than he was as a politician, just dropped what for him is something of a bombshell. If the report in today’s Jerusalem Post is accurate (and my only reason to doubt it is that it sounds so hard to believe), he has, like so many other Israelis, concluded that the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, known as “disengagement,” was a mistake. “Whatever will happen in the future, we shall not repeat the mistakes we made in leaving Gaza,” he says now. “It should have been done otherwise. I was for leaving Gaza. I consider myself as one of the persons mistaken.”

Of course, this can be read in more than one way. Aside from the objection from the Right, that disengagement would embolden Israel’s enemies and lead to a much worse conflict, there was also an objection from the Left: that Israel should be reaching negotiated settlements rather than taking unilateral actions. Peres’s ambiguous words let him hint in both directions at once. Peres is a master at this sort of thing.

But what timing! We are just days before Peres has to choose between giving the reins of coalition-forming, and probably government itself, either to Kadima or to Likud. It will be recalled that the whole reason that Kadima exists was that Ariel Sharon failed to get support for disengagement from within his own party, so he broke away to form Kadima, got Peres to come on board, and on this basis went ahead with disengagement anyway. In other words: Peres has chosen this particular moment to distance himself forcefully from the party with the most seats in the Knesset, the party that he himself helped create.

In still other words: It looks like he’s preparing his old friends in Kadima for the disappointment that his next move will bring.

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As Goes California. . .

In case you haven’t noticed, California is fast becoming a third world economy. Its government has ceased to provide basic services (its schools now rank 48th; its prisons were ordered to release more than 50,000 inmates because of inadequate healthcare). The Wall Street Journal editors explain:

The Golden State — which a decade ago was the booming technology capital of the world — has been done in by two decades of chronic overspending, overregulating and a hyperprogressive tax code that exaggerates the impact on state revenues of economic boom and bust. Total state expenditures have grown to $145 billion in 2008 from $104 billion in 2003 and California now has the worst credit rating in the nation — worse even than Louisiana’s. It also has the nation’s fourth highest unemployment rate of 9.3% (after Michigan, Rhode Island and South Carolina) and the second highest home foreclosure rate (after Nevada).

Governor Schwarzenegger is trying to bully the legislature into a package which includes $14B more in new taxes. That move, if it gets through, plus the general deterioration in the quality of life is likely to increase the outflow of people, and, with it, high earners and businesses whose revenue the state needs. In short, the state is a basket case.

Those in the other 49 should take note. This is what a high tax, overregulated, union dominated economy looks like. And in the information age it is increasingly easy to relocate businesses — to another state or another country. So as we look to the federal government it might be a good idea to keep the California experience front and center. Do we want to dramatically increase the size of government, pass volumes of new environmental and other regulations, pass card check to give unions an even greater influence in the economy, and ( if the Congressional Democrats have their way) raise taxes?

For decades now, we have seen that as goes California, so goes the nation. Let’s hope that is no longer true.

In case you haven’t noticed, California is fast becoming a third world economy. Its government has ceased to provide basic services (its schools now rank 48th; its prisons were ordered to release more than 50,000 inmates because of inadequate healthcare). The Wall Street Journal editors explain:

The Golden State — which a decade ago was the booming technology capital of the world — has been done in by two decades of chronic overspending, overregulating and a hyperprogressive tax code that exaggerates the impact on state revenues of economic boom and bust. Total state expenditures have grown to $145 billion in 2008 from $104 billion in 2003 and California now has the worst credit rating in the nation — worse even than Louisiana’s. It also has the nation’s fourth highest unemployment rate of 9.3% (after Michigan, Rhode Island and South Carolina) and the second highest home foreclosure rate (after Nevada).

Governor Schwarzenegger is trying to bully the legislature into a package which includes $14B more in new taxes. That move, if it gets through, plus the general deterioration in the quality of life is likely to increase the outflow of people, and, with it, high earners and businesses whose revenue the state needs. In short, the state is a basket case.

Those in the other 49 should take note. This is what a high tax, overregulated, union dominated economy looks like. And in the information age it is increasingly easy to relocate businesses — to another state or another country. So as we look to the federal government it might be a good idea to keep the California experience front and center. Do we want to dramatically increase the size of government, pass volumes of new environmental and other regulations, pass card check to give unions an even greater influence in the economy, and ( if the Congressional Democrats have their way) raise taxes?

For decades now, we have seen that as goes California, so goes the nation. Let’s hope that is no longer true.

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The Durban Dilemma

The UN’s 2001 “World Conference Against Racism” in Durban, South Africa has become notorious as an international celebration of anti-Semitism. The Obama administration’s decision to take part in preparatory meetings for “Durban 2″ can be viewed one of two ways:

1) This will be an anti-Semitic gathering and the U.S. should be ashamed of itself

2) This is an anti-Semitic, biased gathering. Let’s see if Obama can fix it.

Anne Bayefsky wasn’t tempted to join the forgiving camp:

Jewish leaders were also told that the U.S. presence was “an effort to change the direction of the conference.” Apparently, someone in the administration forgot to read the map. The conference objectives have already been unanimously agreed to by all participants, including the European Union. Objective number one is to “foster the implementation of the Durban Declaration” – the same one that claims Israelis are racists, in fact, the only racists U.N. member states could recall. Those directions aren’t going to be changed. On the contrary, the opening words of the Durban II document – also already accepted by consensus – read “reaffirming the Durban Declaration.” Change you can’t believe in, again.

As I wrote here a couple of months ago, some within the Israeli government initially understood Obama’s interest in Durban 2. However, most Israeli officials involved are quite pessimistic. The dialogue between the two countries on this issue will come down to this: what would characterize success and make U.S. participation acceptable to those who think America is morally compromising itself. And under what circumstances, if any, would the U.S. be willing to reconsider its decision not to abandon this forum.

My worry is this: Israel should be very careful not to be perceived as an obstacle on America’s road to world acceptability. Unless public opinion is mobilized against this distorted version of a human rights forum by other (namely, non-Jewish) leaders concerned about human rights, dramatic Israeli objection will have unfortunate consequences — either because Obama will choose to take part and give credence to the conference or because the enemies of Israel will be able to argue that by lobbying against Durban it has damaged American interests.

The UN’s 2001 “World Conference Against Racism” in Durban, South Africa has become notorious as an international celebration of anti-Semitism. The Obama administration’s decision to take part in preparatory meetings for “Durban 2″ can be viewed one of two ways:

1) This will be an anti-Semitic gathering and the U.S. should be ashamed of itself

2) This is an anti-Semitic, biased gathering. Let’s see if Obama can fix it.

Anne Bayefsky wasn’t tempted to join the forgiving camp:

Jewish leaders were also told that the U.S. presence was “an effort to change the direction of the conference.” Apparently, someone in the administration forgot to read the map. The conference objectives have already been unanimously agreed to by all participants, including the European Union. Objective number one is to “foster the implementation of the Durban Declaration” – the same one that claims Israelis are racists, in fact, the only racists U.N. member states could recall. Those directions aren’t going to be changed. On the contrary, the opening words of the Durban II document – also already accepted by consensus – read “reaffirming the Durban Declaration.” Change you can’t believe in, again.

As I wrote here a couple of months ago, some within the Israeli government initially understood Obama’s interest in Durban 2. However, most Israeli officials involved are quite pessimistic. The dialogue between the two countries on this issue will come down to this: what would characterize success and make U.S. participation acceptable to those who think America is morally compromising itself. And under what circumstances, if any, would the U.S. be willing to reconsider its decision not to abandon this forum.

My worry is this: Israel should be very careful not to be perceived as an obstacle on America’s road to world acceptability. Unless public opinion is mobilized against this distorted version of a human rights forum by other (namely, non-Jewish) leaders concerned about human rights, dramatic Israeli objection will have unfortunate consequences — either because Obama will choose to take part and give credence to the conference or because the enemies of Israel will be able to argue that by lobbying against Durban it has damaged American interests.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Uh oh. It looks like we’re doing exactly the wrong things on multiple fronts if we want to increase economic growth. Dan Mitchell’s video explains it in very understandable terms. And there’s actually evidence from around the world to back him up.

Is Roland Burris about to be thrown under the bus by D.C. and Illinois Democrats?

If so, there is a replacement waiting in the wings. And she’s too rich to be corrupted even by the Illinois machine.

I agree with this piece that Congress has a batch of ethics problems, but I don’t think this is right: “The ethics-sensitive tone set by President Obama may make it harder for lawmakers on Capitol Hill to sweep ethics controversies under the rug.” I dunno — when you have a tax cheat as Treasury Secretary and throw ethics waivers around like confetti I think it tells Congress, “Anything goes.”

David Paterson is apparently very vulnerable. But let’s get real — any incumbent up for election before there is a significant economic recovery is in for a tough race.

Sen. Chris Dodd is in trouble too. Which goes to show that if you are going to get a sweetheart deal on your mortgage and then try to cover it up, it’s best not to do it in an economic recession caused by a housing meltdown.

As Scott Johnson delicately put it, Norm Coleman’s legal team has “not served him well.”

Ruth Marcus says the stimulus plan vote will be the “high water” mark for GOP unity. Well, it will be hard in the future to get more than 100% of the GOP House votes, I’ll give her that.

The Fairness Doctrine is such an awful idea even Jimmy Carter can figure it out.

Newsweek is closing bureaus. Newsweek has bureaus? Since they are just an opinion outlet now (well, they admit it now) why do they need to go anywhere?

James Antle, I think, gets it exactly right: the House and virtually all of the Senate Republicans did about all they could to oppose the stimulus, advertise its weaknesses and offer alternatives. I realize conservative pundits are grouchy, but I’m at a loss to think what more the Congressional Republicans could have done — other than have won more seats in the 2008 election, of course.

And to prove the point Minority Leader John Boehner releases a statement linking to the GOP’s alternative plan and offering this handy statistic about the Democrats’ plan: “It’s a raw deal for American families, providing just $1.10 per day in relief for workers while saddling every family with $9,400 in added debt to pay for special-interest programs and pork-barrel projects. ”

Claudia Rosett is not pleased: “Obama promised transparency, careful consideration, and responsible spending. What we have at this point is a monumental new IOU signed by Obama on our behalf.  . . ” Nor does she like the new faulty website: “ Apparently it is not Obama’s job to read what he signs; that falls to the rest of us.”

The Air Force is making its pitch for the F-22. If everyone is looking for “shovel ready” this seems to be a no-brainer — the alternative being 95,000 jobs (direct and indirect) lost this year if the production line shuts down. Do those get taken out of the 3.5 million jobs Obama is going to create or save?

You mean states can save up money for bad economic times??  Wow.

Megan McArdle argues, “There is no simple narrative of the Great Depression that allows you to atttribute the ultimate recovery to trend output to the simple magic of the New Deal.” Well, there is a simple one — the one the MSM and Democrats keep repeating — but not an accurate one, which is what she means.

The Republicans they can grab the NY-20, Kirsten Gillibrand’s old seat. I wonder if the Democrat Scott Murphy agrees with the remarks of Chuck Schumer, who is campaigning for him, that the American people don’t care about all the “porky” parts of the stimulus.

This interview with Karl Rove tells me two things. First, Rove thinks that as long as Republicans stick to their guns and watch their rhetoric (e.g. stick to the facts of the bill, offer solutions) they’ll be in fine shape. And, second, Matt Lauer conducts a better interview, by far than David Gregory. (Maybe NBC should give Lauer Meet The Press before the brand is ruined.)

I refuse to believe Bill Press is this dim. Maybe he’s auditioning to be the new Alan Colmes for Sean Hannity.

Uh oh. It looks like we’re doing exactly the wrong things on multiple fronts if we want to increase economic growth. Dan Mitchell’s video explains it in very understandable terms. And there’s actually evidence from around the world to back him up.

Is Roland Burris about to be thrown under the bus by D.C. and Illinois Democrats?

If so, there is a replacement waiting in the wings. And she’s too rich to be corrupted even by the Illinois machine.

I agree with this piece that Congress has a batch of ethics problems, but I don’t think this is right: “The ethics-sensitive tone set by President Obama may make it harder for lawmakers on Capitol Hill to sweep ethics controversies under the rug.” I dunno — when you have a tax cheat as Treasury Secretary and throw ethics waivers around like confetti I think it tells Congress, “Anything goes.”

David Paterson is apparently very vulnerable. But let’s get real — any incumbent up for election before there is a significant economic recovery is in for a tough race.

Sen. Chris Dodd is in trouble too. Which goes to show that if you are going to get a sweetheart deal on your mortgage and then try to cover it up, it’s best not to do it in an economic recession caused by a housing meltdown.

As Scott Johnson delicately put it, Norm Coleman’s legal team has “not served him well.”

Ruth Marcus says the stimulus plan vote will be the “high water” mark for GOP unity. Well, it will be hard in the future to get more than 100% of the GOP House votes, I’ll give her that.

The Fairness Doctrine is such an awful idea even Jimmy Carter can figure it out.

Newsweek is closing bureaus. Newsweek has bureaus? Since they are just an opinion outlet now (well, they admit it now) why do they need to go anywhere?

James Antle, I think, gets it exactly right: the House and virtually all of the Senate Republicans did about all they could to oppose the stimulus, advertise its weaknesses and offer alternatives. I realize conservative pundits are grouchy, but I’m at a loss to think what more the Congressional Republicans could have done — other than have won more seats in the 2008 election, of course.

And to prove the point Minority Leader John Boehner releases a statement linking to the GOP’s alternative plan and offering this handy statistic about the Democrats’ plan: “It’s a raw deal for American families, providing just $1.10 per day in relief for workers while saddling every family with $9,400 in added debt to pay for special-interest programs and pork-barrel projects. ”

Claudia Rosett is not pleased: “Obama promised transparency, careful consideration, and responsible spending. What we have at this point is a monumental new IOU signed by Obama on our behalf.  . . ” Nor does she like the new faulty website: “ Apparently it is not Obama’s job to read what he signs; that falls to the rest of us.”

The Air Force is making its pitch for the F-22. If everyone is looking for “shovel ready” this seems to be a no-brainer — the alternative being 95,000 jobs (direct and indirect) lost this year if the production line shuts down. Do those get taken out of the 3.5 million jobs Obama is going to create or save?

You mean states can save up money for bad economic times??  Wow.

Megan McArdle argues, “There is no simple narrative of the Great Depression that allows you to atttribute the ultimate recovery to trend output to the simple magic of the New Deal.” Well, there is a simple one — the one the MSM and Democrats keep repeating — but not an accurate one, which is what she means.

The Republicans they can grab the NY-20, Kirsten Gillibrand’s old seat. I wonder if the Democrat Scott Murphy agrees with the remarks of Chuck Schumer, who is campaigning for him, that the American people don’t care about all the “porky” parts of the stimulus.

This interview with Karl Rove tells me two things. First, Rove thinks that as long as Republicans stick to their guns and watch their rhetoric (e.g. stick to the facts of the bill, offer solutions) they’ll be in fine shape. And, second, Matt Lauer conducts a better interview, by far than David Gregory. (Maybe NBC should give Lauer Meet The Press before the brand is ruined.)

I refuse to believe Bill Press is this dim. Maybe he’s auditioning to be the new Alan Colmes for Sean Hannity.

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What the Big Print Giveth, the Small Print Taketh Away

At recovery.gov, the Obama administration has created a new web site to explain and defend the massive “stimulus” bill. And the explanation, if at all possible, makes the whole program even more incomprehensible.

It starts off with a handy bar graph showing how the money is broken down. And if you click on it, you get an even prettier and less useful bunch of bubbles showing the totals in (apparent) proportional size. (A pie chart would be useful, so naturally one isn’t given.)

According to the numbers, the  spending will be broken down as follows:

$288 billion in “tax relief”

$144 billion in “state and local fiscal relief”

$111 billion for “infrastructure and science”

$81 billion for “protecting the vulnerable”

$59 billion for “health care”

$53 billion for “education and training”

$43 billion for “energy”

$8 billion as “other”

But when you click through the bar graph to the pretty bubbles, you get some fine print:

Tax Relief – includes $15 B for Infrastructure and Science, $61 B for Protecting the Vulnerable, $25 B for Education and Training and $22 B for Energy, so total funds are $126 B for Infrastructure and Science, $142 B for Protecting the Vulnerable, $78 B for Education and Training, and $65 B for Energy.

So, let’s revisit those first numbers, adjusted for truth:

$165 billion for “tax relief”

$144 billion for “state and local fiscal relief”

$126 billion for “infrastructure and science”

$142 billion for “protecting the vulnerable”

$59 billion for “health care”

$78 billion for “education and training”

$65 billion for “energy”

$8 billion for “other”

With the wave of an asterisk, $123 billion in tax relief goes up in smoke. It’s like the old joke: if you call a dog’s leg a tail, how many legs does a dog have? Four — just because you call it a tail doesn’t make it a tail.

Amazing how that “tax relief” shrinks, by almost 43%. On the other hand, the undefined “protecting the vulnerable” goes up by 75%, “education and training” by over 47%, and “energy” by over 50%.

That’s one potent little asterisk. It makes one wonder what sorts of things are going on behind the scenes, if they’re being this upfront about their dishonesty.

At recovery.gov, the Obama administration has created a new web site to explain and defend the massive “stimulus” bill. And the explanation, if at all possible, makes the whole program even more incomprehensible.

It starts off with a handy bar graph showing how the money is broken down. And if you click on it, you get an even prettier and less useful bunch of bubbles showing the totals in (apparent) proportional size. (A pie chart would be useful, so naturally one isn’t given.)

According to the numbers, the  spending will be broken down as follows:

$288 billion in “tax relief”

$144 billion in “state and local fiscal relief”

$111 billion for “infrastructure and science”

$81 billion for “protecting the vulnerable”

$59 billion for “health care”

$53 billion for “education and training”

$43 billion for “energy”

$8 billion as “other”

But when you click through the bar graph to the pretty bubbles, you get some fine print:

Tax Relief – includes $15 B for Infrastructure and Science, $61 B for Protecting the Vulnerable, $25 B for Education and Training and $22 B for Energy, so total funds are $126 B for Infrastructure and Science, $142 B for Protecting the Vulnerable, $78 B for Education and Training, and $65 B for Energy.

So, let’s revisit those first numbers, adjusted for truth:

$165 billion for “tax relief”

$144 billion for “state and local fiscal relief”

$126 billion for “infrastructure and science”

$142 billion for “protecting the vulnerable”

$59 billion for “health care”

$78 billion for “education and training”

$65 billion for “energy”

$8 billion for “other”

With the wave of an asterisk, $123 billion in tax relief goes up in smoke. It’s like the old joke: if you call a dog’s leg a tail, how many legs does a dog have? Four — just because you call it a tail doesn’t make it a tail.

Amazing how that “tax relief” shrinks, by almost 43%. On the other hand, the undefined “protecting the vulnerable” goes up by 75%, “education and training” by over 47%, and “energy” by over 50%.

That’s one potent little asterisk. It makes one wonder what sorts of things are going on behind the scenes, if they’re being this upfront about their dishonesty.

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