Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 2, 2009

Roger Cohen Wins the Walter Duranty Memorial Award

There is nothing more pathetic, more unprofessional as well as more boring to readers than for a newspaper columnist to spend precious space whining about the unfairness of critics of a previously published column.

But, as one of the op-ed gods of the New York Times, Roger Cohen can write about anything he wants, so today’s column was a full-fledged cri de coeur about the mean, wrong and unfair multitude of critics (including this writer) of his column last week. In last week’s piece, Cohen argued that Iran was a nice place for Jews to live and that, by implication, those who worry about it acquiring nuclear weapons or backing terrorism are full of it. It was, as I previously wrote, straight out of the playbook of previous apologists for beastly regimes, such as those of the Nazis or the Soviets, who had gullible or ideologically sympathetic journalists flack for them. Cohen’s belief in the credibility of the few cowed mouthpieces of Iran’s once great Jewish community was a joke. So, too, was his personal plea that he had never been treated so nicely anywhere. Making the latter point was, as I wrote at the time, not merely wrong but unprofessional.

But sufficiently stung by the tidal wave of opinion about his piece, Cohen just couldn’t resist one more bite of this poisoned apple today. The result is just as lame as the first one with the added demerit of being a second helping. His defense was that analogies between Iran and Nazi Germany are absurd and that the notion of Iran being run by a “mad mullah” is a caricature. He argues that the country is a functioning democracy which should not be demonized.

Of course, no one said that Iran was the same thing as Nazi Germany, though if it acquires and uses a nuclear weapon on Israel as it has threatened to do, such analogies would cease being so far-fetched. But if anything is a caricature, it is Roger Cohen’s view of Iran. A democracy? How many candidates not approved by the ayatollahs can run for office? Exactly zero. For all of the words he spends defending himself, he never comes close to the truth about the regime, its support of terrorism, and its repression of religious minorities and political dissenters.

Even worse, he throws a red herring about Israel into the mix again, drawing a moral equivalence between the Jewish State and Iran. His argument is that Avigdor Lieberman is as bad as anything in Iran. As to that, first, Lieberman has killed and oppressed no one which, despite Cohen’s fibs, is not the case with the mullahs. Second, Lieberman is considered a bad guy because he wants to trade Arab regions of pre-1967 Israel for parts of the West Bank where Jews currently live within a putative Palestinian state. That may or not be wise or good (especially for the Israeli Arabs, who though disloyal to Israel, prefer to live comfortably in a majority-Jewish state than to be delivered to the tender mercies of the Palestinian Authority), but it isn’t racism. As for his calls for loyalty pledges from Israeli Arabs (as well as non-Zionist Jews), again I may think such statements are counter-productive and unfair, but it is no worse than a number of things that have not only been proposed but implemented in other democracies at war.

But let’s not be diverted from Cohen’s folly. His defense of Iran is clearly intended to reduce pressure on that country to stop building nukes and to stop oppressing people.

Those who thought that the Walter Duranty school of New York Times journalism was dead (for those who don’t remember, Duranty was the Timesman who won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting from Stalin’s Russia, claiming that there was no famine in the Ukraine in the 1930s and that the five-year plan was working just fine) were wrong. To see why, all you have to do is read the work of Roger Cohen. Duranty was a Stalinist dupe and a fraud but at least he, unlike Cohen who is the dupe of the ayatollahs, didn’t waste space whining about his critics.

There is nothing more pathetic, more unprofessional as well as more boring to readers than for a newspaper columnist to spend precious space whining about the unfairness of critics of a previously published column.

But, as one of the op-ed gods of the New York Times, Roger Cohen can write about anything he wants, so today’s column was a full-fledged cri de coeur about the mean, wrong and unfair multitude of critics (including this writer) of his column last week. In last week’s piece, Cohen argued that Iran was a nice place for Jews to live and that, by implication, those who worry about it acquiring nuclear weapons or backing terrorism are full of it. It was, as I previously wrote, straight out of the playbook of previous apologists for beastly regimes, such as those of the Nazis or the Soviets, who had gullible or ideologically sympathetic journalists flack for them. Cohen’s belief in the credibility of the few cowed mouthpieces of Iran’s once great Jewish community was a joke. So, too, was his personal plea that he had never been treated so nicely anywhere. Making the latter point was, as I wrote at the time, not merely wrong but unprofessional.

But sufficiently stung by the tidal wave of opinion about his piece, Cohen just couldn’t resist one more bite of this poisoned apple today. The result is just as lame as the first one with the added demerit of being a second helping. His defense was that analogies between Iran and Nazi Germany are absurd and that the notion of Iran being run by a “mad mullah” is a caricature. He argues that the country is a functioning democracy which should not be demonized.

Of course, no one said that Iran was the same thing as Nazi Germany, though if it acquires and uses a nuclear weapon on Israel as it has threatened to do, such analogies would cease being so far-fetched. But if anything is a caricature, it is Roger Cohen’s view of Iran. A democracy? How many candidates not approved by the ayatollahs can run for office? Exactly zero. For all of the words he spends defending himself, he never comes close to the truth about the regime, its support of terrorism, and its repression of religious minorities and political dissenters.

Even worse, he throws a red herring about Israel into the mix again, drawing a moral equivalence between the Jewish State and Iran. His argument is that Avigdor Lieberman is as bad as anything in Iran. As to that, first, Lieberman has killed and oppressed no one which, despite Cohen’s fibs, is not the case with the mullahs. Second, Lieberman is considered a bad guy because he wants to trade Arab regions of pre-1967 Israel for parts of the West Bank where Jews currently live within a putative Palestinian state. That may or not be wise or good (especially for the Israeli Arabs, who though disloyal to Israel, prefer to live comfortably in a majority-Jewish state than to be delivered to the tender mercies of the Palestinian Authority), but it isn’t racism. As for his calls for loyalty pledges from Israeli Arabs (as well as non-Zionist Jews), again I may think such statements are counter-productive and unfair, but it is no worse than a number of things that have not only been proposed but implemented in other democracies at war.

But let’s not be diverted from Cohen’s folly. His defense of Iran is clearly intended to reduce pressure on that country to stop building nukes and to stop oppressing people.

Those who thought that the Walter Duranty school of New York Times journalism was dead (for those who don’t remember, Duranty was the Timesman who won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting from Stalin’s Russia, claiming that there was no famine in the Ukraine in the 1930s and that the five-year plan was working just fine) were wrong. To see why, all you have to do is read the work of Roger Cohen. Duranty was a Stalinist dupe and a fraud but at least he, unlike Cohen who is the dupe of the ayatollahs, didn’t waste space whining about his critics.

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Good Grief

The A.P. reports:

Ron Kirk, nominated as U.S. Trade Representative in the Obama administration, owes an estimated $10,000 in back taxes from earlier in the decade and has agreed to make his payments, the Senate Finance Committee said Monday.

The committee said the taxes arise from Kirk’s handling of speaking fees that he donated to his alma mater, and for his deduction of the full cost of season tickets to the Dallas Mavericks professional basketball team.

Apparently there is a shortage of qualified Democrats who have paid their taxes. Query whether a better solution to the Obama budgetary revenue shortfall would be an en masse nomination of Obama’s wealthy donors to top spots. That alone would stand to bring in millions to the federal coffers.

But the issue remains for senators: is tax cheating simply the new norm for cabinet nominees? All tax cheats can breathe easy, I suppose, if not paying your taxes is no longer a barrier to high office. Well, provided the majority party in the Senate matches the party in the White House. Otherwise, it’s an outrage.

The A.P. reports:

Ron Kirk, nominated as U.S. Trade Representative in the Obama administration, owes an estimated $10,000 in back taxes from earlier in the decade and has agreed to make his payments, the Senate Finance Committee said Monday.

The committee said the taxes arise from Kirk’s handling of speaking fees that he donated to his alma mater, and for his deduction of the full cost of season tickets to the Dallas Mavericks professional basketball team.

Apparently there is a shortage of qualified Democrats who have paid their taxes. Query whether a better solution to the Obama budgetary revenue shortfall would be an en masse nomination of Obama’s wealthy donors to top spots. That alone would stand to bring in millions to the federal coffers.

But the issue remains for senators: is tax cheating simply the new norm for cabinet nominees? All tax cheats can breathe easy, I suppose, if not paying your taxes is no longer a barrier to high office. Well, provided the majority party in the Senate matches the party in the White House. Otherwise, it’s an outrage.

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Commentary of the Day

Margo, on Jennifer Rubin:

I don’t see how it can be repeated too often: A tax on business is a tax on the customers of that business. If the customers are businesses, it’s a tax on their customers. It all gets down to the ordinary person buying goods and services in this economy.

Low-income people spend the largest percentage of their income for goods and services (rather than savings and investment). Since we are a society of mass production, where most goods and services are intended for a mass market of middle- and low-income people, Low-income people are the people who will pay the most of these taxes.

Investors right now are calculating that the purchasing power won’t be there to pay these taxes. In essence, investors are taking into account the ability of low-income people to pay for this, and acting as their agents.

The terrible myopia of the socialist worldview Obama embraces is an inability to see that all members of a society are interdependent. There are no independent oppressors and unconnected victims; there are people acting in various ways within the same system. And often the same person acts in many various ways. For instance, there’s the hourly employee with 401K stocks, sharing a mortgage with small entrepreneur, and with a minimum-wage teen paying rent in kind (sometimes). You hit one, and the others hurt too.

Margo, on Jennifer Rubin:

I don’t see how it can be repeated too often: A tax on business is a tax on the customers of that business. If the customers are businesses, it’s a tax on their customers. It all gets down to the ordinary person buying goods and services in this economy.

Low-income people spend the largest percentage of their income for goods and services (rather than savings and investment). Since we are a society of mass production, where most goods and services are intended for a mass market of middle- and low-income people, Low-income people are the people who will pay the most of these taxes.

Investors right now are calculating that the purchasing power won’t be there to pay these taxes. In essence, investors are taking into account the ability of low-income people to pay for this, and acting as their agents.

The terrible myopia of the socialist worldview Obama embraces is an inability to see that all members of a society are interdependent. There are no independent oppressors and unconnected victims; there are people acting in various ways within the same system. And often the same person acts in many various ways. For instance, there’s the hourly employee with 401K stocks, sharing a mortgage with small entrepreneur, and with a minimum-wage teen paying rent in kind (sometimes). You hit one, and the others hurt too.

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Specter Gets a Challenger?

Arlen Specter’s vote on the stimulus bill is proving to be a political disaster. His poll numbers have tanked. And today comes word from Club for Growth’s Pat Toomey that the potential for a primary challenge is “back on the table.” After speculation following a radio appearance, Toomey released a statement that read:

As this disastrous recession worsens, I have become increasingly concerned about the future of our state and national economy.  Unfortunately, the recent extraordinary response of the federal government – more corporate bailouts, unprecedented spending and debt, higher taxes – is likely to make things worse.  I think we are on a dangerously wrong path.  Pennsylvanians want a US Senator focused on real and sustainable job creation that gets our economy growing again.  That is why I am considering becoming a candidate for the US Senate.

Specter’s defenders will claim he is the only Republican who can hold the seat and represents a sometimes critical vote for his party. Should he lose the primary and let the seat fall to the Democrats, card check legislation, for example, might have its critical 60th vote to cut off a filibuster. (Specter has sounded increasingly skeptical of card check legislation.) Specter’s fierce conservative critics say he’s no longer a vote on critical issues — the stimulus and the confirmation of Eric Holder as Attorney General being two prime examples — and it’s worth the gamble of losing the seat to get a more reliable conservative in place.

Whichever side is correct, one thing is for certain: fiscal conservatives are itching for a fight and for the chance to extract a pound of flesh. Whether they can translate that ire into results at the ballot box in 2010 remains to be seen. But the fight is on — and Specter may be the first victim of the populist/conservative wave of anger that is also manifesting itself in the nationwide Tea Party movement.

Arlen Specter’s vote on the stimulus bill is proving to be a political disaster. His poll numbers have tanked. And today comes word from Club for Growth’s Pat Toomey that the potential for a primary challenge is “back on the table.” After speculation following a radio appearance, Toomey released a statement that read:

As this disastrous recession worsens, I have become increasingly concerned about the future of our state and national economy.  Unfortunately, the recent extraordinary response of the federal government – more corporate bailouts, unprecedented spending and debt, higher taxes – is likely to make things worse.  I think we are on a dangerously wrong path.  Pennsylvanians want a US Senator focused on real and sustainable job creation that gets our economy growing again.  That is why I am considering becoming a candidate for the US Senate.

Specter’s defenders will claim he is the only Republican who can hold the seat and represents a sometimes critical vote for his party. Should he lose the primary and let the seat fall to the Democrats, card check legislation, for example, might have its critical 60th vote to cut off a filibuster. (Specter has sounded increasingly skeptical of card check legislation.) Specter’s fierce conservative critics say he’s no longer a vote on critical issues — the stimulus and the confirmation of Eric Holder as Attorney General being two prime examples — and it’s worth the gamble of losing the seat to get a more reliable conservative in place.

Whichever side is correct, one thing is for certain: fiscal conservatives are itching for a fight and for the chance to extract a pound of flesh. Whether they can translate that ire into results at the ballot box in 2010 remains to be seen. But the fight is on — and Specter may be the first victim of the populist/conservative wave of anger that is also manifesting itself in the nationwide Tea Party movement.

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Good Cop, Bad Cop

Today the Obama administration released nine Bush administration documents, including a secret memo on search and seizure written a month after 9/11.

It says constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure would not apply to terror suspects in the U.S., as long as the president or another high official authorized the action.

Even after the Bush administration rescinded that legal analysis, the Justice Department refused to release its contents, prompting a standoff with congressional Democrats.

So policies considered in October of 2001 that the Bush administration itself rescinded were made public by Barack Obama because . . . ?

It’s becoming clear why Barack Obama insisted on being so ungracious toward George W. Bush during the transition and why he continues to be ungracious up to this day. Forget the “national healing” he spoke of so earnestly during the campaign; he’s opting for the much more useful national resentment that got him elected.  Obama is keeping his anti-Bush ammo in reserve, to fire off as needed. When it seems as if he’s about to meet with public disapproval, he can reignite the spirit of ’08 by reminding Americans that anything’s better than the evil torture regime that preceded him.

It’s good cop/bad cop, except the bad cop quit the force over a month ago, wishing the good cop the best of luck on the beat. Moreover, with rendition still in place, the commitment to Iraq still holding, the war in Afghanistan about to ramp up, and the possibility for tough interrogations left open, the good cop is keeping all the bad cop’s most effective moves.

With the market reacting miserably to the new president, and no headway being made in our toughest international challenges (Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, etc.), we can expect to hear more, not less, about how Obama “found this national debt, doubled, wrapped in a big bow waiting for me as I stepped into the Oval Office.” We will be subject to more addresses during which Obama actually gets Congressional Democrats to stand and cheer by mentioning “the deficit we inherited.”  Our president will take more international trips during which he’ll tell the foreign press “the U.S. ‘took our eye off the ball’ in Afghanistan over the last several years.” And there will be more inflammatory stunts like the releasing of inconsequential but lurid Bush memos.

Good cop/bad cop is intended to put one over on suspected criminals. Just who does President Obama intend to fool?

Today the Obama administration released nine Bush administration documents, including a secret memo on search and seizure written a month after 9/11.

It says constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure would not apply to terror suspects in the U.S., as long as the president or another high official authorized the action.

Even after the Bush administration rescinded that legal analysis, the Justice Department refused to release its contents, prompting a standoff with congressional Democrats.

So policies considered in October of 2001 that the Bush administration itself rescinded were made public by Barack Obama because . . . ?

It’s becoming clear why Barack Obama insisted on being so ungracious toward George W. Bush during the transition and why he continues to be ungracious up to this day. Forget the “national healing” he spoke of so earnestly during the campaign; he’s opting for the much more useful national resentment that got him elected.  Obama is keeping his anti-Bush ammo in reserve, to fire off as needed. When it seems as if he’s about to meet with public disapproval, he can reignite the spirit of ’08 by reminding Americans that anything’s better than the evil torture regime that preceded him.

It’s good cop/bad cop, except the bad cop quit the force over a month ago, wishing the good cop the best of luck on the beat. Moreover, with rendition still in place, the commitment to Iraq still holding, the war in Afghanistan about to ramp up, and the possibility for tough interrogations left open, the good cop is keeping all the bad cop’s most effective moves.

With the market reacting miserably to the new president, and no headway being made in our toughest international challenges (Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, etc.), we can expect to hear more, not less, about how Obama “found this national debt, doubled, wrapped in a big bow waiting for me as I stepped into the Oval Office.” We will be subject to more addresses during which Obama actually gets Congressional Democrats to stand and cheer by mentioning “the deficit we inherited.”  Our president will take more international trips during which he’ll tell the foreign press “the U.S. ‘took our eye off the ball’ in Afghanistan over the last several years.” And there will be more inflammatory stunts like the releasing of inconsequential but lurid Bush memos.

Good cop/bad cop is intended to put one over on suspected criminals. Just who does President Obama intend to fool?

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Not Without My Islamist Dictatorship!

Today’s New York Times has a delightfully moronic story which illustrates the ridiculous nature of efforts to appease Iran. It seems an “official delegation of Hollywood actors and filmmakers met with their Iranian counterparts in Tehran over the weekend, the first such visit to a country that banned American movies 30 years ago.”

The delegation, which included actress Annette Bening and writer/director Phil Alden Robinson (“Field of Dreams”) was not there to appeal for freedom for writers and other artists imprisoned by the Islamist police state. Nor was it there to protest the persecution of Bahais or the country’s funding of terrorist groups, its program to developed nuclear weapons, or its threats to wipe the State of Israel off the map. No, these “cultural ambassadors” were there to make nice with the Iranian film-industry and maybe, as a bonus, help kick-start talks between the countries.

But there is a problem. It seems the Iranians aren’t grateful for the American liberal/left’s opposition to tough measures to oppose their rogue regime. No, they are still too angry over the depiction of their glorious Islamic republic in Hollywood films over the years. That’s interesting since, perhaps like you, I haven’t noticed much of a trend of anti-Iranian movies or even anti-Islamic movies in recent years. In fact, unlike its wholehearted and entirely justified effort during World War Two to demonize both the Nazis and the Japanese Imperialists, Hollywood has largely taken a pass on films depicting our current struggle against Islamist terrorism.

So what are the Iranians upset about? The 1991 film “Not Without My Daughter,” starring Sally Field and depicting the traumatic experiences of an American woman who married an Iranian, moved to Iran with her husband, and then found herself trapped in a repressive society where women had no rights under the law. Tehran thinks it was very naughty of someone in Hollywood to produce a film that told a little bit of the truth about their country, albeit just once, and that was 18 years ago.

They’re also mad about the hit action/adventure film “300” which came out a couple of years ago, depicting in a cartoonish graphic novel-style the famed battle of Thermopylae between the Greek Spartans and the forces of the Persian Empire. Though virtually no one else connects the Persian Empire of that time with the mullah-ruled state run out of Tehran, they’re still sore about the Persians being depicted as the bad guys since the assumption for the past 2,500 years is that the Spartans defended the origins of Western Civilization from Eastern barbarians.

The point is, although the Iranians granted the Hollywood types visas — something they denied to the American women’s badminton team a couple of weeks ago — creating a detente with these characters is not going to be easy.  Americans’ willingness to abandon concern for human rights or for the malevolent intentions of the Iranian government won’t be enough.

And for those interested in reading about the latter, try another story which the Times thought less important than the travel plans of Ms. Bening. The Times buried it on page 10, but wouldn’t you say that the announcement from Admiral Mike Mullen, the chair of the Joint Chief of Staffs, that Iran “Has Enough Material to Construct an Atomic Bomb” is fairly significant? But don’t worry, the Times insists that all that means is that this “add[s] urgency to increasing dialogue with Tehran.”

Today’s New York Times has a delightfully moronic story which illustrates the ridiculous nature of efforts to appease Iran. It seems an “official delegation of Hollywood actors and filmmakers met with their Iranian counterparts in Tehran over the weekend, the first such visit to a country that banned American movies 30 years ago.”

The delegation, which included actress Annette Bening and writer/director Phil Alden Robinson (“Field of Dreams”) was not there to appeal for freedom for writers and other artists imprisoned by the Islamist police state. Nor was it there to protest the persecution of Bahais or the country’s funding of terrorist groups, its program to developed nuclear weapons, or its threats to wipe the State of Israel off the map. No, these “cultural ambassadors” were there to make nice with the Iranian film-industry and maybe, as a bonus, help kick-start talks between the countries.

But there is a problem. It seems the Iranians aren’t grateful for the American liberal/left’s opposition to tough measures to oppose their rogue regime. No, they are still too angry over the depiction of their glorious Islamic republic in Hollywood films over the years. That’s interesting since, perhaps like you, I haven’t noticed much of a trend of anti-Iranian movies or even anti-Islamic movies in recent years. In fact, unlike its wholehearted and entirely justified effort during World War Two to demonize both the Nazis and the Japanese Imperialists, Hollywood has largely taken a pass on films depicting our current struggle against Islamist terrorism.

So what are the Iranians upset about? The 1991 film “Not Without My Daughter,” starring Sally Field and depicting the traumatic experiences of an American woman who married an Iranian, moved to Iran with her husband, and then found herself trapped in a repressive society where women had no rights under the law. Tehran thinks it was very naughty of someone in Hollywood to produce a film that told a little bit of the truth about their country, albeit just once, and that was 18 years ago.

They’re also mad about the hit action/adventure film “300” which came out a couple of years ago, depicting in a cartoonish graphic novel-style the famed battle of Thermopylae between the Greek Spartans and the forces of the Persian Empire. Though virtually no one else connects the Persian Empire of that time with the mullah-ruled state run out of Tehran, they’re still sore about the Persians being depicted as the bad guys since the assumption for the past 2,500 years is that the Spartans defended the origins of Western Civilization from Eastern barbarians.

The point is, although the Iranians granted the Hollywood types visas — something they denied to the American women’s badminton team a couple of weeks ago — creating a detente with these characters is not going to be easy.  Americans’ willingness to abandon concern for human rights or for the malevolent intentions of the Iranian government won’t be enough.

And for those interested in reading about the latter, try another story which the Times thought less important than the travel plans of Ms. Bening. The Times buried it on page 10, but wouldn’t you say that the announcement from Admiral Mike Mullen, the chair of the Joint Chief of Staffs, that Iran “Has Enough Material to Construct an Atomic Bomb” is fairly significant? But don’t worry, the Times insists that all that means is that this “add[s] urgency to increasing dialogue with Tehran.”

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A Clip and Save Summary of Contemporary Liberalism

Every once in a while, a story comes along that combines every fallacious belief held by contemporary liberals into a convenient, pocket-sized summary.  This year’s reigning champion is the story that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is pushing the U.S. to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In another of the waves to the international crowd in which he specialized – see also his similar treatment of the International Criminal Court — Bill Clinton signed this treaty in 1995.  But the U.S. Senate never ratified it.  Now, Sen. Boxer is pushing the U.S. to act.  In January, she urged the administration to adopt a 60-day timetable to review the treaty, and described the U.S. failure to ratify as a humiliation.

The treaty certainly sounds uncontroversial.  No one with any conscience hates children.  And lots of countries have signed on.  In fact, every country in the world except the U.S. and Somalia has done so.  That’s not company Americans like to keep.  But as your parents said, just because everyone’s doing something doesn’t make it a good idea.

The treaty creates “the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” and outlaws the “arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence, [and] unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation.”  Yes, that’s correct: under this convention, all children below the age of 18 — that’s how the treaty defines them — acquire the right to privacy against their parents, and parents lose the right to instruct their children in matters of faith and morality.  If you haven’t already, you really should go and read it yourself.

Insane, you say?  Yes, of course it is.  Destructive to the family?  Yes, obviously.  Dangerously moronic in its belief that two-year-olds are fit to think for themselves?  Yes, that too.  But of course, most of the countries that signed the treaty pay no attention to it.

You can be sure that parents in places like Japan or Canada don’t know or care about the treaty.  Same goes for the authoritarian places: the Islamic signatories, for instance, place reservations on all provisions of the convention that are incompatible with Sharia law.  And Giorgia Passarelli, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commission on Human Rights, has admitted that “When it comes to signatories who violate the convention and/or its optional protocols — there is no means to oblige states to fulfill their legal obligations.”  In fact, the only place that seems to be impressed by the treaty is the U.S., where, in spite of the fact that it has no legal standing, Supreme Court justices are already citing it in their opinions.

Then why this eagerness to sign on?  Well, it’s simple: as Boxer put it in January, speaking of Afghanistan, “Now, all you have to do is look around the world and see these girls that are having acid thrown in their face.”  So if the U.S. ratifies, the Taliban will behave better.  Their barbarity is therefore our fault.

So let’s check the liberal beliefs off.  Subverting the family by substituting intrusive governmental authority for the traditional roles of parents: yes.  Advancing agreements that have no enforcement provisions and destroy the very concept of “a treaty” by replacing it with airy aspirations: you bet.  A legal system that is eager to cite as precedent any piece of international law it can get its hands on to justify its profoundly destructive social policies: absolutely.  And an eagerness to blame the U.S. for the evils of the world, and an insistence that if only we played nicely with others, everyone else’s good nature would shine through: yup, hit that one as well.  That pretty much covers it.  The only cheery thing about all this is that this story isn’t likely to remain the champion for very long.  As sure as week follows week, another, even better example will come along soon enough that will make it seem almost reasonable by comparison.

Every once in a while, a story comes along that combines every fallacious belief held by contemporary liberals into a convenient, pocket-sized summary.  This year’s reigning champion is the story that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is pushing the U.S. to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In another of the waves to the international crowd in which he specialized – see also his similar treatment of the International Criminal Court — Bill Clinton signed this treaty in 1995.  But the U.S. Senate never ratified it.  Now, Sen. Boxer is pushing the U.S. to act.  In January, she urged the administration to adopt a 60-day timetable to review the treaty, and described the U.S. failure to ratify as a humiliation.

The treaty certainly sounds uncontroversial.  No one with any conscience hates children.  And lots of countries have signed on.  In fact, every country in the world except the U.S. and Somalia has done so.  That’s not company Americans like to keep.  But as your parents said, just because everyone’s doing something doesn’t make it a good idea.

The treaty creates “the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” and outlaws the “arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence, [and] unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation.”  Yes, that’s correct: under this convention, all children below the age of 18 — that’s how the treaty defines them — acquire the right to privacy against their parents, and parents lose the right to instruct their children in matters of faith and morality.  If you haven’t already, you really should go and read it yourself.

Insane, you say?  Yes, of course it is.  Destructive to the family?  Yes, obviously.  Dangerously moronic in its belief that two-year-olds are fit to think for themselves?  Yes, that too.  But of course, most of the countries that signed the treaty pay no attention to it.

You can be sure that parents in places like Japan or Canada don’t know or care about the treaty.  Same goes for the authoritarian places: the Islamic signatories, for instance, place reservations on all provisions of the convention that are incompatible with Sharia law.  And Giorgia Passarelli, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commission on Human Rights, has admitted that “When it comes to signatories who violate the convention and/or its optional protocols — there is no means to oblige states to fulfill their legal obligations.”  In fact, the only place that seems to be impressed by the treaty is the U.S., where, in spite of the fact that it has no legal standing, Supreme Court justices are already citing it in their opinions.

Then why this eagerness to sign on?  Well, it’s simple: as Boxer put it in January, speaking of Afghanistan, “Now, all you have to do is look around the world and see these girls that are having acid thrown in their face.”  So if the U.S. ratifies, the Taliban will behave better.  Their barbarity is therefore our fault.

So let’s check the liberal beliefs off.  Subverting the family by substituting intrusive governmental authority for the traditional roles of parents: yes.  Advancing agreements that have no enforcement provisions and destroy the very concept of “a treaty” by replacing it with airy aspirations: you bet.  A legal system that is eager to cite as precedent any piece of international law it can get its hands on to justify its profoundly destructive social policies: absolutely.  And an eagerness to blame the U.S. for the evils of the world, and an insistence that if only we played nicely with others, everyone else’s good nature would shine through: yup, hit that one as well.  That pretty much covers it.  The only cheery thing about all this is that this story isn’t likely to remain the champion for very long.  As sure as week follows week, another, even better example will come along soon enough that will make it seem almost reasonable by comparison.

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Odd Social Policy

The president’s plan to limit charitable donations from high income earners is getting some flak:

Nonprofit groups criticized proposed limits to charitable deductions in President Barack Obama’s budget plan, saying they will be a blow to organizations already struggling with a steep drop-off in donations.

Under the plan, from 2011 taxpayers that now pay income tax at the 33% and 35% rates would only be able to claim deductions at a 28% rate, lowering their benefit.

The proposed changes come as the nonprofit sector is trying to define its relationship with the new president. Many leaders of such groups have applauded the passage of Mr. Obama’s economic stimulus package. But these same leaders also fear policies that disparately affect the wealthy — like the proposed deduction cap — could undermine their efforts.

“I think that’s the wrong loophole to close if you’re going to close a loophole in these times,” said Clara Miller, chief executive of the Nonprofit Finance Fund, a consulting and financing group that supports nonprofits.

OMB chief Peter Orszag had a predictable rebuttal on Sunday: Bill Gates can afford it. Sigh. This of course is the refuge of most proponents of “tax the rich” schemes. But the vast majority of high-income earners aren’t Gates and do react to significant tax changes. And the result here is especially pernicious, given the state of many charitable institutions that are overwhelmed with demand and already feeling the pinch from donors who are cutting back due to their own hard economic times.

It will be interesting to see how this part of the president’s budget progresses and, if it is dumped, what substitute, if any, the president will come up with. There are only so many places to squeeze the rich without going straight for the marginal tax rates, something the Obama administration was reluctant to do before the Bush tax-cuts expire. After all, it’d be nuts to raise taxes in a recession, right?

The president’s plan to limit charitable donations from high income earners is getting some flak:

Nonprofit groups criticized proposed limits to charitable deductions in President Barack Obama’s budget plan, saying they will be a blow to organizations already struggling with a steep drop-off in donations.

Under the plan, from 2011 taxpayers that now pay income tax at the 33% and 35% rates would only be able to claim deductions at a 28% rate, lowering their benefit.

The proposed changes come as the nonprofit sector is trying to define its relationship with the new president. Many leaders of such groups have applauded the passage of Mr. Obama’s economic stimulus package. But these same leaders also fear policies that disparately affect the wealthy — like the proposed deduction cap — could undermine their efforts.

“I think that’s the wrong loophole to close if you’re going to close a loophole in these times,” said Clara Miller, chief executive of the Nonprofit Finance Fund, a consulting and financing group that supports nonprofits.

OMB chief Peter Orszag had a predictable rebuttal on Sunday: Bill Gates can afford it. Sigh. This of course is the refuge of most proponents of “tax the rich” schemes. But the vast majority of high-income earners aren’t Gates and do react to significant tax changes. And the result here is especially pernicious, given the state of many charitable institutions that are overwhelmed with demand and already feeling the pinch from donors who are cutting back due to their own hard economic times.

It will be interesting to see how this part of the president’s budget progresses and, if it is dumped, what substitute, if any, the president will come up with. There are only so many places to squeeze the rich without going straight for the marginal tax rates, something the Obama administration was reluctant to do before the Bush tax-cuts expire. After all, it’d be nuts to raise taxes in a recession, right?

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Re: It’s Not Like He Didn’t Warn Them

Jen, in light of Buckley’s newfound concerns, it’s worth recalling what he wrote when endorsing Barack Obama:

But having a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect, President Obama will (I pray, secularly) surely understand that traditional left-politics aren’t going to get us out of this pit we’ve dug for ourselves. If he raises taxes and throws up tariff walls and opens the coffers of the DNC to bribe-money from the special interest groups against whom he has (somewhat disingenuously) railed during the campaign trail, then he will almost certainly reap a whirlwind that will make Katrina look like a balmy summer zephyr.

“First-class” all the way. In a sense, Buckley was right. Obama’s proposed budget does not represent “traditional left-politics”; it represents radical left-politics. Obama’s budget blueprint makes traditional tax hikes and tariffs look like the stuff of Ron Paul.

As for that whirlwind, I’m not so sure. While a few retro “tea parties” break out in American cities, Obama’s approval ratings remain impressive, and  he and Gordon Brown are about to get to work on a “global New Deal.”

I wonder if Buckley is still praying “secularly.”

Jen, in light of Buckley’s newfound concerns, it’s worth recalling what he wrote when endorsing Barack Obama:

But having a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect, President Obama will (I pray, secularly) surely understand that traditional left-politics aren’t going to get us out of this pit we’ve dug for ourselves. If he raises taxes and throws up tariff walls and opens the coffers of the DNC to bribe-money from the special interest groups against whom he has (somewhat disingenuously) railed during the campaign trail, then he will almost certainly reap a whirlwind that will make Katrina look like a balmy summer zephyr.

“First-class” all the way. In a sense, Buckley was right. Obama’s proposed budget does not represent “traditional left-politics”; it represents radical left-politics. Obama’s budget blueprint makes traditional tax hikes and tariffs look like the stuff of Ron Paul.

As for that whirlwind, I’m not so sure. While a few retro “tea parties” break out in American cities, Obama’s approval ratings remain impressive, and  he and Gordon Brown are about to get to work on a “global New Deal.”

I wonder if Buckley is still praying “secularly.”

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It’s Not Like He Didn’t Warn Them

Chris Buckley, one of the more prominent conservatives (former conservatives?) to support Barack Obama discovers the president is ringing up one heck of a tab with a $3.6 trillion budget:

“$3.6 trillion budget” can’t be right. The entire national debt is—what—about $11 trillion? He can’t actually be proposing to spend nearly one-third of that in one year, surely. Let me check. Hmm. He did. The Wall Street Journal notes that federal outlays in fiscal 2009 will rise to almost 30 percent of the gross national product. In language that even an innumerate English major such as myself can understand: The US government is now spending annually about one-third of what the entire US economy produces. As George Will would say, “Well.”

But one wonders whether those fiscal conservatives who, along with certain pro-life voters, convinced themselves that Obama really supported their views are now having second thoughts. Really, unless you are going to suspend all critical reasoning skills you have to suspect that Obama and his team are playing fast and loose with the budget. Or as Buckley offers:

Mr. Obama is proposing among everything else $1 trillion in new entitlements, and entitlement programs never go away, or in the oddly poetic bureaucratic jargon, “sunset.” He is proposing $1.4 trillion in new taxes, an appetite for which was largely whetted by the shameful excesses of American CEO corporate culture. And finally, he has proposed $5 trillion in new debt, one-half the total accumulated national debt in all US history. All in one fell swoop.

He tells us that all this is going to work because the economy is going to be growing by 3.2 percent a year from now. Do you believe that? Would you take out a loan based on that? And in the three years following, he predicts that our economy will grow by 4 percent a year.

Were these conservatives duped — and do they now regret their role in launching the greatest spending spree ever? Most aren’t saying, but there must, at least for the self-aware, be some sense that they didn’t get what they thought they would. We won’t know for a while whether these voters would rather pull back on the reins. But by 2010 the horse will be long gone — and with it any pretext of fiscal sobriety.

Chris Buckley, one of the more prominent conservatives (former conservatives?) to support Barack Obama discovers the president is ringing up one heck of a tab with a $3.6 trillion budget:

“$3.6 trillion budget” can’t be right. The entire national debt is—what—about $11 trillion? He can’t actually be proposing to spend nearly one-third of that in one year, surely. Let me check. Hmm. He did. The Wall Street Journal notes that federal outlays in fiscal 2009 will rise to almost 30 percent of the gross national product. In language that even an innumerate English major such as myself can understand: The US government is now spending annually about one-third of what the entire US economy produces. As George Will would say, “Well.”

But one wonders whether those fiscal conservatives who, along with certain pro-life voters, convinced themselves that Obama really supported their views are now having second thoughts. Really, unless you are going to suspend all critical reasoning skills you have to suspect that Obama and his team are playing fast and loose with the budget. Or as Buckley offers:

Mr. Obama is proposing among everything else $1 trillion in new entitlements, and entitlement programs never go away, or in the oddly poetic bureaucratic jargon, “sunset.” He is proposing $1.4 trillion in new taxes, an appetite for which was largely whetted by the shameful excesses of American CEO corporate culture. And finally, he has proposed $5 trillion in new debt, one-half the total accumulated national debt in all US history. All in one fell swoop.

He tells us that all this is going to work because the economy is going to be growing by 3.2 percent a year from now. Do you believe that? Would you take out a loan based on that? And in the three years following, he predicts that our economy will grow by 4 percent a year.

Were these conservatives duped — and do they now regret their role in launching the greatest spending spree ever? Most aren’t saying, but there must, at least for the self-aware, be some sense that they didn’t get what they thought they would. We won’t know for a while whether these voters would rather pull back on the reins. But by 2010 the horse will be long gone — and with it any pretext of fiscal sobriety.

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An Arsenal of Adjectives

Over the weekend, Rick Richman wrote a great post about the important sounding adjectives that peace processors hurl at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in lieu of policy. Rick notes some of the most commonly used descriptors for non-existent solutions. There’s fair, equitable, sustainable, viable, impartial, and appropriate.

In Forbes today, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon weighs in with some additional goodies: durable, fully respected, comprehensive, just, and lasting.

Look, isn’t it time for the people truly committed to Middle East Peace to acknowledge that until there is a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious agreement among the two sides and a third party, the fighting will continue?

How to describe those, like the secretary general, who maintain against all evidence that there is a partner for peace anywhere in the ranks of Gaza leadership? Let’s go with disingenuous, unhelpful, unserious, delusional, and amnesiac.

Over the weekend, Rick Richman wrote a great post about the important sounding adjectives that peace processors hurl at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in lieu of policy. Rick notes some of the most commonly used descriptors for non-existent solutions. There’s fair, equitable, sustainable, viable, impartial, and appropriate.

In Forbes today, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon weighs in with some additional goodies: durable, fully respected, comprehensive, just, and lasting.

Look, isn’t it time for the people truly committed to Middle East Peace to acknowledge that until there is a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious agreement among the two sides and a third party, the fighting will continue?

How to describe those, like the secretary general, who maintain against all evidence that there is a partner for peace anywhere in the ranks of Gaza leadership? Let’s go with disingenuous, unhelpful, unserious, delusional, and amnesiac.

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A Milestone

The Dow fell below 7,000 this morning for the first time since 1997. That’s roughly a 28% drop since Election Day. American businesspeople and the investors supplying capital are in a panic, plain and simple. The administration has had weeks to provide a comprehensive and credible bank plan and it hasn’t delivered. The stimulus, omnibus, and budget legislation have taken a “bold” turn toward higher taxes, anti-business regulation (e.g. cap and trade), and nationalization. So what do you expect? The private sector has, as my kids would say, freaked.

The administration shows no inclination to turn back, because it lives in the political bubble of D.C. under the umbrella of adulating media coverage. There, Obama is riding high and plotting New Deal II. There, no one cares much — at least no one in power– what the investors, job-creators, innovators, and consumers think. The only question is “Can it pass?” The real question they should be asking is “How much damage is being done?”

As a political matter, the Obamazation of Washington, his endless ambition and stream of policy proposals will make it increasingly difficult to blame everything on Bush. The economy is growing sicker by the week, but like physicians of bygone centuries, the administration officials are administering the economic equivalent of leeches and blood letting. If the disease doesn’t kill the patient the cure seems designed to do the trick. But rest assured, Tim Geithner and Larry Summers are at the helm.

The Dow fell below 7,000 this morning for the first time since 1997. That’s roughly a 28% drop since Election Day. American businesspeople and the investors supplying capital are in a panic, plain and simple. The administration has had weeks to provide a comprehensive and credible bank plan and it hasn’t delivered. The stimulus, omnibus, and budget legislation have taken a “bold” turn toward higher taxes, anti-business regulation (e.g. cap and trade), and nationalization. So what do you expect? The private sector has, as my kids would say, freaked.

The administration shows no inclination to turn back, because it lives in the political bubble of D.C. under the umbrella of adulating media coverage. There, Obama is riding high and plotting New Deal II. There, no one cares much — at least no one in power– what the investors, job-creators, innovators, and consumers think. The only question is “Can it pass?” The real question they should be asking is “How much damage is being done?”

As a political matter, the Obamazation of Washington, his endless ambition and stream of policy proposals will make it increasingly difficult to blame everything on Bush. The economy is growing sicker by the week, but like physicians of bygone centuries, the administration officials are administering the economic equivalent of leeches and blood letting. If the disease doesn’t kill the patient the cure seems designed to do the trick. But rest assured, Tim Geithner and Larry Summers are at the helm.

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Who Are the Realists Now?

The Washington Post lays out a contrast between two competing approaches to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. First there is Elliott Abrams:

It is time to face certain facts: We are not on the verge of Israeli-Palestinian peace; a Palestinian state cannot come into being in the near future; and the focus should be on building the institutions that will allow for real Palestinian progress in the medium or longer term.

On the other side, is Nathan J. Brown of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who wants a signed peace treaty between Israel and Hamas. Gosh, had we known it was that simple we’d have had Hamas sign a peace agreement earlier! But, alas, they are committed to the destruction of Israel. So even if Hamas signed such a document does Brown think it would make any real-world difference?

The contrast between these competing viewpoints could not be more clear. Abrams looks at the parties, the narrative of the last decade, and the realistic options available to us. Brown thinks all of that can be ignored in favor of securing a paper agreement. We’ll find out which view the Obama administration embraces — and will thereby learn just how grounded they are in the real world.

The Washington Post lays out a contrast between two competing approaches to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. First there is Elliott Abrams:

It is time to face certain facts: We are not on the verge of Israeli-Palestinian peace; a Palestinian state cannot come into being in the near future; and the focus should be on building the institutions that will allow for real Palestinian progress in the medium or longer term.

On the other side, is Nathan J. Brown of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who wants a signed peace treaty between Israel and Hamas. Gosh, had we known it was that simple we’d have had Hamas sign a peace agreement earlier! But, alas, they are committed to the destruction of Israel. So even if Hamas signed such a document does Brown think it would make any real-world difference?

The contrast between these competing viewpoints could not be more clear. Abrams looks at the parties, the narrative of the last decade, and the realistic options available to us. Brown thinks all of that can be ignored in favor of securing a paper agreement. We’ll find out which view the Obama administration embraces — and will thereby learn just how grounded they are in the real world.

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Dayanizing Barak

Following Israel’s coalition talks can be exhausting and frustrating. To make a long story short, this is where we stand: Netanyahu can have the narrow coalition of the right and the religious parties. However, he wants a more consensual coalition. This is why he keeps trying to get Kadima and Labor on board.

Regarding Labor: The head of the party, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, wants to join the government, but most other party leaders don’t. Regarding Kadima: Many party leaders want to join the government, but the head of the party, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, doesn’t.

Where does this leave Netanyahu? Since Livni seems quite insistent, the focus is now more on Labor and Barak, and Netanyahu’s only hope is public pressure. This can happen if more headlines like this (“Iran has enough nuclear material to make bomb, US says”), this (“40% attend Ashkelon schools after rocket fire”), and this (“Treasury drafts plans to fight economic crisis”) keep popping up, and if the organized campaign aimed at keeping Barak as Defense Minister (“we can’t afford losing him at this time of crisis”) succeeds. The obvious historical parallel that’s being drawn may point to another option: Barak can approximately mimic Moshe Dayan, who joined a Likud government in 1977. But this is tricky: Dayan left on his own, and, in so doing, left the party behind.

Following Israel’s coalition talks can be exhausting and frustrating. To make a long story short, this is where we stand: Netanyahu can have the narrow coalition of the right and the religious parties. However, he wants a more consensual coalition. This is why he keeps trying to get Kadima and Labor on board.

Regarding Labor: The head of the party, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, wants to join the government, but most other party leaders don’t. Regarding Kadima: Many party leaders want to join the government, but the head of the party, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, doesn’t.

Where does this leave Netanyahu? Since Livni seems quite insistent, the focus is now more on Labor and Barak, and Netanyahu’s only hope is public pressure. This can happen if more headlines like this (“Iran has enough nuclear material to make bomb, US says”), this (“40% attend Ashkelon schools after rocket fire”), and this (“Treasury drafts plans to fight economic crisis”) keep popping up, and if the organized campaign aimed at keeping Barak as Defense Minister (“we can’t afford losing him at this time of crisis”) succeeds. The obvious historical parallel that’s being drawn may point to another option: Barak can approximately mimic Moshe Dayan, who joined a Likud government in 1977. But this is tricky: Dayan left on his own, and, in so doing, left the party behind.

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Didn’t We Do This Before?

I know it seems like we’ve done this before (we have), but the federal government is bailing out AIG to the tune of $30B plus a relaxation of the terms of its existing loan. Even the New York Times reporter seems dubious:

Federal officials, who worked feverishly over the weekend to complete the restructuring, said they thought they had no choice but to prop up A.I.G., because its business and trading activities are so intricately woven through the world’s banking system. But the deal also presents more financial risks to taxpayers at a time when the public and Congress have been sharply questioning the wisdom of risking federal money to bail out private enterprises.

One wonders when the populist outrage over bailouts for wayward homeowners, GM, Chrysler, Citibank, and AIG (again) will impact the administration. It seems to be operating without Congressional authorization in the new imperial presidency of unilateral appropriation. (George W. Bush started down this road when Congress had the nerve to rebuff his auto bailout proposal in the waning days of his administration.)

In normal times, when Congress was in charge of appropriations, popular opinion would register with congressmen and senators and slow down or block legislation. But what and who is to stop a president who acts without Congress and is impervious to polling or popular protest? When money is no longer an object (what’s another $30B in debt, after all?) and the legislative branch is removed from the process there isn’t much to slow down the train. If Congress remains too timid to intervene, the public has little recourse — until the next election.

And, yes, all the pundits and Congressional liberals who decried an imperial presidency are noticeably, but not surprisingly, quiet. In addition to the aggregation of executive power, you would think they’d take note of the seamlessness between the final months of the Bush administration (e.g. Geithner, bailout mania, non-communication about both the big picture and the specifics) and the Obama administration. Weren’t we all hoping for change?

I know it seems like we’ve done this before (we have), but the federal government is bailing out AIG to the tune of $30B plus a relaxation of the terms of its existing loan. Even the New York Times reporter seems dubious:

Federal officials, who worked feverishly over the weekend to complete the restructuring, said they thought they had no choice but to prop up A.I.G., because its business and trading activities are so intricately woven through the world’s banking system. But the deal also presents more financial risks to taxpayers at a time when the public and Congress have been sharply questioning the wisdom of risking federal money to bail out private enterprises.

One wonders when the populist outrage over bailouts for wayward homeowners, GM, Chrysler, Citibank, and AIG (again) will impact the administration. It seems to be operating without Congressional authorization in the new imperial presidency of unilateral appropriation. (George W. Bush started down this road when Congress had the nerve to rebuff his auto bailout proposal in the waning days of his administration.)

In normal times, when Congress was in charge of appropriations, popular opinion would register with congressmen and senators and slow down or block legislation. But what and who is to stop a president who acts without Congress and is impervious to polling or popular protest? When money is no longer an object (what’s another $30B in debt, after all?) and the legislative branch is removed from the process there isn’t much to slow down the train. If Congress remains too timid to intervene, the public has little recourse — until the next election.

And, yes, all the pundits and Congressional liberals who decried an imperial presidency are noticeably, but not surprisingly, quiet. In addition to the aggregation of executive power, you would think they’d take note of the seamlessness between the final months of the Bush administration (e.g. Geithner, bailout mania, non-communication about both the big picture and the specifics) and the Obama administration. Weren’t we all hoping for change?

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Frattini to Iran

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini is going to Tehran within the next month. His decision to go — preceded by an announcement that Italy plans to invite Iran to the G-8 Summit in June (Italy holds this year’s rotating G-8 presidency) — was finalized after consulting the U.S. administration. Modestly, I think this is a bad idea, for a number of reasons. First, Italy is jumping the gun — negotiations have been conducted through the P5+1 group, of which Italy hopes to become a member. Italy no doubt aspires to play an active role in the diplomatic dance with Iran. But why do so at the price of bypassing critical allies?

Second, by going to Tehran to court the Mullahs, Frattini signals we need something from them. Tehran regularly causes trouble in Afghanistan, according to the recent Annual Threat Assessment, by providing “lethal aid” to the Taleban. Frattini could have chosen more neutral terrain.

Frattini might consider what Iran will ask of him. Iranian leaders will surely claim that Iran plays a constructive role along the Iran-Afghan border by combating drug traffickers — suggesting that it does so to prevent drugs from reaching European markets. They will remind Frattini of the heavy human price paid in this fight — 3,000 Iranian policemen are said to have died in recent years. And they will ask Frattini to pledge substantial help.

But Iran is doing itself a favor, since most drugs that go into Iran stay there for local consumption.  Frattini should remember that when Iran was helped in its war against drugs its behavior was neither trustworthy nor transparent.

Hopegully, Frattini will go to Tehran armed with the right answers to Iran’s likely requests. He should be prepared to find his interlocutors ready to promise they will seriously consider attending the G-8 — an interest, in other words, without a commitment. Iran will thus buy time and force the Italians to come back for more. In the meantime, Tehran might say that of course Iran is willing to help the Italians stabilize the mess they are supposed to control in Herat province in Afghanistan. Iran might even hint at cooperating with the Great Satan and its allies for the overall stabilization of its eastern neighbor. But it will do so for a price. And the bazaar will begin. Good luck to Mr. Frattini with getting a bargain — with all due respect to Italy’s fine mercantile tradition, the Iranians do it better.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini is going to Tehran within the next month. His decision to go — preceded by an announcement that Italy plans to invite Iran to the G-8 Summit in June (Italy holds this year’s rotating G-8 presidency) — was finalized after consulting the U.S. administration. Modestly, I think this is a bad idea, for a number of reasons. First, Italy is jumping the gun — negotiations have been conducted through the P5+1 group, of which Italy hopes to become a member. Italy no doubt aspires to play an active role in the diplomatic dance with Iran. But why do so at the price of bypassing critical allies?

Second, by going to Tehran to court the Mullahs, Frattini signals we need something from them. Tehran regularly causes trouble in Afghanistan, according to the recent Annual Threat Assessment, by providing “lethal aid” to the Taleban. Frattini could have chosen more neutral terrain.

Frattini might consider what Iran will ask of him. Iranian leaders will surely claim that Iran plays a constructive role along the Iran-Afghan border by combating drug traffickers — suggesting that it does so to prevent drugs from reaching European markets. They will remind Frattini of the heavy human price paid in this fight — 3,000 Iranian policemen are said to have died in recent years. And they will ask Frattini to pledge substantial help.

But Iran is doing itself a favor, since most drugs that go into Iran stay there for local consumption.  Frattini should remember that when Iran was helped in its war against drugs its behavior was neither trustworthy nor transparent.

Hopegully, Frattini will go to Tehran armed with the right answers to Iran’s likely requests. He should be prepared to find his interlocutors ready to promise they will seriously consider attending the G-8 — an interest, in other words, without a commitment. Iran will thus buy time and force the Italians to come back for more. In the meantime, Tehran might say that of course Iran is willing to help the Italians stabilize the mess they are supposed to control in Herat province in Afghanistan. Iran might even hint at cooperating with the Great Satan and its allies for the overall stabilization of its eastern neighbor. But it will do so for a price. And the bazaar will begin. Good luck to Mr. Frattini with getting a bargain — with all due respect to Italy’s fine mercantile tradition, the Iranians do it better.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The A.P. lays it out: “Obama is not simply proposing a budget that assumes a jaw-dropping deficit of $1.75 trillion this year, a quadruple increase from the year before. He’s trying to redirect strong currents in American society. The wealthiest 5 percent would pay a whopping $1 trillion in higher taxes over the next decade, while most others would get tax cuts. Industries would buy and trade permits to emit heat-trapping gases. Higher-income older people would pay more for Medicare benefits. Drug companies would receive smaller profits from the government. Banks would play a much smaller role in student loans.” And that doesn’t even cover nationalized healthcare and government-run car companies.

Sen. Chuck Schumer gets points for candor when describing Kirsten Gillibrand’s new identity: “She is going to be able to evolve without being seen as a flip-flopper. . .When I was a congressman, I never voted for a farm subsidy. Now I do because I have constituents who have farms. That’s what the system is about.” And everything works out fine provided voters don’t figure out you are a flip-flopper and errand boy for special interests.

In case you had any doubt, the Obama team is going to make energy more expensive.

More columnists have sniffed out the Reinventing America approach in the Obama budget: “For sheer boldness, you gotta love those deep-breathing Beltway Democrats who suggest America ought to alter her traditional economic principles to overcome the global recession. They’re convinced capitalism is so last century. As for self-interest, free trade and dreams of individual wealth? So much misguided ‘let-them-eat-cake’ thinking. Wealth-sharing is the new ticket. It is, as Oscar winner Sean Penn might say, ‘elegant.’ And all the rage in Europe.”

I know it’s shocking, but the Obama budget savings from defense cuts are a gimmick.

Mitt Romney explains what’s wrong with the spend-and-borrow Obama economic program: “That puts very much in question whether foreign investors are going to keep on lending Americans money by buying our Treasury bills, and perhaps if they don’t do that we could see a dramatic rise in interest rates and enormous economic challenges down the road. On the other hand, he’s also found a way to raise taxes, which will slow growth. So he’s doing two things, both of which will be harmful to the economy and the well-being of job creation in the country. What he should be doing instead is what he talked about, which is going through the budget line by line and cutting out the things that are unnecessary.”

Sen. Arlen Specter is “toast“? It seems voting for the $787B pork-a-thon didn’t help his chances. A better question for Pennsylvania Republicans is whether they have a primary challenger who will stand a chance in the general election.

The Washington Post editors are hopping mad: “Rep. David R. Obey (Wis.) and other congressional Democrats should spare us their phony concern about the children participating in the District’s school voucher program. If they cared for the future of these students, they wouldn’t be so quick as to try to kill the program that affords low-income, minority children a chance at a better education.” Ouch.

Republicans are buzzing about this admission: “‘Folks are a little skittish. It’s asking a lot,’ a senior Democratic aide said. ‘This is a tax-and-spend budget the likes of which we haven’t seen in years.'”

Bill Kristol asks and answers a key question: “What does cap and trade, this massive big government regulatory scheme in Washington, have to do with getting us out of the recession? Nothing.”

What does Mara Liasson think about zapping the home mortgage and charitable deductions for upper income earners? “That is — those are two specific things where the president is going to run into a buzz saw in Congress from Democrats. Those deductions are sacred to a lot of people, and I think there’s going to be a problem.”

Even the  MSM admits Virginia Governor Tim Kaine hasn’t accomplished much. But he’s thrilled to have gottten that all-important smoking ban in place. Solving the transportation problem might have been better.

The Obama administration doesn’t believe in changing 9000 earmarks since it was “leftover” business. Apparently change isn’t about changing Congress.

Rep. Paul Ryan declares: “The budget the president released last week, however, does provide some certainty about where we are headed: higher taxes on small businesses, work and capital investment. Add to this the costly burdens of a cap-and-trade carbon emissions scheme and an effective nationalization of health care, and it is clear that the government is going to grow while the economy will shrink. In a nutshell, the president’s budget seemingly seeks to replace the American political idea of equalizing opportunity with the European notion of equalizing results.” And rather than all that he suggests reduced taxes, a toxic asset purchasing entity, and sound money. Ryan apparently did not get the “conservatives are out of ideas” memo.

The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times agree — bankruptcy for GM would be a good idea. Other than the UAW and the GM management, who really benefits from the nationalization option? I’m stumped as to why the two parties that contributed most to the company’s downfall get rescued from the bankruptcy court.

David Frum goes after the “myth” of  the “Goldwater triumph.” But isn’t it a myth that Goldwater’s defeat led to permanent harm to the GOP or some long-lasting catastrophe for conservatives? The Republicans won back 47 seats in 1966 and the presidency in 1968. In fact, after Lyndon Johnson it took 44 years before Americans were willing to elect another liberal (and then not even one who admitted to being one).

The A.P. lays it out: “Obama is not simply proposing a budget that assumes a jaw-dropping deficit of $1.75 trillion this year, a quadruple increase from the year before. He’s trying to redirect strong currents in American society. The wealthiest 5 percent would pay a whopping $1 trillion in higher taxes over the next decade, while most others would get tax cuts. Industries would buy and trade permits to emit heat-trapping gases. Higher-income older people would pay more for Medicare benefits. Drug companies would receive smaller profits from the government. Banks would play a much smaller role in student loans.” And that doesn’t even cover nationalized healthcare and government-run car companies.

Sen. Chuck Schumer gets points for candor when describing Kirsten Gillibrand’s new identity: “She is going to be able to evolve without being seen as a flip-flopper. . .When I was a congressman, I never voted for a farm subsidy. Now I do because I have constituents who have farms. That’s what the system is about.” And everything works out fine provided voters don’t figure out you are a flip-flopper and errand boy for special interests.

In case you had any doubt, the Obama team is going to make energy more expensive.

More columnists have sniffed out the Reinventing America approach in the Obama budget: “For sheer boldness, you gotta love those deep-breathing Beltway Democrats who suggest America ought to alter her traditional economic principles to overcome the global recession. They’re convinced capitalism is so last century. As for self-interest, free trade and dreams of individual wealth? So much misguided ‘let-them-eat-cake’ thinking. Wealth-sharing is the new ticket. It is, as Oscar winner Sean Penn might say, ‘elegant.’ And all the rage in Europe.”

I know it’s shocking, but the Obama budget savings from defense cuts are a gimmick.

Mitt Romney explains what’s wrong with the spend-and-borrow Obama economic program: “That puts very much in question whether foreign investors are going to keep on lending Americans money by buying our Treasury bills, and perhaps if they don’t do that we could see a dramatic rise in interest rates and enormous economic challenges down the road. On the other hand, he’s also found a way to raise taxes, which will slow growth. So he’s doing two things, both of which will be harmful to the economy and the well-being of job creation in the country. What he should be doing instead is what he talked about, which is going through the budget line by line and cutting out the things that are unnecessary.”

Sen. Arlen Specter is “toast“? It seems voting for the $787B pork-a-thon didn’t help his chances. A better question for Pennsylvania Republicans is whether they have a primary challenger who will stand a chance in the general election.

The Washington Post editors are hopping mad: “Rep. David R. Obey (Wis.) and other congressional Democrats should spare us their phony concern about the children participating in the District’s school voucher program. If they cared for the future of these students, they wouldn’t be so quick as to try to kill the program that affords low-income, minority children a chance at a better education.” Ouch.

Republicans are buzzing about this admission: “‘Folks are a little skittish. It’s asking a lot,’ a senior Democratic aide said. ‘This is a tax-and-spend budget the likes of which we haven’t seen in years.'”

Bill Kristol asks and answers a key question: “What does cap and trade, this massive big government regulatory scheme in Washington, have to do with getting us out of the recession? Nothing.”

What does Mara Liasson think about zapping the home mortgage and charitable deductions for upper income earners? “That is — those are two specific things where the president is going to run into a buzz saw in Congress from Democrats. Those deductions are sacred to a lot of people, and I think there’s going to be a problem.”

Even the  MSM admits Virginia Governor Tim Kaine hasn’t accomplished much. But he’s thrilled to have gottten that all-important smoking ban in place. Solving the transportation problem might have been better.

The Obama administration doesn’t believe in changing 9000 earmarks since it was “leftover” business. Apparently change isn’t about changing Congress.

Rep. Paul Ryan declares: “The budget the president released last week, however, does provide some certainty about where we are headed: higher taxes on small businesses, work and capital investment. Add to this the costly burdens of a cap-and-trade carbon emissions scheme and an effective nationalization of health care, and it is clear that the government is going to grow while the economy will shrink. In a nutshell, the president’s budget seemingly seeks to replace the American political idea of equalizing opportunity with the European notion of equalizing results.” And rather than all that he suggests reduced taxes, a toxic asset purchasing entity, and sound money. Ryan apparently did not get the “conservatives are out of ideas” memo.

The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times agree — bankruptcy for GM would be a good idea. Other than the UAW and the GM management, who really benefits from the nationalization option? I’m stumped as to why the two parties that contributed most to the company’s downfall get rescued from the bankruptcy court.

David Frum goes after the “myth” of  the “Goldwater triumph.” But isn’t it a myth that Goldwater’s defeat led to permanent harm to the GOP or some long-lasting catastrophe for conservatives? The Republicans won back 47 seats in 1966 and the presidency in 1968. In fact, after Lyndon Johnson it took 44 years before Americans were willing to elect another liberal (and then not even one who admitted to being one).

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