Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 1, 2009

No One Said This Was Going to Work

The billions American taxpayers are pouring into the domestic auto industry don’t seem likely to yield much of a return. The New York Times reports:

Sales of new vehicles in the United States fell dramatically in March, with the steepest declines expected to be reported by General Motors and Chrysler, the two automakers restructuring with the help of billions of dollars in loans from the federal government.

G.M. said Wednesday that its sales fell 45 percent last month compared with March 2008, and Toyota said its sales were down 39 percent.

But never fear. We are told: “Still, economists believe sales are likely to begin rebounding within months, if only because it would be difficult for them to keep plummeting at this point.” Er, actually they could go lower, particularly if unemployment rises.

In order to survive, GM will probably have to shrink substantially. But at least we know the UAW officials are living high on the hog.

The billions American taxpayers are pouring into the domestic auto industry don’t seem likely to yield much of a return. The New York Times reports:

Sales of new vehicles in the United States fell dramatically in March, with the steepest declines expected to be reported by General Motors and Chrysler, the two automakers restructuring with the help of billions of dollars in loans from the federal government.

G.M. said Wednesday that its sales fell 45 percent last month compared with March 2008, and Toyota said its sales were down 39 percent.

But never fear. We are told: “Still, economists believe sales are likely to begin rebounding within months, if only because it would be difficult for them to keep plummeting at this point.” Er, actually they could go lower, particularly if unemployment rises.

In order to survive, GM will probably have to shrink substantially. But at least we know the UAW officials are living high on the hog.

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The Choices Are Real

Ben Shapiro nails President Obama for endlessly finding “false choices”:

And so Obama claimed in the Chicago Tribune that Americans “need not choose between a chaotic and unforgiving capitalism and an oppressive government-run economy.” That choice, he said, is a “false choice.”

[. . .]

“Our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values,” he announced while restoring unfettered federal funding to embryonic stem cell research.

[. . .]

Determining the future of Guantanamo Bay is easy, he smiles; we shut it down, thereby ending the “false choice between our safety and our ideals.”

[. . .]

“Throughout our history,” Obama recently stated, “there’s been a tension between those who have sought to conserve our natural resources for the benefit of future generations, and those who have sought to profit from these resources. But I’m here to tell you this is a false choice.”

As Obama’s policies have shown, this is not a mere rhetorical tic; but a philosophical foundation. Obama sees harmonious coexistence in all affairs. Tyrannies can thrive alongside democracies: the U.S. no longer seeks regime change – anywhere. Repression can flourish alongside freedom: the new administration has made it clear that it is no longer America’s job to defend human rights abroad. Bias lives alongside reason: Obama called for a restoration of scientific principles while silencing debate on climate change. These couplings are false, and will lead inexorably to stasis, weakness, and tension. The choices to which the president refers are simply being avoided.

Ben Shapiro nails President Obama for endlessly finding “false choices”:

And so Obama claimed in the Chicago Tribune that Americans “need not choose between a chaotic and unforgiving capitalism and an oppressive government-run economy.” That choice, he said, is a “false choice.”

[. . .]

“Our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values,” he announced while restoring unfettered federal funding to embryonic stem cell research.

[. . .]

Determining the future of Guantanamo Bay is easy, he smiles; we shut it down, thereby ending the “false choice between our safety and our ideals.”

[. . .]

“Throughout our history,” Obama recently stated, “there’s been a tension between those who have sought to conserve our natural resources for the benefit of future generations, and those who have sought to profit from these resources. But I’m here to tell you this is a false choice.”

As Obama’s policies have shown, this is not a mere rhetorical tic; but a philosophical foundation. Obama sees harmonious coexistence in all affairs. Tyrannies can thrive alongside democracies: the U.S. no longer seeks regime change – anywhere. Repression can flourish alongside freedom: the new administration has made it clear that it is no longer America’s job to defend human rights abroad. Bias lives alongside reason: Obama called for a restoration of scientific principles while silencing debate on climate change. These couplings are false, and will lead inexorably to stasis, weakness, and tension. The choices to which the president refers are simply being avoided.

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Commentary of the Day

Richard, on Francis Cianfrocca:

GM’s future is much worse than bankruptcy. It is the Amtrak of the automobiles. A colossal waste of taxpayers money.

The problem is Wagoner and the board refused to make the hard choice and voluntarily go into bankruptcy. I never understood his continued statements that bankruptcy wasn’t an option. The eliminated his leverage with the unions. Hanging bankruptcy over the UAW’s head might have gotten GM more concessions.

Within 3-4 years, GM will have shutdown or sold GMC, stopped making Suburbans, Tahoes and Silverados, be losing serious cash on every Volt that’s sold, and generally be floundering around worse than today. Oh, and with $100 billion of our tax dollars wasted in the process.

Welcome to Obama’s brave new world.

Richard, on Francis Cianfrocca:

GM’s future is much worse than bankruptcy. It is the Amtrak of the automobiles. A colossal waste of taxpayers money.

The problem is Wagoner and the board refused to make the hard choice and voluntarily go into bankruptcy. I never understood his continued statements that bankruptcy wasn’t an option. The eliminated his leverage with the unions. Hanging bankruptcy over the UAW’s head might have gotten GM more concessions.

Within 3-4 years, GM will have shutdown or sold GMC, stopped making Suburbans, Tahoes and Silverados, be losing serious cash on every Volt that’s sold, and generally be floundering around worse than today. Oh, and with $100 billion of our tax dollars wasted in the process.

Welcome to Obama’s brave new world.

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So She Can Use it on the Stairmaster?

I don’t think this is an April Fools’ Joke:

President Obama has given the Queen an Ipod during their private meeting at Buckingham Palace. It contains footage of her state visit to the US in May 2007. The Queen has given the president a silver framed photograph of herself and her husband. The official picture is what she gives all visiting dignitaries.

No word on whether he’s giving Gordon Brown a cash refund or a gift card for his non-functioning DVDs.

I don’t think this is an April Fools’ Joke:

President Obama has given the Queen an Ipod during their private meeting at Buckingham Palace. It contains footage of her state visit to the US in May 2007. The Queen has given the president a silver framed photograph of herself and her husband. The official picture is what she gives all visiting dignitaries.

No word on whether he’s giving Gordon Brown a cash refund or a gift card for his non-functioning DVDs.

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Fox Reigns in the Obama Age

According to the indispensable website RealClearPolitics.com:

Led by the trio of Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and newcomer Glenn Beck, Fox News maintained its hold as the leading cable news network for March, as well as the first quarter of 2009. Fox News’ primetime viewership of 2.3 million was more than the combined total of No. 2 CNN (1.1 million) and No. 3 MSNBC (957,000). HLN, formerly Headline News, is fourth (330,000).

Overall, Fox News has nine of the top 10-viewership cable news programs. Bill O’Reilly remains the nation’s leading cable news program host. Sean Hannity, now flying solo with his show, has seen his ratings increase 36 percent from the same period last year. And Glenn Beck has increased viewership for his time-slot by nearly 100 percent from a year ago (before he joined Fox). So Fox, long the dominant cable news station in America, is now more dominant than ever. That must make the left in America cringe. And having watched a bit of MSNBC’s prime-time line-up since Obama won the election — one can only take these things in small doses — it’s fair to say the network wasn’t suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome; it was suffering from Derangement Syndrome, period. Bush just happened to be the focal point of their fury. Now that he has left the scene, their cast of characters have to look for other targets at which to lash out. They look as silly now, as sycophants and courtiers in the Age of Obama, as they did then, as melodramatic, unhinged critics during the Age of Bush.

According to the indispensable website RealClearPolitics.com:

Led by the trio of Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and newcomer Glenn Beck, Fox News maintained its hold as the leading cable news network for March, as well as the first quarter of 2009. Fox News’ primetime viewership of 2.3 million was more than the combined total of No. 2 CNN (1.1 million) and No. 3 MSNBC (957,000). HLN, formerly Headline News, is fourth (330,000).

Overall, Fox News has nine of the top 10-viewership cable news programs. Bill O’Reilly remains the nation’s leading cable news program host. Sean Hannity, now flying solo with his show, has seen his ratings increase 36 percent from the same period last year. And Glenn Beck has increased viewership for his time-slot by nearly 100 percent from a year ago (before he joined Fox). So Fox, long the dominant cable news station in America, is now more dominant than ever. That must make the left in America cringe. And having watched a bit of MSNBC’s prime-time line-up since Obama won the election — one can only take these things in small doses — it’s fair to say the network wasn’t suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome; it was suffering from Derangement Syndrome, period. Bush just happened to be the focal point of their fury. Now that he has left the scene, their cast of characters have to look for other targets at which to lash out. They look as silly now, as sycophants and courtiers in the Age of Obama, as they did then, as melodramatic, unhinged critics during the Age of Bush.

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Arab MK: I Hope Iran Gets Nukes

If you want to better understand the rise of Avigdor Lieberman, just look at this story about the newest member of Balad, one of the main Arab parties in the Knesset:

New Balad party MK Haneen Zuabi…has welcomed Iran’s growing influence on Palestinian affairs and praised Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon as a means of offsetting Israel’s regional military edge.

This is actually a weak sauce compared to some of the stuff you can find on the highlight reel of Arab MK adoration of Hezbollah, Hamas, and the like. But very few people are aware that these kinds of statements are regularly made. Why? They do not fit inside the dominant journalistic approach, which usually attempts to minimize or excuse Arab rejectionism and racism. In this way, the popularity of Yisrael Beteinu is easily dismissed as an example of Israeli anti-pluralism, racism, or even fascism.

Thus, to the casual observer, the Lieberman phenomenon takes place in a vacuum, as if nothing has happened to catalyze the public’s receptivity to his message. Similarly, because the media rarely reports on the daily accretion of genocidal anti-Semitism among the Palestinians, or the public opinion polls showing a near-majority (and sometimes clear majority) opposition to the two-state solution (coupled with constant overwhelming support for terrorist attacks), Israeli skepticism of the peace process is dismissed as paranoia, stubbornness, or even rejection of the desire for peace itself.

It would be nice, but probably asking too much, if the reporters who breathlessly wrote of the coming era of the Lieberman Terror would stir themselves to report on the celebration of terrorism that has become a regular feature of Israeli Arab politics.

If you want to better understand the rise of Avigdor Lieberman, just look at this story about the newest member of Balad, one of the main Arab parties in the Knesset:

New Balad party MK Haneen Zuabi…has welcomed Iran’s growing influence on Palestinian affairs and praised Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon as a means of offsetting Israel’s regional military edge.

This is actually a weak sauce compared to some of the stuff you can find on the highlight reel of Arab MK adoration of Hezbollah, Hamas, and the like. But very few people are aware that these kinds of statements are regularly made. Why? They do not fit inside the dominant journalistic approach, which usually attempts to minimize or excuse Arab rejectionism and racism. In this way, the popularity of Yisrael Beteinu is easily dismissed as an example of Israeli anti-pluralism, racism, or even fascism.

Thus, to the casual observer, the Lieberman phenomenon takes place in a vacuum, as if nothing has happened to catalyze the public’s receptivity to his message. Similarly, because the media rarely reports on the daily accretion of genocidal anti-Semitism among the Palestinians, or the public opinion polls showing a near-majority (and sometimes clear majority) opposition to the two-state solution (coupled with constant overwhelming support for terrorist attacks), Israeli skepticism of the peace process is dismissed as paranoia, stubbornness, or even rejection of the desire for peace itself.

It would be nice, but probably asking too much, if the reporters who breathlessly wrote of the coming era of the Lieberman Terror would stir themselves to report on the celebration of terrorism that has become a regular feature of Israeli Arab politics.

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Re: Let the Spinning Begin

Well, Jim Tedisco may be down by only 25 votes. Even before this latest news, Republicans involved in the NY-20 were expressing a sense of relief, if not downright amazement, that they may have pulled this out. Part of this feeling is fueled by optimism over the absentee ballots. As the Daily News reports:

As of yesterday evening, the board had canvassed the 10 counties in the 20th and discovered that 10,055 absentee ballots had been issued by seven counties and 5,906 had been returned.

That number could go up, as three counties haven’t provided their numbers. Absentee ballots must be received by April 7, but the ballots sent in by overseas/federal/military voters (recall that there was a fight over those) can arrive by April 13 and still be counted.

Of the 10,055 absentees, the Repubicans have a roughly 600-ballot edge, according to the board. But of the 5,906 received to date, 798 more came from Republicans.

The Republicans’ relief is directly related to their prior sense that the race was lost, possibly by more than the 4 points reflected in the final poll. The president’s mailer had flooded the district, Joe Biden cut his radio ad, and union assistance in get-out-the-vote created the impression that the race was slipping from the Republicans’ grasp. (Privately, many Republicans concede their candidate did not make the most of his opportunities and took far too long to come to a position on the stimulus bill.)

So what happened? For starters, Jim Tedisco over-performed — by a lot — in his home base of Saragota county, which represents about a third of the votes in the district. Going in, Republicans expected him to narrowly win that county and he won 54% of the vote there. Some contend that Democrat Scott Murphy lost ground once those Obama mailers hit the district. But it may be that observers put too much credence in the final polling. The chattering political class forgets that polling in special elections is a tricky thing because turnout is utterly unpredictable.

Is it a referendum? Well, Democrats and their spinners today are saying “certainly not!” But not surprisingly, their main directive now is to insulate the White House, which did make a final pitch for their candidate, from any negative fallout. But both sides must realize that no one has yet won. If Minnesota is any guide, we may be at this for a good long while.

Well, Jim Tedisco may be down by only 25 votes. Even before this latest news, Republicans involved in the NY-20 were expressing a sense of relief, if not downright amazement, that they may have pulled this out. Part of this feeling is fueled by optimism over the absentee ballots. As the Daily News reports:

As of yesterday evening, the board had canvassed the 10 counties in the 20th and discovered that 10,055 absentee ballots had been issued by seven counties and 5,906 had been returned.

That number could go up, as three counties haven’t provided their numbers. Absentee ballots must be received by April 7, but the ballots sent in by overseas/federal/military voters (recall that there was a fight over those) can arrive by April 13 and still be counted.

Of the 10,055 absentees, the Repubicans have a roughly 600-ballot edge, according to the board. But of the 5,906 received to date, 798 more came from Republicans.

The Republicans’ relief is directly related to their prior sense that the race was lost, possibly by more than the 4 points reflected in the final poll. The president’s mailer had flooded the district, Joe Biden cut his radio ad, and union assistance in get-out-the-vote created the impression that the race was slipping from the Republicans’ grasp. (Privately, many Republicans concede their candidate did not make the most of his opportunities and took far too long to come to a position on the stimulus bill.)

So what happened? For starters, Jim Tedisco over-performed — by a lot — in his home base of Saragota county, which represents about a third of the votes in the district. Going in, Republicans expected him to narrowly win that county and he won 54% of the vote there. Some contend that Democrat Scott Murphy lost ground once those Obama mailers hit the district. But it may be that observers put too much credence in the final polling. The chattering political class forgets that polling in special elections is a tricky thing because turnout is utterly unpredictable.

Is it a referendum? Well, Democrats and their spinners today are saying “certainly not!” But not surprisingly, their main directive now is to insulate the White House, which did make a final pitch for their candidate, from any negative fallout. But both sides must realize that no one has yet won. If Minnesota is any guide, we may be at this for a good long while.

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It’s Good to be the King

Somewhere outside an AIG employee’s house, a busload of ACORN members just dropped their pitchforks. Here’s Barack Obama in England today:

There’s one last thing that I should mention that I love about Great Britain, and that is the Queen. And so I’m very much looking forward to — (laughter) — I’m very much looking forward to meeting her for the first time later this evening. And as you might imagine, Michelle has been really thinking that through — (laughter) — because I think in the imagination of people throughout America, I think what the Queen stands for and her decency and her civility, what she represents, that’s very important.

On the campaign trail, Michelle Obama scolded America’s inequality of outcome as “downright mean”; today she’s meditating deeply on the decency of England’s royal family. I suppose it’s hard for any president of the United States to play the populist for too long.

Somewhere outside an AIG employee’s house, a busload of ACORN members just dropped their pitchforks. Here’s Barack Obama in England today:

There’s one last thing that I should mention that I love about Great Britain, and that is the Queen. And so I’m very much looking forward to — (laughter) — I’m very much looking forward to meeting her for the first time later this evening. And as you might imagine, Michelle has been really thinking that through — (laughter) — because I think in the imagination of people throughout America, I think what the Queen stands for and her decency and her civility, what she represents, that’s very important.

On the campaign trail, Michelle Obama scolded America’s inequality of outcome as “downright mean”; today she’s meditating deeply on the decency of England’s royal family. I suppose it’s hard for any president of the United States to play the populist for too long.

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About That Sigh of Relief

Former New York Times staffer Laura Secor writes in the New Republic today, urging the Obama administration to go a step further toward accommodating the government of Iran.

Secor, who has recently spent most of her time writing about the democracy movement in Iran, believes the mullahs are basically a pragmatic bunch whose main concern is survival of their regime. She faults the Bush administration for failing to appreciate that Iran’s just deigning to talk to the U.S. is an enormous concession. America, she contends, ought to pay in advance for this — preferably with a guarantee not to overthrow or interfere with the tyrannical overlords of the Islamic Republic.

Secor is right when she says that fanning hatred for the U.S. and Israel is a core value for the Iranians: asking Tehran to give it up just for the privilege of being Washington’s diplomatic partner is unrealistic. But the problem with her whole approach is that even if one accepts that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (never mentioned once in Secor’s piece) and the Islamist clerics he serves care most about their own survival (a point that is highly debatable given the apocalyptic nature of the religious beliefs motivating them), it is far from clear that ensuring the longevity of this tyrannical regime is in the West’s long-term interests.

Secor wants Obama to square the circle by somehow appeasing Iran’s leadership without sacrificing America’s support for the fragile human-rights and democracy movement in Iran. Good luck with that impossible task. As with Hillary Clinton’s permissiveness in regard to Chinese human-rights abuses, there’s little doubt that Obama’s commitment to engagement with Iran will trump any concern for human rights there.

It is also telling that not once in her article does Secor mention Iran’s nuclear program. Iran’s nuclear ambition is an existential threat to the State of Israel as well as a source of destabilization throughout the entire Middle East. If, as now seems likely, Obama isn’t going to act in mobilizing the West to impose serious sanctions on Iran, such policy will be popular in a Europe always uninterested in addressing this peril. The international “sigh of relief,” which Secor describes as the reaction to President Obama’s overture to Iran last month, represents the clear disinterest in the nuclear issue on the part of the international community. Analogies to the West’s early appeasement of Hitler are always perilous, but it’s hard to read about the “relief” over America’s new solicitousness without thinking of the earlier sense of relief that greeted Neville Chamberlain’s return from Munich in 1938. Let’s pray this time the price of such momentary comfort won’t be as high.

Former New York Times staffer Laura Secor writes in the New Republic today, urging the Obama administration to go a step further toward accommodating the government of Iran.

Secor, who has recently spent most of her time writing about the democracy movement in Iran, believes the mullahs are basically a pragmatic bunch whose main concern is survival of their regime. She faults the Bush administration for failing to appreciate that Iran’s just deigning to talk to the U.S. is an enormous concession. America, she contends, ought to pay in advance for this — preferably with a guarantee not to overthrow or interfere with the tyrannical overlords of the Islamic Republic.

Secor is right when she says that fanning hatred for the U.S. and Israel is a core value for the Iranians: asking Tehran to give it up just for the privilege of being Washington’s diplomatic partner is unrealistic. But the problem with her whole approach is that even if one accepts that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (never mentioned once in Secor’s piece) and the Islamist clerics he serves care most about their own survival (a point that is highly debatable given the apocalyptic nature of the religious beliefs motivating them), it is far from clear that ensuring the longevity of this tyrannical regime is in the West’s long-term interests.

Secor wants Obama to square the circle by somehow appeasing Iran’s leadership without sacrificing America’s support for the fragile human-rights and democracy movement in Iran. Good luck with that impossible task. As with Hillary Clinton’s permissiveness in regard to Chinese human-rights abuses, there’s little doubt that Obama’s commitment to engagement with Iran will trump any concern for human rights there.

It is also telling that not once in her article does Secor mention Iran’s nuclear program. Iran’s nuclear ambition is an existential threat to the State of Israel as well as a source of destabilization throughout the entire Middle East. If, as now seems likely, Obama isn’t going to act in mobilizing the West to impose serious sanctions on Iran, such policy will be popular in a Europe always uninterested in addressing this peril. The international “sigh of relief,” which Secor describes as the reaction to President Obama’s overture to Iran last month, represents the clear disinterest in the nuclear issue on the part of the international community. Analogies to the West’s early appeasement of Hitler are always perilous, but it’s hard to read about the “relief” over America’s new solicitousness without thinking of the earlier sense of relief that greeted Neville Chamberlain’s return from Munich in 1938. Let’s pray this time the price of such momentary comfort won’t be as high.

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Where Does He Go to Get His Seat back?

We are reminded today of Reagan Labor Secretary Ray Donovan who intoned, “Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?” after he was finally acquitted of wrongdoing in an alleged corruption scheme. In a shocking move, Attorney General Eric Holder released a statement Wednesday morning which read, in part:

In connection with the post-trial litigation in United States v. Theodore F. Stevens, the Department of Justice has conducted a review of the case, including an examination of the extent of the disclosures provided to the defendant. After careful review, I have concluded that certain information should have been provided to the defense for use at trial. In light of this conclusion, and in consideration of the totality of the circumstances of this particular case, I have determined that it is in the interest of justice to dismiss the indictment and not proceed with a new trial.

“The Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility will conduct a thorough review of the prosecution of this matter. This does not mean or imply that any determination has been made about the conduct of those attorneys who handled the investigation and trial of this case.

And so the ordeal of Ted Stevens comes to an end. He of course is without his senate seat, which was lost just eight days after his conviction. And he has shouldered an enormous emotional and financial burden. Whatever one may think of the man who championed the “Bridge to Nowhere” and who came to epitomize Republicans’ infatuation with pork-barrel spending, he plainly was the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

We are left to ponder how this event affected the current political scene. Well, the Republicans almost certainly would have had one more vote in the Senate. That might have cut off a whole lot of fuss about card check. That might have put additional pressure on one or more of the three moderate Republican defectors on the stimulus bill. And it might have affected countless other close filibuster-able votes over the next two years.

All of this is a painful reminder that prosecutorial power is an awesome weapon with far-reaching implications. We await with interest the adjudication of those federal prosecutors responsible for this awful mess.

We are reminded today of Reagan Labor Secretary Ray Donovan who intoned, “Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?” after he was finally acquitted of wrongdoing in an alleged corruption scheme. In a shocking move, Attorney General Eric Holder released a statement Wednesday morning which read, in part:

In connection with the post-trial litigation in United States v. Theodore F. Stevens, the Department of Justice has conducted a review of the case, including an examination of the extent of the disclosures provided to the defendant. After careful review, I have concluded that certain information should have been provided to the defense for use at trial. In light of this conclusion, and in consideration of the totality of the circumstances of this particular case, I have determined that it is in the interest of justice to dismiss the indictment and not proceed with a new trial.

“The Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility will conduct a thorough review of the prosecution of this matter. This does not mean or imply that any determination has been made about the conduct of those attorneys who handled the investigation and trial of this case.

And so the ordeal of Ted Stevens comes to an end. He of course is without his senate seat, which was lost just eight days after his conviction. And he has shouldered an enormous emotional and financial burden. Whatever one may think of the man who championed the “Bridge to Nowhere” and who came to epitomize Republicans’ infatuation with pork-barrel spending, he plainly was the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

We are left to ponder how this event affected the current political scene. Well, the Republicans almost certainly would have had one more vote in the Senate. That might have cut off a whole lot of fuss about card check. That might have put additional pressure on one or more of the three moderate Republican defectors on the stimulus bill. And it might have affected countless other close filibuster-able votes over the next two years.

All of this is a painful reminder that prosecutorial power is an awesome weapon with far-reaching implications. We await with interest the adjudication of those federal prosecutors responsible for this awful mess.

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Another Skewed Poll

Haaretz is not giving Netanyahu much of a grace period. According to a poll just published, 54 percent of Israelis are “dissatisfied” with the new government. Yet while pundits are justifiably bashing the gargantuan composition — 30 ministerial positions were required to satisfy this bizarre coalition of Left and Right, a government a quarter the size of the Knesset — Haaretz gives us no indication how much of this has contributed to the poll results.

In fact, there is no indication whether the dissatisfaction is coming from the Left or the Right, or both, or neither. As Shmuel Rosner pointed out, Netanyahu is steering his Right-heavy electorate towards dead center, at least as far as his opening-day rhetoric indicates. Nor does Haaretz mention whether dissatisfaction with the new government reflects opposition to its policies. With the media on the attack before Netanyahu has done anything, it’s not even clear whether 54 percent is a large number or, as we may suspect given the tone of Israeli public discourse, a pretty small one.

Haaretz is not giving Netanyahu much of a grace period. According to a poll just published, 54 percent of Israelis are “dissatisfied” with the new government. Yet while pundits are justifiably bashing the gargantuan composition — 30 ministerial positions were required to satisfy this bizarre coalition of Left and Right, a government a quarter the size of the Knesset — Haaretz gives us no indication how much of this has contributed to the poll results.

In fact, there is no indication whether the dissatisfaction is coming from the Left or the Right, or both, or neither. As Shmuel Rosner pointed out, Netanyahu is steering his Right-heavy electorate towards dead center, at least as far as his opening-day rhetoric indicates. Nor does Haaretz mention whether dissatisfaction with the new government reflects opposition to its policies. With the media on the attack before Netanyahu has done anything, it’s not even clear whether 54 percent is a large number or, as we may suspect given the tone of Israeli public discourse, a pretty small one.

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Re: GM in Bankruptcy

Francis, you highlight a couple of key points. First, the degree to which the White House is now assuming direct operational control of a formerly private concern is remarkable. The Wall Street Journal supplies this tidbit:

White House officials said Sunday that Mr. Henderson will be the company’s permanent CEO and they believe he can deliver a satisfactory reorganization in a timely manner. On Tuesday, one administration official said Mr. Henderson is CEO “as long as we’re satisfied he’s executing according to the strong wake-up call we gave GM.”

As long as the White House is satisfied? Indeed, if the president can fire one CEO he can fire another (and replace the board, too). One supposes whatever views Henderson has on matters which might affect his company — from healthcare to card check — better be in line with those of his new bosses.

No matter is too small for the White House:

For example, yesterday GM announced a new “Total Confidence” program for consumers that offers a warranty, an OnStar traveler’s assistance system and a promise to pick up as much as $500 a month of car payments for buyers who lose their jobs.

“The government is aware of it, completely supports it,” Mark LaNeve, head of GM’s U.S. field marketing, said yesterday in announcing the program.

The rationale for keeping GM out of bankruptcy was two-fold: no available financing and the potential damage to consumer confidence. But the government is providing financing and is offering to guarantee warranties. So what is the excuse now?

The real motivation is to spare the UAW the fate of seeing its labor agreement shredded and rewritten. The government is now in essence running a bankruptcy minus the key component of labor contract renegotiation. By forcing bondholders, suppliers, and dealers to take a “haircut,” the government hopes to soften the blow on its Big Labor allies. Perhaps it will “work” and GM can operate profitably with labor obligations that exceed those of its competitors. I suppose there is a first for everything. But make no mistake about what is driving the decision-making here: It’s not the survival of GM; it’s the survival of the UAW.

Francis, you highlight a couple of key points. First, the degree to which the White House is now assuming direct operational control of a formerly private concern is remarkable. The Wall Street Journal supplies this tidbit:

White House officials said Sunday that Mr. Henderson will be the company’s permanent CEO and they believe he can deliver a satisfactory reorganization in a timely manner. On Tuesday, one administration official said Mr. Henderson is CEO “as long as we’re satisfied he’s executing according to the strong wake-up call we gave GM.”

As long as the White House is satisfied? Indeed, if the president can fire one CEO he can fire another (and replace the board, too). One supposes whatever views Henderson has on matters which might affect his company — from healthcare to card check — better be in line with those of his new bosses.

No matter is too small for the White House:

For example, yesterday GM announced a new “Total Confidence” program for consumers that offers a warranty, an OnStar traveler’s assistance system and a promise to pick up as much as $500 a month of car payments for buyers who lose their jobs.

“The government is aware of it, completely supports it,” Mark LaNeve, head of GM’s U.S. field marketing, said yesterday in announcing the program.

The rationale for keeping GM out of bankruptcy was two-fold: no available financing and the potential damage to consumer confidence. But the government is providing financing and is offering to guarantee warranties. So what is the excuse now?

The real motivation is to spare the UAW the fate of seeing its labor agreement shredded and rewritten. The government is now in essence running a bankruptcy minus the key component of labor contract renegotiation. By forcing bondholders, suppliers, and dealers to take a “haircut,” the government hopes to soften the blow on its Big Labor allies. Perhaps it will “work” and GM can operate profitably with labor obligations that exceed those of its competitors. I suppose there is a first for everything. But make no mistake about what is driving the decision-making here: It’s not the survival of GM; it’s the survival of the UAW.

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A Week of Propaganda, I Mean Service, at Yale

This year’s “Week of Service” at Yale sets a new record for linguistic distortion. Of all the recommended activities, only one is related to community service, and even that one is sponsored by a registered Yale undergraduate advocacy organization.  All others are undisguised exercises in political activism.  The “Week of Service” is hardly unofficial: it is funded in various ways by the university, and directly endorsed by its prominent officials.  It is also an embarrassing and politicized farce.

I spent seventeen years at Yale, in many capacities, so none of this shocks me very much.  The national climate is right for such displays as well.  After all, with both the Senate and the House considering ways to implement Obama’s call for increased government funding to national volunteer programs, the basic point that working for the government is not the same thing as serving the public has all but slipped away.

Obama is not creating volunteers but rather community activists who “volunteer” in return for a paycheck: in other words, politicized government employees operating under the guise of apolitical public service — the worst of both worlds. This boils down to redefining volunteerism out of existence by making it an arm of the state.

Indeed, politics are at the heart of the “Week of Service.”  It began on Monday with “Civic Engagement Day”: that means registering to vote and listening to candidates for the New Haven Board of Aldermen debate.  The debate was sponsored by Dwight Hall, the Yale College Council, the Yale College Democrats, the Yale Daily News, and the Yale Political Union — all Republican and conservative groups were conspicuously absent.  Political debate and voter registration are, of course, commendable, but they do not constitute service.  And in this context, they’re far from nonpartisan.

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This year’s “Week of Service” at Yale sets a new record for linguistic distortion. Of all the recommended activities, only one is related to community service, and even that one is sponsored by a registered Yale undergraduate advocacy organization.  All others are undisguised exercises in political activism.  The “Week of Service” is hardly unofficial: it is funded in various ways by the university, and directly endorsed by its prominent officials.  It is also an embarrassing and politicized farce.

I spent seventeen years at Yale, in many capacities, so none of this shocks me very much.  The national climate is right for such displays as well.  After all, with both the Senate and the House considering ways to implement Obama’s call for increased government funding to national volunteer programs, the basic point that working for the government is not the same thing as serving the public has all but slipped away.

Obama is not creating volunteers but rather community activists who “volunteer” in return for a paycheck: in other words, politicized government employees operating under the guise of apolitical public service — the worst of both worlds. This boils down to redefining volunteerism out of existence by making it an arm of the state.

Indeed, politics are at the heart of the “Week of Service.”  It began on Monday with “Civic Engagement Day”: that means registering to vote and listening to candidates for the New Haven Board of Aldermen debate.  The debate was sponsored by Dwight Hall, the Yale College Council, the Yale College Democrats, the Yale Daily News, and the Yale Political Union — all Republican and conservative groups were conspicuously absent.  Political debate and voter registration are, of course, commendable, but they do not constitute service.  And in this context, they’re far from nonpartisan.

Tuesday is “New Haven Solidarity Day”: registering for the politically controversial New Haven Municipal ID Card.  Wednesday is “Social Justice Day”: cooperating with a Latino advocacy group to “campaign . . . against legislation slashing budgets for Latino social service agencies,” and an inter-faith panel on “Religion and Global Women’s Rights” with activist Andrea Blanch.  Thursday brings “Health Advocacy Day”: petitioning “to rally support for the SustiNet bill, which aims to establish universal healthcare in CT,” and during which movies are screened extolling the virtues of public health care, with both activities sponsored by the Public Health Coalition and the College Democrats, as registered undergraduate organizations at Yale.

And Friday is a grab-bag of support for local activist charities, all of which exist in large part to lobby for the passage of their favorite new entitlement.  The Diaper Bank, for instance, is there “to advocate for policy reform so that diapers are included in the definition of and provision for the ‘basic human needs’ of families,” while New Haven Home Recovery expresses fervent support for the Stimulus Act.

With the minor and partial exception of the canned food drive, none of this has any connection to service. It is all about politics.  It is not even balanced — not that it would make it any better — by any activity that makes the slightest nod towards Republicans or conservatives.  Important parts of the event are funded with Yale’s money, which comes in part from current students, in part from donors, and in part from the Federal Government.

The broader point, of course, is that this definition of service is a perversion of the concept, is entirely biased in its application, and constitutes a further, gross politicization of the university. Once volunteers are turned into government employees, they can be recruited directly toward political ends. Perhaps that is the real intent of Obama’s promotion of taxpayer-funded volunteering.

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A Game of Chicken

We are witnessing a high stakes game of chicken. GM’s bondholders are hanging tough, betting bankruptcy is not a real option and hoping to push the company to finally extract substantial concessions from the UAW. Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. explains:

The same administration that inserted itself into GM’s corporate governance to order the resignation of a CEO is hardly likely to defer to the prescribed legal order for a failing company, namely bankruptcy. Even a “prepackaged” filing runs too much risk of a judge imposing more “sacrifice” on the UAW than the administration is prepared to tolerate.

GM bondholders understand this: They’ve been intransigent precisely because they calculate the UAW is too important to Democratic electoral politics for Mr. Obama to risk losing control of the reorganization process to a bankruptcy judge.

The GM bailout has become a political operation run out of the White House. It will stay that way.

We see clearly the dangers of government-run industry. Decisions are made not on the merits, but with an eye toward the most basic political considerations (e.g. unions allies gave hundreds of millions of dollars to elect Obama and the Democrats) and toward furthering other policies which have a negative impact on the profitability of the enterprise.

What’s the end game here? It depends on whether the bondholders can resist the enormous political pressure which is sure to be forthcoming from the White House. If they do, the unions will be forced to budge or be finally thrown into bankruptcy court where their contracts will be rewritten line-by-line. If bondholders cave, the unions would emerge unscathed and the taxpayer-subsidized venture would continue on and on and on.

The bondholders here may get the short end of the stick, but not because they lack legal rights. They are at a disadvantage in the new White House-centric economy because they are puny political players. After all, they represent no distinct political constituency. What really matters in the new era of post-free market capitalism is who can withstand the populist frenzy. That’s now how decisions are made — and how businesses rise or fall.

We are witnessing a high stakes game of chicken. GM’s bondholders are hanging tough, betting bankruptcy is not a real option and hoping to push the company to finally extract substantial concessions from the UAW. Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. explains:

The same administration that inserted itself into GM’s corporate governance to order the resignation of a CEO is hardly likely to defer to the prescribed legal order for a failing company, namely bankruptcy. Even a “prepackaged” filing runs too much risk of a judge imposing more “sacrifice” on the UAW than the administration is prepared to tolerate.

GM bondholders understand this: They’ve been intransigent precisely because they calculate the UAW is too important to Democratic electoral politics for Mr. Obama to risk losing control of the reorganization process to a bankruptcy judge.

The GM bailout has become a political operation run out of the White House. It will stay that way.

We see clearly the dangers of government-run industry. Decisions are made not on the merits, but with an eye toward the most basic political considerations (e.g. unions allies gave hundreds of millions of dollars to elect Obama and the Democrats) and toward furthering other policies which have a negative impact on the profitability of the enterprise.

What’s the end game here? It depends on whether the bondholders can resist the enormous political pressure which is sure to be forthcoming from the White House. If they do, the unions will be forced to budge or be finally thrown into bankruptcy court where their contracts will be rewritten line-by-line. If bondholders cave, the unions would emerge unscathed and the taxpayer-subsidized venture would continue on and on and on.

The bondholders here may get the short end of the stick, but not because they lack legal rights. They are at a disadvantage in the new White House-centric economy because they are puny political players. After all, they represent no distinct political constituency. What really matters in the new era of post-free market capitalism is who can withstand the populist frenzy. That’s now how decisions are made — and how businesses rise or fall.

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GM In Bankruptcy: The Fools Rush In

It’s now clear that the next step forward for GM (“Federal Motors,”although they’ll probably keep their existing ticker symbol) will be very similar to bankruptcy. It’s also clear that, in a move of breathtaking audacity (not to mention hubris), the President of the United States has chosen to become the de facto CEO of the largest (by revenue) American corporation.

GM’s future is much like a bankruptcy because of two things: contract renegotiation, and financing. Its future is unlike bankruptcy in that there will be no enforced performance metrics. And the whole exercise is a radical shift in direction for governmental involvement in private affairs.

Everyone has their pet theory about why GM is failing. People who hate unions blame antiquated, high-cost labor contracts. People who want nationalized health care blame the fact that GM is obliged to buy gold-plated coverage for over a million retirees and their families. And people who hate GM blame its marketing.

All true to some extent. But the proximate reason GM went over the edge, is a collapse in the North American vehicle market. As recently as November, GM executives were saying that they expected the market to return to 16 or 17 million units a year by 2010 or shortly thereafter.

Horsefeathers. Reality will be in the neighborhood of 9 or 10 million units for the foreseeable future, and perhaps beyond. This is the kind of structural transformation in a market that flushes away the older and less-efficient production capacity. We don’t need GM to stay in business.

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It’s now clear that the next step forward for GM (“Federal Motors,”although they’ll probably keep their existing ticker symbol) will be very similar to bankruptcy. It’s also clear that, in a move of breathtaking audacity (not to mention hubris), the President of the United States has chosen to become the de facto CEO of the largest (by revenue) American corporation.

GM’s future is much like a bankruptcy because of two things: contract renegotiation, and financing. Its future is unlike bankruptcy in that there will be no enforced performance metrics. And the whole exercise is a radical shift in direction for governmental involvement in private affairs.

Everyone has their pet theory about why GM is failing. People who hate unions blame antiquated, high-cost labor contracts. People who want nationalized health care blame the fact that GM is obliged to buy gold-plated coverage for over a million retirees and their families. And people who hate GM blame its marketing.

All true to some extent. But the proximate reason GM went over the edge, is a collapse in the North American vehicle market. As recently as November, GM executives were saying that they expected the market to return to 16 or 17 million units a year by 2010 or shortly thereafter.

Horsefeathers. Reality will be in the neighborhood of 9 or 10 million units for the foreseeable future, and perhaps beyond. This is the kind of structural transformation in a market that flushes away the older and less-efficient production capacity. We don’t need GM to stay in business.

As long as GM had the cash flow from operations to stay current on its payments to vendors, dealers and long-term debtholders, it was insulated from ever having to seriously restructure. So it never did.

Now, it’s hemorrhaging about $5 billion a month, by my own count, and restructuring is inevitable.

But no one will provide the financing for GM to operate in a standard Chapter 11 bankruptcy. And no one is willing to see the company go to a Chapter 7 liquidation, which would take hundreds, maybe thousands of other companies along with it.

Because the market is shrinking and changing, a certain amount of the existing capital stock and jobs must go. Free markets make these adjustments quickly, but brutally. Since we live in the Age of Bailouts, however, the liquidation of excess labor and capital will be slow, expensive, and partial at best.

The government (read, the taxpayer) is the only plausible source of debtor-in-possession financing for GM. That much was inevitable, and for months now I’ve been writing that we need to prepare to put at least $50 billion of public money into this company. Maybe $100 billion.

But this company simply has no pathway to return to profitability at anything like its current size, so the process of Chapter 11 bankruptcy would have been a very substantial liquidation — probably a near-total exit from the North American market. (GM’s overseas businesses are actually rather healthy.)

That means the public money that will continue to pour into GM will be wasted. There was no private source of bankruptcy financing for GM because bankers aren’t stupid.

But there’s a really big problem here. Normally when a company goes into emergency mode with nontraditional funding sources like bankruptcy lenders, it has to meet some very strict covenants and performance metrics. Otherwise, its lenders quickly seize the assets and wind up the business. But government doesn’t work that way. If there’s one thing that bureaucratic managers never tolerate, it’s overt failure. That goes double for Congress, who regularly does shockingly expensive and silly things just to prevent bad headlines.

Recognizing failure is something free markets do very well, because the only metric that matters is the bottom line, and when you’re out of money, that’s the end of the game. Government doesn’t work that way.

There’s always more good money to throw after bad.

It didn’t have to be this way. The government should have said: This is disgusting, and we regret it, but in order to save as many jobs as possible, we’re going to enable this company to partially liquidate over18 months without a fire sale, and then we’re going to step back and let some new owners run the business.

Our new President didn’t do that. Instead, he looked at the situation and said: “Hey, if I can run the Free World, an automaker is a slam dunk! How hard can this be?”

This is radical, unprecedented in peacetime, and exceedingly dangerous.

Unique among nations, Americans have always had the happy privilege of understanding that government should have strict limits. The experienced people that for hundreds of years have emerged into our national leadership have always been deeply respectful of those limits.

True leadership respects the lessons of history.

But today, the fools are rushing in where the angels have long feared to tread.

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Shoe: Meet the Other Foot

This is rich:

Justice Department lawyers concluded in an unpublished opinion earlier this year that the historic D.C. voting rights bill pending in Congress is unconstitutional, according to sources briefed on the issue. But Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who supports the measure, ordered up a second opinion from other lawyers in his department and determined that the legislation would pass muster.

I seem to remember this was the root of the complaints about the Bush Justice Department appointees. In particular, Democrats had a vendetta against Hans von Spakovsky who overrode the opinion of career attorneys to assert the legitimacy of voter ID laws — a position ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court. But we can’t have that, the liberals cried and denied von Spakovsky a post with the FEC.

The Washington Post explains:

Holder’s decision to get involved may expose President Obama’s Justice Department to some of the same concerns raised by Democrats during George W. Bush’s presidency.
Democrats claimed then that political considerations infused decisions on subjects including environmental regulations and national security policy. In particular, Bush’s OLC drew criticism when lawyers allegedly shaped their analysis on harsh interrogation tactics and warrantless eavesdropping to fit the views of superiors in the White House.
M. Edward Whelan III, who was a deputy at OLC during the Bush administration, said when informed of the matter that Holder’s decision to override the office’s conclusions amounted to a “blatant abuse” of the office’s purpose.

And the Post dryly recounts:

At his confirmation hearing in January, Holder promised to review OLC opinions issued by the Bush administration. “We don’t change OLC opinions simply because a new administration takes over,” he said. “The review that we would conduct would be a substantive one and reflect the best opinions of probably the best lawyers in the department as to where the law would be, what their opinions should be. It will not be a political process, it will be one based solely on our interpretation of the law.”

So now that Holder overrides the opinion of career attorneys and does specifically what he promised not to do during his confirmation hearing, will he face the wrath of Senators Schumer and Leahy? I think not. But it will make for some interesting oversight hearings.

This is rich:

Justice Department lawyers concluded in an unpublished opinion earlier this year that the historic D.C. voting rights bill pending in Congress is unconstitutional, according to sources briefed on the issue. But Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who supports the measure, ordered up a second opinion from other lawyers in his department and determined that the legislation would pass muster.

I seem to remember this was the root of the complaints about the Bush Justice Department appointees. In particular, Democrats had a vendetta against Hans von Spakovsky who overrode the opinion of career attorneys to assert the legitimacy of voter ID laws — a position ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court. But we can’t have that, the liberals cried and denied von Spakovsky a post with the FEC.

The Washington Post explains:

Holder’s decision to get involved may expose President Obama’s Justice Department to some of the same concerns raised by Democrats during George W. Bush’s presidency.
Democrats claimed then that political considerations infused decisions on subjects including environmental regulations and national security policy. In particular, Bush’s OLC drew criticism when lawyers allegedly shaped their analysis on harsh interrogation tactics and warrantless eavesdropping to fit the views of superiors in the White House.
M. Edward Whelan III, who was a deputy at OLC during the Bush administration, said when informed of the matter that Holder’s decision to override the office’s conclusions amounted to a “blatant abuse” of the office’s purpose.

And the Post dryly recounts:

At his confirmation hearing in January, Holder promised to review OLC opinions issued by the Bush administration. “We don’t change OLC opinions simply because a new administration takes over,” he said. “The review that we would conduct would be a substantive one and reflect the best opinions of probably the best lawyers in the department as to where the law would be, what their opinions should be. It will not be a political process, it will be one based solely on our interpretation of the law.”

So now that Holder overrides the opinion of career attorneys and does specifically what he promised not to do during his confirmation hearing, will he face the wrath of Senators Schumer and Leahy? I think not. But it will make for some interesting oversight hearings.

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Re: Seven Reasons to Stop Iran

We don’t know whether Israel will attack Iran. This issue involves complicated questions: Does Israel have the political will? Does it have the capability? What can it achieve? To what degree (politically and/or technically) does Israel need the approval of the U.S. administration?

Here are two recent answers to this last question. Aluf Benn doesn’t think Israel can act alone:

However, despite our operational capabilities – which remain unproven – many defense experts say an attack against Iran is “too big a mission for Israel.” They raise two main arguments: concerns that Iran’s response will be harsh and start a general war, even if the operation fails, and more importantly, the United States’ determined opposition to an independent Israeli operation. This view is held by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The defense experts say that without a green light from Washington, Netanyahu and Barak will not be able to send in the air force.

But according to the Jeffrey Goldberg piece on Netanyahu (to which Rick Richman referred earlier), Israeli military advisors argue that no American approval is needed:

Neither Netanyahu nor his principal military advisers would suggest a deadline for American progress on the Iran nuclear program, though one aide said pointedly that Israeli time lines are now drawn in months, “not years.” These same military advisers told me that they believe Iran’s defenses remain penetrable, and that Israel would not necessarily need American approval to launch an attack. “The problem is not military capability, the problem is whether you have the stomach, the political will, to take action,” one of his advisers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told me.

If Bibi’s first speech at the Knesset gives any hint as to what Israel might do — it’s the latter view that seems to prevail: “The Jewish people has [sic] experience with dictators and it cannot overestimate megalomaniac dictators who threaten to destroy it,” he said.

And while this is not a guarantee that Israel can actually do it, it’s worth remembering that Netanyahu is a leader and also a politician: he knows that a nuclear Iran might be closer than people might think. The words he utters now will haunt him later if he doesn’t act.

We don’t know whether Israel will attack Iran. This issue involves complicated questions: Does Israel have the political will? Does it have the capability? What can it achieve? To what degree (politically and/or technically) does Israel need the approval of the U.S. administration?

Here are two recent answers to this last question. Aluf Benn doesn’t think Israel can act alone:

However, despite our operational capabilities – which remain unproven – many defense experts say an attack against Iran is “too big a mission for Israel.” They raise two main arguments: concerns that Iran’s response will be harsh and start a general war, even if the operation fails, and more importantly, the United States’ determined opposition to an independent Israeli operation. This view is held by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The defense experts say that without a green light from Washington, Netanyahu and Barak will not be able to send in the air force.

But according to the Jeffrey Goldberg piece on Netanyahu (to which Rick Richman referred earlier), Israeli military advisors argue that no American approval is needed:

Neither Netanyahu nor his principal military advisers would suggest a deadline for American progress on the Iran nuclear program, though one aide said pointedly that Israeli time lines are now drawn in months, “not years.” These same military advisers told me that they believe Iran’s defenses remain penetrable, and that Israel would not necessarily need American approval to launch an attack. “The problem is not military capability, the problem is whether you have the stomach, the political will, to take action,” one of his advisers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told me.

If Bibi’s first speech at the Knesset gives any hint as to what Israel might do — it’s the latter view that seems to prevail: “The Jewish people has [sic] experience with dictators and it cannot overestimate megalomaniac dictators who threaten to destroy it,” he said.

And while this is not a guarantee that Israel can actually do it, it’s worth remembering that Netanyahu is a leader and also a politician: he knows that a nuclear Iran might be closer than people might think. The words he utters now will haunt him later if he doesn’t act.

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Seven Reasons to Stop Iran

Jeffrey Goldberg’s report on his extraordinary interview with Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday was titled “Netanyahu to Obama:  Stop Iran – Or I Will,” but the title misstates both the tone and substance of the interview.  The intended audience was broader than Obama, and the subtitle should more accurately have been “Six Reasons to Stop Iran“:

“Why is this a hinge of history? Several bad results would emanate from this single development [of Iranian nuclear weapons]. First, Iran’s militant proxies would be able to fire rockets and engage in other terror activities while enjoying a nuclear umbrella. This raises the stakes of any confrontation that they’d force on Israel. Instead of being a local event, however painful, it becomes a global one. Second, this development would embolden Islamic militants far and wide, on many continents, who would believe that this is a providential sign, that this fanaticism is on the ultimate road to triumph.

“Third, they would be able to pose a real and credible threat to the supply of oil, to the overwhelming part of the world’s oil supply. Fourth, they may threaten to use these weapons or to give them to terrorist proxies of their own, or fabricate terror proxies. [Fifth], you’d create a great sea change in the balance of power in our area — nearly all the Arab regimes are dead-set opposed to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. They fervently hope, even if they don’t say it, that the U.S. will act to prevent this, that it will use its political, economic, and, if necessary, military power to prevent this from happening.” . . . .

Finally, he said, several countries in Iran’s neighborhood might try to develop nuclear weapons of their own. “Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons could spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. The Middle East is incendiary enough, but with a nuclear arms race it will become a tinderbox,” he said.

All of those reasons transcend Israel’s own compelling reason:  Israel views a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat, not simply a foreign policy disaster — even if Iran does not immediately use its weapon:

Few in Netanyahu’s inner circle believe that Iran has any short-term plans to drop a nuclear weapon on Tel Aviv, should it find a means to deliver it. The first-stage Iranian goal, in the understanding of Netanyahu and his advisers, is to frighten Israel’s most talented citizens into leaving their country.  “The idea is to keep attacking the Israelis on a daily basis, to weaken the willingness of the Jewish people to hold on to their homeland,” Moshe Ya’alon said. “The idea is to make a place that is supposed to be a safe haven for Jews unattractive for them. They are waging a war of attrition.”

. . . Netanyahu and his advisers seem to believe sincerely that Israel would have difficulty surviving in a Middle East dominated by a nuclear Iran. And they are men predisposed to action; many, like Netanyahu, are former commandos.

That should be Reason No. 7, although it was the one left unstated by Netanyahu:  it is a critical American interest to avoid having an ally placed in a position where it is forced to take preemptive military action, in a strategic part of the world already a tinderbox, especially when America has at least six important reasons of its own to act.

Jeffrey Goldberg’s report on his extraordinary interview with Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday was titled “Netanyahu to Obama:  Stop Iran – Or I Will,” but the title misstates both the tone and substance of the interview.  The intended audience was broader than Obama, and the subtitle should more accurately have been “Six Reasons to Stop Iran“:

“Why is this a hinge of history? Several bad results would emanate from this single development [of Iranian nuclear weapons]. First, Iran’s militant proxies would be able to fire rockets and engage in other terror activities while enjoying a nuclear umbrella. This raises the stakes of any confrontation that they’d force on Israel. Instead of being a local event, however painful, it becomes a global one. Second, this development would embolden Islamic militants far and wide, on many continents, who would believe that this is a providential sign, that this fanaticism is on the ultimate road to triumph.

“Third, they would be able to pose a real and credible threat to the supply of oil, to the overwhelming part of the world’s oil supply. Fourth, they may threaten to use these weapons or to give them to terrorist proxies of their own, or fabricate terror proxies. [Fifth], you’d create a great sea change in the balance of power in our area — nearly all the Arab regimes are dead-set opposed to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. They fervently hope, even if they don’t say it, that the U.S. will act to prevent this, that it will use its political, economic, and, if necessary, military power to prevent this from happening.” . . . .

Finally, he said, several countries in Iran’s neighborhood might try to develop nuclear weapons of their own. “Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons could spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. The Middle East is incendiary enough, but with a nuclear arms race it will become a tinderbox,” he said.

All of those reasons transcend Israel’s own compelling reason:  Israel views a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat, not simply a foreign policy disaster — even if Iran does not immediately use its weapon:

Few in Netanyahu’s inner circle believe that Iran has any short-term plans to drop a nuclear weapon on Tel Aviv, should it find a means to deliver it. The first-stage Iranian goal, in the understanding of Netanyahu and his advisers, is to frighten Israel’s most talented citizens into leaving their country.  “The idea is to keep attacking the Israelis on a daily basis, to weaken the willingness of the Jewish people to hold on to their homeland,” Moshe Ya’alon said. “The idea is to make a place that is supposed to be a safe haven for Jews unattractive for them. They are waging a war of attrition.”

. . . Netanyahu and his advisers seem to believe sincerely that Israel would have difficulty surviving in a Middle East dominated by a nuclear Iran. And they are men predisposed to action; many, like Netanyahu, are former commandos.

That should be Reason No. 7, although it was the one left unstated by Netanyahu:  it is a critical American interest to avoid having an ally placed in a position where it is forced to take preemptive military action, in a strategic part of the world already a tinderbox, especially when America has at least six important reasons of its own to act.

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Let the Spinning Begin

The hotly contested NY-20 special election race ended in a near dead-heat. Republican Jim Tedisco was down by 65 votes after round one.  6000 absentee ballots will be counted on April 8. So what to make of it?

If you like the Democratic spin, the Republican failed to match Republican registration figures, and a “comeback trail” story for the Republicans can potentially be short-circuited if Democrat Scott Murphy holds on for the win.

If you like the Republican spin, the Democrats thought they had this in the bag and then blew it. When it came down to GOTV, the Republicans made up 3-4% and all the union help plus the president’s mailer couldn’t maintain the lead. Tedisco ran essentially even in a district that went Democratic in the congressional race just a few months ago by a 62-38% margin. (Obama carried it 51-48%. Although Republicans lead in registration Hillary Clinton carried the district in the Senate race in 2006 as did Chuck Schumer in 2004.)

And of course we have yet to determine a winner. Or undertake the recount. Or go through the lawsuits. And, then, perhaps a House race in upstate New York is just a House race in upstate New York.

The hotly contested NY-20 special election race ended in a near dead-heat. Republican Jim Tedisco was down by 65 votes after round one.  6000 absentee ballots will be counted on April 8. So what to make of it?

If you like the Democratic spin, the Republican failed to match Republican registration figures, and a “comeback trail” story for the Republicans can potentially be short-circuited if Democrat Scott Murphy holds on for the win.

If you like the Republican spin, the Democrats thought they had this in the bag and then blew it. When it came down to GOTV, the Republicans made up 3-4% and all the union help plus the president’s mailer couldn’t maintain the lead. Tedisco ran essentially even in a district that went Democratic in the congressional race just a few months ago by a 62-38% margin. (Obama carried it 51-48%. Although Republicans lead in registration Hillary Clinton carried the district in the Senate race in 2006 as did Chuck Schumer in 2004.)

And of course we have yet to determine a winner. Or undertake the recount. Or go through the lawsuits. And, then, perhaps a House race in upstate New York is just a House race in upstate New York.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

In a sobering interview, Nestle Chairman Peter Brabeck (beginning at 1:27) predicts a “very deep” and “relatively long” recession. He thinks that state intervention in the financial sector should be “fast, strong and short” but instead is “long, shallow and will continue for many years to come.” And inflation? “The stimulus projects that are being put into place mean the printing machines are starting to work.”

Gotta love those Daily News headlines.

A guide to new taxes: “If it exists, it can be taxed.”

Except for Democratic nominees. Yup — there is another one.

Sarah Palin replaced by Newt Gingrich at major GOP fundraiser. The former seems unable to shake her run of unfavorable news. Maybe she doesn’t want to be a 2012 hopeful?

Treasury still is not accounting for TARP funds. Not exactly news, I suppose.

All the GOP senators finally on the same page — on using budget reconciliation to push through healthcare. So they have the nerve to grind the senate to a halt?

Michael Gerson has some interesting stats: “According to the Pew Research Center, the percentage of Americans who disapprove of Obama’s job performance increased by nine points from February to March. Among Catholics as a whole, his disapproval rating jumped 14 points. And among white, non-Hispanic Catholics, the figure doubled — from 20 percent to 41 percent. Catholics are having second thoughts, but it could get much worse.” He argues Catholics in essence are realizing they were hoodwinked into thinking Obama was receptive to their views on social issues. Well, if it makes them feel better, lots of people pegged Obama wrong.

Why isn’t the head of the UAW getting shoved out? Well, he has a legal right to be there, he has a constituency, and it’s not the government’s job to . .  . oh. .  .  wait. Oh puleez. Big Labor spent a fortune to elect Obama and he’s not about to treat them like mere corporate executives.

Did Treasury rig the rules for the toxic asset plan to limit the participants to a few funds? Yup. Imagine if a Republican came up with a get rich quick scheme like this for a handful of financial players.

Judd Gregg: “Instead of tightening Uncle Sam’s belt the way so many American families are cutting back these days, the president’s proposal spends so aggressively that it essentially adds $1 trillion to the debt, on average, every year. Except for some accounting gimmicks, the budget makes no attempt to cut wasteful spending or find savings. It ignores reform for major entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security, which are on track to cost us $67 trillion more than we have over the next 75 years. The new spending is coupled with the largest tax increase in U.S. history — $1.5 trillion over 10 years.” That cabinet thing never would have worked out, I guess.

GOP New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie moves to nail down his conservative base: “Bret Schundler, who became the darling of national conservatives during his nine years as Mayor of Jersey City and won the Republican nomination for Governor in 2001, today endorsed Christopher Christie for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.”

In a sobering interview, Nestle Chairman Peter Brabeck (beginning at 1:27) predicts a “very deep” and “relatively long” recession. He thinks that state intervention in the financial sector should be “fast, strong and short” but instead is “long, shallow and will continue for many years to come.” And inflation? “The stimulus projects that are being put into place mean the printing machines are starting to work.”

Gotta love those Daily News headlines.

A guide to new taxes: “If it exists, it can be taxed.”

Except for Democratic nominees. Yup — there is another one.

Sarah Palin replaced by Newt Gingrich at major GOP fundraiser. The former seems unable to shake her run of unfavorable news. Maybe she doesn’t want to be a 2012 hopeful?

Treasury still is not accounting for TARP funds. Not exactly news, I suppose.

All the GOP senators finally on the same page — on using budget reconciliation to push through healthcare. So they have the nerve to grind the senate to a halt?

Michael Gerson has some interesting stats: “According to the Pew Research Center, the percentage of Americans who disapprove of Obama’s job performance increased by nine points from February to March. Among Catholics as a whole, his disapproval rating jumped 14 points. And among white, non-Hispanic Catholics, the figure doubled — from 20 percent to 41 percent. Catholics are having second thoughts, but it could get much worse.” He argues Catholics in essence are realizing they were hoodwinked into thinking Obama was receptive to their views on social issues. Well, if it makes them feel better, lots of people pegged Obama wrong.

Why isn’t the head of the UAW getting shoved out? Well, he has a legal right to be there, he has a constituency, and it’s not the government’s job to . .  . oh. .  .  wait. Oh puleez. Big Labor spent a fortune to elect Obama and he’s not about to treat them like mere corporate executives.

Did Treasury rig the rules for the toxic asset plan to limit the participants to a few funds? Yup. Imagine if a Republican came up with a get rich quick scheme like this for a handful of financial players.

Judd Gregg: “Instead of tightening Uncle Sam’s belt the way so many American families are cutting back these days, the president’s proposal spends so aggressively that it essentially adds $1 trillion to the debt, on average, every year. Except for some accounting gimmicks, the budget makes no attempt to cut wasteful spending or find savings. It ignores reform for major entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security, which are on track to cost us $67 trillion more than we have over the next 75 years. The new spending is coupled with the largest tax increase in U.S. history — $1.5 trillion over 10 years.” That cabinet thing never would have worked out, I guess.

GOP New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie moves to nail down his conservative base: “Bret Schundler, who became the darling of national conservatives during his nine years as Mayor of Jersey City and won the Republican nomination for Governor in 2001, today endorsed Christopher Christie for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.”

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