Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 7, 2009

Reason to Rush

Many question the Obama team’s approach of trying to achieve several liberal goals all at once. It distracts, conveys political extremism, and simply doesn’t take account of the slow-moving pace of the Congressional calendar. But the president has a point. The 2010 election cycle could turn out more problematic for Democrats than even the most optimistic Republicans may have imagined.

The Senate was fraught with peril for Republicans — Jim Bunning and Arlen Specter looked especially vulnerable. But things change very fast in politics. As the Time’s blog (hardly a cheering section for Republicans) explains:

But then came the Roland Burris/Blago fiasco that has left Dem prospects of holding Obama’s seat in Illinois dicey. Chris Dodd was in melt down mode well before his AIG bonus flap. Democrats are doing everything they can to plaster Mike Bennet’s virtually unknown face all over Colorado. Kirsten Gillibrand is facing primary challenges and the same name recognition issues as Bennet. And Harry Reid has the worst approval ratings of the lot, with just 34% of Nevadans liking the job he’s doing. All of which translates to defending five Democrat incumbents with approval ratings below 50% (not to mention Barbara Boxer who’s hovering @ 52%). Menendez is going to have his hands full on defense now, as well as offense, making for a much more interesting than anticipated 2010 Senate season.

So there is reason for Obama to rush through his ultra-liberal agenda. The only problem: those same red-state Democrats (both in the House and Senate) facing tough elections may not be very anxious to go along. And you see the likes of Evan Bayh ( plus twenty-one other Senate and House Democrats) voting against the budget; you see cap-and-trade losing steam; and there’s even some foot shuffling over nationalized health-care.

The one approach that might actually secure Democrat majorities — a fiscally responsible, moderate course on domestic policy and a robust defense of American interests abroad — seems not to be in the offing for the Obama administration. In November 2010 we’ll see whether the president’s chosen course has been a political miscalculation.

Many question the Obama team’s approach of trying to achieve several liberal goals all at once. It distracts, conveys political extremism, and simply doesn’t take account of the slow-moving pace of the Congressional calendar. But the president has a point. The 2010 election cycle could turn out more problematic for Democrats than even the most optimistic Republicans may have imagined.

The Senate was fraught with peril for Republicans — Jim Bunning and Arlen Specter looked especially vulnerable. But things change very fast in politics. As the Time’s blog (hardly a cheering section for Republicans) explains:

But then came the Roland Burris/Blago fiasco that has left Dem prospects of holding Obama’s seat in Illinois dicey. Chris Dodd was in melt down mode well before his AIG bonus flap. Democrats are doing everything they can to plaster Mike Bennet’s virtually unknown face all over Colorado. Kirsten Gillibrand is facing primary challenges and the same name recognition issues as Bennet. And Harry Reid has the worst approval ratings of the lot, with just 34% of Nevadans liking the job he’s doing. All of which translates to defending five Democrat incumbents with approval ratings below 50% (not to mention Barbara Boxer who’s hovering @ 52%). Menendez is going to have his hands full on defense now, as well as offense, making for a much more interesting than anticipated 2010 Senate season.

So there is reason for Obama to rush through his ultra-liberal agenda. The only problem: those same red-state Democrats (both in the House and Senate) facing tough elections may not be very anxious to go along. And you see the likes of Evan Bayh ( plus twenty-one other Senate and House Democrats) voting against the budget; you see cap-and-trade losing steam; and there’s even some foot shuffling over nationalized health-care.

The one approach that might actually secure Democrat majorities — a fiscally responsible, moderate course on domestic policy and a robust defense of American interests abroad — seems not to be in the offing for the Obama administration. In November 2010 we’ll see whether the president’s chosen course has been a political miscalculation.

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Commentary of the Day

Stephen Goldstein, on Jonathan Tobin:

The US. Arrogant? Dismissive?

Could there be any better example of ARROGANCE than Obama’s assertion that with his election the Planet will begin to heal, the oceans recede and now, his belief that HE can fix the Middle East.

With respect to Israel and the Palestinians, Carter may have tried, Reagen may have tried, the Bushes may have tried, Clinton may have tried but now . . . .

And with respect to Iran and their atomic aspirations, he can’t imagine not being able to offer sufficient incentives to get them off their current path. Hmmm. I think we’ll be able to use that as an example of a “failure of imagination.”

And note the ease with which he DISMISSES critics who, according to Obama as his invokes his false Straw Man, just don’t want to do anything.

Which leads me to my favorite Friedrich Hayek quotation . . . .

“We are ready to accept almost any explanation of the present crisis of our civilization except one: that the present state of the world may be the result of genuine error on our own part and that the pursuit of some of our most cherished ideals has apparently produced results utterly different from those which we expected.”

Stephen Goldstein, on Jonathan Tobin:

The US. Arrogant? Dismissive?

Could there be any better example of ARROGANCE than Obama’s assertion that with his election the Planet will begin to heal, the oceans recede and now, his belief that HE can fix the Middle East.

With respect to Israel and the Palestinians, Carter may have tried, Reagen may have tried, the Bushes may have tried, Clinton may have tried but now . . . .

And with respect to Iran and their atomic aspirations, he can’t imagine not being able to offer sufficient incentives to get them off their current path. Hmmm. I think we’ll be able to use that as an example of a “failure of imagination.”

And note the ease with which he DISMISSES critics who, according to Obama as his invokes his false Straw Man, just don’t want to do anything.

Which leads me to my favorite Friedrich Hayek quotation . . . .

“We are ready to accept almost any explanation of the present crisis of our civilization except one: that the present state of the world may be the result of genuine error on our own part and that the pursuit of some of our most cherished ideals has apparently produced results utterly different from those which we expected.”

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Danger, You Say?

Senator Michael Bennet has come out against card check. With a straight face, Greg Sargent pens:

Now, it’s true that Bennet is talking about the bill as is, which leaves room for compromise. But Bennet is framing EFCA as a potential impediment to getting health care reform done. The danger for labor is that this type of claim could give cover to Dems who want to oppose the measure for other reasons, just as the state of the economy has done.

Well, the “danger” to Big Labor is that since the defection of Arlen Specter they haven’t had a prayer of passing this. Now, they must convince Democrats and Republicans alike that they are so formidable as to warrant a compromise.

As Mickey Kaus has written, there are many reforms that might be appropriate in the arena of federal labor law — but those reforms run both ways. To the extent that Big Labor wants to open up the entire topic, those who oppose card check may want to start talking about labor corruption.

As a general observation, it is interesting to note that despite its huge investment in the 2008 election cycle, Big Labor is unable to secure its top priority. Some ideas are so bad — abolishing the secret ballot, for one — that even Congress won’t approve.

Senator Michael Bennet has come out against card check. With a straight face, Greg Sargent pens:

Now, it’s true that Bennet is talking about the bill as is, which leaves room for compromise. But Bennet is framing EFCA as a potential impediment to getting health care reform done. The danger for labor is that this type of claim could give cover to Dems who want to oppose the measure for other reasons, just as the state of the economy has done.

Well, the “danger” to Big Labor is that since the defection of Arlen Specter they haven’t had a prayer of passing this. Now, they must convince Democrats and Republicans alike that they are so formidable as to warrant a compromise.

As Mickey Kaus has written, there are many reforms that might be appropriate in the arena of federal labor law — but those reforms run both ways. To the extent that Big Labor wants to open up the entire topic, those who oppose card check may want to start talking about labor corruption.

As a general observation, it is interesting to note that despite its huge investment in the 2008 election cycle, Big Labor is unable to secure its top priority. Some ideas are so bad — abolishing the secret ballot, for one — that even Congress won’t approve.

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Don’t Think They’re Not Keeping Score, Mr. President

Let’s face it. We’re in doormat territory at this point. This comes from the land of “resets” and “comrades”:

Iran poses no threat to the United States, Russia said Tuesday, rebuffing a key argument of President Barack Obama on whether to go ahead with a European missile shield bitterly opposed by Moscow.

We’re in uncharted territory. Never – the Carter years included – has an American administration been so deliberate and thorough in spreading the word of an America with its guard down. If you’re Moscow or Pyongyang or Tehran, it’s a free-for-all. No one is minding the store. Take what you want, work in groups, work in shifts, pretend you’re law-abiding or be brazenly criminal. You’ll get the same “have a nice day” from the shopowner either way.

Mark Steyn nailed it earlier:

It’s not just embarassing to hear the so-called “leader of the free world” talking like a 14-year old who’s been up in his room listening to “Imagine” for too long. I fear this presidency has the makings of global tragedy.

Or global triumph. It all depends on where you’re sitting.

Let’s face it. We’re in doormat territory at this point. This comes from the land of “resets” and “comrades”:

Iran poses no threat to the United States, Russia said Tuesday, rebuffing a key argument of President Barack Obama on whether to go ahead with a European missile shield bitterly opposed by Moscow.

We’re in uncharted territory. Never – the Carter years included – has an American administration been so deliberate and thorough in spreading the word of an America with its guard down. If you’re Moscow or Pyongyang or Tehran, it’s a free-for-all. No one is minding the store. Take what you want, work in groups, work in shifts, pretend you’re law-abiding or be brazenly criminal. You’ll get the same “have a nice day” from the shopowner either way.

Mark Steyn nailed it earlier:

It’s not just embarassing to hear the so-called “leader of the free world” talking like a 14-year old who’s been up in his room listening to “Imagine” for too long. I fear this presidency has the makings of global tragedy.

Or global triumph. It all depends on where you’re sitting.

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Tortured Logic at The New Yorker

Over at the New Yorker, Jane Mayer throws a bouquet at Phillipe Sands, the British lawyer whose book, The Torture Team, is now credited for the decision by a Spanish judge to try and indict American officials who were advising the president on how best to fight al Qaeda.

Sands, with Mayer’s support, argues that putting physical pressure on terrorists who were complicit in planning mass murder on American soil is an evil act that must be punished. In their bizzaro world, the terrorists are the innocent victims and the people tasked with defending the American people against these Islamist killers are the bad guys.

What’s worse is that Sands is permitted to trot out his mother’s family’s Viennese Jewish background and their suffering under the Nazis, as justification for his own attack on those who were fighting al Qaeda. The self-righteous Brit has no sense of irony. Would he have indicted those Americans or British intelligence officers who put some physical pressure on Nazis to extract information on Hitler’s next targets? Or indict the civilians who advised Winston Churchill to bomb Nazi targets at the possible cost of German civilian lives? Does he care that the people he would shield against the legitimate efforts of Western intelligence agencies to stop their crimes are, in fact, followers of an ideology that promotes mass murder against Jews — and other infidels — in our own day?

As it turns out, former undersecretary of defense Douglas Feith, one of the targets of Sands’s wildly inaccurate charges, is himself the son of a Holocaust survivor. One may disagree with his politics or even with some of the decisions he and others in the administration made after 9/11. But Sands, and others who use the Holocaust as a prop in their efforts to besmirch those who have defended our liberties, are the real disgrace.

Over at the New Yorker, Jane Mayer throws a bouquet at Phillipe Sands, the British lawyer whose book, The Torture Team, is now credited for the decision by a Spanish judge to try and indict American officials who were advising the president on how best to fight al Qaeda.

Sands, with Mayer’s support, argues that putting physical pressure on terrorists who were complicit in planning mass murder on American soil is an evil act that must be punished. In their bizzaro world, the terrorists are the innocent victims and the people tasked with defending the American people against these Islamist killers are the bad guys.

What’s worse is that Sands is permitted to trot out his mother’s family’s Viennese Jewish background and their suffering under the Nazis, as justification for his own attack on those who were fighting al Qaeda. The self-righteous Brit has no sense of irony. Would he have indicted those Americans or British intelligence officers who put some physical pressure on Nazis to extract information on Hitler’s next targets? Or indict the civilians who advised Winston Churchill to bomb Nazi targets at the possible cost of German civilian lives? Does he care that the people he would shield against the legitimate efforts of Western intelligence agencies to stop their crimes are, in fact, followers of an ideology that promotes mass murder against Jews — and other infidels — in our own day?

As it turns out, former undersecretary of defense Douglas Feith, one of the targets of Sands’s wildly inaccurate charges, is himself the son of a Holocaust survivor. One may disagree with his politics or even with some of the decisions he and others in the administration made after 9/11. But Sands, and others who use the Holocaust as a prop in their efforts to besmirch those who have defended our liberties, are the real disgrace.

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Re: Both, Both, Both

Here’s some additional moral equivalence from our president, speaking in Turkey:

Obama ended his first overseas trip as president with an appeal to the world to put aside stereotypes and misconceptions: the view by many Muslims that Israel is to blame for all problems, similar views in reverse by “some of my Jewish friends.”

This is the oldie but goodie that sets up Muslim anti-Semitism as the mirror image of Muslim-hatred among Jews. If you keep going down this road, you’ll hear about how similar Jews and Muslims are in oh so many ways, from their dietary laws to their “pride,” etc. One of the internal contradictions of political correctness dictates that every culture is at once uniquely precious and also not very different from any other culture. But with the Free World increasingly inclined to demonize every defensive Israeli action, positing this kind of moral equivalence is profoundly irresponsible.

It’s baby talk. And it will not hasten peace between Israel and the Palestinians because it deliberately evades the truth. The Muslim world today is infected with a widespread Jew hatred for which there is no reverse phenomenon in Jewish populations. President Obama claims to be on a “listening” tour. If so, there is no shortage of voices willing to go on record. From the Iranian mobs who call daily for the destruction of Israel, to the majority of Israelis who favor the establishment of a peaceful Palestinian state. Obama himself, however, just admitted to having some very misrepresentative “Jewish friends.”

Here’s some additional moral equivalence from our president, speaking in Turkey:

Obama ended his first overseas trip as president with an appeal to the world to put aside stereotypes and misconceptions: the view by many Muslims that Israel is to blame for all problems, similar views in reverse by “some of my Jewish friends.”

This is the oldie but goodie that sets up Muslim anti-Semitism as the mirror image of Muslim-hatred among Jews. If you keep going down this road, you’ll hear about how similar Jews and Muslims are in oh so many ways, from their dietary laws to their “pride,” etc. One of the internal contradictions of political correctness dictates that every culture is at once uniquely precious and also not very different from any other culture. But with the Free World increasingly inclined to demonize every defensive Israeli action, positing this kind of moral equivalence is profoundly irresponsible.

It’s baby talk. And it will not hasten peace between Israel and the Palestinians because it deliberately evades the truth. The Muslim world today is infected with a widespread Jew hatred for which there is no reverse phenomenon in Jewish populations. President Obama claims to be on a “listening” tour. If so, there is no shortage of voices willing to go on record. From the Iranian mobs who call daily for the destruction of Israel, to the majority of Israelis who favor the establishment of a peaceful Palestinian state. Obama himself, however, just admitted to having some very misrepresentative “Jewish friends.”

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What Disarmament Means for Israel

What Anne Appelbaum calls Obama’s Odd Obsession with Universal Nuclear Disarmament holds a special meaning for Israel. As I wrote a couple of months ago, Israeli officials have long realized this could mean trouble — especially because Obama’s plan might focus on a treaty Israel became familiar with during the Clinton years, banning the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for nuclear explosives (the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, FMCT).

That would be a rollback in U.S. policy and a move toward the approach of President Bill Clinton, who called in 1993 for such a production ban. Two years later, the U.N. Conference on Disarmament took up discussions of a treaty to accomplish that — in part to try to halt weapons-enrichment programs in India, Pakistan and Israel, which had not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty and thus were not subject to any international inspection regimen. In 2000, those three countries, the Clinton administration and the Conference on Disarmament agreed to pursue negotiations toward a Fissile Materials Cut-Off Treaty.

Israel wasn’t happy with this initiative ten years ago, and I don’t think its position has changed much since:

Ten years ago, Bill Clinton’s administration demanded that Israel not raise any obstacles with respect to this treaty. The prime minister at the time, Benjamin Netanyahu, acquiesced unenthusiastically to the pressures. A few months later, when he signed the Wye agreement with the Palestinians, Netanyahu asked for and received from Clinton a written commitment that American moves toward weapons control would not harm Israel’s deterrent capability. In the summer of 1999, then-prime minister Ehud Barak received a similar letter.

As things turn out, we might be approaching a new round of Clinton (this time Hillary) vs. Netanyahu. In 1999, Professor Shai Feldman (today at Brandeis University) wrote a paper for the Institute for National Security Studies, outlining Israel’s point of view toward the FMCT:

[T]he objectives of the proposed treaty to ban the production of fissile material – plutonium and enriched uranium – would serve Israel’s national security interests by freezing the present distribution of nuclear capabilities in the Middle East. Yet to secure these interests, certain conditions related to the treaty text, the associated verification procedures, and U.S.-Israeli defense relations would have to be met. Meeting these imperatives would be necessary to ensure that Israeli deterrence remain intact until political and strategic conditions in the region allow progress in arms control in Middle East, beyond the capping of nuclear programs.

What has changed since 1999 may have an impact on Israel’s thinking: with Iran advancing uninterrupted toward its goal of obtaining nuclear capabilities, Israel will now be even more suspicious toward the FMCT.

What Anne Appelbaum calls Obama’s Odd Obsession with Universal Nuclear Disarmament holds a special meaning for Israel. As I wrote a couple of months ago, Israeli officials have long realized this could mean trouble — especially because Obama’s plan might focus on a treaty Israel became familiar with during the Clinton years, banning the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for nuclear explosives (the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, FMCT).

That would be a rollback in U.S. policy and a move toward the approach of President Bill Clinton, who called in 1993 for such a production ban. Two years later, the U.N. Conference on Disarmament took up discussions of a treaty to accomplish that — in part to try to halt weapons-enrichment programs in India, Pakistan and Israel, which had not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty and thus were not subject to any international inspection regimen. In 2000, those three countries, the Clinton administration and the Conference on Disarmament agreed to pursue negotiations toward a Fissile Materials Cut-Off Treaty.

Israel wasn’t happy with this initiative ten years ago, and I don’t think its position has changed much since:

Ten years ago, Bill Clinton’s administration demanded that Israel not raise any obstacles with respect to this treaty. The prime minister at the time, Benjamin Netanyahu, acquiesced unenthusiastically to the pressures. A few months later, when he signed the Wye agreement with the Palestinians, Netanyahu asked for and received from Clinton a written commitment that American moves toward weapons control would not harm Israel’s deterrent capability. In the summer of 1999, then-prime minister Ehud Barak received a similar letter.

As things turn out, we might be approaching a new round of Clinton (this time Hillary) vs. Netanyahu. In 1999, Professor Shai Feldman (today at Brandeis University) wrote a paper for the Institute for National Security Studies, outlining Israel’s point of view toward the FMCT:

[T]he objectives of the proposed treaty to ban the production of fissile material – plutonium and enriched uranium – would serve Israel’s national security interests by freezing the present distribution of nuclear capabilities in the Middle East. Yet to secure these interests, certain conditions related to the treaty text, the associated verification procedures, and U.S.-Israeli defense relations would have to be met. Meeting these imperatives would be necessary to ensure that Israeli deterrence remain intact until political and strategic conditions in the region allow progress in arms control in Middle East, beyond the capping of nuclear programs.

What has changed since 1999 may have an impact on Israel’s thinking: with Iran advancing uninterrupted toward its goal of obtaining nuclear capabilities, Israel will now be even more suspicious toward the FMCT.

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Unions and Self-Destruction

Is there anything sweeter to behold than those who most strongly champion wrong-headed ideals being hoisted on their own petard?

If there is, I don’t want to know about it.

For years and years, many people have said unions have outgrown their roots, have abandoned their initial ideals, and have turned into self-serving organizations that inflict grave harm on businesses at the expense of their membership. Their traditional supporters have nevertheless defended unions as serving vital functions, but now the worm may be turning.

First up, the Service Employees International Union: This union or unions of a troubled past was recently the target of — all things — a complaint with the Department of Labor over unfair labor practices. The the union finds itself in the awkward position of arguing that it is not a union-busting employer.

Now we have another union champion with union troubles. The Boston Globe has been a financial burden on the New York Times since the Gray Lady bought it back in 1993. Here’s the latest development: “The Times has threatened to shut down the beleaguered broadsheet if the paper’s 13 unions don’t come up with $20 million in concessions by May 1 — including the elimination of lifetime job guarantees.”

Now the unionized Globe employees are howling (anonymously, of course), but with whom are they angry? Not the Times – they’ve known this was coming for a while — but their union, which apparently sat on the Times’s ultimatum instead of calling an emergency meeting to inform the members and allow them to discuss a response.

The Globe has long been a staunch champion of unions. They have tirelessly campaigned on behalf of the Orwellian-named “Employee Free Choice Act,” and have never found a union excess they couldn’t whitewash.

Until just now, that is. Now, as it faces massive barrels of red ink while looking at thoroughly feather-bedded employee rolls, lifetime employment contracts, and grossly-overpaid staffers, the Boston Globe finds itself having to live up to the ideals it espoused for others. Facing the threat that it mocked and denied, the stalwart defender of unions must now wrest back concessions from its own unions.

Is there anything sweeter to behold than those who most strongly champion wrong-headed ideals being hoisted on their own petard?

If there is, I don’t want to know about it.

For years and years, many people have said unions have outgrown their roots, have abandoned their initial ideals, and have turned into self-serving organizations that inflict grave harm on businesses at the expense of their membership. Their traditional supporters have nevertheless defended unions as serving vital functions, but now the worm may be turning.

First up, the Service Employees International Union: This union or unions of a troubled past was recently the target of — all things — a complaint with the Department of Labor over unfair labor practices. The the union finds itself in the awkward position of arguing that it is not a union-busting employer.

Now we have another union champion with union troubles. The Boston Globe has been a financial burden on the New York Times since the Gray Lady bought it back in 1993. Here’s the latest development: “The Times has threatened to shut down the beleaguered broadsheet if the paper’s 13 unions don’t come up with $20 million in concessions by May 1 — including the elimination of lifetime job guarantees.”

Now the unionized Globe employees are howling (anonymously, of course), but with whom are they angry? Not the Times – they’ve known this was coming for a while — but their union, which apparently sat on the Times’s ultimatum instead of calling an emergency meeting to inform the members and allow them to discuss a response.

The Globe has long been a staunch champion of unions. They have tirelessly campaigned on behalf of the Orwellian-named “Employee Free Choice Act,” and have never found a union excess they couldn’t whitewash.

Until just now, that is. Now, as it faces massive barrels of red ink while looking at thoroughly feather-bedded employee rolls, lifetime employment contracts, and grossly-overpaid staffers, the Boston Globe finds itself having to live up to the ideals it espoused for others. Facing the threat that it mocked and denied, the stalwart defender of unions must now wrest back concessions from its own unions.

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The Three Most Important Initials for 2010: “P-M-A”

Slowly but surely, a big, messy, ugly scandal is creeping up on Congress. It may make the Abramoff scandal look inconsequential by comparison.

Even the New York Times is waking up:

Federal law enforcement officials who raided the lobbyist Paul Magliocchetti’s PMA Group appear to be examining the firm’s relationship with Representative Peter J. Visclosky, a low-profile lawmaker with big influence over federal spending, people familiar with the matter said this week.

Soon he may not be so low-profile. And as we “follow the money,” the most important question for the 2010 congressional election may be: Did he or she take PMA money?

Indeed it may already be spelling trouble for for Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, who is contemplating a primary challenge to Kirsten Gillibrand:

McCarthy’s top contributor this cycle is the now-defunct PMA Group. In the current election cycle, McCarthy has received $23,500 either directly from the PMA Group or from its employees. . .That’s roughly double the next highest donor. Over the course of her career, McCarthy has received $43,200 from the PMA Group.

Oh, and McCarthy voted against an ethics investigation into the relationship between congressmen and the PMA Group. PMA’s money was well spent: she secured $1M in earmarks for PMA’s clients.

A cursory look at this handy and shocking inventory of the PMA earmarks and the corresponding campaign contributions (which no doubt greased the skids for the PMA largess) gives one a sense of how widespread the scandal may be. So Democrats might begin to think twice about blocking inquiry into the ties between PMA and Congress members. Running interference for the likes of Jack Murtha and James Moran may prove injurious to one’s political health.

Slowly but surely, a big, messy, ugly scandal is creeping up on Congress. It may make the Abramoff scandal look inconsequential by comparison.

Even the New York Times is waking up:

Federal law enforcement officials who raided the lobbyist Paul Magliocchetti’s PMA Group appear to be examining the firm’s relationship with Representative Peter J. Visclosky, a low-profile lawmaker with big influence over federal spending, people familiar with the matter said this week.

Soon he may not be so low-profile. And as we “follow the money,” the most important question for the 2010 congressional election may be: Did he or she take PMA money?

Indeed it may already be spelling trouble for for Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, who is contemplating a primary challenge to Kirsten Gillibrand:

McCarthy’s top contributor this cycle is the now-defunct PMA Group. In the current election cycle, McCarthy has received $23,500 either directly from the PMA Group or from its employees. . .That’s roughly double the next highest donor. Over the course of her career, McCarthy has received $43,200 from the PMA Group.

Oh, and McCarthy voted against an ethics investigation into the relationship between congressmen and the PMA Group. PMA’s money was well spent: she secured $1M in earmarks for PMA’s clients.

A cursory look at this handy and shocking inventory of the PMA earmarks and the corresponding campaign contributions (which no doubt greased the skids for the PMA largess) gives one a sense of how widespread the scandal may be. So Democrats might begin to think twice about blocking inquiry into the ties between PMA and Congress members. Running interference for the likes of Jack Murtha and James Moran may prove injurious to one’s political health.

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Re: We Need an Ambassador in Iraq

In response to my post suggesting that Senator Sam Brownback should stop holding up Chris Hill’s nomination to be U.S. ambassador to Iraq, I received an interesting email from a senior former Bush administration official. He agreed that I could share it as long as I didn’t use his name:

I agree with your post this morning on Chris.  I had the same differences with him over 6 PT [six party talks with North Korea] as Brownback and he wouldn’t have been my choice for Baghdad, but 1) absent some gross dereliction or other disqualifying factor the President deserves to have the diplomatic team of his choice, 2) Dave [Petraeus] and Ray O[dierno] really are anxious to have their civilian partner in place to take advantage of the progress we have made.  I think Brownback should let Chris have an up or down vote ASAP.  That is a different question than whether or not Brownback/Kyl or others want to vote against him to make a point.

In response to my post suggesting that Senator Sam Brownback should stop holding up Chris Hill’s nomination to be U.S. ambassador to Iraq, I received an interesting email from a senior former Bush administration official. He agreed that I could share it as long as I didn’t use his name:

I agree with your post this morning on Chris.  I had the same differences with him over 6 PT [six party talks with North Korea] as Brownback and he wouldn’t have been my choice for Baghdad, but 1) absent some gross dereliction or other disqualifying factor the President deserves to have the diplomatic team of his choice, 2) Dave [Petraeus] and Ray O[dierno] really are anxious to have their civilian partner in place to take advantage of the progress we have made.  I think Brownback should let Chris have an up or down vote ASAP.  That is a different question than whether or not Brownback/Kyl or others want to vote against him to make a point.

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Responding to the Obama State

By now almost everyone agrees the numbers are staggering. Since Barack Obama took his oath of office around 11 weeks ago, he has proposed a $3.6 trillion budget, which will create a deficit this year of almost $1.8 trillion. This amounts to 12.3 percent of the GDP, up from 3.2 percent in 2008 and 1.2 percent in 2007. The President’s budget was submitted in conjunction with a $410 billion omnibus spending bill, complete with some 8,500 earmarks. This legislation, in turn, came in the aftermath of a $787 billion stimulus package.

On top of this almost $5 trillion figure we need to add the $250 billion the Obama administration has already signaled is likely to be needed for the second installment of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). More is sure to follow. Obama has also established a 10-year fund for health care which will cost more than $630 billion. Because of Obama’s plans, we will need to borrow anywhere from $3 — $4 trillion over the next three years and, based on the Congressional Budget Office’s figures, the President will add around $9.3 trillion to our debt from 2009 to 2019. To put it another way: Obama will double the national debt in five years and nearly triple the national debt in ten years. And for good measure, the President wants to impose a tax increase of well over a trillion dollars over 10 years.

Enormous economic and political consequences are likely to flow from Obama’s actions.

On the economic front, it’s quite likely that the combination of massive deficits, higher marginal tax rates, and a much larger role by the public sector in the economy (especially in health care and energy, if Obama gets his way) will be injurious: penalizing and discouraging the investor class and the creation of small businesses; hampering innovation; increasing dependency on the state; and piling up an unprecedented debt burden. The government will need to print vast sums of money in order to finance our debt, generating a huge increase in the money supply, making high inflation and interest rates a real possibility. President Obama is pursuing policies that have historically led to distortions and disruptions in the economy, the subsidization of programs and industries that are inefficient, and severing the link between reward and effort.

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

By now almost everyone agrees the numbers are staggering. Since Barack Obama took his oath of office around 11 weeks ago, he has proposed a $3.6 trillion budget, which will create a deficit this year of almost $1.8 trillion. This amounts to 12.3 percent of the GDP, up from 3.2 percent in 2008 and 1.2 percent in 2007. The President’s budget was submitted in conjunction with a $410 billion omnibus spending bill, complete with some 8,500 earmarks. This legislation, in turn, came in the aftermath of a $787 billion stimulus package.

On top of this almost $5 trillion figure we need to add the $250 billion the Obama administration has already signaled is likely to be needed for the second installment of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). More is sure to follow. Obama has also established a 10-year fund for health care which will cost more than $630 billion. Because of Obama’s plans, we will need to borrow anywhere from $3 — $4 trillion over the next three years and, based on the Congressional Budget Office’s figures, the President will add around $9.3 trillion to our debt from 2009 to 2019. To put it another way: Obama will double the national debt in five years and nearly triple the national debt in ten years. And for good measure, the President wants to impose a tax increase of well over a trillion dollars over 10 years.

Enormous economic and political consequences are likely to flow from Obama’s actions.

On the economic front, it’s quite likely that the combination of massive deficits, higher marginal tax rates, and a much larger role by the public sector in the economy (especially in health care and energy, if Obama gets his way) will be injurious: penalizing and discouraging the investor class and the creation of small businesses; hampering innovation; increasing dependency on the state; and piling up an unprecedented debt burden. The government will need to print vast sums of money in order to finance our debt, generating a huge increase in the money supply, making high inflation and interest rates a real possibility. President Obama is pursuing policies that have historically led to distortions and disruptions in the economy, the subsidization of programs and industries that are inefficient, and severing the link between reward and effort.

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The Times: Obama’s Favorite Device: “Straw Men”

Somebody must not have been paying attention at the New York Times foreign desk this morning. In a story published on their website about a speech President Obama gave to an audience of students in Turkey, Times reporter Helene Cooper committed a major act of lèse majesté. Rather than merely dutifully reporting Obama’s rhetorical excesses, she actually noted what he was doing in the course of defending his foreign policy:

He often reverted to his favorite rhetorical devices — straw men — to make his points to the students. For instance, he said that “some people say that I’m being too idealistic” and ask him why he’s reaching out to Iranians, saying that trying to use diplomacy to stop Iran from getting a nuclear bomb is “too hard.”

Wow! Does that mean the Times actually understands that Obama’s campaign of tearing down his predecessor’s policies with  references to “arrogance” is nothing but a crock? And that criticism of his outreach to Iran isn’t based on opposition to his openhearted “idealism,” but on his appeasing a brutal regime that smells weakness?

Barack Hussein Obama, as he has been introduced at every stop in Turkey, has been getting the endless Camelot treatment by the press since he was elected last November. Can it be that somebody on the bus is getting a little tired of his routine and is starting to notice that our new emperor of cool has no rhetorical clothes?

It is also worth noting that both in his speech to the Turkish students and the similar one he gave yesterday to the Turkish parliament, Obama waved the flag of Palestinian statehood as part of his outreach effort to the Muslim world. But in neither speech did he mention that the Palestinians are currently led by Hamas in Gaza and that the so-called moderates of Fatah hold onto control in the West Bank only by virtue of Israeli military support. Hamas’s rejectionism and vicious anti-Jewish hatred is an insurmountable barrier to any hope for peace. Unfortunately, the Turkish government’s support for recognition of Hamas is a barrier to peace as well. But as Ms. Cooper rightly pointed out, President Obama is too busy swinging away at his favorite straw men to pay any attention to real problems.

Somebody must not have been paying attention at the New York Times foreign desk this morning. In a story published on their website about a speech President Obama gave to an audience of students in Turkey, Times reporter Helene Cooper committed a major act of lèse majesté. Rather than merely dutifully reporting Obama’s rhetorical excesses, she actually noted what he was doing in the course of defending his foreign policy:

He often reverted to his favorite rhetorical devices — straw men — to make his points to the students. For instance, he said that “some people say that I’m being too idealistic” and ask him why he’s reaching out to Iranians, saying that trying to use diplomacy to stop Iran from getting a nuclear bomb is “too hard.”

Wow! Does that mean the Times actually understands that Obama’s campaign of tearing down his predecessor’s policies with  references to “arrogance” is nothing but a crock? And that criticism of his outreach to Iran isn’t based on opposition to his openhearted “idealism,” but on his appeasing a brutal regime that smells weakness?

Barack Hussein Obama, as he has been introduced at every stop in Turkey, has been getting the endless Camelot treatment by the press since he was elected last November. Can it be that somebody on the bus is getting a little tired of his routine and is starting to notice that our new emperor of cool has no rhetorical clothes?

It is also worth noting that both in his speech to the Turkish students and the similar one he gave yesterday to the Turkish parliament, Obama waved the flag of Palestinian statehood as part of his outreach effort to the Muslim world. But in neither speech did he mention that the Palestinians are currently led by Hamas in Gaza and that the so-called moderates of Fatah hold onto control in the West Bank only by virtue of Israeli military support. Hamas’s rejectionism and vicious anti-Jewish hatred is an insurmountable barrier to any hope for peace. Unfortunately, the Turkish government’s support for recognition of Hamas is a barrier to peace as well. But as Ms. Cooper rightly pointed out, President Obama is too busy swinging away at his favorite straw men to pay any attention to real problems.

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How Many Hours for $8M?

Last Friday afternoon, in a typical bad-news dump, the Obama administration released information about the earnings of certain top officials and their connections to Wall Street firms at the center of the financial crisis, some of which are receiving government bailouts. Heading the list was Larry Summers, who received more than $8M from a hedge fund and speaking fees from a number of financial firms. So what’s wrong here?

For starters, as Stephen Moore argues, the huge payments in the year running up to the election create, at the very least, the appearance that these firms were currying favor with Summers because he was headed for the Obama administration. Perhaps it would help to know how many hours he spent working to earn that $8M.

Moreover, this revelation flies in the face of the Obama populist rhetoric and tut-tutting that all of these firms behaved irresponsibly in their compensation practices. Was it irresponsible to give millions to Summers? Perhaps Summers should give back the money as a sign of good faith (as they demanded of the AIG execs). Just how convincing is the call for government regulation of the greed-mongers, coming from a team that collected their loot before deciding it was improper and excessive?

And finally, it would be interesting to know whether these people received ethics waivers. After all, millions and millions were collected by Summers, Carol Browner, James Jones, etc. from firms and industries that now fall within their purview. One has to question what Swiss cheese system of rules allows all these people to slip through to their current positions.

All in all, this development should temper some of the Obama’s administration’s over-the-top vilification of business. But it won’t. It was the other guys who were greedy and irresponsible with other people’s money.

Last Friday afternoon, in a typical bad-news dump, the Obama administration released information about the earnings of certain top officials and their connections to Wall Street firms at the center of the financial crisis, some of which are receiving government bailouts. Heading the list was Larry Summers, who received more than $8M from a hedge fund and speaking fees from a number of financial firms. So what’s wrong here?

For starters, as Stephen Moore argues, the huge payments in the year running up to the election create, at the very least, the appearance that these firms were currying favor with Summers because he was headed for the Obama administration. Perhaps it would help to know how many hours he spent working to earn that $8M.

Moreover, this revelation flies in the face of the Obama populist rhetoric and tut-tutting that all of these firms behaved irresponsibly in their compensation practices. Was it irresponsible to give millions to Summers? Perhaps Summers should give back the money as a sign of good faith (as they demanded of the AIG execs). Just how convincing is the call for government regulation of the greed-mongers, coming from a team that collected their loot before deciding it was improper and excessive?

And finally, it would be interesting to know whether these people received ethics waivers. After all, millions and millions were collected by Summers, Carol Browner, James Jones, etc. from firms and industries that now fall within their purview. One has to question what Swiss cheese system of rules allows all these people to slip through to their current positions.

All in all, this development should temper some of the Obama’s administration’s over-the-top vilification of business. But it won’t. It was the other guys who were greedy and irresponsible with other people’s money.

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The Unknowns of Missile Defense

Two days after North Korea launched its Taepodong-2 rocket, Israel’s anti-missile system, the Arrow II, passed another critical test. Given Iran’s recent advances on the road to ICBM’s, its close cooperation with North Korea, and the world’s tepid response to Kim Jong Il’s latest provocation, it is reassuring to see that Israel is making progress in building its missile defenses.

Still, there is very little understanding of what happens when an incoming missile is hit – especially when the missile carries a non-conventional, possibly nuclear warhead. Where does the debris fall? What damage does it cause? What about the non-conventional warhead? Does it explode on impact? If it does, who suffers? Who pays for the damage? Who takes legal responsibility for the side-effects? There is little known about the answers to these questions. Which suggests that, clearly, if your enemies have nuclear tipped ICBM’s, it is a very good thing you have the Arrow II (or III, or IV…), but ultimately, prevention works best.

Two days after North Korea launched its Taepodong-2 rocket, Israel’s anti-missile system, the Arrow II, passed another critical test. Given Iran’s recent advances on the road to ICBM’s, its close cooperation with North Korea, and the world’s tepid response to Kim Jong Il’s latest provocation, it is reassuring to see that Israel is making progress in building its missile defenses.

Still, there is very little understanding of what happens when an incoming missile is hit – especially when the missile carries a non-conventional, possibly nuclear warhead. Where does the debris fall? What damage does it cause? What about the non-conventional warhead? Does it explode on impact? If it does, who suffers? Who pays for the damage? Who takes legal responsibility for the side-effects? There is little known about the answers to these questions. Which suggests that, clearly, if your enemies have nuclear tipped ICBM’s, it is a very good thing you have the Arrow II (or III, or IV…), but ultimately, prevention works best.

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Post-Realism

Bret Stephens counsels the president:

Barack Obama vowed to turn to the U.N. Security Council for strong action following North Korea’s weekend missile launch. He would have done better by turning to Dr. Phil.

So, as the good doctor likes to say: Get real. Get real about North Korea. Get real about the U.N. Get real, also, about NATO, arms control, Russia, the global financial system, and every other item headlining the president’s unreality tour through the capitals of Europe.

Really, we were going to get the return of the hard-nosed realists, the people who eschewed utopian visions of a world that could be remodeled in our image and who would stick to the nitty-gritty business of defending America’s most pressing interests. But all of that seems forgotten in a spasm of  feel-good aspirational diplomacy. It is as if the nuclear freeze crowd from the Cold War awoke from a quarter-century slumber, missed the part about burying the Soviets in an arms race and have picked up where they left off.

And what about the “international community” and the UN, whose company Obama craves? Well, their inability to do anything have made them useless. As Charles Krauthammer aptly put it: “If he had gone to Oz it would have had more effectiveness.”

The good news, as Stephens points out, is that the president’s charm-based foreign policy is not all that effective in moving other countries to do things which might make things worse:

At the G-20 Summit in London, the Europeans failed to get the U.S. to sign up to a new global regulatory agency, and the U.S. failed to convince the Europeans to dig themselves even deeper into debt — a win for both sides, albeit unintentionally.

The bad news: our enemies  profit by ineffectiveness and move ahead with their designs while we dither. Dimitri Medvedev may call Obama his “new comrade,” but he’s not about to agree to sanctions against North Korea. And Iran is watching and learning just how unresponsive to provocations the new president is. Their nuclear program moves ahead. One wonders what it will take for Obama to get real.

Bret Stephens counsels the president:

Barack Obama vowed to turn to the U.N. Security Council for strong action following North Korea’s weekend missile launch. He would have done better by turning to Dr. Phil.

So, as the good doctor likes to say: Get real. Get real about North Korea. Get real about the U.N. Get real, also, about NATO, arms control, Russia, the global financial system, and every other item headlining the president’s unreality tour through the capitals of Europe.

Really, we were going to get the return of the hard-nosed realists, the people who eschewed utopian visions of a world that could be remodeled in our image and who would stick to the nitty-gritty business of defending America’s most pressing interests. But all of that seems forgotten in a spasm of  feel-good aspirational diplomacy. It is as if the nuclear freeze crowd from the Cold War awoke from a quarter-century slumber, missed the part about burying the Soviets in an arms race and have picked up where they left off.

And what about the “international community” and the UN, whose company Obama craves? Well, their inability to do anything have made them useless. As Charles Krauthammer aptly put it: “If he had gone to Oz it would have had more effectiveness.”

The good news, as Stephens points out, is that the president’s charm-based foreign policy is not all that effective in moving other countries to do things which might make things worse:

At the G-20 Summit in London, the Europeans failed to get the U.S. to sign up to a new global regulatory agency, and the U.S. failed to convince the Europeans to dig themselves even deeper into debt — a win for both sides, albeit unintentionally.

The bad news: our enemies  profit by ineffectiveness and move ahead with their designs while we dither. Dimitri Medvedev may call Obama his “new comrade,” but he’s not about to agree to sanctions against North Korea. And Iran is watching and learning just how unresponsive to provocations the new president is. Their nuclear program moves ahead. One wonders what it will take for Obama to get real.

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Egypt’s April 6th Whimper

Yesterday marked one year since Egypt’s liberal Facebook dissidents first launched their technologically innovative – if not entirely successful – protest against the Mubarak regime.  To commemorate the occasion, the “April 6th” movement planned a well-publicized general strike, which attracted the support of a broad-based coalition that included the Ghad party, Kefaya, Nasserists, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Well, the official verdict on April 6th II is in: it was a complete failure.  For the most part, Egyptians carried on with their day-to-day activities, while April 6th leader Ahmed Maher retreated to an undisclosed location.  In turn, the regime declared outright victory, with the state-run al-Ahram boasting that the locations of proposed demonstrations were completely empty. 

Of course, these locations were empty because the regime did what it usually does when confronted with possible demonstrations: it stifled them.  First, the government packed the downtown areas with police officers and soldiers, thereby preventing protests from occurring in key intersections. 

Second, the regime arrested 34 demonstrators from various parts of Egypt to intimidate their peers.  (This relatively low number of arrests, however, suggests that there weren’t too many people intent on demonstrating to begin with.)

Third, in the few locations where protests were seen as unavoidable – such as near Cairo’s Muslim-Brotherhood-dominated professional syndicates – the regime dispatched overwhelming police contingents to encircle the demonstrators and thereby prevent others from joining them.  In this vein, my UPenn colleague Sarah Salwen reported that 20-30 trailers full of police were lined up along the streets outside the Journalists’ Syndicate, with the police standing shoulder-to-shoulder along barricades for a rally that ultimately drew somewhere between 100-200 mostly seated demonstrators. 

Naturally, the stunning failure of April 6th II has left Egypt’s opposition leaders totally dispirited.  More importantly, however, it has raised important questions regarding the future of Internet activism, including whether “virtual protests” are giving young dissidents the false impression that they can affect change by simply joining an anti-Mubarak Facebook group.  For nearly a year, Egyptian opposition leaders of every political stripe have been counting on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs to provide new mechanisms for evading regime control and organizing the masses.  At the very least, yesterday’s disappointment will force them to reconsider the efficacy of this tactic.

Yesterday marked one year since Egypt’s liberal Facebook dissidents first launched their technologically innovative – if not entirely successful – protest against the Mubarak regime.  To commemorate the occasion, the “April 6th” movement planned a well-publicized general strike, which attracted the support of a broad-based coalition that included the Ghad party, Kefaya, Nasserists, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Well, the official verdict on April 6th II is in: it was a complete failure.  For the most part, Egyptians carried on with their day-to-day activities, while April 6th leader Ahmed Maher retreated to an undisclosed location.  In turn, the regime declared outright victory, with the state-run al-Ahram boasting that the locations of proposed demonstrations were completely empty. 

Of course, these locations were empty because the regime did what it usually does when confronted with possible demonstrations: it stifled them.  First, the government packed the downtown areas with police officers and soldiers, thereby preventing protests from occurring in key intersections. 

Second, the regime arrested 34 demonstrators from various parts of Egypt to intimidate their peers.  (This relatively low number of arrests, however, suggests that there weren’t too many people intent on demonstrating to begin with.)

Third, in the few locations where protests were seen as unavoidable – such as near Cairo’s Muslim-Brotherhood-dominated professional syndicates – the regime dispatched overwhelming police contingents to encircle the demonstrators and thereby prevent others from joining them.  In this vein, my UPenn colleague Sarah Salwen reported that 20-30 trailers full of police were lined up along the streets outside the Journalists’ Syndicate, with the police standing shoulder-to-shoulder along barricades for a rally that ultimately drew somewhere between 100-200 mostly seated demonstrators. 

Naturally, the stunning failure of April 6th II has left Egypt’s opposition leaders totally dispirited.  More importantly, however, it has raised important questions regarding the future of Internet activism, including whether “virtual protests” are giving young dissidents the false impression that they can affect change by simply joining an anti-Mubarak Facebook group.  For nearly a year, Egyptian opposition leaders of every political stripe have been counting on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs to provide new mechanisms for evading regime control and organizing the masses.  At the very least, yesterday’s disappointment will force them to reconsider the efficacy of this tactic.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Wall Street Journal editors get to the heart of the matter: “Rarely has a Presidential speech been so immediately and transparently divorced from reality as Mr. Obama’s in Prague. The President delivered a stirring call to banish nuclear weapons at the very moment that North Korea and Iran are bidding to trigger the greatest proliferation breakout in the nuclear age. Mr. Obama also proposed an elaborate new arms-control regime to reduce nuclear weapons, even as both Pyongyang and Tehran are proving that the world’s great powers lack the will to enforce current arms-control treaties.”

Over at the Washington Post they don’t think much better of the “confused” and “muddled” policy where “the administration has already made clear that its main response will be to offer more diplomatic attention, sweetened with ‘incentives’ — in other words, exactly what Mr. Kim was seeking?”

Vote canvassing in the NY-20 continues and the lawyers have descended. One of them is ahead.

President Bush always had a good arm and never copped out by throwing from the base of the mound.

Mickey Kaus suggests a “Plan C” for anti-card check forces: “What reforms might they want? Tougher investigations of union corruption? Or a ‘level playing field’ that would allow employers to contact workers outside of work (if unions are to get ‘equal access” at work)? Or an ‘free employer speech’ clause that would let management frankly warn that if a given plant is unionized it might be shut down–as long as the warning is truthful? Or a provision that allows management to give raises–rebuild the middle class!–in the runup to a unionization vote?” Could it be that after hundreds of millions spent in electing sympathetic politicians Big Labor could come out worse legislatively than they started? Business would consider a stalemate to be a huge win.

Sam Stein at Huffington Post terms Blanche Lincoln’s defection “perhaps, the most devastating blow yet” to card check. (I’d argue it was Arlen Specter, but from the perspective of Big Labor trying to maintain a stiff upper lip, he’s right.) Sure enough, the AFL-CIO’s spinner says it’s no big deal and they’ll get everyone on board in the committee/amendment process. Righhht.

Secretary Gates tries to kill the F-22 and, with it, 95,000 jobs. Congress will have the last word on this one. (Forty-four Senators and over 190 Congressmen previously signed onto letters supporting the program.)

Speaking of jobs, it seems that with all those idled factories and shuttered retail outlets, “even if the recession miraculously ended tomorrow, economists estimate that at least three years would pass before full employment returned and output rose enough for the economy to operate at full throttle.” Uh oh. Perhaps Obama should think about “saving” 95,000 of those jobs.

Some tough reviews of Gates’s handiwork are coming in. James Inhofe makes a YouTube clip from Afghanistan.

Ford is restructuring its debt and renegotiating its labor deals without running to the government. As one of its lawyers said: “It is refreshing to see a company doing something without the government, and not going to the government and waiting to be bailed out.” Perhaps they should say that in their ads.

Give Robert Reich credit: he wants to stop the whole bailout scam. Go into bankruptcy or go out of business, but not onto the public dole. I wonder why no one in the administration is listening to him.

The Wall Street Journal editors get to the heart of the matter: “Rarely has a Presidential speech been so immediately and transparently divorced from reality as Mr. Obama’s in Prague. The President delivered a stirring call to banish nuclear weapons at the very moment that North Korea and Iran are bidding to trigger the greatest proliferation breakout in the nuclear age. Mr. Obama also proposed an elaborate new arms-control regime to reduce nuclear weapons, even as both Pyongyang and Tehran are proving that the world’s great powers lack the will to enforce current arms-control treaties.”

Over at the Washington Post they don’t think much better of the “confused” and “muddled” policy where “the administration has already made clear that its main response will be to offer more diplomatic attention, sweetened with ‘incentives’ — in other words, exactly what Mr. Kim was seeking?”

Vote canvassing in the NY-20 continues and the lawyers have descended. One of them is ahead.

President Bush always had a good arm and never copped out by throwing from the base of the mound.

Mickey Kaus suggests a “Plan C” for anti-card check forces: “What reforms might they want? Tougher investigations of union corruption? Or a ‘level playing field’ that would allow employers to contact workers outside of work (if unions are to get ‘equal access” at work)? Or an ‘free employer speech’ clause that would let management frankly warn that if a given plant is unionized it might be shut down–as long as the warning is truthful? Or a provision that allows management to give raises–rebuild the middle class!–in the runup to a unionization vote?” Could it be that after hundreds of millions spent in electing sympathetic politicians Big Labor could come out worse legislatively than they started? Business would consider a stalemate to be a huge win.

Sam Stein at Huffington Post terms Blanche Lincoln’s defection “perhaps, the most devastating blow yet” to card check. (I’d argue it was Arlen Specter, but from the perspective of Big Labor trying to maintain a stiff upper lip, he’s right.) Sure enough, the AFL-CIO’s spinner says it’s no big deal and they’ll get everyone on board in the committee/amendment process. Righhht.

Secretary Gates tries to kill the F-22 and, with it, 95,000 jobs. Congress will have the last word on this one. (Forty-four Senators and over 190 Congressmen previously signed onto letters supporting the program.)

Speaking of jobs, it seems that with all those idled factories and shuttered retail outlets, “even if the recession miraculously ended tomorrow, economists estimate that at least three years would pass before full employment returned and output rose enough for the economy to operate at full throttle.” Uh oh. Perhaps Obama should think about “saving” 95,000 of those jobs.

Some tough reviews of Gates’s handiwork are coming in. James Inhofe makes a YouTube clip from Afghanistan.

Ford is restructuring its debt and renegotiating its labor deals without running to the government. As one of its lawyers said: “It is refreshing to see a company doing something without the government, and not going to the government and waiting to be bailed out.” Perhaps they should say that in their ads.

Give Robert Reich credit: he wants to stop the whole bailout scam. Go into bankruptcy or go out of business, but not onto the public dole. I wonder why no one in the administration is listening to him.

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