Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 9, 2009

Re: Bibi Can’t Help Being Bibi

Writing for Foreign Policy, Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations argues that Israel will not attack Iran. Cook, repeating a theme familiar to many writers, highlights “the importance that close relations with Washington has on the domestic political calculations of Israeli leaders.” In essence, what he says is that Israeli leaders cannot risk causing a rift with the U.S. because it would make Israeli voters uneasy and result in a change of government. Cook uses a well known example:

In June 1992, Israel’s voters booted Shamir from office in favor of Yitzhak Rabin, who enjoyed a sunny relationship with Bush until the U.S. president lost his own reelection bid. Shamir’s defeat at the polls was due to a combination of factors, including an Israeli economy that was struggling to absorb hundreds of thousands of Soviet immigrants, but the relationship with the United States loomed large during the campaign. Rabin’s platform, in part, accused Shamir and his Likud Party of wrecking U.S.-Israel relations. In the end, Israeli voters believed the country “was not being run right,” as some commentators argued that Likud had compromised Israel’s ability to defend itself because of the deterioration of relations with Washington.

While being careful not to portray Shamir’s defeat as the direct outcome of his battle with George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker, Cook might leave many readers with just such an impression. In fact, this argument was made not only about Shamir, but also about Netanyahu’s defeat in 1999 — interpreted as a result of rocky relations with the Clinton administration.I have made similar arguments myself, but the fact of the matter is that much more complex stories unfolded in both cases — stories from which one can draw contradicting conclusions. On the one hand, it is true that both prime ministers weren’t successful in maintaining good relations with American presidents. However, the falls of both Shamir and Netanyahu were not the direct result of their contentious dealings with the U.S. In fact, both prime ministers lost their jobs when they decided to abide by American demands.Shamir went to the Madrid conference and lost the right-wing parties of his coalition, as the official site of Israel’s Knesset describes it:

The Twelfth Knesset officiated for three years and eight months, during which two governments presided, both headed by Yitzhak Shamir. The first of which – the 23rd Government – was forced to resign after a defeat in a no-confidence motion over the negotiations with the Palestinians. The elections to the 13th Knesset were brought forward following the breakdown of the coalition in Shamir’s second government. Three right-wing parties — Tzomet, Tehiya and Moledet — resigned from the Government in protest over the Madrid Conference.

Netanyahu faced similar opposition within his own camp after going to the Wye Plantation summit and signing accords that were unacceptable to members of the Netanyahu coalition: “The normal term of the 14th Knesset should have expired in November 2000. However, the Knesset passed a law for its early dissolution on 4 January 1999, after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had difficulty getting the governing coalition members to support his Middle East peace policy, and the state budget for 1999.”It is worth remembering that both Shamir and Netanyahu were ousted by right-wing members of their coalitions. What this means for Netanyahu today — days before he is slated to speak in response to Barack Obama’s Cairo speech — is that keeping the members on the right of his camp happy is no less important (politically) than keeping the U.S. happy. As the right has proved twice in the past, it does not hesitate when it comes to abandoning what it considers a “disappointing” prime minister.

Writing for Foreign Policy, Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations argues that Israel will not attack Iran. Cook, repeating a theme familiar to many writers, highlights “the importance that close relations with Washington has on the domestic political calculations of Israeli leaders.” In essence, what he says is that Israeli leaders cannot risk causing a rift with the U.S. because it would make Israeli voters uneasy and result in a change of government. Cook uses a well known example:

In June 1992, Israel’s voters booted Shamir from office in favor of Yitzhak Rabin, who enjoyed a sunny relationship with Bush until the U.S. president lost his own reelection bid. Shamir’s defeat at the polls was due to a combination of factors, including an Israeli economy that was struggling to absorb hundreds of thousands of Soviet immigrants, but the relationship with the United States loomed large during the campaign. Rabin’s platform, in part, accused Shamir and his Likud Party of wrecking U.S.-Israel relations. In the end, Israeli voters believed the country “was not being run right,” as some commentators argued that Likud had compromised Israel’s ability to defend itself because of the deterioration of relations with Washington.

While being careful not to portray Shamir’s defeat as the direct outcome of his battle with George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker, Cook might leave many readers with just such an impression. In fact, this argument was made not only about Shamir, but also about Netanyahu’s defeat in 1999 — interpreted as a result of rocky relations with the Clinton administration.I have made similar arguments myself, but the fact of the matter is that much more complex stories unfolded in both cases — stories from which one can draw contradicting conclusions. On the one hand, it is true that both prime ministers weren’t successful in maintaining good relations with American presidents. However, the falls of both Shamir and Netanyahu were not the direct result of their contentious dealings with the U.S. In fact, both prime ministers lost their jobs when they decided to abide by American demands.Shamir went to the Madrid conference and lost the right-wing parties of his coalition, as the official site of Israel’s Knesset describes it:

The Twelfth Knesset officiated for three years and eight months, during which two governments presided, both headed by Yitzhak Shamir. The first of which – the 23rd Government – was forced to resign after a defeat in a no-confidence motion over the negotiations with the Palestinians. The elections to the 13th Knesset were brought forward following the breakdown of the coalition in Shamir’s second government. Three right-wing parties — Tzomet, Tehiya and Moledet — resigned from the Government in protest over the Madrid Conference.

Netanyahu faced similar opposition within his own camp after going to the Wye Plantation summit and signing accords that were unacceptable to members of the Netanyahu coalition: “The normal term of the 14th Knesset should have expired in November 2000. However, the Knesset passed a law for its early dissolution on 4 January 1999, after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had difficulty getting the governing coalition members to support his Middle East peace policy, and the state budget for 1999.”It is worth remembering that both Shamir and Netanyahu were ousted by right-wing members of their coalitions. What this means for Netanyahu today — days before he is slated to speak in response to Barack Obama’s Cairo speech — is that keeping the members on the right of his camp happy is no less important (politically) than keeping the U.S. happy. As the right has proved twice in the past, it does not hesitate when it comes to abandoning what it considers a “disappointing” prime minister.

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Commentary of the Day

CK MacLeod, on Jenifer Rubin:

The climate change propaganda already reached the saturation/diminishing returns point last Summer, as evidenced polls that show people believe global warming/climate change has been exaggerated. People do want to believe they’re doing their bit for Mother Earth, but they also don’t want to believe they have to suffer widely: They sense a scam and the occasional fact that dribbles out casting doubt on the ecological doomsaying, on the hypocrisy of major eco-campaigners, and on the efficacy of pseudo-solutions does immeasurable harm. People notice, and 10 car ads and PSAs per hour aren’t going to change their minds.Even in the best of times, ecological hair shirts are a tough sell. The Dems need to go through the motions, at least, for a while longer – but even that will hurt them, since increasingly it will make them seem like out-of-touch losers.

CK MacLeod, on Jenifer Rubin:

The climate change propaganda already reached the saturation/diminishing returns point last Summer, as evidenced polls that show people believe global warming/climate change has been exaggerated. People do want to believe they’re doing their bit for Mother Earth, but they also don’t want to believe they have to suffer widely: They sense a scam and the occasional fact that dribbles out casting doubt on the ecological doomsaying, on the hypocrisy of major eco-campaigners, and on the efficacy of pseudo-solutions does immeasurable harm. People notice, and 10 car ads and PSAs per hour aren’t going to change their minds.Even in the best of times, ecological hair shirts are a tough sell. The Dems need to go through the motions, at least, for a while longer – but even that will hurt them, since increasingly it will make them seem like out-of-touch losers.

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WANTED: ONLINE EDITOR

Commentary seeks an online editor with a strong copy-editing background, some web experience, and grounding in the history and archives of Commentary. Please send resume and cover letter to commenart@gmail.com.

Commentary seeks an online editor with a strong copy-editing background, some web experience, and grounding in the history and archives of Commentary. Please send resume and cover letter to commenart@gmail.com.

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Bibi Can’t Help Being Bibi

Benjamin Netanyahu said he won’t repeat the same mistakes in his second term as prime minister that torpedoed his first stint. Since winning the big seat again in February, most of the commentary on his chances of success have centered on whether or not he will be able to avoid alienating Israel’s American allies, as his relationship with the Clinton administration was terrible.

Netanyahu deserved some of the blame for the acrimonious relationship with the Clinton administration, but not all of it. Clinton had done everything in his power to try helping Shimon Peres beat Bibi in the 1996 election, and was more than disappointed when his candidate lost. For all of Netanyahu’s inability to bond with the man from Hope, Clinton never gave him much of a chance.

The same thing may be happening with Barack Obama, who has gone out of his way to gin up a phony dispute with Israel over settlement growth. The controversy is a contrivance because Obama and his people know very well that no Israeli concession could manufacture a serious Palestinian peace partner where none exists. Obama’s breaching of previous U.S. commitments for which Israel paid dearly (in terms of acceptance of the road map peace formula and the withdrawal from Gaza) illustrates his bad will.

But those negative vibes with Washington were not the only Netanyahu blunders in the 1990s. Almost as important was the way the prime minister spent his initial three-year stay in office alienating friends and allies. Netanyahu’s reported arrogance and high-handed manner was widely resented in his own party and among his coalition partners. By the time he was ousted in 1999 by Ehud Barak (whose own time as prime minister was such a disaster that, by comparison, Netanyahu didn’t look so bad), it seemed as if he had few friends left in Israeli politics.

Circumstances (the collapse of the Oslo process due to Arafat’s unwillingness to accept a Palestinian state on a silver platter from Barak) and hard work (such as his willingness to serve under Ariel Sharon and do a tough job well at the Finance Ministry) gave him another chance at glory. But, if a report in today’s Jerusalem Post is to be believed, it appears that Bibi just can’t help being Bibi.

Apparently Netanyahu met with his Likud faction in the Knesset yesterday, but refused to discuss the speech he is planning to give on Sunday at Bar Illan University, in which it is believed he will outline a new peace plan. It was understandable that Netanyahu didn’t want to scoop himself by divulging the details of an address that he hopes will help defuse the tensions between him and Obama, so he didn’t tell the MKs what he would say. But in typical Bibi fashion the story says, “Netanyahu belittled them by telling them to leave their advice with cabinet secretary Tzvi Hauser. The prime minister mockingly told Likud MK Miri Regev that she could write the speech for him if she wanted.”

Ironically, some of those present told the Post that even if, as expected, Netanyahu tilted a bit to the left in his speech, he wouldn’t face a rebellion. That’s important, since Obama and Jewish leftists appear to be hoping that such moderation would cause Netanyahu’s government to fall. The Likud Knesset caucus needs to understand that the alternative to the current coalition is one that will be even worse for their party’s principles and that the smart thing for them to do is to stand with Netanyahu and enable him to weather the storm.

But if Netanyahu is going to repeat his previous conduct, and treat his supporters like fools who deserve nothing but scorn, then he will wind up as isolated as he was in 1999. Publicly abusing the people whose votes he needs to stay in office is not smart—no matter what he thinks of those people. It turns out the “new Bibi” may be very much like the old Bibi.

Benjamin Netanyahu said he won’t repeat the same mistakes in his second term as prime minister that torpedoed his first stint. Since winning the big seat again in February, most of the commentary on his chances of success have centered on whether or not he will be able to avoid alienating Israel’s American allies, as his relationship with the Clinton administration was terrible.

Netanyahu deserved some of the blame for the acrimonious relationship with the Clinton administration, but not all of it. Clinton had done everything in his power to try helping Shimon Peres beat Bibi in the 1996 election, and was more than disappointed when his candidate lost. For all of Netanyahu’s inability to bond with the man from Hope, Clinton never gave him much of a chance.

The same thing may be happening with Barack Obama, who has gone out of his way to gin up a phony dispute with Israel over settlement growth. The controversy is a contrivance because Obama and his people know very well that no Israeli concession could manufacture a serious Palestinian peace partner where none exists. Obama’s breaching of previous U.S. commitments for which Israel paid dearly (in terms of acceptance of the road map peace formula and the withdrawal from Gaza) illustrates his bad will.

But those negative vibes with Washington were not the only Netanyahu blunders in the 1990s. Almost as important was the way the prime minister spent his initial three-year stay in office alienating friends and allies. Netanyahu’s reported arrogance and high-handed manner was widely resented in his own party and among his coalition partners. By the time he was ousted in 1999 by Ehud Barak (whose own time as prime minister was such a disaster that, by comparison, Netanyahu didn’t look so bad), it seemed as if he had few friends left in Israeli politics.

Circumstances (the collapse of the Oslo process due to Arafat’s unwillingness to accept a Palestinian state on a silver platter from Barak) and hard work (such as his willingness to serve under Ariel Sharon and do a tough job well at the Finance Ministry) gave him another chance at glory. But, if a report in today’s Jerusalem Post is to be believed, it appears that Bibi just can’t help being Bibi.

Apparently Netanyahu met with his Likud faction in the Knesset yesterday, but refused to discuss the speech he is planning to give on Sunday at Bar Illan University, in which it is believed he will outline a new peace plan. It was understandable that Netanyahu didn’t want to scoop himself by divulging the details of an address that he hopes will help defuse the tensions between him and Obama, so he didn’t tell the MKs what he would say. But in typical Bibi fashion the story says, “Netanyahu belittled them by telling them to leave their advice with cabinet secretary Tzvi Hauser. The prime minister mockingly told Likud MK Miri Regev that she could write the speech for him if she wanted.”

Ironically, some of those present told the Post that even if, as expected, Netanyahu tilted a bit to the left in his speech, he wouldn’t face a rebellion. That’s important, since Obama and Jewish leftists appear to be hoping that such moderation would cause Netanyahu’s government to fall. The Likud Knesset caucus needs to understand that the alternative to the current coalition is one that will be even worse for their party’s principles and that the smart thing for them to do is to stand with Netanyahu and enable him to weather the storm.

But if Netanyahu is going to repeat his previous conduct, and treat his supporters like fools who deserve nothing but scorn, then he will wind up as isolated as he was in 1999. Publicly abusing the people whose votes he needs to stay in office is not smart—no matter what he thinks of those people. It turns out the “new Bibi” may be very much like the old Bibi.

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Noticing the Media’s Crush on Obama

Give credit to veteran liberal journalist Phil Bronstein. Unlike Newsweek’s Evan Thomas, who thinks our president is “sort of God,” the San Francisco Chronicle’s editor-at-large is aware of the steamy affair going on between Barack Obama and the mainstream press and thinks there’s something fishy about it.

In a blog entry titled “Love or lust, Obama and the fawning press needs to get a room,” Bronstein describes the New York Times coverage of the president’s recent evening in New York with his wife “full-on chick-flick swooning.” An interview of Obama by NBC’s Brian Williams was more about hanging out with the new cool chief executive rather than asking probing questions; Bronstein wonders if “a little navel-gazing among journalism standards hall monitors about whether the thing had been too soft came and went.”

He goes right to the heart of the matter when he says he thought such stuff couldn’t happen in this day and age:

I thought that the Maxfield Parrish, heroic days of the Kennedy Administration PR, where the press and the president were pretty much all in on the same screenplay and the same jokes, couldn’t happen in our modern era, what with paparazzi and tabloids and talk shows, citizen sound-bite scavengers and voracious 24/7 news cycles. But now that the stumbling Bushes and smirking Clintons are out of the White House, time has compressed back on itself like the machine in the Denzel Washington movie, “Deja Vu.” It’s the early 1960s and Camelot all over again: Very attractive wife, cute, precocious kids and the hopes and dreams of at least 63 percent of the population sitting on the athletic shoulders of a young, charismatic, mold-breaking leader, Blah, blah.

Bronstein is right when he puts the blame for this on the press and not an administration, which is all too eager to take advantage of the hero worship being given their man:

You can’t blame powerful people for wanting to play the press to peddle self-perpetuating mythology. But you can blame the press, already suffocating under a massive pile of blame, guilt, heavy debt and sinking fortunes, for being played. Some of the time, it seems we’re even enthusiastically jumping into the pond without even being pushed. Is there an actual limit to the number of instances you can be the cover of Newsweek?

Give credit to veteran liberal journalist Phil Bronstein. Unlike Newsweek’s Evan Thomas, who thinks our president is “sort of God,” the San Francisco Chronicle’s editor-at-large is aware of the steamy affair going on between Barack Obama and the mainstream press and thinks there’s something fishy about it.

In a blog entry titled “Love or lust, Obama and the fawning press needs to get a room,” Bronstein describes the New York Times coverage of the president’s recent evening in New York with his wife “full-on chick-flick swooning.” An interview of Obama by NBC’s Brian Williams was more about hanging out with the new cool chief executive rather than asking probing questions; Bronstein wonders if “a little navel-gazing among journalism standards hall monitors about whether the thing had been too soft came and went.”

He goes right to the heart of the matter when he says he thought such stuff couldn’t happen in this day and age:

I thought that the Maxfield Parrish, heroic days of the Kennedy Administration PR, where the press and the president were pretty much all in on the same screenplay and the same jokes, couldn’t happen in our modern era, what with paparazzi and tabloids and talk shows, citizen sound-bite scavengers and voracious 24/7 news cycles. But now that the stumbling Bushes and smirking Clintons are out of the White House, time has compressed back on itself like the machine in the Denzel Washington movie, “Deja Vu.” It’s the early 1960s and Camelot all over again: Very attractive wife, cute, precocious kids and the hopes and dreams of at least 63 percent of the population sitting on the athletic shoulders of a young, charismatic, mold-breaking leader, Blah, blah.

Bronstein is right when he puts the blame for this on the press and not an administration, which is all too eager to take advantage of the hero worship being given their man:

You can’t blame powerful people for wanting to play the press to peddle self-perpetuating mythology. But you can blame the press, already suffocating under a massive pile of blame, guilt, heavy debt and sinking fortunes, for being played. Some of the time, it seems we’re even enthusiastically jumping into the pond without even being pushed. Is there an actual limit to the number of instances you can be the cover of Newsweek?

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Car Nationalization Hits Bump In the Road

CONTENTIONS contributor Francis Cianfrocca explains what is at stake in the U.S. Supreme Court on the Indiana pension funds’ case:

Chrysler’s managers want the sale to go through, because they’re desperately concerned about the survival of the firm, in a market that plainly has no need whatsoever for the vehicles they can produce. And the White House is also concerned to ensure the survival of Chrysler, again against all economic logic, because they want to pay off the UAW. For Chrysler and for Obama, it was necessary to screw the bondholders, because otherwise Chrysler would run out of time. Obama had another consideration in mind, which was the looming bankruptcy of GM (which has now taken place). He wanted to set a pattern for a swift, relatively clean bankruptcy, at least partly to demonstrate to American businesses that there’s a new sheriff in town.

But then there is that whole “rule of law” thing — which is why the Obama team hit a bump in the road. It never occurs to them, I suppose, that people with legal rights might not be bullied into giving them up.

And perhaps this will wake up Congress as well, which is coming around to the realization that they have ceded a huge amount of power to the Executive Branch that has bought two companies, directed liquidation plans, ordered hundreds of car dealerships to be closed, and fired and hired new management — with nary a peep from Congress. Now that all those irate owners of closed dealerships have started to squawk, Congress has awoken from its slumber and wants to get in on the action.

It may just be that the unbridled exercise of presidential power is going to be curtailed. One thing is clear: the more scrutiny of the GM and Chrysler deals, the less the Obama administration will like it. After all, it is one of the least popular things they’ve tried.

CONTENTIONS contributor Francis Cianfrocca explains what is at stake in the U.S. Supreme Court on the Indiana pension funds’ case:

Chrysler’s managers want the sale to go through, because they’re desperately concerned about the survival of the firm, in a market that plainly has no need whatsoever for the vehicles they can produce. And the White House is also concerned to ensure the survival of Chrysler, again against all economic logic, because they want to pay off the UAW. For Chrysler and for Obama, it was necessary to screw the bondholders, because otherwise Chrysler would run out of time. Obama had another consideration in mind, which was the looming bankruptcy of GM (which has now taken place). He wanted to set a pattern for a swift, relatively clean bankruptcy, at least partly to demonstrate to American businesses that there’s a new sheriff in town.

But then there is that whole “rule of law” thing — which is why the Obama team hit a bump in the road. It never occurs to them, I suppose, that people with legal rights might not be bullied into giving them up.

And perhaps this will wake up Congress as well, which is coming around to the realization that they have ceded a huge amount of power to the Executive Branch that has bought two companies, directed liquidation plans, ordered hundreds of car dealerships to be closed, and fired and hired new management — with nary a peep from Congress. Now that all those irate owners of closed dealerships have started to squawk, Congress has awoken from its slumber and wants to get in on the action.

It may just be that the unbridled exercise of presidential power is going to be curtailed. One thing is clear: the more scrutiny of the GM and Chrysler deals, the less the Obama administration will like it. After all, it is one of the least popular things they’ve tried.

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Wishful Thinking, Once Again

David Brooks, before the election, tried to convince us that Barack Obama was a moderate. Obama has turned out to be radical in his domestic outlook, seeing to dismantle free-market capitalism wherever he finds it, so Brooks has been a bit shaken. Now he seeks to convince us that Sotomayor is not so bad either.

He begins by suggesting that Sotomayor was a helpless pawn in the sea of multiculturalism at elite universities in the 1970s. How could anyone resist? Not Sotomayor:

There was no way she was going to get out of that unscarred. And, in fact, in the years since she has given a series of speeches that have made her a poster child for identity politics. In these speeches, race and gender take center stage. It’s not only the one comment about a wise Latina making better decisions than a white male; it’s the whole litany. If you just read these speeches you might come away with the impression that she was a racial activist who is just using the judicial system as a vehicle for her social crusade.

Not only that, but you might conclude she doesn’t believe in impartiality and thinks one’s intellectual attributes and professional responsibilities are subsumed to racial and ethnic loyalty.

He then asserts:

When Sotomayor left Yale, she didn’t take the route designed to reinforce her ideological dispositions. She became a prosecutor with District Attorney Robert Morgenthau in Manhattan. She told The Times in 1983 that in making this decision, she faced “a tremendous amount of pressure from my community, from the third-world community at Yale. They could not understand why I was taking this job.”

In the years since, she has not followed the easy course. More than any current member of the Supreme Court, she worked her way up through the furnace levels of the American legal system. And when she reached a position of authority, she did not turn herself into an Al Sharpton in robes.

Ah, but she did. Brooks leaves out her twelve years of leadership roles in PRLDEF (the Puerto Rican  Legal Defense & Eduction Fund) and her six-year association with La Raza. These are the very sorts of organizations that “reinforce her ideological dispositions” and continually push for quotas, race preferences, and the like. (Brooks’ own New York Times has an enlightening article on this very point.)

Although he concedes that she is “quite liberal,” he says there is “little evidence that she is motivated by racialist thinking or an activist attitude.” There are a few points to keep in mind. First, the lady says she doesn’t believe in impartiality. Why shouldn’t we should believe her? She has told us it is not possible or a particularly desirable thing to keep one’s personal views and ethnic roots out of judging. If she doesn’t think she can do so, I don’t know why we should.

Second, unbelievably, Brooks ignores Ricci. Not only the decision itself but also the cavalier dismissal of the notion that there are any real victims of racial preferences suggest she is very much blinded by her ideology. (Ed Whelan supplies a few more startling race-centered cases.) Given the sleight of hand involved in crafting an unsigned summary order one can see that it undercuts the argument that she is just doing her job, following the law on the court. She was, it seems, doing all she could to avoid explaining and applying the law — oh, and giving Frank Ricci a clear shot at an appeal on the merits.

And finally, once on the Supreme Court Sotomayor will have pretty much free reign to enact her views. She need not “submit herself to the discipline of the law,” as Brooks said (which she repeatedly suggests judges can’t do anyway). Rather, she will be setting law for all the lower courts and, in her public speeches and appearances, telling judges, lawyers and law students all about her philosophy of judging.

Brooks suggests that we not take Sotomayor’s own words seriously and we, as he urged us to do with Obama, take it on faith that she’s no radical. I think the Senators would be wise not to wish away the evidence before their eyes.

David Brooks, before the election, tried to convince us that Barack Obama was a moderate. Obama has turned out to be radical in his domestic outlook, seeing to dismantle free-market capitalism wherever he finds it, so Brooks has been a bit shaken. Now he seeks to convince us that Sotomayor is not so bad either.

He begins by suggesting that Sotomayor was a helpless pawn in the sea of multiculturalism at elite universities in the 1970s. How could anyone resist? Not Sotomayor:

There was no way she was going to get out of that unscarred. And, in fact, in the years since she has given a series of speeches that have made her a poster child for identity politics. In these speeches, race and gender take center stage. It’s not only the one comment about a wise Latina making better decisions than a white male; it’s the whole litany. If you just read these speeches you might come away with the impression that she was a racial activist who is just using the judicial system as a vehicle for her social crusade.

Not only that, but you might conclude she doesn’t believe in impartiality and thinks one’s intellectual attributes and professional responsibilities are subsumed to racial and ethnic loyalty.

He then asserts:

When Sotomayor left Yale, she didn’t take the route designed to reinforce her ideological dispositions. She became a prosecutor with District Attorney Robert Morgenthau in Manhattan. She told The Times in 1983 that in making this decision, she faced “a tremendous amount of pressure from my community, from the third-world community at Yale. They could not understand why I was taking this job.”

In the years since, she has not followed the easy course. More than any current member of the Supreme Court, she worked her way up through the furnace levels of the American legal system. And when she reached a position of authority, she did not turn herself into an Al Sharpton in robes.

Ah, but she did. Brooks leaves out her twelve years of leadership roles in PRLDEF (the Puerto Rican  Legal Defense & Eduction Fund) and her six-year association with La Raza. These are the very sorts of organizations that “reinforce her ideological dispositions” and continually push for quotas, race preferences, and the like. (Brooks’ own New York Times has an enlightening article on this very point.)

Although he concedes that she is “quite liberal,” he says there is “little evidence that she is motivated by racialist thinking or an activist attitude.” There are a few points to keep in mind. First, the lady says she doesn’t believe in impartiality. Why shouldn’t we should believe her? She has told us it is not possible or a particularly desirable thing to keep one’s personal views and ethnic roots out of judging. If she doesn’t think she can do so, I don’t know why we should.

Second, unbelievably, Brooks ignores Ricci. Not only the decision itself but also the cavalier dismissal of the notion that there are any real victims of racial preferences suggest she is very much blinded by her ideology. (Ed Whelan supplies a few more startling race-centered cases.) Given the sleight of hand involved in crafting an unsigned summary order one can see that it undercuts the argument that she is just doing her job, following the law on the court. She was, it seems, doing all she could to avoid explaining and applying the law — oh, and giving Frank Ricci a clear shot at an appeal on the merits.

And finally, once on the Supreme Court Sotomayor will have pretty much free reign to enact her views. She need not “submit herself to the discipline of the law,” as Brooks said (which she repeatedly suggests judges can’t do anyway). Rather, she will be setting law for all the lower courts and, in her public speeches and appearances, telling judges, lawyers and law students all about her philosophy of judging.

Brooks suggests that we not take Sotomayor’s own words seriously and we, as he urged us to do with Obama, take it on faith that she’s no radical. I think the Senators would be wise not to wish away the evidence before their eyes.

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The Cuba Spies

Last week, the Justice Department unveiled charges against a husband and wife team of State Department employees who allegedly spied for Cuba for nearly 30 years. Wendell and Gwendolyn Myers are accused of conspiracy to act as illegal agents of a foreign government, handing over classified information to that government, and wire fraud. According to the Justice Department, the couple wasn’t in it for the money. Like so many spies for communist regimes, they’re “true believers.”

Many questions need to be asked about this breach, ranging from concerns about the integrity of State Department employees to how the government handles sensitive information. First on my mind, however, is when does the Nation take up a contribution fund for the Myers’s legal defense?

Last week, the Justice Department unveiled charges against a husband and wife team of State Department employees who allegedly spied for Cuba for nearly 30 years. Wendell and Gwendolyn Myers are accused of conspiracy to act as illegal agents of a foreign government, handing over classified information to that government, and wire fraud. According to the Justice Department, the couple wasn’t in it for the money. Like so many spies for communist regimes, they’re “true believers.”

Many questions need to be asked about this breach, ranging from concerns about the integrity of State Department employees to how the government handles sensitive information. First on my mind, however, is when does the Nation take up a contribution fund for the Myers’s legal defense?

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Do They Get an Ocean View?

A.P. reports:

The Associated Press has learned the Obama administration is in talks with the remote South Pacific island nation of Palau (PA’-lau) to resettle some or all of 17 Chinese Muslims now held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. . . The officials spoke on condition of anonymity due to the delicacy of the negotiations. They said the U.S. is prepared to give Palau up to $200 million in aid to accept the Uighurs. Palau is an independent nation about 500 miles east of the Philippines that has close ties with the U.S.

Left unsaid is what security will be provided so that they can’t simply grab the next canoe and paddle off (or someone can’t paddle in and do them harm). But really, what is the point? Why are the taxpayers supposed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to move the Uighurs from a Caribbean Island to a South Pacific Island? Well, so everyone will think so much better of us. Once the terrorists stop convulsing with laughter (“Hey — get captured, get a cabana from those crazy Americans!”) I am sure they will conclude we have ceased to be serious about national security and have become obsessed with “image.” And they will be right.

A.P. reports:

The Associated Press has learned the Obama administration is in talks with the remote South Pacific island nation of Palau (PA’-lau) to resettle some or all of 17 Chinese Muslims now held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. . . The officials spoke on condition of anonymity due to the delicacy of the negotiations. They said the U.S. is prepared to give Palau up to $200 million in aid to accept the Uighurs. Palau is an independent nation about 500 miles east of the Philippines that has close ties with the U.S.

Left unsaid is what security will be provided so that they can’t simply grab the next canoe and paddle off (or someone can’t paddle in and do them harm). But really, what is the point? Why are the taxpayers supposed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to move the Uighurs from a Caribbean Island to a South Pacific Island? Well, so everyone will think so much better of us. Once the terrorists stop convulsing with laughter (“Hey — get captured, get a cabana from those crazy Americans!”) I am sure they will conclude we have ceased to be serious about national security and have become obsessed with “image.” And they will be right.

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The Krugman Rally

Yesterday the stock market was in the doldrums. It opened about sixty points down on the Dow from its previous day close and drifted downward from there to be off about 130 points at 12:30. It then struggled upwards, recovering about fifty points by 3:15. At that point it shot up seventy points in a few minutes and closed up fifteen points on the day.

What happened?

According to Bloomberg News it was a speech by Paul Krugman at the London School of Economics in which he predicted the end of the recession at some point this summer.

What makes markets rise and fall in the short term can never be known for sure. But, assuming causation and not just post hoc ergo propter hoc, this is highly reminiscent — except moving in the other direction — of the famous Babson Break of September 1929.

The market had reached an all-time high on September 3rd, 1929, closing at 381.17. No one knew it at the time, obviously, but that high would not be surpassed until 1954. Then, on September 5th, a perennially pessimistic financial advisor of no great note named Roger Babson told a luncheon group in Wellesley, Massachusetts, that “I repeat what I said at this time last year and the year before, that sooner or later a crash is coming.”

This rather innocuous remark crossed the broad tape at 2:00 PM and all hell immediately broke loose on the floor of the Exchange. By the time trading ended an hour later (the market closed at three o’clock in those days) major issues had plunged five percent or more and volume in the last hour of trading was a fantastic two million shares. It proved to be the start of the great crash that climaxed seven weeks later on October 29th.

Whether the Krugman Rally will prove to be a harbinger of things to come, as the Babson Break did, only time will tell. It might be noted, however, that the Babson Break occurred at a stock-market peak and the Krugman Rally follows three months in which the market has risen by fully a third from its dismal lows in early March.

In both cases, however, it was almost certainly not the influence of Krugman and Babson that moved the market. Rather it was a case of the market wanting to move and any excuse would do.

Yesterday the stock market was in the doldrums. It opened about sixty points down on the Dow from its previous day close and drifted downward from there to be off about 130 points at 12:30. It then struggled upwards, recovering about fifty points by 3:15. At that point it shot up seventy points in a few minutes and closed up fifteen points on the day.

What happened?

According to Bloomberg News it was a speech by Paul Krugman at the London School of Economics in which he predicted the end of the recession at some point this summer.

What makes markets rise and fall in the short term can never be known for sure. But, assuming causation and not just post hoc ergo propter hoc, this is highly reminiscent — except moving in the other direction — of the famous Babson Break of September 1929.

The market had reached an all-time high on September 3rd, 1929, closing at 381.17. No one knew it at the time, obviously, but that high would not be surpassed until 1954. Then, on September 5th, a perennially pessimistic financial advisor of no great note named Roger Babson told a luncheon group in Wellesley, Massachusetts, that “I repeat what I said at this time last year and the year before, that sooner or later a crash is coming.”

This rather innocuous remark crossed the broad tape at 2:00 PM and all hell immediately broke loose on the floor of the Exchange. By the time trading ended an hour later (the market closed at three o’clock in those days) major issues had plunged five percent or more and volume in the last hour of trading was a fantastic two million shares. It proved to be the start of the great crash that climaxed seven weeks later on October 29th.

Whether the Krugman Rally will prove to be a harbinger of things to come, as the Babson Break did, only time will tell. It might be noted, however, that the Babson Break occurred at a stock-market peak and the Krugman Rally follows three months in which the market has risen by fully a third from its dismal lows in early March.

In both cases, however, it was almost certainly not the influence of Krugman and Babson that moved the market. Rather it was a case of the market wanting to move and any excuse would do.

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There Is Another Way to Protect the Troops, Mr. President

Roll Call reports that Sens. Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham are not going to knuckle under to the House Democrats’ effort to strip out their amendment barring release of the detainee abuse photos:

Both Senators said they were alarmed that a House-Senate conference committee on the supplemental war spending bill appears poised to eliminate language — inserted by the two Senators — that would block public disclosure of detainee abuse photos. The $90-billion-plus bill has been held up, in part, because House Democratic leaders have said they do not have the votes to pass it with the detainee photo provision included, because many liberal lawmakers have balked at the language.

If the provision is eliminated, Lieberman and Graham said they would vote against the supplemental and any attempts to bring debate on the measure to a close. Graham predicted that most, if not all, of the 40 Senate Republicans would do the same, and Lieberman said he would be reaching out to Democrats on the issue as well. That could be enough to filibuster the supplemental measure on the Senate floor, because 60 votes are needed to end debate on a bill.

Both men said the release of more photos showing U.S. soldiers abusing detainees at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison and at prisons in Afghanistan would only inflame tensions in the Middle East and further serve as a recruiting tool for al-Qaida.
Lieberman said that the release of an earlier batch of photos from Abu Ghraib in 2004 had a positive effect, in that it rallied the Congress — and the new president — to outlaw such practices in the future. The release of additional photos, Lieberman argued, “to me is sheer voyeurism … and will lead to the death of Americans.”
Both Senators cited warnings from generals in the field and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that the photos could incite violence against Americans in the Middle East.

Graham accused House Democratic leaders of being beholden to “a fringe element in American politics” because he said they appear to be taking the side of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has sued the government under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the other photos.

There is something remarkable about the degree to which the liberal House leadership, even with the comfort of a large majority and the announced wishes of the White House, remains beholden to the netroot fringe of its party. As Graham remarks, “The only body that is off-script in my mind is the House…  Is the ACLU now in charge of the House of Representatives?” Well, yes. And even more remarkably, for all his vaunted powers of persuasion, Obama can’t seem to get his own party in line. Well, to be honest, he never tries very hard (e.g. stimulus drafting, the 9,000 earmarked supplemental spending bill). Maybe his heart isn’t in it.

But there is a solution, of course. Obama could sign an executive order accomplishing the exact same thing as the Lieberman-Graham amendment. Why doesn’t he? Maybe he’s more than willing to allow Pelosi to gum up the works and make sure his ACLU allies get just what they want. Otherwise, he’d end this circus and sign an executive order to prevent releasing the photos that he declared would endanger American troops.

Roll Call reports that Sens. Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham are not going to knuckle under to the House Democrats’ effort to strip out their amendment barring release of the detainee abuse photos:

Both Senators said they were alarmed that a House-Senate conference committee on the supplemental war spending bill appears poised to eliminate language — inserted by the two Senators — that would block public disclosure of detainee abuse photos. The $90-billion-plus bill has been held up, in part, because House Democratic leaders have said they do not have the votes to pass it with the detainee photo provision included, because many liberal lawmakers have balked at the language.

If the provision is eliminated, Lieberman and Graham said they would vote against the supplemental and any attempts to bring debate on the measure to a close. Graham predicted that most, if not all, of the 40 Senate Republicans would do the same, and Lieberman said he would be reaching out to Democrats on the issue as well. That could be enough to filibuster the supplemental measure on the Senate floor, because 60 votes are needed to end debate on a bill.

Both men said the release of more photos showing U.S. soldiers abusing detainees at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison and at prisons in Afghanistan would only inflame tensions in the Middle East and further serve as a recruiting tool for al-Qaida.
Lieberman said that the release of an earlier batch of photos from Abu Ghraib in 2004 had a positive effect, in that it rallied the Congress — and the new president — to outlaw such practices in the future. The release of additional photos, Lieberman argued, “to me is sheer voyeurism … and will lead to the death of Americans.”
Both Senators cited warnings from generals in the field and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that the photos could incite violence against Americans in the Middle East.

Graham accused House Democratic leaders of being beholden to “a fringe element in American politics” because he said they appear to be taking the side of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has sued the government under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the other photos.

There is something remarkable about the degree to which the liberal House leadership, even with the comfort of a large majority and the announced wishes of the White House, remains beholden to the netroot fringe of its party. As Graham remarks, “The only body that is off-script in my mind is the House…  Is the ACLU now in charge of the House of Representatives?” Well, yes. And even more remarkably, for all his vaunted powers of persuasion, Obama can’t seem to get his own party in line. Well, to be honest, he never tries very hard (e.g. stimulus drafting, the 9,000 earmarked supplemental spending bill). Maybe his heart isn’t in it.

But there is a solution, of course. Obama could sign an executive order accomplishing the exact same thing as the Lieberman-Graham amendment. Why doesn’t he? Maybe he’s more than willing to allow Pelosi to gum up the works and make sure his ACLU allies get just what they want. Otherwise, he’d end this circus and sign an executive order to prevent releasing the photos that he declared would endanger American troops.

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Re: Obama, a “Sort of God”?

I wanted to include an addendum to my article about the comments of Newsweek’s Evan Thomas, who on Friday said of President Obama, “he’s sort of God,” and added:

Well, we were the good guys in 1984, it felt that way. It hasn’t felt that way in recent years. So Obama’s had, really, a different task. We’re seen too often as the bad guys. And he — he has a very different job from — Reagan was all about America , and you talked about it. Obama is “we are above that now.” We’re not just parochial, we’re not just chauvinistic, we’re not just provincial

On February 5, 2007, Newsbusters.org printed a partial transcript of the program Inside Washington, which included this exchange:

Gordon Peterson: “What do you think, Evan? Are the mainstream media bashing the president unfairly?”

Evan Thomas: “Well, our job is to bash the president, that’s what we do almost –”
Peterson: “But unfairly?”
Thomas: “Mmmm — I think when he rebuffed, I think when he just kissed off the Iraq Study Group, the Baker-Hamilton Commission, there was a sense then that he was decoupling himself from public opinion and Congress and the mainstream media, going his own way. At that moment he lost whatever support he had.”

And Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, after researching what Thomas had said in the past, concludes, “On the other question, of whether Thomas was correct in saying that ‘we were the good guys in 1984, it felt that way,’ Nexis tells a slightly different story about whether Thomas himself felt ‘that way’ in the mid-1980s.” Goldberg supplies the evidence here:

So when George W. Bush is president, “our job is to bash the president” (in this case, for daring to “kiss off” the Iraq Study Group, the Baker-Hamilton Commission, the MSM, and for endorsing the surge in Iraq, which has proven to be a remarkable success). When Barack Obama is president, however, he is “sort of God” – and is treated that way by Thomas’s magazine. And even though Thomas claims it felt like we were “the good guys in 1984,” at the time people like Thomas took a very different, and far more critical, approach to President Reagan.

None of this is surprising, and all of it is instructive. It is no state secret that most members of the press corps have a liberal-leaning mindset, at least on most issues. Now and then it shows, often subtly and sometimes overtly, both in the coverage of stories and in the selection of stories. But the enchantment with a political figure has never been what we are seeing with Obama; he touches the erogenous zone in liberals in ways no one else ever has. Phil Bronstein of the San Francisco Chronicle has admitted that when it comes to Obama, “So we’re in love, lust, or just a whole lot of like.” (Bronstein also asks, “Is there an actual limit to the number of instances you can be the cover of Newsweek?”)

Evan Thomas, who embodies a “progressive” cast of mind that is both widespread and spreading, has done us the service of expressing his true feelings for the man he believes to be “sort of God.” And we, in turn, will keep that in mind when Thomas and some of his like-minded colleagues write and speak on Obama and politics in our time.

I wanted to include an addendum to my article about the comments of Newsweek’s Evan Thomas, who on Friday said of President Obama, “he’s sort of God,” and added:

Well, we were the good guys in 1984, it felt that way. It hasn’t felt that way in recent years. So Obama’s had, really, a different task. We’re seen too often as the bad guys. And he — he has a very different job from — Reagan was all about America , and you talked about it. Obama is “we are above that now.” We’re not just parochial, we’re not just chauvinistic, we’re not just provincial

On February 5, 2007, Newsbusters.org printed a partial transcript of the program Inside Washington, which included this exchange:

Gordon Peterson: “What do you think, Evan? Are the mainstream media bashing the president unfairly?”

Evan Thomas: “Well, our job is to bash the president, that’s what we do almost –”
Peterson: “But unfairly?”
Thomas: “Mmmm — I think when he rebuffed, I think when he just kissed off the Iraq Study Group, the Baker-Hamilton Commission, there was a sense then that he was decoupling himself from public opinion and Congress and the mainstream media, going his own way. At that moment he lost whatever support he had.”

And Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, after researching what Thomas had said in the past, concludes, “On the other question, of whether Thomas was correct in saying that ‘we were the good guys in 1984, it felt that way,’ Nexis tells a slightly different story about whether Thomas himself felt ‘that way’ in the mid-1980s.” Goldberg supplies the evidence here:

So when George W. Bush is president, “our job is to bash the president” (in this case, for daring to “kiss off” the Iraq Study Group, the Baker-Hamilton Commission, the MSM, and for endorsing the surge in Iraq, which has proven to be a remarkable success). When Barack Obama is president, however, he is “sort of God” – and is treated that way by Thomas’s magazine. And even though Thomas claims it felt like we were “the good guys in 1984,” at the time people like Thomas took a very different, and far more critical, approach to President Reagan.

None of this is surprising, and all of it is instructive. It is no state secret that most members of the press corps have a liberal-leaning mindset, at least on most issues. Now and then it shows, often subtly and sometimes overtly, both in the coverage of stories and in the selection of stories. But the enchantment with a political figure has never been what we are seeing with Obama; he touches the erogenous zone in liberals in ways no one else ever has. Phil Bronstein of the San Francisco Chronicle has admitted that when it comes to Obama, “So we’re in love, lust, or just a whole lot of like.” (Bronstein also asks, “Is there an actual limit to the number of instances you can be the cover of Newsweek?”)

Evan Thomas, who embodies a “progressive” cast of mind that is both widespread and spreading, has done us the service of expressing his true feelings for the man he believes to be “sort of God.” And we, in turn, will keep that in mind when Thomas and some of his like-minded colleagues write and speak on Obama and politics in our time.

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“Not a Forever Decision,” on Missile Defense

Here’s an overdetermined headline if ever there was one: “U.S. missile-defense salvage operations under way.”

In the wake of rising threats from North Korea, U.S. defense contractors are making the case to revisit some of the billion dollar missile defense programs cut by Defense Aecretary Robert Gates.

Northrop Grumman Corp, for instance, is calling on the Defense Department to rescind a stop work order and carry out a major flight test of its Kinetic Energy Interceptor.

Once valued at $6 billion, KEI is intended to shoot down enemy missiles soon after they are launched. Its “booster flight test” had been scheduled for September. But Gates said the system had very limited capability, cost too much and would have to be fired from what he suggested was perilously close to the target.

But, of course, it’s starting to look like the peril lies in being too far away from the target — that is, in giving rogue states so much breathing room. Note how dated the cuts now sound:

Gates also would terminate Lockheed Martin Corp’s Multiple Kill Vehicle, or MKV, on the grounds it was not needed for the limited threat posed by countries such as Iran and North Korea “for the next 10 to 15 years.”

It is fair to say the “limited threat” has become more acute during the months since Gates announced the cuts. The next 10 to 15 years now feels like a time-frame almost too foreboding to ponder, given Kim’s fresh threat of a “merciless” nuclear “offensive.” President Obama seems to know when to defer to the Pentagon and Gates is, of course, not blind to the implications of recent rumblings in the Pacific:

Gates toured the [Lockheed Martin] missile-defense complex at Fort Greely on June 1, after North Korea carried out its second underground nuclear test and test-fired a barrage of short-range missiles notwithstanding international pressure not to do so.

Halting the expansion of the base’s anti-missile silos, he said, was “not a forever decision.”

Few decisions are these days.

Here’s an overdetermined headline if ever there was one: “U.S. missile-defense salvage operations under way.”

In the wake of rising threats from North Korea, U.S. defense contractors are making the case to revisit some of the billion dollar missile defense programs cut by Defense Aecretary Robert Gates.

Northrop Grumman Corp, for instance, is calling on the Defense Department to rescind a stop work order and carry out a major flight test of its Kinetic Energy Interceptor.

Once valued at $6 billion, KEI is intended to shoot down enemy missiles soon after they are launched. Its “booster flight test” had been scheduled for September. But Gates said the system had very limited capability, cost too much and would have to be fired from what he suggested was perilously close to the target.

But, of course, it’s starting to look like the peril lies in being too far away from the target — that is, in giving rogue states so much breathing room. Note how dated the cuts now sound:

Gates also would terminate Lockheed Martin Corp’s Multiple Kill Vehicle, or MKV, on the grounds it was not needed for the limited threat posed by countries such as Iran and North Korea “for the next 10 to 15 years.”

It is fair to say the “limited threat” has become more acute during the months since Gates announced the cuts. The next 10 to 15 years now feels like a time-frame almost too foreboding to ponder, given Kim’s fresh threat of a “merciless” nuclear “offensive.” President Obama seems to know when to defer to the Pentagon and Gates is, of course, not blind to the implications of recent rumblings in the Pacific:

Gates toured the [Lockheed Martin] missile-defense complex at Fort Greely on June 1, after North Korea carried out its second underground nuclear test and test-fired a barrage of short-range missiles notwithstanding international pressure not to do so.

Halting the expansion of the base’s anti-missile silos, he said, was “not a forever decision.”

Few decisions are these days.

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Cap-and-Trade or Run-and-Hide?

Much of the attention on domestic policy is focused on either the White House panic over defending its useless stimulus or healthcare plan. But cap-and-trade should not go unnoticed. The Congressional Budget Office has put out an analysis that makes clear how numbing in complexity this legislation is – and how breathtaking the burdens it imposes on the economy. Try reading it and your eyes will glaze over. But here’s a clue to the extent of the power grab:

A cap-and-trade program is a regulatory policy aimed at controlling pollution emissions from specific sources. The legislation would set a limit on total emissions for each year and would require regulated entities to hold rights, or allowances, to the emissions permitted under that cap. Each allowance would entitle companies to emit the equivalent of one metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent (mtCO2e).1 After the allowances for a given period were distributed, entities would be free to buy and sell allowances.

Based on information from EPA, CBO estimates that about 7,400 facilities would be affected by the cap-and-trade programs established by the bill.

Each of the affected entities will be required to submit their request for “allowances” from the government. It sounds like a lot of bureaucracy and control. And a whole lot of government decision-making. (Career guidance: go be a cap-and-trade lobbyist — there’ll be a million of them.) Oh, and don’t forget with cap-and-trade comes $846B in taxes (“increased federal revenue”), not to mention the compliance costs:

The compliance costs for covered facilities would be the expenditures made in acquiring allowances, the cost of purchasing offset credits, and the cost of directly reducing their emissions of GHGs[greenhouse gasses]. Based on estimates of those costs and accounting for the initial allocation of free allowances, CBO estimates that the cost of this requirement would amount to tens of billions of dollars annually for private-sector entities and about $1 billion annually for public entities.

If they wanted to destroy the economy, could they come up with a better scheme? There are little hints like this: “The bill would create a program to compensate workers who lose their jobs as a result of the bill’s provisions.” No, it doesn’t say how many thousands — or tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands — will lose their jobs when American industries throw up their hands in disgust and relocate to India or China.

And keep in mind this is only a 40-page summary of the bill. Then imagine you are a business starting up or can relocate in a number of countries. Would this be incentive for you to go elsewhere? You bet.

Much of the attention on domestic policy is focused on either the White House panic over defending its useless stimulus or healthcare plan. But cap-and-trade should not go unnoticed. The Congressional Budget Office has put out an analysis that makes clear how numbing in complexity this legislation is – and how breathtaking the burdens it imposes on the economy. Try reading it and your eyes will glaze over. But here’s a clue to the extent of the power grab:

A cap-and-trade program is a regulatory policy aimed at controlling pollution emissions from specific sources. The legislation would set a limit on total emissions for each year and would require regulated entities to hold rights, or allowances, to the emissions permitted under that cap. Each allowance would entitle companies to emit the equivalent of one metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent (mtCO2e).1 After the allowances for a given period were distributed, entities would be free to buy and sell allowances.

Based on information from EPA, CBO estimates that about 7,400 facilities would be affected by the cap-and-trade programs established by the bill.

Each of the affected entities will be required to submit their request for “allowances” from the government. It sounds like a lot of bureaucracy and control. And a whole lot of government decision-making. (Career guidance: go be a cap-and-trade lobbyist — there’ll be a million of them.) Oh, and don’t forget with cap-and-trade comes $846B in taxes (“increased federal revenue”), not to mention the compliance costs:

The compliance costs for covered facilities would be the expenditures made in acquiring allowances, the cost of purchasing offset credits, and the cost of directly reducing their emissions of GHGs[greenhouse gasses]. Based on estimates of those costs and accounting for the initial allocation of free allowances, CBO estimates that the cost of this requirement would amount to tens of billions of dollars annually for private-sector entities and about $1 billion annually for public entities.

If they wanted to destroy the economy, could they come up with a better scheme? There are little hints like this: “The bill would create a program to compensate workers who lose their jobs as a result of the bill’s provisions.” No, it doesn’t say how many thousands — or tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands — will lose their jobs when American industries throw up their hands in disgust and relocate to India or China.

And keep in mind this is only a 40-page summary of the bill. Then imagine you are a business starting up or can relocate in a number of countries. Would this be incentive for you to go elsewhere? You bet.

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Dumbing Deviancy Down in Albany

New Yorkers woke up this morning to read the news that the Republicans have taken back control of the State Senate in Albany. But GOP stalwarts in the Empire State and elsewhere should take no comfort from this development. While they may consider the breakup of the Democratic monopoly on power in the state a good thing, the method by which they accomplished this trick is nothing to brag about.

The slim Democratic majority in the State Senate was lost by virtue of the votes of two members of their caucus who decided to flip: Pedro Espada, Jr. of the Bronx and Hiram Monseratte of Queens. The two have one thing in common other than the fact that they used to be loyal Democrats: they are both in serious legal trouble. Espada is under investigation for the way he has run a non-profit health care network and was fined for not disclosing campaign contributions. Monseratte is under indictment for stabbing his female live-in companion with broken glass. Quite a pair, aren’t they?

As a result of the coup, Espada is the new Senate President. Thus, because New York currently has no lieutenant governor — since, as you may recall,  David Patterson left that post to become governor after Elliot Spitzer resigned in the wake of his prostitution scandal —  Espada would become governor if the bumbling Patterson was forced to resign or became incapacitated. All of which gives new meaning to the phrase “dumbing deviancy down.”

The plot was apparently hatched and pushed forward by Tom Golisano, a Rochester billionaire who has spent much of the last decade pushing for various state government reforms and last year helped finance the election of candidates — mostly Democrats — to effect these changes. When, surprise, surprise, the new Democratic majority didn’t dance to his tune and raised even more taxes, Golisano said he was leaving the state for Florida but began plotting his revenge.

After the reorganization vote (which the Democrats tried to stop by turning out the lights in the Senate Chamber) the new GOP majority enacted new rules about term limits for leadership positions and other reforms that will equalize the amount of pork barrel projects passed between the two parties. The switch could also undermine the Democrats’ plans for more tax-and-spend policies (though, to be fair, during their times in power, New York Republicans have been just as bad) and may make it even harder for the legislature to pass a gay marriage bill (though Espada is himself a sponsor of that legislation). Of course, if Espada and Monseratte are convicted of the crimes for which they are either under investigation or indictment, they will have to resign and the Democrats can seize the Senate back.

Odds are, most New Yorkers will see all of this as just another case of politicians scrapping for more power and patronage.

More importantly, anyone who thinks this disgraceful spectacle is a harbinger of a comeback by New York Republicans is dreaming. On the contrary, such shenanigans will convince no one that the party has an idea worth the name or even the slimmest grasp of political ethics. If Republicans are serious about cleaning up their act and providing a coherent alternative to the public in our new age of Obama, then this is exactly the sort of monkey business they should be avoiding.

New Yorkers woke up this morning to read the news that the Republicans have taken back control of the State Senate in Albany. But GOP stalwarts in the Empire State and elsewhere should take no comfort from this development. While they may consider the breakup of the Democratic monopoly on power in the state a good thing, the method by which they accomplished this trick is nothing to brag about.

The slim Democratic majority in the State Senate was lost by virtue of the votes of two members of their caucus who decided to flip: Pedro Espada, Jr. of the Bronx and Hiram Monseratte of Queens. The two have one thing in common other than the fact that they used to be loyal Democrats: they are both in serious legal trouble. Espada is under investigation for the way he has run a non-profit health care network and was fined for not disclosing campaign contributions. Monseratte is under indictment for stabbing his female live-in companion with broken glass. Quite a pair, aren’t they?

As a result of the coup, Espada is the new Senate President. Thus, because New York currently has no lieutenant governor — since, as you may recall,  David Patterson left that post to become governor after Elliot Spitzer resigned in the wake of his prostitution scandal —  Espada would become governor if the bumbling Patterson was forced to resign or became incapacitated. All of which gives new meaning to the phrase “dumbing deviancy down.”

The plot was apparently hatched and pushed forward by Tom Golisano, a Rochester billionaire who has spent much of the last decade pushing for various state government reforms and last year helped finance the election of candidates — mostly Democrats — to effect these changes. When, surprise, surprise, the new Democratic majority didn’t dance to his tune and raised even more taxes, Golisano said he was leaving the state for Florida but began plotting his revenge.

After the reorganization vote (which the Democrats tried to stop by turning out the lights in the Senate Chamber) the new GOP majority enacted new rules about term limits for leadership positions and other reforms that will equalize the amount of pork barrel projects passed between the two parties. The switch could also undermine the Democrats’ plans for more tax-and-spend policies (though, to be fair, during their times in power, New York Republicans have been just as bad) and may make it even harder for the legislature to pass a gay marriage bill (though Espada is himself a sponsor of that legislation). Of course, if Espada and Monseratte are convicted of the crimes for which they are either under investigation or indictment, they will have to resign and the Democrats can seize the Senate back.

Odds are, most New Yorkers will see all of this as just another case of politicians scrapping for more power and patronage.

More importantly, anyone who thinks this disgraceful spectacle is a harbinger of a comeback by New York Republicans is dreaming. On the contrary, such shenanigans will convince no one that the party has an idea worth the name or even the slimmest grasp of political ethics. If Republicans are serious about cleaning up their act and providing a coherent alternative to the public in our new age of Obama, then this is exactly the sort of monkey business they should be avoiding.

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Voting with Their Feet

New Hampshire has discovered a good way to boost its economy during these troubled times. Unfortunately, it’s not a solution that lends itself for application elsewhere.

It involves having one’s state located next to another state that is being run by economic idiots.

Right now, Massachusetts is currently considering raising its sales tax from 5% to 6.25% — a 25% hike — to help cover a hefty budget deficit. And more and more Massachusetts residents are calculating the costs of that tax versus the price of gas.

Suppose a resident of Massachusetts is considering buying a $1,000 television. Should they buy it in Massachusetts, the final price will be $1050 — or $1062.50, under the proposed tax.

On the other hand, New Hampshire has no sales tax. (Or income tax, for that matter.) So some Bay Staters are whipping out their calculators and running the numbers. Suppose they live 40 miles from a New Hampshire store that sells the same TV at the same price. Presuming their car gets 20 miles per gallon and gas is $2.50 a gallon, they will spend $10.00 in gas to save that tax money — meaning a savings of $40.00 or $52.50. Toss in a few other purchases, and the savings start adding up quite nicely.

Of course, Massachusetts isn’t taking this lying down. Under their law, residents who buy taxable merchandise out of state are supposed to report it and pay the tax. This is, obviously, one of the most ignored laws on the state’s books. The Commonwealth is trying to get around this by “persuading” businesses with locations in both states to collect Massachusetts taxes on New Hampshire sales to Massachusetts residents, but the businesses in question — and the state of New Hampshire — are fighting back against being drafted by Bay State tax collectors. In fact, New Hampshire is working on a law that would essentially forbid businesses from sharing information on their customers from other states for the purposes of tax collection.

This is yet another sign of the increasing mobility of the American people, and their growing independence from geographic and political boundaries. Last year, Maryland decided to help fix its budget by raising the income tax on people who made over a million dollars — a pool of about 3,000 people. One year later, that pool had shrunk to around 2,000 people.

And need anyone mention Rush Limbaugh’s “defection” to Florida over New York’s taxes? Or Microsoft’s announced plans to “export” jobs should Obama pass his tax plans.

The lesson is simple: if you push people too far with taxes, they will simply take their money (and, occasionally, themselves) elsewhere. This is a lesson that, unfortunately, will go unlearned by many of those holding the reins of power.

New Hampshire has discovered a good way to boost its economy during these troubled times. Unfortunately, it’s not a solution that lends itself for application elsewhere.

It involves having one’s state located next to another state that is being run by economic idiots.

Right now, Massachusetts is currently considering raising its sales tax from 5% to 6.25% — a 25% hike — to help cover a hefty budget deficit. And more and more Massachusetts residents are calculating the costs of that tax versus the price of gas.

Suppose a resident of Massachusetts is considering buying a $1,000 television. Should they buy it in Massachusetts, the final price will be $1050 — or $1062.50, under the proposed tax.

On the other hand, New Hampshire has no sales tax. (Or income tax, for that matter.) So some Bay Staters are whipping out their calculators and running the numbers. Suppose they live 40 miles from a New Hampshire store that sells the same TV at the same price. Presuming their car gets 20 miles per gallon and gas is $2.50 a gallon, they will spend $10.00 in gas to save that tax money — meaning a savings of $40.00 or $52.50. Toss in a few other purchases, and the savings start adding up quite nicely.

Of course, Massachusetts isn’t taking this lying down. Under their law, residents who buy taxable merchandise out of state are supposed to report it and pay the tax. This is, obviously, one of the most ignored laws on the state’s books. The Commonwealth is trying to get around this by “persuading” businesses with locations in both states to collect Massachusetts taxes on New Hampshire sales to Massachusetts residents, but the businesses in question — and the state of New Hampshire — are fighting back against being drafted by Bay State tax collectors. In fact, New Hampshire is working on a law that would essentially forbid businesses from sharing information on their customers from other states for the purposes of tax collection.

This is yet another sign of the increasing mobility of the American people, and their growing independence from geographic and political boundaries. Last year, Maryland decided to help fix its budget by raising the income tax on people who made over a million dollars — a pool of about 3,000 people. One year later, that pool had shrunk to around 2,000 people.

And need anyone mention Rush Limbaugh’s “defection” to Florida over New York’s taxes? Or Microsoft’s announced plans to “export” jobs should Obama pass his tax plans.

The lesson is simple: if you push people too far with taxes, they will simply take their money (and, occasionally, themselves) elsewhere. This is a lesson that, unfortunately, will go unlearned by many of those holding the reins of power.

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All About Him

Eugene Robinson writes that he was sometimes worried that Obama might be “overestimating the power of his personal history as an instrument of foreign policy.” But now those fears are put to rest. Because? Because of the Cairo speech that talked about his personal history. And the speech was so well-received that Robinson isn’t worried anymore. You see, it works!

Well, yes, North Korea is running amok. Iran hasn’t given up its nuclear ambitions. Palestinians don’t have a viable interlocutor to deal with Israel. Israel isn’t about to stop ad-ons from being built in East Jerusalem. But students, Robinson says, shouted “I love you!” in Cairo and — now this is the clincher — “Obama was speaking the language of Islam in a tone of respect.” (George W. Bush did this incessantly but I guess it didn’t count, coming from him.)  So now we have incontrovertible proof of the power of Obama.

Circular reasoning? There is an utter lack of real-world evidence for Obama’s awesome power. Well, Robinson says that we should look at the elections in Lebanon. On that score, let me say it takes a certain type of hubris to conclude that voters in Lebanon rejected Hezbollah not because they have aspirations for re-establishing their own country as an independent, vibrant, democratic nation or because Hezbollah was implicated in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, but because of Obama’s speech in Cairo. It is the sort of enormously condescending, American-centric view of the world which, if George W. Bush espoused, would rightly be ridiculed by elite media figures, including Robinson.

But you see how Obama comes to believe in the power of his own wonderfulness and his ability to rewrite history and distort reality. If he reads his own news clippings he must think it’s working.

Eugene Robinson writes that he was sometimes worried that Obama might be “overestimating the power of his personal history as an instrument of foreign policy.” But now those fears are put to rest. Because? Because of the Cairo speech that talked about his personal history. And the speech was so well-received that Robinson isn’t worried anymore. You see, it works!

Well, yes, North Korea is running amok. Iran hasn’t given up its nuclear ambitions. Palestinians don’t have a viable interlocutor to deal with Israel. Israel isn’t about to stop ad-ons from being built in East Jerusalem. But students, Robinson says, shouted “I love you!” in Cairo and — now this is the clincher — “Obama was speaking the language of Islam in a tone of respect.” (George W. Bush did this incessantly but I guess it didn’t count, coming from him.)  So now we have incontrovertible proof of the power of Obama.

Circular reasoning? There is an utter lack of real-world evidence for Obama’s awesome power. Well, Robinson says that we should look at the elections in Lebanon. On that score, let me say it takes a certain type of hubris to conclude that voters in Lebanon rejected Hezbollah not because they have aspirations for re-establishing their own country as an independent, vibrant, democratic nation or because Hezbollah was implicated in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, but because of Obama’s speech in Cairo. It is the sort of enormously condescending, American-centric view of the world which, if George W. Bush espoused, would rightly be ridiculed by elite media figures, including Robinson.

But you see how Obama comes to believe in the power of his own wonderfulness and his ability to rewrite history and distort reality. If he reads his own news clippings he must think it’s working.

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North Korea’s Warpath

Maybe the mainstream press over in the U.S. is a little slow. Israel’s media today is headlining a new threat from North Korea: Pyongyang announced, through a state-run newspaper, that it will use its nuclear weapons against anyone who, in its mind, provokes it. “Our nuclear deterrent will be a strong defensive means … as well as a merciless offensive means to deal a just retaliatory strike to those who touch the country’s dignity and sovereignty even a bit.” Through this line, run by the state-run news agency, North Korea is for the first time giving up the pretense of developing only “defensive” nukes. And it is intended as the clearest warning yet against anything the West might consider doing.

True, North Korea is known for its bellicose phrasing. But phrasing is part of the reality of politics. While the U.S. “weighs” putting North Korea back on the terror list and “considers” whether to start enforcing a UN Security Council resolution calling for the inspection of North Korean vessels, Pyongyang is saying explicitly what it intends to do. Is it just rhetoric? If so, a lack of response from the West sends a terrifying message to South Korea and other neighboring countries, who are now all looking to Washington for leadership. If not, then we all need to begin asking ourselves: What will Washington do if North Korea decides to send its messages in the form of military strikes, even a nuclear attack?

Oh, and if you wonder why Israelis are so concerned about North Korean nukes, maybe it’s because Israelis feel in their bones what many Americans have yet to figure out: that there is no better indicator as to how the administration will really handle the Iranian threat tomorrow than to look at how it handles North Korea today. There is, potentially, a direct link between American failure here and the likelihood of an Israeli attack there.

Maybe the mainstream press over in the U.S. is a little slow. Israel’s media today is headlining a new threat from North Korea: Pyongyang announced, through a state-run newspaper, that it will use its nuclear weapons against anyone who, in its mind, provokes it. “Our nuclear deterrent will be a strong defensive means … as well as a merciless offensive means to deal a just retaliatory strike to those who touch the country’s dignity and sovereignty even a bit.” Through this line, run by the state-run news agency, North Korea is for the first time giving up the pretense of developing only “defensive” nukes. And it is intended as the clearest warning yet against anything the West might consider doing.

True, North Korea is known for its bellicose phrasing. But phrasing is part of the reality of politics. While the U.S. “weighs” putting North Korea back on the terror list and “considers” whether to start enforcing a UN Security Council resolution calling for the inspection of North Korean vessels, Pyongyang is saying explicitly what it intends to do. Is it just rhetoric? If so, a lack of response from the West sends a terrifying message to South Korea and other neighboring countries, who are now all looking to Washington for leadership. If not, then we all need to begin asking ourselves: What will Washington do if North Korea decides to send its messages in the form of military strikes, even a nuclear attack?

Oh, and if you wonder why Israelis are so concerned about North Korean nukes, maybe it’s because Israelis feel in their bones what many Americans have yet to figure out: that there is no better indicator as to how the administration will really handle the Iranian threat tomorrow than to look at how it handles North Korea today. There is, potentially, a direct link between American failure here and the likelihood of an Israeli attack there.

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Not Like It’s Worked Well Elsewhere

Dr. David Gratzer, a Canadian now with the Manhattan Institute, tries to warn us about the wonders of nationalized medicine in the country of his birth:

Only half of ER patients are treated in a timely manner by national and international standards, according to a government study. The physician shortage is so severe that some towns hold lotteries, with the winners gaining access to the local doc.

Overall, according to a study published in Lancet Oncology last year, five-year cancer survival rates are higher in the U.S. than those in Canada. Based on data from the Joint Canada/U.S. Survey of Health (done by Statistics Canada and the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics), Americans have greater access to preventive screening tests and have higher treatment rates for chronic illnesses. No wonder: To limit the growth in health spending, governments restrict the supply of health care by rationing it through waiting. The same survey data show, as June and Paul O’Neill note in a paper published in 2007 in the Forum for Health Economics & Policy, that the poor under socialized medicine seem to be less healthy relative to the nonpoor than their American counterparts.

Meanwhile, Canada’s private healthcare sector is growing and efforts are underway to limit the government monopoly in Quebec of all places. As Gratzer asks of the president and his Congressional allies who seem blissfully unconcerned with this evidence: “Why are they rushing into a system of government-dominated health care when the very countries that have experienced it for so long are backing away?” Perhaps someone should ask the president.

Dr. David Gratzer, a Canadian now with the Manhattan Institute, tries to warn us about the wonders of nationalized medicine in the country of his birth:

Only half of ER patients are treated in a timely manner by national and international standards, according to a government study. The physician shortage is so severe that some towns hold lotteries, with the winners gaining access to the local doc.

Overall, according to a study published in Lancet Oncology last year, five-year cancer survival rates are higher in the U.S. than those in Canada. Based on data from the Joint Canada/U.S. Survey of Health (done by Statistics Canada and the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics), Americans have greater access to preventive screening tests and have higher treatment rates for chronic illnesses. No wonder: To limit the growth in health spending, governments restrict the supply of health care by rationing it through waiting. The same survey data show, as June and Paul O’Neill note in a paper published in 2007 in the Forum for Health Economics & Policy, that the poor under socialized medicine seem to be less healthy relative to the nonpoor than their American counterparts.

Meanwhile, Canada’s private healthcare sector is growing and efforts are underway to limit the government monopoly in Quebec of all places. As Gratzer asks of the president and his Congressional allies who seem blissfully unconcerned with this evidence: “Why are they rushing into a system of government-dominated health care when the very countries that have experienced it for so long are backing away?” Perhaps someone should ask the president.

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More Ethanol, Less Relief

One of the plans being considered by the Obama administration is to raise the ethanol content of blended gasoline from 10% to 15%. Apparently, this is being done to reduce our dependency on foreign oil, decrease pollution, and stimulate the domestic economy. What’s unclear is precisely how this is supposed to work.

Thus far, ethanol in gasoline has been less than a stellar success. The diversion of corn from food to fuel has driven up the price of corn to a degree that is actually effecting food prices. In other words, during a time of economic crisis, the government has decided to make a staple of the American diet more costly.

Moreover, it hasn’t worked out very well for those producing the ethanol. They’re struggling, if not failing.

Then there’s pollution: it turns out that adding ethanol to gasoline actually makes it burn less cleanly, giving off more pollutants.

And just to add injury to the insult, there is evidence (so far largely anecdotal, but growing) that the ethanol is causing serious damage to car engines that weren’t designed to burn alcohol — especially in cases where the blending is less than precise and cars end up trying to burn fuel that has a much higher percentage of ethanol than 10%.

Finally, there are a lot of gasoline-burning vehicles that are not cars (boats, lawn mowers, off-road 4x4s, and the like) whose warranties specifically exclude damage caused by burning fuel containing more than 10% ethanol. Should the law change, those warranties will suddenly become null and void — leaving the owners (literally, in some cases) up the creek.

On the other hand, increasing the ethanol content in gasoline will have some benefits. For one…um… Well, I’m sure there has to be some advantage.

A plan as profoundly counterproductive as this, with so many downsides, can not be the product of any individual or private business. No, something as fatally flawed as this could only be spawned by the federal government.

One of the plans being considered by the Obama administration is to raise the ethanol content of blended gasoline from 10% to 15%. Apparently, this is being done to reduce our dependency on foreign oil, decrease pollution, and stimulate the domestic economy. What’s unclear is precisely how this is supposed to work.

Thus far, ethanol in gasoline has been less than a stellar success. The diversion of corn from food to fuel has driven up the price of corn to a degree that is actually effecting food prices. In other words, during a time of economic crisis, the government has decided to make a staple of the American diet more costly.

Moreover, it hasn’t worked out very well for those producing the ethanol. They’re struggling, if not failing.

Then there’s pollution: it turns out that adding ethanol to gasoline actually makes it burn less cleanly, giving off more pollutants.

And just to add injury to the insult, there is evidence (so far largely anecdotal, but growing) that the ethanol is causing serious damage to car engines that weren’t designed to burn alcohol — especially in cases where the blending is less than precise and cars end up trying to burn fuel that has a much higher percentage of ethanol than 10%.

Finally, there are a lot of gasoline-burning vehicles that are not cars (boats, lawn mowers, off-road 4x4s, and the like) whose warranties specifically exclude damage caused by burning fuel containing more than 10% ethanol. Should the law change, those warranties will suddenly become null and void — leaving the owners (literally, in some cases) up the creek.

On the other hand, increasing the ethanol content in gasoline will have some benefits. For one…um… Well, I’m sure there has to be some advantage.

A plan as profoundly counterproductive as this, with so many downsides, can not be the product of any individual or private business. No, something as fatally flawed as this could only be spawned by the federal government.

Read Less




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