Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 21, 2010

Things We Shouldn’t Be Doing with China

Four U.S. senators have registered concern about the proposal of a start-up company, Amerilink Telecom Corp., to upgrade Sprint Nextel’s national network to 4G data-rate capacity using Chinese-provided equipment from Huawei Shenzen Ltd., a company with longstanding ties to the Chinese military. The point made by the senators – Joe Lieberman, Susan Collins, Jon Kyl, and Sue Myrick – is that China could install a surveillance or sabotage capability in a very large segment of the U.S. wireless infrastructure. The scope of the Sprint Nextel 4G upgrade reportedly encompasses about 35,000 transmission towers throughout the 50 states.

Huawei has been trying to crack the U.S. market for years but has always been blocked by the security concerns of American officials, backed by comprehensive cyber-security reports from intelligence agencies and the Pentagon. Huawei hoped to contract directly with Sprint this past summer, but when a group of senators shot that attempt down, a senior Sprint executive left the company to join Amerilink and began planning a new strategy to bring Huawei into the U.S. telecommunications infrastructure. The strategy has included developing “insider” connections by recruiting Dick Gephardt and former World Bank president James Wolfensohn to Amerilink’s board, along with former Navy secretary and Defense Department official Gordon England.

Although vigilant senators deflected the Huawei-Sprint bid as recently as August, there’s a reason for disquiet in October. In a move that received little attention outside the tech-industry press, Huawei finally managed this month to contract with a U.S. wireless provider, T-Mobile, to supply handsets to customers. On Monday, Forbes tech writer Jeffrey Carr wondered why this contract was allowed to go through, considering that T-Mobile is a government contractor and supplies handsets and wireless service to federal agencies.

That’s a good question. India, Britain, and Australia have all zeroed in on Huawei (along with Chinese tech firm ZTE) as a source of potential security risks. India’s resistance to penetration has equaled that of the U.S. – and may soon exceed it. America seems to be quietly lowering its guard with Huawei: the announcement of the T-Mobile contract last week came on the heels of an October 11 press release from Huawei Symantec on its plan to sell data-storage platforms and gateway packages to U.S. customers. For a company that has consistently been excluded from the U.S. due to security concerns, that’s a lot of market-entry announcements in one week.

The Stuxnet worm has reminded us of the stealthy and devious methods by which security vulnerabilities can be introduced into the IT systems that control major infrastructure operations. We won’t see the next “Stuxnet” coming, or the one after that; the events of 2010 clarify for us that we can’t rely solely on technical vigilance to protect our critical infrastructure. We also need a basis for trusting suppliers the old-fashioned way. China and its tech companies haven’t met that test.

Four U.S. senators have registered concern about the proposal of a start-up company, Amerilink Telecom Corp., to upgrade Sprint Nextel’s national network to 4G data-rate capacity using Chinese-provided equipment from Huawei Shenzen Ltd., a company with longstanding ties to the Chinese military. The point made by the senators – Joe Lieberman, Susan Collins, Jon Kyl, and Sue Myrick – is that China could install a surveillance or sabotage capability in a very large segment of the U.S. wireless infrastructure. The scope of the Sprint Nextel 4G upgrade reportedly encompasses about 35,000 transmission towers throughout the 50 states.

Huawei has been trying to crack the U.S. market for years but has always been blocked by the security concerns of American officials, backed by comprehensive cyber-security reports from intelligence agencies and the Pentagon. Huawei hoped to contract directly with Sprint this past summer, but when a group of senators shot that attempt down, a senior Sprint executive left the company to join Amerilink and began planning a new strategy to bring Huawei into the U.S. telecommunications infrastructure. The strategy has included developing “insider” connections by recruiting Dick Gephardt and former World Bank president James Wolfensohn to Amerilink’s board, along with former Navy secretary and Defense Department official Gordon England.

Although vigilant senators deflected the Huawei-Sprint bid as recently as August, there’s a reason for disquiet in October. In a move that received little attention outside the tech-industry press, Huawei finally managed this month to contract with a U.S. wireless provider, T-Mobile, to supply handsets to customers. On Monday, Forbes tech writer Jeffrey Carr wondered why this contract was allowed to go through, considering that T-Mobile is a government contractor and supplies handsets and wireless service to federal agencies.

That’s a good question. India, Britain, and Australia have all zeroed in on Huawei (along with Chinese tech firm ZTE) as a source of potential security risks. India’s resistance to penetration has equaled that of the U.S. – and may soon exceed it. America seems to be quietly lowering its guard with Huawei: the announcement of the T-Mobile contract last week came on the heels of an October 11 press release from Huawei Symantec on its plan to sell data-storage platforms and gateway packages to U.S. customers. For a company that has consistently been excluded from the U.S. due to security concerns, that’s a lot of market-entry announcements in one week.

The Stuxnet worm has reminded us of the stealthy and devious methods by which security vulnerabilities can be introduced into the IT systems that control major infrastructure operations. We won’t see the next “Stuxnet” coming, or the one after that; the events of 2010 clarify for us that we can’t rely solely on technical vigilance to protect our critical infrastructure. We also need a basis for trusting suppliers the old-fashioned way. China and its tech companies haven’t met that test.

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RE: NPR: Shut Up and Get Out, Juan

I suspect NPR has been looking for an excuse to fire Juan Williams for a long time and decided this would do. It will, I think, backfire big time on NPR, which is in the middle of one of its periodic, unendurable begathons to raise money. The comments, even on NPR’s own websites and Facebook page, are overwhelmingly negative, and many make the connection: “This morning, as I listened to pleas for funding support, I made a mental note to write a check and send it in to NPR. This afternoon, I changed my mind.”

NPR states that Williams was fired because what he said on The O’Reilly Factor was “inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a News Analyst with NPR.” OK. But then these comments that Nina Totenberg made 15 years ago about the late Jesse Helms must have been consistent with them, because she still works for NPR.

So let’s recap. Admitting to feeling a whiff of fear at the sight of ethnically dressed Muslims on a plane he’s about to fly on, a fear Williams himself thinks is irrational but no less real for that, is beyond the pale. At the same time, effectively calling upon God to strike down with AIDS someone Totenberg disagrees with is hunky-dory with NPR. So, apparently, is calling upon God to have one of that man’s innocent grandchildren develop AIDS so that the grandfather could suffer. The grandchild’s suffering, I guess, would just be collateral damage in a worthy cause.

The death of a once-great political movement — American liberalism — sure is painful to watch.

I suspect NPR has been looking for an excuse to fire Juan Williams for a long time and decided this would do. It will, I think, backfire big time on NPR, which is in the middle of one of its periodic, unendurable begathons to raise money. The comments, even on NPR’s own websites and Facebook page, are overwhelmingly negative, and many make the connection: “This morning, as I listened to pleas for funding support, I made a mental note to write a check and send it in to NPR. This afternoon, I changed my mind.”

NPR states that Williams was fired because what he said on The O’Reilly Factor was “inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a News Analyst with NPR.” OK. But then these comments that Nina Totenberg made 15 years ago about the late Jesse Helms must have been consistent with them, because she still works for NPR.

So let’s recap. Admitting to feeling a whiff of fear at the sight of ethnically dressed Muslims on a plane he’s about to fly on, a fear Williams himself thinks is irrational but no less real for that, is beyond the pale. At the same time, effectively calling upon God to strike down with AIDS someone Totenberg disagrees with is hunky-dory with NPR. So, apparently, is calling upon God to have one of that man’s innocent grandchildren develop AIDS so that the grandfather could suffer. The grandchild’s suffering, I guess, would just be collateral damage in a worthy cause.

The death of a once-great political movement — American liberalism — sure is painful to watch.

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A Human-Rights Forum Gone Awry

As the third Forum on Human Rights in Beijing wraps up today, other news shows just how serious the Chinese Communist Party is about protecting the rights of its citizens.

The Associated Press reports on a Chinese woman who was “detained, beaten, and forced to have an abortion just a month before her due date because the baby would have violated the country’s one-child limit.”

Strangely, this article doesn’t seem to merit a mention on the official website for the Forum on Human Rights, which is sponsored by the China Society for Human Rights Studies, an NGO that is a member of the United Nations Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations and that, according to its website, “enjoys a special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.” Judge the content of the website for yourself — does this sort of laudatory content pressure Beijing to improve its treatment of its own citizens? Or does it enable the Chinese Communist Party to continue to hide its offenses, whitewashing its record with the excuses of “progress” and “development”?

What is revealing is Beijing’s official line, as voiced at the Forum’s opening ceremony:

[Wang Chen, director of the Information Office of the State Council] said promoting modernization and progress in human rights has always been, and always will be, a pursuit of the Chinese people and government.

“We will strive to promote scientific development and social harmony, implement the principles of respecting and safeguarding human rights, and strengthen international cooperation in human rights, to promote China’s progress in modernization and human rights,” he said.

One article about the Forum on Human Rights is unintentionally funny, albeit in a dark way. The headline? “Forum invites rethink of human rights.” The article concludes that:

After two days of heated discussion and candid exchange, participants have gained a better understanding of each other’s approach to human rights. But that doesn’t mean they have sorted out their differences.

The two day forum has officially ended. But it seems more efforts are needed, both official and unofficial, for people in the east and the west to truly see eye to eye when it comes to human rights.

But human rights are, by definition, universal. To suggest that human rights means one thing in the East and another in the West is to miss the point altogether. Holding a forum that applauds China’s presumed human-rights advances is not only ineffective and in poor taste; it’s willfully misleading, the human-rights equivalent of the Potemkin Village.

As the third Forum on Human Rights in Beijing wraps up today, other news shows just how serious the Chinese Communist Party is about protecting the rights of its citizens.

The Associated Press reports on a Chinese woman who was “detained, beaten, and forced to have an abortion just a month before her due date because the baby would have violated the country’s one-child limit.”

Strangely, this article doesn’t seem to merit a mention on the official website for the Forum on Human Rights, which is sponsored by the China Society for Human Rights Studies, an NGO that is a member of the United Nations Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations and that, according to its website, “enjoys a special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.” Judge the content of the website for yourself — does this sort of laudatory content pressure Beijing to improve its treatment of its own citizens? Or does it enable the Chinese Communist Party to continue to hide its offenses, whitewashing its record with the excuses of “progress” and “development”?

What is revealing is Beijing’s official line, as voiced at the Forum’s opening ceremony:

[Wang Chen, director of the Information Office of the State Council] said promoting modernization and progress in human rights has always been, and always will be, a pursuit of the Chinese people and government.

“We will strive to promote scientific development and social harmony, implement the principles of respecting and safeguarding human rights, and strengthen international cooperation in human rights, to promote China’s progress in modernization and human rights,” he said.

One article about the Forum on Human Rights is unintentionally funny, albeit in a dark way. The headline? “Forum invites rethink of human rights.” The article concludes that:

After two days of heated discussion and candid exchange, participants have gained a better understanding of each other’s approach to human rights. But that doesn’t mean they have sorted out their differences.

The two day forum has officially ended. But it seems more efforts are needed, both official and unofficial, for people in the east and the west to truly see eye to eye when it comes to human rights.

But human rights are, by definition, universal. To suggest that human rights means one thing in the East and another in the West is to miss the point altogether. Holding a forum that applauds China’s presumed human-rights advances is not only ineffective and in poor taste; it’s willfully misleading, the human-rights equivalent of the Potemkin Village.

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No Time for Defeatism in Afghanistan

Today’s New York Times offers two competing narratives from Afghanistan — one of success, the other of failure. The front page features the most hopeful article I’ve seen out of Afghanistan in years, headlined, “Coalition Forces Routing Taliban in Key Afghan Region.” Carlotta Gall reports that coalition operations are chasing the Taliban out of their strongholds around Kandahar:

A series of civilian and military operations around the strategic southern province, made possible after a force of 12,000 American and NATO troops reached full strength here in the late summer, has persuaded Afghan and Western officials that the Taliban will have a hard time returning to areas they had controlled in the province that was their base. ..

Unlike the Marja operation, they say, the one in Kandahar is a comprehensive civil and military effort that is changing the public mood as well as improving security.

If true, this is amazingly good news. You wouldn’t know that anything positive was going on, however, from reading Nick Kristof’s op-ed column, which is full of typical gloom and doom. He claims that “President Obama’s decision to triple the number of troops in Afghanistan has resulted, with some exceptions, mostly in more dead Americans and Afghans alike.” Kristof suggests preemptively declaring defeat: “My vote would be to scale back our military footprint: use a smaller troop presence to secure Kabul and a few other cities, step up training of the Afghan National Army, and worry less about the Taliban and more about Al Qaeda. We also should push aggressively for a peace deal between President Hamid Karzai and the Taliban, backed by Pakistan.”

This is a pretty amazing sentiment considering that Kristof has been an ardent human-rights campaigner who has pushed for greater Western intervention to deal with ills ranging from the white-slave trade to ethnic cleansing. But in Afghanistan, he is happy to consign the people to the tender mercies of the Taliban. He seems to comfort himself by claiming that it’s still possible to run schools and other development projects even in Taliban-dominated areas — a dubious claim that was certainly not borne out during the years of Taliban rule (1996-2001), when they subjected the people of Afghanistan, and especially its women, to a regime of unparalleled barbarism.

Kristof’s prescriptions would make sense only if we had already fought and lost in Afghanistan. But with the last of the surge forces having arrived only last month, our outstanding troops have barely begun to fight. And as Carlotta Gall’s report makes clear, in areas where we are applying substantial combat power, we are making progress on the ground. This is no time for defeatism.

Today’s New York Times offers two competing narratives from Afghanistan — one of success, the other of failure. The front page features the most hopeful article I’ve seen out of Afghanistan in years, headlined, “Coalition Forces Routing Taliban in Key Afghan Region.” Carlotta Gall reports that coalition operations are chasing the Taliban out of their strongholds around Kandahar:

A series of civilian and military operations around the strategic southern province, made possible after a force of 12,000 American and NATO troops reached full strength here in the late summer, has persuaded Afghan and Western officials that the Taliban will have a hard time returning to areas they had controlled in the province that was their base. ..

Unlike the Marja operation, they say, the one in Kandahar is a comprehensive civil and military effort that is changing the public mood as well as improving security.

If true, this is amazingly good news. You wouldn’t know that anything positive was going on, however, from reading Nick Kristof’s op-ed column, which is full of typical gloom and doom. He claims that “President Obama’s decision to triple the number of troops in Afghanistan has resulted, with some exceptions, mostly in more dead Americans and Afghans alike.” Kristof suggests preemptively declaring defeat: “My vote would be to scale back our military footprint: use a smaller troop presence to secure Kabul and a few other cities, step up training of the Afghan National Army, and worry less about the Taliban and more about Al Qaeda. We also should push aggressively for a peace deal between President Hamid Karzai and the Taliban, backed by Pakistan.”

This is a pretty amazing sentiment considering that Kristof has been an ardent human-rights campaigner who has pushed for greater Western intervention to deal with ills ranging from the white-slave trade to ethnic cleansing. But in Afghanistan, he is happy to consign the people to the tender mercies of the Taliban. He seems to comfort himself by claiming that it’s still possible to run schools and other development projects even in Taliban-dominated areas — a dubious claim that was certainly not borne out during the years of Taliban rule (1996-2001), when they subjected the people of Afghanistan, and especially its women, to a regime of unparalleled barbarism.

Kristof’s prescriptions would make sense only if we had already fought and lost in Afghanistan. But with the last of the surge forces having arrived only last month, our outstanding troops have barely begun to fight. And as Carlotta Gall’s report makes clear, in areas where we are applying substantial combat power, we are making progress on the ground. This is no time for defeatism.

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NPR: Shut Up and Get Out, Juan

Juan Williams was canned by NPR for uttering inconvenient truths:

Juan was appearing on Bill O’Reilly’s show Monday night, when O’Reilly asserted, “The cold truth is that in the world today jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet.” Juan didn’t disagree with this claim. …

Juan cited the words of the Times Square bomber: “He said the war with Muslims, America’s war is just beginning, first drop of blood. I don’t think there’s any way to get away from these facts.” …

Juan also commented, “I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I’ve got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

This is a travesty, and yet another reason to defund NPR. His comments were honest, accurate, and shared by millions of Americans. But NPR is having none of it. Aside from the impact on Juan Williams (who will now be a rock star on the right, with no shortage of fine outlets at which to work), the episode is noteworthy for two reasons.

First, it eliminates any pretense that NPR is providing some public service. We already have left-leaning news outlets giving voice to the liberals’ party line. There is no reason for the taxpayers to support NPR, especially when it does not abide by reasonable journalistic standards. And frankly, with George Soros now funding the operation, NPR can fend for itself and take whatever leftist editorial line it wishes, which obviously is in tune with its donor’s views.

Second, this is — writ large — the result of the mentality that sees Islamophobia running rampant and regards criticism of Islamic individuals, countries, and organizations as akin to racism. NPR’s actions signify a message to the rest of its staff — and to others in the mainstream media — that certain views won’t be tolerated and the result will be ostracism.

You don’t have to agree with Juan Williams’s opinions to understand how noxious NPR’s actions are. Let’s see if liberals join with conservatives in expressing outrage. It might dispel the notion that the left is not interested in vigorous debate or intellectual freedom.

Juan Williams was canned by NPR for uttering inconvenient truths:

Juan was appearing on Bill O’Reilly’s show Monday night, when O’Reilly asserted, “The cold truth is that in the world today jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet.” Juan didn’t disagree with this claim. …

Juan cited the words of the Times Square bomber: “He said the war with Muslims, America’s war is just beginning, first drop of blood. I don’t think there’s any way to get away from these facts.” …

Juan also commented, “I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I’ve got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

This is a travesty, and yet another reason to defund NPR. His comments were honest, accurate, and shared by millions of Americans. But NPR is having none of it. Aside from the impact on Juan Williams (who will now be a rock star on the right, with no shortage of fine outlets at which to work), the episode is noteworthy for two reasons.

First, it eliminates any pretense that NPR is providing some public service. We already have left-leaning news outlets giving voice to the liberals’ party line. There is no reason for the taxpayers to support NPR, especially when it does not abide by reasonable journalistic standards. And frankly, with George Soros now funding the operation, NPR can fend for itself and take whatever leftist editorial line it wishes, which obviously is in tune with its donor’s views.

Second, this is — writ large — the result of the mentality that sees Islamophobia running rampant and regards criticism of Islamic individuals, countries, and organizations as akin to racism. NPR’s actions signify a message to the rest of its staff — and to others in the mainstream media — that certain views won’t be tolerated and the result will be ostracism.

You don’t have to agree with Juan Williams’s opinions to understand how noxious NPR’s actions are. Let’s see if liberals join with conservatives in expressing outrage. It might dispel the notion that the left is not interested in vigorous debate or intellectual freedom.

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Democrats Will Need to Regroup

Gallup reports today:

Barack Obama averaged 44.7% job approval during the seventh quarter of his presidency. His average approval rating has declined each quarter since he took office, falling by more than two percentage points in the most recent quarter to establish a new low. …

Obama’s seventh-quarter average ranks on the low end of comparable averages among the nine presidents since Eisenhower, although it is similar to that of several of the more recently elected presidents, including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton.

That is to say, unless the economy turns around as it did under Reagan, or the administration does as under Clinton, Obama is headed for one-termer status. In the meantime, he remains an albatross around the necks of Democratic candidates.

It therefore is not only the case that Obama will face an energized and enlarged Republican congressional contingent; Democrats will assess the election results themselves as well as Obama’s declining political fortunes. Those not swept out to sea by the 2010 tsunami will need to figure out how to distance themselves from the president, at least the version we saw in his first two years in office. On the Democratic side of the aisle, first will be the finger-pointing and then the bickering. “Go left!” will scream the liberals left in office and in the blogosphere. “That’s nuts!” will reply those from moderate states and those who remember all too well the Carter and Clinton years.

In other words, 2011 may be just as fascinating a political year as is 2010. For political junkies, the wild ride continues.

Gallup reports today:

Barack Obama averaged 44.7% job approval during the seventh quarter of his presidency. His average approval rating has declined each quarter since he took office, falling by more than two percentage points in the most recent quarter to establish a new low. …

Obama’s seventh-quarter average ranks on the low end of comparable averages among the nine presidents since Eisenhower, although it is similar to that of several of the more recently elected presidents, including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton.

That is to say, unless the economy turns around as it did under Reagan, or the administration does as under Clinton, Obama is headed for one-termer status. In the meantime, he remains an albatross around the necks of Democratic candidates.

It therefore is not only the case that Obama will face an energized and enlarged Republican congressional contingent; Democrats will assess the election results themselves as well as Obama’s declining political fortunes. Those not swept out to sea by the 2010 tsunami will need to figure out how to distance themselves from the president, at least the version we saw in his first two years in office. On the Democratic side of the aisle, first will be the finger-pointing and then the bickering. “Go left!” will scream the liberals left in office and in the blogosphere. “That’s nuts!” will reply those from moderate states and those who remember all too well the Carter and Clinton years.

In other words, 2011 may be just as fascinating a political year as is 2010. For political junkies, the wild ride continues.

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Democratic Governor Dissects ObamaCare

Tennessee Gov. Philip Bredesen in an op-ed today explains:

Our federal deficit is already at unsustainable levels, and most Americans understand that we can ill afford another entitlement program that adds substantially to it. But our recent health reform has created a situation where there are strong economic incentives for employers to drop health coverage altogether. The consequence will be to drive many more people than projected—and with them, much greater cost—into the reform’s federally subsidized system. This will happen because the subsidies that become available to people purchasing insurance through exchanges are extraordinarily attractive. …

For a person starting a business in 2014, it will be logical and responsible simply to plan from the outset never to offer health benefits. Employees, thanks to the exchanges, can easily purchase excellent, fairly priced insurance, without pre-existing condition limitations, through the exchanges. As it grows, the business can avoid a great deal of cost because the federal government will now pay much of what the business would have incurred for its share of health insurance. The small business tax credits included in health reform are limited and short-term, and the eventual penalty for not providing coverage, of $2,000 per employee, is still far less than the cost of insurance it replaces.

As more Americans flood into the public system, the cost of all those additional highly subsidized patients will skyrocket. The cost of the new entitlement will balloon, as will our deficit.

Now, this is smart analysis by a Democrat. Could not senators and congressmen have seen precisely this result? Of course they could have — conservative analysts predicted this precise phenomenon. But the rush was on to pass something — anything — and call it “historic.” The result is not only politically distasteful but fiscally untenable. The move to repeal ObamaCare will, I think, have many Democratic advocates as Bredesen’s take becomes the new conventional wisdom. Well, that and the 2010 election returns should do the trick.

Tennessee Gov. Philip Bredesen in an op-ed today explains:

Our federal deficit is already at unsustainable levels, and most Americans understand that we can ill afford another entitlement program that adds substantially to it. But our recent health reform has created a situation where there are strong economic incentives for employers to drop health coverage altogether. The consequence will be to drive many more people than projected—and with them, much greater cost—into the reform’s federally subsidized system. This will happen because the subsidies that become available to people purchasing insurance through exchanges are extraordinarily attractive. …

For a person starting a business in 2014, it will be logical and responsible simply to plan from the outset never to offer health benefits. Employees, thanks to the exchanges, can easily purchase excellent, fairly priced insurance, without pre-existing condition limitations, through the exchanges. As it grows, the business can avoid a great deal of cost because the federal government will now pay much of what the business would have incurred for its share of health insurance. The small business tax credits included in health reform are limited and short-term, and the eventual penalty for not providing coverage, of $2,000 per employee, is still far less than the cost of insurance it replaces.

As more Americans flood into the public system, the cost of all those additional highly subsidized patients will skyrocket. The cost of the new entitlement will balloon, as will our deficit.

Now, this is smart analysis by a Democrat. Could not senators and congressmen have seen precisely this result? Of course they could have — conservative analysts predicted this precise phenomenon. But the rush was on to pass something — anything — and call it “historic.” The result is not only politically distasteful but fiscally untenable. The move to repeal ObamaCare will, I think, have many Democratic advocates as Bredesen’s take becomes the new conventional wisdom. Well, that and the 2010 election returns should do the trick.

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Enthusiasm Not Absent for GOP

Two reports suggest that the enthusiasm gap remains a problem for the Democrats.

From Pennsylvania:

Pennsylvania voters have requested nearly 127,000 absentee ballots so far. Of that total, Republican voters made up 50 percent and Democrats made up 42 percent, according to figures collected Tuesday afternoon.

The state records show Republicans are returning their absentee ballots in greater numbers as well. The state has received about 40 percent of requested ballots, and Republican registrations outpace Democrats by 19 points, 56 percent to 37 percent, according to the state data. Absentee ballots made up 5 percent of total turnout in 2008.

In Colorado:

The Colorado Secretary of State has released the first glimpse of early voting turnout from a combination of mail-in balloting and early voting centers. Republicans have an early partisan lead of just over 10,000 votes, 81,545 to 71,325. A total of 195,283 votes have been cast in the eight days since ballots were mailed and three days early voting has been available.

We’ve already seen the phenomenon at work in Nevada: “For Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), who is locked in a slugfest with tea-party favorite Sharron Angle, the early results appear to be discouraging. In Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, 52% of the early vote in 2008 came from Democrats, while 30.6% came from Republicans. So far this year, the Democratic edge is narrower, 46.4% to 38.2%.”

To be sure, these are small slices of the electorate. Especially in Senate races, many contests will be close. But at least for now, the polls showing a substantial enthusiasm gap seem to be on the money.

Two reports suggest that the enthusiasm gap remains a problem for the Democrats.

From Pennsylvania:

Pennsylvania voters have requested nearly 127,000 absentee ballots so far. Of that total, Republican voters made up 50 percent and Democrats made up 42 percent, according to figures collected Tuesday afternoon.

The state records show Republicans are returning their absentee ballots in greater numbers as well. The state has received about 40 percent of requested ballots, and Republican registrations outpace Democrats by 19 points, 56 percent to 37 percent, according to the state data. Absentee ballots made up 5 percent of total turnout in 2008.

In Colorado:

The Colorado Secretary of State has released the first glimpse of early voting turnout from a combination of mail-in balloting and early voting centers. Republicans have an early partisan lead of just over 10,000 votes, 81,545 to 71,325. A total of 195,283 votes have been cast in the eight days since ballots were mailed and three days early voting has been available.

We’ve already seen the phenomenon at work in Nevada: “For Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), who is locked in a slugfest with tea-party favorite Sharron Angle, the early results appear to be discouraging. In Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, 52% of the early vote in 2008 came from Democrats, while 30.6% came from Republicans. So far this year, the Democratic edge is narrower, 46.4% to 38.2%.”

To be sure, these are small slices of the electorate. Especially in Senate races, many contests will be close. But at least for now, the polls showing a substantial enthusiasm gap seem to be on the money.

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Why the Dems’ Campaign Is So Bad

Karl Rove writes:

Last Saturday at a West Newton, Mass., fund-raiser, the president said, “facts and science and argument [do] not seem to be winning … because we’re hard-wired not to always think clearly when we’re scared.”

Memo to White House: Calling voters stupid is not a winning strategy.

The economy and jobs are the No. 1 issue in every poll. Yet Mr. Obama of late has talked about immigration reform and weighed in (unprompted) on the Ground Zero mosque. He devoted Labor Day to an ineffective Mideast peace initiative. He demeans large blocs of voters and now is ending his midterm pitch with attacks on nonexistent foreign campaign contributions and weird assertions that “the Empire is striking back.”

Meanwhile, Republicans have talked about little else than the economy—drawing attention to lackluster job growth, the failed stimulus, out-of-control spending, escalating deficits and the dangers of ObamaCare.

To a large degree, this is a reversal of the 2008 election. There Obama let his opponent flail away, appearing reasonable simply by pointing to the lackluster economy and showing himself to be less flighty than the more experienced Republican. Now Obama and his party are on the defensive and desperately trying to change the subject to a host of non-issues. Obama is incoherent because he can’t effectively defend his record.

As Michael Barone notes:

What has struck me this year is that so-called tea party candidates turn out, when you take a look at them, to have considerably more in the way of good political instincts than the usual run of Republican candidates. And some of them who have been derided in mainstream media, like Sherron Angle, manage to beat a 40-year political veteran like Harry Reid in debate. I was somewhat surprised … because candidates who have had a couple of terms in a state legislature representing a small rural district seldom manage to hold their own, much less prevail, in a debate with a major officeholder whose political career spans 40 years.

For some time now, conservative critics (and some candid liberal ones as well) have observed that Obama was great at campaigning but lousy at governing. (Juan Williams declared that you wouldn’t want to rely on Obama in a crisis.) It turns out that being lousy at governing makes for a lousy campaign. It turns out that for an incumbent, campaigning is not some all-purpose talent that can be pulled off the shelf to rescue unpopular policies. You actually have to convince voters that your record deserves their stamp of approval.

That is why Obama is suddenly so ineffective, and why a Sharron Angle can best Harry Reid. You try defending the Dems’ record. It isn’t easy, is it?

Karl Rove writes:

Last Saturday at a West Newton, Mass., fund-raiser, the president said, “facts and science and argument [do] not seem to be winning … because we’re hard-wired not to always think clearly when we’re scared.”

Memo to White House: Calling voters stupid is not a winning strategy.

The economy and jobs are the No. 1 issue in every poll. Yet Mr. Obama of late has talked about immigration reform and weighed in (unprompted) on the Ground Zero mosque. He devoted Labor Day to an ineffective Mideast peace initiative. He demeans large blocs of voters and now is ending his midterm pitch with attacks on nonexistent foreign campaign contributions and weird assertions that “the Empire is striking back.”

Meanwhile, Republicans have talked about little else than the economy—drawing attention to lackluster job growth, the failed stimulus, out-of-control spending, escalating deficits and the dangers of ObamaCare.

To a large degree, this is a reversal of the 2008 election. There Obama let his opponent flail away, appearing reasonable simply by pointing to the lackluster economy and showing himself to be less flighty than the more experienced Republican. Now Obama and his party are on the defensive and desperately trying to change the subject to a host of non-issues. Obama is incoherent because he can’t effectively defend his record.

As Michael Barone notes:

What has struck me this year is that so-called tea party candidates turn out, when you take a look at them, to have considerably more in the way of good political instincts than the usual run of Republican candidates. And some of them who have been derided in mainstream media, like Sherron Angle, manage to beat a 40-year political veteran like Harry Reid in debate. I was somewhat surprised … because candidates who have had a couple of terms in a state legislature representing a small rural district seldom manage to hold their own, much less prevail, in a debate with a major officeholder whose political career spans 40 years.

For some time now, conservative critics (and some candid liberal ones as well) have observed that Obama was great at campaigning but lousy at governing. (Juan Williams declared that you wouldn’t want to rely on Obama in a crisis.) It turns out that being lousy at governing makes for a lousy campaign. It turns out that for an incumbent, campaigning is not some all-purpose talent that can be pulled off the shelf to rescue unpopular policies. You actually have to convince voters that your record deserves their stamp of approval.

That is why Obama is suddenly so ineffective, and why a Sharron Angle can best Harry Reid. You try defending the Dems’ record. It isn’t easy, is it?

Read Less

The Farce That Is ‘Reset’

Josh Rogin reports:

The Obama administration is ignoring, and thereby enabling, the Russian government’s gross abuse of human rights and its gutting of the country’s  democracy, according to Russia’s former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov.

“We have no democracy at all. We don’t have any future of a democratic state. Everything has been lost, everything has been taken by the people by the authorities,” Kasyanov said in a wide ranging interview with Foreign Policy. “The power has replaced all institutions … like Parliament, like independent judiciary, like free media, etc. That’s already obvious for everyone.”

What’s his complaint? Well, the Obama team has tossed democracy and human rights under the bus, as they have in the case of every despotic regime:

The former Russian head of government, who was ousted by current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in 2004, is on a mission this week to send a two-fold message to U.S.-based Russia watchers: that the upcoming elections next year in Russia will not be free and fair, and that the “reset” policy of the Obama administration has wrongly caused the United States to abandon its role as a vocal critic of Russian democratic and human rights abuses.

“We would like our friends in the West, in Europe and the United States, those who are interested in a democratic Russia … we would like these friends just to open their mouths …”

It is hear-no-evil, see-no-evil time:

He said that U.S. diplomats at various levels of the Obama administration are ignoring negative trends in Russia in the hope of avoiding even minor confrontations with the Kremlin that might upset the warming of bilateral ties. …

Kasyanov dismissed the working group on human rights being led by the NSC’s Mike McFaul and the Kremlin’s Vladislav Surkov. McFaul explained the Obama administration’s approach to Russian human rights in October 2009, saying, “We came to a conclusion that we need a reset in this respect too and we should give up the old approach that had been troubling Russian-American partnership.”

“This Commission blah blah blah discussing human rights, that’s imitation, that is not useful operation. That shows to Russians that the U.S. government has chosen a different path, not human rights and democracy. It’s absolutely the wrong thing to do,” Kasyanov said.

Aside from the moral failing and the projection of weakness it conveys to Russia, China, Iran, and the rest, it hasn’t worked in any meaningful way. What have we gotten from Russia? Agreement on Swiss cheese sanctions that haven’t stopped the mullahs’ nuclear program. And that’s it.

It is easy to “reset” relations with an authoritarian state by appeasing and avoiding conflict. But that doesn’t further our interests, and it reveals Obama’s and Hillary’s newfound appreciation for human rights to be nothing more than spin. Unfortunately, it is almost a year until the next Nobel Peace Prize. Perhaps it can go to a Russian dissident next time, and thereafter a human rights activist from one of the many countries Obama has cowered before.

As with Iran engagement, our reset policy provides ample evidence that when you sacrifice human rights, you get precious little in return. As the world becomes less free and stable, the U.S. loses the respect of friends and foes alike.

Josh Rogin reports:

The Obama administration is ignoring, and thereby enabling, the Russian government’s gross abuse of human rights and its gutting of the country’s  democracy, according to Russia’s former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov.

“We have no democracy at all. We don’t have any future of a democratic state. Everything has been lost, everything has been taken by the people by the authorities,” Kasyanov said in a wide ranging interview with Foreign Policy. “The power has replaced all institutions … like Parliament, like independent judiciary, like free media, etc. That’s already obvious for everyone.”

What’s his complaint? Well, the Obama team has tossed democracy and human rights under the bus, as they have in the case of every despotic regime:

The former Russian head of government, who was ousted by current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in 2004, is on a mission this week to send a two-fold message to U.S.-based Russia watchers: that the upcoming elections next year in Russia will not be free and fair, and that the “reset” policy of the Obama administration has wrongly caused the United States to abandon its role as a vocal critic of Russian democratic and human rights abuses.

“We would like our friends in the West, in Europe and the United States, those who are interested in a democratic Russia … we would like these friends just to open their mouths …”

It is hear-no-evil, see-no-evil time:

He said that U.S. diplomats at various levels of the Obama administration are ignoring negative trends in Russia in the hope of avoiding even minor confrontations with the Kremlin that might upset the warming of bilateral ties. …

Kasyanov dismissed the working group on human rights being led by the NSC’s Mike McFaul and the Kremlin’s Vladislav Surkov. McFaul explained the Obama administration’s approach to Russian human rights in October 2009, saying, “We came to a conclusion that we need a reset in this respect too and we should give up the old approach that had been troubling Russian-American partnership.”

“This Commission blah blah blah discussing human rights, that’s imitation, that is not useful operation. That shows to Russians that the U.S. government has chosen a different path, not human rights and democracy. It’s absolutely the wrong thing to do,” Kasyanov said.

Aside from the moral failing and the projection of weakness it conveys to Russia, China, Iran, and the rest, it hasn’t worked in any meaningful way. What have we gotten from Russia? Agreement on Swiss cheese sanctions that haven’t stopped the mullahs’ nuclear program. And that’s it.

It is easy to “reset” relations with an authoritarian state by appeasing and avoiding conflict. But that doesn’t further our interests, and it reveals Obama’s and Hillary’s newfound appreciation for human rights to be nothing more than spin. Unfortunately, it is almost a year until the next Nobel Peace Prize. Perhaps it can go to a Russian dissident next time, and thereafter a human rights activist from one of the many countries Obama has cowered before.

As with Iran engagement, our reset policy provides ample evidence that when you sacrifice human rights, you get precious little in return. As the world becomes less free and stable, the U.S. loses the respect of friends and foes alike.

Read Less

Not Even Scare Tactics Work

Greg Sargent is down in the dumps. Turns out that the enthusiasm gap is as huge as ever. In fact, according to the recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, the chasm is now 20 points. Sargent — with unintentional humor — bemoans:

[T]he enthusiasm deficit remains enormous, even though Dems have tried everything to turn this around: They’ve chanted Bush’s name in unison for months. They’ve raised the specter of foreign money rigging our elections. They’ve floated the possibility of GOP investigations that will make the 1990s look like a latter-day Era of Good Feelings. And they’ve relentlessly elevated the craziest of Tea Party crazies to iconic status. Yet Dems still aren’t goosed up about this election in anywhere near the numbers they need to be — mainly because the GOP enthusiasm levels are essentially steroidal at this point.

Yeah, it is kind of pathetic that this is all the Dems have to work with. And it makes a mockery of the notion that the electorate is voting against Obama’s party out of “fear.” In fact, the fear-mongering Democrats have discovered that even their own base can’t be scared by a grab bag of bogeymen. Maybe the electorate isn’t operating from its lizard brain but with cool calculation: the Obama agenda needs to be stopped.

Now, it is worth noting that Sargent and his ilk argued strenuously that passage of ObamaCare was necessary to prevent just such malaise in the Democratic base. Turns out that all it did was juice up Republicans and infuriate independents. Who knew?

Greg Sargent is down in the dumps. Turns out that the enthusiasm gap is as huge as ever. In fact, according to the recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, the chasm is now 20 points. Sargent — with unintentional humor — bemoans:

[T]he enthusiasm deficit remains enormous, even though Dems have tried everything to turn this around: They’ve chanted Bush’s name in unison for months. They’ve raised the specter of foreign money rigging our elections. They’ve floated the possibility of GOP investigations that will make the 1990s look like a latter-day Era of Good Feelings. And they’ve relentlessly elevated the craziest of Tea Party crazies to iconic status. Yet Dems still aren’t goosed up about this election in anywhere near the numbers they need to be — mainly because the GOP enthusiasm levels are essentially steroidal at this point.

Yeah, it is kind of pathetic that this is all the Dems have to work with. And it makes a mockery of the notion that the electorate is voting against Obama’s party out of “fear.” In fact, the fear-mongering Democrats have discovered that even their own base can’t be scared by a grab bag of bogeymen. Maybe the electorate isn’t operating from its lizard brain but with cool calculation: the Obama agenda needs to be stopped.

Now, it is worth noting that Sargent and his ilk argued strenuously that passage of ObamaCare was necessary to prevent just such malaise in the Democratic base. Turns out that all it did was juice up Republicans and infuriate independents. Who knew?

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Even Obama’s old seat may be lost. Mark Kirk has a small lead in two recent polls.

Even the White House couldn’t spin this one: “All signs point to huge Republican victories in two weeks, with the GOP now leading Democrats on virtually every measure in an Associated Press-GfK poll of people likely to vote in the first major elections of Barack Obama’s presidency … 50 percent say they will back the GOP candidate in their House district; 43 percent say they’ll support the Democrat … 54 percent disapprove of Obama’s job performance; 45 percent approve.” No wonder Obama wants to talk about the Chamber of Commerce.

Even the VP spot in 2012 is out, says Chris Christie. “Christie also once again said there’s ‘no way’ he’d run for president in 2012. But his wife suggested the freshman governor would be good in the role. ‘Oh, absolutely,’ Mary Pat Christie told MSNBC when asked if she thought her husband would make for a ‘good president.’” Hey, Obama changed his mind about running in 2008.

Even Christine O’Donnell (probably) knows it by heart: “At a Democratic fundraiser on Monday night, President Obama once again misquoted the Declaration of Independence’s most famous sentence and once again omitted its reference to our ‘Creator.’” If you are counting, this is the third time he edited the Preamble. “Other presidents didn’t deliberately misquote the Declaration, and they didn’t leave out (or rewrite) the words about our rights being endowed by our Creator.” But he’s an intellectual, don’t you see?

Even William Galston can’t convince me that Obama will “reach across the aisle” to work cooperatively with a GOP Congress. He should, but he sure isn’t laying the groundwork now.

Even the “unambiguous success” of the GM bailout really isn’t. Charles Lane explains that GM has $27 billion in unfunded pension-plan obligations. “Long term, the bailout can’t work unless the public buys GM’s cars. But the company’s share of the U.S. market was 19 percent in September 2010, down from 19.6 percent at the beginning of the year. Hence, [independent ratings agency] Fitch says, GM’s bonds deserve a ‘junk’ rating: BB-. That, too, is not a big surprise. But it does suggest that the success of the bailout is still, well, ambiguous. GM is not out of the woods yet, and neither are the taxpayers.”

Even the Harvard Club of New York has higher standards than CNN. “This year, the Midtown club turned down Mr. Spitzer’s application for membership — a rare snub by the club — because officials there did not want to be associated with Mr. Spitzer and the prostitution scandal that forced him from the governorship of New York in 2008, according to a person told of the decision by Harvard officials.” Shunning is a much-underrated tool in maintaining ethical standards. (Speaking of which, why did the same Harvard University have Spitzer speak last year on ethics?)

Even unacceptable to Human Rights Watch: “Human Rights Watch has slammed a ruling by an Emirati court which condones the beating of wives by their husbands, saying it sends out a signal that violence against women and children is acceptable.” Would be nice if Obama and his secretary of state would do so as well, since they’re all about human rights these days.

Even liberal Matthew Duss concedes that George Bush was on to something with his “freedom agenda.” In a backhanded way, he advises: “But just because the Bush administration latched onto this critique as a justification for its attempt to reorder the Middle East doesn’t mean it was necessarily wrong. A focus on security at the expense of democracy does generate bad consequences, and acknowledgement of this fact, by anyone, however late coming, is a good thing.” In all his suck-uppery to the PA, Obama has ignored this truism: “Political freedom is not a peripheral concern in Palestine — it is central to the U.S. goal of a functioning, viable, and democratic Palestinian state at peace with Israel.”

Even Obama’s old seat may be lost. Mark Kirk has a small lead in two recent polls.

Even the White House couldn’t spin this one: “All signs point to huge Republican victories in two weeks, with the GOP now leading Democrats on virtually every measure in an Associated Press-GfK poll of people likely to vote in the first major elections of Barack Obama’s presidency … 50 percent say they will back the GOP candidate in their House district; 43 percent say they’ll support the Democrat … 54 percent disapprove of Obama’s job performance; 45 percent approve.” No wonder Obama wants to talk about the Chamber of Commerce.

Even the VP spot in 2012 is out, says Chris Christie. “Christie also once again said there’s ‘no way’ he’d run for president in 2012. But his wife suggested the freshman governor would be good in the role. ‘Oh, absolutely,’ Mary Pat Christie told MSNBC when asked if she thought her husband would make for a ‘good president.’” Hey, Obama changed his mind about running in 2008.

Even Christine O’Donnell (probably) knows it by heart: “At a Democratic fundraiser on Monday night, President Obama once again misquoted the Declaration of Independence’s most famous sentence and once again omitted its reference to our ‘Creator.’” If you are counting, this is the third time he edited the Preamble. “Other presidents didn’t deliberately misquote the Declaration, and they didn’t leave out (or rewrite) the words about our rights being endowed by our Creator.” But he’s an intellectual, don’t you see?

Even William Galston can’t convince me that Obama will “reach across the aisle” to work cooperatively with a GOP Congress. He should, but he sure isn’t laying the groundwork now.

Even the “unambiguous success” of the GM bailout really isn’t. Charles Lane explains that GM has $27 billion in unfunded pension-plan obligations. “Long term, the bailout can’t work unless the public buys GM’s cars. But the company’s share of the U.S. market was 19 percent in September 2010, down from 19.6 percent at the beginning of the year. Hence, [independent ratings agency] Fitch says, GM’s bonds deserve a ‘junk’ rating: BB-. That, too, is not a big surprise. But it does suggest that the success of the bailout is still, well, ambiguous. GM is not out of the woods yet, and neither are the taxpayers.”

Even the Harvard Club of New York has higher standards than CNN. “This year, the Midtown club turned down Mr. Spitzer’s application for membership — a rare snub by the club — because officials there did not want to be associated with Mr. Spitzer and the prostitution scandal that forced him from the governorship of New York in 2008, according to a person told of the decision by Harvard officials.” Shunning is a much-underrated tool in maintaining ethical standards. (Speaking of which, why did the same Harvard University have Spitzer speak last year on ethics?)

Even unacceptable to Human Rights Watch: “Human Rights Watch has slammed a ruling by an Emirati court which condones the beating of wives by their husbands, saying it sends out a signal that violence against women and children is acceptable.” Would be nice if Obama and his secretary of state would do so as well, since they’re all about human rights these days.

Even liberal Matthew Duss concedes that George Bush was on to something with his “freedom agenda.” In a backhanded way, he advises: “But just because the Bush administration latched onto this critique as a justification for its attempt to reorder the Middle East doesn’t mean it was necessarily wrong. A focus on security at the expense of democracy does generate bad consequences, and acknowledgement of this fact, by anyone, however late coming, is a good thing.” In all his suck-uppery to the PA, Obama has ignored this truism: “Political freedom is not a peripheral concern in Palestine — it is central to the U.S. goal of a functioning, viable, and democratic Palestinian state at peace with Israel.”

Read Less




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