If you want to see a revealing look at the emotional, and not simply political, investment liberals have in the Occupy Wall Street Movement, watch Mika Brzezinski and Jeffrey Sachs respond to Newt Gingrich’s comments over the weekend that the protesters should get a job and take a bath. Their rage is uncontained, almost tear-inducing, and comical. The whole crew and conversation, with one liberal egging on the other, is a fantastic window into the dominant mindset of modern-day liberal journalists.
One can see that without Joe Scarborough’s presence, the show is essentially the morning version of the shows hosted by Ed Schultz and Rachel Maddow (though Maddow is a good deal more intelligent and informed than Brzezinski). Speaking of which: One of her colleagues would do Brzezinski a huge favor if they pulled her aside and explained to her the difference between “literal” and “figurative.” During this short segment Brzezinski claims Gingrich was “literally” standing on his “high horse” and his words “literally made my skin crawl.”
This announcement is as predictable as it is necessary. House Armed Services Committee Chair Buck McKeon is stepping up to try to avert the looming defense budget disaster:
“I will be introducing legislation in the coming days to prevent cuts that will do catastrophic damage to our men and women in uniform and our national security. Our military has already contributed nearly half a trillion to deficit reduction. Those who have given us so much, have nothing more to give.
“Secretary Panetta has said he doesn’t want to be the secretary who hollows out defense. Likewise, I will not be the Armed Services chairman who presides over crippling our military. I will not let these sequestration cuts stand.”
The decision of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to admit the Palestinian Authority as a full member state is more than just another front in the effort to bypass the peace process. The PA’s UNESCO triumph will enable them to step up their struggle in another equally important fight: the battle to expunge the Jewish heritage of the West Bank and Jerusalem.
Though Israelis and American Jews may disagree about the wisdom of the settlement movement,and many ardently desire a two-state solution that would leave much of the territories in the hands of a Palestinian state at peace with Israel, there ought to be no disagreement about the fact that this land is the historic homeland of the Jewish people. Yet the PA’s goal — which has been aided and abetted by UNESCO — is not so much to dispute the future of this territory as it is about its past. Yet that is a fact a Washington Post article published today about the role UNESCO may play on the West Bank conveniently omits.
In his book Keeping the Republic, Mitch Daniels relays an event from his tenure as Indiana governor that illustrates a wider political reality.
Governor Daniels set out to reduce Indiana’s property taxes and spent weeks examining all the options, including abolishing property taxation completely. But according to Daniels, “In order to wipe out local property taxes totally, we would have had to more than double the state sales tax, or double the state income tax, or some equally onerous combination of the two.” The costs of complete abolition of property taxes “would have crushed our state’s rapidly improving status as an attractive place to invest and create jobs,” Daniels writes.
The Obama administration took a great deal of justified criticism about its indecisive and at times contradictory policies toward the events of the Arab Spring. But as events in Egypt are illustrating, there really are no good choices left there for the United States. The massive protests in Cairo that seek to force the military to renounce power are, at least on the surface, a reprise of the pro-democracy demonstrations that ousted Hosni Mubarak. But even as the United States signals it does not favor a situation where control of the country remains in the hands of a few unelected officials, it’s fair to ask whether the military is the only force that can stop the Muslim Brotherhood and act as a guarantor that the revolution will not result in a wholesale destruction of individual rights rather than empowering democrats.
Though the United States has not done all that it could to promote democracy in the Arab world, it may be a mistake to interpret the demand for the military to step aside now as one that will actually lead to freedom. If, as the Brotherhood as well as Egyptian liberals demand, the military loses its power to act as a check on an elected government, that may be the tipping point for a descent into something far worse than a reprise of Mubarak: an Islamist government.
Last month the European Union (EU), gesturing toward lessons learned from the Arab Spring, reconfigured their aid criteria. Instead of just pouring money into underdeveloped countries, said EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, EU aid would now be directed toward “the least developed nations” and would be tied to good governance contracts regulating human rights, democracy and rule of law.
The West Bank and the Gaza Strip are not, by any reasonable measure, among the world’s least developed areas. Since 1967, life expectancy has risen from the mid-50s to the mid-70s, and no less an expert than Palestinian President Abbas described the West Bank as “a good reality… a good life.” On the other side of the ledger, the Palestinian Authority under Fatah is by definition anti-democratic – presidential elections are now three years overdue – and that’s before Fatah strikes a unity deal with Iran’s Islamist Hamas proxies in Gaza. The Palestinians meet none of the EU’s touchstones for assistance.
An editorial published yesterday by the Washington Post demonstrates an odd inversion regarding delegitimization that has become popular of late, in which actions taken by the Israeli government to enhance its legitimacy are deemed to further erode it. By protecting those working against Israel’s standing and constraining those who hope to fight against them, these kinds of editorials do much more to delegitimize Israel than any action taken by the country’s government.
The topic of the editorial is the latest supposedly “democracy threatening” action being contemplated by the Israeli government: legislation that would limit the funding foreign governments can supply to NGOs active in Israel. While it may be true the specific legislation the current Knesset is contemplating may not be the most effective solution, it does speak to a real problem: the support by foreign governments of a wide range of organizations active in Israel that seek to condemn Israel in international forums. Speaking to a foreign audience and not a domestic one, receiving funding from foreign governments and not private constituencies, many of these organizations are “Israeli” in name only and have become one of the more effective tools for spreading delegitimization in the West.
The same Occupy Wall Street PR geniuses that ruined your morning commute and kept you awake with 24-hour drum circles have invented yet another way to make public life unpleasant in the name of class warfare. They’re calling it “Occupy Black Friday,” and it’s exactly what it sounds like:
The website encourages occupation or simple boycotting of retailers. The group cites a connection between fourth quarter profits for retailers, credit card usage and the stock market as being the source for the protests on the Friday after Thanksgiving. …
In addition to encouraging site visitors to not spend money on Friday, the website encourages occupation, and “Occupy” protesters typically have featured sit-ins, on-site camping, slogan cheering and sign-waving as their modes of protest.
The stores targeted by the protest include Abercrombie & Fitch, the Burlington Coat Factory, Neiman Marcus, Toys R’Us, and Wal-Mart. Noticeably absent from the list? A certain discount men’s suit retailer that usually has massive Black Friday sales.
In a recent column on the Penn State scandal, David Brooks takes to task the vanity of the outraged — meaning commentators “whose indignation is based on the assumption that if they had been in Joe Paterno’s shoes, or assistant coach Mike McQueary’s shoes, they would have behaved better.” None of us can safely make that assumption, Brooks argued, since over the course of history the same pattern has emerged, on a scale both much larger and smaller than what happened at Penn State (the Holocaust, Rwandan genocide, and beatings on American streets). Many times, people do not intervene. Very often they see but they don’t see. Our natural tendency is to evade and self-deceive.
David’s column is typically thoughtful and his arguments worth considering, though I think he misses the mark just a bit in this instance. State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan, who along with Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly filed the grand jury report, told reporters, “I don’t think I’ve ever been associated with a case where that type of eyewitness identification of sex acts [took] place where the police weren’t called. I don’t think I’ve ever seen something like this before.” So I don’t think the outrage many of us felt toward Penn State was evidence of vanity or living on islands of our own innocence. What we were commenting on is what we believe to have been a staggering, and according to law enforcement officials, an uncommon, moral failure.
ABC News disclosed last night that arrested New York City terror suspect Jose Pimentel “spent much of his time on the Internet… and maintained a radical website called TrueIslam1.” TrueIslam1 has a number of sections, most of them handed over to Islam and jihad. There are two only sections that deal straightforwardly with politics: one labeled “Politics” and one labeled “The U.S.A.”
Both sections have different articles and both of course still contain plenty of Islamic theology – ergo the concept of political Islam – but they have one thing in common. They both have links to free downloads of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer’s book The Israel Lobby. Other than those links there doesn’t appear to be any overlapping content between the two sections. Apparently, Pimentel thought Walt and Mearsheimer’s feverish opus was something that needed to be read and distributed.
Michael Bloomberg has spent the last week being bashed by leftists and praised by conservatives for finally taking decisive action to get the Occupy Wall Street squatters out of New York’s Zuccotti Park. The episode was a welcome respite from a third term in City Hall that has been as disastrous as most presidential second terms usually prove to be. But is that enough to re-launch to mini-boomlet for a 2016 Bloomberg run for the White House? Politico’s Maggie Haberman picks up on a quote in a long piece in the Daily Beast about Bloomberg News’ “Plan for World Domination” to ponder what the future holds for the mayor.
But though some may agree and see Bloomberg as possessing “the best parts of Bill Clinton, Rupert Murdoch and Bill Gates all rolled into one,” it’s hard to see how the financial/media mogul turned politician fits in on the national scene. It also leaves open the question of whether he would try to parlay his company’s enormous reach and wealth into an effort to form a new political party dedicated to his cause.
In hindsight, it was doomed from the start. And reading articles like this, you get the sense maybe that was the point:
While many have portrayed the supercommittee as having some sort of automatic axe, other observers haven’t bought the idea. Stan Collender, a Democratic budget expert and consultant to Wall Street and Washington lobbyists, saw through it quickly, writing a report for Qorvis Communications downplaying the likelihood of the automatic cuts. “There is a high probability that the supercommittee won’t be able to agree on a deficit reduction deal and that the across-the-board spending cuts that are supposed to be triggered if that happens will NOT go into effect as scheduled in 2013,” he wrote. “Federal budget agreements have seldom, if ever, gone the distance. Instead, they have always been changed, waived, ignored or abandoned.”
Political commentators and election watchers can be forgiven for glancing at the latest evidence of the Newt Gingrich “surge” and wondering whether and why it deserves any more credibility than previous “bubbles.” The answer is: this is the first one that seemingly has made presumptive frontrunner Mitt Romney adjust his strategy.
Today’s Gallup poll has Gingrich within one point of Romney among all Republicans polled and up by one point among registered GOP voters nationally. This is consistent with what other recent polls have found. But whereas the early Rick Perry surge didn’t distract Romney from his set strategy, and the former Massachusetts governor barely even acknowledged Herman Cain’s presence at the top of the polls last month, Romney has now made his first truly discernable and consequential course change of the election season:
Given all of the violence, the lawlessness, the bigotry and the ugliness the Occupy Wall Street movement (and its off-spring) represent, why hasn’t the president spoken out –in a clear, forceful voice – against it?
The collapse of the congressional supercommittee’s efforts to craft a budget compromise satisfactory to both Republicans and Democrats will, like the standoff last summer on the debt ceiling, be presented as evidence that the system has failed. The finger pointing has already begun, with Democrats blaming Republicans for not being willing to raise taxes and Republicans blaming Democrats for not being willing to cut entitlements. The fiasco will require last-minute efforts to avoid damaging mandatory defense cuts. All this will heighten public disgust with Congress. But the opprobrium that will rain down on Washington will be misplaced.
The problem isn’t the fault of senators and representatives who “won’t compromise,” but the fact that control of the current Congress is split between a House that was won by the GOP in 2010 and a Senate that is still controlled by Democrats who were swept in with their victories in 2006 and 2008. Expecting either party to betray their bases in the name of a vacuous compromise that would please no one was always unrealistic. The only way to end the standoff is a new election that will present the voters with a clear choice between the competing visions of the two parties. Fortunately, there is one scheduled less than a year from now that can easily settle the question.
Armageddon is upon us. At least in Washington budgetary terms. Barring a last-minute miracle, the supercommittee charged with cutting the deficit has predictably failed. That makes it more likely that the “sequestration” process will occur, with $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade, half of them due to hit the defense budget. (The other half will hit domestic spending–but Social Security and Medicare, two of the biggest deficit-drivers, will be exempt.)
Senior defense leaders, including Leon Panetta, himself a longstanding budget hawk, have warned the consequences of such cuts would be “devastating” and “catastrophic.” Some on the left purport to claim that cuts on this scale–after Congress already cut $450 billion from defense this summer–will not seriously affect the Defense Department’s capabilities. They could not be more wrong–as this fact sheet from the Foreign Policy Initiative makes clear.
In the sense that he had to register as one, no. But as we know from President Obama, there’s a lot of latitude in how some politicians define the term “lobbyist.” Tim Carney reports that Newt Gingrich once qualified as a lobbyist because he met the two requirements: he was a paid consultant for pharmaceutical companies, and he worked to persuade lawmakers to support the companies’ interests:
While some consultants simply provide strategy or advice, Gingrich directly contacted lawmakers in an effort to win their votes.
Three former Republican congressional staffers told me that Gingrich was calling around Capitol Hill and visiting Republican congressmen in 2003 in an effort to convince conservatives to support a bill expanding Medicare to include prescription-drug subsidies. …
Two aides to other GOP members who had been resisting the bill told me their bosses were lobbied by Gingrich over the phone, sometimes citing politics, sometimes citing substance. And it worked. “Newt Gingrich moved votes on the prescription-drug bill,” one conservative staffer told me. “That’s for sure.”
That’s a fascinating scoop in the Washington Post today about the apparent discovery in Libya of hundreds of artillery shells filled with highly toxic mustard gas. Suspicion has fallen on Iran as the supplier of these chemical weapons which Muammar Qaddafi kept hidden even after promising in 2004 to turn over all his weapons of mass destruction as part of a deal with the U.S. that included the lifting of sanctions and the removal of Libya from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. This has myriad lessons to teach us. Two in particular leap out.
First and foremost, it shows the difficulty of making deals with dictators. The Bush agreement with Qaddafi was still, on balance, a good one, I think–certainly it prevented Libya from making any more progress toward nuclear status, the ultimate nightmare and one that might have kept Qaddafi in power this year. But it also shows it’s impossible to trust a dictator to keep his word, and that, even with stringent safeguards in place in a relatively small country, it’s still possible to conceal nefarious activity. This should temper the enthusiasm still remaining in some quarters for cutting deals with North Korea, Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah, Fatah, Russia, and a long list of other supposed “peace partners.”
This is the first poll of the primary season to show a Republican candidate leading in Michigan, which will be a hotly contested state in 2012. The last poll by Survey USA in October showed Obama beating Romney by 11 points. Yesterday’s EPIC-MRA survey has Romney up by 5:
The poll released Sunday shows the Michigan-born ex-Massachusetts governor getting 46 percent compared to 41 percent for Obama. The difference is just beyond the poll’s 4 percent sampling error. Thirteen percent are undecided.
The poll showed Obama with an apparent lead over Newt Gingrich 45 percent to 40 percent, with 15 percent undecided. And it showed Obama leading Herman Cain 50 percent to 36 percent, with 14 percent undecided.
What is it with liberals and their obsession with high and progressive marginal tax rates on large incomes? The supercommittee’s attempt to reduce the deficit now seems likely to founder on the Democrats’ insistence on raising tax rates on the rich. Raising revenue by eliminating deductions and loopholes, which the Republicans have suggested, is not enough.
The other day, Alan Blinder, a liberal economist at Princeton and former vice-chairman of the Federal Reserve, had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal entitled “The Folly of the Flat Tax.” He pointed out, correctly, that a flat tax would be politically difficult in the extreme to get enacted. But his main objection is that it would make the tax code “far less progressive.”