The Department of Labor releases the unemployment figures tomorrow morning. But here is a noteworthy economic finding. Unemployment, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, increased to 9.1 percent in February from 8.6 percent in January. The 0.5-percentage-point increase in February compared with January is the largest such month-to-month change Gallup has recorded in its not-seasonally adjusted measure since December 2010.
There’s more. In addition to the 9.1 percent of workers who are unemployed, 10.0 percent are working part time but want full-time work. (This percentage is higher than the 9.6 percent of February 2011.) As a result, in February Gallup’s underemployment measure, which combines the percentage of workers who are unemployed and the percentage working part time but wanting full-time work, increased to 19.1 — or almost one in five people.
As the world debates what it, if anything, the West and Israel will do about the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon, there has been a constant undercurrent of skepticism in which it is claimed that suspicions about Tehran’s intentions are completely unfounded. The blowback from the intelligence failures prior to the Iraq war has given an undeserved credence to these attempts to stifle discussion of the issue. But though the political left continues to trumpet the belief that Iran is the victim of a conspiracy to rush to war, evidence continues to pile up that points to only one conclusion: the Iranians are working overtime to put a genocidal weapon in the hands of their fanatic Islamist leaders.
The latest addition to the dossier against Iran was presented in yesterday’s Guardian which published an article in which unnamed western diplomats leaked findings by International Atomic Energy Agency experts who said satellite images of an Iranian facility in Parchin reveal evidence of testing of an experimental neutron device used to trigger a nuclear explosion. If true, this gives the lie to the notion that the purpose of Iran’s nuclear program is medical research, as the regime claims. The only possible use for such a technology would be in the production of a weapon.
The primary defeat of an incumbent Republican member of Congress on Tuesday in Ohio has provoked some cries of dismay from the media and other sectors of the chattering classes. No one really cares about Rep. Jean Schmidt, who lost her race in her Cincinnati-area district to a relatively unknown podiatrist. But the reason for concern we are told is the fact that Schmidt was, in part, taken down by a GOP insurgency in which a super PAC played a significant role. That’s the conceit of a New York Times feature this morning about the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that limited the federal government’s ability to restrict political speech in the form of election advertisements. A Houston-based political action committee called the Campaign for Primary Accountability spent about $200,000 to help defeat Schmidt and is taking an active role in other races where incumbents are being challenged.
The Times story attempts to paint such super PACs as tools of corporate interests, which fits in with the liberal critique of Citizens United as undermining democracy. But the real moral of this story is very different. By making it easier for groups to spend money promoting their ideas and/or opposing candidates, the court has destroyed the dynamic of most congressional races in which it was virtually impossible for challengers to raise enough money to take on entrenched incumbents. The victim of Citizens United isn’t democracy; it’s the laws and traditions of congressional politics that amounted to a near-foolproof incumbent protection plan.
There is something perverse and a little bit circular about the administration argument that we can’t help the Syrian opposition until they get better organized. As this National Journal article notes, Hillary Clinton last week told a House committee the opposition in Libya “had a face, both the people who were doing the outreach diplomatically and the fighters. We could actually meet with them. We could eyeball them. We could ask them tough questions. Here, you know, when [Ayman al-] Zawahiri of al-Qaida comes out and supports the Syrian opposition, you’ve got to ask yourself: ‘If we arm, who are we arming?”
The problem is that the Syrian opposition is not likely to get better organized until the U.S. and other outside powers make a decision to help them. In fact by deciding to provide money, arms, and other aid we could support the more moderate and responsible elements of the opposition while sidelining the extremists. No doubt we should be careful about where we distribute arms, but handing out small arms does not pose much of a strategic threat to Israel or other American allies even if they fall into the wrong hands. No one is suggesting giving Stingers to the Free Syrian Army.
Jonathan makes a persuasive case that Newt Gingrich will stick around for the long haul, but in the event that the former speaker does decide to drop out, how much would that boost Rick Santorum’s chances of winning the nomination? Nate Silver does the math, and finds the benefit could be significant:
Mr. Santorum would have carried four states that he actually lost. The first two are the ones Mr. Gingrich won originally, South Carolina and Georgia, although his margin would have been very small in South Carolina. His share of the Gingrich vote would also have been enough to push him past Mr. Romney in Ohio and Alaska. He would not have won Michigan — Mr. Gingrich received very few votes there so there was little marginal benefit to Mr. Santorum — although it would have flipped one congressional district and therefore given him the majority of delegates in the state. …
With those qualifications in mind, this general result should hold: Mr. Romney would still be significantly ahead in the delegate count. I have him with 404 delegates versus 264 for Mr. Santorum and 71 for Mr. Paul.
For the sake of the argument, let’s concede many of the points made by critics of Mitt Romney. Still, the tenor of the coverage of Super Tuesday – much of which has focused on what a weak candidate Romney is — strikes me as a bit odd. After all, Romney won six out of 10 states. He won a majority of the delegates. He overwhelmed his opponents in terms of the popular vote. He’s well ahead of the rest of the field in delegates (Romney’s lead over Rick Santorum is better than two-to-one). He’s won in every region in the country and the most important states.
It’s said time and again by his opponents that they were outspent by Romney, as if that somehow diminishes his victories. But here’s my deep insight of the day: Money is an important part of politics. And to complain that you’ve been beaten by Romney because he outspent you is like an NFL coach complaining they were defeated by the New England Patriots because the Patriots out-drafted your team. In football, drafts matter; and in politics, the ability to raise money and to put an organization together matters, too.
The much-hyped Andrew Breitbart video of President Obama’s college days we’ve been hearing about didn’t live up to all the talk. It shows Obama embracing and praising a radical Harvard professor when he was at law school, and while it’s an interesting peak into Obama’s younger years, it’s not exactly a bombshell.
But, as Ed Morrissey explains, that’s not the point. “The point of Andrew [Breitbart]’s final project isn’t so much to make Obama’s early radical ties clear; it’s to point out how the media tried to keep them quiet.”
In the wake of the Super Tuesday results that saw Newt Gingrich get beaten badly in every state but Georgia, more conservatives are talking about the necessity of the former House speaker dropping out of the presidential race if Mitt Romney is to be prevented from becoming the Republican nominee. Because Rick Santorum’s support was a multiple of his in every state but Georgia, the argument goes that it is incumbent on Gingrich to withdraw and allow Santorum to face Romney in a one-on-one battle in which the more conservative Pennsylvanian might be favored to win. Indeed, it can be argued that Gingrich’s presence on the ballot was the only reason why Santorum lost narrowly in both Michigan and Ohio in the last two weeks. If the sole object of conservatives is to nominate someone other than Romney, then Gingrich’s withdrawal appears to be not only logical but an imperative. However, the assumption that Gingrich will bow to these arguments ignores everything we know about him. Here are seven reasons why Newt isn’t likely to heed the call to withdraw:
1. He’s still holding on to hope of winning in other southern states. Gingrich’s camp is claiming he lost Tennessee because he’s concentrating on winning Alabama and Mississippi next week. But we were also told he was passing on some February contests to concentrate on Ohio where he turned out to be a non-factor this week. If there are any states where Gingrich does have a chance, it is in the Deep South, but given Santorum’s strength among evangelicals, the odds of him prevailing in either or both are dwindling. After another round of defeats, this excuse won’t hold much water.
Just yesterday, President Obama promised he was going to do whatever he could to speed up pipeline construction, and now it turns out he’s quietly lobbying behind the scenes for the exact opposite:
President Barack Obama is intervening in a Senate fight over the Keystone XL oil pipeline and personally lobbying Democrats to reject an amendment calling for its construction, according to several sources familiar with the talks.
The White House lobbying effort, including phone calls from the president to Democrats, signals that the vote could be close when it heads to the floor Thursday. The president is trying to defeat an amendment that would give election-year fodder to his Republican critics who have accused him of blocking a job-creating energy project at a time of high gas prices.
It’s worth wondering whether the non-controversy over the decision by an Israeli Supreme Court justice to not sing “Hatikvah,” Israel’s national anthem, last week is worth the space of a full article. But Ethan Bronner’s fair-minded and sober treatment of the issue recently in the New York Times does highlight something very important: the way in which Israel and Israelis usually successfully navigate the fault lines that do exist in a state both Jewish and democratic.
The justice in question, Salim Joubran, is a Christian Arab, and the first Arab appointed to a permanent seat on Israel’s highest court. In a publicly televised ceremony marking the retirement of the current chief justice and the installation of the next, Joubran stood but did not sing the words to the national anthem, which includes within it a reference to a “yearning Jewish soul” and focuses quite explicitly on the long Jewish dream to return to political independence in the Land of Israel.
My American Enterprise Institute colleague Ahmad Majidyar is a one-man encyclopedia of all things Afghanistan and Pakistan, and probably the best Afghan analyst I have ever met. He’s also an extremely incisive analyst. Today, he tweets:
Pakistan charges Osama’s widows for illegal entry. Wouldn’t it be better if they’d done this to Osama? Or Mullah Omar and Haqqani leaders?
As the father of three children, and having been a young boy once myself, I know the enormous influence athletes can have in their lives and our culture. When I was growing up, Roger Staubach of the Dallas Cowboys was my main sports hero, and I tried to model my character after his.
With that in mind, a word about Peyton Manning.
Yesterday, there was a flurry of attention when the Guardian reported that a member of Hamas’s Gaza political bureau said the terrorist group would stay out of any conflict between Israel and Iran. Such a stand fit in with the idea that Hamas had completely broken with its former patron and was now more interested in aligning itself with Egypt and bolstering its influence on the West Bank. If true, it would have been good news for Israel, but optimism on this score may have been, at best, premature. A more senior Hamas official is quoted today by an Iranian wire service as saying Hamas would indeed attack Israel in the event of an Israeli strike on Iran.
Ties between Hamas and Iran have become strained, especially after Hamas dropped its support for Tehran ally Bashar Assad in Syria. But it is difficult to imagine the group maintaining a cease-fire in a situation where Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah are both launching missiles at Israel. Though Iran’s financial clout in Gaza has reportedly lessened in recent years, the ayatollahs probably understand the dynamic of Palestinian politics will always force Hamas to resort to violence if given the opportunity.
If I were a Syrian rebel I’d be very appreciative of Israeli military might. Without Israel’s Operation Orchard, the 2007 airstrike on Bashar al-Assad’s nuclear reactor in eastern Syria, the dictator in Damascus would now be deterring any pro-rebel outside influence with a nuclear bomb. And depending on how bad things got for his regime, he might find his way to pushing the button. Toppled dictators like to take their walks of shame with big fiery bangs.
It’s amazing how despised preemptive action on the part of democracies ends up looking like a blessing when crises hit. Without the American invasion of Iraq, Muammar Qaddafi would have had an extensive WMD arsenal at his disposal while his regime unraveled last year. In March 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom woke him up to the consequences of WMD subterfuge and he gave up his program later in the year. So if not for Israeli and American preemptive action, the Arab Spring might very well have been far more deadly and destabilizing than it already is.
According to conventional media wisdom, President Obama is likely to cruise to reelection next November. And when you’re just looking at the disaster of a GOP field, it’s easy to believe that. Neither Mitt Romney nor Rick Santorum seems to have what it takes to win the White House.
The thing is, Americans don’t like Obama either. His average Gallup approval rating for February was 45 percent, and a full 50 percent of Americans believe his presidency has been a failure:
Obama’s job approval in February exceeds the lows seen last summer, when his monthly approval rating dipped to 41 percent from August through October. That followed a slide from 50 percent in May after the successful U.S. military mission in Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden. However, despite the recent improvement in his score, it has yet to recover to the level seen at the start of 2011, when 49 percent approved and 43 percent disapproved.
Apart from the rally in approval after the bin Laden mission, the last time Obama’s monthly approval rating averaged 50 percent or better was two years ago, in February 2010.
It is quite possible that Egemen Bağış, Turkey’s Minister for European Union Affairs, believes the world is flat, that two plus two equals five, and that mixing blue and yellow will yield orange. How else – perhaps other than his deep-seeded hatred for Israel and the Jewish people – can his remarks yesterday in Brussels be received? They were so counterfactual and ignorant of history as to be laughable:
First, Bağış argued that Turkey was Israel’s only Muslim ally. Really? What about Bosnia? Azerbaijan? Albania? Uzbekistan? Informal relations with some North African Arab countries and Persian Gulf emirates and perhaps even Indonesia are warmer than with Turkey. Bağış may see Turkey as the center of the universe and seat of his imagined neo-Ottoman sultanate, but his attitude is just symptomatic of the arrogance and buffoonery which increasingly breed resentment rather than admiration toward Turkey throughout not only Europe, but the Arab Middle East as well.
A month ago, John Podhoretz gave a shout out to the Washington Free Beacon, an online investigative newspaper focusing on national security, and corruption and anti-Semitism on the Left. John noted that the site was having some “birthing pains” even as it was doing an excellent job.
Well, any hiccups seem to be a thing of the past. Matthew Continetti’s essays and Bill Gertz’s national security scoops are must reads. Former Washington Jewish Week reporter Adam Kredo has also been doing yeoman’s work investigating not only the troubling anti-Semitic accusations of dual loyalty that many at John Podesta’s Center for American Progress as well as Media Matters for America appear to embrace, but also the Jewish groups and Foundations which fund such anti-Semitism. While some media outlets embrace groups endorsing Occupy AIPAC, it was Kredo who pointed out that working for the group was the cartoonist who took second place in President Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial conference.
If this is what the Free Beacon has achieved in just its first month, the only question out there is what will month two bring? Happy Anniversary, Free Beacon. Keep up the good work!
Larry Downes has a remarkable column on CNET news about the shortage of spectrum for use by mobile broadband. It is a catalog of government ineptitude, incompetence, regulatory capture, and short-sightedness. Downes points out the rapid growth of mobile data means it needs access to more bands of useable radio spectrum, but the available inventory is close to zero. He blames a wide range of problems, most if not all of them revolving around the government. For many years, there was the outdated FCC “command and control” licensing system that committed spectrum to technologies that faded away. There was the FCC’s inability to keep track of the licenses it had awarded. There was the federal government’s tendency to grab and warehouse spectrum.
When the FCC shifted to an auction model – an important step forward – in the 1990s, it “still has a hard time resisting old temptations . . . . [it] attaches conditions or limits auction eligibility to micromanage emerging markets and industries – or try to . . . . One result of this tinkering has been that several recent auctions failed to meet their reserve price.” Then there is the federal law that – thanks to Congress’s vulnerability to assiduous lobbying – allows local broadcaster to force cable providers to carry their signals, thus reducing incentives for the broadcasters to give up their spectrum. And there is the government’s rejection of the proposed AT&T merger with T-Mobile last year, which “sent an unmistakable signal that [the FCC] will no longer allow market transactions as a work-around to its own plodding and sclerotic mismanagement.”