Commentary Magazine


Topic: administrator

Flotsam and Jetsam

Here’s the “civil war” the liberal punditocracy has been pining for: “Liberals want Obama to confront Republicans more directly. Moderates, remembering how Bill Clinton altered course after losing control of Congress in 1994 and won reelection in 1996, want the president to work more cooperatively with Republicans in hopes of avoiding gridlock.”

Here’s another national security disaster in the making: “The Obama administration has dispatched a team of experts to Asian capitals to report that North Korea appears to have started a program to enrich uranium, possibly to manufacture more nuclear weapons, a senior U.S. administration official said Saturday. The team was sent out after North Korea told two visiting American experts earlier this month that it possessed such a program and showed them a facility where it claimed the enrichment was taking place.” It sort of puts in context how daft were those meetings and planning for a “nuke-free world.”

Here’s the beginning of the walk-back: “Heeding a sudden furor, John Pistole, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, said in a Sunday afternoon statement to POLITICO that airport screening procedures ‘will be adapted as conditions warrant,’ in an effort to make them “as minimally invasive as possible, while still providing the security that the American people want and deserve.”

Here’s why voters hate pols: there is always one rule for politicians and another for the rest of us. “Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday that security threats were a concern in the Transportation Security Administration’s new invasive pat-downs and body scans, but heartily acknowledged that she wouldn’t want to go through the screening herself.”

Here’s Mona Charen’s case for why Sarah Palin shouldn’t run for president: “Voters chose a novice with plenty of starpower in 2008 and will be inclined to swing strongly in the other direction in 2012. Americans will be looking for sober competence, managerial skill, and maturity — not sizzle and flash. … There is no denying that Sarah Palin has been harshly, sometimes even brutally, treated by the press and the entertainment gaggle. But any prominent Republican must expect and be able to transcend that. Palin compares herself to Reagan. But Reagan didn’t mud-wrestle with the press. Palin seems consumed and obsessed by it, as her rapid Twitter finger attests, and thus she encourages the sniping.” I imagine that such advice is simply brushed off as part of the GOP establishment plot to get her.

Here’s further evidence that the Obami just don’t get it. Hillary Clinton isn’t giving up on civilian trials for terrorists. “So I don’t think you can, as a — as a rule, say, ‘Oh, no more civilian trials,’ or ‘no more military commission.’” Sure you can; it’s just that the leftists who dominate the Obama legal brain trust are putting up quite a fuss.

Here’s another sign that Obama’s ditzy peace-process Hail Mary isn’t going to help matters: “The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said on Sunday that any American proposal for restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations must include a complete halt in Israeli settlement building, including in East Jerusalem.” Gosh, where do you think he got the idea that building in Jerusalem was such a hot-button, non-final-status issue?

Here’s the “civil war” the liberal punditocracy has been pining for: “Liberals want Obama to confront Republicans more directly. Moderates, remembering how Bill Clinton altered course after losing control of Congress in 1994 and won reelection in 1996, want the president to work more cooperatively with Republicans in hopes of avoiding gridlock.”

Here’s another national security disaster in the making: “The Obama administration has dispatched a team of experts to Asian capitals to report that North Korea appears to have started a program to enrich uranium, possibly to manufacture more nuclear weapons, a senior U.S. administration official said Saturday. The team was sent out after North Korea told two visiting American experts earlier this month that it possessed such a program and showed them a facility where it claimed the enrichment was taking place.” It sort of puts in context how daft were those meetings and planning for a “nuke-free world.”

Here’s the beginning of the walk-back: “Heeding a sudden furor, John Pistole, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, said in a Sunday afternoon statement to POLITICO that airport screening procedures ‘will be adapted as conditions warrant,’ in an effort to make them “as minimally invasive as possible, while still providing the security that the American people want and deserve.”

Here’s why voters hate pols: there is always one rule for politicians and another for the rest of us. “Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday that security threats were a concern in the Transportation Security Administration’s new invasive pat-downs and body scans, but heartily acknowledged that she wouldn’t want to go through the screening herself.”

Here’s Mona Charen’s case for why Sarah Palin shouldn’t run for president: “Voters chose a novice with plenty of starpower in 2008 and will be inclined to swing strongly in the other direction in 2012. Americans will be looking for sober competence, managerial skill, and maturity — not sizzle and flash. … There is no denying that Sarah Palin has been harshly, sometimes even brutally, treated by the press and the entertainment gaggle. But any prominent Republican must expect and be able to transcend that. Palin compares herself to Reagan. But Reagan didn’t mud-wrestle with the press. Palin seems consumed and obsessed by it, as her rapid Twitter finger attests, and thus she encourages the sniping.” I imagine that such advice is simply brushed off as part of the GOP establishment plot to get her.

Here’s further evidence that the Obami just don’t get it. Hillary Clinton isn’t giving up on civilian trials for terrorists. “So I don’t think you can, as a — as a rule, say, ‘Oh, no more civilian trials,’ or ‘no more military commission.’” Sure you can; it’s just that the leftists who dominate the Obama legal brain trust are putting up quite a fuss.

Here’s another sign that Obama’s ditzy peace-process Hail Mary isn’t going to help matters: “The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said on Sunday that any American proposal for restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations must include a complete halt in Israeli settlement building, including in East Jerusalem.” Gosh, where do you think he got the idea that building in Jerusalem was such a hot-button, non-final-status issue?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Sounds like every pro-Israel organization and self-described pro-Israel candidate should be in agreement with Noah Pollak: “Congress funds 22 percent of the [UN Human Rights] Council’s activities. Is it right to collude in allowing a democratic ally to become an international punching bag for activists who are only prevented from treating us the same way by virtue of our greater power? And should the United States help promote the idea that one of the most important and effective national security tools we employ — targeted killings — is an act of state terrorism that must be prosecuted by international courts? … It is time that the administration abandoned the Council. And it is time that Congress stopped funding it.”

Sounds like Nixon: “The hypocrisy of the Obama Justice Department has reached staggering proportions on a host of issues stemming from the New Black Panther voter-intimidation case. Such systemic evasion of justice breeds lawlessness. The Justice Department’s latest thumb in the eye of its critics came in an Aug. 11 letter from Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.”

Sounds like the Big Apple is part of second America: “A majority of New Yorkers remain opposed to a mosque proposed as part of a planned Islamic cultural center near ground zero and the issue will be a factor for many voters this fall, according to a statewide poll released Wednesday. The Siena College poll showed 63 percent of New York voters surveyed oppose the project, with 27 percent supporting it.”

Sounds like the rest of California: “The city of Bell gave nearly $900,000 in loans to former City Administrator Robert Rizzo, city employees and at least two council members in the last several years, according to records reviewed by The Times. … The loans raise new questions about how officials were compensated in Bell. The Times revealed last month that top city administrators were among the highest paid in the nation, sparking outrage and investigations by both L.A. County prosecutors and the California attorney general. Rizzo’s contract for this year called for him to receive more than $1.5 million in salary and benefits. The loans appear to have come on top of that compensation.”

Sounds like Milton Friedman: “Almost every action the president has taken has deepened and lengthened the downturn. … His policies are anti-investment, anti-jobs, and anti-growth. Raising taxes — with a 15 percent hike on certain small business corporations, new taxes to pay for ObamaCare, and an increase on the dividend tax from 15 percent to nearly 40 percent — depresses new investment throughout the economy.” Worth reading in full; Mitt Romney appears ready to roll in 2012.

Sounds like Barney Frank is spitting mad: “President Obama, whom I greatly admire … when the economic recovery bill — we’re supposed to call it the ‘recovery bill,’ not the ‘stimulus’ bill; that’s what the focus groups tell us — he predicted or his aides predicted at the time that if it passed, unemployment would get under 8 percent. … That was a dumb thing to do.” Focus groups at the White House — how Clintonian!

Sounds like Charlie Crist is taking political lessons from Obama and Pelosi: “Crist recently refunded a $9,600 contribution from Jim Greer, the indicted former Republican Party of Florida chairman. ‘He asked for it back, so I gave it to him,’ said Crist. But Crist said that doesn’t apply to anyone who asks for a refund. Asked what was different about Greer, Crist said, ‘I think he really needed it.’” The rest of the donors will just spend it on dumb things like groceries, mortgages, family vacations, and Marco Rubio, you see.

Sounds like every pro-Israel organization and self-described pro-Israel candidate should be in agreement with Noah Pollak: “Congress funds 22 percent of the [UN Human Rights] Council’s activities. Is it right to collude in allowing a democratic ally to become an international punching bag for activists who are only prevented from treating us the same way by virtue of our greater power? And should the United States help promote the idea that one of the most important and effective national security tools we employ — targeted killings — is an act of state terrorism that must be prosecuted by international courts? … It is time that the administration abandoned the Council. And it is time that Congress stopped funding it.”

Sounds like Nixon: “The hypocrisy of the Obama Justice Department has reached staggering proportions on a host of issues stemming from the New Black Panther voter-intimidation case. Such systemic evasion of justice breeds lawlessness. The Justice Department’s latest thumb in the eye of its critics came in an Aug. 11 letter from Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.”

Sounds like the Big Apple is part of second America: “A majority of New Yorkers remain opposed to a mosque proposed as part of a planned Islamic cultural center near ground zero and the issue will be a factor for many voters this fall, according to a statewide poll released Wednesday. The Siena College poll showed 63 percent of New York voters surveyed oppose the project, with 27 percent supporting it.”

Sounds like the rest of California: “The city of Bell gave nearly $900,000 in loans to former City Administrator Robert Rizzo, city employees and at least two council members in the last several years, according to records reviewed by The Times. … The loans raise new questions about how officials were compensated in Bell. The Times revealed last month that top city administrators were among the highest paid in the nation, sparking outrage and investigations by both L.A. County prosecutors and the California attorney general. Rizzo’s contract for this year called for him to receive more than $1.5 million in salary and benefits. The loans appear to have come on top of that compensation.”

Sounds like Milton Friedman: “Almost every action the president has taken has deepened and lengthened the downturn. … His policies are anti-investment, anti-jobs, and anti-growth. Raising taxes — with a 15 percent hike on certain small business corporations, new taxes to pay for ObamaCare, and an increase on the dividend tax from 15 percent to nearly 40 percent — depresses new investment throughout the economy.” Worth reading in full; Mitt Romney appears ready to roll in 2012.

Sounds like Barney Frank is spitting mad: “President Obama, whom I greatly admire … when the economic recovery bill — we’re supposed to call it the ‘recovery bill,’ not the ‘stimulus’ bill; that’s what the focus groups tell us — he predicted or his aides predicted at the time that if it passed, unemployment would get under 8 percent. … That was a dumb thing to do.” Focus groups at the White House — how Clintonian!

Sounds like Charlie Crist is taking political lessons from Obama and Pelosi: “Crist recently refunded a $9,600 contribution from Jim Greer, the indicted former Republican Party of Florida chairman. ‘He asked for it back, so I gave it to him,’ said Crist. But Crist said that doesn’t apply to anyone who asks for a refund. Asked what was different about Greer, Crist said, ‘I think he really needed it.’” The rest of the donors will just spend it on dumb things like groceries, mortgages, family vacations, and Marco Rubio, you see.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Even Max Baucus is criticizing Obama’s latest recess appointment, Donald Berwick, who is to head the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Baucus said he was “‘troubled’ that Obama chose to install Berwich without a formal confirmation process. ‘Senate confirmation of presidential appointees is an essential process prescribed by the Constitution that serves as a check on executive power and protects Montanans and all Americans by ensuring that crucial questions are asked of the nominee — and answered,’ Baucus said in a statement.”

Even CNN can’t employ an editor (Octavia Nasr) who bemoans the death of Hezbollah leader Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah. The New York Times dryly reports: “Ms. Nasr, a 20-year veteran of CNN, wrote on Twitter after the cleric died on Sunday, ‘Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah … One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.’ Ayatollah Fadlallah routinely denounced Israel and the United States, and supported suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. Ayatollah Fadlallah’s writings and preachings inspired the Dawa Party of Iraq and a generation of militants, including the founders of Hezbollah.”

Even Obama has figured out that direct negotiations are the only viable way to proceed with his “peace process.” The Palestinians are now miffed that their patron is starting to wise up. PLO representative Maen Rashid Areikat: “I hope [Obama's deadline] is not an attempt to pressure the Palestinians that if they don’t move to the direct talks, there will be a resumption of settlement construction in the West Bank.”

Even the “international community” will find it difficult to dispute the IDF’s evidence of Hezbollah in Lebanon. It won’t do anything about it, of course.

Even Democrats must realize that this is not the most transparent administration in history: “The website used to track stimulus spending does not meet the transparency requirements laid out by the administration last year, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).”

Even Jewish cheerleaders for Obama have to be a little miffed that he — shocking, I know — isn’t going to Israel anytime soon: “President Barack Obama left the impression he had accepted an invitation to visit Israel, but don’t expect the trip any time soon. During Obama’s relationship-patching meetings at the White House on Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli leader publicly asked the president and first lady Michelle Obama to come. Netanyahu said, ‘It’s about time.’ Obama replied that he looked forward to it.”

Even the ACLU should be upset about the NASA flap. The administrator said of Obama, “He wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math and engineering.” Charles Lane asked, “[S]ince when is it U.S. government policy to offer or refuse cooperation with various nations based on the religion their people practice? Last time I checked, the Constitution expressly forbid the establishment of religion. How can it be consistent with that mandate and the deeply held political and cultural values that it expresses for the U.S. government to ‘reach out’ to another government because the people it rules are mostly of a particular faith?” A good reason to abolish the ambassadorship to the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Even Max Baucus is criticizing Obama’s latest recess appointment, Donald Berwick, who is to head the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Baucus said he was “‘troubled’ that Obama chose to install Berwich without a formal confirmation process. ‘Senate confirmation of presidential appointees is an essential process prescribed by the Constitution that serves as a check on executive power and protects Montanans and all Americans by ensuring that crucial questions are asked of the nominee — and answered,’ Baucus said in a statement.”

Even CNN can’t employ an editor (Octavia Nasr) who bemoans the death of Hezbollah leader Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah. The New York Times dryly reports: “Ms. Nasr, a 20-year veteran of CNN, wrote on Twitter after the cleric died on Sunday, ‘Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah … One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.’ Ayatollah Fadlallah routinely denounced Israel and the United States, and supported suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. Ayatollah Fadlallah’s writings and preachings inspired the Dawa Party of Iraq and a generation of militants, including the founders of Hezbollah.”

Even Obama has figured out that direct negotiations are the only viable way to proceed with his “peace process.” The Palestinians are now miffed that their patron is starting to wise up. PLO representative Maen Rashid Areikat: “I hope [Obama's deadline] is not an attempt to pressure the Palestinians that if they don’t move to the direct talks, there will be a resumption of settlement construction in the West Bank.”

Even the “international community” will find it difficult to dispute the IDF’s evidence of Hezbollah in Lebanon. It won’t do anything about it, of course.

Even Democrats must realize that this is not the most transparent administration in history: “The website used to track stimulus spending does not meet the transparency requirements laid out by the administration last year, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).”

Even Jewish cheerleaders for Obama have to be a little miffed that he — shocking, I know — isn’t going to Israel anytime soon: “President Barack Obama left the impression he had accepted an invitation to visit Israel, but don’t expect the trip any time soon. During Obama’s relationship-patching meetings at the White House on Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli leader publicly asked the president and first lady Michelle Obama to come. Netanyahu said, ‘It’s about time.’ Obama replied that he looked forward to it.”

Even the ACLU should be upset about the NASA flap. The administrator said of Obama, “He wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math and engineering.” Charles Lane asked, “[S]ince when is it U.S. government policy to offer or refuse cooperation with various nations based on the religion their people practice? Last time I checked, the Constitution expressly forbid the establishment of religion. How can it be consistent with that mandate and the deeply held political and cultural values that it expresses for the U.S. government to ‘reach out’ to another government because the people it rules are mostly of a particular faith?” A good reason to abolish the ambassadorship to the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

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Less than Meets the Eye — Again

The thing about Obama is that there is always less than meets the eye. He went to Copenhagen twice, each time with spinners expecting the fix was in and Obama could deliver a huge political win; but there was no game plan; there was no Chicago Olympics or global-warming deal. Obama intends to sweep away Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but not really. There is no executive order. There will be a long study and maybe, sometime, there will be congressional action. Obama had a plan for Iran: prove his bona fides by engagement, pivot to crippling sanctions, and hold military force as an option. Instead, he’s been meandering around in engagement and coming up with mini-sanctions. No cleverly devised plan after all.

Now we hear that the proposal to regulate CO2 by bureaucratic fiat is being whittled down to a mini-gambit that won’t go into effect until after 2010, when, by gosh, we’ll have a new Congress:

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) pledge Monday to move slowly on the implementation of upcoming greenhouse gas rules may give cover to some Capitol Hill Democrats to vote against blocking climate rules entirely, according to lobbyists and activists.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a letter to a group of Senate Democrats on Monday that upcoming rules to limit emissions from power plants and other industrial facilities won’t take effect in 2010. She also told the eight Democrats — who mostly hail from coal-producing or coal-reliant states — that the rules will initially be narrower than EPA had planned.

On one level, this is another exercise in cynicism. You see, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has a plan to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. But the Hill reports, “One environmental lobbyist said EPA’s action ‘absolutely’ gives Democrats cover to vote against [Sen. Lisa] Murkowski’s plan by providing time for work on climate legislation.” On the other hand, it’s evidence that the Obami aren’t really equipped to push through much of their radical agenda, so they must resort once again to delay, misdirection, and half-measures to avoid wigging out their base. Still, the EPA’s newest mini-gambit isn’t enough to win over some Democrats, especially those from energy-producing states:

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who led the letter to EPA from the eight Democrats, is preparing a bill that would temporarily prevent EPA rules while Congress works on a broader climate and energy bill. He praised EPA’s action but said it hasn’t changed his mind. “I am glad to see that the EPA is showing some willingness to set their timetable for regulation into the future — this is good progress, but I am concerned it may not go far enough,” Rockefeller said in a prepared statement.

The environmental lobbyists are squawking about the need to “defend science from politics, defend our children’s future from polluters, and defend our economy from the stranglehold of special interests.” Maybe that sort of thing worked better before Climategate, record unemployment, and Obama’s ratings collapse. But now, it reinforces the chasm between Obama’s agenda and his accomplishments. It is further proof that the Obami have a lot of bark and no bite when it comes to reinventing America or putting in a New Foundation, or whatever they call it these days. That’s very good news indeed.

The thing about Obama is that there is always less than meets the eye. He went to Copenhagen twice, each time with spinners expecting the fix was in and Obama could deliver a huge political win; but there was no game plan; there was no Chicago Olympics or global-warming deal. Obama intends to sweep away Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but not really. There is no executive order. There will be a long study and maybe, sometime, there will be congressional action. Obama had a plan for Iran: prove his bona fides by engagement, pivot to crippling sanctions, and hold military force as an option. Instead, he’s been meandering around in engagement and coming up with mini-sanctions. No cleverly devised plan after all.

Now we hear that the proposal to regulate CO2 by bureaucratic fiat is being whittled down to a mini-gambit that won’t go into effect until after 2010, when, by gosh, we’ll have a new Congress:

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) pledge Monday to move slowly on the implementation of upcoming greenhouse gas rules may give cover to some Capitol Hill Democrats to vote against blocking climate rules entirely, according to lobbyists and activists.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a letter to a group of Senate Democrats on Monday that upcoming rules to limit emissions from power plants and other industrial facilities won’t take effect in 2010. She also told the eight Democrats — who mostly hail from coal-producing or coal-reliant states — that the rules will initially be narrower than EPA had planned.

On one level, this is another exercise in cynicism. You see, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has a plan to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. But the Hill reports, “One environmental lobbyist said EPA’s action ‘absolutely’ gives Democrats cover to vote against [Sen. Lisa] Murkowski’s plan by providing time for work on climate legislation.” On the other hand, it’s evidence that the Obami aren’t really equipped to push through much of their radical agenda, so they must resort once again to delay, misdirection, and half-measures to avoid wigging out their base. Still, the EPA’s newest mini-gambit isn’t enough to win over some Democrats, especially those from energy-producing states:

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who led the letter to EPA from the eight Democrats, is preparing a bill that would temporarily prevent EPA rules while Congress works on a broader climate and energy bill. He praised EPA’s action but said it hasn’t changed his mind. “I am glad to see that the EPA is showing some willingness to set their timetable for regulation into the future — this is good progress, but I am concerned it may not go far enough,” Rockefeller said in a prepared statement.

The environmental lobbyists are squawking about the need to “defend science from politics, defend our children’s future from polluters, and defend our economy from the stranglehold of special interests.” Maybe that sort of thing worked better before Climategate, record unemployment, and Obama’s ratings collapse. But now, it reinforces the chasm between Obama’s agenda and his accomplishments. It is further proof that the Obami have a lot of bark and no bite when it comes to reinventing America or putting in a New Foundation, or whatever they call it these days. That’s very good news indeed.

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EPA Power Grab Ought to Overshadow Copenhagen Talkfest

While the attention of the world is focused on the global-warming jamboree in Copenhagen, an announcement made in Washington yesterday may well overshadow that international talkfest in its significance. On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator Lisa P. Jackson issued a final ruling that greenhouse gases pose a danger to the environment and human health. This will, as the New York Times noted, pave “the way for regulation of carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles, power plants, factories, refineries and other major sources.”

As if to put an exclamation point on the way that the governmental and media establishments have utterly rejected the significance of Climategate and other sources of skepticism, Jackson dismissed any criticisms of the environmentalist groupthink on the issue and said that her agency would not allow anything to stop it from going ahead with a plan that has the potential to create a vast expansion of government.

The impact of this ruling cannot be overestimated. Because carbon dioxide is everywhere and produced by just about any sort of economic activity, the door is opened for a new era of complex governmental regulations that will impose enormous costs across the board.

Jackson made little attempt to hide the real agenda here. Cap-and-trade legislation that would attempt to do the same thing is going nowhere in Congress. The prospects of going into an election year by imposing a gargantuan new bureaucracy on the country via a massive, though hidden, tax increase in the middle of an economic downturn is a formula for certain defeat for the Democrats. But why bother dealing with the messiness of democracy when you can impose a command-and-control economy run from Washington via an EPA ruling? As the Times editorial page helpfully points out today, Jackson’s fiat has the ability to completely bypass the Congress and possibly get the same result:

There is one obvious way to keep the E.P.A. from having to use this authority on a broad scale. And that is for Congress to pass a credible and comprehensive bill requiring economywide cuts in emissions. No one would be cheering louder than Ms. Jackson, who has neither the resources nor the ambition to regulate what would amount to 70 percent of the American economy. If Congress fails to act, she will have no choice.

I’m not so sure about the lack of ambition for central control of the economy on the part of the Obama administration, though the prospect of Jackson’s merry band of government bureaucrats being given that much power ought to send a chill down the spine of any sensible person. So should the prospect of having such a draconian measure shoved down the collective throats of our democracy by executive fiat. While the show in Copenhagen may be unlikely to produce any binding international agreements to advance the environmental alarmist position, this EPA power grab may prove to be an even more troubling measure that will cripple the U.S. economy without the voters or their representatives having a say in any of it.

While the attention of the world is focused on the global-warming jamboree in Copenhagen, an announcement made in Washington yesterday may well overshadow that international talkfest in its significance. On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator Lisa P. Jackson issued a final ruling that greenhouse gases pose a danger to the environment and human health. This will, as the New York Times noted, pave “the way for regulation of carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles, power plants, factories, refineries and other major sources.”

As if to put an exclamation point on the way that the governmental and media establishments have utterly rejected the significance of Climategate and other sources of skepticism, Jackson dismissed any criticisms of the environmentalist groupthink on the issue and said that her agency would not allow anything to stop it from going ahead with a plan that has the potential to create a vast expansion of government.

The impact of this ruling cannot be overestimated. Because carbon dioxide is everywhere and produced by just about any sort of economic activity, the door is opened for a new era of complex governmental regulations that will impose enormous costs across the board.

Jackson made little attempt to hide the real agenda here. Cap-and-trade legislation that would attempt to do the same thing is going nowhere in Congress. The prospects of going into an election year by imposing a gargantuan new bureaucracy on the country via a massive, though hidden, tax increase in the middle of an economic downturn is a formula for certain defeat for the Democrats. But why bother dealing with the messiness of democracy when you can impose a command-and-control economy run from Washington via an EPA ruling? As the Times editorial page helpfully points out today, Jackson’s fiat has the ability to completely bypass the Congress and possibly get the same result:

There is one obvious way to keep the E.P.A. from having to use this authority on a broad scale. And that is for Congress to pass a credible and comprehensive bill requiring economywide cuts in emissions. No one would be cheering louder than Ms. Jackson, who has neither the resources nor the ambition to regulate what would amount to 70 percent of the American economy. If Congress fails to act, she will have no choice.

I’m not so sure about the lack of ambition for central control of the economy on the part of the Obama administration, though the prospect of Jackson’s merry band of government bureaucrats being given that much power ought to send a chill down the spine of any sensible person. So should the prospect of having such a draconian measure shoved down the collective throats of our democracy by executive fiat. While the show in Copenhagen may be unlikely to produce any binding international agreements to advance the environmental alarmist position, this EPA power grab may prove to be an even more troubling measure that will cripple the U.S. economy without the voters or their representatives having a say in any of it.

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It’s Only a Chinese Moon

“I personally believe that China will be back on the moon before we are,” said NASA administrator Michael Griffin, in Washington to mark the organization’s October 1 anniversary. “I think when that happens, Americans will not like it. But they will just have to not like it.”

In 2004, President Bush set 2020 as the goal for returning to the moon. His sixteen-year schedule is twice as long as it took after President Kennedy proposed the challenge in 1961. Although optimistic projections indicate we might return by 2019, the Chinese will still be there to greet us. Beijing has detailed and well-funded plans to reach the moon by 2017. The Chinese have a schedule of preparatory moon landings, while America appears to be going through the motions.

“The U.S. has to get over this feeling that it has to be a competition,” says John Marburger, the White House science adviser. If there is anything we have to get over, it is a sentiment like Marburger’s. China has plans, announced in August, to map every inch of the moon. As far back as 2005, Beijing discussed its intentions to mine it for minerals. By the time we get there, it may really be just a sliver.

Americans once dreamed big. Now, evidently, we’re too mature to do that. At this moment, we’re the leading spacefaring nation; it looks like we will soon be living under the light of a Chinese moon.

“I personally believe that China will be back on the moon before we are,” said NASA administrator Michael Griffin, in Washington to mark the organization’s October 1 anniversary. “I think when that happens, Americans will not like it. But they will just have to not like it.”

In 2004, President Bush set 2020 as the goal for returning to the moon. His sixteen-year schedule is twice as long as it took after President Kennedy proposed the challenge in 1961. Although optimistic projections indicate we might return by 2019, the Chinese will still be there to greet us. Beijing has detailed and well-funded plans to reach the moon by 2017. The Chinese have a schedule of preparatory moon landings, while America appears to be going through the motions.

“The U.S. has to get over this feeling that it has to be a competition,” says John Marburger, the White House science adviser. If there is anything we have to get over, it is a sentiment like Marburger’s. China has plans, announced in August, to map every inch of the moon. As far back as 2005, Beijing discussed its intentions to mine it for minerals. By the time we get there, it may really be just a sliver.

Americans once dreamed big. Now, evidently, we’re too mature to do that. At this moment, we’re the leading spacefaring nation; it looks like we will soon be living under the light of a Chinese moon.

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Alien Investors

The last I heard of Lawrence Summers, he was performing somersaults as president of Harvard, trying to ingratiate himself with the faculty he had offended by, among other things, frankly discussing some ideas–taboo in academia–about the linkages between sex and success.

The somersaults were to no avail. Summers’s tenure as president came to an abrupt end last year and he returned to his post teaching economics as the Charles W. Eliot university professor. This was Harvard’s loss and our gain, for whatever one made of his ridiculous efforts to back away from his own thoughtful if provocative words, he is back in the public eye not as an administrator of an impossible faculty but as an economist with his finger on a number of vital issues.

One such issue is the accumulation of capital reserves and sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) in the developing world. Governments ruling industrializing countries are sitting on huge and growing piles of cash. They need to park this money somewhere. Increasingly, as Summers is not alone in pointing out, they are shopping abroad and “are now accumulating various kinds of stakes in what were once purely private companies.”

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The last I heard of Lawrence Summers, he was performing somersaults as president of Harvard, trying to ingratiate himself with the faculty he had offended by, among other things, frankly discussing some ideas–taboo in academia–about the linkages between sex and success.

The somersaults were to no avail. Summers’s tenure as president came to an abrupt end last year and he returned to his post teaching economics as the Charles W. Eliot university professor. This was Harvard’s loss and our gain, for whatever one made of his ridiculous efforts to back away from his own thoughtful if provocative words, he is back in the public eye not as an administrator of an impossible faculty but as an economist with his finger on a number of vital issues.

One such issue is the accumulation of capital reserves and sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) in the developing world. Governments ruling industrializing countries are sitting on huge and growing piles of cash. They need to park this money somewhere. Increasingly, as Summers is not alone in pointing out, they are shopping abroad and “are now accumulating various kinds of stakes in what were once purely private companies.”

The pace is accelerating, notes Summers:

In the last month we have seen government-controlled Chinese entities take the largest external stake (albeit non-voting) in Blackstone, a big private-equity group that, indirectly through its holdings, is one of the largest employers in the U.S. The government of Qatar is seeking to gain control of J. Sainsbury, one of Britain’s largest supermarket chains. Gazprom, a Russian conglomerate in effect controlled by the Kremlin, has strategic interests in the energy sectors of a number of countries and even a stake in Airbus. Entities controlled by the governments of China and Singapore are offering to take a substantial stake in Barclays, giving it more heft in its effort to pull off the world’s largest banking merger, with ABN Amro.

What exactly is the problem with this? Discussion of this trend, notes Summers, has focused almost entirely on issues of local control, openness in decision-making, and in certain sectors, the national-security implications, as in last year’s scuttled attempt by Dubai to buy a company that manages American ports. Although those issues are all worthy of close scrutiny, Summers sees a deeper problem:

The logic of the capitalist system depends on shareholders causing companies to act so as to maximize the value of their shares. It is far from obvious that this will over time be the only motivation of governments as shareholders. They may want to see their national companies compete effectively, or to extract technology or to achieve influence.

We have seen the degree of concern over News Corp’s attempt to buy the Wall Street Journal. How differently should one feel about a direct investment stake of a foreign government in a media or publishing company?

If these are not yet burning issues, the foreign acquisitions of recent months, and the growing quantity of cash available to governments like China’s, tell us that they will be soon.

Congress, however, shows no sign of paying heed to the implications of foreign governmental investment. Yet what would be the consequences, for example, of a shield-law for journalists, of the kind Congress is once again considering, if some of the reporters making use of such protection to ferret out, say, Pentagon secrets, were the employees of, and under the control of, a rival or hostile power?

Is anyone thinking about such things, and what is to be done? Summers himself does not have an answer, but at least he has made the problem a focus of debate. If that seems inadequate, it also seems wise.

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