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January 30, 2009

Saber Rattling by Norks

Joe Biden said Obama would be tested early and often. The guy's a psychic.


Jen Rubin on the Reid-Pelosi-Obama Debt Bill

There was, it seems, a good deal of miscalculation involved. The White House team bet Nancy Pelosi would come up with a bill that passed the smell test. They bet the Republicans, after a shellacking on Election Day, wouldn’t have the nerve to stand up to the President no matter what was in it. And they bet the public would support anything the President did. As it turned out, they were wrong on all three counts.

WSJ op-ed

Senate Democrats hedging

Next Big Thing

From PC World...

"10 Web Sites That Will Matter in 2009"



Pretty good cover story in the new SI about the best player on the planet.

The New Progressives

Great essay at Brussels Journal by Thomas Landen on the insidiousness of hate crimes laws, as they inevitably become thought crimes laws and political weapons. Unequal treatment is illiberal...isn't it?

January 29, 2009

Necessary Name Changing

What to do when your "Stimulus" package is revealed to contain precious little economic stimulus?

Rename it the "Recovery" package. (Because of the hope)

Ahhh....spending a trillion dollars we don't have feels so much better now.

UPDATE: Whatever you call it, Ben Stein says it's "A Bleak Day". And it's not even Ben Stein's money. Catch this rather astounding assertion by Stein...

Only ten per cent of the "stimulus" to be spent on 2009.

Close to half goes to entities that sponsor or employ or both members of the Service Employees International Union, federal, state, and municipal employee unions, or other Democrat-controlled unions.

Coupled with the depressing scene shaping up on EFCA front, this is Big Labor's payoff. Rent-seeking is what it's called. Feather-bedding. It's appalling and irresponsible. Will the Democrats continue to lament the influence of "special interests" with a straight face?

And Ed Morrissey says the "Buy American" provisions in both the House and Senate versions of the bill could be devastating. It represents a full frontal attack on global free trade by these self-styled progressives. Do they believe protectionism won't be answered with protectionism? Good post on "Buy American" by Stephen Spruiell.

Larry Kudlow - Support dropping, Obama regrouping. The message is "what's the hurry?"

GOP economist Martin Feldstein revoked his prior support of a stimulus plan in this morning’s Washington Post. “In its current form,” Feldstein wrote, “[the plan] does too little to raise national spending and employment. It would be better for the Senate to delay legislation for a month, or even two, if that’s what it takes to produce a much better bill. We cannot afford an $800 billion mistake.”

Clinton economic adviser Alice Rivlin made the same point yesterday in testimony for the House Budget Committee. Her message: Divide up the package and slow down the process.

January 28, 2009

Strawmen and Revisionist History

Among the more off-putting aspects of the young Obama presidency is the continual posturing by the president as the moral superior to George Bush in, among other things, his outreach to the Muslim world, and in his willingness to utilize diplomacy in our relationship to Iran. On the first of these, here's Peter Wehner at Contentions citing Charles Krauthammer's Fox News comments on Obama's al-Arabiya interview. The Krauthammer quote in full...

Conciliatory, but also apologetic and defensive, I thought needlessly. We heard him say that he we shouldn’t paint Islam with a broad-brush. Who does? That’s a straw man. Did the Bush administration do so? Obama said “My job is to communicate from the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives.” Well, where is the American heartland which is arguing otherwise?

Look, if he wants - dare say, “I have Muslim relatives,” as he did in the interview, “and I lived in a Muslim land,” as he did in the interview, “and thus I have a special appreciation of Islam,” that’s OK. But somehow he is implying that somehow the Obama era is a break with the American past. Somehow it is undoing a disrespect of Islam that had somehow occurred under the previous administration.

One week after 9/11, the president of the United States, George Bush, showed up in the Islamic center in Washington and declared Islam is peace and extended a hand of tolerance and generosity. There were no anti-Muslim riots in America. There was a spirit of generosity and tolerance. And, in fact, over the last 20 years, the United States has been engaged in exactly five military engagements in the world, two in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait, all of them liberating Islamic peoples. We have no need to apologize. Extend a hand, yes, but to imply that there was a disrespect of Islam in the last administration, I think is unfair and fictional.

Read it all, because Wehner goes on to quote Bush from his first post-9/11 speech, a statement that might just as well have been clipped from the Obama interview on Arab TV. And of course, this was one of many examples of George Bush taking great pains to differentiate the wider Muslim world from the radical Islamist terrorists making unambiguously declared war on the United States.

Victor Davis Hanson has a terrific piece at RCP today on the ways that Obama has set some traps for himself and for us with his posturing as the ground-breaking presence in the Middle East. As is often the case with VDH, it defies attempts to do it justice by excerpting, so read it all.

And as the president and his acolytes congratulate themselves on their own open-mindedness, composing letters to Khameini and the Iranian people, and suggesting that diplomacy with Iran is an approach untested by the divisive and parochial Bushies, Michael Ledeen thinks it's important to remember that we've been down this road many times before.

There have been talks between Washington and Tehran ever since 1979 (the Revolution). EVERY president has authorized them. On the public record, there were nearly thirty such talks during the Bush years, and there are "private" channels as well. So there is nothing new in this, it is business-as-usual.

Iranian leaders have constantly demanded that we apologize, and we have. Clinton did it. Albright did it. And then, having obtained his ounce of humiliated flesh, Khamenei told them both to go to hell.

Any story about talks with Iran or apologizing to Iran should contain those historical facts. Otherwise, you can just do what most of the journalists do: Pretend the world was created fresh just before you woke up, so all that matters is how you feel about it all.

More here from Ledeen, who links to documentation of Bush administration diplomatic contacts with Iran.

By his actions, as distinct from his rhetoric, Obama is becoming the chief revisionist in the rehabilitation of George Bush.


Andrea Shea King was there, and remembers the Challenger disaster 23 years ago today. (via The Anchoress, linker extraordinaire)


Speaking of heroes, I vaguely remember hearing about Irena Sendler when she died in May of last year, but a friend sent this two-minute clip from Glenn Beck about her, and that got me to her Wikipedia page. Watch the video first.

January 27, 2009

Senator NIMBY

Jim Geraghty recounts the story of Ted Kennedy's decade-long battle against the Cape Wind project.

January 26, 2009

180 Degrees of Change

Taranto on "Pliability Journalism" is a must.

During the Bush years, the AP introduced a new reportorial idiom called "accountability journalism," whose goal is "to report whether government officials are doing the job for which they were elected and keeping the promises they make." Turns out they weren't.

But the AP's new idiom, which we hereby name "pliability journalism," aims to show that everything is completely different from the bad old days of a week ago and before.

UPDATE 1/27: Peter Kirsanow muses:

So . . . we're going to have a tax cheat in charge of the IRS, a man instrumental in the pardoning of terrorists as top terrorism watchdog, and a woman whose husband gets tens of millions from foreign governments in charge of implementing foreign policy. Press reaction: Move along . . . nothing to see here.

Let The Slobbering Begin

Burt Prelutsky at Big Hollywood, on Bernard Goldberg's new book.

As Goldberg makes clear, the shame of the MSM during the presidential election wasn’t simply that they couldn’t mention Barack Obama’s name without swooning, although it did get awfully embarrassing. Giggly teenage girls at a Jonas Brothers concert behaved with more restraint than Chris Matthews.

Worse yet was the way the media kept anything negative about their Lochinvar under wraps. So it was that although Rolling Stone, as early as February, 2007, in a profile of Sen. Obama, wrote about his friend and religious mentor, the loony racist, Jeremiah Wright, the MSM totally ignored the connection until bloggers and Sean Hannity forced the issue. Even then, the media merely took its lead from Obama. When the candidate claimed that in 20 years, he’d never heard his minister say anything hateful about America or white people, they went along with it. When Obama dismissed Wright’s rants as sound bites taken out of context, that was good enough for the MSM. When Obama said that he would never turn his back on Wright, they praised him for his loyalty. Then, when Wright kept repeating those “sound bites” and Obama hurled his worthless carcass under the bus, the MSM praised him for his resolve.

When some people questioned how Obama could have sat in that cesspool of a church for a thousand Sundays, Obama said that anyone who would ask such a rude question was obviously a racist, knowing full well that the MSM, aka the amen corner, could be counted on not only to parrot his words, but to clap hands and shout “Hallelujah!”

Like Father....

Researchers have proven that the father of John Wilkes Booth threatened to kill a president 20 years before Booth pulled it off. I would click to read about that. (via The Corner)

January 24, 2009

Building Bridges

So this is what post-racial America is going to look like:

Obama economic advisor Robert Reich:

I am concerned, as I’m sure many of you are, that these jobs not simply go to high-skilled people who are already professionals or to white male construction workers. … I have nothing against white male construction workers. I’m just saying that there are a lot of other people who have needs as well. … Criteria can be set so that the money does go to others, the long term unemployed minorities, women, people who are not necessarily construction workers or high-skilled professionals.

See, bridges and roads need not be built by people with experience building bridges and roads, or qualifications to do so. Not if you want Stimulus cash, that is. Using logic only government understands, you'll have to hire a mandated percentage from the segment of the population least qualified and experienced.

But set aside for the moment the prospect of driving across bridges built by the long term unemployed. Consider instead the specter of an Obama administration, elected on a platform of unity and racial reconciliation, dictating not just to state transportation departments, but also to private design and engineering firms and construction contractors...you know, the people who actually build roads and bridges... that they must discriminate on the basis of race in the hiring of their employees, a practice that is supposed to be against the law.

A primary premise of racial preferences and contract set-asides is that there is a latent and malign racist force in America that would rise up to persecute and deny opportunities to minorities on the basis of their skin color, in the absence of government policies to suppress that force. Could it be time to ask government to at least make its intellectual case that this is true? Could President Obama weigh in on whether or not he thinks it is true?

The Reich quote raises so many other questions about where the Stimulus spending orgy will be going, and to what lengths the government will go to achieve statistics that are pleasing their bean-counters. Will Reich, for example, spend money to train the long-term unemployed with the skills to work as surveyors, CAD designers, estimators, project managers, superintendents, or welders? How long do you suppose it will be before those retrained workers will be out stimulating the economy?

Will the Stimulus relocate the favored categories of unemployed to the locations where roadwork and infrastructure projects are being undertaken, or will a project's proximity to pockets of long-term unemployed be a factor in its selection to be financed? Will private construction contractors have mandatory racial quotas?

And if minority status and length of time unemployed are both to be considered as subjects of Charlie Rangel's mandates, who would get preferential treatment for the brand new road-paving job....a white woman unemployed for two years, or a Mexican-American unemployed for six months? And what genius bureaucrat would be tasked with defining that distinction? One thing that seems sure is that it wouldn't matter if neither of them knew their ass from asphalt.

If the government is to be in the business of deciding who gets hired (and I guess the promise of 600,000 new government jobs says that they are) I don't have a philosophical problem with considering the length of time a person has been unemployed as a 'weighted' factor in a possible hiring decision. But neither do I think the government should have, as official policy, a practice of hiring first those who have worked least. The notion of meritocracy scares the shit out of Democrats.

But on the matter of the federal government mandating racial discrimination in hiring practices, isn't it time to just stop? Polls show large majorities of blacks and whites think it's time to stop. The election of Barack Obama says it's time to stop.

UPDATE 1/30: Reich fleshes out the plan here. And he does propose to use the power of the federal government to force private construction contractors into hiring quotas with racial criteria. Oh, and the contractors will have to be "nudged" some more, into providing the training for the new employees from the various favored categories...

...there's no reason to think about "green jobs" as simply high-tech. Many low-income and low-skilled workers -- women as well as men -- could be put directly to work providing homes and businesses with more efficient and renewable heating, lighting, cooling, and refrigeration systems; installing solar panels and efficient photovoltaic systems; rehabilitating and renovating old properties, and improving recycling systems. "Green Jobs Corps" teams could be trained to evaluate and advise homeowners and businesses on these and other means of conserving energy.

People can be trained relatively quickly for these sorts of jobs, as well as many infrastructure jobs generated by the stimulus -- installing new pipes for water and sewage systems, repairing and upgrading equipment, basic construction -- but contractors have to be nudged both to provide the training and to do the hiring.

I'd suggest that all contracts entered into with stimulus funds require contractors to provide at least 20 percent of jobs to the long-term unemployed and to people with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

All we have to do now is create the new permanent bureaucracy to make the federal Greenie Corps a reality...(coming to your neighborhood soon to insulate your house and paint your garage roof white, all on the taxpayer dime)

UPDATE 1/27: Michael G. Franc - "With the civil-rights race won, our government should embrace colorblindness"

"Something Very Ugly Indeed"

The appalling resurgence of open Jew-hatred brought to the public eye by the demonstrations against Israel's actions in Gaza, is not just a European phenomenon, although it clearly is more virulent and widespread there. Not even the most insistent users of the "criticizing Israel doesn't make you anti-Semitic" line would dare suggest that a gang attacking a 14-year old French schoolgirl while yelling "Jews must die" is no more than a statement of protest over Israeli government policy.

If such incidents were isolated and rare they would perhaps be more newsworthy and therefore have greater 'shock' value. Instead they are becoming more commonplace, and the official reaction to them has often been a call to Jews to stay off the streets, or to bar Jews from attending schools, rather than to take action to punish the perpetrators.

What I have tried to do below is round up some of the recent web commentary on the crossing of the line from legitimate criticism of Israel to the unapologetic expression of Jew-hatred, as well as how that hatred is at times ignored, tolerated or even abetted by government representatives.

Let's start with Jeff Jacoby - Yes It's Anti-Semitism

Criticizing Israel doesn't make you anti-Semitic: If it's been said once, it's been said a thousand times. Yet somehow that message doesn't seem to have reached the hundreds of anti-Israel demonstrators in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who turned out last week to protest Israel's military operation in Gaza. As their signs and chants made clear, it isn't only the Jewish state's policies they oppose. Their animus goes further.

Demonstrators chanted "Nuke, nuke Israel!" and carried placards accusing Israel of "ethnic cleansing" and bearing such messages as: "Did Israel take notes during the Holocaust? Happy Hanukkah." To the dozen or so supporters of Israel gathered across the street, one demonstrator shouted: "Murderers! Go back to the ovens! You need a big oven."

The Arab-Israeli conflict induces strong passions, and the line that separates legitimate disapproval of Israel from anti-Semitism may not always be obvious. But it's safe to assume the line has been crossed when you hear someone urging Jews "back to the ovens."

Melanie Phillips

In Britain, the war in Gaza has revealed the extent to which the media, intelligentsia and political class have simply crumbled in the face of the global jihad.

The U.K. is a major player in European and world politics and is America’s most significant strategic ally. Until now, it has been considered one of Israel’s firm supporters and a linchpin of the Western defense against the world-wide Islamist onslaught. With the reaction to Gaza, however, that reputation is no longer sustainable.

Years of demonizing Israel and appeasing Islamist extremism within Britain have now coalesced, as a result of the media misrepresentation of the Gaza war as an atrocity against civilians, in an unprecedented wave of hatred against Israel and a sharp rise in attacks on British Jews.

Richard L. Cravatts at American Thinker

What was particularly revealing, and chilling, about the Ft. Lauderdale demonstration was the virulence of the chants and messages on the placards, much of it seeming to suggest that more sinister hatreds and feelings-over and above concern for the current military operations-were simmering slightly below the surface. Several of the protestors, for instance, carried signs saying "Nuke Israel," a sentiment that was also shouted out to pro-Israel counter-demonstrators standing across the street.

Now the notion of using of a nuclear device to eliminate Israel and thereby attempting to kill its roughly 5 million Jews is not a unique one, since words to that effect are regularly uttered, among others, by Iran's raving president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who dreams of such apocalyptic final solutions. What is unique is the morally-defective logic that would enable someone to justify a second Holocaust, the mass murder of Jews, on the basis of Israel having defended itself from years of rocket attacks and having killed several hundred murderous terrorists in the process.

Mark Steyn - The Oldest Hatred

As the delegitimization of Israel has metastasized, we are assured that criticism of the Jewish state is not the same as anti-Semitism. We are further assured that anti-Zionism is not the same as anti-Semitism, which is a wee bit more of a stretch. Only Israel attracts an intellectually respectable movement querying its very existence. For the purposes of comparison, let’s take a state that came into existence at the exact same time as the Zionist Entity, and involved far bloodier population displacements. I happen to think the creation of Pakistan was the greatest failure of post-war British imperial policy. But the fact is that Pakistan exists, and if I were to launch a movement of anti-Pakism it would get pretty short shrift.

Daniel Schwammenthal in the WSJ

The rage against the Jews that is exploding in Europe has been carefully nurtured; it is not spontaneous sympathy for fellow Muslims in Gaza. How else to explain the silence when Muslims in other conflicts, from Darfur to Chechnya, are being killed?

The depth of anti-Semitic propaganda in Palestinian and other Muslim societies is one of the most underreported facts about the Middle East. It is this anti-Semitism that predisposes Muslims in Europe to attack Jews and fuels the Mideast conflict. The hatred predates Israel's creation. To illustrate this point: The Palestinian leader during World War II, Hajj Amin al Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, conspired with Hitler to bring the Holocaust to Palestine. Luckily, the British stopped the German troops in Africa. The Mufti spent the war years in Berlin and was later indicted for war crimes but with the help of the Muslim Brotherhood escaped to Egypt. Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Soeren Kern at Brussels Journal

Many European newspaper commentators are saying that concerns about anti-Semitism in Europe are overblown. They argue that the Jew haters are a tiny minority on the extreme political right who are given far more attention than they deserve. They also say that those concerned about the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe are confusing legitimate criticism of Israeli policies with anti-Semitism.

But myriad polling data show that all across Europe, the fine line between valid criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism has been dangerously blurred. An opinion poll in Germany, for example, shows that more than 50 percent of Germans equate Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians with Nazi treatment of the Jews. Sixty-eight percent of Germans say that Israel is waging a “war of extermination” against the Palestinian people. In terms of Europe as a whole, another poll shows that the majority of Europeans regard Israel as the greatest threat to world peace.

Opinions as grossly irrational as these imply that for many Europeans, anti-Israelism has become a convenient smokescreen for anti-Semitism. Taking this logic full-circle, the belief that Israel is the main force for evil in the world also acts to further legitimize anti-Semitism.

But how can Europeans, who famously pride themselves on being more sophisticated than everyone else, be so woefully ignorant about the reality of the situation in Israel? Much of the blame lies with Europe’s leftwing mass media establishment, which for many years has been systematically and unabashedly purveying the idea that to be anti-Israel (and anti-American and pro-pacifist) is to be sophisticated and politically correct.

Of course, the gatekeepers of European multiculturalism understand that it would be unsophisticated and politically incorrect to be openly anti-Semitic. But self-righteous criticism of Israel is another matter altogether. Thus European publics are being bombarded with round-the-clock, knee-jerk, anti-Israel political bigotry disguised as news coverage. By making such deception fashionable, European media are inciting anti-Semitism.

A. Millar, also writing at Brussels Journal, notes the reactions of Britain's political establishment to the Gazan conflict.

And Claudia Rosett wonders aloud if President Obama will act to protect Israel and the Jews from this resurgent prejudice, beginning perhaps by confronting the two world hubs of official anti-semitism, Iran and the United Nations.

In closing, more from Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail

It’s not enough to deliver mealy-mouthed and meaningless platitudes about the need for both sides to pull back in Gaza. It is certainly not enough to tolerate ‘anti-extremist’ Muslim advisers who issue veiled threats of violence unless Britain stops supporting Israel. In view of the rising violence and intimidation on the streets in general and towards Jews in particular, senior politicians have a duty now to speak out in defence of Israel against the lies that are inciting this hatred and to deplore the incendiary and false media coverage.

They have a duty to tell the British Muslim community publicly and in terms they understand that they have swallowed decades of lies and libels about Israel and the Jewish people and that that sits at the very core of the extremism that has taken them over. They have a duty to say that while free speech is precious, intimidation and thuggery will not be tolerated. And mean it.

For silence is complicity, as once gentle, decent, civilised Britain changes before our horrified eyes into something very ugly indeed.

January 21, 2009

He Already Looks Older

Congratulations and Godspeed to President Obama. I can't remember who remarked this afternoon about him already looking older after the inauguration, but one can only imagine the pressures that immediately descend on him tonight. I wish him well, and am resolved to grant him the presumption of good faith that many political opponents of George W. Bush never for a second allowed him.

I probably went about taking in the inaugural address backwards...first reading snippets of text along with blog commentary during the afternoon....then hearing audio excerpts on the radio on the way home from work...and finally seeing the video in its entirety last. Of course the speech seems better when you see and hear him give it, but by now no one on the planet doubts his skills at delivering a speech with energy, poise and flair. And since this is probably the last time he'll be able to get away with a dynamic delivery in the absence of hard specifics, he can be permitted to put off telling us what he actually means until tomorrow.

He did take a couple of gratuitous slaps at his predecessor though, and I thought they diminished the speech and him.

And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.(emphasis mine)

The new President may disagree with the direction or the priorities chosen by his predecessor, but it's nonsensical to say that American leadership has been absent...or that our country under the Bush administration has been "unready" to lead. Especially when Bush's leadership on any number of issues, from combating terrorism, to cultivating democracy, fighting AIDS, and championing the sanctity of human life, among many other things, is so obvious.

It's of a piece with the kind of self-regard in his line about people looking back at the start of the Obama presidency as "the time when the planet began to heal." And that before spending a day in office. So it was again with a line later in the inaugural....

"...to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders"

Even though this is his call to those other wealthy nations, he includes us in his admonition. Yes, now that Obama is President, America can begin caring about human suffering around the globe.

George Bush might be fairly criticized for lots of things, but indifference to human suffering in the world is decidedly not one of them. Unprecedented AIDS relief spending and activism in Africa... leading a coalition to liberate 50 million Muslims from brutal dictatorships in the Middle East... billions in relief and logistical aid to tsunami victims...a persistent and principled voice for liberty and self-government for the people in Burma and Iran and Cuba and China who are living under oppressive regimes of various stripes...the quiet diplomacy that resulted in a peace agreement in Sudan with the rebels in the South...the list goes on.

I trust and hope that Mr. Obama's commitment to the relief of global human suffering someday approaches that of Mr. Bush. It is something he can strive for, and we'll surely take note of his results. But for a guy who on this day "proclaim[ed] an end to...petty grievances", at times he came off as a guy taking cheap shots at his predecessor, and talking down to his country, as if America's virtue and compassion for its fellow man just rode in on a white horse.

On balance though, a good speech, and one that gave some comfort to folks who fear one thing or another about a President Obama. After today, for the first time, he'll be judged on the basis of what he does instead of what he says. The world awaits.

UPDATE 1/26: Interesting to see that Jay Nordlinger among others had similar thoughts about the speech's cheap (and false) shots at Bush. And this same distressing "smallness of spirit" has been noticeable in lots of places this first week.

January 20, 2009

More GWB Reflections

The Anchoress has a nice roundup of Bush legacy posts and articles, including Hitch, who voted for Obama, but isn't sorry that Bush beat Gore and Kerry...

We are never invited to ask ourselves what would have happened if the Democrats had been in power that fall. But it might be worth speculating for a second. The Effective Death Penalty and Anti-Terrorism Act, rushed through both Houses by Bill Clinton after the relative pin prick of the Oklahoma City bombing, was correctly described by the American Civil Liberties Union as the worst possible setback for the cause of citizens' rights. Given that precedent and multiplying it for the sake of proportion, I think we can be pretty sure that wiretapping and water-boarding would have become household words, perhaps even more quickly than they did, and that we might even have heard a few more liberal defenses of the practice. I don't know if Gore-Lieberman would have thought of using Guantanamo Bay, but that, of course, raises the interesting question—now to be faced by a new administration—of where exactly you do keep such actually or potentially dangerous customers, especially since you are not supposed to "rendition" them. There would have been a nasty prison somewhere or a lot of prisoners un-taken on the battlefield, you can depend on that.

We might have avoided the Iraq war, even though both Bill Clinton and Al Gore had repeatedly and publicly said that another and conclusive round with Saddam Hussein was, given his flagrant defiance of all the relevant U.N. resolutions, unavoidably in our future. And the inconvenient downside to avoiding the Iraq intervention is that a choke point of the world economy would still be controlled by a psychopathic crime family that kept a staff of WMD experts on hand and that paid for jihadist suicide bombers around the region. In his farewell interviews, President Bush hasn't been able to find much to say for himself on this point, but I think it's a certainty that historians will not conclude that the removal of Saddam Hussein was something that the international community ought to have postponed any further. (Indeed, if there is a disgrace, it is that previous administrations left the responsibility undischarged.)

Here's NRO's Symposium - "Farewell, Mr. President"

Peter Wehner thanks President Bush

And Ross Douthat says that "the presidency that's just ended seemed like it ended long ago."

January 18, 2009

Will on Bush

George Will's Bush legacy piece in Newsweek is one of the better ones...especially on how Bush's presidency has betrayed conservatives and conservatism, saying "Bush's presidency has taken a terrific toll on the Republican Party's sense of itself..."

all this while simultaneously managing to infuriate liberals....not easy...

By grafting a prescription-drug entitlement on to Medicare, just as the demographic deluge of the baby boomers' retirements was beginning, the president expanded the welfare state more than any president since Lyndon Johnson created Medicare in 1965. By signing every grotesque spending measure that arrived on his desk with the support of a majority of congressional Republicans—e.g., the 2002 farm bill that increased corporate welfare for agriculture at a time of record farm profits —the president committed his party to a situational ethic of governance that amounts to no ethic at all. By signing the McCain-Feingold speech-rationing (a.k.a. "campaign reform") legislation, the president violated his oath to defend the Constitution. By federalizing the family tragedy of Terri Schiavo, the president and some congressional allies made risible their stock of rhetoric in praise of limited government. By enacting the No Child Left Behind law, which is the thin end of a potentially enormous wedge, the administration licensed potentially unlimited federal supervision of the quintessentially local responsibility of education in grades K through 12, thereby further weakening federalism. And by presiding, in its last four months, over more and more flamboyant government intervention in the economy than at any time in 75 years, the administration completed the GOP's intellectual disarmament.

...and here in two beautifully loaded sentences, Will credits Bush for sanity on climate issues....

Within the lifetimes of most Americans now living, today's media-manufactured alarm about man-made global warming might be an embarrassing memory. The nation will then be better off because Bush—during whose administration the embarrassing planet warmed not at all—refused to be stampeded toward costly "solutions" to a supposed crisis that might be chimerical, and that, if real, could be adapted for considerably less cost than will be sunk in efforts at prevention.

January 14, 2009

TIP Runs Ad to Stop Nuclear Iran

The Israel Project will debut a new ad on Monday that will run throughout the inaugural period, and will focus on increasing awareness of Iran's role in funding, training and supplying Hamas and Hezbollah and their attacks on Israel. You can view the ad here.

Click below for the full text of today's TIP news release.

As Hamas Continues to Fire Iranian-made Rockets, The Israel Project Begins TV Ad Campaign to Prevent War with Iran

Hamas in Gaza fired Iranian-made Grad missiles today (Jan. 14) that hit the Israeli city of Beersheba and near the city of Yavneh.[1] The attack is a reminder of the ongoing danger posed by Iran and its terrorist proxies, which The Israel Project (TIP) is highlighting through a TV ad that will air during the inauguration period of President-elect Barack Obama.

TIP’s ad campaign is designed to encourage the world community to work for a peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis and to increase awareness that Iran is largely responsible for training, arming and funding Hamas, which has fired 6,500-plus rockets at Israeli civilians since Israel completely withdrew from Gaza in August 2005.[2] The ad is scheduled to begin running Monday on CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel and MSNBC, and will be broadcast more than 600 times overall. Yesterday, in her confirmation hearing, Secretary of State-Designate Hillary Clinton also focused on the need to stop the threat of Iran.

The ad campaign comes as Israel Defense Forces (IDF) continue defensive operations to stop Iran-backed Hamas in Gaza from continuing its years-long campaign of attacking Israeli civilians with thousands of rockets, missiles and mortars.

Also today, the northern Israeli city of Kiryat Shmona was hit by rockets fired from southern Lebanon, marking the second such attack in a week on Israel’s northern border.[3] Hours later, Lebanese troops found and dismantled three more rockets set up to be fired.[4] On Thursday (Jan. 8), rockets from southern Lebanon hit the Israeli city of Nahariya and the Upper Galilee, striking a home for the elderly where two people were injured and five others suffered shock.[5] The attacks were the first since mid-2006, when Iran-backed Hezbollah ignited a war by firing thousands of rockets on northern Israel. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

TIP Founder and President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi said Israel had no choice but to initiate defensive operations in Gaza as the international community ignored Hamas’ constant rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. “Israel never wants to go to war,” Mizrahi said. “Israel repeatedly warned the international community that Iran-backed terrorists in Gaza were shooting thousands of rockets aimed at Israeli civilians and something must be done to stop them. But the world did not do enough to stop Iran's proxies -- and so Israel was forced yet again into a defensive war against an Iranian proxy.

“It is important to learn the lessons from what is happening in Gaza today and to bring the international community together to peacefully stop Iran's nuclear program and support of terror. "The Israel Project is launching this TV ad campaign during the inaugural period because we know President-elect Obama shares our goal of stopping the threat of Iran. He too understands that time is running out on Iran having nuclear weapons."

The text of the nuclear Iran ad script states:

“Imagine Washington, D.C. under missile attack from nearby Baltimore.

Since 2005, Israel has been targeted by 8,000 rocket and missile attacks from Hamas and Hezbollah.

Iran has helped fund, train and arm these terrorist groups.

A nuclear Iran is a threat to peace, emboldens extremists …and could give nuclear materials to terrorists with the ability to strike -- anywhere.

The world’s leaders can peacefully prevent a nuclear Iran. The time to act is now.”

Hamas and Iran – A Strong Alliance

Iran--the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism and a chief sponsor of Palestinian terrorism--provides approximately $20 million - $30 million to Hamas annually and also trains Hamas operatives in Iran and Syria.[6] Iran gave Hamas an additional $50 million after it beat Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction in the 2006 Palestinian elections.[7]

In the months before Hamas seized control of Gaza in a bloody coup in June 2007, Iran conducted extensive military training for Hamas members.[8] During the siege, Hamas killed 161 Palestinians and wounded at least 700 others.[9] Approximately 950 Hamas terrorists have been trained in building rockets and bombs, tactical warfare, weapons operation and sniper tactics by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, a special division of Iran’s armed forces.[10]

Additional recent actions and support by Iran include:

• Recruiting 70,000 Iranian students for suicide attacks against Israeli troops in Gaza.[11] On Jan. 5, Esmaeel Ahmadi, director of the Public Relations of Iran’s Students’ Basij Organization, said the students had signed up for ‘martyrdom operations’ against Israeli troops in Gaza.[12]

• A meeting at the Iranian Embassy in Syria Jan. 7 between Ali Larijani, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator and parliament speaker and top Hamas officials including Hamas’s Damascus political bureau leader Khaled Mashaal. During the visit, Larijani also met with members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad,[13] which receives $2 million annually from Iran.[14] Hours after the meetings, three Katyushas were fired into Israel from southern Lebanon – the first such attack from Lebanon since the 34-day defensive war Israel fought against Hezbollah during July – August 2006.[15] Hezbollah denied responsibility, and some Lebanese officials said Palestinian terrorists were responsible for the attack, which wounded two people.[16]

• Tehran publicly urging Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to carry out terrorist attacks.[17]

• Shutting down its reformist daily newspaper Kargozaran after the paper criticized Hamas for its role in Israel’s operations in Gaza and labeling Hamas a terrorist organization.[18] The communiqué came from the Iranian student group Daftar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat (Strengthening Unity – Clerics Circle) It further stated that “Hamas’ use of civilians to protect it from Israel’s attacks was inhumane and criticized the Iranian regime for arming Hamas, claiming that as a result Iran has the blood of innocents on its hands.” Mehdi Arabshahi, secretary of Daftar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat accused circles close to Ahmadinejad of taking advantage of the situation in Gaza to “crack down on human rights organizations in Iran and to silence his opponents.”[19]

• Conducting extensive media operations in Gaza. Iran runs the Al-Aqsa TV station which has promoted terrorist activity and incites hatred of Jews and Israelis. On the children’s program “Tomorrow’s Pioneers” which has featured numerous life-size costumed animals, the character called Assoud – a rabbit, stated, “I, Assoud, will finish off the Jews and eat them, Allah willing...” The show is but one example of the incitement to hatred and violence promoted by the TV channel.[20]

• Providing Iranian-made munitions to Palestinian terrorists—an increasingly common phenomenon in the conflict. For example, on Nov. 28, 2008, an Iranian-manufactured standard 120mm mortar was fired by a terrorist group in Gaza and hit an IDF base inside Israel, wounding eight soldiers, one of whom had his leg amputated as a result. The use of Iranian-made munitions by Palestinian terrorists is an increasingly common phenomenon in the conflict.[21]

Numerous Middle East experts also note the strong ties between Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. For example:

• Gregory Copley, president of the International Strategic Studies Association, stated that 122mm Grad rockets being used by Hamas against Israel could only have been supplied by a foreign state, almost certainly Syria operating at the behest of Iran. He further said that Iran and Syria have been “the major force supporting Hamas in Gaza and creating Gaza as a separate entity from the Palestinian Authority after the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.”[22]

• Reva Bhalla, a Middle East analyst said Iran uses Hezbollah’s smuggling network to provide arms to Hamas: "Basically, you'll have a bunch of Hezbollah agents who will procure arms through Sudan. They'll enter Egypt under forged documents, pay off disgruntled Bedouins in the Sinai with things like light arms, cash, Lebanese hashish - which they can sell in the black market - and pay off Egyptian security guards as well so that they can travel covertly into Gaza to pass off the weapons shipments through Hamas' pretty extensive underground tunnel network."[23]

• David Schenker, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute and a former Pentagon official specializing in Middle East issues, said the increasing sophistication of Hamas’s tactics was evidence that the group might have received training from Hezbollah.

• In March 2008, a Hamas official confirmed for the first time that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been training Hamas men in Tehran for more than two years and is “currently honing the skills of 150 fighters.” He elaborated by saying that Hamas had been sending fighters to Iran for field tactics and weapons technology since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005.[24] So far, 150 members of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, have passed through training in Tehran “where they study for between 45 days and six months […] under the command the IRGC.” Another 650 Hamas fighters have been trained in Syria under instructors who learnt their techniques in Iran. In March 2008, 62 Hamas fighters were actually in Syria.[25]

• Jalal Ghazi from New American Media wrote: “[…] it is obvious that Iran and Hezbollah have been transferring their know-how to Hamas in Gaza.” [26] The Jerusalem Post’s David Horovitz wrote that Hamas has “drawn itself increasingly into Iran’s orbit.” Much of the terrorist organization’s weaponry and expertise in producing and refining rockets has been provided by Iran, said Horovitz, adding that numerous commanders have been trained in Iran to carry out Iran’s goal of destroying Israel.[27]

Iran also provides weapons, training and money to other terrorist groups bent on destroying Israel such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and encourages them to carry out attacks.[28]

Shared ideology

The terrorist organization and the Islamic Republic share “a close ideological vision of the Middle East.”[29] For example, neither entity recognizes Israel’s right to exist and have explicitly called for Israel’s destruction. In 2005, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Israel should be “wiped off the map” and that attacks by Palestinians would destroy it eventually.[30] The Hamas charter of 1988 calls for Israel’s destruction “at the hands of Islam.”[31] On April 16, 2006, Khaled Mashaal, Hamas’ exiled political leader, said Hamas would “never recognize Israel.”[32]

In The Daily Star, a Lebanese English-language newspaper, Ana Mahjar-Barducci described the relationship between Hamas and Iran as: “[…] an alliance across the great Islamic divide, between a Sunni group and a Shiite regional power.”[33]

On Dec. 9, 2008, Ahmadinejad emphasized Iran’s support for the terrorist group until the “collapse of Israel.” The Iranian president further said Hamas’s resistance against Israel and the group’s achievements would always be “a source of pride for all Muslims.”[34]

In September 2008, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, “Iran considered supporting the Palestinians its religious and national duty and would stay beside the Palestinian nation until the big victory feast which is the collapse of the Zionist regime (Israel).”[35]

January 13, 2009

Jack Bauer Growing in the Job

There has been a lot of talk about this season's kinder, gentler Jack Bauer on 24, and Rick Moran talks about the evolution of the character and the culture in Jack Bauer in a Post-Bush World

No matter how the plot plays out, this will be a much different Jack Bauer than the one we met 7 years ago. It can hardly be otherwise. We are a much different country than we were then. We are sobered by our experience in Iraq that while apparently winding down to a successful conclusion is nevertheless seen by a majority of Americans as an effort we should never have undertaken in the first place and not worth the cost in blood and treasure. We have less faith in government, more suspicion of what it does in our name. And the belief that we must bring freedom and democracy to the dark places of the world has taken a hit as well.

In short, the native optimism that has made us such an exceptional people has been shaken. It shouldn't surprise us that this should be reflected in the Jack Bauer character. Television, if nothing else, tends to reflect trends rather than create or lead them.

Clearly Jack's cynicism and distrust of just about everyone does show through in the first four hours of the season, and he may be increasingly questioning his methods, but so far that doesn't seem to have given him more than a fleeting second thought. He has already physically assaulted two witnesses, nearly killed his old friend Tony in an attempt to squeeze information out of him, knocked the head of the FBI unit unconscious, and put the sleeper hold on the female FBI agent he was working with in order to escape.

Leading by example, Jack has so inspired the female agent that she felt okay about cutting off the oxygen supply of a critically wounded suspect in his hospital bed in order to extract information from him. This is the chastened, reflective Jack Bauer? The one with a renewed caring for the people he deals with?

I guess he did have some remorse about almost choking Tony to death. Later on, he did say "sorry about that".

January 11, 2009

For Me, But Not For Thee

The condemnation of Israel's Gaza operations by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is garden variety anti-Israel U.N Speak, in other words, deplorable but unsurprising, but Edward Olshaker thinks Ban should recuse himself from any role in this issue, given his previous actions and statements. Besides, can a guy from South Korea really get away with calling for the removal of Israel's security barrier, as Ban did in 2007? Olshaker says that's...

...a remarkable instance of chutzpah, considering that Ban's own South Korea is protected by a concrete border wall. In addition, South Korea's wall is supplemented with security measures including a buffer zone blanketed with more than a million land mines, along with 37,000 US troops whose sole purpose is to protect Ban's countrymen from those who might cross the border to harm them.

Another barrier was constructed to protect Ban and his colleagues at the UN headquarters, even though there have been no suicide bombings there. A news brief posted on the UN's own website on May 6, 2004 was headlined, "UN TO UPGRADE SECURITY AT NEW YORK HEADQUARTERS, and informed us, "The United Nations is set to begin a slate of projects - including the construction a new perimeter fence - to bolster safety and security measures at its New York Headquarters."

Considering that one month later the UN General Assembly would vote overwhelmingly to condemn Israel's security barrier, the announcement of their own protective "perimeter fence" would read like an amusing punchline if the subject weren't so tragic.


Claudia Rosett on the cozy coexistence of Hamas and the UNRWA in the Gaza Strip.

January 10, 2009

Stimulus Plan Evolves

Larry Kudlow is more optimistic than you might expect about Obama's stimulus plan, largely because of how the plan's focus has shifted toward tax cuts as Obama has listened to his advisors:

Nobody really believes infrastructure spending will end the recession or create permanent new jobs. However, it’s interesting just how much the Obama plan has changed since the election. The size has been roughly constant. But the mix of tax cuts and spending increases is now totally different.

Instead of $100 billion worth of tax credits, there are now $300 billion worth of tax cuts. This includes a big new piece for business, more cash-expensing for small-business investment, and a restoration of the five-year tax-loss carry-back, which will especially help banks and homebuilders. It might even result in tax refunds for businesses, and might also allow banks to rid themselves of toxic assets, since the losses will now be spread over many years.

So what we have now is an $800 billion stimulus package with $300 billion of so-called tax cuts which could infer less spending than before — maybe only $500 billion worth.

Obama’s economic advisers are bragging to me about their new tax-cut package. They say they’re very pro-growth. And you know what? I acknowledge it. People like Larry Summers, Austan Goolsbee, Christy Romer, and Tim Geithner are no left-wing big-government whackos. They may not be hard-core supply-siders. But in terms of the economics profession, I would call them center-right.

And they absolutely understand the importance of private business and investment in the job-creating economic-growth process. And I think they’re (sic) views are the main reason for the reshaping of the Obama package between the campaign trail and the eve of inauguration.

January 9, 2009

Nervous Ain't the Word

Maybe it will turn out to have been a shrewd political move for Obama to announce before he is even inaugurated that America will be operating at a fiscal budget deficit around triple the worst year ever, probably for several years, and that we better just get used to the idea. Set the bar low and all. Has he suggested whether or not we ever have to worry about deficit spending again?

Politicians have never met a problem they didn't want to spend the people's tax money on, but they used to at least concern themselves with whether there were any tax revenues there to be spent. I'm not saying a government stimulus package isn't necessary...lots of people way smarter than I am say it is. But the idea of spending unprecedented trillions that we don't have, and throwing legislation together in a few weeks in a brand new administration would seem to be crazy even if government had an impeccable track record of spending money wisely and efficiently. Read all of Jen Rubin at Contentions asking "Are You Nervous Yet?". Here's a slice...

This sweeping, enormous legislative onslaught suffers from at least two problems. First, this sort of thing really hasn’t ever pulled us out of a recession. Second, it presupposes that an exquisitely balanced plan – with just the right sort of spending and just the right amount of taxes – can be divined and then slide through Congress unsullied and unaffected by base political concerns.

This is hubris squared. The problem with government-directed economies is that no economic guru is smart enough to duplicate or improve upon markets (yes, even ones subject to economic bubbles and excesses). And all the shovel-ready projects, health care “savings” and the like will all be subject to reams of government regulations, spools of red tape and heaping doses of irrationality, because it is, after all, the government. How this is going to help us grow the economy, which is what we’re trying to do here, remains a mystery. And then Congress will get its mitts on whatever plan (however clever it may be) comes out of the Obama team. And the bill will get worse — more arcane, convoluted, and expensive.

But I think something significant happened this week as people got down to talking about real (well, as “real” as a trillion can seem) numbers. The politicians, and maybe the voters, got a bit spooked. The cure could indeed be worse than the current predicament — especially if the “cure” is an iffy enterprise at best. We’re going to spend more than a trillion, very likely not get out of the ditch and still have to pay it off?

Perhaps everyone should stop racing around and think long and hard about this.

On a more positive budget note, Obama has talked about the need to begin the process of budget reform. One hopes he means entitlements, because we're in such deep water already with Social Security and Medicare that...well, if these numbers from Dan Calabrese don't freak you, (and especially your kids) nothing will...

The U.S. national debt now stands at $10.8 trillion, and President-elect Obama vows to toss another $775 billion on top of that almost as soon as he takes office – to "stimulate" the economy.

The dollar amount of the debt matters less than what it represents as a percentage of the nation´s gross domestic product, but when the economy stagnates and the federal government tries to stimulate it with spending, that percentage only becomes more troubling. In 2007, for example, the amount added to the national debt was about $460 billion – about 3.4 percent of GDP, the lowest figure in nearly a decade. But in 2008, we added more than $1.1 trillion to the debt. We increased the nation´s entire debt by 10 percent in one year – representing a whopping 7.4 percent of GDP.

Obama´s promised stimulus package virtually guarantees that we will do the same thing again in 2009.

At present, the U.S. government is spending $412 billion a year just paying the interest on the debt. We are not paying down any of the principal.

And it gets worse – much worse. The $10.8 trillion national debt is chump change compared to the $58 trillion in committed, but unfunded, Social Security and Medicare liabilities. There is no money sitting in any trust fund to pay these benefits. That´s why we call them unfunded. We don´t have the money, any money, to pay them.

Combine the debt and entitlements, and you´re looking at $70 trillion.

If the federal government started running a $500 billion surplus this year, and ran such a surplus every year from now on, and plowed every penny of it into debt retirement (don´t forget interest) and entitlements, it would likely take more than 200 years to pay off these obligations. Isn´t this something we might want to get started trying to do?

That was $70 trillion...with a 't'.

President Bush tried but failed to do it, and got nothing but derision from Democrats for his efforts. In 2005, they insisted in near unison that the entitlement system wasn't broken, when in reality the only principle at stake was that if Bush was for it, they were against it. It will be instructive if not a lot of fun to revisit the positions of Obama and other Democrats now that they are governing and the entitlement freight train continues to rush toward the edge of the cliff.

January 8, 2009

Ruining Sports

In his TCF column on the Browns, Hiko talks about the engrained pessimism that can result from being a sports fan in these parts...

I want to thank the Cleveland Browns for ruining sports for me.

Every time I watch a game any more, I turn it off at the first sign of duress. I don't want to watch it because I'm sure the team I'm rooting for is going to blow it, just like the Browns always do.

I was watching Utah in the Sugar Exhibition Game. They leap out to a 21-0 lead, but it's 21-17 at Halftime. "They're gonna blow it!" I say and turn the channel.

I was watching Ohio State vs. Texas. I spent the whole game saying "They're gonna blow it!" Sadly, they did.

Even the Cavs are hard for me to watch anymore. I just expect the worst. Any team I care about, any game I have a decided rooting interest in... when the going gets tough, I expect them to blow it.

The case is getting more and more acute all the time, but the roots of this disease can be found in January 1987 on a cold day in Cleveland against a team with stupid horses on their helmets.

Browns fans should read the whole thing. Hiko is always entertaining.

Oh yeah...we have a new coach.

January 7, 2009

Say One Tiny Thing...And Mean It

Daniel Finklestein in the London Times...

The poverty and the death and the despair among the Palestinians in Gaza moves me to tears. How can it not? Who can see pictures of children in a war zone or a slum street and not be angry and bewildered and driven to protest? And what is so appalling is that it is so unnecessary. For there can be peace and prosperity at the smallest of prices. The Palestinians need only say that they will allow Israel to exist in peace. They need only say this tiny thing, and mean it, and there is pretty much nothing they cannot have.

Yet they will not say it. And they will not mean it. For they do not want the Jews. Again and again - again and again - the Palestinians have been offered a nation state in a divided Palestine. And again and again they have turned the offer down, for it has always been more important to drive out the Jews than to have a Palestinian state. It is difficult sometimes to avoid the feeling that Hamas and Hezbollah don't want to kill Jews because they hate Israel. They hate Israel because they want to kill Jews.

Five Presidents

Here's a two minute video of the extraordinary Oval Office meeting today with President Bush, President-elect Obama, and the three living ex-Presidents, Clinton, Carter and the elder Bush.

After Bush wishes Obama all the best, and Obama graciously thanks the President for hosting the event, the formal media opportunity ends, and right at the end of the video, Clinton looks down at the floor, and apparently getting nostalgic about his time in the Oval Office, he turns to the President and says..."I love this rug"


Just Plain Nuts

That post title is a direct quote from Mrs. Wiz after watching this video on wingsuit base jumping. Not sure I'd opt for the double-back layout right off the cliff, but....

Waiting on Gore's Apology

AGW skepticism at HuffPo? What next....dogs and cats living together in harmony?

Harold Ambler: "Mr. Gore: Apology Accepted"

See also Vin Suprynowicz

January 6, 2009

Bucks Go West....Then South

Jim Tressel finally ran out of Fiesta Bowl magic last night, as the Buckeyes fell in the final seconds to the Texas Longhorns. I recapped the game for TheClevelandFan.com.

Jesse Lamovsky talks about the Buckeyes' self-inflicted wounds here.

Lots more details, plus box score, etc. here.

January 1, 2009

Best 2008 Photos

These are a few weeks old, but well worth a look...

The Year 2008 in Photos


Be sure to check out all three pages. (via C&S)