Battle of Beirut
The definitive account of the Christopher Hitchens-in-Beirut story, at least until Hitchens tells it himself...by Michael Totten:
The definitive account of the Christopher Hitchens-in-Beirut story, at least until Hitchens tells it himself...by Michael Totten:
How 'bout that?.....Barack Obama, in a belated nod toward his responsibility as commander-in-chief of the world's leading force for self-government, finally concedes that our cause in Iraq was noble, concerned with freedom for its people, and represents an achievement rather than a cause for apology.
"We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein's regime -- and you got the job done. We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government -- and you got the job done. And we will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life -- that is your achievement; that is the prospect that you have made possible."
Mark Steyn on government as superhero...
Back in September, we were told to put our faith in Bailoutman. Then in January, Bailoutman went to his tailor, had the long underwear redesigned, and relaunched himself as Mister Stimulus. A few weeks later the Obama crowd noticed that â€œstimulus,â€ like â€œbailout,â€ had become a cheap punch line, and decided the approved term was â€œrecovery.â€ So Captain Recovery swung into action.
If you find it hard to keep track of these all these evolutions, the President in his address to Congress finally spilled the beans and unveiled our new hero in his final form: the Incredible Bulk, Statezilla, Governmentuan, a colossus bestriding the land like a, er, colossus. What superpowers does he have? All of them! He can save the economy, he can reform health care, he can prevent foreclosures, he can federalize daycare, he can cap the salary of his archenemies the sinister Fat Cats who â€œpad their pay checks and buy fancy drapes.â€ No longer will the citizenry cower in fear of fancy drapes: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!
Among the most troubling Obama appointments is Dawn Johnsen, a radical leftist ideologue in an office chartered with dispensing scholarly and untainted legal direction for the federal government. A very sobering cautionary piece by Andy McCarthy on the Johnsen appointment appeared in the current NR, and then Johnsen lamely tried to back away from her own well-documented words and arguments. Andy answers her here.
Consider too the naming of John P. Holdren as chief Science Advisor to the White House. As accomplished as he may be in academia, his scientific predictions have consistently proven to be based on unfounded pessimism and crisis mentality, something not exactly in short supply already in the Obama administration. Call it "The Doomsday Bias". Here's more on Holdren from Ben Johnson at FPM.
But the naming of Charles Freeman to head the National Intelligence Council has caused the most consternation in center-right and center-left circles. Freeman is at best hopelessly compromised by the Saudi cash in his pockets, plus his track record of open contempt for Israel, but he gets called a lot worse by respectable, thoughtful pundits of both parties. This pick is just terribly bad news for Israel, and it's another clear indication of the ideological bent of the Obama team. Start with Gabriel Schoenfeld at the WSJ, and then check out the rest of the roundup.
Nothing for me to add, except to echo the recommendation of Mark Steyn...
Being on the House of Saud's payroll, directly or indirectly, should render one ineligible for subsequent government service.
At Big Hollywood, "What Hollywood Gets Wrong About Darfur"
Writing at The American Conservative, John Derbyshire's premise is that Limbaugh, Hannity and much of right-wing talk radio harm the conservative movement, in part by appealing to a "lowbrow" element that is then easily caricatured and held up to ridicule by our political opponents . I find myself largely agreeing with the critique, tempered as it is by Derbyshire's acknowledgment of Limbaugh's long-term contributions to spreading conservatism's message. There is also much to like in conservative talk radio that goes unremarked upon here, but it's a good read that is getting quite mixed reviews, as you'd imagine.
Yes, it's a conceit. And we were put here to make plastic.
No doubt anymore who he is. Obama Removes the Mask
Chris Horner with some further discrediting of Al Gore at the blog named for him.
Is the Democratic payoff to Labor so all encompassing that it must include the stealth de-funding of a successful voucher program for 1800 low-income kids in Washington D.C? So is it ideology or just naked political influence in action? Doesn't matter to the 1800 kids and their families.
If the journalists are along for the ride in the squelching of the free speech rights of Geert Wilders, who is left to "speak truth to power"? Jonah Goldberg asks "where's the bravery?"
At the risk of dwelling on the topic, a lot is still being written about Eric Holder's speech to the Justice Department...and not just about the "a nation of cowards" line. Besides, it's conversation he wants. Abigail Thernstrom is eminently qualified to fact-check Holder on the state of our race relations. And Jennifer Rubin isn't sure Holder really wants the nations' eyes on the entrenched system of racial preferences we have in place today...preferences which are opposed in polls by majorities of both whites and minorities, and which encourage, if not force private and public organizations to discriminate illegally in hiring and promotion decisions. UPDATE 2/28: Stuart Taylor
Peter Wehner answers The New Yorker's George Packer on criticism of the president.
The Emory University newspaper had Ten Questions for David Horowitz.
At American Thinker, two additional reflections on Attorney General Eric Holder's invitation to a frank discussion of race....
Larrey Anderson - "Racism, Eric Holder, My Son and Me"
Selwyn Duke - Hating Whitey
And James Taranto observes that it is the self-described racially sensitive ones who insist on keeping certain demeaning stereotypes alive. Talking of the embattled NY Post cartoonist of dead chimp fame...
...some will say that Delonas should have known better. We see their point, and we remember thinking a couple of years ago, upon seeing the umpteenth simian caricature of George W. Bush, that nobody had better do that if Sen. Obama becomes president. We were aware that that would constitute an invidious stereotype, in a way that it did not when the president was a person of pallor.
But what if someone is unaware of this? Suppose that a columnist or cartoonist is so innocent of racial prejudice that he has never even thought to make a connection between black people and lower primates? Such a person would be a racial kerfuffle waiting to happen. The moment he inadvertently employed an idea or image that carried offensive connotations, he would be pilloried as "insensitive."
Consider the paradox: Racial "sensitivity" requires not eradicating racial stereotypes but keeping them alive--and not only keeping them alive but remaining acutely conscious of them at all times. Delonas and his editors are under attack for seeing "chimp" and failing to think "black guy." Perhaps this is an editorial failing, but it is certainly not a moral one.
Which brings us back to Eric Holder. If Americans are shy about discussing race, a big reason is the culture of intimidation promoted by people like Al Sharpton in the name of racial sensitivity. "Frank discussion" requires a willingness to trust that one's interlocutor is acting in good faith. If Attorney General Holder is serious about promoting racial candor, let him use this incident to make the point. That would show a bit of courage on his part.
NR's loss is the Examiner's gain. Byron York exposes "the far-reaching â€” and potentially dangerous â€” provision that no one knows about" in the stimulus bill. As usual, one need only imagine the howling fury from the left had the Bush administration attempted anything close to this. It smells of a stealth power grab. The Democrats would presume to assign themselves new powers over federal inspectors general.
The provision, which attracted virtually no attention in the debate over the 1,073-page stimulus bill, creates something called the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board â€” the RAT Board, as itâ€™s known by the few insiders who are aware of it. The board would oversee the in-house watchdogs, known as inspectors general, whose job is to independently investigate allegations of wrongdoing at various federal agencies, without fear of interference by political appointees or the White House.
In the name of accountability and transparency, Congress has given the RAT Board the authority to ask â€œthat an inspector general conduct or refrain from conducting an audit or investigation.â€ If the inspector general doesnâ€™t want to follow the wishes of the RAT Board, heâ€™ll have to write a report explaining his decision to the board, as well as to the head of his agency (from whom he is supposedly independent) and to Congress. In the end, a determined inspector general can probably get his way, but only after jumping through bureaucratic hoops that will inevitably make him hesitate to go forward.
Let me get this right..."in the name of accountability and transparency" they will exert political influence over a process designed to be free of it. You can't say they don't have balls. Transparency-wise though, this provision falls a bit short. Its authorship is still a mystery, and only a few congressmen even know of it.
I suppose it's what you'll get when you pass 1000-page bills without reading them.
What's it going to be, Mr. President?
Limbaugh's open letter to Obama on the Fairness Doctrine and its stalking horses. Excerpting a very good op-ed...
I have a straightforward question, which I hope you will answer in a straightforward way: Is it your intention to censor talk radio through a variety of contrivances, such as "local content," "diversity of ownership," and "public interest" rules -- all of which are designed to appeal to populist sentiments but, as you know, are the death knell of talk radio and the AM band?
As a former president of the Harvard Law Review and a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, you are more familiar than most with the purpose of the Bill of Rights: to protect the citizen from the possible excesses of the federal government. The First Amendment says, in part, that "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." The government is explicitly prohibited from playing a role in refereeing among those who speak or seek to speak. We are, after all, dealing with political speech -- which, as the Framers understood, cannot be left to the government to police.
Mr. President, we both know that this new effort at regulating speech is not about diversity but conformity. It should be rejected. You've said you're against reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, but you've not made it clear where you stand on possible regulatory efforts to impose so-called local content, diversity-of-ownership, and public-interest rules that your FCC could issue.
The fact that the federal government issues broadcast licenses, the original purpose of which was to regulate radio signals, ought not become an excuse to destroy one of the most accessible and popular marketplaces of expression. The AM broadcast spectrum cannot honestly be considered a "scarce" resource. So as the temporary custodian of your office, you should agree that the Constitution is more important than scoring transient political victories, even when couched in the language of public interest.
We in talk radio await your answer. What will it be? Government-imposed censorship disguised as "fairness" and "balance"? Or will the arena of ideas remain a free market?
Peter Wehner says Holder's statement is surreal.
Holder says we are â€œa nation of cowardsâ€ because weâ€™re unwilling to discuss race to his satisfaction. Some might say thatâ€™s an ironic diagnosis given that Holder is the first black attorney general, appointed by the first black president of the United States.
Nonetheless, Holder thinks the answer to our racial problems is for more people of different colors to talk about how race defines them. He suggests using the â€œartificial deviceâ€ of Black History Month â€œto generate discussion that should come more naturallyâ€ but doesnâ€™t.
Well, in the spirit of full and frank discussion, let me say I have some problems with Holderâ€™s analysis.
The first thing worth pointing out is that Holder is wrong. America talks about race incessantly, in classrooms, lecture halls, movies, op-ed pages, books, magazines, talk shows, just about every third PBS documentary by my count, blogs, diversity training sessions and, yes, even mandatory Black History Month events.
In fairness, Holder seems vaguely aware of this. The hitch is that he thinks this isnâ€™t nearly enough racial argy-bargy. Weâ€™ve got to work the balm of racial dialogue deep into the muscle and sinew of the body politic.
My biggest objection to Holderâ€™s speech is that it reveals how enthralled to a clichÃ© he is. Look, despite the bold tone of his remarks, this is just a terribly hackneyed idea. People have been calling for a national dialogue for years. Twelve years ago, Bill Clinton even proclaimed a whole year would be dedicated to a national conversation on race.
Assuming Holder is serious, who says more talk would make things better? Is there some social science to back up this talking point posing as wisdom?
And Linda Chavez thinks tackling the tough issues facing blacks in America would have allowed Holder to show a little courage himself.
First of all, the idea of our first African-American attorney general serving in the administration of our first African-American president, choosing to say that America is a â€œnation of cowardsâ€ on the issue of race is absurd to the point of satire. Race may well be the original sin of American history but in schools all across this country this month, white, Hispanic and Asian children are learning about Harriet Tubman, Jackie Robinson and Rosa Parks. Racism may still exist but it lingers on the margins of our society and anyone who expresses any remark which can even be remotely accused of such prejudice is subjected to the sort of opprobrium that means permanent exile from positions of influence in politics, the media or even the arts.
And it was, after all, a clear majority of those â€œcowardsâ€ who elected Barack Obama president of the United States. While the endless round of self-congratulation on the part of so many Americans for doing this may be tiresome, it is nonetheless a fact that a nation that once enshrined black slavery in its Constitution and still practiced Jim Crow segregation only a half century now is led by a black man. While one could have said in the past few decades at times that the lowering of racial barriers was more a matter of law than anything else, after last November you canâ€™t say that anymore. And for Holder, of all people, to make that argument from his own powerful perch atop the Justice Department is particularly egregious.
The racial grievance industry has to know their central premise is wearing thin with Obama sitting in the White House. Their message (and Holder is certainly one voice for it) is that white America is not off the hook, and that there's still plenty of groveling to do.
UPDATE 2/19: Michael Ledeen: "We Are All Cowards Now"
Responding to Newsweek's cover story...Claudia Rosett...
This is an excellent time to revive the lessons about the importance of free-market prices as signals of where resources can most productively be put to use (thatâ€™s how America got rich). This is a great time to re-examine the loss of freedom, and the immense damper imposed on creativity, productivity and individual dreams, when government controls peopleâ€™s livelihoods. And there could be no better time to review what actually went wrong in Americaâ€™s system in recent years â€“ with profligate budgets, loose money and government poisoning the housing market with forced lending, implied taxpayer guarantees, and hellish knock-on toxic effects. Fannie Mae was not something cooked up by the free market. It was a product of the same state-engineering mindset that now brings us the godzilla â€œstimulusâ€ bill.
You'll want to do it all.
Andy McCarthy on the barring of Geert Wilders from entering the UK....let's call it shooting the messenger.
Wilders is a lightning rod. In the great tradition of the Enlightenment, and to the consternation of post-sovereign Europe, he faithfully reports what his senses perceive. When he studies the Koran, he finds exhortations to violence. When he reads Allahâ€™s command in Sura 9:5 that â€œwhen the sacred months have passed,â€ Muslims must â€œslay the idolaters wherever ye find them,â€ he entertains the outlandish idea that this means what it plainly says, and is understood by many Muslims as doing so. He has noticed, after all, that this passage is not singular, that its injunction is a recurrent theme in the Koran, and that the sentiment is even more pronounced in the Hadith and other Islamic scriptures, which elevate jihadâ€”in its original, accurate, military sense: waging war against unbelieversâ€”to the highest form of worship. He has noticed, moreover, that Muslim militants seem to slay the idolaters and other unbelievers with some regularity.
So Wilders is not making this up. It is, in fact, a view of Muslim doctrine he shares with some of the worldâ€™s most renowned authorities on the subject.
Fitna runs about 15 minutes long. It depicts a phenomenon familiar to Britons who witnessed July 7 and Americans who lived through September 11: The faithful rendition of verses from the Koran, often recited by influential Islamic clerics, followed by acts of terrorism committed by Muslim militants who profess that they are simply putting those scriptures into action. To be sure, this is not the dominant interpretation among the worldâ€™s billion-plus Muslims, most of whom do not so much interpret their creed as ignore those parts that would otherwise trouble them. But to deny that Fitna reflects an intellectually consistent construction of Islam, adhered to by an energetic minority, is to deny reality.
Suspected al-Qaeda members are welcome in Parliament, but not a member of the Dutch parliament. Britain has a revolving door for Islamic radicals but a closed door for their democratic critics.
â€œHow much more of your freedom needs to be whittled away to defend this intolerant, misogynistic, homophobic, antisemitic ideology from the robust and frank and open criticism that it so richly deserves?â€
UPDATE 2/16: Bret Stephens frames the Wilders issue as a test for both liberals and conservatives. Here are a couple of remarkable paragraphs...
....irrespective of Mr. Wilders's politics -- and I wouldn't be the first to point out that his calls to ban the Quran square oddly with his sense of himself as a champion of free speech -- his travails are no less significant than Mr. Rushdie's. And they present a test for both liberals and conservatives.
For liberals, the issue is straightforward. If routine mockery of Christianity and abuse of its symbols, both in the U.S. and Europe, is protected speech, why shouldn't the same standard apply to the mockery of Islam? And if the difference in these cases is that mockery of Islam has the tendency to lead to riots, death threats and murder, should committed Christians now seek a kind of parity with Islamists by resorting to violent tactics to express their sense of religious injury?
The notion that liberals can have it both ways -- champions of free speech on the one hand; defenders of multiculturalism's assorted sensitivities on the other -- was always intellectually flimsy. If liberals now want to speak for the "right" of this or that group not to be offended, the least they can do is stop calling themselves "liberals."
Amen, Mr. Stephens. Thank you.
In a bow toward equal time for conservatives, Stephens suggests the inconsistency of denouncing "Piss Christ" artist Serrano while defending Wilders. But conservatives never tried to silence Serrano's artistic expression, let alone advocate his murder. The conservative objection was to taxpayer funding of his particular brand of mockery.
For conservatives, especially of the cultural kind -- the kind of people who talk about defending Western Civ. -- Mr. Wilders's case should also provoke some reconsiderations. It may not be impossible to denounce the likes of Mr. Serrano while defending the likes of Mr. Wilders. But a defense of Mr. Wilders is made a lot easier if one can point to the vivid difference between a civilization that protects, even celebrates (and funds!), its cultural provocateurs and a civilization that seeks their murder.
Bat Yeor on the unique and unprecedented power of the OIC to influence public policy in the West, and to criminalize criticism of Islam.
Are there any lefties out there who are just a little bit embarrassed by this?
It's a project initiated by the Department of Energy in 2001, and since abandoned by the DOE due to cost and viability issues. But it looks like the FutureGen "clean coal" project in downstate Illinois will be resurrected by the Illinois political troika of Barack Obama, Rod Blagojevich, and Dick Durbin. (via TWS blog)
What do you get when you combine impeached former Illinois Democratic governor Rod Blagojevich, legendary K Street lobbying firm Cassidy & Associates, Senate appropriator Dick Durbin, D-IL, President Barack Obama, former Democratic House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri, and the largest spending bill in the history of the planet?
You get the costliest earmark Washington has ever seen.
Obama proclaims his stimulus bill is earmark-free, but that claim is a bit Clintonian. Turns out, it depends on what the meaning of the word earmark is. What if a provision in the bill doesnâ€™t name one specific project, but is written so narrowly that only one project is eligible?
Michael G. Franc has posted a summary of the most troublesome aspects of the stimulus bill, aside from the irresponsible spending orgy. Must read stuff...
Over the last three weeks the policy experts at my institution, the Heritage Foundation, have published dozens of biting critiques of literally every aspect of the House and Senate versions of this legislative monstrosity. They agree on one thing: Under the guise of stimulating the economy, this one bill contains a generationâ€™s worth of liberal policymaking, an entire Great Society-scale agenda, one that advances the liberalsâ€™ view of man and his relationship to government enough to cause LBJ himself to turn red with envy.
The pork and the overall spending are every bit as bad as the critics say, but in the long run, they are mere distractions. The real damage comes from other, less noticed provisions in the bills.
The House and/or Senate stimulus bills would undo the 1996 welfare reforms, explode entitlement spending by a cool quarter trillion dollars, lay the groundwork for the federal governmentâ€™s takeover of our health care system, double Uncle Samâ€™s already overbearing role in education, require taxpayers to pick up the bail tab for potentially dangerous felons, allow unemployed Wall Street executives to qualify for Medicaid, and reignite the fires of trade protectionism, thereby risking a global trade war.
Not bad for the first month of unified liberal rule in Washington, eh?
Also, at Reason.com...
UPDATE 2/12: Jim Manzi, a man with a plan. I am in particular agreement with his suggestion No. 4..."Demand accountability from state governments." The House version of the stimulus bill contains $20 billion to bail out the state of California, the Senate version $40 billion. That's an incredible amount of money to be paid by the taxpayers of 50 states, to bail out the irresponsibility and out-of-control government of one state. (I understand California is $10 billion in deficit this year, and will be $30 billion in deficit next year)
I realize that it's important to keep California viable, but this would appear to excuse their excesses, not incentivize them to reform the system, unless some of Manzi's suggestions are implemented...
If this appears to be the in the national interest, OK, but it should be provided in the form of a loan with conditions. The U.S. government should have authority to seize sales tax and other tax revenues until the debt is repaid. In order to prevent this from simply becoming a driver of yet more state deficits, the federal government should also have the authority to hire, fire and make all spending cuts that it chooses in Californiaâ€™s budget until the debt is repaid. Ultimately, the debt should have recourse to state assets. You donâ€™t want the taxpayers of the other 49 states to start selling oil drilling rights to the area off your cost, or selling off your state beaches to build condos? Then pay back your debt. If you donâ€™t want these conditions, then donâ€™t come to me with your begging bowl. This would have the effect of mitigating the moral hazard of this part of bailout in a very direct way: by humiliating the governors and legislators of states who have gotten themselves into this position.
Roger Kimball rewriting some Aesop's fables.
A new Amnesty International report notices Hamas murderousness toward their fellow-Palestinians. Baby steps.
If anyone had doubted the extent to which Britain has capitulated to Islamic terror, the banning of Geert Wilders a few hours ago should surely open their eyes. Wilders, the Dutch member of parliament who had made an uncompromising stand against the Koranic sources of Islamist extremism and violence, was due to give a screening of Fitna, his film on this subject, at the House of Lords on Thursday. This meeting had been postponed after Lord Ahmed had previously threatened the House of Lords authorities that he would bring a force of 10,000 Muslims to lay siege to the Lords if Wilders was allowed to speak. To their credit, the Lords authorities had stood firm and said extra police would be drafted in to meet this threat and the Wilders meeting should go ahead.
But now the government has announced that it is banning Wilders from the country. A letter from the Home Secretaryâ€™s office to Wilders, delivered via the British embassy in the Hague, said:
...the Secretary of State is of the view that your presence in the UK would pose a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat to one of the fundamental interests of society. The Secretary of State is satisfied that your statements about Muslims and their beliefs, as expressed in your film Fitna and elsewhere would threaten community harmony and therefore public security in the UK.
So letâ€™s get this straight. The British government allows people to march through British streets screaming support for Hamas, it allows Hizb ut Tahrir to recruit on campus for the jihad against Britain and the west, it takes no action against a Muslim peer who threatens mass intimidation of Parliament, but it bans from the country a member of parliament of a European democracy who wishes to address the British Parliament on the threat to life and liberty in the west from religious fascism.
It is he, not them, who is considered a â€˜serious threat to one of the fundamental interests of societyâ€™. Why? Because the result of this stand for life and liberty against those who would destroy them might be an attack by violent thugs. The response is not to face down such a threat of violence but to capitulate to it instead.
Mark Steyn at the Corner this morning:
And so it goes: Multiculti England will tolerate any intolerance, except the guy who points out the intolerance. We can't tolerate that.
UPDATE 2/12: Wilders is detained entering the UK, and deported.
UPDATE 2/12: Lots of links at Gateway Pundit
Taranto goes where no media person has gone before. If you're going to be on the Enemies List, you might as well be on top. (scroll to last item)
Appearing on "The Rush Limbaugh Show" last week, I got a little muddled over two adjoining newspaper clippings â€“ one on the stimulus, the other on those octuplets in California â€“ and for a brief moment the two stories converged. Everyone's hammering that mom â€“ she's divorced, unemployed, living in a small house with parents who have a million bucks' worth of debt, and she's already got six kids. So she has in vitro fertilization to have eight more. But isn't that exactly what the Feds have done? Last fall, they gave birth to $850 billion of bailout they couldn't afford and didn't have enough time to keep an eye on, and now, four months later, they're going to do it all over again, but this time they want trillionuplets. Barney and Nancy represent the in vitro fertilization of the federal budget. And it's the taxpayers who'll get stuck with the diapers.
"A failure to act, and act now, will turn crisis into a catastrophe." - President Obama, Feb. 4.
Catastrophe, mind you. So much for the president who in his inaugural address two weeks earlier declared "we have chosen hope over fear." Until, that is, you need fear to pass a bill.
The most laughable aspect of the whole nauseating stimulus affair is Obama's angling for praise for having no earmarks in the bill. "None", he boasted the other day. It's not an original line, but there's no need to add bacon when the whole pig is already in there.
And it will be very interesting to see who gets rich on the taxpayer's trillion. As soon as we can hire a performance czar without a tax problem, we can begin to monitor how our money is being spent, but one thing now appears certain. Union bosses are lighting cigars as we speak.
We thought the Employee Free Choice Act and its card check legislation would be the biggest single payback extracted by Big Labor for their millions in electoral support. Apparently that wasn't going to work quickly enough. Get a load of the latest White House thank-you note. Not only is the government going to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on construction projects. They're only going to allow union-controlled companies to bid on the work.
All that does is fence out 84% of American construction workers, and the practical effect of the order may well be to force companies to unionize in order to get government work. The unions couldn't have asked for any more than this. I never want to hear the words "beholden to special interests" from the lips of a Democrat again. This is nothing less than federalized, official graft. It's hard to imagine a president and a party more demonstrably bought and paid for than Obama and the Democrats now are by Labor.
Even after the national tongue-lashing Obama and the Congress have endured the last couple weeks, by liberals and conservatives alike, for out-of control and questionable spending, the president has no compunction about tacking 10-20% onto the price tag for all the construction by demanding it be done with union labor. It's hubris on stilts. And it continues an all-out ideological assault on the private business sector by the new administration.
By the way, that "dissent is patriotic" sentiment is so last month. Now we single out certain Republicans for their patriotism, implying you-know-what about those who don't vote with the president.
And Barney Frank likes the idea of dictating how much a corporate executive can be permitted to earn so much, that he wants to consider extending the practice beyond the companies receiving TARP dollars to include all companies.
The CEO of Oprah, Inc. is going to be very unhappy about this.
Via The Anchoress, a famous C.S. Lewis quote:
â€œOf all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baronâ€™s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences.â€
Tony Lastoria, one of our colleagues writing at The Cleveland Fan, must be the foremost authority on the talent in the Cleveland Indians minor league system outside of a handful of the club's own employees. A quick look at his blog, Indians Prospect Insider, will attest to the encyclopedic level of detail he lavishes on his subject. Tony is currently counting down his top prospect reports a few at a time at the blog, and also in article form at TCF.
For the second year in a row, Tony has compiled his Indians "Top 100 Prospects" listings in book form, and that new and improved item is now available for immediate shipment via Tony's blog. I got mine today, and it's a great looking publication. It's only $17.95, which includes (domestic) shipping, with additional copies at $14.95 ea. With Spring Training so close we can almost hear the crack of the bat, the serious Tribe fan shouldn't be without this information.
Tony has detailed scouting reports, including expanded information and analysis on the top prospects. And no, I'm not telling who those are. I will say that some of the top players in Tony's listing are first-timers in the Tribe organization in 2009. He says that as an organization, the Indians minor league system has moved up from a middle-of-the-pack team in 2008 to the top 5-7 teams in all of baseball for 2009. The upgrade results from several acquisitions at the high-minors levels along with the positive development of many of the lower and mid-minors players into legitimate major league prospects within the last year or two.
Here's a handy depth chart that shows how the Tribe's top four minor league affiliates are likely to line up this season. There's lots of excitement this spring with new team facilities in Goodyear, Arizona for Spring Training and year-round player development, plus a new ballpark in a new city for the AAA franchise...the new Columbus Clippers. What's even more exciting for baseball in Columbus is that the Tribe AAA team is loaded.
It's important to note that Tony is not sitting at a computer at home in his pajamas compiling data on these players from the scouting reports of others. He travels to see all the Indians minor league teams play in person every year. He personally interviews hundreds of players and coaches in the Tribe system, so the evaluations you read are all his. How the guy pulls it all off with a young family and a real job is beyond me. The least I can do is plug the hell out of his book. Nice job, Tony.
Obama has lost a lot of altitude in just a matter of days. There are the two resignations today (Daschle and the â€œperformance czar,â€ Nancy Killefer), coming on top of the withdrawal by Bill Richardson; the damage this does to Obamaâ€™s health-care strategy; the reality that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner himself, by any fair reading of the record, is a tax cheat; the repeated violation of Obamaâ€™s own ethics/lobbyist laws; and, on substance, a perfectly horrible â€œstimulusâ€ package, which was written not by Obama or his team, but by liberal Democrats on Capitol Hill, causing his hopes for a broadly supported, bi-partisan bill to dissolve. â€œThis bill [the â€œstimulusâ€ bill] is like a rotting corpse,â€ according to Mark McKinnon. â€œEvery day this thing sits out in the sunlight, it starts to stink more. Public support has already dropped below 50 percent.â€
There is of course some rough justice in all this; the arrogance of Team Obama was palpable to everyone. They presented themselves, to an unprecedented degree, as purer and better and smarter than any who came before them. They would â€œturn the pageâ€ and heal the earth and reverse the ocean tide. Politics would be cleansed. Reason would prevail. A smooth-running machine would be put in place. Yet now, just two weeks into his presidency, we have what Matt Drudge has dubbed â€œa circus.â€
It turns out that governing is harder than campaigning, and delivering on promises is harder than making them.
One is left wondering whether this is a series of hapless moves and mistakes (whose idea was it to let Pelosi draft the stimulus bill?) or evidence that this group is trapped in the paradigm of of Chicago-style politics. The former theory assumes they are incompetent; the latter, that they are brazenly partisan. But one is left feeling dazed and slightly despondent. This is the guy who ran against the D.C. culture. We are left musing why we canâ€™t ever seem to get a capable chief executive devoid of glaring personnel problems.
As one of the trackers of Washington Conventional Wisdom, the Note, aptly summed it up: â€œKey to understanding the dynamics: Somewhere along the line, Obama lost some high ground.â€ Well, lots. Somewhere between the tax cheats and the grossly partisan stimulus bill that is in the process of being junked, the shiny new administration has lost a lot of its luster.
The speed and the depth of the descent into a pool of ethical and legislative goo is startling.
Every administration since 1979 has reached out to the Iranians in one way or another and all have failed. Some have gotten into deep trouble associated with their failures, but the reality is the Iranian leadership has been consistently unyielding over a very long period of time in response to repeated overtures from the United States about having a different and better kind of relationship.
...They love to talk, and they excel at talking, which they view quite differently from the way we look at â€œengagementâ€ or â€œnegotiations.â€ We seek durable agreements to resolve fundamental problems; The Iranians are quite capable of striking temporary deals with their worst enemies, fully intending to resume hostilities when circumstances are more favorable.
...if all we want to do is talk, theyâ€™ll certainly talk.... As the Iranians see it, if weâ€™re talking, they can continue to pursue their atomic bomb. So talking is good for them.
Itâ€™s very unlikely to be good for us.
Apparently Obama representatives have been talking at some level with the Iranians since even before the election.
The Internal Revenue Service should hope as many big-time Democrats get appointments to the Obama cabinet as possible. It has become the most efficacious way to get them to pay their taxes.
Tom Daschle, President Barack Obamaâ€™s nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services, is the latest Obama nominee forced into the â€œpay-to-playâ€ rules of Senate confirmation: Heâ€™s paid his back taxes to the tune of $146,000, apologized profusely and expects to get Senate approval on the precedent set by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
Geithner blatantly cheated on his taxes. He worked at the International Monetary Fund, which reimbursed him for self-employment taxes he didnâ€™t pay. After an IRS audit, he paid up for 2004 and 2003, but not 2001 and 2002. For those years, the statute of limitations had expired. He didnâ€™t write the IRS a check for the remaining $25,970 until nominated as Treasury secretary. He â€œpaid to play,â€ and the Senate confirmed him in an update of an old Soviet joke: â€œYou pretend to be sorry, we pretend to believe you.â€
Geithnerâ€™s nomination was deemed â€œtoo big to fail.â€ If Daschle gets the same treatment, it will mean whoever Obama wants for a given position is ipso facto too important to be expected to abide by the tax laws. Daschle, the former Senate majority leader, has no management experience to prepare him for running a 60,000-person department and has no greater expertise in health careâ€”heâ€™s co-authored a book on the subjectâ€”than any number of other possible nominees.
Daschle is exceptional only insofar as heâ€™s such a perfect representation of the Beltway culture of easy enrichment for former officeholders.
The rules in this new â€œpost-partisanâ€ era are pretty simple: If the Democratic party wants it, itâ€™s â€œstimulus.â€ If the Republican party opposes it, itâ€™s â€œpoliticsâ€â€”as in headlines like this: â€œObama Urges GOP To Keep Politics To A Minimum On Stimulus.â€ These are serious times: As the president says, itâ€™s the worst economic crisis since the Thirties. So politicians need to put politics behind them and immediately lavish $4.19 billion on his community-organizing pals at the highly inventive â€œvoter registrationâ€ group ACORN for â€œneighborhood stabilization activities.â€
â€œNeighborhood stabilization activities.â€ That sounds like a line item from the Baath-party budget when Saddam sends the lads in to gas the Kurds. What does it mean in a non-totalitarian sense? Do you need a federally subsidized condom to do it? If so, will a pathetic $4.19 billion be enough?
â€œStimulusâ€ comes from the verb stimulare, which is Latin for â€œtransfer massive sums of money from what remains of the dynamic sector of the economy to the special interests of the Democratic party.â€ No, hang on, my mistake. Stimulare means â€œto goad.â€ And, on that front, the Democrats are doing an excellent job. Theyâ€™ve managed to goad 58 percent of the American people into opposing the â€œstimulusâ€ package. Theyâ€™ve managed to goad all 177 Republicans in the House into unpacking their mothballed cojones and voting against the bill. And theyâ€™ve managed to goad the rest of the world into ending the Obama honeymoon in nothing flat. Headline from the London Daily Telegraph: â€œUS-EU Trade War Looms As Barack Obama Bill Urges â€˜Buy American.â€™ â€
How bad is this recession? Some comparative numbers and a few predictions and projections by Randall Hoven.
When Iranâ€™s Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa on novelist Salman Rushdie for The Satanic Verses, it was the opening shot in a war on cultural freedom. Two decades later, the violence continues, and Muslim fundamentalists have gained a new advantage: media self-censorship.
New "Buckeye Leaves" column up over at The Cleveland Fan.
Good grief. Another example of what someone recently called the "gaping chasm between talk and walk" with the budding Obama administration:
Daschle's tax issues, and even the influence peddling income he has earned since he left Congress, aren't as galling as the blithe indifference to their own incoherence by the Obama people. The last time I heard the count of lobbyists hired by the administration that wasn't going to hire lobbyists, it was in the dozens. Here's Jen Rubin , perhaps thinking wishfully...
If they really think this is all fine and the public wonâ€™t find this odd or hypocritical â€” or downright appalling â€” the proposal that this is the savviest, smartest political team in history is due for a rethink.
As always, the useful thought experiment is to imagine the outcry if the following were being written about a Republican put forward for a position as a high government official:
The disclosure of Daschle's tax problems coincided with the release of the financial statement he submitted to the Office of Government Ethics, which details for the first time exactly how, without becoming a registered lobbyist, he made millions of dollars giving public speeches and private counsel to insurers, hospitals, realtors, farmers, energy firms and telecommunications companies with complex regulatory and legislative interests in Washington.
Daschle's expertise and insights, gleaned over 26 years in Congress, earned him more than $5 million over the past two years, including $220,000 from the health-care industry, and perks such as a chauffeured Cadillac, according to the documents.
It is impossible to determine Daschle's current net worth with precision because his assets and income are reported in ranges. He also wrote that the value of some assets was "not readily ascertainable," including profit-sharing arrangements with InterMedia Partners, owned by Leo J. Hindery Jr., a longtime donor to Democratic campaigns and causes, and stock options granted to him by the commercial real estate firm CB Richard Ellis and by ethanol research company Mascoma Corp.
Daschle collected director's fees from five companies and organizations, including the nonprofit Freedom Forum, which advocates free press and speech rights; the bioenergy company Prime BioSolutions; and the Mascoma ethanol research company. The international energy company BP Corp. alone paid him $250,000 in director's fees.
Hindery and colleagues at his firm have donated at least $227,000 to Democrats since 2005, according to Federal Election Commission records. Daschle chairs the firm's advisory board....
In a 2005 book, Hindery called the absence of an efficient health-care system for poor families "disgraceful." He did not respond yesterday to an e-mailed request that he explain what Daschle did for the company in exchange for years of limousine service and a million-dollar annual fee. Alan J. Sokol, a senior partner in the firm, said that Daschle did "a lot of helpful work" for the firm but declined to say what it was.
Jonathan Tobin has joined Commentary as Executive Editor, and he has the lead essay in the new edition.
Tobin says the long term damage done by the Madoff fraud to Jewish foundations and organizations funding Jewish causes is a far greater problem than the fact that Madoff's Jewishness serves as fodder for anti-semites. An excerpt...
In the days following the revelation of the alleged $50 billion scam, the willingness of the press to refer to Madoffâ€™s Jewishness set off alarms in a community uniquely sensitive about the way in which its members have historically been singled out for opprobrium. The theme of Jewish financial skullduggery is, after all, a familiar one in the canon of anti-Semitic invective. Madoffâ€™s religion and his nefarious business practices were quickly intertwined by many hate-inspired Internet posters, which in turn aroused concerns at the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee that the Madoff moment might mark the beginning of a new and uniquely dangerous wave of anti-Semitism.
But the specifically Jewish crisis that has been set off by the arrest and revelations has little to do with the rantings of anti-Semites on the Internet, who will always find something to which they can attach and insinuate their pre-existing perspective. After all, many of Madoffâ€™s victims were not Gentiles entrapped by a wily Hebrew, but were themselves Jews.
Nor were these victims the only Jews harmed by Madoff. It soon became clear that he had caused vast sums from Jewish charities whose endowments had been invested, directly or indirectly, with Madoffâ€™s firm to vanish. The numbers are unimaginably large. Yeshiva University, of which Madoff had served as a trustee, initially said its losses amounted to $110 million. Hadassah, the womenâ€™s Zionist organization, reported that $90 million was lost in the wreckage of Madoffâ€™s collapse. The American Technion Society, which aids Israelâ€™s Institute of Technology in Haifa, put its losses at $72 million. Amid a long list of other groups that have admitted to losing money were the American Jewish Congress, the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, the United Community Endowment Fund in Washington, D.C., the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, the Robert I. Lappin Foundation, and the Chais Family Foundation..