Saturday, February 28, 2009

President Obama unveiled his Iraq pullout plan yesterday, in which he sets a date certain to end the war, but not the American troop presence, in that country. Events may yet derail his efforts, but if he succeeds, he should send a thank you note to George W. Bush, since it was the so-called "surge" that prepared the ground for this withdrawal.

Israel's political leaders are still struggling to form a government.

Did New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg use his position to enrich his family? This story, from The Boston Globe, implies as much.

Larry Kudlow believes the President's budget declares war on investors, entrepreneurs and business owners.

Meanwhile, it was a brutal month for the stock market.

The economic crisis has many implications, including the possibility that war and unrest could follow and, here at home, political divisions could grow wider, even within the Democratic Party.

A rocky road ahead for the broadcast television networks.

The President decides to pull out of an anti-Israel conference, but former UN Ambassador John Bolton says the damage is already done.

George Will takes aim at global warming in this column, and this one.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Back from a glorious Florida vacation, I am now prepared to resume blogging. If you get a chance, and have the means, try Discovery Cove in Orlando (part of the Sea World empire). It was terrific.

I haven't been paying much attention to the news this past week, but I did get a chance to watch President Obama's speech from my hotel room. Clearly, the era of Big Government is back.

President Obama, in his new budget, is presenting himself as the anti-Reagan. He is using the economic crisis as energy to propel forward his ideas which will, in my estimation as well as others, attempt to transform America so that it is closer to the European model.

Howard Fineman has a theory as to why President Obama is moving so quickly. Bill Kristol exhorts conservative Republicans to try and slow him down.

Paul Krugman is pleased with the budget proposal, which should tell us all we need to know about how "Progressive" it is, and how diametrically opposed it is to the ideas of Ronald Reagan.

Charles Krauthammer also believes the budget represents a hard change in course for America toward European-style economics and governance.

The U.S. is ready to shoot down a North Korean missile, if the President orders it so. I predict he will not.

Christopher Hitchens is attacked and beaten in Beirut.

Another major newspaper, The Rocky Mountain News in Denver, bites the dust. There will be more.

Some Jewish leaders are stunned that Secretary of State Clinton is taking a harder line against Israel than they expected.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ralph Peters makes a pretty compelling argument for getting our troops out of Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's government makes a deal with the Taliban.

Paul Krugman is wrong about many things, but I think he is right about this one.

A reporter who describes himself as a Marxist has some good things to say about the United States Marine Corps and their efforts in Iraq in this open letter to another reporter he describes as craven and cowardly.

David Brooks describes where Americans want to live, and it's not Amsterdam.

General Motors hopes to get some concessions on health care for retirees from the United Auto Workers Union.

Officials at the Pentagon are considering a move to end the ban on pictures of dead Americans returning home from war.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The plane that crashed outside Buffalo was on autopilot prior to the crash, and may only have been put on manual control within 26 seconds of impact. The pilots I have read in the last few days indicate that being on autopilot is not a good idea during icing conditions, as the pilot has a better "feel" of the aircraft in manual control, and can better determine if ice is making the aircraft less stable. Still, the initial reports indicate that the aircraft's deicing system was also on, therefore, I wonder why it didn't work.

Two trouble spots, two bad stories. In Mexico, a police official is killed and the gunmen massacre his entire family. In Pakistan, the government is about to make a deal with the Taliban that would allow their extreme version of Islamic law to be enforced in their tribal areas (women totally covered, kept indoors, not allowed to be educated, etc.). Both stories point to nations that are, in my estimation, beginning to unravel.

On President's Day, it is appropriate to order the President's based on leadership, which C-Span does with this list compiled by a guest panel of historians. Abraham Lincoln is first, George Washington second. FDR, Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman round out the top five.

A controversial Dutch politician, who made a film which essentially says that Islam is to blame for Islamic extremism, is barred from entry into the United Kingdom. John O'Sullivan says it is because the Islamic extremists in Britain have intimidated the government.

A Brit who has written a book warning us about Obama says he didn't realize his predictions would come true so quickly.

It appears the people of Venezuela have taken another step closer to electing a President-for-Life in Hugo Chavez.

Robert J. Samuelson writes that comparisons of our current economic debacle with Japan's "Lost Decade" have some merit.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The $787 billion stimulus bill was approved yesterday. Here are the highlights.

Among the more controversial aspects of the bill is a provision that would limit executive pay at institutions which receive bailout money. Politically popular, yes, but I wonder about the unintended consequences.

Here is an analysis of the stimulus by Irwin Stelzer. I agree with him, and I agree that the political ramifications of this stimulus plan which will fail to stimulate are quite bad for the Democrats. I suspect someone will come along with a bumper sticker that reads, "Don't Blame Me, I Voted For McCain".

The main problem facing Obama, which causes me to make the Jimmy Carter comparison, is that he seems incompetent at governing and, knowing he is out of his depth, he resorts instead to campaigning, which he is undeniably good at. Bill Kristol has some thoughts on this problem, and here is another piece which analyzes the Geithner bank bailout plan, which is just another example of Obama's incompetence. This does not mean that Obama will not be able to learn. He seems to be a very intelligent man, and he learned from his early campaign mistakes to win the nomination and the Presidency. But will he be able to learn quickly enough? Or will his mistakes lead to more trouble for the country, and even bigger trouble for his party?

People in Washington and here in New Hampshire are still stunned by the Judd Gregg fiasco. Gregg is a sober, conservative Yankee. He is known for being a quiet, behind-the-scenes player. So, to see him make a very public mistake is rare, indeed. But, in the end, I think he did the right thing by withdrawing.

The crew of that plane that crashed outside Buffalo reported a significant ice buildup. From what investigators have released so far, it does seem like the logical conclusion is that an ice buildup as they were descending compromised the aerodynamics of the plane so that, when they deployed the landing gear and the flaps, they stalled, without enough altitude to correct the problem.

Here is a great theoretical debate between Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan.

The transition to digital TV...just another big government foul up.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The plane that crashed outside of Buffalo, killing 50 people, was carrying a prominent 9/11 widow, according to The New York Post.

Sen. Judd Gregg, apparently realizing, however belatedly, that he would be a conservative fish out of water in the Obama cabinet, decides to withdraw from consideration as Commerce Secretary. Bill Kristol believes it was over control of the census process. Larry Kudlow thinks it was a courageous decision. The folks on the Left are happy. So am I. Let the Obama Administration give us good, old-fashioned Liberalism. Let the GOP respond by advocating for good, old-fashioned Conservatism. Let's see how the Liberal solutions work. If they improve the economy, and maintain the security, of the nation, then the Democrats will win even larger majorities in 2010, and Obama will win re-election in 2012. If not, the GOP will make a comeback. That's the way it's supposed to work. Let's quit all this blather about "bipartisanship". Liberals and Conservatives disagree about serious things, so let's be serious about advocating for our respective positions and implementing them as policies when we get the chance, and then let the people decide who is right.

A man who is about to publish a book that predicts China will be the world's economic and political leader of the 21st Century (and he is not alone in making that prediction) writes this piece, from a British perspective, about the financial crisis and how it may lead to another Great Depression. I find it an interesting read (which is why I mention it and provide the link). I agree that we may very well be heading into a new version of the Great Depression, and I think it will be so because our political leaders will be as short-sighted and irrational as the leaders of the early 1930s, but I also happen to think that China will not rise to world leadership status, because it's own inherent instabilities will do it in.

David Brooks paints what he believes to be a worst-case scenario concerning the financial crisis, but I think it could be even worse than he believes.

The heart of the matter continues to be the financial condition of so many banks, which won't get any better as long as they continue to hold so many bad assets.

Here is a piece in The Atlantic Monthly that paints one possible scenario for how America will change as a result of the economic crisis.

Up in Canada, some believe the American Era is over, so it is time for Canada to look for new trading partners.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The House-Senate conference committee has reached an agreement on a $790 billion stimulus plan that is expected to pass in both houses of Congress and get to President Obama's desk by Monday.

George Will has some thoughts on the plan. John Dickerson criticizes the speed and lack of transparency involved in putting the plan together. Mort Kondracke wishes that Congress had listened to Rush Limbaugh concerning the plan.

A Nashua man who supported Obama is so concerned about the lack of fiscal discipline that he has started an organization to oppose this kind of wasteful spending.

An economist who accurately predicted the financial meltdown is calling for the nationalization of "bad" banks as the most market-friendly solution to the problem.

Some Obama Administration officials are concerned that a right-wing government may end up being formed in Israel. Of course, with the results so close, it may be weeks before a government can be formed.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A mixed bag, at first glance, from the Israeli elections. It seems that Kadima has won more seats, narrowly, than Likud. Neither party has anything close to a majority, which means that a coalition government will be formed. The only question now is whether it will be led by Kadima's Tzipi Livni (who would become the second female Prime Minister in Israel's history) or by Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu. Avigdor Lieberman's party did very well, and he is expected to be the kingmaker, which bodes well for Netanyahu.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner announced the Obama Administration's bank bailout plan, and he is getting panned for the performance by people like Larry Kudlow .

Alan Reynolds is also unhappy with the plan and he explains why it won't work.

The new Treasury plan continues to put most of the emphasis on pushing banks to make more loans to over-indebted consumers, homeowners and firms. Unlike last year, however, Geithner now believes, "Our policies must be designed to mobilize and leverage private capital, not to supplant or discourage private capital. When government investment is necessary, it should be replaced with private capital as soon as possible."

That's a laudable goal - but contradictory. In reality, government capital replaces ("crowds out") private capital, leaving taxpayers holding a bigger and bigger bag. Call that nationalization by default.

Read the whole thing.

Michelle Malkin gets to the heart of the matter...

This massive expansion of government meddling in the housing market will just delay the inevitable. A report released by the Comptroller of the Currency in December showed that more than half of loans modified in the first quarter of 2008 fell 30 days delinquent within six months. And after six months, 35 percent of people were 60 or more days behind on their payments.

Where's the fairness in forcing prudent homeowners and renters to subsidize people who bought overpriced houses and to rescue the banks that lent to them?


As for the bundle of bad loans that are weighing down the banks, those investors who might scoop them up are eying them warily, if at all.

Thomas Friedman adds the issue of protectionism and immigration barriers to the mix of things that could make the situation worse.

Meanwhile, the worsening economy is making for more political instability around the world.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Last night, President Barack Obama held his first prime time news conference, and among other things he insisted that the stimulus package needs to pass to avert catastrophe. I suspect not, but we will not be able to test the proposition that doing nothing might be the best thing, since the bill will pass in some form. Next up, a big bailout plan for the financial system.

Rich Lowry points out that the era of resisting the growth of government is over, which means that Socialism (although we won't call it that) is on the way here in America.

Meanwhile, the bad guys are still out there trying to kill us, and I would like to think that, eventually, President Obama and his people will realize that, as Andrew McCarthy writes, it is not the prisons that are the problem, it is the people who are in them that are the issue.

Speaking of prisons, a Federal court has ordered California to lower it's prison population. This is a move that is so unpopular, even Jerry Brown doesn't like it.

Islamic extremists are finding more energy in London, this time driven by the war in Gaza.

The Israelis are going to the polls today to elect a new government, and the last polling done before the voting began shows Netanyahu's Likud and Livni's Kadima neck-and-neck, with the new party headed by Avigdor Lieberman a wild card. It will end in a coalition government of some kind.

The steroid controversy snags another star, as Alex Rodriguez admits that he used steroids, as indicated by a failed drug test back in 2003. At some point you have to wonder, who wasn't using the stuff?

Monday, February 09, 2009

The stimulus bill remains in the Senate, as the President delays announcing his financial bailout plan to put more pressure on Congress to get the stimulus bill passed.

Republicans feel energized as they come together to oppose the out-of-control spending that the Democrats have crammed into the bill. George W. Bush was an albatross around the party's neck. Now that he is gone they can get back to basics.

Dick Morris and Eileen McGann write about how our response to the financial crisis will do more harm than good.

Robert J. Samuelson points out that the credit markets are still locked up, and we will not get the economy moving again until they loosen up.

Did Plato predict our current mess, and how it will turn out in the end?

Arthur Herman writes about a terror injustice.

The New York Times has this piece on Avigdor Lieberman, whose hard-line message is resonating with some Israelis.

Jackson Diehl, also writing about the Israeli elections, has this piece on why Israelis might elect a man who promises war, not peace.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

A compromise is reached on the stimulus bill in the Senate that would lower the size to about $820 billion. A final vote could happen this weekend, and almost certainly no later than Monday. Then negotiations will begin with House leaders on a final bill. It is still not a done deal, but it is looking more likely than not that some kind of bill will pass. In the end, I don't expect much in the way of real results from the bill. If I am right, and these kinds of taxpayer outlays combined with bailouts remain as unpopular with voters as I think they are, and if the economy remains mired in a recession, we can expect a voter backlash at the next available opportunity.

Here is some analysis on the growing influence of the state in our economic affairs.

Governor Lynch moves to block a Massachusetts effort to force New Hampshire retailers to collect Massachusetts sales taxes from their residents who buy stuff here in the Granite State. My advice as a former resident of the Bay State? Do what we did. Move to New Hampshire. That way, you can buy stuff without the tax guilt-free and, if you can find a job up here (I know, that's a big "if" these days), you can get your wages without an income tax as well.

The father of the Pakistani atom bomb is freed from house arrest. Dr. A.Q. Khan is also thought to be the father of North Korea's bomb, and perhaps others, as he was the focal point of a nuclear technology smuggling operation, which is why he was under house arrest in the first place. Of course, the fact that he is a hero in Pakistan is why he wasn't sent to jail, and why he is now free, the "international community" be damned.

Israeli voters face a fateful choice, and Caroline Glick has a recommendation.

One of my favorite actors, the versatile James Whitmore, has died. As a kid, I remember him from the science fiction classic Them, as well as movies like Battleground and Tora Tora Tora. He did great work in one-man shows about Harry Truman, Will Rogers and Teddy Roosevelt, and that Miracle-Gro stuff really works. He will be missed.

Friday, February 06, 2009

You may have seen the story earlier this week in The New York Post about Bloomberg, LP cutting people in it's radio and television division. Indeed, it is true, and I am one of those who got axed, as the show I have produced for Bloomberg Radio for the last two years was cancelled. So, I now join the ranks of the unemployed, which a report out today indicates has risen to a level of 7.6%, with 598,000 jobs cut in January alone, the largest number of job cuts in a one month period since 1974. The 7.6% rate is the highest since September of 1992.

Economic historian Niall Ferguson, author of The Ascent of Money, says Keynes can't help us now.

Economist Paul Krugman disagrees, as he believes it is the discredited Republican philosophy of tax cuts that is getting in the way of a proper stimulus.

Dick Morris and Eileen McGann have yet another take, this time on the political angle, as they believe President Obama would be making a mistake to follow the advice of people like Krugman. Rather, they believe he should govern as a centrist, reaching out to the GOP.

Ralph Peters believes Vladimir Putin has found a new way to govern as a totalitarian.

Bill Kristol believes Joe Biden was right.

Could the economic crisis lead to war in Asia?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Victor Davis Hanson believes that President Obama is off to a disastrous start. It reminds me of the early days of Jimmy Carter.

Jeff Jacoby is also reminded of Jimmy Carter, who tried to talk sweetly to the Soviets and got slapped around for his trouble, in that Obama is also trying to charm the Muslim world. That might work for the moderate Muslims, but it will only be a sign of weakness for the jihadists.

Part of the trouble facing Obama here at home is that his process for vetting cabinet nominees is clearly not working, losing two more prospective nominees due to tax issues, including Tom Daschle. Perhaps he wouldn't have had a problem had he listened to this advice.

I doubt he will have any problem with Judd Gregg, his nominee for Secretary of Commerce. Bonnie Newman is tapped as his replacement in the Senate. I don't know her or even know of her, or anything about her, or her stand on any issue. Sounds like the perfect choice.

Obama hopes to cap the salaries of executives whose companies receive bailout money, but he may not get as much as he hoped, since it appears the bailout bill won't pass the Senate in it's present form.

Obama's idea to "buy American" is getting slapped down by our friends in the European Union. Obama's weakness and naivete aren't a big problem in dealing with our friends, though, and the warning about protectionism is a good one. It's how he will be tested by the Russians, Iranians and North Koreans that concerns me.

More trouble in the UK, as it appears the Brits are facing a deeper recession than the rest of us.

Tom Friedman takes a look at the fractured Middle East.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

New Hampshire's senior Senator Judd Gregg will be nominated by President Obama to become Commerce Secretary, and an announcement is thought to be coming as soon as today. Governor Lynch, apparently, has agreed to appoint a Republican to the seat so as not to change the balance of power in the Senate. This is still bad news for the GOP (and Democrats should stop whining about Lynch's failure to seize the moment to appoint a Democrat and get them to 60, as Gregg would not have taken the job without an assurance from Lynch that he would appoint a Republican, and Lynch knows very well that getting Gregg out of the seat significantly improves their prospects of taking the seat away from the GOP in 2010).

For those folks from Massachusetts who now shop in New Hampshire to avoid sales taxes, watch out! The leaders of the Commonwealth aren't going to sit idly by while you refuse to share some of your wealth with them. It reminds me of a line from Goodfellas, "F___ you, pay me!"

The New York Times calls for Tom Daschle to withdraw from consideration as HHS Secretary. Didn't they get the memo? Only the little people pay taxes.

Is Conservatism dead? I have always believed, based on my understanding of human nature, that the vast majority of people are not ideologues, and are motivated by self interest, except when an inherent irrationality prevents them from acting in their own interest. The strange, contradictory, and sometimes irrational nature of man makes him, when given a chance to vote on it, call for more spending for himself, while simultaneously calling for smaller payments in return. Which is why our large and growing larger deficits are inevitable, unless a constitutional provision prevents them. That is why the state government, most of which have such balanced budget provisions, are cutting left and right, while the Federal government, which does not have such a requirement, borrows and spends like a maniac. As the voting franchise has expanded over the decades, the size and scope of the "Nanny State" has grown. The current crisis will only accelerate such growth, which was hardly slowed by the "Conservative" governance of recent times.

James Carville fires back at Rush Limbaugh.

Ralph Peters says we should think of the Taliban as if they were from outer space.

The father of slain reporter Daniel Pearl reflects on how we have descended further into hypocrisy and barbarism since his son's death.

A Canadian general wonders if Uncle Sam is running out of patience with his NATO allies.

Monday, February 02, 2009

It appears that Sen. Judd Gregg will be named as President Obama's Commerce Secretary and, according to The New Hampshire Union Leader, a deal has been struck that would ensure his replacement would caucus with the Republicans in the Senate. I just could not imagine a scenario whereby Gregg would leave the seat and allow the balance of power to shift in the Senate. As for Governor Lynch, he will take some heat from his fellow Democrats for not picking a Democrat and, thus, getting the party to 60 votes in the Senate. But I think he believes (and in this I believe he is correct) that getting Gregg out of the way will make it much easier for the Democrats to win his seat in 2010. So, the death spiral for the GOP in New Hampshire continues unabated. I would like to think that former Governor John H. Sununu, who is now the Republican State Committee Chairman for New Hampshire, will be able to revive the party, but I have my doubts. New Hampshire was the last holdout from a different era, when New England was a reliably Republican region. Now the Granite State has joined it's neighbors in becoming a reliably Democratic state, part of a reliably Democratic region. This will probably last for decades.

A fixture on the New Hampshire political scene, former Speaker of the House Marshall Cobleigh, has passed away.

Robert J. Samuelson says the stimulus package provides too little bang for the buck.

That Alaska volcano continues to rumble, with signs that a hole has opened in it's glacier.