27 February 2010

Results of Blair House: 0.1

Following the 'Blair House Summit' this past week, the president's RCP average has sunk to +0.1. The lines aren't just kissing, they're entangled. Any bets as to how long it will take for them to cross?

Congress is faring no better (-56.8), while Republicans continue to lead the generic vote polling (+1.1), and the sense of 'direction of the country' has sunk to -24.4. These results seem to be inextricably linked to the opposition to the health care bills, the average of which has risen to +11. The more these bills are explained, the less people like them.

23 February 2010

Seriously? Fawning Reaches New Heights

Two wacked-out headlines:

1. From the NYT (of course): 'Gentle White House Nudges Test the Power of Persuasion'
'Tempers were fraying in the White House Cabinet Room as night turned into morning on Jan. 15. President Obama had been cloistered nearly all day with House and Senate Democrats, playing “marriage counselor,” an aide said, as he coaxed, cajoled and prodded them on a health care overhaul. As the clock neared 1 a.m., the two sides were at an impasse. Mr. Obama stood up.“ ‘See what you guys can figure out,’ ” one participant remembers him saying, adding that the failed effort left the president mad. Another Democrat who was there, Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, said Mr. Obama left “frustrated that while he was putting out ways to bridge the problem, we hadn’t reached a conclusion.” Ever since his days as a young community organizer in Chicago, Mr. Obama has held fast to the belief that by listening carefully and appealing to reason he can bring people together to get results, an approach that in Washington has often come up short.'
I fail to see how leaving in a snit, ordering others to figure things out, qualifies as gentle or persuasive.

2. From Fox News: 'NAACP to Honor Van Jones as 'American Treasure'
The title alone makes me think of the PBS ads for 'Antiques Roadshow' ("... well sir, you have a national treasure, a national treasure'), putting Van Jones on the level of a well-preserved textile.
'But Jones still has his share of outspoken supporters, and one of them is Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP. "Van Jones is an American treasure," Jealous writes in an opinion piece posted at CNN.com. "He is quite simply one of the few Americans in recent years to have generated powerful new ideas that are creating new jobs."
Ahh - for that to work as an accolade, one would have to demonstrate that at least one job had been generated by these 'powerful new ideas' something I doubt Mr. Jealous (I had to write it) can prove.

Oh well - as least it's entertaining.

22 February 2010

Transparency? Nah, Who Needs That?

Apparently having an Inspector General tasked with catching sticky little hands in the TARP cookie jar is too much government for the Obama Administration. At the end of January, the IG released its report on TARP, stating that it had failed to meet many objectives. Apparently that hit a little too close to home.
'While the administration has not yet finalized its legislative proposal for the $30 billion program, Allison indicated to Barofsky last week that his office would not have any oversight of the program. "I was surprised to learn from you Wednesday that Treasury is contemplating excluding SIGTARP from the oversight provisions of its legislative proposal concerning the Small Business Lending Fund, contrary to what you previously told us," Barofsky wrote in his letter to Allison. Only two weeks ago Allison had indicated to Barofsky that the watchdog would "expressly have jurisdiction over" the small business effort, but that all changed last week. The about-face, Barofsky said, was "a curious change". To exclude Barofsky's office from oversight, he warned, would be "contrary to the best interests of the taxpayer."'
This presents the same kind of Administrative thinking that allows the President to declare he wants an open, transparent, bipartisan dialogue on health care reform (live on Thursday), while simultaneously setting up to go the reconciliation route. One wonders how far the Congressional Democrats will let him go before refusing to be cannon fodder for a plan and way of thinking the public has rejected.

Iran Restricting Airspace Over A Word

Iran is pitching a hissy-fit over the commonly used commercial air term, 'Arabian Gulf,' threatening to ban airlines that fail to call the shared waterway the 'Persian Gulf.'
'"The airlines of the southern Persian Gulf countries flying to Iran are warned to use the term Persian Gulf on their electronic display boards," Road and Transport Minister Hamid Behbahani said in comments in the daily Iran newspaper. "Otherwise they will be banned from Iranian airspace for a month the first time and upon repetition their aircraft will be grounded in Iran and flight permits to Iran will be revoked," he added. .... Iran says it is the Persian Gulf, the Arab states say it is Arab. Foreign language descriptions can offend either party if they use one name or the other, or sometimes if they avoid an adjective altogether.'
Iran has long been touchy about transit through the Gulf, especially at the Strait of Hormuz, where they have occasionally harassed both military and commercial shipping. And of course, there are multiple stories of Iran 'extending' its claims to airspace. This latest dust-up became public after Iran expelled a Greek steward working on a Kish Air flight (Iran also claims he threatened unruly passengers protesting the use of 'Arabian Gulf' on the in-flight monitors). It's possible this tantrum is part of Iran's response to the recent decision by the Obama Administration to beef-up missile defense throughout the Gulf. The most recent deployments were of Aegis cruisers to the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait. These are in addition to the Patriot missile batteries installed under President Bush.

20 February 2010

Farewell to Haig

Alexander Haig died this morning following a hospitalization for an infection. He was a fascinating, complex, colorful man with long and honorable military and civilian service records. RIP.

Dependency Agenda


18 February 2010

Does Iran Have the Payload?

Short answer - no one knows. The new Director General of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, is a technician who is focusing on the ways and means by which Iran could acquire a nuclear weapon. In particular, Amano is focused on Iran's treaty violations. In contrast, Mohamed ElBaradei, who apparently has political ambitions of his own, has seemed more focused on keeping all parties appeased and at the table.
'In his first report on Iran, the new director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, broke with the more cautious style of his predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei, and suggested Iran could have looked into the construction of a weapon, and that ­weaponisation work could be under way.

Amano's report to the IAEA board also confirmed that Iran had succeeded in producing 20% enriched uranium, a level of enrichment much closer to weapons grade than it had attempted before. It criticised the Iranian authorities for taking the step without giving IAEA inhttp://www.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=5002651818781399387&pli=1spectors notice.'

Of more urgent concern is whether or not Iran has any concern for an IAEA report or the threat of ramped-up sanctions. Iran has continued to test medium and long-range missiles, the latter with little success, which could be adapted to carry a nuclear payload. However, the thought of a medium-range missile with a nuclear payload has to be of little comfort to any of Iran's neighbors. Israel will certainly not stand for such a development, and Iran's other neighbors are feeling the heat as well (most are Sunni compared to Shiite Iran). Perhaps the greatest impediment, other than technical ones, to Iran moving forward with a nuclear weapon, is its inability to build up a nuclear deterrent (or conversely, threat). At best, Iran can produce a couple of weapons, and these would be untestable. Unless Iran is bent on a suicide mission, it seems unlikely that it would openly load or deploy at this level. More likely scenarios include a repeat of Iraq's verbal deterrence games, or deployment through a surrogate (e.g. - terrorism). Wherever the truth lies, it seems likely that Iran prefers a closed fist to an open hand.

15 February 2010

Happy Washington's Birthday

Another reason to celebrate? Congress takes a week long recess for the President's holiday week, following the better part of a week off for snow. Maybe the enforced time off will help restore a little sanity (not betting on it, but I'm ever hopeful).

Meanwhile, see how much you know about the holiday here.

14 February 2010

To Afghanistan - With Love

On Valentine's Day, I enjoyed a nice meal with my family, cards, flowers, etc. As I enjoyed those, US Marines and Afghan soldiers had their minds and hearts on their mission - and I find my thoughts and prayers with them. 5,000 US and Afghani troops are participating in a major operation to destroy the Taliban in Marja (west of Kandahar), while British and Afghanis are operating in Nad Ali.

Good hunting gentlemen, and God speed.

12 February 2010

Loving the Iranian Bomb?

With apologies to all of my Air Force friends, only an Air Force officer could have come up with a apologetic for accepting a nuclear Iran (and only the NY Times would have published it). The strangest point in the whole ludicrous article?
'Third, Israel has made clear that it feels threatened by Iran’s nuclear program. The Palestinians also have a reason for concern, because a nuclear strike against Israel would devastate them as well. This shared danger might serve as a catalyst for reconciliation between the two parties, leading to the peace agreement that has eluded the last five presidents. Paradoxically, any final agreement between Israelis and Palestinians would go a long way to undercutting Tehran’s animosity toward Israel, and would ease longstanding tensions in the region.'

There are no easy responses to Iran's nuclear ambitions, but rolling over, or taking a lordosis position, are the worst of them.

08 February 2010

The Never-Ending Story: Illinois Political Failings

The Democratic candidate for Lt-Gov of IL, Scott Cohen, has resigned in tears over battery charges filed by his-then girlfriend in 2005. Interestingly, his own party has forced him out, after he won last Tuesday's primary. His ex-wife has also accused him of battery and assault in the past, to include securing an order of protection, but is standing by her 'ex-man' today, stating that she does not believe these current charges.

Could things spiral downward any further for the IL Democrats? Pat Quinn, acting Governor, and the official Democratic candidate for Gov., after Hynes bowed out on Feb. 4, is a decent candidate, but the resignation of Cohen (who only the primary with 25% of the vote), and Quinn's ties to Blagojevich, leave the ticket vulnerable in November.

07 February 2010

Saints Win

The Saints just won. Peyton Manning single-handedly gave them the game, but it was well-earned.

Drew Brees takes MVP - great young man.

Super Bowl Non Sequiturs

Who would have thought that The Who would sound so ... old?

At least here, in So. FL, we're having fabulous weather for the big game.

What is it with all the beaver and ground hog commercials this year? Three so far.

It's not too late to give back a little from the giant fest today - check out the Souper Bowl site.

06 February 2010

It Only Took An Actual Attempt to Form the HIG

Jake Tapper reports:
'Following the Jan. 20 disclosure that a special interrogation team for high-value terrorist suspects was not yet operational -- months after it was supposed to have been -- the Obama administration approved the charter to create the High-Value Interrogation Group, or HIG, an administration official tells ABC News.'

Understanding and Arrogance

From Fortune:
'The Obama White House likes to say that the theories of John Maynard Keynes form the foundation for its fiscal policies. Most notably, it draws upon the legendary British economist's idea of spending big to pull out of a recession.

But one economist says the administration has gotten Keynes only half right. Allan Meltzer of Carnegie Mellon is one of the most influential monetarists of the past 50 years. He has served in the Department of the Treasury under President Kennedy and on the Council of Economic Advisors during the Reagan Administration. He also authored the book, Keynes's Monetary Theory: A Different Interpretation.

While the Obama team is laying out huge sums of money, Meltzer says it's neglecting a key part of Keynes' plan: You can't run up a debt without a way to cover it.'
The whole article is a great read, along with this one by Gerard Alexander in tomorrow's Washington Post. The opening paragraph says it all:
'Every political community includes some members who insist that their side has all the answers and that their adversaries are idiots. But American liberals, to a degree far surpassing conservatives, appear committed to the proposition that their views are correct, self-evident, and based on fact and reason, while conservative positions are not just wrong but illegitimate, ideological and unworthy of serious consideration. Indeed, all the appeals to bipartisanship notwithstanding, President Obama and other leading liberal voices have joined in a chorus of intellectual condescension.'

03 February 2010

Comparing Relative Deficit, Debt and Spending Levels

This article from Robert Robb provides a good comparison between the relative debt, deficit and spending levels of the Bush and Obama Administrations, as well as providing several historic benchmarks. The entire article is well-worth reading, but these points jumped out (apologies for excessive quotation):
'From 2008 to 2009, federal spending increased 18 percent. This was a budget year that straddled the Bush and Obama presidencies. But the spending increase was driven by anti-recession measures, predominately the Bush stimulus and bailouts. Obama supported these measures. In fact, his complaint about the Bush stimulus was that it was too small. This raises a question of political ontology: If Obama agreed with Bush, is it still just Bush's fault? ... Obama proposes that the federal government spend over 25 percent of GDP in 2011, compared to a historical average of around 20.5 percent. He justifies this as necessary to continue to fight the recession. Obama, however, projects that the recession will be fully over in 2011 and robust growth under way. Yet he proposes that federal spending continue to be nearly 24 percent of GDP through 2020. In other words, rather than wind down the additional recession spending after recovery, Obama is proposing that it simply become a new, higher base. After the World War II debt was reduced, accumulated federal debt never exceeded 50 percent of GDP until 2009, when it reached 53 percent. Under Obama's recommendations it would grow to 77 percent by 2020. If Obama were to recommend a path to return spending to its historical share of economic output, in 2020 the deficit would be just $255 billion, about what the federal government spends each year on large capital projects, and just 1 percent of GDP. In other words, not a problem. And federal spending would have still increased by more than 4 percent a year since 2008. Instead, Obama recommends a 2020 deficit of over $1 trillion and a troubling 4.2 percent of GDP.'
Scary stuff indeed. Unfortunately, the president seems to feel he only needs to 'explain' things a little more clearly for the public to get over its annoying habit of judging his fiscal policy based on these numbers.

Primary Results in Illinois and Florida

Lost in all the discussion over the Illinois primaries was the fact that Florida had a special primary for its 19th Congressional District yesterday. That cleared the way to elect a replacement for Rep. Wexler, who ostensibly retired to head up a think tank (the fact that he serially cheated on his wife, a la Edwards, and had no hope of re-election, of course had nothing to do with it). Despite the claims in this NPR story, the three GOP candidates have recently begun to rise in the polls against the potential Democratic challengers. Edward Lynch, who is well known among local GOP voters, won the Republican primary (Florida holds closed primaries), while Ted Deutch (a State Senator who also has high name recognition) won the Democratic primary. Florida's primary primary (it begged to be said) is August 24. At this point, Gov. Charlie Crist looks likely to lose the primary (to replace former Sen. Mel Martinez, who abruptly resigned last year) to State Representative Marco Rubio. Both men are polling well ahead of the main Democratic challenger, Kendrick Meek.

In Illinois, the most closely watched race was probably the primary for US Senate. Kirk won the Republican primary while Giannoulias won the Democratic primary. Kirk has an excellent reputation among state GOP voters, and in a state where just about every level of government is dominated by the Democratic party that has presided over multiple corruption scandals and failures, more conservative candidates have an excellent chance of picking off some key positions in November. The primary race to replace Blogo has yet to be called for either party.

The most recent RCP averages show polling trends generally swinging against the Democratic party, and in specific races, against the party establishment on both sides of the fence. I can't help but think this is healthy, both for the parties (which have become far too complacent and moribund) and for the country as a whole. It's going to be a fascinating election cycle to watch.

01 February 2010

On the Job Training

Remember when Biden and Hillary Clinton said variations on this phrase? '''I think he can be ready, but right now I don't believe he is. The presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training.'" How about this one by then-candidate Obama, '“What you see in FDR that I hope my team can emulate is not always getting it right but projecting a sense of confidence and a willingness to try things and experiment in order to get people working again.”'? The president has now switched tactics to 'try out' populism, hoping that it will work better than the cool, above-it-all persona. The president seems to fail to understand that above all, the average voter wants a president who is sincere, even genuine.

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