April 29, 2009

Barack "Bart Simpson" Obama on the Deficit: I Didn't Do It
— Ace

Even the AP thinks he's, how do I put this delicately, shitting all over us and telling us it's Belgian chocolate:

"That wasn't me," President Barack Obama said on his 100th day in office, disclaiming responsibility for the huge budget deficit waiting for him on Day One.

It actually was him - and the other Democrats controlling Congress the previous two years - who shaped a budget so out of balance.

And as a presidential candidate and president-elect, he backed the twilight Bush-era stimulus plan that made the deficit deeper, all before he took over and promoted spending plans that have made it much deeper still.

Obama met citizens at an Arnold, Mo., high school Wednesday in advance of his prime-time news conference. Both forums were a platform to review his progress at the 100-day mark and look ahead.

At various times, he brought an air of certainty to ambitions that are far from cast in stone.

His assertion that his proposed budget "will cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term" is an eyeball-roller among many economists, given the uncharted terrain of trillion-dollar deficits and economic calamity that the government is negotiating.

Note that wasn't from the news conference that just ended -- as far as I know, the lapdog media didn't ask him about it.

I did hear questions about how hard it is to be president, though.

Oh: This is interesting. OJ Simpson just emailed me to forward his offer to Obama to help him find "the real deficit-quadruplers."

Thanks to JackStraw.

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What on Earth is JPod Talking About?
— Ace

I like John Podhoertz. He's a Guiliani type of blue state conservative, by which I mean he often disagrees with social-cons but is usually not insulting or disrespectful about it, and, when he is on the orthodox conservative side of things, he's tenacious and with us all the way. (For disclosure: He's also friendly to me in our very sporadic email exchanges, though I've never met him.)

But I don't know what the hell he's talking about here. Or, to be more precise: I know exactly what he's talking about. I just have no idea how this applies to the Specter situation.

The Purity Brigade Strikes Again, and Strikes Out

JOHN PODHORETZ - 04.28.2009 - 6:00 PM

There has been, on the Right, a terrible confusion these past two decades–a confusion between the precepts of conservatism and the role of the Republican party. In all its iterations, American conservatism is about matters of conviction on all manner of subjects from the role of the United States in the world to the role of government in our lives to the role of moral questions in political life. The Republican party is not about these things. It is a political vehicle, and as such it represents not a worldview but a tendency. That tendency can be summed up very simply–smaller rather than larger government; a stronger rather than a weaker America; and traditional rather than evolutionary values.

The Republican party fared well from, say, 1968 to 2008 because, for the most part, Americans tended to side with the general sense that smaller rather than larger government was best; that it was better to project strength; and that it was better to hue to established ways. It is not clear that the American people still have this general sense, or they are more willing to try on a different outfit right now. What they did not sign up for, what they never signed up for, was specific ideological combat in these categories....

The defection of Arlen Specter from the GOP, following the effort by the Club of Growth to target him for defeat in the Republican primary, is an example of how confused conservative ideologues can get about the nature of the Republican party....

Politics is not about casting the easy vote for the person you admire. It’s really about choosing the least bad alternative. The foes of Specter in Pennsylvania thought their least bad alternative was challenging him in a primary he would lose. Now they will really discover what the least bad alternative might have been. And so will we all.

Podhoretz is making the basic point -- which I not only endorse, but enthusiastically so -- that conservatives need to be savvy about picking their fights and also picking their champions. It is far better to have an ideologically squishy Senator who votes with us 75% of the time, and more often on the big stuff, than an ideologically pure Senate candidate who nobly loses, while keeping all his conservative principles intact -- and entirely unused and therefore useless.

I agree.

But how on earth does that apply to Arlen Specter? We are not talking, Mr. Podhoretz, about a man who votes with us 75% of the time. I am guessing that number is sub-60, and I know, for a fact, that on the biggest issues, he votes against us.

The Spendulous was the final insult. Incidentally, for all of those who claim it's the crazy social-con monsters in the party who drive us towards these insanely self-destructive impulses of ideologically rigidity, note the social con monsters were very dissatisfied with Specter for years and years, and it's only when Specter crossed the fiscal conservatives -- the "good" conservatives, in the eyes of blue-state social moderates -- that he finally got booted by the party. (Well, the booting didn't happen yet, but all polls said it would.)

So the social cons complained, but it was the fiscal cons who finally decided to throw Specter to sharks.

At any rate.

Because I respect John Podhoretz, I'd like to ask him, genuinely and not rhetorically, to explain precisely how far a heretic may hereticize before the Church may honorably excommunicate him. And I hope Podhoretz addresses the full measure of Specter's betrayal -- had Specter not wished to arrogate personal, idiosyncratic power to himself to decide the Spendulus' side, he could have voted to sustain the filibuster, and thereby forced a compromise. Specter would have been a critical party to that negotiation -- he still would have had lots of power to shape it.

And yet he instead chose to vote for a bill which he himself admitted was bad. Why? I suspect he thought it would increase his political stature, and make him The Man -- instead of merely A Very Important Man -- in negotiations over it.

He didn't want to share power with six or seven other Republican Senators in negotiations, even though he'd have been first among equals in that process. Instead, he choose to strike his own deal -- and cut out very savvy and smart Republicans out of the process, just so he could play Siegfried at Ragnarok, with Snowe and Collins as his Valkyries of the Tax and Spend Liberal Valhalla.

He cut Thune out of the process, for example. A very capable and savvy guy, and one who could have gotten us a much better deal. Not to mention Coburn or Sessions.

This is not a small breach, John. This is a rather large one. Specter's defense of his decision was that it was "the best deal we could get," but he didn't exactly afford us the opportunity to test that claim and see if we could get a better deal, now did he?

And note that senators you would normally consider sensible, flexible, and moderate -- McCain and Graham, to name two -- were horrified by Specter's deal. Angered, even.

When a Republican is so bipartisan liberal he manages to provoke Graham and McCain into physical anger, well, that's not small-beer, now is it?

The impulse is to blame the Club for Growth and Pat Toomey. And yet, they are not the drivers of Republican anger at Specter. They are merely tapping into it.

Specter knew damn well that this was the Rubicon. For weeks the phone banks and internet melted down over this vote. He crossed the Rubicon anyway, defiantly.

And we were to... what? Reward him further for this? After the party squashed Toomey and poured money into Specter's coffers in 2004?

I am also perplexed by Podhoretz's suggestion that the party has gone too far to the right. Has it? Let's review. Podhoretz mentions the Terri Schiavo case and Iraq War as being conservative over-steps. But he fails to note how the party, as a whole, has been every bit as ideologically flexible on a host of other critical issues as he seems to urge:

First, let’s deal with the canard that the GOP has moved “far to the right”. When exactly did that happen? When a Republican-controlled Congress, yoked to a Republican White House, grew federal spending by 50% in six years? Would that be the GOP that created a new entitlement program for prescription medication? The same Republicans that expanded spending above inflation on discretionary areas like education (58%), health research and regulation (55%), community and regional development (94%) and on entitlement programs like Medicare (51%)?

That's quite a bit of "moderate" flexibility, Mr. Podhoretz. Too much, if you ask me -- and despite my firebreathing tone, on actual issues, I'm often kind of a squish.

I'm really not sure at what Podhoretz means here. Does he actually urge the party to tack even further in the direction of a socialistic European welfare state? Haven't we done quite a bit of that already over the past eight years? How much more is necessary?

And does he really imagine that going further to the left economically will turn out to be successful, in the middle- to long- term, for Obama? If he really believes this, he doesn't seem to be much of a fiscal conservative, as he's implicitly predicting that more-socialistic policies will lead to success. If that's the case, why fight such policies at all? Why not wholeheartedly embrace them?

I don't think Podhoretz believes that -- but perhaps I'm wrong.

I think maybe this is just a lazy sort of piece (no offense intended -- I write lots of lazy pieces myself; lazy pieces are the stock in trade of those who write every single day) in which he found himself expressing general bromides which don't quite apply to a specific situation.

For those who call upon the party to "be more moderate," as a general impulse, I really wish they'd be more specific about what they mean. Are they speaking of cap-and-tax? EFCA? Raising taxes? Further raising ruinous spending levels? What, exactly?

I know that many moderate blue-state Republicans want us to abandon the life position and traditional marriage. But surely they know the numbers -- the life position is not terribly unpopular (55-45 against, or thereabouts) and further the life position mints more votes than the choice position. (That would change if general access to abortion were actually restricted, but that's not likely to happen... well, ever, it looks like.) And the conservative position on gay marriage is something like a 55-45 winner. And probably also mints more votes than it loses.

So really, fellas -- what the hell are you talking about, specifically? Are you really suggesting the party spend oodles of money to keep Specter in office, despite the fact that his voting record puts him comfortably in the center-left Democratic mainstream?

I agree that the perfect is the enemy of the good. I say it all the time. But while I will personally argue in favor of the obtainable good over the unobtainable perfect every damn time the question is posed to me, what I won't fight for is the bad over either.

And Specter was bad. The perfect is the enemy of the good, but the bad is the enemy of both, and I, for one, am not going to fight for a bad Senator.

What, exactly, have we lost? A vote we couldn't count on -- and which went against us close to half the time -- and the privilege of spending time and political capital to keep that vote safely ensconced in the Senate.

I'm not looking for a general purge. But this one? Oh yes. Oh very yes.


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Nancy Pelosi on 60 Votes: "Now We Can Get Things Done Without Explaining Process"
— Ace

I think she means "explaining anything to the American people at all," but that's my own personal take-away.

Very exciting, very exciting for the American people, because now we can get things done without explaining process," Pelosi told CNN's Candy Crowley.

Compromisin' and bipartisanship are hard.

What sorts of things will Granny Rictus McBotoxImplants get done without having to explain herself? Well, I fear cap-and-trade is very much back on the table. And worse than ever.

Dick Morris thinks Obama's already planted the seeds of his own demise. But seeds take time to grow.

So if voters differ so fundamentally with the president on the very essence of his program, why do they accord him high ratings? They are like the recently married bride who took her vows 100 days ago. It would be a disaster for her life if she decides that she really doesn’t like her husband. But she keeps noticing things about him that she can’t stand. It will be a while before she walks out the door or even comes to terms with her own doubts, but it is probably inevitable that she will.

For Americans to conclude that they disapprove of their president in the midst of an earth-shaking crisis is very difficult. But as Obama’s daily line moves from “I inherited this mess” to “There are faint signs of light,” the clock starts ticking. If there is no recovery for the next six months — and I don’t think there will be — Obama will inevitably become part of the problem, not part of the solution.

And then will come his heavy lifting. He has yet to raise taxes, regiment healthcare or provide amnesty for illegal immigrants. He hasn’t closed down the car companies he now runs and he has not yet forced a 50 percent hike in utility bills with his cap-and-trade legislation. These are all the goodies he has in store for us all.

Obama’s very activism these days arrogates to himself the blame for the success or failure of his policies. Their outcome will determine his outcome, and there is no way it will be positive.

...

So Mr. Obama should enjoy his poll numbers while he may.

We are in for a bad two years -- at least. We can hope that the public will finally react badly to these ruinous liberal insanities, but that's about the limits of our political clout at the moment.

And bear in mind: Even if we take back Congress, we can't just overturn these poisonous laws. The Democrats will have the power of filibuster -- and can stop us from overturning laws with only 40 Senate votes.

The Democrats may or may not be in the process of slitting their own throats. If they are, they're like suicide bombers, and will be taking a lot of Americans with them on their way to political heaven.

And in the near-term: Only 23% self-identify as Republicans, a Pew poll says.

In more than 7,000 interviews conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2009, just 23 percent of voters self-identify as members of the Grand Old Party. That's down from 30 percent as recently as 2004, and the trend shows no signs of slowing.

In the first four months of the year, Pew researchers found the number of self-identified Republicans dropping from 25 percent in January to just 22 percent in April.

The good news is that our losses are largely going to the "independent" category, which I assume means they still lean conservative, but are dissatisfied with the party due to a variety of factors -- too conservative, not conservative enough, incompetent and corrupt. Take your pick.

A total of 35 percent of voters call themselves Democrats, up just two points from 2004. In the past four months, Democratic identification has actually dropped four points, to 33 percent, while those who call themselves independents has risen to 39 percent.

That could explain Rasussen's finding that the GOP actually leads on the congressional generic ballot 41-38, leading for only the second time in five years. More people tend to embrace the Republican/conservative idea of governance than are willing to embrace the actual Republican Party.

Obama's judicial picks are going to be woeful. He won't even have to appoint stealth-liberals who've taken some pains to obscure their strong ideological tendencies. He can just appoint out-and-proud liberals -- even left-liberals -- and the GOP can't say boo about it.

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It Gets Better: Scare Force One Photo-Op Had Also Been Planned Next Month... for DC
— Ace

Michelle Malkin mentions this, which I hadn't read, in summing up NOTUS' first 100 days of ruinous spending. (On everything except the military, of course.)

So, is it any wonder he would staff his White House Military Office with a clueless paper-pusher who saw nothing wrong with spending inordinate government resources – and recreating 9/11 havoc — to update Air Force One publicity shots? And who planned, believe it or not, to do the same in Washington, D.C., next month, where 53 passengers and 6 crew members on board American Airlines Flight 77, and 125 military and civilian personnel inside the Pentagon were murdered by the 9/11 jihadists?
All for some damned publicity shots.

Bammy's press conference is tonight, right? I'd like to hear a question about who exactly was riding on Scare Force One -- who got those wonderful near-intercept views of NYC skyscrapers; why waste a $330,000 air adventure without stocking it full of campaign donors? -- but I doubt I will.

"Priceless:" "For everything else, there's government."

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Michael Sheuer: Bammy's Narcissism and Naivete Are Going to Get People Killed
— Ace

All worth reading. I'll just quote a few choice paragraphs.

Americans should be clear on what Obama has done. In a breathtaking display of self-righteousness and intellectual arrogance, the president told Americans that his personal beliefs are more important than protecting their country, their homes and their families. The interrogation techniques in question, the president asserted, are a sign that Americans have lost their "moral compass," a compliment similar to Attorney General Eric Holder's identifying them as "moral cowards." Mulling Obama's claim, one can wonder what could be more moral for a president than doing all that is needed to defend America and its citizens? Or, asked another way, is it moral for the president of the United States to abandon intelligence tools that have saved the lives and property of Americans and their allies in favor of his own ideological beliefs?

...

Americans and their country's security will be the losers. The Republicans do not have the votes to stop Obama, and the world will not be safer for America because the president abandons interrogations to please his party's left wing and the European pacifists it so admires. Both are incorrigibly anti-American, oppose the use of force in America's defense and -- like Obama -- naively believe that the West's Islamist foes can be sweet-talked into a future alive with the sound of kumbaya.

So if the above worst-case scenario ever comes to pass, Americans will have at least two things from which to take solace, even after the loss of major cities and tens of thousands of countrymen. First, they will know that their president believes that those losses are a small price to pay for stopping interrogations and making foreign peoples like us more. And second, they will see Osama bin Laden's shy smile turn into a calm and beautiful God-is-Great grin.

A point that never gets mentioned: Liberals try to reassure Americans that in a ticking-time-bomb scenario, of course they'd do the rough stuff required.

Um, how? Given that liberals are branding all of this unconstitutional, unamerican, and wholly illegal, how do they carve a special ticking-time-bomb exception? An illegal act does not become legal just because you really need to do it. A theft is not blessed as legal simply because the thief really needed the money.

So what exactly is the legal theory that makes Ticking Timebomb Torture a special legal version of torture? Where are the legal memos to support this? Would anyone compose such a legal memo now, knowing he risks prosecution and jailtime for the crime of writing an opinion?

And if there is some strange theory to support such a "when you really have to break the law" exception, one wonders why it does not apply, say, in the months following September 11, 2001, when Al Qaeda had follow-up attacks planned.


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Now It Can Be Told: Tom Friedman Says Bush Did Good
— DrewM

Except he doesn't mention Bush (other than as a possible war crimes defendant) and praises Obama for making the tough and wise calls.

Why wasn't there another attack on the US after 9/11? Because we did what it took to get good intel and wait for it...invaded Iraq (safe link to Commentary)

I believe that the most important reason there has not been another 9/11, besides the improved security and intelligence, is that Al Qaeda is primarily focused on defeating America in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world — particularly in Iraq. Al Qaeda knows that if it can destroy the U.S. effort (still a long shot) to build a decent, modernizing society in Iraq, it will undermine every U.S. ally in the region.

Conversely, if we, with Iraqis, defeat them by building any kind of decent, pluralistic society in the heart of their world, it will be a devastating blow.

Apparently somebody decided to do these things. Friedman doesn't seem to be quite sure who lead the effort to do all of that but he's pretty happy that they were done.

This lack of acknowledgment for what Bush did post 9/11, even after Bush is gone and Obama is safely in the White House is intellectually dishonest and childish. Friedman can't bring himself to say, "Of course we shouldn't prosecute Bush, he did his job for God's sake". No, liberal orthodoxy forces him to tiptoe around it and somehow find a way to praise Obama in the process because His 'contribution' must be equal or greater than He Who Shall Not Be Named.

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Buckley Stays the Course
— Slublog

Last October, Christopher Buckley famously endorsed Barack Obama for president based on his 'centrist' campaign. Given Obama's lurch to the left since taking office, one would think that Buckley and the other conservative Obama-endorsers would reconsider.

One would be wrong
.

It’s funny: When you endorse (to use a too-fancy term in my case) a presidential candidate, as I did Barack Obama in this space last October, he sort of becomes your responsibility. Back to that in a moment.
Well, 'responsibility' is kind of a strong word. I think the previous endorsement provides those moderates who endorsed him with a great opportunity. These are the people who could say 'Hey, this guy is a pure liberal and not the centrist he campaigned as.'

Needless to say, Buckley is not that person.

Meanwhile, I am delighted, overall, with our president’s first 100 days. I think he has struck a fine tone overseas (trans: the U.S. is less detested than it has been in recent years). He has exhibited the “first-class temperament” that persuaded me he was the man for the job. He is, as I called him last October, “one cool cat.” (The only time he seems to have gotten “furious” was yesterday, over that idiotic Air Force One photo-op-from-hell over Manhattan.)
Every guy knows this line: 'What does she look like? Well...she's got a great personality!" Buckley is clearly desperate to find something to justify his endorsement, and fails.

Unless, of course, he truly believes apologizing to everyone for America's 'sins' constitutes a 'fine tone.' Or perhaps Buckley is thinking of this little embarrassment.

Buckley's praise of Obama's 'first class temperament' (translation: Harvard, baby!) is even more absurd. Obama may be one 'cool cat,' but where some see 'cool,' others might see...oh...a raving narcissist who has little regard for the status of his office when he does things that irritate our oldest ally. Twice. The U.S. may be less detested in some parts of the world, but London doesn't seem all that happy at the moment. Personally, I don't find people who say things like "I won" to settle a political debate or threaten bankers to have a 'first-class temperament.' That's not coolness, Buckley, that's indifference.

Let's be fair, though, Buckley does have his disagreements with The One.

On the minus side, I think his waffling over prosecuting Bush Justice Department officials for approving the enhanced interrogation methods (trans: “torture”) is detrimental and even dangerous. I thought Mr. Obama was initially on the right track with his “let’s move forward” approach (I applaud him, for among other things, retreating on renegotiating NAFTA) and hope that Attorney General Eric Holder, who did exactly the right thing in castigating the Ted Stevens prosecutors, will decide in the end against proceeding against the Bush-era officials.

Mr. Obama’s spending worries me greatly. If every president who comes into office doubles the national debt, then we are finished. We are burying future generations (trans: our children) under crushing debt.

So basically, Buckley disagrees with many of Obama's actual policies, but can't quite bring himself to admit he was wrong about the endorsement so he clings to his misguided praise of the president's personality.

Well, can we really blame the guy? I suppose intellectual honesty is a small price to pay when you're looking for praise from all of the 'right people.'

(h/t: Hot Air)

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Lawfare Fails Again
— Gabriel Malor

The folly of pretending the War on Terror is a law enforcement problem was illustrated again yesterday, first in the UK and then here in California.

First, The three 7/7 conspirators, on retrial for aiding in the bombing attacks on London's metro and bus system, were acquitted of the terrorism charges. Their first jury last year couldn't come to a verdict. Neither jury was allowed to see much of the evidence that connected the men to the 7/7 bombers because wiretaps conducted by intelligence agencies are not admissible in UK courts.

I've said it before: evidence collection and intelligence gathering are not the same thing. They have different purposes and different legal consequences.

Second, the Ninth Circuit ruled that the state secrets privilege, which had been asserted by both Presidents Bush and Obama, could not shield a Boeing subsidiary from litigation. The subsidiary, Jeppesen Dataplan Inc., was sued by five men who allege that they were kidnapped and tortured as part of the extraordinary rendition program. The U.S. government intervened in the suit and asked that it be dismissed since details of Jeppesen's participation--mainly filing flight plans--would compromise national security.

The Ninth Circuit refused to allow the dismissal, holding that state secrets privilege must be asserted on an "item-by-item basis" to discovery requests by the parties.

This is, as usual for the Ninth, a seriously retarded ruling. Consider: so the case is back in district court and the five guys make discovery requests. The U.S. government now has to intervene each time it finds a request objectionable. Then, it will have to file an interlocutory appeal each and every time the district court rules against it (assuming it really wants to assert the privilege). The government cannot wait for the end of the trial to appeal adverse state secrets decisions. By then the secret won't be.

So the Ninth has created a situation where this litigation can conceivably bounce back and forth to the appellate courts indefinitely as the parties seek discovery and the U.S. government continues to assert state secrets privilege. This assumes that Obama stays the course on state secrets (maybe not a great assumption).

In the Ninth Circuit's defense, this area of law isn't very well developed. On the other hand, that should have given them plenty of room to fashion a workable solution. Instead, they ignored the practical result of their decision. A copy of the opinion is available here (PDF).

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Top Headline Comments 04-29-09
— Gabriel Malor

Go here, then laugh your way to work.

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"Patient Zero" in the Swine Flu Epidemic Identified" (genghis)
— Open Blog

The really sad part is that it's a 5-year old kid.

"LA GLORIA, Mexico (CNN) -- Tucked away in this small mountain village, off a dusty road flanked by pig farms, is where the earliest case of swine flu -- a virus spreading globally -- was confirmed."

"Meet the child known as "patient zero" by his doctors -- 5-year-old Edgar Hernandez, who survived the earliest documented case of swine flu in an outbreak that, officials say, has now spread across four continents."

"His family lives in the 3,000-population village of La Gloria in the state of Veracruz, where a flu outbreak was reported on April 2. State officials arrived and took samples from dozens of people."

The poor kid is going to have to undeservedly carry around this burden for years, and perhaps the rest of his life as people blame him for the deaths of their family members or friends. Many will lash out at him irrationally (though I hope I'm wrong) when they should instead be asking their so-called leaders why Mexico seems to be such a fucked-up basket case of graft, corruption and drug warlords among other things.

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April 28, 2009

Overnight Open Thread (genghis)
— Open Blog

Your grab-bag of non-topic topics (or whatever else is on your addled minds):

Item #1: Amsterdam city officials have started putting up signs alerting park-goers when they’re about to enter areas well-known to be frequented by gays cruising for sex and having a bit of the old “in/out in/out” on the spot. (the article is originally from AFP, but the one linked here is to Australian Broadcasting Corporation.)

”A park near Amsterdam has unveiled information signs pointing out spots where officials say gay men are known to have sex, so visitors are not taken by surprise. The signs "clearly indicate what is happening in each zone; also those where gay men are known to practice 'cruising'," municipal spokeswoman Manon Koffijberg said.”

More from the municipal spokeswoman:
”The sexual activities of cruisers, she said, kept mostly to the bushes in the park, and the new signs sought to ensure that they stayed there.”

"Things are arranged so that each group can relax in their own area without intruding on each other."


Sounds a lot like fascism to me; leafy concentration camps and ghettos, I’d say. Separate zones indeed. (oh, and we learn a new Dutch word in the article: “gedoog.” Be sure to impress your friends by using it often.)

Item #2: Meanwhile, in Seattle, the former head of UN gang to plead guilty. I immediately started doing the “Snoopy Dance” over this fabulous news. It’s about time they took this man and the rest of his criminal gang out of circulation and let 'em cool their heels at the Graybar Hotel for a few years.. Maybe they can condemn and demolish that international crack house they worked out of in Manhattan. Er…or maybe not. (article is from The Seattle Times.)

Item #3: Finally, CNN has an article about a couple of astronomers in Colorado who’ve created a virtual description of what you might encounter if you were sucked into a black hole. (the scientists aren’t actually astronomers, but rather an astrophysict and a physicist, but why quibble.)

”Dare to fall into a black hole and you would get vaporized in what is probably the most violent place in the universe. But the journey would yield some amazing sights, though you might need three eyes for the best view of what's going on, new research suggests.”

“Hamilton and Gavin Polhemus, a physics teacher in Fort Collins, Colorado, set out to visualize what an "infaller" might see if he or she were swallowed by the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. The results are described in a recent paper and shown in a simulation that took more than 100,000 lines of computer code to create.”


What they describe in their paper and animated simulation is pretty trippy. The vid is pretty short and embedded in the main article but here’s a direct link to it anyway. The scientists are also attempting to prove or disprove the commonly held theory that the last thing you might hear before spiraling in for good is "Me sucky-sucky. Me love you long time." So far research on that has been inconclusive.

Tonight’s overnight thread is sponsored by: the Tarsier.

”My, what big, disturbing eyes you have. Now quit staring at me dammit!”

more...

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Obama, the Squanderer in Chief
— Gabriel Malor

The president was skewered by Republican columnist Jamie Kirchick in today's L.A. Times. It has all the right people squealing and it's definitely worth a read:

At a stop on his grand global apology tour this spring, President Obama was asked by a reporter in France if he believed in "American exceptionalism." This is the notion that our history as the world's oldest democracy, our immigrant founding and our devotion to liberty endow the United States with a unique, providential role in world affairs.

Rather than endorse the proposition -- as every president in recent memory has done one way or another -- Obama offered a strange response: "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."

This is impossible. If all countries are "exceptional," then none are, and to claim otherwise robs the word, and the idea of American exceptionalism, of any meaning. Besides, American exceptionalism is demonstrable -- Cuban journalists, Chinese political dissidents, Eastern Europeans once again living in the shadow of a belligerent Russia and, yes, even some Brits and Greeks look toward the U.S. and nowhere else to defend freedom.

It gets better from there; click over and read the whole thing.

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And They Chose an Insurance Commissioner, To Lead Them
— Dave in Texas

Sebelius confirmed for HHS.

"It is essential for the health of the nation that President Obama has in place, and the nation has in place, a strong secretary of HHS to make sure our federal efforts on this potential pandemic are able to coordinate," said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.).

I feel better already.

Interesting to see the NYT reinforce a point I offered in the comments a day or so ago, that federal funding for influenza preparedness didn't start with Obama's budget proposal, even though the piece is fluffed with how precisely the Obama administration is handling this just so, not like Bush screwed up Katrina, not overreacting, not underreacting, no, it's PERFECT.

Other public health experts also endorsed the administration’s response to the outbreak that emerged from Mexico. They gave much of the credit to President Bush, whose administration did extensive planning for such an emergency.

“We’re seeing a payoff of the original investment made in pandemic preparedness by the Bush administration,” said Jeffrey W. Levi, executive director of Trust for America’s Health. The term pandemic refers to a widespread outbreak of an infectious disease.

But he's a just lucky stupid cowboy, who got rattled by SARS and bird flu, and also hates black people.

From now on, the bug stops over there wherever the buck stops.

Posted by: Dave in Texas at 01:25 PM | Comments (117)
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The UAW Is About To Become One Of The Biggest Automakers
— DrewM

This is really getting strange.

Under a debt restructuring plan, the UAW is going to become a 55% stakeholder in Chrysler.

The United Auto Workers union’s retiree health-care fund will own 55 percent of Chrysler LLC in exchange for cutting in half the automaker’s $10.6 billion cash obligation to the trust, people familiar with the matter said.

...Instead of contributing $8.8 billion to a retiree health- care trust, Chrysler will give the union trust shares of the company and a promissory note for $4.59 billion that will be paid in installments with 9 percent interest until 2023, one of the people said. This reduces the up-front cash Chrysler would have had to pay under its 2007 contract agreement with the Detroit-based union.

The union’s equity in Chrysler is valued at $4.2 billion. If it can sell the shares for more, the Treasury would get the difference, one of the people said.

Yesterday GM announced a preliminary restructuring plan that would be similar in that instead of paying into a health care fund would result in the union owning 39% of the company, while the federal government owned 50%. The remaining stock would be owned by bondholders who get the short end of the stick.

There used to be a joke that the organizations formally known as the Big 3 were health insurance companies that made cars on the side. Now it's the truth.

It's amazing that the people who created this mess are going to wind up owning the companies they screwed (Yes, management helped. A lot.).

On the upside, it will be fun to watch the UAW negotiate with itself.

More: "Joshin" in the comments asks a great question...

So does this mean that Ford is going to have to negotiate with their competitors?

The one company that is financing itself is now competing with its workforce and their business partner, which just happens to be the US government. It's a brave new world boys and girls.

Posted by: DrewM at 12:05 PM | Comments (236)
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Memo: Feds Knew Air Force Dumb Might Cause Panic; Ordered It Kept Secret Anyway, Threatening "Sanctions" Against Any Who Leaked it to Cops or FBI
— Ace

"To say that it should not be made public knowing that it might scare people it's just confounding," Sen. Charles Schumer said. "It's what gives Washington and government a bad name. It's sheer stupidity."

Posted by: Ace at 11:26 AM | Comments (124)
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Furious Bammy Orders Investigation Into His Own Gross Incomptence Re: NYC Flyby
— Ace

He's demanding answers. Of himself, I guess.


Photoshop: The terrifying thrill-ride of the season: Barack Obama starring in Air Force One.

Who Was on the Plane? On Drudge:

Reporters want the manifest… Who was on the plane?

Speculation is that campaign donors were on the flight, enjoying the tour.


Posted by: Ace at 10:04 AM | Comments (230)
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Scott Rasmussen: Future of GOP Lies Beyond the Beltway
— Ace

I hope so.

To be relevant in politics, you need either formal power or a lot of people willing to follow your lead. The governing Republicans in the nation's capital have lost both on their continuing path to irrelevance.

The disconnect between D.C. Republicans and Republicans throughout the country has been growing for nearly 20 years, but it became more intense and noticeable during the waning years of the Bush administration.

Perhaps the final straw was the $700 billion bank bailout plan pushed through Congress last fall despite strong voter opposition. For all the furor unleashed this spring by congressional Republicans about President Obama's $787 billion stimulus plan, the Bush-era bailouts last fall were approved with virtually no advance notice and no guidelines as to how the money would be spent. Looking back, most voters and nearly eight-out-of-10 Republicans now believe the bailouts were a bad idea .

...

The gap between Beltway Republicans and the Republican base is part of a wider gap between the Mainstream and the Political Class. On many issues, the gap between Mainstream Americans and the Political Class is bigger than the gap between Mainstream Republicans and Mainstream Democrats.

But Political Class Democrats control Congress and the White House while their GOP counterparts have little in the way of power and influence to overcome the disconnect with their base. One immediate result of this is that senior senators like Arlen Specter and John McCain now are facing primary challenges. Other challenges may follow. It used to be possible for Republicans in Washington to argue that they needed someone like Specter or McCain to hang on to the majority but no longer.

Look for the Republican Party to sink further into irrelevancy as long as its key players insist on hanging around Congress or K Street for their ideas. The future for the GOP is beyond the Beltway.

But if that's true, we're looking at a 20 year cycle of minorty-party rebuilding. Who knows what America might look like after we've had our time in the wilderness.


Posted by: Ace at 09:53 AM | Comments (97)
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"Many Hundreds" Of NYC School Kids May Have Swine Flu
— DrewM

It's still not panic time but this isn't over.

"Many hundreds" of schoolchildren are sick with suspected cases of swine flu, City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden also said Tuesday.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says two people are hospitalized with suspected swine flu.

...The public school -- a few blocks from a Roman Catholic high school where a swine flu outbreak began last week -- remained open as Health Department workers carried in boxes of supplies used for nose and throat tests. They did not respond to journalists' questions.

Meanwhile, 2 deaths in LA may be swine flu related.

UPDATE: Napolitano is giving a briefing, stand by for details. Important take away...you can't get Swine Flu from pork products. You may eat bacon. Thank God for small favors.

The Ag Secretary wants to change the name from Swine Flu to H1N1. I get the point in trying to protect exports but um, really?

Napolitano made a good point...there are 35,000/flu season. This isn't a regular in season illness but it's useful context.

Posted by: DrewM at 09:19 AM | Comments (102)
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David Frum: See, I Told You So
— Ace

DrewM. snarked that Frum had emailed to say "the heart of true conservatism is now dead." (Snark, guys.)

But his snark was prescient, because Frum does kinda-sorta say that. A little.

f the Democrats do succeed in pushing through national health insurance, they really should set aside a little extra money to erect a statue to Pat Toomey. They couldn’t have done it without him!

Pat Toomey is of course the former president of the Club for Growth who planned to challenge Arlen Specter in the 2010 Pennsylvania Republican primary. Polls showed Toomey well ahead – not because he is so hugely popular in the state, but because the Pennsylvania GOP has shriveled to a small, ideologically intense core. Toomey now looks likely to gain the nomination he has sought – and then to be crushed by Specter or some other Democrat next November.

The Specter defection is too severe a catastrophe to qualify as a “wake-up call.” His defection is the thing we needed the wake-up call to warn us against! For a long time, the loudest and most powerful voices in the conservative world have told us that people like Specter aren’t real Republicans – that they don’t belong in the party. Now he’s gone, and with him the last Republican leverage within any of the elected branches of government.

For years, many in the conservative world have wished for an ideologically purer GOP. Their wish has been granted. Happy?

Ah. Toomey is the bad guy, and Club for Growth too, for, you know, challenging a politician who didn't represent their views.

Frum's position is odd. I don't claim to know exactly what he thinks -- I really don't care, to be honest -- but I know that many of these Obamacans and "moderates" claim the following: We must jettison our angry, ugly social-con monsters in order to focus on what really matters, which is sound economic policy.

But Arlen Specter wasn't merely a social liberal -- he also turned out to be an economic liberal, too. He was indispensable in getting Obama's Spendulus passed. And note that the choice here was not binary, as on immigration, up or down. Almost every Republican wanted a stimulus too, but a "targeted" and "temporary" one, one that didn't grow the federal government years and decades down the road.

If Arlen Specter had voted with Republicans to continue debate, Obama and Nancy Pelosi would have been forced back to the negotiating table to bargain for a more sensible and affordable (and fiscally responsible) stimulus. Which, in turn, would have passed.

Instead Specter cast his vote for full-fledged tax-and-spend budget-busting liberalism. Actually I don't know if liberalism is the right word -- we've seen liberalism in the past, and it's never looked so ruinously irresponsible before. This is some sort of mutated, insane liberalism -- like the Reavers in Firefly. Liberals went all the way to the edge of the 'Verse and went crazy staring into the void.

And now Frum castigates conservatives for daring to challenge Arlen Specter, demanding that a "place of honor" be carved out for such people.

Well, see if you can follow me on this, Davey: If he a social liberal, and he's also a fiscal liberal, and if he opposes conservative judges too, I'm sorry, why are we doing the Democrats' job for them by electing a liberal Democrat as Senator? Shouldn't they carry that burden themselves?

Frum is big on labels. To him it doesn't matter how liberal a senator might be, so long as he is nominally a Republican.

JackM wrote this in an email:

If the GOP had any balls, they would tell everyone else who straddles the line (I'm looking at you Maine gals) to play ball or leave. The
votes don't matter now, so it's a good time to clean house.

It will be interesting to see how the Dems treat Specter in terms of honoring his seniority. He may end up as a committee chairman as part of this deal, either now or in 2010, and bump other Dems in good standing out of the way.

I think that's about right. The thing we feared -- and the thing we'd hoped to avoid by following Frumian logic -- has now come to pass. There may have been good arguments for purity vs. pragmatism before, but it seems that decision has been made for us. Purity it is.

Voters have a lot of brand-confusion about what Republicans (and conservatives) stand for. As our product isn't selling right now, perhaps it's time to clear that confusion up and re-enter the market with a strong brand identity.

Oh... Olympia Snowe and Lindsey Graham also bash conservatives and the Club for Growth for driving out poor dear Arlen Specter.

Links swiped from Hot Air.


Posted by: Ace at 09:07 AM | Comments (157)
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Gallup Headline: Slim Majority Want Bush-Era Interrogations Investigated
Not the Gallup Headline: Larger Majority Feel Such Interrogations Were Justified

— Ace

That's not the Gallup headline, but it could have been -- and should have been.

Also not making the cut for the headline: Among those who are following the story closely, 58% oppose investigations, and 61% feel the interrogations were justified. In other words, the more you actually know, the more favorably you view Bush's policies.

Posted by: Ace at 08:42 AM | Comments (32)
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