Sunday, November 30, 2008
Let's Continue To Laugh As Deer Gets "Pissed Off" And Beats Up Hunter. Hilarious. Watch It Unfold Before Your Eyes.
For A Break, Let's Laugh Away At T. Boone Pickens' Expense.
Get Ready: Your TV Will Convert From Analog To Digital On February 15TH, 2009. Watch Video Below.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Anyone Know Why Gas Prices Went Up Twenty Cents In One Day Yesterday? I Don't Think The Massacre In Mumbai Had Anything To Do With It, Or Did It?
Labels: Inquiring minds want to know
Friday, November 28, 2008
The devil Was Out Today, Idolatory, Greed And Inhumane Behavior In FULL Display As One Of Us (The Only One We Know Of) Loses His Life In The MADNESS.
We Owe Ann Obama Our Collective Thanks.
By Emma McElvaney Talbott
If it's true that hope springs eternal, then hope is certainly found in the essence of each new child that enters the world. This may be a grandiose thought and the kind of thought that is far from the minds of most new parents who find themselves responsible for the development and well-being of their offspring.
Our children are able to evoke a wide range of emotions, from frustration to anger to pure joy. Yet it's quite amazing how those toothless smiles, unconditional love, hugs and kisses are able to cushion the fatigue that comes with soiled diapers, middle-of-the-night feedings, unexpected fevers, temper tantrums and lost homework.
Though these little creatures can wear us down at times, they are necessary because they contain both the mystery and direction of the future, which means wise parents must take their responsibilities seriously. Parents must be willing to carry the hope for the future of their offspring until the children reach maturity and grab the baton of hope for themselves.
Fortunately, we can only speculate about the future. Will they live ordinary lives as most of us do, or will they go on to fame and fortune? Who among them will make scientific discoveries, become artists, write the love songs for their generation and become municipal, state or world-class leaders? And sadly, the dark thought that some darling babies today will fill our prisons tomorrow is unsettling. In whatever direction our children go, we have a daunting responsibility to help them move in positive directions.
One bright example of a mother's determination to lay a solid foundation for her son is found in Ann Obama. Her thoughts and emotions became actions that put her son on the right course. When she tutored her sleepy, grumbling son in the early hours of Hawaiian mornings, she did so with intent and purpose. A struggling single mother knew that the burden of directing her son rested squarely in her lap, and she did not shrink from doing what needed to be done. She began the arduous process of preparing her African-American son for whatever the future would allow, even though she did not live to see the leaps and bounds he would make.
Parents of African-American children always knew that their sons and daughters might reach some level of distinction in America, but the presidency was off limits. It was off limits when the March on Washington took place in August 1963 and Barack Obama was a mere toddler, but the passage of time became a determining factor in his ability to launch a vigorous campaign and see it through. If Ann Obama had placed limits on her son's dreams, he would have been programmed to settle for less. Instead, she began a process of meticulous preparation for whatever the future would send his way.
She and her own mother invested in the future of their son and grandson, and that investment cultivated a man of superior intellect, calm reserve, many gifts and leadership capabilities. In time, the nation came to know what this mother/grandmother duo understood years earlier. And the most telling part of this journey is that they refused to allow others to define Ann Obama's son. Instead, they imbued in him the confidence and true spirit of self-determination.
Time has brought about a change as we watched the evolution of the American mind and the willingness of people to reach deep within their souls and choose a leader with great potential. Our willingness to embrace a multicultural society enabled "we the people" to speak with a clear and resounding voice. We have chosen to place the honor and burden of the presidency on the broad shoulders of President-elect Barack Obama, and the fact that he is young, gifted and sure of his capabilities to lead a nation in distress only adds sweetness to this victory.
The hard work, determination, hope and belief of Obama's mother and grandmother eventually translated into hope for a nation. And as we move forward, let us remember that true patriotism goes beyond love of party and selfish interests to what is best for the nation. This is what will allow all reasonable people to turn away from fear, sour grapes and media rabble-rousers and join together in a spirit of unity.
To every teacher from pre-school to the university, always believe in the least of your students. And to every parent who faces the daily challenges and frustrations of raising children, take heart in the knowledge that you may be raising a child who will make wonderful contributions to the community and nation. You may even be raising the next president of the United States of America. Yes you can.
Emma McElvaney Talbott is a writer and educator who lives in Louisville. She is one of The Courier-Journal's Point Taken bloggers.
Labels: POTUS Barack Obama
Doris Kearns Goodwin Discusses Lincoln, Obama — And Their 'Rivals'.
Doris Kearns Goodwin discusses Lincoln, Obama — and their 'rivals'
By Margaret Talev
WASHINGTON — Thousands of Americans have bought Doris Kearns Goodwin's 2005 book, "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln," after hearing that it shaped President-elect Barack Obama's thinking.
"Rivals," which examines how Lincoln put three of his opponents in the 1860 election in his Cabinet, was No. 14 on Amazon.com's bestseller list the Friday before Thanksgiving, no small feat for three-year-old nonfiction. (Obama's "Audacity of Hope" and "Dreams From My Father" were No. 10 and 11 on that list, respectively.)
Goodwin spoke by phone with McClatchy recently about her take on Obama and the lessons Lincoln offers him:
Q. Barack Obama called you after reading "Team of Rivals" and you met. What did he ask you, and what did you tell him?
A. It was early in the primary process. He hadn't won any of the primaries yet. My husband (Richard Goodwin, an adviser to presidents Kennedy and Johnson) and I went down and visited him in his Senate office. It was very relaxed and fun. That was the first time I'd met him.
He just called me on my cell and said, "This is Barack Obama," and told me he'd read the book and how much he admired Lincoln and how much he thought he could learn from Lincoln. He seems to be a man who thinks about history, which is great.
(We talked about) the Progressive era, the New Deal, the 1960s, when it was ripe for leadership to take the country in a new direction. That was something that happened in Lincoln's time. He (Lincoln) worried that his generation didn't have the challenges that the Founding Fathers had, and that all that was left for his generation was modest ambitions.
Of course, that turned out not to be true. We (Goodwin and her husband) both came out of the meeting having the feeling we were in the presence of someone with a really spacious intellect. I think mostly what he (Obama) had absorbed, which is what he's talked about, was that Lincoln was willing to surround himself with who he thought were not necessarily the rivals — that's become a catchword — but the strongest and most able people even if they argued with him.
Q. When you wrote "Team of Rivals," who would you have predicted would be elected president in 2008, and did you have any thought that your book would be consulted?
A. No! I started writing the book way back in 1995. It took 10 years to write. At the time (of publication) one would have thought it would be Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama, I'd heard him speak at the convention in 2004 and I sat next to Michelle Obama at a luncheon that Teresa Heinz (Kerry, the wife of 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry) had put on, but there was no way in '05 that one would think he'd be the nominee, nor could I imagine that the concept that putting together a team in this way would be talked about in this way.
But if you're going to have a mentor, he's (Lincoln) the best. There are temperamental qualities of Lincoln that can help you. He just refused to dwell on past hurts. He didn't have any desire to retaliate on people who'd done things to him in the past. He thought if you let resentments fester, he said, it poisons a part of you.
Another part of his temperament: He had no trouble acknowledging errors when he made them. Whenever something went wrong, he had a tendency to write about it, (as in) after the battle of Bull Run. He shared credit for his success. When someone failed, he often shouldered the responsibility himself to protect the person.
Q. Do you see Obama's outreach to Hillary Clinton and John McCain, and the consideration of tapping Sen. Clinton as secretary of state, as embracing the "team of rivals" idea?
A. I think yes. Mostly what it embraces is the willingness to say, "I want to put around me the people I think are the strongest and most able people," which is exactly what Lincoln did. I think what it shows is he's going to cast as large a net as he can.
Charles Krauthammer: Rescue The Economy And Return It To Market Control.
By Charles Krauthammer
In the old days -- from the Venetian Republic to, oh, the Bear Stearns rescue -- if you wanted to get rich, you did it the Warren Buffett way: You learned to read balance sheets. Today you learn to read political tea leaves. You don't anticipate Intel's third-quarter earnings; instead, you guess what side of the bed Henry Paulson will wake up on tomorrow.
Today's extreme stock market volatility is not just a symptom of fear -- fear cannot account for days of wild market swings upward -- but a reaction to meta-economic events: political decisions that have vast economic effects.
As economist Irwin Stelzer argues, we have gone from a market economy to a political economy. Consider seven days in November. On Tuesday, Nov. 18, Paulson broadly implies he's only using half the $700 billion bailout money. Having already spent most of his $350 billion, he's going to leave the rest to his successor. The message received on Wall Street -- I'm done, I'm gone.
Facing the prospect of two months of political limbo, the market craters. Led by the banks (whose balance sheets did not change between Tuesday and Wednesday), the market sees the largest two-day drop in the S&P since 1933, not a very good year.
The next day (Friday) at 3 p.m., word leaks of Timothy Geithner's impending nomination as Treasury secretary. The mere suggestion of continuity -- and continued authoritative intervention during the interregnum by the guy who'd been working hand in glove with Paulson all along -- sends the Dow up 500 points in one hour.
Monday sees another 400-point increase, the biggest two-day (percentage) rise since 1987. Why? Three political events: Paulson's weekend Citigroup bailout; the official rollout of Obama's economic team, Geithner and Larry Summers; and Paulson quietly walking back from his earlier de facto resignation by indicating he would be ready to use the remaining $350 billion (with Team Obama input) over the next two months.
That undid the market swoon -- and dramatically demonstrated how politically driven the economy has become.
We may one day go back to a market economy. Meanwhile, we need to face the two most important implications of our newly politicized economy: the vastly increased importance of lobbying and the massive market inefficiencies that political directives will introduce.
Lobbying used to be about advantages at the margin -- a regulatory break here, a subsidy there. Now lobbying is about life and death. Your lending institution or industry gets a bailout -- or it dies.
You used to go to New York for capital. Now Wall Street, broke, is coming to Washington. With unimaginably large sums of money being given out by Washington, the Obama administration, through no fault of its own, will be subject to the most intense, most frenzied lobbying in American history.
That will introduce one kind of economic distortion. The other kind will come from the political directives issued by newly empowered politicians.
First, bank presidents are gravely warned by one senator after another about "hoarding" their bailout money. But hoarding is another word for recapitalizing to shore up your balance sheet to ensure solvency. Is that not the fiduciary responsibility of bank directors? And isn't pushing money out the window with too little capital precisely the lending laxity that produced this crisis in the first place? Never mind. The banks will knuckle under to the commissars of Capitol Hill. They control the purse. Prudence will yield to politics.
Even more egregious will be the directives to a nationalized Detroit. Sen. Charles Schumer, the noted automotive engineer, declared "unacceptable" last week "a business model based on gas." Instead, "We need a business model based on cars of the future, and we already know what that future is: the plug-in hybrid electric car."
The Chevy Volt, for example? It has huge remaining technological hurdles, gets 40 miles on a charge and will sell for about $40,000, necessitating a $7,500 outright government subsidy. Who but the rich and politically correct will choose that over a $12,000 gasoline-powered Hyundai? The new Detroit churning out Schumer-mobiles will make the steel mills of the Soviet Union look the model of efficiency.
The ruling Democrats have a choice: Rescue this economy to return it to market control. Or use this crisis to seize the commanding heights of the economy for the greater social good. Note: The latter has already been tried. The results are filed under "History, ash heap of."
Charles Krauthammer is a Washington Post columnist. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
"Detroit Needs A Selloff, Not A Bailout Government Can Help Get The Big Three's Assets Into More Productive Hands." I AGREE.
Government can help get the Big Three's assets into more productive hands.
By ROBERT W. CRANDALL and CLIFFORD WINSTON
Congress was decidedly unimpressed by the three domestic auto makers' plea for a bailout last week and responded by asking them to do the impossible: conjure up plans by Dec. 2 detailing how a bailout would revive them.
After more than three decades of denial about their long-term decline, Detroit's car companies must now face the facts. A bailout will not revive them. Moreover, the leading alternative that has been proposed by others -- bankruptcy -- will not re-energize these companies sufficiently to reverse their decline.
In our judgment, based on experience elsewhere in American industry, the most constructive role the government can play at this point is to provide a short-term infusion of capital with strict repayment rules that will essentially require the auto makers to sell off their assets to other, successful companies.
Why is such a dramatic step necessary? For the unavoidable reality that the fundamental problem the auto makers face is not their pension, health-care or other legacy costs. It is that they are not making cars and trucks that enough Americans want to buy. And this has been true to some degree since the first energy shock hit the U.S. in the early 1970s.
In 1970, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler made about 90% of the new cars sold in the U.S. Today their share is closer to 40%. Their market share of light trucks has also declined, but less precipitously thanks to a 25% tariff on many imported light trucks.
How could a federal bailout or a bankruptcy reorganization change that? Pension and health-care liabilities have been a hindrance, but they haven't blocked product innovation.
Bankruptcy has allowed some industries to turn themselves around. A decade ago more than 40% of the steel industry's capacity was reorganized in bankruptcy. The result was the rationalization of capacity and new labor agreements that allowed three large players -- U.S. Steel, Severstal and Mittal -- to create a more efficient steel industry.
But this change occurred only after a dramatic restructuring of the industry in the face of fierce competition from new "minimills." By the time the larger companies -- Bethlehem, LTV, Weirton and others -- collapsed into bankruptcy, they had already shed a vast amount of uneconomic capacity and ceded the production of certain types of products to the minimills.
Thus, the operations that Mittal, U.S. Steel and Severstal bought out of bankruptcy were the most efficient remnants and were devoted principally to making products used in motor vehicles, appliances and (to a lesser extent) construction. They did not have to build new blast or steel furnaces or revamp product lines. They simply had to rewrite labor agreements.
Similarly, the airline industry weathered a round of bankruptcies following 9/11. The problem then was overcapacity relative to what the changing market would bear. But economic recovery and lower labor costs negotiated in bankruptcy allowed most airlines to rebound because they did not have to face multiple carriers that offered better service and cheaper fares.
Detroit faces very different problems. It has had a persistent product-line problem that may be even more severe than its labor problems, and in any event will not be solved by getting UAW wage rates in line with those at the U.S. plants of Toyota, Honda, BMW and Nissan by 2010. The gaps between U.S. and foreign competitors simply have become too large to make up by reducing labor costs or rationalizing capacity. Even if the overall economy rebounds and gives Detroit auto makers some breathing room to emerge from bankruptcy, they will likely face similar -- if not more severe -- problems in the next recession.
In the end, the capital and labor of these companies need to be reallocated into better hands. To this end, we suggest that assistance of some form -- short-term financing or government purchase of equity -- be granted under the condition that the Detroit Three restructure their labor relations so as to be able to sell some or all of their major assets.
There are a number of potential buyers for these assets. Toyota's market cap is $100 billion and Volkswagen's market cap is $110 billion. Either could bid for these assets. Honda, Nissan and even U.S. companies in related sectors, such as Caterpillar or John Deere, are possible buyers.
Members of Congress need to accept that the best possible outcome is a fundamental change in direction for the American automotive industry -- a change that includes making Detroit's facilities more attractive to successful companies. A joint venture between GM and Renault-Nissan was briefly discussed last year, and Daimler-Benz's majority ownership of Chrysler was abandoned this year. Both failed because the Detroit-based operations could not improve their labor relations measurably and otherwise restructure sufficiently to be competitive.
By establishing firm mileposts for asset divestitures from which the companies could repay government funds, taxpayers could be reasonably assured that their money is well spent. But if Congress enacts a bailout without our conditions, the U.S. taxpayer will likely be on the line not only for additional support in the next recession, but likely on a regular basis for the foreseeable future.
We do not generally support government assistance to failing companies. But we think that our proposal will cost taxpayers less and, in the long run, be more beneficial to labor and the overall economy than either a straight bailout or bankruptcy.
Messrs. Crandall and Winston are senior fellows at the Brookings Institution.
PEGGY NOONAN: Turbulence Ahead; Some Things To Be Thankful For In Depressing Times.
Some things to be thankful for in depressing times.
By PEGGY NOONAN
The hundred days are happening now. That's the real headline on President-elect Obama's series of news conferences and his announcements of intended administration policy, such as an economic stimulus package. We don't really have to wait till after the inauguration on Jan. 20 for the new administration to begin. What the Obama transition has become is historically unprecedented. He is filling the vacuum created by a collapsed incumbency and an acute economic crisis. He is moving forward with what looks like a high, if ad hoc, awareness of the delicacy of the situation. He can't seem presumptuous or aggressive: "We only have one president at a time." At the same time he can't hide. The White House exhibits chastened generosity, refusing to snipe, mock or attempt to undermine.
Mr. Obama's cabinet picks and other nominations suggest moderation, also maturity, and his treatment of Joe Lieberman shows forbearance and shrewdness. Politics is a game of addition, take the long view, don't throw anyone out as you try to hit 60. Most of all, leave Mr. Lieberman having to prove every day to the Democratic caucus that he really is a Democrat. There's nothing in being a maverick now. Mr. Obama's preternatural steadiness continues. It's been a while since anyone called him Bambi or compared him to the ambivalent, self-torturing Adlai Stevenson. For all of which—and for the cooperation of the Bush administration, whose desire to be of assistance in what used to be called the transition is classy and a good example—one can be thankful.
We can be thankful we had an election whose outcome was clear, not murky and a continuing trauma. It is good that 2008 was a seven-point win by someone, and not a 50-50 contest forced into resolution in the courts. Imagine what it would be like now, the general tone and feeling of the country, if at this moment we were arguing over hanging chads and bent ballots. I am thankful that more than half the country is, in at least one area, politics, happy, and that the 46% who voted the other way accepted the outcome as America always has, peacefully and with good-natured resentment. So many are hoping for the best, as if hoping for the best is a function or an expression of patriotism, which to a degree it is.
I am thankful for something we're not seeing. One of the weirdest, most perceptually jarring things about the economic crisis is that everything looks the same. We are told every day and in every news venue that we are in Great Depression II, that we are in a crisis, a cataclysm, a meltdown, the credit crunch from hell, that we will lose millions of jobs, and that the great abundance is over and may never return. Three great investment banks have fallen while a fourth totters, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen 31% in six months. And yet when you free yourself from media and go outside for a walk, everything looks . . . the same.
Everyone is dressed the same. Everyone looks as comfortable as they did three years ago, at the height of prosperity. The mall is still there, and people are still walking into the stores and daydreaming with half-full carts in aisle 3. Everyone's still overweight. (An evolutionary biologist will someday write a paper positing that the reason for the obesity epidemic of the past decade is that we were storing up food like squirrels and bears, driven by an unconscious anthropomorphic knowledge that a time of great want was coming. Yes, I know it will be idiotic.) But the point is: Nothing looks different.
In the Depression people sold apples on the street. They sold pencils. Angels with dirty faces wore coats too thin and short and shivered in line at the government surplus warehouse. There was the Dust Bowl, and the want of the cities. Captains of industry are said to have jumped from the skyscrapers of Wall Street. (Yes, those were the good old days. Just kidding!) People didn't have enough food.
They looked like a catastrophe was happening.
We do not. It's as if the news is full of floods but we haven't seen it rain.
I asked an economic expert a few weeks ago if a second Great Depression would come to look at all like that, like a catastrophe, and he said no, not at all. In 1930 we had no safety net. Unemployment benefits, food stamps, welfare, an interlocking system of city, state and federal services—these things will keep it from being so bad.
But in tough times we will surely expand unemployment benefits, and welfare, and food stamps and housing assistance, which will mean more and greatly accelerated spending, which will mean bigger and steeper deficits, and higher taxes, with the one feeding on the other, which may mean an economic death spiral comparable to, say, Britain in the decades after World War II, its economy mired and held down by government control and demands. It continued more than a quarter century, until the change of economic thinking encapsulated in the phrase "the Thatcher years." Is that what this will be?
Anyway it is odd, surreal, to have the steady downbeat of Great Depression II all over the news, and few signs of GDII on the street, odd that the news we're hearing is at odds with what our eyes are seeing, at least at the moment.
So where is GDII happening? Right now mostly in conversations between wives and husbands, in families and among friends, about selling, about digging in, about layoffs, and not taking chances, and reduced income, and fear.
As for what we see, in economic stories there's always a lag. New York in 1990 did not know it was in the midst of coming levels of affluence unseen in all of human history. The storefronts in my neighborhood at that time were tatty, tired. At some point in the next 10 years everything in the neighborhood was updated and started to gleam. There were bright new awnings on the shops, and the windows shining. Everything was washed clean by affluence. The food stores on Lexington Avenue offered more and more varied fruit for sale in thicker stacks outside. Even the dogs were suddenly more beautiful, handsome brushed brown Labs and stately golden retrievers.
I suppose as months and years pass it will all gleam less, with a steady falling off from perfection. It will roughen.
We've gotten through roughness before. Of things to be thankful for, I personally include this. I traveled this year, and when I fly I say a prayer that has become a ritual: "Dear God, put your big hands under this plane and lift it up, and carry it forward through the air untouched and unharmed by other objects. And may its inner workings work. And put us down softly in our place of destination, and return us safely to our homes, and to those in whose lives we are enmeshed."
It occurs to me that is perhaps how many of us are feeling about our country this Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for our previous safety, and get us through this turbulence.
I close with a nod of small thanks for the title of a book I saw the other day called, "Are You There, Vodka? This is Chelsea." The stewardess was reading it on a flight from Phoenix to Newark. She was laughing. It was nice.
Labels: General information
"Obama's War Cabinet Gates And Jones Are Welcome Signs Of Continuity."
Gates and Jones are welcome signs of continuity.
The names floated for Barack Obama's national security team "are drawn exclusively from conservative, centrist and pro-military circles without even a single -- yes, not one! -- chosen to represent the antiwar wing of the Democratic party." In his plaintive post this week on the Nation magazine's Web site, Robert Dreyfuss indulges in the political left's wonderful talent for overstatement. But who are we to interfere with his despair?
If reports are correct, on Monday the President-elect will ask Robert Gates to stay on as Secretary of Defense and name retired Marine General James Jones as National Security Adviser. These are the Administration posts most critical to the successful conduct of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to possible entanglements with Iran, North Korea and who knows who else. With these personnel picks, Mr. Obama reveals a bias for competence, experience and continuity. Hence the caterwauls from his left flank.
The Gates selection is an implicit endorsement of President Bush's "surge" in Iraq and its military architect, General David Petraeus. More broadly, it recognizes that America will continue to deal with a daunting post-9/11 security environment. As a member of the Iraq Study Group, Mr. Gates was against the surge before Mr. Bush made support for it a condition of his taking the Pentagon job. But at Defense since late 2006, Mr. Gates has supervised the successful new counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq. He also championed a new generation of military leaders, chiefly General Petraeus, who now commands U.S. forces in the Mideast, and he has poured additional resources into Afghanistan.
On all of the above, continuity would be welcome. Recall that Candidate Obama opposed the surge, called for a speedy withdrawal from Iraq and brushed back General Petraeus's pleas to rethink both during his summer visit to Baghdad. Presumably President-elect Obama gave Mr. Gates some reassurances about future policy and his ability to shape it without repudiating the Secretary's record to date. Mr. Gates will also give Mr. Obama some political insulation if events go wrong; Republicans may be less willing to criticize a Defense Secretary who served GOP Presidents than they would some standard-issue liberal like Michigan Senator Carl Levin.
Gen. James Jones.
General Jones is also a reassuring get. In the campaign, the former Marine Commandant and NATO Commander never endorsed anyone, though possible Obama Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and John McCain both avidly courted him. The General comes from a fine tradition that puts national security above partisanship.
Here's how he explained his then-controversial support for the surge to a Journal reporter in April: "Understand the fact that regardless how you got there, there is a strategic price of enormous consequence for failure in Iraq." In his postmilitary life, he worked on energy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. On paper, General Jones sure beats Bill Clinton's NSC advisers (Anthony Lake and Sandy Berger) and perhaps President Bush's.
Both these men can help Mr. Obama check the worst reflexes of his anti-antiterror base. Starting in Iraq. Having pacified al Qaeda and the Sunni insurgency, America now has a chance to midwife Iraq into a stable and free ally in the middle of a bad neighborhood. Local and national elections due next year will require U.S. support and counsel, and any rash drawdown in troops would be dangerous.
Mr. Obama will have political running room. Americans are now preoccupied with the economy. His own pledge to remove most combat troops by 2010 leaves open exactly what he means by "combat" and "most." The new status-of-forces agreement with Iraqi also commits the U.S. to leave by 2011. These decisions can now be made with a view to the realities in Iraq rather than to the American campaign trail.
There's talk that Mr. Gates will serve a year, then hand over the reins to an Obama loyalist, but the U.S. needs more than a caretaker in that job. Mr. Gates is a savvy enough bureaucratic operator to fight his corner. Aside from Iraq, Mr. Gates has staked out positions -- on missile defense in Eastern Europe, enlarging the military, and modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal -- that are at odds with the Democratic establishment. He and his future boss agree that additional forces are needed for Afghanistan. Let's hope that's not a one-time policy accord.
Mr. Obama deserves credit for making flexibility a principle in assembling his Administration. As he said last year, "people should feel confident that we'll be able to hit the ground running." So far on security, not bad.
Labels: POTUS Barack Obama
Karl Rove: [POTUS Barack} Obama [Has] Assembled A First-Rate Economic Team.
Thanksgiving Cheer From Obama
He's assembled a first-rate economic team.
By KARL ROVE
When President-elect Barack Obama's economic transition team met this month, everyone was there -- inflation fighters, business leaders, union firebrands and leftist economists -- creating confusion about where the new administration was headed.
President-elect Barack Obama with members of his announced economic team, from left: Treasury Secretary-designate Timothy Geithner; Council of Economic Advisers Chair-designate Christina Romer; National Economic Council Director-designate Lawrence Summers; and Director of White House Policy Council-designate Melody Barnes.
Mr. Obama's announcement of his economic team on Monday provided surprisingly positive clarity. He picked as Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, the respected, soft-spoken New York Fed president. Mr. Geithner has been a key player with Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke in confronting the financial crisis. Every major decision in the rescue effort came only after the three agreed.
The National Economic Council director-designee, Larry Summers, is another solid pick. Mr. Summers has been an advocate for trade liberalization, he was the Clinton administration's negotiator for the financial deregulation known as Gramm-Leach-Bliley, and he even attempted to rein in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the 1990s.
Mr. Obama also named a respected monetary expert -- Christina Romer -- to head up his Council of Economic Advisors. On Tuesday he selected a first-rate thinker, Peter Orszag, to be director of the White House's Office of Management and Budget.
Before Karl became known as "The Architect" of President Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns, he was president of Karl Rove + Company, an Austin-based public affairs firm that worked for Republican candidates, nonpartisan causes, and nonprofit groups. His clients included over 75 Republican U.S. Senate, Congressional and gubernatorial candidates in 24 states, as well as the Moderate Party of Sweden.
Karl writes a weekly op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, is a Newsweek columnist and is now writing a book to be published by Simon & Schuster. Email the author at Karl@Rove.com or visit him on the web at Rove.com.
The only troubling personnel note was Melody Barnes as Domestic Policy Council director. Putting a former aide to Ted Kennedy in charge of health policy after tapping universal health-care advocate Tom Daschle to be Health and Human Services secretary sends a clear signal that Mr. Obama didn't mean it when his campaign ads said he wouldn't run to the "extremes" with government-run health care.
He did not reduce confusion on a Detroit bailout by saying he supported a "sustainable auto industry." America already has that in 69 foreign-owned auto plants that employ 92,700 Americans. The question is this: Does Mr. Obama want a sustainable U.S.-owned auto industry? If so, will he require changes in the Big Three's management, labor agreements and cost structure in return for aid? All he'd say Monday was that the industry needed to develop a plan.
And despite the president-elect's declaration Monday that "we have a consensus, which is pretty rare, between conservative and liberal economists," there is no agreement about the elements of a stimulus package.
Stanford economist Michael Boskin reminds us that conservatives favor permanent, or long-lived, measures to revive the economy -- incentives like lower income-tax rates, actions to speed recovery of capital costs like bonus depreciation, and steps with an immediate effect on job creation such as cuts in corporate tax rates.
So far, Mr. Obama has only offered unspecified subsidies for "green jobs" and infrastructure spending. Politicians like infrastructure spending because it gives them something concrete to point to. But though Japan spent $516 billion on infrastructure in the 1990s, it didn't stimulate their economy. What makes Mr. Obama think it will work in America? The reason infrastructure is a poor stimulant is that there is a long lag time between project approval and when dollars actually get spent, even for projects on the drawing board.
Mr. Obama suggests that giving consumers up to $500 (his "tax cut for 95% of Americans") will stimulate consumption. Congressional Democrats have demanded rebates like this for people who don't pay income taxes in every stimulus package -- with negligible results. As Harvard economist Martin Feldstein pointed out in these pages in August, a mere 10% to 20% of this year's rebate was spent.
During the campaign, Mr. Obama defined madness as "doing the same things over and over again and expecting something different." He should take those words to heart in preparing his stimulus package
Mr. Obama has less than a month to work out the dimensions of the stimulus and auto legislation he wants passed before his Jan. 20 inauguration. If he continues to hesitate, Congress will give him a mish-mash of spending, rebates, subsidies and pork that won't create the 2.5 million jobs in two years he promises. Congress is hard to stop from budgetary excesses in ordinary times. And these are not ordinary times.
After hearing Mr. Obama's campaign attacks on "the swelling budget deficit," it is jarring to hear him now suggest the deficit will need to be larger to accommodate more spending. He has to be mindful that voters have not been prepared for the numbers now being thrown around.
But, overall, Monday's announcement of Mr. Obama's economic team was reassuring. He's generally surrounded himself with intelligent, mainstream advisers. Investors, workers and business owners can only hope that, over time, this new administration's economic policies bear more of their market-oriented imprint.
About Karl Rove
Karl Rove served as Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush from 2000–2007 and Deputy Chief of Staff from 2004–2007. At the White House he oversaw the Offices of Strategic Initiatives, Political Affairs, Public Liaison, and Intergovernmental Affairs and was Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, coordinating the White House policy making process.
Labels: POTUS Barack Obama
Laugh A While.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Happy Thanksgiving To ALL, Friend And Foe (If Any) Alike.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.
To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Labels: Happy Thanksgiving
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Mumbai, India Burns As "Extremists" Target Americans And Britons.
Watch some more:
Eugene Robinson: Two Presidents = No President.
By Eugene Robinson
Having two presidents is starting to feel like having no president, and that's the situation we'll face until Inauguration Day. Heaven help us.
President Bush spent the weekend in Lima, Peru, at a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, conferring with Pacific Rim leaders who had no reason to pay attention to anything he said. Bush did, however, cut a dashing figure in a traditional Peruvian poncho. On Monday morning, minus the poncho, he was back home lending his imprimatur to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's latest diving catch to save the global economy from utter ruin -- this time, the massive bailout of Citigroup.
A couple of hours later, the other president, Barack Obama, presented his new high-powered economic team. Obama made a point of saying that the prospective officials -- led by Timothy Geithner, his pick to head Treasury -- would start working immediately. Obama also made clear that there's very little they can do except monitor the situation, study possible solutions and develop a plan to be enacted after Jan. 20. We can't afford another month or more of drift, Obama said. But I'm afraid that's just what we're going to get.
The problem, and it's becoming serious, is that no one is prepared to orchestrate a comprehensive program to stabilize the financial system, put a floor under housing prices and keep the economy from sinking into a long, punishing recession.
Bush could and should do it -- he is still President, and avoiding economic collapse is part of the job description. But he won't. It's ironic that after being so aggressive and proactive in other areas, the Decider is so indecisive and passive about the economy. He has limited his role to signing off on whatever Paulson says is necessary -- most recently, $20 billion in cash and $306 billion in guarantees for Citigroup, which Bush apparently approved during his flight home from Peru.
In part, Bush's inaction stems from ideology. If the free market is always right, then it ought to correct itself and get back on course. All the government really needs to do is take care of a few emergencies such as Bear Stearns, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, IndyMac, AIG, Wachovia, Citigroup ... and, of course, whatever comes next. Not the auto companies, however: In Bushworld, the firms that created the toxic mortgage-backed securities that threaten to bring down the global financial system are somehow morally superior to the companies that created the Mustang, the Malibu and the minivan.
I don't think ideology explains it all, though. Even if he wanted to make a real run at righting the economy, at this point Bush has neither the energy nor the credibility to make it happen. Frankly, he comes off as less a lame duck than a cooked goose.
That leaves the other president, who has plenty of energy and credibility -- but no authority. Bush said he called Obama to inform him of the Citigroup bailout, but informing isn't the same as consulting. Obama said his new economic team will be monitoring the situation and giving him daily reports on where things stand. He could save them the trouble and just watch CNBC or Bloomberg all day.
Obama said he believes a huge economic stimulus is needed "right away." But he knows that won't happen -- it's unlikely that anything big enough could get through the outgoing Congress, and in any event a big stimulus is not something that Bush is willing to support. Obama said that "we cannot hesitate and we cannot delay," but he knows full well that hesitation and delay are all but inevitable. And he knows full well that by the time he gets the power to shape events, the economic situation might be much worse than it is now.
James Baker, the former secretary of State and current Republican éminence grise, made an amazing suggestion on "Meet the Press" Sunday -- that Bush and Obama develop and announce a joint economic rescue program. It was a stunning acknowledgement of how weak the Bush presidency has become and how dangerous it would be to spend the next two months meandering from crisis to crisis.
But that's the road we're on. When I get frustrated with Paulson's zigzags and reversals, with his overnight decisions to buy huge companies or write hundred-billion-dollar checks, I remind myself that he doesn't really have a president to work for. The poor man may stumble here and there, but he's dancing as fast as he can.
Eugene Robinson is a Washington Post columnist. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Labels: General information
"Grateful For Obama, Racial Progress."
Grateful for Obama, racial progress
I am a 71-year-old man who has so much to be thankful for during Thanksgiving 2008. I was blessed with loving parents, brothers, sisters, friends and life's necessities. I grew up in Louisville where my dad, Gordon Craig Whiteley Sr., was a Baptist minister during the 1940s and until he died in 1956. I'm especially thankful for what he taught me, through his words and example, about improving racial relations in a segregated society. He was actively involved in Louisville's ecumenical and interracial activities and sometimes exchanged pulpits and choirs with black pastors and their choirs.
I went all the way through high school and two years of college in all-white schools. It wasn't until I transferred in my junior year to Emporia State, a college in Kansas, that I had the opportunity to go to class with African Americans and work out with them on the cross country and track teams. I am thankful for that experience and will always be thankful for parents who helped shape my positive racial attitudes.
I am most thankful to God this Thanksgiving for allowing me to live long enough to see an African American, Barack Obama, elected as the 44th president of the United States. I believe President-elect Obama is the right person at the right time to lead our nation in the tough times we are currently going through and will continue to face in the future.
PAUL L. WHITELEY, Sr.
PAUL L. WHITELEY, Sr.:
I am especially grateful this thanksgiving for someone like your parents, who you say "taught me, through his words and example, about improving racial relations in a segregated society", and for you for having learned and practiced what you learned.
Needless to say that I am grateful this thanksgiving, too, for the HOPE that the election of POTUS Barack Obama portends for our country, in the areas of CHANGE, culminating in a new positive direction for racial politics and overall racial attitudes.
The idea is that people who have darker skin, or have names that don't sound European (or viewed as foreign) may no longer be automatically disqualified in voters' minds -- I'm less willing to hold my breath where many Kentuckians are concerned, however, in this regard.
POTUS Barack Obama Appoints Paul Volker To Economic Advisory Team, Explains Need For Experience, And Reminds Us That CHANGE Comes From Him. I AGREE!
Conservatives And Liberals Are Thankful For SILLY Sarah Failin'. Watch Videos, And Find Out Why.
Now watch the Liberals:
Labels: SILLY Sarah Failin'
Come On, Let's Laugh.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
President Bush Visits Kentucky -- For Last Time.
Michael Vick Continues To Get "Dog"ged. And Yes, Pun Is Intended.
George F. Will: Conservatives' Activist Error.
George F. Will
WASHINGTON -- Of conservatives' few victories this year, the most cherished came when the Supreme Court, in District of Columbia v. Heller, held for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms. Now, however, a distinguished conservative jurist argues that the Court's ruling was mistaken and had the principal flaws of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 abortion ruling that conservatives execrate as judicial overreaching. Both rulings, says J. Harvie Wilkinson, suddenly recognized a judicially enforceable right grounded in "an ambiguous constitutional text."
Writing for the Virginia Law Review, Judge Wilkinson of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says Heller, like Roe, was disrespectful of legislative judgments, has hurled courts into a political thicket of fine-tuning policy in interminable litigation, and traduced federalism. Furthermore, Heller exposed "originalism" -- the doctrine that the Constitution's text means precisely what those who wrote its words meant by them -- as no barrier to "judicial subjectivity."
The Second Amendment says: "A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." Until June, the question was: Is the right guaranteed to individuals and unconnected with military service, or only to states as they exercise their right to maintain militias? The Court held, 5-4, for the former view.
In Roe, the Court said the 14th Amendment guarantee of "due process" implies a general right of privacy, within which lurks a hitherto unnoticed abortion right that, although "fundamental," the Framers never mentioned. And this right somehow contains the trimester scheme of abortion regulations.
Since 1973, the Court has been entangled in the legislative function of adumbrating an abortion code, the details of which are, Wilkinson says, "not even remotely suggested by the text or history of the 14th Amendment." Parental consent? Spousal consent? Spousal notification? Parental notification? Waiting periods? Partial-birth abortion procedures? The Court has tried to tickle answers for these and other policy questions from the Constitution.
Conservatives are correct: The Court, having asserted a right on which the Constitution is silent, has been writing rules that are detailed, debatable, inescapably arbitrary and irreducibly political. But now, Wilkinson says, conservatives are delighted that Heller has put the Court on a similar path.
In Heller, the Court was at least dealing with a right the Constitution actually mentions. But the majority and minority justices demonstrated that there are powerful, detailed, historically grounded "originalist" arguments for opposite understandings of what the Framers intended with that right to "keep and bear arms."
Now the Court must slog through an utterly predictable torrent of litigation, writing, piecemeal, a federal gun code concerning the newfound individual right. What trigger locks or other safety requirements impermissibly burden the exercise of this right? What registration requirements, background checks, waiting periods for purchasers, ballistic identifications? What restrictions on ammunition? On places where guns may be purchased or carried? On the kinds of people (e.g., those with domestic violence records) who may own guns?
Judicial conservatism requires judges to justify their decisions with reference to several restraining principles, including deference to the democratic branches of government, and to states' responsibilities under federalism. But, Wilkinson writes, Heller proves that when the only principle is originalism, and when conscientious people come to different conclusions about the Framers' intentions, originalist judges must resolve the conflict by voting their policy preferences.
Roe and Heller, says Wilkinson, diminish liberty by "handing our democratic destiny to the courts." Many libertarian conservatives disagree, arguing that the protection of individual liberty requires robust judicial circumscription of democracy.
So, regarding judging, too, conservatism is a house divided. And as Lincoln said (sort of), a house divided against itself is really interesting.
George F. Will is a syndicated columnist with The Washington Post. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
Editor's comment: The Court in Roe V. Wade over-reached and got it wrong; the Court in Heller did NOT and got it right.
Labels: General information
We Can't Forget To Laugh.
Monday, November 24, 2008
POTUS Barack Obama Continues To Announce Bill Clinton's Cabinet, This Time It's The Economic Team. I Guess I Can't Blame Him, Can You?
Watch the "talking heads" below analyze the economic team:
Labels: POTUS Barack Obama
While I'm Away For Other Duty Called, To Counter Slow Postings, Below Is Your EVERY Monday Redbox FREE Promo Movie Code. Enjoy.
Check out the free promo code BELOW:
POTUS Barack Obama's "Family Guy" Episode.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
"Kentucky Democratic Chairwoman, Jennifer Moore, Plans To Step Down."
State chairwoman may step down soon
By Joseph Gerth
Kentucky Democratic Party Chairwoman Jennifer Moore is expected to step down by early next year as the party retools before the 2010 elections, when it will try to take back one of the state's two U.S. Senate seats.
"Eventually, I'm going to have to go back to practicing law, and I'll make that decision when the time is right," Moore said in an interview last week. "Right now, I'm just looking forward to getting the party back on track."
Adam Edelen, chief of staff for Gov. Steve Beshear, credited Moore with doing "an excellent job" and said she may remain in the job through President-elect Barack Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration.
Beshear hasn't begun finding a replacement for her, Edelen said.
Moore, who has been party chairwoman or vice chairwoman for 18 months, said there is no timeline for her departure. But she said she told Beshear she would like to return to practicing law full time "at some point after the election."
The party's state central committee is scheduled to meet in February, which could provide an opportunity to elect a new chairman. While the committee elects the chairman, it usually follows the recommendation of a Democratic governor.
"There is an announcement forthcoming, but Jennifer will be leaving at a time and a place of her choosing," Edelen said.
It's unclear what will happen to the party's eight-member headquarters staff.
Edelen said he expects some will move on to other jobs. Political operatives, he noted, are typically "nomadic," moving from one race to another.
Moore said the staff has been reduced to its core group of eight, with about 40 others who worked in the party's "coordinated campaign" during this year's election having been let go.
As the Democrats retool, Edelen said they will try to rebuild the state party using Obama's campaign as a template.
"Whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, in a lot of ways the national campaign of Barack Obama reinvented political campaigns," Edelen said. "Certainly there are lessons to be learned like grass-roots organizing, expanding the voter registration base and using technology and new media to reach folks."
He wouldn't say if the party would simply employ Obama's techniques or bring in people from his campaign to implement those techniques.
"Once we name the new leadership at the party, that will be job one, to go out and make sure we're using the best practices nationally," Edelen said. "… The governor would certainly like to see a party organization, you know, that incorporates a lot of the cutting-edge techniques of the Obama campaign."
Reporter Joseph Gerth can be reached at (502) 582-4702.
"U.S-Iraq Agreement Makes Obama's Life Much Easier".
Iraq's prime minister just did Barack Obama a huge favor.
By finally approving a status-of-forces agreement, or SOFA, that requires a U.S. pullout by the end of 2011, Nouri al-Maliki has saved our president-elect from facing a huge Iraq crisis from the day he's sworn in. (The accord still must be approved by the Iraqi parliament on Monday, but that now seems very likely.)
And by accepting a fixed withdrawal deadline (after rejecting this concept for years), President Bush also has made Obama's life easier. Now no one can blame Obama for the fixed 2011 deadline.
The agreement has the additional benefit of giving Obama more flexibility than his campaign promise to withdraw all troops in 16 months. The 16-month pledge had locked Obama into a time frame that was too hasty (even though he hinted he might modify it). Iraq's security situation is still too fragile to be managed by its own security forces that soon without U.S. assistance. And the country needs additional protection for provincial and national elections next year.
So the 16-month pledge was hanging like an albatross around the president-elect's neck. Our next leader faced the prospect of being labeled as the man who "lost Iraq" if a too-speedy U.S. exit led to an implosion there.
As if that prospect weren't sufficiently daunting, Obama might have had to pull out U.S. troops even more quickly. That's because, until this week, Maliki was refusing to submit the SOFA for cabinet and parliamentary approval until he got further changes in language. But the U.N. mandate under which U.S. troops in Iraq operate was set to expire on Dec. 31. Had SOFA negotiations dragged on much longer, U.S. troops might have been left with no legal mandate as the Bush administration was expiring. Iraq would have been forced to seek a short extension of the U.N. mandate as a stopgap measure. Obama would have confronted a huge mess in Iraq from the day he took the oath.
Iraqi politicians, facing national elections, would have been even more reluctant to sign a SOFA after January. (In private, almost all Iraqi factions agree that U.S. troops are needed for some time; in public, they are wary of taking positions that offend nationalist pride.) With no agreement in place, Obama's Democratic base would have pressed for the swiftest possible withdrawal.
Maliki's decision has saved Obama from being caught in a crossfire between Iraqi politicians and MoveOn.org. Assuming it passes, the agreement also gives Obama the flexibility to revise his withdrawal schedule.
Although the accord's 2011 deadline doesn't preclude a swifter pullback, there is little sign that would be possible without precipitating a return of sectarian violence. The 2011 target permits Obama to deflect pressure from his base for a swifter exit, while adjusting the pace to fit ground conditions.
At the same time, during a time of great economic crisis, it reassures worried Americans that a withdrawal is within sight.
The SOFA's requirement that all U.S. troops pull back to bases from Iraqi cities by June will sorely test Iraqi forces and could lead to renewed sectarian violence. The three-year time line for total withdrawal at least gives Obama some room for maneuvering during the initial stages. It also gives him time to initiate the regional diplomacy needed to swtabilize Iraq in the long term.
Iraqis will still have the option of requesting an extension after 2011. Indeed, given the extraordinary complexity of the Iraq problem, the agreement represents the best possible outcome.
Iraqi life is still harsh and brutal, and violence is far from over. The Iraqi government is corrupt, and its political institutions are still weak.
Yet things have improved to the point where Iraqis want to exert their sovereignty.
"Every day, the influence of America is getting less," one Iraqi politician told me, "and the influence of Iraqi politics more and more."
That is how it should be. Let's hope the status-of-forces agreement is finalized next week.
E-mail Trudy Rubin at trubinphillynews.com.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Labels: POTUS Barack Obama
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Sorry, We Forgot To Laugh.
Thomas Friedman: No Place For Team Of Rivals.
So President-elect Barack Obama is considering Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. How should we feel about that?
Clinton is a serious person. She is smart, tough, cunning, hard-working and knows the world — all key qualities for a secretary of state. She would also bring a certain star quality to the top of the State Department that can be useful. I don't know if she is the best person in America for that job right now, or if she'll get it, but if one is just looking at qualifications, Clinton certainly passes the bar.
What worries me, though, is that much of the media attention today is focused on the wrong relationship question. Everyone is asking how she would manage the relationship with former President Bill Clinton and his own global speaking, fund-raising and philanthropic agendas. My guess is that they'll figure that out. Bill Clinton would stop making paid speeches to foreigners.
The important question, the answer to which is not at all clear, is about the only relationship that matters for a secretary of state — the relationship he or she would have with the new president.
I covered a secretary of state, one of the best, James A. Baker III, for four years, and one of the things I learned during those years was that what made Baker an effective diplomat was not only his own skills as a negotiator — a prerequisite for the job — but the fact that his boss, President George H.W. Bush, always had Baker's back. When foreign leaders spoke with Baker, they knew that they were speaking to President Bush, and they knew that President Bush would defend Baker.
That backing is the most important requirement for a secretary of state to be effective. Frankly, Obama could appoint his dear mother-in-law as secretary of state, and if he let the world know she was his envoy, she would be more effective than any ex-ambassador who had no relationship with the president.
Our current president never cared about this, so neither of his secretaries of state were particularly effective. Rather than having Colin Powell's back, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld delighted in stabbing Powell in the back, particularly when he was on the road. But being close to the president is not enough. Condoleezza Rice had a close relationship with Bush, but Bush had no coherent world view to animate her diplomacy, so all her travels added up to less than the sum of their miles. The two most impactful secretaries of state in the last 50 years were Baker and Henry Kissinger. Both were empowered by their presidents, and both could candidly talk back to their presidents.
Foreign leaders can spot daylight between a president and a secretary of state from 1,000 miles away. They know when they're talking to the secretary of state alone and when they are talking through the secretary of state to the president. And when they think they are talking to the president, they sit up straight; and when they think they are talking only to the secretary of state, they slouch in their chairs. When they think they are talking to the president's "special envoy," they doze off in mid-conversation.
"It takes America's friends and adversaries about five minutes to figure out who really speaks for the White House and who doesn't," wrote Aaron D. Miller, a former State Department Middle East adviser and the author of The Much Too Promised Land. "If a secretary of state falls into the latter category, he or she will have little chance of doing effective diplomacy on a big issue. More likely, they'll be played like a finely tuned violin or simply taken for granted."
When the U.S. secretary of state walks into the room, Miller added in a recent essay in The Los Angeles Times, "his or her interlocutors need to be on the edge of their seats, not comfortably situated in their chairs wondering how best to manipulate the secretary. If anything, they should be worried about being manipulated themselves."
My question is whether a President Obama and a Secretary of State Clinton, given all that has gone down between them and their staffs, can have that kind of relationship, particularly with Clinton always thinking four to eight years ahead, and the possibility that she may run again for the presidency. I just don't know.
Every word that is said between them in public, and every leak, will be scrutinized for what it means politically and whether there is daylight. That is not a reason not to appoint Clinton.
But it is a reason for everyone around the president-elect to take a deep breath and ask whether they are prepared to have the kind of air-tight relationship with Clinton that is required for effective diplomacy.
When it comes to appointing a secretary of state, you do not want a team of rivals.
Labels: POTUS Barack Obama
Breaking POTUS News: Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary, Ellen Moran of EMILY's List, Director of Communications, & Dan Pfeiffer, Her Deputy.
Read more from the Politico guys.
Labels: POTUS Barack Obama
Watch POTUS Barack Obama's Weekly Address.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Clarence Page: Obama And The Bomb Thrower. Now That's Funny.
'You hear that, Clarence?" Bill Ayers said. "I just apologized."
Indeed, he did. But it was a joke.
In his first public event since the elections, Ayers, an education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and cofounder of the radical Weather Underground, spoke to more than 200 people in a Washington, D.C., church Monday night as part of his book tour.
Speaking in the church after the originally scheduled bookstore proved to be too small, the former leader of the radical Weather Underground was joking about how he hated to be tagged as "a guy of the '60s."
"I am so much a guy of right now," he told the crowd, smiling as they chuckled. "OK, I lived in the '60s. I apologize. You hear that, Clarence? I just apologized."
The nod to me, sitting in the second row, was a reference to a question I had asked him in a backstage interview: Was he ready to apologize for the violent turn taken by the Weather Underground when he helped to lead their breakaway from the radical Students for a Democratic Society back in 1969?
The Weather Underground claimed responsibility for bombing government buildings among other mayhem in the early 1970s. Sen. John McCain's campaign used Ayers' more recent associations with Barack Obama, a neighbor in Chicago's Hyde Park, to accuse the president-elect of "palling around with terrorists."
Times have changed. For example, Ayers' old Black Panther pal Bobby Rush is now a senior congressman from Illinois -- who Obama failed to unseat in 2000.
And Ayers, who was tear-gassed by Mayor Richard J. Daley in the 1960s, has been honored by his son, Mayor Richard M. Daley for his school reform work. That's the side of America Ayers loves, he admits, the land-of-opportunity side.
"You can't reach 64 years old and not have a lot of regrets," he allowed. Still, he refused to participate in what he called "a ritualistic mea culpa" for a time when we Americans were "living in a sewer of violence."
Ayers said he would participate in a truth and reconciliation process akin to the one South Africa pioneered to end its apartheid era. He would account for what he called "my little extreme acts of vandalism," which he insists "hurt property, but not people," he said, if it came alongside other government leaders who started the Vietnam War and kept it going.
"But I'm not making a blanket apology because, actually, I think what we did was measured in response to things that were going on in the rest of the world. How do you respond to thousands of people who were being murdered in your name?" That's Bill, an idealist to the end.
His right-wing critics have done Ayers a favor. They've helped him to sell more books. They've also helped to remind us of some of the excesses committed by both sides. Federal charges against Ayers were dropped in 1973 following accusations of illegal Watergate-era activities, including wiretaps, break-ins and mail interceptions by President Nixon's administration.
Nixon was forced to resign. Ayers has become a model citizen except for such questionable antics as a magazine photo for which he posed while standing on an American flag. Not nice.
Episodes like that tell me that there's not much chance that our Vietnam generation will reach closure through a truth commission or anything else. Old arguments about the 1960s never die. They just provide skeletons to pull out of the closet and rattle at opponents during presidential campaigns.
That tactic gave Obama bashers like Fox News' Sean Hannity plenty to talk about. Obama and Ayers served on a couple of boards with a politically diverse array of members, but media investigations have not found their relationship to be close. Still, people who want to believe what they want to believe aren't going to let a lack of evidence get in their way.
Ayers doesn't deny that he knew Obama "probably as well as thousands of other people that he knew." The irony, he noted is how "like millions of other people, I wish I knew him better right now, don't you?"
Indeed, the great irony of this controversy is how Obama's critics attacked one of Obama's greatest strengths: his curiosity about smart people who have useful ideas, liberal or conservative, even if he disagrees with their other ideas.
Clarence Page is a columnist for The Chicago Tribune. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Labels: POTUS Barack Obama
Republican Party Of Kentucky (RPK) Takes Steve Beshear To Task, Uses Hiring Flap To Raise Funds.
Oh, what a difference a year makes. And, Governor Steve Beshear still doesn’t get it!
One year ago today, Governor Steve Beshear had this to say about hiring practices in his administration…
Beshear unveils plans to ensure fair hiring
Governor-elect Steve Beshear used the unveiling of his new state job application Web site to showcase the deliberate effort his administration will make to avoid the hiring problems that plagued his predecessor.
"The spotlight will be on us and should be on us, because this is an area that has experienced some abuse and is an area that needs to be respected," Beshear said, adding that he will require his management team to take ethics and merit system training.
"Applicants are judged by who they are, not who they know," he said.
Beshear pledged that his administration won't review the party affiliation of applicants or consider whether a job candidate contributed to his campaign.
And now, one year later, his statement could not be further from the truth. The Lexington Herald-Leader has put the “spotlight” on the Governor - and many of us don’t like what we’re seeing…
Beshear pal got $20,000 raise
Gov. Steve Beshear ordered a 25 percent pay raise for a friend and campaign donor who got a state job at the Office of Homeland Security.
Beshear fills Homeland Security with Democratic aides, donors
Gov. Steve Beshear’s Office of Homeland Security is becoming a popular entrance to the state payroll for Democratic political activists and donors.
But critics say political appointees still should be qualified. They say it’s not clear Beshear’s choices have the expertise needed to safeguard Kentucky from attacks and disasters or to handle more than $17 million a year in federal homeland security grants—the stated purpose of Homeland Security.
“It bothers me, some of the names I see over there who are being hired. A lot of people ask, ‘Are these political payback jobs where the administration is rewarding loyalty?’" said Sen. Vernie McGaha, R-Russell Springs, a member of the Senate committee that oversees homeland security.
And, the list goes on and on…
Ex-Patton aide Ross gets state job - had been charged with campaign finance violations in 1998
Beshear returns Dem fund-raiser to state payroll
Jennifer Chandler, Bell County Democratic Party chairman among appointees to agency
Beshear fires 4 on PSC staff But Authority to Do So in Question No Replacements Named
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Update On Attorney Generlal Michael Mukasey's Fainting. Read An Email From Him Below, And Wish Him Well.
Below's the email:
Well, as I was saying...
Let me please begin by underscoring what an honor it was to speak to you last night. I am, as you might imagine, quite embarrassed to have collapsed last night. I hope that embarrassment is not the product of undue human pride, or at least not principally so. I am embarrassed in part because I fear I ruined your evening and caused you concern - for that I am truly sorry. Equally important, I hope the shortened conclusion of the speech did not detract from the message I hoped to convey: Specifically that the issues of law and policy relating to our continuing national security are real, and are worthy of the most careful thought and deliberation so as to keep the American people safe.
The Federalist Society has spent the last 25-plus years promoting thoughtful and fair debate concerning the critical legal and public policy issues facing our nation. It was an honor to address you last night, and I urge you to continue the fine efforts of the Federalist Society in the future.
Finally, I was truly humbled to hear all of the prayers and well wishes sent on my behalf from attendees at the dinner. Thank you all. I am, fortunately, well, and I too pray for all of our good health and for the future of the Nation we all love.
Very Truly Yours,
MICHAEL B. MUKASEY: Al Qaeda Detainees and Congress's Duty Habeas corpus hearings could set terrorists free inside the U.S.
Habeas corpus hearings could set terrorists free inside the U.S.
By MICHAEL B. MUKASEY
Last June in Boumediene v. Bush, the Supreme Court ruled for the first time in our history that aliens captured and held as enemy combatants abroad (in this case, at the Guantanamo Bay military base) had a constitutional right to challenge their detentions by filing petitions for habeas corpus in federal court. The Court recognized that its holding was unprecedented. Yet it said that it was not deciding how such proceedings should be conducted, or even what the government must show to prevail.
Yesterday, the federal district court in Washington concluded the first such habeas proceeding for six detainees. It held that the government had established a basis for holding only one of them as an enemy combatant. The court acknowledged that the evidence the detainees were planning to travel to Afghanistan to join the fight was perfectly appropriate for use as intelligence (the purpose for which it was collected) -- but that such evidence was not sufficient to carry the government's burden of proving in court that the detainees were enemy combatants.
Of course, we believe that the court should have reached a different conclusion with respect to the five detainees. But on a more general level, the court's order highlights the challenges that inhere in applying a civil litigation framework to wartime decisions that often must be made on the basis of the best available intelligence.
Other federal courts hearing the approximately 250 Gitmo habeas cases have sought to answer similar questions. But as different judges reach different answers -- and as some of those answers, I fear, create risks for our national security -- there remains a pressing need for Congress, working with the administration, to establish one set of rules that is both consistent with the Supreme Court's decision and recognizes the important national security and intelligence interests of the United States.
The questions with which courts have grappled are of critical importance. They include foundational issues: How should we define an "enemy combatant" during a conflict with a nontraditional enemy like al Qaeda? They include trial issues: What evidence may the government rely on when making that determination? And they include practical issues: What does it mean to order a detainee "released"? Can a court order release into the U.S. if a detainee cannot be transferred to his home country, either because it won't accept him or because we fear he might be mistreated upon his return?
In July, I urged Congress to work with the administration to fashion a uniform set of rules for these cases, expressing two basic concerns with leaving these matters to the courts. The first was that the courts would reach inconsistent decisions, leading to protracted litigation and the likelihood of different procedures in different cases.
The second was that the courts would not be well-positioned to address fully our national security and intelligence interests. As a former federal judge, I know well the constraints on federal courts. They cannot find facts on their own and are limited to the evidence presented by the parties before them. By contrast, Congress and the executive branch are well equipped to learn and evaluate facts, and skilled in balancing the difficult policy choices at stake.
In the absence of legislation, however, the courts have proceeded with these cases. I appreciate the difficulty of the task that these judges were given, and I believe they have done an admirable job under the circumstances. Nevertheless, we have seen courts diverging on key issues, meaning that the rules in each case will likely vary significantly and will likely be finally resolved only after multiple appeals.
More importantly, in many cases, the government has faced great difficulty in collecting and presenting evidence in a manner that protects the vital sources and methods upon which our national security depends. Indeed, lacking clear protections for classified information, we have found at times that we are simply unable to provide our best evidence to the court. Our national security framework, in short, is not -- and should not be -- designed primarily to handle the burdens of discovery accompanying ordinary civil litigation.
Although a new president comes to office in January, these cases are moving forward quickly and the need for legislation is urgent. It is not yet too late for Congress, working with both this administration, and members of the incoming administration, to come together to fix this problem and to develop a sensible framework. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, I believe that Americans agree more than they disagree about the principles that should govern this process.
First, Congress must make clear that release from the Guantanamo Bay military base does not mean that a detainee is entitled to enter the United States. Where a court finds that a detainee cannot be held as an enemy combatant, he should be returned to his home country or another country willing to receive him. He should not be permitted to jump the immigration line and enter this country.
Second, habeas corpus proceedings must protect the integrity of classified information and prevent disclosing that information to our enemies. Simply put, Congress should devise rules that allow the government to present the most highly classified information to the courts for their sole review.
We should not be forced to choose between continuing to hold a dangerous detainee and jeopardizing the intelligence sources and methods that Americans have risked their lives to obtain, and which our enemies may then render useless.
Third, Congress should establish sensible and uniform procedures that will eliminate the risk of duplicative efforts and inconsistent rulings, and strike a reasonable balance between the detainees' right to a hearing and our national security needs. Such practical rules must assure that court proceedings do not interfere with the mission of our armed forces.
Federal courts have never before treated habeas corpus as requiring full-dress trials, even in ordinary criminal cases. It would be unwise to do so here, given the grave national security concerns at issue.
Devising a legal framework to review our military's detention decisions is an unprecedented challenge. It should not be left to the courts alone.
I firmly believe that Congress, the administration, and the incoming administration can work together to establish rules that at once provide a fair hearing and are respectful of the nation's security interests. It is not yet too late, and it certainly is worth the effort to try.
Mr. Mukasey is the attorney general of the United States.
Editor's comment: I agree with the AG that Congress needs to balance a detainee's right to fair trial with the needs of our intelligence community.
And I DEFINITELY AGREE with the AG to send released detainees back to their countries or countries of their choosing, other than the United States.
Another Breaking News: POTUS Barack Obama Expected To Tap New Mexico Governor, Bill Richardson, As Commerce Secretary. But Why? He Belongs In The UN!
Another Breaking News Story: POTUS Barack Obama's Cell Phone Is Hacked. Haters Or Lovers?
Breaking News: POTUS Barack Obama Reaches Into Wall Street To Choose New York Federal Reserve President, Timothy Geithner, As Treasury Secretary.
PEGGY NOONAN: Keep Gates, But Mrs. Clinton At Foggy Bottom? Can They Be serious? I AGREE.
But Mrs. Clinton at Foggy Bottom? Can they be serious?
By PEGGY NOONAN
Rumors, leaks, gossip, backbiting, an air of mounting mistrust. Looks like Lulu's back in town.
The smooth Obama transition has been disrupted by the great disrupter, and one wonders: Does he really want to go there? Hasn't he been there? How'd that go?
On the face of it, the apparent offering of the secretary of state job to Hillary Clinton is a clever, interesting choice: An experienced and sophisticated workhorse with her own standing in the country, and bearing a name that is popular in the world, will be the public face of U.S. diplomacy. Mr. Obama gets to put her in a subordinate position while appearing to be magnanimous, and her seat in the U.S. Senate will likely be filled by a more malleable Democrat who won't be plotting from day one to get to the White House. A threefer.
But the downside is equally obvious: To invite in the Clintons—and it's always the Clintons, never a Clinton—is to invite in, to summon, drama that will never end. Ever. This would seem to be at odds with the atmospherics of Obamaland. "Loose cannon," "vetting process," "financial entanglements," questions about which high-flying oligarch gave how much to Bill's presidential library, and what the implications of the gift are, including potential conflict of interest. More colorfully, and nostalgically: people screaming through the halls, being hired and fired, attacking the press, leaking, then too tightly controlling information, then leaking, and speaking in the special patois of the Clinton staff, with the famous dialogue evocative of David Mamet as rewritten by Joe Pesci.
Will she go rogue? Will the rogue go rogue?
In the parlance of business there are clean deals and dirty deals. Clean deals have clear constituent pieces, are easy to bring together and line up, and carry few or surmountable obstacles. Dirty deals have deep complications, broad variables, proliferating unknowns. With a dirty deal there's potential profit but much mess—too much underbrush, no clear path. This would seem to be a dirty deal.
But it will be interesting to watch. The appointment is so surprising that everyone's inner Machiavelli is working overtime. Is she floating it to box him in and leave him embarrassed if he ultimately goes elsewhere? Are Mr. Obama's people floating it knowing a) she wanted it, b) but it won't work because Bill will never give up all the information required in an FBI full field investigation, and c) hey, that's the best of both worlds, an offer that was made and a reality that thwarted it. Not our fault! And she stays in the Senate, dinged, her power undermined again.
These are the questions that keep us loving politics.
[Declarations] Department of Defense
More important is this: Keep Gates. Reappointing Robert Gates as secretary of defense would be magnanimity with a purpose, a show of something better than cleverness, and that is wisdom.
We are at war, in two countries. The stakes don't get much higher. In Iraq at some point a drawdown will begin, with attendant drama and dislocation. Some will bomb our troops to get us out, and some will bomb our troops to keep us in. In Afghanistan, where those who are most deeply experienced believe the situation will get worse before it gets better, where the fighting is hard but an Iraq-style surge doesn't quite fit the situation or geography, our troops appear to be in the long slog, part two. Those back from the field speak of the time-consuming, resource-eating work of mind-changing, of recognizing and "incentivizing" potential allies, of economy-building, infrastructure-building, of tribal engagement, of buying off foes as Britain bought off members of the Irish Republican Army, of talking to the Taliban and other groups in the only way that will be effective, and that is from a position of strength.
What does Mr. Gates bring to this? Two years, next month, of success, and a professional lifetime of experience and knowledge. He is a bipartisan figure of respect—truly an object of across-the-board admiration. He is not part of the old crew that got us into war and bungled it but the new crew that stabilized it and created progress. And the point is to keep him not only for continuity, which may be virtue enough in a difficult and dynamic situation, but for his particular gifts and acumen. "Judgment," a high U.S. military official told me in conversation. Mr. Gates knows how to read the situation and make a decision. "He is brilliant," the official said. There are members of the military who once felt they had to wait forever when they asked for an answer on a request for change in materiel or tactics. But because Mr. Gates is so deeply read in, he prioritizes, apprehends, understands and gives directives quickly. The U.S. command structure, which is thick with veterans of previous secretaries of defense, would be encouraged—and relieved—by his reappointment.
Among Democrats there will be a proud and understandable sense of "We can run Defense too." They can. But of the possible Gates successors in the party none are—or can be—as knowledgeable in current on-the-ground realities. This is a particularly bad time for on-the-job training. As an added inducement for the president-elect, there will be clamor in the Democratic Party in the next few years to cut Defense, the one sizable chunk of the budget that can be cut and that they'd enjoy cutting. And in truth there has been some wild spending there. But few would know better than Mr. Gates what can be sacrificed and what cannot, and what needs more. Just by being there, he would provide the new president some Republican cover, which would take some of the sting out of a future Republican anticutting counterattack. "Democrats always cut defense and leave us weak. Wait, Gates said that cut is reasonable."
Mr. Gates is a public servant, not an operator. He was director of the CIA (the only one in the agency's history to rise from an entry level position to the top) from 1991 to 1993 and George H.W. Bush's deputy national security adviser from 1989 through 1991. The last is key. Mr. Gates is from the George H.W. Bush part of the Republican foreign-policy establishment, not the George W. Bush part, and that is no doubt in part why W. picked him, when Iraq was going bad. Mr. Gates was change you can believe in.
He also knows something about winning wars, having helped six American presidents win the cold one.
Mr. Obama said on "60 Minutes" that he means to include Republicans in his cabinet. This is where to start. And of course there is a rich tradition here, with Bill Clinton putting Republican William Cohen at Defense, and John F. Kennedy picking Republican Douglas Dillon for Treasury.
Keeping Mr. Gates would signal that Mr. Obama is serious in his desire to reach across party lines, and in the area that matters most immediately: national security. With Joe Biden having thoughtfully pointed out that Mr. Obama will likely be tested early on, Mr. Gates would be a steadying hand and voice. Somehow you can't imagine him informing a new young president that the Bay of Pigs is a good idea.
Would Mr. Gates stay? He said last week, in Estonia: "I have nothing new to share with you on this subject." Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told Politico on Wednesday. "I'm going to stick with the secretary's very eloquent response."
That sounds like yes.
Editor's comment: I AGREE TOTALLY.
Labels: POTUS Barack Obama