With the political unrest in Egypt intensifying by the day it is important that we think about the implications it could have for the Camp David Accords which established peace between Egypt and Israel in 1978.
Caroline Glick of The Jerusalem Post has certainly given the matter some thought and she is not optimistic. While Glick does not see Hosni Mubarak being overthrown she does think he will soon choose his successor:
But the same observers are quick to note that whoever Mubarak selects to succeed him will not be the beneficiary of such strong support from Egypt’s security state. And as the plight of Egypt’s overwhelmingly impoverished citizenry becomes more acute, the regime will become increasingly unstable. Indeed, its overthrow is as close to a certainty as you can get in international affairs.
And as we now see, all of its possible secular and Islamist successors either reject outright Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel or owe their political power to the support of those who reject the peace with the Jewish state. So whether the Egyptian regime falls next week or next year or five years from now, the peace treaty is doomed.
Let us not forget that there was a time when Egypt was Israel’s greatest enemy. They thrice went to war during Israel’s first quarter century. Of course, that can be easily forgotten considering Israel and Egypt have been at peace for a period longer than when they were adversaries.
However, just because Israel and Egypt have been at peace for more than three decades doesn’t mean they are friends. When I spent a good part of the summer of 1988 in Israel, the tenth anniversary of Camp David Accords were approaching. People who talked about Egypt generally said something along the lines of, “We’re at peace but it’s a cold peace.”
Indeed, there have been times during Mubarak’s long reign where it has been downright frigid. In 2002, Egyptian TV broadcast a 41-part mini-series across the Arab world based on the “Protocols of Elder Zion” despite protests from both the United States and Israel. The following year, “Protocols” was put on display next to a Torah in the Library of Alexandria. It was only last month that Al-Liwaa, Al-Islami, an Egyptian government weekly, published an article proclaiming Jews have no right to be in Israel and that Israel will cease to exist by 2025. Earlier this month, Abdullah Al Ash’al, a former Deputy Foreign Minister accused the Mossad of involvement in the bombing of the Alexandria church. While Egypt has not fired a shot at Israel in nearly forty years, the Mubarak regime has been content to tolerate anti-Semitic sentiments and outright hostility towards Israel.
Nevertheless, Mubarak has kept the Camp David Accords in tact. Israel and Egypt are not at war. Yes, Mubarak has governed his people very poorly and he has no one but himself blame for the current state of affairs. But after Mubarak, who can say Egypt won’t rip up the Camp David Accords and go to war with Israel? Couple that with a regime in Iran bent on Israel’s annihilation and we could see the Middle East explode like it never has before. Lord help us.
Robert Kagan is co-chairman of the bipartisan Working Group on Egypt, and earlier this week he noted to Laura Rozen of Politico that “one thing I have been most struck by in meeting with [U.S. officials] at all levels over the past year is that as of yesterday, they have no plan in any direction.”
No kidding. Administration statements this week have been an incoherent mush.
But why is Obama winging it? It didn’t have to be this way.
During the Bush years the US embassy in Cairo maintained a small fund to support groups promoting democratic reforms in Egypt, bypassing the Egyptian government. As I noted back in July, the Obama administration ended support for this fund.
The Daily Telegraph — while failing spectacularly at making this context clear — reports that according to a WikiLeaked cable, one of the activists who has been arrested this week was sent to New York to meet with other pro-democracy activists. You have to read to the bottom of the story to notice that the embassy apprently ended regular contact with this dissident after 2009.
The Obama administration is trying to claim they’ve been pressuring Mubarak to liberalize all along. This is risible spin; Josh Gerstein takes it apart.
Earlier in the week the protests in Egypt were dominated by activists like the guy that the Telegraph reported on. The Muslim Brotherhood really only became a visible part of the protests yesterday, and even then were not the dominant force in the streets. I have my doubts that the Army will ever allow the Brotherhood to come out on top in the current crisis, but if they do, it will be the logical consequence of the Obama administration’s decision to turn away from the Bush-era Freedom Agenda. American support for an autocrat has a tendency to empower his most anti-American opponents. And make no mistake: While Obama’s statement last night was an attempt to move away from unequivocal support for Mubarak, what most Egyptians noticed about it was that he seemed to take Mubarak’s promises of reform at face value.
The one thing that is certain now is that Gamal Mubarak, who has fled to London, will not be taking over for his father. The newly minted Vice President Omar Suleiman is now the designated heir; it’s an open question whether that arrangement can calm things down (as Jackson Diehl notes, Suleiman isn’t what protesters of any ideological stripe have in mind). The best hope is, as John Guardiano suggests below, that the Army will embrace a democratic transition. But it’s far from certain, and this administration has done little to lay the groundwork that would have made it more likely.
Old and weak-minded generals mistakenly fight the last war. Old and weak-minded analysts mistakenly fight the last revolution.
So it is that many conservatives — even many so-called experts — on Fox News and elsewhere, have been impugning the Egyptian revolution with comparisons to the Islamist takeover of Iran in 1979.
This is a wrongheaded and mistaken comparison. And it is causing too many conservatives to withhold their support for the legitimate and democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people.Continue reading…
The big-spending Michigan brothers Rep. Sander M. Levin and Sen. Carl. M. Levin want to increase subsidies for uneconomic electric cars. They would double existing tax incentives, costing a couple billion dollars a year. Even today that’s still a lot of money.
Rep. Levin admitted as much, but opined that if Americans took the tax break “it means that the program worked.” Worked to allow Uncle Sam to reallocate economic activity, anyway.
Unfortunately, as is typical when people spend other people’s money to “invest” in their preferred inventions, politicians have come up with a product which no one wants to buy unless paid to do so. The most obvious short-coming with electric cars, other than their high cost, is their limited range.
Winter exacerbates this problem. Which means that, unless global warming really accelerates, anyone living anywhere that temperatures drop below the temperate risks getting stuck with a dead battery.
The latest debilitating snowstorm in Washington, D.C. caused Washington Post columnist Charles Lane to remind readers that cold weather runs down batteries more quickly. And in a storm like that in Washington, the result could be really ugly. Lane observed:
Plenty of motorists ran out of fuel in Wednesday night’s mega-jam. But my hunch is that electrics would faced similar problems or worse. And many electric-car drivers who did manage to limp home Wednesday would have been out of options the next day: You can’t recharge if you don’t have electricity, and hundreds of thousands of customers were blacked out Thursday from the snow. The Post reports that this will be the case for many of them for days.
The answer is to have what one manufacturer calls a “cold weather package.” Like a back-up internal combustion engine. However, as Lane observes, “Of course, burning gas rather defeats the “green” purpose of the $41,000 (before federal tax rebate) four-seat car. But at least you won’t die of exposure on the road.”
The House Republicans want to cut the budget. A good place to start would be wasteful subsidies for uneconomic energy alternatives, such as electric cars.
With protests (to put it mildly) from Tunisia to Egypt to Yemen, the Arab world is in turmoil. From the point of view of those who support a widening of democracy and freedom, the outcomes could range from disastrous (creating the next Afghanistan or Lebanon) to the tolerable (creating a relatively stable but essentially dictatorial situation, as Egypt has been), to something as close to good as you tend to see in that region (perhaps Jordan.)
[By the way, perhaps the most explicit recent demonstration and reminder of the risks which havens for Islamism pose to humanity is this news story, which I can barely read, much less watch any video of.]
Before getting to the events on the ground in North Africa and Yemen, it’s worth noting the reaction in U.S. markets: The dollar is up sharply against the Euro and the British Pound, which is a common occurrence as people flock to the much-maligned “safe haven” of the USD during times of uncertainty. While a strong dollar normally means weak commodity prices, we’re instead seeing gold up more than $20, or almost 7 percent, with silver also up more than 2 percent.
Most importantly, oil is up big, with March (the “front month”) futures up $3. Of note is the fact that May (the third month) is up about 80 cents less than March, much more than the usual difference between the moves in those months and implying a substantial fear of short-term disruption in oil supplies. The only way that makes sense is if traders fear — as I do — that the next place for an uprising is in Saudi Arabia. The market is accelerating downwards, with the S&P 500 down more than 1.7 percent, or 23 points, and the CBOE’s volatility index (VIX) up by more than 3 points, the biggest jump in months, showing increased fear of continued market declines.
In the meantime, despite the Egyptian government shutting down Internet and cell phone services, protests (or perhaps organized insurrection) are in full force in Cairo.
The dynamics in that large country are very interesting. The government’s response has not been as brutal as one might expect, despite the gripping footage coming from Egypt.
It’s interesting to read a comment attributed to someone from President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling party that the government might need to respond with, among other things, “more freedoms.”
On the other hand, it’s frightening to see images of protesters stopping in the street to pray. It gives an indication of one likely outcome of successful protests: the installation of an Islamic or at least more-Islamic-than-now government.
Current reports such as this one from CNBC earlier indicate that the Muslim Brotherhood is influencing the protests: “The early cheers were mostly against Mubarak. But as the clashes got more intense, the protests took on a more Islamic flavor. There were more shouts of “Allahu Akbar”…” Make no mistake, this is very bad news and is exactly the opening that Islamists are hoping to exploit.
Prior to these protests, it seemed that Hosni Mubarak’s son, Gamal, was a likely successor. This article by NPR discusses Gamal’s chances and his chief rival as well as the Madame DeFarge-like impact of the wives of of the presidents of Egypt and Tunisia.
Meanwhile, Mohammed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the group that so spectacularly failed to understand or deal with Iran’s nuclear plans has returned to his home country of Egypt, offering to head a resistance movement. While some cynicism regarding political opportunism is warranted, at the end of the day this is a guy well-steeped in Western traditions, operations, and values. A government including or run by him is perhaps the best currently visible outcome, even if no particular outcome is actually probable at this time. Perhaps not surprisingly, al Jazeera has published an article critical of ElBaradei as an elitist opportunist, but it lays out the issues for and against him within Egypt quite well.
Given the news of the Islamic turn in the tone of the protests, we should probably hope that ElBaradei has success in organizing a pro-democracy movement — and that he does a better job in Egypt than he did at IAEA.
In Yemen, street protesters are calling for the removal of that nation’s president/dictator who has been in power for 32 years. We’ve all heard the stories of Yemen as the base of operations for Al Qaeda in Yemen and the American-born terrorist “imam” (again, a great reason to hope for the extinction of Islamism over time) Anwar al-Awliki. A NY Times story from just a week ago describes Yemen has having sentenced al-Awliki in absentia for murder, but the chances of their bringing him to justice don’t seem much higher than the chances of Pakistan bringing in Osama bin Laden or Ayman al Zawahiri.
If the Yemeni government falls, there is real risk of the nation becoming even more lawless and a petri dish for terrorists. It’s particularly true in a nation as poor as Yemen, with one news story saying “With one-third of Yemen’s 23 million people living and suffering from chronic hunger and soaring unemployment, and almost half of the population living on less than $2 a day, the population is struggling, according to the United Nations Development Program.” While it’s nice to think that anti-corruption forces would appeal to the rational mind of the population, rich westerners should not overestimate the amount that the desperately poor spend thinking about politics. They’re too busy just trying to survive, and probably have religion as a substantial force in their day-to-day lives. Therefore, it’s more likely that “populist” Islamic forces would have an upper hand than that any push for good government would gain a strong footing. I hope I’m wrong.
Tunisia has perhaps the best chance of a decent outcome, having been a less Islamic nation for many years. The protests, which reportedly started when a would-be street vendor lit himself on fire after being denied a permit to sell vegetables, have resulted in nearly 100 deaths, according to recent reports. This discussion by a Tunisian writer frames the situation well, and begs the critical question for all the current protests as well as potential future protests which much have leaders across the Arab world — not least in Saudi Arabia — scared to death:
Are these truly — as they appear to be at first glance — popular uprisings against corruption and in search of freedom and democracy? Or are the protesters witting or unwitting tools of Islamists who want to turn more of the Middle East into safe havens for their own purposes?
Only time will tell, but perhaps sooner than many people think. Until the meantime, we’re witnessing events which, unlike many world happenings, are utterly outside any possible control or even substantial influence by the US or the western world. We’re watching history in the making and watching time when many in the Arab world must make a decision which will impact the direction of their nations for generations to come. Will they support relative freedom — leading to relative prosperity, or will they be co-opted by forces of primitive backwardness and tyranny?
Perhaps above all, even though it’s not in the news yet, the world should keep its eye on the streets of Riyadh. If an insurrection contagion spreads to the world’s largest oil supplier, the economic and market impacts, in addition to the geopolitical ramifications for Iran and Iraq, could be extremely damaging.
President Obama’s State of the Union speech was filled with big government jingoism, attempting to tap into the can-do American spirit to push his expansionist public policy agenda. The media seized on his declaration that this was a “Sputnik moment.” Obama said we should respond to current challenges as we did in the space race and declared that “we do big things.” But it’s worth noting that when America faced its actual Sputnik moment in 1957, the nation was in a much better position to respond precisely because we weren’t as burdened by massive debt from government programs.
— In 2011, the U.S. will run a projected deficit of 9.8 percent of GDP, or nearly $1.5 trillion. In 1957, the government was running a surplus of .8 percent of GDP, or $120 billion if adjusted for the 2011 GDP estimate.
— In 2011, debt is projected to be 69.4 percent of GDP, and trending upward. In 1957, debt was 48.6 percent of GDP as we were still paying of debt from World War II, but trending downward. Adjusted for today’s dollars, the debt was $3.1 trillion lower back in 1957.
— In 2011, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other health care programs such as S-Chip cost about $1.6 trillion, or 10.6 percent of GDP. In 1957, Social Security cost 1.5 percent of GDP, or $226 billion if adjusted. Medicare, Medicaid, S-Chip, and related programs did not exist.
The existence of those programs today, however, produces the following outlook from the CBO:
Beyond the 10-year projection period, further increases in federal debt relative to the nation’s output almost certainly lie ahead if current policies remain in place. The aging of the population and rising costs for health care will push federal spending as a percentage of GDP well above that in recent decades. Specifically, spending on the government’s major mandatory health care programs—Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and health insurance subsidies to be provided through insurance exchanges—along with Social Security will increase from roughly 10 percent of GDP in 2011 to about 16 percent over the next 25 years. If revenues stay close to their average share of GDP for the past 40 years, that rise in spending will lead to rapidly growing budget deficits and surging federal debt. To prevent debt from becoming unsupportable, policymakers will have to substantially restrain the growth of spending, raise revenues significantly above their historical share of GDP, or pursue some combination of those two approaches.
It’s hard to do “big things” when you have to pay for big government.
This morning’s BEA report contained an important milestone. Three years later, real GDP is finally higher than it was at the previous peak.
Hat tip: Ryan Avent.
Now that Keith “Lincoln only lost one election” Olbermann has departed MSNBC, the banner of historical ignorance has been picked up by Chris Matthews.
After playing a soundbite of Minnesota’s Congresswoman Michele Bachmann talking about the Founding Fathers and specifically discussing John Quincy Adams’ opposition to slavery, Matthews went on to disparage Bachmann as a “balloon head” because, according to Matthews, the Constitution deliberately counted slaves as only three-fifths of a person.
This is historical misstatement of a size that makes Matthews look like, well, a balloon head.
First, Bachmann was totally correct about John Quincy Adams. Second, as anyone who has spent, say, five minutes studying the U.S. Constitution and its history is fully aware the famous “three-fifths clause” was a compromise by the anti-slavery forces to keep slave-owners from being over-represented in the U.S. House of Representatives where population determined — then as now — the number of congressional seats per state. If slaves, specifically mentioned as “persons” in Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 (“three fifths of all other Persons”) were counted, the Southern slave-owners would have an even greater numerical advantage in Congress than they already were destined to have. With slaves counted as a whole person, slave owners’ power would increase — while slaves would be unable to ever win their freedom in a system dominated by slaveowners. Hence the compromise, which was in fact pushed by anti-slavery forces.
The population in the North would grow — eventually destined to overwhelm the South in numbers. This was one of the reasons for the Dred Scott decision — a desperate attempt to write slavery into the Constitution forever, written by the slave-holding Roger Taney — the Democrat who was Chief Justice of the United States.
For Matthews to so grossly misstate the most rudimentary of historical fact in his zeal to go after Bachmann displays either an overdose of partisan zeal (and a considerable whiff of sexism, a Matthews problem in the past) — or just plain old fashioned historical ignorance by someone parading around as a smart guy.
Someone’s a balloon head here alright, and it isn’t Michele Bachmann.
With the success of Sarah Palin’s Alaska, perhaps TLC should embark upon another series with a prominent American politician. They could call it Joe Biden’s World.
Vice-President Joe Biden’s assertion in an interview with Jim Lehrer that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is not a dictator has to rank amongst the daftest things that have crossed the threshold of his lips.
It certainly ranks up there with his assertion during the 2008 Vice-Presidential debates that the United States and France had “kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon.” That would certainly be news in the streets of Beirut.
Or how about when he told Katie Couric during the ‘08 campaign that FDR had gone on television to talk to the American people after the 1929 stock market crash despite the fact that Herbert Hoover was President and television didn’t exist? Ms. Couric didn’t even bat an eyelash.
And yet they call Sarah Palin stupid.
Yesterday the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission released its report on the causes of the financial crisis, accompanied by two separate dissents from Republican members of the commission. The FCIC concluded that the financial collapse was avoidable, and placed blame for the meltdown primarily on risky practices on Wall Street and ineffective regulation. One dissenting report instead argued that a number (10 actually) of causes, including global financial developments, led to the creation and collapse of the housing bubble. The authors, Bill Thomas, Keith Hennessey, and Douglas Holtz-Eakin, summed up their view in the Wall Street Journal. The other dissent was written by American Enterprise Institute financial scholar Peter Wallison, who accentuated the role that the government played in inflating the bubble, especially through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
At this stage the argument is an academic one, because with last year’s Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill, Congress has already considered and finalized its response to the financial crisis. The FCIC report won’t shape any further legislation or regulation: Dodd-Frank is the new regime and probably will be until the next financial crisis.
What the FCIC report will do, though, is shape the narrative and history of the financial crisis. That narrative is undoubtedly still a relevant argument. Considering that academics still debate the causes of the Great Depression today, 80 years later, there is a lot at stake in interpreting the causes of the 2007-2009 crisis.
And where the FCIC and the dissents differ is in the interpretation of the same facts. On the question of the role that the GSEs (primarily Fannie and Freddie) played in the housing bubble and collapse, the commissioners and Wallison see a different story when looking at the numbers.
Here is the commissioners’ summary of their view of the GSEs:Continue reading…
The story in Egypt is moving fast, and it’s hard to predict how everything will turn out, but right now Al Jazeera’s English-language channel has incredible live footage of the rioting and inferno in Cairo, which among other things has engulfed the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party in flames. You can watch live here.
After frozen, extended commute, a Washington Post editorial writer wonders how it would have gone with an electric vehicle. Conclusion: even less well. He doubts the president’s goal will be met. Exile to follow.
Meanwhile, The Great Booker notes that “London to Edinburgh by electric car: it was quicker by stagecoach: The BBC’s stunt of taking an electric Mini to Edinburgh reveals just how impractical rechargeable cars are”.
Our friend Jennifer Rubin is sounding the alarm against Rand Paul’s “neo-isolationist foreign policy.” This is because Paul told Wolf Blitzer he would cut $3 billion in foreign aid to Israel. Now, there is a case for keeping this aid. But this comes in the context of Paul’s $500 billion spending cuts bill that zeroes out foreign aid entirely, some of it aid that flows to Israel’s enemies. So when the House Republicans tried to cut foreign aid 30 percent across the board in the 1990s, but exempted Israel, was that still neo-isolationism?
By the way, J Street’s position on aid to Israel really isn’t that inscrutable. That aid is a considerable part of American leverage over the Israeli government, pressure J Street wants to use to exact Israeli concessions. So even the question of whether supporting the aid is pro-Israel isn’t really quite so cut and dry.
From the Globe and Mail:
The Spanish and Germans are doing it. So are the French. The British might have to do it. Austerity-whacked Europe is rolling back subsidies for renewable energy as economic sanity makes a tentative comeback. Green energy is becoming unaffordable and may cost as many jobs as it creates. But the real victims are the investors who bought into the dream of endless, clean energy financed by the taxpayer. They forgot that governments often change their minds.
Funny, I thought I just heard something about how we need to spen…sorry, invest…many (more) billions because these things are just super.
Possibly that opening para from the article also has something to do with the panicked push for Uncle Sucker to do this, too, bailing out some bursting bubbles. Come to think of it, I did see the German Embassy buying full-page ads in the WSJ, and Deutsche Bank’s practice group head on a media blitz talking his own book around the same time…
“We support the universal rights of the Egyptian people,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday in Jordan, “including the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly. And we urge the Egyptian authorities not to prevent peaceful protests or block communications, including on social media sites.”
The AP is now reporting that Internet service is cut off in Egypt. So what are we going to do about it?
It’s time, as Charlie Szrom has been suggesting over at National Review Online, to reassess US aid to Egypt:
Second, the administration could threaten cuts in aid to the Egyptian government if the regime continues to ban demonstrations and arrest and otherwise abuse protestors. This would be in line with measures I proposed yesterday on the Corner. The Egyptian regime has ignored the Obama administration’s calls for “restraint.” The specter of reduced funding would demand the regime’s attention. Without the threat of such action or rhetoric straight from the President, the Mubarak regime is unlikely to respond.
Continuing to throw unqualified monetary support at the Mubarak regime under the current circumstances is insane, and not just because everyone in Washington these days claims to be looking for ways to save money. Szrom has called for an immediate $100 million cut, with threats of more if the regime doesn’t open up the coming presidential election, scheduled for September.
UPDATE: Joe Biden should be ashamed of himself.
Apologies for the slow day on the blog — the effects of the D.C. thundersnow and the looming magazine deadline slowed us down. We’ll have more content tomorrow.
Heather Mac Donald: The Holder Justice Department is seriously impeding the ability of the LAPD to do their jobs (The Weekly Standard)
Todd Zywicki: Anthony Esolen’s Roar of the Lion Dad vs. Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (The Washington Times)
Michael New: The research showing no significant mental health consequences of abortions is misleading (National Review)
David Harsanyi: The abortion debate could use a little more science (Reason)
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis writes in the Huffington Post that:
“No country has more successful companies, inventors, and entrepreneurs. So when the president says that 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean sources by 2035, I know we will meet that goal.
I believe it because I’ve seen the promise of clean energy technology, and I’ve seen the impact of green jobs. Take Kwanasia Smith, a young woman in Oakland, CA. Thanks to the Recovery Act, she attended a summer jobs program studying solar paneling, mounting, and wiring.”
If I follow the administration’s rhetoric since SOTU, some combination of summer internships and pretending the Great Windmill Race is a moon-shot will make us competitive in the uneconomic and innovative in the old, which isn’t like that energy of today which is from yesterday but is instead of tomorrow. If tomorrow is the 1890s.
Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve just pulled up to the BP station so they can fill ‘er up with solar.
I just received a flier circulating among and by disgruntled bureaucrats, excerpted in pertinent part below with all emphases in the original (if missing colored bold, cartoons to further illustrate their grievance and other fun things certainly not created on the taxpayer dime):
INJUSTICE IN THE WORKPLACE
No one should have to endure unfair treatment in the workplace - whether it is with regard to Promotions, PARs ratings, Flexible Work Schedules or Selection of Work Space. All too often, employees don’t know where to turn when they are faced with these challenges.
In these tough times, employees may be fearful of speaking up or taking a stand against unfair treatment.
WHAT is an employee to do when the injustice comes from within the office of the Leader of EPA?
Unfair treatment in the Office of the Administrator
In the Office of the Administrator/Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education (OEAEE), EPA employees continuously face the threat of being moved from one work space to another, despite the negotiated Agreements and policies that govern how space assignments are to be conducted.
If justice is not served in the Office of the Administrator, there is little chance for justice throughout EPA.
And on and on it goes.
Uh oh. This often doesn’t end well.
I was struck by one of the quotes Costa highlighted concerning Romney’s position on the merits of a prospective GOP presidential hopeful having a background in business:
I don’t know who all is going to get in the race, but I do believe that it would be helpful if at least one of the people who’s running in the Republican field had extensive experience in the private sector - in small business, in big business.
Somehow I don’t think Romney was referring to Herman Cain.
But I’d put up Cain’s private sector experience against Romney’s private sector experience any day of the week. I also think Cain resonates with conservatives in a way Romney never will no matter how much money he spends.
Tim Carney takes Obama’s greatest SOTU sin to task in the Examiner today, captured in this excerpt (with emphasis added):
Using capitalist buzzwords like “investment,” Obama called for more government spending on research and continued government subsidy of “green” technology like solar panels and electric cars.
So it’s not capitalism, but it’s also not the “Marxism” with which many conservative pundits have charged Obama. You can call it corporate socialism or corporatism. ..
When liberal Democrats of the past called for this sort of managed economy in which business does the rowing while government steers, they often used expressions like, “the United States is the only Western nation that doesn’t” support or control one industry or another. With American voters, such Europe-envy doesn’t sell.
Obama has brilliantly framed the same vision the opposite way: We can’t let China or Europe beat us on green energy or biotechnology! This touches our patriotic hearts and plays to our competitive spirit.
But it also undermines our free market and, in the long run, stultifies our economy. Rather than investors and entrepreneurs trying to anticipate and meet consumer demand, we now have GE or made-for-subsidy startups trying to lobby for and receive subsidies.
Obama’s most glaring perversion is to employ the intimations of capitalism to match China and Europe in the Great Statist Race. Their windmill and solar panel schemes are no more market-driven than are those he conjures in the name of catching up to them. Europe mandates the things, and we do on a smaller sale, so China makes them, selling us all the rope we need to hang ourselves with and laughing all the way to the Glorious Peoples’ Bank.
Obama is using the intimations of capitalism to pursue his admitted objective of ‘fundamentally transforming America’ into a land where decisions like what sort of energy you may use and how — which ultimately means how much, and how efficient you can or cannot be — are in the hands of the political class. Because you can’t be trusted with freedoms. You might use them.
Obama’s declaration last night that “this is our generation’s Sputnik moment” has been met with too much scorn and derision in the conservative blogosphere. Understandably so: for too many on the left, Sputnik is simply a manufactured excuse to keep the river of red ink flowing.
But in this new and blessed age of civility and “bipartisanship,” let’s assume that our leftist friends actually do remember Sputnik as the impetus behind a grand new era of American progress and achievement. What, might we ask, brought about those golden days of yesteryear?
Well, to answer that question, let’s go back to the history books.Continue reading…
Remember President Obama vowing, in his “shellacking” post-mid-term press conference, that there are ‘other ways to skin that cat’ now that cap-n-trade not only was rejected but led to electoral malaise?
My CEI colleague Marlo Lewis makes an important note in a blog post today. Specifically, last night Obama asked Congress to mandate that 80% of U.S. electricity come from ‘clean energy’ by 2035. Amazingly enough, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected that under the House-passed Waxman-Markey cap-n-trade bill, about 80% of our electricity would come from ‘clean’ sources by 2030.
And you remember the effect that Obama said was his goal of that scheme? Something about making ‘electricity rates necessarily skyrocket’. See Marlo’s post for the unsavory details.
My friend Mark Tapscott has probably the most eloquent column yet on why Mike Pence should run for president. Read it here. Pence, he writes, “is a man of faith and a genuine conservative who understands that economic freedom produces the best results for everybody concerned when sown among consumers who are independent, trustworthy, family oriented and hard-working.”
Another testimonial comes from Ned Ryun, president of a great grassroots group called American Majority.
[A]sk yourself who has held true to his or her principles under fire, time and time again? I’m not saying standing up and proclaiming this or that: words mean nothing to me. It’s what you actually do, and Mike Pence’s voting record has shown from No Child Left Behind to Medicare Part D to TARP to the stimulus bill, even taking a stand against the recent tax compromise, he has talked and walked the walk.
Pence has said he will decide by the end of January whether to run for governor or Indiana or instead to take a shot at the presidency. In other words, he’ll decide by this coming Monday. If he runs, he’ll certainly make a lot of conservative movement activists very happy.
Earlier this month, Kelly Williams-Bolar has been sentenced to ten days in prison and three years probation for sending her daughters to get their schooling in a district in which they do not live. Williams-Bolar, who lives in a poor section of Akron, Ohio, sent her daughters to a school in a neighboring district where her father resides. Williams-Bolar registered her daughters at her father’s address rather than her own.
Williams-Bolar served nine days of her sentence and was released today. She should have never been incarcerated for a nanosecond. But since this is a felony conviction, Williams-Bolar will now be unable to obtain her teaching degree.
So I guess this means Williams-Bolar’s daughters will be kicked out of school? Is this justice served?
If Williams-Bolar had access to vouchers to send her daughters to the school of her choice she would not have suffered the indignity of being arrested, put on trial and deemed a convicted felon. Kelly Williams-Bohar is no criminal. I hope Ohio Governor John Kasich sees fit to pardon Williams-Bolar.
As has been his practice, last night President Obama called state spending on things that work, but that he doesn’t like, ‘subsidizing’ them. True. But he then, as is also his habit, called subsidizing things that he likes but don’t work ‘investment.’ Even if they are things that have failed for a century and more.
So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.
And sure enough tomorrow’s energy includes those things from the 19th century that failed when it came to providing reliable, affordable electricity, windmills and solar cells. But while I was on Frank Beckman’s radio show a few minutes ago he asked a good question:
What about the energy for today?
But dear Alice, “The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday - but never jam to-day.” That would be ‘fossil’ (sic) fuels, or hydrocarbons, of which we have a century or more of supply depending on the fuel source, and which remains the most reliable, abundant and affordable energy supply.
So in Obama’s eyes the things we use today are the energy of yesterday, and against which Obama has gone to war today: offshore oil and gas, domestic onshore oil and gas, domestic coal, existing technology for all of their uses that afford your freedoms…meaning, your freedom from dependence on the kind of people who proclaim and seek to design a country where prosperity comes from the state.
Fortunately, things like this provide another opportunity to remind Americans that Obama vowed to cause your ‘electricity rates [to] necessarily skyrocket’, and his energy secretary in an indiscreet moment pledged the desire to cause our gasoline prices to more than double, ‘to Europe’s levels.’ That’s what they think about energy for today.
Yesterday I noted the calculated cynicism of the Democratic plan to turn Paul Ryan into a “bogeyman” for submitting a plan, the “Roadmap,” for reforming entitlements spending. The Weekly Standard’s Mike Warren reports that the architect of that plan, Democratic senator Chuck Schumer of New York, can’t even claim that he’s read the Roadmap. And a few of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate admit they’ve never read it:
While Schumer was silent, some of his Democratic colleagues openly admitted they haven’t read Ryan’s plan. “I haven’t had a chance to look at anything,” Ben Nelson of Nebraska told me. “I looked at it briefly when it came out last fall, I think,” said Mark Pryor of Arkansas. “I didn’t master the details.”
“I use Google Maps,” was all Richard Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, would say when asked if he’d read the plan.
What ‘global warming’? Who said ‘climate change’? The enviro Left is grumbling that the greatest threat facing mankind, which became the greatest environmental threat, then was demoted to one of the greatest environmental challenges, didn’t warrant an express mention last night. Possibly this was due to last year’s embarrassment (see here, chuckle), and the continuing rough patch their case has hit.
In response, Politico’s Morning Energy writes:
MISSING IN ACTION - In his previous two major speeches to Congress, Obama hyped the pressing need to address “global climate change.” Last night? Not so much. But Democrats, many of whom blasted George W. Bush when he left those words out of his speech, were quick to shrug off the absence.
“That’s alright,” John Kerry told reporters after the speech. “There’s a lot of work that has to be done to revalidate the science and the facts with respect to that. It would cloud the reality that we’re trying to deal with respect to energy. So I’m very sympathetic. I understand that completely. That is not where the country is. That’s not where the issue is right now. It has to be brought back there. And it will be, but that’s a different track on a different issue.”
Wha? I think that translated that meant ‘We’re not going to talk about that stuff’, sort of like when Kerry also said his cap-and-trade bill ‘is not a climate bill.’ Oh. Still, as a colleague of mine from the UK said, that’s the most inarticulate thing I’ve heard a politician say since John Prescott left office.
In my view, last night was the first time in a while that the official Republican response to the State of the Union matched up well against a Democratic president’s speech. Paul Ryan was respectful, measured but appropriately critical and fact-filled. And somehow he managed to strike a tone that was mildly less partisan than the unofficial Tea Party response delivered by Michelle Bachmann. Ryan’s response also underscored the fact that Obama’s newfound spending restraint is mostly content-free.
Rand Paul doesn’t sugarcoat his post State of the Union message…
However, I found President Obama’s SOTU address a paradox. President Obama spoke of investing in biomedical research, information technology, clean energy technology and education as well as the merits of Obamacare only to say we were under “a mountain of debt” and thus had to freeze spending.
How exactly does Obama think we got under a mountain of debt in the first place? At one point, President Obama noted that countries in Europe invested more in roads and railways than we do. Modeling ourselves after Europe isn’t exactly a sound strategy when you consider the fiscal state of Europe is more perilous than our own.
President Obama spoke of innovative American individuals such as Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers and innovative American companies like Google and Facebook. But innovation comes from the individual and entities established by individuals. Did Edison, the Wright Brothers, Google and Facebook seek government handouts?
I might have given greater weight to President Obama’s remarks about education had he spoken about school choice rather than more federal control of education. When it came to illegal immigration, Obama was downright shrill when he said, “And let’s stop expelling talented, responsible young people who can staff our research labs, start new businesses, and further enrich this nation.”
The President gave short shrift to foreign affairs. He spoke of how our troops in Iraq leave with their head held high. They do so because of the President Bush’s surge, a policy vigorously opposed by the White House’s current occupant.
Speaking of the current occupant, I am not sure how he can say our reputation around the world has been restored when the Chinese openly mock us at a White House state dinner.
It was nice of President Obama to say he supports the aspirations of the Tunisian people. But what of the aspirations of the people of Egypt, Lebanon and, for that matter, Iran?
I did applaud, however, when President Obama called upon colleges and universities to allow military recruiters and the ROTC to their campuses now that DADT has been repealed.
Of course, no one will remember a word of this speech in a day or two. After all, President Obama’s actions in the coming weeks and months will speak much louder.
The State of the Union Address was unimpressive. President Obama’s delivery was uninspired. And the speech as written wasn’t anything special, either — it didn’t seem as though a lot of thought went into writing it.
For example, no mixed metaphors should have been left in the address after the first draft. Yet there were many, including:
Mixed metaphors were not the only oversights in the speech. For instance, from the next line: “Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may feel like you’re flying high at first, but it won’t take long before you’ll feel the impact.” Doesn’t the simile involving the airplane make the point? It’s a little lame to then spell out that the plane will fly at first before crashing.
Another one: “Look to Iraq, where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high; where American combat patrols have ended; violence has come down; and a new government has been formed.” What does it mean for violence to “come down”? That clause would make sense if the subject were the level of violence.
Lastly, the address included some inadvertent rhetorical admissions. Obama was off message on this one: “We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology - an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.” So he’s saying that the number of jobs created by a given “investment” cannot be counted? He just spent two years arguing that he could count the number of jobs “created or saved” by the stimulus.
This proposal is a farce. Just like Republican versions of the same, it exempts the biggest categories of federal spending and requires broad budget caps touching every domestic discretionary program to be sustained for a longer period of time than we can realistically expect of Washington. There’s a benefit to the Rand Paul approach of beginning to cut spending and abolish programs now.
Worse, Obama is proposing to freeze federal spending at the elevated levels to which he has increased it. The Republicans have at least wanted to go back to 2008 levels while the Republican Study Committee has suggested 2006 — still too high and still with all the problems endemic in this “freeze” approach, but at least while making an attempt to roll back the Obama discretionary spending increases.
Remember when George H.W. Bush called for a “flexible freeze” on spending back in 1988? If you skate on a flexibly frozen pond, you’ll probably drown.
OK, admit I was hoping and lying in wait for him to dare dip his toes into the dangerous waters of specificity and repeat his recently reaffirmed odious claim of Germany as his latest spectacular ‘clean energy economy’ and ‘renewables’ success that we are to follow (having tapped Spain and the others to great embarassment).
But the lesson of (publicly identifying) the Spanish debacle as a model seems to have been learned. No Germany in the speech tonight.
Which as I note here is really too bad. They just received warnings of the blackouts now in store for them for following the ‘irrational’ scheme.
As will we unless this shocking pursuit of the ‘other way to skin the cat’ of energy rationing, wind- and solar-ethanol, backfires on Obama. If he — or aspiring Republican presidents, like one grave disappointment revealed today — can’t get off the ethanol but instead only praise it for political gain, imagine the damage they’ll wreak with these.
“Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources. Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all - and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.”
Folks, you are being treated like infants. While you are being robbed. Windmills and solar panels are not ‘innovative’, they exist only because some politicians have made icons of them and are wedded to the things as a result. Meaning so are all of us. But wind-powered electricity was commercialized in 1891. Solar cells were patented in 1888.
The modern solar cell was created in 1954. Jimmy Carter vowed to increase their subsidies in 1978, supported by promises that it would provide 20% of our electricity by 2000. It is still a fraction of one percent. Soooo close! And solar gets three pitches in the 2011 State of the Union address as some breakthrough waiting to happen. Sigh.
Coal-fired electricity was commercialized in 1882. Somehow it’s a dinosaur and the others are new. Please.
Windmills and solar cells to produce electricity are precisely, for all intents and purposes, as old or ‘new’ as coal-fired electricity, and as the automobile. Two of those four have succeeded spectacularly. And as a result are under assault by people who hate abundance, automobility, and otherwise freedom from reliance on them.
Those other two are dismal failures that cannot find markets and investors in a nation where the Snuggie and Vince the Sham-Wow guy did. That’s pathetic. And they and their enablers in Washington and state capitols snivel that they are ‘innovative’, just around the corner, ‘new technology’ and ‘nascent’ and therefore need welfare because otherwise they’ll go bankrupt.
The answer to that drivel is not only that you’re not new and being new does not in any way mean you therefore need welfare, but also: then go bankrupt. Because the rest of the sentence they didn’t tell you is that they’ll go bankrupt even if you do give them that wealth transfer. Just a little later. Until you give them their next one. They got bugs crawlin’ in their skin, man, can’t you see? They can stop any time they want but, just a taste, man, just a taste!
Windmills aren’t Sputnik, as he implies. They aren’t ‘big things’, as goes his closing line (unless you have to live near them…ask a Kennedy if there’s one at your viewing party).
They aren’t the internet, as he also risibly analogizes. The internet made people more efficient, allowed them to do more, to create more wealth with less. Windmills and solar panels are the opposite. They are woefully inefficient, are inherently less economic, would not exist but-for politicians deigning it be so, and in any other way do not deserve being in the same conversation with actual innovation like Silicon Valley’s. Except that if we had forced Silicon Valley to run on more expensive less reliable less efficient energy like that to which it is being analogized, it would have happened somewhere else.
Which brings me to something a colleague of mine says, made only more relevant by the current White House: do not despair, there will always be an America. It’s just that it may have moved to Asia.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has proposed a budget that will cut $500 billion in federal spending in one year. (Important caveat: It has not to my knowledge been independently scored.) Paul would abolish the Departments of Education, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development, completely zeroing out federal housing spending.
The Affordable Housing Program, the Commission on Fine Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment of Arts, the National Endowment for Humanities, the State Justice Institute, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission are all eliminated. The Smithsonian is privatized. The defense budget is also cut, by the 6 percent decrease is less than the reductions in most domestic spending. Most other discretionary spending is rolled back to 2008 levels, in a single year rather than over a lengthy period of time.
I’ll have more to say about all this later once I’ve looked at the Paul budget in greater detail. But it wouldn’t hurt if Paul Ryan’s State of the Union response represented mainstream Republican thinking on fiscal policy and the Tea Party, symbolized tonight by Michelle Bachmann, took a page from Paul.
Says so in the leaked version of tonight’s SOTU National Journal has published that I’m told is causing heads to explode all over the White House. Again, I’ve never seen SOTU so closely held. Reasons may include avoiding people to be too prepared to laugh at things like this:
“That’s the project the American people want us to work on. Together.
We did that in December. Thanks to the tax cuts we passed, Americans’ paychecks are a little bigger today.”
Misssed that. Next thing you know he’ll call spending on windmill boondoggles ‘investing.’ As he works to ‘cut spending’ by ‘investing’ in a whole lot more ‘stimulus’.
Sorry. New tones are tough when this is what you’re dealt.
It seems that in the age of 24/7 internet reporting, embargoes on speeches released in advance can’t really hold. National Journal has the complete text of tonight’s State of the Union address, care of “a Democratic insider who declined to be identified because the source would be violating the White House’s embargo.”
Rep. Paul Ryan’s office has released the following excerpts of his response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address:
REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: “President Obama just addressed a Congressional chamber filled with many new faces. One face we did not see tonight was that of our friend and colleague, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona. We all miss Gabby and her cheerful spirit; and we are praying for her return to the House Chamber.”
SPENDING: “In one of our first acts in the new majority, House Republicans voted to cut Congress’s own budget. And just today, the House voted to restore the spending discipline that Washington sorely needs. The reason is simple. A few years ago, reducing spending was important. Today, it’s imperative. Here’s why. We face a crushing burden of debt. The debt will soon eclipse our entire economy, and grow to catastrophic levels in the years ahead. On this current path, when my three children – who are now 6, 7, and 8 years old – are raising their own children, the federal government will double in size, and so will the taxes they pay. No economy can sustain such high levels of debt and taxation. The next generation will inherit a stagnant economy and a diminished country. Frankly, it’s one of my greatest concerns as a parent – and I know many of you feel the same way.”
BUDGET: “Americans are skeptical of both political parties, and that skepticism is justified – especially when it comes to spending. So hold all of us accountable. In this very room, the House will produce, debate, and advance a budget. Last year – in an unprecedented failure – Congress chose not to pass, or even propose a budget. The spending spree continued unchecked. We owe you a better choice and a different vision. Our forthcoming budget is our obligation to you – to show you how we intend to do things differently, how we will cut spending to get the debt down, help create jobs and prosperity, and reform government programs.”
FISCAL CHALLENGE AHEAD: “Our nation is approaching a tipping point. We are at a moment, where if government’s growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America’s best century will be considered our past century. This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency. Depending on bureaucracy to foster innovation, competitiveness, and wise consumer choices has never worked – and it won’t work now. We need to chart a new course.”
“STIMULUS”: “The facts are clear: Since taking office, President Obama has signed into law spending increases of nearly 25% for domestic government agencies – an 84% increase when you include the failed stimulus. All of this new government spending was sold as ‘investment.’ Yet after two years, the unemployment rate remains above 9% and government has added over $3 trillion to our debt.”
HEALTH CARE: “What we already know about the President’s health care law is this: Costs are going up, premiums are rising, and millions of people will lose the coverage they currently have. Job creation is being stifled by all of its taxes, penalties, mandates and fees. Businesses and unions from around the country are asking the Obama Administration for waivers from the mandates. Washington should not be in the business of picking winners and losers. The President mentioned the need for regulatory reform to ease the burden on American businesses. We agree – and we think his health care law would be a great place to start. Last week, House Republicans voted for a full repeal of this law, as we pledged to do, and we will work to replace it with fiscally responsible, patient-centered reforms that actually reduce costs and expand coverage.”
DEBT LIMIT: “Whether sold as ‘stimulus’ or repackaged as ‘investment,’ their actions show they want a federal government that controls too much; taxes too much; and spends too much in order to do too much. And during the last two years, that is exactly what we have gotten – along with record deficits and debt – to the point where the President is now urging Congress to increase the debt limit. We believe the days of business as usual must come to an end. We hold to a couple of simple convictions: Endless borrowing is not a strategy; spending cuts have to come first.”
ROLE OF GOVERNMENT: “We believe government’s role is both vital and limited – to defend the nation from attack and provide for the common defense; to secure our borders; to protect innocent life; to uphold our laws and Constitutional rights; to ensure domestic tranquility and equal opportunity; and to help provide a safety net for those who cannot provide for themselves. We believe that the government has an important role to create the conditions that promote entrepreneurship, upward mobility, and individual responsibility. We believe, as our founders did, that ‘the pursuit of happiness’ depends upon individual liberty; and individual liberty requires limited government. Limited government also means effective government. When government takes on too many tasks, it usually doesn’t do any of them very well. It’s no coincidence that trust in government is at an all-time low now that the size of government is at an all-time high.”
LIMITED GOVERNMENT: “We need to reclaim our American system of limited government, low taxes, reasonable regulations, and sound money, which has blessed us with unprecedented prosperity. And it has done more to help the poor than any other economic system ever designed. That’s the real secret to job creation – not borrowing and spending more money in Washington. Limited government and free enterprise have helped make America the greatest nation on earth.
That, according to a very slim excerpt released by the White House, guarding their language like I don’t recall seeing in my two decades here, is the President’s lead-in to justify or isolate opposition to more spending as he claims to want to cut spending.
So I guess you could call this my children’s’ generation’s crushing-debt moment. They’ll be so thrilled to hear it.
Specifically, this rhetorical framing will explain why we’re supposed to ‘invest’ billions more confiscated taxpayer dollars, from present and future generations, to underwrite the great windmill race with China. Because we all know China really thinks wind-powered electricity, commercialized in 1891 and a belly flop ever since, is a ‘new technology’ and ‘energy of the future’. Really.
But a windmill isn’t a satellite. It’s a freaking windmill, people. Someone tell the White House. And the best way to prove this is for developed countries to stop the fad. China’s industry would disappear overnight. They’re playing us. OK. Fine. Don’t begrudge them that. But no more enabling it. Show we really can learn.
If you want Flubber to be invented, invest in Flubber research. Don’t go to the moon, don’t mandate windmills. You actually set back the search for Flubber by decades by wasting taxpayer money and directing good private capital after bad. Not only does his call make no sense. It makes less sense the more reasons he gives for it. Instead he wants to make us competitive in the uneconomic. He wants innovation in the old. And wants us to ‘invest’ in things that can’t find investors enough to stay afloat.
In a country where the Snuggie and Sham-Wow guy find investors and markets, what a humiliation that windmills and solar panels can’t.
I’d like more excerpts so we’d know whether they’re really going to step in it on this windmill and solar panel stuff as alluded to earlier this morning, but I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.
Via the White House press office:
With their votes, the American people determined that governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties. New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all – for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.
At stake right now is not who wins the next election – after all, we just had an election. At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else. It’s whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. It’s whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but a light to the world. We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.
But we have never measured progress by these yardsticks alone. We measure progress by the success of our people. By the jobs they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer. By the prospects of a small business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a thriving enterprise. By the opportunities for a better life that we pass on to our children. That’s the project the American people want us to work on. Together.
Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik¸ we had no idea how we’d beat them to the moon. The science wasn’t there yet. NASA didn’t even exist.
But after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.
This is our generation’s Sputnik moment.
Here are three excerpts from different publications today:
Derek Thompson, the Atlantic: “Two Visions of America’s Future”:
In short, Rep. Paul Ryan offers something more than a rebuttal to President Obama’s speech tonight. He offers a completely different way of thinking about deficits, competitiveness, and social welfare.
Alexander Bolton, The Hill: “Budget ax-man Rep. Paul Ryan is Senate Democrats’ new villain”:
Senate Democrats are pouncing on Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) role in delivering the Republican response to the State of the Union address to make the case that Republicans are intent on destroying Social Security and Medicare.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the master political strategist for Senate Democrats, wants to turn Ryan into a bogeyman that voters think about whenever they hear about a Republican proposal to cut federal spending.
Lori Montgomery, Washington Post: “Obama won’t endorse raising retirement age or reducing Social Security benefits”:
More than two months after his deficit commission first laid out a plan for reining in the national debt, President Obama has yet to embrace any of its controversial provisions - and he is unlikely to break that silence Tuesday night.
While Obama plans to stress the need to reduce record budget deficits in his State of the Union address, he is not expected to get into the details and will instead call for members of both parties to work together to tackle the problem, according to congressional and administration sources.
Putting these three together: there are two leaders, with legitimately different views about government policy. Paul Ryan has articulated his views at length and in detail, while Obama chooses to allow his ideological allies to demonize him instead of offering an explanation of his own plans.
Scrutinize the realities of costly and inefficient wind energy projects (and most alternative energy projects, for that matter) in public spheres where tough questions can be asked — like in court — and it’s amazing what you will learn. Such was the case with California utility PG&E, which had a $900 million deal in place to purchase a wind farm from Iberdrola, until an administrative law judge wanted it nixed. From the court decision:
“We reject the application because we find that the Manzana Wind Project is not cost-competitive and poses unacceptable risks to ratepayers. We find that the proposed cost of the Manzana Wind Project is significantly higher than other resources PG&E can procure to meet its RPS program goal. Moreover, it will subject the ratepayers to unacceptable risks due to potential cost increases resulting from project under-performance, less than forecasted project life, and any delays which might occur concerning transmission upgrades and commercial online date. As a proposed utility-owned generation project, ratepayers would pay a lump sum cost rather than a performance based cost for the Manzana Wind Project. Therefore, ratepayers would be at risk if the project underperforms. In particular, if the Manzana Wind Project fails to achieve production as expected for any reason such as construction delays or curtailments as a result of a collision with a California condor, shareholders face no risks while customers could incur increased costs. In contrast, under a power purchase agreement, project owners rather than ratepayers bear the risk of project performance….
“In short, although the project would contribute to the California renewable generation goals, given the availability of other lower-priced renewable projects in the competitive market that could impose far less risks on ratepayers, PG&E has failed to demonstrate a need for this project.”
So you’ve got every problem with wind energy in one judgment: high costs, unreliability, underperformance, and bird-battering. This runs counter to what environoiacs and alternative energy schemers tell us on a daily basis. What’s that matter — can’t California and the federal government find enough taxpayer dough to subsidize this boondoggle too, to make it “feasible?” A wind farm of this size should be the environmentalists’ dream.
The answer probably is, the government doesn’t want to be seen providing giveaways of this nature to the big bad utilities. They’d rather give subsidies to the renewables dealers — the little gremlins with the Green jobs — and then make the utilities buy the sporadic energy from them. And whatever you do, don’t tick off the ratepayers with higher electric bills, lest they discover the truth about alternative energy.
I’ve dug out of some deadlines long enough to look at the Republican Study Committee’s budget proposal, which Jed Babbin covered for us on the main site. The RSC goes after spending that richly deserves to be cut. But it also illustrates the difficultly of wringing significant savings from the federal budget while leaving the big entitlement programs untouched and focusing almost entirely on non-defense discretionary spending.
For example, the RSC budget plan rolls back all domestic discretionary spending to 2006 levels and freezes them there for ten years. Now, I happen to think even the 2006 levels were too high. But it is nevertheless hard to imagine a budget cap that touches every major federal program paid for out of domestic discretionary spending holding long enough to yield real savings. It’s just not the way of Washington.
Sooner or later, Republicans are going to have to address the entitlements crisis. (I realize I’m not telling most members of the RSC anything they don’t already know.) And if we’re going to stick to domestic discretionary spending, abolishing programs entirely is probably better than freezing them and expecting the caps to hold across multiple Congresses.
Inspired by events in Tunisia, Egyptians are holding sizable anti-government protests in many cities today. In this context, it’s worth highlighting a critique Jackson Diehl made last week:
More surprising is the Obama administration’s de facto suport for Mubarak’s immobility. On Tuesday, Obama called Mubarak; according to a White House “readout,” they discussed “a broad range of issues, to include the New Year’s attack on a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria, developments in Tunisia and Lebanon, and how best to advance Middle East peace.”
According to both the statement and my own sources, here is what the two did not discuss: the need for change of any kind in Egypt. This in spite of the fact that Mubarak just staged a rigged parliamentary election in which his opposition was systematically and sometimes brutally suppressed and has scheduled a similar presidential “election” for later this year that would extend his term in office — and Egypt’s political stasis — for another six years.
By failing to mention reform, Obama effectively placed a public U.S. bet on Mubarak’s ability to prevent any spread of Tunisia’s unrest. According to the White House statement, the president “shared with President Mubarak that the United States is calling for calm and an end to violence…” The statement went on to repeat U.S. support for democracy in Tunisia — a position the administration adopted only after Ben Ali’s overthrow. But observers in Egypt and across the Middle East were quick to get the message: Obama’s support for “free and fair elections” does not extend to Egypt.
In one sense this is unsurprising: For two years the administration has soft-pedaled the cause of reform in Arab autocracies and above all in Egypt. The thinking seems to be that Mubarak’s help is needed in the Arab-Israeli peace process, which Obama has futilely focused on at the expense of other issues; that there is no alternative to Mubarak, despite the emergence of a mass reform movement behind Nobel peace prize winner Mohammed ElBaradei; and that there is no possibility of a popular revolution in Egypt.
That analysis may be correct — but it ignores the lessons that Middle East experts are drawing from Tunisia. The Carnegie Endowment’s Michelle Dunne cites three: “First, widespread economic grievances such as youth unemployment can indeed quickly translate into specific demands for political change, and second, this can happen even in the absence of strong opposition organizations.”
“The third lesson of Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution was perhaps the most memorable of all: When long-postponed change finally comes, it is often startling how relatively little effort and time it can take.”
These lessons apply to a number of Arab autocracies, including Algeria, Libya, Jordan and Syria. But for United States, the stakes are highest in Egypt. In that respect, Obama’s silence on the need for Egyptian reform isn’t just short-sighted. It’s dangerous.
Indeed it is, and it will be interesting to note what, if anything, Obama has to say about events in Egypt in tonight’s State of the Union address.
The King’s Speech, True Grit and The Social Network were amongst the ten films nominated.
The only film amongst those nominated that I have seen is Toy Story 3. Since the Academy resumed nominating ten films rather than five it seems they will include one animated film in the mix. Last year, they nominated Up (and yes I saw that one as well).
I’m not sure having seen only one of the ten films nominated says more about me or the films. Although I could probably be persuaded to see The Black Swan to observe the delicate interaction between Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis.
I’ve got a pre-buttal up at the Daily Caller of what you should expect to hear tonight on the energy front, given what has been telegraphed so far.
But wait, things are possibly about to get much better. I have been handed something that, depending on the advance text released this afternoon, will make what I expect (50/50) will be one of his lines into an enormous embarassment to the President, and his rather reckless call to do this to our economy. More later this afternoon.
Lebanon’s Parliament has ousted Saad Hariri from his post as Prime Minister. They have chosen Najib Mikati, a candidate backed by Hezbollah. Mikati briefly served as Prime Minister in 2005 during the days of the Cedar Revolution.
This development comes scarcely a fortnight after Hezbollah ministers resigned en masse from Hariri’s cabinet while he was visiting President Obama at the White House. It was widely believed that Hezbollah members were going to be indicted by a UN tribunal for the assassination of Hariri’s father, Rafik, in February 2005. It was, of course, the Hariri assassination which sparked the Cedar Revolution resulting in the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon two months later.
I cannot say that I am surprised by this turn of events especially when Druze leader Walid Jumblatt announced last Friday that he would back Hezbollah.
Following Jumblatt’s endorsement of Hezbollah, Samir Geagea, a leading figure amongst Lebanon’s Maronite Christian community, predicted that a Hezbollah controlled would turn Lebanon “into Gaza.”
So how will the Obama Administration going to respond to this development? Yesterday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley gave some indication when he said a Hezbollah controlled government would be “more problematic” and supporting it economically “would be a difficult for the United States to do.” Well, stating the Hezbollah would be “more problematic” and “difficult” is a far cry from stating the United States will not recognize a Lebanese government controlled by Hezbollah. I mean it’s not like Hezbollah is building housing in East Jerusalem.
The Academy Award nominations were announced this morning, and among those chosen for best documentary was “Gasland,” the Josh Fox propagandizer about the alleged dangers and abuses by the natural gas industry. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that an association of Hollywoodites, who in the past have honored error- and lie-riddled films by Michael Moore and Al Gore, would give Fox similar superlative consideration.
Controversial ‘energy and environment czar’ Carol Browner, a former commissioner of the Socialist International who was appointed to a non-existent position to avoid Senate confirmation testimony, is stepping down from her post.
Rumors that this move is calculated to avoid testifying under oath to a House oversight committee are of course being circulated by people who know precisely what they are talking about.
To follow up on the earlier post, here are more links, including some suggested by readers:
The Chicago Sun-Times reports:
Rahm Emanuel was thrown off the ballot for mayor of Chicago today by an appellate court panel, a stunning blow to the fund-raising leader in the race.
An appellate panel ruled 2-1 that Emanuel did not meet the residency standard to run for mayor.
Emanuel is expected to appeal the decision to the Illinois Supreme Court.
UPDATE: Read the full decision here.
The clever Internet crusaders over at the Americans Against the Tea Party Facebook page serve up some of their typical self-effacing/modest food for thought to perfectly compliment your (uber-civil!) Bush-shooting-himself tattoo, “Sarah Bin Laden” pic, and totally intellectually sound even-handed takes on the Tea Party:
On the occasion of today’s March for Life:
Readers with links to other noteworthy commentaries or opinions should submit them to me at tasblogmaster (at) gmail.com.
I remember ESPN Classic broadcasting a marathon of LaLanne’s old programs when he turned 90.
Well, I am sure LaLanne now has a whole new audience he can show the finer points of fingertip pushups.
Because it means President Obama won’t grace us with his presence at the Super Bowl in Dallas.
However, we won’t avoid Obama entirely on Super Bowl Sunday. The President will be part of the FOX pre-game show when he sits down with Bill O’Reilly.
Then again the O’Reilly-Obama interview could be better than the game.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?