Saturday, December 05, 2009

In panic over jobs, Dems detour from health care

There’s a reason Barack Obama squeezed a hastily-arranged "Jobs Summit" into a White House schedule dominated by national health care and Afghanistan. You can find it on every page of "The Economy and Politics of 2010," a new survey of voter attitudes circulating among Democrats that, despite its dry title, betrays a sense of dread and horror among party strategists hoping to avoid defeat in next year's mid-term elections.

The report is the work of Democracy Corps, the influential polling organization run by Democraic strategists James Carville and Stanley Greenberg. The two men found voters are nearly beside themselves about unemployment, angry about the deficit, pessimistic about the future, and in a mood to punish Democrats if things don't get better soon. "This is about the economy, and it's not pretty," they write.

Most ominous for Democrats is the rise in the number of people who believe the country is on the wrong track. That number grew steadily through the later Bush years, reaching a high of 85 percent just before last November's elections. But with Obama's win, discontent began to subside. By inauguration day, the number was 66 percent. By March, it was 56 percent, and by May it was 46 percent. It was a remarkable turnaround, attributable mostly to the new president. But since then the turnaround itself has turned around. By July, the wrong track number had inched up to 50 percent. It was 55 percent in September. Now, it's 58 percent.

The reason is unemployment. When Carville and Greenberg asked respondents to list the one or two most important problems facing the country, 64 percent named jobs -- more than twice the level of concern about the deficit and rising health care costs, which were named by 29 percent each.

The pollsters found a lot of residual blame for George W. Bush. But they also found that Obama is gradually coming to own the economy. They read voters two statements. One was, "President Obama's economic policies helped avert an even worse crisis, and are laying the foundation for our eventual economic recovery." The other: "President Obama's economic policies have run up a record federal deficit while failing to end the recession or slow the record pace of job losses."

Among likely voters, 44 percent agreed with the pro-Obama statement, while 50 percent blamed the president for deficits and job losses. As Bush recedes into history, the blame will only go up if conditions don't improve. And for the first time since 2002, Carville and Greenberg found that more voters, 45 percent to 42 percent, say Republicans would do a better job handling the economy than Democrats. Just last May, Democrats held a 16-point lead.

Is there anything that could avert Democratic defeats? Of course something unexpected could always happen. But short of that, Carville and Greenberg found, things would have to improve markedly in the next few months. If unemployment falls below 10 percent and begins a steady decline, and the values of homes and retirement funds start to rise, then Democrats will be OK. But if joblessness remains high, along with the deficit, and the Dow and home values are shaky -- that's a brutal scenario for the party in charge. "The punishing of incumbents for negative economic scenarios is most pronounced in Democratic-held seats," Carville and Greenberg write.

The two Democratic strategists take some comfort in the fact that the Republican brand is still pretty unpopular. "This does not yet look like a wave election," they write hopefully, noting that the public doesn't particularly like the GOP. But the report points to something paradoxical going on in our politics. After a huge election, the victorious party usually has some time to govern while the loser rebuilds. But this time, Democrats have messed up so fast that the Republicans haven’t had time to recover.

All in all, it's a perilous situation for Democrats taking their House and Senate majorities into next year's elections. "The slow recovery and continued job losses, combined with Wall Street bailouts, big bonuses, government takeovers, deficits and possible gridlock are an ugly brew," Carville and Greenberg write. "For Democrats to reverse the slide in their standing, they need to focus with urgency on jobs."

Urgency -- that's the key word, and the reason for Obama's "Jobs Summit." But voters know Democratic leaders haven't shown that urgency about jobs, and are in fact working 24/7 to pass a national health care bill that isn't the country's top priority. What "The Economy and Politics of 2010" shows is that this could be a very costly mistake.



Building Peace Without Obama's Interference

A promising, independent Palestine is quietly being developed, with Israeli assistance

It is difficult to turn on a TV or radio or pick up a newspaper these days, without finding some pundit or other deploring the dismal prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace or the dreadful living conditions of the Palestinians. Even supposedly neutral news reporters regularly repeat this sad tale. "Very little is changing for the Palestinian people on the ground," I heard BBC World Service Cairo correspondent Christian Fraser tell listeners three times in a 45 minute period the other evening.

In fact nothing could be further from the truth. I had spent that day in the West Bank's largest city, Nablus. The city is bursting with energy, life and signs of prosperity, in a way I have not previously seen in many years of covering the region.

As I sat in the plush office of Ahmad Aweidah, the suave British-educated banker who heads the Palestinian Securities Exchange, he told me that the Nablus stock market was the second best-performing in the world so far in 2009, after Shanghai. (Aweidah's office looks directly across from the palatial residence of Palestinian billionaire Munib al-Masri, the wealthiest man in the West Bank.)

Later I met Bashir al-Shakah, director of Nablus's gleaming new cinema, where four of the latest Hollywood hits were playing that day. Most movies were sold out, he noted, proudly adding that the venue had already hosted a film festival since it opened in June.

Wandering around downtown Nablus the shops and restaurants I saw were full. There were plenty of expensive cars on the streets. Indeed I counted considerably more BMWs and Mercedes than I've seen, for example, in downtown Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

And perhaps most importantly of all, we had driven from Jerusalem to Nablus without going through any Israeli checkpoints. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu has removed them all since the Israeli security services (with the encouragement and support of President George W. Bush) were allowed, over recent years, to crush the intifada, restore security to the West Bank and set up the conditions for the economic boom that is now occurring. (There was one border post on the return leg of the journey, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, but the young female guard just waved me and the two Palestinians I was traveling with, through.)

The shops and restaurants were also full when I visited Hebron recently, and I was surprised to see villas comparable in size to those on the Cote d'Azur or Bel Air had sprung up on the hills around the city. Life is even better in Ramallah, where it is difficult to get a table in a good restaurant. New apartment buildings, banks, brokerage firms, luxury car dealerships and health clubs are to be seen. In Qalqilya, another West Bank city that was previously a hotbed of terrorists and bomb-makers, the first ever strawberry crop is being harvested in time to cash in on the lucrative Christmas markets in Europe. Local Palestinian farmers have been trained by Israeli agriculture experts and Israel supplied them with irrigation equipment and pesticides.

A new Palestinian city, Ruwabi, is to be built soon north of Ramallah. Last month, the Jewish National Fund, an Israeli charity, helped plant 3,000 tree seedlings for a forested area the Palestinian planners say they would like to develop on the edge of the new city. Israeli experts are also helping the Palestinians plan public parks and other civic amenities.

Outsiders are beginning to take note of the turnaround too. The official PLO Wafa news agency reported last week that the 3rd quarter of 2009 witnessed near-record tourism in the Palestinian Authority, with 135,939 overnight hotel stays in 89 hotels that are now open. Almost half the guests come from the U.S or Europe.

Palestinian economic growth so far this year —in a year dominated by economic crisis elsewhere— has been an impressive 7% according to the IMF, though Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad, himself a former World Bank and IMF employee, says it is in fact 11%, partly helped along by strong economic performances in neighboring Israel.

In Gaza too, the shops and markets are crammed with food and goods. But while photos from last Friday's Palestine Today newspaper, for example, depict sumptuous Eid celebrations, these are not the pictures you are ever likely to see on the BBC or Le Monde or the New York Times. No, Gaza is not like a "concentration camp," nor is the "humanitarian crisis in Gaza is on the scale of Darfur," as British journalist Lauren Booth (who is also Tony Blair's sister-in-law) has said.

In June, the Washington Post's Jackson Diehl related how Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had told him why he had turned down Ehud Olmert's offer last year to create a Palestinian state on 97% of the West Bank (with 3% of pre-1967 Israeli land being added to make up the shortfall). "In the West Bank we have a good reality," Abbas told Diehl. "The people are living a normal life," he added in a rare moment of candor to a Western journalist.

Nablus stock exchange head Ahmad Aweidah went further in explaining to me why there is no rush to declare statehood, saying ordinary Palestinians need the IDF to help protect them from Hamas, as their own security forces aren't ready to do so by themselves yet.

The truth is that an independent Palestine is now quietly being built, with Israeli assistance. So long as the Obama administration and European politicians don't clumsily meddle as they have in the past and make unrealistic demands for the process to be completed more quickly than it can be, I am confident the outcome will be a positive one. (The last time an American president —Bill Clinton in 2000— tried to hurry things along unrealistically, it merely resulted in blowing up in everybody's faces —literally— and set back hopes for peace by some years.)

Israelis and Palestinians may never agree on borders that will satisfy everyone. But that doesn't mean they won't live in peace. Not all Germans and French agree who should control Alsace Lorraine. Poles and Russians, Slovenes and Croats, Britons and Irish, and peoples all over the world, have border disputes. But that doesn't keep them from coexisting with one another. Nor —so long as partisan journalists and human rights groups don't mislead Western politicians into making bad decisions— will it prevent Israelis and Palestinians from doing so.



We scratched your back -- now you scratch ours -- say the MSM

Watching liberal journalists desperate for a government bailout as they prostrate themselves before Congress can be so confusing: Should we be embarrassed as these media representatives of the "best and brightest" beg for official handouts while proclaiming their devotion to independent journalism? Or should we laugh at the irony of what is left of a once-proud liberal media establishment choosing to become wards of the very state they so vigorously promoted for the past several decades? Speaking as somebody who has made his living reporting and analyzing the news for more than two decades, I tend towards the embarrassment option.

In any case, it's clear that the fix is in and all that is left now is for the liberal journalists and their new masters in government to complete their kabuki dance enroute to congressional approval and presidential signature on a massive package of aid for politically correct newspapers and broadcasters.

You've heard of "too big to fail." Now it's "we're too important to fail, so cough it up, suckers." Hey, when you can't produce a product enough people are willing to pay for to keep you in business, President Obama and the congressional Democrats are happy to bail you out, you've been helping each other for a long time anyway, you went to the same elite schools, etc. etc.

Actually, maybe "outraged" would be a more accurate word to describe my reaction than "embarrassment." I can't help it; I love journalism, the unique pace and culture of most newsrooms, the smell of printers ink, journalistic lore, the courage and blood required to win journalism's independence, the whole works, and that's why this makes me madder than ...

Anyway, Accuracy in Media's Danny Glover reports from the FTC's two-day workshop coyly entitled "How will journalism survive the Internet Age?" that Rep, Henry Waxman is ready to begin writing legislation. Liberal journalists and their fellow travelers from the non-profit and academic communities are eager to sign on the dotted line for what used to be called "indentured servitude." "Rep. Henry Waxman trekked from Capitol Hill to Federal Trade Commission headquarters today to deliver a message to journalists and news consumers: All of you need to reach a consensus about working with the government in order to bail out the struggling news industry.

"The California Democrat, who chairs the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, didn't say it quite so bluntly, but his point was clear. Government's going to have to be involved, in one way or the other,' to save journalism from an ongoing 'market failure' that will only worsen without intervention, Waxman said," Glover reports.

Happily chirping in with the chorus to Waxman's vocal lead was a media heavy. Glover tells us that Jon McTaggart, the senior vice president and chief operating officer of American Media Group, informed workshop attendees that "as a civil society, we don't trust the open market or the free market" to provide such valuable services. McTaggart also proclaimed, according to Glover, that the media should not be allowed to suffer because of market forces (aka "consumer choice").

Singing right along with McTaggart, Glover tells us, was Georgetown University communications professor Mark MacCarthy who dismissed critics opposed to a government bailout. Critics are wrong, he said, because government involvement in the arts, sciences and other fields is "traditional, mainstream and all-American. ... This is not some weird, strange aberration and alien intrusion into our life. This is the way we do things in this country."

Geez, these two guys must have taken a media history course taught by Beatrice and Sydney Webb, who not only founded the British Fabian Society that led the socialization of Great Britain, but also wrote a couple of books praising Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator.

McTaggart in particular ought to ring up former GM CEO Rick Wagoner for a little chat about the value of promises of non-intervention by government officials. Wagoner found out the hard way when President Obama summarily - and probably illegally, but what's a mere constitution between friends? - fired him barely hours after professing to have absolutely no desire "to run the auto industry."




Great care needed in shopping online: "More than 1,200 illegal internet shopping websites that have made millions of pounds for criminals have been shut down by Scotland Yard in the biggest operation of its kind in Britain. The sites claimed to sell heavily discounted designer goods, including Ugg Australia Boots, ghd hair straighteners and jewellery from Tiffany & Co and Links of London. Buyers either received counterfeit products or nothing at all. It is also likely that their credit card details have been used to fund other illegal activity. It is estimated that British shoppers have spent millions on the sites but police are convinced that by shutting them down consumers have been saved millions more. Intelligence gathered by the Metropolitan Police’s Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU) showed that the majority of the sites were registered in Asia, despite their UK domain names, using false or misleading details. This made it “almost impossible” for victims to complain to the source about poor quality, counterfeited items or goods not received, said an officer. But after several complaints were received by Trading Standards officers, Operation Papworth was set up. The PCeU deregistered 1,219 domain names. Detective Superintendent Charlie McMurdie, head of the PCeU, said: “Fraudsters target the victim’s desire to buy designer goods at reduced prices, particularly at this time of year. “The risk begins when your desire to purchase blinds your judgment or leads you to illegal websites. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is."

Conservatives hail West Point cadet who read 'Kill Bin Laden': "Waiting for his Commander-in-Chief to speak, a West Point military academy cadet had some blunt strategic advice this week: “Kill Bin Laden”. The title of his book captures in three words the one easily-defined goal that has eluded US forces in eight years of conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He was indentified this evening as Konrad Bunde, a freshman or first year cadet, belonging to Company A3. His choice of reading material was hailed on conservative websites in the US as a rebuke to President Obama’s circumscribed new strategy for Afghanistan, which does not specifically target bin Laden and makes no mention of the word “victory”. The picture was taken in the academy’s Eisenhower auditorium an hour and a half before Mr Obama took the podium there for his address to the nation on Tuesday night. For security reasons, cadets were seated four hours before the speech and many brought reading and study material, an academy spokesman said. A Times analysis of the badges on the cadet’s chest shows that he is a “prior service” student at the academy, recommended for a place there after active service in Iraq."


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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