Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The French have got more balls than Obama

President Obama wants a unified front against Iran, and to that end he stood together with Nicolas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown in Pittsburgh on Friday morning to reveal the news about Tehran's secret facility to build bomb-grade fuel. But now we hear that the French and British leaders were quietly seething on stage, annoyed by America's handling of the announcement.

Both countries wanted to confront Iran a day earlier at the United Nations. Mr. Obama was, after all, chairing a Security Council session devoted to nonproliferation. The latest evidence of Iran's illegal moves toward acquiring a nuclear weapon was in hand. With the world's leaders gathered in New York, the timing and venue would be a dramatic way to rally international opinion.

President Sarkozy in particular pushed hard. He had been "frustrated" for months about Mr. Obama's reluctance to confront Iran, a senior French government official told us, and saw an opportunity to change momentum. But the Administration told the French that it didn't want to "spoil the image of success" for Mr. Obama's debut at the U.N. and his homily calling for a world without nuclear weapons, according to the Paris daily Le Monde. So the Iran bombshell was pushed back a day to Pittsburgh, where the G-20 were meeting to discuss economic policy.

Le Monde's diplomatic correspondent, Natalie Nougayr├Ęde, reports that a draft of Mr. Sarkozy's speech to the Security Council Thursday included a section on Iran's latest deception. Forced to scrap that bit, the French President let his frustration show with undiplomatic gusto in his formal remarks, laying into what he called the "dream" of disarmament. The address takes on added meaning now that we know the backroom discussions.

"We are right to talk about the future," Mr. Sarkozy said, referring to the U.S. resolution on strengthening arms control treaties. "But the present comes before the future, and the present includes two major nuclear crises," i.e., Iran and North Korea. "We live in the real world, not in a virtual one." No prize for guessing into which world the Frenchman puts Mr. Obama.

"We say that we must reduce," he went on. "President Obama himself has said that he dreams of a world without nuclear weapons. Before our very eyes, two countries are doing exactly the opposite at this very moment. Since 2005, Iran has violated five Security Council Resolutions . . .

"I support America's 'extended hand.' But what have these proposals for dialogue produced for the international community? Nothing but more enriched uranium and more centrifuges. And last but not least, it has resulted in a statement by Iranian leaders calling for wiping off the map a Member of the United Nations. What are we to do? What conclusions are we to draw? At a certain moment hard facts will force us to make decisions."

We thought we'd never see the day when the President of France shows more resolve than America's Commander in Chief for confronting one of the gravest challenges to global security. But here we are.



A successful conservative governor

He says that he avoids ideology. But that is of itself a very conservative thing to do. Ideology is for the Left. Conservatives look at what works

The Indiana governor is answering a question he gets asked a lot these days. Will he run for president? He keeps saying no, but the collapse of such GOP notables as Sarah Palin and Mark Sanford has people looking north. Mr. Daniels is today something rare indeed: a popular Republican.

President Barack Obama eked out an upset in Indiana last year, but Mr. Daniels's re-election was almost as notable. Amid a Democratic wave, the Republican beat his opponent by 18 percentage points and received more votes than anyone who had ever run in the state. He swept 79 of 92 counties, nearly 60% of independents and 25% of Democratic voters. His approval rating is near 70%.

At a time when the GOP has done so much wrong, strategists are asking what Mr. Daniels is doing right. Hoosiers would point to his tough fiscal discipline and his overhaul of state government. The governor summed up his approach in a Washington speech earlier this year, saying that a conservatism "that will be credible in the years ahead will be active, will be forward-looking, constructive, intimately connected with the lives of average citizens, and friendly."

If this sounds a bit fuzzy and Midwestern, a colleague of Mr. Daniels puts it more concisely: "It's the old formula: ideas and a big tent. Mitch's success has been in aggressively pushing conservative reform, but not alienating folks along the way." Whether Mr. Daniels's particular brand of reform politics would work nationally—and whether he is the guy to do it—are big questions. But for now, he's in the spotlight.

"We are the initiators, we are always in motion." "Activism works, and we have to drive the agenda." "There is nothing inconsistent about having a conservative outlook and being vigorous."

These statements fly at me within 10 minutes of a two-hour interview in Mr. Daniels's cavernous office. Sitting in his shirt sleeves, the governor looks easygoing but earnest. Mr. Daniels's career has included working for Sen. Dick Lugar (R., Ind.), as an adviser to Ronald Reagan, a think-tank head (The Hudson Institute), a pharmaceutical executive, and budget director for George W. Bush. His fervor for cutting waste in that last post earned him a nickname from President Bush: The Blade.

The 60-year-old won in 2004 by promising to achieve one goal. "Every successful enterprise has a very clear strategic purpose. . . . So, we said, all right, the strategic purpose of our administration is to raise the net disposable income of Hoosiers," which has fallen dramatically in recent decades. "Everything else is just a means to that end."

Mr. Daniels's first step toward that goal was cleaning up a state balance sheet that 16 years of Democratic rule had left in bad shape. He turned what was a $700 million hole into a $1 billion surplus, making Indiana one of a handful of states that today remain in the black.

How? "Well, prepared to be dazzled," he says, with his trademark dry wit. "The answer is that we spent less money than we took in." This underplays the governor's high-profile budget fights with a spendthrift legislature—fights that he won—which allowed him to halve the state's rate of spending growth to 2.8% from 5.9% annually. That restraint has allowed Mr. Daniels to forgo the recent tax hikes of most states.

His approach works well in a state where, as Mr. Daniels puts it, "fiscal prudence never went out of style." He's earned high marks for his willingness to spar with his own party (this year's budget went into special session after he refused to let the GOP-run Senate spend away the surplus), and for his fight against pork. With the help of a power called "allotment"—the right not to spend money appropriated by the legislature—Mr. Daniels trimmed $800 million from state government in fiscal 2009. Allotment had in the past "been used very sparingly," says Mr. Daniels, smiling. "We don't use it sparingly."

He also hasn't spared state government. He axed $190 million renegotiating state contracts, bid out services, cut $250 million in unnecessary spending, and dropped 5,000 government positions. Austere as his budgets have been, they have directed more money to "priorities" like 800 new child-protection case workers, 250 more state troopers, and education spending. This approach has allowed the governor to deflect Democratic gripes that he is gutting the state in a recession. "You can invest in things, even with modest revenue growth, so long as you are willing to do a lot less of things that are a lot less important," he says.

Perhaps most appreciated was the governor's overhaul of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. It's gone from one of the worst in the country—a place, he says, "where people would take a copy of 'Crime and Punishment'"—to one of the best, with an "average visit time of seven minutes and 36 seconds."

In 2006, Mr. Daniels gave all state employees the option of switching to health plans with health-savings accounts. A year later, he signed bipartisan legislation creating the Healthy Indiana Plan, which puts those same HSAs at the center of a plan covering 130,000 uninsured. Participants contribute to their account based on income; the state picks up the rest, up to $1,100 per adult, after which private insurance kicks in.

"It's subsidized, yes," says Mr. Daniels, but it's "designed to make sure everybody, with a few exceptions, has skin in the game." It also "doesn't expose taxpayers to the catastrophe in Tennessee or Massachusetts of an entitlement program." More than half of the state's employees have switched to the HSA plan, and Healthy Indiana is fully subscribed.

All this, says Mr. Daniels, serves as a necessary "foundation" for the state to attract jobs and fulfill that goal of raising Hoosier income. "Spend as little as you can consistent with necessary public service, leave the rest in private hands, and you get more jobs in the end." Indiana, with its business-friendly tax environment, has attracted $8 billion in foreign investment in the past two years.

Policy is one thing; selling it another. And Mr. Daniels knows how to sell. Relatively unknown in the state before his 2004 run, he toured all 92 counties—at least twice—in an RV. He bypassed hotels, staying in Hoosier homes. He debuted "Mitch TV," a reality show that pictured, warts and all, the candidate meeting wary Indiana voters.

"We have, I think, tried to face a Republican reality, which is the stereotype that Republicans are disconnected from the lives of average people. It's unfair. It's untrue. A Democrat can be a blue-blood billionaire who wouldn't recognize a working family if his limousine ran over one, but still, they benefit from the presumption that their hearts are in the right place, and we bear the opposite burden," he says.

He's also studiously avoided ideological debate. Most would say that "what we've done was animated by conservative principles," he says. "But I leave the labels out. I rarely mention party names, ours or theirs. I don't use the i-word [ideology] or the c-word [conservative]. I don't use the p-word [privatization]. Because I don't think most people think in those categories."

He uses the example of smaller government. "Our principal goal is not to cut government spending for the sake of cutting government spending. . . . If the goal is 'what can we do, or do more quickly, or stop doing, to make it more likely the next job comes to Indiana,' well, of course that means squeezing tax dollars, it means keeping taxes down. I just don't tend to present it as an ideological imperative, but rather the smart things to do if we are trying to be a more prosperous, free state."




As regular readers here know, I do from time to time put up pictures and cartoons to illustate some news story. Every now and again I also look through the pictures in past postings to see which have an interest beyond their immediate use. I then put up a gallery of such "best" pictures. I am afraid that I have left it rather a long time to do that this time. The last gallery was of 2007 pictures. I have caught up a little however and have just posted a gallery of pictures and cartoons that appeared on my various blogs between January and June 2008. You might like to have a glance at them here. I will try to get up a gallery or two for more recent periods as soon as I get time.

ACORN's Man in the White House: "Newly discovered evidence shows the radical advocacy group ACORN has a man in the Obama White House. This power behind the throne is longtime ACORN operative Patrick Gaspard. He holds the title of White House political affairs director, the same title Karl Rove held in President Bush's White House. Evidence shows that years before he joined the Obama administration, Gaspard was ACORN boss Bertha Lewis's political director in New York. Lewis, the current "chief organizer" or CEO of ACORN, was head of New York ACORN from at least 1994 through 2008, when she took over as national leader of ACORN. With Gaspard at work in the White House, Lewis might as well be speaking to President Obama through an earpiece as he goes about his daily business ruining the country." Erick Erickson of the website RedState recently did an excellent job explaining the relationship of Gaspard to Lewis and President Obama."

Bank of America suspends dealings with ACORN housing entity: "Bank of America Corp. is suspending its work with the housing affiliate of embattled community organizing group ACORN. The decision comes as three Republicans in Congress ask Bank of America and 13 other financial institutions to give Congress a complete accounting of their dealings with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now or its affiliates. In a statement, Bank of America said it would not enter into any further agreements with ACORN Housing Corp. until the bank is satisfied all issues have been resolved. ACORN Housing Corp. and Bank of America have worked together for years on mortgage foreclosure issues.”

Why Obama will throw ACORN under the bus: "The spotlight of scrutiny is shining brightly on ACORN these days and rightly so. Where ACORN’s defenders have the audacity to insist that the employees caught on undercover videotape giving advice to a perceived ‘pimp’ and ‘prostitute’ on how to defraud the Internal Revenue Service and internationally traffic in underage Guatemalan prostitutes were simply ‘a few bad employees,’ anyone with a brain recognizes that the problem is systemic in the organization. But what some are misdiagnosing or not completely understanding is how President Obama could be so nonchalant about the issue in recent interviews.”

What are they hiding? Minutes missing in OK City bombing footage: "Long-secret security tapes showing the chaos immediately after the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building are blank in the minutes before the blast and appear to have been edited, an attorney who obtained the recordings said Sunday. ‘The real story is what’s missing,’ said Jesse Trentadue, a Salt Lake City attorney who obtained the recordings through the federal Freedom of Information Act as part of an unofficial inquiry he is conducting into the April 19, 1995, bombing that killed 168 people and injured hundreds more. Trentadue gave copies of the tapes to the Oklahoman newspaper, which posted them online and provided copies to the Associated Press.”

Iran’s missile tests create new standoff: "The United States, Israel and its allies are condemning Iran’s missile tests, conducted a few days after world leaders called out the country for building a secret underground nuclear facility. But Iran refuses to cave under world pressure, continuing its dangerous provocation instead. In a show of defiance, Iran tested short- and long-range missiles today and Sunday, including its longest-range missiles yet, which U.S. experts said are capable of hitting Israel and U.S. bases in Europe.”

Bumper-Sticker philosophy: "The following has apparently been making the rounds on Facebook lately: ‘No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree, please post this as your status for the rest of the day.’ It’s a nice, pretty idea, until you sit down and consider the implications. No one should die because they cannot afford health care. Tell me, please, how are you going to provide this health care to people who cannot afford it? Are you going to steal the money from other people and use it to pay for those who cannot afford it? Or Are you going to force health care professionals to work without compensation?”

The old standby : "Florida taxpayers should be forewarned that the huge drop in cigarette sales due to the state’s cigarette tax hike will come back to bite them. These taxes are borne by a small base that gets smaller as the tax goes up, because people quit or, more likely, find ways to circumvent the tax. That is already happening in Florida. This tax hike will burden Florida businesses and taxpayers, especially in the northern half of the state. Not to mention that such taxes fall predominantly on low-income earners.”


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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)


No comments: