Those of you who read my memos know that I am fiscally conservative, militarily a hawk and socially liberal. The first time I was of age to vote was when Jack Kennedy ran and I continued to vote for Democrats until Ronald Reagan. I detested Richard Nixon from his days in California when he ran a despicable and highly inflammatory campaign against Helen Douglas. I cite this because I have developed serious philosophical disagreements with most liberal thinking which I believe has taken government too far left and has been too intrusive in allowing citizens to maintain that old fashioned Yankee independence that made us a great nation and which defined us as Americans.
I understand the political need to create safety nets for those on the bottom but welfare eventually became demeaning and counter productive. It inevitably turned into a crutch and destroyed the family structure in many instances. I understand the need for unions to give workers clout and a collective voice against the power of corporations and unfair practices (Upton Sinclair's great novel) but they too have done more harm than good and have made our nation less competitive. There is no more glaring example than in education. I understand the rationale behind Affirmative Action. However, if one reads David Frum's "Comeback" and accepts his argument it too has done more to harm those it was intended to benefit. Frum writes: "...Racial preferences have seduced America's most talented minority students away from the study choices they need to make to succeed in life..." Frum cites statistics to prove that far too many were elevated to positions they could not handle and eventually failed. In essence, Affirmative Action was a policy based on reverse discrimination designed to overcome the immorality of discrimination.
I understand the need for progress and receptivity to change but doing so under the aegis of Political Correctness make me nauseous. Let Europe disconnect from Western Values if they so choose in pursuit of illusive egalitarianism.
As for Republicans when they began to act irresponsibly and morph into Democrats, I thought they should be voted out of office and they were. When you walk away from your principles there should be consequences. I have always said that Congress is the "Biggest Little Whorehouse in America." Perhaps it is now the Mayflower Hotel.
When it comes to our involvement in Iraq I am willing to accept it was premised on intelligence that probably was flawed or there was an over-exuberant willingness to accept it. I also believe GW has been inarticulate in defending the many other rationale reasons why we entered Iraq and willingly acknowledge his flawed execution once we won the military side of Iraq's multi faced coin. That said, I also reject the opposition arguments we must now hastily withdraw, acknowledge another defeat and are unwilling to entertain the consequences of such a retreat.
In the matter of our intelligence capabilities it was Senator Church, Presidents' Carter and Clinton who dis-enabled many of our on the ground efforts and the current crop of Democrats seem to want to continue crippling our ability to track terrorists.
I could continue but for the sake of brevity will not.
What I find most objectionable about the current two Democrat candidates is their efforts to parade themselves as experienced and accomplished in ways that challenge my credulity. Sen. Clinton lived in the White House and by "osmosis" suggests she became a closet Sec.of State, traveled to dangerous areas of the world on secret missions and accomplished mystifying results. The only public accomplishment I know of was her failed effort to enmesh health care with more restrictive government entanglements. She would have me forget the disappearing then reappearing Whitewater papers,her cattle trading profits which were outright lies etc.. But I will cut her some slack and acknowledge she has worked hard for her constituents as a Senator. Her obeisance to unions, her struggle with being able to define her own persona do give me pause and, if truth be told, I do not trust or like her.
Senator Obama would have me believe experience does not count since he has impeccable judgment and he offers his vote against Iraq as evidence. However, he now comes into my court arguing he never knew about Minister Wright's racist and insidious speeches though he belonged to Rev. Wright's church for some 17 plus years. This suggests to me Michelle, who remained in Chicago and whose recent comments about having no respect for our nation must have been influenced by Minister Wright, never discussed his sermons with her husband. Assuming that I should believe Obama's denials, I am left with the possibility of a president being elected that does not know what is happening around him. That is a bit scary since Obama acknowledges Rev. Wright was his mentor, took one of his speeches as the title of his book and remained an active member while Rev. Wright traveled to Libya and awarded honors to Lewis Farrakhan.
All politicians are people, therefore all politicians lie and I have a responsibility to judge whether they are little or big and whether they reveal character flaws or not. In the case of Sen. Obama, he has tried hard to convince me, with his silver tongue oratory, I should ignore his lack of experience, give him points for judgment and accept his explanation about Rev. Wright. Well I bought Jimmy Carter's crap once before and I guess that has made me more distrustful or cynical. Call it what you will but I ain't buying it again. Senators Clinton and Obama leave a bad taste in my mouth.
The first ten statistics ( See 1 below) were published by the Los Angeles Times. They are disturbing to say the least.
Chancellor Merkel bucks up Israel but stops short when it comes to Iran as I would have thought she would. (See 2 below.)
Even in a land of sand, mud is available and is now being thrown at Netanyahu by his detractors who fear he could return as the next PM. (See 3 below.)
GW needs to leave office having accomplished something positive from his perspective vis a vis the Palestinians and Israelis even if it means breaking some bones? Is Cheney his advance man? (See 4 and 5 below.)
Mark Steyn is "discomforted" by Rev Wright and ain't too happy with Obama. (See 6 below.)
A Wall Streeter labels the current market- Bear Stearns! (See 7 below.)
Have a great week and feel good about being an American and being fortunate enough to live in our great nation notwithstanding its faults. At least we struggle to overcome them and have in many instances. But also be careful about those who preach empty change.
1) From the L. A. Times
1. 42% of all workers in L. A.County ( L. A. County has 10.2 million people) are working for cash and not paying taxes. This is because they are predominantly illegal immigrants working without a green card.
2. 96% of warrants for murder in Los Angeles are for illegal aliens.
3. 78% of people on the most wanted list in Los Angeles are illegal aliens.
4. Over 2/3 of all births in Los Angeles County are to illegal alien Mexicans on Medi-Cal , whose births were paid for by taxpayers.
5. Nearly 40% of all inmates in California detention centers are Mexican nationals here illegally.
6. Over 350,000 illegal aliens in Los Angeles County are living in garages.
7. The FBI reports half of all gang members in Los Angeles are most likely illegal aliens from south of the border.
8. Nearly 70% of all occupants of HUD properties are illegal.
9. 21 radio stations in L.A. are Spanish speaking.
10. In L.A. County 5.1 million people speak English, 4.3 million speak Spanish.
Less than 2% of illegal aliens are picking our crops, but 37% are on welfare.
Over 73% of the United States ' annual population growth (and over 90% of California , Florida , and New York ) results from immigration.
34% of inmates in federal prisons are illegal aliens.
2) Chancellor Merkel’s Israel visit underscores defense cooperation, but no commitment to showdown with Iran
German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives in Israel Sunday, March 16, accompanied by seven of her top cabinet ministers. She will launch joint German-Israel cabinet-level consultations to take place in the two capitals in turn once a year. Tuesday, she becomes the first German chancellor to address the Israeli parliament. She will speak in German. Her four-day trip honors Israel’s 60th anniversary.
This initiative marks the Merkel government’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. At the same time, the chancellor while promising pressure on Tehran is known to hold fast against an extreme showdown with Iran over its covert military nuclear program. Her statement in a podcast on the eve of her trip - "The threats to which the Israeli state is exposed are also threats to us"- neatly bridges the two positions.
3) Netanyahu: Ch. 10 exposé aims to prevent my rise to power
By Mazal Mualem
Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu's lawyer filed a NIS 2 million libel suit Sunday morning against Channel 10 following the network's exposé Friday which revealed that Netanyahu and his wife spent NIS 131,000 on a six-day trip to London during last year's Second Lebanon War.
The lawsuit maintains that Netanyahu was sent to London on a public relations campaign to make Israel's case for the war against Hezbollah, and that he did not indulge in a "pleasure voyage," as the expose had claimed.
According to Netanyahu, his private expenses during the trip, which was funded by the Israel Bonds organization and the Jewish community, were paid out of his own pocket. "Our stay in London didn't cost the State of Israel one shekel and was funded entirely by me, as I paid out of pocket for all my private expenses. What we have here is political persecution and an attempt to prevent the Likud, and me in particular, to achieve leadership of this country, as most of the public wants," Netanyahu said Saturday in response to the Channel 10 report.
He added: "Channel 10's reports are filled with evil fallacies and a systematic slant of data. During my trip in August 2006, I worked 20 hours a day giving interviews, lecturing, meeting journalists, editors, political leaders and Jewish leaders to repel Arab propaganda."
Knesset spokesman Giora Pordes said Sunday that Netanyahu never submitted to the Knesset any requests to authorize this trip, and therefore the Knesset Ethics Committee never looked into the details of the trip. This statement contradicted Netanyahu's own claim that the Knesset Ethics Committee had approved retroactively all trips taken by his wife, Sara.
Netanyahu made his decision, after holding weekend consultations, in order to quash any bad publicity stemming from the report. Netanyahu's lawyer, Yaakov Weinroth, plans to present the court with an official letter from the Connaught Hotel, where the couple stayed, which allegedly proves that the couple was charged NIS 11,000 for theater tickets because of a mistake made by a hotel official.
Last week, the Hebrew daily Yedioth Aharonoth published an article that claimed Netanyahu had paid his top advisers out of his own pocket, without reporting the payments to the tax authorities. Also, the report claimed that the two advisers submitted their resignations after quarreling with Netanyahu's wife.
Likud MK Gilad Erdan rebutted claims that Netanyahu's expenses were irresponsible, saying that, "[Their] complaints prove this is a campaign run by foes of Netanyahu and the Likud."
Also Saturday, the Knesset Ethics Committee announced it would quiz Netanyahu over the London trip while MK Israel Hasson (Kadima) asked Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to launch an investigation.
Most of Netanyahu's expenses were paid by a U.K. Jewish group headed by a British millionaire, but NIS 5,000 for the Likud leader's flight tickets was paid by the Knesset, Channel 10 said.
It also reported that a previous visit to London by Netanyahu in 2005 had cost NIS 84,000.
4)[Break bones for Bush?] Bush to push Israel, PA for progress before his May visit
By Barak Ravid Haaretz
Washington is likely to pressure Israel and the Palestinian Authority to
make significant diplomatic progress before U.S. President George W. Bush
visits the region in May, a senior American official predicted.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to return here in about
10 days, her second visit this month. She will urge both parties to fulfill
their obligations under the road map peace plan and advance on final-status
"The president's visit in May is intended to take action and achieve
results, and therefore, the administration is interested in seeing some
progress on the Palestinian issue," the U.S. official said. "Bush does not
intend to act like a lame duck, so something has to happen on the ground by
the time of the president's visit."
The State Department is considering various steps that could be taken to
demonstrate progress. In particular, it would like Israel to start
evacuating illegal settlement outposts, which Bush deems very important. The
U.S. has been disappointed by Israel's inaction and its refrain of "we are
still negotiating with the settlers."
Another option is moving parts of the separation fence from the West Bank to
the Green Line.
Yet another is enacting a law to compensate settlers who leave the West Bank
voluntarily. The American official said that while the U.S. is not
intervening in this matter, it believes such a law would demonstrate
Israel's seriousness about a two-state solution.
"The U.S. does want to force any steps on Israel; rather, it wants Israel to
decide for itself what it can do," he said.
Yesterday, Rice lambasted both Israel and the PA.
"Frankly, not nearly enough has happened to demonstrate that the Israelis
and the Palestinians fully understand ... that without following road map
obligations and without improvements on the ground, it's very hard to
sustain this process," she told reporters en route to Chile. "There is a lot
of room for improvement on both sides."
The senior American official said, "The current Israeli approach to daily
Palestinian life strengthens Hamas in Gaza." The administration is working
to address Israel's security concerns, he added, but Israel must also do its
"You can't eat security, you also need an economy," he said. "For this to
happen, Israel has to enable things to happen."
On Friday, a tripartite committee to monitor implementation of the road map
held its first meeting in Jerusalem. The meeting, chaired by U.S. General
William Fraser, was attended by PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Defense
Ministry official Amos Gilad. The PA slammed Defense Minister Ehud Barak for
sending a subordinate in his place.
Fraser said he would work with both sides on a plan to implement their road
map obligations: for the PA, fighting terror; for Israel, freezing
settlements, evacuating outposts and removing roadblocks. He said fulfilling
these obligations would take a year or two.
5) Cheney en route to Mideast for 9-day visit with regional leaders
Vice President Dick Cheney left on Sunday for the Middle East to raise concerns about high oil prices, push Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and seek support for Iraq, where war began five years ago this week.
Cheney, who has strong ties with leaders in the Middle East, will visit Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jerusalem, the Palestinian territories, and Turkey during a nine-day trip to the region.
"Clearly, our ongoing efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan will be discussed," John Hannah, national security adviser to Cheney, told reporters. "Middle East peace, Iran, the situation in Syria, Lebanon, the violence in Gaza, energy - it's a very long list and rich agenda."
Cheney will reinforce the message from visits by President George W. Bush in January and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice earlier this month, in a stepped-up diplomatic push for Israelis and Palestinians to move forward on peace efforts dealt a blow by violence in Gaza and Israel.
"The mood has deteriorated incredibly in the last six weeks since the president was there," said Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"From the outside it's very hard to see that Secretary Rice was able to even arrest the slide let alone get things moving forward. My guess is the vice president will be able to arrest the slide if not necessarily put things on track," he said.
In Saudi Arabia, Cheney will discuss energy with King Abdullah as record-high oil prices strain the U.S. economy, but he was not expected to repeat the call by Bush for OPEC to increase production.
"I'm not sure he'll seek anything more than a good and thorough discussion about the current situation in the global energy markets," a senior administration official said.
The United States wants Saudi Arabia, and other Arab allies like Egypt, to set up a diplomatic presence in Iraq by appointing an ambassador and opening an embassy in Baghdad.
"The United States can do a lot for Iraq, but we cannot provide Iraq with an anchor in the Arab world, a kind of legitimacy for the new Iraqi project that comes from being fully integrated in its neighborhood," the U.S. official said.
"And I think clearly some of our friends in the Arab world can do more on that score," he said on condition of anonymity.
But analysts were skeptical that Cheney would make any major breakthroughs.
"I don't think that he's going to be able to bring back anything meaningful because he's got nothing to offer," Steven Simon, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said.
"He represents a lame duck president, a floundering economy, a situation in which the U.S. for all its efforts in Iraq has no leverage on the government in Baghdad," Simon said.
Throughout his trip, Cheney will discuss the situation in Iraq, where security has improved, but violence persists five years after the U.S.-led invasion.
Bush will soon receive a new assessment from General David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, that he will weigh in deciding whether any changes to U.S. strategy are needed.
Cheney will tell allies that the United States remains concerned about Iran's nuclear ambitions and would like to see its growing regional influence contained.
"I expect in all of these countries that the challenge we face from Iran will be a very high topic of conversation," the U.S. administration official said.
The message for Turkey, which has been fighting Kurdish rebels known as the PKK in northern Iraq, will be that the United States agrees "the PKK is a terrorist organization that needs to be defeated," and will continue to support Turkey in addressing the problem, the official said.
6) Mark Steyn: Obama's pastor disaster
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright thinks that, given their treatment by white America, black Americans have no reason to sing "God Bless America." "The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America," he told his congregation. "God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human."
I'm not a believer in guilt by association, or the campaign vaudeville of rival politicians insisting this or that candidate dissociate himself from remarks by some fellow he had a 30-second grip'n'greet with a decade ago. But Jeremiah Wright is not exactly peripheral to Barack Obama's life. He married the Obamas and baptized their children. Those of us who made the mistake of buying the senator's latest book, "The Audacity Of Hope," and assumed the title was an ingeniously parodic distillation of the great sonorous banality of an entire genre of blandly uplifting political writing discovered circa page 127 that in fact the phrase comes from one of the Rev. Wright's sermons. Jeremiah Wright has been Barack Obama's pastor for 20 years – in other words, pretty much the senator's entire adult life. Did Obama consider "God Damn America" as a title for his book but it didn't focus-group so well?
Ah, well, no, the senator told ABC News. The Rev. Wright is like "an old uncle who says things I don't always agree with." So did he agree with goofy old Uncle Jeremiah on Sept. 16, 2001? That Sunday morning, Uncle told his congregation that the United States brought the death and destruction of 9/11 on itself. "We nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye," said the Rev. Wright. "We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards."
Is that one of those "things I don't always agree with"? Well, Sen. Obama isn't saying, responding merely that he wasn't in church that morning. OK, fair enough, but what would he have done had he happened to have shown up on Sept. 16? Cried "Shame on you!" and stormed out? Or, if that's a little dramatic, whispered to Michelle that he didn't want their daughters hearing this kind of drivel while rescue workers were still sifting through the rubble and risen from his pew in a dignified manner and led his family to the exit? Or would he have just sat there with an inscrutable look on his face as those around him nodded?
All Sen. Obama will say is that "I don't think my church is actually particularly controversial." And in that he may be correct. There are many preachers who would be happy to tell their congregations "God damn America." But Barack Obama is not supposed to be the candidate of the America-damners: He's not the Rev. Al Sharpton or the Rev. Jesse Jackson or the rest of the racial grievance-mongers. Obama is meant to be the man who transcends the divisions of race, the candidate who doesn't damn America but "heals" it – if you believe, as many Democrats do, that America needs healing.
Yet since his early twenties he's sat week after week, listening to the ravings of just another cookie-cutter race-huckster.
What is Barack Obama for? It's not his "policies," such as they are. Rather, Sen. Obama embodies an idea: He's a symbol of redemption and renewal, and a lot of other airy-fairy abstractions that don't boil down to much except making upscale white liberals feel good about themselves and get even more of a frisson out of white liberal guilt than they usually do. I assume that's what Geraldine Ferraro was getting at when she said Obama wouldn't be where he was today (i.e., leading the race for the Democratic nomination) if he was white. For her infelicity, the first woman on a presidential ticket got bounced from the Clinton campaign and denounced by MSNBC's Keith Olbermann for her "insidious racism" indistinguishable from "the vocabulary of David Duke."
Oh, for cryin' out loud. Enjoyable as it is to watch previously expert tossers of identity-politics hand grenades blow their own fingers off, if Geraldine Ferraro's an "insidious racist", who isn't?
The song the Rev. Wright won't sing is by Irving Berlin, a contemporary of Cole Porter, Ira Gershwin and Lorenz Hart, all the sophisticated rhymesters. But only Berlin could have written without embarrassment "God Bless America." He said it directly, unaffectedly, unashamedly – in seven words:
"God Bless America
Land that I love."
Berlin was a Jew, and he suffered slights: He grew up in the poverty of New York's Lower East Side. When he made his name and fortune, his marriage to a Park Avenue heiress resulted in her expulsion from the Social Register. In the Thirties, her sister moved in with a Nazi diplomat and proudly flaunted her diamond swastika to Irving. But Berlin spent his infancy in Temun, Siberia (until the Cossacks rode in and razed his village), and he understood the great gift he'd been given:
"God Bless America
Land that I love."
The Rev. Wright can't say those words. His shtick is:
"God damn America
Land that I loathe."
I understand the Ellis Island experience of Russian Jews was denied to blacks. But not to Obama. His experience surely isn't so different to Berlin's – except that Barack got to go to Harvard. Obama's father was a Kenyan, he spent his childhood in Indonesia, and he ought to thank his lucky stars that he's running for office in Washington rather than Nairobi or Jakarta.
Instead, his whiny wife, Michelle, says that her husband's election as president would be the first reason to have "pride" in America, and complains that this country is "downright mean" and that she's having difficulty finding money for their daughters' piano lessons and summer camp. Between them, Mr. and Mrs. Obama earn $480,000 a year (not including book royalties from "The Audacity Of Hype," but they're whining about how tough they have it to couples who earn 48 grand – or less. Yes, we can. But not on a lousy half-million bucks a year.
God has blessed America, and blessed the Obamas in America, and even blessed the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose bashing of his own country would be far less lucrative anywhere else on the planet. The "racist" here is not Geraldine Ferraro but the Rev. Wright, whose appeals to racial bitterness are supposed to be everything President Obama will transcend. Right now, it sounds more like the same-old same-old.
"God Bless America
Land that I love."
Take it away, Michelle
7) A Bear Stearns Market
By James Grant
Panic is old hat on Wall Street. Rarely before, however, has there been a crisis so comprehensive as this one. It first materialized last summer in the shape of a disturbance in the low-rated, or sub-prime, mortgage market. "Contained," the regulatory establishment hopefully pronounced. But it has blazed across markets and time zones, with central bankers, politicians and Treasury functionaries in hot and, to date, futile pursuit.
What makes these proceedings so frightening is that not only is credit in crisis but so, too, is money. There are well-founded doubts about the promises to pay money and about the nature and integrity of the dollar itself. So it was on Friday that the Federal Reserve committed to lend undisclosed billions to bail out Bear Stearns, a top Wall Street purveyor of mortgage-backed securities and a leading lender to hedge funds. Where will the Fed find these dollars? Where it always, ultimately, does. It will have to print them, despite abundant evidence from the currency and gold markets that the world has just about all the dollar bills it cares to hold.
By the looks of things, America's surfeited creditors must make room for many billions more. The markets are in "uncharted waters," Robert Rubin, chairman of the Citigroup Executive Committee, said in a speech Friday. He urged the government to exert itself on behalf of the mortgage market and the American homeowner.
And who are these bankers who went sailing off the end of the Earth and thereby find it necessary to pass the cup to the government? The company of errant, if lavishly compensated, navigators includes none other than Rubin himself. Last fall, the former Treasury secretary confessed to Fortune magazine that until the mortgage storms broke over his head in the summer of 2007, he was unfamiliar with the kinds of complex mortgage structures with which Citi's own balance sheet was packed. Almost certainly, the gulf between competence and compensation on Wall Street has never been wider.
These lapses in mortgage underwriting are justly called "the biggest failure of ratings and risk management ever." But mortgages are far from the only blighted department of credit. The same carefree lending standards that led to record-high home foreclosures have brought deepening troubles in the market for loans to highly indebted companies. The "no-doc," interest-only, no-money-down mortgage turns out to have been a kind of universal American business model.
It wouldn't be so bad if the United States were not the issuer of the world's reserve currency. The dollar is not only America's scrip but also a store of value and a medium of exchange in Asia, South America and the Middle East. Yet -- and here is the rub -- the Federal Reserve makes monetary policy for one country only.
Back in 2002-03, Ben S. Bernanke, then a Fed governor serving under Alan Greenspan, got it into his head to scotch "deflation." Low, and lower, everyday prices were a clear and present danger, he claimed. Concurring, Greenspan led a campaign to reinstitute a decent rate of inflation by slashing the federal funds rate to 1 percent. Wall Street did not need to be told twice what glorious vistas for moneymaking such rock-bottom borrowing costs opened up, and it set to work creating junk bonds, mortgage-backed securities, leveraged bank loans and the rest. Naturally, real estate prices took flight.
Lenders and borrowers are forever prone to overdo it, then to underdo it. One day, anybody can get a loan. Next thing you know, the chairman of Countrywide Financial is explaining himself before a hostile congressional committee and the formerly carefree credit markets are in tears. The tears are all the more bitter today because the world is losing faith in the paper dollar.
Americans enjoy the inestimable privilege of consuming much more than they produce and financing the difference with the currency they alone can lawfully print. The reports about the record-high euro or the post-1995-high yen mean that we privileged ones will soon have to start spending less and working more.
The crux of the problem is that the Fed sets its interest rate for this economy and none other. Inflation is rampant in the countries that lash their currencies to ours. The last thing that China or Saudi Arabia or Qatar needs is a still easier, more inflationary, monetary policy. But the Fed -- its eye not on the worldwide inflation rate but on the Bear Stearns share price -- is about to turn still easier. It's a pickle for the ages but not one without its compensations. For one thing, the falling prices on Wall Street are at last beginning to restore a semblance of value to stocks and bonds. For another, the plunging dollar may prompt a serious reexamination of worldwide monetary arrangements. There must be a better way.