Wednesday, January 6, 2010
A Character Lacking Priniciple?
Nike pays for "Cheetah's' Surgey!
Everyone is up in arms about the health care bill being negotiated behind closed doors and the Messiah breaking his pledge to have negotiations televised on C Span. For anyone using half their brain, Obama has always been transparent because his campaign promises were so easy to see through.
Obama lies in his sleep! He is a character lacking in principle. Expediency motivates him, arrogance is his style and dishonesty is his method. I have also just described most of those who are driving the nation's fiscal car over the cliff.
(This about sizes it up!
The President’s Suit:
As you know President Obama just returned from China . While he was there the premier of China gave him a gift of a beautiful bolt of cloth. When President Obama returned he wanted to have a suit made from the cloth so he called a tailor on London ’s famous Seville Row to come over and make him a suit.
When the tailor arrived he measured the President and he measured the cloth and declared that he could not make him a suit. “There is not enough material” the tailor said.
The President was disappointed but after thinking about it for a while he called the French Ambassador and asked him if he could recommend a French tailor that could make him a suit. The Ambassador said that he would have one of France ’s top men’s designers flown over to make him a suit.
When the French designer arrived he measured the President and he measured the cloth and declared that he could not make him a suit. “There is not enough material” the designer said.
President Obama was disappointed and happened to mention the problem to the Israeli Ambassador. The Ambassador told him not to worry. He knew of a tailor in Israel that could make him a suit from this fine cloth.
A few days later Yankel shows up at the White House. He measured the President and he measured the cloth and told him that not only would he make him a suit but a vest and an extra pair of pants to go with it.
Stunned the President asked how this Israeli tailor could not only make him a suit but a vest and an extra pair of pants when the English and French tailors said that there was not enough material.
The Israeli tailor looked at President Obama and said, “Mr. President, in Israel you are not such a big man”) (See 1 below.)
Furthermore, the financial plight of States is so precarious many will soon be applying for foreign aid. I say 'foreign' because deficits are foreign to most states whose constitutions require balancing their budgets.(See 1a below.)
Is Universal Voting Registration the Democrat's ace up their sleeve? James Simpson thinks so.
If Simpson is right the end of our Republic, as we know it, could be nearer and how to get control of an out of control Congress. (See 1b and 1c below.)
Surprise, surprise, Lauri Regan finds Democrats disingenuous when it comes to Al Gore's assertions. (See 2 below.)
Egypt-Saudi deal to be presented to Obama on the premise Hamas has agreed to co-operate with Fatah. This premise is flimsy at best. At this point is it likely Obama will accept anything in order to create the appearance of progress vis a vis the Palestinians and Israel? (See 3 below.)
Meanwhile, Hamas continues to rocket Israel. (See 4 below.)
Victor Davis Hanson writes 2010 could well be year of decision because our feckless actions have emboldened Jihadists/Islamists who see America as morally weak. We are a bit nmorally weak but we are also confused and culturally disunited. (See 5 below.)
Larry Elder asks the question many ponder - Is Sarah Palin the right prescription For America? Interesting conclusion based on objective questioning. (See 6 below.)
David Broder believes Obama, like GW, has had his 9/11 wake up call. ( See 7 below.)
Bob Tyrrell alludes to two Obama systemic failures and Michael Smerconish has reservations about any effective response. (See 7a and 7b below.)
What some market timers are thinking regarding 2010 markets - decidedly bullish. (See 8 below.)
What some billionaires think about 2010 - Mixed on the stock market, more or less consensus on problems facing our nation: inflation, deficits and the lousy eduction received by our progeny. (See 8a below.)
1)Can Cocksure Obama Change Course -- and Keep His Nerve?
By Michael Barone
A year ago, I was privileged to be one of several guests at a dinner with President-elect Barack Obama. One thing that struck me and others, aside from his courtesy and fluency, was his air of self-confidence. The man who had risen in just four years from state senator to president of the United States seemed sure he could master the job.
I wonder if he is as sure now. It seems to me that two assumptions that Obama carried into the White House -- assumptions that were shared by many who hadn't voted for him -- have proved to be unfounded.
The first is that economic distress would lead more Americans to favor big government policies. The second is that Obama's personal characteristics and his repudiation of many of his predecessor's policies would change the minds of America's critics and enemies.
Any doubts that these assumptions were mistaken were dispelled at Christmastime. On Christmas Eve, the Senate passed a massive health care bill that according to every public opinion poll is opposed by most Americans. And on Christmas Day, Nigerian terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab came close to destroying an airliner as it was preparing to land in Detroit.
The unpopularity of the stimulus package, cap-and-trade legislation and the various health care bills probably surprised the congressional Democratic leaders who put them together and the president who, with surprising passivity, indicated he would sign them. After all, weren't these ways to spread the wealth to ordinary people, as Obama put it to Joe the Plumber?
But through most of our history, Americans have preferred policies that enable and help them to amass wealth rather than those that purport to transfer someone else's wealth to them. The biggest outpouring of political sentiment this year came from those who thronged to "tea parties" and denounced increases in the national debt as stirringly as did the first Democratic president, Andrew Jackson, who actually paid it all off.
On foreign policy, Obama imagined that confessing past American sins, announcing the closing of Guantanamo and abandoning enhanced interrogation techniques would make Islamist terrorists think better of the United States. He thought he could induce the leaders of enemy nations to change their ways by referring respectfully to regimes like Iran's and downplaying all talk of human rights abuses.
It turns out that just as the financial crisis and recession did not much change Americans' fundamental attitudes on the balance between government and markets, so emollient talk and confessions of past American sins did not much change the behavior of those who consider America a sworn enemy. The mullahs still want their nuclear bomb.
American officials could stop talking about a "war on terror" and speak instead of "man-caused disasters." But that did not disarm the Islamist terrorist who shot up the recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark., or the Muslim psychiatrist who opened fire at Fort Hood or the pampered Nigerian who tried to bring down Northwest flight 253 over Detroit.
Obama did manage to abandon his statement that the Detroit bomber was an "isolated extremist" and admit that he was in touch with al-Qaida terrorists in Yemen. Yet his administration quickly sent him into the civilian justice system, where he predictably clammed up, and until a reversal Tuesday, proclaimed that it would keep sending Guantanamo detainees to Yemen.
We have all experienced the cognitive dissonance that comes when it turns out that the world doesn't work the way we assumed it would. It's hard to give up your assumptions and easier often to believe that unexpected events and results were an aberration from norm that would quickly snap back to what we expected.
Midcourse corrections in these circumstances are often awkward and difficult to execute, the more so when all eyes are on you and any change in direction is the subject of universal comment and adverse criticism.
Getting elected president of the United States must be an enormously confidence-building experience: So many people wanted the job, and you got it. Being president can be more chastening when events don't turn out as you anticipated.
The great presidents -- Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt -- faced events no one expected and in response changed policies and priorities without ever, so far as we know, losing their nerve. Lesser presidents, including Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, did so as well. Will Barack Obama?
1a)Obama's Fiscal Fantasy World: Spending is up nearly 24% since Bush's last full budget year
By KARL ROVE
After President Obama devoted much of 2009 to health care and global warming—two issues far down Americans' list of concerns—the White House says he will pivot to jobs and deficit reduction in his State of the Union speech in a few weeks. The White House is considering dramatic gestures, perhaps announcing a spending freeze or even a 2% or 3% reduction in nondefense spending.
But Americans shouldn't be misled by the election year ploy: Mr. Obama rigged the game by giving himself plenty of room to look tough on spending. He did that by increasing discretionary domestic spending for the last half of fiscal year 2009 by 8% and then increasing it another 12% for fiscal year 2010.
So discretionary domestic spending now stands at $536 billion, up nearly 24% from President George W. Bush's last full year budget in fiscal 2008 of $433.6 billion. That's a huge spending surge, even for a profligate liberal like Mr. Obama. The $102 billion spending increase doesn't even count the $787 billion stimulus package, of which $534 billion remains unspent.
Mr. Obama can placate congressional Democrats by arguing that all that extra spending he has already crammed through can cover their spending desires at least through the 2010 congressional elections.
Mr. Obama is thinking of tapping another pocket of cash. Now that the banks are repaying—with interest and dividends—the $240 billion the Bush administration lent them, the Obama administration is considering recycling those dollars into new spending on "green" technology and more stimulus, despite provisions Congress wrote into the law creating the Troubled Asset Relief Program that requires that repaid TARP funds be used exclusively for deficit reduction.
Meanwhile, defense spending is being flattened: Between 2009 and 2010, military outlays will rise 3.6% while nondefense discretionary spending climbs 12%.
All this leaves Mr. Obama in the enviable position of appearing tough on spending while growing the federal government's share of GDP from its historic post-World War II average of roughly 20% to the target Mr. Obama laid out in his budget blueprint last February of 24%.
There are also those pesky entitlements. This mandatory spending has grown to 66% of the budget, up from 29% in 1965. Serious budgeters understand spending cannot be brought under control unless these mandatory outlays are part of the mix.
One idea on Capitol Hill is to create a commission that would propose a package of entitlement reforms that Congress would have to vote on as a package, up or down, take it or leave it—much like the base closing commission.
The Obama White House likes this idea in part because the proposal calls for including some congressional Republicans but would reserve a majority of the seats on the commission for Democrats. That would put Democrats in charge while also making the GOP share in the political pain that would come with whatever the commission proposes. Conservatives worry, with justification, that a commission's purpose would be to provide Republican cover for tax increases and a permanent increase in the size of the federal government.
What's more, the White House may only be interested in an election-year gesture. White House staff are apparently considering creating a presidential commission that would look like it's working on deficit reduction but that would be established by executive order. Of course, without congressional authorization, there's no way to force Congress to vote on a commission's recommendations.
Whatever Mr. Obama says in his State of the Union, Republicans need to be tougher on spending and deficits. Later this month, Senate Republicans are planning to force their colleagues to go on the record on how to spend returned TARP funds by demanding that Democrats vote on the issue. Some House Republicans are also considering calling for a return to the level of discretionary domestic spending that existed when Mr. Obama entered office last January.
Few things focus the attention of politicians as much as approaching elections. Democrats are aware that spending and deficits are big reasons Republicans have a nine-point lead on the Rasmussen Poll's generic ballot.
Independents are particularly sensitive about deficits, spending and taxes, whose growth they see aversely affecting jobs and the economy. They give Mr. Obama only a 21% approval on handling the deficit. Only 10% of independents want to spend unused bank bailout money on other government programs.
At the beginning of his term, Americans believed Mr. Obama would follow through on his campaign promises about "cutting wasteful spending" and going "through the federal budget, line-by-line, ending programs that we don't need" and putting "an end to the run-away spending the record deficits."
After a year of living in his fiscal fantasy world, Americans realize they have a record deficit-setting, budget-busting spender on their hands. Voters are now reading the fine print on all that Mr. Obama proposes and as they do, his credibility, already badly damaged, suffers.
Mr. Rove, the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, is the author of the forthcoming book "Courage and Consequence" (Threshold Editions).
1b)What the Dems Know: Universal Voter Registration
By James Simpson
Many are puzzled that Democrats persist in ramming unpopular and destructive legislation down our collective throats with no apparent concern for their plummeting poll numbers. A widespread belief is that the Democrats are committing political suicide and will be swept from one or both houses of Congress with unprecedented electoral losses next November. But since Democrat politicians rarely do things that will not ultimately benefit themselves, this column asked two weeks ago, "What do they know that we don't?"
We may have found out. It's called universal voter registration. The Wall Street Journal's John Fund described the Democrat plan recently at a David Horowitz Freedom Center forum. Fund describes the proposal as follows:
In January, Chuck Schumer and Barney Frank will propose universal voter registration. What is universal voter registration? It means all of the state laws on elections will be overridden by a federal mandate. The feds will tell the states: 'take everyone on every list of welfare that you have, take everyone on every list of unemployed you have, take everyone on every list of property owners, take everyone on every list of driver's license holders and register them to vote regardless of whether they want to be ...'
Fund anticipates that Congress will attempt to ram this legislation through, as with the health care bill. What a surprise! Fund covers the vote issue at greater length in his book, How the Obama Administration Threatens to Undermine Our Elections.
Leftist groups are already arguing that universal voter registration will solve all the problems with our voting system. But the left created most of these problems. The radical leftist Nation Magazine, for example, absolutely loves the idea of universal voter registration. This is the same magazine, however, that advanced Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven's Manufactured Crisis strategy. The Cloward/Piven strategy was designed to undermine government institutions by overwhelming them with impossible demands for services. Cloward and Piven focused on welfare, housing, and voting as the main targets of this strategy, and the radical group ACORN was specifically created for the purpose of executing it.
The Nation article enthusiastically lists Cloward/Piven-inspired organizations like Project Vote, the ACORN group where President Obama cut his teeth. It also discusses the left's efforts to push enforcement of the Motor Voter law and explains how universal voter registration could assist in these efforts. Cloward and Piven were the ones who crafted Motor Voter legislation in the early 1980s and pushed for its enactment until 1993, when President Clinton signed it into law. Cloward and Piven considered Motor Voter to be their crowning, lifetime achievement. The picture at right, from White House photo archives, shows Cloward (light gray suit) and Piven (green coat and navy dress) standing directly behind Clinton at the Motor Voter signing ceremony.
The left has predictably launched vicious smear attacks against John Fund for bringing universal voter registration to our attention. A Google search of the issue brings up any number of nasty ad hominem attacks. Most notable is Media Matters, the leftist group whose sole purpose seems to be to smear Republicans and defend the left's indefensible policies. They put up this gem: "Right-Wing Ass Weasel John Fund Doesn't Like Universal Voter Registration because of ACORN."
The problems with universal voter registration are numerous and obvious. Many states' lists include vast numbers of illegals, including some states which allow illegals to obtain drivers licenses; because many homeowners have more than one home, there will be duplicates; because so many people are on so many separate federal and state government agency lists, there will be duplicates; and because so many lists exist with little or no cross-checking capability, all of these duplicates are likely to go uncorrected. Add to this the fact that Dems hope to extend voting rights to felons, and the whole thing begins to look like a nationwide Democrat voter registration drive facilitated by taxpayers.
Universal voter registration will create massive vulnerabilities to systemic voter fraud nationwide, and if Democrats have proven anything in recent years, it is that they can win elections that way. The George-Soros-funded Secretary of State project (SOS) was designed to take advantage of such vulnerabilities and may have been developed in anticipation of the universal voter registration plan. Al Franken's stolen election in Minnesota was a trial run for the SOS project. Longtime ACORN friend Mark Ritchie was elected Minnesota Secretary of State in 2006 with Soros's SOS and ACORN money, and what followed in Norm Coleman's Senate runoff election was a frightening demonstration of just how far Democrats will go to win. Franken won the runoff, and the Democrats got their filibuster-proof sixty-vote Senate majority.
The Motor Voter law was correctly identified as a facilitator of vote fraud. One of the few legal issues Barack Obama actually participated in as a lawyer was a 1995 suit against the State of Illinois, which he brought on behalf of ACORN. Then-Republican Governor Jim Edgars saw the newly passed Motor Voter act as creating the potential for massive vote fraud and refused to implement it. With the assistance of the Clinton Justice Department, Obama's legal team won that suit. Obama himself actually participated very little, a strategy that seems to have served him well in life. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, after identifying himself in court proceedings, Obama sat back and let "the heavy-hitters at the Justice Department make the arguments."
It is not surprising that the Democrats are now choosing to push this new initiative, for universal voter registration will be Motor Voter on turbochargers. And who better to sign it into law than the president from ACORN?
James Simpson authored the landmark article Barack Obama and the Strategy of Manufactured Crisis.
1c)Getting Control of Congress, Permanently
By John Armor
We are now experiencing a disconnect between national political leaders and the citizenry. Public support for congressional actions is low and falling, as are the president's numbers. Public opposition to the health care bill, now passed in different forms in the House and Senate, is at 59% and rising.
In various ways, the people are strongly indicating that they think Congress is out of control and needs adult supervision. Particularly galling is the revelation that Senate leaders bought critical votes on the health care bill by dumping hundreds of millions in special benefits into states whose senators had withheld support -- until they got their bribe.
In answer to the public outcry, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid shrugs and says that any senator who "does not seek as much as he can" for his own state isn't doing his job.
Perhaps it's time to look to the states, where more tools are available to rein in profligate legislators. If similar constitutional restraints were imposed on Congress, many if not all of the recent abuses would be prevented permanently.
With the way Congress is hemorrhaging the nation's money, we can't afford to wait until November to do something. Besides, whatever changes in policy occur in the midterm elections of 2010 may be temporary. As the Supreme Court has repeatedly written, each Congress is free to make its own decisions; no Congress can bind the actions of future Congresses. The only reforms that can permanently increase popular control of Congress are constitutional, not legislative.
Three controls that the people have placed in state constitutions do not exist at the federal level. These are balanced budget amendments, line item vetoes, and single-subject requirements.
Balanced budget requirements (BBA) exist in some form in all fifty states. There must be an escape clause in these requirements or the restriction would prevent all curative steps in an economic emergency. The late economist Milton Friedman suggested that a two-thirds vote of both Houses of Congress should be required to override the BBA proposed for the federal Constitution [i].
If the federal government had already had such a BBA, none of the current or proposed emergency spending bills would have passed in their present form, with uncontrolled and unverifiable spending and trillion-dollar deficits for the next decade at least.
The second constitutional control common in the states but absent at the federal level is the line item veto. This exists in 43 states in various forms. When they work, they prevent legislatures from passing kitchen-sink legislation. The temptation to stuff bills is common at all levels of government. Some legislators try to attach special and unpopular spending provisions to a popular and must-pass bill to force a governor to accept the bad with the good. With a line-item veto, a governor can strike individual items from any bill.
If every president had the same line-item power that most governors have, each president would be responsible for any earmarks that remained in any bill [ii]. President Obama has decried special-interest earmarks, but he has not vetoed any bill over them. Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Clinton all sought line-item veto power. Congress passed a bill to create that power for President Clinton. Promptly after he used it, the Supreme Court struck it down, saying it must be established by amending the Constitution.
The third constitutional control common among the states but absent at the federal level is the single-subject requirement on all bills. This exists in 41 states in various forms. It's another protection against kitchen-sink legislation when the issue is policy, not money.
Under single-subject, legislators cannot attach provisions on such hot-button issues as taxes, regulation, abortion, gun control, or welfare to highly favored bills on entirely different subjects. At the federal level, disfavored clauses are often added to bills with the intention of forcing adoption of the disfavored clause, or to create a poison pill to kill the overall bill.
All three of these provisions work more effectively if there is a tightly written constitutional control and a tendency of the highest courts in that jurisdiction to enforce them.
The remaining question: What are the chances that Congress, which has created the current problems, will pass by the required two-thirds vote three amendments which would curtail their current behavior? Given that the major legislation passed by Congress in 2009 has obtained a majority in both Houses, it would seem improbable to obtain a turnaround in both of them to two-thirds for reform in a single election.
On their face, all Amendments to the U.S. Constitution were proposed by a two-thirds vote of both Houses, and then ratified by three-fourths of the states, as stated in Article V. But that Article has an exception.
The exception was put in by the Framers in Philadelphia to deal with the possibility that the people might want a change that Congress opposed.
The 17th Amendment, which made U.S. senators elected by the people rather than chosen by the state legislatures, provides the critical example. In 1900, the Progressive Party controlled several states and was powerful nationally. One of the Progressives' tenets was that the U.S. Senate should be popularly elected. Before 1912, that idea succeeded repeatedly -- but only in the House, where the 17th Amendment passed ten times by a two-thirds vote. Ten times, however, the Senate defeated the Amendment without even a hearing [iii].
At the same time, the states began passing Calls for a Constitutional Convention, which is the alternate way to propose Amendments if Congress will not act. Article V provides that once two-thirds of the states demand a Convention, Congress must call one. Thirty-two states demanded that Congress either pass the 17th Amendment or call a Convention.
At that point, the Senate relented. It recognized that a Convention could write an Amendment that would put all non-elected senators out in the street and replace them immediately with elected ones. The sitting senators saved what they could from the impending 17th Amendment. They inserted the final clause, which says: "This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution."
The election route and the constitutional route are complementary, not alternative. Anyone who wants to reestablish control over the Congress should get active now for the midterm elections of 2010.
But they should also see to it that these three changes to the U.S. Constitution be submitted for consideration in all state legislatures, just like the call for the 17th Amendment was. Enough activity at the state level could send a powerful message to Washington.
John Armor practiced in the U.S. Supreme Court for 33 years. He also wrote a book on term limits and worked for decades on the Balanced Budget Amendment. This article was written for the American Civil Rights Union (www.theacru.org). Contact the author at John_Armor@aya.yale.edu.
[i] Author's note: I spent 25 years working on the BBA proposal, which included testifying before committees of 26 state legislatures as an expert witness on BBA and on Article V of the Constitution. I also spent a day two decades ago with Dr. Freidman discussing the precise language of the BBA.
[ii] See the testimony of Stephen Moore, Director of Fiscal Policy Studies for the CATO Institute, before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on 24 January, 1995 at http://www.cato.org/testimony/ct-moor2.html.
[iii] For a detailed discussion of the Convention Call route to amending the Constitution, including the 17th Amendment, see the Heritage Foundation's review of Amending the Constitution by the Convention Method, an officially-adopted policy of the American Bar Association.
2)The Intellectual Dishonesty of the Democrats
By Lauri B. Regan
This past week, I was having lunch at a restaurant in midtown Manhattan when my colleague noticed Al and Tipper Gore dining across the room with another couple. It was a frigid day, with record-breaking temperatures keeping most people indoors, and we were the last two tables in the restaurant.
As the Gore party started walking out of the room, my colleague called out, "Hey, Al, how's all that global warming working out for you?" Gore turned around and stared at us with a completely dumbfounded look on his face. He was speechless. With a smile, my colleague repeated the question, again to a hapless look of dismay.
Finally, Gore mumbled under his breath, "Wow, you sound awfully angry." I responded with a thank you, explaining to him that we were actually extremely amused. The encounter concluded with Gore's friend mouthing a very animated "f--- you" at us, and they skulked away. My only regret is that no one at the table asked Gore, "What's the matter? The polar bear's got your tongue?"
What struck me the most about this meeting was Gore's complete inability to utter a sentence addressing his life's work. The former Vice President, Nobel Prize laureate, and Academy Award-winning producer standing before us was a moron, unable to articulate a simple comeback to address all that he has stood for since leaving office. He could have simply ignored us and kept walking, as he does with reporters, but by stopping and standing there dumbstruck, he looked like a fool.
That night, I was watching Bill O'Reilly's show, and in his Reality Check segment, he featured Rebecca Mead, a writer for The New Yorker magazine, who appeared on CBS's "Sunday Morning" talk show lambasting Bush and praising Obama as a "certified intellectual." Upon what does she base this claim?
All we know about Obama is that he graduated from Columbia University, was an Alinskyite community organizer, went to Harvard Law School, and worked as a law school lecturer before running for public office. He has received the author's credit for two books, though it is an open question how much he relied on ghostwriters. We have not seen his school transcripts, and he wrote not one single signed article while acting as president of the Harvard Law Review or as a law school instructor. We have no idea what Obama's intellectual aptitude is, and to claim that he is a "certified intellectual" is absurd.
This is a man who certainly did not deserve to be elected president of the United States, having accomplished little in his first 46 years of life, other than creating a faux persona and developing strong oratory skills. He too is unable to think on his feet and without a teleprompter; he too sounds like a buffoon as he claims to have visited all 57 of the United States and that he understands the Austrian language.
When Sarah Palin was asked to be McCain's vice president, the left went berserk and attacked her on all fronts, including her lack of an "adequate" education. A close friend e-mailed me, specifically mentioning Palin's college as one reason why she was not qualified for the job. When I pointed out that Harry Truman did not even graduate from college, there was no response.
And we could not escape the left's attacks on every Bush gaffe, the whole of which became the subject of books, late-night television humor, and even decks of cards. To this day, the left is completely incapable of appreciating the acts of the Bush years, which will go down in history as based on intellectual honesty and moral character -- two characteristics wholly lacking in any agenda emanating from the Democrats controlling our government.
There is no better example of intellectual dishonesty than Climategate. After Al Gore left the restaurant, the waiter walked over to our table laughing. But when we raised the Climategate fiasco, the waiter had no idea what we were talking about. The fraud pervasive in the scientific community is just as rampant in the mainstream media that is failing to adequately investigate and report on this extremely important story.
I went to see the Sherlock Holmes movie with my family this past weekend. As every fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories is aware, the key lesson is that you must gather all of the facts before forming a theory. An individual who first forms a theory and then gathers facts to support it will wind up ignoring the facts which run contra to it and ultimately err in her conclusion.
How is it, then, that a vast majority of the scientific community charged with investigating changes in the world's climate -- "certified intellectuals," as it were -- have done exactly that, and with the unfettered support of the Democratic Party and the left-wing media?
This simple, commonsense approach to a criminal investigation should be the basis of scientific endeavors from the beginning to the end of time. It should permeate business decisions, economic policy, and certainly a government's rules and regulations. It is otherwise known as common sense -- something completely lacking in today's politicians. Ideology has taken its place. For the Democrats, it is all about ideology.
It does not matter that universal health care has failed the world over. It will pass here and be forced upon the populace, the majority of which has no desire to suffer under its failures just to enable the Democrats to retain long-term power and control over individuals.
The war on terror? There is none. A few "man-caused disasters," perhaps, but releasing the Gitmo detainees to Yemen -- despite our knowledge that it is a breeding ground for terrorism and an al-Qaeda stronghold -- makes sense to those coming to office with left-wing ideological beliefs. And what could possibly be wrong with giving up our nuclear weapons and defense systems when the rest of the world's dictators and rogue nations are manufacturing them as quickly as possible?
The problem with all of these nonsensical ideological policies is that they do not simply have short-term effects on the country and its citizens. The Democrats are consciously and successfully altering the economy, the health care system, our national defense, and the stature of the United States at breathtaking speed, while those of us with common sense and intellectual honesty watch in dismay and horror.
A friend recently told me a wonderful story about his encounter with Albert Einstein as an eight-year-old boy. My friend's father was a brilliant and well-known author at the time, and he was asked to meet one afternoon with Einstein. As my friend walked for several hours in the woods, accompanying the two men, he struggled for just the right question to ask of the world's most brilliant man.
Finally, as the meeting was coming to an end, my friend saw a leaf floating down from a tree in a peculiar swirling pattern. He then asked, "Dr. Einstein, why is the leaf falling from the tree like that rather than straight down?" Einstein replied with a smile, "I don't know."
As my colleague asked Al Gore, "How's that global warming working out for you," it would have been nice to hear Gore respond, "I don't know." But there is no money for politicians -- or con-artists -- who admit that they just don't know. There are no earmarks and windfalls being sent to the intellectually honest people with the moral character to admit that they don't have all of the answers, but that they are going to gather all the facts first before drawing conclusions which will affect generations of individuals, vast portions of the economy, and individual rights previously safeguarded in a Constitution being usurped before our eyes.
The Einsteins of the world are too smart to venture into politics. But we can still make sure that in the future, we elect individuals of moral character who are intellectually honest with both themselves and the American citizens. Without them, our Constitution is reduced to meaningless words, and Al Gore, one of the real "fat cats," will continue to dine at our expense.
3) New Egyptian-Saudi peace plan to be presented to Obama Friday
Egypt's minister of intelligence Omar Suleiman and foreign minister Ahmad Abul Gheit are due in Washington Friday, Jan. 7, to present US president Barack Obama with a new Egyptian-Saudi proposal for reviving Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, Middle East sources disclose. At its core would be a presidential letter of guarantee for Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestinian Authority, underwriting a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on pre-1967 borders with adjustments called for by demographic changes in the interim years, Obama will also be called upon to limit territorial swaps between Israel and the Palestinians to a minimum and support East Jerusalem's status as capital of a future Palestinian state.
Sources explain the US presidential letter would be addressed to the Palestinians, according to the new proposal. Israel will not be asked to sign off on it only to renew negotiations with the Palestinians. Neither would Israel be required to freeze construction in the settlements or Jerusalem.
The Egyptian ministers will inform President Obama that a meeting Saudi King Abdullah held with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal in Riyadh Monday, January 4 ended with the Hamas leader accepting a Saudi ultimatum to sever ties with Iran and make peace with Fatah for the sake of an eventual Palestinian national unity government.
Cairo and Riyadh believe that if they can show that Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, will honor an accord reached in the new round of Israel-Palestinian negotiations, they will pull the rug from under Israel's most telling argument against an accord, namely that it would be binding on only half the Palestinian people.
Washington sources predict that on the spot at the Friday meeting President Obama' will agree in principle to providing a letter of guarantee, but he will leave the final wording to the next round of talks his Middle East envoy. George Mitchell is due to be in the region later this month.
Jerusalem is aware that an Obama's letter to the Palestinians would be a departure from the assurances US President George W. Bush gave Ariel Sharon in 2004. Nevertheless, prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu consented to the step provided it would not be binding on Israel.
Despite the air of optimism surrounding the Egyptian-Saudi initiative, Middle East sources find it hard to see the hardline, Damascus-based Meshaal living up to his promise to cut Hamas ties with Tehran, especially since his host, Syrian president Bashar Assad, is against the initiative. Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal, travelled to Damascus Wednesday, Jan. 6 especially to seek Assad's endorsement. Instead he found the Syrian leader suspicious of the Egyptian-Saudi plan fearing it was designed to put his own shared peace initiative with Turkey in the shade.
Palestinian experts say Hamas leaders will on no account go up against the wishes of the Syrian ruler, regardless of any promises to Riyadh.
4)IDF warns Gazans in wake of mortar barrage on Israel
By Anshel Pfeffer
The Israel Air Force dropped thousands of fliers over Gaza on Thursday, after Palestinian militants launched a barrage of at least ten mortar shells at Israel, none of which caused injuries or damage.
Six shells exploded in the northwestern Negev, three others struck near the Kerem Shalom crossing with Gaza, while another exploded in the coastal strip.
The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) claimed responsibility Thursday for the mortar fire.
The Defense Ministry on Thursday closed the Kerem Shalom crossing until further notice. Dozens of aid trucks that were prepared to deliver humanitarian supplies to Gaza were waiting at the crossing Thursday morning, Israel Radio reported.
The fliers warned Gaza residents to stay away from the border with Israel and to avoid involvement in smuggling, Ma'an news agency reported.
One of the fliers featured a map, and warns Gazans that anyone within 300 meters of the security fence is endangering himself.
Another flier urges Gazans not to sit idly by as smugglers put them and their communities in harm's way. It includes a phone number and E-mail address for anyone willing to provide information about the smuggling tunnels.
On Wednesday, GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant warned Negev residents that the quiet Israel has recently expereinced along the Gaza border may only be temporary, adding that the IDF was prepared to face tensions should they arise.
Galant also urged civilians in the Negev to "prepare themselves for another round of fighting."
"It is important that we fully appreciate the value of this calm period for the residents of the area," he said. "The quietness allows the development of the regional infrastructure, agriculture and economical prosperity."
Hamas had said it was cracking down on militant groups firing at Israel from the Gaza Strip, but communities in the Negev have been hit with rockets numerous times in the year since the IDF embarked on Operation Cast Lead.
Just last week, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) claimed responsibility for firing two Russian-made Grad missiles from Gaza at southern Israel.
The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) also claimed responsibility for firing four mortar shells at Israeli army vehicles near the border the week before.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened following those strikes that Israel would respond to every single rocket by Gaza militants.
5)2010: Our Year of Decision
By Victor Davis Hanson
Sometimes long-festering problems collide — and explode — in a single memorable year. We can go as far back as the fifth century Before the Common Era to see this phenomenon — and we may see it again in 2010.
The decade of Aegean tension culminated in the Persian invasion of Greece. Nothing seemed able to stop the onslaught of King Xerxes as he broke through the pass of Thermopylae — until the Greeks under Themistocles rallied at the sea battle of Salamis and saved the West.
In the year 69, the Roman Empire was tottering on its very foundations. Rome had been rocked by decades of corruption, assassinations, coups and military revolts. By the end of 69, Vespasian — the fourth emperor that year! — had put an end to over a century of erratic Julio-Claudian rule when he brought sanity back to Roman government.
Fast-forward to the modern era. The rise of fascism erupted into war and conquest in 1939. That year, Franco's Nationalists won the civil war in Spain. The Soviet Union fought Japan in a border war — during which it signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact with Hitler's Germany. Weeks later, the Nazi invasion of Poland marked the start of the Second World War.
Events in 1939 alone did not cause the outbreak of the global conflict. Rather, it followed from years of bad ideas like serial appeasement of Hitler, the near-disarmament of Western democracies and flirtation with pacifism. This behavior had inadvertently sent a global message: Britain, France and the United States were unwilling and unable to meet the challenge of totalitarianism. And so dictators called their bluff in 1939 and began to move.
Closer to the present, 1979 was another climactic year. Jimmy Carter's prior years of sermonizing about American bad habits had convinced many of the world's bad actors that it was time to press forward their regional agendas without fear of American reaction.
Once theater aggression began, there was little way to stop it. President Carter's whiny "crisis of confidence" speech in which he confessed to a collective American malaise only made things worse.
What a year 1979 proved to be! Daniel Ortega's Sandinistas took control of Nicaragua. The Iranian Revolution triggered an oil panic. A global energy crisis followed. Islamic terrorists took American hostages at the U.S. embassy in Tehran. About seven weeks later, the Soviet Union's Red Army entered Afghanistan. China earlier in the year had invaded Vietnam.
2010 may turn out to be a similar year of destiny. In 2009, the United States gave Iran at least four deadlines to stop its nuclear program. All were ignored. Does an emboldened theocracy believe this now is the year to become nuclear and change the entire strategic makeup of the Middle East?
For much of 2009, the Obama administration boasted that it would shut down the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention facility, despite having no final idea of where or what to do with all the detainees — many from terror-infested Yemen.
We renounced prior notions of a "war on terror." We reiterated that the now-quiet Iraq war had been a mistake. We apologized to the Islamic world for purported past American sins, while inflating Muslim achievements.
After months of hesitation, in Janus-fashion we both announced we were sending more troops to Afghanistan and promised to start soon bringing them home. We reached out to Putin's Russia at the expense of our democratic Eastern European allies.
All of this has not been lost on Islamists. In general, al-Qaida interprets our outreach as a sign of moral weakness. Since 9/11, more than one-third of all terrorism-related incidents in the United States occurred in 2009 alone. Maj. Nidal Hasan's murderous rampage at Ford Hood, and al-Qaida's foiled Christmas Day effort to blow up a jet over Detroit are just precursors of what to expect this year.
Meanwhile, the cash-flush Chinese have not been idle. This year they will continue to use their vast budget surpluses to expand their armed forces — as skyrocketing debts in the years ahead force us to curtail our own.
With America engaged in two wars, and drowning in trillions in debt, our Asian allies are already starting to take their respective measures of Barack Obama and the Communist cadre in Beijing. Expect allies like Japan, Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan to begin to make regional accommodations with a rising China — while distancing themselves from a floundering and confused U.S.
In 2010, our year of decision, events may come to a head and overwhelm the existing American-led global order unless President Obama can galvanize Western allies to meet the mounting danger.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and military historian, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.
6)Sarah Palin: Wrong Prescription for America?
By Larry Elder
"Sarah Palin, do you guys really like her?"
My dad's doctor asked me this a couple of weeks ago. His smile seemed to shout, "Are you guys crazy?" I had taken my 94-year-old Republican father to see him several times, but politics never came up. Did the doc really want to go there? It went something like this:
"What's the problem with her?" I said.
"Well, she's, she's —"
"Really? Why, because she isn't as glib or articulate as you elites like? She didn't answer Katie Couric or Charlie Gibson the way President Obama would have?"
"Yes — I'm one of those elites."
"How stupid do you have to be to take on the establishment in Alaska and win? How stupid do you have to be to have — at the time Republican presidential candidate John McCain picked her — an 84 percent popularity rating in Alaska? She had more executive experience than Obama."
"Well, she doesn't come across as prepared."
"I don't know what qualities you look for. But I'll tell you what counts for me: character, competence and vision. She's likable. She has a strong, stable marriage with a down-to-earth husband. She has convictions that I agree with. Government too big? Check. People taxed too much? Check. Stay on offense in the war on terror? Check. For me, what's not to like?"
"I'd worry about her judgment."
"Do you worry about Vice President Joe Biden's?"
"No, why should I?"
"Where do I start? Put aside all the gaffes. He's the one who, during their debate, cited the wrong part of the Constitution when asked to describe the role of the vice president. As a new member of Congress, he voted to cut off funding to the South Vietnamese. This helped lead to the slaughter of millions in that country and Cambodia. Biden routinely challenged President Ronald Reagan on fighting the Cold War, even though even some Reagan haters now believe Reagan's policies helped speed up the fall of the Soviet Union. Biden opposed the first Gulf War. Wrong. He supported the Iraq War, then argued that Iraq should be divided into three parts, then opposed the surge — said it wouldn't work — and then opposed the war that he earlier voted for. Wrong."
"C'mon, you're entitled to change your opinion."
"You are. But we are talking about judgment. And Palin has taken a consistent and defensible position on the war. You may disagree, but at least she's clear. And the surge did work. Iraq might just make it. We'll see what the Middle East is like in 20 years. So far this month (of December), zero coalition combat deaths in Iraq. Pretty impressive."
"Yeah, it is."
"And I don't know how you feel about abortion. But Palin is, as I'm sure you know, strongly pro-life. She learns she's pregnant with a child with Down syndrome. Even many pro-lifers would have aborted that child. Palin didn't. That's talking the talk and walking the walk, and yes, 'us guys' think it's admirable."
"I, I don't know whether she's bright enough."
"And a lot of people on the left thought President George W. Bush was dumb, too. Are you one of them?
"I admit it."
"Did you know he had better grades in college than Al Gore?"
"Did you know he scored higher on his military IQ test than did John Kerry?"
"Did you know he got a higher SAT score than did Rhodes scholar Bill Bradley?"
"Obama is clearly smart," I said.
"Yeah, and he doesn't turn people off. He's brilliant."
"OK. And it took Obama nearly three months to decide how to respond to the request for more troops in Afghanistan. In making important decisions — things that matter — a president spends more time than it takes to answer a reporter's question on what the 'Bush Doctrine' means. Oh, and about turning people off, Palin's popularity is now about equal to Obama's."
"Well, I just feel more comfortable with him."
"Would you feel comfortable with him if he were a low-tax, low-regulation, limited-government, strong-national-security Republican — same guy, different views?"
"OK, then this is really about ideology."
"Well —" he laughed.
"Were you OK with bailing out all those banks?"
"No, but Bush did it, too."
"He shouldn't have, but how we got there is about government butting into the housing business. What about bailing out GM?"
"Do you think the stimulus package truly 'created or saved' a bunch of jobs?"
"Are you OK with ObamaCare?"
Dad's doctor suddenly turned into Mr. Hyde. He teed off on the government dictating how he should practice medicine. He predicted that costs would go up, not down. He predicted that quality would go down, not up. He talked about the importance of the profit incentive.
"Sarah Palin feels the same way you do."
As for my dad, some swelling, occasional dizziness — not bad for a 94-year-old. Thank you for asking.
By David Broder
Was Christmas Day 2009 the same kind of wake-up call for Barack Obama that Sept. 11, 2001, had been for George W. Bush?
The near-miss by a passenger flying into Detroit plotting to blow up an American airliner seems to have shocked this president as much as the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon did the last.
Both presidents had had plenty of warnings in the form of prior threats and even incidents. But both were caught off-guard: Bush reading to a classroom of youngsters; Obama on a family vacation in Hawaii.
Bush reacted with anger and a determination to punish the people who wreaked the havoc. Obama was just as mad, but a good portion of his anger was targeted on the members of his own intelligence bureaucracy he said had missed the abundant clues and failed to forestall the attack. Like Bush, he vowed to see that the consequences also fell on the foreign country that gave birth to the plot — Afghanistan eight years ago, Yemen today.
For now, we are conducting a proxy war in Yemen, but that may change. Al-Qaeda's local enablers must learn that there is a price to be paid when Uncle Sam is attacked from their bases.
The larger question is how this affects the long-term mindset and priorities of the new president. Before 9/11, Bush's agenda consisted largely of a set of tax cuts and an ambitious education program (No Child Left Behind), both of which were on their way to easy accomplishment in a compliant Congress.
Obama, on the other hand, came into Christmas Day with an overloaded set of self-imposed tasks. He was winding down one inherited war in Iraq, and expanding another one in Afghanistan. He was renegotiating our relations with other powers in the world and attempting to enlist their help in confronting outlaw regimes in Iran and North Korea. And simultaneously, at home, he was being pressed to rescue a badly wounded economy while lobbying a reluctant but allied Congress to pass controversial, ambitious changes in health care, climate control and financial regulation.
For Obama to establish a new priority would obviously be much more difficult than it appeared to be for Bush. And this new priority would be much less comfortable a fit for Obama than leading a war on terror was for Bush.
Nonetheless, events have their own logic. The Christmas plot appears to have shaken Obama like nothing else that happened in his first year. When he allowed the White House to quote his warning to his Cabinet colleagues that another "screw-up" like that could not be tolerated, he seemed to signal his benign leadership style had reached its limits.
Many have been looking for a similar shift of tone in his dealings with the dictators in Iran and North Korea and even in his tolerance for the politics-as-usual maneuverings of many Republicans and some Democrats in Congress.
We do not yet know the fallout of this event for Obama and his government. But it will not surprise me if it is very large.
7a)Obama's 2nd Systemic Failure
By Bob Tyrrell
When a very stern President Barack Obama addressed the American people a week ago about what he termed the "systemic failure" of our security services, he could have been referring to his amusing Nov. 24 state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Actually, Mr. Obama had in mind a more serious event, to wit, the failure to prevent 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from flying into the country on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 with a bomb in his underpants that could have killed 300 people.
It now appears that a "systemic failure" also took place Nov. 24. That absurdly extravagant state dinner for some 400 guests in a huge tent on the White House lawn was not only crashed by the clownish Tareq and Michaele Salahi. This week, we have been informed that there was a third gate-crasher, one Carlos Allen, a 39-year-old hustler from what he calls Hush Galleria, identified on his Web site as "an exclusive and luxurious private social club whose members enjoy unparalleled access to elite movers and shakers." I suppose the same claim could be made by the Council on Foreign Relations.
At this writing, it is not exactly clear what Hush Galleria is. Carlos' lawyer, a specialist in white-collar crime by the name of A. Scott Bolden, claims that his client is also the publisher of Hush Society Magazine, an online effort that reports on the philanthropies of "the rich and powerful." But The Washington Post reports that on Carlos' Web site, he also announces such events as "Hush Magazine Happy Hour Friday's." An April 3, 2009, event promised "cocktails and eats," "plenty of eye candy for the guys and the girls" and "networking contacts" at its "Carlos Allen's Hush Galleria Mansion," located in the district. Incidentally, Carlos is no fool. He explains that "Hush" is an acronym for "Help Us Support Humanity." The Salahis also claim humanitarian pursuits, their agency being a polo organization of doubtful authenticity.
Lest you think Carlos is a deadbeat rastaquouere on the order of the Salahis — who have a long-standing record of not paying their bills — lawyer Bolden hastens to add that Carlos was invited to the state dinner, unlike the Salahis, who left the dinner before it was discovered that there was no place for them to sit. "He participated in the reception. He participated in the dinner," Bolden affirmed to journalists. Yet how did he get in without an invitation? Apparently, Carlos entered the White House with a delegation of Indian businessmen who, at the behest of the Indian Embassy, were added to the guest list at the last minute. Somehow Carlos — properly attired in tuxedo — linked up with the hastily added Indian delegation at the Willard Hotel, from whence they were conveyed to the White House in a van — a State Department van!
Thus, it looks at this point as if there was what the president would call a "systemic failure" extending from the State Department to the Secret Service to the White House social office. Possibly it even included the White House chef, who must have added a last-minute extra meal. Remember, lawyer Bolden insists that Carlos surpassed the Salahis. He partook of what Carlos calls the "cocktails and eats." All of this took place despite the Secret Service's announcement this week that Carlos was "not on the White House guest list." Fortunately, he did not have a bomb in his underpants.
This week, while learning on the job, our president spoke out very firmly against U.S. intelligence agencies that "failed to connect the dots." He went on to say, "In other words, this was not a failure to collect intelligence; it was a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had." Well, Mr. President, that is the kind of failure our intelligence community has suffered since Pearl Harbor, when we had an abundance of information that the Japanese were planning an attack but no central agency into which the intelligence could be jointly pooled and effectively analyzed.
The reforms of our intelligence agencies in recent years have merely added bureaucracies and damaged the efficient collation and analysis of intelligence. They have failed to achieve what our military began achieving back in the 1980s, "jointness." That is to say, having all branches operate in a way that integrates resources, planning, communications and everything else that composes a method to dominate any battlefield. Jointness needs to be adopted by our intelligence agencies, from CIA to NSA to Homeland Security, including all the agencies in between, say, FBI and TSA. It is a huge challenge that since 9/11 has eluded us. Let us get on with it and, for now, put the state dinners on the back burner. There are just too many hucksters on the make around the White House.
7b)The flying emperor still has no clothes, and no one is willing to say so
By Michael Smerconish
"Five words: Randomly selected for additional screening."
So counsels Ryan Bingham (played by George Clooney) as he spies a group of traveling Muslims while showing a young colleague how to live out of a suitcase in the movie "Up in the Air."
His advice? Get in line behind Asians due to their efficiency and avoid the Arabs because of the likelihood that they will be selected for secondary screening.
But, alas, this is Hollywood legend. The truth, as it has been for eight years, is that there is no elevated scrutiny of those who have commonalities with the 19 hijackers of 9/11 and the perpetrators of virtually every act of terrorism since.
The lesson of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and his attempted Christmas Day massacre in Detroit is that the flying emperor still has no clothes, and no one is willing to say so. Much of the blame this time lies overseas.
How to explain that the man allegedly had no passport; that his increasingly radical views had been reported to U.S. officials in Nigeria (by his father, no less); that his name appeared in a federal database of individuals with potential links to terrorism; and that he paid for his plane ticket in cash and checked no bags? Yet his visa hadn't been revoked, his name was not added to the no-fly list, and he did not encounter sufficient screening before boarding a flight bound for the United States.
If these facts were proposed for an airline travel security exercise, they would have been rejected as being too boilerplate. And still, it almost worked.
The fault here lies mainly with a system that allows an individual to begin at an airport with lax security (Lagos), make a stop during which he is not subjected to heightened scrutiny (Amsterdam), and to continue on to the United States (Detroit). In other words, board in an airport that isn't diligent, take a few connections, and you'll reach the States without review.
The response here at home has been shockingly predictable, an ineffective overreaction that provides a pretense of security while producing nothing more than inconvenience. However, unlike the rest of us, terrorists actually welcome a system that merely subjects them to inconvenience. They will gladly stitch their prohibited liquids into their underwear while the rest of us are forced to empty our Coke Zeros.
Back in the everyday, families flying home from Disney World who look straight out of the Central Casting file marked "Suburbia" will show photo ID, take off belts and shoes, and be asked not to have anything on our laps for the final hour of a domestic flight.
This is the lunacy of a purported airline security system in which drivers' licenses are scrutinized more thoroughly than the terrorist watch list. Our shoes are inspected even though the terrorists are now smuggling explosives in their underwear. And are we really supposed to believe that the dangers of bathroom access are real only in the last 60 minutes of a flight?
The bigger point here is that 99.9 percent of us are not the risk. Old ladies with blue hair are not the risk. Children are not the risk. Muslim families are not the risk. So stop treating these people like those who fit the profile.
There, I said it.
The fact is that post-Umar Farouk, post-Richard Reid, and eight years post-9/11, this country is still flying blind when it comes to airline security. Another young male Islamic extremist tries to kill hundreds of innocent people, and the response is the same: Heightened airport security for travelers of all ages, nationalities, and religious backgrounds — instead of increased focus on those who look, act, worship, and travel like terrorists.
Even worse, this is the second major vulnerability revealed inside of a few weeks. Remember the embarrassment of the leaked 93-page TSA Standard Operating Procedures manual? Most reports focused on the fact that the document revealed how certain government or law enforcement credentials looked. Or that only 20 percent of checked bags are given a "full open-bag search." Or that disabled individuals' wheelchairs, casts, and orthopedic shoes are potentially exempt from explosives screening.
But most frightening to me was that while the leaked document deemed that holders of passports from Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, Yemen, and Algeria should be subjected to additional screening, no such special attention was given to holders of passports from Saudi Arabia — the home of 15 of the 9/11 hijackers.
And now it's worth noting that the list doesn't include Pakistan or Nigeria — Umar Farouk's home — either.
At the time of the memo's leak, Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA unit tasked with tracking Osama bin Laden, told me that the federal government "knows without question that al-Qaeda and its allies pore over the U.S. media for operationally applicable information." There was "no chance" that the misstep had gone unnoticed by our enemies, he said.
Nor, I suspect, will the fact that in the wake of this latest attempted act of Islamic terrorism, the United States will keep refusing to apply the most invasive screening techniques to travelers with the most in common with the 9/11 attackers.
8)WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 6, 2010
HULBERT ON MARKETS
Top Market Timers Give Their 2010 Outlooks
By MARK HULBERT
Five investment-newsletter soothsayers with solid track records discuss how they are allocating assets in the new year.
TALK ABOUT A HARD ACT TO FOLLOW.
From the March 9 lows through the end of 2009, the stock market staged one of its strongest rallies in history. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose nearly 60%. The Standard & Poor's 500 index did even better, gaining 65%, and the Nasdaq Composite did even better still, gaining 79%.
What can the market do for an encore?
For guidance, I decided -- as I often do -- to turn to those investment newsletters with the best market timing records in the Hulbert Financial Digest's ranking system. Specifically, I determined which newsletters were able to jump over three market timing performance hurdles -- each demanding enough in itself, but collectively particularly so:
*market timing performance ahead of a buy-and-hold on a risk-adjusted basis during the 2002-2007 bull market,
*market timing performance ahead of a buy-and-hold on a risk-adjusted basis during the 2007-2009 bear market,
*market timing performance ahead of a buy-and-hold on a risk-adjusted basis over the entire 10-year period through the end of 2009.
As fate would have it, only seven newsletters jumped over all three hurdles. One of them discontinued publication at the end of 2009, and two more are edited by the same adviser. This leaves just five in our panel of experts to consult about what 2010 has in store for the stock market.
Here are their latest views (the newsletters are listed alphabetically).
*Blue Chip Investor (Steven Check) -- Bullish. To be sure, Check is not a short-term market timer. But he does vary the amount of cash in his newsletter's model portfolio, and currently he has allocated just 0.6% to cash. Furthermore, Check maintains a market timing model based on the difference between the stock market's price/earnings ratio and the yield on triple-A rated corporate bonds. Based on the issue of his newsletter published earlier this week, that model currently rates the stock market as being "undervalued," though not "extremely undervalued" as it was one year ago.
*Bob Brinker's Marketimer (Robert Brinker) -- Bullish. In his latest issue, published earlier this week, in which he reported that his market timing model is bullish and his model portfolios are fully invested, Brinker wrote: "Our indicators suggest that a new cyclical bear market decline in excess of 20% is not likely to begin during the winter season. While it is true that cyclical bull market corrections can occur at any time, we would regard any such pullback as a health restoring event if it were to occur in the weeks ahead. Cyclical bull market corrections are usually contained with a range of five to ten percent, and are followed by significant rallies to new cyclical bull market highs."
*The Chartist & The Chartist Mutual Fund Letter (Dan Sullivan) -- Bullish. In his latest issue, written in late December, Sullivan wrote: "We're betting that the bull market will remain intact over the next year. That's our best guesstimate, but in all candor, we really don't know what the market is going to do over the next 12 months or 6 months or, for that matter, 3 months; and nobody else knows either." Until his models turn bearish, however, Sullivan's model portfolios remain fully invested.
*Fidelity Independent Adviser (Donald Dion) -- Bullish. Dion does not hazard a prediction about the stock market's trend for all of 2010, preferring instead to write that the year will test the stock market's "strength and stamina." In the meantime, however, Dion is keeping his equity-oriented model portfolios fully invested.
*Fidelity Sector Investor (James Lowell) -- Bullish. In his latest letter, published earlier this week, Lowell wrote: "I think 2010 will be another 20% gainer," though he also predicts that such a belief "will be hard to hold as we hit the troughs that 2010 has in store for us." Lowell's so-called Market Masters Portfolio is 87% invested in various Fidelity sector funds, with the remaining 13% invested in a foreign stock fund.
The bottom line? All five of our panel of experts are bullish, with an average recommended equity exposure level of 97%.
To be sure, their bullish consensus is not a guarantee that the bull market will continue. No such guarantees exist in this business, of course. Furthermore, there are other ways of slicing and dicing the data in which the message would be less bullish.
Still, at least this straw in the wind is very bullish indeed for 2010.
8a)Billionaire Predictions 2010
By Keren Blankfeld
Even as most billionaires saw their wealth increase in 2009 along with rising stock markets, some remain cautious and believe that 2010 will continue to test the global economy.
We queried billionaires from around the world to get their thoughts on topics ranging from global warming and the weakening dollar to the price of gold and best places to invest in 2010. Ten answered our 10-question survey, but few agreed on most subjects. Whereas nearly all of the billionaires quizzed a year ago predicted an economic recovery, this year's participants were less unanimous.
The most bullish of the group predicted double-digit stock market gains in the coming year. Time Square tycoon Leon Charney predicted a 12% return in 2010. John Catsimatidis, another American who made a fortune largely in supermarkets and gas stations, concurs, stating that the market has to go up and will probably double over the next seven years. The biggest surprise of 2010? "The market hitting 12,000," Catsimatidis said.
Others thought the recent recovery would be short-lived and that returns would be minimal. Asked what direction his country's stock market would move and what returns he anticipated, Canadian David Cheriton quipped, "Sideways at best. So, none or slightly negative."
The billionaire respondents also gave wildly varying advice when asked about the best asset to own in 2010. All but one who abstained recommended a different investment. Among their picks: high-end art, real estate, distressed debt, cash, gold and stocks. Stanford professor Cheriton, who made his billions from a chunk of Google stock he'd been given by former students Sergey Brin and Larry Page, named the Internet company's stock as the best asset. The most practical advice came from Pharmaceutical tycoon Randal J. Kirk: "The best financial assets for a person to own would be those over which he has peculiar knowledge of expertise."
While most were gold bugs calling the commodity a buy or hold, two were vocal dissenters. Hollywood producer of such films as Pretty Woman and Marley and Me, Arnon Milchan called it a "place to go when you're scared; I don't see gold as a player in a healthy economy." Concurred Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, "Gold is a religion; it's not an asset class. It is always a bubble, so I am a sell."
The question that seemed to provoke the most detailed and impassioned responses was the one asking billionaires for their thoughts on the most alarming trend facing the economy today. Answers included rising unemployment, government spending, inflation and the poor education system. "I'm particularly alarmed by the decline in our commitment to a public education that will prepare our children to navigate a society defined by science and technology," says Kirk. Catsimatidis finds alarming the dearth of lending to small and medium-sized businesses with "great credit" a sentiment echoed by Cuban, who cited President Barack Obama's administration's ignorance of how entrepreneurs start small businesses.
As for the biggest surprises, both Charney and Cheriton predicted problems for President Obama. "Obama's approval rating will drop below the lowest level Bush ever had as unemployment continues to rise," said Cheriton. Perhaps a bigger surprise would be Obama's return to favor, but no one is predicting that outcome.
On a lighter note, Cuban is betting that the biggest shocker will be the news that Tiger Woods will remarry.