Wednesday, December 31, 2008
DECEMBER 31, 2008
For those who thought the new era of Democratic governance would be dull, we present this year's Senate replacement follies. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich kept the entertainment going yesterday by defying just about everyone and nominating former state Attorney General Roland Burris to the seat being vacated by President-elect Obama.
Recall that federal prosecutors had gone public with their criminal complaint against Mr. Blagojevich earlier this month expressly to deter him from making such an appointment. Mr. Obama had then declared that the Governor should not make an appointment, and Senate Democrats had said they wouldn't seat anyone Mr. Blagojevich did appoint. Majority Leader Harry Reid repeated that pledge yesterday regarding Mr. Burris, who lost to the Governor in a primary in 2002 but then was vice chairman of his transition team.
Democrats who run the state assembly are still trying to impeach Mr. Blagojevich, but meantime they've stepped back from allowing a special election for the seat. Democrats hope to dump the Governor and then have his replacement appoint a different Democrat. No doubt they're afraid Republicans might win given this exquisite display of competent, honest Democratic government.
Meanwhile, Democrats in New York are fighting over Caroline Kennedy's campaign to be appointed to the Senate seat being vacated by Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton. Former Democrat and former Republican and now independent Mayor Mike Bloomberg is all for the idea, as reportedly is Mr. Obama, whom the daughter of JFK and niece of Senator Ted Kennedy endorsed at a crucial moment during the Presidential primaries. Not so happy is New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the son of a former three-term Governor, who would like the seat himself and was once married to a Kennedy.
Caught in the middle is Democrat David Paterson, who will appoint a new Senator but is Governor himself only because Eliot Spitzer flamed out with a prostitute. Ms. Kennedy hasn't helped herself with a recent spate of interviews showing she doesn't know very much about many public issues. But then how much worse could she be than the professional politicians who populate Albany or represent New York in Washington? Democrats will outnumber Republicans in New York's House delegation next year, 26-3, and it speaks volumes about their abilities that Mr. Paterson might choose a dynastic neophyte over any of them.
Lest it be overlooked, there's also the spectacle in Delaware, where the soon-to-depart Joe Biden has arranged to have a crony appointed to take his Senate seat of 36 years. Edward "Ted" Kaufman, a former aide to Mr. Biden, is expected to keep the seat away from a more ambitious Democrat for two years, until Joe's son Beau Biden, the state attorney general, can return from his National Guard tour in Iraq and run in 2010 to maintain the family business.
And don't forget Colorado, where a mooted Senate replacement for Secretary of Interior nominee Ken Salazar is his brother, Congressman John Salazar. Democratic Governor Bill Ritter, who has benefited from the money and organization of the Salazar political machine, will make that appointment.
So to recap all of this change you can believe in: A Kennedy and Cuomo are competing to succeed a Clinton in New York; the skids are greased for a Biden to replace a Biden in Delaware; one Salazar might replace another in Colorado; and a Governor charged with political corruption in Illinois wants one of his cronies to succeed the President-elect. Let's just say we're looking forward to 2009.
New Jersey Is the Perfect Bad Example: Obama should look here to see what high taxes do. By William McGurn
DECEMBER 30, 2008
When Barack Obama makes his New Year's resolutions, at the top of his list ought to be the following: "I will not allow America to become New Jersey."
Think of it as our gift to the nation. Other states offer promising experiments in areas such as Medicaid, taxes, education and regulatory reform. In contrast, the People's Republic of New Jersey offers America something truly unique: the perfect bad example.
As harmful as this has been for our own prosperity, our example could be invaluable for President-elect Obama. That's especially true given that his team appears to be considering some of the same things that have long been popular in Trenton. For years, the solons in our state capital have operated on the assumption that you can have high taxes everywhere -- on income, on property, on business -- without suffering any consequences.
Well, Gov. Jon Corzine is now dealing with those consequences, and his budgets show it. Earlier this year, he pushed through a budget that was one of the few in New Jersey history to be less than the one that preceded it. With revenues now running $1.2 billion short of what was expected, the next budget will undoubtedly be tougher still.
Not all of Mr. Corzine's choices have been good ones. In fairness, however, he is dealing with huge problems that have been years in the making. In some ways, we are a mini-California. That is to say, where New Jersey was once a national leader in terms of economic growth and job creation, more recently we have become a national laggard.
It seems not to have dented the consciousness of our political class that New Jersey's dismal economic performance might be linked to the state's tax policy. According to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, New Jersey is home to the most hostile tax environment for business in the nation. We also bear the nation's highest burden of state and local taxes. And on the list of the 10 counties with the highest median property tax, we claim seven of them.
During the last recession, we began to feel the full weight of these burdens. Other states responded by cutting back on spending and getting their houses in order. Not New Jersey. Then-Gov. Jim McGreevey added to the burden by borrowing and spending and raising the corporate tax -- including the imposition of an alternative minimum tax on business. And we've been paying for these bad choices ever since.
Mr. Obama might pay special attention to what these measures have meant for jobs, especially given his expressed concern for the struggling middle class. Though the state did ultimately emerge from recession in 2003, private-sector job creation since then has been a pale shadow of what we enjoyed after the recessions of the 1980s and 1990s.
Of course, there was one area where jobs did grow. From 2000 to 2007, says the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, the government added 54,800 jobs. To put that in proper perspective, that works out to 93% of all jobs created in New Jersey over those seven years.
So how do we respond to these new hard times? Beginning New Year's Day, New Jersey workers will see even more money taken from their paychecks. The money will support a new mandate offering six weeks of paid family leave to almost all New Jersey employees -- right on down to those working in very small operations. In itself, the family-leave tax will not be the ruin of the state economy. But the imposition of yet another new tax at this moment bespeaks a lack of seriousness about what both New Jersey workers and businesses can afford.
For the moment, Mr. Corzine, like Mr. Obama, is putting his faith in public-works spending. Indeed, he has even called on the president-elect to expand his own plans for an infrastructure stimulus to $1 trillion. And it would be hard to deny that our tired infrastructure could use some attention.
But amid all the debate over jump-starting the economy through public works, we risk losing sight of a larger truth: What governors and citizens alike need most is a growing economy that is creating jobs for the people and sending revenue to the capital. Over the long run, the only way to have a healthy and growing economy is to do exactly what New Jersey has not: Trust the people with their own money, and create an environment where initiative and enterprise are rewarded rather than penalized.
Absent a thorough-going revolution in Trenton, New Jersey may be lost for some time to come. But if Mr. Obama can learn from our bad example and do the opposite, New Jersey's loss might yet be America's gain.
Write to MainStreet@wsj.com
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 12/31/2008 09:30:00 AM
Monday, December 29, 2008
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Friday, December 19, 2008 4:20 PM PT
Politics: As the Kennedy du jour tours New York seeking Hillary's seat, will she be asked tough questions by Couric, Gibson, et al.? We'll see what Sarah's critics say about someone who's famous for being well-known.
Read More: General Politics
Sweet Caroline (yes, Neil Diamond wrote the song about her) has announced she really, really wants to be New York's next senator. As she goes about learning the problems of the state, including those beyond New York City's Upper East Side, we hope she has a GPS with turn-by-turn instructions.
Up to now, Kennedy's interest in New York politics has been minimal. As the Daily News has reported, she skipped about half the 38 contested elections held since she registered to vote in New York in 1988, including four Democratic primaries in mayoral elections won three times by Republicans.
She also missed voting in the race for the Senate seat she now seeks. Seems she was doing something else in 1994, when Daniel Patrick Moynihan was running for re-election.
The New York Times described her qualifications thus: "Ms. Kennedy has much going for her. As a public figure, she carries the glamour and poignancy of her family." Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post gushes that our "tragic national princess," the "Cinderella Kennedy" is "finally rewarded" for "her years of quiet dignity." First a pony, now a Senate seat.
Contrast such swooning over Caroline with the full-court press the media put on Sarah Palin. The Alaska governor's experience, interest in her state and political involvement make Caroline look like a Chihuahua next to Palin's pit bull, with or without lipstick. We doubt if Katie Couric will ask Camelot's heiress how much she spends on her wardrobe.
As we have noted, Caroline's chief accomplishments seem to have been organizing a rock concert in Central Park to raise private money for New York City public schools, serving on the board of a ballet company and heading up Barack Obama's vice presidential selection committee, a panel that labored mightily and produced a Joe Biden.
Palin, by contrast, is a former small-town mayor and the governor of a major energy-rich state. She can hunt, kill and cook. Not many working moms can handle an automatic rifle, run a state and bake cookies too.
She runs a government of 24,000 employees, oversees 14 statewide Cabinet agencies and manages a $10 billion budget. She set in motion a $40 billion pipeline to bring Alaskan natural gas to the lower 48 states. And she squeezed the oil companies to give every Alaskan a $1,200 share in her state's energy wealth.
Sarah not only voted in Alaskan elections, but also won a few, starting with her home town of Wasilla. She defeated a sitting Republican governor in the primary and a two-term former Democratic governor in the general election. No one had to appoint her.
No wonder people are cynical about politics. Merit counts less than one's bloodline. What's in a name? Everything, it seems.
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Thursday, December 18, 2008 4:20 PM PT
Hypocrisy: With workers losing jobs by the millions and taxpayers forced to rescue banks and carmakers, how does Nancy Pelosi's Congress show it cares? By giving themselves a big pay raise.
Read More: General Politics
What a great time for taxpayers to give senators and congressmen a $2.5 million jump in their already bloated salaries. It's tough to get by on $217,400 a year if you're House Speaker Nancy Pelosi even if, as the Washington Times reported, you funneled nearly $100,000 from your political action committee to your husband's business over a decade.
Last year, Pelosi supported a bill banning payments from PACs to congressional spouses, but that didn't stop her from doing it. Most members of Congress have to subsist on only $169,300 annually, so the $4,700 raise they're giving themselves next year should help keep them off food stamps.
It's hard to know where to start in expressing outrage. The last thing this Congress deserves is a raise. A new report from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., found over $1 billion in taxpayer funding wasted on nonsense ranging from searching in vain for Alaskan ice worms to an airplane-shaped, nonworking gas station in Tennessee to nearly $300,000 for specialty potatoes for high-end restaurants.
Then there's the tone-deaf lack of empathy for working Americans lucky even to have a job, let alone get a raise.
Finally, there's the hypocritical insistence that people outside government who actually do productive work, like those running businesses, don't make too much. "We sent a message to Wall Street: The party is over," Pelosi crowed as Congress insisted on restrictions on executive pay in October.
Two years ago a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called it "unconscionable that members of Congress would get yet another pay raise while the minimum wage has been stuck at $5.15 an hour for the last 10 years," and so Democrats supported tying congressional pay to a hike in the minimum wage.
So people getting paid too little means Congress shouldn't be paid more, but people not getting paid at all via massive layoffs makes a congressional pay raise OK?
Democratic lawmakers have dragged CEOs of oil companies, carmakers and banks to Washington and blowtorched them on TV about their pay, stock options and severance deals. They pushed CEOs to make symbolic gestures like working for a buck a year.
Yet Congress itself won't take part in the sacrifice. Our representatives may succeed in raising their pay, but the price will be taxpayers raising hell.
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 12/29/2008 02:11:00 PM
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Pope appeals for solidarity in tough economy
By FRANCES D'EMILIO, Associated Press Writer Frances D'emilio, Associated Press Writer
Thu Dec 25, 2:15 pm ET
VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI urged a world confronting a financial crisis, conflict, and increasing poverty not to lose hope at Christmas, but to join in "authentic solidarity" to prevent global ruin.
His message of salvation amid growing concern about the economic meltdown facing rich and poor nations alike was echoed across the continent in London, where Britain's Queen Elizabeth II called for courage in response to the rough times.
Speaking from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica to tens of thousands of pilgrims, tourists and Romans in the square below, the pope called his Christmas message known as "Urbi et Orbi" — Latin for "to the City and to the World" — a "proclamation of hope." And he stressed that it was "meant for all men and women."
As the global economy continues to spiral downward, Benedict said, "an increasingly uncertain future is regarded with apprehension, even in affluent nations."
"In each of these places, may the light of Christmas shine forth and encourage all people to do their part in a spirit of authentic solidarity," he said. "If people look only to their own interests, our world will certainly fall apart."
Wearing a crimson mantle against a damp chill, Benedict expressed hope that dialogue and negotiation would prevail to find "just and lasting solutions" to conflicts in the Holy Land and elsewhere in the Middle East.
He decried suffering in Africa, terrorism, and called for an end to "internecine conflict" dividing ethnic and social groups.
The pope singled out the plight of those in war-torn eastern Congo, in Sudan's Darfur region, in Somalia where he said "interminable" suffering is the tragic consequence of "the lack of stability and peace" — and in Zimbabwe where people have been "trapped for all too long in a political and social crisis which, sadly, keeps worsening."
Benedict condemned the "twisted logic of conflict and violence" in the Middle East, which he is likely to visit next year. He lamented that "the horizon seems once again bleak for Israelis and Palestinians."
"May the divine light of Bethlehem radiate throughout the Holy Land," he said. "May it spread throughout Lebanon, Iraq and the whole Middle East."
Following tradition, the pope recited holiday greetings in 64 languages, including Latin, the Church's official tongue.
In Bethlehem, crowds of tourists joined local Palestinian Christians in marking Christmas in Jesus' traditional birthplace. Merchants and innkeepers reported good business for the first time in years with tensions between Israelis and West Bank Palestinians appeared to be easing.
At the Church of the Nativity, Brad Shannon, 28, a mechanic from Atlanta Georgia, said he saved money all year to make the trip to Bethlehem with three friends.
"I came here to see the oldest church that is still in use," he said. "It's not every Christmas that you're surrounded with people from all over the world."
In Iraq, the government declared Christmas a holiday for the first time, a surprise for the country's Christian minority estimated to number only a few hundred thousand of the 26 million Iraqis who are overwhelmingly Muslim.
Christians have often been the target of attacks by Islamic extremists in Iraq, and in his homily at Christmas Mass at a Baghdad monastery, Chaldean Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly praised the establishment of Christmas as an official holiday as a step toward easing tensions. In a gesture of cooperation with the Christians, a senior Shiite cleric, Ammar al-Hakim, attended the Mass, flanked by bodyguards.
For the 146,000 U.S. troops serving in Iraq, the holiday was marked with special meals and chapel services — but most of all by thoughts of families at home and calls to loved ones.
Both the outgoing and incoming leaders of the United States were spending Christmas with family.
U.S. President George W. Bush and relatives including his father, former President George H.W. Bush, were celebrating the holiday at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland. President-elect Barack Obama and his family were vacationing in a beachfront rental home in his native Hawaii.
Both leaders remembered U.S. military serving away for home in holiday messages.
In the splendor of Buckingham Palace's Music Room, Queen Elizabeth acknowledged to her subjects that the economic crisis had given rise "to feelings of insecurity" and cast a pall over holiday celebrations.
"People are touched by events which have their roots far across the world," she said. "Whether it is the global economy or violence in a distant land, the effects can be keenly felt at home."
But the queen stressed that "when life seems hard the courageous do not lie down and accept defeat; instead they are all the more determined to struggle for a better future."
Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press.
Where'd the bailout money go? Shhhh, it's a secret
By MATT APUZZO, Associated Press Writer Matt Apuzzo, Associated Press Writer
Mon Dec 22, 9:52 am ET
WASHINGTON – It's something any bank would demand to know before handing out a loan: Where's the money going?
But after receiving billions in aid from U.S. taxpayers, the nation's largest banks say they can't track exactly how they're spending the money or they simply refuse to discuss it.
"We've lent some of it. We've not lent some of it. We've not given any accounting of, 'Here's how we're doing it,'" said Thomas Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, which received $25 billion in emergency bailout money. "We have not disclosed that to the public. We're declining to."
The Associated Press contacted 21 banks that received at least $1 billion in government money and asked four questions: How much has been spent? What was it spent on? How much is being held in savings, and what's the plan for the rest?
None of the banks provided specific answers.
"We're not providing dollar-in, dollar-out tracking," said Barry Koling, a spokesman for Atlanta, Ga.-based SunTrust Banks Inc., which got $3.5 billion in taxpayer dollars.
Some banks said they simply didn't know where the money was going.
"We manage our capital in its aggregate," said Regions Financial Corp. spokesman Tim Deighton, who said the Birmingham, Ala.-based company is not tracking how it is spending the $3.5 billion it received as part of the financial bailout.
The answers highlight the secrecy surrounding the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which earmarked $700 billion — about the size of the Netherlands' economy — to help rescue the financial industry. The Treasury Department has been using the money to buy stock in U.S. banks, hoping that the sudden inflow of cash will get banks to start lending money.
There has been no accounting of how banks spend that money. Lawmakers summoned bank executives to Capitol Hill last month and implored them to lend the money — not to hoard it or spend it on corporate bonuses, junkets or to buy other banks. But there is no process in place to make sure that's happening and there are no consequences for banks who don't comply.
"It is entirely appropriate for the American people to know how their taxpayer dollars are being spent in private industry," said Elizabeth Warren, the top congressional watchdog overseeing the financial bailout.
But, at least for now, there's no way for taxpayers to find that out.
Pressured by the Bush administration to approve the money quickly, Congress attached nearly no strings on the $700 billion bailout in October. And the Treasury Department, which doles out the money, never asked banks how it would be spent.
"Those are legitimate questions that should have been asked on Day One," said Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., a House Financial Services Committee member who opposed the bailout as it was rushed through Congress. "Where is the money going to go to? How is it going to be spent? When are we going to get a record on it?"
Nearly every bank AP questioned — including Citibank and Bank of America, two of the largest recipients of bailout money — responded with generic public relations statements explaining that the money was being used to strengthen balance sheets and continue making loans to ease the credit crisis.
A few banks described company-specific programs, such as JPMorgan Chase's plan to lend $5 billion to nonprofit and health care companies next year. Richard Becker, senior vice president of Wisconsin-based Marshall & Ilsley Corp., said the $1.75 billion in bailout money allowed the bank to temporarily stop foreclosing on homes.
But no bank provided even the most basic accounting for the federal money.
"We're choosing not to disclose that," said Kevin Heine, spokesman for Bank of New York Mellon, which received about $3 billion.
Others said the money couldn't be tracked. Bob Denham, a spokesman for North Carolina-based BB&T Corp., said the bailout money "doesn't have its own bucket." But he said taxpayer money wasn't used in the bank's recent purchase of a Florida insurance company. Asked how he could be sure, since the money wasn't being tracked, Denham said the bank would have made that deal regardless.
Others, such as Morgan Stanley spokeswoman Carissa Ramirez, offered to discuss the matter with reporters on condition of anonymity. When AP refused, Ramirez sent an e-mail saying: "We are going to decline to comment on your story."
Most banks wouldn't say why they were keeping the details secret.
"We're not sharing any other details. We're just not at this time," said Wendy Walker, a spokeswoman for Dallas-based Comerica Inc., which received $2.25 billion from the government.
Heine, the New York Mellon Corp. spokesman who said he wouldn't share spending specifics, added: "I just would prefer if you wouldn't say that we're not going to discuss those details."
The banks which came closest to answering the questions were those, such as U.S. Bancorp and Huntington Bancshares Inc., that only recently received the money and have yet to spend it. But neither provided anything more than a generic summary of how the money would be spent.
Lawmakers say they want to tighten restrictions on the remaining, yet-to-be-released $350 billion block of bailout money before more cash is handed out. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said the department is trying to step up its monitoring of bank spending.
"What we've been doing here is moving, I think, with lightning speed to put necessary programs in place, to develop them, implement them, and then we need to monitor them while we're doing this," Paulson said at a recent forum in New York. "So we're building this organization as we're going."
Warren, the congressional watchdog appointed by Democrats, said her oversight panel will try to force the banks to say where they've spent the money.
"It would take a lot of nerve not to give answers," she said.
But Warren said she's surprised she even has to ask.
"If the appropriate restrictions were put on the money to begin with, if the appropriate transparency was in place, then we wouldn't be in a position where you're trying to call every recipient and get the basic information that should already be in public documents," she said.
Garrett, the New Jersey congressman, said the nation might never get a clear answer on where hundreds of billions of dollars went.
"A year or two ago, when we talked about spending $100 million for a bridge to nowhere, that was considered a scandal," he said.
Associated Press writers Stevenson Jacobs in New York and Christopher S. Rugaber and Daniel Wagner in Washington contributed to this report.
(This version CORRECTS SUBS 9th graf to correct program name to Troubled Asset, sted Assets. Moving on general news and financial services. AP Video.)
Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
On the Death of Deep Throat
by Patrick J. Buchanan
"De mortuis nil nisi bonum."
Of the dead, nothing but good.
So said Dean Acheson of Sen. Joe McCarthy on his death in 1957. "Tailgunner Joe" had bedeviled the secretary of state for his lassitude toward communist penetration of State in President Truman's time.
But the passing of Mark Felt, associate director of the FBI in the later Nixon years, lately exposed as "Deep Throat," the source for the Woodward-Bernstein stories, calls forth some rebuttal to the tributes lavished upon Felt as the honest lawman who saved our republic.
When the Watergate break-in was traced to the Committee to Reelect the President, Felt was put in charge of the FBI investigation. Almost immediately, he began to leak to Woodward.
Felt, it is said, was justified, as the White House was interfering with his investigation. False.
This is a moral cloak belatedly cast over more base motives.
The truth: Felt was a bitter man. Having risen through the ranks under J. Edgar Hoover, whose black-bag jobs he had overseen, Felt expected to be rewarded by being named director on Hoover's death. Nixon had passed him over for an outsider, L. Patrick Grey.
By secretly colluding with the Post, Felt was ingratiating himself with an establishment that loathed Nixon, even as he exacted revenge for having being denied by Nixon the post he had coveted.
Had Nixon or aides restricted Felt, the Post would have had an explosive story. But the Post never charged the White House with interfering with the FBI investigation that summer or fall, because it was not interfering.
What Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein ran with were such shockers as that Nixon's men had hired a trickster to ape the Democrats' Dick Tuck, and said trickster had sent dozens of pizzas to a Muskie rally.
The FBI had ferreted out the Artful Dodger, and the Post led with the atrocity. "FBI Finds Nixon Aides Sabotaged Democrats," screamed the four-column headline at the top of page one.
Indeed, if what Felt did was honorable, why did he lie and deny it repeatedly when asked if he was leaking to the Post? Why did he lie in his memoir in 1979, when, well into retirement, he emphatically denied he was Deep Throat? Was Felt so noble he could save our republic, yet refuse, to the point of lying in his memoirs, to take any credit?
Answer: Felt knew what he did was dishonorable, corrupt -- and unnecessary. For honest FBI agents were steadily making progress toward proving that higher-ups at CREEP were involved in aiding those caught in the Watergate break-in.
Felt had another reason for lying about his role as snitch for the Post. Former colleagues would be disgusted, for his was not only a breach of law, but of faith and trust, a dishonoring of his oath as an FBI agent.
One wonders what went through the mind of Felt, when, on trial in Manhattan in 1980 for those FBI black-bag jobs against the Weather Underground that had bombed the Pentagon and Capitol, ex-President Nixon walked into the courtroom to testify in Felt's defense?
When Felt was convicted, Ronald Reagan pardoned him, declaring that if the Carter amnesty was proper for those who had defected to Canada rather than serve in Vietnam, it was right to pardon those who risked their careers to protect the nation.
After exposure as Deep Throat, Felt wrote in a 2006 memoir, "The bottom line is that we did get the whole truth out, but isn't that what the FBI is suppose to do?"
No, Mr. Felt, that is not what the FBI is supposed to do.
Do we really want, here in America, our premier investigative and police agency to get the truth out that it decides to get out?
Would it have been right for Hoover to get the "whole truth out" on JFK's liaisons with suspected German spies, Mafia molls and Marilyn Monroe, and destroy his presidency? Would it have been right for the FBI to get the "whole truth out" of Hoover's secret files, and ruin all the public careers the FBI could have destroyed?
Isn't that what the old KGB did to its enemies?
In the early '60s, Robert Kennedy authorized Hoover to bug and tap Dr. Martin Luther King. When the FBI turned up film of King with loose women, LBJ's White House moved the photos to the Washington press.
Felt knew of this. The Post knew of this. The Washington press corps knew of this. Why didn't Felt and the Post blow the whistle on this squalid deed? Was it not so egregious as sending pizzas to Muskie's rally?
In that Scoundrel Time, the liberal establishment -- the press, the politicians and the police bureaucrats -- colluded to destroy Nixon, even as they covered for JFK and LBJ.
Nixon, you see, was not one of them. Is it not always thus?
Mr. Buchanan is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, "The Death of the West,", "The Great Betrayal," "A Republic, Not an Empire" and "Where the Right Went Wrong."
Mark Felt, Watergate's `Deep Throat,' dies at 95
By LOUISE CHU, Associated Press Writer Louise Chu, Associated Press Writer
Fri Dec 19, 4:00 pm ET
SAN FRANCISCO – W. Mark Felt, the former FBI second-in-command who revealed himself as "Deep Throat" 30 years after he helped The Washington Post unravel the Watergate scandal, has died. He was 95.
Felt died Thursday at his home in Santa Rosa under hospice care after suffering from congestive heart failure for several months, said family friend John D. O'Connor, who wrote a Vanity Fair article disclosing Felt's secret in 2005.
The shadowy central figure in one of the most gripping political dramas of the 20th century, Felt insisted his alter ego be kept secret when he leaked damaging information to Post reporter Bob Woodward.
The scandal led to President Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974, two years after the break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate office building in Washington.
While some — including Nixon and his aides — speculated that Felt was Deep Throat, he steadfastly denied the accusations until finally coming forward in May 2005.
"I'm the guy they used to call Deep Throat," Felt told O'Connor for the Vanity Fair article, creating a whirlwind of attention. Weakened by a stroke, he wasn't doing much talking — he merely waved to the media from the front door of his daughter's Santa Rosa home.
Critics, including those who went to prison for the Watergate scandal, called him a traitor for betraying the commander in chief. Supporters hailed him as a hero for blowing the whistle on a corrupt administration trying to cover up attempts to sabotage opponents.
In a phone interview Friday, Woodward said despite the criticism and Felt's own ambivalence, it is clear that Felt should be remembered as a man who did the right thing.
"This is a man who did his duty to the Constitution," Woodward told The Associated Press.
Just last month, Woodward and onetime partner Carl Bernstein visited Felt in his home. It was the first time Bernstein had met him. Woodward said Felt had flashes of lucidity and still cut the appearance of an FBI agent, sitting straight and stiff and dressed in a red blazer.
Felt had argued with his children over whether to reveal his identity or to take his secret to the grave, O'Connor said. He agonized about what revealing his identity would do to his reputation. Would he be seen as a turncoat or a man of honor?
"People will debate for a long time whether I did the right thing by helping Woodward," Felt wrote in his 2006 memoir, "A G-Man's Life: The FBI, `Deep Throat' and the Struggle for Honor in Washington." "The bottom line is that we did get the whole truth out, and isn't that what the FBI is supposed to do?"
Ultimately, his daughter, Joan, persuaded him to go public; after all, Woodward was sure to profit by revealing the secret after Felt died. "We could make at least enough money to pay some bills, like the debt I've run up for the kids' education," she told her father, according to the Vanity Fair article. "Let's do it for the family."
The revelation capped a Washington whodunit that spanned more than three decades and seven presidents. It was the biggest mystery of Watergate, the subject of the best-selling book and hit movie "All the President's Men," which inspired a generation of college students to pursue journalism.
In the movie, the enduring image of Deep Throat is of a testy, chain-smoking Hal Holbrook telling Woodward, played by Robert Redford, to "follow the money."
It was by chance that Felt came to play a pivotal role in the drama.
Back in 1970, Woodward struck up a conversation with Felt while both were waiting in a White House hallway. Felt apparently took a liking to the young Woodward, then a Navy courier, and Woodward kept the relationship going, treating Felt as a mentor as he tried to figure out the ways of Washington.
Later, while Woodward and Bernstein relied on various sources in reporting on Watergate, the man their editor dubbed "Deep Throat" helped to keep them on track and confirm vital information. The Post won a Pulitzer Prize for its Watergate coverage.
The nickname "Deep Throat" was a double entendre: Felt was providing information on the condition of complete anonymity, known as "deep background," and his actions coincided with a popular 1972 porn movie.
Woodward had phoned Felt within days of the June 1972 burglary at the Watergate.
"He reminded me how he disliked phone calls at the office but said that the Watergate burglary case was going to `heat up' for reasons he could not explain," Woodward wrote after Felt was named. "He then hung up abruptly."
Felt helped Woodward link former CIA man Howard Hunt to the break-in. He said the reporter could accurately write that Hunt, whose name was found in the address book of one of the burglars, was a suspect. But Felt told him off the record, insisting that their relationship and Felt's identity remain secret.
Worried that phones were being tapped, Felt arranged clandestine meetings worthy of a spy novel. Woodward would move a flower pot with a red flag on his balcony if he needed to meet Felt. The G-man would scrawl a time to meet on page 20 of Woodward's copy of The New York Times and they would rendezvous in a suburban Virginia parking garage in the dead of night.
In his memoir published in April 2006, Felt said he saw himself as a "Lone Ranger" who could help derail a White House cover-up.
Felt wrote that he was upset by the slow pace of the FBI investigation into the Watergate break-in and believed the press could pressure the administration to cooperate.
"From the start, it was clear that senior administration officials were up to their necks in this mess, and that they would stop at nothing to sabotage our investigation," Felt wrote in his memoir.
Some critics said Felt, a J. Edgar Hoover loyalist, was bitter at being passed over when Nixon appointed an FBI outsider and confidante, L. Patrick Gray, to lead the FBI after Hoover's death. Gray was later implicated in Watergate abuses.
Felt wrote that he wasn't motivated by anger. "It is true that I would have welcomed an appointment as FBI director when Hoover died. It is not true that I was jealous of Gray," he wrote.
Felt was born in Twin Falls, Idaho, and worked for an Idaho senator during graduate school. After law school at George Washington University he spent a year at the Federal Trade Commission. Felt joined the FBI in 1942 and worked as a Nazi hunter during World War II.
Ironically, while providing crucial information to the Post, Felt also was assigned to ferret out the newspaper's source. The investigation never went anywhere, but plenty of people, including those in the White House at the time, guessed that Felt, who was leading the investigation into Watergate, may have been acting as a double agent.
The Watergate tapes captured White House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman telling Nixon that Felt was the source, but they were afraid to stop him.
Nixon asks: "Somebody in the FBI?"
Haldeman: "Yes, sir. Mark Felt ... If we move on him, he'll go out and unload everything. He knows everything that's to be known in the FBI."
Felt left the FBI in 1973 for the lecture circuit. Five years later he was indicted on charges of authorizing FBI break-ins at homes associated with suspected bombers from the 1960s radical group the Weather Underground. President Ronald Reagan pardoned Felt in 1981 while the case was on appeal — a move applauded by Nixon.
Woodward and Bernstein said they wouldn't reveal the source's identity until he or she died, and finally confirmed Felt's role only after he came forward.
O'Connor said Thursday his friend appeared to be at peace since the revelation.
"What I saw was a person that went from a divided personality that carried around this heavy secret to a completely integrated and glowing personality over these past few years once he let the secret out," he said.
Felt is survived by two children, Joan Felt and Mark Felt Jr., and four grandchildren. His wife, Audrey Felt, died in 1984.
O'Connor said the family would hold a private ceremony early next week and a public memorial service in January, after the holidays.
Associated Press writers Matthew Barakat and Brian Melley contributed to this report.
(This version CORRECTS, based on updated information, that Felt died under hospice care at his home, instead of at a hospice.))
Eartha Kitt, sultry 'Santa Baby' singer, dies
12/25/2008 5:47 PM, AP
Eartha Kitt, a sultry singer, dancer and actress who rose from South Carolina cotton fields to become an international symbol of elegance and sensuality, has died, a family spokesman said. She was 81.
Andrew Freedman said Kitt, who was recently treated at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, died Thursday of colon cancer.
Kitt, a self-proclaimed "sex kitten" famous for her catlike purr, was one of America's most versatile performers, winning two Emmys and nabbing a third nomination. She also was nominated for several Tonys and two Grammys.
Her career spanned six decades, from her start as a dancer with the famed Katherine Dunham troupe to cabarets and acting and singing on stage, in movies and on television. She persevered through an unhappy childhood as a mixed-race daughter of the South and made headlines in the 1960s for denouncing the Vietnam War during a visit to the White House.
Through the years, Kitt remained a picture of vitality and attracted fans less than half her age even as she neared 80.
When her book "Rejuvenate," a guide to staying physically fit, was published in 2001, Kitt was featured on the cover in a long, curve-hugging black dress with a figure that some 20-year-old women would envy. Kitt also wrote three autobiographies.
Once dubbed the "most exciting woman in the world" by Orson Welles, she spent much of her life single, though brief romances with the rich and famous peppered her younger years.
After becoming a hit singing "Montonous" in the Broadway revue "New Faces of 1952," Kitt appeared in "Mrs. Patterson" in 1954-55. (Some references say she earned a Tony nomination for "Mrs. Patterson," but only winners were publicly announced at that time.) She also made appearances in "Shinbone Alley" and "The Owl and the Pussycat."
Her first album, "RCA Victor Presents Eartha Kitt," came out in 1954, featuring such songs as "I Want to Be Evil," "C'est Si Bon" and the saucy gold digger's theme song "Santa Baby," which is revived on radio each Christmas.
The next year, the record company released follow-up album "That Bad Eartha," which featured "Let's Do It," "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and "My Heart Belongs to Daddy."
In 1996, she was nominated for a Grammy in the category of traditional pop vocal performance for her album "Back in Business." She also had been nominated in the children's recording category for the 1969 record "Folk Tales of the Tribes of Africa."
Kitt also acted in movies, playing the lead female role opposite Nat King Cole in "St. Louis Blues" in 1958 and more recently appearing in "Boomerang" and "Harriet the Spy" in the 1990s.
On television, she was the sexy Catwoman on the popular "Batman" series in 1967-68, replacing Julie Newmar who originated the role. A guest appearance on an episode of "I Spy" brought Kitt an Emmy nomination in 1966.
"Generally the whole entertainment business now is bland," she said in a 1996 Associated Press interview. "It depends so much on gadgetry and flash now. You don't have to have talent to be in the business today.
"I think we had to have something to offer, if you wanted to be recognized as worth paying for."
(This version CORRECTS number of Kitts' Grammy nominations to 2, not 1.))
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
By WALTER E. WILLIAMS | Posted Monday, December 22, 2008 4:20 PM PT
Congress is on a spending binge. With all the calls for bailouts, economic stimulus and other assorted handouts, there is a real risk of inflation in our future. If we do have a rapid inflation, it's likely that Congress, as they did in the financial meltdown, will blame it on everybody except itself.
Before Congress begins to shirk its responsibility, let's understand what inflation is.
Several prices rising are not inflation. Only when prices across the board rise is there inflation. But just as in the case of diseases, describing a symptom does not necessarily tell us the cause. That is the same with inflation; it is a symptom of something else.
Nobel laureate and noted monetary theorist Milton Friedman explained, "Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon, in the sense that it cannot occur without a more rapid increase in the quantity of money than in output." Put another way, inflation results from an increase in the supply of money relative to the demand for money.
That being the case, who is responsible for inflation? It's not you or I because if we privately increased the supply of money to finance profligate spending, we would be charged with counterfeiting and go to prison.
The Federal Reserve Bank, our central bank, is the only entity legally permitted to increase the supply of money, to finance Congress' profligate spending. The Federal Reserve Bank is supposed to be independent, but it typically accommodates the wishes of Congress and the White House.
Central banks are villains in most countries; ours is just not as bad as others. In 1946, Hungary's central bank gave it the world's highest inflation rate. Prices doubled every 16 hours, creating an annual inflation rate of 13 quadrillion percent.
Last October, Zimbabwe's central bank produced history's second highest rate of inflation. Prices doubled every 25 hours, giving it an annual inflation rate of 80 billion percent.
By comparison, Germany's inflation rate, which brought about the social disruption responsible for Hitler's rise to power, was a mere 30,000% that saw prices doubling every four days.
You say, "Williams, that couldn't happen here." Except during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1861, our inflation has never exceeded 20%, but keep in mind that any hyperinflation was once 20%.
Knowing the dangers posed by central banks, we might ask whether our country needs the Federal Reserve Bank. Whenever I'm told we need this or that government program, I always ask what we did before.
It turns out that we did without a central bank from 1836, when President Andrew Jackson closed the Second Bank of the United States, to 1913 when the Federal Reserve Act was written. During that interval, we prospered and became one of the world's major economic powers.
The justifications for the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 was to prevent bank failure and maintain price stability.
Simple before and after analysis demonstrates that the Federal Reserve Bank has been a failure.
In the century before the Federal Reserve Act, wholesale prices fell by 6%; in the century after they rose by 1,300%.
Maximum bank failures in one year before 1913 were 496 and afterward 4,400.
During the 1930s, inept money supply management by the Federal Reserve Bank was partially responsible for the depth and duration of the Great Depression.
It is not wise for us to permit a few people on the Federal Reserve Board to have life and death power over our economy.
My recommendation for reducing some of that power is to repeal legal tender laws and eliminate all taxes on gold, silver and platinum transactions.
That way there would be money substitutes and the government money monopoly would be reduced, as would be the ability to tax some people would say steal from us through inflation.
Williams is a syndicated columnist and professor of economics at George Mason University.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Gov. Blagojevich waves to the media after Friday's press conference in Chicago. (Jeff Haynes / Reuters)
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the embattled Democrat charged with trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat and orchestrating an elaborate "pay-to-play" political scheme in the Land of Lincoln, made a short statement today, defiantly saying he will fight the federal charges against him and refusing to resign.
Blagojevich said he would not "quit a job the people hired me to do because of false accusations and a political lynch mob."
During his statement, Blagojevich quoted author and poet Rudyard Kipling, saying, "If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you." Here's Kipling's poem, "If," in full (courtesy of Swarthmore):
If you can keep your head when all about you,
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream -- and not make dreams your master,
If you can think -- and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings -- nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And -- which is more -- you'll be a Man, my son!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
In an exclusive interview with Gambling911.com's own Jenny Woo, former Republican House Majority Leader, Dick Armey, said he was completely against any bailout for Wall Street, the banks, the auto industry or anyone else for that matter.
Mr. Armey sat down with Jenny Woo to discuss his position related to Internet freedoms (see FreedomWorks.org - it's a fun website) and the rights of those to gamble online. Ms. Woo also asked the million dollar question.
What are the alternatives to the government bailout?
"Other alternatives exist," the former House Majority Leader said. "If you engage in bad business practices, the market will punish you. It's called ‘creative destruction'. The fact is that the myth behind all this bailout nonsense is that if a large bank cannot fulfill its obligations and has to claim bankruptcy that there's going to be a big hole.
"Basically, there'll be a big share in the market that will now be available to responsible bankers who will engage in good banking practices. So the fact is that the bailout will infuse the market's ability to clean up a mess that's caused by irresponsible banking practices. And I'll put it this way - I don't gamble for two reasons, it's very risky and I'm not good at it. But I guarantee you, if the government's going to cover my butt then I'll bet the house on a pair of deuces. So when they do the bill, what they're saying to people is "go ahead and be careless and irresponsible in your business practices and when you can't handle your obligations we'll bail you out." If you gave that lesson to your kids, you'd have a bunch of irresponsible children."
Republican Congressman and former US Presidential candidate Ron Paul of Texas told Gambling911.com last month that the best thing to do during an economic crisis is ""just getting out of the way and allowing the market to work".
Armey agreed: "The market would clean this mess up in short order. The government will drag it out. Now instead of me having to live with the mess for two or three months, my children probably get to live with the mess and my grandchildren will probably get to pay for it. Look, six months ago, a year ago, maybe two years ago we had the big dot-come shakedown, everybody got into the easy money business in the dot-com markets, it had to get shaken up."
Detroit may be getting its bailout.
A proposed $15 billion bailout for the ailing U.S. auto industry would have terms similar to the $700 billion rescue package approved by the Congress in October for Wall Street, but with tougher oversight, according to sources close to the negotiations.
Payton O'Brien, Gambling911.com Senior Editor
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 12/18/2008 04:48:00 PM
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
By REP. JOHN CAMPBELL | Posted Tuesday, December 16, 2008 4:20 PM PT
The credit markets continue to unfreeze. The general economy continues to sink. There are new stock market lows and unemployment highs and we don't know where and how it will all end.
But it will end. And we need to start thinking about what regulatory structure will replace the one that failed us so miserably this time. We came perilously close to an abyss (or collapse or Armageddon, depending on who is describing it).
I looked down into that abyss and what I saw was way scarier than any Stephen King movie. Therefore, I think we need dramatic changes to ensure that this sort of calamity does not befall us again.
So what do we do to keep it from happening again while still preserving free markets and rewarding enterprise and innovation? Here are a few thoughts:
1. Banks should be boring entities that you can trust. If you want to double earnings annually, go into another business. We have seen how important our regulated banking sector is to the entire economy. We cannot let them get into high-risk territory.
2. Gambling should be left to casinos. There is investment and speculation, and then there is gambling. To me, gambling is when there are instruments to bet on something going up or down without any interest in or benefit to the underlying asset. One example might be naked short selling. If you want to do that, great. But let's call it what it is: gambling, not investment. And let's keep it in casinos or someplace where it cannot infect the markets for those assets.
3. No more entities that are too big to fail. During the crisis, Treasury Secretary Paulson referred over and over again to entities that were "too big or too interconnected to fail." They did fail, and the taxpayers had to pick up the pieces. The moral hazard (another often-used term) created by this is unacceptable. Just as Teddy Roosevelt decreed that monopolies should no longer exist, we should decree that entities that are so big or interconnected that their failure will collapse our entire financial system cannot exist either. Break them up.
4. Credit rating agencies. There are basically two companies that give credit ratings on bonds. There should be more than that, and they should be completely independent of the companies whose debt they are rating.
5. Stop having multiple regulators regulate the same thing. There was a time when banks were different from savings and loans, which were different from thrifts. They all had separate regulators regulating the same things. That is an archaic model. Similar financial institutions should all have the same standards and one regulator.
6. Fannie and Freddie. These entities have provided a valuable service for decades, and owning a home is still the linchpin of the American dream. We should continue to support homeownership with some federal backing for the most secure loans. But rather than letting a lightly regulated entity play fast and loose with that government guarantee, let's follow more of a public utility model. In other words, a private entity that administers a government franchise in a tightly controlled way. And let's have more than two of them.
7. Some insurance is nationwide. Homes don't move, and cars rarely cross state lines. But various financial insurance products (credit default insurance, annuities, life insurance, etc.) have no nexus in any state. Insurance companies that wish to market such products should have a federal regulator that is more focused on these as financial instruments, since they are distinct from traditional home and car insurance.
8. Don't single out the SEC. There will need to be a complete review of all of the duplicative and complementary regulators in financial markets to streamline the 70-year-old structure we have today.
9. Accounting matters. As a CPA, I love to point this out. Accounting rules for public entities do matter, as the debate on mark-to-market should indicate. We should transition from quarterly to semiannual financial statements so we can reduce market volatility and shift focus from short-term numbers to long-term viability. We should also move toward the international IFRS accounting standards while shielding companies from abusive shareholder lawsuits.
This is not a comprehensive plan, and there are lots of details I have left out in the interest of brevity. Furthermore, I don't claim to have all the answers. But I do have some ideas.
The one thing I do know is that I never want to experience what we have experienced this year ever again. I also do not want to stifle innovation and enterprise as we move forward. I do not think these two goals are mutually exclusive.
If investors make a wrong bet, they should lose. But when an investor makes a wrong bet, he or she should not be able to take half the economy down with them.
This will not be easy, but it must be done, and soon. Let's get to work.
Campbell represents California's 48th Congressional District in Orange County.
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 12/17/2008 09:59:00 AM
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
Roger Kimball may have tagged it first: The real news out of Chicago this week wasn't Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's arrest on cartoonishly lurid charges of corruption stemming from his alleged attempts to sell President-elect Barack Obama's now-vacant U.S. Senate seat. The real news out of Chicago this week was that President-elect Barack Obama had nothing to do with it.
And I mean nothing to do with any of it. There was an almost comical aspect to the spectacle of journalists across the mainstream media (MSM) suddenly, as if on command, assuming pretzel positions in a contortionist's effort not to seem at all curious, for instance, about the discrepancy between David Axelrod's recent declaration that the president-elect had discussed Senate-seat replacements with Blagojevich, and Obama's more recent declaration that he had done no such thing.
The MSM instantly agreed: Obama had nothing to do with it. Such a message took Obama out of the story even before the story itself was clear.
This mantra, this strategy should be familiar by now. Whether it is Jeremiah "G -- d -- - America" Wright, William "We didn't do enough" Ayers, or now, Rod "F -- - him" Blagojevich, Obama is never a player, never even a responsible presence in controversies involving associates past and present. In the media-filtered version of events, he's just not even there. But in no story is what we may one day come to think of as Obama's invisible man-hood more obvious than in the still-roiling controversy over Obama's birth certificate.
What controversy? Anyone who relies solely on MSM outlets (and most conservative outlets) may not even know that Obama has, to this day, not authorized the state of Hawaii to release his Certificate of Live Birth -- the "long form" -- to prove that he is a "natural born citizen" (NBC), a Constitutional requirement of all presidents. Instead, We, the People, have online access to an Obama document known as a Certification of Live Birth, which, as Randall Hoven explains at American Thinker blog, is a computer-generated short form that is not even accepted by the Hawaii Department of Home Lands as adequate verification of Hawaiian identity. (The Home Lands Department requires "information that is found only on the original Certificate of Live Birth," or long form.) Further dimming the online document's Holy Grail aspects, it has been altered -- the certificate's number has been redacted -- which, according to a statement printed on the document, actually invalidates it.
But that's not all. Back on Oct. 31, Hawaii's director of health, along with the registrar of Vital Statistics, released a statement verifying that the Hawaii's Department of Health has Obama's "original birth certificate on record in accordance with state policies and procedures."
Well, that's just great. But no matter how many times this statement from "Hawaiian authorities" is cited as the NBC clincher, it doesn't prove a thing. It turns out, as Hoven reports, that Hawaii issues birth certificates even for babies born elsewhere, so simply having an original Hawaiian birth certificate "on record" doesn't answer the key questions. Namely: What exactly does this original birth certificate say? And why doesn't Obama simply authorize the document's release and be done with the question?
This is some of the background to the birth-certificate controversy. According to the same MSM reporting that omits Obama from everything, however, the controversy is the sole, self-inflicted creation of people unreasonable enough -- no, kooky enough -- to be concerned about the issue. This includes citizens who have gone to court (up to the U.S. Supreme Court) in more than a dozen states with various NBC-related complaints, all of which could be resolved by the release of Obama's original birth certificate. It also includes followers of radio shows or Internet forums including KHOW's Peter Boyle in Denver, the blog Atlas Shrugs and the news Web site WorldNetDaily.com, which have aggressively covered the story.
In the MSM's no-Obama version of events, though, such efforts and interest are mocked as the freakiest kind of lunacy. And this same MSM argument has lately been trumpeted by prominent conservative voices.
"Shut up about the birth certificate," David Horowitz wrote this past week.
Shut up? Is he kidding? Apparently not. Horowitz went on to tell "fringe conservatives" and "birth-certificate zealots" that their "continuing efforts" to "deny Obama his victory" are "embarrassing and destructive." NRO's Mark Krikorian, in turn, congratulated Horowitz for "stomping on the ridiculous, bitter-ender efforts to disqualify Obama from the presidency." Michelle Malkin, too, pooh-poohed the "birth-certificate hunters," describing them as having "lurched into rabid Truther territory."
("Truthers," by the way, are people who believe the United States engineered the attacks of 9/11.)
I disagree. I think it is nothing less than good citizenship to seek to verify that Obama is a "natural born citizen" since our elites, which include the major political parties and the MSM, failed to bring the matter to its extremely simple resolution long ago.
But while important, this isn't just a story about whether we as Americans are right or wrong to ask our president-elect the question about his original birth certificate. It is about whether our president-elect is right or wrong not to answer it.
Once again, Barack Obama is treated as though he were not even a part of this story. Those who seek to resolve the birth certificate controversy draw the fire, but not the man who causes it. Talk shows, court battles and blogs can air the issue, but it is only Obama who can put it to rest. And he can do it simply by authorizing the release of his original, "long form" birth certificate -- and quickly, preferably before the Electoral College meets to validate his election on Dec. 15, but certainly before his term of office begins on Jan. 20, 2009.
Unless, of course, he has something to hide.
Diana West is a contributing columnist for Townhall.com and author of the new book, The Death of the Grown-up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization.
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 12/16/2008 08:30:00 AM
Monday, December 15, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
Everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence. But there’s also a presumption that when you emerge from the cesspool of Chicago politics, you don’t come out perfectly clean. That’s where President-elect Barack Obama came from, so buyer beware. There’s also a presumption that anything that might cast even a slight negative light on Mr. Obama or the Democratic Party was censored out by the mainstream media, which only post-election is discovering the nature of the political environment that produced the next president of the United States.
Where are House Majority Leader Rep. Nancy “San Francisco Values?” Ms. Pelosi, D-Calif., and her campaign against the culture of corruption when we need her? You’ll recall that was her theme song when a bunch of Republicans were in trouble, but that’s all forgotten now with the parade of
Democratic wrongdoers capped by one of the great political scandals of modern times, Gov. Rob Blagojevich, trying to sell a senatorial appointment and about everything else. His own words establish him as so corrupt and so beyond the pale that he appalled even the people of Chicago, who have seen a long parade of governors and other politicians go to jail. This latest scandal has been called a political corruption crime spree unprecedented in recent political history.
But we shouldn’t forget other Democrats who have been contributing to this culture of corruption such as Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., who has been accused of accepting bribes and whose freezer was packed with cash when federal agents arrived to search his home.
Of course, we have to mention Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., head of the tax writing committee of the House, who forgets to pay his taxes and who is also under investigation for a possible payoff in exchange for contributions for a library to be named after him. Even when Democrats are impeached that doesn’t seem to stop their political career. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., was impeached as a judge but then was re-elected to Congress. He just lost in an attempt at re-election.
We have what we should have expected from Crook County Illinois, a.k.a. as Cook County Illinois, where the corrupt Chicago political machine has long held sway. And we should not forget that this swamp of corruption and criminality gave us President-elect Obama, who was part of the machine and used the machine in his rise to power and prominence. This was one of the many facts of Mr. Obama’s history ignored by the mainstream media, which censored out of the news anything that might interfere with the election of their Messiah.
Like it or not, the president-elect is right in the middle of the Blagojevich scandal. He endorsed him twice for governor, and the second time around there were already strong indications that Mr. Blagojevich was under criminal investigation, but that didn’t stop the endorsement. Even the well-known Democratic pollster and pundit, Pat Cadell, admitted that in Chicago, politicians all know what’s going on in their domain. (This is the same Mr. Obama who entered into a corrupt land deal with felon and slumlord Tony Rezko even when it was well known that he was under criminal investigation.) We should also remember that President-elect Obama had questionable dealings with Mr. Blagojevich’s bagman, Tony Rezko, involving the corrupt real estate transaction that still has not been fully investigated but raises serious questions about Mr. Obama’s financial transactions.
Finally, we should remember that when an attempt was made to reform the Crook County political machine, Mr. Obama was asked by the reformers to help out, but instead sat on the sidelines, and in effect endorsed the most corrupt and crooked political machine in America.
There is even a question about President-elect Obama’s connection with the Senate-for-sale scandal. In a statement, Mr. Obama said he was saddened and sobered by what happened, whatever that means. He also said of the Senate appointment, “I had no contact with the governor or his office…” Notice he did not say if a representative of his office was in contact with the governor. But that claim was directly contradicted by his spokesman, senior political adviser and alter ego, David Axelrod, who made a clear statement that the two had discussed the appointment.
Mr. Axelrod said spoke about contacts of the senator with the governor about the senatorial appointment as follows: “I know he’s talking to the governor and there are a whole range of names many of which have surfaced, and I think he has a fondness for a lot of them.” Now Mr. Axelrod claimed he “misspoke,” which fits into the category of the greatest political lies ever told along with “It was taken out of context.”
The prosecutors didn’t accuse Mr. Obama of any wrongdoing in making their announcement. However, they did not exonerate him either. But we don’t have the full story yet, and I must say that Mr. Obama’s denial of any contact with Gov. Blagojevich about the senatorial appointment has to be taken with more than a grain of salt. The president-elect has a long history of being caught up in questionable associations and than trying to lie out of the problem.
He didn’t know what the Rev. Jeremiah “God Damn America” Wright was up to, even after sitting in his church for 20 years, even after working with him and naming one of his books after one of his sermons, and even after initially seeking him out as soon as Mr. Obama arrived in Chicago. And terrorist Mr. Ayers was just a guy in the neighborhood, with Mr. Obama attempting to conveniently forget they worked for years closely on Mr. Ayers’ radical education projects and that Mr. Obama funneled millions of dollars in grant money to Mr. Ayers. And he was in the dark about convicted felon and close associate Tony Rezko, the racist and bigot Father Michael Pfleger, and terrorist Bernadine Dohrn, Mr. Ayers’ wife, and the anti-Semite and bigot, Rev. Louis Farrakhan. Should we believe Mr. Obama’s denial of any contact on the Senate matter or his spokesman, David Axelrod? My answer is heavily influenced by the Mr. Obama history of lying about such associates as Rev. Wright, the racist and bigot, and terrorist Mr. Ayers.
Dennis Miller, the radio talk show host put it perfectly when he said this guy (Obama) is supposed to be the smartest guy on the planet yet he is always oblivious to what his close associates are doing. Comedian Jackie Mason said Mr. Obama wasn’t there and when he was there he wasn’t listening. I still prefer my formulation: Mr. Obama is either the biggest liar in the world or the biggest idiot. My guess is it’s the former, and not the latter.
But even Gov. Blagojevich’s political crime spree did not wake President-elect Obama up to the corruption of his political machine. Even with that news, the president-elect, as noted, was saddened and sober…but not sad and sober enough to condemn Gov. Blagojevich’s conduct in the strongest possible terms. Later, when pressure starting building, Mr. Obama called on Mr. Blagojevich to resign joining a long list. Recall how long it took him to denounce Rev. Wright.
There are equally disturbing developments from the new administration’s cabinet selections. One is the nomination of Eric Holder to be our next attorney general. Even Mr. Holder’s disgraceful participation in the pardon of the fugitive and fraud artist Marc Rich is not the most serious problem. Mr. Holder also approved the pardon of 16 FALN terrorists. They hadn’t even applied for clemency. But they were pardoned apparently to help Hillary Clinton, then running for the Senate in New York, to get the Puerto Rican vote. Mr. Holder also supported the commutation of the sentences of two Weather Underground terrorists. At a time when we are in a battle with Islamofascist terrorism for our very survival, do we really want an attorney general who seems to specialize in giving free passes to unrepentant terrorists, even over the objection of the FBI and his own Department of Justice?
But all that may not be the worst consequence of the Mr. Holder nomination. He was part of the Clinton Administration’s approach of viewing terrorism as merely a matter for criminal prosecution without the realization that the Islamofascists have declared war against the U.S. and Western civilization. The failed Clinton prosecution approach gave us 9/11, and the Holder appointment is not the first indication of an Obama adoption of the discredited Clinton approach to terrorism.
His other legal appointments are no cause for rejoicing, either. He named Greg Craig as White House counsel. As the National Review (Dec. 15) points out he is a veteran anti-anti-Communist. He helped Ted Kennedy organize hearings to defame the Contras in their struggle against Nicaragua’s Sandinista regime (the leftist Marxist-Leninist-Communist regime) in the 1980s. Later, he represented the father of Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban boy who was taken from his family at gunpoint and sent back to Cuba. That was contrary to the wish of his mother, who gave her life trying to get the boy to the U.S. But Mr. Craig, representing the father of the boy, was instrumental in getting him sent back to Cuba.
His fees were paid by left-wing activists, but the National Review concluded, he was “for all intents and purposes a lawyer in the service of Fidel Castro.” With the press, Mr. Craig has aimed to picture himself as an idealist, but the National Review more correctly describes him as a dupe in the service of Mr. Castro.
I would not place too much hope in the new Democratic Administration clearing up the corruption issues in Illinois and the election wrongdoing still not properly investigated. For example, why hasn’t President-elect Obama indicated that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald will be allowed to continue and finish his investigation of Crook County, even after the new administration takes over? Instead, Mr. Obama has taken an almost nonchalant stance in the face of mountainous and long-standing corruption in Illinois.
Another matter that should be promptly resolved involves the abuses of public officials who invaded the privacy and violated the rights of Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher, the Ohioan, whose question led then candidate Mr. Obama to admit he wanted to “spread the wealth around.” That seemed to signal a socialist approach to the American economy and became a major campaign issue.
As soon as Joe became a campaign issue, Helen Jones-Kelley, head of the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Security, launched a purely political and illegal investigation of Joe in order to discredit him. She also used her official state e-mail account to solicit political contributions for Mr. Obama, another clear violation.
Despite all that, the Ohio governor, Ted Strickland, a Democrat, did not fire her. This suggests the Democrats are willing to tolerate even firing offenses if they serve their political purposes. Needless to say, Mr. Obama maintained his silence on the matter, although he should have spoken out on a matter that directly involved his campaign and his party.
The flavor of what we are to expect from the new Democratic Party domination is also reflected in what happened during the election. I discovered, at least in my area, vandals were tearing down John McCain and Republican campaign signs, but not Mr. Obama and Democratic signs. That may tell you about the mentality of at least some liberals. And now there is another sign of this liberal disease. There is a virtual jihad directed at the Mormon Church for its support of California’s Proposition 8, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman.
For example, envelopes full of suspicious white powder have been sent to Mormon Church Headquarters. Have we reached the point where free speech is to be censored by criminals and bigots, and there seems to be no outrage from the media and politicians? One commentator said there is no public outrage over this Mormon incident, due to the widespread prejudice against the Mormon Church, which indeed is a sad commentary.
And don’t expect the mainstream media to do anything to provide fair and balanced coverage of this political scene. They are continuing to try to discredit and smear Gov. Sarah Palin, even totally fabricating allegations when necessary. And that mainstream media has given her no credit for standing up to her own political party. She was one of the first to denounce Sen. Ted Stevens, who just lost his reelection try, after being convicted of making false statement about receiving gifts from oil-service executives. She also spoke out against the state chairman of her own political party. But she got no credit for incredible political courage, but did get unremitting smears from the mainstream media.
Despite cheerleading from the mainstream media, the picture is not bright for the years ahead under a Democratic Party administration in control of the White House and both houses of Congress. At worst, we may be going the Chicago way, but at best we’re going the far-left liberal way. And what is supposed to be a transparent Obama administration may be on its way to being a stonewalling and covering up administration.
Herb Denenberg is a former Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner, and professor at the Wharton School. He is a longtime Philadelphia journalist and consumer advocate. He is also a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of the Sciences. His column appears daily in The Bulletin. You can reach him at email@example.com.
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 12/15/2008 04:06:00 PM
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Tuesday, December 09, 2008 4:20 PM PT
Leadership: The media had a frenzy Tuesday with the "stunning" news that Illinois Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich had been arrested on corruption charges. The only thing stunning is it doesn't happen more often.
Read More: Election 2008
Blagojevich and his top aide, John Harris, were both arrested early Tuesday by the FBI on federal corruption charges. Among the more serious allegations is that Blagojevich tried to put Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat up for sale.
Blagojevich was reportedly caught on a wiretap explaining that a Senate seat "is a f***ing valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing."
The Illinois governor also reportedly tried to get the Chicago Tribune editorial board to tone down its criticism of him in exchange for state help with selling Wrigley Field, which is owned by the newspaper's parent, Tribune Co.
The mind boggles at such cupidity and outright criminality. Yet this wasn't the only news having to do with political corruption in recent days and weeks. Indeed, our political system is brimming with scandals, large and small.
Take last week, when a virtually unknown GOP challenger, Anh Cao, upset Louisiana Democratic Rep. William Jefferson in an election. Jefferson held a safe, gerrymandered district. Yet his constituents threw him out. Why? He'd been accused of accepting bribes, and federal agents later found thousands of dollars of suspicious cash stashed in his home freezer.
Fact is, America's political culture is in deep crisis. Hardly a day goes by without hearing about someone at the state or local level implicated in some sort of corrupt behavior. Literally dozens of our nation's 535 congressmen and women have been accused or found guilty of misconduct or misdeeds of various stripes.
Examples abound: Rep. Charles Rangel (taxes). Sen. Larry Craig ("wide stance" in a public bathroom). Sen. Chris Dodd (sweetheart mortgage deal, contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac). Rep. Alcee Hastings (impeached as a judge for corruption and perjury and since elected to the House in Florida).
And these just scratch the surface.
What does all this have to do with Blagojevich? Plenty. Blagojevich's case goes far beyond Illinois borders in its implications for the American political system.
For years, Illinois' state legislature has been controlled by one party, the Democrats just as Washington will be in January. As Lord Acton said, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We hope one-party control of Washington won't bring a new wave of political crimes and corruption.
President-elect Obama emerged from the rough-and-tumble Illinois and Chicago political milieus. He knew Blagojevich well. He also knew convicted felon and political fixer Tony Rezko. So he no doubt knows too how corrosive this kind of malfeasance can be to a democratic system such as ours.
We hope he'll set an example and show zero tolerance for this kind of corruption in his new administration. Because people are fallible, corruption is perhaps inevitable. But that's no reason to tolerate it.