“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Hail to the Chief. Right.

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Oliver North | March 05, 2009

The Obama administration's remarkable inability to say or do the right things to aid our sinking economy, stay the collapse of our equities markets, or even build a competent cabinet is now the stuff of cartoons, talk-show fodder and late-night comedy. Who hasn't heard the one about how "this year's IRS 1040 allows every taxpayer to claim one Geithner or a Daschle depending on how much tax you don't want to pay?" Humor may help us deal with our current financial travail – but national security is no laughing matter.

Unfortunately, this week has proven that the new administration may be no better at protecting us from incoming Iranian nuclear warheads than it is at creating jobs. It started last Sunday, when Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on NBC that Iran isn't "close to a stockpile, they're not close to a weapon at this point, and so there is some time." That same morning on CNN, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen was asked if Iran has enough fissile material to make a nuclear bomb. "We think they do, quite frankly," he replied. The Admiral added, "Iran having a nuclear weapon…is a very, very bad outcome for the region and for the world." Somehow, it doesn't seem that both Pentagon leaders can be correct.

By Tuesday, it was worse. That morning the New York Times reported that three weeks ago, Mr. Obama wrote a confidential letter to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, suggesting that European-based Ballistic Missile Defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic might not be deployed as promised if Moscow helps keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. This revelation generated an international media feeding frenzy.

Hours later, during a White House press availability with visiting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Mr. Obama claimed that his missive had been "mischaracterized" and denied that it was "some sort of quid pro quo." He insisted that it was merely "a very lengthy letter talking about a whole range of issues, from nuclear proliferation to how are we going to deal with a set of common security concerns along the Afghan border and terrorism." He also noted that "the missile defense program, to the extent that it is deployed, is designed to deal with not a Russian threat, but an Iranian threat."

During a visit to Madrid, Mr. Medvedev maintained that "no trade-offs have been discussed, I assure you." It didn't help.

The furor over Mr. Obama's "to the extent that it is deployed" language about the missile shield was exacerbated Wednesday by the release of a new "Presidential Task Force" report on Iran by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The bi-partisan authors of the document, entitled, "Preventing a Cascade of Instability: U.S. Engagement to Check Iranian Nuclear Progress," conclude that Iran has the means and material to develop a nuclear weapon within a year and sufficient fissile material on hand to produce fifty more.

The nine-page report also warns that Iranian plans to acquire Russian-made advanced Anti-Aircraft Missiles could accelerate Israeli military plans for dealing with Tehran's threat to "wipe the Zionist entity off the earth." According to the authors, "Israeli leaders seem convinced that at least for now, they have a military option." However, the report states, "Israelis see the option fading over the next one to two years, not only because of Iran's nuclear progress and dispersion of its program but also because of improved Iranian air defenses, especially the expected delivery of the S-300."

All of this prompted more than forty Republican Members of the U.S. House of Representatives to send their own letter to the White House on Wednesday night. In it, the Congressmen expressed their concern that Mr. Obama's "policy does not adequately recognize the threat posed by Iran," and that the administration "may be undertaking a surprisingly unilateral action" by offering concessions to Russia.

Noting that last month the Iranians "launched a satellite into orbit using dual-use, long-range ballistic missile technology," the House Republicans caution that the Obama-Medvedev correspondence "undermines NATO's endorsement" of European missile defenses, and "undercuts our allies." The signatories observe that "Russia used financial incentives to persuade Kyrgyzstan to deny the U.S. access to its Manas military base in order to support coalition operations in Afghanistan."

In response, Mr. Obama says, "We've had a good exchange between ourselves and the Russians" and "we're rebooting" our relationship. Administration officials are putting out the word that Moscow is playing nice, noting that this week they allowed a NATO supply convoy to pass through Russia to Afghanistan. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton described her meeting on Friday in Geneva with Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov as a "tremendous opportunity." Meanwhile, the "transparent" administration refuses to release the Obama-Medvedev letter.

In the pictures and on the tube everyone but the House Republicans is smiling. Our President, our Secretary of State and the Russians are happy. You should be too. Now you have something to think about besides the economy. Don't worry. Be happy.


  1. Hoppin' thread below. Let me post my responses to mostly random copied comments:

    bobal wrote:

    "but isn't the problem, if there is one, with mark to market, the idea that what to do when there is no market?"

    ***Yeah, no one buying something sucks! If you are holding something no one wants to buy I sure ain't buying it. How do you value it? Some things, mortgage backed securities for example, actually spin off some cash so there is some basis for valuation. Waiting for a government to step in and prop up the market can actually help freeze it up - sellers won't sell because they might get something better from TARP.***

    Blogger Doug said...

    Is the value of a well-kept house in a neighborhood with 10% foreclosures equal to the value of an abandoned, deteriorating foreclosure in the same neighborhood?

    ***nope - the beauty of free markets - what's that sucker gonna sell for? I'll grant you that no one is buying these days. My buddies in commercial real estate have pointed that out to me. No sales, no way to value things...***

    Blogger trish said...

    Canada was smarter about this whole business than we, I did read somewhere recently. Ran a tighter (in re leveraging) regulatory ship.

    Kinda makes me feel bad about buying that t-shirt: "Canada - America's Hat"

    ***America's hat - that is funny! Funny if you like a real heavy damn hat - Canadians: hewers of wood, miners of mineral stuffs. We sell the land from beneath us and strike a proud pose. Well, there is more to it than that but..."

    Doug cited:

    "A recent World Economic Forum report ranked it the soundest in the world, mostly as the result of its conservative practices. (The United States ranked 40th)."

    ***A quick history of Canadian banks - they wanted to merge, they wanted deregulation, the gov of the day said NO! (the same gov that said no to Iraq). No Canadian bank went bust in the Great Depression. The current five banks have a max ownership of only 10% to one entity, foreign ownership restrictions, and relatively stringent capital requirements. They exceeded the required capital base conservative folk that they are. They've also ran with a relative conservative lending philosophy. There is a government backed mortgage issuer - CMHC***

    Blogger desert rat said...

    Well, ash, Kudlow provided the M1 numbers, I assume them accurate.

    It's not that I believe the conspiracy theory, just that all the pieces seem to fit.

    That these fellows were so dumb as to not know what the effect of their actions would be, I find an unreasonable assumption

    ***I'm fuzzy on the details you reference with specific acts leading to a contraction of the money supply. "Kudlow said" doesn't have much veracity. I remember searching for M1 figures and came across (maybe wiki) references to official stats keepers formally not trying to calculate the number (conspiracy anyone??? - maybe). As I've said before, in general anyway, I think the affairs of man are quite haphazard and reactionary as opposed to controlling and conspiratorial though many try***

    trish said:

    "This is essential Keynesianism. It is supposed to be massive, swift, and (wait for it) short-lived. And you pay for it on the other end, in ostensibly better times."

    ***I've yet to see a gov. really follow Keynes recommendations - spend like hell in down times and save equally in good times. Usually they seem to spend like hell in bad and then, maybe, go neutral in good times. Heck, we all pat ourselves on the back when we go neutral (not quite the surplus one would imagine) i.e. Clinton years in US Chretien in Canada.***

    Bobal quoted:

    Obama is absolutely nuking the markets."

    ***yeah, riiiiight, it's Obama's fault. By the way the DOW is just ONE of many economic indicators, and yes, Bush gets a lump of coal in his stocking for his input. Obama, we'll see what happens over the next years but I'm concerned the current politics is forcing him in to the role of trying to save it all and much must fail. Ya know, creative destruction and all -- we free market conservatives used to preach that shit at one time, before our pockets were directly affected.***

    Blogger trish said...

    " Nationalization is what happened to the S & L s. And it was the Reagan admin that came up with the plan. In very short order.

    The bad ones went into gov receivership, and from the *day* they landed in RTC's lap, the turnaround to the private sector was 90 days."

    ***there certainly was some elegance to the S&L solution - let 'em fail and do a work out. Now we are trying to keep the dead walking****

  2. Good that Marx was a Moderate:

    As for the bipartisanship, I’m much more optimistic. I think Obama is basically an empiricist, within the Democratic Party obviously but with no strong ideological commitment about what government would look like in his ideal world.

    Many of the issues he’ll face are not necessarily ideological:
    How to fix entitlements?
    How to construct a stimulus package?
    How to repair the deficit we’re wading into?
    There are liberal and conservative dispositions, but we’re much closer to the world Daniel Bell envisioned in his book
    “The End of Ideology.”

    Plus, Obama doesn’t turn every policy dispute into a status or culture war. That alone will have a huge effect on changing the tone.

    David Brooks

  3. Who's Thomas Saenz?

    Civil Rights: The open-borders crowd eagerly awaits the nomination of one of its own to a key Justice Department post, a man who has dedicated his life to promoting illegal immigrant "rights."

    President Obama is expected to appoint Thomas Saenz as the nation's top civil-rights enforcer. It's a key appointment because Obama has promised to "reinvigorate" the division Saenz will lead. And the Civil Rights Division carries a wide-ranging portfolio, covering everything from hate crimes and police misconduct to voting rights and redistricting laws.

    All this power will likely be turned over to Saenz, who was a top lawyer for a radical Hispanic group that wants to cede California to Mexico. Saenz is credited with killing Proposition 187 in California against the wishes of 60% of voters. That law would have denied welfare to illegals.

    At the time, Saenz was vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, whose co-founder has exulted: "California is going to be a Mexican state, we are going to control all the institutions. If people don't like it, they should leave."

    Saenz has also sued California cities to establish "hiring halls" for illegal day laborers so that they can have a place to urinate. In fact, protecting day laborers against "anti-immigrant" sweeps is one of his top priorities.

    He would also crack down on local law enforcement officials who help ICE deport illegals.

    When the LAPD tried such collaboration, Saenz demanded "punishing all wrongdoers."

  4. Bill Cooper, CEO of TCF Bank, Returns a $361 Million Bailout -

    This is due to the fact that Mr. Cooper and his colleagues, "never (practiced) sub-prime lending", nor made it a part of their repertoire to participate in shady business practices (commonly associated with many other financial institutions). In addition, Mr. Cooper stated that because of this, they (didn't) "need additional rules and regulations attached to these TARP funds."

    --- TCF Bank plans to give fed money back
    WAYZATA, Minn. (AP) - TCF Financial Corp. plans to return more than $361 million it received from the federal government four months ago, saying the "the rules have definitely changed" since it accepted the money.

    TCF Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bill Cooper says public perception now views banks that took TARP money as having done so out of weakness, and says participation in TARP has put TCF at a competitive disadvantage.

    TCF Bank plans to give bailout money back

    Chief executive Bill Cooper says Congress has "changed the deal" by placing restrictions on dividends, employee bonuses and executive compensation. Cooper returned from retirement last summer to run the bank and doesn't earn a salary or bonus, but he says the restrictions affect other TCF employees.

    TCF joins at least two other institutions around the country that have pulled out of the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

  5. Gordon blue [Mark Steyn]

    Jonah, there are two possible explanations for the humiliations inflicted by the Obama Administration on Mr Brown:

    One is that (as several alleged experts have told me) in this area the president genuinely differs from his predecessors. Take that Martin Gilbert biography of Churchill the Prime Minister gave him: I'll wager Obama will never read a word of it. To him, Sir Winston is not the great wartime leader, the indispensable man in civilization's darkest hour (1940-41), but the post-war leader responsible for the ruthless suppression of the Mau-Mau rebellion in his father's Kenya. Churchill is not the way to Obama's heart.

    And, in a broader sense, he has no particular attachment to "the west" - to the transatlantic partnership, the Anglo-American relationship, any of it. As I touched on in NR the other week, to his admirers he represents a cooler post-western "hybridity". And, given where he chose to spend his entire adult life, that seems entirely likely.

    The simpler explanation, which I find more persuasive, is that he's just too narcissistic: He's the star and these foreign prime ministers are rather dreary extras. And unfortunately he's not a good enough actor to conceal his lack of interest in them. And his courtiers take pretty much the same line, which is why it never occurred to them that some no-name Brit would be insulted at not getting the multi-flagged joint presser.

    (For what it's worth, I heard similar reports of the president's remoteness on his flying visit to Ottawa, where the only person he seemed to get any kind of kick out of was Her Majesty's vicereine, Michaelle Jean, who happens to be a fine-looking woman, if you're into leftie babes.)

  6. "Bush gets a lump of coal in his stocking for his input. Obama, we'll see what happens over the next years but I'm concerned the current politics is forcing him in to the role of trying to save it all and much must fail. --"
    So, I believe both Barry and Emanuel, and you don't!


    ...what's so hard to understand about that?

  7. "current politics is forcing him"
    Fer shure!


  8. Intelligence Failure
    Obama recruits from China Inc. to fill a critical national-security post.

    Charles Freeman is a career diplomat, a Saudi apologist, and a savage critic of Israel. He also argues that Beijing did not strike down the Tiananmen Square protesters with sufficient swiftness. Barack Obama proposes to make him head of the National Intelligence Council. It’s an abominable appointment.

    The National Intelligence Council is, as its website says, “a center of strategic thinking within the U.S. Government, reporting to the Director of National Intelligence . . . and providing the President and senior policymakers with analyses of foreign policy issues that have been reviewed and coordinated throughout the Intelligence Community.” The NIC plays a crucial role in determining what specific intelligence the president consumes from the torrents of information gathered by 16 different agencies. As chairman, Freeman will decide how that intelligence is framed. So how does he view the world?

    Freeman is a career foreign-policy savant, with several stints in the State Department and one in the Clinton Defense Department. He has distinguished himself as a rabid Israel-hater who regards the Jewish state’s defensive measures as the primary cause of jihadist terror. He is a shameless apologist for Saudi Arabia (where he once served as U.S. ambassador) despite its well-documented record of exporting terrorists and jihadist ideology. And he is a long-time sycophant of Beijing, where he served as Richard Nixon’s interpreter during the 1971 summit and later ran the U.S. diplomatic mission.