Friday, June 20, 2008

Obama birth certificate question re-opened

Look at it. It's lovely, isn't it? There's a much more detailed picture of it here (use the resize gadget to enlarge it).

But, as a graphics expert shows conclusively, it is a fake that somebody has produced using a graphics program.

So where is the real one? Does it exist? Is he really a native-born American, as the constitution requires?

Obama: NAFTA not so bad after all

The man who understands nothing and stands for nothing -- except power

The general campaign is on, independent voters are up for grabs, and Barack Obama is toning down his populist rhetoric - at least when it comes to free trade. In an interview with Fortune to be featured in the magazine's upcoming issue, the presumptive Democratic nominee backed off his harshest attacks on the free trade agreement and indicated he didn't want to unilaterally reopen negotiations on NAFTA.

"Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified," he conceded, after I reminded him that he had called NAFTA "devastating" and "a big mistake," despite nonpartisan studies concluding that the trade zone has had a mild, positive effect on the U.S. economy.

Does that mean his rhetoric was overheated and amplified? "Politicians are always guilty of that, and I don't exempt myself," he answered.

Obama says he believes in "opening up a dialogue" with trading partners Canada and Mexico "and figuring to how we can make this work for all people."

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said that Obama-as the candidate noted in Fortune's interview-has not changed his core position on NAFTA, and that he has always said he would talk to the leaders of Canada and Mexico in an effort to include enforceable labor and environmental standards in the pact.

Nevertheless, Obama's tone stands in marked contrast to his primary campaign's anti-NAFTA fusillades. The pact creating a North American free-trade zone was President Bill Clinton's signature accomplishment; but NAFTA is also the bugaboo of union leaders, grassroots activists and Midwesterners who blame free trade for the factory closings they see in their hometowns.

The Democratic candidates fought hard to win over those factions of their party, with Obama generally following Hillary Clinton's lead in setting a protectionist tone. In February, as the campaign moved into the Rust Belt, both candidates vowed to invoke a six-month opt-out clause ("as a hammer," in Obama's words) to pressure Canada and Mexico to make concessions. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper called that threat a mistake, and other leaders abroad expressed worries about their trade deals. Leading House Democrats, including Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel, distanced themselves from the candidates.

Now, however, Obama says he doesn't believe in unilaterally reopening NAFTA. On the afternoon that I sat down with him to discuss the economy, Obama said he had just spoken with Harper, who had called to congratulate him on winning the nomination. "I'm not a big believer in doing things unilaterally," Obama said. "I'm a big believer in opening up a dialogue and figuring out how we can make this work for all people."

Obama has repeatedly described himself as a free-trade proponent who wants to be a "better bargainer" on behalf of U.S. interests and wants agreements to include labor and environmental standards.

In May 2007, congressional Democrats and the Bush administration agreed to a plan to include environmental and international labor standards in upcoming trade agreements. Still, later that year Obama supported one agreement (Peru) and opposed three others (Panama, Colombia, South Korea). Labor leaders - many of whom backed Obama in the primary - were the chief opponents of those pacts.

Obama jumped into the anti-trade waters with Clinton even though his top economics adviser, the University of Chicago's Austan Goolsbee, has written that America's wage gap is primarily the result of a globalized information economy - not free trade. On Feb. 8, Goolsbee met with the Canadian consul general in Chicago and offered assurances that Obama's rhetoric was "more reflective of political maneuvering than policy," according to a Canadian memo summarizing the meeting that was obtained by Fortune. "In fact," the Canadian memo said, Goolsbee "mentioned that going forward the Obama camp was going to be careful to send the appropriate message without coming off as too protectionist."

In the Fortune interview, Obama noted that despite his support for opening markets, "there are costs to free trade" that must be recognized. He noted that under NAFTA, a more efficient U.S. agricultural industry displaced Mexican farmers, adding to the problem of illegal immigration. We "can't pretend that those costs aren't real," Obama added. Otherwise, he added, it feeds "the protectionist sentiment and the anti-immigration sentiment that is out there in both parties."

Obama also reiterated his determination to be a tougher trade bargainer. "The Chinese love free trade," he said, "but they are tough as nails when it comes to a bargain, right? They will resist any calls to stop manipulating their currency. It's no secret they have consistently encroached on our intellectual property and our copyright laws. ...We should make sure in our trade negotiations that our interests and our values are adequately reflected."

Republican nominee John McCain, for his part, is emphasizing his consistent position as a free-trader. In a press conference in Boston this week, he attacked Obama as protectionist: "Senator Obama said that he would unilaterally - unilaterally! - renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, where 33 percent of our trade exists. And you know what message that sends? That no agreement is sacred if someone declares that as president of the United States they would unilaterally renegotiate it. I stand for free trade, and with all the difficulties and economic troubles we're in today, there's a real bright spot and that's our exports. Protectionism does not work.


Obama's Fantasy Islands

Yesterday I played a number of selections from a single Obama speech made in Pennsylvania over the weekend, excerpts which confirmed the growing sense that Obama has been swimming in the nonsense of the left for so long that he cannot cover it over even for the general election campaign. It seems he really, really believes a lot of nonsense.

In the course of a single speech Obama asserted that offshore oil exploration would --in the very best scenario-- take five years to drive down the cost of gas 3 or 4 cents, but that an investment of 250 billion dollars five years ago would have produced an engine that didn't require fossil fuels.

Obama asserted that we could move to 40 MPG fuel standards for cars, and at another point asserted that the technology existed for 100 MPG cars, even as he asserted that exploration on the outer continental shelf and Alaska would cause permanent environmental damage.

Obama extolled a high school he had visited that --he firmly stated-- was majority Hispanic, and which had gone from a 50% drop-out rate to a 100% graduation and college enrollment rate in one year by using an Afro-American centric curriculum that focused on African music, then blues and jazz. Obama held out this school as an example of what could be achieved when students "were engaged in a curriculum that was interesting to them and seemed relevant to them."

The school he visited is Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts (here's a report of the speech Obama gave.) "MESA", as it is called, is indeed sending all of its class of 2008 to college next year. Obama was simply wrong to assert that the previous year had seen a drop-out rate of 50% for a predecessor school, and neglected to tell the Pennsylvania audience that the graduating class totalled 44 students, that the school and district were special projects of the Gates Foundation, and that a sister school to MESA failed. I cannot find any evidence online to back-up Obama's claim that the school is majority Hispanic, and I can't find any details on the African-American-centric curriculum that Obama credits with fueling the school's success.

It is at best a mangled and exaggerated tall tale, at worst another in Obama's now well-documented pattern of inventing the facts and stories he needs for whatever policy position he is pushing at that moment. Whether it is the success of the Kennedy-Khrushchev Vienna summit or the idea that the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg validated the Supreme Court's decision on habeas rights for Gitmo prisoners, science fiction automobile engines just over the horizon or oil prices unrelated to oil production, Senator Obama glides along on a cushion of fantasy and made-up facts. MSM either doesn't know enough to call him on his serial absurdities or doesn't notice them because of their collective swoon.

But the pattern reflects a life lived in the world of the left where facts just don't matter much when it comes to policy. When you are just building a career for yourself out of nonsense peddled to voters who want to believe tall tales, the cost is limited.

But as president, the toll brought about by a chief executive completely given over to the idea that if enough people repeat fantasy the fantasy will come true would be enormous.

In one speech, Obama visited his fantasy islands of education and energy policy. We can only hope he keeps talking and that MSM starts listening closely and checking his stories.


Kurtzer: Obama Didn't Understand The 'Code Word' When He Spoke To AIPAC

Any excuse to deny the obvious:
Democrat Barack Obama misused a "code word" in Middle East politics when he said Jerusalem should be Israel's "undivided" capital but that does not mean he is naive on foreign policy, a top adviser said on Tuesday. Addressing a pro-Israel lobby group this month, the Democratic White House hopeful said: "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."

The comment angered Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967, as the capital of a future state. "He has closed all doors to peace," Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said after the June 4 speech.

Obama later said Palestinians and Israelis had to negotiate the status of the city, in line with long-held U.S. presidential policy.

Daniel Kurtzer, who advises Obama on the Middle East, said Tuesday at the Israel Policy Forum that Obama's comment stemmed from "a picture in his mind of Jerusalem before 1967 with barbed wires and minefields and demilitarized zones."

"So he used a word to represent what he did not want to see again, and then realized afterwards that that word is a code word in the Middle East," Kurtzer said.

If at this late date Kurtzer has to add his 2 cents to clarify, then it is evident that Obama did indeed 'misspeak' and in fact did indeed backtrack. Jennifer Rubin writes about the implications of Obama's mistake:
Not understanding that a key term is a code word, not having a current picture of Jerusalem, and not anticipating the implications of having to reverse field within 24 hours sure sounds naive. Even more so, if the advisor says Obama didn't understand what he was saying.

But wait a minute. Didn't Obama have advisors on Israel assisting him with the speech? Where were they? Once again, this suggests that there is too little adult supervision of a candidate unaccustomed to speaking on the world stage about issues in which there are lots of code words, indeed in which every word (e.g. "preconditons," "immediate withdrawal") has meaning to Americans' foes and friends.


Another Obama policy mystery

The "Change" Candidate Changing Stories Again

Well at least Obama is consistent. Consistent in changing his story to fit the venue. Yesterday he told the press he had spoken with Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, and had told him that he would set a timetable for withdrawal as President. He also said that Zebari had expressed their desire for sovereignty:
"He did emphasize his belief that we've made real progress and I think was eager to see political accommodations between the factions follow up in the wake of this progress.

"I think that he expressed what President Maliki has expressed as well," Obama continued, "which is that the Iraqis are obviously concerned about their sovereignty and are not seeking a long term occupation by the U.S. And so my sense is that we should be able to execute a withdrawal and set a timeframe - a timetable that continues to allow US forces to support Iraqi forces in going after terrorists, that continues to train the Iraqi police and military as long as we're not training militias that are turning on each other."

Problem is Zebari told reporters that it was a much different conversation:
.Mr. Obama has not altered his position: He still proposes withdrawing most U.S. troops according to a fixed timetable, set to the most rapid pace at which commanders have said American forces could be pulled out.

Mr. Zebari, who has served as foreign minister in every Iraqi government since 2003, finds Mr. Obama's proposal worrying. In a meeting with Post editors and reporters Tuesday, he said that after all the pain and sacrifices of the past five years, "we are just turning the corner in Iraq." A precipitous withdrawal, he said, "would create a huge vacuum and undo all the gains and achievements. And the others" - enemies of the United States - "would celebrate."

Mr. Zebari said he told Mr. Obama that "Iraq is not an island." In other words, an American withdrawal that destabilized the country would also roil the region around it and embolden U.S. adversaries such as al-Qaeda and Iran. "We have a deadly enemy," Mr. Zebari said. "When he sees that you commit yourself to a certain timetable, he will use this to increase pressure and attacks, to make it look as though he is forcing you out. We have many actors who would love to take advantage of that opportunity." Mr. Zebari says he believes U.S. forces can and should be drawn down. His point is that reductions should be made gradually, as the Iraqi army becomes stronger.

The foreign minister said "my message" to Mr. Obama "was very clear. . . . Really, we are making progress. I hope any actions you will take will not endanger this progress." He said he was reassured by the candidate's response, which caused him to think that Mr. Obama might not differ all that much from Mr. McCain. Mr. Zebari said that in addition to promising a visit, Mr. Obama said that "if there would be a Democratic administration, it will not take any irresponsible, reckless, sudden decisions or action to endanger your gains, your achievements, your stability or security. Whatever decision he will reach will be made through close consultation with the Iraqi government and U.S. military commanders in the field." Certainly, it makes sense to consult with those who, like Mr. Zebari, have put their lives on the line for an Iraq that would be a democratic U.S. ally. Mr. Obama ought to listen carefully to what they are saying.

Way different perspective huh? Who is lying here? Jim Geraghty also takes note of Obama telling the foreign minister that he would only take action after consulting with military leaders which differs from what he said during a earlier debate:
ABC's Charles Gibson: "And, Senator Obama, your campaign manager, David Plouffe, said, `When he is' - this is talking about you - `When he is elected president, we will be out of Iraq in 16 months at the most. There should be no confusion about that.' So you'd give the same rock-hard pledge, that no matter what the military commanders said, you would give the order to bring them home?"

Obama: "Because the commander-in-chief sets the mission, Charlie. That's not the role of the generals. And one of the things that's been interesting a out the president's approach lately has been to say, `Well, I'm just taking cues from General Petraeus.' Well, the president sets the mission. The general and our troops carry out that mission."

Taking cues from a General after consultation is what good leaders do. A President that wants to micromanage would ignore these cues and tell them what to do instead. So which one will Obama be? We can't tell because he changes his story every other week it appears. Ed Morrissey notes that Obama's changing story on Iraq appears the same as his NAFTA flip-flop:
This adds another data point to that theory. Zebari's recollection of the conversation sounds at least a little similar to the NAFTA Dance, in which Obama adviser Austan Goolsbee reportedly assured the Canadian consulate in Chicago that Obama only attacked NAFTA as a campaign ploy.

We should remember what Wright said about Obama right about now:
"Politicians say what they say and do what they do because of electability," Wright said, arguing that Obama had not seen the sermons played in the media that Obama has called "offensive." "He had to distance himself because he's a politician.Whether he gets elected or not, I'm still going to have to be answerable to God."

This is all about saying whatever is needed to get elected, even if he contradicts himself every other day.


Obama economic nonsense

And McCain not too good either

By Karl Rove

In Raleigh, N.C., last week, Sen. Obama promised, "I'll make oil companies like Exxon pay a tax on their windfall profits, and we'll use the money to help families pay for their skyrocketing energy costs and other bills."

Set aside for a minute that Jimmy Carter passed a "windfall profits tax" to devastating effect, putting American oil companies at a competitive disadvantage to foreign competitors, virtually ending domestic energy exploration, and making the U.S. more dependent on foreign sources of oil and gas.

Instead ask this: Why should we stop with oil companies? They make about 8.3 cents in gross profit per dollar of sales. Why doesn't Mr. Obama slap a windfall profits tax on sectors of the economy that have fatter margins? Electronics make 14.5 cents per dollar and computer equipment makers take in 13.7 cents per dollar, according to the Census Bureau. Microsoft's margin is 27.5 cents per dollar of sales. Call out Mr. Obama's Windfall Profits Police!

It's not the profit margin, but the total number of dollars earned that is the problem, Mr. Obama might say. But if that were the case, why isn't he targeting other industries? Oil and gas companies made $86.5 billion in profits last year. At the same time, the financial services industry took in $498.5 billion in profits, the retail industry walked away with $137.5 billion, and information technology companies made off with $103.4 billion. What kind of special outrage does Mr. Obama have for these companies?

Sen. McCain doesn't support the windfall profits tax, but he can be as hostile to profits as Mr. Obama. "[W]e should look at any incentives that we are giving," Mr. McCain said in May, even as he talked up a gas tax "holiday" that would give drivers incentives to burn more gasoline. This past Thursday, Mr. McCain came close to advocating a form of industrial policy, saying, "I'm very angry, frankly, at the oil companies not only because of the obscene profits they've made, but their failure to invest in alternate energy."

But oil and gas companies report that they have invested heavily in alternative energy. Out of the $46 billion spent researching alternative energy in North America from 2000 to 2005, $12 billion came from oil and gas companies, making the industry one of the nation's largest backers of wind and solar power, biofuels, lithium-ion batteries and fuel-cell technology.

Such investments, however, are not as important as money spent on technologies that help find and extract more oil. Because oil companies invested in innovation and technology, they are now tapping reserves that were formerly thought to be unrecoverable. Maybe we are all better off when oil companies invest in what they know, not what they don't.

And do we really want the government deciding how profits should be invested? If so, should Microsoft be forced to invest in Linux-based software or McDonald's in weight-loss research?

Most dramatic change comes from new businesses, not old ones. Buggy whip makers did not create the auto industry. Railroads didn't create the airplane. Even when established industries help create new ones, old-line firms are often not as nimble as new ones. IBM helped give rise to personal computers, but didn't see the importance of software and ceded that part of the business to young upstarts who founded Microsoft. So why should Mr. McCain expect oil and gas companies to lead the way in developing alternative energy? As with past technological change, new enterprises will likely be the drivers of alternative energy innovation.

Messrs. Obama and McCain both reveal a disturbing animus toward free markets and success. It is uncalled for and self-defeating for presidential candidates to demonize American companies. It is understandable that Mr. Obama, the most liberal member of the Senate, would endorse reckless policies that are the DNA of the party he leads. But Mr. McCain, a self-described Reagan Republican, should know better.



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