The Week in Review
Our lead articles deal this week with the growing discontent of the American public with their new governmental leadership and an increasing fear of another Great Depression. The original Obama enthusiasm has declined sharply–and that even BEFORE the most recent scandal pertaining to the AIG bonuses. The Obama Administration’s bumbling attempts to claim ignorance and deny any responsibilities did not appease the American public–and the hypocritical outrage of politicians–who did or should have known better–only exaggerated public distrust and condemnation.
Alarming is also the fact that the Obama Administration seems to be willing to severely limit the constitutional freedoms of Americans and deny rights stemming from their personal conscience. Observers are further worried by a written US commitment to share highly sensitive information with Germany, and by President Obama’s intention to abandon the European Missile Defense Shield, while at the same time Russia announced its goal to rearm against “threats” from NATO. And while Mr. Obama seems to be in support of a European superstate under German and French leadership, many in Britain are concerned.
The western world views with dismay developments in Israel and Iran, pointing at a possible military conflict, and Germany and Austria see themselves confronted with domestic violent developments and a resurgence of Neo-Nazism in the light of a worldwide recession. Finally, the pope spoke out in Africa against pre-marital sex and the use of condoms to protect the partners from HIV and AIDS–and even though his position on this matter is absolutely correct, most liberal commentators condemned him for his stance.
Americans Lose Confidence in President Obama and His Administration
The Wall Street Journal wrote on March 13:
“It is simply wrong for commentators to continue to focus on President Barack Obama’s high levels of popularity, and to conclude that these are indicative of high levels of public confidence in the work of his administration. Indeed, a detailed look at recent survey data shows that the opposite is most likely true. The American people are coming to express increasingly significant doubts about his initiatives, and most likely support a different agenda and different policies from those that the Obama administration has advanced.
“Polling data show that Mr. Obama’s approval rating is dropping and is below where George W. Bush was in an analogous period in 2001… Mr. Obama has lost virtually all of his Republican support and a good part of his Independent support, and the trend is decidedly negative…
“There is also a clear sense in the polling that taxes will increase for all Americans because of the stimulus, notwithstanding what the president has said about taxes going down for 95% of Americans. Close to three-quarters expect that government spending will grow under this administration.
“Recent Gallup data echo these concerns. That polling shows that there are deep-seated, underlying economic concerns. Eighty-three percent say they are worried that the steps Mr. Obama is taking to fix the economy may not work and the economy will get worse. Eighty-two percent say they are worried about the amount of money being added to the deficit. Seventy-eight percent are worried about inflation growing, and 69% say they are worried about the increasing role of the government in the U.S. economy…
“Support for the stimulus package is dropping from narrow majority support to below that. There is no sense that the stimulus package itself will work quickly, and according to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, close to 60% said it would make only a marginal difference in the next two to four years… And by 2-to-1, voters reject House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s call for a second stimulus package.
“While over two-thirds support the plan to help homeowners refinance their mortgage, a 48%-36% plurality said that it will unfairly benefit those who have been irresponsible… There is no real appetite for increasing taxes to pay for an expanded health-insurance program. Less than half would support such an idea, which is 17% less than the percentage that supported government health insurance when Bill Clinton first considered it in March of 1993…
“Fifty-six percent of Americans oppose giving bankers any additional government money or any guarantees backed by the government… Only less than a quarter of Americans believe that the federal government truly reflects the will of the people… When it comes to the nation’s economic issues, two-thirds of voters have more confidence in their own judgment than they do in the average member of Congress.
“Finally, what probably accounts for a good measure of the confidence and support the Obama administration has enjoyed is the fact that they are not Republicans. Virtually all Americans, more than eight in 10, blame Republicans for the current economic woes, and the only two leaders with lower approval ratings than Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are Republican leaders Mitch McConnell and John Boehner.”
Many Americans Very Pessimistic About the Economic Future
The Boston Globe reported on March 17:
“While it’s no shocker that nearly 9 in 10 Americans rate the economy as somewhat or very poor, it is noteworthy that poll findings released today show they are more pessimistic about a recovery… only 10 percent of respondents believe the economy will bounce back within the next year, while 32 percent say it will take as long as two years… Even more worrisome, while only a minority of economists are talking about the possibility, 45 percent believe another Great Depression is somewhat or very likely within the next year…”
Risky Conduct of the Federal Reserve
The International Herald Tribune reported on March 18:
“The Federal Reserve sharply stepped up its efforts to bolster the economy on Wednesday, announcing that it would pump an extra $1 trillion into the financial system by purchasing Treasury bonds and mortgage securities… the central bank has increasingly turned to alternatives… as a way of getting more dollars into the economy, a tactic that amounts to creating vast new sums of money out of thin air.
“… there were… clear indications that the Fed was taking risks that could dilute the value of the dollar and set the stage for future inflation… In its announcement, the central bank said that the United States remained in a severe recession and listed its continuing woes, from job losses and lost housing wealth to falling exports as a result of the worldwide economic slowdown.”
Unprecedented National Debt
Politico wrote on March 17:
“The eye-popping national debt surpassed $11 trillion Monday, the largest in U.S. history… The new Treasury Department figures on the national debt… is expected to project that the annual budget deficit will be higher than previously estimated by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget… The whopping number has major ramifications for President Barack Obama, who is trying to push through a raft of big-ticket bills on health care, energy, education and climate change — while also attempting to stabilize the swooning economy.”
President Obama’s Attack on Freedom of Conscience
On March 15, Newsmax printed the following comments by Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich:
“Earlier this month, the President took the first step in rescinding a Bush administration moral conscience regulation which enforces existing legal protections against discrimination and intimidation for doctors and other healthcare professionals who invoke conscience by refusing to participate in medical procedures they believe immoral… Efforts to roll back freedom of conscience protections are only the latest in a series of aggressive actions that demonstrate intolerance for those whose conscience is convicted in support of a culture of life:
“… In the first month of his presidency, Obama reversed the established Mexico City policy that kept taxpayer money from being used by international organizations for abortions as a method of family planning protecting millions of Americans from paying for a procedure that they find morally objectionable. Last week, the President unilaterally lifted embryonic-stem-cell research restrictions. In the President’s recent healthcare summit, groups that support abortion were invited but pro-life groups with a stake in healthcare were excluded. With the President’s support, Congress recently approved $50 million in funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). UNFPA is complicit in China’s unspeakably cruel one-child enforcement policy, which employs forced abortion and sterilization… In February, the Administration decided that it would no longer extend hiring protections to faith-based organizations but would instead review on a case-by-case basis…
“Yet, the most hostile assault against the civil liberties in the medical profession may be yet to come.
“In 2007, Obama promised a Planned Parenthood gathering on the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade that, as president, he would sign the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). If enacted, FOCA would repeal all federal and state restrictions on abortion including the ban on partial-birth abortion. FOCA would force all public hospitals and health programs offering maternity services to provide abortions. Moreover, provisions in state constitutions that protect speech and the free exercise of religion of those whose conscience is opposed to abortion could be invalidated.
“Having no reason to believe that President Obama will not fulfill this radical campaign pledge, some Catholic bishops are talking openly about engaging in civil disobedience to protect Catholic hospitals and their doctors from being forced to perform abortions. The chilling effect of the Obama administration forcing doctors and nurses to choose between their losing their careers and being compelled to participate in abortions against their moral and religious belief is incalculable.”
Hard To Believe–Obama Administration Did Not Know About AIG Bonuses?
ABC News reported on March 17:
“Sources in the Obama administration Tuesday said that despite previous media reports administration officials did not know until a couple weeks ago that the officials of the controversial AIG Financial Product Division were set to receive $165 million in bonuses on March 13.
“It was just this month, administration sources told ABC News, that officials of the New York Federal Reserve Bank — after studying AIG’s more than 100 compensation policies for more than 116,000 employees throughout the world — informed the Treasury Department of the $165 million in bonuses pending for the controversial Financial Products Subsidiary…
“How the Obama administration was caught flat-footed by this controversy dates back to last Fall, when the New York Federal Reserve Bank — then run by Geithner — stepped in to give AIG a high-interest loan to help prevent the company from going under, as Lehman Brothers was doing at the time.
“In late October, the $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program passed Congress, which includes rules about executive compensation but nothing about retention bonuses… AIG provided information about the company’s myriad compensation packages to the New York Fed, but officials described the information as extremely complex and not easily understood.”
This hard-to-believe version of the Obama Administration did nothing to appease the anger of the American public over the Bonus scandal. The Washington Post reported on March 17:
“President Obama’s apparent inability to block executive bonuses at insurance giant AIG has dealt a sharp blow to his young administration and is threatening to derail both public and congressional support for his ambitious political agenda. Politicians in both parties flocked to express outrage over $165 million in bonuses paid out to executives at the company… The populist anger at the executives who ran their firms into the ground is increasingly blowing back on Obama, whom aides yesterday described as having little recourse in the face of legal contracts that guaranteed those bonuses… Obama himself sought to channel the public’s sense of disbelief yesterday…
“But the damage control did not seem to satisfy incredulous lawmakers in both parties, who said the image of financial executives taking huge bonuses from a taxpayer-funded rescue puts the president in a politically impossible position… More than 80 House Democrats signed a letter demanding that the money used to pay the bonuses be recouped from AIG.”
Costly U.S. Missile Defense System Might Be Discontinued
USA Today reported on March 16:
“President Obama recently suggested he would consider scrapping the Europe [missile defense] system in exchange for Russia’s help in thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions… The type of ground-based interceptors that would be deployed in Europe failed to hit targets in five of 13 tests, according to the Pentagon… The system, planned as a potential defense should Iran develop a nuclear capability, would cost $9 billion to $13 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and would leave parts of Europe unprotected from an Iranian missile. All told, the government has spent $144 billion on missile defense since 1985, according to the CBO… Independent technical analysis has shown that Iran and North Korea, which has a nuclear program, could fool the system using simple countermeasures such as balloons…
“Charles McQueary, who directs testing for the missile agency, told a congressional committee last month that the U.S.-based system ‘has demonstrated a limited capability to defend against a simple long-range ballistic missile threat launched from North Korea,’ but ‘we still have a long way to go.’ Physicist Richard Garwin, who helped design the hydrogen bomb and served recently on a commission to assess the ballistic missile threat, said in an email that because it can be so easily defeated by decoys, the ‘system is not worth deploying, because it will be useless.'”
Major Military Rearmament in Russia in Light of Risk of “Significant Conflict” with NATO
Times Online reported on March 17:
“President Medvedev ordered a major military rearmament today, warning that Russia faced the risk of ‘significant conflict’… In a stark assessment, Mr Medvedev said that Nato was still intent on expanding closer to Russia’s borders and told military chiefs to raise the combat readiness of the country’s armed forces. Russia’s Defence Minister also lashed out at the United States, accusing it of plotting to take control of energy and mineral resources in states bordering Russia. Mr Medvedev called for modernisation of Russia’s nuclear forces and said that ‘large-scale rearmament’ of the army and navy would commence in 2011…
“The conflict with Georgia over South Ossetia last August had exposed weaknesses in Russia’s weaponry and communications systems that had to be rectified quickly. Mr Medvedev has stationed more than 7,000 troops in South Ossetia and Georgia’s other breakaway region of Abkhazia. He recognised them as independent after the war, a move condemned by Nato, the US and the European Union. The previous Republican administration under President Bush pushed hard for Nato to offer Membership Action Plans to Georgia and Ukraine, a move fiercely opposed by Moscow. Mr Obama has given no indication so far that he is as enthusiastic about Nato expansion.”
Europe, USA and Egypt Concerned Over Developments in Israel
Haaretz.com reported on March 16:
“Ties between the European Union and Israel depend on the Israeli government’s commitment to a two-state solution in the peace process with Palestinians, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Monday. Asked to comment on Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s preliminary coalition pact with the ultra-right Yisrael Beiteinu party [of Avigdor Lieberman], Solana told reporters: ‘We will be ready to do business as usual, normally with a government in Israel that is prepared to continue talking and working for a two-state solution. If that is not the case, the situation would be different.'”
AFP reported on March 16:
“Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmad Abul Gheit voiced concern Monday for Middle East peace hopes after an ultra-nationalist party signed up to be part of Israel’s new government. ‘We have a negative, possibly damaging factor, which is the emergence of an extreme right government in Israel,’ he told members of the European Parliament in Brussels… Lieberman, a controversial firebrand slammed as a ‘racist’ by critics, is due to become the foreign minister in the new government.
“Gheit expressed fears about the new government, saying that ‘if they would implement what they’ve been talking about over the last few years, we would all of us face dire difficulties and face the most extreme of situations.’… A narrow right-wing government is likely to put Israel at odds with its main ally the United States because it would probably put the brakes on the already hobbled peace negotiations with the Palestinians…”
In an article dated March 17, Der Spiegel Online reported about the German press reaction to the most recent developments in Israel:
“With Likud and Yisrael Beitenu having signed a coalition agreement, it looks increasingly likely that far-right politician Avigdor Lieberman will be the next Israeli foreign minister. German newspapers are concerned that such an appointment would signal the end of the peace process… Netanyahu still needs other coalition partners to form a majority government…
“On Tuesday, German commentators are gloomy about the prospects for peace in the Middle East, arguing that Netanyahu and Lieberman represent a step backwards.
“The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: ‘… Netanyahu associates politics with fear, not hope… Netanyahu is only going to administer the conflict, not solve it. He and Lieberman are the gravediggers of the Middle East peace process. They want to maintain the occupation and expand the settlements… Hamas needs Netanyahu, because the confrontation with Israel legitimizes its very existence.’
“The Financial Times Deutschland writes: ‘… Lieberman is a persona non grata for Israel’s neighbors — even for states like Jordan and Egypt who see themselves as Jerusalem’s partners…’
“The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes: ‘Whoever had believed that after the short but brutal war in the Gaza Strip and the inauguration of President Obama… the relations between Israel and the Palestinians could experience a new beginning has been disappointed…'”
Has Iran BECOME a Nuclear Power?
On March 13, RIA reported:
“Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Friday that pressure from Western powers trying to keep Iran in economic isolation have in fact spurred the country to become a space and nuclear power. ”
In fact, Ahamadinejad said more than that. As RIA clarified:
“‘Had you not been bad-tempered and blocked the way, the Iranian nation would not have been present in space, and WOULD HAVE NOT BECOME a nuclear power,” Fars news agency quoted Ahmadinejad…”
Israel Ready to Strike Iran?
On March 16, ynetnews.com reported:
“IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi, who is on an official visit to the United States, told his American colleagues Monday that the Iranian threat could still be handled via sanctions, but stressed that an Israeli military strike was a ‘serious’ option.
“Ashkenazi reportedly stressed that any final decision pertaining to a possible Israeli course of action against Iran would be made by the government and not by him, adding that as head of the Israeli Defense Forces he has been asked to come up with various contingencies and that a military operation was a concrete possibility… Israel has repeatedly stated that it… would prefer to apply economic sanctions to military ones, but that all options remain viable.”
According to an article in Newsmax, dated March 17, “The Jerusalem Post reported earlier this month that Israeli leaders are ‘seriously considering’ a unilateral strike on Iran, likely to occur this year, to destroy its nuclear weapons facilities. And former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nancy Soderberg, said the timetable for an Israeli strike might be moved up if Israel believed Russia was going to follow through on its pledge to supply Iran with a surface-to-air missile system that would greatly complicate an Israeli attack.”
Mr. Obama Supports European Superstate
The Telegraph wrote on March 18:
“Barack Obama heads to Britain and Europe in two weeks’ time as the leader of the first U.S. Administration to wholeheartedly back the creation of a federal Europe. In contrast to earlier U.S. administrations, including those of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, the Obama administration is avowedly Euro-federalist in outlook, and is keen to help build a European Union defense identity as well as support the foundations of a European superstate in Brussels.
“This dangerous shift in U.S. policy is a betrayal of both U.S. and British interests that will threaten the long-term future of the Anglo-American Special Relationship, weaken the NATO alliance, and undermine the defence of British sovereignty in Europe. It will also undercut opposition across the EU to the Treaty of Lisbon, including in countries such as Ireland, Poland and the Czech Republic, and may set the scene for a major confrontation between the Obama White House and a future Conservative administration in London…
“President Obama’s government will strongly back the European Security and Defence Policy, the Lisbon Treaty and the Common Foreign and Security Policy, and will seek to strengthen French and German leadership at the heart of a united European Union… Significantly, while wooing both continental Europe and Russia, the new U.S. administration has been largely indifferent to the Anglo-American alliance, with an appallingly handled reception for the British Prime Minister when he visited the White House earlier this month…
“There is a chance the Obama Administration will eventually wake up to the reality that American support for a federal Europe will backfire… Under a unified EU foreign policy, U.S. allies would lose the freedom to decide where and when they can fight alongside America.
“As they approach the transatlantic alliance, President Obama and his aides should heed the advice of a former prime minister and great friend of the United States who fought to defend the Special Relationship and maintain British sovereignty in Europe. As Margaret Thatcher put it, ‘that such an unnecessary and irrational project as building a European superstate was ever embarked upon will seem in future years to be perhaps the greatest folly of the modern era.”
USA Shares Top Secret Research with Germany
NetZeitung reported on March 16:
“Germany and the United States signed a new government accord… to develop better protection from terror attacks, natural disasters, large-scale accidents and organised crime… the accord is the first such agreement between the two countries and marks a new step in sharing details of previously top secret US research that began after September 11, 2001… German scientists will now take part in research programmes that find vaccines for biological weapons in high-security laboratories…”
Germany Tries to Cope with Teenage Shooting
NetZeitung reported on March 16:
“Police on Monday said they were investigating the father of the teenage gunman who murdered 15 people last week in southwestern Germany for negligent homicide. Tim Kretschmer’s father kept a dozen weapons at his home and his son is thought to have found the nine-millimetre pistol he used in the massacre in the town of Winnenden outside Stuttgart in his parent’s bedroom. The 17-year-old also apparently knew the code to the weapons safe where his father kept thousands of rounds of ammunition.
“‘There are concrete indications that the parents were aware of their son’s health problems,’ prosecutors said in a statement, referring to reports Kretschmer suffered from depression. New details also emerged earlier on Monday about Tim’s activities at his father’s shooting club… there were credible witnesses who saw the 17-year-old shooting a large-calibre weapon at the range only three weeks before he would kill 15 people in the state of Baden-Württemberg. Kretschmer then turned his father’s nine-millimetre pistol on himself during a shoot-out with police…
“German Chancellor Angela Merkel… has avoided making rash demands or suggestions for new laws following the massacre in Winnenden, but spoke on Deutschlandfunk radio on Sunday calling for more attention to be given to young people. ‘We must do everything to see that children do not get weapons, and certainly that they are not encouraged to violence. We have to pay attention to all young people. That goes for parents, and it goes for teachers,’ she said. She added that authorities should consider surprise visits to gun owners to see that they have their firearms locked away as prescribed by the law.”
Germany Under Attack
Haaretz.com reported on March 19:
“German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck hit back on Thursday at Swiss comments comparing him to a Nazi and said he had received threatening letters from the Alpine country. A growing war of words between Switzerland and Germany over banking secrecy intensified on Wednesday when a Swiss politician said Steinbrueck reminded him of the Nazis…
“‘This is completely out of proportion and unacceptable,’ [Steinbrueck] added, saying the dispute arose because of a realisation in Switzerland that the country was violating international norms. Thomas Mueller, a Swiss member of parliament, compared the minister to a ‘generation of Germans…who went through the streets wearing leather coats, boots and [Nazi] arm-bands’… He was speaking during a heated debate in the Swiss parliament after Switzerland, the world’s biggest offshore center, offered to relax bank secrecy in the face of a global crackdown on tax havens led by Germany.
“Steinbrueck, who angered Switzerland last year by calling for a ‘carrot and stick’ approach on the tax issue, prompted new outrage on Saturday when he compared Germany’s southern neighbour to ‘Indians’ running scared from the cavalry.
“It was not the first time Germans [have] been compared to Nazis for campaigning against tax havens. In September, Liechtenstein’s Prince Hans-Adam II dubbed Germany a ‘Fourth Reich’ after Berlin launched a probe into rich citizens who parked savings in the miniature state.”
Neo-Nazism on the Rise
The Daily Mail wrote on March 14:
“In Austria’s recent general election [in September], nearly 30 per cent of voters backed extremist right-wing parties. Some 70 years on from that infamous pogrom, the world faces a similar financial crisis to the one that precipitated the rise of Hitler and, in chilling echoes of Thirties Europe, support for far-right groups is exploding. Hitler’s birthplace has become the focus for neo-Nazis across the world.”
Reuters reported on March 17:
“Roughly one in twenty 15-year-old German males is a member of a neo-Nazi group, a higher proportion than are involved in mainstream politics, according to a study released on Tuesday. Many politicians fear a resurgence of right-wing extremism as unemployment creeps higher in Germany, which is facing its deepest recession since World War Two. Government figures have shown anti-Semitic crimes rose at the end of last year.
“‘It is shocking that right-wing groups have more success recruiting male youths than the established political parties,’ said Christian Pfeiffer, author of the report issued by Lower Saxony’s criminal research [institute]. Pfeiffer said fewer than 2 percent of young men were active in mainstream politics, compared to the 5 percent involved in far-right groups.”
UK’s Recession Worst in the World?
The Daily Mail reported on March 18:
“Gordon Brown’s economic credibility suffered another blow last night following a warning that Britain’s recession will be the worst in the world. The International Monetary Fund said the downturn in the UK would be deeper than anyone previously feared – and it would last through 2010…
“A slump of 3.8 per cent, economists say, would mean tens of thousands of businesses going to the wall and unemployment rising above 3million… Only Japan is now forecast to suffer a worse slump than the UK this year, with a 5 per cent contraction – sharply down from the last forecast of a 2.6 per cent.”
The Pope–Condoms Help to Spread AIDS
Times Online reported on March 17:
“The Pope courted further controversy on his first trip to Africa today by declaring that condoms were not a solution to the Aids epidemic – but were instead part of the problem… the pontiff told reporters… that Aids ‘is a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, and that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems’…
“The Vatican encourages sexual abstinence to fight the spread of the disease… He said the ‘traditional teaching of the Church’ on chastity outside marriage and fidelity within it had proved to be ‘the only sure way of preventing the spread of HIV and Aids.'”