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Michael Ubaldi, April 7, 2005.

For three months, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has been driving leftists into a fit while he drives them out of the cheap rhetoric business. For nearly two years he has been optimistic about the American economy and its stimulation through tax relief. In February of this year, Greenspan stepped into the Beltway gridiron while donning a jersey that looked less like black-and-white splint than a red, white and blue scheme — lettered "RNC." Private accounts as part of a Social Security overhaul? Why, of course, said the good chairman, adding two weeks later that time was of the essence. Having now decked and pinned the Democratic Party's contention — no individual control, no changes for decades — Greenspan felt obliged to go one more and push for tax code simplification. Where the edges of ataraxia and catatonia meet — when partisans will exhaust themselves — is hard to say. But Greenspan doesn't mind pushing the left towards that intellectual event horizon, having offered President Bush another pair of gifts this week. On oil:

Soothing words from Alan Greenspan lifted stocks Tuesday as the Federal Reserve chairman reassured investors that the recent rise in oil prices is unlikely to damage the economy.

A gaggle of journalists have chopped up Greenspan's announcement like one would say Abraham Lincoln intoned "Four fathers brought a portion of unfinished work" at Gettysburg, more or less — but when Wall Street catches on, which it did, chances are the public will, too.

Then Greenspan furrowed his brow at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Uncle Sam's two-headed mortgage colossus, which big-state types consider as dear as FDR's legacy in welfare:

Greenspan said any crisis with the two mortgage companies — known as Government-Sponsored Enterprises — could have a disastrous spillover effect on the banking system.

"If we fail to strengthen GSE regulation, we increase the possibility of insolvency and crisis," he said in testimony to the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. Fannie and Freddie have vastly increased their control of the residential mortgages, jumping from about $750 billion worth to almost $4 trillion in just a few years. That's about 45 percent of the total market, a percentage that is too high in Greenspan's view and too great a risk for the whole banking system.

"We put at risk our ability to preserve safe and sound financial markets in the Unites States — a key ingredient of support for homeownership," Greenspan said.

Oh, to have heard the concurrent cries of respective joy and dirty oaths. If life were a film, think of this split-screen sequence: in the offices of the Wall Street Journal, Alan Greenspan's bronze bust placed on a mantle; and in the offices of the Democratic National Committee, the Federal Reserve Chairman's picture — complete with horns, swirly eyes and goatee — taped to the lounge dartboard, right below a perforated mug of George W. Bush.

Michael Ubaldi, April 6, 2005.

James Robbins, looking to Iraq, examines authoritarianism's drop in popularity that accompanies the targeting and gradual defeat of its practitioners. Robbins is deferential to strongmen, offering a strategic and tactical assessment of their flaws, but needlessly so: domination is a match of strength, and every thug who overpowers those weaker than he remains very mindful of his own competition and betters. The distinction between admirable hit-and-run and level cowardice comes from the treatment of the helpless — in this case civilians and other noncombatants, the terrorist's preferred opponent. An authoritarian most values possession and perpetuity, and when at a disadvantage will sacrifice anything but self to prevent his own consumption while positioning himself for escape and resurgence — if possible. The collapse of Islamist and Near East fascism is at least two years in the making, and accelerating.

ENTROPY: Wretchard took a look at the Abu Ghraib kamikaze and sees "terror's greatest defeat in modern times." He's right. It's times as these when the depth, strength and validity of an ideology is tested: to date, no organized authoritarian calling put under this strain has survived.

Michael Ubaldi, April 5, 2005.

The people's representatives have chosen an executive:

Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish former rebel leader, will be named as Iraq's president tomorrow, government sources have said. Jalal Talabani will be appointed tomorrow. He will form a presidential council alongside vice-presidents Adel Abdel Mahdi, a Shiite Islamist, and Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar, a Sunni Arab. The naming of a president and two vice presidents is a key step towards forming a government. The presidential council must then appoint a prime minister, who will choose a cabinet before a majority vote by the 275-member parliament.

Lacking precedent, deliberate decisions are often the wisest. Skeptics will still find fault behind and doubt ahead but remember, they'd be just as contrary and smug if the National Assembly had instead been rash, and failed to build a government.

Watching from inside Iraq's capital, Omar and Mohammed will surely have a lot to say.

Michael Ubaldi, April 5, 2005.

Privately owned and managed charities have done much for the world's needy over the past few decades and are expected to accomplish even more in the new century. As seen in yesterday's news, non-governmental organizations can eclipse a local work force — or at least be perceived as having done so. Empowerment is as important as assistance; and for serving an arm of the federal government typically ponderous in its administration, American soldiers have gained a reputation for flexibility and creativity, knocking on the door of the guild hall first:

Due to efforts by several military and civilian groups, improvements are underway to lower the crime rate in Maysan Province, to provide increased security to the police forces in the region, and to stimulate local economies. Once the Basrah firm, Mott McDonald, completed its assessments of 13 police stations throughout Maysan Province, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region South, or GRS, awarded contracts to local Iraqi construction firms to implement the planned renovation reconstruction. These 13 stations represent only the beginning of the program as additional stations undergo assessments in the future.

...Renovations to the initial 13 stations will directly improve the security and working conditions for approximately 1500 police in Maysan Province. However, the construction upgrades will serve to have a ripple effect, thereby delivering benefits that extend far beyond the police station walls. "Approximately 800-1200 Iraqis will be put to work in conjunction with the renovation program," said Derickson, "thereby stimulating the local economies throughout Maysan Province."

Beneficiaries, if they pay attention, will remember American generosity and Iraqi proficiency.

Elsewhere in the country: A charity extended to all includes those to blame for their trouble, humanity of the American uniform we can find in abundance.

Michael Ubaldi, April 4, 2005.

Free Muslims Against Terrorism is a non-profit association of American Muslims and Arabs, "created to eliminate broad base support for Islamic extremism and terrorism and to strengthen secular democratic institutions in the Middle East and the Muslim World by supporting Islamic reformation efforts." Often drowned out by the cacophony broadcast from the Near East's remaining authoritarian regimes and their Western sympathizers, FMAT can stand the silence from the majority it represents no longer:

The Free Muslims Against Terrorism are proud to announce that on May 14, 2005, Muslims and Middle Easterners of all backgrounds will converge on our nation's capital for a rally against terrorism and to support freedom and democracy in the Middle East and the Muslim world. This will be the first rally of its kind in Washington, D.C. that is led by Muslims and Middle Easterners. Join us in sending a message to radical Muslims and supporters of terrorism that we reject them and that we will do all we can to defeat them.

We also want to send a message of hope to the people of the Muslim world and the Middle East who seek freedom, democracy and who reject radical Islam that we are with them and that we will do all we can to support them. This rally is not limited to Muslims and Middle Easterners. We request anyone and everyone who supports our message to join us at the rally. We want to send a message to the extremists and terrorists that American Muslims, Christians, Jews and people of all faiths are united against terrorism and extremism.

They ask for supporters to help them make history. It's an honor to step up.

Michael Ubaldi, April 4, 2005.

Straight press reports of the Iraqi National Assembly's selection of a speaker, as anticipated after holding session on March 28, are practically impossible to find. Most articles have been injected with ancillary information from inside and beyond the country, or subjective inferences drawn from the assembly's two-month inaugural negotiations. It's striking that while journalists are choosing a variety of qualifiers, newspapers reflect a mob effort to skirt the repudiation of their claim that Iraqis were unable to compromise. Deals have been struck and good men are met in confidence:

Over two months after national assembly elections, Iraq's 275-seat parliament on Sunday chose Sunni Arab Hajen al-Hassani as the parliamentary president by a majority vote. The vote represented compromises on all sides, with Shiite and Sunni groups withdrawing their rival candidates to end the impasse.

...After the vote, al-Hassani told the assembly that the compromise would pave the way for a "free, democratic, federated, and pluralistic future" for Iraq. "The Iraqi people have been able to survive many attempts by their enemies to divide the people," news agencies quoted him as saying. Al-Hassani's deputies will include former nuclear scientist Hussain al-Shahristani, a Shiite, and Kurdish official Aref Taifour.

The International Relations and Security network is one of a few agencies to either print Mr. Hassani's uplifting statement or describe his office.

An attack on the Abu Ghraib prison has invigorated some quarters on the left, and editorialized reports have been stuffed into several articles on Al-Hassani. In spite of loaded media characterizations of the attack — a "brazen" thing to "overshadow" the assembly vote — the attack was a demonstration of desperation and incapability. Iraq's enemies tried a jailbreak at one of the country's most fortified detention centers; Central Command reported assaults from a heavily armed force of roughly sixty terrorists. After Marines neutralized a car bomb and organized superior fire, less than a fifth of the terrorists escaped. Rushes have been made before against smaller, Iraqi targets, with some success until late last year. It's assumed at least some of the killers subscribe to the logic of self-preservation. Why would the enemy risk and lose nearly an entire gang against an impossible target — unless he had no other choice?

More stark by the day, Iraq's reversal of fortune is welcome, earned and deserved.

DUST IN THE THROAT: As expected, Austin Bay found in this news the same condition of weakness, the word "desperate" figuring prominently in his remarks.

Michael Ubaldi, April 1, 2005.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics gives us no magic numbers this morning. While non-farm payroll numbers are only half of estimates at 110,000, national unemployment is down two tenths of a percentage point over the month to 5.2%, and the household survey's total employment in the civilian labor force grew by 357,000 while unemployment fell 332,000. Jobless claims are down; hourly earnings are over estimates. We can guess which numbers most media agencies and opposition figures will promote. Wall Street may take it in stride.

JUST GOES TO SHOW YOU: Bloomberg's reporting that the market, still afraid of Alan Greenspan, is bullish on the chance that a slight change of economic rhythm will keep the Federal Reserve easy on interest rates.

AND THEN: There's oil as villain, too.

Michael Ubaldi, March 31, 2005.

Dave Frum on World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz:

Say this for President Bush: The man has a sense of style. Critic after critic howls for the heads of the architects of the Iraq war, and above all for the head of the man the European media call "Paul Vulfovitz," as though he were a villain in a John Buchan novel. So what does the president do? He names this Vulfovitz to run the World Bank a job that the world's do-gooders and bleeding hearts have long regarded as their exclusive domain. Take that!

And just to add extra torque to the nomination, there is this irony: Even the president's detractors have been constrained to admit that Wolfowitz is likely to prove an excellent choice maybe more excellent than is entirely comfortable either for the bank, for its clients in the underdeveloped world, or for its constituencies in the advanced industrial democracies.

Style? The man was unanimously confirmed. From pragmatist Joe Biden to partisan Patrick Leahy, to France to Germany, this nomination and its enactment through two weeks of graceful diplomacy was political brilliance; at once placing the transnational organization in the hands of democratists and settling the question of Wolfowitz's supposed radioactivity, to where it can now be said that with his worst critics in judgment he carries none. Leftists of the Democratic Party's base, who seem to be the only ones entering strident opposition into the public record, are stripped of a credibly dubbed nemesis. Or at least they'll be outside of the elite media and focus fundraisers.

Michael Ubaldi, March 31, 2005.

News like this is encouraging:

Americans' incomes, bolstered by strong gains in hiring, rose by 0.3 percent in February while consumer spending climbed at an even faster pace of 0.5 percent, the government reported Thursday. ...The 0.3 percent rise in incomes was attributed to a surge of 262,000 new jobs in February, the biggest increase in four months. Further solid gains in both incomes and consumer spending are expected in the months ahead as the consumer continues to be a driving force in the economy.

But commentary such as this, from the Associated Press, is downright gratifying:

The economic rebound was fueled by four rounds of tax cuts promoted by President Bush and easy credit from the Federal Reserve.

The induction of supply-side policy's private-sector benefits into common knowledge may have come two-and-a-half decades late but with a little luck and a little more pedagogy, this will be a lifetime membership.

LEFT HAND, WHAT IS THE RIGHT HAND DOING?: Let me volunteer that "consumer confidence" is a measure of how deeply media portrayals of economic health influence responses to surveys for determining consumer confidence. Consumer spending in past weeks was fivefold expectations. Yet on Monday, confidence had dropped for two months straight.

What headline does that deserve, "Dejected Consumers Go out on the Lash, Blow Money"?

Michael Ubaldi, March 31, 2005.

Which ideology is intellectually unfit for media parity, throwing its political representatives into a spin? Respectively, relativism of the left and the Democratic Party.

Those are long answers. Here's the short answer:

Even a pie in the face couldn't silence conservative pundit William Kristol. Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard and former chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle, was splattered by a student during a speech about U.S. foreign policy at Earlham College Tuesday. Members of the audience jeered the student, then applauded as Kristol wiped the pie from his face and said, "Just let me finish this point," the Palladium-Item reported.

Kristol then finished his speech and took questions from the audience.

Heckling in the fine tradition of circus clowns and the Three Stooges. If you haven't an argument, you've lost the debate.