October 6, 2009

State Dept. Pulls Funding From Iran Human Rights Watchdog Despite Tehran’s Vulnerability

IranGroupLogoAn important Boston Globe story by Farah Stockman on the State Department’s defunding of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC) has been noted at Hot Air, the Corner, and Instapundit.

The Globe’s subheadline at the story’s web page is revealing:

US funds dry up for Iran rights watchdog

Obama White House less confrontational

…. But just as the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center was ramping up to investigate abuses of protesters after this summer’s disputed presidential election, the group received word that – for the first time since it was formed – its federal funding request had been denied.

“If there is one time that I expected to get funding, this was it,” said Rene Redman, the group’s executive director, who had asked for $2.7 million in funding for the next two years. “I was surprised, because the world was watching human rights violations right there on television.”

Many see the sudden, unexplained cutoff of funding as a shift by the Obama administration away from high-profile democracy promotion in Iran ….

Why in the world would we ever want to “promote democracy”? (/sarcasm)

The IHRDC’s mission, according to its web site’s English home page is to:

  • Establish a comprehensive and objective historical record of the human rights situation in Iran since the 1979 revolution, and on the basis of this record, establish responsibility for patterns of human rights abuses;
  • Make such record available in an archive that is accessible to the public for research and educational purposes;
  • Promote accountability, respect for human rights and the rule of law in Iran; and
  • Encourage an informed dialogue on the human rights situation in Iran among scholars and the general public in Iran and abroad.

News consumers can be forgiven if they believe that the protest movement in Iran has died own, because establishment media coverage of events within that country has been virtually non-existent.

Michael Ledeen has been following events in that country closely, and can attest that protests are still plentiful, boisterous — and possibly game-changing. What he reported on October 1 in the second half of his Pajamas Media post about how the protesters are still bravely holding their own puts an exclamation point on how outrageous the State Department’s decision really is:

While he (President Obama) stews, Divine Providence has offered him a miracle: the Iranian regime is on the edge of doom. The events of the past few weeks demonstrate that the Iranian people will no longer accept repression, and the security forces are no longer able to shut down the demonstrations. On “Quds Day,” there were too many people in the streets, and the Revolutionary Guards and Basij could only stand by. This week, there have been student demonstrations on major campuses in Tehran and Shiraz, and nothing was done to shut them down. Every night, millions of Iranians shout “Death to the Dictator” from their rooftops.

If the regime falls, two of Obama’s toughest decisions–and some others as well–will magically improve. Deprived of Tehran’s finances, weapons, intelligence, training camps and safe havens, our enemies in Afghanistan will be weaker, and our chances of success improved. The leader of the opposition Green Path of Hope, Mir Hossein Mousavi, has long said that any government he heads will terminate support for terrorism and open the country’s nuclear facilities to international inspection, thereby ameliorating all three of Obama’s major headaches with Tehran. For extras, Hezbollah–the world’s most effective and murderous terrorist organization–will be gravely weakened, as will Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, which provides much of the territory from which Hezbollah operates. And the mullahs’ new friends in South America will be weakened as well, as will Russia’s ability to forge an international alliance against the United States.

A miracle indeed. And all it requires for fulfillment is an administration that does what any normal American would do in the circumstances: support the democratic opposition in Iran. It does not require any bombs or bullets, nor does it risk the body and soul of any American soldiers. It only requires Obama, Hillary, Dennis Ross, William Burns and the others to call for a free Iran, to begin any negotiation with the mullahs by reading out a long list of political prisoners and insist they be released, to cry out for equal rights for Iranian women, and to appoint a staff at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that will redouble their efforts to bring the real news about their own country to millions of Iranians.

But Obama does not seem to recognize the golden opportunity that has fallen into his lap.

Today’s decision shows that the Obama administration and the Clinton State Department aren’t only missing the golden opportunity. Instead, they’re right on the edge of working to ensure that the democratic opposition fails, signaling to the existing terror-sponsoring regime that there will be no skepticism as to whether it truly represents the Iranian people, and actively demoralizing that regime’s opponents.

This should be getting more establishment media attention. Odds are that it won’t.

Cross-posted at Newsbusters.org.

Chrysler ‘May Not Make It Another Year’

ChryslerFiat0609In early July, following the very first month after Chrysler LLC emerged from bankruptcy, the Associated Press, in an unbylined report about changes in the company’s board, saved this little nugget for the last of its eight paragraphs:

Chrysler’s poor June performance also casts doubt on whether the U.S. government’s $7 billion allocation will be enough to get the automaker through the U.S. sales slump, which is projected to last into next year.

Those doubts are growing. In a report on Chrysler’s just-announced management shakeup, AP auto writers Tom Krisher and Dee-Ann Durbin began their report by ringing the alarm (bolds are mine):

With sales down sharply and pressure to start generating cash before government loans run out, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne shook up his executive team Monday, replacing two of his brand managers after just four months and splitting Dodge into car and truck units.

The changes show Marchionne’s penchant for moving quickly and demanding performance, industry analysts say. But it’s also a sign that all is not well inside the company’s sprawling headquarters complex in the Detroit suburb of Auburn Hills.

I mention the AP reports because they support what might otherwise be dismissed as hyperbole coming from a blog for auto buffs. But even if AP hadn’t taken notice, there are plenty of other reasons not to dismiss what follows out of hand, not the least of which include Chrysler’s continued string of steep sales declines, its apparently politicized and possibly reverse discrimination-driven decisions about which dealers it would keep after emerging from bankruptcy, and the financial health of Fiat, its supposed savior.

Kevin DiOssi at Mopar Muscle Magazine’s blog (HT Doug Ross) elaborates (bolds are mine):

Chrysler May Not Make it Another Year!
Financial woes.

Rumors, credible rumors, are beginning to circulate in the car industry and the automotive press, that Chrysler may not make it another year primarily due to its falling sales and growing financial losses at partner Fiat.

Chrysler sold a 62,197 cars in September, down 42% from the same month last year. The figure was down from 93,222 in August when traffic to dealers was pushed up by the ”cash for clunkers” program.

Chrysler’s problems may only be beginning and, if so, Fiat, the ”managing partner” among Chrysler’s owners may not be able to keep the American company intact.

…. The daily management of Chrysler is controlled by Fiat which owns 20% of the U.S. company with options which could take that amount to 35%. Fiat has not put any money into Chrysler, so if the American firm becomes a significant operational or management burden there are very few reason for the Italian company, which has sales troubles of its own in Europe, to stay long term. Fiat lost $254 million in the second quarter, so its board may eventually believe that Chrysler is a distraction and one without a future.

…. At this point, the Chrysler product line is still dominated by mid-sized sedans, SUVs from Jeep, minivans, and pick-ups like the Dodge Ram. The company has no real product in the alterative (sic) energy/hybrid segment. Chrysler’s domestic market share in September 2008 was 11.1%, according to Edmunds. Based on sales figures released by the industry today, that share is now closer to 7.5%.

…. Chrysler sales are now running at the rate of 750,000 a year. It probably does not have the capital to wait through another year of low US car sales with a market share that is almost certainly to stay below 8%. It does not have models tailored to the current market tastes. Chrysler is going out of business. The company just hasn’t made it official.

To be crystal clear, the final two sentences represent DiOssi’s opinion, not mine.

As far as I can tell, AP has thus far been virtually alone in even recognizing the existence of immediate survival issues at Chrysler. That media neglect can’t last, can it?

Given that the U.S. government holds a 9.85% stake in Chrysler and has $7-8 billion out in post-bankruptcy loans (the more recent AP report says the total lent is “roughly $8 billion”), you would think that the company might release the kind of detailed quarterly financial statements an SEC-regulated publicly held company ordinarily would, so we could see for ourselves how bad things are. Though you have to believe that the company is already reporting the gory details to the Treasury Department, I doubt that the American public will ever get to see them.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org

Lucid Links (100609, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 8:13 am

Remember the $1 million that ACORN founder Wade Rathke’s brother embezzled from the organization in 1999-2000? Louisiana’s attorney general says that the number was more like $5 million (HT BigGovernment.com).

Update: The New York Times has known of credible allegations concerning the higher amount for almost a year, having learned of it “just weeks before Election Day,” and did not report it. This isn’t bad journalism; it’s flat-out corruption.

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Stumbled upon this while looking into the previous item. It’s digested as follows by Jeffrey Lord at the American Spectator, as follows:

ACORN founder Wade Rathke didn’t have a problem with domestic terrorists trying to kill delegates at the Republican Party’s national convention in 2008, former radical community organizer Brandon Darby suggests at Andrew Breitbart’s new website Big Government.

Nice.

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This is rich“White House angry at General Stanley McChrystal speech on Afghanistan.” Awwww. How do you think McChrsytal feels as he watches his brave men and women die while the commander in chief dithers? He’s supposed to just sit there and take it?

In the Korean War, General Douglas McArthur was “insubordinate” too, because Truman wouldn’t allow him to win.

Here’s a telling excerpt from Time Magazine, well before it became a leftist rag, from April 1951:

THE drama of MacArthur’s removal and homecoming obscures a far more important fact: President Truman has brought his foreign policy into the open.

This policy, new in the sense that it was publicly stated for the first time, denies to the U.S. the efficient use of its power, guarantees to the enemy the initiative he now has, promises that the U.S. will always fight on the enemy’s terms. The policy invites the enemy, World Communism, to involve the U.S. in scores of futile little wars or in messy situations like Iran. Up to now, World War III has been prevented by the fact that the U.S. is stronger than Communism. The new policy almost certainly brings World War III closer because it throws away a large part of U.S. strength.

…. But when Truman needed (or thought he needed) a defense for firing MacArthur, he turned to Acheson for a brief. Acheson gave him one, prepared several days before for the purpose of defending Acheson’s general viewpoint. Revised for the special situation, this speech was admirably suited to the purpose Truman had in mind—charging MacArthur with trying to extend the war. Apparently, it did not occur to Truman or Acheson that the speech could have another—and far greater —effect: giving Communism worldwide possession of the strategic initiative. The new policy is an attempt to elevate Truman’s absence of policy in Korea to the dignity of a principle with worldwide applications.

The weakness of Truman in Korea emboldened communists for decades, including at least one brush with World War III.

I don’t like the echoes I’m hearing. Soviet communism may have been defeated by the Reagan-Walesa-John Paul-Thatcher alliance in the 1980s, but the Chinese version thrives.

On top of that, thanks to Obama, worldwide terrorism is on the verge of regaining the same kind of initiative ascribed by Time to communism.

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Cash for Clunkers post-mortemEpic fail. This is from a Sunday Wall Street Journal editorial:

Rather than stimulating the economy, the program made the nation as a whole $1.4 billion poorer.

The basic fallacy of cash for clunkers is that you can somehow create wealth by destroying existing assets that are still productive, in this case cars that still work. Under the program, auto dealers were required to destroy the car engines of trade-ins with a sodium silicate solution, then smash them and send them to the junk yard. As the journalist Henry Hazlitt wrote in his classic, “Economics in One Lesson,” you can’t raise living standards by breaking windows so some people can get jobs repairing them.

In the category of all-time dumb ideas, cash for clunkers rivals the New Deal brainstorm to slaughter pigs to raise pork prices. The people who really belong in the junk yard are the wizards in Washington who peddled this economic malarkey.

The establishment media meme all along was that is was wildly successful. I still can’t get over the idea of how little opposition there was to the idea that destroying hundreds of thousands of perfectly usable vehicles was considered superior to donating them to places like Goodwill or other charities.

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Chrysler is already in serious trouble. In reporting on the company’s management shakeup the AP confirms it:

With sales down sharply and pressure to start generating cash before government loans run out, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne shook up his executive team Monday, replacing two of his brand managers after just four months and splitting Dodge into car and truck units.

…. The U.S. Treasury Department allocated roughly $8 billion for Marchionne and Fiat to keep Chrysler going until it can become profitable again, but its sales can’t seem to rebound with a slumping economy and the current poor-selling model lineup. Last year, under different leadership, the company lost billions and went into bankruptcy protection.

Treasury Department officials have said there will be no more government cash for Chrysler, but also have said they “stress-tested” the $8 billion and it was enough to keep Chrysler going after its Chapter 11 restructuring until it can make money again. Chrysler so far has received a total of $15.5 billion from the U.S. government.

The company emerged from bankruptcy four whole months ago.

Chrysler, partially owned by U.S. taxpayers, should release financial statements like any other “publicly held” company. I doubt very much that we’ll ever see that happen. General Motors thinks it’s doing us a favor by doing so, and even GM decided that we don’t need to see what happened in the second quarter (not the third, the second) until early- to mid-November, if then.

Positivity: Bronx Fire Hero Reunites With 4-Year-Old

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:29 am

From New York City:

Oct 3, 2009 9:02 am US/Eastern

Horia “Billy” Cretan Meets Briefly Friday Night With Little Boy He Pulled From Burning Parkchester Apartment

A Bronx man hailed a hero was reunited Friday night with the little boy he saved from a burning apartment.

The meeting happened hours after 4-year-old Christopher Ramcharran was released from Jacobi Medical Center. Doctors ordered Christopher to go straight home and rest. But his family could not resist taking him for a very brief visit to the man who saved his life.

The brave and speedy actions of store owner Horia “Billy” Cretan made all the difference Wednesday when a blaze gutted a fourth-floor apartment in Parkchester.

Cretan, who owns the shop on the first floor, smelled the smoke and heard the cries. He dashed up a ladder where a firefighter handed over Christopher, limp and unconscious. Glass was falling around them and Cretan used a curtain to shield the boy.

Seeing the boy so close to death then and now up and walking around warmed Cretan’s heart.

“He’s looking good and I’m happy he’s recovering fast. He’s walking now and that’s the moment we’ve been waiting for,” he said Friday.

The reunion lasted less than five minutes. There will be a longer visit later. Christopher’s family said its gratitude will last a lifetime. Pharbodial Ramcharran, the boy’s father, said “He put his life on the line to save my son. I would do anything for him.” ….

Go here for the rest of the story.