December 31, 2008


More Israelis are in range of Hamas rockets than ever before
More Israelis are in range of Hamas rockets than ever before
The Gaza war rages on with no immediate end in sight. Indeed, Israeli sources tell me a ground operation into Gaza is not yet definite, but is likely. Israel has rightfully rejected a French-proposed 48 hour cease-fire, saying the Gaza operation will continue until Israel’s goal of shutting down the terrorist rocket threat is accomplished. The leaders of the European Union, Russia, and many governments around the world are putting enormous pressure on Israel to stop defending the Jewish people and stop attacking the terrorist strongholds in Gaza. This is crazy. Why do the Europeans and Russians have such a double-standard when it comes to Israeli national security. More than 6,300 rockets and missiles have been fired at Israel by Hamas since Israeli withdrew its military forces from Gaza in 2005. Some 400 rockets have been fired at Israel just since December 19th. Would the French or Germans agree to a cease-fire if they were being hit by hundreds and thousands of rockets, missiles, and mortars by enemies sworn to annihilate them? Of course not. The Russians invaded Georgia for far, far less. “We didn’t initiate the Gaza operation in order to end it while Israeli towns are still under fire, as they were before the operation,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told reporters. “Israel has shown restraint for years; she gave the truce a chance; we told ourselves ‘let’s try it,’ but Hamas violated the truce. I don’t often say this, but Olmert is right. Hamas must be crushed, not coddled. Yet the world is trying to coddle these Palestinian Radical Islamic jihadists. It’s an outrage. The onus is on the Hamas terrorists to lay down their arms and stop firing rockets into Israel. Until that happens, the IDF should continue fighting. It pains me to see the suffering on both sides, but this is entirely Hamas’ responsibility. They were urged by Egypt, by Mahmoud Abbas, and by the Israelis not to let the previous cease-fire lapse, but they chose war instead. They have never been hit this hard. Indeed, Gaza has not since thisIsraelis living within rocket range are truly safe and secure. Yet, the Islamic Radicals in Gaza don’t appear ready to surrender. To the contrary, Hamas is using longer-range rockets than ever before — some of them made in Iran — putting hundreds of thousands of more Israeli at risk than in previous clashes. Hamas has already fired more than 50 rockets, mortars and missiles at Israel as of 4pm local time (9am eastern). Two hit the Israeli city of Beersheva last night, some 28 miles from Gaza. This is the first time Beersheva has ever been in range of Gaza-fired rockets. Haaretz reports that no one was injured but 40 people were treated for shock. The city is rattled, and theaters, cinemas and other shops and businesses are shutting down. Rockets also continue to hit the town of Sderot, and the Israeli coastal cities Ashkelon and Ashdod. I’m told that most of the children in Sderot have been evacuated from the town. Many are now temporarily relocated to northern Israeli cities and towns, such as Haifa. Iran, in addition to providing Hamas longer-range rockets, is also now apparently recruiting some 10,000 volunteer suicide bombers to attack Israel. Some good news: the Israeli government yesterday permitted 109 trucks filled with humanitarian relief to enter Gaza to help Palestinians caught in the crossfire.
The people of the Holy Land are going through great pain and suffering right now. But we should not be discouraged. Rather, we must turn to the Scriptures for the Lord’s perspective, embrace His promises, and obey His commands.  


  • Please continue praying for real peace — not just the absence of conflict but the presence of true justice and true security on both sides of the fence.
  • Please also continue praying for the scores of children on both sides who are being traumatized by all the rockets and bombs – pray for the Lord to comfort and care for them in a supernatural way.
  • Please pray for the followers of Jesus in Israel and Gaza, that they will have courage and hope from the Lord, that they will hear from the Holy Spirit how best to love their neighbors and their enemies, and that by their words and actions they can communicate the good news of God’s great love for Israel and her neighbors
  • Please continue praying for wisdom and discernment for The Joshua Fund leadership team, as well. We are in contact with our allies on the ground in Israel and readying relief supplies to help them care for those in severe need. We are presently trying to connect with our Arab evangelical Christian allies as well to see how we can help them, too. If you would like to give securely on-line to help us bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus at this critical time, please click here.
  • Please also pray that we can recruit 100,000 allies who are willing to pray knowledgeably, faithfully and consistently for the people of the epicenter. Already some 80,000 have signed up from around the world. If you would like to sign up for (free) Flash Traffic emails with geopolitical updates and prayer requests, please click here.

The Bible is clear: God loves the people of Israel, as well as their neighbors. He has a wonderful plan for their lives, plans for good and not for evil, plans to give them a future and a hope. Jesus offers those who choose to follow Him true peace that cannot be found anywhere else. He promises to protect His people. He promises them an abundant life here, and in the hereafter. He promises to answer their prayers when they pray for His will to be done and pray in His Name. What’s more, He commands His followers to love their neighbors and their enemies. He commands them to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, and care for the suffering. Should we not draw near to Him and follow Him wholeheartedly at this critical time?

“I have loved you with an everlasting love,” the Lord says in Jeremiah 31:3. “Therefore, I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (I John 4:8)

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” says the Lord in Jeremiah 29:11-13, “plans for welfare and not calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but I came that they might have life and have it abundantly,” said Jesus in John 10:10.

“Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper….The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever.” (Psalm 121:4,5,7,8)

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you,” said Jesus in John 14:27. “I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Jesus said, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also….I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me….Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:1-3,12-14)

“If you love me,” Jesus said in John 14:15, “you will obey what I command.”


Child maid trafficking spreads from Africa to US

Child maid trafficking spreads from Africa to US

IRVINE, Calif. – Late at night, the neighbors saw a little girl at the kitchen sink of the house next door.

They watched through their window as the child rinsed plates under the open faucet. She wasn’t much taller than the counter and the soapy water swallowed her slender arms. To put the dishes away, she climbed on a chair.

But she was not the daughter of the couple next door doing chores. She was their maid.

Shyima was 10 when a wealthy Egyptian couple brought her from a poor village in northern Egypt to work in their California home. She awoke before dawn and often worked past midnight to iron their clothes, mop the marble floors and dust the family’s crystal. She earned $45 a month working up to 20 hours a day. She had no breaks during the day and no days off.

The trafficking of children for domestic labor in the U.S. is an extension of an illegal but common practice in Africa. Families in remote villages send their daughters to work in cities for extra money and the opportunity to escape a dead-end life. Some girls work for free on the understanding that they will at least be better fed in the home of their employer.

The custom has led to the spread of trafficking, as well-to-do Africans accustomed to employing children immigrate to the U.S. Around one-third of the estimated 10,000 forced laborers in the United States are servants trapped behind the curtains of suburban homes, according to a study by the National Human Rights Center at the University of California at Berkeley and Free the Slaves, a nonprofit group. No one can say how many are children, especially since their work can so easily be masked as chores.

Once behind the walls of gated communities like this one, these children never go to school. Unbeknownst to their neighbors, they live as modern-day slaves, just like Shyima, whose story is pieced together through court records, police transcripts and interviews.

“I’d look down and see her at 10, 11 — even 12 — at night,” said Shyima’s neighbor at the time, Tina Font. “She’d be doing the dishes. We didn’t put two and two together.”


Shyima cried when she found out she was going to America in 2000. Her father, a bricklayer, had fallen ill a few years earlier, so her mother found a maid recruiter, signed a contract effectively leasing her daughter to the couple for 10 years and told Shyima to be strong.

For a year, Shyima, 9, worked in the Cairo apartment owned by Amal Motelib and Nasser Ibrahim. Every month, Shyima’s mother came to pick up her salary.

Tens of thousands of children in Africa, some as young as 3, are recruited every year to work as domestic servants. They are on call 24 hours a day and are often beaten if they make a mistake. Children are in demand because they earn less than adults and are less likely to complain. In just one city — Casablanca — a 2001 survey by the Moroccan government found more than 15,000 girls under 15 working as maids.

The U.S. State Department found that over the past year, children have been trafficked to work as servants in at least 33 of Africa’s 53 countries. Children from at least 10 African countries were sent as maids to the U.S. and Europe. But the problem is so well hidden that authorities — including the U.N., Interpol and the State Department — have no idea how many child maids now work in the West.

“In most homes, these girls are not allowed to use so much as the same spoon as the rest of the family,” said Hany Helal, the Cairo-based director of the Egyptian Organization for Child Rights.

By the time the Ibrahims decided to leave, Shyima’s family had taken several loans from them for medical bills. The Ibrahims said they could only be repaid by sending Shyima to work for them in the U.S. A friend posed as her father, and the U.S. embassy in Cairo issued her a six-month tourist visa.

She arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on Aug. 3, 2000, according to court documents. The family brought her back to their spacious five-bedroom, two-story home, decorated in the style of a Tuscan villa with a fountain of two angels spouting water through a conch. She was told to sleep in the garage.

It had no windows and was neither heated nor air-conditioned. Soon after she arrived, the garage’s only light bulb went out. The Ibrahims didn’t replace it. From then on, Shyima lived in the dark.

She was told to call them Madame Amal and Hajj Nasser, terms of respect. They called her “shaghala,” or servant. Their five children called her “stupid.”

While the family slept, she ironed the school outfits of the Ibrahims’ 5-year-old twin sons. She woke them, combed their hair, dressed them and made them breakfast. Then she ironed clothes and fixed breakfast for the three girls, including Heba, who at 10 was the same age as the family’s servant.

Neither Ibrahim nor his wife worked, and they slept late. When they awoke, they yelled for her to make tea.

While they ate breakfast watching TV, she cleaned the palatial house. She vacuumed each bedroom, made the beds, dusted the shelves, wiped the windows, washed the dishes and did the laundry.

Her employers were not satisfied, she said. “Nothing was ever clean enough for her. She would come in and say, ‘This is dirty,’ or ‘You didn’t do this right,’ or ‘You ruined the food,'” said Shyima.

She started wetting her bed. Her sheets stank. So did her oversized T-shirt and the other hand-me-downs she wore.

While doing the family’s laundry, she slipped her own clothes into the load. Madame slapped her. “She told me my clothes were dirtier than theirs. That I wasn’t allowed to clean mine there,” she said.

She washed her clothes in a bucket in the garage. She hung them to dry outside, next to the trash cans.

When the couple went out, she waited until she heard the car pull away and then she sat down. She sat with her back straight because she was afraid her clothes would dirty the upholstery.

It never occurred to her to run away.

“I thought this was normal,” she said.


If you could fly the garage where Shyima slept 7,000 miles to the sandy alleyway where her Egyptian family now lives, it would pass for the best home in the neighborhood.

The garage’s walls are made of concrete instead of hand-patted bricks. Its roof doesn’t leak. Its door shuts all the way. Shyima’s mother and her 10 brothers and sisters live in a two-bedroom house with uneven walls and a flaking ceiling. None of them have ever had a bed to themselves, much less a whole room. At night, bodies cover the sagging couches.

Shown a snapshot of the windowless garage, Shyima’s mother in the coastal town of Agami made a clucking sound of approval.

“It’s much cleaner than where many people here sleep,” said Helal, the child rights advocate. He explains that Shyima’s treatment in the Ibrahim home is considered normal — even good — by Egyptian standards.

Even though many child maids are physically abused, child labor is rarely prosecuted because the work isn’t considered strenuous. Many employers even see themselves as benefactors.

“There is a sense that children should work to help their family, but also that they are being given an opportunity,” said Mark Lagon, the director of the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

That’s especially the case for well-off families who transport their child servants to Western countries.

In 2006, a U.S. district court in Michigan sentenced a Cameroonian man to 17 years in prison for bringing a 14-year-old girl from his country to work as his unpaid maid. That same year, a Moroccan couple was sentenced to home confinement for forcing their 12-year-old Moroccan niece to work grueling hours caring for their baby.

In Germantown, Md., a Nigerian couple used their daughter’s passport to bring in a 14-year-old Nigerian girl as their maid. She worked for them for five years before escaping in 2001. In Germany, France, the Netherlands and England, African immigrants have been arrested for forcing children from their home countries to work as their servants.

In several of these cases, the employers argued that they took the children with the parents’ permission. The Cameroonian girl’s mother flew to Detroit to testify in court against her daughter, saying the girl was ungrateful for the good life her employers had provided her.

Shyima’s mother, Salwa Mahmoud, said her father believed she would have better opportunities in America.

“I didn’t want her to travel but our family’s condition dictated that she had to go,” explained Mahmoud, a squat, round-faced woman with calloused hands and feet. She is missing two front teeth because she couldn’t afford a dentist.

“If she had stayed here in Egypt, she would have been ordinary,” said Awatef, Shyima’s older sister. “Just like us.”


On April 3, 2002, an anonymous caller phoned the California Department of Social Services to report that a young girl was living inside the garage of 28 Pacific Grove.

A few days later, Nasser Ibrahim opened the door to a detective from the Irvine Police Department. Asked if any children lived there beside his own, he first said no, then yes — “a distant relative.” He said he had “not yet” enrolled her in school. She did “chores — just like the other kids,” according to the police transcript.

Shyima was upstairs cleaning when Ibrahim came to get her. “He told me that I was not allowed to say anything,” said Shyima. “That if I said anything I would never see my parents again.”

When police searched the house, they turned up several home videos showing Shyima at work. They seized the contract signed by Shyima’s illiterate parents.

Asked by police if anyone other than his immediate family lived in the house, Eid, one of the twins, said: “Hummm … Yeah … Her name is Shyima,” according to the transcript. “She uh … She works — she works for us at the house, like, she cleans up the dishes and stuff like that.”

Twelve-year-old Heba got flustered: “Yeah. She’s uh — my — uh — How do I say this? Uh … My dad’s … Oh, wait, like … She’s like my cousin, but — She’s my dad’s daughter’s friend. Oops! The other way. Okay, I’m confused.”

Heba eventually admitted that Shyima had lived with the family for three years in Egypt and in California.

The police put Shyima in a squad car. They noted her hands were red and caked with dead, hard-looking skin.


For months Shyima lied to investigators, saying what the Ibrahims had told her to say.

She went without sleep for days at a stretch. She was put on four different types of medication. She moved from foster home to foster home. Her mood swings alarmed her guardians. In school for the first time, she struggled to learn to read.

Investigators arranged for her to speak to her parents. She told them she felt like a “nobody” working for the Ibrahims and wanted to come home. Her father yelled at her.

“They kept telling me that they’re good people,” Shyima recounted in a recent interview. “That it’s my fault. That because of what I did my mom was going to have a heart attack.”

Three years ago, she broke off contact with her family. Since then she has refused to speak Arabic. She can no longer communicate in her mother tongue.

During the 2006 trial, the Ibrahims described Shyima as part of their family. They included proof of a trip she took with the family to Disneyland. Shyima’s lawyer pointed out that the 10-year-old wasn’t allowed on the rides — she was there to carry the bags.

The couple’s lawyers collected photographs of the home where Shyima grew up, including close-ups of the feces-stained squat toilet and of Shyima’s sisters washing clothes in a bucket.

In her final plea, Madame Amal told the judge it would be unfair to separate her from her children. Enraged, Shyima, then 17, told the court she hadn’t seen her family in years.

“Where was their loving when it came to me? Wasn’t I a human being too? I felt like I was nothing when I was with them,” she sobbed.

The couple pleaded guilty to all charges, including forced labor and slavery. They were ordered to pay $76,000, the amount Shyima would have earned at the minimum wage. The sentence: Three years in federal prison for Ibrahim, 22 months for his wife, and then deportation for both. Their lawyers declined to comment for this story.

“I don’t think that there is any other term you could use than modern-day slavery,” said Bob Schoch, the special agent in charge for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Los Angeles, in describing Shyima’s situation.

Shyima was adopted last year by Chuck and Jenny Hall of Beaumont, Calif. The family lives near Disneyland, where they have taken her a half-dozen times. She graduated from high school this summer after retaking her exit exam and hopes to become a police officer.

Shyima, now 19, has a list of assigned chores. She wears purple eyeshadow, has a boyfriend and frequently updates her profile on MySpace. Her hands are neatly manicured.

But in her closet, she keeps a box of pictures of her parents and her brothers and sisters. “I don’t look at them because it makes me cry,” she said. “How could they? They’re my parents.”

When her father died last year, her family had no way of reaching her.


EPILOGUE: On a recent afternoon in Cairo, Madame Amal walked into the lobby of her apartment complex wearing designer sunglasses and a chic scarf.

After nearly two years in a U.S. prison cell, she’s living once more in the spacious apartment where Shyima first worked as her maid. The apartment is adorned in the style of a Louis XIV palace, with ornately carved settees, gold-leaf vases and life-sized portraits of her and her husband.

She did not agree to be interviewed for this story.

Before the door closed behind her, a little girl slipped in carrying grocery bags. She wore a shabby T-shirt. Her small feet slapped the floor in loose flip-flops. Her eyes were trained on the ground.

She looked to be around 9 years old.


EDITOR’S NOTE — This story is based on interviews in Los Angeles, Irvine and Beaumont, Calif., and in Cairo and Agami, Egypt, in September and October. In addition to interviews with Shyima, her mother and nine of her brothers and sisters, the AP also interviewed her neighbors in Irvine, law enforcement officials and the lawyer who prosecuted her case. Quotes and scenes were observed by the reporter or described by Shyima and confirmed in po

The Greatest Book Ever Written

The Greatest Book Ever Written

By Larrey Anderson

As we ponder, each in our own way, this most special of holidays, I have a suggestion: read (or reread) the greatest book ever written — the Gospel of John.

Christianity has given the world many things. Its detractors say Christianity has provided the world holy wars and religious persecution. Its adherents proclaim that it has brought salvation to mankind. As a philosopher I find some truth, and much exaggeration, in each of those positions. Christianity has a checkered past and a challenging future. It also has the most important manuscript ever penned by a human being.


Scholars still dispute the date when the Gospel of John was written and they argue about who wrote it. I have always found these debates not only tedious — but also pointless. If ever a book transcended time and authorship, it is the Gospel of John. Perfection mocks lowly time. Inspiration requires no byline.


As prose the Gospel of John has no peers. (The Dialogues of Plato and some of the works of Shakespeare are as close as any get.) The Gospel is an unsurpassed literary masterpiece. It is history, philosophy, poetry, and religion seamlessly woven. The composition is so close to flawless that the words translate easily into almost any language.


Appropriately enough the greatest book ever written begins with a reflection on writing. The language soars in the original Greek:


Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.


It pounds like the jackhammer of truth in Latin:


In principio erat Verbum et Verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat Verbum.


And it mesmerizes in English (especially the KJV):


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.


A book, which can only be written with words, commences by reminding us that everything begins with the Word … and with God. Perfect. This is faultless prose.


As theology the book was, and forever will be, revolutionary. The book tells us how to achieve oneness with God. There is no mystical hocus pocus here. The Gospel speaks openly, honestly, and sincerely:


That they all may be one; as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they may also be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and has loved them, as thou hast loved me.


Oneness with God through love. That is the message of the Gospel of John. The human relationship with God is portrayed in such a manner that, even if it is not true, all reasonable human beings cannot help but be attracted to the possibility.


The idea of oneness through love was new and radical when it was written. It is fresh and still inspires today.


As philosophy the Gospel of John is an unknown treasure. I have read the book dozens of times and the subtle rational structure never ceases to amaze. At one level the Gospel is like a treatise on the logic of morality and the meaning of love. The logical composition comes across vividly in the Greek — but the structure is present in the King James Version so I will use that translation.


The book contains a series of “if/then” propositions. (These are known in logic as “conditionals” or “implications.”) Let’s look quickly at some of these arguments in chapters 13 and 14:[i]
If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.
If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.
If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.


This string of conditionals contains what is perhaps the most famous argument ever written. (Though very few people seem to realize the logic behind this phrase.):


If ye love me, keep my commandments.


This simple conditional phrase is the logical foundation of all moral conduct. Christ tells us that if we love him we will keep God’s law. The most important moral imperative ever written has nothing to do with coercion. We are commanded to obey the law because we love the creator of that law.


And if we choose to love, and to obey, we are given a promise:


I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.


This is the logic, the promise, and the wisdom of the greatest book ever written.


Larrey Anderson is a writer, philosopher, and the submissions editor for American Thinker. His award-winning novel, The Order of the Beloved, is a tribute to the writer of the greatest book ever written.


[i] Space does not permit going into the logic of the Gospel in detail. I will point out some of the simpler arguments here. If the reader would like a rewarding and challenging intellectual exercise, read John chapters 13 and 14 and think through how this series of conjunctions is interconnected and how, in some cases, a previous implication logically grounds the next implication.

It’s Time to Uproot the Real Cause of the Mortgage Crisis

It’s Time to Uproot the Real Cause of the Mortgage Crisis

Posted By Hans A. von Spakovsky On December 20, 2008 @ 12:00 am In . Feature 01, Money, US News | 16 Comments

As banks, insurance companies, brokerage firms, automobile manufacturers, and God knows who else line up to try and feed at the public trough, the original source of the spreading financial and credit crisis, the mortgage industry, is still in deep trouble. Whether the initial bailout plan passed by Congress will help stem mortgage lenders’ financial problems in the short run is still an open question. But one thing is certain: Nothing in the original legislation or Treasury’s actions and infusion of funds since then have made the legal, regulatory, and enforcement changes required to prevent this problem from happening again in the long run — no matter how many tax dollars the Treasury Department pours into the problem.

Nothing in the mortgage bailout legislation called for Congress to fix the serious problems with the [1] Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) that empower ACORN-style pressure tactics against lenders. Nothing made the Federal Reserve change its lending instructions. Nothing urged the president to change the enforcement policies at the Justice Department and HUD that forced lenders to make risky loans to unqualified applicants.

At its most basic level, this crisis started because of the weakening of mortgage lending standards caused by the Federal Reserve and other federal agencies. Lenders also feared facing discrimination claims and enforcement actions by government law enforcement agencies and organizations such as [2] ACORN.

Consider a faulty study the Boston Fed conducted in the 1990s. It claimed that minority mortgage applicants were rejected at higher rates because of discrimination. Yet a detailed analysis by University of Texas economists Stan Liebowitz and Theodore Day showed that the Boston Fed study was so full of data transcription errors that it was “outrageously unreliable.” When those errors were eliminated, there was no discrimination. Some minority groups do have a higher rejection rate for mortgages on average, but because of weaker credit histories, not discrimination by lenders.

Undaunted, the Boston Fed issued a new manual that called traditional lending standards like creditworthiness and down payment requirements “outdated” and “discriminatory” because they supposedly prevented minorities from getting loans. Other federal agencies joined in. The FDIC still has a compliance manual that discourages banks from requiring an “excellent” credit rating or “adequate” longevity on the job because it may have a “disparate impact” on minority applicants. This despite the current crisis and the fact that in 2007 the Federal Reserve finally admitted in a report to Congress that credit scores are “predictive of credit risk for the populations as a whole and for all major demographic groups.”

Mortgage lenders were also pressured to adopt these weakened standards by the Community Reinvestment Act. If they couldn’t show enough lending in minority neighborhoods to bad credit risks, they could be accused of discrimination, their charter renewals or merger deals held up by third party “community” organizations like ACORN. These organizations used the CRA as an extortion racket to get money for themselves (so they could do things like “counsel” high-risk borrowers) and to get mortgage funds directed to borrowers who had no down payments, no steady employment, and terrible credit histories. And everyone in Congress and the executive branch are wringing their hands over how to keep these borrowers in mortgages they cannot afford, rather than getting them out and thereby stopping the hemorrhaging in the lending industry.

As Professor Liebowitz said in testimony before Congress this past summer, the government’s entire housing policy was based “on a false claim, or lie” that mortgage lenders were discriminating against minorities. This lie was also pushed by the liberal civil rights community and the Congressional Black Caucus — and it was repeated “over and over again. Eventually this lie began to poison the mortgage market, and now the entire economy is at risk.” The secondary market necessary for the securitization of all of these bad mortgages (by bundling and packaging them together) accepted the constant reassurances by the Fed, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and other government agencies that these high-risk mortgages were perfectly safe.

So where does the bailout plan direct the Federal Reserve, the FDIC, and all the other federal agencies involved in banking and lending to change their compliance manuals and regulations to allow mortgage lenders to tighten their lending standards? Where does it tell them to go back to traditional methods of determining creditworthiness without putting their charters in jeopardy or being accused of discrimination? Where are the amendments to the CRA to prevent lenders from being blackmailed into making more of these bad loans? Where are the president’s directives to the Justice Department and HUD banning the use of “disparate impact” in their enforcement actions and ordering those agencies to consider individual creditworthiness and other traditional lending requirements when investigating discrimination claims? You haven’t seen any of these directives because they don’t exist — and they are just as unlikely to come from the new administration.

You don’t hear any plans by anyone in Congress, the Federal Reserve Board, or in other federal agencies to take any of these actions — because no government officials want to admit their role in the financial crisis or incur the wrath of the race hustlers. They don’t want to confront the Congressional Black Caucus or the NAACP or other liberal pressure groups that will do everything they can to oppose these changes.

In a hearing in February, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) actually claimed that the only problem with the CRA was that it didn’t cover enough of the credit market. Now that the Treasury Department is essentially buying control of American banks, mortgage lenders, insurance companies, brokerage firms, and other industries as the crisis spreads, how long will it be before federal career bureaucrats start using the government’s new ownership interest to force those same institutions and industries to implement “new and improved” social policies in their lending, credit, brokerage, manufacturing, and insurance practices?

And who will continue to be the real victims of these policies, in addition to the American taxpayer who is funding the bailout or losing his job because of the economic distress of so many employers? It will be the borrowers, many of them minorities, who have been put into terrible financial straits by lending practices forced onto mortgage lenders by the government.

This overwhelming problem is not the result of too much “deregulation” of the financial industry. It is the result of coordinated government regulations and destructive racial preference enforcement policies that effectively pressured lenders to make billions of dollars of loans to individuals who lacked the financial means to repay them. With the regulatory structures that are the root and cause of this whole problem unchanged, the American taxpayer will almost certainly be called upon to bail the mortgage system out again, as well as all of the other sectors of our economy being hurt by the credit crunch it engendered.

Hell Freezes Over

Hell Freezes Over

By INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Friday, December 19, 2008 4:20 PM PT

Climate Change: Sin City gets hit with almost 4 inches of snow as the white stuff even dusts Malibu, Calif. We don’t know what computer model global warmongers are using. A slot machine with three ice cubes, perhaps?

Read More: Global Warming


What happens in Vegas, they say, stays in Vegas. But as more evidence of the decade-long cooling trend is shoveled off the Strip, we hope that doesn’t apply to the truth about global warming.

On Friday, the Las Vegas Sun reported that eight inches of snow had hit the Las Vegas Valley. The 3.6 inches that had already fallen as of late Wednesday near McCarran Airport added up to the most snow recorded for the area in December since they began keeping records 70 years ago.

The white powder even dusted Malibu as a winter storm hit parts of California.

We commented recently on an Associated Press story claiming that, rather than being “evidence of some kind of cooling trend,” such events “actually illustrate how fast the world is warming.” But not everybody is convinced.

“If the issues weren’t so serious and the ramifications so profound, I would have to laugh at it,” said David Deming, a geology professor at the University of Oklahoma.

“The mean global temperature, at least measured by satellite, is the same as it was in the year 1980. In the last couple of years, sea level has stopped rising, hurricane and cyclone activity in the Northern Hemisphere is at a 24-year low and sea ice globally is also the same as it was in 1980.”

Speaking of rising sea levels, is Al Gore smarter than a fourth-grader? James O’Brien, emeritus professor at Florida State University who studies climate variability and the oceans, thinks not. “When the Arctic Ocean ice melts, it never raises sea level because floating ice is floating ice, because it’s displacing water,” he points out.

“When the ice melts, sea level actually goes down. I call it a fourth-grade science experiment: Take a glass, put some ice in it, put water in it, mark level where water is. . . . After the ice melts, the sea level didn’t go up in your glass of water. It’s called the Archimedes principle.”

Global temperatures stopped rising after 1998 and have plummeted in the last two years by more than 0.5 degrees Celsius. The 2007-08 temperature drop was not predicted by global climate models. It was predictable by a decline in sunspot activity since 2000 and by a cyclical ocean-current phenomenon known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

On CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight” recently, Jay Lehr, a senior fellow and science director at the Heartland Institute, was asked by the host what he considered the dominant influence on Earth’s climate.

“Well, clearly, Lou, it is the sun,” Lehr answered, adding that “if we go back in really recorded human history; in the 13th century, we were probably seven degrees Fahrenheit warmer than we are now.”

Lehr considers global cooling to be the real threat, part of a natural pattern as we continue coming out of a period known as the Little Ice Age. “If we go back to the Revolutionary War, 300 years ago,” he said, “it was very, very cold. We’ve been warming out of that cold spell from the Revolutionary War period. And now we’re back into a cooling cycle.”

The Associated Press claims that the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since Bill Clinton’s second inaugural. But after it was discovered that NASA’s James Hansen, Gore’s chief scientific ally, had been fudging the numbers, the agency was forced to correct its data. The 10 warmest years turn out to be, in descending order: 1934, 1998, 1921, 2006, 1931, 1999, 1953, 1990, 1938 and 1939.

If there’s a trend there, we don’t see it. So is global warming man-made and an imminent danger? As the snow falls in Vegas, don’t bet on it.

Good News: Congress gives itself a raise

Good News: Congress gives itself a raise

Rick Moran
They could have frozen their pay as the Congress did in 2000. They could have refused the pay raise and made some political hay for themselves.

Instead, each and every Member of Congress will receive a $4,700 pay increase courtesy of us, their grateful constituents.

Still, Steve Ellis, vice president of the budget watchdog Taxpayers for Common Sense, said Congress should have taken the rare step of freezing its pay, as lawmakers did in 2000.

“Look at the way the economy is and how most people aren’t counting on a holiday bonus or a pay raise — they’re just happy to have gainful employment,” said Ellis. “But you have the lawmakers who are set up and ready to get their next installment of a pay raise and go happily along their way.”

Member raises are often characterized as examples of wasteful spending, especially when many constituents and businesses in members’ districts are in financial despair.

These are the same group of hypocrites who railed against auto executives who showed up on Capitol Hill after flying into town on a private jet. This is the same bunch that has railed against Wall Street greed. This is the same lot of pious dolts who are blaming free markets and capitalism for the economic downturn.

But what’s good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander in this case. The pay raise is set up automatically so the members don’t even have to vote on it and take a stand over their own salary. It is underhanded, dishonest, and cowardly – which fits in quite nicely with the Democratic Congress and the plans they have for the nation starting next month.

An average congressman makes $169,300 a year.

Shocking News – Big Labor Implicated In Blagojevich Arrest

Shocking News – Big Labor Implicated In Blagojevich Arrest

“Charlotte Cronin, Executive Director of Family Support Network of Illinois, a Peoria-based advocacy group for the developmentally disabled, confirmed that union organizers knocked on doors this past summer, and that some relatives of the disabled found them ‘overly persistent.’  She said the union, which she believed to be the SEIU, was able to get home addresses because they are a matter of public record.” 

Thus reported the Wall Street Journal this week, in a story regarding arrested Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. 

Ms. Cronin’s experience serves as a chilling harbinger to Americans as the incoming Obama administration and Pelosi/Reid Congress prepare to pass such pro-union legislation as undemocratic card-check, dishonestly entitled the “Employee Free Choice Act.”  That proposed law, which serves as a payback to Big Labor for its enormous political contributions, literally eliminates the secret ballot during union elections, and would open the door to the very type of thuggery and intimidation described above by Ms. Cronin. 

After all, if union organizers were merely “overly persistent” when approaching relatives of disabled patients, just imagine how menacingly they’ll behave while approaching employees to not-so-subtly “encourage” them to sign cards favoring unionization. 

In this particular instance, however, the union organizers’ troubling behavior relates not to a routine organizing campaign, but rather the distasteful saga of Governor Blagojevich. 

According to the federal indictment, Blagojevich allegedly suggested a pay-for-play agreement with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the nation’s fastest-growing labor group.  Under the alleged proposal, he would receive a posh position within the SEIU following his term as Governor in exchange for filling the open Senate seat of President-Elect Barack Obama with someone especially friendly to the organization. 

Additionally, just before Governor Blagojevich was arrested last week on conspiracy charges, he planned to issue an executive order allowing unions to organize Illinois state employees providing home care for the developmentally disabled.  Federal labor laws typically don’t apply to those state workers, so Governor Blagojevich signed a similar order in 2003. 

Obviously, this episode raises more questions about the SEIU, and Big Labor generally. 

For example, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano has also prepared a similar executive order, which one state legislator has described as a “hit-and-run” favor to Big Labor, as she leaves office to serve as Department of Homeland Security Secretary for President Obama.  Under her midnight order, over 25,000 state employees will suddenly be entitled to appoint union representatives with “meet-and-confer” authority with state officials.  The order also mandates that the new union representatives be allowed to meet on a quarterly basis with state agency chiefs under three dozen cabinet agencies. 

Understandably, Arizona officials immediately wondered whether this also constituted a form of payback to Big Labor, especially since the SEIU immediately applauded the decision in an official announcement.  As reported by The Arizona Republic, the “SEIU has consulted with the Governor’s office on the development of the executive order, and is among the unions that would look to represent state employees.” 

As noted by State Representative John Kavanagh, “if she thought it was needed, she should have done it six years ago, not as she’s jogging out the door.  Now, she’s going to create a labor policy that we’ll have to deal with long after she’s gone.” 

These examples reflect a larger national phenomenon in which Big Labor expects reward for its support of Obama and successful Democratic candidates across the country.  As reported by Fred Lucas of, the SEIU’s political action committee spent over $27 million on behalf of Obama’s campaign, and the union’s website states that members “knocked on 1.87 million doors, made 4.4 million phone calls, registered 85,914 voters and sent more than 2.5 million pieces of mail in support of Obama.” 

And as it concerns Governor Blagojevich, the SEIU was his largest contributor, giving more than $1.8 million to his campaigns.  Although the SEIU has not been accused of any wrongdoing in the Blagojevich scandal, troubling questions obviously remain. 

At the very least, the issue of union payback is something about which Americans must be wary as they wonder how the Pelosi/Reid Congress and President Obama could possibly push so hard for laws that so fundamentally contradict our democratic ideals.

Vaclav Fights the Dragon

Vaclav Fights the Dragon

Created 2008-12-15 10:25

As our readers know, an angry verbal exchange between members of the European Parliaments (MEPs) and Vaclav Klaus, the President of the Czech Republic, took place on December 5, 2008 in the Prague Castle. Vaclav Klaus, soon-to-be president of the European Union for 6 months, replacing Nicolas Sarkozy, faced off with Brian Crowley, the Irish leader of the UEN party, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a Green Franco-German politician, and Hans-Gert Pöttering, a German Christian-Democrat who is the president of the European Parliament.
The Observatoire de l’Europe reports that the row began when Brian Crowley, who would like to run for President of Ireland in 2011, accused President Klaus of having insulted the Irish people by dining in Dublin with Declan Ganley, leader of the “no” faction opposed to the Treaty of Lisbon. The “no” faction won the Irish referendum on the Treaty. According to pro-EU politicians, such as Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the CIA, in a plot against the EU, poured hundreds of thousands of euros into Libertas, Ganley’s anti-Lisbon movement. (When questioned, the surprised officials from the United States Congress responded: “Are you Europeans serious?”)
Observatoire de l’Europe states that this interview comes from unspecified diplomatic sources, but there is another version in the French leftist newspaper Le Monde, in which Vaclav Klaus is portrayed as “ultraliberal, choleric and Europhobic”, while Dany Cohn-Bendit emerges as the hero of the day.
Le Monde’s version of the confrontation between Klaus on the one hand, and Cohn-Bendit, and Pöttering goes like this:

“What are your political relations with Declan Ganley?” asked Dany Cohn-Bendit. Vaclav Klaus turned to Hans-Gert Pöttering: “Could you interrupt Mr. Cohn-Bendit and let another deputy speak?” The president of the European Parliament refused: “Mr. President, you have taken a public stand in Ireland in favor of Declan Ganley, this question is legitimate.”

Excerpts of the dialogue follow:

– Vaclav Klaus: Nobody has ever spoken to me here in this tone. You aren’t on the barricades of Paris. I have never heard anything so insolent in this hall!
– Cohn-Bendit: Naturally, it’s the first time that you have met me in this hall…
– Vaclav Klaus: What if I were to ask you how the Green Party is financed? We’d learn some interesting things.
– Cohn-Bendit: I didn’t ask you how you received financing, but what your political relations were with Declan Ganley. It’s strange that you associate this with the issue of financing.
– Vaclav Klaus: The way Daniel Cohn-Bendit is speaking to me is exactly the way the Soviets used to speak.
– Pöttering: To compare the European Union to the USSR is inadmissible!
– Vaclav Klaus: I was speaking of the manner of in which he intervenes in the discussion…
– Cohn-Bendit: We do not intervene with tanks.

Le Monde closes with references to Vaclav Klaus’ economic policies: “This dedicated ultra-liberal is counting on the Czech presidency to ‘stop the irrational debate on the regulation of capitalism, which will kill the market and capitalism’.”
And to his views on Europe: “The Treaty of Lisbon and the behavior of Europe will lead to ‘the liquidation of freedom and democracy’.”
In conclusion, for Le Monde, the agent provocateur of the discussion on December 5 was Vaclav Klaus.
According to Yves Daoudal in the latest editorial to his paper newsletter Daoudal-Hebdo (available through subscription in pdf format also) remarks were made following the confrontation on December 5 that impelled Vaclav Klaus to publish the interview:

In violation of diplomatic custom, Vaclav Klaus decided to publish the text of the discussion after remarks made by Cohn-Bendit following the meeting. Specifically, he declared that Vaclav Klaus was “paranoid” and that any discussion with the Czech president was “madness.”
Now, what is important to note, above all, is that this meeting not only allowed Daniel Cohn-Bendit the chance to be grossly provocative, but that the meeting itself was set up as a provocation, on the eve of the Czech presidency of the European Union, to discredit Vaclav Klaus and to show him as an irresponsible paranoiac. It’s well-known that if you want to drown your dog, say that he has rabies.
This provocation was not set up by Cohn-Bendit, but by the very respectable, dignified and very Catholic Hans-Gert Pöttering.
That is what the text reveals. Hans-Gert Pöttering used two acolytes, like a Mafioso who punishes a reluctant merchant with two of his henchmen. The heavy was Cohn-Bendit, but also Brian Crowley, who is at least as insolent […]
Finally this text is of interest because of what the Czech president says. This for example:
“To consider one of the organizational methods of Europe as sacrosanct, untouchable, that cannot be questioned or criticized, is contrary to the very nature of Europe.”
Or this:
“It is necessary to return to the Laeken declaration and to re-negotiate the Treaty of Lisbon. It is necessary to decentralize, to speak in such a way that powers are restored on the national level, closer to the citizens, in order to change supra-nationalism into inter-governmentalism.”
The Laeken declaration is the text by which the Convention on the future of Europe was summoned, and which led to the Constitutional Treaty. It is indeed necessary to return to the point of departure, and then to move in another direction: that of respect for the peoples.

As of this writing the Czech Parliament has delayed examination of the Treaty of Lisbon for another month.


Illustration: Byzantine Sacred Arts blog.

Is Rahm Emanuel in trouble?

Is Rahm Emanuel in trouble?

Rick Moran
Not legal trouble, mind you. But the Chicago Sun Times is reporting that Rahmbo’s contacts with Blagojevich over Obama’s  senate seat are much more extensive than either Obama or Emanuel have led us to believe.

President-elect Barack Obama’s incoming chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, was pushing for Obama’s successor just days after the Nov. 4 election, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Emanuel privately urged Gov. Blagojevich’s administration to appoint Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett, and the Sun-Times learned Tuesday that he also pressed that it be done by a certain deadline.

Jarrett was initially interested in the U.S. Senate post before Obama tapped her to be a White House senior adviser, sources say.

The disclosure comes days after Obama’s camp downplayed Jarrett’s interest in the post.

At one point, an “emissary” who said he represented Jarrett had discussions with Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris and the governor about naming Jarrett to the post, according to a criminal complaint.

In addition to the discussions, Emanuel submitted a list of names of candidates suitable to the Obama team to the governor’s administration. Jarrett was not among those names because she had pulled herself out of the running at that point, a source with the Obama camp said.

The Sun Times also printed a rumor picked up by the inconsistent Michael Sneed that Emanuel was on 21 of the taped conversations made by the Feds. That could mean almost anything. It could mean that other topics were discussed between the two besides the senate seat. It could also mean that Emanuel kept calling Blago back urging him to make up his mind already and appoint one of the approved candidates. Of course, it could also mean that Emanuel was negotiating something with Blago. We’ll have to wait to find out if Emanuel even addresses the substance of his conversations with Blago.

There has always been one curious angle to the Jarrett for senate story. According to Jim Lindgren’s timeline culled from the criminal complaint, Obama let it be known on the weekend of November 8-9 that his choice to replace him was Jarrett. On Monday the 10th, Blago had a conference call with several advisors and perhaps even the “emissary” noted above where he discussed several scenarios that would enrich himself by selling the senate seat. (By this time, anyone involved in the negotiations could see that Blagojevich was seeking monetary considerations in return for the seat.)

That very night – November 10 – Obama named Jarrett to his White House staff. As Lindgren points out:

The likeliest scenario is that one of the many participants in Blagojevich’s Monday phone calls either floated his plans to the Obama transition team to assess their response or tipped off the Obama camp about the reckless ideas that Blagojevich had planned.

In any event, within hours of Blagojevich substantially expanding his circle of confidants, the Obama camp withdrew Jarrett’s name from consideration and attributed that withdrawal to the President’s wanting Jarrett in the White House. And the Obama staffers went out of their way to depict this as Obama’s choice, rather than Jarrett’s, which would have been more common. The report claims Obama’s involvement in the decision and suggests a direct effort to undercut the idea that Obama was pressuring Blagojevich to appoint Jarrett.

It could be coincidence that Obama pulled Jarrett out of a prickly ethical situation and the two events may not even be connected. What the two timelines suggest however, is that Obama either knew or suspected that Blago was trying to sell the seat and, to his credit, wanted no part of it.

This raises the equally troubling question if he knew, why didn’t he inform the authorities? This is the real exposure of the Obama camp to trouble; the idea that they are a lot less “transparent” than they are bragging they are. And the problem for Emanuel is that he may have listened to Blago’s attempted bribes and did nothing to inform Fitzgerald.

Would it be enough to cost Emanuel his job? The fact that he is not speaking to the press suggests that it is that serious.


Could the Blago Scandal Ensnare Team Obama? You Betcha.

Could the Blago Scandal Ensnare Team Obama? You Betcha.
If you don’t think it can, you don’t know prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.

By Byron York

Will the Blagojevich scandal damage the incoming Obama administration? Given Rod Blagojevich’s profane railings against Barack Obama, revealed on federal wiretaps, few observers believe — although none know for sure — that the Obama camp engaged in any pay-for-play dealings with the governor, and therefore few see any legal problems for Team Obama resulting from the criminal investigation.

But that’s not the only way the incoming administration might be caught up in the Blagojevich affair. The probe is being conducted, after all, by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, the man who prosecuted one of the most intensely investigated and politically charged perjury-and-false-statements cases in Washington history. In that case, the Plame affair, no one was charged with any underlying crime, yet several Bush administration officials went through repeated sessions before a grand jury, plus interviews with investigators, with their statements subjected to extraordinarily close scrutiny. You don’t think the Blagojevich matter could cause trouble for Obama? Then you haven’t looked closely enough at the Plame affair.

In that case, Fitzgerald and his team of prosecutors were tasked with finding who leaked the identity of CIA employee Valerie Plame after Plame’s husband, Joseph Wilson, criticized the administration over the war in Iraq. But Fitzgerald knew who the leaker was at the time the investigation began. With that no longer in question, he embarked on a long perjury investigation that eventually resulted in the indictment and conviction of former Cheney chief of staff Lewis Libby. Besides Libby, others in the Bush circle, particularly Karl Rove, found themselves testifying repeatedly and, if some reports are to be believed, coming perilously close to indictment.

Could the Blagojevich case lead to something like that happening to people close to Obama? Even though it might seem hard to find two more dissimilar cases, the answer is yes.

We don’t know the extent of the investigation into Blagojevich’s allegedly corrupt dealings. Have witnesses been brought before a grand jury? We don’t know. If so, who are they? We don’t know. What witnesses have been interviewed by FBI agents working for Fitzgerald? We don’t know. Do Fitzgerald and his investigators have any doubts about the truthfulness of those who have talked? We don’t know.

But we do know that something big is going on. “There is a lot of investigation that still needs to be done,” Rob Grant, who is the special agent in charge of the FBI office in Chicago, told reporters at the news conference announcing the Blagojevich charges last week. “There are critical interviews that we have to do and cooperation we need to get from different people.” At the same press conference, Fitzgerald himself added, “We have a tremendous amount of information gained from the wiretap and bugs that occurred over the last month and a half or so….One of the things we want to do with this investigation is to track out the different schemes and conspiracies to find out which ones were carried out or not and who might be involved in that or not. And that’s something we haven’t done yet. Now that we’ve gone overt, we’ll be interviewing people and figuring that out.”

One of the things Fitzgerald and his fellow prosecutors and FBI agents will be doing is trying to determine who is telling the whole truth and who is not. “There’s always a danger that people will make a mistake, get it wrong. There’s human frailty. They may also lie,” says Joseph diGenova, a former U.S. attorney who was a vocal critic of Fitzgerald’s handling of the Plame affair. “Fitzgerald will try to do perjury traps, because that is what he does.”

Fitzgerald and his team have a lot of wiretap material. That has likely given them a lot of information to ask witnesses about. Some of those witnesses may be members of the Obama transition team. For example, the Chicago Tribune recently reported that “communications between [incoming White House chief of staff Rahm] Emanuel and the Blagojevich administration were captured on court-approved wiretaps.” Emanuel might be asked many questions, under penalty of perjury or false-statement charges. Prosecutors will compare his answers to what they have on tape. Perhaps they’ll invite him in for another session of questioning. Then they’ll compare his answers in the second session to his answers in the first. Perhaps they’ll repeat that a few times. As anyone in the Bush administration could advise Emanuel, it doesn’t matter if he did anything wrong or not. He just better have his answers in order.

There’s no way to say now what will happen. In the meantime, Barack Obama is saying nothing. The president-elect says his transition team has completed its internal investigation into Blagojevich contacts and has found that “there was nothing that my office did that was in any way inappropriate or related to the charges that have been brought.” But Obama says Fitzgerald has asked him to postpone releasing the investigation’s results until December 22. Fitzgerald’s office later issued a one-sentence statement confirming the request, so that it can “conduct certain interviews.”

Until then, don’t ask Obama anything even related to the matter. “Let me just cut you off, because I don’t want you to waste your question,” Obama told Tribune reporter John McCormick Tuesday, after McCormick attempted to ask whether Emanuel’s reportedly extensive communications with the Blagojevich administration on the Senate-seat question contradicted Obama’s earlier claims to be taking a hands-off approach to the issue. “I don’t want to get into the details at this point,” Obama answered.

McCormick got the message. As Obama, standing by education-secretary-designate and basketball buddy Arne Duncan, continued to avoid answering the question, McCormick moved on to a more acceptable topic. “Do you or Duncan have a better jump shot?” he asked.

Obama smiled. At least for now. But he knows, or should know, that Fitzgerald and his prosecutors won’t be nearly as accommodating as the press.

Byron York, NR’s White House correspondent, is the author of the book The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy: The Untold Story of How Democratic Operatives, Eccentric Billionaires, Liberal Activists, and Assorted Celebrities Tried to Bring Down a President — and Why They’ll Try Even Harder Next Time.

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