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MONDAY, AUGUST 2, 2010
TRAVEL ADVISORY FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO TAKE A CHORAL GROUP TO TEHRAN – AT 11:39 P.M. ET: From Britain's Guardian, which we rarely quote:
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said today that music is "not compatible" with the values of the Islamic republic, and should not be practised or taught in the country.
In some of the most extreme comments by a senior regime figure since the 1979 revolution, Khamenei said: "Although music is halal, promoting and teaching it is not compatible with the highest values of the sacred regime of the Islamic Republic."
Khamenei's comments came in response to a request for a ruling by a 21-year-old follower of his, who was thinking of starting music lessons, but wanted to know if they were acceptable according to Islam, the semi-official Fars news agency reported. "It's better that our dear youth spend their valuable time in learning science and essential and useful skills and fill their time with sport and healthy recreations instead of music," he said.
COMMENT: Now, of course, the edict doesn't include those rousing toe-tappers like "We Shall Grab the Imperialist Americans by the Neck and Stomp Them Into the Ground," made famous by Little Mohammed and his Singing Ayatollahs.
And certainly Khamenei wouldn't ban that mega-hit, "We Will Defeat the Christian Crusaders and the Zionist Pigs Who Finance Their Surly Aggression." You can hear that one whistled in the streets of Tehran and the psychiatric wards at Berkeley.
I'm sure that, when clarified, the edict will allow the music that all revolutionaries love.
August 2, 2010 Permalink
NEWSWEEK IS SOLD – AT 7:59 P.M. ET: Newsweek, which has struggled to find an identity in recent years as its financial situation deteriorated, has been sold to Sidney Harman, the hi-fi equipment magnate. He is the husband of Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman of California.
Newsweek announced its own sale to Sidney Harman and said that Jon Meacham, the magazine’s editor for the past four years, was stepping down.
Meacham is a gifted writer and historian, but was less inspired as an editor.
In a Washington Post news release, Mr. Harman said, “Newsweek is a national treasure. I am enormously pleased to be succeeding The Washington Post Company and the Graham family, and look forward to this great journalistic, business and technological challenge.”
Mr. Harman, the 91-year-old audio pioneer, has joined the ranks of Mortimer B. Zuckerman, David Bradley and Laurence Grafstein, who all made their money in ventures outside publishing then chose to take over struggling national publications.
Got to give the man credit. He's 91 and buying a magazine.
As the sale process played out over the last two and a half months, The Post and its chairman Donald E. Graham have turned away several potential buyers whom they believed would lead the magazine in a markedly different editorial direction or make deep staff cuts. Mr. Graham, who is said to be concerned not only with the magazine’s legacy but the legacy of his family’s stewardship of the magazine, wanted the sale to be as nondisruptive as possible.
Translated into English: The magazine will stay liberal.
COMMENT: Harman has a very steep challenge. Newsweek's deterioration began when its liberal editorial views started affecting its reporting. I was a subscriber for almost 40 years, but finally gave up when I decided the magazine could tell me nothing. In the last couple of years, Meacham transformed the publication into a liberal opinion magazine, which is fine. We have no problem with opinion magazines, as long as they're open about it.
Harman must choose a direction for Newsweek, then pump the money in to make his vision work. He won't only need deep pockets, but infinite pockets. I have no advice for him except to economize at home and buy Chevrolets.
August 2, 2010 Permalink
THE LOGICAL IDEA – AT 11:50 A.M. ET: Former Governor Doug Wilder of Virginia has a suggestion for President Obama. The idea isn't new – it's been kicked around for months – but this is the first time I've seen a major political figure put it in writing. It will not make Joe Biden happy:
Since Obama has expressed admiration for the portrait of Abraham Lincoln that Doris Kearns Goodwin paints in “Team of Rivals,” he could do the 16th president one better: He should name Hillary Clinton as his running mate in 2012. That would be both needed change and audacious.
Clinton has been nothing but a team player who has earned good marks since being asked to serve as secretary of state. She has skillfully navigated the globe and been tough and commanding when the moment called for it (with Iran) and graceful and diplomatic when situations required (navigating complex relations with Russia, Pakistan and China).
Has her time as secretary of state been perfect? No. Has she ended these 18 months with the stature of someone ready and able to be president were the moment to call for it? The answer, unequivocally, is “yes.”
Wilder severely criticizes Vice President Biden, and declares him a liability.
Biden has not distinguished himself, other than to be more prone to gaffes — which had been cited by some skeptics when Obama first announced his choice. Many had hoped a new office and new responsibilities would produce a more serious and sobered reliability in the man. Unfortunately, they have not.
I hope these two don't meet at a party, especially if one or both has a carry permit.
Clinton is better suited as the political and government partner that Obama needs.
I suggest this as one who vigorously supported Obama over Clinton in 2008. In fact, I campaigned across the country and engaged in spirited debates with former colleagues. I don’t regret any of that. Yet, now I think Clinton brings bounty to the political table that few can match.
COMMENT: Ah, but a question arises: Would Hillary take it? The answer is not obvious.
In an ideal political world, for her at least, Hillary would prefer that Obama walk the plank in 2012, decline to run, making her the odds-on favorite for the presidential nomination. But, if that doesn't happen, the only reason she'd take the job would be to position herself as the obvious Democratic nominee in 2016, and to crowd out some other vice presidential choice.
But taking the job can bring political destruction instead of political resurrection. As secretary of state, she can position herself as "above" the politics of the Obama administration. She's been masterful at that so far, and her poll numbers show it. But as vice president, she'd be in the thick of administration politics. If Obama is reelected, she'd be tarred with every mistake he makes, and a president's second term is usually not elegant. She'd be Hillary the hack instead of Madame Secretary. She knows that. The Clintons are not amateurs in politics.
It might be better for Hillary, if she wishes to run for president again, simply to resign from her current post and become a private citizen. Then she can start her campaign when she wishes, she wouldn't be burdened with Obama's record, and the party would certainly owe her. Nixon became, involuntarily, a private citizen and lawyer, and successfully ran again for president in 1968.
Of course, Obama might pressure Hillary to take the second spot in 2012, arguing that the party needs her. She could conceivably be seen as disloyal if she refuses.
As noted, it's not a clear-cut decision.
August 2, 2010 Permalink
WEIRDNESS AT THE INSTITUTE – AT 10:29 A.M. ET: The story behind last week's leak of thousands of classified documents on Afghanistan is growing:
(CNN) -- Adrian Lamo, the former computer hacker who tipped off federal authorities to WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning, says two men in the Boston area have told Lamo in phone conversations that they assisted Manning.
Manning is an active-duty U.S. Army soldier, now being held on security-breach charges.
Lamo said both men attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but he refused to identify them because, he said, at least one of them has threatened him. One of these men allegedly told Lamo they gave encryption software to Manning and taught the Army private how to use it, Lamo said.
Graduates usually refer to MIT as "The Institute." This is a serious matter, and I assume MIT is fully cooperative with investigative authorities. When I was in college, some of our engineering geniuses figured out a way around AT&T's long-distance billing system and made free calls...to Moscow. It was a prank, and I think some of the guys actually wound up working for the phone company, employing their expertise.
This, obviously, is much more serious, and serious punishment is called for.
Manning, an Army intelligence analyst, is being held in solitary confinement at a Virginia detention facility. He is charged with leaking an airstrike video that the whistleblower website WikiLeaks published in April, and Pentagon officials say he is the prime suspect in last week's disclosure of thousands of field reports from the war in Afghanistan to the site.
Lamo claimed both men are working for WikiLeaks. Also, both men are Facebook friends with Lamo and Manning, and at least one continues to post Facebook messages on Lamo's wall, the former hacker said.
COMMENT: It's now clear from news reports that some real damage was done by the release of those documents. The documents name Afghans who are secretly working for us. Their lives, and the lives of their families, are now in mortal danger. The guy who runs WikiLeaks is a real America hater. He claims to have other material that he wants to release.
The laws of the United States must be enforced in this case. Classified information is the property of the American people, entrusted to our representatives and their appointees. Manning, if guilty, should be convicted and given a life sentence. The WikiLeaks chief is Australian, and may be outside the reach of our legal system.
August 2, 2010 Permalink
DRAMATIC, WORLD-CHANGING ELECTION RESULTS – AT 9:06 A.M. ET: The results of the election we discussed yesterday are now in. Drumroll please:
In the end, the Associated Press scooped the three news organizations vying for the front-row center seat long held by Helen Thomas, while Fox News won the contest to move up to the front of the room.
While Fox, Bloomberg and NPR submitted letters expressing interest in the seat in the in the James S. Brady Briefing Room that opened up when Thomas retired in June, the White House Correspondents Association voted Sunday to give it to the venerable wire, while Fox moved into AP’s former seat in the front row, and NPR moved into Fox’s second-row seat.
"It was a very difficult decision," the WHCA said in a statement. "The board received requests from Bloomberg and NPR in addition to Fox for relocation to the front row and felt all three made compelling cases. But the board ultimately was persuaded by Fox's length of service and commitment to the White House television pool."
COMMENT: We're relieved that the Helen Thomas seat didn't go to NPR, which would have meant replacing one leftist with another. At least AP pretends to be balanced, although the pretense is too often not matched by the reality.
We're delighted to see Fox in the front row, showing that it gets far more respect from within journalism than you would think from the arrows shot at it by CNN and MSNBC. Fox does a solid job. Yes, it tilts right, just as most news outlets tilt left, but its straight-news programs do indeed play it straight.
August 2, 2010 Permalink
WILL WE ATTACK IRAN? – AT 8:36 A.M. ET: There's been an increasing level of buzz over the possibility that we will attack Iran, even though it seems out of character for Barack "let's reach out and hug" Obama. Michael Barone writes this morning:
In my July 21 Examiner column I wrote that recent articles by Time’s Joe Klein and the American Interest’s Walter Russell Mead suggested to me that the Obama administration was seriously considering a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. I paid particular attention to these articles because Klein has been an outspoken opponent of such an attack and Mead is by no means an advocate for it. Now comes further evidence, in an opinion article in the Washington Post by Steven Simon and Ray Takeyh. They are by no means right-wingers; Simon worked in Bill Clinton’s National Security Council and Takeyh is described as a former adviser to the Obama administration. Their article takes quite seriously the possibility that the president will order such an attack.
And the very well-connected Benny Avni writes in the New York Post:
Here's welcome news: Key voices in Washington and elsewhere, including even some doves, now acknowledge that an attack on Iran's nuclear installations may be necessary, feasible -- and more likely.
That's encouraging, not only because it suggests that the nightmare of a nuclear Iran is by no means inevitable -- but also because a more credible threat to the mullahs might help convince them to abandon their nuclear chase, ironically making a confrontation unnecessary.
The heightened buzz of an attack is coming from columnists of all political persuasions, Gulf sheiks urging anyone who can stop Iran to do so and Tehran itself vowing fire and brimstone on anyone who dares to try. And America has plans, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, who told NBC yesterday that a military attack on Iran was "one of the options the president has."
Also last week, the remains of six Israeli airmen -- killed last Monday in a helicopter accident during search-and-rescue drills in Romania -- were buried back home. Although it was a top news story in Israel, only scant information emerged about the previously undisclosed drills in Romania or what the helicopter crews were preparing for. Romania's Carpathian Mountains' terrain resembles the ridges where Iran's nuclear facilities are secreted.
COMMENT: I have no independent information on this, except for the off-the-record comment I heard recently from a very high-ranking American military officer who said that we "might have some work to do in Iran" if negotiations and sanctions don't stop the Iranian nuclear program. The other listeners were startled because this chap is known for his discretion. We'll watch this closely.
August 2, 2010 Permalink
THEY NEVER CHANGE – AT 8:17 A.M. ET: As the great philosopher, Jerry Lewis, once said, "Bad looks you can change, stupid is forever." It seems to be true:
As several House Democrats press Rep. Charles Rangel to call it quits over a host of ethics charges, his New York allies reportedly are planning a lavish fundraiser in honor of his 80th birthday.
The Hill reported that New York Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, along with Gov. David Paterson, are putting together an Aug. 11 birthday gala at The Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. Tickets will run from $200 to $2,500.
The party is a sign that Rangel's home-state supporters are willing to let the ethics proceedings play out. The money raised from the gala is reportedly being pumped into his Rangel Victory Fund.
COMMENT: Do you remember a time when appearances counted? The guy evaded taxes, and he gets a big shindig at the Plaza, which is truly a high-rent joint.
This is really showing utter contempt for the public. It is the mentality of a political class that believes it's entitled to its position. I hope there's a sharp public reaction. But it's New York, where corruption of all kinds flourishes, so I won't hold my breath.
August 2, 2010 Permalink
SUNDAY, AUGUST 1, 2010
WOULD ANN LANDERS APPROVE OF THIS BEHAVIOR? – AT 9:02 P.M. President Obama is making himself available on the campaign trail. Some of his fellow Democrats apparently wish he'd stay home:
ATLANTA -- President Obama makes his first Atlanta appearance since his inauguration.
The President will fly into town Monday morning.
If you think this will be a time for Democrats running for office to rally around the chief executive- -you probably haven't been following the campaigns this summer.
Former Governor Roy Barnes will not be available to meet Mr. Obama. The Democratic gubernatorial candidate will be somewhere in Georgia- - far from Atlanta.
Campaign manager Chris Carpenter released a statement:
"Roy has a busy campaign schedule in Middle and South Georgia on Monday where he'll be talking to farmers and local law enforcement. Roy's priority is to continue traveling across the state, talking to voters about jobs, education, and transportation- his plan to make Georgia work."
Sounds like a high-school girl turning down a date from a guy she doesn't like.
Meanwhile, Governor Sonny Perdue will greet the President planeside when the Democrat arrives in Georgia. Mr. Perdue's spokesperson Bert Brantley told 11Alive reporter Jeff Hullinger the governor had to juggle his schedule to be able to greet the president.
Oh dear, oh dear. When you complain that you had to juggle your schedule to meet the president, you're saying a great deal about the president.
We're sure we can find a place where the president will be greeted warmly. I just don't know what language will be spoken.
August 1, 2010 Permalink
WELL, AT LEAST HE ISN'T PRESIDENT - AT 7:30 P.M. ET: But he is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And John Kerry has put his foot in it once more. From The Hill:
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) said Sunday that he would say no if Gen. David Petraeus wanted more time or more troops to get the job done in Afghanistan.
Speaking on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Kerry said that President Obama's strategy with a transitional point in mind was underscoring to Afghans and the Pakistanis "that they need to begin to make this their battle."
I have no doubt that the Taliban will receive this news with great glee, just as the North Vietnamese received young John Kerry's remarks before Congress in the early 70s with unbridled joy. This guy is a one-man morale team – for America's enemies.
"And the only way to get them to do that is for them not to believe you're there forever," Kerry said. "Now there is a delicate balance, obviously. But you don't need 150,000 troops on the ground, at a million dollars a troop or whatever it is, in order to be able to achieve the goals that we have."
A million dollars a troop? What a nice, round number. Wonder where yachtsman Kerry got it.
Kerry holds an important post, and this kind of posturing just does damage. It gives the enemy a road map for what to expect. It demoralizes American soldiers who want to know they'll be backed if things get more critical. And it must frustrate General Petraeus to know that Lieutenant Kerry will pull the rug out from under him if he requests greater resources.
Good going, John. Whose morale will you boost next? Do you speak Chinese? Persian?
August 1, 2010 Permalink
NICE TO KNOW THEY'RE GETTING AROUND TO THIS – AT 10:40 A.M. ET: There have been some worrisome reports that the United States, some nine years after 9-11, still isn't prepared for a WMD attack. And I'm not terribly optimistic that Janet Napolitano, who runs Homeland Security, is the person to whip things into shape. At least Congress is interested. From The Hill:
A Senate Judiciary subcommittee will assess government preparedness for a terrorist attack with weapons of mass destruction in the wake of a report calling Justice Department planning inadequate.
The Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security will hear testimony Wednesday from senior Justice Department and Homeland Security officials concerning the ability of the United States to prevent as well as respond to an attack using a WMD.
The sense of urgency just isn't there. Once again, it will probably take a catastrophe to get things moving.
The hearing comes after several damning reports about the country’s ability to prevent such an attack, including a report card this year from a blue-ribbon commission that gave the White House three failing grades on WMD preparedness.
How much of that did you hear from the major networks or newspapers? Hmm. Maybe page 22.
On top of this, the intelligence and security lapses that preceded a string of recent domestic attacks — the deadly shooting at Fort Hood and failed bombing attempts on Northwest Flight 253 over Detroit on Christmas and on Times Square — have done little to inspire confidence from homeland security hawks in Congress.
Huh? Only the hawks don't have confidence? You mean, no one else is worried?
The blue-ribbon commission, chaired by former Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and Jim Talent (R-Mo.), was created by Congress following a recommendation from the 9/11 Commission. Graham and Talent’s initial report in 2008 warned that a terrorist attack using WMDs was “likely” to occur somewhere in the world by 2013, with the United States being a prime target.
We point out that 2013 is only three years away, and that America is run by a party that seems to want to deal with almost anything except national defense.
August 1, 2010 Permalink
CONTROL OF THE SENATE – TOUGH FOR REPUBLICANS: AT 9:52 A.M. ET: While there is guarded optimism that the GOP can take the House in November, predictions about the Senate are more guarded. It's a very tough road. Rasmussen reports:
New polling from Washington shifts that state’s Senate race from Toss-Up to Leans Democratic. Earlier today new polling from Pennsylvania shifted that state’s Senate race from Leans Republican to Toss-Up status.
With three months to go, Rasmussen Reports polling shows that Republicans are poised to pick up Democratic-held Senate seats in three states— Arkansas, Indiana and North Dakota. One other is leaning that way--Delaware, Arkansas' Blanche Lincoln is the only incumbent senator currently projected to lose a seat. The others are open-seat races following retirements by Democratic incumbents.
At the moment, no Republican-held seats appear headed for the Democratic column.
Currently, there are just five states in the Toss-Up category. Outside of the Toss-Ups, projections indicate that Democrats can probably count on having 51 Senate seats after Election Day, while Republicans will hold 44.
Four of the five Toss-up states are currently Democratic seats, while one is held by the GOP.
Among the four Democratic seats in the Toss-Up category, three are open seat races (Colorado, Illinois, and Pennsylvania). The Democratic incumbent in the Toss-Up category is Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.
The Republican Toss-Up is found in Florida, where Republican Marco Rubio is essentially even with Independent Charlie Crist.
COMMENT: In a way, this is disappointing. In my view, the Senate is more important than the House because it confirms Supreme Court justices. And it appears the GOP will fall short in the Senate, at least if the election were held today.
But it's not being held today, and a little fight from our side wouldn't hurt. The tossup states can be won. By definition, they're very close.
August 1, 2010 Permalink
A SAD COMMENTARY – AT 9:32 A.M. ET: We mentioned this yesterday – the injection of the race factor into congressional ethics investigations. This can get ugly, and divide the nation still further. From the L.A. Times:
The prospect of two long-serving African American lawmakers in the House enduring unprecedented public ethics trials seems likely to add to the growing tension between black members of Congress and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill and in the Obama administration.
Congressional sources confirmed late Friday that later this year Rep. Maxine Waters (D- Los Angeles) will face an ethics proceeding likely related to allegations that she sought to help a bank with ties to her husband receive federal bailout funds.
The House trial could come on the heels of the high-profile trial of Rep. Charles B. Rangel, the venerable Democrat from New York who is accused of 13 violations of House ethics rules. Like Rangel, Waters chose not to seek a settlement with House ethics investigators that would have involved some admission of wrongdoing.
Between them, Rangel, 80, and Waters, 71, have served in the House for six decades and are leading members of the Congressional Black Caucus. The caucus has long complained that the House ethics process disproportionally targets African Americans in the chamber.
I've not seen any evidence of that. Many of the black members of Congress come from old political machines, where ethical issues pop up all the time.
Since its 2009 inception, the Office of Congressional Ethics — an independent watchdog set up at the behest of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — has investigated at least eight members of the black caucus.
Earlier this summer, Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D- Ohio), a member of the caucus, introduced a resolution that would strip the ethics panel of some of its power and allow House members to keep unflattering reports from public view. The caucus has stood behind Rangel even as other House members have called for his resignation.
Kenneth Gross, an ethics lawyer in Washington, said the push against Rangel and Waters "fuels the racial dimension."
It's unwise for Congressional Black Caucus members automatically to back members under probe. And trying to weaken the ethics panel looks like the Caucus has too much to hide.
As African-Americans rise in American society, some will go bad. It's inevitable. The proper response is to let the facts come out, and not ask for special privileges. Some racists will say, "That's the way they are," but the great majority of black members of Congress aren't under investigation.
The old Washington line prevails: It isn't the crime, it's the cover-up. If the public feels the CBC is helping with cover-ups, the corruption becomes magnified.
August 1, 2010 Permalink
MAJOR ELECTION NEWS – AT 9:12 A.M.: While most Americans think about the congressional midterms, another really important election campaign is underway. On this the fate of the nation may depend:
On Sunday, the White House Correspondents' Association will vote on who gets the front-row UPI seat long held by Helen Thomas, and two liberal groups have come out urging the WHCA to vote for NPR instead of Fox.
Leading the charge is CREDO Action, a liberal activist mobile phone company that has gone after Fox in the past. The group launched a petition on Wednesday that reads: “FOX News is a right-wing propaganda operation, not a legitimate news organization. Award the seat vacated by Helen Thomas to NPR, which has provided public interest coverage of the presidency and the White House for almost four decades.”
MoveOn.org issued a letter to members supporting the petition, calling Fox “a tool in the right-wing propaganda machine.”
WHCA President David Jackson, of USA Today, declined to comment on the matter, and Fox News did not reply to a request for comment.
But NPR issued a statement Friday trying to distance itself from the petitions: “NPR would like to make it clear that we are not involved in any way in the petitions now circulating that encourage the White House Correspondents Association to select NPR for the lead White House correspondent seat…We have no position on the petitions, and no comment on the other media organizations that are competing for the seat.”
Frankly, it would be improper for NPR to have the lead seat in a forum designed to question the president of the United States. NPR is a federal operation, though it has private contributors.
The drive for NPR is being waged by those on the left who would have no problem with federally funded news programming, similar to Britain's. As they say, that's not the American way.
The group has gathered 250,000 signatures on its petition in the last three days, she said, and overnighted boxes of the signed petitions to WHCA officers on Thursday.
“None of them have responded,” she said. “But we are hoping that when they get the boxes, they will respond, because we also sent a coupon for a free pint of ice cream."
COMMENT: Oh, just the symbolism is hilarious. Bribing journalists. With ice cream, no less. And only a pint.
The left does things in such small ways.
August 1, 2010 Permalink