"The left needs two things to survive. It needs mediocrity, and it needs dependence. It nurtures mediocrity in the public schools and the universities. It nurtures dependence through its empire of government programs. A nation that embraces mediocrity and dependence betrays itself, and can only fade away, wondering all the time what might have been."
- Urgent Agenda
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Now that the captain and crew of the Maersk Alabama are back home, Congress wants to hear about their ordeal firsthand as lawmakers consider new ways to combat piracy on the high seas.
Outreach to Capt. Richard Phillips and his crew is just beginning, say congressional aides. But the Senate Foreign Relations and the House International Relations committees want to hear the harrowing story of the pirates' methods and operations firsthand -- and soon.
COMMENT: We are a service-oriented site here at Urgent Agenda, and one of the services we provide is translations into English. We therefore provide the following English translation of the above AP selection:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- With the 2010 congressional elections coming up, members of the House and Senate strove desperately today to set up photo opportunities with the captain and crew of the Maersk Alabama, recently hijacked by pirates off Somalia.
Some members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are now carrying 3x5 cards with the name of Captain Richard Phillips, so they can remember it. Other senators are trying to find any family links they may have with Phillips or members of his crew.
Hearings will be held about the harrowing ordeal of the seamen. Members of Congress will be alerted to come to the hearings for the exciting parts. They will then be allowed to sneak out during the boring moments, about foreign policy and how to solve the pirate problem.
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Environmental Protection Agency concluded Friday that greenhouse gases linked to climate change "endanger public health and welfare," setting the stage for regulating them under federal clean air laws.
The EPA action marks the first step toward imposing limits on pollution linked to climate change, which would mean tighter rules for cars and power plants. Agency officials cautioned such regulations are expected to be part of a lengthy process and not issued anytime soon.
COMMENT: Okay, we all want clean air. Anyone who doesn't? But we also want decisions to be based on real science, not "consensus" science or political science. And we must demand solutions, where required, that are thoroughly researched and examined, not the latest fad.
I certainly don't deny that we sometimes abuse the planet. We have seen poisoned rivers and foul air. Conservatives must avoid knee-jerk opposition to environmentalists, must embrace "conserving" the Earth, but at the same time must resist fast-hustle operations by people who simply want everyone to live the way they do, or who have a financial interest in "new technologies," which may never work. Conservatives have an important role to play in environmentalism, by asking the tough questions that conservatives are so good at asking, and by stressing the economic implications of environmental decisions. Economic damage done in exchange for small or insignificant gains can result in poverty and hunger. We should join the discussion, not avoid it.
OBAMA ADMINISTRATION REBUKED - AT 9:26 A.M. ET: In a superb piece, former CIA chief Michael Hayden and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey tear into President Obama's decision to release internal Bush administration memos on interrogations:
The Obama administration has declassified and released opinions of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) given in 2005 and earlier that analyze the legality of interrogation techniques authorized for use by the CIA. Those techniques were applied only when expressly permitted by the director, and are described in these opinions in detail, along with their limits and the safeguards applied to them.
The release of these opinions was unnecessary as a legal matter, and is unsound as a matter of policy. Its effect will be to invite the kind of institutional timidity and fear of recrimination that weakened intelligence gathering in the past, and that we came sorely to regret on Sept. 11, 2001.
...public disclosure of the OLC opinions, and thus of the techniques themselves, assures that terrorists are now aware of the absolute limit of what the U.S. government could do to extract information from them, and can supplement their training accordingly and thus diminish the effectiveness of these techniques as they have the ones in the Army Field Manual.
COMMENT: Please read the whole piece. What we're dealing with here is a mindset in the Obama administration: We are partially at fault for terror; Bush was a fascist; this whole war on terror is childish, and will make matters worse; we're no better than anyone else.
We are now officially back to September 10, 2001. Our enemies know it. Oh, wait. We don't have enemies - just people with whom we have a cultural difference.
FROM THE ANNALS OF SOCIALIZED MEDICINE - AT 8:02 A.M. ET: From London's Daily Mail:
A police officer collapsed and died after giving birth to twins after staff shortages meant she had to wait for four days to be induced, an inquest has heard. James and Hannah were delivered by emergency Caesarean just before PC Sarah Underhill died on Sunday, October 5, last year - four days after she had been admitted to hospital.
COMMENT: Of course we have some problems with our own medical system. But there are an inordinate number of stories like this coming out of Britain, and other countries with socialized medicine.
One great advantage our system has is speed. If there's an emergency, it's treated like one. Obviously, there may be failures and exceptions, even here, but we seem to do "critical" a lot better than anyone else.
THIS MAY NOT WORK OUT - AT 7:14 A.M. ET: It seems that we here in New York are about to have a guest:
WASHINGTON (AP) - The captured Somali pirate who held a merchant ship captain hostage will be brought to New York to face trial, a U.S. official said Thursday.
The suspect, identified as Abduhl Wal-i-Musi, was taken aboard a U.S. Navy ship shortly before Navy SEAL snipers killed the three remaining pirates holding Capt. Richard Phillips hostage on a lifeboat launched from his cargo vessel, the Maersk Alabama.
The official said it was not immediately clear when Wal-i-Musi will be brought to New York. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose information about an ongoing investigation.
COMMENT: Oh, can you just imagine! A pirate of color being tried in New York. You have no idea what's about to happen here. Every lawyer with leftist credentials will be vying to represent this misunderstood youth, whose only crime was to want to help his family and defeat American imperialism, colonialism, racism, sexism, and rheumatism. Oh, the injustice. Oh, the anguish. Watch for a lawyer named Cohen and another one named Warren. They're at the top of the list, now that Lynne Stewart has been sidelined by legal charges.
And our juries! Not only would some New York juries have acquitted O.J. Simpson, they would have awarded him damages.
And the demonstrators. We have the very best here, thoroughly trained by the Ramsey Clark School of Anarchy.
I can't wait to see those CNN reporters show the human side of piracy.
AND AGAIN - AT 6:51 A.M. ET: The man just can't seem to help it. From The Washington Times:
MEXICO CITY | Meeting face-to-face with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, President Obama on Thursday said the U.S. is to blame for much of Mexico's drug violence, and he set up a major congressional gun-control battle by calling on the Senate to ratify a treaty designed to track and cut the flow of guns to other countries.
COMMENT: Will someone please explain to me, if we are responsible for Mexico's drug violence, why there is no similar violence in Canada? Drug gangs aren't roaming around Canada. Guns and illegals aren't flowing over the Canadian border.
But once again, it's our fault. And the president seems to be misinformed. Although propagandists say that most guns used in Mexico's scourge of violence come from the United States, it turns out only that most traceable guns come from this country. And the great majority of guns used in Mexican gang warfare cannot be traced.
ANOTHER HIGH-MINDED PUBLIC SERVANT - AT 6:31 A.M. ET: Another Obaman will have to come up with a good explanation. From The New York Times:
The man leading the Obama administration’s efforts to restructure the auto industry has been described in Securities and Exchange Commission documents as having arranged for his investment firm to pay more than $1 million to obtain New York State pension business.
Although he is not named in the documents, a person with knowledge of the inquiry said the investment executive is Steven Rattner, co-founder of the Quadrangle Group, the prominent private equity firm.
The S.E.C. complaint, filed as part of an expansive state and federal investigation into corruption at the state pension fund, details the efforts of Quadrangle to gain business from the pension fund beginning in 2004.
COMMENT: In Chicago this would be a "legitimate interaction for the public good." Let's see how tough the media will be in exploring this. The Times is to be commended for reporting it - especially as Rattner used to be a Times business writer.
THE PRESIDENT STARTS HIS LATIN TOUR - AT 6:25 P.M. ET: President Obama is in Mexico. Before beginning his Latin tour, he issued a statement that's been reprinted in a number of Spanish-language newspapers. There are good things and bad things. Naturally, the president includes his boilerplate America bashing:
Too often, the United States has not pursued and sustained engagement with our neighbors. We have been too easily distracted by other priorities, and have failed to see that our own progress is tied directly to progress throughout the Americas.
Yeah, we've been distracted by other priorities, like the Cold War, preventing nuclear annihilation - stuff like that. And there's more:
This week, we amended a Cuba policy that has failed for decades to advance liberty or opportunity for the Cuban people.
Okay, now that the Democratic California delegation has been satisfied, let's move on. There are some good things in the president's statement:
That is why I look forward to the day when every country in the hemisphere can take its seat at the table consistent with the Inter-American Democratic Charter. And just as the United States seeks that goal in reaching out to the Cuban people, we expect all of our friends in the hemisphere to join together in supporting liberty, equality, and human rights for all Cubans.
That's directed at Chavez and his pals, some Americans included. Let's see if the president can get through this trip without groveling, and maybe even noting some of the great things the United States has done for the world.
OBAMA ADMINISTRATION WILL NOT PROSECUTE INTERROGATORS - AT 5:31 P.M. ET: The president makes a wise decision. From The New York Times:
After a tense internal debate, President Obama officially announced this afternoon that his administration would not prosecute C.I.A. operatives for carrying out controversial interrogations of terrorist suspects, as the Justice Department began releasing a number of detailed memos describing harsh techniques used against al Qaeda suspects in secret overseas prisons.
“In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carrying out their duties relying in good faith upon the legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution,” Mr. Obama said in a statement issued by the White House.
COMMENT: That is correct. But don't think the left will be deterred. The story points out that the CIA fears the release of this material will give aid to those who want a full congressional investigation into the agency's methods. A similar investigation in the 1970s almost destroyed the CIA, and rendered it impotent for years, a goal of the far left then and now.
An examination of some of the interrogation techniques described in the story reveals that, yes, they were harsh, but far from torture, as we normally understand it. The story contains this intriguing note:
Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A. director, has pressed the White House for weeks to redact sensitive details about specific interrogation techniques. He argued that revealing such information would pave the way for future disclosures of intelligence sources and methods, and would jeopardize the C.I.A.’s relationship with foreign intelligence services.
The problem is that the Obama administration is now filled with mid-level appointees who are militant leftists, like the disgraceful Rosa Brooks, recently appointed to the Pentagon. Arguments like Panetta's will not resonate with them at all, and the problem is particularly serious at the Justice Department. We are getting a partial replay of the Clinton administration, under which barriers were set up preventing useful exchanges of intelligence information, barriers that aided the 9-11 murderers.
Enemies are watching. Foreign intelligence agencies, with which we have relationships, are watching. They will all draw conclusions.
NOTE THE LANGUAGE - AT 3:42 P.M. ET: From The Hill:
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) blasted "tea party" protests yesterday, labeling the activities "despicable" and shameful."
"The ‘tea parties’ being held today by groups of right-wing activists, and fueled by FOX News Channel, are an effort to mislead the public about the Obama economic plan that cuts taxes for 95 percent of Americans and creates 3.5 million jobs," Schakowsky said in a statement.
"It’s despicable that right-wing Republicans would attempt to cheapen a significant, honorable moment of American history with a shameful political stunt," she added. "Not a single American household or business will be taxed at a higher rate this year. Made to look like a grassroots uprising, this is an Obama bashing party promoted by corporate interests, as well as Republican lobbyists and politicians.”
COMMENT: The language here is entirely unacceptable. Translated into plain English, Rep. Schakowksy is saying that no criticism is permitted. Combine this with that absurd Department of Homeland Security memo warning of right-wing zealots who are interested in such things as abortion, and a disturbing pattern appears: You must have no ideas but ours. If you do, there's something wrong with you.
This will not be news to conservative college students. They get this extreme approach on campuses all the time.
MAYBE WE WERE WRONG - AT 8:51 A.M. ET: We've said that Mr. Obama doesn't have any real foreign policy triumphs to his credit. Maybe we overstated it. Joe Queenan, in The Wall Street Journal, notes that the administration's scrapping of offensive, culturally hurtful terms like "war on terror" is having its results. For example, the Taliban is responding with its own changes:
A Taliban spokesman reached in Pakistan said that the new phrasing was being implemented as a way of eliminating the negative associations triggered by more graphic terminology. "The term 'beheading' has a quasi-medieval undertone that we're trying to get away from," he explained. "The term 'cephalic attrition' brings the Taliban into the 21st century. It's not that we disapprove of beheadings; it's just that the word no longer meshes with the zeitgeist of the era. This is the same reason we have replaced the term 'jihad' with 'booka-bonga-bippo,' which has a more zesty, urban, youthful, 'now' feel. When you're recruiting teenagers to your movement, you don't want them to feel that going on jihad won't leave any time for youthful hijinks."
COMMENT: That Obama magic. We knew it would work. The rest of Queenan's column is just as illuminating.
OBAMA GOES SOUTH - AT 8:19 A.M. ET: From The Politico:
MEXICO CITY— On his recent trip across the Atlantic, President Barack Obama was greeted enthusiastically by European leaders just glad that he wasn’t a president named Bush.
This week in Latin America, Obama will find a far more skeptical audience among leaders in this newly assertive region. It’s a group that will take some convincing that this time, a new American president will stay engaged.
Without the Spanish-speaking, governor-of-a-border-state cachet that George W. Bush initially brought to the table, Obama will rely on a hefty dose of show-don’t-tell diplomacy to prove his administration will be an active ally.
It’s an approach his aides say he laid groundwork for in advance of his arrival in Mexico City Thursday, a move that makes a statement in itself. Obama will be the first U.S. president in 13 years to travel to the country’s capital city.
COMMENT: Let the groveling begin. The president was severely criticized, except by the left in his own party, when he went on bended knee to Europe. Let's see if he's learned anything. He starts the southern tour with a performance in Mexico City today. The Mexicans have a tendency to blame the United States for their problems. No apologies, Mr. President. Okay?
Next week Mr. Obama will have to contend with Hugo Chavez. We fervently hope he doesn't do a deep bow. Reserve that for the Saudis.
THE PAIN IN SPAIN IS PLAINLY ON THE WANE - AT 7:50 A.M. ET:
MADRID (AP) -- Spanish prosecutors will recommend against opening an investigation into whether six Bush administration officials sanctioned torture against terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, the country's attorney-general said Thursday.
Candido Conde-Pumpido said the case against the high-ranking U.S. officials -- including former U.S. Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales -- was without merit because the men were not present when the alleged torture took place.
COMMENT: This is a political decision. The desire of some leftists in Spain to try American officials was becoming a major story. Bill O'Reilly has been plugging it, and it was rapidly turning into an unnecessary irritant in Spanish-American relations. We hope Spain learns a little something from this. Its concept of "universal jurisdiction," under which Spain can try anyone in the world, is ridiculous, and should be repealed.
LENDING INSTITUTIONS NOT LENDING - AT 7:25 A.M. ET: From the Washington Post. Praise to the Post, a liberal paper, for a series of articles that confront the Obama administration with hard facts to contradict manufactured White House optimism:
Lending by the nation's largest banks fell 6 percent in February from the previous month, continuing a downward trend that began in October with the financial crisis, according to data published yesterday by the Treasury Department.
The 21 banks in the survey have received more than $211 billion in federal funding to support new lending with the aim of stimulating the economy. The money has not accomplished its purpose.
COMMENT: Now Treasury is saying that the real purpose of the bailout money is to limit the decline in lending, not to stimulate new lending. Hmm. That's news to us, and isn't what Treasury said originally. Republicans should pounce on this. This is a huge amount of federal bailout money, and the bailout isn't working. If the government would give me some money, I'll be happy to lend it to relatives.
GREAT QUOTE - AT 7:18 A.M. ET: From David Frum, former speechwriter for President Bush, on the Obama administration's support for a scheme to destroy a great voucher program for D.C. students:
It’s impossible to invent any justification for this abandonment of students struggling to overcome the already steep odds against them. But there’s no mystery as to the motive. Called upon to choose between the demands of politically active unions or the life chances of the most vulnerable citizens, the Obama Education department put the unions first. That is tragic news for those needy kids—and an ominous revelation of the new administration’s priorities.
COMMENT: Underplayed, of course, by the media. This is a sickening story, and could provide a major GOP campaign theme, if anyone notices.
"What you see is news. What you know is background. What you feel is opinion."
- Lester Markel, late Sunday editor
of The New York Times.
THE ANGEL'S CORNER
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