"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
OH PLEASE - AT 4:47 P.M. ET: The political campaign continues. Will these guys please realize that they've got the job. From The Washington Times:
Top White House adviser David Axelrod on Monday said that President Obama's trips to Europe, Turkey and Latin America in the last three weeks have made anti-American sentiment uncool and "created a new receptivity" to U.S. interests.
"What's happened is anti-Americanism isn't cool anymore," Mr. Axelrod said, speaking to an audience of a few hundred at a conference in Washington sponsored by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
"This president has not only engaged the leaders of the world, he's engaged the people of the world," Mr. Axelrod said, arguing that Mr. Obama's approach to foreign policy has restored "a sense of humility" that "was missing" in the past.
COMMENT: I just wish they'd get off that tack. It sounds so amateurish. "The people of the world" have no power in many countries; it's the governments we have to worry about. Hold the bragging until we see some concrete results that advance the American interest. It may be "uncool" to be anti-American in some circles now, but that message clearly hasn't resonated with governments from North Korea, through Iran, and on to Venezuela.
IS THIS SERIOUS? - AT 4:33 P.M. ET: From The Politico:
With the newspaper industry flailing, Congressional leaders have talked recently about ways to address the financial problems plaguing the press.
Now, Sen. John Kerry -- whose local paper remains on shaky ground -- plans on holding hearings about the state of the industry, beginning next week.
"America's newspapers are struggling to survive and while there will be serious consequences in terms of the lives and financial security of the employees involved, including hundreds at the Globe, there will also be serious consequences for our democracy where diversity of opinion and strong debate are paramount," Kerry wrote in a letter sent to union leaders Friday. The union released the letter yesterday.
In his letter, addressed to "the Boston Globe family," Kerry voiced his commitment to the industry and to ensuring that the "vital public service newspapers provide does not disappear."
COMMENT: Should we be concerned about disappearing newspapers? Sure. We had that same concern in the early sixties when the same trend appeared, but the country survived.
Historically, the government has given certain breaks to publications, primarily lower postal rates. But I'm uncomfortable about a member of Congress intervening on behalf of news organizations, especially those, like the Boston Globe, that politically support that member.
It's our view here that the reasons for the decline in newspapers are not fully acknowledged within the industry. Many in journalism just can't accept that the quality and editorial fairness of the product come heavily into play. A better product might well save a newspaper company, although there are no guarantees.
DOW CLOSE - AT 4:02 P.M. ET: The Dow closed down 281 points, to 7850, before final adjustments.
DOW DIVES - AT 10:02 A.M. ET: The Dow took an early dive this morning, and is down 186 points, to 7946.
April 20, 2009
POLL STUNNER - AT 9:43 A.M. ET: This morning's daily Rasmussen tracker has some sobering news for the White House. The gap between those who approve of Mr. Obama's performance and those who disapprove is at its narrowest point since inauguration.
Those who approve - 55%. Disapprove - 45%. That gap, ten points, was 35 points on January 21st.
Rasmussen's other measure, his presidential approval index, measures the gap between those who strongly approve and those who strongly disapprove. It's now at three points. On January 21st it was 28 points.
A word of caution: Presidential approval is normally very high for a new president right after inauguration. It's the honeymoon. Approval tends to diminish over time. The key question is how far down it goes. This president has pulled out all stops to run a perpetual campaign, but it clearly hasn't stopped the erosion.
AND ANOTHER REMINDER OF REALITY - AT 7:58 A.M. ET: Al Qaeda clearly isn't buying the Obama doctrine. Business as usual among the cave set:
DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda's second-in-command told Muslims not to be fooled by U.S. President Barack Obama's policies which, he said on an Islamist website on Monday, are no different to those of his predecessor, George W. Bush.
"America came to us with a new face, with which it is trying to fool us. He is calling for change, but (he aims) to change us so that we abandon our religion and rights," Ayman al-Zawahri said in an audio recording on the website.
Zawahri said Obama's election was an acknowledgement that Bush's policy had failed.
"Obama did not change the image of America among Muslims...America is still killing Muslims," said the Egyptian militant leader.
COMMENT: It may finally dawn on some of the newcomers in Washington that Al Qaeda isn't interested in the cosmetics of American policy. It's interested in an American surrender. Linked to the two stories we've posted below, a picture emerges of an international security situation much like the one President Bush had to deal with.
But as we get further away from 9-11, Americans are forgetting. Al Qaeda, like any enemy, depends on that. Sadly, there are plenty of people on the left fringe, and in the press, who would like to help us forget.
PAKISTAN SINKING - AT 7:45 A.M. ET: This could turn out to be one of the major stories of our time. Sadly, it has not yet resonated with the American public. What happens in Pakistan often seems so vague and distant. Not really. From the Washington Post:
SLAMABAD, Pakistan, April 19 -- A potentially troubling era dawned Sunday in Pakistan's Swat Valley, where a top Islamist militant leader, emboldened by a peace agreement with the federal government, laid out an ambitious plan to bring a "complete Islamic system" to the surrounding northwest region and the entire country.
Speaking to thousands of followers in an address aired live from Swat on national news channels, cleric Sufi Mohammed bluntly defied the constitution and federal judiciary, saying he would not allow any appeals to state courts under the system of sharia, or Islamic law, that will prevail there as a result of the peace accord signed by the president Tuesday.
"The Koran says that supporting an infidel system is a great sin," Mohammed said, referring to Pakistan's modern democratic institutions. He declared that in Swat, home to 1.5 million people, all "un-Islamic laws and customs will be abolished," and he suggested that the official imprimatur on the agreement would pave the way for sharia to be installed in other areas.
COMMENT: They key point is that Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Should they fall into the hands of an Islamist regime, dedicated to destroying "the infidel," we're in trouble. Remember, we're the infidel, the Great Satan.
OBAMA THE POLITICIAN, AND NATIONAL SECURITY - AT 7:40 A.M. ET: Terrorism expert Con Coughlin, writing in Britain's Telegraph, warns against President Obama politicizing, and weakening, national security:
All it is going to take is a massive terror attack to teach President Obama that there is a world of difference between the politics of the campaign trail and those of high office.
Right now, Coughlin says, the techniques of the campaign trail are infecting national policy:
Whether it is his appeal to Iran's fundamentalist mullahs to unclench their fists, his reluctance to confront North Korea's nuclear activities or his "new beginning" with Cuba, the President wants to be everybody's friend, as he was on last year's campaign trail.
But a change of leadership at the White House does not mean the world has suddenly become a safer place. Al-Qaeda is still devising plots, the Taliban continues to murder coalition forces and rogue states such as North Korea, Syria and Iran persist with efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction while supporting Islamist terror groups.
Ah, reality. Why won't it go away?
Coughlin is critical of the Bush administration, but decries the release of memos justifying enhanced interrogation techniques to be used on terror suspects:
...there is little new in the revelations that the CIA had used White House-sanctioned methods of torture – such as water-boarding, in which a detainee suffers simulated drowning...
...So why did Mr Obama reopen old wounds by publishing the Justice Department's legal opinions? The answer lies more with the President's desire to heap humiliation on his predecessor than his stated aim of transparency on this dark episode. Playing party politics with sensitive security issues might work well on the campaign trail, where candidates can do so without consequences. But in office it is another matter, and runs the risk of compromising the effectiveness of intelligence and security agencies.
That is exactly what former CIA chief Michael Hayden said over the weekend.
Jimmy Carter's drive to cleanse the CIA after the scandals of the Nixon years left the organisation neutered to the extent that the White House found itself unsighted on two of the most cataclysmic events of the late 1970s – the Iranian revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Mr Obama runs a similar risk if he continues to undermine the morale of America's lead intelligence-gathering agency.
Ah, the comparisons with Jimmah Carter. Sadly, some in the Obama administration would be proud of those comparisons.
Say what you like about the Bush administration, the former president left office proud in the knowledge that he had achieved his most important goal in the aftermath of September 11 – to prevent America from suffering a repeat attack. If Mr Obama wants to emulate that success, he must provide effective leadership to the legions of dedicated professionals in whose hands the defence of America and its allies rests.
COMMENT: Well stated. Obviously, we cannot be blind to improper activity in an intelligence agency, as in any other department of the government. But undermining the effectiveness of that agency is another matter altogether. Coughlin correctly notes the virtual destruction of the CIA in the 1970s. Some would dearly love to do it again, and they might just try. Some of them are the very same people who were active in the seventies. Now they have greater seniority.
QUOTE OF THE DAY - AT 3:52 P.M. ET: From Kellyanne Conway, Republican pollster, at Human Events:
But adulation abroad and a perception of charm and charisma at home is not a mandate for the type of sweeping transformations to the domestic economy and foreign policy currently on the table. After all, candidate Obama ran on “change we can believe in,” not “revolution you must pay for.”
COMMENT: Very well said. We're especially concerned here about foreign policy, where a bad decision can be potentially costly in human life, and can take a war to correct.
April 19, 2009
WE ARE STILL AT WAR - AT 10:46 A.M. ET: From The Politico:
Former CIA Director Michael Hayden warned Sunday morning that intelligence officers will be constrained operationally as a direct consequence of the White House’s decision to release Justice Department memos detailing interrogation techniques.
Calling the matter of CIA interrogation “the real inconvenient truth,” Hayden told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday" that he had argued his case against releasing the memos with several senior officials in the Obama Administration.
“At the tactical level,” Hayden said, “what we have described for our enemies in the midst of the war are the outer limits that any American would go to in terms of interrogating an Al Qaeda terrorists.”
“You are going to have this agency, on the front line of defending you in this current war, playing back from the line,” Hayden said, suggesting that agents would feel constrained by the possibility of their actions being second-guessed by The New York Times, the ACLU (which filed the suit that led to the release of the memos), future presidential candidates, and others.
COMMENT: A little maturity in the midst of all the adolescent angst of today's Washington. I wish that, sometimes, some of the critics of the Bush administration would think of their own families as potential victims of a terror attack. How would they feel about the CIA, and others on the front line, if their families' lives were involved?
ON BOARD NRB CORTE-REAL (Reuters) - NATO forces foiled an attack by Somali pirates on a Norwegian oil tanker, and briefly detained seven gunmen after hunting them down under cover of darkness, NATO officials said Sunday.
It was the latest assault by sea gangs from Somalia who have hijacked dozens of ships, taken hundreds of sailors hostage and made tens of millions of dollars in ransoms -- defying an unprecedented deployment by foreign navies in the region.
The violence has disrupted aid supplies, driven up insurance costs and forced some firms to route cargo round South Africa.
Michael McWhinnie, a spokesman on the Canadian warship Winnipeg, said it, a British naval supply ship and U.S. warship Halyburton all responded after pirates attacked the 80,000-tonne MV Front Ardenne in the Gulf of Aden late Saturday.
COMMENT: Good on NATO. Oh, note the last paragraph. The U.S. has a warship named the Halyburton. Can you imagine what the psychotic left will do with that? Halyburton? It's CHENEY. He's back! They even control the ships! Watch, someone on MSNBC will start a rumor that Halyburton is working with the pirates.
April 19 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama fended off calls for lifting the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba while pledging to cooperate with Latin American leaders to help the region’s poorest recover from the global economic recession.
Obama heads into the final day of the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales saying they refuse to sign the summit’s final declaration because it excludes Cuba.
Obama responded throughout the meetings by saying the U.S. is on a path toward changing the nature of its relationship with Cuba, and actions toward the communist nation will be informed by a desire for democracy, administration officials said.
“Actions speak louder than words,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. Administration officials say it’s up to Cuba to make the next move.
COMMENT: President Obama's performance at the Latin American summit strikes us as much more skillful than his actions during his Great Groveling tour of Europe, recently concluded. The Latin American leaders have given the U.S. quite a bashing, which is a hobby down there, but, with the exception of some initial crawling, Mr. Obama hasn't given in. Maybe there's a lesson being learned - that weakness gets you nowhere.
On the other hand, it's important that the White House ponders why these Latin American leaders, some of them world-class thugs, feel they can be so openly anti-American in Mr. Obama's presence, something they couldn't be in the presence of previous presidents. That's lesson two.
TEHRAN, Iran — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said an American journalist sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of spying for the U.S. should be allowed to offer a full defense during her appeal, the state news agency reported Sunday.
The statement came a day after Iran announced the conviction and sentence for Roxana Saberi, a 31-year-old dual American-Iranian citizen. It was the first time Iran has found an American journalist guilty of espionage and her lawyer said he will appeal.
COMMENT: Looks like a possible diplomatic trap, and an old-style one at that. Ahmadinejad makes the grand gesture to give this innocent woman a defense, then can announce her release as an act of "good will" toward the new Obama administration. The Obamans will then trumpet it as the "first success" of the new outreach policy, even though Iran would simply be releasing someone who should never have been held in the first place. The amen corner in the press shouts, "The messiah has done it!" Meanwhile, in Tehran, the mullahs laugh their heads off.
"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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