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FRIDAY,  AUGUST 7,  2009

SICKENING - AT 7:56 P.M. ET:  There has certainly been some unruly behavior by a small number of the people attending congressional "town meetings" on health care.  But it is sickening to see how some "liberal" members of Congress are using the rudeness of a few to tarnish everyone who is concerned enough to come to a meeting.  Consider:

Over 10 years in Congress, U.S. Rep. Brian Baird has stayed tethered to his district, flying back to Southwest Washington for more than 300 sometimes-bruising town hall meetings during Congressional recesses.

But this year, he's literally decided to phone it in.

Instead of appearing in person, where "extremists" would have "the chance to shout and make YouTube videos," Baird said Wednesday, he's holding what he calls "telephone town halls" instead.

Baird said he's using the new system because he fears his political opponents may be planning "an ambush" to disrupt his meetings, using methods Baird compared to Nazism.

"What we're seeing right now is close to Brown Shirt tactics," Baird, D-Vancouver, said in a phone interview. "I mean that very seriously."

The coming telephone conference call would be Baird's third this year.

COMMENT:  What the story doesn't tell you is that Baird is one of the most left-leaning members of Congress.  No wonder he has such contempt for the voices of ordinary citizens.  It is a conceit of the left that "we know what's good for you, now shut up."

Even some Democratic advisers are cautioning the party against the outlandish attacks being made on constituents by some members of Congress and their allies.  If the Dems had handled this issue with a little intelligence, they wouldn't be getting this anger.

August 7, 2009   Permalink

HOW CONVENIENT - AT 7:12 P.M. ET:  It's amazing how stories get floated at a time convenient to certain political forces.  President Obama has given Iran a deadline, more or less, of the end of September to reply to the president's "outreach," an offer to negotiate on Iran's nuclear program.  And what do you know?  We now have an "intelligence" assessment that basically says, "Hey, not to worry, plenty of time."  The State Department is saying that Iran won't be able to enrich weapons-grade uranium until 2013.  This differs from virtually every other professional assessment we've seen recently, but is certainly convenient in taking the heat off the Obama administration.  Washington Post:

Despite Iran's progress since 2007 toward producing enriched uranium, the State Department's intelligence analysts continue to think that Tehran will not be able to produce weapons-grade material before 2013, according to a newly disclosed congressional document.

The updated assessment, by the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, emphasizes that the analysis is based on Iran's technical capability and is not a judgment about "when Iran might make any political decision" to produce highly enriched uranium.

The intelligence community agrees that a political decision has not yet been made. According to the assessment, State Department analysts think such a decision is unlikely to be made "for at least as long as international scrutiny and pressure persist."

COMMENT:  Obviously, we have no way to assess this judgment, but the timing is suspect.  It gives cover to the president.  And it seems out of whack even with the IAEA, hardly a tough-on-Iran body, whose assessments recently have been far more urgent.

We await responses to this, which will come in the form of leaks from European intelligence agencies, from the Israelis, and from other departments within the U.S. Government.

Just four days ago the London Times reported:

Iran has perfected the technology to create and detonate a nuclear warhead and is merely awaiting the word from its Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to produce its first bomb, Western intelligence sources have told The Times.

The sources said that Iran completed a research programme to create weaponised uranium in the summer of 2003 and that it could feasibly make a bomb within a year of an order from its Supreme Leader.

Take your pick of intelligence reports.  Makes you confident, doesn't it?

August 7, 2009   Permalink

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE DECLINES - AT 9:10 A.M. ET:  In a stunning development, and very good news for the White House, the unemployment rate has declined, according to figures just released.  It had been expected to rise.  The change is, again, a cautionary note for those who believe that Obama is on an inevitable road downward.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. employers cut 247,000 jobs in July, far less than expected and the least in any month since last August, according to a government report on Friday that provided the clearest evidence yet that the economy was turning around.

With fewer workers being laid off, the unemployment rate eased to 9.4 percent in July from 9.5 percent the prior month, the Labor Department said, the first time the jobless rate had fallen since April 2008.

The government revised job losses for May and June to show 43,000 fewer jobs lost than previously reported.

Analysts had expected non-farm payrolls to drop 320,000 in July and the unemployment rate to rise to 9.6 percent. The forecast was made earlier this week before other jobs data prompted some economists to lower their estimates for job losses.

Ironically, The pro-Obama New York Times is far more cautious:

Yet even as the July numbers came in better than expected, the job market remains shaky in the months ahead.

“We’re a long way from the end of the employment problem,” said Brian Fabbri, an economist at BNP Paribas. “Things are improving, make no mistake. But were not near the time when businesses are going to hire again.”

Even if the economy begins growing again this summer — as many economists expect it will — laid-off workers are likely to be among the last to benefit. Businesses that slashed their work force and inventories over the last year to cope with the economic deterioration are likely to hire temporary workers or pay overtime wages before they begin fielding applications for new full-time workers.

COMMENT:  That is known as a jobless recovery, and is really no recovery at all.  But these latest figures will be trumpeted by the White House, and some Americans will be convinced that all is getting well again.

And we still have new, grave problems created by this administration - a huge increase in deficits, and a possible attempt to impose recovery-killing new taxes.

Any signs of recovery, though, will be helpful to the Democratic Party in maintaining its control of Congress next year.  This is going to be a tough fight in the most important midterm elections of our time.  Numbers will be soldiers in that fight.

August 7, 2009   Permalink

LET THE EXCUSES BEGIN - AT 8:33 A.M. ET:  We've been following the governorship races in Virginia and New Jersey.  We caution that we are still three months away from the elections, but the news isn't good for the Dems.  Even a Daily Kos poll brings grim tidings for the party of goodness and climate change:

Two new independent polls show Republicans with comfortable leads in the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races, which, if they hold, could cause the White House a major political headache in November.

In New Jersey, former U.S. attorney Chris Christie (R) led Gov. Jon Corzine (D) 48 percent to 40 percent while in Virginia former state attorney general Bob McDonnell (R) held a 51 percent to 43 percent edge over state Sen. Creigh Deeds (D).

Both surveys were conducted for the liberal Daily Kos blog by Research 2000 and showed the Republican candidates extending their leads from similar polls conducted earlier this summer.

"If Democrats lose not only will people call into question the Democratic party brand but also the brand of Barack Obama," said Penny Lee, the former executive director of the Democratic Governors Association.

COMMENT:  The key to both races is unrelenting work.  Those leads aren't so huge.  Both are eight points, and New Jersey, in particular, is a reliably Democratic state.  As we reported last night, the Virginia race is being framed by many observers as a test of Obama's popularity. 

In the expectations game, the Republicans are now expected to win.  If they lose, the mainstream media will make that the story.  So, no overconfidence please. 

August 7, 2009   Permalink 

SUCCESSFUL STRIKE - AT 8:09 A.M. ET:  From The New York Times:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of Pakistan’s fearsome Taliban militia, was killed Wednesday in a C.I.A. missile strike, two Taliban fighters said Friday, adding that a meeting was taking place to determine which of his top deputies would replace him.

Memorial services will be held at Code Pink headquarters later today.  Be there. 

This was a successful operation, and it reminds us of the importance of good intelligence.  We knew where this guy would be.

The Taliban fighters in northwest Pakistan, one senior leader reached by telephone in Orakzai Agency, and one local Taliban fighter in Waziristan, said that Mr. Mehsud had been receiving kidney treatment from a relative in his father-in-law’s house in the remote village of Zanghara when missiles fired from a remotely-piloted drone struck.

Too bad he didn't have Obamacare.  He would have been on a waiting list for a year, and wouldn't have been there, like a sitting duck, getting treatment.  You see, there are advantages to the new order.

August 7, 2009   Permalink

QUOTE OF THE DAY - AT 7:32 A.M. ET:  From Michael Gerson, in the Washington Post:

So these are the main accomplishments of the Obama honeymoon: a widely criticized stimulus package, a health debate poorly begun and a growing, potentially consuming deficit problem. The initial period of Obama's presidency has revealed an odd mixture of boldness and timidity. A bold, even fiscally reckless, embrace of the priorities of the Democratic left. A timid, and politically unwise, deference to the views and approaches of the Democratic congressional leadership.

Obama can, of course, recover, as other presidents have. But he did not take full advantage of his honeymoon -- and he will not get it back.

COMMENT:  The perception that Obama is failing as president is growing, as the polls show.  The novelty of an African-American president has worn off.  The public seems to have found a way around the clear bias of the media.  And the president has still not been fully tested in a foreign-policy crisis. 

Republicans, though, must respond to Mr. Obama's decline, not with gloating or "I told you so" comments, but with a creative program of their own.  Otherwise, Obama can seize the initiative again and climb out of the depths.  He is one of the best retail politicians of our time, and he should not be underestimated.

August 7, 2009   Permalink 





VIRGINIA UP FOR GRABS - AT 8:48 P.M. ET:  What a difference six months makes?  Did we ever think, six months ago, that Barack Obama would be considered a drag on a ticket in a state that he carried?  Welcome to Virginia.  From Fox News:

Forget the candidates. The outcome of Virginia's race for governor in November may depend primarily on one overriding factor: President Obama's approval rating.

The gubernatorial race between Republican Bob McDonnell and Democrat Creigh Deeds may become a referendum on Obama, as voters look less at the candidates in their state and more at the man in the White House.

Last November, Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Virginia in 40 years. But in his first six months in office, the president's poll numbers have dropped considerably among independents, who say they are disillusioned by his economic promises and angered by a health care reform bill they say defines him as a big-government spender.

"He's become a double-edged sword in Virginia," said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. "The overall impression is that he's trying to do too much too quickly, and he's becoming identified with big spending and big government.

"That doesn't sell well in Virginia," he said.

COMMENT:  And, of course, nothing Obama has launched has been especially successful.  If he's seen as dragging down the Democratic ticket, especially in swing states and districts, the 2010 midterm elections will be turned upside down.

Hillary must be loving this.  Possible opening in 2012?  The party turning to the woman who wuz wronged?  Oh, the movie.  The play.  The book rights.

Stay tuned. 

August 6, 2009   Permalink

CLUNKERISM - THE SEQUEL - AT 8:28 P.M. ET:  The idea is spreading:

Programs that allow homeowners to trade in their old refrigerators and scoop up a rebate — a sort of “cash for clunkers” system for the fridge — are spreading quickly across the country.

Last week, New Jersey began a statewide program that offers residents a $30 rebate by recycling eligible refrigerators or freezers. Old refrigerators and freezers in Vermont also fetch $30, under a program begun last month.

Pickup is free in both states.

This comes as the Senate passes an extension of the cash for clunkers program, in which Uncle Sam helps you buy a car, and educates you as to which car a decent person would buy. 

What I'd like to see is a program that allows young adults to trade in their degrees from elite colleges for real educations.  Sort of cash for clunkheads.  Never happen.

August 6, 2009   Permalink

AFGHAN DILEMMA - AT 7:59 P.M. ET:  First, my apologies for getting back online so late.  I was getting some very good background information today on Iran and Western Europe, and these things can take time. 

We've written here before that there are serious crunches coming up for the Obama administration - Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea, and a host of domestic issues, which will collide in the autumn, just as the 2010 midterm campaigns get started.  One of Obama's huge problems is that he never matches rhetoric with policy.  Lots of promises, very little effective execution.  Government as show business.

Now Afghanistan is facing the crunch, as The New York Times reports:

WASHINGTON — As the American military comes to full strength in the Afghan buildup, the Obama administration is struggling to come up with a long-promised plan to measure whether the war is being won.

Those “metrics” of success, demanded by Congress and eagerly awaited by the military, are seen as crucial if the president is to convince Capitol Hill and the country that his revamped strategy is working. Without concrete signs of progress, Mr. Obama may lack the political stock — especially among Democrats and his liberal base — to make the case for continuing the military effort or enlarging the American presence.

That problem will become particularly acute if American commanders in Afghanistan seek even more troops for a mission that many of Mr. Obama’s most ardent supporters say remains ill defined and open-ended.

COMMENT:  Let's hope that the Obamans handle this better than health care.   Obama can't worry too much about his liberal base, a good part of which sees every conflict as Vietnam, and opposes virtually any military action anywhere.

But the president does have to worry about everyone else.  He called Afghanistan a correct war during his campaign, and he's poured resources into the struggle.  This is now his war - there's a limit to what he can blame on Bush - and he's got to produce something far more specific and convincing than he has during the health care debate.

August 6, 2009   Permalink

STUNNING - AT 8:22 A.M. ET:  The president is slipping dramatically in approval as we mark 200 days of his presidency:

Aug. 6 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama’s approval rating is falling amid concerns about the U.S. economy and his push to revamp the U.S. health-care system, a Quinnipiac University poll shows.

Exactly half of the registered voters surveyed from July 27 to Aug. 3 by Quinnipiac said they approve of the job Obama is doing, compared with 42 percent who disapprove. That’s down from 57 percent approval and 33 percent disapproval in a poll taken in late June, according to results released today.

Americans are upset about rising unemployment and worried that health-care plans making their way through Congress will add to the U.S. budget deficit, said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Hamden, Connecticut-based polling institute. The combination has helped drive down the president’s ratings.

A “willingness to give him the benefit of the doubt is, among some voters, evaporating,” Brown told reporters in Washington yesterday.

COMMENT:  There are growing illusions within the administration.  One of them is that the president's declining numbers merely reflect a failure to communicate.  No, they reflect a failure of policy...as well as a failure to communicate.   

Americans, despite all the sneering one hears from the Ivy League and the precincts of mainstream journalism, are actually quite well informed, especially about issues that affect them personaly.  They are asking intelligent questions.  They aren't getting intelligent answers, and they've started to doubt the policy prescriptions of the man at the top.

August 6, 2009   Permalink

MORE "NEWNESS" IN THE WAR ON TERROR - NOT - AT 8:10 A.M. ET:    Soon we'll be told that air conditioning is a new idea.  The Washington Post informs us of the Obama administration's "new" approach to fighting terror, as follows:

The U.S. government must fundamentally redefine the struggle against terrorism, replacing the "war on terror" with a campaign combining all facets of national power to defeat the enemy, John O. Brennan, President Obama's senior counterterrorism adviser, said Wednesday.

Previewing what aides said will be the administration's most comprehensive statement to date on its long-term strategy to defeat al-Qaeda and other violent extremists worldwide, Brennan said in an interview that the United States will maintain "unrelenting" pressure on terrorist havens, including those near the Afghan-Pakistani border, in Yemen and in Somalia.

However, Washington must couple the military strikes that have depleted al-Qaeda's middle ranks with more sustained use of economic, diplomatic and cultural levers to diminish Islamist radicalization, he said, exercising "soft power" in ways that President George W. Bush came to embrace but had trouble carrying out.

COMMENT:  Sound familiar?  I love these stories that announce some new policy that isn't.  This approach has been around for a long time.  It's included in David Petraeus's rewrite of counterinsurgency tactics in Iraq.  It has great merit, but it should not be treated as another pronouncement from the Obaman equivalent of Mount Olympus.  It's an evolving strategy.  The key element is how good the Obamans are at developing it further and carrying it out.

August 6, 2009   Permalink

FRIGHTENING - AT 7:58 A.M. ET:  One of the techniques used by the old Soviet Union was to label dissenters as psychologically impaired.  So this story produced an immediate chill when I read it:

If you ever wondered what is to blame for the world's sluggish reaction to climate change, wonder no longer. The American Psychological Assn. has concluded in a 225-page report that the culprit is...

...human behavior.

That's right! Human behavior. Read all about it here. The panel of eight psychologists is slated to present its findings at a meeting of the American Psychological Assn. on Friday.

It may seem a tad ridiculous to have to even say that human behavior is responsible for the failure of humans to act, let alone take 225 pages to say it.


The task force was convened because the APA wanted to involve psychologists in crafting a solution to climate change and in predicting how people are likely to react to it.

COMMENT:  It's all our fault.  We're not psychologically ready to deal with "climate change."  And we must be made psychologically ready.

These people call themselves scientists.  Yet there is not a single suggestion in this "research" that the "data" on climate change may be wrong.  There is not a single suggestion that all those psychologically impaired members of the proletariat out there might actually be reacting with appropriate, mature skepticism.  To the practitioners of trendy science, no questions are permitted.  And psychology can be very trendy.

What is chilling here is that this nonsense may get into the mainstream through equally trendy journalists.  Those who even raise a doubt about "global warming" can be labeled as psychologically impaired.  It happened in the old Soviet Union, and there are people who have no problem with the practice.

August 6, 2009   Permalink

TODAY'S ANNIVERSARY - AT 7:29 A.M. ET:  Today marks the 64th anniversary of the use of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima.  Prepare yourself for the usual pieties. 

One can legitimately debate whether the bomb should have been used.  However, as one observer pointed out, we can see films and photos of the unfortunate victims of the attack.  We don't have films and photos of those who lived because of it. 

A recent poll on American attitudes toward the use of the bomb produced a disturbing result.  Yes, 61% approved of the decision to drop the bomb, and only 22% called it wrong.  (Any leftist position on any issue usually yields a number between 20 and 30 percent.)

But only 50% of those 18 to 34 approved.

And only 49% of Democrats approved. 

Those results reflect what young people are taught in school.  They also reflect the leftward path of the Democratic Party.  It was a Democratic president, Harry S. Truman, who made the decision to use the bomb.  Truman couldn't come close to the Democratic nomination for president today.

Those who think the decision was wrong might chat up the son or daughter, or grandson or granddaughter, of a soldier who was in the Pacific on August 6, 1945.  The person you'll be talking with might not have existed had President Truman decided otherwise, and the Pacific war continued, with its ghastly toll in American soldiers...and Japanese civilians.

August 6, 2009    Permalink





"What you see is news.  What you know is background.  What you feel is opinion."
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      of The New York Times.



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