Daily Snippets are here.
Answers to the current question are here.
The new current question is here.
TO OUR READERS
45% - We need a boost.
We began our third subscription drive almost two weeks ago. We've reached 45% of our goal. Compared to where we were at this point in our last drive, we're far behind. Our first two drives exceeded their goals. We've got to do better in this one.
Subscriptions are the lifeblood of Urgent Agenda. We must nearly triple the number of subscribers to become financially stable. Otherwise, Urgent Agenda will either disappear or be reduced.
And think of it - a subscription is less than the price of a candy bar each week.
What do you get by subscribing? First, you insure the survival of this site, which has one of the most informed readerships on the web. You're in very good, and sometimes well-known company.
Second, subscribers and donators now receive The Angel's Corner. We discuss trends of the week, but also get into movies, music and TV. Further, Angel's Corner gives the very coveted Pompous Fool Award, bestowed only on the most deserving candidates in politics and journalism. And Angels are given a special e-mail address they can use to contact Urgent Agenda.
If for any reason you wish to cancel your subscription, the unused portion will be returned, upon request. You can't lose.
This is a great time to join. So please subscribe, or donate, in the column on the right. Urgent Agenda is needed more than ever.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2009
FASCINATING COMMENT - AT 5:35 P.M. ET: Frank J. Tipler is professor of mathematical physics at Tulane University, and a man whose interests range beyond physics, into religion and social organization. Here he comments on an item we ran earlier in the week. I thought you'd be interested in his informed observations:
I was struck by your discussion on The Center for Constitutional
Rights, and "the collusion between the extreme left and Islamo-fascism".
I think that the left and Islamo-fascism agree on far more that hatred
of America. I think the alliance has to be interpreted via Friedrich
Hayek's classic paper, "The Reactionary Nature of the Socialist
Hayek claimed, and I think he was correct, that the essence of
socialism is tribalism. If one studies proposed socialist utopias, one
realizes that they all picture the tribal social system writ large.
It's not surprising many people desire such a society. It is the
society we humans evolved to fill. What is remarkable is not that
there are socialists. What is remarkable is that there are people
supporting a free-market society.
Islamo-fascism, like American socialism, like the original Italian
fascism, and like the German National SOCIALIST LABOR Party, are all expressions of a desire for a tribal society. In Islam, the religion
IS the state, and the state is a tribal state writ large, exactly as
America is essentially a society based on individualism,
fundamentally at odds with tribalism. The Islamo-fascists and the left
hate America for this reason, that it is by its nature opposed to
I might add that, by necessity, the left and Islamo-fascism are opposed
to civilization itself, since cities indeed supplanted tribal society.
So the left believes in Global Warming, and opposes nuclear power, and
opposes dams, because by shutting down all hydrocarbon power, and
nuclear power, and hydroelectric power, they will automatically shut
Interesting, provocative view.
OH, I FORGOT - AT 12:30 P.M. ET: From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — President Obama’s choice for health secretary, Tom Daschle, was aware as early as last June that he might have to pay back taxes for the use of a car and driver provided by a private equity firm, but did not inform the Obama transition team until weeks after Mr. Obama named him to the health secretary’s post, senior administration officials said Saturday.
As Senate Democrats rushed to save the nomination of Mr. Daschle, their former leader, the White House spent the day trying to explain how he survived its vetting process despite his failure to pay $128,000 in taxes.
COMMENT: Do you get the feeling that this team isn't quite as smooth or capable as it appeared during the campaign? The reason? Maybe it's because, during the campaign, the Obamans had the support and help of a compliant media.
Posted at 10:10 a.m. ET:
Reader James Birdsall alerts us to an excellent column by economist Thomas Sowell, taking apart the Obama stimulus plan, which seems to be falling apart as we speak:
Everyone is talking about how much money the government is spending, but very little attention is being paid to where they are spending it or what they are buying with it.
The government is putting money into banks, even when the banks don't want it, in hopes that the banks will put it into circulation. But the latest statistics shows that banks are lending even less money now than they were before the government dumped all that cash on them.
How hard did you work to pay your taxes last year? Think about it.
Spending money for infrastructure is another time-consuming way of dealing with what is called an immediate crisis. Infrastructure takes forever to plan, debate, and go through all sorts of hearings and adjudications, before getting approval to build from all the regulatory agencies involved.
Ah, but when those roads are named for congressmen, all the congressional effort is worth it.
Using long, drawn-out processes to put money into circulation to meet an emergency is like mailing a letter to the fire department to tell them that your house is on fire.
If all this sound and fury in Washington was about getting an economic crisis behind us, tax cuts could do that a lot faster.
That and defense spending. The military needs to replace equipment, and it could be ordered tomorrow morning.
If the Beltway politicians aren't really trying to solve this crisis as quickly as they could, what are they trying to do?
One important clue may be a recent statement by President Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel, that "A crisis is a terrible thing to waste."
Yup. The word "crisis" can be used to justify almost anything. In the 1950s Congress attached the term "national defense" to an education bill because it sold better.
This is the kind of cynical revelation that sometimes slips out, despite all the political pieties and spin. Crises have long been seen as great opportunities to expand the federal government's power while the people are too scared to object and before any opposition can get organized.
What are the Beltway politicians buying with all the hundreds of billions of dollars they are spending? They are buying what politicians are most interested in-- power.
In the name of protecting the taxpayers' investment, they are buying the power to tell General Motors how to make cars, banks how to bank and, before it is all over with, all sorts of other people how to do the work they specialize in, and for which members of Congress have no competence, much less expertise.
Who knows what bright ideas this administration will turn into permanent institutions for our children and grandchildren to try to cope with?
All true, all true.
February 1, 2009. Permalink
A BIT TACKY - AT 9:14 A.M. ET: One annoying thing about President Obama is that, although he's normally elegant, he manages to get in his pointless little digs at President Bush. And, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, there he goes again. The president commented on yesterday's Iraqi election, from ABC News:
US President Barack Obama has praised Iraq's provincial elections as an "important step forward" for the future of the country.
"This important step forward should continue the process of Iraqis taking responsibility for their future," Mr Obama said in a statement after millions of Iraqis went to the polls to elect councils in 14 or Iraq's 18 provinces.
Security for the country's first ballot since 2005 was extremely tight, with Iraqi police and military deployed in force, and Mr Obama praised the technical assistance by the United Nations and other organisations to Iraq's electoral commission, which he said "performed professionally under difficult circumstances."
COMMENT: The election was made possible because of the vision of George W. Bush. This was a chance for Obama to note that. He did not. He could have started leading his party away from the sickness of Bush Derangement Syndrome. He did not. Nor did he mention the word "democracy," a word also missing from his interview on Arab TV earlier in the week. Why am I getting worried?
NOW HE TELLS US - AT 9:01 A.M. ET: From The Jerusalem Post:
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees does little to check whether its staff or clients are terrorists, its former chief attorney, James Lindsay, says in a newly published report.
COMMENT: Well, I guess their lawyer should know. But when Americans or Israelis make the same charge, it's ignored or ridiculed.
A THUD FOR JUDD - AT 8:50 A.M. ET: From The Washington Post:
President Obama appears set to nominate Republican Sen. Judd Gregg as commerce secretary, a move that could happen in the next day or two, Democratic officials said yesterday.
COMMENT: What's going on here? Gregg is a GOP senator from New Hampshire, which has a Dem governor. If he leaves the Senate, a Democrat takes his place. If Franken wins in Minnesota, that gives the Dems the 60 votes they need to break a filibuster. How can any Republican do this to his party, simply to become window dressing in an opposition administration? Secretary of Commerce? You don't even need a new suit for that job. In the presidential line of succession, it ranks behind Agriculture and Interior. Say it aint' so, Judd.
OH PLEASE - AT 8:21 A.M. ET: Some people still can't get over their Bush-bashing. It's in their DNA, or whatever biological material they're working with. Consider this extract from an AP article today dissecting the term "war on terror":
According to the White House, Obama is intent on repairing America's image in the eyes of the Islamic world and addressing issues such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, unrest in Pakistan and India, Arab-Israeli peace talks and tensions with Iran.
Using language is one way to help effect that change, said Wayne Fields, professor of English and American culture studies at Washington University in St. Louis.
"One of the contrasts between the two administrations is the care with which Obama uses language. He thinks about the subtle implications," said Fields, an expert on presidential rhetoric. The Bush administration "didn't set out deliberately to do things that were offensive but they liked to do things that showed how strong they were, and to use language almost in an aggressive sense."
COMMENT: Note to Professor Fields: First, administrations also must speak to the American people, in their language. Being nice to the other guy isn't their only function. Second, it seems to me that Mr. Bush went out of his way to express friendship with the Muslim world. But the Bush haters won't relent in their vision of him as a "cowboy," which he wasn't. Millions voted in Iraq yesterday because of George Bush, not because of his Democratic opposition.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 31, 2009
REAL PROGRESS - AT 6:55 P.M. ET: We were alerted to this by reader James Croak:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Four thousand women are running for office in Iraq's provincial elections Saturday, and many of them will be guaranteed seats under an electoral quota system.
Regardless of the votes their candidates receive, parties are required to give every third seat to a woman, according to a report this week from the International Crisis Group.
COMMENT: I'd love to see even one American "feminist" organization acknowledge this and praise it. I'm not holding my breath. These organizations are under the control of the political left, and they follow the party line they're given, regardless of women's rights.
DASHING DASCHLE - AT 5:44 P.M. ET: From The Politico:
Tom Daschle, tapped to be President Obama's health czar, was paid more than $200,000 by the health-care industry in the past two years, according to documents obtained by Politico.
The former Senate majority leader, who gave speeches to firms and groups with a vested-interest in the administration's upcoming health reform, collected the checks as part of a $5 million windfall after he lost reelection to his South Dakota seat.
This weekend, Daschle's nomination to be secretary of Health and Human Services became embroiled in controversy over the last-minute revelation that he had only recently paid long-overdue taxes.
COMMENT: I have never seen an administration come to office with so many of its appointees under an ethical cloud. Daschle's name should be withdrawn. He should withdraw it himself. The man had more than $100,000 in back taxes. The president is really in danger here, and I wonder whether he knows it. You can take the guy out of Chicago, but apparently you can't take Chicago out of the guy.
YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE THIS - AT 4:21 P.M. ET: Crisis in the academic world, sent to us by a real-live academic. It seems the problem is at Southern Illinois University:
Members of a committee formed in response to plagiarism accusations levied against a former university administrator received word this week that they need to reconvene and examine documents they may have plagiarized.
According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the 10-member committee of Southern Illinois University academics and administrators commissioned to develop a plagiarism policy may have borrowed from Indiana University’s definition—without citing IU.
SIU officials seemed surprised by the news and stressed the policy was still in draft form.
It would be a near perfect example of irony: a definition of plagiarism created in the wake of plagiarism scandals may itself have been plagiarized.
COMMENT: The first thing that Southern Illinois University must do is to determine whether the alleged plagiarism was committed by members of an officially oppressed group, in which case it could be explained by historic trauma or different cultural valuation. If committed by a member of a majority, oppressor group, it should be punished as another attempt at intellectual colonization, torture, and cultural aggression consistent with the atmosphere created by the Bush administration.
CRAZY QUOTE OF THE DAY - AT 1:04 P.M. ET: From The New York Times, by David E. Sanger:
WASHINGTON — As President Obama and Congress barrel toward the latest emergency program to resuscitate the American economy, one question is looming over their search for a cure: Can the government fashion a fast and efficient economic stimulus while also seizing the moment to remake America?
COMMENT: Say what? Do the Obama people think they have a mandate to "remake America"? When did the American people vote to be remade? And what about the 46 percent who voted for John McCain? Sanger is the winner of one of our recent Pompous Fool awards, at The Angel's Corner. It's inspiring to know he's maintaining his usual high standard.
HERE IT COMES - AT 12:04 P.M. ET: From Fox News:
The Obama administration has asked the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff to cut the Pentagon's budget request for the fiscal year 2010 by more than 10 percent -- about $55 billion -- a senior U.S. defense official tells FOX News.
Last year's defense budget was $512 billion. Service chiefs and planners will be spending the weekend "burning the midnight oil" looking at ways to cut the budget -- looking especially at weapons programs, the defense official said.
COMMENT: Dreadful. We should be expanding defense, not reducing it. This is a dangerous signal to send to our enemies, unless, of course, you don't think we have any. Compare the requested cut of $55-billion to the pork in the so-called stimulus bill. And, by the way, defense procurement has a stimulative effect on the economy because the money gets into the production pipeline quickly.
Posted at 11:37 a.m. ET:
One of the bizarre aspects of current government policy is the attitude toward our auto industry. On the one hand, the administration says it wants to help the domestic industry get back in gear. On the other, it wants to impose rules that may well kill it. Rich Lowry reports on the sober contradiction:
...the Obama administration is acting quickly to approve a waiver for California to impose costly new restrictions on carbon-dioxide emissions from cars.
... As many as 13 states will follow California's lead, creating a regulatory patchwork with automakers forced in practice to meet the higher standard.
Even California admits that the new strictures will add $1,000 to the cost of vehicles by 2016. (The carmakers estimate $3,000.) So, GM and Chrysler will struggle to shed labor and legacy costs - just to see new regulatory costs imposed on them by the very political authorities that are putting taxpayer dollars at risk to save them.
It's the rise of self-defeating industrial policy.
But it satisfies the radical base of the Democratic Party.
When Detroit came to Washington in extremis last year, the rational reaction would have been to lift burdens on it. Instead, the fashionable rap on Detroit was that it had created its own mess by making SUVs on the foolish assumption that gas prices would stay at $1.50 a gallon forever.
This critique was premised on the foolish assumption that gas prices would stay at $4 a gallon forever. As gas prices have plunged, sales of SUVs and light trucks have picked up again. In December, they were 51 percent of all vehicle sales, a return to the normal pattern. Drivers simply like the convenience and comfort of the bigger models.
But that is bad news to the enviro-religionists. And the auto companies are in a dilemma:
If a normal sense of self-preservation were at work, Detroit would howl at another step toward bludgeoning it out of its most profitable line of work. But now its relationship with Washington is as important as its business model. Its executives have to drive to Capitol Hill in hybrid cars to do their begging and pretend that GM's plug-in Volt - prospectively priced at $40,000 per vehicle - is the car of the future.
To some of the financiers of enviro-religion, $40,000 is what they spend on a vacation, so reality hasn't dawned on them.
This contradictory policy is driven by worry over the far-off threat of global warming, the killer abstraction that hangs over all of Obama's economy policy. At the same time everyone is aflutter with the need to stimulate the economy, Al Gore called in congressional testimony for the imposition this year of a cap-and-trade system, effectively imposing a new tax on energy.
As government intervention proliferates, we are about to see industrial policy run by people who don't like industry very much.
Detroit wanted a bailout, and it will get it good and hard.
There are some signs in polling that Americans are waking up to the contradictions in Obama policy, and to the pandering to ideological interests. There are also signs that Americans are starting to question the "science" behind global warming, especially when that "science" is presented by politicians.
It's up to the Republicans to point out the problems, the con jobs, and try to cure the mess.
January 31, 2009. Permalink
BIRTH OF A NATION - AT 10:53 A.M. ET: From AP:
Iraq's provincial elections have wrapped up without any reports of serious violence.
Polls closed at 6 p.m. local time (10 a.m. EST) on Saturday — an hour later than planned. Millions of voters cast ballots for influential regional councils around most of Iraq.
Iraqi authorities imposed a huge security operation around the country that included traffic bans in major cities and extensive checkpoints and surveillance posts. The U.S. military also was out in force but did not take a direct role in the election security.
Results from the elections are not expected before Tuesday.
COMMENT: We tend to be skeptical of Arab nations here, but this is good news. If Iraq can now separate itself from the general madness and backwardness of the Arab world, and build a democracy, everyone should gain.
WHEN WILL WE LEARN? - AT 10:11 A.M. ET: Iran has given another thoughtful, kind, and philosophical answer to President Obama's outreach to the Muslim world. From AFP:
US President Barack Obama's offer to talk to Iran shows that America's policy of "domination" has failed, the government spokesman said on Saturday.
"This request means Western ideology has become passive, that capitalist thought and the system of domination have failed," Gholam Hossein Elham was quoted as saying by the Mehr news agency.
"Negotiation is secondary, the main issue is that there is no way but for (the United States) to change," he added.
COMMENT: When will we learn what these people are? When will we learn that "outreach" is often seen as weakness?
GRIMNESS - AT 10:00 A.M. ET: From The Wall Street Journal:
Stocks wrapped up their worst January on record with a final plunge on Friday.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished January down 8.84% on the month. Perviously, the worst January for the Dow had been that of 1916, when it fell 8.64%. Friday, the Dow dropped 148.15 points to 8000.86 after briefly dipping below the 8000 mark. The Dow has fallen five straight months and in 12 of the last 15.
The S&P 500-stock index lost 2.28% Friday to end at 825.88, for cumulative losses in January of 8.57%. Until Friday, its worst January from 1929 onward occurred in 1970, when it lost 7.65%.
Both stock-market indexes are off by more than 40% from their 2007 highs.
COMMENT: Compare these statistics with the comments by Eric Cantor in the story just below. How much do you think the spending Cantor describes will do to improve this disastrous picture? You have five seconds.
THE COUNTER-REV AT WORK - AT 9:38 A.M. ET: Bookworm Room alerts us to a great letter by GOP House Whip Eric Cantor, of Virginia, explaining why he voted against the Obama stimulus plan, and got his whole party to vote against it as well:
Here is some of what is currently in the plan:
* It creates 32 new federal programs, totaling $136 billion. (37 percent of the total cost)
* It expands 60 existing programs, mostly programs favored by the political left.
* It spends $6 billion in corporate welfare to help broadband companies get more customers.
* It spends $600 million to “prepare our country for universal healthcare”.
* It spends $1 billion on Amtrak.
* It spends $400 million on climate change research.
* It spends $50 million on the National Endowment for the Arts.
* It spends $3 billion on a new “prevention and wellness” fund, which includes $335 million for sexually transmitted disease education and prevention.
Every penny is passed on to our children and grandchildren in government debt and will undoubtedly lead to massive tax increases in the future.
This reckless spending is why I voted NO.
COMMENT: Cantor is turning out to be an exceptional House whip. His ability to explain the Republican position is priceless.
NOTHING TO SEE HERE, NOTHING TO SEE - AT 8:56 A.M. ET: Iraqis go to the polls today in a national election made possible by the Bush-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Of course, some American news outlets don't know what to make of it. What's the approved "narrative"? What's the party line in the age of Obama. From The New York Times:
BAGHDAD — Voters turned out early and calmly on Saturday for Iraq’s provincial elections, the first in the country for four years. By noon, halfway through the voting, no one had been reported injured or killed.
Early reporting showed a lighter turnout than expected.
And from CNN:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Voting in Iraq began early Saturday in the war-ravaged country's important provincial elections.
Turnout early in the day seemed high, election officials said.
COMMENT: So it's high, so it's low. What's a little word? The main thing is to be sure BUSH (!) doesn't get any credit.
HOW DARE SHE? - AT 8:26 A.M. ET: The New York Times this morning publishes a stunning, vicious attack on...a Democratic senator from New York. The victim, or honoree, is new Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, recently appointed by Governor David Paterson to the seat vacated by Hillary Clinton. Ms. Gillibrand does not pass muster because, among other things, she's firm on the unacceptability of illegal immigration. But most important appears to be this:
Can she represent a constituency beyond the narrow politics of her district, where she has been a bullet-headed opponent of gun control, proudly basking in the extremist affections of the National Rifle Association?
COMMENT: Oh my, my. The woman is a sinner, a lowlife. Her greatest crime, of course, is coming from outside the New York City area. Why, darlings, how can anyone who lives up there possibly represent us? In the minds of New York Times editorial writers, "narrow politics" only exist in rural districts. Why, as everyone knows, districts within New York City are open, intellectual, so tolerant, and understanding. Yeah, we've seen that. Try expressing a word of admiration for George W. Bush, or even John McCain, in Manhattan. Hope to get out alive.