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FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2009
MORE P.C. IN BRITAIN - AT 8:39 P.M. ET: Britain may be the P.C. capital of the world. Consider this:
London - The British government apologised on Friday for an aching pack that encouraged children to think about the deadly 2005 London attacks from the suicide bombers' point of view.
The pack was included on the Department for Children, Schools and Families' (DCSF) Teachernet website, as part of a toolkit to help schools combat violent extremism.
COMMENT: I honestly don't know what an "aching pack" is. But, whatever, this was clearly one of those attempts to "understand" the "multicultural aspects" of the issue. Fortunately, they came to their senses.
THIS JUST IN - AT 8:31 P.M. ET: From The Washington Times:
Obama to mayors: Don't waste money
COMMENT: Too bad he didn't say that to the people writing the stimulus bill.
CLINTON STUMBLES ON RIGHTS - AT 8:25 P.M. ET: From The Washington Times:
BEIJING | Human rights groups reacted angrily Friday to comments by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that she would not let thorny issues such as human rights and Tibet prevent the United States and China from making progress on climate change, security and economic matters...
...The shift in emphasis upset rights organizations.
"The United States is one of the only countries that can meaningfully stand up to China on human rights issues," said T. Kumar, Amnesty International's advocacy director for Asia and the Pacific. "But by commenting that human rights will not interfere with other priorities, Secretary Clinton damages future U.S. initiatives to protect those rights in China."
COMMENT: Hmm. And we thought The One would run such an inspirational administration. In fact, signals sent so far indicate that the Obama team gives a very low priority to human rights and democracy. Some "rights" groups may start wishing for the return of George Bush.
UNBELIEVABLY CRUDE - AT 4:23 P.M. ET:
Columbia, S.C. (AP) - The highest-ranking black congressman said Thursday that opposition to the federal stimulus package by southern GOP governors is "a slap in the face of African-Americans."
U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., said he was insulted when the governors of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and his home state, which have large black populations, said they might not accept some of the money from the $787 billion stimulus package...
...A spokesman for South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford accused Clyburn of playing the race card.
"Spending money at the federal level that we do not have represents a future tax increase on all South Carolinians, regardless of their color," Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer said in an e-mail statement. "And in the process of doing so, he's ripping off everyone he claims to represent."
COMMENT: Comment, Mr. Obama?
MORE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION CONFUSION - AT 4:16 P.M. ET: But this time it's about a deadly subject. From AP:
KRAKOW, Poland -- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday that Washington could accept a political agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban if the insurgents will lay down their arms and accept the government's terms
He was responding to a question from a Pakistani reporter about whether a deal struck by Pakistan with Taliban fighters in the restive Swat valley could serve as a model for Afghanistan...
...A reporter from Pakistan's Geo Television brought up the Swat deal and criticism of it by Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration's envoy to the region.
COMMENT: So who's in charge here, Holbrooke or Gates? They'd better settle this and send the same message.
IN THE DOGHOUSE - AT 4:09 P.M. ET: From Fox News:
President Obama's transportation department slapped down a suggestion by its own secretary Friday that the government tax motorists based on how many miles they drive rather than how much gasoline they burn.
Secretary Ray LaHood floated the idea in an interview with The Associated Press...
...Asked about the claim, transportation department spokeswoman Lori Irving immediately shot it down.
"The policy of taxing motorists based on how many miles they have traveled is not and will not be Obama administration policy," she said.
COMMENT: Extraordinary. I've never seen this happen. The department's own spokesperson shoots down the secretary and speaks for the administration. Why do I think we won't soon see the phrase "the influential Ray Lahood" in any newspaper?
DOW CLOSE - AT 4:01 P.M. ET: Using preliminary figures, the Dow closed down 97 points, to 7369. On the day Barack Obama was elected, the Dow closed at 9625. It has, since that day, lost 2256 points.
DOW DOWNER - AT 11:56 A.M. ET: The Dow is down 141, to 7324.
THE IRANIAN BOMB
Posted at 11:39 a.m. ET
More details are coming out about the newest report on Iranian nuclear development. Once again, it appears that Iran is further along than we'd thought. From The New York Times:
In their first appraisal of Iran’s nuclear program since President Obama took office, atomic inspectors have found that Iran recently understated by a third how much uranium it has enriched, United Nations officials said Thursday.
The officials also declared for the first time that the amount of uranium that Tehran had now amassed — more than a ton — was sufficient, with added purification, to make an atom bomb.
What we have, though, is a massive international economic crisis that is taking attention away from this critical development - just as the Great Depression took attention away from the growing militarism in Germany and Japan before World War II. Will we suffer the same fate?
“It’s worse than we thought,” Gary Milhollin, director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, said in an interview. “It’s alarming that the actual production was underreported by a third.”
The political impact of the report, while hard to measure, could be significant for the Obama administration. Mr. Obama has said that he wants to open direct talks with Iran about its nuclear program. But starting that process could take months, and the report suggests that Iran is moving ahead briskly with its uranium enrichment.
By the time they arrange "talks," the Iranians may just have the bomb. What does Mr. Obama do then? Propose more talks?
On Thursday evening, an Obama administration official who had reviewed the new report said, “There is a steady timeline of improvement, especially in terms of mastering the efficiency of the centrifuges,” meaning that Iran has been able to increase its output of enriched uranium.
The official acknowledged that there were longstanding suspicions that Iran could have additional uranium enrichment sites that the inspectors had not seen or heard about. “Everyone’s nervous and worried about the possibility of Iran pursuing a clandestine capability,” he said.
Pathetically, unbelievably, UN officials were still defending their inspections, which is what UN officials do. Some of them tried to downplay the discrepancy between what Iran originally reported about enrichment and the latest data:
The officials dismissed suggestions that the discrepancy meant that Iran could smuggle enriched uranium out of the Natanz plant for processing at a secret location. “We’re sure that no material could have left the facility without us knowing,” the senior United Nations official said. But he admitted that the inspection teams do their own inventory just once a year. “It’s only at that moment,” he said, “that we have our own independent data.”
Oh, now they tell us. Impressive. So impressive. We still are not taking this seriously enough. The story above appeared on page 12 of The New York Times. It apparently wasn't important enough for the first 11 pages. After all, we don't want to seem like those neocon alarmists, do we, darlings?
One nuclear device sailed into an American harbor in a freighter, and set off by a suicide squad, could produce more fatalities in a few moments than in all of America's wars put together.
The late military theorist, Herman Kahn, for whom I worked, called it "thinking about the unthinkable." We really should start.
February 20, 2009. Permalink
DOW DOWN - AT 11:08 A.M. ET: The Dow is down 110, to 7356.
WHAT WILL BECOME OF DENMARK? - AT 11:03 A.M. ET: Denmark has always been one of those countries that seems so civilized, seems to work, and is a pleasure to visit. But Denmark has had a serious problem with Muslim immigrants who refuse to integrate. Reader Ken Braithwaite refers us to an excellent report on Denmark's experience with immigrants who have no intention of becoming part of their new country. It's here, and what is fascinating is that Denmark has reacted strongly, determined to protect its values. Recommended reading.
THANK YOU, SILVIO - AT 9:16 A.M. ET: I was very happy to be interviewed on internet radio yesterday by Silvio Canto Jr., who runs an excellent website and asks intelligent, probing questions. The site is here. The interview is here. Silvio posts at his site a wonderful quote by Ronald Reagan, which reminds us of how reflective Reagan really was:
"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."
COMMENT: Think about that next time there's a power grab in Washington, or an attempt to control our economy, our broadcasters, or students in school.
OH, SWELL - AT 8:28 A.M. ET: Another genius heard from:
WASHINGTON (AP) - Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says he wants to consider taxing motorists based on how many miles they drive rather than how much gasoline they burn—an idea that has angered drivers in some states where it has been proposed.
Gasoline taxes that for nearly half a century have paid for the federal share of highway and bridge construction can no longer be counted on to raise enough money to keep the nation's transportation system moving, LaHood said in an interview with The Associated Press.
"We should look at the vehicular miles program where people are actually clocked on the number of miles that they traveled," the former Illinois Republican lawmaker said.
COMMENT: Brilliant, really brilliant. This will unquestionably be popular out there. So, let's reason it through: I buy a high-efficiency car that gets a lot of miles to the gallon. I can drive more on the same dollar cost for gasoline because I've chosen wisely. Now the feds come along and punish me for acting responsibly, by taxing the miles I drive. Did this Cabinet officer clear his idea with his sixth-grade teacher before shooting off his mouth? This is the kind of thing, if enacted, that can cost Obama a second term.
OBAMA'S PROBLEMATICAL CABINET - AT 8:16 A.M. ET: From The Politico:
In President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, there is a Nobel Prize winner, a former mayor, and a veteran CIA agent. Surrounding him in the White House West Wing are a former four-star general, one of the nation’s most eminent economists, and a handful of this generation’s most talented political operatives.
This constellation of talent, however, has something of a black hole. There is virtually no one on Obama’s team with outsized achievements or a high-profile reputation earned in the world of business.
There are no former CEOs in the Obama Cabinet. And among the people who make up his daily inner circle, there is only a dollop or two of top-level private sector experience.
This is a notable absence, particularly for an administration whose domestic reputation will hinge on whether it can reverse one of the steepest economic downturns in decades.
COMMENT: The business community is signalling that it is highly skeptical of the Obama economic plan. Corporate CEO's have a poor public image right now - and often for good reason - and maybe that's why they haven't been brought into the inner circle. But FDR reached out to business leaders early in World War II, even though he had often spoken harshly of them, because he needed them for the war effort. Obama could make more of an effort to involve successful and responsible business leaders, but there's an antagonism toward business in the left wing of the Democratic Party, and that crowd has influence.
BACK TO THE SIXTIES - AT 7:40 A.M. ET: There's a 1960s-style student takeover underway at New York University. Students have barricaded themselves inside a cafeteria. They have the usual demands, but included are the following. From WCBS News. You can't make this up:
There are also other demands that don't concern the budget. The group wants 13 scholarships a year provided for students of the Gaza Strip, and to give surplus supplies to the Islamic university in Gaza.
COMMENT: NYU isn't far from Ground Zero in New York. That's just what we need - surplus supplies for a university that teaches the worst hatred of the West and its values, and probably dreams of another 9-11. We wonder who injected these ideas into the heads of these students. The mainstream media will never ask.
TREASON - AT 6:47 A.M. ET: It is horrendous. It is vulgar. It is treasonable. The Times of London reports on a campaign in France, led by its highest health authorities, to discourage the drinking of wine:
“The consumption of alcohol, and especially wine, is discouraged,” say guidelines that are drawn from the findings of the National Cancer Institute (INCA). A single glass of wine per day will raise the chance of contracting cancer by up to 168 per cent, claims the ministry’s brochure.
Forget those 1980s findings that antioxidants in wine were good for health, said the French experts. “Small daily doses of alcohol are the most harmful. There is no amount, however small, which is good for you,” said Dominique Maraninchi, INCA’s president.
COMMENT: Yeah, yeah, I remember those 1980s findings. We were encouraged to drink a bit of alcohol each day to ward off heart disease. Another "scientific" finding that's gone down in flames. But let's not question anything said about "global warming."
NOT MUCH CONFIDENCE - AT 6:37 A.M. ET:
Feb. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Stocks in Europe and Asia retreated, sending the MSCI World Index lower for a ninth day, and U.S. stock futures fell as results at companies from Anglo American Plc to Bridgestone Corp. indicated the recession is deepening.
COMMENT: Not a good sign for today's stock market. We'll watch the numbers closely. Not too many days ago the Dow was headed down toward 8000. Now it's heading down toward 7000. Clearly, the Obama plan isn't inspiring much enthusiasm.
GOOD FOR NOW - AT 6 :22 A.M. ET: One thing we insist on at Urgent Agenda is giving credit where it's due. If a group or person we generally oppose does something praiseworthy, we're happy to acknowledge it.
As you know, there was an especially horrific murder here in New York State last week. A Muslim activist, who'd established a TV outlet to give a positive view of Islam, was arrested for beheading his own wife. As usual, the mainstream media did handstands to avoid the story, or to play it down, leading to this comment from Marcia A. Pappas, the New York State president of the National Organization for Women. This is not our favorite group, but praise is due for this quote of the day:
Is a Muslim woman's life not worth a five-minute report? This was, apparently, a terroristic version of "honor killing," a murder rooted in cultural notions about women's subordination to men. Are we now so respectful of the Muslim's religion that we soft-peddle atrocities committed in it's name? Millions of women in this country are maimed and killed by their husbands or partners. Had this awful murder been perpetrated by a African American, a Latino, a Jew, or a Catholic, the story would be flooding the airwaves. What is this deafening silence?
COMMENT: I can't attest to the accuracy of the charge that "millions of women in this country are maimed and killed by their husbands and partners." It seems like the typical NOW exaggeration. But the rest of the statement is excellent, and credit is due.
SOB FOR SAAB - AT 6:03 A.M. ET: From The New York Times:
STOCKHOLM (AP) -- General Motors Corp.'s Swedish-based subsidiary Saab filed for bankruptcy protection Friday so it can be spun off or sold by its struggling U.S. parent, officials said.
The move comes after Sweden turned down GM's request for government help for Saab.
COMMENT: So let me get this right. Sweden turns down help for Saab, one of its iconic companies, but the U.S. keeps pouring money into GM and Chrysler, which have had 30 years since the Japanese car invasion to get their act together. What's wrong with this picture?
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2009
THE SAME OLD STORY - IRAN FURTHER AHEAD THAN THOUGHT - AT 10:02 P.M. ET: This isn't good news, but we shouldn't be surprised. Whenever the facts come out, it seems Iran is further ahead in its nuclear program than previously thought. From Financial Times:
Iran has built up a stockpile of enough enriched uranium for one nuclear bomb, United Nations officials acknowledged on Thursday.
In a development that comes as the Obama administration is drawing up its policy on negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear programme, UN officials said Iran had produced more nuclear material than previously thought.
COMMENT: How will the Obama "negotiations above all" crowd react to this? They'll probably tell us that we must "engage" with Iran, which, of course, is what the Europeans have been doing for years, without result.
COMEDOWN - AT 7:46 P.M. ET: It is incredible, and sad, that a share of New York Times stock now sells for less than the cost of the Sunday Times:
Shares of NYT (NYT) dropped 29 cents today to close at $3.77. The Sunday paper goes for $4 at the newsstand.
Maybe they could save costs by printing the paper on their stock certificates.
COMMENT: When I was a lowly desk editor at The Times, during the Lincoln administration, we used to measure the Sunday Times by its weight - at that time more than seven pounds. There were even suggestions that the Sunday edition could be dropped as a weapon on an enemy. Now the Sunday paper is compared with the sinking stock price, which was more than $50 a share in 2002.
HOLDER'S DISGRACE - AT 7:21 P.M. ET: Attorney General Eric Holder's comments, branding the U.S. a nation of cowards about race, have spread around the world. I'm sure this will do our image a lot of good. Wasn't Obama the candidate who said he'd "repair" that image? He might send the memo to his
A-G. From London's Telegraph:
Barack Obama's attorney general Eric Holder has branded the United States a "nation of cowards" who are "voluntarily socially segregated" along race lines.
Mr Holder, the first African American to hold the post of top justice official, said that although the US was integrated in the workplace, its people spent their weekends and private lives in "race-protected cocoons."
The reaction of NAACP executive Hilary Shelton is a gem to be remembered:
"Nobody wants to be considered a coward. We've learned to get along by exclusion and silence. We need to talk about it. People need to feel comfortable saying the wrong things."
THE REAL WORLD - AT 4:59 P.M. ET: From London's Telegraph:
US demands for Nato allies to send more troops to Afghanistan have been met with a cool response at a summit in Poland.
Washington had hoped to persuade European allies to contribute more in the wake of the President Barack Obama's election and the announcement this week of the deployment of 17,00 extra American soldiers.
American defence secretary Robert Gates condemned their failure to do so far as "disappointing" with European states promising to deploy no more than just a few hundred extra troops.
COMMENT: But wait. We thought The One was so persuasive that all these nations would suddenly cooperate with us. The fact is that not one country, anywhere in the world, has altered a single policy toward the United States since Barack Obama became president.
Of course, we all know how this will be spun by the media: It's leftover resentment of BUSH (!!). That's whose fault it is. The damage done by
BUSH (!!) will last four more years. And there are people who'll believe that.
YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE - AT 4:53 P.M. ET: From Gateway Pundit:
Maybe he thought he was in one of the northern 57 states ?
Or, maybe he was thinking of Kentucky? Whatever, the Bumbler in Chief made a great first impression with the Canadians today, via JWF:
President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper just started their joint news conference, the first such dual podium event for the new president.
The newness is showing - the president began his remarks with, "It's a great pleasure to be here in Iowa - Ottawa."
COMMENT: Can you imagine public reaction if George Bush had made a mistake like that? Can you imagine the late-night comedians? Maureen Dowd? Chris Matthews? Frankly, I'd prefer not to imagine any of them.
DOW CLOSE - AT 4:40 P.M. ET: The Dow closed down 90, to 7466. One year ago today the Dow closed at 12337. It's declined almost 40 percent.
DOW DOWN - AT 12:26 P.M. ET: The Dow is down 64, to 7492. This is disappointing because there were some signs earlier in the day that the market might rally. Remember how we wondered if the Dow would actually dip below 8000? That was ten days ago.
CAR LINES - AT 8:13 A.M. ET: From a Wall Street Journal editorial today on the car industry:
The shrinking of GM and Chrysler are inevitable; the only questions are how long it takes and how much it will cost. President Obama will help himself, taxpayers and the economy if he forces the hard decisions as soon as possible, well before the next election and while he can still blame the last Administration. Bankruptcy increasingly looks like the least painful choice.
COMMENT: Several on-the-air commentators have been making this same point, and believe the administration is headed in that direction. But we can only dread the psychological impact of the headlines: GM BELLY UP.
OH, LET US EXPLAIN - AT 7:58 A.M. ET: A reader directs us to a terrific site, reporting on the administration's chart-based explanation of the stimulus package. You'll get a kick out of the definition of tax relief. It's unique.
HOLD THAT HOLDER
Posted at 7:36 a.m. ET
Reader Hunter Schultz alerts us to this:
Rarely has a Cabinet officer made such an embarrassing debut.
Eric Holder, President Obama's poor choice for attorney general, demonstrated his inadequacy yesterday with a foolish, over-the-top speech to Justice Department employees, celebrating Black History Month:
"Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards," Mr. Holder said.
"Though race-related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race."
The venue itself was inappropriate. The use of a Black History Month celebration, which would understandably attract mostly African-American employees, sends a message of divisiveness, not inclusion. This was the message of a radical, angry man.
Conservatives reacted strongly, and correctly:
Tom Fitton, president of the conservative Judicial Watch, said Mr. Holder's remarks suggest he will pursue a "radical" agenda as attorney general...
...He rebutted Mr. Holder's remarks calling America cowardly, saying that if the presidential election of Barack Obama "doesn't prove the nation's bravery, I don't know what will."
Agreed. No doubt we have racial problems, but Eric Holder has made millions as a lawyer. He can't claim to be a victim.
Conservative elections-lawyer Cleta Mitchell chided Mr. Holder for not realizing he is "chief law enforcement officer of the United States not a camp counselor."
Holder engages in some odd logic:
"The fact that we have an African-American attorney general, an African-American president I think is extremely significant but it is not an indication that all of the problems that we have confronted as a nation over the years are now resolved," Mr. Holder told reporters.
It is certainly true that we're not as integrated, black and white, as we could be. But we're not as integrated, ethnically, religiously, and politically, as we could be either. I would have much preferred it had Holder restricted his speech to legal challenges, and outlined his legal ideas.
The liberals whined about the "politicization" of the Bush Justice Department. That looked like amateur stuff compared to what Holder apparently has in mind.
Oh, I wonder how he intends to pursue the legal fight against terrorism. Will there be a speech on it?
February 19, 2009. Permalink
AN OBVIOUS STIMULUS - AT 6:41 A.M. ET: From Fox News:
While the stimulus bill President Obama signed into law on Tuesday includes $10 billion to upgrade military barracks, hospitals, clinics and child-care centers, it doesn't add a single dollar for weapons development. And some observers think that's a mistake.
A stimulus in defense spending, they say, would be a victory not only for American servicemen and women -- but for the nation's economy, as well.
COMMENT: Pretty obvious. Defense spending is very stimulative, and the assembly lines could get going quickly, but don't count on it from this Congress. The left wing of the Democratic Party is in charge, and they despise national defense. General of the Army Barney Frank wants to cut the defense budget 25 percent, apparently believing that the rest of the world will see us as wonderful, and immediately stop all threats.
WELCOME, HILLARY CLINTON - AT 6:35 A.M. ET:
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korea stepped up its war rhetoric Thursday, saying its troops are ''fully ready'' for war with South Korea just hours before a visit to Seoul by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
North Korea's military accused South Korean President Lee Myung-bak of using ''nonexistent'' nuclear and missile threats as a pretext for an invasion and warned it was prepared for an ''all-out confrontation.''
COMMENT: Pay no attention to this. Pay absolutely no attention. Everyone knows it's just rhetoric. Why, when Hillary lands and brings her message from The One, all these verbal swords will be beaten into marshmallows, and negotiations will break out. That's true, isn't it?