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SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2009
NO FAIRNESS - AT 6:16 P.M. ET: From The Washington Times:
President Obama's effort to clear the air last week has failed to ease conservative fears that the White House and congressional Democrats are conspiring to dominate the airwaves.
At issue is the "Fairness Doctrine," a rule that, from 1949 to 1987, mandated that broadcasters present contrasting views on controversial issues. Despite Mr. Obama's denials, leading conservative talk-show hosts and their allies in Congress warn that a plan is afoot to revive the rule in camouflaged form with a simple goal in mind: silencing conservative talk radio.
COMMENT: Conservatives are right to be concerned. There's a kind of sneakiness about the crowd running things right now. They'll get the fairness doctrine through in another form, giving it one of those Soviet-style names - "The First Amendment Community Education Act," or some such. It's a game they play very well.
YOUR U.N. IN ACTION - AT 5:01 P.M. ET: From Fox News:
U.S. officials are furious with the United Nations for its role in Hamas' attempt to enlist U.S. Sen John Kerry to transfer a letter from the Palestinian militant group to President Obama during Kerry's trip to the Middle East, an official source told FOX News.
The incident also has raised security concerns over how much Hamas knew about Kerry's travel plans.
COMMENT: I love it. I just love it. Suddenly we're "furious" with the U.N. We should have been furious decades ago. Don't those American diplomats who are "furious" understand that the U.N., in Gaza, is a branch office of Hamas? That's what I fear about this administration, and the political party behind it - that they live in a fool's world, a child's universe. Hey, we're just "engaging," we're just "negotiating."
Posted at 10:50 a.m. ET
The way Mr. Obama spoke during the campaign, you'd think our standing in the world would soar from the first second he took office, and that other nations would bow before The One.
But a funny thing happened to the president on the way to Utopia. Jim Geraghty, at National Review Online, explains:
Gallup announced Wednesday that just 32 percent of Americans are satisfied with the position of the United States in the world today, and 45 percent believe other countries perceive the U.S. favorably — “both little changed from last year, when George W. Bush was still president.”
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. When Obama went on his midsummer world tour, foreign leaders fell over themselves to get in photo-ops with the Democratic nominee, and a crowd of hundreds of thousands packed a park in Berlin to hear Obama speak.
Ah yes, I remember it well.
Almost overnight, the Obama administration has announced plans for a lot of policy changes the Europeans have been demanding for years...
...In gratitude, what are the Europeans offering? The Obama administration expects help in return: “America will do more. That’s the good news,” Biden told the Munich Security Conference. “The bad news is that America will ask for more from our partners as well.”
And their answer?
Biden’s speech provoked applause, and garnered attention in the American media, but European leaders haven’t been matching Obama promise-for-promise. Take Obama’s request for more NATO troops for Afghanistan: Spain and France declined, and it looks like German chancellor Angela Merkel and her party will do anything to avoid another debate about sending more soldiers (national elections loom in September).
So far, not so good.
With Obama in office, it is increasingly clear that Europe’s reluctance to send more troops to the world’s trouble spots had less to do with President Bush’s “cowboy” ways than with voting populaces that are effectively pacifist. French president Nicolas Sarkozy attended the Munich Security Conference and managed to put the issue surprisingly bluntly: “Does Europe want peace, or does it want to be left in peace?” A member of the British parliament responded by saying her constituents clearly wanted to be left in peace.
While Obama’s new friends may not be willing to help when it counts, his policy shifts are effectively punishing old friends — allies who put themselves out on a limb for the previous administration’s positions.
This is especially true of nations that joined with us on missile defense.
By agreeing to host the missile-defense-deployment sites, pro-western leaders in Poland and the Czech Republic put themselves on Russia’s enemies list — a dangerous place to be. These countries’ officials took this risk to cement a lasting defense relationship with the Arsenal of Democracy. Now the whole plan may be scrapped, and those pro-Western leaders may have put everything on the line for nothing. The word “betrayal” is being thrown around. Czech deputy prime minister Alexandr Vondra subtly jabbed at the shift in policy at the Munich conference, staying, “It’s too late to start building a shield when the missile is already in the air.”
But to the smug intellectuals who advise Obama, the missile will never be in the air because we will "negotiate" to avoid it. Only people from the best schools understand that, of course.
Obama has already demonstrated one improvement in America’s standing in the world — U.S. tourists will no longer confront bookshelves full of tomes denouncing their president in foreign bookstores. That may not be what Biden had in mind when he talked about America “asking more from its partners,” but it may be the most visible and tangible reciprocation that Europe offers.
And this is after only one month. I would not be surprised if some of our firmer allies, over time, silently wish for the days of George Bush. And maybe not so silently.
February 21, 2009. Permalink
HILLARY JOINS THE GROVELING CLASS - AT 10:32 A.M. ET: From The New York Times:
BEIJING — Declaring “we hope you won’t make the same mistakes we made,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton invited China to join the United States in an ambitious effort to curb greenhouse gases, as she toured an energy-efficient power plant in Beijing on Saturday.
“When we were industrializing and growing, we didn’t know any better; neither did Europe,” Mrs. Clinton said. “Now we’re smart enough to figure out how to have the right kind of growth.”
COMMENT: The secretary has apparently gotten into the rhythm of the Obama administration - start off every foreign contact by groveling. We are fools. We are idiots. We didn't know how to do it. Learn from our stupidity.
Now you know what's taught in the Ivy League.
MORE HAPPY TALK - AT 10:04 A.M. ET:
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The global economy may be deteriorating even faster than it did during the Great Depression, Paul Volcker, a top adviser to President Barack Obama, said on Friday.
Volcker noted that industrial production around the world was declining even more rapidly than in the United States, which is itself under severe strain.
COMMENT: One of the most underplayed stories of this decline is the mess in other countries. The waysome news organizations play it, you'd think the problem was only here. But the situation in countries like Britain is even more serious, and some European countries may be on the verge of bankruptcy.
On the other hand, we can talk our way into a depression, which is one of my fears.
OBAMA'S FIRST MONTH - AT 9:42 A.M. ET: Provocative quote from Michael Gerson, once President Bush's chief speechwriter, and now a columnist for the Washington Post, on Obama's first month in office:
Obama's first month proves an iron rule of American politics: If a political party is not challenged and shaped by a leader, it will revert to its default values. Without strong leadership, the Republican Party can easily tend toward isolationism, anti-immigrant sentiment and indifference to the poor. Without strong leadership, the Democratic Party can swiftly overspend, overreach, alienate Middle America and please liberal constituencies at the expense of the public interest.
It is very early. But by this measure, Obama has not yet shown himself a strong leader of his party.
COMMENT: I'm inclined to agree. We haven't done an audio clip here at Urgent Agenda in a long while. I'll be doing one on Obama's first month.
CRIMSON AGONY - AT 9:23 A.M. ET: Harvard University, the place in Cambridge, Massachusetts, depends on income from its endowment to cover a third of its expenses. But the endowment is way down because of the financial shocks. The New York Times reports:
Harvard has frozen salaries for faculty and nonunion staff members, and offered early retirement to 1,600 employees. The divinity school has warned it may not be able to cover tuition for all its students with need, the school of arts and sciences is cutting its billion-dollar budget roughly 10 percent, and the university president said this week that the unprecedented drop in the endowment was causing it to delay its planned expansion, starting with a $1 billion science center, into the Allston neighborhood of Boston.
COMMENT: Harvard should turn the negative into a positive and use this as an opportunity to examine every aspect of its operations, including its endless commitment to political correctness. As one scholar wrote to us recently, one way to cut the budget at an American university is to eliminate any department whose name ends with "studies." Of course, Harvard will not question anything, especially anything that calls into the question its 1960s values. That's too much to ask.
PRESIDENTIAL APPROVAL - AT 9:01 A.M. ET: Scott Rasmussen reports approval of President Obama, as of yesterday, as follows:
Overall, 59% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President’s performance so far while 40% disapprove. This marks just the second time his ratings have dipped below 60% since taking office. Since Inauguration Day, the President’s overall approval rating has stayed between 60% and 62% every day but four. Twice, including today, it slipped a point below that range and twice it went a point above.
COMMENT: High ratings, but not sky high. The good will toward the president continues, but I wonder how these numbers will look 60 days from now.
OUTRAGEOUS, IF TRUE - AT 8:58 A.M. ET: There's a disturbing story making the rounds on the internet, to the effect that President Obama plans to appoint Charles W. Freeman as chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Should you not be familiar with the name, American Thinker identifies him:
For those who are not familiar with the former Ambassador, he is a terrorist apologist and a master of bashing Israel. Freeman is a believer of the false premise that all Muslim terrorism stems from Israel's battle with the Palestinians.
Freeman is our former ambassador to Saudi Arabia. A list of his associations is more than disturbing. He's an apologist for the mullah clique in Iran and one of those chaps who seems to find the good in the worst regimes.
Foreign Policy magazine's website describes the National Intelligence Council as "the intelligence community's primary big-think shop and the lead body in producing national intelligence estimates." Oh, great. So we'll have this apologist for maniacs guiding the most important intelligence reports our government produces. Remember the report in 2007 saying that Iran had stopped developing nuclear weapons, and the damage it did? That report has now been discredited. We wonder what fictions Freeman could conjure.
Can this appointment possibly be true? It seems like something only Obama's most determined opponents could dream up. And yet, there's been no denial from the White House, and the story has been out there two days.
We'll watch this. If the appointment is made, let's see if major Democrats have the guts to oppose it.
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?