"The left needs two things to survive. It needs mediocrity, and it needs dependence. It nurtures mediocrity in the public schools and the universities. It nurtures dependence through its empire of government programs. A nation that embraces mediocrity and dependence betrays itself, and can only fade away, wondering all the time what might have been."
- Urgent Agenda
This is really fascinating stuff - a family fight within Al Qaida. Consider:
One of Al-Qaida's founders, Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, has waged a harsh verbal attack on the terrorist organization's leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri...
...Sharif, who is serving a life sentence in a Cairo prison, recently wrote a book in which he said, "every drop of blood that was shed or is being shed in Afghanistan and Iraq is the responsibility of bin Laden and Zawahiri and their followers."
The Al-Qaida figurehead also said called the September 11 terror attacks immoral and counterproductive.
Not bad, not bad. A little prison time can change a man. Sharif goes on:
"What good is it if you destroy one of your enemy's buildings, and he destroys one of your countries? What good is it if you kill one of his people, and he kills a thousand of yours? That, in short, is my evaluation of 9/11."
Notice the lack of talk of "root causes" or "American policies." Maybe some of the "scholars" we hear from regularly could get a little face time with Sharif. He could teach them much.
Sharif also criticizes Muslims who move to the West only to perpetrate terror attacks in their adopted countries. "If they gave you permission to enter their homes and live with them, and if they gave you security for yourself and your money, and if they gave you the opportunity to work or study, or they granted you political asylum" wrote Sharif, then it is "not honorable" to "betray them, through killing and destruction."
I hope this gets a lot of publicity. But what will the hard left say?
According to Reuven Paz, an expert on Islamist movements, Sharif is considered one of the leading ideologues within the Egyptian group that cultivated Jihad starting in the 1970s...
...Sharif's writings have enraged Zawahiri's followers, who claim Sharif is working for Egyptian intelligence.
Let them fight among themselves. Sharif seems a fascinating guy.
COMMON SENSE ON MISSILE DEFENSE - AT 11:12 A.M. ET: An excellent statement on missile defense by James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation. From The Politico:
All the talk about North Korea missile tests has folks wondering why administration officials sound so ambivalent lately about missile defense. Couple that with news of an Iranian satellite launch and reports that Iran has enough nuclear material for a "breakout" capability, leaves you really scratching your head as to why the White House is sending slow-go signals on missile defense. No one takes official statements about "technical" concerns seriously-not after all the successful test intercepts-plus the obvious; why would Russia be ranting about a system that wouldn't work? The cost concern argument makes no sense either, since the whole missile defense budget is single digits of the Pentagon budget. It's just the wrong time to sound weak on missile defense.
COMMENT: It's the wrong time to sound weak on anything, but that's the way this administration is starting to sound.
HILLARY OVER THE TOP - AT 10:26 A.M. ET: From an AP story about Hillary Clinton's current travels in Asia:
In unusual public comments, she likened much of diplomacy to a high-stakes stare-down and dropped in a healthy dose of criticism for President George W. Bush and his foreign policy team. She accused them of needlessly alienating much of the world with arrogance and ignorance.
COMMENT: Oh, that's just great, Hillary. How about shutting up? We have a tradition in the United States - perhaps our own secretary of state hasn't heard of it - that we don't criticize America or its government overseas. This administration's constant attacks on President Bush are unseemly. Criticizing him abroad is tasteless. Maybe the secretary doesn't realize it, but Mr. Bush had an excellent relationship with Japan and South Korea. And he did more to bring India to our side than any other president. Further, I don't recall our having any particular image problems in Asia.
WHOOPS - AT 9:49 A.M. ET:
Feb. 20 (Bloomberg) -- A glitch in satellite sensors caused scientists to underestimate the extent of Arctic sea ice by 500,000 square kilometers (193,000 square miles), a California- size area, the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center said.
The error, due to a problem called “sensor drift,” began in early January and caused a slowly growing underestimation of sea ice extent until mid-February. That’s when “puzzled readers” alerted the NSIDC about data showing ice-covered areas as stretches of open ocean, the Boulder, Colorado-based group said on its Web site.
COMMENT: Fellas, can we get this right? We have a new administration that has joined the Church of the Global Warming, and yet there is story after story about errors, thoughtful dissent, and worries that the science doesn't hold up. We're told by Church leaders that we must write large checks to save the planet. Maybe we should nail down the facts first.
FROM SOMEONE WHO KNOWS - AT 9:45 A.M. ET: You may know the name Debra Burlingame. Her brother was the captain of the jetliner that struck the Pentagon on 9-11. She has since become an advocate for victims of terror and for firmness against terrorism. She's written a fine piece for The Washington Post, expressing concern over President Obama's approach to terrorism and terror detainees. It begins this way:
Two weeks ago, I was among a small group of USS Cole and 9/11 victims' families who met with President Obama at the White House. Despite President Obama's assurances that the safety and security of the American people is his number one priority, I left the meeting with little confidence that the President appreciates the grave consequences of shutting down Guantanamo or the complex problems associated with adjudicating detainee cases in the federal court system.
COMMENT: We worry here about this administration's commitment to the war on terror, a phrase, by the way, that I think is perfectly fine. Debra Burlingame makes very sound points. Recommended reading.
GET OUT THE CALCULATOR - AT 9:16 A.M. ET: From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — After a string of costly bailout and stimulus measures, President Obama will set a goal this week to cut the annual deficit at least in half by the end of his term, administration officials said. The reduction would come in large part through Iraq troop withdrawals and higher taxes on the wealthy.
COMMENT: I haven't done all the math, but, at first glance, I worry that the real issue here will be cutting the defense budget to unacceptable levels. That's what Jimmah Carter did, and the weakness it showed helped defeat him in 1980. We need to replace many planes and ships, and a great deal of the equipment used in Iraq. That must be done before the nation is placed at risk.
I'D LIKE TO THANK MY MOTHER, MY FATHER, THE GOD WHO ISN'T BUSH'S GOD, MY WONDERFUL AGENT -- AT 8:56 A.M. ET: It's Oscar night tonight. The electric companies in California will feed all their juice to Los Angeles to power the hair dryers. We will watch keenly as we're shown, one by one, the wonders of modern plastic surgery, none of it covered by Medicare.
Hollywood is worried. A lot observers are predicting the most boring Oscar ceremony ever, as the industry hands out awards to movies most people have never seen. The TV folks are sweating because ratings may take a dive. However, I wouldn't be shocked if ratings are respectable. We're in the midst of a recession, and people stay home rather than go out. TV always does well in recessions.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GEORGE - AT 8:50 A.M. ET: It's Washington's birthday. Do you remember Washington's birthday? It was the thing they had, along with Lincoln's birthday, before President's day. All of us knew that February 22nd was Washington's birthday. We also knew who Washington was. And his first name wasn't Denzel. Better quiz your kids today.
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.
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 way some 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.
"What you see is news. What you know is background. What you feel is opinion."
- Lester Markel, late Sunday editor
of The New York Times.
THE ANGEL'S CORNER
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