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- Urgent Agenda
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STARTING THE NEW YEAR WITH VULGARITY - AT 7:04 P.M. ET: From The Los Angeles Times: Reliably left-wing moonbat Rosa Brooks launches the new year with a vulgar column chiding Israel for daring to defend itself in Gaza. Her column contains this gem. Get the seasickness pills:
In a strictly military sense, Israel will "win" this battle against Hamas. For all its threats and bravado, Hamas is weak, and its weapons -- terrorism, homemade rockets -- are the weapons of the weak. Since 2001, Hamas has fired thousands of unguided Kassam rockets at Israel, but the rockets have killed only a handful of Israelis.
How does this woman stay employed? The rockets have killed "only a handful of Israelis"? How many Israelis have to die before Rosa Brooks cares? Is there a set, secret figure? The issue, of course, is not the number killed, but the terror those rockets bring. How would you like to send your child to school in a community where ten "unguided" rockets are likely to strike that day? What do you say to your kids? "It's okay. You have a statistically good chance of surviving. Study hard."
With all the layoffs at the L.A.Times, you'd think someone would have thought to pink-slip Rosa Brooks.
YOU WON'T BELIEVE THIS EITHER - AT 6:28 P.M. ET: From AP: ALBANY, N.Y. -- Despite early reservations, New York state's most powerful legislative leader now says he'll support Caroline Kennedy for the U.S. Senate if the governor names her to the seat expected to be vacated by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told the New York Post he's rethinking his views on Kennedy because he feels Gov. David Paterson will soon pick her to replace Clinton, President-elect Barack Obama's choice as secretary of state.
COMMENT: This is absolutely shameful. It's machine politics at the mud level. With all the scandals coming out of New York's Wall Street these days, you'd think New York leaders would at least try to present an appearance of propriety. Paterson will name Kennedy only because he's being pressured into it. She has been a disaster in interviews. She has no known views on major issues. Her accomplishments are minimal. She won't release her financial records. But the politicians are falling in line. Where is the pressure coming from? I don't know, but Barack Obama owes the Kennedy family big time. You can draw your own conclusions.
If Burris in Illinois and Kennedy in New York make it to the Senate, then all three of the Senate seats vacated by the change in administrations will have been filled in a shameful manner. The third in Biden's, in Delaware, which will go to a political ally, who, it is widely believed, will keep it warm for Biden's son.
I guess this is the change we can believe in.
YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE THIS - AT 4:59 P.M. ET: Well, it's Illinois, so you probably will. Solid talk-show host Mike Scully - I'll be doing his show on Wednesday - alerts us to the fact that Roland Burris, appointed to the U.S. Senate by disgraced Governor Rod Blagojevich, has already built a monument to himself in an Illinois cemetery, complete with a listing of his accomplishments. You can find the photos here, at Free Republic.
COMMENT: This man is weird. Normally we wait for the unfortunate event before building the memorial. This will just mean more ridicule, and more embarrassment for the president-elect, whose Senate seat Burris was appointed to fill.
CRISIS IN ASPEN - AT 4:49 P.M. ET: ASPEN, Colo. (AP) -- A one-time resident of this city who had been bitter over its transformation into a playground for the rich left four gift-wrapped bombs downtown in a bank-robbery attempt, turning New Year's Eve celebrations into a mass evacuation, police said Thursday.
COMMENT: But it was so exciting, dearies. Rushing out of town in a Rolls - why, there's nothing like it.
THANK YOU, SILVIO CANTO, JR. - AT 10:38 A.M. ET: Silvio Canto Jr. runs a fine and influential website, with particular interest in the Hispanic-American community. He's named Urgent Agenda as his favorite blogger of 2008, and we are deeply appreciative.We will work hard to maintain the trust.
HAMAS BIG IS BIG NO MORE - AT 9:03 A.M. ET: From the Israeli press and news agencies: An Israel Air Force strike on a home in the Gaza Strip on Thursday killed a senior Hamas political leader, Hamas security sources said. Nizar Rayyan, the most senior Hamas leader to be killed in a six-day-old Gaza air offensive, was an outspoken advocate of renewing suicide bombings against Israel who served as the liaison between the group's military and political wing.
LAND OF LINCOLN
Posted at 8:46 a.m. ET
New Year's Day brings more evidence of the moral purity of Illinois politics. Lincoln would like to turn over in his grave, but hasn't yet made the required "turning over" payment to Illinois cemetery authorities.
The latest: The Illinois secretary of state is refusing to certify the appointment, by embattled Governor Rod Blagojevich, of prominent African-American politician Roland Burris to the Senate seat vacated by the president-elect. Mr. Obama has made it clear he disapproves of any appointment by the governor, who was caught on tape trying to sell the seat to the highest bidder. The governor is facing possible impeachment. But Obama has done nothing beyond issuing a tut-tut statement.
Burris, though, thinks the appointment is perfectly valid and has gone to court to force the secretary of state to certify it, meaning he would have the proper credentials to present to the United States Senate. Without those credentials, the Senate could block the appointment. Senate Democratic leaders have threatened to do just that, stating that any appointment by the governor is fatally tainted.
At the heart of the matter is the race card, being played directly and bluntly. The question: Will the Democratic Party refuse to seat an African-American appointee, at a time when there are no African-Americans in the Senate? The race card has inflamed the entire controversy, as John Kass points out in the Chicago Tribune:
Since he was federally charged with trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder, Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been wrongly caricatured as some kind of hapless jester prancing on the edge of madness...
..Jesters don't pick up the race card in a nationally televised news conference and slam it into the face of every Democrat in the U.S. Senate, a palm heel strike to the tip of the nose, leaving all of them watery-eyed, their lips stinging.
Yet that's what Blagojevich—aided by former Black Panther-turned-Daley-machine-functionary Bobby Rush—did at that stupendous news conference in Chicago on Tuesday. That's when the governor appointed Democratic empty suit Roland Burris, an African-American, to fill the Senate seat vacated by Obama.
Congressman Bobby Rush of Chicago, a former Black Panther, was at the press conference to inject race right into the muscle:
"I would ask you to not hang or lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointer. Roland Burris is worthy," Rush said.
Isn't that the old politics of race that Obama was to have transcended for us?
Apparently not in the Democratic politics of Illinois.
"And I don't think any senators want to go on the record to deny an African-American from taking a seat in the U.S. Senate," Rush said, ominously.
Grown-ups have seen such theater before. The only things missing were cameo performances by those two prolific race card players, Al Sharpton and Chicago's own Rev. Jesse Jackson.
This is getting very ugly, with the president-elect's name involved, whether he wants it involved or not.
That talk about transcending race was just talk. Skin pigment trumps ideas, and Blagojevich, who may be facing a jury soon, wants all the friends he can get.
Of course, Tuesday's fiasco could have been avoided. Democrats in the state legislature could have stripped Blagojevich of his appointment powers and imposed a special election. Obama also could have demanded it. But as he has done so often in his career, Obama avoided a confrontation and looked the other way.
Stay tuned. This is one of the most intriguing political stories going. What does Obama do if confronted with a Roland Burris, holding his old seat, in the U.S. Senate? Shun him? Embrace him? Endorse him when Burris is up for election? Support someone else?
Gaza remains the top international story, but the story isn't limited to Hamas rocket attacks and Israeli air action, both of which continue. One of the fascinating aspects is the verbal war against Hamas waged by Egypt, the most important Arab country. From The Jerusalem Post:
Stepping up the rhetoric in what has escalated into an all-out verbal war between Hamas and Egypt over the Gaza government's perceived responsibility for the devastating results of Operation Cast Lead, a senior Egyptian parliamentarian on Thursday accused Hamas leaders of abandoning the Palestinians of Gaza to their fate.
"Where are the Hamas leaders now, when the residents of Gaza are getting killed? All of Hamas's leadership is in bunkers," Muhammad Bassiouny, the head of the parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee, charged in an interview with an Egyptian television channel.
This is extraordinary, coming from an Arab country. But the statement masks an even larger issue: Hamas is seen as a puppet of Iran. Egypt, in particular, views Iran as a dire threat, a non-Arab country attempting to impose itself on the Arab world. So the Gaza issue has implications well beyond the local military action.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported Thursday that Egyptian security forces were in pursuit of a Hamas terror cell that had recently infiltrated Egypt - for fear of a terror attack on Egyptian soil. According to the report, Egyptian authorities were also concerned over the possibility that the cell would try to target security forces along the Gaza border.
The paper reported that Egyptian forces had arrested 59 Palestinians in the city of Al Qantarah El Sharqiyya in the northeast of the country. The fugitives from Gaza were unarmed, the report said, but authorities were nevertheless taking steps to return them to the Strip.
Meanwhile, the fighting goes on, with the possibility of an Israeli land incursion into Gaza to punch out Hamas strongholds.
Some American journalists are expressing surprise that the president-elect has issued no statement on the Gaza situation. Some in the media don't completely buy the Obama stand that we have "one president at a time," a line originated, by the way, by Richard M. Nixon during the transition of power from Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968-9. We can speculate that Obama hopes the Gaza fighting will be over by the time he's inaugurated, and wants to deal with Mideast issues with a clean slate.
WELCOME TO 2009 - AT 7:30 A.M. ET: And New Year's greetings from White Plains, New York, where it's 12 degrees. This global warming really has us in its grip. If it gets any hotter here, the hearts of Wall Street brokers will start to melt.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2008
WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL - AT 5:18 P.M. ET: If any "journalist" deserves an artful dressing down at the end of 2008 it's the terminally obnoxious Joe Klein, whose arrogance, pomposity and paranoia have become world class. Today, in his column for The Washington Post, Michael Gerson administers the medicine:
So far, Obama is attempting to be a unifying national figure -- in spite of his most insufferable supporters. "Indeed," explains Joe Klein of Time magazine, "as the weeks have passed since the election, I've felt -- as an urban creature myself -- less restricted, less defensive. Empowered, almost. Is it possible that, as a nation, we're shedding our childlike, rural innocence and becoming more mature, urban, urbane . . . dare I say it, sophisticated?"
Indeed. Is it possible for a pundit to be more like a college freshman who has just discovered the pleasures of wine, co-ed dorms and Nietzsche -- shedding the primitivism of his parents and becoming, dare I say it, an annoying adolescent?
Score one for Gerson.
SANITY PREVAILS - AT 2:45 P.M. ET: From The Seattle Times: Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels announced this morning that the city will reverse its policy and use road salt to melt ice in future storms. The mayor set certain conditions for using salt: on hills, arterials or snow bus routes, and on routes to hospitals and other emergency facilities when at least 4 inches of snow is predicted, if ice is predicted, or if extreme cold is expected to last more than three days. The city earlier refused to use salt, saying it's bad for the environment, and instead spread sand over the roads.
COMMENT: The sand didn't work. It was a disaster. If you go to the link you can read the reaction of the environmental religionists to the new policy. The mayor must be Satan.
HAMAS STILL DOESN'T GET IT - AT 9:14 A.M. ET: From The New York Times: JERUSALEM — Israel was expected on Wednesday to reject a proposal for a 48-hour cease-fire in its military onslaught in Gaza, saying it would keep up pressure on Hamas but was open to ways of increasing humanitarian aid.
COMMENT: Rockets continue to crash down in Israel. If they'd stop, Gaza could have a cease-fire. But they don't stop. Arab states, which increasingly seem disgusted with Hamas, are doing very little to help.
EVENING OF THE LIMOUSINE LIBERALS - AT 8:01 A.M. ET: From a New York Times report on a lavish debutante ball at the Waldorf-Astoria Monday night:
The biggest contingent was from Texas, 11 women who had perfected their signature curtsy, the “Texas dip,” which drew gusts of applause from the crowd. The most recognizable name in the pale pink program, which featured full-page black-and-white portraits of the evening’s stars, was a Huffington — Christina Sophia Huffington, daughter of Arianna, the founder of The Huffington Post Web site, and Michael, the oil heir and former California congressman.
COMMENT: Wait, wait. Didn't Arianna, former Republican stalwart, reinvent herself as a flaming liberal, woman-of-the-people type? I guess there are evenings when we peasants get left behind. Well, it's all among friends, I guess. I'm going out to practice my Texas dip. I'll post pictures.
A FUNNY THING HAPPENED TO CAROLINE ON THE WAY TO... - AT 7:56 A.M. ET: From the New York Post: Mayor Bloomberg's top political aide is pulling back on his lobbying campaign to propel Caroline Kennedy into the U.S. Senate because "it wasn't working," according to sources. "Everything was backfiring," said one source of the intense behind-the-scenes effort by Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey...
...Kennedy, a political novice, didn't help matters when she started granting interviews that demonstrated her inexperience, according to the source. "She wasn't prepped enough," said the source. "She wasn't ready to do this."
COMMENT: Eventually the truth comes out. Now say goodnight, Caroline.
Posted at 7:40 a.m. ET
No doubt the president-elect didn't want 2008 to end this way - with the ghosts of politics past lurking at his doorstep. For Barack Obama, 2008 was a momentous year. He was the first person of his background to be elected president. But now some of those who helped get him there are involved in an unseemly series of maneuvers that remind voters that Mr. Obama's rise the highest office was fueled, partially at least, by the high-pollutant engine of Illinois politics. The Washington Post tells the story:
President-elect Barack Obama spent yesterday afternoon in Honolulu, going to the zoo with his daughters and visiting his high school campus. And yet, he couldn't escape the political melodrama unfolding more than 4,000 miles away...
...First to the lectern was embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was arrested this month on federal corruption charges, and from whom Obama has worked to distance himself. Blagojevich then introduced Roland Burris, his appointment to fill Obama's seat in the U.S. Senate. Burris once held a fundraiser at his house for Obama and calls the president-elect "somebody whose career I really helped launch...
...Then, near the end of the news conference, Rep. Bobby L. Rush was beckoned to the front of the room, where he asked the public not to "lynch" Burris because of the charges against Blagojevich. Rush defeated Obama in a 2000 House race and chided him as an "educated fool" before eventually endorsing him for president and asserting that "I helped teach him."
Just a great group of regular guys. What's wrong with that? A man's got to have friends.
...if nothing else, the image of all three standing together in front of flashing cameras served as a reminder of the political environment in which Obama developed: Blagojevich is awaiting an indictment; Burris may be blocked from claiming the Senate seat by leaders in Illinois and Washington; and Rush pushed for a black senator to replace Obama, who prefers not to participate in "the politics of race."
At least the Rev. Jeremiah Wright didn't deliver the invocation.
After the news conference, Obama released a statement commending Burris as a "good man and a fine public servant," before arguing that he should not be given the Senate seat. Illinois, he said, is "entitled to . . . major decisions free of taint and controversy." Obama avoided mentioning race.
A good statement, and inevitable considering the embarrassing circumstances.
Yet the men giving yesterday's news conference served as important components in Obama's career.
Obama endorsed Burris in the Democratic primary for governor in 2002, which Blagojevich won. Burris said in an interview this month that he "probably introduced [Obama] to Blagojevich after that" and persuaded Obama to join him in endorsing their fellow Democrat. In 2004, Burris endorsed Obama for the U.S. Senate and held a fundraiser.
There has been friction among the amigos:
It wasn't the first time race had come up between Rush and Obama. Rush, a former Black Panther who represents Chicago's South Side, defeated Obama in 2000 because he dominated the black vote. During the campaign, he collected the endorsements of almost every major black politician in Chicago -- including Burris -- and depicted Obama as a foreigner to black culture. "Barack is a person who read about the civil rights protests and thinks he knows all about it," Rush said.
Activist Al Sharpton said yesterday: "I think that Governor Blagojevich is trying to save himself and cynically trying to draw the president-elect into this. But President-elect Obama should stay out of this. The worst thing that he could do is be drawn back into Illinois politics."
First time I've ever agreed with Sharpton.
Now President-elect Obama must go further. Whether appropriate or not, the mess in Illinois is tainting him because it's his Senate seat that's involved. He has got to start pumping for some change we can believe in. And his first step should be to have a little chat with Caroline Kennedy here in New York - the same Caroline Kennedy whose family gave him such a big boost toward the Democratic nomination for president, the same Caroline Kennedy who headed his vice-presidential search team. He should gently advise Kennedy to withdraw her name for consideration for the U.S. Senate. Her candidacy for the appointment to succeed Hillary Clinton has been embarrassing and amateurish, and, as in Illinois, her name is linked with Obama's.
The president elect must show decisively that he's above old-time machine politics. He is, isn't he?
"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.
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