William Katz / Urgent Agenda
WEDNESDAY , JANUARY 14, 2009
There's a revolt brewing among House Republicans about the Bush administration's request, joined by Mr. Obama, to release another $350-billion in bailout funds. It's about time. There has never been a greater need to ask tough questions. From The Washington Times:
Finally, some spine. The irresponsible behavior of many of the "banking executives" who got the first bailout bundle, especially their refusal to say how it's being spent, absolutely dictates the new GOP stand.
Sounds like there may be trouble on the left bank as well.
January 14, 2009. Permalink
The terror master greets the administration of Barack Obama with some well-chosen words. ABC News reports:
Bin Laden is picking up on a favorite theme of the political left - that we're an exhausted nation. It is a theme of those who want us to lose.
Our response must be defiance, even if that offends the Daily Kos.
Guess he's feeling the heat from those missiles we fire just inside Pakistan.
We wish every success.
January 14, 2009. Permalink
COMMENT: And Richardson had to withdraw for ethical reasons. And Obama's replacement in the Senate comes in under an ethical cloud. And Attorney-General designate Eric Holder has a whole set of ethical issues. And Hillary Clinton has some serious problems with gifts given to her husband's foundation by foreign governments. And... What smooth transition? But please don't disturb MSNBC.
COMMENT: Problem - people short on cash, afraid to spend. Solution - quick tax cuts.
COMMENT: It just doesn't look good, a secretary of the treasury with a tax problem. There's a point where the late-night comedians start to notice.
COMMENT: The president-elect, whose seat Burris is taking, could have eliminated this problem, but didn't. It may come back to haunt him.
COMMENT: Some sobering statistics to remember when the chant goes up, "Close Guantanamo!" Maybe the chanters would like to take in some of the inmates, and call them international-exchange students.
Hudson New York does a distinct service in reprinting the Hamas charter here. It is disgraceful, scandalous, that our so-called "news" media has not reprinted this document as part of its coverage of the war on terror. It would be like covering the rise of Nazism in the thirties and making no reference to Mein Kampf.
Hamas means it. That's the message of Jeffrey Goldberg in his well-documented op-ed piece in The New York times, found here. As we begin a new administration, one committed to diplomacy, we should be reminded regularly of who might be sitting on the other side of the table.
(Some readers have asked why I don't reprint articles I do elsewhere at my own Urgent Agenda site. Excellent question. I will be doing more of that, starting today, with this reprint of my piece, "In Defense of Freedom," from the Hudson New York website.)
It is during periods of economic decline that people are most likely to turn to the quick, totalitarian solution. It is during these times that the fascist, or the red, who has waited in the wings or shouted from the audience, tries to take center stage. The rise of fascism in the 1930s in Europe, and the dabbling in Marxism in Western countries during the same time should give us pause. It was common in the thirties, even in the United States, for certain members of the "intellectual" class to advocate that we look beyond old-fashioned American democracy for quicker, more efficient solutions to our problems.
Ronald Reagan gave us a blunt warning: "Freedom," he said, "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."
Are we in danger now? Are we in danger of slipping into the totalitarian mentality? The answer appears to be yes, and for proof we need look no further than the attitudes toward human freedom that have developed in recent decades, certainly internationally, but, sadly, here at home as well.
“Domestic hate groups are on the rise as the economy falters," Carrie Johnson cautions us in The Washington Post. "Veteran investigators," she reports, "say they have advocated for increased attention to the problem since late September, when the nation's economic troubles widened, giving white supremacists a potent new source of discontent to exploit among potential recruits."
Obviously, that's a worrisome thing. But it's part of a larger pattern, something else that is troubling, especially at a time of economic stress - a certain indifference, even contempt for, the whole idea of human freedom.
We are reminded of these words, from John F. Kennedy's inaugural address:
"Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans--born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage--and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty."
Those words are revered only because they were spoken by a martyred president. If they were spoken by George W. Bush today, they'd be laughed at, ridiculed, or regarded as bellicose expressions of "American imperialism." How do we know? Because Mr. Bush has said essentially the same things repeatedly through his presidency, and look at the reaction. Freedom for Iraq? Why, what right do we have to impose freedom on anyone? And these people aren't ready for freedom. It's foreign to them. An agenda to spread democracy throughout the Mideast? Why, it's not right to think that others would want what we want.
We hear these objections constantly. They generally come from our universities and our media, the very institutions that, one would think, would be the first to champion liberty.
In 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It says, among other things, "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person." When is the last time you saw that quoted? When is the last time you heard any reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? The key word in that title, of course, is "universal." The Declaration held that freedom was an international right, that all the people of the world deserved it. The leaders of free nations in 1948 had no trouble at all with that notion. They had just fought a world war to insure it.
But today freedom is too often seen as a "cultural construct," just one idea among others. And who are we to say that it's better than some other "cultural norm"? If these words are familiar, you shouldn't be surprised. They've been standard fare in American universities since the sixties.
One of the great myths is that freedom is popular. Yes, it's generally popular among ordinary people. But in recent decades it's become increasingly unpopular among some "intellectual leaders." Many colleges have imposed "speech codes" that limit what students can and cannot say. Of course, they impose these codes to create "a more respectful society." Many news organizations make no distinction, in reporting foreign news, between dictators and democrats. It was common, during the latter period of the Cold War, for right-wing dictators to be referred to as dictators, but for left-wing dictators, especially those who ran the Soviet Union, to be called leaders. It was the intellectual fashion, and that fashion has become even more chic.
Ruth Wisse of Harvard has asked, rhetorically, why intellectuals often support the worst causes. We can debate the answers, but the fact is that, today, human freedom has fallen out of favor among some intellectual classes as a cause worth defending. Thus, feminist organizations, outraged if a well-paid lawyer is called "honey" in a courtroom, are silent about the honor killings that go on routinely in Muslim cultures. To denounce them would be to acknowledge Mr. Bush's call for an expansion of freedom and human rights, and that doesn't fit the party line.
So we may be ripe for totalitarian ideas to help us through the economic crisis. With the sharp economic decline, with the constant drumbeat of Bush hatred from the media, with decades in which our college students have been taught that the very heart of American freedom is just a "cultural construct," with journalists educated in those same colleges, we may be primed for the very thing that Ronald Reagan warned against. Of course, Reagan was laughed at by the same institutions that may happily restrict the freedoms that they themselves enjoy. They're very good at laughing. They're not very good at keeping us free.
January 14, 2009. Permalink
SIX DAYS TO THE AGE OF OBAMIUS
In six days the Age of Obamius will be upon us. The stock market will go to 41,000. Every GM car will sell. Through the Obama Miracle, all mortgage defaults will be forgiven. And the temperature of the Earth will stabilize at a comfy level, and never change.
We can report the following developments:
TUESDAY, JANUARY 13, 2009
COMMENT: MoveOn.Org, after hearing this news, assigned grief counselors to treat its members.
Curious, though, most of the "policy changes" she described seemed awfully minor. What we're getting, it seems to me, is Bush Lite. There'll be some diplomatic dancing and lots of "multilateral" talk, but I didn't detect any radical change, which may be good. Neither Obama nor Clinton want any setbacks for this country on their watch, and they're not about to be sunk by adopting the policies of the looney left.
We await, as they say, further clarifications from our government.
COMMENT: He should withdraw. There's too much taint already in this new administration, much of it coming from Chicago politics, and from the need for Bill Richardson to pull his nomination for the Commerce Department. The idea that the secretary of the treasury, in a time of economic hardship, has a tax problem, and possibly an immigration problem, is disqualifying. This is a matter of image and style.
COMMENT: What a strange lead. What does physics have to do with gasoline prices? Maybe Dr. Chu is just learning that other people know a lot about energy. Being a Nobel laureate doesn't make you an expert on everything. Dr. Chu will teach in his new position, but we hope he learns as well.
COMMENT: Whenever you see the name "House Judiciary Committee," run, do not walk, to the nearest exit. The committee is presided over by John Conyers, a hard-left congressman from Michigan. His state is falling apart, but Conyers devotes his time to this. Clearly, the much shrewder Barack Obama wants nothing to do with these revenge probes, but Conyers has independent power, and may do as he pleases.
One of the things we like to do here is take a news story and examine it for bias. Reuters today provides an extraordinarily rich opportunity to do just that. It's a report, complete with appropriate sneering, of President Bush's final news conference of his presidency. The arrogance of this report, by Matt Spetalnick, should win some kind of prize:
Troubled foreign policy legacy? That's an editorial opinion, not appropriate for a news story. And again we have the term "human rights groups," even though many of them have clear political agendas, never spelled out by the mainstream media.
I haven't noticed that Mr. Bush is either more or less reflective than many of his predecessors. The reporter offers a journalistic assumption that's been accepted without proof.
Admitted? Is this a courtroom? Is there any doubt that Mr. Bush regrets that WMD were not found? However, WMD programs were found, but you'll notice that the press never points that out.
Note the slant. Only a new administration will bring progress. Why? Because Obama has a new strategy. This is absolute conjecture, again given with no evidence. Pure editorializing presented as news reporting.
The implication here is that they're not an axis of evil, or that the term is misapplied. Evidence please? Is it "cowboy diplomacy," or the truth?
Really? All that? The war may have been unpopular in many countries, but how did it undercut American credibility? Also, Obama's victory in the popular vote was not resounding. He won by about six points. Further, Iraq actually played a small role in the campaign, as surveys showed. It was the economy that dominated everything. Where was this reporter?
Indeed, where has the mainstream media been for the last eight years? I think we know where.
January 13, 2009. Permalink
COMMENT: The deeply philosophical MacLeod presents this after a column filled with Bush-bashing. But wait a second. Haven't the Europeans been trying just that for about six years? Shall we list the European diplomatic accomplishments during this period? And how do you give Iranians a bigger stake in a peaceful Middle East? We've been providing carrots for years, with no effect. And MacLeod's simplistic use of the term "hard-liners" fails to describe the true, fanatical nature of the Iranian regime.
COMMENT: It's becoming clear that, especially on economic matters, the Democrats in Congress will act independently of the Obama administration. At the same time, I have to wonder whether the "stormy" sessions with Larry Summers actually involved the economy, or were based more on the left's contempt for Summers, who dared to take on some aspects of political correctness when he was president of Harvard. The left does not forget.
COMMENT: And this differs from the Bush administration's approach by...? In fact, it seems awfully similar, except for some theatrical trimmings.
SEVEN DAYS TO THE AGE OF OBAMIUS
In seven days the Age of Obamius begins. Already the cross-cultural currents have begun, ushering in a time of serenity, understanding and perfection. The Palestinian Authority is opening kosher restaurants. Russia's Vladimir Putin is taking lessons in country line dancing. North Korea is having an MGM film festival. And the city of Berkeley, California, is giving out the Hugo Chavez Peace Prize. Everyone is excited.
We can report the following:
January 13, 2009. Permalink
"What you see is news. What you know is background. What you feel is opinion."
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