"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
WHO ARE THESE PESTY PEOPLE? - AT 8:01 P.M. ET: Now President Obama's health-care plan, already in serious trouble in Congress, is under assault from the governors:
BILOXI, Miss. — The nation’s governors, Democrats as well as Republicans, voiced deep concern Sunday about the shape of the health care bill emerging from Congress, fearing that the federal government is about to hand them expensive new Medicaid obligations without providing the money to pay for them.
The role of the states in a restructured health care system dominated the National Governors Association’s summer meeting here this weekend — with bipartisan animosity voiced against the Obama administration’s plan during a closed-door luncheon on Saturday and in a private meeting on Sunday afternoon with the secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius.“I think the governors would all agree that what we don’t want from the federal government is unfunded mandates,” said Gov. Jim Douglas of Vermont, a Republican who is the group’s incoming chairman. “We can’t have the Congress impose requirements that we are forced to absorb beyond our capacity to do so.”
COMMENT: Does the word "disaster" come to mind? The governors should have been consulted right from the start. Obama basically turned the writing of the health bill over to the liberal Democrats in Congress, that great army of competence. The result is a shambles, with the American people losing more confidence every day.
A bill still might pass, but someone should remind Washington that we expect more of Congress than we do of a high-school student government. Of course, we're wrong on that.
THE NEXT GREAT CRISIS - AT 7:30 P.M. ET: You might want to review your family emergency procedures before tackling this one. Seems there's a major human crisis building, as the Washington Post reports:
The baseball field boasts a $50,000 press box, a dugout and a concession stand. The softball field? A faded wood shed and a port-a-potty.
Now C.D. Hylton High School in Woodbridge is under investigation by federal officials for sex discrimination, joining schools in Charles and Frederick counties and 47 other school systems nationwide that are under scrutiny for possible disparities between their softball and baseball facilities.
The schools are being investigated for possible violations of Title IX, the 1972 federal rules governing equity between the sexes. Any educational program that receives federal funding is required to provide equal opportunities and facilities for boys and girls.
In an era when most sports have boys' and girls' equivalents that use the same fields, pools and equipment, high school baseball and softball fields remain separated by the sexes. Softball fields are smaller than those used in baseball, and the two types of field cannot be used interchangeably. The difference can contribute to inequalities.
COMMENT: I'm all for equal treatment of boys and girls in athletic programs, but this story is absurd. Baseball and softball are different sports. Baseball, as the story makes clear, gets far more support in the community, and it has nothing to do with gender. Yes, some of these schools should probably improve their softball facilities, but this is hardly a discrimination crisis. Some local fundraising campaigns might be far more effective than one more lawsuit.
ANOTHER GREETING FROM OUR SOUTHERN FRIENDS - AT 12:44 P.M. ET: If I recall correctly, President Obama, in the spare time he'll have after reshaping America and remaking the world, wants to establish a better relationship with Venezuela. He might want to bookmark this article first:
BOGOTA, Colombia, July 18 -- A report for the U.S. Congress on drug smuggling through Venezuela concludes that corruption at high levels of President Hugo Chávez's government and state aid to Colombia's drug-trafficking guerrillas have made Venezuela a major launching pad for cocaine bound for the United States and Europe.
Since 1996, successive U.S. administrations have considered Venezuela a key drug-trafficking hub, the Government Accountability Office report says. But now, it says, the amount of cocaine flowing into Venezuela from Colombia, Venezuela's neighbor and the world's top producer of the drug, has skyrocketed, going from an estimated 60 metric tons in 2004 to 260 metric tons in 2007. That amounted to 17 percent of all the cocaine produced in the Andes in 2007.
COMMENT: Undoubtedly, this is just another cultural misunderstanding. Can't we all just get along?
THE CLOSING GAP - AT 10:02 A.M. ET: Rasmussen reports this morning the narrowest gap he's yet recorded in approval vs. disapproval of President Obama. Some 51% approve of the president's performance, while 49% disapprove, a spread of only two points. Please note, as we always emphasize, that a poll is a snapshot in time, and there is a margin of error. But still, the overall trend for Mr. Obama is downward. People like the president personally, but his policies are not winning many converts.
And the president faces a tough Autumn ahead, as the 2010 midterm races are launched. He's got to show results, both domestically and in foreign policy. He's getting very little help from foreign nations, and very little adult help from his party in Congress.
NOT MUCH DEFENSE - AT 9:46 A.M. ET: I recall that, in the early sixties, pro-defense members of Congress, frustrated at the Pentagon's procurement system, would carry around boards with tools mounted on them. The boards showed the civilian price for a tool, then the price the Pentagon paid. The difference was staggering. I recall a screwdriver that cost the Pentagon hundreds of dollars.
Our procurement system is still broken. Barry Goldwater railed against it. So did Admiral Rickover. Still broken. John Lehman, President Reagan's secretary of the Navy, writes about the problem and proposes solutions. If we don't find solutions soon, our defenses might be severely weakened:
When John McCain was shot down over Hanoi in 1967, he was flying an A4 Skyhawk. That jet cost $860,000.
Inflation has risen by 700% since then. So Mr. McCain's A4 cost $6.1 million in 2008 dollars. Applying a generous factor of three for technological improvements, the price for a 2008 Navy F18 fighter should be about $18 million. Instead, we are paying about $90 million for each new fighter. As a result, the Navy cannot buy sufficient numbers. This is disarmament without a treaty.
The situation is worse in the Air Force. In 1983, I was in the Pentagon meeting that launched the F-22 Raptor. The plan was to buy 648 jets beginning in 1996 for $60 million each (in 1983 dollars). Now they cost $350 million apiece and the Obama budget caps the program at 187 jets. At least they are safe from cyberattack since no one in China knows how to program the '83 vintage IBM software that runs them.
COMMENT: Pretty depressing. And stories like this give ammunition to the unilateral disarmament crowd and the rest of the left. Anyone who's pro-defense must be enraged by the chronic, year-after-year mess in the Pentagon.
When he left office, President Eisenhower warned, in a comment usually taken out of context, about the potential danger of an "industrial-military complex." (In context, Ike was actually talking about the need for an industrial-military complex, but noting that it carried with it dangers.) The original draft of Eisenhower's speech used the phrase, "the industrial-military-congressional complex," but the reference to Congress was taken out. Eisenhower's concern was procurement, defense contracting. Then, as now, politics plays a destructive role. Weapons are bought because they're produced in some powerful senator's state. Or, they're bought because components are built in many states, so the weapon gets widespread support.
We must do better. We are, as John Lehman says, disarming ourselves with an inflated procurement process that is depriving our military of the best equipment, in sufficient quantity to do the job.
REALISM SEEPING IN - AT 9:38 A.M. ET: Apparently, the White House is getting the message that changing the entire American health-care system requires a bit of thought, planning and discussion, as The Politico notes:
In his most recent remarks, President Obama has stopped mentioning what had been his mantra — that the House and Senate finish their health-care bills by the August recess — and switched to a less specific call to fast action.
The increased flexibility follows resistance by key senators in both parties to what they have called an "artificial deadline."
A White House aide said the president isn't letting up.
"No change in the timeline," said the aide.
But prodding Congress in speeches on his top legislative priority Friday and Saturday, Obama didn’t mention the August deadline.
COMMENT: The White House is apparently concerned that more discussion means more confusion, and the chance that insurance companies will come in and muddle the debate out of their own self-interest.
These things are possible, of course. But the debate should be welcomed, not shunned. If insurance companies act irresponsibly, hit them in the marketplace of ideas. (Some deserve to be slapped, others don't. That's part of what free enterprise is about.) We should be having a national conversation about health care, with competing plans examined and criticized.
Part of the failure here lies with the press. You sometimes get the sense that some outlets have become big obituary pages for celebrities, and nothing else. But the media should be insisting on a major national discussion, even if it means Michael Jackson won't be mentioned.
CAPTURED U.S. SOLDIER IN VIDEO - AT 8:59 P.M. ET: From AP:
WASHINGTON (AP) - The American soldier who went missing June 30 from his base in eastern Afghanistan and was later confirmed captured, appeared on a video posted Saturday to a Web site by the Taliban, two U.S. defense officials confirmed.
The soldier is shown in the 28-minute video with his head shaved and the start of a beard. He is sitting and dressed in a nondescript, gray outfit. Early in the video one of his captors holds the soldier's dog tag up to the camera. His name and ID number are clearly visible. He is shown eating at one point and sitting on a bed.
The soldier, whose identity has not yet been released by the Pentagon pending notification of members of Congress and the soldier's family, says his name, age and hometown on the video, which was released Saturday on a Web site pointed out by the Taliban. Two U.S. defense officials confirmed to The Associated Press that the man in the video is the captured soldier.
COMMENT: Many Americans are unaware that the Taliban is holding a U.S. Soldier. We must not forget him.
The key question is what the Tals will want in return for the soldier, and whether they will turn him into a propaganda weapon, as was done by the enemy during the Korean and Vietnam wars. Stay tuned. We may get to know this unlucky American very well in the months ahead.
OUR GOVERNMENT DECIDES - AT 8:43 P.M. ET: A great example of what happens when the government takes care of us. From The Washington Post:
Washington's wordsmiths are at it again. A new federal program seems to have changed the very definition of the word "clunker."
A vote, a stroke of the pen, a desire to get Americans buying cars and a mandate to shrink greenhouse gas emissions have turned a fleet of old Audis, BMWs, Acuras and other luxury cars into clunkers overnight.
The Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save Act of 2009 -- also known as "Cash for Clunkers" -- will offer vouchers of up to $4,500 for car owners who trade in their old fuel-slurping cars for new models that can really stretch a tank of gas.
Like all new age religions, the church of global warming has something for the trendies and the affluent:
But if you imagine a clunker as that old, rusted piece of junk that can barely accelerate on the interstate, think again. The list of potential clunkers includes a zippy 1997 Lexus SC 400 coupe and even a luxury 1998 Mercedes-Benz M-Class sport-utility vehicle.
They are improving society and saving the Earth, don't you understand? Why, without the cash for clunkers program, there will be floods, earthquakes, natural disasters, starvation.
Get that car into the dealer, would you? Do your part.
RASMUSSEN - PAIN FOR OBAMA - AT 11:27 A.M. ET: Rasmussen's daily tracker does not provide any relief for an increasingly beleaguered president.
The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 28% of the nation's voters now Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Thirty-six percent (36%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of –8.
COMMENT: Some 43% of independents strongly disapprove. And the president's overall approval rating, at least in the Rasmussen survey, hovers at 51%, with 48% disapproving. This wasn't in the "yes we can" plan.
DEMS, ON TOP MONTHS AGO, START TO SHAKE - AT 10:45 A.M. ET: From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — Three of the five Congressional committees working on legislation to reinvent the nation’s health care system delivered bills this week along the lines proposed by President Obama. But instead of celebrating their success, many Democrats were apprehensive, nervous and defensive.
Even as Democratic leaders and the White House insisted that the nation was closer than ever to landmark changes in the health care system, they faced basic questions about whether some of their proposals might do more harm than good.
Democrats had three reasons for concern. The director of the Congressional Budget Office warned Thursday that the legislative proposals so far would not slow the growth of health spending...
...Second, even with House committees working in marathon sessions this week, it was clear that Democrats could not meet their goal of passing bills before the summer recess without barreling over the concerns of Republicans and ending any hope that such a major issue could be addressed in a bipartisan manner.
Third, a growing minority of Democrats have begun to express reservations about the size, scope and cost of the legislation, the expanded role of the federal government and the need for a raft of new taxes to pay for it all. The comments suggest that party leaders may not yet have the votes to pass the legislation.
COMMENT: And what is President Obama's reaction to all this? Why, push on. The president apparently misread the election laws and thinks he was elected for one year, rather than four.
And push on with cap 'n trade. Hey, who cares about the facts.
And push on with the stimulus, although it's bankrupting the country.
And push on with engagement with Iran, even though they may be within six months of a nuclear bomb.
If most Americans knew this is what the Obama administration would be, do you think they would have voted Obama into office? Don't expect The New York Times to raise the question.
THE END OF THE BEGINNING - AT 9:54 A.M. ET: A funny thing happened to Barack Obama on the way to immortality. He ran into facts and reality, those two curses of fast-hustling politicians.
A hard-hitting op-ed piece in the Washington Post, by two guys from Reason magazine, tells the story very well, and delightfully grim it is:
Barely six months into his presidency, Barack Obama seems to be driving south into that political speed trap known as Carter Country: a sad-sack landscape in which every major initiative meets not just with failure but with scorn from political allies and foes alike. According to a July 13 CBS News poll, the once-unassailable president's approval rating now stands at 57 percent, down 11 points from April. Half of Americans think the recession will last an additional two years or more, 52 percent think Obama is trying to "accomplish too much," and 57 percent think the country is on the "wrong track."
Hey, you can't say that about a messiah, can you?
So far, he seems to be skipping the chapter on Bill Clinton and his generally free-market economic policies and instead flipping back to the themes and comportment of Jimmy Carter...
...And perhaps most important, as with Carter, his specific policies are genuinely unpopular. The auto bailout -- which, incidentally, is illegal, springing as it has from a fund specifically earmarked for financial institutions -- has been reviled from the get-go, with opposition consistently polling north of 60 percent. Majorities have said no to bank bailouts and to cap and trade if it would make electricity significantly more expensive.
But the Obama crowd, inspired by previous messiah Al Gore, wants electricity to be more expensive. It's good for us, don't you understand? If you can't pay for A/C, you'll turn to wind.
Such is the extent of Obama's magical realism that he can promise to post all bills on the Internet five days before signing them, serially break that promise and then, when announcing that he wouldn't even try anymore, have a spokesman present the move as yet another example of "providing the American people more transparency in government."
By the way, these guys were just as rough on George W. Bush, a man we generally like here, so they have some street cred.
What the new president has not quite grasped is that the American people understand both irony and cognitive dissonance. Instead, Obama has mistaken his personal popularity for a national predilection toward emergency-driven central planning. He doesn't get that Americans prefer the slower process of building political consensus based on reality, and at least a semblance of rational deliberation rather than one sky-is-falling legislative session after another.
Finally, on Obama:
As a political animal, he has always resembled Clinton more than Carter. This might help him avoid the Carteresque pileup he's driving into. Far more important, it just might help the rest of us.
Problem is,Obama is a creature of his party's left wing, which is absolutely unyielding in its fanaticism, has contempt for the very people it claims to care about, and wants it all done in ten minutes.
FROM HONDURAS - AT 8:58 A.M. ET: With all that's been happening domestically, we forget that there's an ongoing crisis in Honduras. An ousted president, thrown out using full constitutional mechanisms, wants his old job back. He's an ally of Castro, Ortega and Chavez, that Communist vaudeville act. Incredibly, the Obama administration is backing this bad dude's claim to his old office.
Hunter Schultz is a friend of Urgent Agenda in Panama. He's also the man who introduced us to the wonderful Renee Nielsen, who sent us those superb dispatches during the terror attack in Mumbai, India. Today Hunter gives us a letter he just received from a friend, Rodger Harrison, who runs the charity, "Paramedics for Children," in Honduras:
Wow, are events changing fast in Honduras. With all the economical
troubles stateside, and other big events like the death of Michael
Jackson, the breaking news of little Honduras is just a byline in most
newspapers. But, believe me when I tell you that there is some real
trouble brewing in Honduras for our children. Deposed President Zelaya will seek to openly return to Honduras in total defiance of the
new government if mediation talks on Saturday (tomorrow) fail to
reinstate him. Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez says toppled Honduran President Manuel Zelaya will return to Honduras, with his full support, and he said there will be a "bloody civil war."
Right now Zelaya is in Nicaragua which is only a small skip and jump from Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. Rumors run as numerous as opinions, but one thing is for sure: The poor of Honduras are going to suffer, and I personally believe there will be real bloodshed. From what sources I have acquired over my last 12 years in Honduras, I firmly believe that civil war in Honduras is a real possibility. I pray that this is not so, but, as a good friend once told me, "Pray for the best and plan for the worst."
Like that famous song by the Beatles....'Talk about a revolution'
....what perfect timing for a revolution in Honduras, a revolution
that will end in either a democracy or "something else." Facts...the
USA is pretty much on the skids with the recession and really can't
afford to get involved. Honduras is on the bottom of the food chain
when it comes to current news, and right now our donors and supporters have their financial backs against the wall. The USA has cut off all aid to Honduras, as have most all of the other world powers including the World Bank. Honduras is in a "third world" of big trouble.
I cannot tell you what others will do, but I can tell you what Paramedics for Children will do. I am leaving for Honduras this Sunday, July 19, to return to Copan Ruinas for the express purpose of showing solidarity with our fellow Americans (Central Americans) in Honduras. By whatever means, we will maintain a presence in Honduras. We will keep our clinic open, we will treat patients, we will save lives, and we will do our very best to keep the programs of PFC in full operation. We will not run, and we will not give up.
Incredible times call for incredible measures by incredible people
like you. As always, thanks for your support. Help us if you can, and
please take the time to tell others.
Paramedics For Children
There will be action in Honduras in the next few days as this self-styled Napoleon, Mel Zelaya, tries to return to the cheers of his "followers," who, like the "followers" of Hugo Chavez, don't realize what's being done to them.
"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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Part II was sent late Friday night.
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