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THURSDAY,  JUNE 4,  2009

A TOUGH ISRAELI VIEW - AT 11:56 P.M. ET:  I just returned from a briefing by Maj. Gen. (reserve) Giora Eiland, who was Israel's national security adviser under Ariel Sharon.  Now a civilian, Eiland said that he was free to speak openly and on the record.  And he did.  He gave a tough Israeli view of the Obama administration, one that came, so to speak, from the horse's mouth.  Eiland is obviously a partisan, but much of what he said made perfect sense. 

Here are the main points:

- He believes a deal may well be made with Iran, which would allow Iran to continue enriching uranium, but not up to weapons grade.  Eiland believes Obama would then announce a successful negotiation - someone present said he'd get the Nobel Peace Prize - and Iran would announce victory.  Iran would be right.  The key blunder was letting Iran enrich any uranium.  Getting to weapons grade, in secret, would be no great stretch.  We lose.

- Eiland said that American policy toward Iran is now actually softer than European policy.  This is startling, but appears to be true.  Thus is the collapse of American security policy.

- Talks about a "two-state" solution will ultimately fail because the Palestians don't want a state.  They want to be perpetual victims.  Israel isn't enthusiastic because the Palestinian state would be divided between a weak, corrupt Palestinian Authority, and a fanatical Hamas.

- No solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict is in sight because anything Israel can offer is less than what the Palestinians can accept.

- Eiland believes that, if subjected to a referendum, the Palestinians would choose the end of Israel rather than a state for themselves.

- More and more secular Palestinians want Jordanian control of their land, rather than a state, because they fear Hamas.  Jordan controlled the West Bank before the 1967 war, not the Palestinians, as many assume.

- The Obama administration forged ahead with the "two-state solution" strategy without ever reevaluating the nature of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.  Eiland clearly has a low opinion of Obama's diplomacy.

- For the first time in Eiland's memory, there is no real strategic dialogue between the United States and Israel.  This was Eiland's most telling point, and reveals an alarming change in the attitudes of the American administration. 

COMMENT:  Whether one agrees or disagrees with Eiland, he is a straight talker whose comments confirmed my own view of the amateurish, naive Obama policy in the Mideast, toward North Korea, and elsewhere.

June 4, 2009   Permalink

THE WHITE HOUSE FINALLY NOTICES - AT 8:45 A.M. ET:   The Weekly Standard picks up on a theme making the rounds on the internet, the contrast between Obama's reaction to the murder of abortion doctor George Tiller and his almost-reaction to the murder of an American soldier, on American soil, by a convert to Islam.

After two days of silence, President Obama issued a statement Wednesday on the shooting of two U.S. soldiers by a Muslim militant in Arkansas--but the White House didn't even email the statement to its list of national reporters. Rather, the White House appears to have quietly released this statement to a local AP bureau in Arkansas:

“I am deeply saddened by this senseless act of violence against two brave young soldiers who were doing their part to strengthen our armed forces and keep our country safe. I would like to wish Quinton Ezeagwula a speedy recovery, and to offer my condolences and prayers to William Long’s family as they mourn the loss of their son.”

In contrast, the White House blasted a statement to reporters via email about five hours after news broke that third-trimester abortionist George Tiller was murdered on Sunday:

"I am shocked and outraged by the murder of Dr. George Tiller as he attended church services this morning. However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence."

The contrast between Obama's statements is striking: He's "deeply saddened" by the murder of a U.S. soldier, but "shocked and outraged" by the murder of an abortionist? The murder of a U.S. soldier is a "senseless" act of violence but the murder of an abortionist is a "heinous" act of violence?

Obama musters up moral outrage to denounce the wicked deed committed in Kansas, but seems almost resigned to the tragedy or "man-caused disaster" that occurred in Arkansas.

COMMENT:  A major blunder by the White House, but one that, I'm afraid, reflects the culture of this administration and the left wing of the Democratic Party.  Very sad.  I hope Americans are watching, if the mainstream media lets them watch.

June 4, 2009   Permalink

AND NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS - AT 8:25 A.M. ET:  There'll be an election this week for members of the European Parliament, and things look pretty good for our guys, as The Times of London reports:

The big beasts of Europe are set to claim victory for the Right in this week’s elections, leaving the Left to wonder why it has failed to benefit from such a serious economic crisis.

Left-of-centre parties in government and in opposition are struggling in the six countries of Europe that choose the majority of MEPs in the biggest multicountry elections yet held, according to an analysis of polls due out today and seen by The Times. About 375 million people in 27 member states are eligible to vote.

Governing left-wing parties in Spain and Germany are struggling while the socialist opposition is in crisis in France, Italy and Poland. So it is the likes of Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel and Silvio Berlusconi who are likely to emerge with the biggest smiles after the votes have been counted.

COMMENT:  We recently ran a story at Urgent Agenda reporting that, in hard economic times, many people return to traditional values.  That may be what is at work here.  Another factor at work is the genuine scare going through Europe over immigration policies.  There are immigrant communities from the Middle East that refuse to integrate, and have turned sections of cities into self-imposed and often hostile ghettoes.

And remember that Iran votes in about a week.  Sarah Palin will not win.

June 4, 2009   Permalink

SCANDAL - AT 8:13 A.M. ET:  This is a scandal, and should be treated as such.  We'll see if much of the mainstream media is as interested in this as it is in the winner of the next American Idol contest.  From the Washington Times:

The Pentagon may have issued top-secret clearances last year to as many as one-in-four applicants who had "significant derogatory information" in their backgrounds, including a record of foreign influence or criminal conduct, a little- noticed government audit says.

Flaws in the system for granting clearances to Defense Department staff and contractors pose a risk to national security, and the right tools to measure how well the process works are essential, said Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, California Democrat and chairman of a House intelligence subcommittee that oversees personnel and management issues.

"At present, we're basically operating on faith. This shouldn't be a faith-based process," Ms. Eshoo told The Washington Times.

Pentagon bureaucrats immediately disagreed, but consented to implement reforms.  We have no idea what information, if any, was compromised.

But, in another blunder, some in high-security positions seem to feel that it pays to advertise:

The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) published last month a detailed 268-page dossier disclosing the addresses and specifications of hundreds of U.S. nuclear-weapons-related facilities, laboratories, reactors and research activities, including the location of fuel for bombs.

The document, which was removed from the Web on Tuesday, is a draft declaration of facilities to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog, required under agreements that the United States signed in 2004. It is considered highly sensitive though technically not classified.

The vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, said the disclosure revealed "a virtual treasure map for terrorists."

COMMENT:  It's been eight years since the 9-11 attacks, and we're getting lax in a number of areas.  The sense of urgency we had for the first few years has faded away.  We'll be woken up.

June 4, 2009   Permalink

REMEMBER - AT 8:01 A.M. ET:  The president will go to Normandy on his current trip to recall D-Day, June 6, 1944.

But today, June 4th, we commemorate another liberation - the liberation of Rome, also in 1944.  It occurred two days before D-Day and has been largely forgotten.  But the Italian campaign was particularly bitter, resulting in heavy Allied casualties.  We should remember Rome's liberation today, and the part played by American troops.

June 4, 2009   Permalink

THE SPEECH - AT 7:57 A.M. ET:  President Obama has now delivered the most anticipated speech of his presidency - the outreach address to the Muslim world.  Available soon on DVD and CD.

First reaction:  Nothing unusual, but well delivered and stated.

One of the problems with Barack Obama's speeches is that they tend to be all style and little substance.  This was no exception.  (By contrast, one of the poorest speakers of the modern presidency, Dwight Eisenhower, gave speeches that were filled with substance.) Obama said nothing that he hasn't said before:  The Muslim world and the West have misconceptions about each other.  They should forge alliances.  The Muslims are entitled to democracy and women's rights.  America, as it reaches out to Muslims, will continue to fight Islamic extremism.

Highly anticipated was the president's comments on the Arab-Israeli conflict.  He reaffirmed our commitment to Israel, put it in a historic and religious context, but severely criticized Israeli settlements.  He said the Palestinians needed a state, but totally whitewashed the Palestinian record of the last 60 years, including flirtations with fascism.  Okay, he was speaking to Muslims, and maybe this is the best we would get.

There were two discordant notes:  First, Mr. Obama suggested once again that the Iraq War was a mistake, which will make our wounded veterans and the parents of dead soldiers feel just great.  Unnecessary.  He was speaking in Egypt, a dictatorship, and should have at least noted that a democracy has been created in Iraq.  He did say Iraq was better off without Saddam, but the reference was anemic.

Second, in the worst gaffe of the speech, he seemed to compare the plight of the Palestinians to the history of American blacks, and argued that the Pals should resist nonviolently.  This is a ridiculous comparison, and the president should be criticized for it.  The worst oppressors of Palestinians are their own leaders.  American blacks were not kept in bondage by Martin Luther King Jr.

But, on balance, it wasn't a bad speech.  What it lacked, of course, was new proposals or a sense of imagination.  This is an area of great vulnerability for Obama, the sense that while his oratory soars, his ideas sink. 

Like his speech on race during the campaign, this will be forgotten quickly. 

Text of the speech is here.

June 4, 2009   Permalink




ANOTHER WIN FOR SARAH - AT 8:53 P.M. ET:  Whether you like Sarah Palin or don't, the treatment of this woman has often bordered on the obscene, and insane.  Many don't realize it, but one technique her enemies use is to flood Alaska's official agencies with ethics complaints against Gov. Palin.  One by one, they have been dismissed:

An ethics complaint alleging Gov. Sarah Palin promoted her husband's sponsor at a snowmobile race has been dismissed.

The complaint had been filed by Linda Kellen Biegel, who claimed Palin had a conflict of interest because the clothing she wore to the Tesoro Iron Dog snowmobile race this year had an Arctic Cat logo.

COMMENT:  I've rarely seen a public official subjected to such constant legal abuse.  Naturally, the media is silent. 

June 3, 2009   Permalink

IN OBAMA'S FACE - AT 8:30 P.M. ET:  We've noticed in recent days a new willingness on the part of some Democrats in Congress to resist President Obama on specific issues.  We haven't, though, seen Democrats go into the president's face on foreign policy.  This may be a change:

Three U.S. lawmakers appealed to the Saudi government Wednesday to stop using religious textbooks that they say promote hatred and religious intolerance.

The appeal from the three Democrats came on the eve of President Obama's much-anticipated speech to the Muslim world during a five-day journey to Saudi Arabia and Egypt in an attempt to smooth over bumpy relations between the U.S. and Arab countries. Obama met Wednesday afternoon with Saudi King Abdullah.

COMMENT:  The president is, right now, in Saudi Arabia, origin of some of the worst hate material in the Muslim world.  The three lawmakers are right.  Referring to Christians as "cross-worshipping crusaders" or Jews as "the sons of apes and pigs" will not do much to advance peace.  This issue comes up again and again, but little has been done.  Instead, we get cover-ups aided by the vastly wealthy Saudi lobby in Washington, which has been generous to a disturbing number of ex-US officials.

June 3, 2009

AIR FRANCE 447 - AT 7:45 P.M. ET:  We promised we'd follow reports of this tragedy because planes do not simply fall out of the sky.  We must always consider the possibility of terrorism.

However, a very well reported story by AP says that terrorism has essentially been ruled out by investigators, and signals sent by the aircraft before it went silent appear to support that conclusion.  (We stress that this is not a final conclusion.)  The signals chronicle a series of catastrophic events consistent with the plane breaking up in violent weather.

Technical experts tell the AP that only if the black boxes are found in the ocean will a definitive cause be pinpointed.  A French research vessel with deep-sea search equipment is on its way to the crash area now.

You can read the AP story here.  Well recommended.

June 3, 2009

WELCOME TO OUR NOBLE ALLY - AT 1:42 P.M. ET:  Do you think that some listeners in Egypt tomorrow might not think Obama is necessarily on the side of "American values"?  He's not exactly going to an Oxford debate.  From the Washington Post:

CAIRO, June 2 -- On the way to Cairo University for a much-anticipated speech on Thursday, President Obama will travel over freshly paved roads and past freshly painted light poles and freshly planted flowers.

But the more common sights for students and faculty at the school are trucks packed with riot police outside the university gates and an enveloping security presence on campus. Student political groups are prohibited. The university's policy on artistic and cultural events, according to its Web site, is "protecting students from all sorts of destructive ideas and corrupt thoughts."

Gimme a C. Gimme an A.  Gimme an I...

COMMENT:  There are probably many American college administrators who'll read that and say, "You know, that's not so bad."  Coming to a politically correct college near you.

June 3, 2009   Permalink

OBAMA'S FALL? - AT 10:13 A.M. ET:  Although today's Rasmussen tracker shows a sudden drop in President Obama's popularity, it has remained remarkably high...despite widespread disapproval of some of his policies.

Why?  And what chance do we have to see the president's ratings go down?  Dick Morris has a provocative analysis.  He's sometimes right, sometimes wrong, but always interesting:

The real recession — dating from the stock market collapse — began four months before Bush left office. And it is now four months since Obama was inaugurated. From this vantage, it still looks to voters like Bush's recession.

But, it will become increasingly obvious that the large deficit Obama has incurred while pursuing his cure for the recession is, on its own, causing more problems than it solves. As high interest rates and, most likely, inflation, begin to set in — with no relief in unemployment — it will be obvious that Obamanomics isn't working and is, in fact, aggravating the economic trouble.


Obama now faces a choice of poisons.

He can leave taxes as they are and take the poison of high interest rates, rapid inflation and a new recession, all caused by the massive borrowing he has forced on the Treasury...

Or Obama can break his pledge and raise taxes on everybody. His soak-the-rich approach will not be enough to cover the deficit. Especially when one factors in his health-care proposals, big tax increases on the middle class become an increasing likelihood. And when we consider his cap and trade legislation, huge increases in utility rates also loom.

Either poison will make it clear that the economy is suffering from the medicine Obama administered rather than the original disease that started under Bush.


Some economists think we will have an L-shaped recession from which we do not emerge for years and years. Others think it will be a W-shaped recession (not Bush's W), in which we emerge briefly and then go back down again. But a U-shaped recession in which we go down and then come bouncing back probably cannot happen with Obama's deficits now firmly in place. Then it will become clear that the cure was worse than the disease.

COMMENT:  That makes a lot of sense.  Add to economic woes a growing perception that Obama is spineless in national security, and we may have a perfect mix for Republican gains in next year's congressional races - if the GOP can capitalize on the advantages that come its way. 

We'll watch closely the American public's reaction (remember Americans?) to the president's hey-we're-pals speech in Egypt tomorrow.  We think the president's political situation is fairly precarious, waiting for public perception to catch up with reality, and maybe for one major incident to start the voters on a serious rethinking.

June 3, 2009   Permalink 

THE MESSIAH ARRIVES BACK IN THE OLD COUNTRY - AT 8:55 A.M. ET:  Nothing like a good homecoming.  President Obama has landed in Saudi Arabia, the big gas tank in the Middle East.  Based on some recent statements he's made, he should feel very comfortable:

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, June 3--American flags are hanging next to the green banner of the Saudi kingdom on the street-light poles of this desert capital, a celebratory nod to the arrival of President Obama, who on Wednesday landed here to begin a five-day tour through the Middle East and Europe.

Obama will hold a day of meetings with King Abdullah on Iran's nuclear program and the dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace process, among other issues. It is his first presidential visit to the Arab Middle East.

COMMENT:  We have it on good authority that the president has not brought with him 1) a Bible;  2) a woman's rights advocate, 3) a DVD of "The Ten Commandments"; 4) an autographed picture of the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders; 5) a copy of our Bill of Rights; 6) a video of Liberace.

June 3, 2009   Permalink

GAFFE OR ILLUSION? - AT 8:15 A.M. ET:  The mainstream media has told us, endlessly, how smart our president is.  How intellectual.  How deep.  How worldly.  How educated.  How..well, unlike BUSH (!!).

So when Obama said we have 57 states, it was shrugged off.  They speak Austrian in Austria, he said.  Shrugged off.  He sat in a radical church for 20 years and didn't know what the pastor believed.  Hey, his brilliant mind was elsewhere.

But wait a minute.  Get this latest whopper.  In what apparently is an almost comic attempt to do more groveling to Muslims, the president of the United States and its associated territories has now declared us one of the largest Muslim countries in the world:

Now, the flip side is I think that the United States and the West generally, we have to educate ourselves more effectively on Islam. And one of the points I want to make is, is that if you actually took the number of Muslims Americans, we'd be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.

As my old mentor, Johnny Carson, used to say, "I did not know that."

The Weekly Standard examines the president's high scholarship:

Surely President Obama is smarter and more worldly than the last White House occupant, but there are not 57 states in the Union -- and if there were, the United States would still not be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world. Eight million Muslims seems to be at the high end of estimates of America's Muslim community. That number barely puts the United States in the top 40. There are more Muslims in tiny Jordan than there are in the United States, and twice as many in Syria.

And, more important...

Obama is undertaking a very significant reorientation of American foreign policy, and one hopes that he isn't doing so on the very mistaken belief that the United States is one of the largest Muslim countries in the world. Actually, if you look at the number of Jewish Americans, we'd be the largest Jewish country in the world after Israel. And America is the largest Christian country in the world. This context might be useful to the president as he tries to help the Muslim world better understand the United States.

And that, of course, is the point.  The president, with his "multicultural" origins and left-wing background in Chicago, is part of the crowd that demands that we "understand" other cultures.  But he never seems to demand that they understand us.  But he doesn't like us much, anyway.

Does the term "potential disaster" cross your mind?

June 3, 2009   Permalink

WE'LL FOLLOW THIS - AT 7:55 A.M. ET:  From Fox News:

A Continental Express pilot reported seeing a "missile or rocket" flying near his aircraft over Friday night over Texas, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The pilot told the Federal Aviation Administration an object was spotted within 150 feet below his airplane around 8:15 p.m. Friday night over Liberty County, Texas, the newspaper reported.

Liberty County Chief Deputy Ken DeFoor told FOXNews.com that officials met Tuesday with the FBI and the FAA to investigate the pilot's claims.

"We put all our notes together, and after they debrief the pilot we will have more information to go on," DeFoor said.

The plane had 29 people on board and was heading from Houston to South Carolina, he said. There were no interruptions in the flight.

DeFoor told FOXNews.com he couldn't say whether or not terrorism was suspected or if the plane was targeted. Graduation ceremonies were being held about the same time as the pilot reported seeing the rocket, and it could have been a hobby rocket someone set off.

COMMENT:  We caution against premature conclusions, but this is worth following.  First, the story says that the plane was flying at 13,000 feet.  I doubt if a hobby rocket could get up that high.  The pilot is former military.

Some weeks back, you'll recall, a group of men was arrested in Newburgh, New York, for involvement in a plot to shoot down American military aircraft using shoulder-launched rockets.

We have great technical expertise among our readers.  If anyone has any ideas on this, please write in.

Again, caution...but vigilance.

June 3, 2009   Permalink

BORDER ATTACK? - AT 7:33 A.M. ET:  Before we get on to all the diplomatic news of the day, let's deal with some real news.  Apparently, our misunderstood and culturally complex enemies have some plans for us that have just come to light.  I wonder if someone on the White House staff will be brave enough to slip this to President Obama as he wings toward the Muslim world this morning.  From The Washington Times:

U.S. counterterrorism officials have authenticated a video by an al Qaeda recruiter threatening to smuggle a biological weapon into the United States via tunnels under the Mexico border, the latest sign of the terrorist group's determination to stage another mass-casualty attack on the U.S. homeland.

The video aired earlier this year as a recruitment tool makes clear that al Qaeda is looking to exploit weaknesses in U.S. border security and also is willing to ally itself with white militia groups or other anti-government entities interested in carrying out an attack inside the United States, according to counterterrorism officials interviewed by The Washington Times.

The officials, who spoke only on the condition they not be named because of the sensitive nature of their work, stressed that there is no credible information that al Qaeda has acquired the capabilities to carry out a mass biological attack although its members have clearly sought the expertise.

This is from the video:

"Four pounds of anthrax -- in a suitcase this big -= carried by a fighter through tunnels from Mexico into the U.S. are guaranteed to kill 330,000 Americans within a single hour if it is properly spread in population centers there," the recruiter said. "What a horrifying idea; 9/11 will be small change in comparison. Am I right? There is no need for airplanes, conspiracies, timings and so on. One person, with the courage to carry 4 pounds of anthrax, will go to the White House lawn, and will spread this 'confetti' all over them, and then we'll do these cries of joy. It will turn into a real celebration."

COMMENT:  Hey, happy Wednesday morning.  This should be taken very, very seriously.  America has become relaxed because we haven't had an attack here in eight years.  But Al Qaeda is patient.  Many experts have noted that they'll want to do something bigger than 9/11. 

The president, in his "outreach" speech to the Muslim world on Thursday, must make clear that our war against this kind of monstrosity will continue, with or without the permission of the American left or the Muslim mullahs. 

Does Obama have that kind of courage?  We'll find out in a day.

June 3, 2009   Permalink

"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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This space will regularly raise questions that relate to the news, but transcend daily headlines.  The idea is to stimulate talk about basic issues. Our last question asked: 

Last week we asked:

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