"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
BABY, IT'S COLD OUTSIDE...OR A LITTLE LESS WARM - AT 9:03 P.M. ET: With all the foreign news, Americans may not be aware that a "global warming" bill is making its way through the Democratic-controlled Congress, all based on the "science" that's become religious doctrine to a good chunk of Washington. But reader John Catherwood alerts us to a great piece at Real Clear Politics on how the global-warming scare is becoming less scary in Australia, thanks in part to a major scientist who's had the courage to come forward and expose the hokum, and a journalist who's had the intellectual honesty to admit that he'd been wrong:
As the US Congress considers the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, the Australian Senate is on the verge of rejecting its own version of cap-and-trade. The story of this legislation's collapse offers advance notice for what might happen to similar legislation in the US—and to the whole global warming hysteria.
Since the Australian government first introduced its Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) legislation—the Australian version of cap-and-trade energy rationing—there has been a sharp shift in public opinion and political momentum against the global warming crusade. This is a story that offers hope to defenders of industrial civilization—and a warning to American environmentalists that the climate change they should be afraid of just might be a shift in the intellectual climate.
The scientist is Australia's Ian Plimer, author of "Heaven and Earth, Global Warming: The Missing Science."
One of the most remarkable changes occurred on April 13, when leading global warming hysteric Paul Sheehan - who writes for the main Sydney newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald, which has done as much to hype the threat of global warming as any Australian newspaper - reviewed Plimer's book and admitted he was taken aback. He describes Plimer, correctly, as "one of Australia's foremost Earth scientists," and praised the book as "brilliantly argued" and "the product of 40 years' research and breadth of scholarship."
That's when the nonsense starts to come apart: Real scientists using real science, not theory, to examine "global warming." The entire piece, which examines the way global warming has been sold as a new religion, is well worth reading. It concludes:
Australia is not that different from America. If a shift in public opinion against the global warming dogma can happen on one side of the earth, it can happen on the other—especially when the US edition of Plimer's book, scheduled for July 1, hits the stands.
His role, Plimer says, is to show "that the emperor has no clothes." After three decades of relentless global warming propaganda, it's about time.
COMMENT: I just hope it isn't too late. The Very Rev. Al Gore is relentless, and his parishioners are on the warpath. A law may be signed soon, and we'll see hundreds of billions down the drain as we worship a dying theory.
FROM IRAN - AT 7:30 P.M. ET: The sketchy news from Iran indicates that there were small demonstrations today, brutally put down by the government. It is clear that the mullahs are winning the battle in the streets, no surprise given their overwhelming military and police power.
TEHRAN — Hundreds of protesters clashed with waves of riot police and paramilitary militia in Tehran on Wednesday, witnesses said, as Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, insisted that the authorities would not yield to pressure from opponents demanding a new election following allegations of electoral fraud.
It was impossible to confirm the extent of the new violence in the capital because of draconian new press restrictions on coverage of the post-election mayhem. But the witnesses reached by telephone said the confrontation, in the streets near the national Parliament building, was bloody, with police using live ammunition.
COMMENT: I fear that this story will be history within days, and a relieved Obama administration can get back to the real business of "engagement," with a heavy dose of appeasement and a flavoring of apology.
Oh, by the way, in an act of diplomatic courage unrivaled in modern history, the Obamans today withdrew - yes, I said withdrew - the invitation previously extended to Iranian diplomats to attend July 4th celebrations at American embassies around the world. No hot dogs for them! And dammit, no Cokes either! You want tough, we'll give them tough!
Uh, yes, we have to add the administration's admission that no Iranian diplomat had accepted our invitation anyway.
MARACAY, Venezuela (Reuters) - The United States and Venezuela will soon reinstate ambassadors expelled in a diplomatic spat last year, a sign of warmer relations between President Hugo Chavez and what he calls the U.S. "empire."
Leftist Chavez has toned down his strident criticism of U.S. foreign policy since Barack Obama took office in January, partly because the U.S. president is popular in Latin America in contrast to his predecessor George W. Bush.
Obama, in turn, has pledged to engage with countries considered problematic by the United States.
COMMENT: This news comes on the same day that we learn that we're returning our ambassador to Syria, another gem of a regime. It is simply another indication of the march to the left by the Obama administration. It comes in the same week when the president of the United States had to be dragged by his former opponent, John McCain, into a statement endorsing the drive for Iranian democracy.
THE OBAMA IRAN LETTER - AT 5:34 P.M. ET: Eyebrows are being raised in response to news that President Obama sent a letter to Iran's Supreme Leader just before the Iranian "election" calling for diplomatic engagement.
(CNN) -- U.S. President Obama sent a direct message to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei weeks before this month's disputed election, Iranian sources said Wednesday.
The letter requested dialogue and engagement between the two nations, the sources said.
The sources said that Khamenei has yet to reply to the letter but that nonetheless it "had set the negotiating table in order for both sides to sit around it after the election."
The White House refused to "get into the specifics of our different ways of communicating," a senior Obama administration official said.
COMMENT: You'd think the president of the United States could have at least waited until after the "election," so he'd know who he was dealing with. And you'll notice that the Supreme Leader hasn't even responded yet, even though the letter was sent weeks ago.
That's more groveling, equal to today's major grovel, in which we agreed to send an ambassador back to Syria, getting nothing in return for our gesture. We'd removed our ambassador four years ago in protest over Syria's alleged involvement in the murder of a Lebanese leader. Apparently, that's not important anymore. Just ask the Lebanese.
Anyone want to volunteer to be a friend of the United States?
SANFORD SINS - AT 5:16 P.M. ET: Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina, a possible Republican hopeful for president in 2012, doesn't have much hope left. As you know, he was missing for, oh, four or five days. Jokes were made. Stories were told. The governor was hiking. The governor was resting. The governor was on the trail. Off the trail. Decompressing after the strain of a legislative session. Hosting the Tonight Show. (No, no, strike that one.)
It turns out that the governor was in Argentina having an affair with an Argentinean woman:
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina, said he had conducted an extra-marital affair with a woman in Argentina, ending a mystery over his week-long disappearance that had infuriated lawmakers and seemed to put his rising political career in jeopardy. He apologized for the affair and the deception surrounding his trip in a rambling, nationally televised news conference Wednesday afternoon.
“I hurt a lot of different folks,” Gov. Mark Sanford said during a news conference at the statehouse in Columbia, S.C.
Governor Sanford, 49, admitted that he had been in Buenos Aires since Thursday, not hiking on the Appalachian Trail as his staff had told reporters.
COMMENT: A few weeks ago Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada, another rising star, admitted that he'd been unfaithful. A bit further back, Democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer of New York admitted the same, and resigned. His successor, current Dem Governor David Paterson also confessed. Bill Clinton admitted it. John Edwards, presidential candidate, confessed big time. As Johnny Carson used to ask, "Who am I leaving out?"
Just once I'd like to see a headline reading: GOVENOR JONES STAYS FAITHFUL; ADMITS TO BEING A BORING MAN.
Would CNN cover that news conference?
So two potential GOP presidential contenders, Ensign and Sanford, are history. The party had better start building some new stars. It should start by sending private eyes after them with cameras.
LATEST ON IRAN - AT 8:26 A.M. ET: To its credit, The New York Times has been running a minute-by-minute from Tehran, the news largely supplied by bloggers and Twitterers. We caution that these reports cannot be verified, and are presented in raw form:
Update | 8:19 a.m. According to an update on Twitter a minute ago, attributed to the Iranian blogger Mojtaba Samienejad, there have been clashes in front of Iran’s Parliament:
Conflict in Baharestan Sq. They even attack to people walk on sidewalk and use Tears GAS
Update | 8:12 a.m. Iran’s Press TV reports that police officers in Tehran have raided a campaign office for the opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi, and declared that it was the “headquarters for a psychological war against the country’s security.” According to the satellite broadcaster financed by Iran’s government:
COMMENT: The anticipated rally in Tehran was apparently moved from 7:30 a.m. ET to 8:00 a.m. We are trying to get confirmation that it is taking place. That may take hours. But a major day of confrontation can possibly occur in Iran.
IS THE PRESS GETTING TOUGHER ON OBAMA? - AT 8:14 A.M. ET: A study of yesterday's presidential news conference does show a toughening in reporters' attitudes that we haven't seen before. Michael Goodwin of The New York Daily News comments on what we hope is a permanent change:
Yesterday, the White House press corps called the end of the Obama honeymoon.
By peppering the President with forceful questions on Iran and other big topics and by challenging some of his slippery answers, reporters captured the changing tone in the country. Like the end of a real honeymoon, blind infatuation is giving way to a more accurate view of reality.
The reality is that polls show rising doubt about President Obama's handling of the economy and wide disapproval about exploding deficits. The reality is that even many Democrats worry the White House health plan is messy and unaffordable. The reality is that ranks of independents who voted for him find Obama far more liberal than they expected.
It's also true that many news organizations have embarrassed themselves with fawning Obama coverage and are the subject of growing ridicule, including from Obama himself.
Goodwin writes of Obama's missed chances at the press conference:
He blew another chance when a reporter asked whether criticism by Sen. John McCain and other Republicans had forced the tougher stance. "What do you think?" he said, getting defensive and saying, "Only I am the President of the United States."
It's a bad habit, a sign of weakness, to pull rank, yet this White House does it repeatedly. Obama brushed back calls for changes in stimulus spending by saying, "I won," and his press secretary said, "We won," just the other day to a question.
We wrote about that here last night. It continues what I've characterized as the adolescent quality of this administration.
...voters are getting significantly more skeptical about the President. Iran added to the doubts.
The press corps gets it. For Obama, the hard part begins now.
COMMENT: Let's finally see what he's made of. The Iran crisis is far from over. We are still tracking a North Korean ship believed to be carrying illegal materials. The economy continues weak, with no sign the stimulus package is having any effect.
A cautionary note, though: The toughness of reporters at a news conference does not automatically translate into toughness by their editors back home. Don't be shocked if you see the honeymoon continue a bit on the editorial pages, especially those in Washington, New York, and Boston.
Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi is expected to attend at a rally Wednesday amid an intensifying government crackdown on protesters following the country's disputed presidential election.
Mousavi's attendance is noted on his Facebook page, and there is speculation that former President Mohammad Khatami also will attend the rally, scheduled for 4 p.m. (7:30 a.m. EDT) in Tehran's Baharestan Square, outside of the Iranian parliament.
Also on Mousavi's Facebook page, online supporters have posted that peaceful protests will be held at the same time in over 15 countries and 10 American cities.
COMMENT: A word of caution is in order. We've noticed during this crisis that many things are promised, and few are delivered. A general strike had been called for yesterday, but never materialized. The number of demonstrators in the streets had been reduced to the hundreds, in the face of a cruel government crackdown.
So let's see if Mousavi shows up, or even if there's a demonstration. So far, the government appears to be winning.
NOTHING LIKE A LITTLE CYNICISM - AT 7:30 A.M. ET: From The Washington Post:
President Obama has decided to return a U.S. ambassador to Syria after an absence of more than four years, marking a significant step toward engaging an influential Arab nation long at odds with the United States.
The acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, Jeffrey D. Feltman, informed Syria's ambassador to Washington, Imad Mustafa, tonight of Obama's intention, according to a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the decision had yet to be made public.
COMMENT: Syria is one of the strongest backers of the Iranian regime. And here we are rewarding Syria...at this time. The cynicism is pathetic. You'll notice that the demonstrators in Iran are not shouting "Obama! Obama!" The only people still shouting that are probably in Cambridge, Massachusetts, or Berkeley, California.
This administration has thus far been the most indifferent toward human rights since Bush 41. Not a great record to stand on.
THE PRESIDENT AND IRAN - AT 9:30 P.M. ET: The president was a bit stronger on the Iran revolt at his news conference today, then went out of his way, in answering questions, to insist that he's been entirely consistent all along. He gave a poor performance. Whenever Obama is cornered, he tends to break out in a kind of "nobody knows the trouble I've seen" rhetoric, suggesting that none of the reporters can understand that presidents must do things differently from mere mortals. We can be tough on the press here, as you know, but asking a president why it took him so long to take a hard stand against the Iranian thugs is entirely appropriate, and the president might have conceded that his first statements may, in the absence of more detailed news reports, have been too cautious. I guess a messiah can never admit error.
One of the amusing things about all this is that there's been a major-league gang-up on John McCain, who's been goading Obama all week to be firmer, stronger, more Reagan-like. Even Joe Scarborough joined, this morning, in the criticism of McCain, making the wild, unsustainable charge that McCain was putting Iranian lives in jeopardy. But now that Obama has come much closer in his public utterance to what McCain wanted, what do these same McCain bashers say?
Still, closer is not pitch-perfect, which should be the standard in a crisis like this. Ronald Reagan understood. Jack Kennedy, at the Cuban Missile Crisis, understood. FDR, in responding to Pearl Harbor, understood. Even George W. Bush, in his speech to Congress after 9-11, understood. Barack Obama lacks that instinct, and it is damaging him. The American people expect their president to behave in a certain manner, even if there are diplomatic risks. We don't have royalty and he is our chief of state. This week we had a little too much Carter, not enough Reagan. Carter got the Nobel Peace Prize from some Norwegian legislators. Reagan wound up in the top ranks of presidents.
ED - AT 8:53 A.M. ET: Ed McMahon has died at 86, at UCLA Medical Center. He was, of course, Johnny Carson's sidekick on The Tonight Show, and was with Carson for the entire 30-year run.
Some of you know that I was a talent coordinator (like an assistant producer) on The Tonight Show. I knew Ed, and liked him immensely. He was a warm, gregarious and totally accessible guy, a former Marine pilot, who seemed genuinely grateful for his luck. When I was with the show it was based in New York. We would go to Los Angeles every eight weeks for a three-week stand. I recall my surprise, as we started out on my first trip, that Ed flew with the staff, hung around with us, and stayed in the same hotel. (Carson always stayed elsewhere.) There was not a false note about him.
On one of our trips we were staying at the Sheraton-Universal, or the Sheraton Impossible, as we called it. At about 6 a.m. we were awakened by an earthquake. Drawers were flying. The ground was rumbling. Lights in the San Fernando Valley started going out. All of us on the staff ran from our rooms; some ran from rooms they shouldn't have been in. And there, in the lobby was Ed, joking with the other guests, a comforting figure.
He didn't handle money well, which we found out some time ago when he ran into trouble. But, aside from that, I can't think of too much on the negative side of the ledger.
He was one of the decent guys, in an industry not known for that trait. He represented the last era of the "old" show business, which we sorely miss.
QUOTE OF THE DAY - AT 8:13 A.M. ET: From Wesley Pruden, in The Washington Times:
The rage in Tehran's streets suggests that time may be running out for a brutal regime, but that same clock is ticking for Barack Obama and what to do about the Iranian bomb. A reprise of the Cairo speech won't work; the Muslims are masters of endless, empty rhetoric themselves, and know how to figure the discount on words. The consequences of taking out the Iranian nuclear works, or enabling Israel to do it for him, would be awful, exceeded only by the consequences of allowing the mullahs in Tehran to get their bomb. Then everybody in Arabia would want one. The Saudis would buy one from Pakistan; certain intelligence sources say a deal is already in the works to deliver it once an Iranian bomb is in place. If the Shi'ites have a bomb, it's only logical, as logic is measured in that miserable corner of the world, for the Sunnis to get one. Every thuggish eighth-century theocracy must be fully armed.
COMMENT: I suspect that the issue of time will soon come to dominate this White House. The president is running into opposition, his poll numbers slipping, at least for now. The 2010 congressional elections are shaping up to be very competitive, unless the Republicans, as is their tradition, snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The Iranian bomb is on its way, and North Korea is growing increasingly belligerent.
Obama hits the six-month mark within weeks, with not a single success in foreign policy to show for it. He and his political handlers must soon come to the conclusion that time isn't on the president's side.
THE PALIN WATCH - AT 7:52 A.M. ET: Like her or not, Sarah Palin is endlessly fascinating. Now the big question is whether she will run for reelection in 2010, as The Politico reports:
Top Republicans and Democrats across Alaska are quietly lining up to run for governor amid growing speculation that Sarah Palin will not seek reelection in 2010.
No candidate, including Palin, has yet filed papers with the Alaska Public Offices Commission. Palin’s office declined an opportunity to explain her thinking on the 2010 race, and the Republican Governors Association said it would not comment on discussions it has had with the governor.
But a number of Democrats and Republicans in Alaska and Washington who spoke to POLITICO believe her silence is a sign she will not pursue a second term as governor so that she can play a larger role on the national political stage.
COMMENT: Actually, there are several reasons for her not to run. First, her national campaign last year took a toll on her local popularity. If she wants a national future, she doesn't want to risk reelection by only a narrow margin, given her past popularity, or even risk defeat. Also, she knows that the national Democratic Party will do anything it can to beat her or smear her.
Second, she's already been governor. If she continues in the office, it's unlikely she'll get much done. Again, the national Democrats will see her as their number one target.
Third, geography. Remaining as governor means spending too much time in Alaska, with long trips to the lower 48 to build a national reputation. Freedom would help her move around.
We've said before that we think Sarah needs some polishing if she wants seriously to attempt a try for the top of the Republican ticket. We haven't seen that polishing in recent interviews. She's got to be able to discuss foreign policy as easily as she discusses energy. That's not the case now, but no one should underestimate Sarah Palin.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN? - AT 7:42 A.M. ET: Amir Taheri, often quoted here because of his expertise on Iran, gives his sense of what will happen next in the country:
So is Iran heading for a civil war? My answer is a cautious no.
In a history spanning more than 2,500 years, the nation has seen only three events that can be described as civil wars: in the 5th century BC, in the 6th century AD and in 1911.
The reason is that as a power struggle builds up, Iranians know how to distinguish the side that's going to win. Once they've identified the winner, they will all rally to his side. No one is left on the other side to provoke a civil war.
Call it opportunism, if you like, but this is a part of the template of Iranian politics.
One's only hope is that the side that realizes it's losing won't deny the evidence and will agree to bow out without provoking a prolonged and bloody conflict.
We might always wonder what stronger support from other nations could have meant. We'll never know.
CAIRO — Iran's top electoral body said Tuesday it found "no major fraud" and will not annul the results of the presidential election, closing the door to a do-over sought by angry opposition supporters alleging systematic vote-rigging.
Iranian government officials have repeatedly suggested that a revote is extremely unlikely. However, Tuesday's announcement by Iran's top electoral body, the Guardian Council, was the clearest yet in ruling out a new election.
The announcement on Iran's state-run English language Press TV is another sign the regime is determined to crush the post-election protests — the strongest challenge to its leadership in 30 years — rather than compromise..
There is no news yet on the general strike called for today, but it's apparent that the regime is successfully putting down the protests. The sad reality is that, within a week, the revolt might be forgotten, much to the relief of the crowd currently running American foreign policy. This democracy stuff is just too crude.
Russia and China are making it clear in public statements that they accept the official version of Iran's "elections."
At the same time, Obama's reliable defenders in the press and elsewhere are publicly marveling at his handling of the Iran situation - sneering at those unsophisticated ruffians like John McCain and extolling the virtues of Obama's clearly superior intellect, strategic sense and cultural sensitivity. Once again, the political left shows that indifference to human freedom is one of the major planks in its platform.
"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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