"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
OUR CULTURAL VALUES - AT 8:48 P.M. ET: The grotesque "mourning" over the death of Michael Jackson continues. The poor taste is phenomenal. Both Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have now shown up to get their cut of the TV action. The Christian Science Monitor reports:
LOS ANGELES - Since news of Michael Jackson's passing, there has been an emotional outpouring not seen perhaps since Princess Diana's death in 1997.
The 24-hour news cycle and social media are probably amplifying the reaction. But the response seems genuinely broad and intense – which may be surprising given the pop star's transformation into something of a bizarre and controversial recluse in his last 20 years.
If the death of a pop star was to be measured by tweets alone, Michael Jackson's would seem to be of monumental importance. About 15 percent of Twitter posts mentioned Jackson when the news broke Thursday evening, noted Harvard researcher Ethan Zuckerman in one tweet, comparing that with hot topics such as Iran and swine flu that never crossed 5 percent.
And this piece of scholarship:
The reason you are seeing this global outpouring of interest is that Michael Jackson is singular in the history of pop culture. No one even comes close," says Professor James Peterson at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., who teaches hip-hop culture, African-American literature, and sociolinguistics. Mr. Peterson points out that Jackson's achievement of 750 million in global album sales will never again be equaled because of the absolute change in the music business caused by the Internet.
COMMENT: He teaches what? Hip-hop culture? Is there a Ph.D. in that? I suppose Bucknell charges the usual $42,000 a year per student, but look, where else can you find scholarship about hip-hop? Be grateful to pay it.
And Michael Jackson is singular in the history of pop culture? Wasn't there a Frank somebody? Sinatra or something?
THE GOP EIGHT - AT 4:26 P.M. ET: Paul Mirengoff, at Power Line, lists the eight Republicans who voted for the absurd energy bill yesterday, making life much easier for Democrats:
Eight Republicans voted in favor of the legislation. They are: Mary Bono (CA), Mike Castle (DE), Mark Kirk (IL), Leonard Lance (NJ), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Chris Smith (NJ), John McHugh (NY), and David Reichert (WA).
COMMENT: I'm very surprised at Mark Kirk and Chris Smith, usually good guys. Kirk wants to run for the Senate from Illinois next year, to try to capture Roland Burris's seat. Maybe this vote was part of that. I don't know. I suspect the others come from swing districts where the Republicanism is moderate and the liberalism is fierce, and they just wanted to protect themselves. Party leaders don't seem particularly angry with them.
THE WAY THEY VOTED - AT 9:37 A.M. ET: The New York Times publishes a fascinating map, showing the geographic pattern in yesterday's House vote on the "climate change" bill. As you can see, opposition to the bill came heavily from the American heartland. Support, in general, came from New England, the Pacific Coast, and Democratic strongholds in between.
There will be political repercussions. Any moderate Democrat from a swing district who voted for the bill will be targeted.
WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE? - AT 9:28 A.M. ET: The latest crook news, from The Politico:
Monica Conyers, the chairwoman of the Detroit City Council and wife of House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), pleaded guilty Friday to federal bribery charges, the latest blow to a city still reeling from the collapse of the U.S. auto industry and the jailing of its former mayor.
Monica Conyers pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery in connection with a city sludge-hauling scandal. As a member of the Detroit City Council in 2007, Conyers cast the deciding vote in favor of awarding a $1.2 billion contract to Synagro Technologies Inc.
Monica Conyers’s attorney said Friday that she would be sentenced to between 30 and 37 months in federal prison.
COMMENT: The congressman didn't attend the court session. Can you just imagine the news coverage if this had been the wife of a Republican committee chairman?
The key question is, "What did John Conyers know, and when did he know it?" Did he know nothing about his wife's criminality? Will anyone in the media ask?
OUR DISTINGUISHED NEGOTIATING PARTNER - AT 9:07 A.M. ET: The wit and wisdom of the man with whom Obama wants to negotiate. From AP:
Iran's hardline president lashed out anew at the United States and President Barack Obama on Saturday, accusing him of interference and suggesting that Washington's stance on Iran's postelection turmoil could imperil Obama's aim of improving relations.
"We are surprised at Mr. Obama," Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in remarks to judiciary officials broadcast on state television. "Didn't he say that he was after change? Why did he interfere?"
"They keep saying that they want to hold talks with Iran ... but is this the correct way? Definitely, they have made a mistake," Ahmadinejad said.
COMMENT: This kind of statement is psychological warfare, directed at Obama's soft left-wing supporters. It continues Ahmadinejad's assault on Obama, begun yesterday. Obama is getting a required education in the reality of dealing with the Iranian regime. It's a lot different from getting votes at the Iowa caucuses.
ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED READING - AT 8:58 A.M. ET: The Washington Post has a superb report on how some of the world's more prominent dictatorships are handling the news of the Iranian revolt:
BEIJING -- Out of fear that history might repeat itself, the authoritarian governments of China, Cuba and Burma have been selectively censoring the news this month of Iranian crowds braving government militias on the streets of Tehran to demand democratic reforms.
Between 1988 and 1990, amid a lesser global economic slump, pro-democracy protests that appeared to inspire and energize one another broke out in Eastern Europe, Burma, China and elsewhere. Not all evolved into full-fledged revolutions, but communist regimes fell in a broad swath of countries, and the global balance of power shifted.
A similar infectiousness has shown up in subtle acts of defiance by democracy advocates around the world this week.
In China, political commentators tinted their blogs and Twitters green to show their support for Iranians disputing President Ahmoud Ahmadinejad's reelection. The deaths of at least 20 people in violent clashes in Tehran have drawn comparisons online to "June 4," the date of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing in 1989. And a pointed joke about how Iranians are luckier than Chinese because sham elections are better than no elections made the rounds on the country's vast network of Internet bulletin boards.
COMMENT: Read the whole story, one of the best I've read in recent days. A discouraging note: The Chinese Communist Party is charging that the U.S. is behind the Iranian revolt. China is one of the veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council, and would have to approve any new sanctions on Iran. Another is Russia, which sides with the Iranian regime. So when Obama talks of tougher action against Iran, ask plenty of questions.
JUST BARELY - AT 7:41 P.M. ET: The House has barely passed the Democratic energy bill:
WASHINGTON – In a triumph for President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled House narrowly passed sweeping legislation Friday that calls for the nation's first limits on pollution linked to global warming and aims to usher in a new era of cleaner, yet more costly energy.
The vote was 219-212, capping months of negotiations and days of intense bargaining among Democrats. Republicans were overwhelmingly against the measure, arguing it would destroy jobs in the midst of a recession while burdening consumers with a new tax in the form of higher energy costs.
COMMENT: Passage by seven votes in the House, which is far to the left of the Senate, is no great victory. If reason prevails, this bill should die a painful death in the Senate, or face extreme modification. That modification would require a Senate-House reconciliation conference, which may go nowhere or drag on for months.
We may, with the help of moderate Democrats, defeat this monstrosity and go back to the planning stage for a thoughtful energy program.
INCREDIBLE - AT 5:50 P.M. ET: Your elected representatives in action, on one of the most important, and expensive, pieces of legislation of our time:
The House neared a decisive vote on sweeping climate-change legislation Friday afternoon — with Democratic leaders racing to corral votes on a bill that Republicans said they hadn’t even seen yet.
Rep. Geoff Davis, a Republican from Kentucky, said the cap-and-trade bill represented the “economic colonization of the heartland” by New York and California. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) called the bill a “scam” that would do nothing but satisfy “the twisted desires of radical environmentalists.” Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Mich.) called it a “massive transfer of wealth” from the United States to foreign countries.
Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio countered that, without the bill, the United States would remain energy-dependent on people who want to “fly planes into our buildings.”
Republican accused the Democrats of ramming the bill through the House. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) asked repeatedly if there was even a copy of the current version of the bill anywhere in the House chamber. Democratic Rep. Ellen Tauscher – sitting in the speaker’s chair although she’s already been confirmed as Obama’s undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security — repeatedly dodged the question.
COMMENT: What strikes us is the arrogance of today's Democratic Party. This bill is the product of people who believe that they're just a little bit better than the rest of us, just a little bit more intelligent, with better educations and party invitations.
The bill, from what we know of it, is terribly flawed. It rests on theories rather than facts, and does not seem actually to solve anything. Expenses for all Americans will go up, but the "movement" people behind the bill are generally well off, and won't feel the pain. There is, naturally, no press analysis of who will gain financially from the changes called for in the bill.
Fortunately, we have a United States Senate, where there's a chance this can be stopped, and reconsidered.
Add this to the Obamacare bill coming up, and the changes to American life can be profound, with almost no real discussion going into those changes.
In a way, I compare this to Vietnam, where an approved "narrative" was developed by the press and the intellectual elites, arguing that we could never win. Once that narrative was accepted, the tragic result was predictable. The narrative was wrong, but it's been maintained for more than a generation. No, we don't always get the truth, even in a democracy.
WAS SOMEONE LEFT OUT? - AT 4:44 P.M. ET: The latest in Washington tributes, and Washington values:
WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives paused for a moment of silence Friday to mark entertainer Michael Jackson's death.
Lawmakers briefly interrupted a debate on a global warming bill to stand in silence and honor the "King of Pop."
Rep. Diane Watson of California rose during the debate to suggest the House "pay tribute to the culture that he has left behind, his legacy."
Watson said the lawmakers send their condolences to Jackson's family, friends and his fans worldwide.
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois said the singer changed the world and he wants to "thank God for letting all of us live in his generation and in his era."
COMMENT: There has been no moment of silence for the Iranians murdered in the streets by their government in the last week. I guess they didn't have the right moves.
OBAMA AND THOSE PESKY FREEDOM TYPES - AT 9:40 A.M. ET: We've said before that the Washington Post's editorial page, although generally liberal, has an admirable streak of independence and principle. Compare please with the editorial page of The New York Times.
Today, in a stunning rebuke, the Post goes after President Obama, and his indifference to democracy. This time the canvas is Latin America:
FOR ITS winners, the National Endowment for Democracy's annual Democracy Award can mean a brief respite from a dangerous life as a dissident: a trip to Washington, attention from Congress and the media, and -- during the Bush and Clinton administrations -- an Oval Office meeting or statement of support from the president. No such luck for this year's honorees, who are five leaders of Cuba's pro-democracy movement.
We must not offend Father Fidel, nor the hard left of the Democratic Party, which continues to marvel at the Cuban health-care system, just as some in the 1930s marveled at the Nazi road system.
It's not that the president is too busy to concern himself with Latin American politics. The White House arranged for a Spanish journalist to ask a question at Tuesday's news conference; reporter Macarena Vidal pressed Mr. Obama on whether U.S. allies such as Chile and Colombia were doing enough to help with "less democratic countries." The president replied by heaping praise on visiting Chilean President Michele Bachelet, a socialist who has been promoting Cuba's readmission into the Organization of American States and who has gone out of her way to avoid offending Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez.
Can't we all just get along?
Message to Mr. Chávez and the Castro brothers: We can work with you. Message to Cuba's democratic opposition: We don't have time for you.
It's the same message the freedom fighters of Iran are hearing from this White House. Ah, Obama has made us so proud again. Not like that BUSH (!!) and his voting business. How Texan.
Mr. Obama's hastily drafted statement -- issued after The Post inquired about his silence -- said he wished "to acknowledge and commend" the five dissidents "and all the brave men and women who are standing up for the right of the Cuban people to freely determine their country's future." He called for the release of the three now in prison.
Will the quickly written statement satisfy the Cuban opposition? No, says the Post:
They, like the beleaguered pro-democracy movements of Venezuela and Nicaragua, are hoping that the American president will focus his policy on supporting them. Yet for now, Mr. Obama's diplomacy is clearly centered on their oppressors.
COMMENT: Good for the Washington Post! We can't wait for Obama to compare the Post to Fox News.
This president claims to represent "American values." He does not, and he shows it every day. He has demonstrated far more friendship toward dictators than toward democrats. He won't have Cuban dissidents to the Oval Office, which, under Bush, had a bust of Winston Churchill prominently displayed. Obama got rid of that, too.
IRAN - AT 8:38 A.M. ET: Michael Jackson's death has pushed Iran off the front pages, as freedom activists, both inside and outside Iran, try to keep the flame of the resistance alive. Meanwhile, we are getting further assurance from the thugocracy that the recent election was beautiful, fair and elegant:
TEHRAN — As Iran’s leaders push back threats to their authority after the disputed presidential election, crushing street protests and pressing challengers to withdraw or to limit their objections, the country’s main electoral oversight group ruled Friday that the ballot had been the “healthiest” since the Islamic revolution in 1979.
The statement by the 12-member Guardian Council, which is charged with overseeing and vetting elections, fell short of formal certification of the ballot. But it offered further evidence that, despite mass demonstrations and violent confrontation with those who call the election a fraud, the authorities are intent on enforcing their writ and denying their adversaries a voice.
Two weeks after the election on June 12, Mir Hussein Moussavi, the top challenger, issued an angry statement Thursday that underscored his commitment to press ahead — but also his impotence in the face of an increasingly emboldened and repressive government that restricted his ability to do much more than express outrage.
COMMENT: Charles Krauthammer says in his column today that the resistance needs a real leader. It's being forced off the streets by bullets, clubs and gas - that much is clear. It can only continue if it's better organized and led. It is receiving no real help from the outside, especially the United States, which has abdicated its position, under Obama, as leader of the free world.
Obama's weakness, his showing "respect" for the sovereignty of Iran, is bringing a predictable response from the Iranian leadership, as CNN reports:
TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday called the U.S. president inexperienced, compared him unfavorably to President George W. Bush and suggested he apologize for "interfering in Iran's affairs."
"Do you think that this kind of behavior is going to solve any of your problems? It will only make people think you are someone like Bush," the semiofficial Fars news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.
"You are at the beginning of your way and you are gaining experience, and we do not wish the scandals of the Bush era to be repeated during your term of office," the Iranian leader said.
Obama is certainly getting results, isn't he? If polls are correct, Americans are starting to notice.
CLEAN ENERGY? - AT 7:52 A.M. ET: A huge Democratic energy bill is making its way through the House, despite solid Republican opposition. Even a number of Democrats have their doubts, but the bill is likely to pass narrowly. Then it goes on to an uncertain fate in the Senate, where sanity occasionally prevails. Wesley Pruden, of The Washington Times, who minces no words, describes the ugly scene:
You can't blame the Democrats for hurrying to enact their hot-air legislation. The public is finally paying attention, recognizing the global warming crisis for what it is, a giant scam that will cost every American plenty. The globe isn't warming - it's actually cooling, in fact - and there's no crisis.
The only "crisis" Thursday in Washington was what to do with Al Gore. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had invited the ex-veep to Washington to appear Friday with senior Democrats to make a last-minute appeal for votes for the American Clean Energy and Security Act. Note there's not a word about "global" or "warming" in the title of the legislation. Once you stink up perfectly good words, you have to find new ones. (That's why liberals now call themselves "progressives.")
COMMENT: I hope Pruden is right, that the public is finally paying attention. I also hope we'll have a little investigative reporting by the media. I'd love to know who actually benefits from this legislation, how much they'll receive, and what their relationship is to the Democratic Party. I'd also love to know how much the average American family will pay for legislation that is driven largely by untested theories.
VULGARITY - AT 7:33 A.M. ET: We will now await day two of the bizarre coverage of Michael Jackson's untimely death. We're all sorry, of course, that he died at such a young age, only 50, but you'd think by the media bombardment that a president had died. The wall-to-wall orgy has been largely tasteless and over-the-top. The man was not, after all, Frank Sinatra, one of the great popular artists of the last century. Even Jackson's family has had to plead for a little privacy.
I suspect that the lurid coverage has much to do with our worship of the youth culture, a worship that's been magnified considerably since the juvenile decade of the sixties.
Of course, Al Sharpton was front and center, holding a sidewalk news conference to talk about himself and his relationship to Michael Jackson, which seemed awfully vague.
I hope the press calms down today. Fans can appropriately mourn, but there are adult things happening in the world.
"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
Part I of this week's Angel's Corner was sent late Wednesday night.
Part II was sent last night.
Subscriptions to URGENT AGENDA are voluntary. Why subscribe to something you're getting free? To help guarantee that you'll continue to get it at all, and to get The Angel's Corner, which we now offer to subscribers and donators.
Subscriptions sustain us. Payments are through PayPal and are secure, but you do not have to sign up for a PayPal account. Credit cards are fine.
FOR A ONE-YEAR ($48) SUBSCRIPTION, CLICK:
FOR A SIX-MONTH ($26) SUBSCRIPTION, CLICK:
IF YOU DON'T WISH A SET SUBSCRIPTION, BUT PREFER TO DONATE ANY OTHER AMOUNT TO SUSTAIN URGENT AGENDA, CLICK:
THE CURRENT QUESTION
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:
It's noted that poll after poll shows that the president is more popular, by far, than his policies. What is your explanation of this, and how can the Republican Party exploit the split?
Obama has been strongly criticized for a weak, too-late response on Iran. But do you think the GOP offers a valid foreign-policy alternative, and why?
If you'd like to send us your thoughts, click:
email@example.com (Please stay within two or three paragraphs. We try to print every reply, if space allows. Place your name at the end of the message if you wish your name published. This question will stay up through Sunday.)
SEARCH URGENT AGENDA
It's a privilege for me to post periodic pieces at Power Line. To go to Power Line, click here.