"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
We have a new audio clip up: "Obama's First Month." You can hear it here.
SUNDAY, MARCH 1, 2009
AGAIN - AT 4:14 P.M. ET:From the New York Daily News:
The man who is President Obama's newly minted urban czar pocketed thousands of dollars in campaign cash from city developers whose projects he approved or funded with taxpayers' money, a Daily News probe found.
Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion often received contributions just before or after he sponsored money for projects or approved important zoning changes, records show.
Most donations were organized and well-timed.
COMMENT: Have you ever seen an administration where the vetting was so poor? Now, what will happen to this appointment? Chances are, it will go through with no problem, and that is the shame. This is hardly change we can believe in, or any change at all.
Posted at 11:22 a.m. ET
One of our favorite writers here is Michael Barone, who probably knows more about American politics than anyone else, and has an ability to cut through the college-boy haze that gets thrown up by the mainstream media. Barone writes of something that has bothered many of us - this new administration's indifference to human rights, something that has increasingly characterized "liberal" movements since the 1960s.
On the last day of her trip to East Asia, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke briefly of the place of human rights in American policy toward China. "Our pressing on those issues" -- issues she didn't identify any more fully -- "can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis."
Cries of dismay quickly came forth from Amnesty International USA, New Students for a Free Tibet and Freedom House. Has the United States given up on championing human rights and democracy altogether?
Not good, not good.
...for anyone with knowledge of American foreign policy over the last four decades, Clinton's remarks were jarring. It is one thing not to press a tyranny very hard on human rights; it is another thing to come out and say you're not going to raise the issue at all. It is a kind of unilateral moral disarmament.
Who is at fault?
She is not the only one. On this as on other matters, she is following the lead of the man who beat her for the Democratic nomination. In his inaugural speech, Barack Obama made only the most passing mention of human rights. In his Feb. 26 speech to Congress, he devoted just 7 percent of his words to foreign and defense policy, and made just one mention of freedom.
That one mention is more than his usual number. And...
He is reportedly poised to name as head of the National Intelligence Council a man who has endorsed China's 1989 suppression of pro-democracy students at Tiananmen Square. He has noted with cold indifference the success of the provincial elections in Iraq.
That naming - the man is Charles Freeman Jr. - has already occurred.
All of which brings to mind the report of a conservative blogger who watched George W. Bush's 2005 inaugural speech with a group of liberals. Every time Bush called for spreading freedom and democracy around the world, the crowd guffawed and groaned and jeered.
I'm afraid that's what we're seeing.
Beneath this stated contempt is, I think, something in the nature of secret guilt. Or rather, anger at the notion that Bush had stolen the issues of human rights and democracy from the liberals.
Excellent point. I'm glad someone made it.
The desire to oppose the Iraq war root and branch, to denounce every aspect of it, imposed a duty to dismiss as laughable Bush's stated objective -- set out eloquently before the decision to take military action as well as after it -- of advancing democracy in the Middle East.
It's quite a turnaround. It was liberals who complained that the United States sided with too many tyrannies in the Cold War and who (in the person of Henry Jackson) insisted on holding up Soviet trade deals to aid those persecuted by the Soviet Union.
Those days are long gone.
Perhaps someone should suggest that a stony indifference to the freedom of others is not a very liberal -- not a very generous, not a very attractive -- thing.
Wonderfully stated. Bush Derangement Syndrome is still alive and well in the liberal establishment. Ironically, it was 47 years ago when a liberal president, John F. Kennedy, committed this country to pay any price in defense of freedom. Today, Kennedy would be denounced as a militaristic neocon, and couldn't come close to getting his party's nomination.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States believes Iran has obtained enough nuclear material to make a bomb, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said on Sunday.
"We think they do, quite frankly," Mullen said on CNN's "State of the Union" program when asked whether Iran has enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon.
COMMENT: Just great, isn't it? Nothing that any nation or group of nations has done thus far has slowed the Iranians a bit. Yet, we're now set to embark on "new" negotiations. About what? What is our strategy? It's all been kept so vague, as the Iranians move forward.
PROGRESS? WE HOPE SO - AT 9:59 A.M. ET: From comments by Daniel Fried, assistant secretary of state for European affairs, regarding Hillary Clinton's meeting this Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov:
Fried said that although the administration is interested in improving relations with Russia, Lavrov will be reminded that the U.S. does not accept the Russian argument that it has a sphere of influence in Central Asia and Eastern Europe that gives Moscow special say on issues like missile defense.
The administration's interest in engaging Russia is tempered by ''cautionary notes,'' Fried said. That includes a concern that Moscow has gone too far in flexing its muscles in places such as the former Soviet republic of Georgia, where Russian troops fought a brief war last summer, and in opposing the NATO membership aspirations of countries including Ukraine, a a former Soviet republic on Russia's border.
COMMENT: So far, so good, although that will outrage the Daily Kos crowd and the fringe groups that helped put Obama in power. Question: What about missile defense? Do we cave, or do we stand with the nations of Eastern Europe who joined with us in that project?
MR. NEW WAY COMES TO TOWN - AT 9:07 A.M. ET: From the Politico:
President Barack Obama is beginning the salesmanship of his far-reaching $3.6 trillion budget with a populist blast at powerful interests he says will fight it – all but challenging his opponents to bring it on.
“I know these steps won’t sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they’re gearing up for a fight as we speak,” Obama said in his weekly radio address Saturday.
“My message to them is this: So am I.”
COMMENT: Yeah, we saw in the stimulus package just how opposed to "powerful interests" this president is. Powerful interests wrote that bill, in an almost classic, textbook example of the old way of doing business. Okay, Mr. Obama, put your money where your mouth is: Show is your "new" way of doing business and how it will actually serve this country.
Oh, as an example of the "new" way, we had, just a few days ago, the appointment of a lobbyist for Saudi Arabia, a man who also praised the slaughter of Chinese citizens in Tiananmen Square, as head of the National Intelligence Council. More on that tomorrow. Bring back the old way.
ETHICS ON PARADE - AT 8:50 A.M. ET: From The Washington Times:
Under President Obama's pledge to exclude registered lobbyists from the government payroll, two top contenders for an important food-safety post at the Agriculture Department will need waivers to win the job since both are lobbyists who sought to influence USDA officials.
Barbara J. Masters, a longtime USDA employee and now a senior policy adviser at a Washington law firm, and Caroline Smith DeWaal, food-safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, are the leading candidates to head the department's Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), whose mission is to ensure that the nation's supply of meat, poultry and egg products is safe.
COMMENT: Pay no attention. Pay absolutely no attention. You see, these are special people. We cannot do without them. That lobbyist rule - it really applied to evil people, the kind who worked for BUSH (!!). No ethics problems here.
HOW CHIC - AT 8:21 A.M. ET: From The New York Times:
Until recently, the idea that the world’s most powerful nations might come together to tackle global warming seemed an environmentalist’s pipe dream...
...But within weeks of taking office, President Obama has radically shifted the global equation, placing the United States at the forefront of the international climate effort and raising hopes that an effective international accord might be possible.
COMMENT: But, of course, no questions will be permitted about the "science" underlying the global-warming panic. Princeton physics professor William Happer smashed that "science" in recent testimony before the U.S. Senate:
"The climate is warming and CO2 is increasing. Doesn't this prove that CO2 is causing global warming through the greenhouse effect? No, the current warming period began about 1800 at the end of the little ice age, long before there was an appreciable increase of CO2. There have been similar and even larger warmings several times in the 10,000 years since the end of the last ice age. These earlier warmings clearly had nothing to do with the combustion of fossil fuels. The current warming also seems to be due mostly to natural causes, not to increasing levels of carbon dioxide. Over the past ten years there has been no global warming, and in fact a slight cooling. This is not at all what was predicted by the IPCC models."
We wonder what will happen to Happer now. Is there a modern equivalent to being burned at the stake? The man must not be permitted to speak again.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2009
CHILLING TO THE BONE - AT 3:08 P.M. ET:
GROZNY, Russia (AP) -- The bullnecked president of Chechnya emerged from afternoon prayers at the mosque and with chilling composure explained why seven young women who had been shot in the head deserved to die.
Ramzan Kadyrov said the women, whose bodies were found dumped by the roadside, had ''loose morals'' and were rightfully shot by male relatives in honor killings.
''If a woman runs around and if a man runs around with her, both of them are killed,'' Kadyrov told journalists in the capital of this Russian republic.
COMMENT: I'm so relieved to know that the man is also killed. And I'd thought - probably disinformation planted by neocon agents - that Islamo-fascism was anti-female. How wrong could I be! They're equal opportunity murderers.
Let's see what kind of international reaction these sickening murders bring. Can you hear the uproar?
REWRITING HISTORY - AT 2:18 P.M. ET: From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — President Obama described his expansive budget proposal on Saturday as “a threat to the status quo in Washington” and cast himself as a populist crusader willing to do battle with special interests to expand health care, curb pollution and improve education.
“I didn’t come here to do the same thing we’ve been doing or to take small steps forward,” Mr. Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address. “I came to provide the sweeping change that this country demanded when it went to the polls in November. That is the change this budget starts to make, and that is the change I’ll be fighting for in the weeks ahead.”
COMMENT: Precisely when did the country demand sweeping change? Some 46 percent of Americans voted for John McCain, and that happened even after the financial collapse in September weighted the election heavily toward the Democrats. Had that collapse not occurred, the final result would probably have been much closer. And the mainstream media gave us the most biased performance in its recent history.
The president is rewriting the record. But his statements today give final proof that the so-called "stimulus" package was less about stimulus than about establishing the welfare state.
DEMS GONE WILD
Posted at 10:31 a.m. ET
There are some strains showing in the Democratic Party, and that is good. It's important that neither party tilt toward extremes, and the Dems have been heaving heavily to port for some time. Joel Kotkin, in the Wall Street Journal, argues that not everyone wearing the donkey pin likes that:
Broadly speaking, there is a long-standing conflict inside the Democratic Party between gentry liberals and populists...Today the emerging fault-lines follow mostly regional, geographical and, most importantly, class differences.
Gentry liberals cluster largely in cities, wealthy suburbs and college towns. They include disproportionately those with graduate educations and people living on the coasts. Populists tend to be located more in middle- and working-class suburbs, the Great Plains and industrial Midwest.
Bill Clinton revived the lunch-pail Democratic tradition; and the final stages of last year's presidential primaries represented yet another classic gentry versus populist conflict. Hillary Clinton could not match Barack Obama's appeal to the gentry. Driven to desperation, she ended up running a spirited populist campaign.
Trouble is coming:
Although peace now reigns between the Clintons and the new president, the broader gentry-populist split seems certain to fester at both the congressional and local levels -- and President Obama will be hard-pressed to negotiate this divide...
...Geography is clearly a determining factor here. Standout antifinancial bailout senators included Sens. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, and Jon Tester of Montana...
...Gentry liberals, despite occasional tut-tutting, fell lockstep for the bailout. Not one Northeastern or California Democratic senator opposed it.
New issues and divisions emerge:
Energy and the environment are potentially even more explosive issues. Gentry politicians tend to favor developing only alternative fuels and oppose expanding coal, oil or nuclear energy. Populists represent areas, such as the Great Lakes region, where manufacturing still plays a critical role and remains heavily dependent on coal-based electricity.
The president has drunk the Kool-Aid:
Unlike his notably mainstream appointments in foreign policy and economics, he's tilted fairly far afield on the environment with individuals such as John Holdren, a longtime acolyte of the discredited neo-Malthusian Paul Ehrlich, and Carol Browner, who was Bill Clinton's hard-line EPA administrator.
These appointments could presage an environmental jihad throughout the regulatory apparat. Early examples could mean such things as strict restrictions on greenhouse gases, including bans on new drilling and higher prices through carbon taxes or a cap-and-trade regime.
Priorities such as these may win plaudits in urban enclaves in New York, Boston and San Francisco -- bastions of the gentry class and of under-35, childless professionals -- but they might not be so widely appreciated in the car- and truck-driving Great Plains and the vast suburban archipelago, where half the nation's population lives.
If he wishes to enhance his power and keep the Democrats together, Mr. Obama will have to figure out how to placate both his gentry base and those Democrats who still see their party's mission in terms that Harry Truman would have understood.
I'm rooting for the Truman guys, but I'm surrounded, here in New York, by the gentry types. Last night I parked next to a Prius with an Obama sticker. Pretty standard.
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea accused the U.S. military of making provocative moves along the tense border on the divided Korean peninsula, warning Saturday of "unpredictable military conflicts."
The rare threat came as North Korea was apparently gearing up to test-fire a long-range missile believed capable of reaching U.S. territory. Pyongyang has also stepped up its war of rhetoric against the South over Seoul's tough stance toward its communist neighbor.
COMMENT: Ms. Hillary was just in that neighborhood. The trip clearly did a lot of good. The rhetoric of North Korea has not changed a bit since The One took office.
QUOTE OF THE DAY, THUS FAR - AT 9:32 A.M. ET: From Fred Barnes in the Weekly Standard:
When Barack Obama met with TV anchors at a White House lunch last week, he assured them he likes being president. "And it turns out I'm very good at it," he added. Well, not exactly. What Obama is actually very good at is campaigning. He did it for two years as a presidential candidate, and it's pretty much what he's been doing in the six weeks since he was sworn in.
COMMENT: Crunch time is coming.
IN HILLARY'S SHADOW - AT 8:57 A.M. ET: From ABC News:
(Albany, N.Y.) - Senator Kirstin Gillibrand is under fire from conservatives for changing her positions on several major issues since being chosen by Governor Paterson to replace Hillary Clinton.
Gillibrand had earned a reputation as a moderate Democrat from upstate, but this week she frustrated the NRA by changing her mind about a bill to make it easier to trace gun purchases.
The National Rifle Association used to love Kirstin Gillibrand, but on the day she was selected to join the Senate, downstate politicians predicted she would change positions on guns.
COMMENT: She is our new senator. She has no principles. She succeeded Hillary Clinton, who has no principles. She was appointed by a governor who succeeded Eliot Spitzer, who got caught with prostitutes. Welcome to New York.
MAKING MATTERS WORSE - AT 8:42 A.M. ET: From The Washington Times:
President Obama has began the process of rescinding a last-minute rule by George W. Bush that strengthened legal protections for health care workers who refuse to perform abortions because of religious or moral objections.
With this latest move pleasing pro-choice advocates and angering pro-lifers, the Obama administration early next week will open a 30-day period for public comment on its intentions to reverse the policy, a Health and Human Services (HHS) senior official said Friday on the condition of anonymity because the comment period hasn't started.
COMMENT: Rescinding the rule is not the solution. Some mechanism must be found to provide reasonable protection for those who have moral objections to abortion, while at the same time upholding patients' rights. A panel should be formed to study the issue and come up with creative solutions.
ET TU, SONY? - AT 8:32 A.M. ET: From The New York Times:
TOKYO — Howard Stringer, chief executive of the Sony Corporation, will take over as president to take control of the company’s struggling electronics division, the company said Friday.
Sony, which said in January that it expected to post a $3 billion loss for the year ending March 31, said Mr. Stringer would succeed Ryoji Chubachi as president.
Sony will also streamline its sprawling electronics divisions to speed up decision-making, battle cut-throat competition and better weather the global downturn, Mr. Stringer said Friday.
COMMENT: Remember when SONY was the electronics company, when everyone wanted a Trinitron TV, when the Walkman reigned supreme? My, how things change. SONY was iPodded and flatscreened, and often caught short in innovation. The lesson: Nothing stays the same. Companies on top one day have to hustle to stay there. SONY didn't hustle, nor did it develop the kind of friendly service network that customers like. Nor did it innovate in its computer division, which is far outdistanced by Apple. Nor did it make its stores very inviting. SONY never had a Steve Jobs. That's the problem.
"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 Friday night.
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