"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.
SATURDAY, MARCH 7, 2009
DISGRACEFUL - AT 7:42 P.M. ET: From the New York Post:
New York's two US Democratic senators yesterday said they will vote against an amendment that would preserve a Washington, DC, school-voucher program that helps lower-income students attend private schools.
COMMENT: Why should those pushy little kids go to good schools? Let 'em go to the rotten schools run by the local education industry. We'll show 'em.
No racist organization could do to D.C. students what these senators are doing. It's pathetic, a deep-knee bow to the teachers' unions and local politicians.
THIS IS MY LIFE, BY HILLARY - AT 4:24 P.M. ET: Hillary Clinton, now apparently biking through Europe on her meet-the-folks tour, appeared on a Turkish TV chat show and discussed her personal life, as Reuters reports:
Appearing on a popular Turkish television chat show, Hadi Gel Bizimle (Come and Join Us), Clinton tackled a few diplomatic questions but the main focus was on her personal life, such as when she "last" fell in love.
When she "last" fell in love? What an odd way to put it.
"It was so long ago, with my husband," she told the studio audience, adding that she first met former President Bill Clinton in the spring of 1971 when they were at law school.
Well, it wasn't the last time for Bill, apparently, but we won't get into that.
"We have been talking to each other and enjoying our life together ever since," she said.
Oh, yeah, right. I'm sure it's a laugh riot whenever someone mentions the name "Monica." Or maybe it was "Paula." "Juanita?"
Another day of advancing world peace and international understanding.
HE'S GOT SOWELL - AT 10:49 A.M. ET: From Thomas Sowell's excellent column on the power of words in today's Washington Times:
Barack Obama is today's most prominent example of the power of words. Conversely, the understated patrician style of country club Republicans is no small part of their many problems.
It is no accident that by far the most successful Republican politician of our lifetime - Ronald Reagan - was a man who did not come from that country club background but someone born among the people and who knew how to communicate with the people.
COMMENT: True. But even leaders from patrician backgrounds, like Franklin D. Roosevelt, as I point out at today's Angel's Corner, can develop the knack for speaking to ordinary people. The GOP will have plenty of candidates who can do it, but the party must have a winning, positive message. The Sowell column contains some excellent insights.
AP WAKES UP, MILLIONS CHEER - AT 9:54 A.M. ET: The Associated Press now apparently permits deviation from The Line, as this story shows:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama offered his domestic-policy proposals as a ''break from a troubled past.'' But the economic outlook now is more troubled than it was even in January, despite Obama's bold rhetoric and commitment of more trillions of dollars.
And while his personal popularity remains high, some economists and lawmakers are beginning to question whether Obama's agenda of increased government activism is helping, or hurting, by sowing uncertainty among businesses, investors and consumers that could prolong the recession.
Although the administration likes to say it ''inherited'' the recession and trillion-dollar deficits, the economic wreckage has worsened on Obama's still-young watch.
Every day, the economy is becoming more and more an Obama economy.
More than 4 million jobs have been lost since the recession began in December 2007 -- roughly half in the past three months.
COMMENT: The next 90 days will be critical. If things continue to slip at the same rate, Obama can no longer claim, except maybe to a visiting Hollywood actor, that he inherited the problem. He will be seen as having caused the problem.
ONE TURKEY TO ANOTHER - AT 9:28 A.M. ET: President Obama will visit Turkey in the next month or so, according to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Recall that Obama said he would visit a Muslim nation soon after his inauguration and speak to the entire Muslim world. I hope he's careful. The groveling card has already been played too often by this administration.
Word of the Turkey trot comes as we learn that two American envoys are in Syria, a visit ignored by the Syrian press. American envoys used to visit Syria all the time. They generally came away with nothing. Well, maybe a snack.
CLINTON'S VULGARISM - AT 9:17 A.M. ET: John Hinderaker at Power Line does a great job taking apart Hillary Clinton's current magical mystery tour of Europe. Much of the mainstream media didn't cover her more vulgar moments, such as her groveling to both Europe and Russia. Consider this exchange in a BBC interview:
QUESTION: But the aim of American foreign policy remains the same, doesn't it? You're talking about different methods rather than --
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, I don't think so. Take what we were just speaking about. I think there was a rather confrontational approach toward Russia in the prior administration. How much that contributed to Russian behavior, I think, is a legitimate question to ask.
COMMENT: Sickening. Utterly sickening. This is the line of the old hard left - tht Russian behavior is America's fault. The Russians and the leftist Europeans, which means most of them, must be laughing in their soup. Anything in this for the United States? Oh, excuse me, it was rude to ask. We're citizens of the world now.
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran said on Saturday it would consider an invitation from its old foe the United States to attend a meeting on Afghanistan and that it was ready to help its neighbor as it battles a growing Taliban insurgency.
The United States said on Thursday that President Barack Obama's government intended to invite Iran to an international conference on Afghanistan planned for this month.
COMMENT: Watch this one with both eyes, and a third if you have it. Question one: Why would we want Iran to have influence in Afghanistan, even if it was, at first, "helpful"? Question two: What do we give up in return for its "help"? Words like "victory" do not come easily to the Obama crowd, and there is a powerful leftoid faction in the Democratic Party that wants us out of both Iraq and Afghanistan so the money saved can be spent on social programs at home.
The key point, of course, is what effect some sudden "cooperation" from Iran will have on its nuclear program, and on our efforts to stop it. Will we pretend to still be concerned, while letting them move toward a bomb if they help us "bring the troops home" from Afghanistan? What does this cost us and our allies down the line?
I can almost hear the speeches by Obama and Clinton welcoming the "fruits" of our new "engagement" with Iran, and the digs at President Bush. It's what we won't be told that can lead to the ultimate tragedy.
GET IT RIGHT - AT 7:40 P.M. ET: One of the things I was taught at the Graduate School of Journalism is the importance of making sure, if you're running a correction, that the correction is actually correct.
The AP could have used that advice today. Here is a correction they ran:
WASHINGTON (AP) — In a March 5 story, The Associated Press reported that congressional Republicans requested an investigation of Charles Freeman, new chairman of the National Intelligence Council, for his relationships with China and Iran. The story should have specified that Democrats Rep. Steve Israel of New York and Rep. Shelley Berkley of Nevada also joined that request.
COMMENT: Just two little problems: First, Freeman isn't chairman, but chairman-designate. Second, it isn't Freeman's relationships with China and Iran that's the issue, it's his relationships with China and Saudi Arabia.
PRESS BIAS? PRESS BIAS? HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT? - AT 4:46 P.M. ET: From The New York Times, a neutral newspaper that only wants to give us the facts:
Another 651,000 jobs disappeared from the American economy in February, the government reported Friday, as the unemployment rate soared to 8.1 percent — its highest level since 1983.
The latest grim scorecard of contraction in the American workplace largely destroyed what hopes remained for an economic recovery in the first half of this year, and added to a growing sense that 2009 is probably a lost cause.
Most economists now assume that the American fortunes will not improve before near the end of the year, as the Obama administration’s $787 billion emergency spending program begins to wash through the economy.
“The current pace of decline is breathtaking,” said Robert Barbera, chief economist at the research and trading firm ITG. “We are now falling at a near record rate in the postwar period and there’s been no change in the violent downward trajectory.”
COMMENT: Grim report, but note the next to last paragraph, an endorsement of the ultimate effectiveness of the Obama spending program. This is an editorial opinion, not news. The One will save us. The Times had an obligation to tell us that many experts are skeptical that the program will help at all, and that some believe it will hurt.
DOW CLOSE - AT 4:16 A.M. ET: Despite a flood of bad economic news, the Dow actually closed up 33 points, to 6627. Hey, happy days are here again. This proves once again that the stock market has little connection to the real economy.
IN CHARGE OF WORLD PEACE - AT 4:10 P.M. ET: From The Politico:
GENEVA—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton opened her first extended talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by giving him a present meant to symbolize the Obama administration’s vow to “press the reset button” on U.S.-Russia relations.
She handed a palm-sized box wrapped with a bow. Lavrov opened it and pulled out the gift: a red button on a black base with a Russian word peregruzka printed on top.
“We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?” Clinton asked.
“You got it wrong,” Lavrov said.
Instead of "reset," Lavrov said the word on the box meant “overcharge.”
COMMENT: The State Department seriously announced that the mistake was being corrected. After you give the gift? Wouldn't it have been better to get it right the first time? Doyou trust this crowd with your family's future?
DOW INDECISIVE - AT 12:05 A.M. ET: The Dow is down only six points. We'd expected much worse, given the employment news. The close is still four hours away.
BULLETIN - AT 8:38 A.M. ET: We reported earlier that the unemployment report out today was expected to show a rise to 7.9%. The report has just been issued and shows a rise to 8.1%, the worst numbers since December, 1983.
COLD ENOUGH FOR YOU? - AT 8:15 A.M. ET: Reader Joseph J. Gallick alerts us to this, from the Discovery Channel, reporting still one more authoritative challenge to the "consensus" on global warming:
...according to a new study, global warming may have hit a speed bump and could go into hiding for decades.
Earth's climate continues to confound scientists. Following a 30-year trend of warming, global temperatures have flatlined since 2001 despite rising greenhouse gas concentrations, and a heat surplus that should have cranked up the planetary thermostat.
"This is nothing like anything we've seen since 1950," Kyle Swanson of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee said. "Cooling events since then had firm causes, like eruptions or large-magnitude La Ninas. This current cooling doesn't have one."
COMMENT: The story does go on to quote scientists who say that warming will return aggressively, but one does tire of the constant contradictions and revisions in global-warming "science." We're being asked to change our economy radically, spend trillions to defeat warming - funds that could be spent on health and education - and yet it seems that each week there's a new theory or observation. The hustlers, like Al Gore, don't want to hear any dissent. We who pay the bills, however, should listen carefully.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Labor Department will release a report today that is expected to show the unemployment rate rising to 7.9 percent and a loss of 648,000 jobs in February, making it an especially cruel month for America's workers.
Cost-cutting employers are resorting to even bigger layoffs as they scramble to survive the recession, feeding insecurities among those who still have jobs and those who desperately want them.
COMMENT: Unpleasant numbers, but remember that the unemployment rate in the great Depression rose to 25%, and was more than 10% in the early 80s. However, these new numbers should have a negative impact on an already sagging stock market.
ONE VOTE SHORT - AT 7:45 A.M. ET: From The Politico:
Short by one vote, Senate Democrats abruptly pulled back Thursday night from completing action on a giant omnibus spending bill—forcing leaders to scramble to pass a stopgap measure to keep the government funded into next week..
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) had been confident earlier in the evening that he had the 60 votes needed to cut off debate. But a half-hour after the roll call was to begin, Reid admitted he was still short and agreed to allow debate to continue for a few more days.
COMMENT: One vote? It should be 100 votes short. The bill, lined with pork, is a disgrace and should be defeated.
FREEMAN, THE CONTINUING STORY - AT 7:32 A.M. ET: We're happy to report that the disgraceful appointment of Charles Freeman Jr. to head the National Intelligence Council, which we've been following here, is getting more attention, despite the silence of many news outlets. Rich Lowry, in the New York Post, comments:
NEVER let it be said that America isn't a country of remarkable openness. You can go directly from effectively working for the Saudis and Chinese to the country's top intelligence analyst. This is the career trajectory of Chas Freeman.
The Obama administration intends to make the ex-diplomat the chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Freeman was ambassador to Saudi Arabia - the world's most lucrative diplomatic posting, because the ambassadors usually end up in Saudi employ after leaving public service.
But the director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, didn't tell the White House ahead of time of his intention to appoint Freeman, and even New York Sen. Chuck Schumer has qualms - giving the White House a ready excuse to dump the appointment. And it should.
Don't worry about Freeman: Presumably, his friends will take good care of him.
COMMENT: Lowry alludes to one of the most underreported stories in Washington - the power and influence of the Saudi lobby. That influence extends well beyond government, into universities and corporations. Yet, the media has been indifferent. Cultural sensitivity, dearies.
INVITING THE MULLAHS - AT 7:27 A.M. ET: From The Washington Times:
BRUSSELS | The Obama administration made its first major overture to Iran on Thursday, proposing a high-level international conference on Afghanistan later this month that it hopes will include the Tehran government.
The forum, which Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called a "big-tent meeting," is likely to take place in the Netherlands and bring together countries and organizations with stakes in Afghanistan's future.
COMMENT: It was inevitable, given the administration's warmth and kindness offensive, but it still makes us uneasy. There will presumably be a photo-op that will make the Iranian regime look good - international respectability has that effect - but what will we get out of it? Time is not on our side. Tehran's nuclear program forges ahead as we plan conferences. Is there a sense of urgency here? I don't see it.
A LITTLE PROBLEM WITH NUMBERS - AT 6:58 A.M. ET: The president kicked off his health-care reform campaign yesterday, but, as ABC News reports, there was a little problem with the numbers. Hat tip to reader Jim Meyer:
“The cost of health care now causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds," Obama said at the opening of his White House forum on health care reform. The problem: That claim, based on a 2001 survey, is simply unsupportable.
The figure comes from a 2005 Harvard University study saying that 54 percent of bankruptcies in 2001 were caused by health expenses. We reviewed it internally and knocked it down at the time; an academic reviewer did the same in 2006. Recalculating Harvard’s own data, he came up with a far lower figure – 17 percent.
COMMENT: Oh, these party poopers. They're the same kind of people who want Cabinet nominees to pay their taxes. Is there anything so boring?
"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 a two-part edition of The Angel's Corner was sent Wednesday night.
Part II was sent late last night.
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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:
Give an assessment of President Obama's first month in office.
Iran apparently now has enough fissile material to build a nuclear bomb, if the material is enriched further. What should our strategy be? Negotiate? Let them have the bomb? Attack? Impose sanctions?
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