"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
RON SILVER DIES - AT 8:22 P.M. ET: From the New York Post:
Actor and longtime political activist Ron Silver died this morning, succumbing to a long battle with cancer, friends of the liberal Democrat-turned-GOP stalwart told The Post.
COMMENT: Ron Silver was a terrific guy, a conservative in an ultra-liberal industry. He had a curious mind, and was always learning. I saw him last year at a small briefing on militant Islam at a private home. He's going to be missed, especially by those fighting for some ideological balance in Hollywood. He was 62.
March 15, 2009
THIS JUST IN - AT 4:20 P.M. ET:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The economy is fundamentally sound despite the temporary ''mess'' it's in, the White House said Sunday in the kind of upbeat assessment that Barack Obama had mocked as a presidential candidate.
Obama's Democratic allies pleaded for patience with an administration hitting the two-month mark this week, while Republicans said the White House's plans ignore small business and the immediate need to fix what ails the economy. After weeks projecting a dismal outlook on the economy, administration officials -- led by the president himself in recent days -- swung their rhetoric toward optimism in what became Wall Street's best stretch since November.
During the fall campaign, Obama relentlessly criticized his Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, for declaring, ''The fundamentals of our economy are strong.'' Obama's team painted the veteran senator as out of touch and failing to grasp the challenges facing the country.
COMMENT: Obama is the only messiah I've ever seen who switches gears so easily. I can just imagine the great prophets of the Bible saying, "Uh, that last psalm is inoperative. Ezekiel will explain our revised position..."
OBAMA APPROVAL - AT 3:45 P.M. ET: Rasmussen reports that President Obama's approval rating has slipped back to where it was early in the week, after a slight gain in the last three days. Some 56% approve, while 43% disapprove. These are still strong, but less than overwhelming numbers.
UTTERLY FASCINATING - AT 11:35 A.M. ET: From The Weekly Standard:
THE WEEKLY STANDARD has learned that General David Petraeus is planning on delivering the commencement address at the University of Iowa in 2010. Hmmm.
COMMENT: Oh, that is juicy. That is oh so juicy. Iowa? Isn't that where the first presidential caucus is held? Petraeus will also give the baccalaureate address at Princeton this May. There is political buzz.
QUOTE OF THE DAY - AT 10:35 A.M. ET: From Lorne Gunter in the Edmonton (Canada) Journal:
Global warming is not only no longer happening, it is not likely to resume until 2025 or later, if then. So why are we continuing to hear so much doomsaying about climate change?
There are a lot of people in every age who think they know better than everyone else and, therefore, have a right to tell everyone how to live. In the 1950s, it was country-club and parish council busybodies with their strict moral codes. In the 1970s, it was social democrats with their fanciful economic theories. Today, it's environmentalists.
Same instinct, different wrapper.
COMMENT: Well said. We claim no special expertise about global warming here, but we do think it's time that qualified dissenters be heard fully, rather than ridiculed by that great man of science, Isaac Newton Gore. And we must denounce the idea of a scientific "consensus" on the issue. Science isn't about consensus. It isn't a show of hands. Science is about proof and observation. All it takes is one scientist to prove "the world of science" wrong, and it's happened many times.
MORE GREAT P.R. - AT 9:59 A.M. ET: From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — The American International Group, which has received more than $170 billion in taxpayer bailout money from the Treasury and Federal Reserve, plans to pay about $165 million in bonuses by Sunday to executives in the same business unit that brought the company to the brink of collapse last year.
COMMENT: Something else that will endear Wall Street to the American people. These "businessmen" seem intent on giving the anti-free-enterprise crowd all the ammunition they need.
BAFFLING BLAIR - AT 9:55 A.M. ET: We've been reporting on the bizarre choice of Saudi and China worshipper Charles Freeman to head the National Intelligence Council, a choice finally derailed by rising opposition. The pick was made by intelligence czar Dennis Blair, a former four-star admiral. It turns out Freeman isn't his only weird personnel choice. From Newsweek:
Now both Republican and Democratic intel experts are raising questions about another Blair pick: John Deutch, a former CIA director once accused of major security lapses, who's been appointed to a temporary panel reviewing troubled, top-secret spy-satellite programs.
After Deutch resigned as CIA director in 1996, agency officials discovered he had stored hundreds of pages of classified files on his home computers, despite repeated warnings that they could be intercepted via the Internet. Because of the incident, Deutch was stripped of his high-level security clearances, and a criminal probe into the matter culminated in January 2001, when the ex-spy chief agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges of mishandling classified material. (The next day, Clinton, in one of his final acts as president, pardoned him.)
COMMENT: Blair's judgment needs work. Another mistake and there will clearly be calls for him to be replaced.
KAMIKAZE TACTIC - AT 9:27 A.M. ET: From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is signaling to Congress that the president could support taxing some employee health benefits, as several influential lawmakers and many economists favor, to help pay for overhauling the health care system.
The proposal is politically problematic for President Obama, however, since it is similar to one he denounced in the presidential campaign as “the largest middle-class tax increase in history.” Most Americans with insurance get it from their employers, and taxing workers for the benefit is opposed by union leaders and some businesses.
COMMENT: This will certainly prove popular, won't it? What will they tax next? Lungs? Hearts? Premature babies? This is the kind of proposal only a limousine liberal could love.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Moderate Democrats in Congress who built their ranks in November's elections are nudging their party's liberal agenda to the center, working to add a pro-business dose of pragmatism to President Barack Obama's plans to rescue homeowners, overhaul health care and revamp energy policy.
With close ties to industry and a keen understanding of how markets work, these Democrats have taken an increasingly influential and visible role in debates over federal spending and housing. They also have powerful allies in the White House. Obama told the House's band of New Democrats during a meeting last week that he considered himself one of them, according to several attendees. His chief of staff, former Rep. Rahm Emanuel, is one of their most prominent alumni.
COMMENT: Reality always intervenes. Many of the Dems elected in November are from districts and states that lean conservative. After all, they were elected by defeating Republicans who'd held those seats. So, they're going to be careful about going too far to the left. Their influence, however, is far from clear, despite some victories in changing legislation. The Obama administration, especially at the mid-level, where policies are carried out, is a virtual Rolodex of left-wing activists. And they don't have to be reelected. So the jury is still out on just how "moderate" this administration wants to be.
CHENGDU, China (AP) -- Paramilitary and plainclothes police blanketed the Tibetan capital with patrols and checkpoints Saturday, imposing what witnesses called a tense calm on the first anniversary of a violent anti-Chinese riot.
Lhasa residents said police with rifles or batons marched around the Jokhang Temple and the adjacent Barkhor Square in the old city, where protesters ran rampant last year. A Hong Kong tourist said two military helicopters hovered over the city in the morning -- a rare sight -- and that officers demanded to see identification at checkpoints.
COMMENT: Please note that we came within a hair of having, as chief of our National Intelligence Council, a man who referred to last year's uprising of Tibetans against their Chinese masters as "a race riot." Fortunately, Charles Freeman's nomination was derailed by alert journalists and members of Congress. The repression of Tibetans is a human-rights crime of the first magnitude, but some, like Freeman, prefer the safety and comfort of dictatorships.
MOSCOW — A Russian Air Force chief said Saturday that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has offered an island as a temporary base for strategic Russian bombers, the Interfax news agency reported.
The chief of staff of Russia's long range aviation, Maj. Gen. Anatoly Zhikharev, also said Cuba could be used to base the aircraft, Interfax reported.
The Kremlin, however, said the situation was hypothetical.
"The military is speaking about technical possibilities, that's all," Alexei Pavlov, a Kremlin official, told the Associated Press. "If there will be a development of the situation, then we can comment," he said.
COMMENT: Joe Biden predicted that Obama would face a severe international test during his first months in office. We've written here that this test might well come in Venezuela. The Russians, for historic and nationalistic reasons, would like nothing better than to rerun the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, with the Kremlin winning this time. It would humiliate the United States, and establish a Russian military presence in Latin America. The goal would be more political than military. This deserves watching.
PREVIEW OF COMING ATTRACTIONS - AT 8:42 A.M. ET: From The Wall Street Journal:
WASHINGTON -- Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the Obama administration would soon unveil a plan for dealing with rising violence along the U.S.-Mexico border, including more resources
"I think there will be some announcements with some specifics that either I or the president will be making in the coming weeks," Ms. Napolitano said Friday during an interview.
COMMENT: Another announcement that they're going to make an announcement. Then, when they make the announcement, they'll probably say that it isn't the final announcement, that there are more announcements to come. They'll announce a schedule for those announcements.
Why doesn't someone finally admit that this administration isn't exactly overloaded with ideas, and is desperately scrambling?
IT'S BUSH (!!); WE TOLD YOU, IT'S BUSH (!!) - AT 8:40 A.M. ET: It seems that President Obama now is pushing the idea that all his problems are the fault of his predecessor. From The Washington Post:
Over the past month, Obama has reminded the public at every turn that he is facing problems "inherited" from the Bush administration, using increasingly bracing language to describe the challenges his administration is up against. ..
...Obama's more frequent and acid reminders that former president George W. Bush left behind a trillion-dollar budget deficit, a 14-month recession and a broken financial system have come at the same time Republicans have ramped up criticism that the current president's policies are compounding the nation's economic problems.
COMMENT: This was supposed to be a "post-partisan" administration. Yeah, right. It's one of the most partisan we've ever seen. And this doesn't even include foreign policy, where the "we inherited it" mantra will probably be applied to every problem, new and old, that we face.
"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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