"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
PUBLIC SKEPTICAL ABOUT OBAMA'S BUDGET - AT 10:58 A.M. - Andrew Malcolm at the L.A. Times's Top of The Ticket, reports that President Obama's sales campaign has failed to build support for his sizable budget:
People who feel positively about his budget fell from 44% in late February to 39% this week. People who feel negatively about the budget increased one point to 27% in the same time frame. And after all that budget talk, people who claim to not know enough to have an opinion increased 10% from 30% to 33%.
The budget battles are far from over, of course, even with Obama's own Democratic Party controlling both houses of Congress.
But imagine what could have happened to U.S. public opinion on the president's budget if he hadn't invested all that salesmanship. Can he keep it up? And is some public caution creeping in?
COMMENT: We hope that public caution is indeed creeping in. This budget, and the pressure down the road to keep financing the programs it creates, can choke the country. If the public begins to understand, the congressional elections next year might produce some stunning results.
MUST READING - AT 10:15 A.M. ET: One of the best paragraphs I've recently read. From Reuel Marc Gerecht at The Weekly Standard:
In diplomacy and espionage, there is no worse mistake than "mirror-imaging," that is, ascribing to foreigners your own actions and views. For Westerners this is especially debilitating, given our modern proclivity to assume that others pursue their interests in secular, material, and guilt-ridden ways. Confession is an important part of the Western tradition; self-criticism is less acute elsewhere. Americans, the British, the Spanish, and the French have written libraries about their own imperialistic sins; Arabs, Iranians, Turks, and Russians have not. In an unsuccessful effort to reach out to Iran's clerical regime in 1999, President Bill Clinton apologized for the actions of the entire Western world. Last week, in response to President Barack Obama's let's-talk greetings broadcast to Iran, theocratic overlord Ali Khamenei, "supreme leader" of the Islamic Republic of Iran, enumerated 30 years' worth of America's dastardly deeds against the Islamic revolution--but not a peccadillo that the clerical regime had committed against any Western country.
COMMENT: Spot on. Please read the rest of the piece, one of the most perceptive I've read recently. I hope they read it in the White House. But, since it's from The Weekly Standard, they'll probably ridicule it. Neocon stuff, you know.
McCAIN ON OBAMA'S AFGHAN PLAN - AT 9:32 A.M. ET: John McCain has weighed in on President Obama's plan for Afghanistan. From The Washington Times:
Sen. John McCain Friday denounced President Obama´s new plan for sending more troops to Afghanistan, saying it was "not enough" and suggesting the president ought to have been clearer that there will be more troop casualties.
The Arizona Republican who ran against Mr. Obama last year said he was glad the president put the issue "front and center," but worried Mr. Obama hadn't offered a realistic enough picture of the likely increase in casualties that can be expected with the surge of troops.
"The president talked about how tough it is, but I would have begun and ended this speech with how difficult it's going to be and that things are going to get worse before they get better," Mr. McCain said in an interview with editors and reporters at The Washington Times.
COMMENT: It's the difference between real leadership and amateur leadership. McCain knows defense. He knows war. He was right in Iraq. Obama was wrong. But I doubt if Obama consulted McCain before announcing his Afghan plan.
We want the president to succeed. But somehow I would have been more confident if John McCain were making our military plans.
FACT OR FRAUD? ANYONE WANT TO KNOW? - AT 9:15 A.M.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Joining climate change negotiations for the first time, the Obama administration is trying to convince other countries that the U.S. does care about global warming and wants to shape international accords.
After eight years on the sidelines, the U.S. says it is ready for a central role in developing a new agreement to slash greenhouse gases. But whether the U.S, which is the second largest source of heat-trapping pollution, is ready to sign onto a deal by year's end could depend on Congress.
COMMENT: Congress may in fact be our savior here, finally asking some tough questions about the "science" of global warming. Do we want clean air? Of course. Do we want to reduce emissions? Sure. But the attempts to marginalize anyone who raises questions about global warming are wearing thin. Poll after poll shows a rising skepticism among Americans that the "science" is anywhere near certain, or that the prescriptions are correct, or even useful. Some facts please. Some hard questions please. Some respect for the dissenters please.
NEW YORK (AP) — CNN is poised to finish March third in the prime-time weeknight ratings behind Fox News Channel and MSNBC, the first time this has ever happened for the channel that pioneered the cable news genre nearly three decades ago.
CNN says its overall business is healthy and it is not straying from its straight news path. But it is suffering more audience erosion than its rivals since the peak days of the presidential election, further proof that the opinionated prime-time shows on Fox and MSNBC have greater audience loyalty.
COMMENT: I think these things can be over-intellectualized, but a "straight" news network has a disadvantage that many working for it may not wish to admit - that the credibility of "news" reporting has suffered greatly in recent years. Many people, especially conservatives, don't accept the truth of what they're given. At least opinion shows are opinion shows, and don't have pretenses.
At the same time, journalists at other networks would do well to study some of the things done at Fox. Like a good local newspaper, Fox often picks out stories that have a direct appeal to its viewers, and can directly affect their lives or their values. Like him or not, Bill O'Reilly is a master at understanding what people care about, and where their moral core is. I'm not so sure CNN addresses these things with any precision.
POLITICAL ECONOMY - AT 6:11 P.M. ET: From NewsMax:
Donations from individuals to the six major party campaign committees dropped by more than 26 percent from two years ago, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission obtained by the Washington Post.
The DNC raised only about $3.3 million last month, with the Republican National Committee taking in just over $5 million, said a CNN report.
However, with campaign cash left over from Obama’s presidential coffers, the DNC was able to post $5.4 million in total contributions last month – pulling just ahead of the RNC. As to cash in the bank – the DNC’s $8.5 million is well behind the RNC’s $24 million.
MOSCOW -- Russia said that new submarines will be armed with improved nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, a state-connected news agency reported Friday.
The new hypersonic cruise missiles with increased range are designed to strike "aircraft carriers of the potential enemy if they pose a direct threat to Russia's security," the ministry said, according to ITAR-Tass. It said the missiles are also capable of hitting land targets.
COMMENT: I wonder what "potential enemy" they're talking about. Do you have any doubts? This comes at a time when liberals in Congress are demanding that we cut our defense budget substantially to make way for their "programs." They will probably tell us that if we cut our own budget we'll appear less "provocative" to the Russians.
At the same time, we knife our East European allies in the back, essentially offering to cancel missile defense for Eastern Europe if the Russians will only help us a little bit with Iran.
MIXED POLL RESULTS - AT 2:55 P.M. ET: Rasmussen's latest polling on opinions toward Congress reveals a very bad result for Nancy Pelosi:
Sixty percent (60%) of U.S. voters now have an unfavorable opinion of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, including 42% Very Unfavorable, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. A growing number of her doubters seem to be fellow Democrats.
But don't get too excited. Republican leaders aren't doing much better. And then there's this:
After slipping to a new low last week, Democratic congressional candidates moved ahead of the GOP again on the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot.
The numbers are 41% for Dems, 38% for the GOP. That's no landslide, of course.
We've seen this pattern for some time. No matter how low Democrats in Congress may sink in public approval, it doesn't seem to help Republicans. The Republican Party, hammered by a hopelessly biased press, is just not popular, and its leaders aren't popular. The Republicans must come up with a coherent, positive, optimistic program. They can't just be seen as the opposition.
DOW DOWN - AT 10:21 A.M. The Dow is down 142 points, to 7782.
THE OBAMAMOBILE - AT 9:01 A.M. ET:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama plans to announce a new aid package for General Motors and Chrysler in the coming days and says the carmakers must make ''pretty drastic changes'' to save their industry...
...''We will provide them some help,'' Obama said. ''I know that it is not popular to provide help to auto workers -- or to auto companies. But my job is to measure the costs of allowing these auto companies just to collapse versus us figuring out -- can they come up with a viable plan?''
He added: ''If they're not willing to make the changes and the restructurings that are necessary, then I'm not willing to have taxpayer money chase after bad money.''
COMMENT: It's hard to argue with Mr. Obama's logic on this. But the whole thing should make us uneasy. Okay, the auto industry must change. No doubt about it. But who dictates the changes? Washington? What does Washington know about making cars?
The problem is that the "changes" may incorporate political ideology, requiring power systems that may have more political support than engineering strength. And yet, federal money brings with it federal oversight. Taxpayers properly demand that.
Maybe bankruptcy is the best course for the companies, although car makers in bankruptcy will find it very difficult to sell cars. Over time, though, if they reorganize and bring in car visionaries, rather than leaders, however admirable, drawn from the finance side, they may become giants again.
A United Nations document on "climate change" that will be distributed to a major environmental conclave next week envisions a huge reordering of the world economy, likely involving trillions of dollars in wealth transfer, millions of job losses and gains, new taxes, industrial relocations, new tariffs and subsidies, and complicated payments for greenhouse gas abatement schemes and carbon taxes — all under the supervision of the world body.
Those and other results are blandly discussed in a discretely worded United Nations "information note" on potential consequences of the measures that industrialized countries will likely have to take to implement the Copenhagen Accord, the successor to the Kyoto Treaty, after it is negotiated and signed by December 2009. The Obama administration has said it supports the treaty process if, in the words of a U.S. State Department spokesman, it can come up with an "effective framework" for dealing with global warming.
COMMENT: Ordinarily, this wouldn't be much to worry about - another UN document. But look who's in power in Washington. We must now look to Republicans in Congress, and their moderate Democratic colleagues, to stop the madness. I've always believed that much of the "climate change" panic is really a front for those who want an economic revolution, and will use "climate change" to get it. This document seems to confirm our fears.
DISGRACEFUL - AT 7:44 A.M. ET: Reader Guy Green alerts us to this, from the Financial Times:
Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Thursday blamed the global economic crisis on “white people with blue eyes” and said it was wrong that black and indigenous people should pay for white people’s mistakes.
Speaking in Brasília at a joint press conference with Gordon Brown, the UK prime minister, Mr Lula da Silva told reporters: “This crisis was caused by the irrational behaviour of white people with blue eyes, who before the crisis appeared to know everything and now demonstrate that they know nothing.”
He added: “I do not know any black or indigenous bankers so I can only say [it is wrong] that this part of mankind which is victimised more than any other should pay for the crisis.”
COMMENT: Real class, huh? Poor Gordon Brown, he gets abused standing next to just about anybody.
The irony is that some of the bankers involved in our crisis happen to be African-American - including Franklin Raines of Fannie Mae. That is completely irrelevant. Lula's comments are disgusting, and prove that the United States is well ahead of many other nations in our racial attitudes. Of course, we'll never get the credit for it, while Lula will be hailed as the workers' hero.
GENEVA (AP) — The U.N.’s top human-rights body approved a proposal backed by Muslims nations Thursday urging the passage of laws around the world protecting religion from criticism.
The proposal by Pakistan had drawn strong criticism from free-speech campaigners and liberal democracies.
A simple majority of 23 members of the 47-nation Human Rights Council voted in favor of the resolution. Eleven mostly Western nations opposed it and 13 countries abstained.
The resolution urges states to provide “protection against acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from defamation of religions and incitement to religious hatred in general.”
“It is individuals who have rights and not religions,” said Canadian diplomat Terry Cormier. Canada’s criticism was echoed by European Union countries, all of which voted against the proposal.
COMMENT: How much coverage of this outrage, which is designed to silence all criticism of Islam, did you see in our mainstream media? This is the opening gun of a battle to roll back freedom of speech, and give the rollback international legitimacy. I'm sorry to say that there are probably many Americans, especially among the intellectual elites, who back this kind of thing. After all, many colleges and universities have imposed "speech codes" to regulate speech that favored groups find "offensive."
Ronald Reagan once said that we're always one generation away from losing our freedoms. Yesterday's action by the obscenely named "Human Rights Council" reminds us of how quickly a generation can go by. The silence of the American media, most of whose members were trained in universities where those speech codes are common, is appalling.
TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's military mobilized Friday to protect the country from any threat if North Korea's looming rocket launch fails, ordering two missile-equipped destroyers to the Sea of Japan and sending batteries of Patriot missile interceptors to protect the northern coastline.
Pyongyang plans to launch its Kwangmyongsong-2 satellite April 4-8, a moved that has stoked already heightened tensions in the region. The U.S., Japan and South Korea suspect the North will use the launch to test the delivery technology for a long-range missile capable of striking Alaska.
Japan has said that it will shoot down any dangerous objects that fall its way if the launch doesn't go off successfully. Tokyo, however, has been careful to say that it will not intervene unless its territory is in danger.
COMMENT: The U.S. also has sent ships equipped with anti-missile systems into the area. This will be a tense period, and a test of how President Obama handles a deliberately provocative action by a hostile nation. You may be sure that the Iranians, Russians, Chinese, and even the Venezuelans will be watching to see if Mr. Obama has the spine to match the mouth.
"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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