"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
AMERICA ON ICE - AT 4:07 P.M. ET: I had an essay on figure skating at the Angel's Corner this week. My wife and I are fans. I mentioned that figure skating has declined in popularity in the United States since Tonya Harding arranged for Nancy Kerrigan to be whacked in the knee in 1994.
The interest level in this beautiful sport won't be helped by what happened last night at the world championships in Los Angeles. South Korea's Yu-Na Kim won the gold, a well-deserved victory after a superb performance. Canada's Joannie Rochette won silver. I thought the judges were a bit generous. Japan's Miki Ando got bronze. Okay, but I thought that should have gone to the fourth-place finisher, Japan's Mao Asada.
The Americans? Spirited Rachel Flatt came in fifth, and our national champion, the stylish Alissa Czisny, finished a crushing eleventh. That is a catastrophe for this country's skating program. The placements mean that, for the first time since the Harding/Kerrigan convulsion in 1994, and only for the second time since the winter games began in 1924, the U.S. will be permitted only two women for the individual ladies' competition in next year's Olympics in Vancouver. The combined placements of Flatt and Czisny had to add up to 13 or less to guarantee three slots.
American women have medaled in every Olympics since 1964. The ladies' individual competition is the most popular event in the winter Olympics, and brings in masses of TV viewers. A poor showing by the U.S., now cut to two skaters, could further depress figure skating in this country.
There is serious talk that ultra-champion Michelle Kwan and 2006 Sasha Cohen may come back into competitive skating to try for next year's Olympics. That would give us star power...and at least a chance. Would be a great news story, too.
SIR, THE CAMPAIGN IS OVER. YOU HAVE THE JOB - AT 3:32 P.M. ET: From Fox News:
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. presence in Afghanistan will not "be an open-ended commitment of infinite resources, President Obama said in an interview aired Sunday.
Obama said security is tenuous in that nation in part because of neglect in the last U.S. administration. He said he inherited the war and tried to suggest that it was not his war now that he has announce a new strategy for bringing stability to Afghanistan.
"I think it's America's war. And it's the same war that we initiated after 9/11 as a consequence of those attacks," Obama told CBS' "Face the Nation" on Friday, the day he announced his new plan. "The focus over the last seven years I think has been lost. ... Unless we get a handle on it now, we're gonna be in trouble."
COMMENT: So needlessly tacky. So, what is he saying? It was Bush's war, but, now that Obama is president, it's America's war?
Why wouldn't I trust this man to write a dictionary?
DOHA, Qatar–Sudan's president, who is sought by an international court on charges of war crimes in Darfur, received a warm welcome Sunday in Qatar, where he will attend this week's Arab League summit.
President Omar al-Bashir was greeted with hugs and kisses by Qatar's emir in a red-carpet welcome at Doha's airport on Sunday. He later had coffee with the emir and the head of the Arab League. The summit begins Monday.
The 22-country Arab League has already said it would not enforce the International Criminal Court's arrest order for al-Bashir issued on March 4 and the Sudanese leader visited Eritrea, Egypt and Libya over the past week in a show of defiance.
COMMENT: You know, life is always worth living if you have friends. And, of course, who are we to question the decisions of the Arab League? We must respect cultural differences. Right?
YOU WON'T BELIEVE THIS - AT 10:31 A.M. ET: On the further adventures of Ms. Hillary, and her attempts to repair the damage done by the evil BUSH (!!).
It turns out that, on her recent trip to Mexico, Ms. Hillary visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. The basilica's most famous object is a cloak on which the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was miraculously imprinted in 1531. The image does not decay.
And what was the reaction of our secretary of state, graduate of Wellesley and the Yale Law School, to this magnificent image? She asked the rector of the basilica, "Who painted it?"
I kid you not. You cannot make this up. Story here.
IRANIAN MISSILIERS IN NORTH KOREA - AT 9:46 A.M. ET: My friend Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi alerts us to this story, which once again shows the respect and warmth that Iran is directing toward President Obama and his "outreach" policy. From AFP:
TOKYO (AFP) — A group of Iranian missile experts is in North Korea to help Pyongyang prepare for a rocket launch, Japan's Sankei Shimbun newspaper reported on Sunday.
North Korea has said it will launch a communications satellite over northern Japan between April 4 and 8, and the report said the 15-strong Iranian delegation had been in the country since the beginning of this month.
It includes senior officials with Iranian rocket and satellite producer Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, the daily said, quoting unnamed sources.
The Iranians brought a letter from their President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il stressing the importance of cooperating on space technology, it added.
COMMENT: One rogue state deserves another. Iran continues to show contempt for President Obama's extended hand. When will we learn that this is what the mullahs are actually like? It ain't an act.
The Canadian government on Friday reaffirmed its Arctic claims, saying it will defend its northern territories and waters after Russia earlier announced plans to militarize the North.
"Canada is an Arctic power," Catherine Loubier, a spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, said in an email to AFP.
"The government is engaged in protecting the security of Canada and in exercising its sovereignty in the North, including Canadian waters," she said.
Loubier pointed to the planned acquisition of Arctic patrol vessels, construction of a deep water port and eavesdropping network in the region, annual military exercises and boosting the number of Inuit Arctic rangers keeping on eye on goings-on along its northern frontier.
COMMENT: The Canadians are doing exactly the right thing. Now, here is a question I never thought I'd have to ask about the United States: Which side will we be on? Will we back our ally? So far, I haven't heard a word coming out of Washington.
Chances are we'll say nothing, letting Canada twist in the wind while we push the "reset" button in our relations with Russia. You watch.
MADRID, – A Spanish court has agreed to consider opening a criminal case against six former Bush administration officials, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, over allegations they gave legal cover for torture at Guantanamo Bay, a lawyer in the case said Saturday.
Human rights lawyers brought the case before leading anti-terror judge Baltasar Garzon, who agreed to send it on to prosecutors to decide whether it had merit, Gonzalo Boye, one of the lawyers who brought the charges, told The Associated Press.
The ex-Bush officials are Gonzales; former undersecretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith; former Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff David Addington; Justice Department officials John Yoo and Jay S. Bybee; and Pentagon lawyer William Haynes.
COMMENT: Just to let you know, I'm opening an investigation into the Spanish Inquisition. It will be held in my kitchen. Any of you who have evidence are urged to e-mail me. Don't be frightened. Name the names!
This whole thing is ridiculous. I'd love to meet the "human rights lawyers" who are behind it. You can just imagine what their real political views are likely to be. This kind of thing happens in Spain all the time. They have some kind of loophole in their law that allows Spanish courts to investigate the world.
JENIN, West Bank (AP) -- Palestinian authorities disbanded a youth orchestra from a West Bank refugee camp after it played for a group of Holocaust survivors in Israel, a local official said on Sunday.
Adnan Hindi of the Jenin camp called the Holocaust a ''political issue'' and accused conductor Wafa Younis of unknowingly dragging the children into a political dispute.
He added that Younis has been barred from the camp and the apartment where she taught the 13-member Strings of Freedom orchestra has been boarded up.
''She exploited the children,'' said Hindi, the head of the camp's ''popular committee,'' which takes on municipal duties. ''She will be forbidden from doing any activities ... We have to protect our children and our community.''
COMMENT: Simply unbelievable. Now, let's see how many of the "multiculturalists" and advocates of "academic and cultural freedom" will speak out against this obscenity. The Palestinian children's concert for Holocaust survivors was publicized all over the world. For the Palestinians, it was a show of humanity and decency. You'd think their moronic leaders would realize that. Now they destroy it, demonstrating once again the truth of the comment made by Israel's late foreign minister, Abba Eban, that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
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.
"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 late Friday night.
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