"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
IRANIAN OBSCENITY - AT 6:49 P.M. ET: Our friend Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi has been keeping us informed of this case. We hope Mr. Obama and the foreign policy "realists" of this administration are aware of it, too. From Phil Sherwell of London's Telegraph:
Delara Darabi knew the end was close when she made a panic-filled call to her mother from prison to say that she could see the hangman's noose from her window.
The Iranian artist was executed on Friday for a murder allegedly committed when she was a juvenile and for which she retracted her brief confession, claiming she was covering up for her boyfriend.
The prison authorities hanged Miss Darabi, 23, even though the head of Iran's judiciary granted her a two-month stay of execution on April 19 amid international outrage over her case. They also did not give her lawyer the required 48 hours notice.
Horrific new details have emerged of her last desperate plea for help from Rasht prison as jail guards came to lead her away.
Miss Darabi made a tearful call early on Friday to her parents to say she could see the gallows and noose, according to media reports from Tehran.
"Mother they are going to execute me, please save me," she pleaded. But a prison official then grabbed the phone and told her distraught mother: "We are going to execute your daughter and there's nothing you can do about it."
COMMENT: Note the comment about "international outrage." How much outrage did you see coming from the Obama administration, whose cheerleaders are far more concerned about waterboarding known terror masters.
And where are the "women's rights advocates"? Nowhere to be seen. They're more concerned about Miss California endorsing traditional marriage.
Now the Obama administration is about to engage the Iranian regime on the subject of nuclear weapons. How far do you think Obama will get? Can you hear the laughter in Tehran?
RASMUSSEN'S SATURDAY SURPRISE - AT 10:25 A.M. ET: Despite his network news conference this week, President Obama registers his worst numbers yet as president in today's Rasmussen daily tracker. On general presidential approval, some 54% approve of Obama's performance, while 45% disapprove. It's been that way for three days now.
But on Ras's presidential approval index - the gap between those who strongly approve and those who strongly disapprove, the number is down to one point - 33-32. It has never been this tight.
We stress again that a poll is a snapshot in time, that numbers vary from day to day, and that other polls have Obama stronger. But the trend in the first hundred days has been downward. The White House cannot be pleased.
We'd also point out that the gap in the overall approval rating is only nine points, and some of those who "approve" only somewhat approve.
PAKISTANI NUKES, THE WORRY - AT 9:14 A.M. ET: From the McClatchy newspapers:
WASHINGTON — Pakistan is expanding its nuclear weapons program even as Islamic extremists in northwest Pakistan continue to advance in the direction of several highly sensitive nuclear-related sites, U.S. officials and other experts said this week.
Pakistan's government is completing two new nuclear reactors to produce plutonium for weapons that would be smaller, lighter and more efficient than the 60-odd highly enriched uranium-fueled warheads that Pakistan is now thought to possess, the officials and experts said.
"In the current climate, with Pakistan's leadership under duress from daily acts of violence by insurgent Taliban forces and organized political opposition, the security of any nuclear material produced in these reactors is in question," said an April 23 report by the Institute for Science and International Security .
Some of the officials and experts are more worried that Islamic radicals or sympathizers inside Pakistan's military might get their hands on radioactive material that could be used to make a crude dirty bomb than they are about a theft of one of the heavily guarded weapons themselves.
COMMENT: President Obama assured us at his news conference this week that the Pakistani nukes are secure, and would be secure. But he pointedly refused to go into detail. It's hard to accept the president's statements at face value. How could the U.S. even know where all the nukes are? Or all the enriched materials needed to make them?
PROPAGANDISTS AT WORK - AT 8:47 A.M. ET: He who controls the vocabulary controls the country. The following is brought to you, apparently, by the same people who "rightsize" rather than "downsize" corporations, and "demonstrate robustly" rather than "riot": From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — The problem with global warming, some environmentalists believe, is “global warming.”
The term turns people off, fostering images of shaggy-haired liberals, economic sacrifice and complex scientific disputes, according to extensive polling and focus group sessions conducted by ecoAmerica, a nonprofit environmental marketing and messaging firm in Washington.
Instead of grim warnings about global warming, the firm advises, talk about “our deteriorating atmosphere.” Drop discussions of carbon dioxide and bring up “moving away from the dirty fuels of the past.” Don’t confuse people with cap and trade; use terms like “cap and cash back” or “pollution reduction refund.”
COMMENT: Oh, they are so wrong here. This is the kind of thinking done by those who believe the American people are dumb and uniformed. They are neither. They know that there are serious disputes over some of these issues, and they want the disputes aired openly before committing the future of the country to some trendy scheme. They also know that some environmental actions can do as much harm as good, or even more, as with the disastrous banning of DDT in Africa. The want facts. Twisting the words simply shows the cynicism of the twisters.
WELCOME SUPPORT - AT 8:40 A.M. ET: It's actually news when American universities behave decently in a political case, so this is gratifying, from AP:
EVANSTON, Illinois — Professors, students and alumni of the alma mater of an American journalist imprisoned in Iran are helping orchestrate a hunger strike in hopes of pressuring her release.
The FreeRoxana campaign partly sponsored by people affiliated with Northwestern University is organizing the protest on behalf of Roxana Saberi. She's a 1999 graduate of the university's Medill School of Journalism.
The 32-year-old was arrested in January and convicted last month of spying for the U.S. She was sentenced to eight years in prison after a one-day trial behind closed doors.
COMMENT: I wonder if there'll be a counter-protest by hard leftists who'll eat something extra in solidarity with the Iranian regime. I would not be shocked.
ABSOLUTELY CHILLING - AT 5:01 P.M. ET: When we say that we worry about American strength in the future, we're making an argument, although a serious one. But when we see this in print, it brings it home. From the Brisbane (Australia) Times:
THE Rudd Government has acknowledged that the supremacy of the US has begun to fade and Australia is preparing for an uncertain future in which it can no longer rely on the protection of its main ally.
In a fundamental shift in defence plans, the Government has explicitly declared that US primacy in the Asia-Pacific - the bedrock of the nation's security since World War II - may be ending. The change, caused by the rise of new great powers such as China, is set to produce growing regional tensions and a "sudden deterioration" in Australia's security.
A 20-year defence blueprint, to be released by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, today, prepares for a multibillion-dollar build-up of naval and air forces to ensure that Australia can defend its northern and sea approaches.
COMMENT: Australia has been one of our few solid allies. To read this is like reading an obituary for American power. We are being confronted with the reality of the age of Obama. It will bring us no new friends, and the old ones will start to drift away, or at least "adjust" their policies.
We did see the beginnings of this in the seventies, especially during the pathetic Carter years. We were saved by Ronald Reagan, whose first priority was the buildup of American defense. Who will save us now?
SOUTER MAKES IT OFFICIAL, OBAMA COMMENTS - AT 4:41 P.M. ET: Associate Justice David Souter gave formal notification today that he is leaving the Supreme Court in June. President Obama appeared at the daily White House briefing to comment on the matter. The New York Times reports:
Promising to nominate a replacement with “a sharp and independent mind and a record of excellence and integrity,” Mr. Obama, who startled reporters by walking to the lectern for a cameo appearance in the middle of the daily White House press briefing, said that he would look for a candidate for whom the law was not a matter of abstract theory, but a force that affects real people in their daily lives.
COMMENT: Now that's a nice thought, of course. We want justices to be sensitive to "real people in their daily lives." But wait. Which people? What kind of lives? Given the record of this administration on the detainee issue, I fear we may go back to the bad old days of the sixties and seventies, when the rights of criminals outweighed the rights of the innocent, and crime was shrugged off as a "socio-economic problem."
We await Obama's first nominee. The terms of Supreme Court justices usually outlast, by many years, the terms of the presidents who appoint them, so the word "legacy" comes into play.
We also await press coverage. Will it be detailed and probing? Or will we be presented with the image of the messiah anointing a disciple? Which do you think?
OUR STATE DEPARTMENT IN ACTION - AT 2:52 P.M. ET: We can all use a good laugh on a Friday afternoon. Our government supplies it.
Reader John Harris alerts us to this quote from a State Department take-a-bow report on the first 100 days of Obamism:
Secretary Clinton is already the most traveled Secretary of State in a new Administration. The Secretary’s trips have included her inaugural trip to Asia, the Middle East and Europe, Mexico and across the border to Texas, the Hague in the Netherlands, Europe with President Obama, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago with President Obama, and to Iraq and Kuwait.
COMMENT: That travel to Texas was especially tough, especially with the language barrier.
BECAUSE OF OBAMA'S POLICIES? - AT 9:51 A.M. ET: From Rasmussen:
Just 42% of likely voters now believe the United States and its allies are winning the War on Terror, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.
That’s down from 50% two weeks ago, down from 62% in early February, and is the lowest level of confidence since June 30, 2008.
Twenty-eight percent (28%) now say the terrorists are winning. That’s the highest number offering that pessimistic assessment since October 2007.
COMMENT: Even if the numbers are only ball park, it's a disturbing report. The drop of 20 points from early February, roughly corresponding to the tenure of the Obama administration, tells a pretty blunt story: Americans are losing confidence in this president's ability to fight and win against the terror masters.
That loss of confidence is bound to increase, especially if conditions in Pakistan deteriorate, we continue to appease Iran, and the White House maintains its war against the Bush administration. Should there be a massive, successful attack against Americans, the Obamans could suddenly find poll numbers that even The New York Times might have to acknowledge.
IT'S WHO YOU KNOW - AT 8:43 A.M. ET: From the Chicago Sun-Times:
There's a new sheriff in town at Chicago Public Schools, and it's a cousin of Michelle Obama's.
Andres Durbak, director of security for nearly a decade, is out.
In is Michael Shields, a 21-year Chicago Police veteran whom Supt. Jody Weis promoted on his arrival, only to demote him months later.
Shields was a deputy chief in the Detective Division from 2002 to early 2008, when he was promoted by the newly sworn-in Weis to deputy superintendent of the Bureau of Strategic Deployment.
Upon naming his new team, Weis said he'd chosen them based on resumes, interviews and gut feelings. But by December, Shields was kicked off command staff -- demoted to lieutenant at the Belmont Area headquarters, earning far lower pay.
WHAT'S HE SO SURE OF? - AT 7:51 A.M. ET: Pakistan, with its nuclear weapons, is a major crisis area for the United States. What happens if the country falls to the Taliban?
And yet, President Obama, understanding his vast spiritual powers, was almost sanguine at his press conference about securing the Pakistani nukes. Others are more skeptical. The Times of India reports:
WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama on Wednesday said Washington "can make sure that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is secure," even as he expressed grave concern over the deteriorating situation in the militancy-stricken country.
At a White House press conference to mark his first 100 days in office, Obama expressed confidence about US control over Pakistan's nuclear weapons, perhaps through military-to-military cooperation, in the face of extremist advances in the country. In the process, he also hinted that Washington had contingency plans to handle the situation if it went out of Islamabad's hands.
Asked if he could reassure the American people that, if necessary, America could secure Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and keep it from getting into the Taliban's hands, Obama replied: "I'm confident that we can make sure that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is secure, primarily, initially, because the Pakistani army, I think, recognizes the hazards of those weapons falling into the wrong hands."
When the reporter followed up to seek a more precise answer, asking if in the worst case scenario, the US military could secure the nuclear weapons, Obama responded crisply: "I'm not going to engage in hypotheticals of that sort. I feel confident that that nuclear arsenal will remain out of militant hands. Okay?"
COMMENT: No, not okay. First question: Do we actually know where all the nukes are? Ninety percent is a failing grade. A few nukes falling into terrorist hands could change a good bit of modern history. Second question: Is the president hinting that the U.S. would enter Pakistan with troops to secure the nukes? Would we be welcome? Would the nukes remain in the same places?
Other reports say that General Petraeus is warning that the next two weeks will be crucial for maintaining some semblance of order in Pakistan. As we've said here before, this could be the story of the year.
ANOTHER BLESSING FOR "THE ONE" - AT 7:15 A.M. ET: President is, reportedly, about to have his first Supreme Court pick. From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — Justice David H. Souter plans to retire at the end of the term in June, giving President Obama his first appointment to the Supreme Court, four people informed about the decision said Thursday night.
COMMENT: Let the fun begin. Souter was appointed by George H.W. Bush, and was thought to be a reliable moderate conservative. Once he picked up the robes at the tailor, though, he headed left, and stayed there.
So, Obama will be replacing one liberal with, presumably, another liberal. But don't be deceived by stories that say that the switch "won't change the balance." The Supreme Court is an incubator of ideas. Its opinions not only have legal standing, they have intellectual influence. If Obama goes with a practical, respected, liberal judge who understands the purpose of courts and will judge responsibly - that's the best we can hope for. But if he appoints an academic theoretician, we could be in for a ride bumpier than the one provided by David Souter.
Politically, Obama would best be served by a Hispanic woman. Women are clamoring for a second female on the Court, and there has never been a Hispanic appointee. Obama owes much to the Hispanic community, which voted heavily for him, and is growing into a major Democratic constituency.
"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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