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FRIDAY, AUGUST 6, 2010
A GOOD IDEA, FOR A CHANGE, FROM ACADEMIA – AT 9:04 P.M. ET: The new president of the University of Virginia appears serious about campus security, and is starting with a common-sense idea:
Students returning to the University of Virginia this month will be required to report whether they have been arrested or convicted, a new layer of security announced Friday in response to the May slaying of student Yeardley Love.
University President Teresa A. Sullivan discussed the new rule at a news conference marking the end of her first week on the job. University leaders hope screening students for criminal encounters will flag those who might commit violent acts.
Students return to Charlottesville the weekend of Aug. 21. When they log onto the campus computer system for the first time, each will be prompted to report any arrest, other than minor traffic infractions, since enrolling.
Love, 22, of suburban Baltimore was found dead in her off-campus apartment May 3. George Huguely of Chevy Chase, her 22-year-old ex-boyfriend and a fellow lacrosse player, is charged in the killing.
Huguely had a prior arrest, for a drunken encounter with a Lexington, Va., police officer, in fall of his junior year. University officials said had they known, Huguely probably would have been suspended or expelled.
There has been a policy in place at UVA requiring students to report arrests, but the requirement, if you can believe this, was voluntary. And the policy was never enforced. Now students will have to reply to a direct question when they come to school.
We await the scholarly reaction of the ACLU.
August 5, 2010 Permalink
GETTING TO KNOW YOU – AT 8:39 P.M. ET: We all want to meet new people, someone to hang with at the mall, or just chat with when the kids act up. So, hey, meet Adnan Shukrijumah, the new chief of operations for Al Qaeda. Knows us well. Lived here 15 years. Speaks English with an American accent. Who wouldn't want to know him? Fox gives us his Facebook details:
MIAMI -- A suspected Al Qaeda operative who lived for more than 15 years in the U.S. has become chief of the terror network's global operations, the FBI says, marking the first time a leader so intimately familiar with American society has been placed in charge of planning attacks.
Adnan Shukrijumah, 35, has taken over a position once held by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was captured in 2003, Miami-based FBI counterterrorism agent Brian LeBlanc told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview. That puts him in regular contact with Al Qaeda's senior leadership, including Osama bin Laden, LeBlanc said.
Shukrijumah and two other leaders were part of an "external operations council" that designed and approved terrorism plots and recruits, but his two counterparts were killed in U.S. drone attacks, leaving Shukrijumah as the de facto chief and successor to Mohammed -- his former boss.
Well, I guess it's a way to get promoted. I hear those other two guys weren't much fun, anyway.
Shukrijumah was named earlier this year in a federal indictment as a conspirator in the case against three men accused of plotting suicide bomb attacks on New York's subway system in 2009. The indictment marked the first criminal charges against Shukrijumah, who previously had been sought only as a witness.
It's natural he would focus on attacking on the U.S, LeBlanc said.
"He knows how the system works. He knows how to get a driver's license. He knows how to get a passport," LeBlanc said.
Shukrijumah's mother, Zurah Adbu Ahmed, said Thursday on the front stoop of her small home in suburban Miramar, Fla., that her son frequently talked about what he considered the excesses of American society -- such as alcohol and drug abuse and women wearing skimpy clothes -- but that he did not condone violence. She also said she has not had contact with her son for several years.
"What's dangerous about an individual that understands the U.S. is he may have a better sense of our security vulnerabilities and insights into how to terrify the American people using smaller attacks for large, political impact," said Brian Fishman, a counterterrorism research fellow at the New America Foundation. "This increases the risk of attacks outside traditional places we normally worry about like New York and Washington."
Shukrijumah was born in Saudi Arabia. He is a citizen of Guyana, a small South American country where his father was born.
COMMENT: Eternal vigilance, readers. Eternal vigilance.
August 5, 2010 Permalink
SUMMER OF RECOVERY? – AT 9:33 A.M. ET: Well, that's what Joe Biden promised us. Joe, admit it ain't so. From The New York Times, this morning:
With the American economic recovery hanging in the balance, private employers added 71,000 jobs in July, up from a downwardly revised 31,000 in June but below the consensus forecast of 90,000. The unemployment rate stayed steady at 9.5 percent.
Over all, the nation lost 131,000 jobs last month, but those losses came as 143,000 Census Bureau workers left their temporary posts, the Labor Department said. June’s number was revised dramatically downward to a total loss of 221,000 jobs. The agency originally reported that the nation lost 125,000 jobs in June.
Figures released last week confirmed that the United States economy slowed in the spring, and the Department of Labor’s monthly statistical snapshot of hiring pointed toward a stall in hiring this summer, as employers failed to add jobs at the rate they were earlier this year.
With some economists predicting a “double dip” back into recession and the political stakes for the Obama administration rising as the weeks tick closer to the midterm elections, Friday’s unemployment report renewed pressure on lawmakers to consider the next steps they might take to bolster the economy. Recent indicators focusing on consumer confidence, retail sales and housing appear to put the economy in a holding pattern.
COMMENT: By election day, in three months, Obama will have been president for almost two years. According to press reports, the strategy is to blame BUSH (!!) for everything that's happened. I just don't think Americans will buy that, this far into Obama's reign.
August 6, 2010 Permalink
CHURCHILL? NOT EXACTLY – AT 9:01 A.M. ET: Distracted by our own affairs, Americans have given little attention to the change in government in Britain. Conservative David Cameron is now in charge. We rooted for him, and may live to regret it. Cameron is a klutz, as the Financial Times notes:
You might have thought that David Cameron would be steering clear of foreign policy gaffes after his “news-rich” visit to Turkey and India.
But he has just been accused by Labour of making a new blunder by mistakenly claiming that Iran has a nuclear weapon (at least, we are still assuming he’s wrong) during a PM Direct meeting.
The prime minister was asked why he was backing Turkey to join the EU and said it could help solve the world’s problems….”like the Middle East peace process, like the fact that Iran has got a nuclear weapon”.
Chris Bryant, shadow Europe minister, said Mr Cameron was becoming a “foreign policy klutz."
Mr Cameron prompted controversy when he said (while in Turkey) that Gaza was a “prison camp” and said (in India) that Pakistan was exporting terror.
You may also recall that during the televised election debates he suggested that China posed a nuclear threat to the UK.
And let’s not forget his deputy Nick Clegg claiming that the Iraq war was “illegal”, which - whether you agree with him or not - is not the official government position, unsurprisingly.
COMMENT: Cameron's first days in office have been disappointing. We thought that a conservative prime minister would bring back the old spirit of Britain. Instead, we've got a child in need of some serious tutoring. We may soon be calling him England's Obama.
August 6, 2010 Permalink
TO MOSQUE OR NOT TO MOSQUE – AT 8:43 A.M. ET: The controversy of the proposed mosque at Ground Zero is not going away. Indeed, I think it will grow. The majority of New Yorkers, most of them liberals, are outraged. Now, U.S. senators are weighing in, as the Weekly Standard reports:
At the Capitol on Thursday, three United States senators weighed in on the decision to build an Islamic cultural center mere blocks from the site of worst terrorist attack in U.S. history. When questioned about the proposal by THE WEEKLY STANDARD, Senators Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.), Olympia Snowe (R., Maine), and John McCain (R., Ariz.) all called the Ground Zero mosque “insensitive.”
In an interview in his Washington office, Isakson explained his reasoning. “The attackers were members of al Qaeda, sponsored by Osama bin Laden, which is an element of radical Islam,” Isakson told me. “I have a serious concern that it serves any good purpose. And in fact it could be totally insensitive to the tragedy that took place there.”...
...Snowe’s concern with the proposed project lies with the families of those who were murdered by the terrorists in the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center. “I think there should be particular sensitivities to the families,” Snowe told me as she was getting on an elevator after the Senate voted to confirm Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court. “It is insensitive to the families.”
“I understand that I am a senator from Arizona, and I’m a long way from New York City. But I am entitled to my opinion. And obviously my opinion is that I’m opposed to it. I think that it’s something that would harm relations, rather than help.”
COMMENT: The senators are right. The idea of the mosque is already harming relations, despite the buffoonery of Mayor Bloomberg, who thinks it's just a swell idea. I guess billionaires really are different.
I think the mosque will quietly go away. The sponsors have to raise $100-million...and they have to get construction workers who'll be willing to work on it.
The contrast between elite opinion and citizen opinion on the subject is striking, though. The elitists scream "First Amendment." The citizens scream "human beings." The citiizens have the better argument.
August 6, 2010 Permalink
AUGUST 6TH – AT 8:16 A.M. ET: Today is the 65th anniversary of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima. On the political left, it is another day to bash America.
The use of the bomb against Hiroshima, a key military, supply, railroad and communications center, and the use of a second bomb on Nagasaki three days later, ended the war. For the people of Asia, that war had begun in 1931 with the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, not on December 7, 1941, with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Asians had been victimized by Japanese aggression for 14 years. The use of the bombs, while ghastly, without doubt saved millions of lives that would have been lost had we had to invade Japan.
There has been some concern in recent days that President Obama would use today to apologize to the Japanese for the nuclear bombings. He did not. There was the usual ceremony in Hiroshima, with the usual pieties. The United States ambassador to Japan, however, did attend. Some saw this as significant:
Washington's decision to send ambassador John Roos to the 65th anniversary of the bombing was seen by many as potentially paving the way for President Barack Obama to visit Hiroshima - which would be unprecedented for a sitting US leader.
We have no problem with the president visiting Hiroshima. We might have a big problem with what he says. But it hasn't happened yet. And the U.S. ambassador made only boilerplate remarks about the need to rid the world of nuclear weapons, an old chestnut.
For years revisionist historians have argued that using the atomic bombs was unnecessary, that Japan was ready to surrender. It's an odd argument. Countries that wish to surrender can utter two words: "We surrender." These words were not forthcoming. Indeed, there was a peace faction in the Japanese government at the time, but it wasn't running things. The military was, and it surrendered only on the emperor's orders.
No one wishes to be joyous about the bombings. But, as historian Paul Fussell, a Marine lieutentant in the Pacific at the time, wrote later, summing up our soldiers' reaction to the events: "We were going to live."
You know, that's pretty important. For those "historians" who question the use of the bombs, we would simply ask whether they were American soldiers in the Pacific in August of 1945. The answer is no. It's not surprising that guys who were there have a very different perspective.
August 6, 2010 Permalink
THURSDAY, AUGUST 5, 2010
MICHAEL BARONE FINDS BAD NEWS FOR DEMS IN TUESDAY'S PRIMARIES – AT 8:34 P.M. ET: From The Washington Examiner:
I’ve just been looking at the returns from the primary elections yesterday in Michigan and Missouri. Neither state has party registration, which means that voters can choose to vote in either the Republican or the Democratic primary...
...The big news is that in both states nearly twice as many voters chose to participate in the Republican primary as in the Democratic primary.
Another way to look at it: Republicans won 66% of the two-party vote in Michigan and 65% of the two-party vote in Missouri. Quite a contrast from the 2008 presidential election, in which Barack Obama carried Michigan 57%-41% and lost Missouri by the extremely narrow margin of 0.2%.
Heavy Republican turnout helps account for the 71%-29% majority for Missouri’s Proposition C, which purports to ban any mandate to buy health insurance. But it doesn’t explain the whole thing. As Daniel Blatt points out in a GayPatriot.net blogpost, Proposition C carried all 115 counties in Missouri (St. Louis City is separate and apart from St. Louis County, which voted for C; Kansas City, whose results are reported separately, is part of Jackson County, which as a whole voted for it as well. To have the mandate rejected by 71% of voters in a state Obama missed carrying by only 0.2% is a pretty devastating result.
All in all, these are dreadful results for the Obama Democrats.
COMMENT: Of course, Obama isn't on the ballot in November, but Dems had expected that his presence would be an asset to them. That does not appear to be the case.
The Proposition C vote in Missouri is particularly stunning. It represents anger, and a feeling by voters that they were ignored by the Democratic majority in Congress. If the anger lasts through the election, Republicans would be almost certain to take the House, and may even have a shot at the Senate.
August 5, 2010 Permalink
IT DOESN'T RAIN, IT POURS – AT 7:54 P.M. ET: We're trying to find some geographic entity where the president's poll numbers have gone up. No success. And now the final insult, from Reuters:
A majority of people in the Arab world now hold a negative view of President Barack Obama and the United States in a substantial change from how he was seen at the start of his presidency, according to a public opinion poll released on Thursday.
Sixty-two percent hold a dim view of Obama and the United States compared with 20 percent who view them in a positive light, according to the 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll released by Washington-based think tank The Brookings Institution.
We have to acknowledge that Mr. Obama did reach out to the Arab world, and has tried to show an understanding of Arab sensibilities. This is the answer he gets. It's the same old story: We really have no friends in Islam. We were told that at the founding of this republic. Arab ambassadors, even in the late 1700s, made clear their belief that Islam had to take over the world.
Some American presidents never get it. Peanut farmers are particularly vulnerable.
In a survey early in his presidency, only 23 percent of respondents in six countries expressed a negative view of Obama and the United States, while 45 percent were positive about the new administration, which took office in January 2009.
And get this:
Among other findings, a majority of the Arab public now see a nuclear-armed Iran as being better for the Middle East.
Pathetic. At least their governments understand the danger that Iran poses.
This was once a great civilization, with great art, philosophy and science. But we must ask the oldest question in politics: What have you done for me lately? In fact, what have you done for us in the last 2,000 years?
If Obama can't make it among the Arabs, no American leader can.
August 5, 2010 Permalink
OUCH! HOW DARE YOU CRITICIZE! – AT 10:23 A.M. ET: Michelle Obama usually gets an even better press than her anointed husband. But now, in the light of her lavish, embarrassing material-girl's trip to Spain, she's being compared to...Marie Antoinette. She was that white French lady who said about the masses, "Let 'em eat cake." I don't know who dreamed up this excursion, but right before an election wasn't the wisest time. From conservative commentator Andrea Tantaros in the New York Daily News:
While many of us are struggling, the First Lady is spending the next few days in a five-star hotel on the chic Costa del Sol in southern Spain with 40 of her "closest friends." According to CNN, the group is expected to occupy 60 to 70 rooms, more than a third of the lodgings at the 160-room resort. Not exactly what one would call cutting back in troubled times.
Reports are calling the lodgings of Obama's Spanish fiesta, the Hotel Villa Padierna in Marbella, "luxurious," "posh" and "a millionaires' playground." Estimated room rate per night? Up to a staggering $2,500. Method of transportation? Air Force Two.
To be clear, what the Obamas do with their money is one thing; what they do with ours is another. Transporting and housing the estimated 70 Secret Service agents who will flank the material girl will cost the taxpayers a pretty penny.
The Obama modus operandi is becoming clear. From lavish trips to Spain to reportedly flying Bo, the President's Portuguese water dog, on a separate aircraft to vacation with them in Maine, to a date night in New York City that perhaps cost nearly $100,000, their idea of austerity is really just the lap of luxury, at least for ordinary folks.
Michelle Obama seems more like a modern-day Marie Antoinette - the French queen who spent extravagantly on clothes and jewels without a thought for her subjects' plight - than an average mother of two. While she's spent her time in the White House telling parents they should relieve their chubby kids' dependency on sugar and stressing the importance of an organic veggie garden, hopping a jet to Europe to meet with Spanish royalty isn't the visual the White House probably wants to project. Perhaps they've forgotten the damning image of John Kerry, on the eve of the 2004 election, windsurfing off the coast of Nantucket?
Why not? They forgot what Rev. Wright was preaching for the 20 years they listened to him. They forgot who Bill Ayers was. Why shouldn't they forget a picture of John Kerry?
I don't begrudge anyone rest and relaxation when they work hard. We all need downtime - the First Family included. It's the extravagance of Michelle Obama's trip and glitzy destination contrasted with President Obama's demonization of the rich that smacks of hypocrisy and perpetuates a disconnect between the country and its leaders. Toning down the flash would humanize the Obamas and signify that they sympathize with the setbacks of the people they were elected to serve.
COMMENT: Of course, the die-hard Obaman supporters would probably say that Michelle is merely practicing multiculturalism, and opening the eyes of the average, ignorant, narrow-minded American people to the rest of the world. You know, they'd actually say that.
The Obama White House is increasingly disconnected from the nation. The political staff must certainly understand the damage Michelle's trip can do politically. Did anyone discuss this with her? Did anyone dare?
The Obamas are starting to act like one-terms who want to squeeze everything they can out of the White House experience before being sent back to Chicago.
August 5, 2010 Permalink
CALIFORNIA, AND OBAMA'S DILEMMA – AT 9:18 A.M. ET: Remember when California was a pretty conservative place run by a governor named Reagan? Ah, for serenity. Now a judicial decision in California poses a political problem for the president. Go to bed with activists, wake up with a headache. From The Politico:
The culture war is back.
A federal judge’s ruling Wednesday striking down California’s ban on same-sex marriage is a historic and possibly pivotal legal victory for gay rights advocates, but the decision also poses a formidable threat to President Barack Obama’s strategy of relegating divisive social issues to the back burner.
If that was the strategy, the president certainly pursued it ineptly. Remember when he had a beer summit at the White House over the actions of a Cambridge, Massachusetts, police officer? Hey, there was an example of relegating a divisive social issue to the back burner, wasn't it? Not exactly.
U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision is just the latest in a series of rulings and high-profile legal challenges drawing public attention to gay rights issues in a sustained way for the first time since San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom grabbed headlines in 2004 by okaying same-sex marriages in that city.
As gay and lesbian activists celebrate what they hope is the leading edge of a wave of momentous court rulings and legislative successes, they remain uneasy with Obama’s nuanced position on gay marriage.
During the 2008 campaign, Obama took what many on both sides of the gay marriage debate viewed as a straddle. He publicly announced his opposition to same-sex marriage, but he also said that he opposed the California ballot measure seeking to ban it, Prop. 8— the same ban Walker ruled unconstitutional Wednesday.
Obama explained the seeming contradiction at the time by saying that he opposes any measure singling out a group for adverse treatment by amending the U.S. Constitution or a state constitution, as Prop 8. did, even though legal experts said that was the only viable way to block gay marriage in California.
This is what happens when you talk out of both sides of your mouth. A gay-marriage opponent said:
“He’s got to show his cards,” said Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage. “Do you support one San Francisco judge in imposing his view of marriage on the rest of the country or not?... Anyone who just looks at this from an objective point of view realizes the president’s position is untenable.”
And so it is. I wrote about this at the Angel's Corner this morning. The country is suddenly beset with a raft of divisive social issues that cannot help the president, except for rallying what is left of his base. There's the Arizona immigration law, the mosque at Ground Zero, the firing of Shirley Sherrod, the accusation that black members of Congress are being unfairly targeted in ethics probes. The eruption of these issues comes at a time when Mr. Obama's standing among whites is at an all-time low. He is even losing support among Hispanics.
The White House has fumbled these issues. Enough fumbles, you lose the game.
August 5, 2010 Permalink
IS THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY COLLAPSING? – AT 8:48 A.M. ET: Well, now there's a question to wake us up. I wouldn't break out the champagne just yet. Wait, we're talking about liberals. I wouldn't break out the herbal healing libations just yet. But there are signs that the party that was riding high just two years ago may be looking at the junk heap of history, and calling ahead for accommodations. From Contentions:
Here are the latest findings from Democracy Corp, the group headed by James Carville and Stanley Greenberg:
Monthly tracking from Citizen Opinion shows troubling trends in the public’s experience, perceptions and conclusions. Virtually every personal measure has returned to the lowest point on our seven months of tracking and macro-expectations have darkened too. These shifts coincide with news in July of slower job growth, persistently high unemployment and weaker than expected 2nd quarter GNP growth.
These darkening perceptions have consequences: Democrats are lagging further behind Republicans on which party can best deal with the economy.
The analysis goes on to claim this:
Voters now give the Republicans a 49 to 36 percent advantage on handling the economy, the worst for Democrats in all of our polling.
For the first time in our tracking, a majority of 54 percent believes that President Obama’s economic policies have done nothing to relieve the recession and run up a record deficit; just 39 percent that believe his administration’s efforts averted a worse crisis. This is not consistent with the administration’s argument about economic success.
When asked about the vote in November, 52 percent plan to vote Republican to protest the direction of the economy — 11 points more than voting Democratic to not jeopardize the recovery.
These are terrible numbers for Democrats, of course. What is so striking, though, is how commonplace they all seem — just another drop of bad news in an ocean of bad news.
We are seeing a party (Democratic) and movement (liberalism) in the process of collapsing. That doesn’t mean the ruin will be permanent and irreversible; but it is happening at a remarkable speed. And it is somewhat astonishing to witness.
COMMENT: What is especially astonishing is that it is happening in the face of an overwhelmingly liberal media, where professional standards of impartiality have broken down. But Americans now have alternative sources of information, and are using them. Their trust in the traditional outlets is at a low point.
Freedom rings, and it rocks. Our freedom to publish, and we express it here in our own small way each morning, is having its effect. So is a political phenomenon that many politicians refuse to recognize: Citizens look around them, see reality, and compare it to what the political class is saying. And they are drawing their own conclusions about that class.
We're on the winning side, but victory has to be fought for by skilled, creative practitioners. Looking at the Republican Party historically, that's where I worry.
But, for now, things look pretty good.
August 5, 2010 Permalink
CONFIRMATION DAY – AT 8:25 A.M. ET: Elena Kagan will be confirmed today as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. I think it's sad.
Far too little attention has been given to Ms. Kagan. I cannot deny a certain sentimental attachment. We both come from the same neighborhood in Manhattan. Our paths may have crossed many times. But I know that neighborhood, the prevailing liberal sentiment, and the belief that anyone who lived outside Manhattan must be very quaint, and even dangerous.
We know very little about Kagan. It's been my experience that when we know very little about the beliefs and background of a public figure on the left, there's a good reason for it. That individual, and her allies, simply refuse to go there. There are issues they'd rather not bring up.
A few years ago I was watching, on CSPAN, a Smith College professor defending the fact that Betty Friedan, the founder of modern feminism, lied about her background in "The Feminine Mystique." The professor declared, "She didn't want to be asked McCarthyite questions." That was the defense. Translated, Friedan had been a Marxist, and didn't want it brought up.
I don't know if Elena Kagan is a Marxist, but I do know that she wrote a college thesis very sympathetic to socialism, and that she comes from an "activist" family. That's a euphemism. She is very personable, but we're not electing Miss America. I worry that she's been able to shield herself from penetrating questions about her beliefs. She's never been a judge, so there's no judicial paper trail. I worry about her views on the Second Amendment, which on the West Side of Manhattan is right up there with Mein Kampf.
She has not demonstrated her qualifications to be a Supreme Court justice. The Republicans will mostly oppose her, but they began their fight far too late, and must do better next time.
It's really too bad. We're about to put a political figure, not a judge, on the Court.
August 5, 2010 Permalink