Scene above: Constitution Island, where Revolutionary War forts still exist, as photographed from Trophy Point, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York
WE'RE ON TWITTER, GO HEREWE'RE ON FACEBOOK, GO HERE
Please note that you can leave a comment on any of our posts at our Facebook page. Subscribers can also comment at length at our Angel's Corner Forum.
APRIL 26, 2011
YOUR UN TAX DOLLARS AT WORK – AT 11:35 P.M. ET: We are the largest single contributor to the United Nations. Sometimes that makes me feel that we are the largest single contributor to the world's biggest house of ill repute. What goes on in the UN is just sickening. Consider this:
The brutal crackdown by Syrian President Bashar Assad may finally be getting the attention of world leaders -- but apparently not enough to stop Syria from becoming the newest member of the U.N. Human Rights Council.
And despite calling for an independent investigation into the crackdown, which has left hundreds dead, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon apparently won’t do much about blocking Syria’s path to the human rights group.
"That's not really for the secretary general to suggest to a member state," said Martin Nesirky, a spokesman for the secretary-general, when asked if the U.N. chief would ask Syria to drop out of the running for the post. When asked if Ban had brought up the point during his telephone conversation April 9 with Assad, Nesirsky told Fox News, "that's not really something the secretary general would raise specifically, because it's for other member states to decide on the membership of the Human Rights Council."
Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian human rights activist based in Washington, called on the secretary-general "to have a greater sense of decency and courage, and to realize that his position gives him a certain moral authority and puts him exactly in the position to tell the Assads that their candidacy at this stage is unwelcome."
COMMENT: Decency and courage are not exactly signature characteristics at the UN. There are some UN agencies that do good work, but the organization, overall, is hopelessly corrupt and dishonest. Time for a new guy on the block, like the League of Democracies that some conservatives have proposed.
BRACE YOURSELF AND TAKE A PILL – AT 11:24 P.M. ET: I think this is nonsense, but I just had to quote it for you so that, when you attend your next party, you'll sound thoughtful, intellectual and deep...just like the writer of the piece dreams of being. From the Washington Post, dear Lawd:
When I covered George W. Bush’s White House, my job was made easier by the simplicity of the subject. The president had a few defining mantras — Cut taxes! Rally the base! Terrorists hate freedom! With us or against us! — and most of his decisions could be understood, even predicted, by applying one of the overarching philosophies.
With President Obama, there is no such luxury. The political right is befuddled as it tries to explain him: First, Obama was a tyrant and a socialist; now he’s a weakling who refuses to lead. The political left is almost as confused, demanding to know why Obama gave away so much on health care and in budget negotiations. Nearly everybody puzzles over Obama’s ad hoc responses to Egypt, Libya and now Syria, grasping for a still-elusive Obama Doctrine.
Seeking a template to understand the enigmatic president, I consulted three leading academics in the fields of psychology and behavior. With their help, I put Obama on the couch and came away with a reasonably coherent diagnosis: There’s too much going on in the poor guy’s head.
“What distinguishes Obama particularly is the depth and carefulness of his thinking, which renders him somewhat unfit for politics,” said Jonathan Haidt, a professor of social psychology at the University of Virginia. “He is a brilliant social and political analyst, which makes it harder for him to play hardball or to bluff.”
COMMENT: That wasn't hard, was it? The man is simply above us all. We now have that on good authority.
Now you understand why newspaper circulation is declining.
TRUMPED – AT 11:12 A.M. ET: As readers know, I have expressed severe skepticism over the campaign waged by Donald Trump. We know him well here in New York. He is not regarded, to put it mildly, as a statesman. He is kind of the P.T. Barnum of real estate. He has had his business successes, but a number of failures as well.
His campaign is a distraction from more serious and far better qualified candidates. And yet, Trump gets plenty of attention. Tom Sowell, one of the best political and economic observers writing today, explains why, in the form of a warning to the Republican Party, a warning I endorse heartily:
The boomlet for Donald Trump as a Republican nominee for president of the United States ought to be a wake-up call for Republican candidates and Republican party leaders alike.
Why has Trump surged ahead of other Republican candidates and potential candidates in the polls? It is not likely that his resurrection of the issue of Barack Obama’s birth certificate has aroused all this support...
...Trump has what so many other Republicans are so painfully lacking: the ability and the willingness to articulate arguments clearly, forcefully, and in plain English. Too many Republicans talk like the actor of whom a critic once said, “he played the king like he was afraid that someone else was going to play the ace.”
Right on the button. Absolutely correct. Once again the Republicans are playing country-club politics.
What electrified so many Republicans about Sarah Palin in the 2008 election campaign was that her speeches offered such a contrast to the usual mealy-mouthed talk common among other Republican candidates, including Sen. John McCain. Whether you agreed or disagreed with her position on the issues, you didn’t have to wave your hand in front of her eyes to see if she was awake.
Why Republicans seem not to understand the crucial importance of putting the same time and attention into articulating their positions as the Democrats do is one of the enduring mysteries of American politics.
...how many Republican catch phrases can you remember? Republican rhetoric tends to range from low key to no key.
Nor is there much evidence that Republicans have asked themselves how the left wing of the Democratic party gained such ascendancy in recent years, in a country where millions more people identify themselves as conservative than as liberals.
I hope they're reading this at Republican national headquarters.
Sowell believes, properly so, that Trump is dangerous for Republicans. He will eventually be seen as the contradictory blowhard that he is, but he will, in the interim, use his vast fortune to attack other Republican candidates, diminishing or possibly destroying them.
Barack Obama’s declining support in public-opinion polls makes some conservatives feel that his reelection hopes are doomed. But Donald Trump can be Barack Obama’s secret weapon in his fight to remain in the White House. The Donald can be his Trump card.
True. And more true if Trump runs as an independent, where he'd take votes away from the GOP, dooming its chances.
We have written here before that the Republicans should skip a generation, throw the long ball, and look to its young candidates, like Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan. It's not just a matter of finding someone qualified to be president, it's a matter of finding someone who could be elected president. I don't see that guy among the "frontrunners."
OBAMA AT THE PUMP – AT 9:08 A.M. ET: As expected, the price of gasoline is starting to take a political toll on President Obama. From the Washington Post:
Soaring gasoline prices are biting into household incomes and nibbling at Americans’ fuel consumption — and support for President Obama, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
About six in 10 respondents said they had cut back on driving because of rising fuel prices, and seven in 10 said that high pump prices are causing financial hardship.
Obama, like previous presidents in times of high oil prices, is taking a hit. Only 39 percent of those who call gas prices a “serious financial hardship” approve of the way he is doing his job, and 33 percent of them say he’s doing a good job on the economy.
That sort of hardship could slow Obama’s reelection campaign. The Post-ABC poll shows that 60 percent of independents who say they’ve been hit hard by surging gas prices also say they definitely won’t support Obama in his bid for reelection.
In a hypothetical matchup with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the top GOP performer in the Post-ABC poll, Romney wins by 24 points among the independents who have taken a severe financial hit because of gas prices, and the president is up 7 percentage points among other independents.
COMMENT: The president will try to blame the oil companies, and may succeed unless Republicans can articulate alternative, compelling arguments. But without a clearly defined leader right now, the GOP is at a disadvantage.
THE REAL RON PAUL – AT 8:45 A.M. ET: Ron Paul, the wacko "Republican" congressman from Texas, is apparently running for president. But the real Ron Paul isn't exactly the "libertarian" he claims to be, but a vitriolic clown with decided sympathies for some of America's enemies. In fact, some of his views are usually found on the far left. From The Politico:
Ron Paul on Monday night dismissed Sean Hannity’s fear that Sharia law is coming to the United States.
In a somewhat contentious interview with the Fox News host, Paul asserted that Hannity’s perspective on American relations with the Muslim world is far from reality. Discussing the run-up to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Paul told a perturbed Hannity that “the 9/11 Commission recognized there was a blow back phenomenon from the fact we were over there and had a base in Saudi Arabia.”
Hannity then shot back with the concern — often floated by conservative talkers like Glenn Beck — that Islamic leaders are seeing to created a new, worldwide caliphate.
It goes well beyond the controversial Beck. Many of the most thoughtful conservatives are concerned. But the writer of this piece is sympathetic to Paul's position, which, as noted, reflects a leftist, not a rightist, point of view.
“If they were at war with us for a decade, do you not agree there is a desire among Islamic extremists to have an Islamic caliphate, Sharia law?” an incensed Hannity asked.
“I think because we are over there, their numbers grow,” Paul responded. “You have radicals in all religions, if there is some way to incite them, their numbers will grow.”
The two revisited their fight over Sharia when Hannity needled Paul for defending the Imam who wanted to set up a near Ground Zero in New York.
Ron Paul is an extremist who has long sympathized with radical Islam. There are several like him on the far right. His son, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, is somewhat better, but not by much. Ron Paul attracts a fringe following that often packs Republican meetings where straw polls are taken, making him look much stronger than he actually is.
From Fox: Van Jones, the Obama administration's controversial former "green jobs czar," has found a new calling: helping to push for a new, global architecture of environmental law that would give Mother Nature the same rights status as humans...Jones is taking up the challenge as one of the newest board members of an obscure San Francisco New Age-style organization known as the Pachamama Alliance, which has been creating a global movement to make human rights for Mother Nature an international reality — complete with enforceable laws — by 2014.
So, can a bush in the front yard divorce its owner? If you throw a paper cup off a boat, do you have the right to remain silent? If the catalytic converter on your car fails for an hour, can you be sent to the chair? I want answers.
JUICY, JUICY, JUICY – AT 8:21 A.M. ET: Was someone in the BBC a sympathetic conduit for Al Qaeda propaganda? From London's Telegraph:
The BBC is accused of being part of a “possible propaganda media network” for Al Qaeda, according to the leaked US files on the Guantanamo detainees.
The files, obtained by the WikiLeaks website and passed to The Daily Telegraph, disclose that a phone number of someone at the BBC was found in the phone books and phones of a number of extremists seized by US forces.
A detainee assessment, dated 21 April 2007, states: "The London, United Kingdom (UK), phone number 0044 207 XXX XXXX was discovered in numerous seized phone books and phones associated with extremist-linked individuals.
“The number is associated with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).” Analysis by The Daily Telegraph suggests the number is one for Bush House, home of the BBC World Service.
The assessment continues that US forces uncovered many “extremist links” to this number, suggesting that extremists could have made contact with BBC employees who were sympathetic to extremists or had information on “ACM [anti-Coalition Militia] operations”.
It says: “(Analyst Note: Numerous extremist links to this BBC number indicates a possible propaganda media network connection. Network analysis might provide leads to individuals with either sympathetic ties to extremists or possibly possessing information on ACM operations.)”
COMMENT: We caution that there's no absolute proof here, and no name of a specific BBC employee. But the BBC has a history of leftist and often pro-Arab bias. Two days after the 9-11 attacks it ran a vicious, anti-American program that stunned the program's guest, a former American ambassador to Britain.
I think there have been some efforts in the last few years to correct this, with apparently some success. But the BBC's bias is less institutional, then reflective of the kind of people the organization hires – young, urban and often minority. I'm not sure the leftist bias can be entirely eradicated.
I'd like to see further reporting on the possible Al Qaeda link.
GAS PRICES HEAD ONLY ONE WAY – AT 10:44 P.M. ET: Gasoline prices continue their upward climb. The Business and Media Institute has, in our view, an accurate assessment of what is happening, and the Obama effect on it:
The average price for a gallon of unleaded gasoline hit $3.86 on April 25, more than $1-a-gallon higher than a year earlier and less than 25 cents away from the record high price of gasoline set in July 2008.
In fact, per gallon prices are more than $2 higher than when Obama took office Jan. 20, 2009. Yet the president has been nearly exempt from criticism on the issue of rising prices, despite a six-month drilling moratorium and more regulatory hurdles for industry.
The Business & Media Institute found that out of the 280 oil price stories the network evening shows have aired since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, only 1 percent (3 stories) mentioned Obama's drilling ban or other anti-oil actions in connection with gasoline prices.
Instead of asking whether Obama's anti-oil policies could be increasing the cost of gas, the networks blamed other factors such as Mideast turmoil or the "money game" played by speculators. Certainly, the turmoil in Libya, Egypt and surrounding nations has increased worries about oil production and can influence the price. But the networks also should have looked for explanations much closer to home, like Obama's many regulatory actions taken against the oil industry.
COMMENT: It is true that a lifting of some of the regulations is unlikely to have an immediate effect on oil prices. But a change in this administration's energy policy would provide hope and incentive. Sadly, the Obamans are under the Svangali-like influence of extreme environmentalists and Al Gorist promoters of "alternative" energy sources that do not exist, and are unlikely to exist on a practical level for years and years.
Gasoline prices in some parts of the country have hit five dollars. With the coming of cold weather again, home heating oil prices will stun Americans.
No one is in love with oil companies. They aren't very lovable. But for a century or more they've provided this country with relatively cheap, reliable sources of energy. Obama will blame the oil companies for the current crisis, the the mainstream media won't challenge him to any great degree. But I suspect the public is on to this ploy. The oil-price crisis has got to impact Obama, just as it impacted Carter in the late 70s. In the meantime, we feel the pain, and no one feels it for us.
BARBOUR IS OUT – AT 5:43 P.M. ET: Mississippi Republican Governor Haley Barbour announced today that he will not be a candidate for president in 2012. From The Politico:
Haley Barbour said Monday that he won't run for president in 2012, removing a fundraising powerhouse with establishment clout from the Republican primary field.
"This has been a difficult, personal decision, and I am very grateful to my family for their total support of my going forward, had that been what I decided," the Mississippi governor said in a statement.
"A candidate for president today is embracing a 10-year commitment to an all-consuming effort, to the virtual exclusion of all else," Barbour added. "His (or her) supporters expect and deserve no less than absolute fire in the belly from their candidate. I cannot offer that with certainty, and total certainty is required."
That's pro forma. This is speculation, but I sense that Barbour didn't see a practical route to victory.
Barbour's announcement stunned political insiders — just hours earlier, many were expecting him to meet his self-imposed deadline and enter the race by the end of April.
COMMENT: I wasn't all that stunned. Barbour has been a fine governor and is a superb political operative. But he is little known by the general electorate outside his state.
I've written here before that Barbour faced one huge obstacle, and it's spelled M-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-i. Even if he got the nomination, he'd be running against the nation's first black president, and he's governor of a state that, unfairly or not, is still associated in the minds of many with the greatest resistance to civil rights. You can just feel the uneasiness, and you can certainly predict the broad hints about what a Barbour victory in November would "say about us." The race card will be played no matter who the GOP candidate is. If it were Barbour, the whole deck would be played.
I think it's a wise decision. Secretary of Commerce looks fine.
IS AMERICAN DOMINANCE NEARING AN END? – AT 8:17 A.M. ET: The International Monetary Fund is predicting that China will overtake us, and soon. From MarketWatch:
BOSTON (MarketWatch) — The International Monetary Fund has just dropped a bombshell, and nobody noticed.
For the first time, the international organization has set a date for the moment when the “Age of America” will end and the U.S. economy will be overtaken by that of China.
And it’s a lot closer than you may think.
According to the latest IMF official forecasts, China’s economy will surpass that of America in real terms in 2016 — just five years from now.
Put that in your calendar.
It provides a painful context for the budget wrangling taking place in Washington, D.C., right now. It raises enormous questions about what the international security system is going to look like in just a handful of years. And it casts a deepening cloud over both the U.S. dollar and the giant Treasury market, which have been propped up for decades by their privileged status as the liabilities of the world’s hegemonic power.
According to the IMF forecast, whoever is elected U.S. president next year — Obama? Mitt Romney? Donald Trump? — will be the last to preside over the world’s largest economy.
Most people aren’t prepared for this. They aren’t even aware it’s that close. Listen to experts of various stripes and they will tell you this moment is decades away. The most bearish will put the figure in the mid-2020s.
COMMENT: Not happy reading. But let me point out that it wasn't long ago that Japan was predicted to be the world's new superpower. It never happened. I think China will give us a run for the money, but my friend Gordon Chang, a real China expert, points out that China has serious problems, including an inability to control its population, especially in the distant provinces.
China is taking enormous economic strides, in large measure because it makes things. Physical products actually come from China, the way they used to come from the United States.
I wouldn't count America out, but China's sheer population – more than a billion – favors it for the future, if it can keep control of its population. America, though, is favored by its innovative spirit and sense of entrepreneurship, if those bedrocks can be nurtured.
We thought we were done in 1942, after Pearl Harbor and the Japanese sweep through the Pacific. And then again in 1957, when Sputnik went up. And then again in 1975, when we gave up in Vietnam. We came back stronger each time, and we were lucky enough to have a Reagan in the 1980s who boosted America's morale and restored our confidence.
Well, today we have Obama, a man who doesn't really believe in his own country. We need change we can believe in.
CALIFORNIA, WE AIN'T COMIN' – AT 7:47 A.M. ET: California is in desperate trouble. A new poll says that Californians actually support raising taxes, although I suspect many who voted "yes" think someone else's taxes will be raised. From Andrew Malcolm at the L.A. Times's Top of the Ticket blog:
If the conventional mantra about California being on the forefront of the nation's political trends holds true, it's really bad news for America's taxpayers.
According to a new L.A. Times / USC Dornsife poll, a majority of Californians -- 52% to 38% -- are just fine with Democrat Jerry Brown's plan to fill the state's chronic budget deficit with $14 billion in new or renewed taxes along with cuts, as long as they get to vote on it.
At least the voters are demanding that they be included in the decision.
This despite the recent history of waste, corruption and spending abuses in the most populous state's vast government.
This despite the state's continuing 12% unemployment rate, second-highest in the country.
This despite the weak 44% job approval rating for Gov. Brown.
This despite 41% of Californians believing that wasteful, unwise spending by ....
... state officials is responsible for the deficit.
This despite 67% of Californians believing the state's coughing economy is not yet improving and possibly worsening.
This despite 66% of Californians believing the country is on the wrong track under the Obama administration...
COMMENT: As I wrote here last week, I'm afraid higher taxes are coming because the Dems will scare voters by saying there'll be no more medical care or Social Security without them. Maybe even the schools and college football will go. Today soccer, tomorrow the Rose parade.
Both parties know how to demagogue tax issues. I think only a change in presidents will result in any kind of rational, thoughtful national conversation.
THE BUNKER IS HIT – AT 7:39 A.M. ET: NATO is targeting Qaddafi's headquarters. From Fox:
TRIPOLI – NATO airstrikes targeted the center of Muammar Qaddafi's seat of power early Monday, destroying a multi-story library and office and badly damaging a reception hall for visiting dignitaries.
Qaddafi's whereabouts at the time of the attack on his sprawling Bab al-Azizya compound were unclear. A security official at the scene said four people were lightly hurt.
Monday's strike came after Qaddafi's forces unleashed a barrage of shells and rockets at the besieged rebel city of Misrata, in an especially bloody weekend that left at least 32 dead and dozens wounded.
The battle for Misrata, which has claimed hundreds of lives in the past two months, has become the focal point of Libya's armed rebellion against Qaddafi since fighting elsewhere is deadlocked.
Video of Misrata civilians being killed and wounded by Qaddafi's heavy weapons, including Grad rockets and tank shells, have spurred calls for more forceful international intervention to stop the bloodshed in the rebel-held city.
COMMENT: This is speculation, but I'm assuming that the attack on Qaddafi's compound was designed to scare him into leaving. Increasingly, analysts see Qaddafi's departure as absolutely mandatory for NATO to proclaim any kind of victory. If Muammar stays, we lose.
At the same time, more hawkish members of the Senate – McCain, Graham, Lieberman – are calling for increasing American support for the rebels. The fear is that a stalemate is developing. NATO, in such a circumstance, would probably lose interest, and we would look ridiculous, and weak. Same thing.
AUTOMOTIVE NEWS – AT 7:30 A.M. ET: Forbes is out with its list of the worst cars. We report with understandable emotion that the two auto companies that got the federal bailouts, GM and Chrysler, proudly dominate the list. From the Washington Examiner:
Thank goodness we put up $80 billion to bail out GM and Chrysler. They are now building such wonderful cars that they have achieved total dominance of the Forbes "Worst Cars on the Road" list, which we could also call the "Bottom Eleven."
GM and Chrysler account for nine of the cars among the bottom eleven. IN other news, the UAW is grateful for your generosity in keeping their union from disappearing. It appears you've achieved little else with your donation.
It is worth noting that all cars on this list except the Mercedes Benz S550 failed safety and/or reliability tests, in addition to being failures in such areas as value and gas mileage.
Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid
Mercedes Benz S550
Chrysler Town and Country
COMMENT: It's just so moving to see what our tax dollars have brought. Yes, it's heartening to see a Mercedes and a Nissan on the list, proving there are other car companies doing bad things. But the sheer dominance by GM and Chrysler might suggest that our tax dollars were not well spent.
My Honda was made in Ohio. Built by American hands, and with zero defects on delivery. I wonder why.
"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.
"Councils of war breed timidity and defeatism."
- Lt. Gen. Arthur MacArthur, to his
THE ANGEL'S CORNER
Part I of The Angel's Corner will be sent late Wednesday night.
Part II will be sent over the weekend.
Subscriptions to URGENT AGENDA are voluntary. Why subscribe to something you're getting free? To help guarantee that you'll continue to get it at all, and to get The Angel's Corner, which we now offer to subscribers and donators.
Subscriptions sustain us. Payments are through PayPal and are secure, but you do not have to sign up for a PayPal account. Credit cards are fine.
FOR A ONE-YEAR ($48) SUBSCRIPTION, CLICK:
FOR A SIX-MONTH ($26)
GREAT DEAL: ONE-YEAR SUBSCRIPTION WITH ANOTHER SUBSCRIPTION SENT TO SOMEONE ELSE ($69) - PERFECT FOR A SON OR DAUGHTER AT SCHOOL. (TELL US AT firstname.lastname@example.org WHERE YOU WANT THE SECOND SUBSCRIPTION SENT.) CLICK:
IF YOU DON'T WISH A SET SUBSCRIPTION, BUT PREFER TO DONATE ANY OTHER AMOUNT TO SUSTAIN URGENT AGENDA, CLICK:
SEARCH URGENT AGENDA
It's a privilege for me to post periodic pieces at Power Line. To go to Power Line, click here. To link to my Power Line pieces, go here.
CONTACT: YOU CAN E-MAIL US, AS FOLLOWS:
If you have wonderful things to say about this site, if it makes you a better person, please click: email@example.com
If you have a general comment on anything you see here, or on anything else that's topical, please click: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you must say something obnoxious, something that will embarrass you and disgrace your loving family, click: email@example.com
"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
If you are a legal copyright holder or a designated agent for such and you believe a post on this website falls outside the boundaries of "Fair Use" and legitimately infringes on yours or your client's copyright, we may be contacted concerning copyright matters at:
4 Martine Avenue
White Plains, NY 10606