Scene above: Constitution Island, where Revolutionary War forts still exist, as photographed from Trophy Point, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York
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JUNE 17, 2011
WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN? – AT 10:29 P.M. ET: CBS News is trying to rebuild its image, following the end of the Couric years. Katie Couric didn't cut it as anchor for CBS Evening News, and her obvious liberal agenda annoyed multitudes.
You'd think CBS would have learned its lesson, and there was cause for encouragement in the naming of Scott Pelley to replace Couric. But now the once-great news division demonstrates that it has actually learned nothing. It has appointed NBC reporter Norah O'Donnell, airhead extraordinaire, to the lofty post of chief White House correspondent.
O'Donnell, a committed leftist, makes Katie Couric look like a mild moderate. And O'Donnell is not known as one of the deeper minds in broadcast journalism. She has movie-star looks, which probably accounts for the appointment, but her journalism is often shoddy and argumentative. NewsBusters has the sordid story:
"If Time-magaziner-turned-White House-press-sec Jay Carney ever tires of defending President Obama," wrote NB's Mark Finkelstein earlier this year, "Norah O'Donnell clearly seems ready to step in."
News broke Thursday that O'Donnell will, in fact, be moving to the White House briefing room, but she'll staying on the same side of the podium as CBS's Chief White House Correspondent. But that doesn't mean her incessant cheerleaeding for the Obama administration and its party will relent.
O'Donnell is one of television news's more blatantly liberal non-prime time personalities.
For all of O'Donnell's fondness for Obama, she really does not like Sarah Palin. Norah appeared at a Palin book signing - crib notes in hand - last year to grill a teen Palin fan, but threw softballs to a pro-Obamacare child weeks later. O'Donnell's lame defense of Obama's decision to wear a tacky faux-military leather jacket to an address to troops in Afghanistan was a childish "Sarah Palin wears a leather jacket too!" Norah also harped on the Palin "hand note" non-story perhaps longer than any other television personality.
Filmmaker John Ziegler even called on NBC to fire O'Donnell for her vehement hatred of everything Palin.
The firing never came, but now O'Donnell has left for another network where, no doubt, the Palin hatred and the rest of the liberal quips will continue.
For the record, Norah O'Donnell is the only journalist I've ever written to in order to complain about her work. I never got an answer. She is a terrible choice for CBS, unless all they want is a pretty face. That's all they'll get.
BACHMANN BUZZ CONTINUES – AT 10:22 A.M. ET: While Mitt Romney has improved his standing with Republican voters recently, and did well in Monday's debate, there is real buzz around Michele Bachmann, who was the standout performer. From The Politico:
A Magellan poll commissioned by the website NH Journal shows Mitt Romney taking 42 percent of the vote in New Hampshire, with his nearest rivals — Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann — tied at 10 percent each. The rest of the field is in single digits.
There are signs, though, that Bachmann has growth potential:
The most surprising numbers emerged when we asked which candidates had the strongest debate performance ... Thirty-nine percent said Romney gave the strongest performance. But an impressive 28% said Bachmann did. No other candidate finished in double-digits. Among self-identified conservatives who watched the debate, Bachmann performed even better. Among this group, 37% said Romney had the strongest performance, while 33% said Bachmann.
COMMENT: Now, consider this: Down the road, should Romney be the nominee, he may well have to decide whether he wants Michele Bachmann as his v.p. choice. There may be intense pressure from the conservative wing to take her, especially as the obvious choice, Marco Rubio, refuses.
That will not be an easy decision for Romney because of two words: Sarah Palin. He will have in mind what was done to Palin during the 2008 campaign. Bachmann has a history as a bit of a loose cannon, although she's recently exhibited admirable discipline and on-message deliveries. But the 2008 experience will weigh heavily on any GOP nominee, as the media will go after Bachmann with the same intensity with which it pursued Palin.
At the same time, even liberal stalwart Dan Rather recently cautioned about underestimating Bachmann. She's a trained lawyer, does vast amounts of homework, and has a very quick mind. Watch her rise.
WARNING FROM THE IMF – AT 9:37 A.M. ET: As if we need any coaching, the International Monetary Fund is warning the United States about its financial future.
SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund cut its forecast for U.S. economic growth on Friday and warned Washington and debt-ridden European countries that they are "playing with fire" unless they take immediate steps to reduce their budget deficits.
The IMF, in its regular assessment of global economic prospects, said that bigger threats to growth had emerged since its previous report in April, citing the euro zone debt crisis and signs of overheating in emerging market economies.
The global lender forecast that U.S. gross domestic product would grow an anemic 2.5 percent this year and 2.7 percent in 2012. In its forecast just two months ago, it had expected 2.8 percent and 2.9 percent growth, respectively.
The outlook elsewhere was mixed. The IMF said it was slightly more optimistic about the euro area's growth prospects this year, but a lack of political leadership in dealing with that crisis and the budget showdown in the United States could create major financial volatility in coming months.
COMMENT: We are in trouble, and we've got to get out of trouble. As Victor Davis Hanson has recently written, our economic troubles are the result of conscious decisions, and we can solve them by other conscious decisions.
At the same time, Hanson warned that we must never accept American decline as inevitable, which is what some on the left – possibly including the president – want to accept as part of economic reform. American decline, which could include a new isolationism and a dangerous cutting of our defenses, will only result in tragedy down the road.
I might add that some on the right may also be tempted to accept American decline as part of an economic package, and indeed there was a whiff of isolationism in Monday night's GOP debate. The temptation must be resisted at all costs. We learned our lesson in the 1930s. Didn't we?
BULLETIN – AT 8:50 A.M. ET: A reminder of what's out there. From Fox:
DEVELOPING: Authorities say they have a suspect in custody after finding a backpack which may contain ammonium nitrate near the Pentagon in Arlington, Va.
A source with knowledge of the investigation told Fox News that authorities were alerted to a suspicious vehicle in the area early Friday morning. A backpack containing what they believe is five pounds of ammonium nitrate was found outside the vehicle, the source said.
A notebook was also found at the scene and contained threatening words like "Al Qaeda" and "Taliban," Fox News has learned.
The man arrested is a naturalized U.S. citizen who came to the country from Ethiopia, a source told MyFoxDC.com.
COMMENT: Five pounds of ammonium nitrate can do some damage and take some lives. We, of course, have to be careful about reporting this, as facts are just becoming known. But we get a scare in America every few months when some would-be killer, whether affiliated with a group or not, tries something. We've been lucky so far. But no nation is lucky a hundred percent of the time.
CALL IT THE CORVETTE REVOLUTION – AT 8:27 A.M. ET: Saudi women have heard the call, "Ladies, start your engines." A great story from Fox:
A number of Saudi women drove cars Friday in response to calls for nationwide action to break a traditional ban unique to the ultra-conservative kingdom.
"We've just returned from the supermarket. My wife decided to start the day by driving to the store and back," columnist Tawfiq Alsaif said on Twitter.
"My wife, Maha, and I have just come from a 45-minute drive. She was the driver through Riyadh streets," said Mohammad al Qahtani, president of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, in another tweet.
Many Saudi women had pledged on Facebook and Twitter to answer the call to defy the deeply entrenched ban, in the largest such mass action since November 1990, when female demonstrators were arrested and severely penalized.
Instead of staging demonstrations, which are strictly banned in the absolute monarchy, women with driving licences obtained abroad were encouraged to take individual action.
Veteran women's rights activist Wajiha al Huwaider said she did not expect a huge turnout as hoped for by sympathizers abroad because of the severe response by officials to women who have taken the lead in recent weeks.
COMMENT: Let's see how much support these women receive from "women's" groups in the West, many of whom have shown a marked indifference to the plight of Muslim women. (The reasoning seems to be that if you support Muslim women you are helping "American militarism," or, horrors to horrors, the polices of BUSH (!!) or CHENEY (!!!!).
And let's see how much support these women receive from other "rebel" groups involved in the Arab spring throughout the Mideast. One of our greatest dilemmas in dealing with these revolutionaries is finding out who they actually are and what they actually believe. Do they believe in women's rights? Important question, I think.
NEW WARNING ON AL QAEDA – AT 10:09 P.M. ET: Only hours after Al Qaeda announced its new leader, our Department of Homeland Security sent out a major alert. From Fox:
The Department of Homeland Security has sent out an internal alert warning that jihadist websites last week posted a "hit list" of American executives, officials and companies -- an alarming development that could mark the start of a new phase in terror plots.
The list, which covers dozens of names connected to the Iraq war, including executives at Halliburton and KBR, was compiled by users who vowed to "send explosive mail" to the "best target." The lists were published online around the same time American-born Al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn released a video in which he called on Muslims in the U.S. to kill Americans.
Security analysts believe the two messages are related and underscore a shift in terror strategy -- from top-down, mass-casualty events to smaller-scale attacks taken up, in some cases, by freelancing, lone-wolf jihadists.
The DHS bulletin, obtained by FoxNews.com, described how posts on the Arabic-language Ansar al-Mujahideen forum discussed "specific targets" for potential attack. The discussion originated on a more secure Al Qaeda-linked site known as the Shumukh forum.
COMMENT: Please note that the hit list was posted last week, before Ayman al-Zawahri was named to the top Al Qaeda post and given the keys to the White Cave, their executive mansion. There is some dispute as to whether this type of attack is favored by al-Zawahri, who is known as a big-operation guy. Indeed, some analysts interviewed today said that they feared al-Zawahri may try a large attack against the United States, simply to prove his mettle.
So we have reason to be concerned both about small operations directed at, say, one prominent person, and the large mass attack identified with al-Zawahri.
BULLETIN – AT 1:01 P.M. ET: News organizations are reporting that Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) will resign his seat in the House this afternoon. This will probably end his career in politics, but open possibilities in fine-art photography.
The move was inevitable. Democrats were about to strip – no pun intended – Weiner of his committee assignments, leaving him powerless in the House.
But a sense of outrage must fill many observers, for the hypocrisy here is overwhelming. Weiner's wife is a top aide to Hillary Clinton, and it's widely reported that the Clintons are "livid" over Weiner, and refuse to support or even talk to him. Really? It wasn't long ago that Bill Clinton was seeking support on a sex charge, and found it. But he was the president. Weiner is only a member of Congress.
And what about all those Democratic representatives who've gotten away with outrageous ethics violations? Charlie Rangel still sits in the House, reelected. Maxine Waters still sits, and would be reelected easily. The late Congressman Gerry Studds of Massachusetts was indeed censured by the House for improper sexual activity with a House page, but remained seated. Something isn't right here.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- For the tenth week in a row, an uncomfortably high number of Americans filed for their first week of unemployment benefits.
There were 414,000 initial claims for unemployment benefits filed last week, the Labor Department said Thursday.
While that was down 16,000 from a revised 430,000 initial claims filed the week before, it was still at a level economists often say is too high to bring down the unemployment rate.
Initial claims are used as a gauge of the job market, and when they're above 400,000, economists often interpret it as a sign of weakness. Initial claims have stayed above that level since early April.
Meanwhile, the four-week moving average of initial claims, calculated to smooth out volatility, totaled 424,750, the same as the week before.
COMMENT: Another dose of reality. The great fear is that we are in for long-term systemic unemployment, which has happened in European countries. The administration appears to have no new economic ideas.
Alan Haberman, who ushered in the bar code, which has revolutionized supermarket checkouts, has died at 81, The New York Times reports. Here is his gravestone:
You didn't think I could resist that, did you?
FLAVOR OF THE WEEK – AT 7:41 A.M. ET: Next week the flavor will be rich, creamy Huntsman, as in Jon Huntsman, zillionaire businessman and former governor of Utah.
Very few people in America would recognize Huntsman walking down a street. That will change. But what will also change is indifference to him by the press and his opponents. Who is Jon Huntsman? From The Washington Examiner:
The lineup of candidates vying for the Republican presidential nomination includes no one who can claim to be a moderate, but that will change next week when Jon Huntsman jumps into the race.
Huntsman, who was elected twice as governor of Utah and most recently served as President Obama's ambassador to China, plans to announce his presidential bid on Tuesday at Liberty State Park in New Jersey, with the Statue of Liberty towering behind him.
Huntsman chose the same spot where Ronald Reagan stood when he first announced his bid for the presidency more than three decades ago. Huntsman once served as an aide in the Reagan White House, but he is hardly a disciple of the late conservative icon. Huntsman is far more of a centrist on some social and environmental issues, which will distinguish him from the rest of the GOP field but will perhaps make his quest for the Republican nomination more difficult.
Yes, and the fact that he served as Obama's ambassador to China won't help him either. You can already hear the cry "RINO" (Republican in Name Only.)
And there's other trouble brewing. The opposition research has started. As The LA. Times reports, there are some issues that Huntsman will have to confront:
Bloomberg News has an item Wednesday detailing how Huntsman Corp., the company Huntsman's father founded and where Huntsman once worked as a top executive, raked in revenue in China during Huntsman's tenure there as President Obama's ambassador. China's economic might, and the issue of outsourcing jobs to Asia, promises to be a pressing topic during next year's campaign.
At the same time, the Associated Press reported that Huntsman Corp. recently paid $33 million to settle a price-fixing case -- while not admitting to any wrongdoing. While Huntsman worked for the chemical company during the period relevant to the lawsuit, the company said he wasn't involved in the suit in any way.
One of Huntsman's arguments for the GOP nomination will be his work in private enterprise as a job-creator. But the two articles illustrate the political risk that also comes with being associated so closely with an international conglomerate at a time when many Americans are struggling economically.
And like his rival Mitt Romney, Huntsman, by virtue of his family, has no up-by-the-bootstraps narrative to tell about a humble upbringing.
COMMENT: Welcome to national politics, Jon. I hope you haven't posted any photos on the internet.
OBAMA SLIPS IN NEW POLL – AT 7:20 A.M. ET: Gallup is reporting more erosion in the president's poll numbers, consistent with the findings of other polls:
PRINCETON, NJ -- President Obama's job approval rating averaged 46% for the week ending June 12, a significant decline from his weekly averages for most of May and nearly back to the level before Osama bin Laden's death on May 1.
Thus, it appears the sustained rally in support for the president after the death of the Sept. 11 terror mastermind is largely over. The drop in Obama's approval rating coincides with an increase in Americans' pessimism about the economy. Economic confidence also increased after bin Laden's death but began to decline early this month, perhaps due to reports of anemic job growth and concerns about the slow pace of economic recovery.
Among partisan groups, independents' approval rating of Obama dropped the most in the past week, from 47% to 42%, with a smaller decline among Democrats. Republicans' approval of Obama spiked to 21% during the first week after bin Laden's death from 10% in late April, before falling back to the 15% range, where it has held since.
COMMENT: We should not assume that the president's numbers will stay down. Any spurt upward in the economy will help him, as will kookiness in the Republican Party. As we said last night regarding another poll, it is very early in the game. While the president's numbers are weak, they are not impossible. The Obama campaign will spend hundreds of millions on ads, and they will have mighty help from media. This race is not in anyone's bag.
PERSONNEL NEWS – AT 6:09 A.M. ET: Al Qaeda has a new chief. From Fox:
CAIRO -- Al-Qaida's longtime No. 2 leader, a doctor from a prominent Egyptian family who worked with Osama bin Laden for decades, has succeeded the slain terrorist as head of the global network, the group said Thursday.
"A doctor from a prominent Egyptian family..." Certainly gives the lie to the leftist babble that terrorists are downtrodden souls struggling to overcome poverty, oppression and lack of Netflix subscriptions.
Ayman al-Zawahri, who turns 60 on Sunday, has long brought ideological fire, tactics and organizational skills to al-Qaida. The surgeon by training has promoted the use of suicide bombings and independent terror cells that have become the network's trademarks.
He is believed to be living somewhere near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and has appeared in dozens of videos and audiotapes in recent years, increasingly becoming the face of al-Qaida as bin Laden kept a lower profile.
The two terror leaders first crossed paths in the late 1980s in the caves of Afghanistan, where al-Zawahri reportedly provided medical treatment to bin Laden and other Islamic fighters battling Soviet forces. Their alliance would develop years later into the al-Qaida terror network blamed for America's worst terror attack in its history.
In a videotaped eulogy released earlier this month, al-Zawahri warned that America still faces an international community of Muslims that seek to destroy it.
COMMENT: There is no word yet on salary and benefits, or use of the company plane. But he does get the corner cave and a golden suicide belt, should he be eased out.
"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
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