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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MAY 13, 2011
A PROPER PROBE – AT 11:53 P.M. ET: This is the kind of thing that drives citizens nuts. The appearances here are just awful. From The Hill:
House members in both parties are concerned about the decision by FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker to leave the agency for Comcast/NBC Universal.
Baker's decision has prompted questions on whether she was considering that post while reviewing the Comcast merger, which she voted to approve. She has denied any overlap between the review and her discussions with Comcast, and has stated that she followed ethics rules.
The House Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), has the development on its radar.
"We’re aware of the situation and we’ll continue to monitor it,” a spokeswoman told The Hill.
Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), a member of the Energy and Commerce panel, says Congress needs more answers on the issue.
"There are a lot of questions. It just looks horrible. It looks really bad. I can't believe someone would be so blind to that perception," said Robert Kellar, Inslee's communications director.
He said Inslee will seek further answers, and will review the rules governing the "revolving door" between industry and government.
COMMENT: What shocks us is the blatancy of the thing. Clearly, appearances just don't count for some people, or some corporations, as long as the money is good. I'm glad that Republicans as well as Democrats are angered by this, and that the GOP isn't blindly and blandly lamenting federal intervention. The FCC is a federal panel, funded by Congressional action. A probe into its integrity is in order.
May 13, 2011 Permalink
MEN OF VISION, MEN OF DISCOVERY, MEN OF...WHAT'S THIS? – AT 11:05 P.M. ET: What is a scientist to do when his arguments run into trouble, and people actually ask serious questions? The answer is clear, modern, intellectual. From The Hill:
Climate scientists have been criticized for not being able to clearly articulate to the general public the effects of climate change on the planet. Well, a group of Australian climate scientists is hoping to change that.
It's written a rap and starred in a music video about the harms caused by climate change.
Here's a taste of the rap:
"Climate change is caused by people/ Earth, unlike 'Alien,' has no sequel."
"Denialists deny this, in your dreams/ Because climate change means more extremes."
COMMENT: Well, we can be thankful for the fact that they became scientists and not lyricists. Our ears are healthier for it.
As for their frustration, maybe the problem doesn't lie in communications skills but in scientific skills. Serious people are asking serious questions for a reason – that they have serious doubts about "climate change," and those doubts are reinforced by the opinions of a number of first-class scientists.
But when you can't win the argument, just sing. Hey man, it's cool.
May 13, 2011 Permalink
MITCH DANIELS – IS HE MARIO CUOMO II? – AT 11:14 A.M. ET: Former Governor Mario Cuomo of New York became famous for his Hamlet act. He was endlessly deciding whether to run for president. Finally, when people were bored with him, he decided against it, thus giving up a sure pool of about six votes.
I'm afraid Republican Governor of Mitch Daniels is beginning to look like Cuomo II. Will he or won't he? It's an interesting question...for about two weeks. After that it becomes a bore, and it's becoming a bore. A candidate burns up his good will while endlessly "deciding." People have a right to ask: If he's this hesitant, why would we want him as president? From The Politico:
INDIANAPOLIS –It’s becoming a recurring pattern: the more supporters of Mitch Daniels attempt to pump him up, the less he appears to want to run for president.
At a state Republican Party dinner here Thursday night, Daniels backers thronged a hotel ballroom, waved signs that read “Run Mitch Run,” and rose to their feet to chant the same after watching a slickly-produced video extolling the two-term Indiana governor’s accomplishments.
Cue the cold shower.
Talking to reporters after over a thousand of his fellow Hoosiers beseeched him to get in the race, Daniels praised the current GOP presidential field and said he could easily back any number of them.
He also suggested he could find another way to give back without being in the White House, and channeled one-time presidential hopeful Haley Barbour about the grim long-term implications of a run.
“You have to decide if this is really the way you want to spend maybe the rest of your life, and is it the right thing for your family,” explained the governor.
Whatever he decides, Republicans want Daniels to make up his mind soon. After months of hoping fervently that he would come to the rescue of a party establishment casting about for an alternative to Mitt Romney, GOP insiders are beginning to grumble about the governor’s Hoosier Hamlet routine.
And I don't blame them. There are now reports that Daniels's wife is against a run, and that Laura Bush called her to encourage her to give more support to Mitch's possible presidential aspirations. When you have to start doing that...
Daniels has been a superior governor. As a national candidate, though, he may well have some severe limitations. His speaking style cures all cases of insomnia. He often starts drifting into philosophy and questioning almost everything. And he really has no foreign policy, except possibly the relationship between Indiana and Illinois. Besides, he looks as if he weights about 130 pounds and could use a second helping of mama's home stew.
A Daniels candidacy might work if America is fascinated by an eccentric who may not even want the job, and whose wife might prefer to live in a tent. The country would probably have a solid president, if an unusual one.
May 13, 2011 Permalink
TRULY DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES – AT 9:11 A.M. ET: The United States was granted limited access to some of the wives of bin Laden – what a great TV series – and Andrew Malcolm of the L. A. Times's Top of the Ticket log has a solid report, with an appropriate bit of irony:
Americans question 3 Osama bin Laden widows, but they are reported openly hostile for some reason...
...The trio of females with a range of assorted children were living together in the million-dollar Bin Laden housing compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan...
...CNN is reporting that American intelligence officers were finally permitted to question the three women Thursday. But only in the presence of Pakistani intelligence officials and only with the three women together.
Standard interrogation procedures would involve questioning the women separately to acquire, compare and contrast details of their stories and play them off against each other. The presence of Pakistani intelligence operatives would likely inhibit the spilling of any details on how they might have been protecting the world's most wanted man living near the country's main military academy.
Bin Laden actually had at least 20 children with his five wives, but he was separated from two of the spouses. One of Bin Laden's sons was killed in the SEAL raid. Bin Laden himself came from an extended family of 53 siblings from 23 women married to his father.
COMMENT: Remember, we must respect the culture. I wonder if they allow one wife with 23 husbands. No, no, I didn't ask that.
The Pakistanis are not being cooperative. They've been playing a double game, and Pakistan, for a variety of reasons, seems to be sinking deeper and deeper into extremism.
And yet, President Obama is expected to renew his "outreach" to the Muslim world next week, in a major speech. His first "outreach" campaign, launched by a speech in Cairo, has been a colossal failure, and it occurred at a time when Obama still had a glowing international reputation. Now, his image in the Muslim world tarnished by his need to be an actual president of the United States, and not a "citizen of the world," Obama tries still one more outreach. Give me odds on the chances for success.
May 13, 2011 Permalink
HONORING BIN LADEN – AT 8:53 A.M. ET: The first act of retaliation has been launched, avenging the death of Osama bin Laden. From WaPo:
SHABQADAR, Pakistan — Twin suicide bombings outside a paramilitary training center in Pakistan’s northwest killed least 80 people early Friday, in what appeared to be militants’ first major retaliatory attack since the death of Osama bin Laden.
The massive explosions targeted new recruits for Pakistan’s Frontier Constabulary in Charsadda district, about an hour’s drive from the capital, Islamabad. The recruits had just finished morning prayers and were boarding buses that would take them on home leave, said Jehanzeb Khan, a senior police officer in Charsadda.
The Pakistani Taliban, a homegrown offshoot of the Afghan militant group, said it had carried out the attack to avenge bin Laden’s killing by U.S. commandos, according to news services.
Pakistanis already have condemned the U.S. raid as an embarrassing violation of territorial sovereignty, and the death of scores of Pakistanis in an apparent attempt at retaliation could result in even more anti-U.S. sentiment here.
“This was the first revenge for Osama’s martyrdom. Wait for bigger attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, said by telephone, according to Agence France-Presse.
COMMENT: Of course, we must not judge. We must respect their culture and their narrative.
This is murder, plain and simple. It reminds us that, despite the death of bin Laden, there are devoted followers of him and other terror leaders all over the world. We should recall that, despite the complete defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, unrepentant Nazis sailed on, a number sneaking their way in to Latin America through a route known as the rat line. Among them were Adolf Eichmann, who organized the Holocaust, and Josef Mengele, the "angel of death" of Auschwitz.
The war on terror was never about the killing or capture of one man. It was and is about a body of ideas. Those ideas are still out there, and there are too many people on our side, and especially in Europe, who have no problem overlooking that fact, and accommodating themselves to a dark reality through verbal gymnastics. No, it isn't just another culture. And no, they don't have "legitimate grievances" based on "poverty, ignorance and disease."
In 1939, on the eve of World War II, there were plenty of people who regarded Hitler's "Mein Kampf" as the early rantings of an immature young man, written many years before. They were wrong. Hitler meant it. Al Qaeda means it, too.
May 13, 2011 Permalink
BUT THEY'RE SO INTELLECTUAL AND SOPHISTICATED – San Francisco once again pledges allegiance to...well, you'll figure it out. From Fox:
U.S. automakers are having a banner year in 2011. Sales are up and so are profits. And they’re doing it without much help from the city of San Francisco.
On April 29, the last domestic car dealership within city limits, San Francisco Ford Lincoln, closed its showroom doors and began winding down its repair and service operations, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Business had fallen off so much over the past few years that Ford Motor Co. itself had taken over the operation from its previous owner, but even support from the mother ship couldn’t keep it afloat.
Foreign automakers, including BMW, Honda, Scion and Smart, all continue to run what appear to be thriving dealerships in the area, as San Franciscans increasingly pledge their allegiance to import brands. Even the site of the last General Motors dealership to shut down in the city -- Ellis Brooks Chevrolet – is soon to be the home of a new mega-showroom for Nissan/Infiniti.
COMMENT: I wonder if the San Fran crowd knows that many of those "foreign" cars it prefers – much better dinner table conversation – are actually made in the American South by non-union labor. When they find out, will they boycott their cars? Become Freedom Riders again? Import directly from beloved countries like the People's Republic of China?
Stay tuned. There may be a moral crisis coming in San Francisco. First in its history.
May 13, 2011 Permalink
MAY 12, 2011
THE OTHER SIDE OF BRITAIN – AT 10:52 P.M. ET: Americans love the heroic side of Britain – Winston Churchill, the Battle of Britain, even the fictional James Bond. They don't much like, or care about, the other side – the appeasers, the apologists for evil, the anti-Americans, the politically correct loons.
British historian Andrew Roberts, pro-American and pro-Churchill, is outraged at the reaction of some of his countrymen to the biological disruption of Osama bin Laden, and he is right. Sadly, the killing of bin Laden brought out some of the ugly old anti-Americanism in the lesser side of Britain. From The Wall Street Journal:
I never thought I'd say this, especially less than a fortnight after the Royal Wedding, but my countrymen's reactions to the death of Osama bin Laden have made me doubt my pride in being British.
The foul outpouring of sneering anti-Americanism, legalistic quibbling, and concern for the supposed human rights of our modern Hitler have left me squirming in embarrassment and apology before my American friends. Yet what I most despise my fellow Britons for is their absolute refusal, publicly or even privately, to celebrate the most longed-for news in a decade...
....The idea that bin Laden was retreating to his bedroom in order to give himself up and ask the details of his Miranda rights is risible. Yet Britons utterly refuse to obey the natural instincts of the free-born to celebrate the death of a tyrant.
When the Mets-Phillies baseball game erupted into cheers on hearing the wonderful news, or the crowds chanted "USA! USA!" outside the White House, they were manifesting the finest emotional responses of a great people. By total contrast, when Douglas Murray, the associate director of the Henry Jackson Society, told the BBC's flagship program "Question Time" last Thursday that he felt "elated" at the news, he was booed, heckled and almost shouted down.
There was the lady at a cocktail party who told me "It's those gun-toting Yanks at it again." There was my son's classics teacher informing his young charges that he thought bin Laden deserved the "dignity" of a fair trial. And there was the letter about the U.S. celebrations to the conservative-leaning Daily Telegraph stating that terrorist cells "will be further fuelled by those inappropriate reactions by people who should have known better." How? How, Ms. Tess Hyland of Bathurst, could al Qaeda possibly hate us more than they do already?
For the past five years, I've been writing a history of the Second World War, and if there is one central lesson I have taken from this study, it is that the intestinal fortitude of a people matters much more than weaponry, economics or even grand strategy...
...From Britain's pathetic and ignoble reaction to the death of our greatest ally's No.1 foe, I fear for our fortitude in the continuing war against terror. The British government in London and the British Army in Afghanistan are magnificent, but if the people themselves are shot through with what Winston Churchill called "the long, drawling, dismal tides of drift and surrender," I wonder whether we can be counted upon for much longer.
As a commentator on the Royal Wedding for NBC, I was filled with pride in my country for the precision-timing and perfect step of the Household Division, the fine behavior of the crowds, and the charm and personability of the young couple. Today all I feel is shame at my country's pathetic reaction to your own great day of joy.
COMMENT: Read the whole thing. It's well worth it, and a warning of what we can become if the left wing wins the American battle of ideas. Frankly, I think we have too much common sense for that.
May 12, 2011 Permalink
CAUGHT – AT 9:32 P.M. ET: As readers of Urgent Agenda know, Christiane Amanpour has never won a "woman of the year" award here. I have long felt that she is wildly overrated as a journalist, and her obvious biases damaged CNN in the years she was its chief international correspondent.
But I never thought she'd do something so dumb that it confirmed all the suspicions we have had, and others have had. But she has done thus. A two-part Fox online series on ultra-lib billionaire George Soros and his attempts to influence journalism reveals that Christiane Amanpour sits on the board of Soros organzations:
When liberal investor George Soros gave $1.8 million to National Public Radio , it became part of the firestorm of controversy that jeopardized NPR’s federal funding. But that gift only hints at the widespread influence the controversial billionaire has on the mainstream media. Soros, who spent $27 million trying to defeat President Bush in 2004, has ties to more than 30 mainstream news outlets – including The New York Times, Washington Post, the Associated Press, NBC and ABC.
Prominent journalists like ABC’s Christiane Amanpour and former Washington Post editor and now Vice President Len Downie serve on boards of operations that take Soros cash. This despite the Society of Professional Journalists' ethical code stating: “avoid all conflicts real or perceived.”
The problem is, some of these "journalists" don't see it as a conflict of interest because they think they're working with "the good people," people who want to "make a difference." It's the adolescent mantra of the sixties, brought up to date.
Among Soros front groups is something called the Center for Public Integrity.
Fred Brown, who recently revised the book “Journalism Ethics: A Casebook of Professional Conduct for News Media,” argues journalists need to be “transparent” about their connections and “be up front about your relationship” with those who fund you.
Unfortunately, that rarely happens. While the nonprofits list who sits on their boards, the news outlets they work for make little or no effort to connect those dots. Amanpour’s biography page, for instance, talks about her lengthy career, her time at CNN and her many awards. It makes no mention of her affiliation with the Center for Public Integrity.
If journalists were more up front, they would have to admit numerous uncomfortable connections with groups that push a liberal agenda, many of them funded by the stridently liberal George Soros. So don’t expect that transparency any time soon.
There have always been ethical problems in journalism, but the casualness with which "leading" journalists violate fundamental rules to associate themselves with leftist organizations is deeply disturbing. It ratifies our worst suspicions, and is a terrible example for young journalists.
I'd love to hear Amanpour give an explanation for her extracurricular activities. I'm sure it will be delivered with her over-the-top British accent, which means that many listeners will consider it authoritative.
May 12, 2011 Permalink
OH DEAR LAWD, STOP HIM BEFORE HE SPEAKS AGAIN – AT 9:12 A.M. ET: President Obama, channeling faculty lounges all over America, is about to reveal profound thoughts on the Middle East, unless some wise adviser brings in a pizza and convinces him not to. From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — For President Obama, the killing of Osama bin Laden is more than a milestone in America’s decade-long battle against terrorism. It is a chance to recast his response to the upheaval in the Arab world after a frustrating stretch in which the stalemate in Libya, the murky power struggle in Yemen and the brutal crackdown in Syria have dimmed the glow of the Egyptian revolution.
Oh, you can just see trouble coming.
Administration officials said the president was eager to use Bin Laden’s death as a way to articulate a unified theory about the popular uprisings from Tunisia to Bahrain — movements that have common threads but also disparate features, and have often drawn sharply different responses from the United States.
The first sign of this “reset” could come as early as next week, when Mr. Obama plans to give a speech on the Middle East in which he will seek to put Bin Laden’s death in the context of the region’s broader political transformation.
Another speech that will be obsolete in two days.
Still, although Bin Laden’s killing may provide a rare moment of clarity, it has less obvious implications for American strategic calculations in the region. Some administration officials argue that the heavy blow to Al Qaeda gives the United States the chance to be more forward-leaning on political change because it makes Egypt, Syria and other countries less likely to tip toward Islamic extremism.
But other senior officials note that the Middle East remains a complicated place: the death of Al Qaeda’s leader does not erase the terrorist threat in Yemen, while countries like Bahrain are convulsed by sectarian rivalries that never had much to do with Bin Laden’s radical message. The White House said it was still working through the policy implications country by country.
COMMENT: Continue working, fellas. And, Mr. President, there are times when it's wise to avail yourself of the Constitutional right to remain silent. It's a wonderful right, and it feels so good after you do it, and review the speech you almost gave.
May 12, 2011 Permalink
BARONE PUNCTURES ROMNEY – AT 8:45 A.M. ET: Politicians strive for "inevitability," to win by presenting themselves as the inevitable candidate. Mitt Romney is doing that right now, and much of the media describes him as the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination. Michael Barone continues to insist that Romney is not. From the Washington Examiner:
In the realclearpolitics.com average of recent polls Romney gets 16.6% and Mike Huckabee 16.4%. They’re followed by Donald Trump with 12.9%, Sarah Palin with 10.6%, Newt Gingrich with 7.7%, etc. In polls conducted in April and May Romney gets between 11% and 19%. The way I read it he’s a contender, not a front-runner. And not necessarily a strong contender: with greater name recognition than some other potential candidates he's not running far ahead of them.
But wasn’t he the runner-up in the 2008 race for the Republican nomination, and don’t Republicans always nominate the candidate who was the runner-up last time? The answer to both questions is, not necessarily. Romney got more voters than any other candidate except John McCain in the 2008 Republican caucuses and primaries. But it wasn’t a close second: McCain got 42%, Romney got 21% and Mike Huckabee got 20%. And Huckabee actually got quite a lot more delegates (270) than Romney (189). So much for the idea that Romney was the clear runner-up.
What about the tendency of docile, order-obsessed Republicans always voting for the candidate next in line? Well, I suppose the stereotype has some basis in fact. But, as I wrote in my April 26 Examiner column, there are only six cases since something like the current nominating system came into place in the 1970s of the Republicans nominating the next guy in line. And in all of these cases, I would argue, the nominee won because of other much more important factors or the nominee’s win was a very close run thing.
COMMENT: I'm inclined to agree. What's more, none of the candidates mentioned by the Great Mentioner inspire much enthusiasm. Have you sensed a "wanting" of Mitt, of Huck, even of Sarah? Are their portraits adorning the walls of fanatical supporters? Well, maybe Sarah gets some pictures posted, but that's about it.
It is early in the game. Despite pressure to declare candidacy at least three decades before the election, there is still time for new people to emerge. Beating Obama will be hard. He is a superb campaigner, if nothing else. Let's look at our bench.
May 12, 2011 Permalink
NEWT IS IN – AT 8:33 A.M. ET: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will be running for the GOP nomination for president. Does he have any chance? Ace political reporter Dan Balz examines the Newt thing for the Washington Post:
There are many questions he will confront. Gingrich is an idea-spewing machine, unlike anyone else in the Republican Party. But does America want a one-man think tank, particularly one with his history, as its president?
Is he yesterday’s man at a time when Republicans may want a fresh face? A number of GOP strategists think his time has passed, though he obviously does not and looks to history for inspiration.
Is he professionally disciplined enough to be a successful presidential candidate? His record in public life suggests otherwise. He vows this will be different.
Will his personal life — multiple marriages and an admission of adultery — prove disqualifying to social conservatives? Many think it will. His hope is that Americans like stories of confession and redemption.
Gingrich says that he has learned from his mistakes, that he begins this campaign in a different frame of mind. He claims he will listen to those around him, including some of his newest advisers. He says he will take seriously the advice he receives from others. If that turns out to be true, it will mark a distinct change in his modus operandi.
His announcement stressed his work with President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and his accomplishments when he was speaker during the 1990s (though with no mention of the work he did in cooperation with President Bill Clinton).
COMMENT: I think this is a rather "iffy" proposition. I love listening to Newt. He is, as Dan Balz wrote, an idea factory. But the opposition research on him is easy, and he was forced from the speakership on ethics charges. Yes, it's true, other politicians have come back from the dead. Winston Churchill was the political corpse who went on to lead England through World War II. Nixon was the subject of endless political obituaries in the early 60s, but won the presidency in 1968.
But this is the glaring media age, and things move very quickly. I think it's a long shot for Newt, but he'll add some color and intellect to the race.
May 12, 2011 Permalink
ON GUARD – AT 8:24 A.M. ET: There's a tendency to think that large cities are Al Qaeda's only targets in the United States. Material gleaned from the bin Laden raid rejects that notion. From AP:
Deep in hiding, his terror organization becoming battered and fragmented, Osama bin Laden kept pressing followers to find new ways to hit the U.S., officials say, citing his private journal and other documents recovered in last week's raid.
Strike smaller cities, bin Laden suggested. Target trains as well as planes. Above all, kill as many Americans as possible in a single attack.
Though he was out of the public eye and al-Qaida seemed to be weakening, bin Laden never yielded control of his worldwide organization, U.S. officials said Wednesday. His personal, handwritten journal and his massive collection of computer files reveal his hand at work in every recent major al-Qaida threat, including plots in Europe last year that had travelers and embassies on high alert, two officials said.
They described the intelligence only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about what was found in bin Laden's hideout. Analysts are continuing to review the documents.
The information shatters the government's conventional thinking about bin Laden, who had been regarded for years as mostly an inspirational figurehead whose years in hiding made him too marginalized to maintain operational control of the organization he founded.
Conventional thinking, like loose lips, sinks ships. It is absurd to think that Al Qaeda and its followers have gone into remission, just as it's absurd to think they don't look at new types of targets all the time. And please note, up to now the Islamic extremists have only been able to use conventional weapons. There will simply be a point where they acquire the skills to use WMD of some kind, even a simple biological weapon.
There are drumbeats on the left suggesting that the war on terror is over. It is not over because it is part of what President Kennedy correctly termed "the twilight struggle." We had the patience to serve out the Cold War. The sixties generation never had the patience for anything. But we will depend on a new generation of Americans, just rising, to see us through. Based on some early signs, like student support for ROTC on elite campuses, we have some reason for guarded optimism.
May 12, 2011 Permalink