On Tibet, Cuba, the Press, the Veepstakes, and the Dollar

Ross Mackenzie

4/3/2008 1:14:59 PM - Ross Mackenzie

Really, other things are happening besides the race for the White House. Herewith, a roundup of items devoid (almost) of politics . . .

Authorities have lit the Olympic torch and will run it around the world — winding up this summer at opening ceremonies in Beijing. Yet in Tibet the forces of freedom have made clear their sentiments about enslavement by a Chinese Communist regime that terrorizes Tibetans to force compliance in every aspect of daily life. In hosting the Olympics to display its arrival at the table of civilized nations, China has picked the scab on the repression whereby it rules not only Tibet but all of mainland China.

Next to Islamofascism, China poses the most severe long-term threat to American security. Yet we persist in underfunding the U.S. military. Most Reserve and National Guard units are significantly depleted. Nearly all manpower components, active-duty and reserve, are deemed deficient in combat readiness. Major new programs face cutbacks if not cancellation. And the administration — this conservative, pro-military administration — has submitted a stay-the-course defense budget for fiscal 2009 and anticipates the base budget will decline thereafter. Imagine the consequences for the nation in this realm alone with the installation of an Obama or Clinton administration next year.

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Two polls say much about contemporary journalism. (1) While 36 percent of the general population describe themselves as conservative or very conservative, the Project for Excellence in Journalism finds just 8 percent of reporters, editors and producers from major radio and television networks, daily newspapers, news wires and online sources give themselves those labels — contrasting with 32 percent in such positions terming themselves liberal or very liberal. (2) A Zogby Interactive poll finds 48 percent of the populace getting their news from the Internet, 29 percent from television, 11 percent from radio, and just 10 percent from newspapers.

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And books? People aren’t reading many of them either. A Wall Street Journal news story about relentlessly declining retail book sales says the book industry faces “unmitigated gloom.”

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Then there’s the U.S. economic scene. We read or hear of — let’s see: recession, a bear market, Bear Stearns and illiquid investment banks, a credit crunch, Treasury bond shortages, inflation-inducing cuts in interest rates, surging prices (agricultural commodities, oil, and gold), and unpredictability in what has been deemed increasingly a predictable “science” of monetary policy. Perhaps the worst continuing problem? Dollar devaluation and flight into foreign currencies. The worst suggested remedy? Tax increases. The best? Three words: Stabilize the dollar. Do that, and good things will follow.

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Just as, in the discussion of illegal immigration, the crucial task consists in just three words: Seal the borders.

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Here’s the latest line on vice-presidential selections. On the Democratic side it still could be Hillary Clinton (for Barack Obama), or Obama (for Clinton). Other possibles (for both): Al Gore or John Edwards of course, or — an increasing likelihood — retired NATO commander and (four years ago) Democratic presidential wannabe Wesley Clark. Yet notable among many problems for Clark are his two failed stints in the private sector — one as a director of Viaspace for just two weeks in 2006, the other as chairman of Summit Global Logistics after the company’s stock fell 60 percent and its losses rose 10,000 percent in a single year.

For John McCain, these names present themselves: Joe Lieberman, Mike Huckabee, Mark Sanford, Haley Barbour, Tim Pawlenty, Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, George Allen and Tom Ridge — all probably fatally flawed. Seemingly less flawed are former U.S. Rep. O.J. Watts and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. Mitt Romney might remain in the running. Perhaps the strongest possibilities: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, former congressmen Jack Kemp and Newt Gingrich, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

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Cuba has had cell phone service since 1991 — principally for Communist Party cadres. Now party boss Raul Castro has lifted bans on ownership by the masses, though he has not lifted free-speech limits on those who use them. Notably, Comrade Raul has retained strict restraints on access to the Internet. And most Cubans earn so little they could not possibly afford a cell phone anyway — let alone a computer. Thus does freedom advance in Raul’s (and brother Fidel’s) island-wide concentration camp.

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Oh. And another word from Cuba: Philip Agee is dead. Agee concluded a 12-year career in the CIA in 1969. In 1975, he wrote a book containing 22 pages of names of CIA undercover agents, many of whom Communist henchmen subsequently rubbed out. In his devastating “Sword and the Shield,” former Soviet secret police (KGB) librarian Vasili Mitrokhin said Agee provided the KGB with extensive information harmful to the West — especially about Latin America. Now, at 72, Agee has left the scene. Good riddance.