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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I appeared on Silvio Canto Jr's talk show from Dallas yesterday. It's here.
MARCH 10, 2014
OBAMA'S MIND – QUOTE OF THE DAY – AT 10:52 A.M. ET: A number of columns recently, some by liberals, have questioned the way Obama views things. The most talked about was a stunning Washington Post editorial asserting that the president lives in a fantasy world. Now Ron Fournier of National Journal says that Obama is blinded by righteousness:
Days before Vladimir Putin's troops invaded Ukraine, National Security Adviser Susan Rice dismissed suggestions that Russia was about to pounce. "It's in nobody's interest," she said. Days later, President Obama declared the invasion to be illegal. "In 2014," he said, "we are well beyond the days when borders can be drawn over the heads of democratic leaders."
Two things strike me about those quotes. First, they were right. From the viewpoint of the United States and its allies, invading Crimea made no sense, legally or strategically. Second, it didn't matter: Putin plays by his own set of rules, and it's dangerously naive not to realize that.
Ukraine is illustrative of a flaw in Obama's worldview that consistently undermines his agenda, both foreign and domestic. He thinks being right is good enough. From fights with Congress over the federal budget and his nominations, to gun control, immigration reform, health care, and Syria, the president displays tunnel-vision conviction, an almost blinding righteousness. I'm right. They're wrong. Why isn't that enough?
With such certitude, Obama finds it hard to see why anybody would oppose him, which makes it almost impossible to earn new allies. He's also slow to realize when some fault lies with him. The result is Obama's legacy of "Right, but …" moments.
COMMENT: Well said. Obama is not a president. He's an observer. He doesn't know how to do things. He might have been happier as an editorial writer on a newspaper. And we'll have him for three more years.
UKRAINE LATEST – AT 10:21 A.M. ET: Former Secretary of State James Baker correctly said a few days ago that Ukraine represented a new Cold War. Former Defense Secretary Bob Gates said that, given Ukraine, we should not be cutting our defenses. I doubt if either man will be listened to in the Obama vacation White House. The Ukraine crisis is not easing. From AFP:
Kiev (AFP) - Ukraine sought urgent Western backing on Monday after Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted that Crimea had the right to join his country even while hinting at a readiness for dialogue.
The self-declared leadership on the predominantly ethnic Russian peninsula of Crimea has proclaimed independence from Kiev and set a March 16 referendum on switching over to Kremlin rule.
The decision has been condemned by Western powers who are also furious at Moscow's seizure of Crimea in a lightning but bloodless operation that began days after the February 22 fall and subsequent escape to Russia of president Viktor Yanukovych.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel -- whose cautious approach to imposing sanctions on Russia has clashed with the more hawkish positions of Eastern European nations and the United States -- bluntly told Putin on Sunday that the Crimean referendum was "illegal."
"The United States is not prepared to recognise any result of the so-called referendum," US ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt told reporters in Kiev on Monday.
The most explosive East-West crisis since the Cold War was stoked further when the Kremlin said Putin told both Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron that he fully recognised the actions of Crimea's leaders -- in power since an end of February seizure of the local parliament and government by pro-Kremlin gunmen.
But Merkel's office also said Putin had promised to discuss with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday the creation of an "international contact group" on Ukraine that he had resisted before.
Germany is pushing the group's creation as a way of avoiding a full-fledged war breaking out on the eastern edge of Europe that would see Ukraine call for Western help against its nuclear-armed neighbour.
COMMENT: My own sense is that Putin is maneuvering to run out the clock – simply have conferences, "dialogue," and all that other stuff, while cementing Russia's hold over Crimea and its influence over Ukraine. Everyone could say they tried hard and avoided war, but we'd still have 1938 all over again.
On the other hand, Putin could blunder, see weakness in Washington, and try for a direct military grab of territory.
This is a tinderbox. An accidental clash, or some bloody demonstration, could throw all calculations into that well-known dustbin of history.
DOESN'T OBAMA HAVE A GULAG FOR VOICES LIKE THIS? – AT 9:10 A.M. ET: Yessirree, Obama and his legions are for the working man. Regular folks. But wait a minute? How has the working man or woman gained from this administration? People are asking questions. The Obamans will not like the answers. From Fox:
A new report from a major U.S. union says ObamaCare will hasten income inequality.
Although it defends the intent behind the Affordable Care Act, the report, entitled “The Irony of ObamaCare: Making inequality worse,” concludes that the law will transfer a billion dollars in wealth to insurance companies, uneven the playing field in the market, force employers to cut back on hours and result in pay decreases, Ralston Reports said.
“The promise of Obamacare was the right one and the hope for extending healthcare coverage to the un-and under-insured a step in the right direction,” the report says. “Yet the unintended consequences will hit the average, hard-working American where it hurts: in the wallet.”
The document was put out by Unite Here, a hospitality industry union representing workers in the U.S. and Canada. The union of nearly 300,000 has been critical of the health law before.
The report says it’s “ironic” that the Obama administration is publicly discussing income inequality though it has yet to make the changes to ObamaCare that Unite Here believes are necessary to avoid exacerbating income disparity.
“Having already made efforts to accommodate businesses, churches and congressional staff, it is ironic that the administration is now highlighting issues of economic inequality without acting to preserve health plans that have been achieving the goals of the ACA for decades,” the report concludes. “Without a smart fix, the ACA will heighten the inequality that the Administration seeks to reduce … We cannot sit idly by as the politicians carve up our health plans while they carve out exceptions for themselves and every special interest feeding at the trough in Washington.”
COMMENT: There was a time when it could be reasonably argued that the Democratic Party was the working person's party. But today it's a party run by elitists who hand down their edicts and believe they know what's best for people they've never met. So it's not shocking that the party's signature "achievement," Obamacare, is actually hurting the very people it is presumably designed to help.
Will Democrats listen? I think some in Congress and in the states will. But the Obamans listen to no one except themselves. They get their tone, their approach, from the man at the top.
THE AIRLINER – AT 8:52 A.M. ET: The conspiracy theories are all over the place. The evidence is not. Incredibly, no sign of the Malaysian airliner has been found. The earlier reports of wreckage sightings have been discredited. From CNN:
(CNN) -- Despite the efforts of 34 planes, 40 ships and search crews from 10 countries, officials have not found any sign of a Malaysia Airlines flight that went missing nearly three days ago.
"Unfortunately, ladies and gentlemen, we have not found anything that appear to be objects from the aircraft, let alone the aircraft," Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director general of the Malaysian civil aviation department, told reporters Monday.
So the mysteries surrounding Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 -- and the true identities of some of its passengers -- remain unsolved.
Rahman discounted media reports that a plane door had been spotted.
"That report was not verified officially by the Vietnamese authorities," he said.
Another report said the plane's tail had been found. That, too, is untrue, he said.
The only lead investigators had -- an oil slick that a Vietnamese plane spotted 90 miles south of Vietnam's Tho Chu Island in the Gulf of Thailand -- turned out to be a dead end, too.
A sample from the slick showed it was bunker oil, which is typically used to power large cargo ships, and not aircraft oil, Malaysia's state new agency, Bernama, reported Monday. The agency cited the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency's eastern regional enforcement chief, Datuk Nasir Adam.
No emergency signal has been detected by any search vessel or aircraft. And family members of passengers are being told to prepare for the worst.
COMMENT: We now learn that several passengers – the number is variously reported as four or five – checked in for the flight, but never boarded. We already know that several passengers were flying under false passports.
But it's all speculation and theory. One "expert" is trying to compare the incident to the Lockerbie bombing of PanAm 103. But that plane came down on land, and evidence was immediately available.
Unless some conspiracy is unmasked by law enforcement, we may never learn anything until the plane is found. If it is found. Absolutely tragic and intriguing.
SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 11:46 A.M. ET:
NOTEWORTHY PASSING – From Fox: "Genean Hixon, whose breakthrough treatment with penicillin at age 12 during World War II led to modern medical practices, died March 1 two days short of her 83rd birthday, the Denver Post reported. Hixon died of liver cancer, which was diagnosed in December. Hixon was hospitalized on July 24, 1943, with severe osteomyelitis — a bone disease that at the time was seemingly incurable and potentially fatal. She became one of the first American civilians to be treated with a 'mysterious miracle drug' – known now as penicillin -- and the Denver Post reported on her treatment in a series of articles." Didn't know the story. Now I do.
GOOD MOVE – From the Washington Examiner: "Republican National Committee data operatives will build a list of the millions of Americans who have lost insurance policies due to Obamacare in order to help their candidates win over these voters at the ballot box in 2014 and 2016. 'Getting that information [on plan cancellations] and having good data as to who votes, who doesn't vote, voter registration, party affiliation, consumer characteristics, cross-referenced with that kind of information, I think, is important for us to have,' Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told the Washington Examiner after his CPAC panel presentation Saturday morning." Maybe the party is starting to move into the 21st century. Cheers!
TALK ABOUT OPPORTUNISTS – From The Hill: "Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (D) said Sunday that President Obama’s controversial healthcare law has been 'great' for residents of his state. Crist has sharply criticized the healthcare law in the past. But the former Republican governor and 2008 GOP vice-presidential short-lister is running for his old post this year as a Democrat. Crist said during an appearance on CNN’s 'State of the Union' that he would have no problem running on the healthcare bill, which is known colloquially as ObamaCare, as he seeks to regain his former office. 'I don’t think so at all' Crist said when he was asked if the healthcare law was hurting Florida citizens, especially seniors, as Republicans have alleged." A perfect example of no class.
TEMPORARY PORTRAIT OF A GENERATION – AT 11:14 A.M. ET: There's a new study of the "millennial" generation. Interesting stuff, but read with caution. From ABC:
Most of America's young adults are single, don't go to church and while half say they have no loyalty to a political party, when pushed they tend to swing further left politically than those before them.
A new Pew Research Center survey out Friday showed that half of America's young adults, ages 18 to 33, consider themselves political independents, identifying with neither party. But asked which way they lean politically, half of the so-called millennials say they lean toward the Democratic Party, the highest share for any age group over the last decade.
In addition, young adults seem to be turning away from their predecessors' proclivity for religion and marriage. Almost two-thirds don't classify themselves as "a religious person." And when it comes to tying the knot: Only about 1 in 4 millennials is married. Almost half of baby boomers were married at that age.
The new survey shows how the millennial adults are "forging a distinctive path into adulthood," said Paul Taylor, Pew's executive vice president and co-author of the report.
This can especially be seen when it comes to politics. Only 27 percent said they consider themselves Democrats and 17 percent said Republicans. The half of millennials who say they are independent is an increase from 38 percent back in 2004.
"It's not that they don't have strong opinions, political opinions, they do," Taylor said. "It's simply that they choose not to identify themselves with either political party."
The number of self-described independents is lower among their predecessors. Only 39 percent of those in Generation X said they were independents, along with 37 percent of the boomers and 32 percent of the Silent Generation.
Pew describes Gen Xers as those from age 34-49, boomers as 50-68 and the Silent Generation as those 69-86.
When the self-identified Democratic millennials are combined with the self-described independents who lean Democratic, half — 50 percent — of the millennials are Democrats or Democratic-leaning while 34 percent are Republicans or Republican-leaning.
COMMENT: I wouldn't panic over this. Churchill once said that, if you weren't a liberal at 20, you had to heart, and if you weren't a conservative at 30, you had no head. Young people traditionally are more liberal than the nation, and many change. The boomer generation, which we thought was so radical back in the 60s, turned out to be less so.
Other polls show young people turning against Obama as they realize what he's done, and is doing. They're not a lost cause.
HEAT IN THE EAST – AT 10:32 A.M. ET: As we focus on Ukraine, the heat between China and Japan is rising. This could end badly, especially if there is a miscalculation about the intent of the United States. Reader Joseph J. Gallick refers us to this report from Japan Today:
China said on Saturday that there was no room for compromise with Japan on questions of history and disputed territory, “each inch” of which it would defend from its Asian neighbor.
China’s ties with Japan have long been poisoned by what China sees as Japan’s failure to atone for its occupation of parts of China before and during World War Two.
Beijing’s anger over the past is never far from the surface, and relations have deteriorated sharply over the past 18 months because of a dispute over a chain of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.
“On the two issues of principle, history and territory, there is no room for compromise,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters on the sidelines of China’s annual parliament.
“Only by making a clean break with the past and stop going back on one’s own words can the relationship emerge from the current impasse and have a future,” Wang said, reiterating China’s oft-stated stance.
Ships from both countries shadow each other around the disputed islets, called the Diaoyu in China and the Senkaku in Japan. Tokyo has scrambled jets numerous times in response to Chinese aircraft, raising fears of a clash.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says Japan needs a stronger military to cope with what he calls an increasingly threatening security environment, with a more militarily assertive China and unpredictable North Korea.
Ties between the two Asian rivals worsened when Abe visited Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine on Dec 26, which China sees as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism because it honors wartime leaders along with millions of war dead.
China has increasingly contrasted Germany and its public remorse for the Nazi regime to Japan, where repeated official apologies for wartime suffering are sometimes undercut by contradictory comments by conservative politicians.
COMMENT: Obama says we are "pivoting" from the Mideast to Asia, but his talk isn't taken seriously, especially as he cuts America's defense budget in the face of increasing threats. A rising China is confronted by our ally, Japan, which is led by a nationalistic government. Yet, despite all our pivoting, we don't seem all that interested.
Our South Korean ally is caught in the middle, and I'd guess that the South Korean leadership is sensing American weakness. A reconciliation with North Korea is not out of the question.
Question: Are we winning anywhere? Answers are solicited.
THE AIRLINER – AT 10:20 A.M. ET: They still haven't found the wreckage of that Malaysian airliner that went down Friday with 239 people on board. The mystery deepens with reports that several passengers were traveling with stolen passports. That fact, and the fact that there was no distress call from the cockpit have raised speculation – we stress that it is speculation – that a terrorist action on board may have brought down the plane. But until they find it, no one will know. From Fox:
Interpol says no country checked its database for information about stolen passports that were used to board the Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared with 239 people on board Saturday less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, bound for Beijing.
In a sharply worded criticism of shortcomings of national passport controls, the Lyon, France-based international police body said information about the thefts of an Austrian passport in 2012 and an Italian passport last year was entered into its database after they were stolen in Thailand.
Interpol said in a statement it was investigating all other passports used to board Flight MH 370 and was working to determine the "true identities" of the passengers who used the stolen passports.
The statement came as officials said finding the wreckage of the flight is “the utmost priority."
“There is still no sign of the aircraft,” Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director general of the Department of Civil Aviation, said during a news conference in Kuala Lumpur.
Rahman said that the search area has been increased to 50 nautical miles, from 20, and includes 34 aircraft and 40 ships. Aircraft are conducting 12-hour searches, until sundown, while ships continue the search through the night.
COMMENT: Aviation experts are recalling EgyptAir flight 990, which crashed into the Atlantic off Nantucket in 1999, with a loss of 217 people. Our National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the plane had been intentionally crashed by its first officer, although the Board could determine no specific motive. The officer was heard on the voice cockpit recorder to be mumbling Muslim prayers as he put the airliner into a dive.
But we are speculating. We must wait for answers, if they ever come.
"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.
"Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred. "
- Jacques Barzun
"Against stupidity the gods themselves struggle in vain."
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