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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APRIL 8,  2011

BULLETIN:  BUDGET DEAL REACHED – AT 11:21 P.M. ET:  As expected by everyone who has ever seen a state or local labor negotiation, a deal was reachd just before the midnight deadline to fund the federal government for the next five months.  Notice the difference?  From WaPo:

Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill have reached an agreement that would avert a federal government shutdown, yielding more spending cuts for Republicans while giving Democrats a key win on an issue related to abortion rights, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office announced Friday night.

The deal to fund the federal government for the next five months will include $39 billion in spending cuts and will drop language related to Planned Parenthood. Lawmakers still need to approve a short-term stopgap funding bill before midnight, when the federal government will run out of money and cease operations.

COMMENT:  We don't have any real details just yet.  The spending cuts are pretty minimal, considering the size of the annual deficit and the national debt.  We'll have to do far better than this to avoid a national economic catastrophe.

April 8, 2011      Permalink

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ERUPTION IN SYRIA – AT 8:45 P.M. ET:  Syria is far more important in the Middle East than is Libya.  Syria is simmering.  The government doesn't hesitate to shoot its own citizens in the streets, while the world reacts with remarkable indifference.   I guess some people just have pull.  From London's Telegraph:

Supporters of Syria's president Bashir al-Asad opened fire during fresh protests on Friday killing at least 22 people, as tentative government concessions showed no signs of winning over the opposition.

Witnesses said the worst clashes began after demonstrators marched from three mosques in the southern city of Deraa after Friday prayers.

Security forces in plain clothes fired tear gas then rubber bullets and finally live ammunition on stone-throwing youths. At least 17 people were reported killed.

There were protests in cities across Syria sparking violent responses from the authorities. Three people were killed in the town of Harasta, two in Homs and, significantly, there was a report that water cannon had been used to put down a demonstration in Hama, the town where Mr Asad's father and predecessor, Hafez al-Asad, killed 20,000 people in putting down an Islamist uprising in 1982.

COMMENT:  Yes, that was 20,000.  Do you recall any outrage?  I don't.  There was apparently nothing in it for the political left, and its cronies in the press, so Hama passed without too much notice, just like Rwanda, Cambodia, and other names now associated with horror.  The left is very selective, you know.

Our attention has been spread so thin, with new things popping up every day, that we risk forgetting the constant violence in the Mideast, and the challenges to the governments now in place.  The fact remains that we don't know much about the opposition, the rebels, and we can wind up in worse shape than we are now, especially as our role in Libya has made us look like a paper tiger, although it is recycled paper.

The Syrian violence is increasing.  And there was further violence in Yemen today.  And Egyptian demonstrators also appeared in Cairo, demanding that the promise of their revolution be kept.

I'd love to know how some of those "Mideast studies" professors in our universities, who've been telling us all these years that we and the Israelis were to blame for all the suffering in the world, are handling the situation.  I'll bet they're not changing a word in a single lecture.

April 8, 2011      Permalink

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NO DEAL YET – AT 8:20 P.M. ET:  We are less than four hours away from a potential government shutdown, with dire warnings from the Dems that all worthy people will DIE right after midnight, and women will DIE even more, unless an agreement satisfactory to the left is arrived at.

Republicans are keeping cool in the face of unbelievable smears and wild-eyed exaggerations.  Democratic Representative Louise Slaughter (an appropriate name) of New York solemnly announced today that Republicans were elected to Congress in 2010 to kill women.  Yes, as I recall, that was part of the GOP platform last year. 

And, of course, Jesse Jackson, striving to get back the spotlight stolen by Barack Obama, has announced that the budget battle is just like the Civil War.  No doubt Ken Burns will make a miniseries about this, too.  I can't wait for the theme music. 

And Nancy Pelosi, last year's queen of the May, or May Day queen, or whatever it is?  She was in Boston giving a speech today.  I think Congress should dock her salary for taking an excursion with a government shutdown only hours away.  But who are we to question her cultural priorities, and Boston is so dear to the liberal left.

We'll keep watching, and I'm guessing they'll have a deal, whereupon the president will take the credit.  And the press will give it to him.

April 8, 2011     Permalink

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THE RACIAL DIVIDE – AT 9:12 A.M. ET:  It's no secret that we're a divided nation politically, and in other respects.  But the racial divide in politics is severe.  It is joined by a class, gender and education divide.

There's been, in effect, a role reversal in American politics.   Working-class whites, once the backbone of the Democratic Party, are moving right, in line with their values and hard-work ethic.  More educated white women, but not educated white men, are for Obama.  In a way, this follows what we've seen in American society:  The colleges propagandize their students, and especially white women, to reject traditional American values.  From National Journal:

Obama's best group in the white electorate remains well-educated women, who tend toward more liberal positions on social issues as well as greater receptivity to government activism. In the new poll, 56 percent of college-educated white women said they approved of Obama's performance. That's a slight improvement from the 52 percent of such women who voted for him in 2008, according to the Edison Research exit poll. It's also a big improvement from the 43 percent of college-plus white women who backed Democratic House candidates in 2010. (Well-educated white women provided substantially more support for Democrats in some key 2010 Senate races, including contests in Colorado, California and Wisconsin.)

The rest of the white electorate remains deeply cool to Obama, the Pew survey found. Just 38 percent of college-educated white men said they approve of the president. That's down from the 42 percent of the vote he won from those men in 2008, and only a slight improvement from the miniscule 35 percent House Democrats won with them in 2010.

Obama's approval rating in the Pew survey stood at just 34 percent among white women without a college education-the so-called waitress moms. Democrats have often had high hopes for capturing those economically-strained, culturally-conservative women, but the new result only underscores their consistent Republican tilt: Obama won just 41 percent of them in 2008, and House Democrats just 34 percent of them in 2010.

The toughest group for Obama remains white men without a college-education-the blue-collar workers who constituted the foundation of the Democratic electoral coalition from 1932 to 1968. Just 35 percent of them said they approve of his performance in the Pew poll. That's below even the 39 percent of them Obama carried in 2008, though slightly above the Democrats' microscopic 32 percent showing with them in 2010, according to the exit poll. All of these results suggest that the gap between Obama's support among college-educated white women and non-college white men-which stood at a formidable 13 percentage points in 2008-might easily widen even further in 2012.

COMMENT:  It's very sad to see what we're seeing.  It is, of course, a dream of the left to divide America along racial and ethnic grounds, and even gender grounds.  "Race, gender and ethnicity" is the mantra of the left. 

But I wonder how the "progressives" explain the loss of the working class.  Why, isn't this what "progressivism" is all about?  I always thought it was.  Maybe, like Rick in "Casablanca," I was misinformed.

April 8, 2011      Permalink

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A REAL QUAGMIRE – AT 8:51 A.M. ET:  The word "quagmire" is overused in news discussions.  But there appears to be a real quagmire developing in Libya, thanks in no small measure to the incoherence of our dear leader's foreign policy.

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libyan government forces tried to storm into the besieged city of Misrata on Friday as NATO generals acknowledged their air power was not enough to help insurgents remove Muammar Gaddafi by force alone.

Misrata, a lone rebel outpost in the west of the country, has been under siege by Gaddafi's forces for weeks. On Friday insurgents said government troops were advancing into eastern districts and fighting street battles with rebels.

"They tried to advance and enter the city from the eastern side, from an area called Eqseer which is a populated area. The rebels confronted them and clashes are continuing," insurgent spokesman Hassan al-Misrati told Reuters.

The only active front in the war, along the Mediterranean coast around the eastern cities of Brega and Ajdabiyah, has descended into stalemate for a week with both sides making advances and then retreating behind secure lines at night.

COMMENT:  Our attention span is not long.  People are starting to forget Libya, as they forgot Afghanistan a long while ago.  The word "victory" is foreign to Obama, and his failure to articulate a victory strategy, and then fund it, is leading us into a mess.  It will be blamed on BUSH (!!).

April 8, 2011     Permalink

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FROM THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF BERKELEY – AT 8:09 A.M. ET:  The Washington Examiner reports that "progressive" Democrats in the House are about to release their own "budget," one that exists somewhere between Disney World and the land of Oz.  Naturally, it's called "the people's budget."  Everything on the left is always "the people's," until it's not.  

The progressives’ alternative, dubbed “The People’s Budget,” promises to reduce the debt and return the nation to surpluses with a combination of massive tax increases and defense cuts. I believe that the proposals outlined below would do tremendous harm to national security and the economy. Its goal for revenue as a percentage of the economy – 22.3 percent – would represent the highest rate of taxation in American history (see PDF). While that sort of revenue model may work on paper, in reality, given the economic disincentives it creates as well as the likelihood of increased tax avoidance, it would ultimately be fiscally unworkable.

Now, here is an extract from the "progressive" budget memo, dealing with defense cuts:

Defense savings

1. End overseas contingency operations emergency supplementals starting in 2013, providing $170 billion in FY2012 funding for withdrawal

2. Reduce baseline Defense spending by reducing strategic capabilities, conventional forces, procurement, and R&D programs

COMMENT:  You know, for years I've been saying that the "progressive" Democrats don't even believe in national defense, and I think that extract proves it.  They want to end "overseas contingency operations" budgets, meaning, essentially, no major anti-terror operations overseas.  Oh, I should explain:  On the progressive left, anti-terror actions are called "overseas contingency operations."

And get point 2:  The "progressives" actually use the term "reducing strategic capabilities."  In other words, they want to reduce our ability to defend ourselves, and aren't ashamed to say so.  They really believe most of the problems in the world are our fault, and that we must cleanse ourselves by withdrawing.  These are the same activists – and the same kind of activists – who whined about "the people of Vietnam" during the Vietnam War, then turned their backs during the Cambodian genocide. 

I don't think a "progressive" budget has much of a chance to get through, unless the GOP totally collapses in 2012.  But it's interesting to see what that crowd, much of it led by the California Democratic delegation, really believes.

April 8, 2011      Permalink

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NO GOVERNMENT TOMORROW? – AT 7:51 A.M. ET:  It's high noon in Washington.  Either there's a budget deal today or the government shuts down tonight.  If there's a shutdown, you may be sure the Obamans will make it as painful as possible for the average American, then say, "You see, you elected Republicans and this is what you got."  And it will be effective.

But there are intense negotiations in progress.  No white smoke yet, but there may be a deal in the works.  From Fox:

Lawmakers worked through the night Thursday to try to reach a budget deal, but with no word on their progress, it was unclear whether or not there would be an announcement in the morning that a federal shutdown had been avoided.

And with a shutdown possible as early as midnight at the end of Friday, time is almost up.

Following another high-stakes meeting with congressional leaders Thursday evening, President Obama said he expected an answer early Friday on whether or not an agreement had been reached.

"Because the machinery of the shutdown is starting to move, I expect an answer in the morning," Obama said in the White House briefing room after the meeting with House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "And my hope is that I'll be able to announce to the American people sometime relatively early in the day that a shutdown has been averted."

COMMENT:   This is one of these down-to-the-wire situations where the public loses interest in the details and just wants a deal.  We see it in labor negotiations between public-service unions and state and local governments all the time.  In New York, those representing transit workers are real artists at this.  No deal, no trains and buses.  Deal, you may be pinched for higher fares, but the convenience is better than losing your paychecks.  Works every time, which is one reason state and local governments have these wild pension plans for their employees.

April 8, 2011     Permalink

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APRIL 7,  2011

UH, EXCUSE ME? – AT 9:13 P.M. ET:  Did someone not get the memo?

WASHINGTON - The United States may consider sending troops into Libya with a possible international ground force that could aid the rebels, according to the general who led the military mission until NATO took over.

Please tell the president what the new strategy is.

Army Gen. Carter Ham also told lawmakers Thursday that added American participation would not be ideal, and ground troops could erode the international coalition and make it more difficult to get Arab support for operations in Libya.

I'm so tired of hearing about the need for Arab support.  These people never support us in the end, no matter how much we help them.  They don't know the meaning of "thank you."

Ham said the operation was largely stalemated now and was more likely to remain that way since America has transferred control to NATO.

Running a NATO operation without America is like staffing a football team with 5'5" Hollywood agents.

He said NATO has done an effective job in an increasingly complex combat situation. But he noted that, in a new tactic, Muammar Qaddafi's forces are making airstrikes more difficult by staging military forces and vehicles near civilian areas such as schools and mosques.

New tactic?  Really?  Haven't the Israeli been pointing this out for years?  Of course, when they do, they're ridiculed by the usual leftist suspects.

Oh, get this:

WASHINGTON — The United States is scaling back its role in the international military operation against Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and will not be sending U.S. troops into the war-stricken North African nation “as long as I’m in this job,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates asserted Thursday.

COMMENT:  Who do we believe here?  Does the president have a policy?

April 7, 2011       Permalink

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From the Boston Globe:  Saying that sugary drinks have caused rising obesity among city residents and driven up health care costs, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino today moved to ban the sale, advertising, and promotion of the drinks on all city property.

The nanny state is alive and well.  Maybe someone should inform the mayor that it's not the sugary drinks that cause obesity, but their abuse.  Once again the individual is let off the hook.  It's those colorful soda cans.  That's what it is!

April 7, 2011      Permalink

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WHERE OBAMA STANDS – THE GOP CHALLENGE – AT 8:01 P.M. ET:  The numbers may not be great for the president, but a new Fox poll shows he actually gained ground when respondents were asked whether he deserved reelection:

Forty-four percent of American voters think President Obama deserves to be re-elected, while slightly more -- 48 percent -- think the country would be better off with someone else, according to a Fox News poll released Thursday.

In December, when the Fox poll last asked that question, 35 percent of voters said he deserved to win re-election, while a 53 percent majority disagreed.

The bump in Obama’s re-elect number comes mainly from Democrats: 78 percent think he deserves re-election now compared to 67 percent who thought so in December. About one in six Democrats (16 percent) think the country would be better off with someone else as president.

Most Republicans (83 percent) and half of independents (51 percent) don’t think Obama deserves re-election.

COMMENT:  Once again we see how quickly this president, with his political and oratorical skills, and the support of a loving press, can recover.  I'm worried that only 51% of independents think the president doesn't deserve reelection. 

Yes, it's true, these numbers don't put Barack Obama back in the White House, but they certainly don't keep him far away.  It will be a difficult fight, and Dem scare tactics ("The Republicans will take away your food and babies") are already starting.  The blatant ethnic appeals sounded yesterday by the president and his supporters are another part of the mix.  Appearing before a group run by Al Sharpton was not presidential, but it was smooth politics for a president whose base is very powerful.

April 7, 2011     Permalink

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OUR BRILLIANT FOREIGN POLICY – AT 9:40 A.M. ET:   I have no brief for the Saudi regime, but, realistically, Saudi Arabia is an important associate, if not ally, of the United States.  It's the oil, brother.  And, of course, Obama is damaging our affiliation with the Saudis, almost as much as he's wreaked havoc with our alliance with Israel.  Consider:

CNSNews.com) – Reporting from Baghdad, Iraq yesterday, NBC’s Tom Brokaw said the Saudi Arabian monarchy is “so unhappy with the Obama administration for the way it pushed out President Mubarak of Egypt” that it has sent senior officials to the Peoples' Republic of China and Russia to seek expanded business opportunities with those countries.

After remarking on the difficulty of establishing democracy in the Middle East, Brokaw said that Defense Secretary Robert Gates “will face some tough questions in this region about the American intentions going on now with all this new turmoil, especially in an area where the United States has such big stakes politically and economically.”

“And a lot of those questions presumably will come from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia,” reported Brokaw on the Nightly News. “I was told on the way in here that the Saudis are so unhappy with the Obama administration for the way it pushed out President Mubarak of Egypt that it sent high level emissaries to China and Russia to tell those two countries that Saudi Arabia now is prepared to do more business with them.”

COMMENT:  Another famous victory.  Hey, isn't the guy earning that Nobel Peace Prize?  It's been noted that Obama seems much more enthusiastic about dissing American allies than enemies.  Yeah, he's going after Gadaffi, kind of.  If we really went after him, the Libyan action would have taken one day.  As of now, we've essentially withdrawn from combat missions in Libya, Gadaffi remains in power, and the entire mission is entirely muddled.

If I were the Saudi king I'd be pretty roiled as well.  Obama has a long history of throwing friends under the bus, the same bus powered by Saudi oil.  It's been rumored that an even bigger bus is being sent to the White House to accommodate all those thrown under in time for the 2012 campaign. 

Our foreign policy is a mess and a failure.  Our energy policy is resulting in soaring fuel prices.  Our national spending is out of control.

Happy days are here again.

April 7, 2011      Permalink

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WILL LIBYA ACTION LEAD TO TERROR HERE? – AT 9:18 A.M. ET:  That question is being seriously asked in Washington, and the FBI director, who will be departing this year, is attempting to answer.  From Fox:

The U.S. homeland is "on guard" for terrorist attacks "emanating" out of war-torn Libya, as Libyan operatives "may well" be in the United States after possibly crossing into the United States illegally from Mexico or Canada, according to the head of the FBI.

That assessment came one day after the FBI confirmed it was contacting Libyan nationals living in and visiting the United States in an effort to "determine whether there is a threat to Americans." Testifying before a House Appropriations subcommittee Wednesday, FBI Director Robert Mueller offered more details about his agency's efforts.

He said the FBI wants to "make certain" the U.S. government has sufficient information "that may bear on what is happening in Libya," including the identities and aims of rebel forces fighting to topple Muammar Qaddafi's brutal regime.

"We also want to make certain that we are on guard [for] the possibility of terrorist attacks emanating somewhere out of Libya, whether it be Qaddafi's forces or, in eastern Libya, the opposition forces who may have amongst them persons who in the past have had associations with terrorist groups," Mueller said. He noted that coalition forces are still trying to figure out exactly who is part of Libya's rebel forces.

Nevertheless, Mueller said intelligence officers from Libya "may well" be part of "establishments" in countries outside Libya, or "there may be intelligence officers that are operating with different types of cover in the United States."

COMMENT:  Another reason to be on guard.  This report joins others this week indicating a growing Al Qaeda presence in Latin America.  It may not only be illegal immigrants who are slipping across our southern border.

April 7, 2011       Permalink

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RYAN RISES – AT 8:57 A.M. ET:  Clearly the star player in Washington this week is Rep. Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, who unveiled a bold, lay-it-on-the-line budget this week, risking the demagoguery and smears that are bound to follow anyone who upsets the proverbial apple cart.  From Fox:

He's a rising star on the right and a growing target on the left.

Washington is buzzing about Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's take-no-prisoners approach to budget cuts -- manifested in his budget proposal that would slash federal spending by $6.2 trillion over 10 years and overhaul health programs for the elderly and poor.

As Congress wages an epic budget battle that threatens this weekend to shut down the federal government for the first time in 15 years, Ryan's willingness to offer specifics on how to tame deficits and preserve the American safety net is boosting his profile among Republicans and stirring speculation that he may be on the short list of GOP vice presidential contenders.

"I think that Paul Ryan is the brightest light in the Republican Party right now," said former Sen. Bob Kasten, a fellow Wisconsin Republican who once employed Ryan. "And the courage he's shown is unlike anyone in Washington today, including the president."

"Whether for president or vice president or for further leadership in Congress, he's on everyone's list," he said, adding that the choice would be up to him.

COMMENT:  We don't want to get ahead of ourselves here, but Bill Kristol is proposing a Ryan-Rubio ticket for 2012.  It is true that both men are young, and a bit thin in the experience department, but Democrats will have a hard time using the experience factor in 2012, given the fact that Obama ran in 2008, with a resumé so thin it could give you a paper cut. 

Ryan reminds me somewhat of Jack Kennedy.  He has that style and assertiveness.  Not bad things to have if you're engaging in high political combat.  Watch this guy closely.

April 7, 2011      Permalink

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OBAMA SLIPS AGAIN – AT 8:38 A.M. ET:  Very much a surprise.  Andrew Malcom at the L.A. Times's Top of the Ticket blog reports that President Obama's support among blacks and Hispanics, two solid pillars of his political base, is slipping:

...this morning comes the most troubling political news for Obama's four-day-old reelection campaign:

His job approval among blacks is sliding.

Once monolithic, blacks' support for the first African American president is still....

....immense. But for unclear reasons it's declined about 7% from well above 90% to 85% in March. That's a new low since Obama's inauguration 26 months ago.

Equally ominous for Obama in 2012, his approval among Hispanics, the nation's fastest-growing demographic, has also fallen to again tie his term low of 54%. That's a drop of 11 points from its early high of 65%.

Gallup seems puzzled by the unexpected decline, mentioning March's major news as possible reasons: the ongoing fight with Congress over no fiscal 2011 federal budget and Obama leading the country into a new military combat zone over Libya.

COMMENT:  I would imagine that black support for Obama will solidify during the election campaign.  There's a matter of group loyalty involved.  But if Republicans can seriously dent Hispanic support, that could be real news, and a couple of real states.

The Hispanic community is far more diverse than many imagine, and there is every reason why conservatives should pursue the Hispanic vote.  This effort would be helped by the act of putting a Hispanic star on the national ticket – someone like Marco Rubio of Florida or Susanna Martinez, the governor of New Mexico.  And I wouldn't be surprised.

April 7, 2011     Permalink

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"What you see is news.  What you know is background.  What you feel is opinion."
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