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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DECEMBER 9,  2011


MAJOR LEGAL NEWS – There's a working draft among the UN's climate "experts" calling for the establishment of an international climate court, which would compel Western nations to pay ever-larger sums to the "third world" as part of our "climate debt."  The court would have no power over third-world countries.  I want you to know right now that I'd be in favor of it if the court was televised, had Judge Judy presiding, with each program introduced by Cole Porter's "It's Too Darned Hot," from "Kiss Me, Kate."  What do you think are the chances?

MAJOR ACADEMIC NEWS – New York University will offer a course next semester on Occupy Wall Street, and may even offer two.  The course will be offered by NYU's Department of Social and Cultural Analysis.  We think this is a wonderful idea.  The course could begin with a social and cultural analysis of the federal education budget, and what percentage goes to make courses like this possible.  It could excitingly continue with readings from longshoreman/philosopher Eric Hoffer, who wrote that all movements begin with high ideals, become businesses, and then become rackets.  Why do I think I wouldn't be welcome to take this course?

PATH TO CITIZENSHIP FOR ILLEGALS? – A new Fox poll reveals that most Americans believe there should be a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, as long as they meet certain requirements, like paying back taxes and learning English.  Even a majority of Republicans, 57%, agree with that position.  From what I've seen, this is now the trend in public opinion, and the GOP must recognize it.  Simply being against "illegal immigration," (as am I), or securing the border (which I surely favor) are no longer enough.  An immigration policy must be thoughtful and practical, and recognize that we're just not going to deport 12 million people. 

BROWN DOWN IN MASS. – Republican Senator Scott Brown, whose victory in the Senate race to replace the late Senator Ted Kennedy was heralded as one of the great moments in modern Republican politics, is falling behind Democrat Elizabeth Warren.  The two will compete next November in an election to a full Senate term.  A new poll has it Warren, 49%, Scott, 42%.  Warren, a Harvard law professor and self-described consumer-rights advocate, has turned out to be an effective, down-to-earth candidate.  Brown's tenure in the Senate has been less-than-distinguished, and he hasn't emerged as the national figure we'd hoped for.  We have to fight for this seat, but I wouldn't be shocked to see Warren win.

December 9, 2011       Permalink

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ANOTHER GREAT MOMENT IN JOURNALISM – AT 9:24 A.M. ET:  Reader Errol Phillips alerts us to another journalistic adventure guaranteed to run the profession deeper into the ground:

NBC-owned television stations in cities across the nation just teamed up with a nonprofit "journalism" group funded by a billionaire husband-and-wife team who not only spent millions campaigning for President Obama but also topped donor lists to groups such as ACORN and MoveOn.org.

The nonprofit, ProPublica, will contribute to the news operations of all NBC-owned-and-operated stations, including those in such cities as Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia, the network announced Monday.

The NBC affiliates will get early access to investigative reports from ProPublica, which describes itself as an "independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest."


On its website, Pro Publica describes itself as championing the values of the "weak" against the "strong."

States the website: "Our work focuses exclusively on truly important stories, stories with 'moral force.' We do this by producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them."

Controversial Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., a friend of Obama who was embroiled in a national race scandal in 2009, sits on the board of ProPublica.

ProPublica was founded with a $10 million yearly grant from Herbert and Marion Sandler, the former chief executives of the Golden West Financial Corporation, which was one of the nation's largest mortgage lenders and savings and loans.

Just before the financial crisis, the Sandlers in 2008 sold their business to the Wachovia Corporation for about $26 billion, a deal which valued their personal shares at about $2.4 billion.

The Sandlers are major donors to the Democratic Party and are top funders of ACORN, MoveOn.org, the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch and other far-left groups

The billionaire couple donate major sums to the Center for American Progress think tank, which is reportedly highly influential in helping to craft White House policy.

The center is directed by John Podesta, who served as co-chairman of Obama's 2008 presidential transition team.

COMMENT:  This will certainly work wonders for NBC's credibility, already facing considerable strain over the behavior of its MSNBC division.  You'd think some common sense would have prevailed here, with NBC trying to forge links with organizations of impeccable neutrality.  There is a mindset in mainstream journalism that just doesn't see the pitfalls, and mainstream journalism is paying the price.

December 9, 2011       Permalink

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DANGER TIME – AT 9:05 A.M. ET:  This story is neither shocking nor surprising.  It follows a dangerous trend:

The Obama administration says a meeting in Washington next week seeks to make progress in combating religious intolerance, but critics say the U.S. is pandering to an ideological agenda aimed at restricting speech critical of Islam.

According to the State Department the aim is to find ways to combat religious hate without compromising freedom of expression. Detractors are skeptical that this can be done, and they suspect that free speech will end up the loser.

The skeptics are right.

Among those criticizing the event are GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, the Traditional Values Coalition, and scholars at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.

The State Department-hosted meeting is the latest step in a process stemming from a resolution on “combating intolerance based on religion,” adopted by consensus at the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) last March.

The Human Rights Council , which the Obama administration mistakenly rejoined, regularly gives important roles to dictators.  Hey, they're all in the club.

The move marked the first time in more than a decade that the U.N.’s top human rights body did not pass an annual “defamation of religion” resolution, sponsored by the bloc of Islamic states, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Many rights advocacy groups regard the OIC campaign as an attempt to outlaw valid discussion of Islamic teachings – to extend to democratic societies the type of blasphemy provisions enforced in some Islamic states.

COMMENT:  This is creeping restriction on free speech, and why should we be surprised?  There is today an informal alliance – we see it regularly – between Islamists and the Western left.  And the Western left is exactly that grouping that has invaded college campuses and imposed speech codes and other restrictions, all in the name of promoting a more "civil" society and protecting against "hate speech." 

The Obama administration is filled with trendy leftists.

Some years ago a civil liberties lawyer I knew worried about what was being taught on college campuses, particularly the imposition of restrictions on speech.  He felt, correctly, that these practices would become public policy in 20 years, when college students became national and international leaders.  His prediction has come true, as political correctness has crept even into our Defense Department. 

Words are weapons.  And restrictions on words can leave us at a disadvantage.  Many colleges have been forced to drop or amend "speech codes" under assault by true civil libertarians.  Now we must be on guard against similar efforts, always draped in the "respect" agenda, to prevent discussion of religious movements and their implications. 

December 9, 2011        Permalink

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REPUBLICAN TAX STRATEGY MAKING DENTS – AT 8:35 A.M. ET:  The Republican strategy of tying an extension of the Social Security tax break and extension of unemployment benefits to approval of the Keystone pipeline from Canada is making dents among the Democratic opposition.  This could be a fascinating fight...if the Republicans can articulate their views to the public.  From The Politico:

The White House and congressional Democratic leaders are of one mind in opposing Republican efforts to combine the Keystone XL oil pipeline in a year-end payroll tax holiday and unemployment insurance bill.

But the question is less clear-cut for dozens of Democrats that have backed quick approval of the project in the past.

President Barack Obama twice in two days has threatened to “reject” a plan extending payroll tax cuts and unemployment insurance if it includes Republican language to speed up a decision on the Keystone pipeline.

“The president has said he will veto a bill that has the Keystone pipeline in it,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday. “That doesn’t make a decision as to whether you’re for it or against it, it has no place on this bill. Let’s get serious.”

But to some House Democrats, getting approval for the $7 billion, 1,700-mile pipeline from Alberta oil sands to Texas refineries is a serious effort that should hitch a ride in a must-pass payroll tax cut extension.

Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas — one of 47 Democrats that supported a House bill this summer to require a decision on the pipeline project by Nov. 1 — counted more than 20 Democrats who would likely support adding the Keystone language to the payroll tax package.

And he said he disagreed with Obama's threat. "Look, I think that'd be a mistake on the president's part," Ross said. "That's the kind of economic activity we need. It's a win-win. It reduces our dependence on foreign oil and creates jobs here at home."

Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) said he’s not swayed by Obama’s veiled veto pledge.

“For the president, that’s a negotiating technique. And if you issue that veto threat, you better live through it. Because the next one then nobody will believe you if you don’t,” Green said. “But that doesn’t give me any pause.”

COMMENT:  I like the Republican plan.  Keystone must be approved.  It is in our national interest, and our national security interest, and is being held up only by the demands of radical environmentalists in the President's base.  We care about the environment, but believe any environmental concerns can be alleviated effectively. 

Republicans must do much more to publicize their plan, their benefits/pipeline package, and must do so imaginatively, possibly a first for the party.  I believe many Democrats can be swayed, including Democrats in the Senate, making the president think twice about a veto and possibly forcing him into negotiations.

December 9, 2011       Permalink

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WHERE OBAMA STANDS – AT 7:58 A.M. ET:  A new Fox poll shows that Mitt Romney would do better than Newt Gingrich in a general election run against Barack Obama.

Newt Gingrich has increased his lead over Mitt Romney in the race for the Republican nomination, yet the former House speaker is weaker than Romney with the general electorate.

In a hypothetical matchup, Barack Obama is just 2 percentage points ahead of Romney (44-42 percent), according to a Fox News national poll released Thursday.

Three weeks ago, Romney had a narrow 2-point edge over Obama in the head-to-head matchup (44-42 percent). In every other matchup of the two candidates over the past year, Obama has topped Romney by between 1 and 7 points.

Meanwhile, Obama tops Gingrich by 46-40 percent in the new poll. That’s mostly unchanged from last month when Obama was up 5 points over Gingrich (46-41 percent, November 2011).

President Obama’s advantage over Romney is within the poll’s margin of sampling error and it is at the edge of the error margin against Gingrich.

Among independents, Obama edges Romney by only 1 point and Gingrich by 5 points. In both of these theoretical matchups, about a quarter of independents do not support either candidate -- they are either undecided, would vote for someone else or wouldn’t vote at all.

COMMENT:  The poll was conducted among randomly selected registered voters.  The GOP candidates probably would do better among likely voters.  But still, these are not spectacular numbers for the Republicans, and they show how tough this race will be.  True, Obama's policies are not popular, but Obama personally is still liked by the public, and that counts for a great deal in politics.  Polls showed that many Reagan policies, especially those dealing with the economy, were not popular, but Americans liked the man, and liked him considerably more than the incumbent he ran against, Jimmy Carter.

And this Fox poll was taken before the Democrats rev up their attack machine.  

I am not enthusiastic about any of the leading Republican candidates, but we have to choose among them.  I believe Romney is the more electable, and wears better over time.  Gingrich is sharper on policy.  Romney would have more appeal, over time, to the critical independents, and that appeal is likely to hold.  Gingrich clearly appeals more to the Republican base. 

This is not a pleasant choice.  There is an enthusiasm deficit in the Republican Party, and deficits like that don't win elections.

December 9,  2011     Permalink

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DECEMBER 8,  2011


EUROPE ACTING ON IRAN – European leaders will call for greater sanctions on Iran at a summit meeting in Brussels tomorrow.  While the ministers are not expected to call for a boycott of Iranian oil, that prospect is on the table.  The Europeans are placing themselves in a leadership position on Iran, at the very time that the Obama administration is actually asking Congress to soften sanctions on Iran that are proposed in a Senate bill.

ASSAULT ON GINGRICH BEGINS – It was inevitable once he started rising to frontrunner status in the polls, but the attacks on Newt Gingrich are taking on an intensely personal tone.  For the second time in two days, a current or former Republican member of the Senate has severely criticized him.  Former Senator Jim Talent of Missouri led the charge, orchestrated by the Romney campaign.  Among other things, Gingrich is being accused of being selfish, erratic, and irrational, and a man who will lose the general election by making the race about himself, rather than about Obama.  The fact is that Gingrich burned many bridges while serving as speaker of the House in the 1990s, and the bridges haven't been repaired.

LIGHT IN THE TUNNEL – A leading candidate for the Venezuelan presidency says he will reverse the anti-American policies of Hugo Chavez.  Pablo Perez, governor of Zulia, Venezuela’s most populous state, said he would end alliances with autocratic Middle Eastern regimes, work for a democratic Cuba and improve relations with the United States, if elected president.  While polls show that Chavez would still win the next election, scheduled for October, he is seriously ill with cancer, and there is heavy speculation that he might not survive to see the vote.  If Chavez passes, the opposition is in a good position to see its candidate succeed to the presidency.  Venezuelan policy after that is likely to become more pro-American. 

EXXON MOBIL PREDICTS FOSSIL FUEL FUTURE –  Exxon Mobil is predicting that fossil fuels will dominate the world's energy picture for the next three decades, with natural gas challenging coal as the main source of electric power.  Exxon Mobil has a vested interest in fossil fuels, of course, but its predictions ring true.  It will be a long time before new energy sources prove themselves, and developing nations, in particular, will be unwilling to wait for untested energy methods as they rush to raise their own living standards and productive capacities. 

December 8, 2011     Permalink 

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GOOD NEWS, BUT VIEW WITH CAUTION – AT 9:31 A.M. ET:  There's been another drop in applications for jobless benefits, but we have to consider all progress temporary until we get a more complete picture, which is months away.  From Bloomberg:

Fewer Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, reflecting a pullback following the Thanksgiving holiday and fewer seasonal firings which may signal the labor market is on the mend.

Jobless claims dropped by 23,000 to 381,000 in the week ended Dec. 3, the fewest since February, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 47 economists in a Bloomberg News survey called for a drop to 395,000. The number of people on unemployment benefit rolls and those getting extended payments also decreased.

Companies are firing fewer workers yet may be reluctant to ramp up staff until demand picks up and there’s more clarity on tax breaks due to expire at year-end. While the jobless rate last month unexpectedly fell to 8.6 percent, the lowest in more than two years, faster job growth is needed to push the rate lower and spur consumer spending.

“The labor market is improving,” said Brian Jones, a senior U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York, who forecast a drop to 380,000. “The numbers are moving in the right direction. You have to be careful because we’re around the Thanksgiving holiday and the Department of Labor has a hard time adjusting around floating holidays.”

COMMENT:  Obviously, a revival of the job market would benefit Obama immensely, possibly securing his reelection.  But I think we're a long way to recovery, and the problems of Europe loom.  Further, people are less interested in statistics than in what they see around them, and what they see isn't good.  When people see recovery in their own neighborhoods, then they'll react.

December 8, 2011       Permalink

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GREAT CHOICE – AT 9:20 A.M. ET:  We still retain doubts about Newt Gingrich here, but he's made one choice that deserves cheers.  From Fox:

Newt Gingrich pledged Wednesday to tap former U.N. ambassador John Bolton as his secretary of state if he's elected president, a statement that drew loud applause from the audience at a Republican Jewish Coalition forum.

The former House speaker made the pledge at an event where he and his Republican presidential rivals took turns asserting their strength when it comes to Israel policy.

Bolton, the hawkish diplomat who served as President George W. Bush's ambassador to the United Nations, is known as a staunch pro-Israel supporter. He is an outspoken critic of the Iranian regime, and frequently warns about the danger posed to Israel by the regime's alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Gingrich, who is now leading in most national polls, said Wednesday that he would ask Bolton to be his secretary of state, if he would accept the position -- and provided Bolton agreed to reform the State Department.
Bolton had earlier flirted with the idea of running for president in the Republican primary, but never took the plunge.

COMMENT:  Bolton is a great American, and would be a secretary of state in the mold of George Shultz or Daniel Patrick Moynihan.  When George W. Bush nominated him for ambassador to the UN, Bolton couldn't get confirmed by the Senate.  The Democrats hated his straight-talk pro-Americanism, and a few shrinking violets on the Republican side joined in, especially George Voinovich of Ohio.  Bolton served as ambassador through a recess appointment, which automatically expired in a year, and he served with distinction.

When he was Reagan's secretary of state, George Shultz would call newly appointed U.S. ambassadors into his office, take them to a world map on the wall and ask them to point out "your country."  Inevitably, the new ambassadors would point to the nation to which they were being sent.  "No," Shultz replied, pointing to the United States, "that is your country." 

That's the kind of secretary John Bolton would be.  He'd understand which country he was representing.  Compare please to our present, vastly overrated secretary of state.

December 8, 2011       Permalink

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THE CLASS ACT – AT 8:46 A.M. ET:  The prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, is one of the class acts of modern international politics.  A true conservative, he has gone far toward reforming Canada's government, which had been slipping into the European welfare-state model.  

More important, Harper is a true friend of the United States and of freedom around the world.  His comment in Washington yesterday, "Canada has no friend among America's enemies," is typical.

It's sad, though, that our own president, who is not a class act, has never reciprocated.  Obama doesn't care much for Canada, or Britain, or Israel, or any of America's stalwart allies.  He put off a trip to Australia three times, and finally dragged himself there.  But he made sure to deliver a speech in Cairo.  He has been utterly indifferent to the needs of the newly free East European nations, but made sure to "reset" our relations with Moscow, for which we've gotten nothing. 

Obama has been indifferent to Canada's needs, and is damaging this special relationship by holding off on the vital Keystone pipeline, which would bring Canadian oil to our Gulf Coast refineries.  It is vital for Canada, just as vital for a United States trying to free itself from the grip of Mideast oil.  But Obama is bowing to his radical leftist base, which opposes the pipeline on phony environmental grounds.  If it wasn't that, they'd figure out something else.  Some of Obama's base want to repeal the 20th century. 

If Canada cannot sell the oil destined for the pipeline here, it is in their own vital interest to sell it elsewhere...which means China.  No matter how close an ally he is, Harper must still tend to Canada's economic needs.  So, imagine the situation:  a failing American president, trying to hold his nutbag base, delays a vital pipeline of great value to our two countries, forcing Canada to sell more oil to China, which is building its forces to oppose America. 

Smart move, Barack.  As Mitt Romney said yesterday, you don't understand your own country.

Now, in a truly good move, Republicans in Congress are trying to link approval of the pipeline to the proposed extension of the Social Security tax break.  Obama says he'll veto any such linkage, but Republicans may have him on this, as the pipeline is very popular.  Does Obama want to be in the position of denying the middle class the tax-break extension in order to appease the Aspen loonies in his base?  What excuse would he give?  That the pipeline requires more study?  It's been the most studied piece of pipe in history. 

Could a veto be overturned by Congress?  It might be.  Democrats are not all that dumb. 

This could be exciting politics.  The Republicans are showing a sense of strategy, for a change.

December 8, 2011       Permalink

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WHERE HAVE ALL THE VOTERS GONE? – AT 8:33 A.M. ET:  A unique new study points out that voters in battleground states are deserting the Democratic Party in droves, a fact that could overwhelm even the smooth operations of the Obama political machine.  From National Journal:

President Obama and his re-election team have prided themselves on their well-oiled get-out-the-vote effort. But a new study from the centrist think tank Third Way suggests Democrats are losing ground organizationally in nearly all of the key battleground states in the general election.

The group's analysis found that, in the eight politically-pivotal states that register voters by party, a significant number have left the Democratic party since 2008, with many choosing to register as independents. Over 825,000 registered Democrats in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina and Pennsylvania have departed the party rolls since President Obama's election in 2008, a much more significant share than the number of Republicans (378,000) who have done the same. Meanwhile, the number of registered independents has ticked upwards by 254,000.

"In 2012, Independents are likely to turn out in their largest numbers in 35 years, and President Obama will need those Independent votes even more than he did in 2008, if he hopes to be re-elected," Third Way analysts Lanae Erickson and Michelle Diggles write in the report.

The Democratic decline is especially stark in Iowa and Florida, two early Republican primary states where Democrats have lost significant ground. In Iowa, the number of registered Democrats has declined 7.9 percent since 2008, while the number of registered Republicans has increased by two percent. In the Sunshine State, Democratic registration decreased by five percent, while Republican registration dipped 2.2 percent.

COMMENT:  It isn't all that shocking, given that the Obama administration has produced so little.  But we will have to see if the Republicans can exploit this opportunity.  The election battle will be won or lost among the independents, where Republicans have a substantial chance.

December 8, 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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      of The New York Times.


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    - Lt. Gen. Arthur MacArthur, to his
      son, Douglas.


"Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred. "
        - Jacques Barzun



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