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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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MARCH 4,  2011

WE'RE SHOCKED, SHOCKED, TO FIND CORRUPTION IN THE ACADEMIC WORLD – AT 9:13 P.M. ET:  It turns out that the famed London School of Economics has been quite cozy with the supreme exalted dictator of Libya.  But that, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg, which itself is threatened by global warming.  From Commentary:

The Director of the London School of Economics, Sir Howard Davies, has resigned after fresh revelations of LSE ties to Libya emerged on Thursday morning. The LSE was already under intense fire for taking a donation of 1.5 million pounds from Qaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, who studied at LSE and — it appears — may also have plagiarized his thesis. The straw that broke the LSE’s recalcitrant back was a WikiLeaks cable that revealed that U.S. diplomats were told by Libya’s “National Economic Development Board” that it was cooperating with “the UK government and the London School of Economics, among other UK institutions, on an exchange program to send 400 ‘future leaders’ of Libya for leadership and management training.”

It gets worse:

...the U.S. is implicated too. The Guardian reports that Michigan State is home to a similar, if smaller, program of training future “Libyan leaders.” Musa Kusa, Libya’s foreign minister and the second most powerful man in Libya after the Qaddafi family, got his master’s degree in sociology from MSU in 1978, which is probably no coincidence.

MSU isn't the only problem university on this side of the Atlantic.

Georgetown’s reliance on Saudi money is notorious, but it’s simply one of the crowd. I would love to be a fly on the wall at any elite U.S. university with a Middle Eastern Studies program now: administrators across the country know that what happened at LSE could happen here. And it should.

COMMENT:  The funding, by dictatorial regimes, of programs in American universities is an old story, and, while disgusting, isn't shocking.  American universities have a decidedly mixed record on democracy and human rights, despite all their pompous rhetoric.  The record will show that a number of U.S. colleges, including the elite "seven sisters," made up of Eastern women's schools, were sending students to Nazi universities right up until the start of World War II, even though the nature of the Nazi regime was well known.

Money talks.  So does the cry of "academic freedom," a war chant that is being used these days to justify all kinds of academic corruption and influence peddling.

March 4, 2011      Permalink

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NO JUICE – AT 10:09 A.M. ET:  Americans love new technology...some new technology.  The iPod, after all, had an impact.

But some technology just doesn't seem to cut it, especially when the customer is asked to write a large check for something that, to put it mildly, lacks pizazz.  Consider:

Peruse Chevrolet's February sales release, and you'll notice one number that's blatantly missing: the number of Chevy Volts sold. The number – a very modest 281 – is available in the company's detailed data (PDF), but it certainly isn't something that GM wants to highlight, apparently. Keeping the number quiet is a bit understandable, since it's lower than the 321 that Chevy sold in January.

Nissan doesn't have anything to brag about here, either (and it didn't, avoiding any mention of the Leaf sales in its press release). Why? Well, back in January, the company sold 87 Leafs. In February? Just 67. Where does that leave us? Well, here's the big scorecard for all sales of these vehicles thus far:

Volt: 928
Leaf: 173

Ouch.

Maybe the car guys didn't notice that most Americans have one of those little ten-dollar calculators that you get at Staples.  You hit the numbers and realize you'll have to own one of these little primitive buggies for a long time before they pay off in gas savings.  And if you visit grandma's, and the car needs a charge, and grandma lives in an apartment house without a charging station...well, you might be at grandma's a long time.

The technology is undeveloped.  The cars are cosmetically unexciting, or worse.  Americans are practical.  No deal.

March 4, 2011       Permalink 

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BOY, IS THIS SCARY – AT 9:30 A.M. ET:  According to the Washington Post, the Obamans are now preparing to accept regimes in the Mideast that are more Islamic.  Given the president's appeasement of radical Islam, and his refusal even to speak about it as an enemy, the stoic view of Islam is not surprising, but it should scare the daylights out of anyone who lives in the real world:

The Obama administration is preparing for the prospect that Islamist governments will take hold in North Africa and the Middle East, acknowledging that the popular revolutions there will bring a more religious cast to the region's politics.

The administration is already taking steps to distinguish between various movements in the region that promote Islamic law in government. An internal assessment, ordered by the White House last month, identified large ideological differences between such movements as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and al-Qaeda that will guide the U.S. approach to the region.

"We shouldn't be afraid of Islam in the politics of these countries," said a senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe internal policy deliberations. "It's the behavior of political parties and governments that we will judge them on, not their relationship with Islam."

Islamist governments span a range of ideologies and ambitions, from the primitive brutality of the Taliban in Afghanistan to Turkey's Justice and Development Party, a movement with Islamist roots that heads a largely secular political system.

This is complete madness, utter, complete madness.  No, of course not, the situation in Turkey is not comparable to Afghanistan, but Turkey is becoming increasingly Islamic, increasingly hostile to the West, and increasingly friendly to Iran.  And Turkey this week came out against sanctions, even sanctions, against the Libyan regime.  To say that this is some kind of "acceptable" Islamism is delusional.

Some within the U.S. intelligence community, foreign diplomatic circles and the Republican Party say Obama's readiness to accept Islamist movements, even ones that meet certain conditions, fails to take into consideration the methodical approach many such parties adopt toward gradually transforming secular nations into Islamic states at odds with U.S. policy goals.

Hoorah.  Someone said it.  Nazism had different stages, as did Soviet Communism.  Genocide didn't occur every day, only on some days. 

There is a distinct possibility that the force that will gain the greatest power on Obama's watch will be Islamism.  Those who raise questions will be labeled Islamophobic, just as those who raise any questions about leftist influence in America's universities are labeled McCarthyites. 

I've never believed that Obama is a secret Muslim.  I don't think he has any religion.  I think his joining of that church in Chicago was merely a matter of political necessity.  But, culturally, he has Muslim roots and leftist roots, and that is not a winning combination.  Compound that with Obama's remarkable indifference to democracy, which he apparently regards as a Bushian concept, and we can be in the soup pretty quickly.

Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories have prospered in democratic elections and exert huge influence. Neither party, each with an armed wing, supports Israel's right to exist, nor have they renounced violence as a political tool.

And their attitude toward the United States, and our system of freedom, is not overflowing with admiration.

If Obama gets a second term, and thus unrestrained by any need to seek further election, we can only anticipate with dread where he might take this nation's foreign policy.

March 4, 2011      Permalink

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A FAVORABLE JOBS REPORT – AT 8:52 A.M. ET:  Some pundit last week declared Obama a lucky man, and maybe he is.  Throughout his career, luck seems to have fallen on him at critical times.  Now, just as we see the first stirrings of the 2012 election season, a new jobs report may confirm the "lucky" scenario.  From Bloomberg:

U.S. employers added 192,000 workers in February, amid an improving economy and more seasonable weather, and the unemployment rate unexpectedly declined to 8.9 percent, the lowest level since April 2009.

The gain in payrolls followed a 63,000 increase in January and compared with the 196,000 median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. Employment rose in manufacturing, construction and temporary help agencies, while state and local government payrolls slumped.

Bigger monthly job gains would substantiate Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s testimony to Congress this week that there are “grounds for optimism” about the labor market in coming months. Employment growth and increases in confidence are contributing to sales gains at companies like J.C. Penney Co. and Macy’s Inc. (M) as Americans continue to spend.

COMMENT:  Obviously, this can change in coming months, up or down.  But if progress continues, Obama will get a huge boost in his reelection prospects, especially if Americans are prepared to look the other way as our foreign policy crashes and burns.

March 4, 2011      Permalink

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ON THIS DAY – AT 8:28 A.M. ET:  March 4th is a day rich in American history.  At one time this was presidential inauguration day.  A president would be elected in November, and would have to wait until March 4th to take office.  (George Washington's first inaugural was actually held on April 30th.  His second was on March 4th.)  The wait was so long that some people probably forgot who the new president was, and in some cases that was easy.  So, the date was changed to January 20th.

Franklin D. Roosevelt's first inaugural, March 4, 1933, was the last to be held on the March date.  His second inaugural, in 1937, was the first held on January 20th.  The January 20th date was set by adoption of the 20th amendment to the Constitution.

The most memorable January 20th inauguration was probably John F. Kennedy's in 1961 because of the heavy snowstorm that hit Washington, and was no doubt caused by global warming.  Actually, only eight inches of snow fell, but Washington is a government city, and eight inches of snow creates a disaster requiring many meetings, decisions and an occasional plow.  The inauguration was held in 22-degree cold, outside. 

The least memorable January 20th inauguration was Jimmy Carter's in 1977...because it was Jimmy Carter's inauguration. 

The final March 4th inauguration, FDR's in 1933, was famous for the words, "...the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."  After speaking those words,  President Roosevelt gave a blunt, cold, and stark description of where the country stood, as the Depression was hitting with a full blast.  Americans understood that they had a lot more to fear than fear itself, but it was that one declaration of hope that became famous.

Our next inauguration will be January 20, 2013.  And the president will be...?

March 4, 2011     Permalink

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WISCONSIN TRAVEL NEWS – AT 8:17 A.M. ET:  As we reported yesterday, the Wisconsin state senate has ordered the arrest of Dem senators who escaped to Illinois to avoid voting on the governor's budget reform plan.  The order, though, is only valid in Wisconsin. 

Some senators are apparently risking the trip back to their native soil.  You know, it's so important to have clean shirts.  From the Washington Examiner:

One of the reasons Wisconsin Republican senators voted to place warrants on what are now called the fugitive Democratic senators is that at least some of those Democrats -- the same ones who vowed to stay out of state until they prevail in the controversy over Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal -- have in fact been returning to Wisconsin for personal visits.

"We know that certain senators have been coming back on the weekends and spending time with their families or coming back at night," Republican Sen. Randy Hopper told me Thursday night. In an interview with Fox News' Greta van Susteren, Majority Leader Sen. Scott Fitzgerald said much the same thing. "There's no doubt that the Democratic senators have been sneaking back and forth," Fitzgerald told Fox, "and some being as bold as to stay overnight in their own homes."

After Thursday's action in the Senate, coming back to Wisconsin will be considerably riskier for the 14 Democratic fugitives. "They will now have warrants on them that if they come back into the state at all, law enforcement will have the authority to detain them," says Hopper. "Before, law enforcement could just say, 'You need to get back to the Capitol.' If the Democrats say, 'We're going to stay away until we get what they want,' then this will tell them, you better stay away." Hopper says the warrants are not criminal or civil, and state police will "not be actively searching" for the fugitive Democrats, but law enforcement will have the authority to detain the lawmakers and take them to the Capitol if they are spotted in Wisconsin.

COMMENT:  I'd love to see one of these birds spotted by a state trooper and arrested.  What's the culprit going to say?  He can always rely on the standard line of politicians when they run from office:  "I wanted to spend more time with my family."

Of course, if law enforcement becomes more active, and can't find the escaped senators, they can do what we all do.  Send them a FedEx package.  FedEx finds everyone.

Governor Scott Walker has warned that, unless a budget deal is in place by today, he will announce the start of layoffs.  That might concentrate the minds of those who think he's joking.

March 3, 2011       Permalink

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MARCH 3,  2011

LIBYA UPDATE – AT 11:58 P.M. ET:  There is a haze over news from Libya.  We know there is fighting going on, we know there is diplomatic activity, but we're not sure of exactly what is happening or whether positions taken by various nations are shifting.

Within Libya there is news of a provisional council being established in rebel-held areas.  The council is the first political coming together of dissident elements.  But we're not sure how much strength it has, exactly whom it represents, or whether the Libyan people accept it.

Outside Libya, Venezuelan buffoon-in-chief Hugo Chavez attempted to intervene to help his friend Qaddafi by offering to set up negotiations between the Libyan dictator and the opposition, but the opposition quickly, and correctly, rejected the idea. 

For Americans, the key question is what will Obama do.  Secretaries Gates and Clinton have made it clear that we are very reluctant to intervene militarily, especially since, as Clinton points out, we aren't exactly sure who the opposition is.  Obama certainly doesn't want to run for office next year having pulled a Jimmah Carter, and pushed one dictator out, as Carter did in Iran, simply to find a worse one take his place.

But the president seems to be moving closer to considering some military role, if Libya grows into a humanitarian disaster.   From WaPo:

President Obama said Thursday that he had ordered plans giving the U.S. military "full capacity to act, potentially rapidly," in Libya if the situation there deteriorates.

"I don't want us hamstrung," Obama said. He cited the possibility of a humanitarian crisis, or "a situation in which defenseless civilians were finding themselves trapped and in great danger," or "a stalemate that over time could be bloody" if Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi continues to resist international demands that he step down.

Gaddafi "has lost legitimacy to lead, and he must leave," the president said.

COMMENT:  Pretty good words from Obama, but essentially toothless right now.  The great Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins was on CNN tonight, and he quoted a line from Lyndon Johnson:  "Don't tell a man to go to hell unless you're prepared to send him there."  Johnson was rewriting the great line, from Emerson, that if you strike at the king, you must kill him. 

American policy is evolving.  It is reactive right now, reacting to developments in Libya itself.  This whole situation can be over in days, but can stretch to weeks or even months.

March 3, 2011      Permalink

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WISCONSIN MOVES SYMBOLICALLY ON ABSENTEE DEM SENATORS – AT 7:37 P.M. ET:  The Wisconsin state senate is trying to pressure Democratic senators to return.  Some 14 of them fled to Illinois and other foreign countries to prevent the Wisconsin senate from voting on Governor Scott Parker's bill reining in the power of public-employee unions:

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Republican leader of the Wisconsin Senate has signed orders finding 14 AWOL Democrats in contempt. The orders signed Thursday allow the sergeant at arms to detain the missing senators and use police force if necessary.

The Democrats say they are all in Illinois and won't return.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says the orders are only binding in Wisconsin.

The Senate passed a resolution calling for the action earlier Thursday but gave Democrats until 4 p.m. to return. None of them did, which led Fitzgerald to sign 14 orders of detainment in dramatic fashion in the center of the Senate chamber. 

COMMENT:  It may be only symbolic, but it does put pressure on the escapees.  They can't sneak back into Wisconsin safely to visit their homes or their girl friends. 

The public-employee unions are apparently counting on public sympathy to force the governor to back down.  And there is sympathy, measured in the polls, for unions to retain the right of collective bargaining.  But polls also show that the public wants real concessions and budget cutting.

There is speculation that Walker will be forced to back down.  I doubt that.  He was very firm when he was Milwaukee county executive.  He tends to be a fighter.  Now he's fighting not only Wisconsin unions, but their allies from all over the country.

March 3, 2011       Permalink

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FIGHT FIERCELY HARVARD – AT 7:16 P.M. ET:  Harvard University is welcoming ROTC back to campus, in a distinct victory for rationality and maturity, two traits not always in great supply on today's campuses.  From AP:

BOSTON (AP) — Harvard University is welcoming the Reserve Officer Training Corps program back to campus this week, 41 years after banishing it amid dissent over the Vietnam War.

The Cambridge, Mass., school's change in policy follows the decision by Congress in December to repeal the military ban on gays serving openly, an official familiar with the arrangement said Thursday.

Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on Friday are scheduled to sign an agreement that will recognize the Naval ROTC's formal presence on campus, according to the official, who wasn't allowed to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

As part of the agreement, a director of Naval ROTC at Harvard will be appointed, and the university will resume funding the program. Harvard cadets will still train at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as they have for years

Harvard and several other prominent schools, including Stanford, Yale and Columbia, had kept the Vietnam-era ban in place following the war because of what they viewed as a discriminatory military policy forbidding gays from serving openly.

But after Congress cleared the way for the repeal of the so-called "don't ask, don't tell," policy in December, Harvard's president said she'd work toward ROTC's return.

COMMENT:  Drew Faust has turned out to be a solid president of Harvard.  She kept her word on ROTC, which is commendable.

The battle is far from won.  There is still fierce resistance to ROTC at some schools, especially Columbia, where Lenin's children, including some on the faculty, regularly crawl out of their bunkers to confront the American militaristic, imperialist machine and its corporate lapdogs.   One faculty group recently issued a brave statement in favor of ROTC, whereas another issued one opposing it.  The opponent list was heavy with representatives of the anthropology department, known for its belief that Stalin was a capitalist stooge, and Middle East studies, known for its swell parties marking Muammar al-Qaddafi's birthday.

Among the arguments the Columbia faculty opponents raised was their concern that ROTC still discriminated...on the basis of age and physical disability.  I am not kidding.  They actually argued that.  Apparently, these apparatchiks won't be happy until ROTC accepts 55-year-old cadets with 20/800 vision who dream of being snipers. 

Columbia will make a decision soon.  I think they should vote on May Day, as the oppponents will be giddy with proletarian joy. 

March 3, 2011      Permalink

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WHERE OBAMA STANDS – AT 9:54 A.M. ET:  A new poll shows the president losing the bounce he received late last year, but don't underestimate him.  From The Politico:

Backsliding from his approval-ratings surge at the beginning of the year, President Barack Obama is breaking even in a poll of registered voters released Thursday.

The president’s approval ratings are split at 46 percent in a new Quinnipiac University poll as voters express substantial disdain for how the Obama administration is handling policy issues including federal spending and taxes.

In January, Obama’s approval in the Quinnipiac survey was at 48 percent and his disapproval was at 44 percent. Still, he is doing slightly better than he was just a few months ago in November, when his disapproval rating was at an all-time low of 49 percent and his approval was at 44 percent.

But even as Obama struggles to gain support for his approaches to the issues, 74 percent of voters said they personally like the president. Forty-one percent of those surveyed said they like him personally and like his policies, while 33 percent said they like him personally but don’t like his policies. Just 1 percent said they like Obama’s policies but not him, and 19 percent said they don’t like him or his policies.

By comparison, Rasmussen reports today that 45% of Americans approve of the president's performance, while 54% disapprove.  Rasmussen has generally registered higher disapproval ratings for Obama than other polls.

COMMENT:  While these numbers are not great for the president, they aren't all that bad.  The president's 2012 situation is far from desperate.  If the GOP nominates a terrific candidate in that year, he (or she) could give Obama quite a difficult time.  But if the Republicans nominate a so-so candidate, it shouln't be too difficult for Obama, a much better candidate than he is a president, to pull up to 50%, and a narrow victory. 

The Republicans need some old-fashioned excitement.  We have argued here before that they should look behind the obvious candidates, something the party has, historically, been reluctant to do.  Traditionally, Republicans nominate the guy who's next in line, living or dead.

March 3, 2011       Permalink

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LIBYA TODAY – AT 9:02 A.M. ET:  The revolution in Libya is taking on the characteristics of a civil war, rather than a brief rebellion, which was the Egyptian model.  And the dictator is proving difficult to dislodge.  Western countries face painful decisions, with no guaranteed outcomes, if the fighting goes on in the oil-rich country.  From Fox:

REGA, Libya -- Mutinous army units in pickup trucks armed with machine-guns and rocket launchers deployed around the strategic oil installation at Brega Thursday, a day after the opposition foiled an attempt by loyalists of Muammar al-Qaddafi to retake the port in rebel-held east Libya.

Government warplanes launched a new airstrike on the town in the morning, according to witnesses. It was not clear what they targeted, but it was likely an airstrip that belongs to the huge oil complex on the Mediterranean coast. There were no reports of casualties.

"We are in a position to control the area and we are deploying our forces," a rebel army officer in Brega told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

And...

Opposition leaders are pleading for foreign powers to launch airstrikes to help them oust Qaddafi as the United States moves military forces closer to Libyan shores to put military muscle behind Washington's calls for Qaddafi to give up power immediately.

COMMENT:  The administration, speaking especially through Defense Secretary Bob Gates, is making it plain that it doesn't want to get dragged into another conflict.

We are stuck, literally, between the proverbial rock and the hard place.  If we intervene militarily, we can appear to be Western imperialists trying to shape a new Libya to our own liking.  Al Qaeda's propagandists could have a field day, and our side can still lose.

On the other hand, if we fail to act, and Qaddafi remains in power, we will come off as weak and unprincipled, unconcerned about the people of the Arab world as long as the oil flows. 

One problem the administration has is actually identifying who the opposition is, not only in Libya, but in much more important Egypt.  There are already some very disturbing signs that the Muslim Brotherhood is starting to assert itself in Egypt, demanding, for example, the resignation of clerics it does not support. 

There are disturbances in other Arab countries, like Bahrain, Jordan, and Yemen. There are also continued, but small, disturbances in Iran.  But – and I think this is fascinating – the governments of those countries have thus far not been toppled.  It is quite possible that, over the weeks ahead, we will wind up with exactly the same autocrats in power as we had a month ago, with only the governments of Tunisia and Egypt changing hands, and with uncertain results in those two countries.

Please recall that there was a revolt against Soviet rule in Hungary in 1956, and in Czechoslovakia in 1968, surrounded by much hoopla and talk of freedom, but with no change in the ruling structure.  Revolutions are not easy, especially when the government starts shooting back.

March 3, 2011      Permalink

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BETTER JOB PROSPECTS? – AT 8:48 A.M. ET:  From Bloomberg:

Initial jobless claims unexpectedly declined last week to the lowest level since May 2008, pointing to a strengthening labor market.

Applications for unemployment benefits decreased by 20,000 to 368,000 in the week ended Feb. 26, Labor Department figures showed today. Economists forecast claims would climb to 395,000, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey. The total number of people receiving unemployment insurance fell to the lowest level since October 2008.

Among the reasons for increased optimism about the labor market in coming months has been a recent drop in initial claims, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke told lawmakers this week. Companies added 200,000 jobs in February, while unemployment rose to 9.1 percent, economists project a Labor Department report to show tomorrow.

COMMENT:  Good news for the economy, and also for Barack Obama, as we move into the 2012 election cycle.  If unemployment starts to drop seriously, it will be a powerful boost for his reelection chances.

However, these figures are far from spectacular, and we would have to examine the trend over months.  Also, the information out today doesn't tell us what kind of jobs are being created, and at what level.  Ronald Reagan's classic question, "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" still applies.  Many workers may be taking jobs at incomes below what they'd received before, which is not economic progress. 

The jury is still out.  But look to the mainstream media to spin economic news as favorably as they can, the better to help Obama cling to office.

March 3, 2011      Permalink

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TERROR SUSPECT IN GERMANY IDENTIFIED – AT 8:36 A.M. ET:  Suspicions that the gunman who allegedly killed two American G.I.'s in Germany yesterday appear to be confirmed.  From CNN:

The man who shot and killed two American troops in Germany Wednesday was a recently radicalized Muslim whose aim was to kill American soldiers, a German official said Thursday.

The suspect seems to have been acting on his own, but had spent time on local radical Islamist websites, said Boris Rhein, interior minister of the German state of Hesse, where the shooting took place.

The 21-year-old man from Kosovo is in custody after two U.S. airmen were killed and two others were wounded Wednesday in a shooting on a U.S. military bus at Frankfurt Airport, authorities said.

The suspect is named Arid Uka, from the northern town of Mitrovica, Kosovo's interior minister, Bajram Rexhepi, told CNN, citing the U.S. Embassy in Pristina as his source.

COMMENT:  One of the greatest fears of American counterterrorism experts is the lone wolf attack launched by a well-armed individual who operates essentially on his own, although his views have been shaped by radical Islam.  One major purpose of terrorism is to terrorize, and, while an individual might not do massive damage with a personal attack, he (or she) could terrorize a city or even the nation.  Think of the impact on the air system if a lone wolf brought down an airliner over an American city.

First things first:  Let's see if the Obama administration, at its highest levels, will acknowledge the ideology behind the attack in Germany, or will pull another Fort Hood – just a disturbed guy with no beliefs.

March 3, 2011     Permalink

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THE ANGEL'S CORNER

Part I of The Angel's Corner was sent late Wednesday night.

Part II will be sent over the weekend.

 

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