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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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NOVEMBER 3, 2011
SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 9:06 P.M. ET:
CAINIACS – Despite all the angst, Herman Cain continues to rake in large contributions, and still sits at the top of the GOP pack in the latest Rasmussen poll. However, he is getting very low marks from thoughtful reporters on the way he, and his campaign, have handled the charges against him. Cain has a tendency to make off-the-cuff remarks that he then has to walk back. Yesterday he accused the Perry campaign of being the source of the leaked information about sexual harassment charges. No evidence was presented, and the accusation kind of went away today. Now we see that the Cain campaign is hinting it may sue The Politico, which broke the story. Nonsense. There's nothing to sue about. Cain is a public figure, and would have to prove actual malice to win a defamation suit, which he could not prove. I'm not sure this man has the judgment to be president.
IRAN ACCUSED AGAIN – The latest installment in the current intrigue over a possible Israeli, or Western, attack on Iran's nuclear facilities came today when the Obama administration noted publicly that Iran is the only signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that cannot convince the UN that its nuclear program is peaceful. Are the new American accusations part of the "case" being made for a pre-emptive attack? We won't know until, and unless, an attack actually occurs, but there is clearly something going on, as we reported earlier today.
GUTS – A French satirical newspaper, called Charlie Hebdo, was firebombed earlier this week for printing a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad. And now they've reprinted it, as a sign of defiance against the firebombers. The weekly paper defended "the freedom to poke fun" in explaining its decision. In fairness, some Muslim groups in France have condemned the firebombing, and some have even defended the paper's treatment of Mohammad. However, events like a firebombing take their eventual toll. In America, the Yale University Press censored one of its offerings, cutting out cartoons "offensive" to Islam, rather than face objection. The term "chilling effect" applies.
ABOUT TIME – Mitt Romney has finally begun to reply to the single most effective charge against him, that he's a career flip-flopper who regularly changes his views to fit the political fashions. This charge is made both within the GOP, where there is much support and little love for Romney, and by the Democratic Party, which will use it if Romney gets the Republican nod. Romney's initial statements on the question are vague, though, his defense being that he doesn't always state his opinion in the same words, but that he's been as consistent as humanly possible. Well, frankly, that just won't cut it. Romney has flip-flopped, although he can turn right around and look at the marching inconsistencies in Barack Obama's rhetoric as well. How much will the charge actually hurt Romney? I guess that will depend on how badly Americans want Obama out of office.
November 3, 2011 Permalink
STRIKE ON IRAN? – AT 8:48 A.M. ET: The buzz continues about a possible Israeli – or American – strike on Iran, possibly with British support. Britain's highest ranking military officer visited Israel this week secretly, but the news leaked out.
Indeed, the Israeli prime minister ordered an inquiry into the inordinate number of leaks about Israel's possible Iran intentions. There is informed speculation that the leaks are coming from political opponents in the defense establishment who oppose an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.
There is also this nugget, from Britain's leftish newspaper, the Guardian:
COMMENT: I dissent from the notion that Obama "has no wish to embark on a new and provocative military venture before" our election. That would be just the time to do it. His popularity would soar and his reelection would probably be assured. He would position himself as the true commander-in-chief, protecting the nation. Of course, the assault would have to go well.
There are simply too many reports from too many different centers for us to believe that there's nothing here. Next week the UN issues its report on Iran's nuclear program, and it is expected to be deeply disturbing.
I'd watch this closely. With the US withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan, a strike on Iran could cripple, or at least set back, the one nation in the region that could give us serious trouble. The topping on the cake would be if the attack weakened the government and led to a popular revolution.
November 3, 2011 Permalinks
GUARDED ECONOMIC NEWS – AT 8:36 A.M. ET: Jobless claims declined last week to under 400,000, but this must be seen as only marginally good news, as we're not creating many jobs. The new figures simply mean that the Titanic is sinking at a slower rate:
COMMENT: Obviously, if the jobless figures continue to go in the right direction, even slowly, that will help Obama win reelection. But there are plenty of hazards down the road, including the unstable situation in Europe. So we should not be moved either way by one month's figures.
November 3, 2011 Permalink
HERMAN – AT 8:07 A.M. ET: It's all Herman all the time. Herman Cain's problems have sucked most of the air out of the Republican race, at least for this week.
It is clear that Cain is in some trouble. More people, including men, and a third woman, have come forward to say that they've seen him engage in what must be termed mildly inappropriate conduct. No one thus far is accusing him of the worst kind of sexual harassment, the quid pro quo. You know, "You come to my hotel room and I'll take good care of you in your career." At worst, at least so far, Cain may have engaged in what one accuser called "awkward" comments.
The problem is that he's handled the issue poorly, with evasive or highly technical answers, getting snippy with the press, and changing some stories. Also, Cain and his handlers are blaming the Perry camp for starting these stories, but don't seem to have the proof to back up the charge. From Fox:
COMMENT: This is a drip, drip, drip situation, which the press loves. It continues the story, and takes attention away from the other candidates. More and more will drip out. Cain is trapped in very bad situation. As Haley Barbour has said, Cain would certainly rather be talking about something else.
I don't see any chance that Cain will pull out of the race. It's not in his character. He's a fighter. He should probably ask that all confidentiality agreements be dropped and that anyone with a charge come forward publicly, and by name, so he can reply. In the meantime, Cain can try to return to a discussion of the issues.
As noted, the level of the charges apparently made against Cain is fairly low. If they were higher charges, the settlements would have been larger. So the voters will decide Herman Cain's fate once the facts are in. Cain's handling of the crisis is more important than the original cases, at least in the political sense.
November 3, 2011 Permalink
EUROPE IN CRISIS – AT 7:51 A.M. ET: International economics is a complicated subject, and Americans shy away from it. But what's happening in Europe can soon affect us here. The focus today is on Greece, whose economy is tottering, while a number of its citizens parade through the streets demanding that their benefits not be cut.
This is what happens when governments make promises they can't keep.
Other European countries are trying to stabilize the situation, but there is not much optimism. From the Washington Post:
COMMENT: That means we'll know whether Greece will remain in the European monetary system by early December. Markets are being riled, and the European crisis, which could result in a Greek default, followed by the falling dominoes of Italy, Spain, and Ireland, could make our problems look somewhat pale by comparison.
In some way, though, America will be paying for this wreckage. If the European economy heads south, so will our exports to Europe. Fewer sales, fewer jobs.
So far the economic geniuses haven't batted too well in getting the world back on track following the 2008 convulsions. Maybe they should let some local storekeepers try. They probably understand more.
November 3, 2011 Permalink
NOVEMBER 2, 2011
SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 10:58 P.M. ET:
THE CAIN SAGA CONTINUES – More accusations were made against Herman Cain today, one by a former pollster for the National Restaurant Association, who says he witnessed inappropriate behavior by Cain toward women. Cain has thus far not been able to get out from under the furor, in part because his replies to questions about the charges are often vague and contradictory. Each of the new people making charges must be vetted. Some appear to have possible political motivations. Can Cain survive this onslaught? Yes, he can survive, but, with new charges out there, the issue is how damaged his brand will be.
MORE WARMING BABBLE – A new exposé reported by Fox News charges that many reports written for the UN on climate change are actually written by graduate students with little experience in the field. Despite recent attempts to show "hard" scientific proof of global warming, the entire climate change enterprise is coming under increasing scrutiny. One physicist prominent in the field admitted that scientists often ally themselves with politicians who exaggerate the global warming issue because the scientists want a better world. The issue, of course, is not whether there is climate change. There always is. The issue is the degree to which mankind causes the change, and what, if anything, can be done about it, or should be done about it.
MADNESS – General social conditions in Oakland, California, are bad enough, but the "occupy" movement is making them worse. Today, several thousand of the "occupiers" shut down the Oakland port, the nation's fifth busiest. Organizers said they wanted to stop the flow of capital, which is very intelligent. Not. Thus far America's cities have been remarkably indulgent toward the "occupy" movement, and the movement still gets some support from the usual suspects. But jobs in the area of the protests are being lost because customer traffic is disrupted, and there is growing anger in many cities that the protests are doing serious harm, while not proposing any real ideas. Mayor Bloomberg of New York is finally threatening to shut the protests down. If he does it, other mayors will do it.
OBAMA BOOSTED – A new Quinnipiac survey shows President Obama gaining in public approval over the last month, although it's hard to figure out why. Gaddafi's death may be involved, as well as the belief among some that Obama, no matter how bad, is better than any of his rivals. According to Quinnipiac, 47% of Americans approve of Obama's performance, while 49% disapprove. Some 47% of respondents say Obama deserves to be re-elected. So, while the president starts his campaign behind in the polls, he isn't in terrible shape. Republican squabbling isn't helping our side, nor is the lack of a clear, coherent Republican message that the majority of Americans can embrace.
November 2, 2011 Permalink
LET US BE REMINDED – AT 9:50 A.M. ET: One of the most effective weapons the Islamists have is pure intimidation, which is what terror attacks are all about. Media outlets that publish material deemed "offensive" by the Islamists get special treatment, which is why very few take risks, essentially eliminating real freedom of the press. Now the Islamists have struck again, this time in France. From London's Telegraph:
COMMENT: Charb has guts, which may eventually cost him his life. There have been similar attacks, or attempts at attacks, in some other European countries.
It's the chilling effect that we worry about. Publishers or broadcast executives could, very understandably, stay away from controversial stories involving Islam, or provocative articles, if they knew their lives could be in danger. And that's when real freedom dims.
Sadly, many "multiculturalists," who have an odd history of siding with totalitarians, provide ready excuses for the Islamists, trotting out the clichés of the last 40 years – that the Islamists are 1) oppressed, 2) frustrated, 3) discriminated against, 4) merely exercising their cultural choices, and 5) victims of the United States. These multis also run campaigns against "hate speech," which too often is defined as any speech an organized group disagrees with.
November 2, 2011 Permalink
A SAD STORY – AT 8:55 A.M. ET: I remember when SONY was the symbol of excellent in home electronics. I recall buying SONY Trinitron TV's, and the pride of ownership we felt. The sets were sold at full manufacturer's suggested prices, and we paid them. SONY was the best. The best picture. The best quality.
Their Betamax was the first home VCR, and always outdistanced their VHS competitors in quality. SONY invented the Walkman, the first mobile, around-the-neck portable music player. And then came the PlayStation.
And then came Apple, under Steve Jobs. And a vital, vigorous competitor named Samsung.
We have a fine, upscale shopping mall here in White Plains. There is an Apple Store, and a SONY store. The Apple Store is always jammed. Go into SONY, and you can hear the proverbial pin drop.
The financial results are devastating. From Bloomberg:
COMMENT: This is classic capitalism. Other companies simply came up with more innovative products, well made and well marketed. At the same time, quality at SONY has slipped, its stores are drab, and the company has lost the aura it used to have.
We happened to have bought a new TV only two days ago, and chose Samsung over SONY. Better quality, more innovative, at least in the view of the knowledgeable people we consulted.
Some companies have glory days, but they must keep up. Apple's iPod destroyed SONY's portable players. The Apple Store is unique. The SONY stores are drab. SONY's recorders and players are just appliances, although well made. And the flagship product – the TV receiver, is now flat screen. Gone is the Trinitron advantage.
Now Apple, too, must watch its back, as Samsung is selling more smart phones than is Apple. That's the great thing about free enterprise. It never stands still.
November 2, 2011 Permalink
EUROPE ON THE BRINK – AT 8:35 A.M. ET: The renewed European debt crisis, which devastated markets yesterday, continues. There is no magic bullet here. The immediate crisis centers on Greece. If it collapses, it could set off a series of dominoes that will surely affect us here. From Bloomberg:
COMMENT: We have to watch this day by day. Clearly, the European economy is huge, and a major default could set back economic planning throughout the West, and even the second and third worlds. Europe, historically, goes out of its way to botch things, while lecturing the United States. It may be botch time again.
We have a right to wonder if America will be asked for some cash to help bail out failing European states. Well, better money than blood, but we're hardly in shape to write large checks, or even deliver many bucks from the petty cash jar.
November 2, 2011 Permalink
AN ISRAELI ATTACK? – AT 8:17 A.M. ET: There is substantial, and informed, speculation in the Mideast press, that Israel is preparing for an attack on Iran.
There is no confirmation from the Israeli government. We do know that Secretary of Defense Panetta was recently dispatched to Israel to ask the Israelis not to act unilaterally. But reports say that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak favor an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, and are trying to persuade reluctant members of the Israeli cabinet. It's been reported that there is skepticism on the part of Israel's military and intelligence establishments, who fear the aftermath of an attack, which could erupt into a general Mideast war. However, those favoring action believe Israel faces a threat to its very existence.
The International Atomic Energy Agency is about to issue a report on Iran that is expected to be damning, accusing Iran of an active nuclear program with military goals. That is a departure from the conclusions reached by the same agency when it was under the corrupt leadership of Mohammed elBaradei, essentially a front man for the Iranian regime. The new director is Japanese, and a straight shooter. Some observers speculate that Israel will use the report as justification for unilateral action.
The United States, while publicly opposing an attack, has supplied Israel with bunker-busting bombs that are ideal for an assault on hardened Iranian facilities.
Netanyahu was scheduled to come to the United States within the next few weeks to address an organization, but abruptly canceled, saying he needed to stay in Israel for commemorations marking the death of the late Prime Minister Rabin. That is a pretty absurd excuse, given the fact that the Rabin ceremonies were scheduled months ago. Defense writers are speculating that the Iranian issue is the real reason for Netanyahu to stay home.
We'll see. We've had speculation like this before, with no action resulting. It could very well be that this new chatter has been generated by the Israeli government to put pressure on Iran, and to remind the West how serious the nuclear issue has become.
Stand by for more.
November 2, 2011 Permalink
"What you see is news. What you know is background. What you feel is opinion."
"Councils of war breed timidity and defeatism."
"Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred. "
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© 2011 William Katz