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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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FEBRUARY 6,  2012

SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 8:17 P.M. ET:

OBAMA GAINS IN POLL – The Rasmussen poll is registering sharp gains for President Obama, in part because of what many Americans see, rightly or wrongly, as a suddenly positive jobs outlook.  In today's Rasmussen report, some 50% of Americans approve of the job Obama is doing, while 48% disapprove.  This is a dramatic reversal from the numbers we've seen for many months, in which disapproval outstripped approval.  By the way, also in today's Rasmussen report, Romney has fallen behind Obama in presidential matchups with – get this – Rick Santorum reported as the only Republican ahead of Obama, if only by a point.  This could, of course, be a one-day fluke.  But the effectiveness of Obama's political operation is starting to show.

FROM RULER OF THE WAVES, TO BEGGAR – It is reported by the Telegraph that Britain had to beg Washington for permission to join the flotilla that recently passed through the Strait of Hormuz, defying Iran's threat to close it.  American defense chiefs apparently saw little value in a British contribution.  British forces are being cut severely, with both the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force only shadows of their former selves.  It took an intervention by French President Sarkozy for Washington to relent.  It is another sign of the Obama administration's contempt for our closest ally, but I'm afraid it also reflects the decline of Britain as a world power. 

THE GREAT THREAT – In a courageous action to defend its sacred beliefs, the government of Iran has banned dolls based on The Simpsons, that great American TV family.  This comes after another body blow to American culture, the Iranian banning of Barbie.  However, there's a light at the end of the suicide belt:  Iran will allow Superman and Spiderman because they help the "oppressed."  So, watch for the man of steel to be flying over Tehran soon, helped in his crusade by Lois Lane, girl martyr.  We don't know what toy will be banned next, but I'd take a hard look at the cultural imperialism represented by Donald Duck.

HIS DAY ISN'T MADE – Clint Eastwood is taking heat today over his commercial for Chrysler, played during the Super Bowl.  Many said it was the best commercial of the game.  It boosted Detroit and the American auto industry.  However, conservatives are in an uproar because the text seemed to imply support for President Obama's policies.  And, despite the Detroit-centric purpose, we've now learned that almost all of the commercial was shot in other cities.  Clint Eastwood is a good guy, most of the time, but he might have looked a little more closely at what he was getting into with this ad.

February 6, 2012       Permalink

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PAINFUL TRUTH – AT 9:40 A.M.  ET:  In a time of crisis, America is reducing its defenses.  This itself is a betrayal of everything we've learned in the last 75 years.  But the people in charge don't seem to read much of that history stuff, and those who do prefer left-wing historians like Howard Zinn.   As for the Republicans, too many are out to lunch, more interested in the tax bill of their loudest constituents than in making certain that we're well defended.

One asset that's in special trouble is tactical air, and the veterans of that arm of our national defense are becoming increasingly vocal about this part of the betrayal, as Rowan Scarborough points out in the Washington Times:

America’s aging tactical Air Force — the jets that protect ground troops and strike hard-to-reach targets — is shrinking just as the Pentagon is cutting even more planes to achieve nearly a half-trillion dollars in spending cuts.

The trend has set off alarms among retired fighter pilots, some of whom wrote to Congress last month warning that U.S. “TacAir” is in trouble.

They fear the political pressure to drive down the deficit will mean there will never be enough money to replace 1970s jets with advanced aircraft to operate against rising militaries such as China‘s, which last year unveiled its own stealth fighter, the J-20.

“With the exception of our airlift fleet, we have a geriatric Air Force,” said retired Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, a former F-15 Eagle pilot and Operation Desert Storm war planner. “We’re flying fighters that are 30 years old. What people seem to miss is, a fighter is not like an airliner, where you take off from Point A and go to Point B. Our pilots put six to nine [gravitational forces] on these things every day.”

Gen. Deptula, who now heads the Mav6 LLC aerospace company, pointed to a 2007 event that has come to symbolize the collection of elderly fighter jets: An Air National Guard F-15C, the premier air superiority jet, broke apart in the sky during combat training. The pilot ejected safely.

COMMENT:  I hope that Congress and the White House are flooded with warnings about what military cuts will do to our forces.  I doubt, though, that Democrats will care.  Their party is controlled by the McGovern wing, which increasingly regards national defense as a suspect concept. 

Maybe the Republicans will wake up, do their job, and save us.  But I suspect that we will need a physical shock, and a powerful one, to wake us from our increasingly deep sleep.  That shock, though, will involve the loss of life, and that is the tragedy.

February 6, 2012       Permalink

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THREE STATES VOTE TOMORROW – AT 9:15 A.M. ET:  Three states vote in the Republican race tomorrow – Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri.   The Missouri vote, because of a dispute within the Republican Party, will not count toward delegates, but has symbolic value.

There is already talk that tomorrow might be a big day for Rick Santorum.  A new poll places him ahead in Minnesota:

MINNEAPOLIS — The Republican caucuses in Minnesota on Tuesday are a virtual tossup, with front-runner Mitt Romney trailing former Sen. Rick Santorum by a small margin, a poll showed Sunday.

Romney, who strengthened his lead for the White House race with a solid win Saturday in the Nevada caucuses, faces a tougher challenge in the midwestern state, based on the survey from Public Policy Polling (PPP).

The poll gave Santorum, a narrow winner in neighboring Iowa, 29 percent of the vote to 27 percent for the former Massachusetts governor.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose campaign appears to be losing steam, was at 18 percent, while Congressman Ron Paul held 12 percent, the poll showed.

A separate PPP poll has Romney ahead in Colorado, but Santorum second.  Santorum also expects to do well in Missouri.

We should point out that Colorado and Minnesota are caucus states, while Missouri will hold a traditional voting-booth primary.  Caucuses tend to bring out the more conservative voters in the Republican Party.

One question we'll have tomorrow is how Gingrich is faring.  There is increasing buzz across the internet, reflected in the story above, is that Gingrich is starting to fade...again.  He is coming across as an angry, bitter man, and that just isn't attractive to voters, especially women.  America has always been attracted to the happy warrior type.

February is a relatively light month for Republican primaries.  But it's a preface to March 6th, Super Tuesday, when ten states vote. 

February 6, 2012       Permalink

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IRANIAN REALITY – AT 8:53 A.M. ET:  Iran is emerging as the major foreign policy issue of the year, and rightfully so.  Its march toward an atomic bomb could change its entire region.  If that bomb is used, it could change the world.

Much talk is focused on the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear program, but the window of opportunity for such an attack is narrow.  Most of the program is being moved underground, into hardened facilities, making it largely invulnerable to conventional attack.

America and the West, under the guidance of our less-than-dynamic president, are depending on sanctions to convince the Iranians to curtail their nuclear push.  But Reuters today runs a well-reported story that brings us back to the reality of what sanctions can do, and can't do.  The prospects are not good:

(Reuters) - Tightening international sanctions against Iran look set to shrink its economy, push up inflation and further erode its currency, but they may fail to deliver a knock-out blow that forces Tehran to compromise on its nuclear ambitions.

Few areas of Iran's economy now remain untouched by the sanctions. Because of payments difficulties, Iranian ships have in recent days stopped loading imports of Ukrainian grain. The United Arab Emirates has told its banks to stop financing Iran's trade with Dubai. Iranians are finding it more difficult to obtain hard currency to travel abroad.

But the history of sanctions against other countries, and the strengths of Iran's diverse and relatively self-reliant economy, suggest that as long as Tehran can find buyers for a large proportion of its oil, it will be able to limp along.

The pain will be felt throughout the country and could increase discontent with the government, but if President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can cope with that political threat, there may be no overriding economic reason for him to back down.

"Iran can still scrape by," said Gary Hufbauer, a fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in the United States and a former U.S. Treasury official who has written extensively about the history of sanctions.

COMMENT:  That's the bottom line.  Iran is not going to give up its bomb because of sanctions.  It will have the most destructive weapon in history.  And then we will hear the sanctions crowd change its tune, claiming Iran can be "deterred," the way the Soviet Union was during the Cold War.  The problem is that Iran isn't Moscow.  Moscow, with all its evils, was rational.  It didn't glorify suicide.  It didn't believe that if it committed national suicide, all its male citizens would find 72 virgins on the other side. 

We don't know what Iran will do with the bomb.  That's why we must prevent the Iranians from getting it.  Obama says we will work hard to do so.  But he will fail.  Then what?

Americans do seem increasingly concerned.  A new poll taken for The Hill shows that an increasing number of us are willing to take military action.  From The Hill:

Nearly half of likely voters think the United States should be willing to use military force to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, according to this week’s The Hill Poll.

Forty-nine percent said military force should be used, while 31 percent said it should not and 20 percent were not sure.

Sixty-two percent of likely voters said they were somewhat or very concerned about Iran making a terrorist strike on the United States, while 37 percent said they were not very concerned or not at all concerned about it.

Nearly half — 49 percent — of likely voters also said they opposed cutting military spending to balance the federal budget, while 40 percent said it should be reduced.

We are very much at a crossroads in our foreign policy.  The Republicans must, in their campaign, articulate the Reagan approach to foreign relations and defense.  What we have now is a colossal failure, and that failure is likely to grow.

February 6, 2012        Permalink 

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THE AFTERMATH – AT 8:16 A.M. ET:  I figure it will take me about three days to walk off the calories consumed during yesterday's great Super Bowl game. 

We dined on fine pizza from Mario's of White Plains, pizzamaker to better bloggers.  We added ice cream from the renowned Stop 'n Shop supermarket, where only customers of refinement are permitted.  An apple was added to remind us of what good health used to look like.

Great game, strange half-time show.  There was this person Madonna running and gyrating around the stage.  I shall look her up.

Tomorrow New York will celebrate the Giants' victory with a tickertape parade.  This is a bit awkward since the Giants actually play in New Jersey, in a stadium rumored to be the final resting place for several celebrity victims of criminal reprisal.  So we assume Governor Christie will hold his own celebration.   New York City's increasingly goofball mayor, Mike Bloomberg, will attend the tickertape parade, although mixing with the civilian rabble is usually not his thing.

Both the Giants and the Patriots played well.  The Super Bowl is a great spectacle.  Even though I don't usually follow football during most of the season, the final games are usually examples of the sport superbly played.

One downer:  In contrast to the vast popularity of Super Bowl, last week saw the United States national figure skating championships in San Jose, California.  A decade ago figure skating, a sport that emphasizes young women, was immensely popular in the United States.  Today it is struggling to find an audience.  The lack of superstars and the imposition by the International Skating Union of a new scoring system that no one can follow, are the main culprits.  If you can't follow the game, why go?  In addition, ABC Sports, which had championed figure skating and had a superb battery of commentators, abandoned skating, leaving it to the less committed hands of NBC, which does a fine job, by the way. 

However, in watching the nationals, I felt confident that skating was on its way back.  This country has a young group of superb skaters to send to the next Olympics.  Maybe their performances will bring in a new, admiring audience.

The baseball season begins soon.  I will boycott it, as I have since 1957, when the Dodgers left Brooklyn for some city on the West Coast.  We do not forget!

February 6,  2012     Permalink

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FEBRUARY 5,  2012

SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 11:14 P.M. ET:

AL QAEDA ALIVE AND OPERATING – Al Qaeda is attempting to recruit women to carry out suicide attacks in Britain, members of Parliament said today.  It is using extremist websites to radicalize these women.  The MP's report comes just days after four Islamic extremists admitted to a plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange.  

EUROPE SHIVERS – While much of America is having a mild winter, Europe has been hit with bitter cold and heavy snow in recent days, with a loss of hundreds of lives.  Rome has seen its worst winter since 1985.  Say, hasn't this been the period when global warming was threatening to engulf us all, melting everything in sight and send the rivers over their embankments?  Didn't Barack Obama promise that the oceans would recede?   Maybe someone should call Al Gore and find out what to do.

OBAMA ON IRAN – Obama, in his traditional pre-Super Bowl interview, said that he didn't think Israel has yet decided whether to strike Iran to take out its nuclear program.  Obama also reiterated his position that he preferred to deal with the Iran problem diplomatically, but that all options are still on the table.  Oddly, Obama further said that we have no evidence that Iran wishes to carry out attacks in the United States, which directly contradicted the assessment of the director of national intelligence last week, who said that Iran is now more inclined to attack the American homeland.  They should have a conversation.

February 5, 2012        Permalink

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QUOTE OF THE DAY – AT 11:43 A.M. ET:  From Robert Kagan in the Washington Post:

Some find it absurd that the United States should have a larger military than the next 10 nations combined. But that gap in military power has probably been the greatest factor in upholding an international system that, in historical terms, is unique — and uniquely beneficial to Americans.

Nor should we forget that this power is part of what makes America attractive to many other nations. The world has not always loved America. During the era of Vietnam and Watergate and the ugly last stand of segregationists, America was often hated. But nations that relied on the United States for security from threatening neighbors tended to overlook the country’s flaws. In the 1960s, millions of young Europeans took to the streets to protest American “imperialism,” while their governments worked to ensure that the alliance with the United States held firm.

Soft power, meanwhile, has its limits. No U.S. president has enjoyed more international popularity than Woodrow Wilson did when he traveled to Paris to negotiate the treaty ending World War I. He was a hero to the world, but he found his ability to shape the peace, and to establish the new League of Nations, severely limited, in no small part by his countrymen’s refusal to commit U.S. military power to the defense of the peace. John F. Kennedy, another globally admired president, found his popularity of no use in his confrontations with Nikita Khrushchev, who, by Kennedy’s own admission, “beat the hell out of me” and who may have been convinced by his perception of Kennedy’s weakness that the United States would tolerate his placing Soviet missiles in Cuba.

And...

The biggest illusion is to imagine that as American power declines, the world stays the same.

What has been true since the time of Rome remains true today: There can be no world order without power to preserve it, to shape its norms, uphold its institutions, defend the sinews of its economic system and keep the peace. Military power can be abused, wielded unwisely and ineffectively. It can be deployed to answer problems that it cannot answer or that have no answer. But it is also essential. No nation or group of nations that renounced power could expect to maintain any kind of world order. If the United States begins to look like a less reliable defender of the present order, that order will begin to unravel. People might indeed find Americans very attractive in this weaker state, but if the United States cannot help them when and where they need help the most, they will make other arrangements.

COMMENT:   Wonderfully said.  We are going through another period of illusion, led on the left by Barack Obama and the left wing of his party, and on the right by Ron Paul and the neo-isolationists he leads.  Both would weaken America militarily.

We had four military drawdowns in the 20th century.  All ended badly, as other nations took advantage of our perceived weakness.  In each case we recovered, although the cost of some of the recoveries was ghastly.  We lost 600,000 men in World War II, an unnecessary war that could have been prevented by displaying strength rather than weakness in the face of Nazi and Japanese military buildups. 

The old saying is correct:  If you want peace, prepare for war.  Notice, that as announce one "withdrawal" after another, and move to cut our defense budget, countries like Iran are growing more aggressive.  They read the papers, too.

February 5, 2012       Permalink 

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BUILD THAT PIPELINE! – AT 11:01 A.M. ET:   Approving the building of the Keystone Pipeline from Canada to our Gulf Coast,  is a no-brainer.  It will give us a ready supply of Canadian oil, from an obviously friendly source, will create American jobs, and make us less dependent on Mideast oil at a time of extreme instability in the Mideast.

But it is being delayed by the Obamans to appease the fanatical environmental lobby, the wonderful folks who've also given us "climate change."  But help may be on the way:

Republicans are gearing up for another showdown over the Canada-to-Texas Keystone pipeline, pushing a bill that would compel approval of the project after President Obama denied a critical permit.

The Obama administration has not killed the pipeline. Rather, Obama claimed last month that Republicans did not give his administration enough time when they pushed for a permitting decision within 60 days -- the president denied that permit, presumably sidelining the issue at the height of campaign season as the company TransCanada scrambles to reapply.

But Republicans, who have assailed Obama's decision as bad for the economy and bad for energy security, want to get the project back on the rails.

They plan to make an end run around the State Department, which typically has jurisdiction over cross-border permits, and are teeing up a committee vote for Tuesday on a bill that would do just that.

"It's time for Congress to take this decision out of the president's hands and take the politics out of a commonsense pipeline that will bring economic and energy security," Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement.

Republicans' proposed bill would hand the permitting issue over the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. It would direct the group to approve the permit within 30 days, as well as a proposed re-routing of the pipeline's Nebraska section following a review by that state.

Nebraska's governor, Dave Heineman, has said he expects to have a new route proposal before the feds by August or September.

Upton is aiming for a floor vote by the end of February in the House, where Republicans hold a commanding majority. The bill's chances in the Senate are murkier, though some Democratic senators have spoken out in opposition to the Obama administration's decision.

COMMENT:  This is a test of Republican political skills, which often are in short supply.  It should not be difficult to switch enough Democratic votes in the Senate to send this bill to the president.  Democrats want to get re-elected too, and the pipeline is generally popular, except in the coastal precincts that give the Democratic Party its spiritual emptiness.  Obama will veto the bill, but his veto can become a major campaign issue, and a rallying cry. 

Root for the Republicans on this one.

February 5, 2012       Permalink 

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MADNESS – AT 10:38 A.M. ET:  The Arab spring isn't only turning into the Arab winter, but into the Arab blizzard.  Is anything going right?   We sure moved quickly to shove American ally Hosni Mubarak under the bus, but look what the successor government in Egypt is doing to us now.  From Fox:

CAIRO – The son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is among 19 Americans being referred to criminal trial for allegedly receiving foreign funds illegally and being involved in banned activity in Egypt, several news agencies reported Sunday.

In all, Egyptian officials say 44 non-governmental organization workers will be put before the court after investigating judges claimed they had reason to try the democracy and rights workers.

The move is likely to further sour relations between Egypt's military rulers and the United States, the Arab nation's chief western backer for more than 30 years. The decision came just after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Saturday with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr on the sidelines of the 48th meeting of the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

COMMENT:  And, of course, who is cozying up to the Egyptian military rulers?  Why, gosh darn, it's the Muslim Brotherhood, which just won sweeping victories in Egypt's elections. 

This is what we get for being uninformed, and for listening to goofball intelligence officers who are saying, with straight faces, that the Muslim Brotherhood is now mostly secular.  That's like saying that Nazi Germany was no threat because most Germans weren't Nazi party members.  It's that kind of adolescent thinking.

The fact that the new Egyptian rulers feel free to put on trial the son of an American cabinet secretary shows just how nervy they've become.

What a foreign policy we have. 

February 5,  2012     Permalink

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    - Lt. Gen. Arthur MacArthur, to his
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