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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 2,  2012

SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 11:22 P.M. ET:

LOW VOLTAGE – Chevy has temporarily suspended production of the Chevy Volt, even before President Obama had a chance to buy one, something he pledged to do.  GM is also temporarily laying off 1,300 workers.  The company partially blamed "exaggerated" media reports for the suspension of production.  Yeah, right.  And temporarily stopping the assembly lines because of low demand is apparently their idea of really great publicity. 

BATTLIN' BARACK – Or that's the way he's trying to portray himself.  President Obama says he isn't bluffing when he says he'll prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.  At the same time he's warning Israel against a premature attack.  At the same time the administration says that Secretary of State Clinton "misspoke" when she seemed to toughen the American position in testimony before Congress.  In other words, no one really knows what the policy is, if in fact there is a policy.  So far, nothing we've done or said has stopped the Iranians.  I have no confidence that this president will stop Iran from moving forward with the bomb. 

THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY – Former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey, a recipient of the Medal of Honor, is running for his old Senate seat from Nebraska, giving the Dems a real shot at keeping the seat, which is being vacated by moderate Democrat Ben Nelson.  But the party's left wing is furious.  Kerrey, a pro-defense Democrat who supported the Iraq War, is considered an apostate on the Democratic left, and his receiving the nation's highest honor for actions in Vietnam merely makes him more despicable in the left's eyes.  Leftist bloggers are openly hoping for his defeat, even if the seat goes to a Republican.  It's quite a sight – elements of the party of Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy going after a true hero and a decent man.  Harry Truman and Eleanor Roosevelt tried to rid the party of this fringe in the late forties, but they came back in the sixties, and haven't let go. 

WASHINGTON VOTES TOMORROW – That's Washington state, where the GOP will hold caucuses tomorrow, three days before Super Tuesday.  Most local pols agree that Mitt Romney would easily win a regular primary, but are unsure of how the caucuses will go.  Ron Paul and Rick Santorum are also participating.  Romney, though, has sent foot soldiers into the state to show his supporters how to participate in the process, not a bad idea in a caucus state. 

March 2, 2012       Permalink   

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OHIO – AT 9:52 A.M. ET:  Super Tuesday is four days away.  Ten states will vote.  Or, maybe we should say that Ohio plus nine other states will vote.  Ohio is the big prize on Tuesday. 

Virginia would have been a big prize as well, but an overly restrictive ballot mechanism has reduced the Virginia primary to Romney vs. Paul, with Santorum and Gingrich left out.

Ohio has been trending toward Santorum.  But, in a pattern that we've seen repeat over and over during this campaign, Romney is gaining.  From The Hill: 

Mitt Romney has posted big gains on Rick Santorum in the critical Super Tuesday contest for Ohio, according to two new polls released on Friday.

Romney has pulled to within the margin of error according to a survey from Quinnipiac University.

And a survey from conservative polling outlet Rasmussen shows even bigger gains for Romney in the Buckeye State.

Romney leads, according to Rasmussen, with 33 percent, followed by Santorum at 31 percent, Gingrich at 15 percent and Paul at 11 percent. Santorum held an 18 point lead over Romney in the same poll two weeks ago.

In the Quinnipiac poll, Santorum took 35 percent, followed by Romney at 31 percent, Newt Gingrich at 17 percent and Ron Paul at 12 percent.

“At this point, the Buckeye State is too close to call and is clearly a two-man race between Sen. Rick Santorum and Gov. Mitt Romney,” Peter A. Brown, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a statement.

COMMENT:  Just as Michigan was a must-win for Romney this past Tuesday, Ohio is a must-win next Tuesday.  It is an industrial state, with many blue-collar workers who are hurting in this economy.  If Romney can reach them, despite his awful gaffes that emphasize his wealth, he will go a long way toward convincing the GOP that he might be able to defeat Obama in November. 

If Romney loses Ohio, the doubts about him will grow, and talk of a contested convention will increase.

Even if he wins Ohio, he must begin to show that he can lay out a positive program to present to the American voter.  So far, Romney has depended heavily on trashing his opponents, which he's done to great effect.

March 2, 2012       Permalink

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IRAN "VOTES" – AT 9:31 A.M. ET:  Iran is holding an election today.  We say Iran "votes," and put "votes" in quotes because it is a very strange election indeed.  From The New York Times:

LONDON — For the first time since a disputed presidential vote triggered a bloody crackdown against street protesters in 2009, Iranians went to the polls in a parliamentary vote on Friday likely to reflect a struggle for influence and position among the country’s top leaders.

In the run-up to the vote, Iranian leaders have been urging a high turnout as they maneuver in advance of presidential elections next year when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad completes his second and final term since 2005.

The opposition, which played a central role in voicing accusations of fraud and challenging the outcome of the 2009 vote, has been left greatly weakened by the government’s crackdown, its leaders under house arrest or jailed and its access to a voice in the media closed down. Opposition followers had urged a boycott of the vote.

The opposition isn't allowed to run for office, making the election a farce. 

The vote is unlikely to change Iran’s insistence on its right to a nuclear program, which, Tehran says, is for civilian purposes. Western leaders suspect that Tehran is seeking to enhance its uranium enrichment capacity for military purposes.

COMMENT:  This is an election to decide which extreme Islamists will dominate the Iranian government in the years to come.  There is no "good" side here.  They're all bad.  Elections in Iran are rigged by simply barring any "undesirables" from running. 

March 2, 2012       Permalink

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SYRIAN TRAGEDY – AT 8:49 A.M. ET:  While the "international community" continues to express "alarm" over events in Syria, and President Obama issues occasional statements, the people of Syria are under an increasing reign of terror from their own government.   From WaPo:

BEIRUT —Syrian government forces overran an opposition stronghold in the central city of Homs on Thursday, raising concerns about the safety of the civilians still trapped there and exposing the limitations of the fledgling armed resistance movement that has sprung up to confront the Syrian regime in recent months.

Opposition activists in Homs said troops were moving through the Bab Amr neighborhood detaining all males older than 15 , even as world powers at the United Nations issued a nonbinding Security Council resolution calling for immediate humanitarian access to the stricken area.

Note the "nonbinding" part.  This is considered by some as "progress."

With all communications to Bab Amr severed, including satellite connections, it was difficult to ascertain exactly what was happening. But though the rebel Free Syrian Army cast the pullout as a tactical withdrawal, all the available evidence pointed to a rout of the fighters, who had seized control of the neighborhood months ago and turned it into a nationwide symbol of the burgeoning armed rebellion against the regime led by President Bashar al-Assad.

The blunt fact is that Assad is winning.  Assad is an ally of Iran and an enemy of the United States.  Contrast the careful treatment of him so far with the speed with which we helped get Hosni Mubarak, an American ally, out of power in Egypt. 

The Iranians are watching this carefully.  How tough is the West?  Does it back up its positions with strength?  Has the U.S. become a paper tiger?  Can Tehran hold out and continue to build its nuclear program?

Those are the key questions.  But the ugly fact is that most of the mainstream media isn't interested in Syria, or the implications of an Assad victory.  An Assad triumph might be the last nail in the coffin of the so-called "Arab spring," which is faltering throughout the Mideast.  Egypt is drifting toward becoming an Islamist state.  Ditto Libya.  An Islamic regime has come to power in Tunisia.  The hope for true, liberal democracy – not simply "free" elections but real democratic practice – is fading. 

This is not change we can believe in.

March 2, 2012       Permalink

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ANDREW BREITBART – AT 8:06 A.M. ET:  Andrew Breitbart, who died yesterday at 43, showed us that it could be done – that the internet could be used to counter the terrible, and dangerous, slant of the mainstream media.  In a way, Breitbart was enabled, and his vision ratified, by the corrupt coverage of the 2008 presidential election, in which the mainstream media often acted as a branch of the Obama campaign.

What distinguished Breitbart was his willingness to put his vision into action, and his will to win.  Others complained, Breitbart acted.  He set up websites that provided solid reporting, from a conservative perspective.  He gave us stories the mainstreamers avoided.  In one of his most famous episodes, he led the fight to expose ACORN and its pattern of corruption.

He took on big government.  He took on big Hollywood. 

He wasn't always right.  There were moments when he faltered.  But if he made a mistake, he corrected it. 

Perhaps his greatest contribution was the inspiration he provided to others.  Yesterday, I noted that Urgent Agenda has received more e-mails on Andrew Breitbart's death than on any other recent subject.  Here is one, from our respected reader, and distinguished author, Will Stroock:

I write this with moist eyes.
 
Breitbart is one of the reasons why I'm
remaining a college professor, to fight the culture war in places from which conservatives have often been absent.  That was one of the things Andrew Breitbart taught us:  Get back on CNN, get back on Bill Maher's show.   Go into their territory and fight.
 
Beacuse of Breitbart I don't teach in fear, I don't censor myself, I don't worry about what I say. Once you do that, once you start to be
"sensative"," you give the other side power.

I have exempted myself from those rules. I ignore them. I have, and will again, show the dread Mohammed cartoons of blasphemy in my class.  I teach about the glories (and flaws) of the British Empire. I teach that Islam is no more or less kooky than any other religionthey're all a little nutsbut there are problems with it today. I will teach these things and no one will stop me. They can't hurt me.
 
And when the campus PC police come for me, and sooner or later they will, because of Andrew Breitbart, I'll know what to do.

COMMENT:  That says it.

March 2,  2012     Permalink

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MARCH 1,  2012

SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 9:57 P.M. ET:

BREITBART – All of you know by now of the death of Andrew Breitbart at 43.  I'll have a longer comment on this tomorrow, but I've been struck by the number of readers who've already e-mailed us about Breitbart's death, and what his loss means to conservative journalism.  We've gotten more on this than on any other subject in recent months.  Breitbart's passing is, of course, a personal tragedy to his family, especially his wife and children, and his father-in-law, the comedian Orson Bean.  But it is also a blow to the effort to balance the news media and keep it straight.  This death reminded me of the passing of George Gershwin, at 39, in 1937.  Both deaths, in very different ways, left voids impossible to fill.

OUR SAUDI FRIENDS – In a startling development that actually was reported by The New York Times, two former senators have submitted sworn statements for a lawsuit by 9-11 families against Saudi Arabia, stating their suspicion that elements of the Saudi government were involved in the 9-11 attacks.  Bob Graham, former Democratic senator from Florida, and Bob Kerrey, former Democratic senator from Nebraska, submitted the statements.  Both men had access to sensitive information while in the Senate.  Kerrey, a Medal of Honor recipient, has just announced his candidacy for a new Senate term, hoping to win the seat being vacated by Ben Nelson.  Their comments are bound to reopen old questions about the attacks.  Most of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia.

DEBBIE HAS SECOND THOUGHTS – Motor-mouthed Democratic National Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz has thought better of it, and has now withdrawn as keynote speaker for a meeting of a Muslim group headed by South Florida attorney Khurrum Wahid, who has a history of associating with organizations linked to al-Qaida and Hamas.  There had been an immediate uproar when Schultz's booking was announced, and her blunder was seized upon by her political opponents.  It was becoming a major political story.  Schultz has done the right thing, but her acceptance of the invitation in the first place has raised questions about her political judgment.  Not the first time.

GINGRICH RISING? – It's no secret that Newt Gingrich has done poorly in recent primaries.  But he refuses to give up.  Gingrich has launched a major attack against his Republican opponents, with the hope of rebuilding his presidential campaign with a win in his home state of Georgia on Tuesday, followed by wins in other Southern states in the weeks ahead.  That would tag him as a regional candidate, but he apparently hopes to use the South as a launching pad for a renewed effort.  I don't think his chances are all that great.  He has a vivid, creative mind, but his style is a drag, and he's often seen as a loose cannon.  His standing in national polls is painful.

March 1,  2012     Permalink

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THOSE SYRIAN WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION – AT 9:02 A.M. ET:  We've been alerting readers to statements out of Washington warning that Syria, currently involved in a bloody civil war, has a large stash of chemical weapons.  The mainstream media has largely ignored the story.

But we wondered how Syria got all that stuff, and we recalled stories from just before the Iraq War reporting that long convoys had been seen going from Iraq into Syria.  Did those convoys contain, as some knowledgeable people alleged, the Iraqi WMD that our inspectors couldn't find in Iraq?

Reader Tom Wharton alerts us to a piece by national defense writer Jack Kelly, originally written in 2004, that highlights the issue: 

...Israel's military chief told an Israeli newspaper there is "no doubt" that Iraq possessed both chemical weapons and the means to deliver them. In the first two days of the war, the United States -- acting on tips from Israeli intelligence -- destroyed the aircraft Saddam had prepared to carry chemical munitions, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon said. The munitions themselves were buried, or transferred to other countries.

"We very clearly saw that something crossed into Syria," he said.

"We have six or seven credible reports of Iraqi weapons being moved into Syria before the war," a senior administration official told Kenneth Timmerman of Insight magazine.

A Syrian intelligence officer, in letters smuggled to an anti-regime activist in Paris, identified three sites in Syria where Iraqi WMD are being stored, Timmerman said. The sites were the same as those identified earlier by a Syrian journalist who defected to Europe.

I cannot independently confirm the accuracy of that story, but I recall hearing it from a number of sources at the time, and they were solid sources, not flakes or conspiracy theorists.

Will we ever get to the bottom of this?  Were Saddam's WMD transferred to Syria?  I suspect we'll never know because there are too many vested interests involved in perpetuating the story that President Bush had "lied" about Iraqi WMD.  And you can see how interested the press is.

So, it takes U.S. senators to warn of those Syrian weapons.  From US News: 

Several senators are raising concerns that unrest in Syria could allow that nation's chemical and other weapons to be used against U.S. forces and allies in the region.

"The growing breakdown of order and security in Syria could place its significant stockpiles of poison gases and operational chemical weapons at risk," Maine Republican Susan Collins, New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, and New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen wrote in a February 17 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. DOTMIL obtained a copy of the letter.

The senators want the Obama administration to spell out the planning it has done to prepare for and "address" the potential that the Assad regime's stockpiles of chemical weapons might go missing. "In the event of a regime collapse, it is difficult to overstate the danger these weapons could pose to allies and U.S. forces in the region if they fall into the wrong hands," the letter states.

The senators pointed to the apparent seizure of Libyan shoulder-fired missiles during that nation's internal conflict. Those missing weapons show "that non-state terrorist groups will seek to secure these weapons in the midst of chaos and an apparent lack of security or custody of these weapons," the senators wrote.

COMMENT:  But beware the accepted "narratives" of the American media.  As Democratic Senator James Webb of Virginia has said, for an entire generation we've accepted the "narrative" that America lost the Vietnam war.  In fact, we never lost a battle in Vietnam. 

Now we have the accepted "narrative" that Saddam really didn't have WMD.  It will be very difficult to break through that narrative, even if documented evidence emerges.  And many college professors will have to revise their notes.

March 1, 2012       Permalink

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UNBELIEVABLE – AT 8:47 A.M. ET:  We grant that President Obama has an excellent political team running his re-election campaign.  But his actual administration is another matter.  We are seeing signs of suicidal instincts.  First there is the confrontation with the Catholic Church over a federal requirement that employees of religious institutions be provided with health services, even when those services offend the religion's teachings.  Now there is the admission by Secretary of Energy Chu that high gas prices are, ho hum, not an Obama priority.  From Andrew Malcolm at IBD: 

While this Democrat president can't make many claims to genuine achievement in the first 1,136 days of his presidency, he has made impressive progress in raising the price of gasoline for American drivers more than halfway to Europe's $8-$9 a gallon level. Gas was $1.84 a gallon way back when Aretha Franklin's huge hat sang in the Obama administration.

Since that very same day Americans have told pollsters their top concern is the economy/jobs. A new Gallup Poll Wednesday reported the economy is Very or Extremely Important to 92% of Americans. Higher energy prices could further dampen the lame economic recovery.

Obama's spokesman, Jay Carney, was asked Wednesday if the White House Nobel Prize winner agreed with the Energy Department's Nobel Prize winner about the non-priority of lowering gas prices. Here's what Carney said:

"The president is not focused on a policy and is not making promises to the American people that, if I do this, you will be paying a certain price at the pump, because he is not insulting the American people's intelligence."

Everyone certainly appreciates the Harvard grad's thoughtfulness in not insulting the intelligence of ordinary Americans, as dim as they might be. But Carney was answering a totally different and unasked question, not the one posed to him. Who asked for any promise? It's a classic Obama answer avoidance mechanism, a non-sequitur that might make sense to the ear but not the eye.

The president, who loves straw men, tried it again himself last week in an energy speech he gave in Miami to cover up three Florida political fundraisers he burned so much Air Force One fuel to get to.

COMMENT:  Well said.  At a time when the press is, appropriately, pointing out Mitt Romney's gaffes, comments that make him seem insensitive to ordinary Americans, maybe we should focus on the Obama administration's real insensitivity to the economic pain Americans are feeling every time they drive up to a pump. 

The raw fact is that the crowd around Obama has no problem with high energy prices.  It'll teach those peasants out there, the ones who didn't go to Harvard, to tighten their belts and put a windmill on their Chevies.

March 1, 2012      Permalink

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REVERSAL OF FORTUNE – AT 8:28 A.M. ET:  It wasn't many weeks ago that Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts was written off as a flash in the pan, heading for defeat in this year's election.

Brown was elected in 2012 to fill out the term of the late Edward Kennedy.  His election was considered a miracle in liberal Massachusetts.   Some polls late last year showed him losing election to a full term in 2012 to probable Dem nominee Elizabeth Warren.  But things have changed, as National Journal reports:

Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., leads Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren by 10 points in a private Massachusetts Senate race poll.

The poll, conducted by Opinion Dynamics for Boston-based consulting firm Mass Insight Global Partnerships, shows Brown winning 52 percent to Warren's 42 percent, the second poll in two weeks giving Brown a wide lead. A Suffolk University poll released Feb. 16 put Brown up 9 points, 49 percent to 40 percent, departing from earlier surveys that portrayed a narrow lead for Warren.

A Mass Insight poll in October showed Brown with a five-point edge over Warren, 44 to 39.

The new poll does not reflect the weeks of controversy around Brown's co-sponsorship of legislation permitting employers to restrict access to contraception insurance coverage on religious grounds. Brown has sparred with former Rhode Island Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who challenged the senator's assertion that the policy echoed the late Sen. Edward Kennedy's, whom Brown succeeded in a 2010 upset election.

Warren, the consumer advocate and Harvard Law School professor whom President Obama passed over to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau she helped design, has seized on the issue, framing it as a threat to women's health care.

COMMENT:  I think the "women's health care" argument is starting to collapse, as more and more evidence shows that permitting religious institutions to opt out of providing certain services on moral grounds is no threat to women, as these services can readily be provided, and insured, by other means. 

Brown has not been a particularly distinguished senator, but we want him to win, as part of the drive to retake the Senate.  His reversal of fortune is significant because Warren was hyped as a strong candidate and natural campaigner.

Brown is working very hard to secure election to a full term.  He is taking nothing for granted, a lesson to Republicans elsewhere.

March 1, 2012       Permalink

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AND AGAIN – AT 8:07 A.M. ET:  Two more American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan by an Afghan who presumably was on our side.   From The New York Times:

KABUL, Afghanistan — NATO said two American soldiers were killed on Thursday when at least one Afghan turned his gun on them in southern Afghanistan, raising further questions about the Afghan security forces.

The shooting took place at about 2:30 a.m. in the Zhari district of Kandahar Province, according to the district’s governor, Neyaz Mohammad Sarhadi.

It was not immediately clear how many shooters were involved. Mr. Sarhadi said a civilian literacy instructor who had taught Afghan soldiers seized a gun from an Afghan army soldier and opened fire. Other American soldiers returned fire, killing both the instructor and the soldier.

NATO, however, said it believed there were two attackers.

“Two individuals, one believed to be an Afghan National Army service member and the other in civilian clothing, turned their weapons indiscriminately against International Security Assistance Force and Afghan National Security Force service members in southern Afghanistan today, killing two ISAF service members,” NATO said in a statement.

COMMENT:  That is six Americans murdered by "friendlies" in the last week.  And President Obama yesterday defended his groveling apology to the Afghan government over the inadvertent burning of Korans by some American troops.  He said it calmed things.

Yes, we've noticed the calm.

Given the extraordinary way in which these six soldiers died, Obama should arrange for their remains to be returned to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, all at the same time, and he and Vice President Biden should be on hand to greet their return in an appropriate and respectful manner.  This will not be done.  Obama doesn't do respect.

March 1,  2012     Permalink

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"What you see is news.  What you know is background.  What you feel is opinion."
    - Lester Markel, late Sunday editor
      of The New York Times.

 

"Councils of war breed timidity and defeatism."
    - Lt. Gen. Arthur MacArthur, to his
      son, Douglas.

 

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

 

THE ANGEL'S CORNER

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Part II will be sent over the weekend.

 

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