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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 3,  2012

SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 7:04 P.M. ET: 

RUDE! – I find this quite coarse.  The commencement speaker this spring at Barnard College, the women's college affiliated with Columbia University, was supposed to be Jill Abramson, the new executive editor of The New York Times.  But a funny thing happened to Jill on the way to the podium.  The White House called Barnard and offered President Obama instead, and Barnard accepted, bouncing Jill.  We're sure she won't mind.  She's on the same team.  But the blatant politics of it all, Obama's heavy-handed attempt to once again get the votes of young women, is beyond the pale.  Doesn't Barnard understand how demeaning this is?

DELIVERANCE – Japanese researchers have developed a device that painlessly forces people into silence.  It's called the "SpeechJammer," and can silence people more than 30 yards away.   According to the story, "the device works by recording its target's speech then firing their words back at them with a 0.2-second delay, which affects the brain's cognitive processes and causes speakers to stutter before silencing them completely."  This is something else for the Secret Service to worry about.  But it's science in the service of civilization.  I have a list of people I'd love to render silent, if only for a little while.

RICK AND OHIO – Look for an ugly fight over delegates over the results of Tuesday's Ohio primary, the most important primary on Super Tuesday.  Rick Santorum still holds a slim lead over Mitt Romney in the polls, but there's a catch.  Santorum, who has been short of cash and staff, didn't register enough delegate names to run fully in each of Ohio's congressional districts. If he has, say, one delegate listed in a district that elects three, and he wins that district, he gets only one delegate and the other two would not be allocated.  It is expected that the rules will be challenged after the primary.  You'd think they'd get this settled before the primary.  The GOP doesn't need more internal warfare.

March 3, 2012       Permalink

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CHEAP SHOT, BUT EFFECTIVE – AT 11:34 A.M. ET:  Barack Obama, and his team, ran a brilliant campaign in 2008.   Republicans must be prepared for them to do it again.  Part of political brilliance is seizing the moment.  Consider this, from The Politico:

President Barack Obama on Friday phoned the Georgetown University law student who was called a “slut” by Rush Limbaugh to find out if she is OK.

“He encouraged me and supported me and thanked me for speaking out about the concerns of American women,” Sandra Fluke, a third-year law student said. “And what was really personal for me was that he said to tell my parents that they should be proud. And that meant a lot because Rush Limbaugh questioned whether or not my family would be proud of me. So I just appreciated that very much.”

Fluke, who said she had received Obama’s call while waiting in the green room before her interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, also said of the phone call, “He did express his concern for me and wanted to make sure that I was ok, which, I am. I’m ok.”

Minutes after Fluke appeared on MSNBC, White House press secretary Jay Carney confirmed the call in a press briefing with reporters, saying, “He wanted to offer his support to her. He wanted to express his disappointment that she has been the subject of inappropriate personal attacks and thank her for exercising her rights as a citizen to speak out on an issue of public policy.”

COMMENT:  Rush made a big mistake in calling this woman what he did.  That's language we should use very carefully. She had testified before a congressional committee in favor of contraception being insured by student health plans. 

She is no sweet innocent.  She is 30, with a history of political advocacy.  Her position, that her sexual activity should be subsidized by taxpayers and insurers, is problematical.  Americans would certainly divide on that. 

But because Rush used an unfortunate term, Obama was able to divert attention from the real issue and appear kind, concerned and compassionate.  His phone call reminded me of the calls Robert Kennedy made to Coretta Scott King and political officials during John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign, which led to the release of Martin Luther King Jr. from prison.  This helped solidify the black vote behind JFK. 

Sure, Obama's phone call was shallow.  But gestures work.  Republicans should learn.

March 3, 2012        Permalink

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WE'RE LOSING THEM TOO QUICKLY – AT 11:09 A.M. ET:  When I was a student at the University of Chicago, majoring in something wrongly labeled Political Science, the departmental secretary told me of a graduate student named Jim Wilson.  She predicted he would become one of the great political scientists of our time.  She was right.

Jim Wilson, James Q. Wilson, has died at 80, his death coming a day after Andrew Breitbart left us.  Wilson was vastly creative, not terribly impressed with the academic world, and yet taught at institutions like Harvard and UCLA.  He was generally considered a conservative, but described himself as more conservative than his fellow academics but more liberal than the nation.  He was perhaps best known as the co-developer of what came to be known as the "broken window theory," one of the guideposts used by the most successful police commisioners of the last quarter century.  The Washington Post reports:

The ideas in his 1982 “Broken Windows” article in The Atlantic influenced successful community policing efforts in cities including New York and Los Angeles. Last month, Detroit announced it was beginning its own initiative...

...Wilson and co-author George L. Kelling argued in The Atlantic article that communities must address minor crimes and their effects, such as broken windows, to prevent larger problems from developing.

“I think Jim and I caught a wind,” Kelling said in an interview Friday. “Up until that time in policing, nothing seemed to work. ... By the late ‘70s, policing was kind of looking for a new approach and community policing was kind of on the horizon, although not yet being really articulated.”

Kelling said the article instantly resonated with law enforcement and also caught the general public’s attention because the “broken windows” metaphor was so effective.

“That was pure Wilson,” said Kelling, now a fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. “The thing about a metaphor is it takes a complex thing and simplifies it and makes it readily graspable.”

And...

The article concluded, “Police ought to protect communities as well as individuals. ... Just as physicians now recognize the importance of fostering health rather than simply treating illness, so the police — and the rest of us — ought to recognize the importance of maintaining, intact, communities without broken windows.”

And...

William Bratton, former New York City police commissioner and Los Angeles police chief, said police need more than a “broken windows” strategy to prevent more serious crime, but the success he’s seen in cities where he worked wouldn’t have happened without it.

“It could not have been done without using broken windows as almost the linchpin strategy,” said Bratton, now chairman of Kroll, Inc., a risk management company.

Wilson’s studies weren’t limited to police work. He wrote extensively on topics ranging from marriage to the nature of bureaucracy and even penned a tribute to Bill Watterson when the cartoonist retired his comic strip, “Calvin and Hobbes.”

In his work, Wilson was preoccupied with studying and restudying the evidence, trying to see only what was in front of him, Skerry said.

“He didn’t get caught up in abstruse theories or sophisticated methodologies,” Skerry said.

COMMENT:  Which is why Jim Wilson was one of the greatest political scientists of his age.  His death will probably be ignored by the mainstream academic crowd, which has become increasingly irrelevant.  Wilson was relevant.  Above all, he was wise.

March 3, 2012       Permalink

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AND SOME PEOPLE THINK WE'RE NUTS – AT 10:51 A.M. ET:  Russia votes tomorrow in one of those elections where they don't even count the votes.  Putin will win, will be president again, and Barack Obama will reach out to him.  But The New York Times gives us a taste of Russian presidential politics, and it makes our crowd look like world-class statesmen:

MOSCOW — The subject up for discussion was Russia’s educational system. But for Vladimir V. Zhirinovsky, who will challenge Vladimir V. Putin in Sunday’s presidential elections, it was just another occasion for a jaunt into crazy land.

As a roomful of policy makers looked on with the fond smiles reserved for unhinged uncles, Mr. Zhirinovsky undertook a speech that began with his mother’s womb, swerved to the drooping sex drive of the Russian male and reached an ecstatic cruising altitude on the topic of a rival candidate, the billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov, who he said had not married because he had received an excess of education.

“Look at what this overload leads to,” said Mr. Zhirinovsky, 65, assuming his trademark puffy scowl. “I say to him, ‘You want to be president and you have no family. You have nothing!’ And he says, ‘You have to be in love. It is immoral to enter into a marriage without love.’ Listen, are you going to fall in love when you’re 90, when you are already a father and grandfather? How about you fall in love with the neighbor lying in the next grave? There, you’ve finally fallen in love — it’s idiotic!”

COMMENT:  Can you imagine what Fox News would do with these boys?  Of course, MSNBC would probably embrace them as authentic voices of a culture we must respect.

But this pretty much tells you why Vladimir Putin will be the next president of Russia.  Putin is no friend of America, and Russia is starting to build its military again.  The Obamans have appeased Russia and gotten nothing for it.  Add Putin to Obama's sea of troubles.

March 3,  2012     Permalink

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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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"What you see is news.  What you know is background.  What you feel is opinion."
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    - Lt. Gen. Arthur MacArthur, to his
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