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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 16,  2012

SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 11:24 P.M. ET:

MITT LEADS IN ILLINOIS – The Illinois primary is Tuesday.  It's a must-win for Mitt Romney, who cannot afford to lose anywhere in the industrial Midwest. A new Fox News poll shows Romney six points ahead of Rick Santorum.  It's Romney 37, Santorum 31, Gingrich 14.

CLINTON DISPUTES TIMES ON AID TO EGYPT – Hillary Clinton disputed a New York Times report that the U.S. is resuming military aid to Egypt, despite the anti-democratic and anti-rights trends in the country.  The Times report created an uproar.  Clinton now says that the decision hasn't been made, but may be made within a week.  Congress has imposed restrictions on aid to Egypt, requiring certification that the country is moving toward democratic norms.  However, the restrictions contain the usual loophole, allowing Clinton to pass the aid through if she considers it in the national interest.

PUBLIC RADIO DOES THE RIGHT THING – Chicago Public Radio produces a popular program called "This American Life."  It has now retracted a recent episode dealing with working conditions in Apple factories in China after discovering that much of the program was fabricated.  Chicago Public Radio has done the right thing, and is doing a special program, explaining to listeners how this happened.  Another right thing.  I'm afraid there's a lot more of this than people think.  Much bad journalism, or fakery, is just covered up. 

BIDEN CRUSHED – Washington Post reports that bin Laden was planning an assassination attempt against General Petraeus and President Obama.  According to the report, he wanted Obama out so Joe Biden would be president.  Bin Laden apparently reasoned that Biden was unprepared for the job, and that his succession would create a crisis in the United States.  Biden must be going nuts.  How would you like to be the man bin Laden wanted to see in the White House because you were so bad?  How does Joe explain this to his children?  "Mr. bin Laden wanted daddy in the White House because he's such a screwup.  Isn't that wonderful?"

March 16,  2012     Permalink

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THE BROWN REVIVAL – AT 10:06 A.M. ET:  One of the major political stories of the season is the comeback of Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts.  Elected in 2010 to fill out the term of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Brown was considered the Massachusetts miracle.

But as the 2012 election season got started, and the race for a full Senate term was joined, Brown seemed to stumble.  Democratic consumer advocate and Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren announced for the Senate, and quickly sucked all the air out of the political room.   She jumped ahead of Brown in the polls, and there were signs that the GOP was starting to write the senator off as a one-time wonder. 

What a difference a few months makes.  Brown is back, now leading Warren in the polls.  So what happened?  He happened.  The candidate got going, in a good lesson for national contenders.  From The Politico:

Scott Brown’s got his groove back.

A string of recent polling, an agreement to bar outside money from the race and some savvy legislative moves have put Democrats on notice that ousting the first-term Massachusetts Republican will be anything but easy, even with a first-class challenger.

Six months after Elizabeth Warren burst into the Senate race as the heroine of the left and swiftly leapfrogged Brown in polling and buzz, her superstar candidacy has plummeted back to earth.

It’s now Brown who has gotten a lift in this marquee match-up, and observers on both sides of the aisle credit the candidate for the turnaround.

“I think what’s helping him is he’s conveying that he’s more moderate than what people assumed,” said Democratic strategist Bob Shrum, a veteran of two classic Massachusetts Senate races in 1994 and 1996. “He’s given the sense that if you asked him about the tea party, he’d say, ‘What are you talking about?’ He’s become much more of a Massachusetts Republican in the tradition of [Bill] Weld.”

“A lot of the moves he’s making are smart. They’re strategic. After the rise of Warren, things have settled and we’ve realized it’s going to be a tough race,” said a senior Democratic Senate operative based in Washington who requested anonymity to speak candidly.

The last three public surveys in the race placed Brown 5 to 9 points ahead of Warren and he’s maintained an approval rating in the high 40s. That’s a marked shift from the afterglow of Warren’s announcement in late fall, when polls showed the contest deadlocked or tilted in her favor.

COMMENT:  It's far from over, but Brown is proving a shrewd politician who understands the late House Speaker Tip O'Neill's adage that all politics is local.  Brown has his ear to the ground in Massachusetts.

As for Warren, who presented herself as a fighter for the little people, the standard liberal line, she wasn't helped by revelations that in fact she's become a very well-heeled lady, bringing in a high six-figure income.  She isn't clipping coupons. 

Brown understood in 2010 that he had to become a spectacular candidate.  That understanding is back.  He may just squeeze it out in heavily Democratic Massachusetts.

March 16, 2012       Permalink 

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WELCOME TO THE CARTER ADMINISTRATION – AT 9:35 A.M. ET:   While the Obamans have been celebrating a drop in unemployment claims – although that drop has now largely stagnated – something else has been happening that can mean real trouble for the president in November.  The cost of living is going up, up, and, surprise, up, just as it did in the last presidential year of Jimmy Carter.  So far the increase is due largely to gasoline prices.  But gasoline prices eventually affect everything we buy, because all goods have to be transported...using gasoline.  From Bloomberg:

The cost of living in the U.S. rose in February by the most in 10 months, reflecting a jump in gasoline that failed to spread to other goods and services.

The consumer-price index climbed 0.4 percent, matching the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, after increasing 0.2 percent the prior month, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. The so-called core measure, which excludes more volatile food and energy costs, climbed 0.1 percent, less than projected.

The biggest jump in gasoline in more than a year accounted for about 80 percent of the increase in prices last month, leaving households with less money to spend on other goods and services.

COMMENT:  Try as they might to put a good face on it, but the mainstream journalists should be more aware of what's happening all around them.  They should visit supermarkets and listen to mothers complain about rapidly rising prices of basic commodities. 

The Obamans seem frustrated by the fact that most Americans don't buy their "recovery" line.  That's because most Americans don't see a recovery.  When we're paying more than four bucks a gallon for gasoline, here in New York, and when we see local kids just out of college finding it almost impossible to get a decent job, it's hard to shout "recovery" from the nearest rooftop.

But remember, it's Bush's fault.

March 16, 2012       Permalink

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THE PRICE OF HATRED – AT 8:51 A.M. ET:  This is depressing, and more so because it will lead to more thuggery by the left.

No organization has done more to advance awareness of breast cancer than Susan G. Komen for the Cure.  Named for a woman who died of breast cancer, and run by her sister, it has probably been the most successful group in history in raising awareness of, and concern for, a fatal disease. 

But Komen did something not permitted on the political left several months ago.  It tried to cut its funding for Planned Parenthood, which is sacrosanct on the militant feminist left.  Komen handled the cut poorly, but its real crime was questioning anything Planned Parenthood does.  I've personally believed that another of its "crimes" is that it is Texas-based, not based in the more politically acceptable New York or Los Angeles, and that its head, Nancy Brinker, is a Bush Republican who'd been a U.S. ambassador under George W. Bush.  There are lines one doesn't cross on the left, my dear.  It doesn't matter how much good you do, it's whether you do it in an ideologically correct manner.

The result of Komen's attempts to distance itself from PP was an instant firestorm, and sheer hatred directed at the Komen organization.  Now we see the result:

A drop in donations to its biggest fundraiser of the year is creating a crisis for Susan G. Komen for the Cure's Southern Arizona chapter, its executive director said this week.

With the event less than two weeks away, registration this week totaled 4,200, far less than the event's target of 11,000.

The event has a fundraising goal of $700,000 and so far has pulled in $200,000, said Jaimie Leopold, executive director of Komen Southern Arizona, which gives grants to local groups for breast cancer treatment, awareness, research and prevention. Last year's race raised $660,000. The race is the organization's biggest fundraiser of the year.

And...

Part of the reason for flagging participation may be that this year's event is earlier than in the past and people aren't aware the race date is coming up. The event is usually held in April. Also, the recession has affected donations to charities nationwide.

But Leopold confirmed another reason for the drop is a recent spate of publicity over a national split between Planned Parenthood and the Susan G. Komen Foundation that created lingering mistrust, even though the relationship between the two organizations was later restored.

COMMENT:  I don't know how anyone truly concerned about cancer can willfully damage a group like Komen, but it's been done.  But I've seen this viciousness on the left so many times that it really can't surprise me.  The vile attacks on women who don't go along with every phrase of leftist doctrine, the crazed attacks on African-American conservatives who question failed social programs in large cities, the indifference to human freedom and women's rights abroad...and it goes on.

We wish Komen well.  Maybe some real philanthropists, not the trendies, will step up and close that financial gap.

March 16, 2012       Permalink

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BEHOLD THE GENIUS! – AT 8:31 A.M. ET:  One of the most annoying characteristics of modern "progressives" is their belief in their own superiority, their own wonderfulness.  They not only believe they walk on water, but they remind us that walking doesn't present any environmental hazards.

The president of the United States announces his superior intellectual vision of the future:

President Obama attacked the GOP presidential field in a speech on gas prices Thursday, portraying the candidates as “stuck in the past” and unserious about dealing with the nation’s energy problems.

Delivering his fourth speech on energy in as many weeks, Obama stressed that there’s no “silver bullet” for lowering prices and took shot after shot at "professional politicians ... who are running for a certain office."

The president called out his rivals on green energy and accused them of failing to see the future.

“They dismiss wind power," Obama said. "They dismiss solar power. They make jokes about biofuels. They were against raising fuel standards. I guess they like gas-guzzlers. They think that’s good for our future. We’re trying to move towards the future, and they want to be stuck in the past.

“We’ve heard this kind of thinking before,” Obama said. “Let me tell you something: If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail, they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society; they would not have believed that the world was round.”

COMMENT:  We'll hear this again and again during the campaign, and the journalistic echo chamber will repeat it.  The belief in the left's intellectual superiority didn't begin with Obama.  I recall it as early as the fifties, when Dwight Eisenhower was labeled by "sophisticates" as merely "an Army man," whereas his opponent in 1952 and 1956 was the presumed "intellectual," Adlai Stevenson.  In fact, history shows it was the opposite.  Eisenhower didn't speak well, but wrote beautifully, and his speeches and statements were filled with substance.  He was a scholar of history, and of course had made history, and made it very well.  Stevenson spoke beautifully, said almost nothing, rarely read anything of importance, and has been largely forgotten.

We heard the echo chamber again in the early 80s, when Democratic stalwart Clark Clifford referred to Ronald Reagan as "an amiable dunce."  He was amiable, but no dunce.  In fact, he was a man who read and wrote widely, and had a far firmer grasp of the issues than his opponent in 1980, the painful Jimmy Carter, who presented himself as the smartest guy in the room.

So far the president's energy policy is a disaster.  It shows no vision, no intellectual grasp of the possibilities, and limitations, of "green" energy, and has resulted in the financial backing of one bad energy scheme after another.

No, Mr. President, you're not intellectually superior to the Republican Party.  You've just been surrounded by people all your life who've told you that you're a real brain, and you've made the mistake of taking them seriously.

March 16,  2012    Permalink

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MARCH 15,  2012

SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 10:37 P.M. ET:

HYPOCRITES OF THE WORLD UNITE – The New York Times accepted and ran an ad entitled, "It's time to quit the Catholic Church."  However, when an enraged conservative responded to the insult by submitting an ad entitled, "It's time to quit Islam," she got a very different response.  The Times accepted the ad...but only on condition that it run at a later time to avoid "inflaming" the current tensions with Islam.  The conservative activist notes that The Times's attitude revealed the truth – that the paper ran the anti-Catholic ad because it never feared that Catholics would attack the Times's building.  Apparently, there were fears about the impact of the other ad. 

A NATIONAL SCANDAL – Did you know that there is a swimming-pool crisis?  Yes there is, according to Obama's increasingly radical Justice Department.  The department is requiring public-access pools to install handicapped-accessible ramps, or face a fine of up to $100,000.  Many public pools will probably not be able to meet the estimated $9,000 cost.  Many others will face litigation, a boon to the trial bar.  There is fear that the very equipment that Justice is demanding is dangerous to children.  Senator Lindsey Graham is introducing legislation that would effectively cancel the order.

OBAMA THE HISTORIAN – One of my main complaints about Barack Obama is that he doesn't seem to know too much, especially about history.  He's shown it again.  He made a statement to a Maryland audience today, claiming that Republican President Rutherford B. Hayes said about the telephone, "It's a great invention, but who would ever want to use one?"  In fact, historians can find no record of Hayes ever saying any such thing.  Far from it.  Hayes was the first president to have a telephone in the White House.  We hope the president does better, factually, on Iran.

LUGAR HITTING FLAK – Moderate/conservative Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana is being challenged for his seat in the May 8th Republican primary, with critics saying he's not really a conservative and has abandoned his home state in favor of international concerns.  Lugar is the former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a post that has been a political graveyard for a number of senators.  And now he's received a new blow:  a local elections board in Indiana has just ruled that Lugar no longer has residency in Indiana, and can't even vote in the state he represents.  Lugar will appeal the ruling, and precedent says he will probably win, but it reminds voters of the belief that he has lost touch with his people. 

March 15, 2012       Permalink

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UTTERLY DISGRACEFUL – AT 9:48 A.M. ET:  There's an old saying in politics:  When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

Comedian and consummate vulgarian Bill Maher never learned that lesson.  Maher is in some trouble because, following the uproar over Rush Limbaugh's unacceptable comments about a woman who'd testified before Congress, conservatives focused on Maher's misogynist comments about Sarah Palin, and wondered why he wasn't being roasted as well.

You'd think Maher would have the sense to say, "Yes, I've made some mistakes and I apologize."  Oh, no, no.  No apology for a TV star.  Maher now says his comments on Sarah, using words we would never use here, were within limits because Sarah is a public figure, compared with Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student who'd testified before Congress.  From The Politico:

Bill Maher, who has attracted fresh criticism for past comments about Sarah Palin in the aftermath of Rush Limbaugh calling a law student a “slut,” said in an interview that comparing his use of the “c word” to the radio host’s controversial remarks is “ridiculous.”

“To compare that to Rush is ridiculous – he went after a civilian about very specific behavior, that was a lie, speaking for a party that has systematically gone after women’s rights all year, on the public airwaves,” Maher told Jake Tapper of ABC News. “I used a rude word about a public figure who gives as good as she gets, who’s called people ‘terrorist’ and ‘unAmerican.’ Sarah Barracuda.”

Maher added, “The First Amendment was specifically designed for citizens to insult politicians. Libel laws were written to protect law students speaking out on political issues from getting called whores by Oxycontin addicts.”

COMMENT:  Real classy, huh?  First, I wasn't aware that Maher was a constitutional lawyer.  He is probably wrong on the facts.  Sandra Fluke testified voluntarily before a congressional committee, subjecting herself to public scrutiny.  (That's what a hearing is about.)  Also, it was later pointed out that she's an experienced political activist, who has never shunned public coverage.  One can argue, with some legitimacy, that she's a public figure.  True, Palin is a more important public figure, but I don't see where that difference would count for much in a constitutional discussion.

Also, is Maher saying that misogyny is permitted when directed at a public figure?  Under that logic, racist comments about President Obama would be appropriate.  (For subscribers, please see Jacqueline Reckseit's thoughtful note on this point at the current Angel's Corner.)  Misogyny and ethnic slurs are never appropriate, no matter the target. 

Why doesn't Maher simply say, "I went too far, I apologize"?   Class always shows, as does lack of it.

March 15, 2012       Permalink

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THE BASIC MATH – AT 9:24 A.M. ET:   We all expend a great deal of wind, and print, on the primaries, analyzing the strengths, weaknesses, and foibles of the candidates.  In the end, though, it comes down to basic. math. 

Dick Morris does a solid job today of examining the race so far, and the race to come, and concludes that Romney's nomination is inevitable.  Whether one agrees or disagrees, this is worth reading.  From The Hill:

Mitt Romney is on track to win the nomination when the primaries and caucuses are over on June 6.

Currently, Romney has 498 of the 1,144 delegates he needs to be nominated. He now has 53 percent of the selected delegates, a clip he has been maintaining since the start of the process.

And...

LIKELY ROMNEY WINNER-TAKE-ALL WINS

Puerto Rico 23
D.C. 19
Maryland 37
Connecticut 28
Delaware 17
Rhode Island 19
Oregon 28
California 172
Montana 25
New Jersey 50
Utah 40

458
+current Romney 498
956

And, probable wins in winner-take-all states:

Wisconsin 42
Indiana 46
West Virginia 31
Nebraska 35
South Dakota 28
182

+ 956
1,138

As Morris points out, it takes 1,144 votes to nominate.  In addition to the states above, there will be others holding primaries where delegates are awarded in proportion to the outcome.  Morris believes Romney will pick up 160 more votes, giving him 1,298. 

Obviously, some blunder or event can change these calculations, but I'm inclined to agree with Morris.  Romney will plod toward the nomination.

So, even if Romney loses the winner-take-all primaries in North Carolina and Pennsylvania and gets clobbered in Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and a few other conservative states, he should win the nomination by the time the primaries are over on June 6.

COMMENT:  Then, if Romney does win, the issue will be party unity.  Will Gingrich and Santorum join in a unity appeal, or will they walk, essentially refusing to endorse Romney, or giving him a grudging endorsement at best? 

I think Santorum might be convinced that it is in his own interest to do the usual unity thing.  Newt?  I'm not so sure.

As Romney moves closer to the nomination, he must pivot and begin running against Obama, demonstrating clearly to his party that he can take the fight to the prime opponent.  If he does wrap up the nomination by June 6th, he will have time to work within the party to firm up his campaign, and to focus on the choice of a running mate who will excite the conservative base. 

March 15, 2012       Permalink 

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WASHINGTON FARCE – AT 9:08 A.M. ET:  There is a farce going on in Washington.  Well, actually, it's one of many going on in Washington, but it should be singled out.  I refer to the visit of British Prime Minister David Cameron, culminating in a state dinner.

What makes it farcical is the attempt by President Obama, whose past demonstrates open hostility to Britain, to now portray himself as "family" with the British people.  It's a raw campaign tactic, clearly designed to counter the image, correct, that Obama is hostile to America's friends and a bit too sympathetic with its enemies.  Nile Gardiner, one of Britain's best commentators, describes the mess:

Barack Obama's use of the US-UK state dinner as a re-election campaign prop was vulgar and insulting.

A few days ago I wrote a piece outlining why the US visit by the British Prime Minister was being used by the White House as a campaign prop in Barack Obama's bid for re-election in November. The decision to whisk David Cameron off to a heavily televised college basketball game in Ohio, which just happens to be a crucial swing state, was both manipulative and demeaning, and should have been vetoed by Cameron’s advisers as inappropriate in an election year. But the use of an official state dinner at the White House to reward major campaign donors is even worse.

And...

A state dinner with the British PM should be a celebration of the US-UK Special Relationship, and not a reward ticket for hugely wealthy fundraisers who have given large sums of money to the president’s re-election campaign. David Cameron has been shamelessly used by a cynical White House that has cared little for the Anglo-American alliance in its first three years in office before rolling out the red carpet this week. It is disrespectful towards the leader of America’s closest friend and ally, as well as an abuse of presidential power.

COMMENT:  Hear, hear!  As we've said here before, the Brits are often the sharpest commentators on American politics, and Gardiner hits the nail squarely.  You will notice, please, how close Obama has suddenly become to allies he has previously dissed – first Israel, now Britain.  You may be sure that, in the dreadful event that Obama is re-elected, that will all change on a dime. 

It would be appropriate if some mainstream commentators would note the hypocrisy of this administration.  They won't.  We know the story, don't we?

March 15, 2012       Permalink 

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ONE YEAR AGO – AT 8:26 A.M. ET:  It was supposed to be part of the "Arab spring" – the revolt of Syrian protesters against the dictatorship running their country.  Instead, it has turned into the Arab nightmare.  The Washington Post marks a grim anniversary:

BEIRUT — When ordinary Syrians began taking to the streets last March, at first in small numbers to call for greater freedoms and later in the hundreds of thousands to demand the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad, they had no idea just how hard it would be or how long it would take.

Today, a year after the tentative first stirrings of what is becoming the Arab world’s bloodiest and most far-reaching revolt, whole cities are under siege. Residential neighborhoods lie in ruins. More than 8,000 people are dead, tens of thousands have been detained, untold numbers have been tortured, others are missing, and nearly a quarter-million have been displaced from their homes, according to the United Nations.

Still, there is no end in sight. President Obama said this month that Assad’s “days are numbered,” but few are prepared to take bets on what that number might be. Privately, officials in Washington and diplomats in the region acknowledge that it is far from certain that the government will fall, at least not anytime soon.

And yet the opposition, to the extent that the thinly organized and largely leaderless communities that have risen up against the government can be called an opposition, shows no sign of giving up.

COMMENT:  The toll will only increase.  And notice, please, the utter and sickening silence of "human rights activists" in many Western countries, who have nothing to say.  When, during the Bush administration, the U.S. Army itself exposed a minor prison scandal in an American military prison in Iraq, the Western left went crazy.  You'd think Hitler had come back to town in a Chevy Malibu.

Obama was quick to push out pro-American ally Hosni Mubarak, who certainly ran an undemocratic regime in Egypt.  He was quick to assist the pushing out of Gadaffi in Libya.  But what about Assad of Syria, Iran's closest pal in the Arab world?  Here the washy becomes very wishy.  Assad's hand is actually being strengthened by his own brutality and our ineffective policies.

At the same time, we must praise elements of the media for their excellent reporting on the Syrian tragedy.  Anderson Cooper, of CNN, a man we don't normally praise here, has done fine work in keeping the subject before his audience.  Some brave journalists, like Marie Colvin, have been killed.  She was buried this week on Long Island.  The late Anthony Shadid of The New York Times must be mentioned. 

But still, not much on the ground has changed.  A new policy, Mr. President?

March 15,  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

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

Part II will be sent over the weekend.

 

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