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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APRIL 18, 2014
VAUDEVILLE – AT 10:02 A.M. ET: Vlady Putin and Eddie Snowden – together again! What excitement! What ratings! What revulsion!
Turns out that Vladimir Putin did one of those call-in TV shows, and who called in? Why, Edward Snowden, that renowned American patriot and privacy expert. From Howard Kurtz at Fox:
What are the odds?
I mean, Vladimir Putin does a call-in show and one guy who happens to get through—to ask a question in English—is Ed Snowden?
That is one amazing coincidence—almost as amazing as those soldiers who mysteriously materialized in Crimea turning out to be Russian.
In a few moments, Snowden became part of a Soviet-style propaganda machine, even though he clearly views himself as a public-spirited crusader.
After Snowden leaked all those NSA documents to the Guardian and the Washington Post, which shared a Pulitzer Prize this week, he fled to Hong Kong and then to Moscow, which was more than happy to tweak President Obama by harboring him.
But Snowden is clearly drawn to the spotlight, and he played a starring role in Putin’s political theater on Thursday.
He gave the Russian leader a chance to beat his chest about how moral he is, compared to the bad old USA.
Keep in mind that Snowden is not just some zealous activist. Some people think he’s a traitor, others think he’s a hero sparking a global debate. But there is no dispute that he is a fugitive from justice.
Nor did he just ask a question. He gave a little speech, saying that White House and other reviews of the NSA surveillance program had concluded “that these programs are ineffective in stopping terrorism. They also found that they unreasonably intrude into the private lives of ordinary citizens.”
Having delivered his anti-NSA spin, Snowden serves up the pitch for Putin to hit: “Does Russia intercept, store, or analyze in any way the communications of millions of individuals? And do you believe that simply increasing the effectiveness of intelligence or law enforcement investigations can justify placing societies, rather than subjects, under surveillance?”
What a coup for Putin.
COMMENT: Read Putin's reply. He's better than Pinocchio. Then take a seasickness pill.
AWFUL – AT 9:28 A.M. ET: While the trendies in America and Europe anguish over "Islamophobia," this is happening in Egypt. From Fox:
Young Christian women are facing a greater risk of being kidnapped by extremists, tortured, and even forced to convert to Islam since the Arab Spring ended in 2011.
This year already has seen a spike in the incidents, according to a report by the non-profit advocacy group International Christian Concern. It has been estimated by the ICC and other watchdog groups in the region that there have been 500 reported cases of young women being attacked by Muslim men since 2011, but unreported cases could send the figure much higher.
The girls are often assaulted, raped, kidnapped, forced to change their faith and sometimes killed, the ICC said.Making matter worse, nothing is being done by local authorities to prevent it in provinces across Egypt, according to officials from both the ICC and the Clarion Project, a US-based non-profit think tank and advocacy group.
“Not only are they turning a blind eye, they are often compliant,” Issac Six, a spokesman for the ICC told FoxNews.com, citing one incident in which a father was assaulted by an officer for asking too many questions about efforts to have his abducted daughter returned.
“It’s pervasive; police at the local level are not stopping the abductions. There needs to be more pressure from the top,” he added. “We have seen cases before where we’ve seen victims returned when the police put pressure on the kidnappers. We know it’s possible, unfortunately, the police are often complacent.”
COMMENT: Please note the deep interest by so-called "women's" groups in the West. They are so busy with left-wing politics that they're afraid to speak out against the horror faced by women in many Muslim societies. And those few who do speak out are denounced as "Islamophobic," especially on our college campuses, where totalitarian movements have often gotten a respectful hearing.
People forget that Nazi officials were feted at Ivy League schools in the 1930s. The same mentality is alive today.
SELLING A BRIDGE IN BROOKLYN – AT 9:14 A.M. ET: The president was out selling Obamacare again yesterday, and making claims that would require a stern warning label on any drug. From Townhall.com:
President Obama addressed the White House press corps today, announcing that with the final numbers in, Obamacare's exchanges have attracted eight million sign-ups -- 35 percent of whom are "under the age of 35," he said. Several elements of his comments were misleading:
At first blush, the 35 percent stat is both significant and impressive. As recently as last month, the share of "young invincibles" signing up for plans was struggling in the 25 percent range, far short of the actuarial target of nearly 40 percent. A leap into the mid-30's, while still shy of the goal, would constitute a major step, and would bode well for the risk pools' sustainability. Alas, the president was lumping children in with this group, wildly inflating the number. Among the actual key demographic (18-34), the accurate number is...28 percent. So despite the big enrollment spike at the deadline, not nearly enough of those people were young adults to move the relevant needle.
As we've explained repeatedly, the number of so-called "sign-ups" does not accurately reflect the number of people who have actually secured coverage, which requires paying the first month's premium. Delinquent payments are deleted by insurers, and people who selected (but didn't pay for) those plans are not covered. Experts have estimated that roughly 20 percent of "enrollees" fall into this category, a ballpark figure that even Kathleen Sebelius has acknowledged. And the numbers vary from state to state. In California, the nonpayment rate is 15 percent. In Delaware, it's 37 percent. In South Carolina, it's 43 percent. If the one-fifth delinquency estimate is accurate, the number of paid enrollees through Obamacare marketplaces is 6.4 million. That total is higher than I thought it would be, but it's still short of the original goal.
The official percentage of those 6.4 million enrollees who previously lacked coverage -- a crucial number in measuring the law's success -- is unknown...
COMMENT: Read the whole thing. It's well researched. I'd rather depend on a million anecdotes than dry statistics, which are easily manipulated. The anecdotal evidence on Obamacare is terrible, both for patients and physicians. People are losing policies they liked. They are losing doctors. They are losing their choice of hospitals. Just what we asked for.
ALL HILLARY ALL THE TIME – AT 8:31 A.M. ET: It seems to be Hillary everywhere, and it will get worse. She's been speaking to any paying audience that will listen, she's gonna be a grandma, and her book, "Hard Choices," comes out in early June. She's the designated front runner of her party, and queen of all she surveys.
Or is she?
Amidst all the chatter there is some very solid bad news for Hillary Clinton. It started a while back. Her approval numbers are slipping, and they are likely to get worse as soon as she faces competition. From the Washington Free Beacon:
Hillary Clinton may end up deciding she wants to spend the 935 days until election 2016 making corporate speeches and spoiling her grandchild. Recent events have exposed weaknesses in Clinton’s supposedly impregnable armor, gaps through which a Democratic or Republican challenger could damage, perhaps even defeat her. The bad headlines to which she has been subjected are enough to make anyone—anyone who isn’t a Clinton—think twice about running for president.
Look at the polls. This week’s Fox News poll has Clinton’s favorable rating at its lowest point in six years. She is at 49 percent favorable, 45 percent unfavorable—similar to her 47 percent favorable, 46 percent unfavorable rating when she ended her last presidential campaign.
More important than the individual results, however, is the trend. Since leaving office as secretary of state, Clinton’s favorable rating has been on a downward trajectory. And this is before the rigors of a campaign, before a Biden or a Warren or an O’Malley or a Cuomo or a Schweitzer or a Sanders throws a punch or two, before Christie, Bush, Rubio, Walker, Jindal, Paul, Kasich, Ryan, Perry, and Pence go for the Cobra Clutch Bulldog. A shoo-in? So was The Undertaker.
Already Clinton is finding it difficult to articulate a rationale for her presidency, to pronounce a record of achievement on which to base a campaign. In an appearance this month at the Women in the World Summit she had trouble naming her proudest accomplishment as secretary of state. It is a question that her strongest supporters, in her party and in the media, cannot answer. “Hillary Clinton Struggles to Define a Legacy in Progress,” read the headline in the Thursday New York Times. “Mrs. Clinton is striking a delicate balance,” the paper reports, “when discussing a job that would be a critical credential in a presidential race.” The last secretary of State to become president was James Buchanan. He gave us the Civil War.
COMMENT: That puts it very succinctly. Hillary is not a shoo-in. Of course the grandchild will be helpful because it will be plastered on every magazine cover and TV screen in the country. And Hillary will have the press behind her, Barack style. And Republicans may nominate a loser for president.
But she is far from writing her inaugural address.
SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 11:14 P.M. ET:
IT HAS BEGUN – Inevitably, The New York Times has begun its campaign to rehabilitate Brandeis University, whose withdrawal of an honorary degree scheduled to be given to Ayaan Hirsi Ali has created a backlash and uproar among those who know of Hirsi Ali's heroic defense of women's rights in the face of constant death threats from radical Islamists. Fact: The executive editor of The Times, Jill Abramson, is scheduled to receive an honorary degree from Brandeis on the very same day that Hirsi Ali was scheduled to receive hers. This is a scandal, an outrage. It is, for Abramson, a clear, incontrovertible conflict of interest. Her paper is covering Brandeis, and defending Brandeis, and she's accepting something of great value from Brandeis. Are there no standards left at my old newspaper? Or are lefty editors lofty and above us all? It's sickening.
CONGRATULATIONS – It is announced from the Winter Palace that Chelsea Clinton is pregnant. This is, for her mother, a holder of various government jobs, a blessing that will bring a blessing. Or, as it's normally called in politics, a sympathy vote. We can all anticipate the photos of Grandma Hillary holding the baby, even feeding it with a bottle. So warm, so kind. How could granny be the same steamroller we read about? No names have apparently been selected, but I doubt if Monica is high on the list. Of course, we really do wish the new parents only the best. They're entitled to the same happiness any new parents should have. And I hope they maintain their privacy.
LEGAL NEWS – Radical leftist nutbags at the University of Minnesota wanted Condi Rice arrested when she delivered an address at the university earlier today (Thursday). The protesters wrote a letter to the university police saying there was "probable cause to believe Dr. Rice has been involved in massive criminal activity” and that she is a “truly dangerous” person to allow onto campus. The university survived her appearance and will have classes tomorrow. Actually, Dr. Rice got a very warm reception.
HE, TOO, COMES TO SAVE US – Al Gore is now quoted as saying that we will win the battle against climate change. He said it in Hawaii. The matter is now settled. I await the victory parade.
QUOTE OF THE DAY – AT 11:08 A.M. ET: From straight-shooting liberal commentator Kirsten Powers, who proves that a liberal can overcome conformity and see the world as it really is.
She comments about the recent controversies around women's rights advocate Ayaan Hirsi Ali, one of the great fighters against Islamic extremism of our time. Hirsi Ali had an honorary degree rescinded by Brandeis University after pressure from Muslim students and from the usual battery of leftists concerned about "Islamophobia." Powers points out the monumental hypocrisy in our quote of the day, from USA Today:
In reviewing her book, Nomad, Nicholas Kristof lamented that, "Hirsi Ali denounces Islam with a ferocity that I find strident. … Her memoir suggests that she never quite outgrew her rebellious teenager phase." Yes, if only she would be more demure in describing her own oppression. Guardian columnist Emma Brockes complained that in criticizing Islam, Hirsi Ali "is startlingly direct" and is "deliberately, almost narcissistically provocative."
Yet, when author Anne Rice announced she had "quit Christianity" because it was anti-gay, anti-feminist and anti-science, Brockes only wanted to know "what took her so long?" Speaking of "startlingly direct," Rice said, "(I) began to really study (Catholicism) and I found that it was not an honorable religion, that it was not honest."
So, condemning the Catholic Church and Christianity broad-brush is heroic. But a woman who breaks with and criticizes Islam is a mouthy, immature narcissist who must be silenced. Got it.
COMMENT: So-called "intellectuals," who never cease their panicky desire to be conformist, with it, and trendy, love to condemn "Islamophobia." But, as Kirsten Powers says, condemning Christianity is oh so veddy, veddy sophisticated. Add Judaism to that. Anti-Semitism is back in style on the trendy left.
In pulling Hirsi Ali's honorary degree, Brandeis may have done her a favor – she's now more famous than ever, and her courage (she needs 24-hour protection) in speaking out against Islamic extremism toward women is finally being recognized.
Praise to Kirsten Powers, a liberal with common sense. There used to be many.
FUN ONLY – AT 10:36 A.M. ET: Presidential polls two and a half years before an election are mostly fun, which is why we run them. We need fun. Fun is good. Fox has the latest horse-race figures on the GOP side:
With about 20 months to go before the Iowa precinct caucuses, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul lead the pack for the Republican presidential nomination. Meanwhile, former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton continues to hold a huge lead among Democrats, according to a Fox News poll released Wednesday.
Three possible GOP candidates capture double-digit support among self-identified Republicans: Christie receives 15 percent, which puts him just ahead of Bush and Paul both at 14 percent.
Next, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan receives nine percent, followed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at eight percent, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at seven percent, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum each at five percent. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal comes in at two percent.
COMMENT: Name recognition is a big factor two years before an election. The guys at the top also are the best-known guys nationally.
The issue is how much upward potential there is for any candidate, and that is almost impossible to predict at this early date. Rand Paul may well go the way of his father, who excited an almost fanatical following, but never got much above where is son is now. I frankly don't see that much upward potential for Paul because of his foreign-policy positions, which place him well to the left of the Republican mainstream.
Christie is an enigma. He's been wounded in the press by Bridgegate, is something of a bully, but is still in serious contention in the opinion of most observers. But his style is not presidential. He wears out his welcome.
Bush is perhaps the most intriguing of the current "front runners." He is statesmanlike, a successful former governor, married to a Hispanic woman. He also has the Bush name, which helps with money but may hurt with votes. He's also reluctant. Who wants a guy who may not have any heart in the race?
The other intriguing possibility, as we've noted here, is Scott Walker of Wisconsin. If he wins big for re-election this November, he jumps into the front ranks.
And then there is Mr. or Ms. Unknown, someone not on the list who may jump in and become the new Barack Obama. Unknown one day, president the next.
HAVING US FOR LUNCH – AT 8:58 A.M. ET: If Americans are getting the impression that the Russians are running rings around us diplomatically, they're right. And it isn't just the Russians. We are losing virtually everywhere – Ukraine, Iran, North Korea, South America...even Canada. One reason is that this administration really doesn't take American foreign interests that seriously. How do they compare to Eric Holder's hurt feelings?
At The Politico, former American diplomat James Bruno explains part of our problem, made worse in this administration by crass politics:
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is fairly typical. A graduate of the prestigious Moscow Institute for International Relations (known by its Russian acronym, MGIMO) and 42-year Foreign Ministry veteran, Lavrov speaks fluent English as well as Sinhalese, Dhiveli and French. A former U.S. ambassador who had dealt with Lavrov at the United Nations described him to me as disciplined, witty and charming, a diplomat so skilled “he runs rings around us in the multilateral sphere.”
Russia has always taken diplomacy and its diplomats seriously. America, on the other hand, does not. Of this country’s 28 diplomatic missions in NATO capitals (of which 26 are either currently filled by an ambassador or have nominees waiting to be confirmed), 16 are, or will be, headed by political appointees; only one ambassador to a major NATO ally, Turkey, is a career diplomat. Fourteen ambassadors got their jobs in return for raising big money for President Obama’s election campaigns, or worked as his aides. A conservative estimate of personal and bundled donations by these fundraisers is $20 million (based on figures from the New York Times, Federal Election Commission and AllGov). The U.S. ambassador to Belgium, a former Microsoft executive, bundled more than $4.3 million.
By contrast, all but two of Moscow’s ambassadors to NATO capitals are career diplomats. And the two Russian equivalents of political appointees (in Latvia and Slovakia) have 6 and 17 years of diplomatic experience respectively. The total number of years of diplomatic experience of Russia’s 28 ambassadors to NATO nations is 960 years, averaging 34 years per incumbent. The cumulative years of relevant experience of America’s ambassadors are 331, averaging 12 years per individual. Russia has 26 NATO ambassadors with 20-plus years of diplomatic service; the United States has 10. Furthermore, 16 American envoys have five years, or fewer, of diplomatic service. The figure for Russia: zero. Five U.S. NATO posts currently have no ambassador. None of Russia’s is vacant. With Michael McFaul’s departure in February, there is no U.S. ambassador in Moscow at the moment.
COMMENT: You don't put an amateur in a ring with a professional, and that's what we've done by putting Barack (come to save us) Obama in the White House.
The Ukraine situation is the worst crisis we've had with Russia since the end of the Cold War, and Moscow is winning hands down. Obama warns of "serious" consequences, and gets laughed at.He then cuts the defense budget even more.
UKRAINE UPDATE – AT 8:46 A.M. ET: Look, everyone is now taking this very seriously. There is combat in the Ukraine between Ukrainian nationalists and factions loyal to Russia. Several people have been killed in military action at a Ukrainian military base, although facts are muddled.
What next? Josh Rogin and Eli Lake, two superb defense analysts, probe Putin's intentions at the Daily Beast:
Crimea is in Moscow’s hands. Deadly fighting has broken out in parts of Eastern Ukraine. And now there are signs that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have picked his next targets: First a small breakaway state in Moldova, west of Ukraine, where thousands of Moscow’s troops are already stationed; then its close neighbor Odessa, Ukraine’s third-largest city and its largest remaining port, where pro-Russian and pro-government groups are tangling. If forces loyal to Putin can successfully disrupt Odessa, it could effectively cut the county of Ukraine in two.
A firefight between pro-Russian forces and Ukrainian troops left three dead and 13 wounded in the Black Sea port of Mariupol late on Wednesday. Officials and experts inside Ukraine are also becoming more and more concerned that weeks of unrest, likely spurred on by the Russian government, are increasing in frequency and scale in Transnistria, the autonomous region on the Ukraine-Moldova border where as many as 2,500 Russian peacekeepers are stationed. Protests and counter-protests have also spread to Odessa—a city of over 1 million that’s less than 50 miles from Transnistria. And that’s stoking fears of a new front opening in the raging battle between the Ukrainian government in Kiev and pro-Russian forces operating all over eastern and now southern Ukraine. If Transnistria moves into Putin’s camp, Odessa could well follow.
Rep. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told The Daily Beast he has seen "a level of activity by the Russians" in Moldovan Transnistria that he said was similar to Russian military and paramilitary movements before Russia's annexation of Crimea. He said the Russian troop movements "fit the profile for the pre-deployment of additional special forces and intelligence units that engage in provocation and sabotage.”
COMMENT: This isn't alarmism. We don't actually know what's in Putin's mind. He's a shrewd, sophisticated international politician, unlike President Hope 'n' Change. He may ease back for a time, only to forge forward later, responding to some trumped-up "provocation" inside Ukraine.
A British analyst worried yesterday that this could be the start of the Third World War. I really don't think so. No one wants it. No one would benefit. No one really wanted the other two either.
"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.
"Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred. "
- Jacques Barzun
"Against stupidity the gods themselves struggle in vain."
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