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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JULY 24,  2014

OH PLEASE – AT 10:31 A.M. ET:  We noted in "Short Takes" last night the adventure of Democratic Senator John Walsh of Montana, who is running for a full term in November, having been appointed to the Senate to fill out the term of Max Baucus, who resigned to become ambassador to China.

It has been discovered that Walsh plagiarized a good chunk of his master's thesis.  And now the excuses flow.  From Fox: 

A Montana senator who is running for re-election suggested Wednesday that medication he took for post-traumatic stress disorder after service in Iraq may have been responsible for apparently plagiarized passages in his thesis.

Yes, yes, it's obvious.  The medication is called Duplichol.  It forces the patient to duplicate, in longhand, everything he reads. 

Montana Sen. John Walsh's thesis, which was written to earn a master's degree from the U.S. Army War College, contains unattributed passages taken word-for-word from previously published papers.

The Democrat also said he was dealing with the stress of a fellow veteran's recent suicide.

Walsh said he made an unintentional mistake and did not intend to plagiarize.

Must've gone 5,000 words or so before he noticed. 

"I don't want to blame my mistake on PTSD, but I do want to say it may have been a factor," Walsh told The Associated Press. "My head was not in a place very conducive to a classroom and an academic environment."

A spokesperson for Walsh's campaign said the apparent plagiarism was "unintentional."

There are people who will believe that excuse.

"There were areas that should have been cited differently but it was completely unintentional," Lauren Passalacqua said in a statement.

The senator is running against Republican Rep. Steve Daines to keep the seat Walsh was appointed to in February when Max Baucus resigned to become U.S. ambassador to China, and national Democrats said Wednesday they remained "100 percent behind Sen. Walsh."

COMMENT:  Of course they remain behind him.  What's a little plagiarism compared to wrecking the entire health-care system?  I mean, did the original authors even know about it?  Haven't you ever driven off in someone else's car for five years or so? 

Hard to predict what will happen here.  In an honorable universe, Walsh would disappear.  But there could also be a sympathy backlash.  Maybe Walsh should read Nixon's "Checkers" speech and copy, er, I mean learn from it.

July 24, 2014       Permalink

CHILLING – AT 9:55 A.M. ET:  Add one more item to the list of horribles that we, as a nation, are facing in the world.  From the Washington Times:

High-ranking U.S. officials said Wednesday that not only are Sunni radicals with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant “worse than al Qaeda,” but that the group has a message for the president: “We’re coming for you, Barack Obama.”

Brett McGurk, the deputy assistant secretary of state, told lawmakers at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing that ISIL may have “changed its name,” but that it’s still al Qaeda.

“In fact, it is worse than al Qaeda,” he said, The Hill reported.

Elissa Slotkin, the acting principal deputy undersecretary of Defense for policy, added that ISIL also has its eye on the president, threatening “We’re coming for you, Barack Obama,” The Hill reported.

The ISIL, under the command of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has taken over large swathes of Iraq and confiscated heavy weaponry previously belonging to Iraqi security forces in the past two months. The terrorist group is now in possession of as many as 52 U.S.-made M198 howitzers, McClatchy news service reported in June.

In Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, the Sunni terrorists have told Christians they must convert to Islam or die by “the sword.”

“This is ethnic cleansing but nobody is speaking up,” Yonadam Kanna, Iraq’s most prominent Christian politician, said earlier this week, Agence France-Presse reported.

COMMENT:  The target, Barack Obama, was last seen at another Democratic Party fundraiser. 

Our military sacrificed so much in Iraq, and it's all going down the drain.  And I take seriously the threat against the president.  I think we underestimate the elements of ego and prestige involved in these terrorist enterprises. 

July 24, 2014       Permalink


WHAA..? – AT 9:16 A.M. ET:   There's a new terror warning out from a most unusual place.  No country in Western Europe has been more "understanding" of Islamic causes than Norway.  We're talking major grovel.  But apparently those Islamo-fascists just don't know how to return friendship and smiles.  From London's Daily Mail: 

Norway's intelligence service today said it has received information about an imminent 'concrete threat' against Norway from people with links to Islamic fighters in Syria.

Benedicte Bjoernland, the head of Norwegian security service PST, said the agency had received 'reliable information' from a foreign partner about some kind of attack 'within days'.

'It was unspecific about what the target might be,' Bjoernland said, adding PST has no information about how or when such an attack would take place.

The information involves people who have ties with foreign fighters in Syria, she added.

According to PST's assessment last month, about 50 people have travelled to Syria from Norway as foreign fighters, half of whom have now returned to Norway.

Bjoernland declined to give further details.

The concerns echo those in the UK, where it is thought as many as 1,500 young British Muslims have answered the calls of rebels to travel to Syria and Iraq to join the terror war.

COMMENT:  And those concerns extend to the United States.  We know that some young Muslims have gone to the Mideast and Africa, drawn to the jihadist cause.  American officials have expressed worry that they could return here, fully trained, and carry out terrorist acts. 

We are living in very dangerous times.

July 24, 2014        Permalink


NEW MYSTERY – AT 8:52 A.M. ET:  Another airliner is missing.  From Fox: 

An Air Algerie flight carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algeria's capital disappeared from radar early Thursday, according to the the plane's owner.

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in northwest Africa.  It's in a very turbulent region.

Air navigation services lost track of the Swiftair MD-83 roughly 50 minutes after takeoff from Ougadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, at 9:55 p.m. ET Wednesday, the official Algerian news agency said. That means that Flight 5017 had been missing for hours before the news was made public.

Swiftair, a private Spanish airline, said the plane carrying 110 passengers and six crewmembers – including two pilots and four cabin staff -- departed Burkina Faso for Algiers at 9:17 p.m. ET Wednesday, but had not arrived at the scheduled time of 1:10 a.m. ET Thursday.

Swiftair said it was unable to make contact with the plane.

"In keeping with procedures, Air Algerie has launched its emergency plan," the APS news agency quoted the airline as saying.

Burkina Faso authorities also set up a crisis unit in Ouagadougou airport to update families of people on board the plane, Reuters reports.

The flight path of the plane from Ouagadougou, the capital of the west African nation of Burkina Faso, to Algiers wasn't immediately clear. Ougadougou is in a nearly straight line south of Algiers, passing over Mali where unrest continues in the north.

An Algerian aviation official told Reuters that the last contact authorities had with the missing plane was when it was flying over Gao, Mali.

COMMENT:  Any missing airliner is disturbing, obviously.  What is particularly upsetting about recent incidents is that airliners have met a horrible fate with no message from the cockpit, no distress signal of any kind.  Today's incident is another example.  The Malaysian aircraft that disappeared months ago, leading to a huge search in the Indian Ocean, has still not been found.  The Malaysian airliner shot down over Ukraine last week sent no emergency signal. 

There is already speculation that the plane involved in today's mystery was shot down, but aviation experts note that it was at cruising altitude, and that no nation or group in the region is known to have anti-aircraft missile systems that could reach that high.  We'll watch for further bulletins.

July 24,  2014     Permalink



JULY 23,  2014


BAN LIFTED – The Federal Aviation Agency just lifted the air travel ban to Israel.  The move was probably inevitable in the light of some harsh criticism of the ban, which contrasted with the lack of a ban to such islands of serenity as Pakistan, Afghanistan, and that great playground of the world, Yemen.  Individual airlines, of course, are free to make their own decisions as to whether to continue service to a particular location.  I am proposing a flight ban to Washington because so much that is done there is a hazard to the United States.

SCANDAL – Well, it would be a scandal for most civilized people, but apparently not for the UN.  The world body's secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, is in the Mideast, seeking an end to the Israel-Hamas fighting.  We learned today that Ban's flights are being financed by Qatar, a Gulf nation that is one of Hamas's chief financial backers.  Among grown-ups that is called a conflict of interest, or even a bribe.  I'd imagine the amenities aboard the plane are first class.  Oh, by the way, Qatar also funds Al Jazeera, and is a heavy contributor to the Clinton Foundation.  Will anyone ask Hillary about this?

GOING, GOING... – Dem Senator John Walsh of Montana was already facing an uphill battle to keep his seat this November.  Now comes this, from The Hill:  "Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) apparently plagiarized large chunks of his master's thesis, according to a report in The New York Times.  The senator, then a U.S. Army commander, took nearly a quarter of his paper from other sources without citing them, the Times finds, including six recommendations at the end of the paper. The 800-word section is copied nearly verbatim from a paper from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.  Additional sections of the paper seem to be copied from a paper from a Harvard research institute.  Walsh told the Times that he 'didn't believe' that he had plagiarized.  'I didn't do anything intentional here,' he said."  I guess the same words magically appeared in his thesis.  You know, there are coincidences in life.  He's gone.

MICHAEL, WE HARDLY KNEW YE – From Breitbart:  "According to the Detroit News, anti-capitalism 'everyman' filmmaker Michael Moore owns 9 homes. On top of a $2 million, 10,000 square foot lakefront mansion in Torch Lake, Michigan, there is a Manhattan condo that was once 3 condos, and 7 other properties. Moore's secret role as a land baron was revealed in divorce papers."  So unfair to talk about Michael this way.   Some artists just need a bit more living space, the better to be comfortable while condemning capitalism.

July 23, 2014       Permalink


WEIRD, MAN – AT 10:52 A.M. ET:   One of the weirdest stories of the last 24 hours is the manner in which our Federal Aviation Administration, an agency not known for speed, rushed to ban American airliners from flying to and from Israel because a Hamas rocket landed a mile from Ben Gurion Airport.  The European equivalent of FAA followed immediately with an advisory not to fly to Israel.

There were concerns that this over-reaction was handing Hamas a victory.  There was also some speculation that the travel bans and advisories were based, not on concern for passenger safety, but on a desire to blackmail Israel into making concessions to Hamas.

I really don't know what interpretation is correct.  But the weirdness of the situation intensified today when John Kerry violated our government's own travel ban by flying directly into Ben Gurion Airport in Israel for conferences with the Israeli government.  And it turns out that many airlines are ignoring the advisories.  From Algemeiner, an Israeli online paper: 

The Israeli Tourism Ministry on Wednesday said Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport is still open, with Israeli carriers El Al, Arkia and Israir flying as normal, along with 22 foreign airlines, including British Airways, Aeroflot and Ukrainian Airlines, despite a 24-hour flight ban by the U.S. FAA and a recommendation not to fly by its European counterpart.

In a statement, the ministry said, “Today, 209 flights will operate at Ben Gurion airport, with 132,000 arrivals and departures (not including flights arriving in Ovdah airport near Eilat from noon today). It should be noted that since the onset of Operation Protective Edge until yesterday (July 22), all foreign airlines continued to fly into Israel as scheduled with the sole exception of one foreign airline that suspended its operation for one week. As things stand at the moment, it would appear that several foreign airlines intend to recommence operations to Israel.”

Earlier, U.S. Airways told AFP that it planned to reschedule flights for Wednesday night on Thursday, while British Airways said it would continue to fly to Tel Aviv.

COMMENT:  Caution is appropriate, but Israel knows how to react to disruptions in service caused by security concerns.  I'm actually much more concerned about the security situation around our own airports.  We have so many airports in the U.S., and the areas around them are often not seriously patrolled.  I'm afraid all these airport stories are going to give some very bad people some very bad ideas. 

July 23, 2014       Permalink


OBAMACARE STILL DOWN – AT 10:21 A.M. ET:   I've noticed in recent days an attempt by the mainstream media to rehabilitate Obamacare.  But the fact is that support for the program has settled in at a depressingly low, level.  From The Hill: 

Fifty-nine percent of registered voters oppose the Affordable Care Act in a poll released Wednesday, largely unchanged since March.

According to the CNN poll, another 40 percent are in favor of the law.

The law's favorability has increased 5 percent since December, when it received its lowest rating yet amid the shaky rollout of the healthcare exchanges.

CNN noted that 38 percent oppose the law because it is too liberal, while 17 percent oppose it because it is not liberal enough.

When asked if they are better off because of the healthcare law, a plurality of respondents, 46 percent, say their family is about the same. Thirty-five percent believe other families around the country are better off now because of the law.

Those numbers have changed little.

COMMENT:  We are talking about health care, life and death.  Any respectable program dealing with these critical issues should have overwhelming support.  Yet, Obamacare is at 40%.  It will be a terrible drag on Democrats this November if Republicans can show that they have a better alternative.  If they can't, rejection of Obamacare may not actually help Republicans that much.

Obamacare is the signature issue of the Obamacare presidency, and it cant even break even in the polls.

July 23,  2014     Permalink


ANOTHER GREAT MOMENT IN FOREIGN POLICY (CHOKE) – AT 9:31 A.M. ET:  The great national-security reporter Eli Lake has an exclusive about Ukraine that should once again make us feel embarrassment at the conduct of our foreign policy in the age of Obama.  From Daily Beast: 

As the United States and NATO last month began to publicly acknowledge the sophisticated Russian anti-aircraft systems moving into rebel held areas of eastern Ukraine, the government in Kiev asked for gear that might be used to counter those weapons.

According to a former senior U.S. defense official who has worked closely with Ukraine’s military and a former head of state who has consulted with the government there, Kiev last month requested the radar jamming and detection equipment necessary to evade and counter the anti-aircraft systems Moscow was providing the country’s separatists.

Those anti-aircraft systems were almost certainly used to shoot down MH17, the Malaysian air passenger jet shot out of the sky last Thursday. U.S. officials have pointed the finger at Russia for providing that equipment, though no final assessment has been made of culpability for the incident.

Philip Karber, a former strategy adviser to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, has conducted detailed assessments of the country’s military since the crisis began this year. Karber returned from the Ukrainian front earlier this month. He told The Daily Beast, “I was told in June by the Ukrainians that one of their top five priorities that they had conveyed to the United States and NATO that month was to get help in electronic warfare,” which gives a military the ability to detect, spoof and jam the radars of enemy anti-aircraft missile batteries.

Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president of the Republic of Georgia, also said that in his meetings this month with Ukraine’s leadership he was told by the country’s national security adviser, Andriy Parubiy, that Ukraine had requested technology to detect anti-aircraft systems. Saakashvili was Georgia’s president when Russia invaded two Georgian republics—Abkhazia and South Ossetia—in 2008 and has offered his views to Ukraine as they face a similar crisis today. “He told me they desperately needed electronic warfare capabilities from the Americans,” Saakashvili told The Daily Beast.

COMMENT:  Douglas MacArthur used to say that all military catastrophes begin with two words:  too late.  Ukraine may have asked for training and equipment, but clearly didn't get it.  The Malaysian airliner shot down by missile last week would have had a chance had Ukraine had some operating countermeasures. 

Will the lesson be learned?  Not by this administration.  Obama isn't a learner.  He never seems to improve. 

July 23, 2014       Permalink


POSSIBLE WAVE ELECTION? – AT 9:04 A.M. ET:  We'll get a much clearer view of Senate races once the serious campaigning starts after Labor Day, but there is a chance that Republicans may see enough victories in November to call this a "wave election," an election that substantially changes the political balance.  From National Journal: 

...there's plenty of race-by-race evidence to suggest that most contests are trending in a Republican direction. Over the past several months, the Iowa and Colorado Senate races have turned from long shots to promising Republican pickup opportunities. In Iowa, Republican nominee Joni Ernst is running evenly with Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley in the Real Clear Politics polling average, a marked shift over the last two months. And in Colorado, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall only holds a 1-point average lead over GOP Rep. Cory Gardner, according to RCP, in a race that's shaping up to be a barn burner.

And there isn't much evidence that red-state Democrats have gained ground in recent months, either. In Arkansas, reliable public polling has been sparse, but GOP Rep. Tom Cotton has led Sen. Mark Pryor (D) in three straight public polls, along with the GOP campaign's last two internals. Pryor didn't release any polling of his own to counter. An April NYT/Upshot survey showing a double-digit Pryor lead, which shaped public perception of the race, is now looking more like an outlier.

In Louisiana, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) has never hit 50 percent in any of the all-party primary surveys, with most polls showing her well short of the mark. Outside GOP groups are already anticipating a runoff, reserving post-November election ad time on behalf of Rep. Bill Cassidy, her expected challenger. With Republicans on track to nominate a credible candidate in Georgia, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell avoiding a tough primary in Kentucky, and Sen. Thad Cochran renominated in Mississippi, it's looking less likely that Democrats can pick off a stray Republican-held seat.

To be sure, there are several races where Democrats have stabilized their standing. Sen. Kay Hagan has inched ahead of Republican Thom Tillis in North Carolina, thanks largely to the state House speaker's role in a contentious budget fight in the state Legislature. Her numbers are still weak and she remains one of the most vulnerable Democrats, but her strategy of making Tillis an unacceptable alternative is very viable. Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land is looking like a weak candidate, unable to capitalize on the favorable environment for the GOP in Michigan. And former Sen. Scott Brown hasn't dented Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's comfortable lead in New Hampshire, thanks to his middling favorable ratings and struggles to answer straightforward policy questions.

But even wave elections feature weak candidates and missed opportunities: 2010 was a historic year for Republicans, yet Sharron Angle and Ken Buck proved they weren't ready for prime time in otherwise winnable races. The wave wiped out Democrats in the South and Midwest that year, but it crested in the West. Sens. Patty Murray, Michael Bennet, and Barbara Boxer, top targets that year, all won reelection. That didn't change the reality of rough public opinion for Democrats.

If anything, this year's environment for Democrats is shaping up to be as bleak. Sizable majorities oppose the Obama administration's handling of nearly every issue, including the economy, health care, and foreign policy. The administration looks out of its element, lurching from foreign policy crises to domestic scandal over the past year. Even out of the headlines, Obamacare is still a driving force for Republicans and for unfavorable poll numbers. This week, Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg released new data showing Obama's disapproval at a whopping 60 percent in 12 Senate battlegrounds, with half strongly disapproving of his performance. Overall, Republicans held a 2-point edge on the battleground generic ballot, 46 percent to 44 percent.

COMMENT:  Republicans must run as if they're 20 points behind.  There is a historic tendency for the GOP to blow elections.  Also, the influence of press bias, as bad today as ever, does not seem to enter into pundits' calculations.  What I fear most is an inordinate number of heartbreakers – Senate races decided by one or two points, but decided in favor of Democrats.  In some cases that could come about as the result of changing demographics, as in Georgia, in which the minority population is growing dramatically.

Be optimistic, but fight like the country's future depends on it, which it does. 

July 23, 2014        Permalink
















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































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