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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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JULY 23,  2014

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

 

 

 

JULY 22,  2014

SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 9:30 P.M. ET: 

VICTORY OR WORLD-CLASS BLUNDER?  The FAA has ordered all American-owned airlines to temporarily suspend passenger service to and from Israel after a Hamas rocket landed not far from Ben Gurion Airport.  At first this may seem like an enormous victory for Hamas, which has supposedly demonstrated its ability to disrupt a major airport.  But some aviation experts are saying it could wind up as a major Hamas blunder.  If Hamas rockets are seen as that dangerous, then Hamas will be seen exactly the way Israel wants it to be seen, as a threatening, deadly terrorist organization.  This week in particular, after the shootdown of a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine, people who attack airports or airliners are not exactly popular the world over.

BEN FOR PRESIDENT? – The Republican field may be growing.  From Breitbart:  "On Tuesday, Dr. Ben Carson said he is starting to think about running for the White House in 2016.  Carson, the retired brain surgeon, won a Western Conservative Summit straw poll this weekend in Colorado, and the Draft Ben Carson for President Committee has raised more than similar groups for Hillary Clinton and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) have.  'I certainly didn't give it much thought early on,' he said on Fox News before noting that 'there's just hundreds of people' who are 'so enthusiastic' every place he goes.   Carson mentioned that hundreds turned out for a book signing on Monday evening at Costco, and he said, of the enthusiastic response he receives, 'I can't simply ignore it.'"  My own sense is that Carson is an inspiring speaker with a great story to tell, but has never been tested in a serious political contest.  I'd want to see more proof that he's up to the challenge.  But the prospect of him in the race is exciting.

HILLARY IN HIDING? – From Jennifer Rubin at WaPo:  "Maggie Haberman of Politico confirms first that Hillary Clinton is entirely inaccessible to the media and second that none of those denied access thought it important to let the public know Clinton is hiding from questions. Haberman observed, 'What has been really striking about Hillary Clinton’s book tour is she has not taken a single question, that I know of from reporters who are attending.'  Well, who can blame Clinton from hiding, I suppose, given her declining popularity, the gaffe-filled book tour and the instability engulfing Europe and the Middle East?   She is ducking the press for now, but even that is problematic. Clinton’s reputation as overly cautious and hyper-controlled at some point becomes a lack of courage and conviction. What does she think we should do about Gaza? What does she think about the Iran interim agreement extension?"  I get the feeling from press reports that Clinton is truly rattled, that she expected a coronation, not almost hourly media mention of Elizabeth Warren.

DECISION IN GEORGIA – Businessman David Perdue will defeat veteran Congressman Jack Kingston for the Republican Senatorial nomination in Georgia, according to a CNN projection of the results of today's primary.  Perdue will face Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn.  Georgia is only one of two states where Democrats think they have a chance of picking up a seat currently held by a Republican.  The other is Kentucky.  The Georgia seat is held by retiring Senator Saxby Chambliss. 

July 22, 2014      Permalink

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IF YOU'VE LOST NANCY – AT 9:06 A.M. ET:   House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, estimated worth about $30-million, loves to give advice to the peasantry about how we should live our lives.  She has been hesitant up to now about giving advice to Barack (come to save us) Obama.  But even Queen Nancy is starting to get antsy over a president who, to quote one pundit, hasn't had an opinion on anything in six months.  From The Hill: 

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday said President Obama should increase communication if people have the impression he is too aloof.

Pelosi, however, said she disagrees with the characterization that Obama is too removed or difficult to access emotionally.

"So while I disagree with the characterization, if that is the impression people have, then communication has to be stepped up," she said when asked on MSNBC's "Morning Joe.”

She agrees with the characterization, or she wouldn't be saying that.

A number of Republicans have criticized Obama's response to recent crises — in particular his decision to go ahead with a fundraiser after the downing of a commercial airliner over Eastern Ukraine last week.

Pelosi cited President Abraham Lincoln, who said public sentiment is everything.

"I think [Obama] has a great deal to be proud of," Pelosi said. "Lincoln said public sentiment is everything. And actually Ronald Reagan used to quote that of Lincoln."

She's read Reagan?  I didn't think they allowed that in the Church of the Obama.

The minority leader pointed to a number of economic indicators and the implementation of the new healthcare law as things for which Obama should be proud.

When initially asked the question about Obama's temperament, Pelosi joked, "Do you want me to write a book or something to talk about that?"

During the interview, Pelosi also called on Congress to pass emergency funding requested to deal with the influx of unaccompanied children crossing the border.

"What we need to do is have the supplemental that gives us the resources to meet the humanitarian needs to do the border control, but also to have the judicial piece so that these children have representation and judges to hear their cases," she said.

That is her view of the entire crisis.  The more direct, and intelligent, Sonny Bono was once asked his view of illegal immigration.  His reply:  "It's illegal."  Good answer.

July 22, 2014       Permalink

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WHEN YOU CREATE A POWER VACUUM, THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS – AT 8:58 A.M. ET:  The Iraqi ambassador to the United States speaks with a rare degree of bluntness.  From The Hill:   

The Iraqi ambassador to the U.S. said Monday that if the U.S. does not provide military assistance to Iraq, the vacuum would be filled by “others.”

Ambassador Lukman Faily said Iran has offered “all the help literally to replace America,” but so far Iraq has refused.

“Our military, our army and everything else has been in partnered with United States. Why would we need to go to the Iranian?” Faily told an audience at the Atlantic Council in Washington.

“But as I said in my speech, a vacuum is being created. And it will be filled by whoever’s available on the ground. That is the reality of it.”

Faily said officials in Baghdad were beginning to doubt U.S. sincerity in wanting to help Iraq beat back the Sunni extremist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which has taken over large parts of northern and western Iraq.

Faily said the U.S. is using the prospect of air strikes and essential military assistance as an incentive for political reform, but without a show of meaningful U.S. support, the Iraqi government has little incentive to undertake the political reforms the U.S. wants, in a “chicken-and-egg” scenario.

“We have skeptics who argue that this is really a conscious U.S. strategy for doing very little, that Washington intention is to create preconditions that we probably cannot satisfied, and then move the goalpost, if necessary, to ensure that we do not satisfy them,” Faily said.

COMMENT:  At least it's straight talk.  We made the same mistake as we wound down our commitment to South Vietnam in 1975.  We essentially abandoned the people who'd worked with us.  Congress even turned down material aid that would have permitted the South Vietnamese to fight without our direct participation.  President Ford correctly called that an act of extreme dishonor. 

Iraq is difficult, and aid to Iraq is unpopular.  They don't necessarily love us.  But Americans spilled blood to keep Iraq out of the orbit of our enemies, and to give it a chance to become a democracy, and now Obama's indifference and short-term political thinking are throwing all the sacrifice away.

Iran will probably succeed in taking over.

July 22, 2014       Permalink

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PORTRAIT OF OUR MILITARY – AT 8:41 A.M. ET:  Where does our military come from?  IJ Review has a fine piece depicting how our military force is distributed among the states.  I think you'll find some surprises in this piece

While enlistment rates in the U.S. military vary by group, they also vary by state. Enlistment ranges from less than 3 per thousand in North Dakota to more than 7 per thousand in Florida and Maine.

North Dakota I get.  The economy is booming there, and enlistment rates are often related to the economy.  The high rate for Florida, a southern state with a high Hispanic population, is also understandable.  I don't see where Maine figures in.  Fine state, but why the highest enlistment rate?

According to the Defense Department, differences exist at the regional level as well. In 2013, 44% of all military recruits came from the South, despite it having only 36% of the country’s 18-24 year-old civilian population.

By contrast, the Northeast was the most underrepresented region of the country; only 14% of new enlistments came from this area, compared to 18% of its 18-24 year-old population.

I would have guessed the same thing about both regions.  What strikes me is how high is the percentage of 18-24 year-olds in the South, and how low in the Northeast.  Maybe too many of my fellow Northeasterners feel that having children is beneath them.  I mean, the Ivy League has its impact.

While the military says it isn’t concerned with the demographics of its recruits, is it fair to speculate as to which Americans volunteer to serve their country and why?

COMMENT:  Actually, you'd have to do a much more detailed survey to see what subgroups are represented.  You'd also have to look at economic incentives.

The South has always been overrepresented in the military.  The piece has maps that go into greater detail.  Fascinating stuff.  My own state of New York ranks poorly.  I think three New Yorkers tried to enlist last year, and all were rejected because of criminal records and Al Qaeda sympathies.

July 22,  2014     Permalink

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ELIZABETH WARREN – AT 8:28 A.M. ET:  She seems to be the woman of the hour, or the half-hour.  I mean, things go quickly today.  She is speaking everywhere.  The left-wing fringers love her, and are ready to push Hillary over the side to have the real, genuine leftist as president.  Of course, they have one now, but they haven't noticed.  From Hot Air: 

When asked just how vulnerable former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is to a challenge from her left, the Acela Corridor’s political class is quick to note that 2016 is not 2008.

They observe that the factors which made Clinton vulnerable to a challenge from then Sen. Barack Obama in 2008 simply do not exist today.

For example, those grounded political reporters say, the former secretary is wildly popular among Democrats. They cite polling data which shows the former secretary leading her most likely challenger – the sitting Vice President of the United States – often by more than 30 points.

Finally, they note that Clinton’s major vulnerability in 2008, her 2002-2003 support for the Iraq War, is no longer a major concern within the Democratic Party’s left-wing. Her recent apology for her vote in favor of that operation, they say, has buried any hard feelings which might persist.

While the polls do not yet bear this assumption out, it is fair to say that most in the press believe that only individual who could mount a credible challenge to Clinton from her left is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). The “reality-based community,” as it were, is however quick to note that even that scenario is highly unlikely.

This sentiment is best expressed by Slate’s Dave Weigel who recently performed an interview with the founder of campaign aimed at drafting Warren to run in 2016. He confessed that his questions for the founder of this group were “skeptical” in nature, which slightly undersold just how suspicious Weigel seemed to be of the effort to force the senior Massachusetts senator to run for the presidency.

While the political press is suspicious of the notion that Clinton is vulnerable to a challenge from Warren, a non-candidate who has said in no uncertain terms that she is not interested in mounting that challenge, the press is also not ignoring the obvious: the progressive wing of the party is not Ready for Hillary .

A CNN survey from June revealed that, while Clinton remains the favorite prospective 2016 candidate among Democrats, their enthusiasm for her candidacy is muted:

Forty-one percent of Democrats questioned said they’d be enthusiastic if Clinton wins the nomination, with 42% saying they’d be satisfied. One in 10 said they’d be dissatisfied, and 5% said they’d be upset.

The rest of the Beltway horserace watchers are also noticing that Warren commands a measure of enthusiasm on the left that Clinton never has.

COMMENT:  The Democratic Party became destabilized in the late 1960s.  It recovered somewhat under the leadership of Bill Clinton, who understood the need to make it a center-left, not a leftist, party.  It's now drifting again, in part because the party's titular leader, Barack Obama, has no interest in it, and has no problem with the political left.

Could a true leftist candidate like Warren be elected president?  Theoretically yes, because she's deceptive enough to run as a moderate and make it look genuine.  And she'll have the liberal media at her back.

But it really depends on who the Republicans nominate in 2016.  Warren is not a great campaigner, and her electoral experience is limited to Massachusetts, where a Democrat can be elected even if deceased.  I think Hillary would be the much tougher opponent.

July 22,  2014     Permalink

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