Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Romney Trip Comments

Dear reader-commenters,
Thanks so much for your favorable comments. Sometimes it's a little lonely sitting here in front of my PC screen trying to make sense, not be too feisty, and at the same time say something worth reading.
Now, today's blog may upset you. But, let me explain.
I agree totally with Anonymous that Romney can be a Reaganesque figure for America. He does indeed have the talent, intelligence, wisdom, calm and unshakable values America desperately needs in its leader.
My comments today are meant only to suggest that a presidential campaign is not for amateurs.
We all like to think that Reagan, the Great Communicator, just let tumble from his lips those timeless gems we all remember so fondly. It wasn't so. He had writers, and he followed their scripts after scribbling all over the drafts to get what he felt comfortable with.
Peggy Noonan thought of using the great "to see the face of God" lines in the speech after the terrible Colombia explosion. She knew Reagan so well that he asked her how in the world she had chosen the words he was already thinking about. That is a great speechwriter at work.
Mitt Romney needs a Peggy Noonan.

Romney's Trip, Its Domestic Positives and a Little Advice

If Mitt Romney’s trip overseas to bolster his foreign affairs credentials was somewhat marred by small missteps - the Olympics comment in London, the culture differences comment in Israel taken very badly by the Palestinians who were its target, and the not so cool ‘shove it’ comment made to the press corps by a Romney staffer in Poland - his trip did have several positive effects, mostly back home in Washington.
First, President Obama chose to sign a bill creating tighter security bonds between the US and Israel while Romney was with Israeli prime minister Netanyahu. This can only be good, but I wonder if it would have been done if Romney had not been applying salt to the Obama-Israel wound while in Jerusalem.
And just today, Obama decided to reinforce US sanctions against Iran. Granted this has been in the works for sometime, but its timing to correspond to the end of Romney’s international trip could be seen as an attempt by the President to upstage any final commentary or position statements coming from the Romney camp.
The Iran sanctions bite into the banking system in Teheran by cutting off from the American banking system any banks that aid Iran by facilitating payments for petroleum-related transactions. The sanctions also include the agreement of several Asian importers of Iranian crude oil to reduce their purchases from Iran.
Contrary to Iran’s predictions, the embargo, which has been in effect in Europe with prohibitions against carrying Iranian oil in European tankers, and is in effect in America since July 1, has produced no shortage of crude oil and the price of crude has actually fallen.
To get back to Romney’s trip, I really do not see the great importance of the gaffs made, if indeed there were any except for the ‘shove off’ comment for which Romney cannot be blamed.
But, these small faux pas do show how important it is to have top notch staff in a presidential campaign. Romney’s staff seems often to be fumbling for the right words, or to be scrambling to catch up and explain their candidate’s mis-phrasing. It is only Romney's full-text speeches that are very well written. So, we may assume that his speechwriters are already among the best in the business.
Mitt Romney has sufficient funding to get the best to run his campaign. He ought to do that now by filling in the weak spots before something happens because of bad phrasing or jittery staff reactions that could really do damage.
And while he’s at it, Mr. Romney could learn from his past mistakes and not try to go it alone, so to speak, when he’s out on the stumps without prepared texts. He needs someone he trusts 100% who will give him a briefing book filled with appropriate comments for every situation. Of course, Romney would have input to the final version of the book, but he needs someone who can say - No, Mitt, that’s not the right approach or wording - and make it stick.
It is usual for a business person to be freer in his off-the-cuff comments, but even there, most CEOs have a staff person who fine tunes the message and the CEO follows it. Mr. Romney was surely no different as a business person. He needs to apply that mindset to his presidential campaign.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Romney's Down Home Truths about Obama's Israel Policy

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney bearded the lion in its den, so to speak, this weekend in Israel.
But, the lion was not Israel. It was President Obama.
Governor Romney went to Jerusalem, prayed at the Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites, where he left a prayer note in a crack in the wall as he marked the fasting holiday of Tisha B’av. Wearing a black Jewish skullcap and surrounded by a throng of security personnel clearing his way, Romney carefully navigated through hundreds of worshippers, some of whom shouted cries of support.
He met with the Israeli president and prime minister Netanyahu. He gave a very firm warning to Iran in a speech from the terrace overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem, talked to the media and held a fundraiser.
The bombshell, if one wants to call it that, is that Romney said that the capital of Israel is Jerusalem, something no other world leader is willing to admit, even though the historical truth of the fact speaks for itself.
The United States, along with the rest of the western world, does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital because it is claimed by both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Israel occupied East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, in the 1967 War and then annexed it, an act not recognized internationally.
The United States Embassy is in Tel Aviv, as is that of many other nations, so that Romney’s remarks were a tacit criticism of White House press secretary Jay Carney, who last week told a pair of journalists who asked him to name Israel’s capital that they already knew the answer, declining further comment.
In his Old City speech, Romney said the United States would support Israel’s efforts to defend itself, which President Obama has endorsed in principle but not so strongly. But Romney stopped short of saying that he would support a unilateral military strike by Israel against Iran to stop Tehran from obtaining nuclear capability, though a top adviser said he would respect Israel’s right to take such action.
As he has done throughout the campaign, Romney cast the Iranian threat in very dire terms, using aggressive language to differentiate his view from Obama’s.
“We must not delude ourselves into thinking that containment is an option,” Romney said. “We must lead the effort to prevent Iran from building and possessing nuclear weapons capability. We should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course, and it is our fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so.”
“In the final analysis, of course, no option should be excluded,” Romney said. “We recognize Israel’s right to defend itself and that it is right for America to stand with you.”
“It is sometimes said that those who are the most committed to stopping the Iranian regime from securing nuclear weapons are reckless and provocative and inviting war,” Romney said. “The opposite is true. We are the true peacemakers.”
The Iranian uranium-enrichment program was the theme of Romney’s talk, and he did not mention Palestinians or the need for a peace process based on the two-state model promoted by the United States. The Palestinian leadership was incensed by Romney’s suggestion that Israel is succeeding economically in the region because of cultural differences. Palestine asserts that its failure economically is based on its “occupation” by Israel.
The Obama administration has urged the Israelis to be patient while international sanctions against Iran are given time to work but has assured Israeli prime minister Netanyahu that Israel has the right to act in its own national security interests. Some in the administration fear that an Israeli strike against Iran could ignite a regional war.
"We have to be honest that sanctions have not set back the Tehran program one iota and that a strong military threat coupled with sanctions are needed to have a chance to change the situation," Netanyahu said.
Israel, believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear-armed state, has repeatedly warned that it is only a matter of time before Iran's nuclear program achieves a "zone of immunity" in which uranium enrichment facilities buried deep underground will be invulnerable to bombing.
In an effort that appeared timed to upstage Romney's visit to Israel, Obama signed a measure on Friday to strengthen US-Israeli military ties.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak issued a statement Saturday thanking Obama after he signed into law the previous day an act endorsing the concept of preserving Israel’s “qualitative military edge” in the region. But there was no such declaration of gratitude by Netanyahu, who is an old friend of Mitt Romney from Netanyahu’s time in the United States, during which he and Romney were business consultants.
Obama’s step was widely seen as an attempt to parry Romney’s visit to Israel.
On Sunday morning, a senior Israeli official denied a report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that Obama’s national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, had briefed Netanyahu during a recent visit on U.S. plans for a possible attack on Iran, something apparently leaked by the presidential staff during Romney’s visit to Israel.
The report, which cited an unnamed senior American official, coincided with the start of Romney’s meetings and appeared to underline Obama’s readiness to use military force.
“Nothing in the article is correct,” said the Israeli official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The report came at the start of a full day of official meetings designed for Romney to deepen ties with Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders.
Romney met with Netanyahu on Sunday morning at the prime minister’s Jerusalem offices. After sundown, their families shared a private meal at Netanyahu’s home to break the holiday fast.
So, dear readers, we have the spectacle of a presidential candidate forcing the American President’s hand on a subject in which no “forcing” ought to be needed.
If there is any country in the world that America has engaged itself to defend, it is Israel. Many times, the US has stood alone against efforts in the United Nations to force Israel to back down on its own defense, to agree to be nibbled at by hostile regional counter-parties, to be left defenseless in a situation in which some of its neighboring countries have vowed to destroy it.
If the President had taken the high road from the beginning of his administration, there would have been no need to try to counter Romney’s obviously successful visit to Israel. And certainly no need to lie about what the Obama presidency has or has not done with reference to the US- Israel relationship. A relationship that has been trashed on several occasions by the President himself.
Home truths are sometimes hard to swallow. They often speak for a situation in which nothing is going right, nothing is as it should be, and the blame is only too easy to place.
It is too late for President Obama to try to “buy” the American Jewish vote with late half-measures about Israel’s security. It is too late to try to recover four years of disdain and indifference.
I only hope American Jews, who are not a “block” of voters but who have often voted Democratic, will see the folly of continuing along this path in November 2012.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Gold Medals and Syria

I've been watching the Olympics today. The first gold medal went to a Chinese woman for marksmanship. The gold medal that didn't go where everyone expected was the loss of Michael Phelps in the 400 meter individual swimming medley. Another American won, but the pressure had been, and will continue to be, on Phelps to collect three more medals in order to win the most Olympic medals in history.
But, I could not help but switch channels, when there were breaks or a sport I wasn't particularly interested was on TV, to see what was happening in Syria today.
What is happening is that the Syrian Free Army is firing anti-aircraft rounds at al-Assad helicopter gunships circling over Aleppo. People are fleeing several popular neighborhoods of Aleppo in order to avoid being caught up in the street battle that everyone expects to start soon between the SRA and regime forces.
In other towns, those left behind after other earlier battles are huddling together in underground areas to avoid random air attacks and to try to stay safe and use a minimum of resources by staying together. The bunker hospitals are operating and the images are now commonplace in the country.
But, it seems the world is watching but not seeing.
However, today, French President Francois Hollande called on the UN Security Council to intervene in Syria as soon as possible. He further called on China to remember that its interest in Syria is with the country and its people, not with the al-Assad regime. He flatly called on China to come onboard with the rest of the world. He didn't mention Russia.
But, the Russian foreign minister was speaking for his country. He mentioned for the hundredth time that Russia wants the fighting to stop as quickly as possible. But, he also said that al-Assad will not be welcome in Russia if he asks for asylum or refuge there.
Is that the crack in the Russian wall that the diplomatic world has been pushing for during the past 18 months. Perhaps the next week will deliver the answer.
After all, the Russians have TVs and eyes to see. And what they see cannot make it easy for them to continue forever in their denial of reality.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Let the Games Begin

There won't be a regular blog tonight, because like a lot of the world, I'm going to watch the opening ceremonies for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.
The summer Games are always exciting - there are so many sports involved that everyone has something to look forward to and one of their country's athletes to watch and cheer on.
But, on this day when it all begins, I just want to say "thank you, London and Great Britain" for putting on what is sure to be a superb Games, with the pomp and regalia and warm human kindness that you British are so well-known for.
When the Queen opens the Games, she will be doing it for the world and no nation takes more seriously its place in the world and the obligations born of that place than the British.
And, even if it is requiring the largest security plan in the history of the Games and of peacetime affairs to make everyone super safe, the British have done it well - and well-done, everyone who worked to make these Games come true.
So, bring on the athletes. Let the Games begin!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Obama's Foreign Policy Failure in Syria

Is the Obama administration playing politics with the people of Syria or is the administration simply inept?
That is the question being asked increasingly as President Obama and US Secretary of state Hillary Clinton continue to talk about wanting to save Syrian civilians from the butchery of the Bashar al-Assad regime, even while blaming Russia and China for the continuing lack of concerted international action.
Today on CNN, an Assistant Secretary of State told Christiane Amanpour that President Obama is on top of the situation in Syria and reiterated that intelligence is providing information about just who is now included in the rebel coalition, and that it appears that there are al-Qaida operatives involved but that they are not significant.
But a few days ago, former U.S. National Security Adviser General Jim Jones told Amanpour that the absence of a post-Assad plan for Syria would have grave consequences for Syria and the rest of the region, while refusing to say that such a plan exists. The implication was that Jones is not convinced that there is a plan.
“It was okay to be surprised by Tunisia for example,” General Jones said. “Maybe you could excuse it a little bit in Egypt. But Syria is a real big strategic country, particularly as it relates to stability in the Middle East. What happens to Lebanon for example if Assad goes? What happens to Iran?”
General Jones’ analysis was very disconcerting -- he is not sure if there is a plan for “going in” and securing the chemical and biological weapons stockpiles now controlled by al-Assad. He said that al-Qaida would like to get its hands on these weapons and that Russia and China ought to be considering that eventuality as they continue to prevent international action in Syria. Jones noted that President Obama did the right thing in warning that the al-Assad regime would be “held accountable” if these weapons fall into the wrong hands.
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney’s Senior Foreign Advisor Richard Williamson, a former senior US intelligence official, told Amanpour that al-Qaida and other Jihadist elements are now active in Syria and that this is the result of the power vacuum created in the country by the international community’s inability to agree on a coherent policy for Syria.
Williamson said that rebel coalition calls for Western intervention are growing and that Romney believes that helping to arm the rebels should be part of any policy, a position that puts Romney at odds with Obama on the issue. Obama spokesman Jay Carney has said that arming the rebels would increase the “chaos and carnage” in Syria (that seems hard to imagine considering the grizzly daily reports coming out of Syria war zones).
Williamson added, “This has gone on for seventeen months and early on Governor Romney said we should have people working with the opposition, trying to identify the moderate forces and help them unify.”
Williamson said that Romney is not ready to join Senator John McCain in calling for a no-fly zone or safe havens but added, “Clearly it’s not something you can put off the table if this goes on.”
Vali Nasr, another former Senior Advisor to the Obama administration says the U.S. has taken a reactive role in Syria. “The conflict keeps metamorphosing into something worse. It goes in new directions, and then we try to come up to answers to what is happening….The danger now is that the situation in Syria is deteriorating very rapidly, and if we are going to have a policy of reaction to the latest development, then we will be chasing this ball in whatever direction it is going to go and that’s not where we want to be.”
Nasr argued that it is not in America’s best interest to allow Russian president Vladimir Putin and the Chinese leadership to determine the US policy on Syria because that will continue to prevent the United States from protecting the innocent Syrian people who are simply trying to escape a horrific regime.
Williamson joined the growing criticism that is rising against the Obama Administration, accusing the U.S. of using Russia’s opposition to intervention in Syria as a convenient shield to postpone any action until after the November elections.
But, there is also another element to consider in evaluating President Obama’s lack of leadership in the Middle East. It is perhaps the fact that he is not experienced in foreign affairs, that his Secretary of State is not experienced in diplomacy, that his security and intelligence teams seem not to be able to deliver their “insider” advice in a way that would be understandable to the current American leadership that simply has no background to bring to bear on foreign policy or the Middle East.
The evaluation made by President Obama before committing to the surge in Afghanistan seems to fit this pattern. It caused senior military officers to speak out publicly and it led to Jones’ exit from the administration.
Ari Fleischer, President G.W. Bush’s spokesman and senior advisor, added fuel to the fire today in saying on the Amanpour program that the problem with Obama’s Israel relationship is that the President does not understand the force of words in the diplomatic arena and so he has spoken very harshly to and about Israel’s positions publicly instead of dealing with differences quietly and privately. Clearly, Romney’s visit with Israeli prime minister Netanyahu while in Israel during his current international trip will partially be an attempt to bolster Israeli confidence in America’s commitment to it.
President Obama has not been a strong President in regard to foreign affairs. The almost comical recent evidence of this is that he criticized Romney for visiting fewer countries on his international trip than Obama did -- as if the number of stops could ever make up for their lack of substance.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Syria and the Weak Support for Maltreated People Everywhere

Today’s news from Syria is that al-Assad and his Alawite minority (10% of the population) may be trying to carve out an enclave that would become a separate Alawite nation on the coast of Syria, leaving the rest of the country to the Sunnis who compose 90% of the Syrian population.
This is refuted by professors and experts who estimate that the coastline has neither the roads, nor the electricity supply sources needed to support a state that would certainly not be supplied by the Sunnis in Syria proper.
But, it does give a new picture of the problem al-Assad and the Alawites face in trying to win a civil war against the vast majority of the Syrian people.
The most recent Alawite tactic is evidenced by signs smeared on walls in cities and villages which have been invaded and ravaged by al-Assad forces and their militia: “Accept al-Assad or we will burn down your town.”
And, it seems that the announced battle for Damascus has shifted to Aleppo, the commercial center and largest city in Syria, with 3 million inhabitants.
Aleppo is just 40 miles from the Turkish border and is considered vital to al-Assad if he is to retain power. But, with Turkey firmly on the side of the rebels, and having today closed its borders to supply trucks moving toward Syria, it seems that the al-Assad forces now have only their weapons, need I say Russian, to win the city over.
There are reports today of strafing by warplanes and heavy artillery attacks in certain quarters of Aleppo. The city center, a UN historic monument, is not yet involved, but surely it will be within days. Unless, of course, al-Assad does what he did to stop Damascus from falling to the rebels - using helicopter gunships to destroy Damascus neighborhoods loyal to the rebel cause, followed by door-to-door searches for rebel sympathizers to be killed or arrested.
With 19,000 dead and hundreds of villages and city areas destroyed or badly damaged, with refugees fleeing to Turkey and Lebanon before the al-Assad enslaught, it seems clear that al-Assad has decided to remain in power by whatever means possible.
Whatever means possible - that is the most sensitive question. Because, also today, Israel announced that if al-Assad allows chemical or biological weapons to fall into the hands of Hezbollah, then Israel will have no choice but to attack…the red line as the Israeli defense minister put it today.
I suppose Syria simply proves that no matter how strong the world’s armies and weaponry are, no matter how united the world is in condemning inhuman aggression against civilians, these things will go on. There is no way for civilized coalitions to combat the insidious idea that “internal” matters are to be left to the country in which they are occurring.
Shall we count them -- Cambodia, Rwanda, Sarajevo, eastern Congo. And now Mali and its border region with Burkina Faso on the brink of al-Qaida domination. And, Syria.
And, lest we forget -- the two biggest offenders, Russia and China (including its own people but also the peaceful Buddhists of Tibet and Nepal).
Who will step up to the challenge? Who will say, enough? Who will stand for humanity and refuse to accept butchery, torture and physical and mental intimidation? It has not been Barak Obama, who seems to be overwhelmed by it all, despite what are surely good intentions on his part.
May we hope it will be Mitt Romney.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Rick Santelli Launches Another Tea Party on CNBC

Rick Santelli, the CNBC bond expert stationed in Chicago, is as far as most of us purists are concerned the person who started the tea party idea back in 2009 when the American economy was on its way into the disaster zone.
One morning he simply exploded on the TV screen, enraged at the bailouts and shouting down anyone who tried to disagree. His point was that bailouts are not good economics, that they create false market signals, and that at least in the United States, Americans do not pay taxes without having had a vote on the matter. He then asked why we don’t start a few modern tea parties to protest the misuse of our tax dollars.
His explosive attack was so ferocious that he was actually invited to the White House to meet President Obama and his economic team and discuss the matter. Rick, if I recall correctly, refused the invitation. But, his legend was made.
Well, since then he has been much more calm and has really tried to explain the insanities of current economic and fiscal leadership without yelling and turning red in the face.
Until this morning.
He was part of a segment about what’s going on in Spain and how it affects the American stock and bond markets.
Bond giant Pimco’s Neel Kashkari noted that Spain was in a mess and that a bailout would happen even if it takes a few months and even if it drives down the Euro and further harms the already-fragile European economy, and then added that in America the right thing to do would be to solve the “fiscal cliff” problem by simply extending the tax cuts and forgetting about spending cuts which cannot be agreed upon. Rick Santelli went, to put it mildly, ballistic.
The other CNBC analysts, Becky Quick and Steve Liesman, had no luck in quieting Santelli down. The guest host for the hour, the respected Andrew Ross Sorkin, simply faded into the woodwork to avoid having his eyebrows scorched by Santelli’s flame throwing attack.
Santelli's point?
How could anyone say that more government bailouts without matching spending cuts was bad for Europe but good for America. Kashkari had no answer but Rick would not let him get away.
I suspect the real Pimco bosses, either Bill Gross or Mohamed el-Erian, will soon be on the show to put things straight and save what’s left of their stuffed and roasted staff member.
Before Becky Quick pulled the plug on the session, Rick Santelli thundered into the TV camera that America is already over the fiscal cliff and that without spending cuts, no congressperson should vote for an extension of tax cuts. That combination, he shouted, red-faced, might save the United States, but even that is no longer sure.
He was majestic. He was right.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Thoughts for a Monday in July

There’s a lot going on today and I can’t seem to settle on one idea or event. So, let’s do a quick recap of what’s on the TV screen and in the newspapers and give them a comment or two.

1. Penn state was hit with the worst penalties in the history of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). It was fined USD 60 Million, its football wins from 1998 to 2011 were stripped, it will be banned from post-season bowls for 4 years and it has had severe restrictions placed on its recruiting function. The abuse of the youngsters was obscenely wrong. It shook the university and its leadership, many of whom are now gone or under criminal investigation. But, I would like to know just why the Penn State football program, with its excellent athletes who were clearly not involved in the sordid Sandusky affair should be the victims of a pogrom by the NCAA. Sandusky has been tried and convicted. He will spend the rest of his life in prison, as is just and fitting. But, why penalize young men who simply loved the game of football, were very good at it, and who went to Penn state to excel and be led by a man everyone knew to be the best in the business of coaching university football. And, just once, amidst all of the statue hiding, and fresco erasing and casting into outer darkness of Joe Paterno for faults neither proven nor even clearly defined, I would like somebody in the NCAA or on the Penn State Board of Trustees to stand up and say that he was the greatest university football coach of all time. Just once for the record.
2. Syria has now said that it has consolidated its store of chemical and biological weapons closer to the al-Assad regime stronghold in Damascus. It has stated that it will not use these weapons against its own people in any case, only against foreign attackers. We may ask exactly what is the difference between the use of chemicals and slitting throats, bashing skulls against walls, torturing and killing children and brutally seeking out and eliminating rebels. I feel sure al-Assad could explain that to Kofi Annan, but I would rather be spared the delicate details of the conversation. However, what was not said was even more important. Israel is next door to Syria and is shaken by the prospect of being attacked with chemical or biological weapons launched with scud missiles from Syria if al-Assad feels that it the only card he has left to play. Mr. Annan, may we be reassured about that, too, or is that too much to ask of the butcher who is known as Bashar al-Assad.
3. Europe is in free fall. Spain’s latest bond auction took its interest rate (the price it pays to borrow money) to 7.5%. This is the highest ever in the Euro era for Spanish bond interest. Italy seems stable for the moment, but with experts now admitting that it is only a matter of time before Spain will have to ask for a bailout, the question shifts to Italy inevitably. And, if Italy and Spain fall from Euro and European Union grace, then when will the Euro itself collapse, or morph into a much different currency covering many fewer countries? And, when will Germany admit that the austerity forced upon Greece and now Spain is not working, but rather it is making things worse. Greeks are now saying that their country is not viable - no jobs, no shops, no social services. It is being likened to the Great Depression. And, when will Spanish citizens see that they are on the same German path to oblivion and demonstrate until they get relief? These questions, rather than the niceties of Greek payment schedules or Spanish bond interest rates should be front and center. But, France and Germany are strangely quiet these days. Perhaps because they have run out of even bad ideas and are now waiting for the crisis-collapse scenario that the rest of us have seen coming for 18 months.
4. And, just one last word for those suffering in Aurora in the aftermath of the slaughter last Friday. I sympathize and am keeping the families, the victims and the traumatized people of Aurora in my prayers. But, I have one question for Americans. Why are US flags at half mast until Wednesday for these victims when US soldiers are killed almost every day somewhere in the world as they try to protect freedom and America, without a word from the President or even one flag at half mast. Simple justice demands better.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ernie Els Wins the British Open

It was a Sunday so predictable that everyone just settled back waiting for Adam Scott to win the British Open.
No one was close as the last day of play began. He had a 4-shot lead on a tough links course. Tiger Woods made it clear from his bogie on the first hole that it wasn't going to be his day. It wasn't. And the other younger players tried but rose and fell as the day wore on and the "church pew" bunkers took their toll on everyone, except Scott.
But, playing his game quietly and steadily was Ernie Els. He came from behind to finish the 18th at -7, 1 stroke behind Scott who was on the 16th and had already lost most of his lead. All Adam Scott had to do was what he had done all week - play the fairways and putt.
And, then it all fell apart. Scott bogied down to -7 and needed to par 18 to force a play-off. He bogied, after finding all the bunkers he had missed during the first 3 and two-third rounds of the British Open.
While he was watching his playing partner putt on 18, the camera focused on his face. He mouthed, "Why?"
That is the universal golfer's question. Everyone asks it a thousand times a season. There is no real answer - just the golf fates taking the facade off a golfer who was playing better than he really was capable of.
When they congratulated Els in the media room afterward, he thanked them but said, "I feel for Adam Scott. He's a good friend..."
That is also golf.
As for Adam Scott, he's a better than average golfer and he may win a major yet.
But, there seems to be some indefinable quality that lurks in the souls and muscles of truly great champions. It is that something that allows them to face up to and win majors. Note that a golfer who wins any major will probably win other majors. Els now has all four on his trophy shelf. Adam Scott is still waiting for his first.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dear Anonymous

Thanks you so much for your latest explanation. I was just wanting to say just what you've now said. The problem is terrorists, not Muslims. But not in ths Aurora case. Here, it's a deranged young man who was apparently flashing signs of the traits everyone always recognizes after the bullets have been fired but never before. If he had gotten the help he needed earlier, maybe nothing would ever have happened in Aurora.
But, then again, the world is far from perfect, and we can't recognize everything up front and beat it to the punch, so to speak.
Let's all have a lovely Sunday watching British Open golf and Formula 1 and try to relax and be friends all over the world.

Ramadan, Aurora, and other Assorted Comments

Dear readers, It seems that some of my readers are mixing oranges and apples this week.
Ramadan has nothing to do with America or any other country. It is a religious activity that crosses political divides. It is not meant to threaten or harass or be a source of fear. It is simply the Muslim religious action that resembles somewhat the Christian period of Lent. Asking forgiveness from God, trying to improve one's faith, being kind to others.
Aurora was the act of a deranged person - his faith or lack thereof has nothing to do with it. And, given his age, he is most likely non-religious, as sadly many young people are these days. There is no indication of terrorist links. He acted alone - unless and until we learn differently.
And, let me add, thinking he was acting for or with Muslims is completely beside the point. First, because Muslims are not terrorists. They are peaceful people who would like to live out their lives quietly within their family circle and with their religious principles intact. They are probably more frightened of Islamist extremists than most Americans because they live closer to their destructive tactics.
Muslims do not seek the destruction of America or Europe. Terrorists do.

The Aurora Massacre

Dear readers, I know you expect me to say something about the horrific shooting spree that took place last Friday in Aurora, a suburb of Denver, Colorado.
Well, I’ve waited a day or so because I wanted to be sure that my first reactions weren’t colored by the scenes of shock, grief and mayhem that covered CNN TV wall-to-wall during the 24 hours after the killings.
My first reaction was to pray for the dead and their families. And, then for the injured.
My second reaction was that the killer must have been a deranged madman.
My third thought was that there seemed to be a ghastly over-reaction to the deaths, terrible as they were. Over-reaction and hysteria and a general excess of maudlin feeling for an event that, although horrible, was local in nature, not related to terrorism, and that killed fewer people than are killed on American highways in a day.
That sounds hard, unfeeling and wrong-headed, I suppose, but these sentiments have become stronger, not weaker, as I have continued to watch the CNN coverage.
So, let me state my positions as clearly as possible.
I am against killing - planned, random, deliberate, military, guerrilla - killing is not what we were given life to do. It is wrong. It is senseless, even in the best of circumstances, and it is against any set of ethical or religious principles you wish to cite.
But, as in the terrible events that occurred in Tucson, Arizona, in 2011, the killings in Aurora were random in the purest sense of the word.
Twenty-five years ago, America would have noted their occurrence, given their condolences, and moved on. That didn’t happen in Tucson and it didn’t happen on Friday after the Aurora massacre.
My answer is the same as it was after Tucson.
America is grieving and wounded - in its psyche, in its soul, in its rationality. It has been damaged so profoundly by the events of 9.11 that any death, any attack, however local, on its fragile body societal, is an attack on every American. An attack bitterly felt, resented, feared and mourned as if 9.11 were occurring all over again (God forbid that that should ever happen).
That is not to belittle Friday’s events. They were mindless and should be recognized and studied for ways to prevent them in the future. And the perpetrator should be punished to the fullest extent possible.
But, I am not by this recommending gun control, as Piers Morgan tried to do on his CNN program last night when he was roundly attacked for his choice of timing and topic. I do not believe that Aurora or Tucson or any past or future similar killing spree has anything to do with gun control or the lack thereof.
While we may debate the prudence of allowing anyone to buy attack guns or thousands of rounds of ammunition over the internet, that is a detail.
Gun control has nothing to do with such laxities. Gun control deals with the constitutional right to bear arms. No Founder ever considered automatic weapons because they didn’t exist in 1789. No Founder ever considered concealed weapons permits because they didn’t exist in 1789.
Those concepts aside, the Constitution guarantees American citizens the right to keep and bear arms - not as a right that includes mass murder, but as a right to be safe in one’s own home and as a right to prevent the government from overreaching its proper limits.
Thomas Jefferson said as much when he wrote concerning armed citizens in the face of the government being put into place against the backdrop of the Revolutionary War:
“God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty.... And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”
These are blood-chilling words if we read and reread them to understand fully their importance. According to Jefferson, Americans should first of all be wary of their government. They should demand to be informed. They should express their dissatisfactions. And, if all else fails, they should be ready to take up arms against a government that has betrayed their trust.
To put Jefferson’s words against the hysteria of the media and private Americans during the past two days is to understand the depth of the American malaise after 9.11.
If Americans do not have the fortitude to suffer a loss such as occurred in Aurora, what will they do if actually attacked again by terrorists or betrayed by their government?
I hate to consider the possible answers.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan Has Begun

Ramadan, the holy month of purification for Muslims, began today in Europe. The date on which Ramadan begins is determined by the position of the moon and in France as elsewhere it is decreed by the head of the Muslim community. It corresponds to the beginning of the ninth lunar month of the year and represents the period during which the Prophet had revealed to him the Coran, the holy book of Islam.
Because the Muslim calendar is shorter than the Gregorian calendar, the month of Ramadan advances about 10 days each year, thus over a period of years Ramadan circles around the Gregorian calendar in a counter-clockwise fashion. This is also the reason that Ramadan may begin on slightly different days around the globe, because of the slight differences in the lunar calendar from continent to continent and hemisphere to hemisphere.
Following the Ramadan rituals is one of the Five Pillars of the Muslim faith and should be followed by all Muslims whenever possible. Exceptions include pregnant or breast-feeding women and the ill.
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims all over the world are supposed to purify themselves.
The most obvious Ramadan ritual is the fast required from sun-up to sun-down, including not drinking water or other liquids. But Ramadan also requires sexual abstinence and the welcoming of everyone who arrives at one’s door in a friendly and generous manner. All of these efforts are intended to help Muslims control their bodies and be better friends to those around them. During Ramadan, Muslims are also supposed to give alms to the poor and help the needy.
The fast of Ramadan is broken each night by meals prepared to re-hydrate the followers and to nourish them for the next days fast. This month is in effect a time when Muslim families and neighbors join together during the late evening and night to honor the most sacred month of the Muslim year.
So, today, I just want to say to our Muslim brothers and sisters that I wish them a happy and gratifying Ramadan 2012. I hope they will pray for peace and join with us, their Christian and Jewish brothers and sisters, to work for the elimination of religious conflict in the world and to deepen personally, as we all must, the lesson of brotherhood and compassion for others and for their beliefs and traditions.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Golf and Character

The British Open Golf Championship began today in England. On a links course in the northwest “Lancaster walking country.”
This isn’t Syria or the UN debate or even questions about what Romney will do to reveal his tax returns or what Obama will do to try to cover up his dismal failure with the economy.
No. It’s about golf. And, for me, golf is not simply a sport. It is a code of conduct. A way of life.
Because on a golf course, you are facing yourself. Nobody can cover your errors. Nobody can make up for your weaknesses. Nobody can give you a second chance. There you are, facing 7,000 yards divided into 18 holes, with 15 clubs, a pack of balls and your own character for company.
The men who are playing in the Open this week have played the game during most of their lives. They know what to do. What counts this week is execution and character.
On the long, well-mowed and carefully groomed American golf courses, a good golfer can muscle his way to victory if he can hit a straight long ball. On other American and world courses, perhaps shorter but with more hazards built in, he can win if he can aim the ball toward the green and putt well.
But, the British Open is often on a links course. The courses played by the first golfers 500 years ago in Scotland. Links are laid out along the sea. They have roughs that often hide the fairway from the vantage of the tee. They have tall sea grasses that defy any golf club to cut through them. They are unpredictable because of the sea winds and rain that pelt or caress them, depending on the weather pattern in effect.
It is on links courses that real golfers are tested and proved. Or fail.
And, failing is not so much winning or losing. It is more the ability to keep one’s cool in the face of the impossible.
It’s a lot like life really. Life delivers blind alleys, tall obstacles that seem impossible to jump over, winds and surprises that no one can anticipate. But, the goal in life is to stay calm. Learn as much as possible. Control your emotions. Be polite but determined. Don’t blink.
On any golf course, it’s the same. Be polite. Don’t lose your temper.
But, on a links course, it is also the ability to arrive by accommodation, without trying to force events. A links will kill you if you try to overpower it. The old axiom of golf, play the ball where it lies, must have been spoken the first time on a links. The ball is often in a place only a devil could have conceived. But, play it. Calmly. With sangfroid. Knowing that at the end of the day, it will be not just your score but how you handled yourself on the way to the 18th green that will count.
Maybe that’s why golf is so compelling as a sport. It is about politeness. Perseverance. Humility. Planning. Facing oneself without flinching. Winning without cheating or lying to oneself. Character.
Maybe that’s also why, when I was ten, my father handed me over to a golf pro. I will never forget what he said. “Make a lady of her.” Not a golfer. Not a pro. Not a competitor. A lady. Because, lady or gentleman, that is what golf is all about.
Like life, it isn’t whether you win or lose. It’s how you play the game.
The only person I’ve ever admired who turned that idea on its ear was Al McGuire, a great American university basketball coach. He said, of course it matters who wins, otherwise they wouldn’t keep score.
So, keep score, guys, on the British Open links this week. But, as I know you will, remember also that it’s how you play the game.
Now, if politicians could just take that truism to heart.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Battle for Damascus

The Syrian Minister of Defense, army chief adjutant Daoud Rajha, was killed today in a suicide attack on the building that houses the very tight national security offices in Damascus. Rajha was said by Syrian TV to be Christian.
Syrian state television confirmed that others killed in the attack in the center of Damascus were the vice minister of defense, General Assef Chawkat, who was the brother-in-law of president Bashar al-Assad.
Interior minister Mohammed Ibrahim al-Chaar was wounded, along with a reported “several” others.
The group that was targeted was in a meeting on security matters when the suicide bombs exploded.
This is the first time in the 16 months that the Syrian people have been in revolt against the al-Assad regime that high functionaries close to al-Assad have been killed.
A Syrian politician noted that “It is the state and all its institutions that are now targeted and the war has opened against all Syrians.”
The Free Syria Army spokesman announced yesterday that the battle for Damascus has begun.” It seems today was the day chosen, perhaps deliberately since the UN is scheduled to vote today on further sanctions against the regime and its leaders.
Russia has already announced its attention to veto the resolution. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia would not allow a resolution to be adopted that supports “revolution.”
Chinese president Hu Jintao met with UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon yesterday but the topic of Syria was not discussed during the public press conference.
Damascus suburbs and peripheral neighborhoods have come under severe attack this weekend, and al-Assad forces have responded with helicopter gunship fire in civilian areas. Rising smoke columns can bee seen in TV footage coming from Damascus.
A reported 48 regime soldiers have been killed since Saturday. But the London-based Syria human rights observation group says that at least 60 soldiers have been killed since Monday.
Meanwhile, Russia has repaired and redelivered to the al-Assad regime damaged Mi-25 helicopters. Russia has also disabled the navigation system that makes it possible to locate Russian military ships at sea, according to Interfax news agency.
A part of the UN Security Council resolution will probably be supported and pass - that allowing for a 30-day technical extension of the mandate for the monitors now in Syria to stay there.
So, the Battle for Damascus begins and Russia and China seem to be as blind as al-Assad as to the coming collapse of the regime in Syria.
French TV news reported tonight “on the ground” from Beirut that diplomatic and military circles believe there are five possibilities remaining for al-Assad and his cronies:
1. He flees the country with his family to a safe haven and the military are left to try to negotiate the end of the crisis.
2. He and his Alawite allies become even more stubborn, continuing to bomb and attack for as long as they can, believing that with the support of Russian arms they will win.
3. There is a military coup d’etat against al-Assad with the army generals and senior officers trying to prove that they are not the problem, thus leaving the way clear for their negotiation of some sort of “safe passage” beyond al-Assad.
4. Iran swoops in and takes over Syria.
5. In a desperate final move, al-Assad unleashes chemical weapons against not the rebels but Israel, threatening to kill off the Jewish nation unless he is left alone to rule Syria as he chooses.

I would add a sixth possibility: things move so fast in Damascus that army leaders and soldiers lose their nerve and flee to wherever they have friends and money, and al-Assad is left to fend for himself, much like Saddam Hussein was.
As for the possibility of a chemical weapons attack against Israel, the French seem to know that the Israelis are already preparing for such an eventuality and that they are frightened that al-Assad will use this card against them as pawns. If this is the case, it would go a long way to explaining the unprecedented build-up of US ships and presence in the Gulf. They may be there for a purpose that has more to do with Israel’s future than with merely threatening Iran over the Strait of Hormuz.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Middle East

Anonymous -- I agree but there has to be some light at the end of the tunnel. You say it is to elect Romney, and I agree there wholeheartedly, but tell me what Romney will do? No one seems to be ready to go to war, even for Israel, these days. We blew our wad in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the Taliban and al-Qaida probably watching and laughing, knowing it would finally make it easier for them to win.
Will Romney step up and be counted and are there military leaders in America who would stand up with him?
I wasn't really criticizing Bush about Iraq - only about his trying to play a UN card as cover. I suppose that's only human. And, to be fair, Truman did the same thing in Korea, in what was the UN police action led by America.
When you know you're right, act. When you're not sure, discuss. Acting in today's world, even in today's America, is very difficult. We have become a world of debaters being beaten up by actors from another epoch. The Templars, or Knights of Malta, won in the Crusades because they followed a scorched earth plan. Nobody could do that today and survive politically. That is the main reason. I believe, that al-Assad is so hated. If he were only terrorizing and not maiming and killing and torturing children, the world would be content to go on talking about him, too. Ditto was the case with Qafhafi.

Michele Bachmann's Letter to the Attorney General

Sometimes what you hear once is not what you hear a second time. Last evening on CNN, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann was defending a letter she had written to the US Attorney General asking for a full investigation of the extent to which the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the American federal government, citing the assistant to Secretary Hillary Clinton as an example.
She was later the topic of debate on the Anderson Cooper hour on CNN, during which Cooper talked to the president of an American Muslim group and several others about the "worrisome" nature of Bachmann’s charges. They seemed so sure that she is dead wrong that they didn’t bother to have anyone on to balance the Cooper-Muslim viewpoint - not even Bachmann herself.
Then, it all disappeared. Nothing on CNN today. Nothing on any other TV network. Nothing in the newspapers. Nothing on European TV or other media outlets. Nothing on the Internet. At least nothing I can find.
Yet I know what I saw and heard yesterday.
I know because my first reaction was, oh no, not another McCarthy-style purge. The background facts are similar.
In 1950, Wisconsin US Senator Joe McCarthy, who had been rabble-rousing against the federal government for a decade, finally got his platform in the guise of a Senate committee with the power to subpoena. It was the beginning of the notorious witch hunt for Communists in the midst of the American fabric. The appeal of McCarthy seemed to be his positive conviction that he was right and that he would rid America of the perceived danger within.
He ruined a lot of lives during his four-year assault, and it finally took the combination of President Eisenhower and Edward R. Murrow to eliminate him and the witch hunt he started.
But, to be fair, if anyone would even want to be when it comes to Joe McCarthy, it was the early 1950s. The Second World War had been won only to be “lost” to the Iron Curtain that Stalin dropped over Eastern Europe with the promise to take over the world. America was frightened and unsure what to do. Her defenses were focused on Korea and any spare time for McCarthy and the Communists within was scant.
But the fear was real.
Cut to Congresswoman Bachmann. Her letter to the Attorney General calls for a full investigation of the extent to which the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the US federal government. This on first blush sounds a lot like a 1950s style witch hunt over what is terrifying America now - the radical Islam terrorist threat to destroy America and her allies.
Does Bachmann know or suspect anything that could be the basis for an Attorney General investigation? And, would the Obama Attorney General do it in any case. And, will anyone now in the Obama administration who might be able to help pay any attention before the November presidential election?
Or is this just Michele Bachmann going off on another rant from the far right, meant to frighten and provoke Americans to become even more terrified of foreigners and Muslims?
Who knows.
And, the fact that both these extreme ideas about “purging” areas of the government come from the northern Midwest of America is also something to consider. I’ll leave that to historians, but it might be that there is something conspiratorial in the collective genes of this region that doesn’t really appear elsewhere in the United States.
But, what worries me most is that the topic has simply disappeared into thin air. Was Bachmann muzzled? I doubt anyone could accomplish that, but, hey, she’s running for re-election and candidates are subject to all sorts of pressure, especially monetary.
Or has the media simply decided to close the file, even if the public would benefit from hearing a little more before deciding?
I didn’t even see anything on Newsmax today. Strange at best.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The International Agencies

Dear Anonymous,
I can only agree with you. These agencies are spineless. But, beginning with Iraq, it seems that America and the rest of the world agreed not to engage in hostilities unless there was UN consensus. It was a stupid idea then and it is more and more coming home to roost.
But, it wasn't Obama who did it. For once, he is clean. It was President Bush and his team. Did they really know what they were doing? Did they understand the implications? I hope so.
Well, finally, the US went into Iraq against Security Council wishes, even though the wishers were clothed in confused and cloudy tomes of words.
What do we do? That is a question I ask you to answer, please, because the problem now is that with Obama in charge, there is little hope of the US pulling away from the Iraqi era commitments about unity under a UN mandate.

The Failure of Obama Foreign Policy in Egypt

I suppose the tomatoes and now-famous shoes thrown at the auto cavalcade of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she left Alexandria were only appropriate. The problem is that the stuff should have been thrown at her boss, President Obama.
Because what happened in Alexandria had little to do with Clinton herself. It was aimed at the ineffective and vague policy of the Obama presidency toward the Middle East, the Arab Spring and all things Muslim.
Of course, one could reasonably say that if the policies of President Obama are not those Hillary Clinton, then she would be better off to resign. But, that would mean that she would lose her world stage, her pre-eminence in the Obama administration, and her chances of parrying her secretaryship into the Presidency, if that’s what she wants.
But, to address the important matter of Egypt, and Egyptian-American relations -- one can simply say that they have been trashed beyond immediate repair.
It began when Obama was almost the last person on earth to give support to the Egyptians who were trying to free themselves from the Mubarak police state and to the military which was trying to protect them. It continued with no support for those potential leaders who might have saved Egypt from an Islamist political interim. It continued on to the recent silence about who would be the best president for all Egyptians.
So we now have an Egyptian president who has little regard for America, to put it mildly, and who listened politely to Secretary Clinton with no intention of doing anything to accommodate her wishes. The truth is that President Mosri has his own agenda and we do not really know what it is. Will he be what he says he will be, i.e., the president of all Egyptians. Or will he ease inch by inch into Islamist doctrine so softly that it will be too late to stop him and Egypt from becoming another Iranian type state in which minorities, women and foreigners are suspect, harassed and cast aside. We simply do not know.
Then, Secretary Clinton went on to discuss matters with Field Marshall Mohammed Tantawi, who is the senior member of the Egyptian military ruling council, and probably the only real wall that exists against the likelihood that Egypt will fall into Islamist hands.
The messages Mrs. Clinton carried from president Obama were two. To President Mosri, “assert your powers and do not let the military take over.” To Field Marshall Tantawi, “cooperate with Mosri and continue to protect all Egyptians.”
If ever there was a message more incoherent, I do not know where to find it.
Mosri simply went on about his business after his meeting with Hillary Clinton.
Field Marshall Tantawi, later in the day after his meeting with her, said that the Egyptian military will not let the country fall into the hands of those who would serve less than all of the Egyptian people.
I wrote earlier that America ought to try to do business with Mosri. But, public lecturing is out of the question. He needs to be fed controlled funds for social services and economic infrastructure that his country so sorely lacks and which he cannot provide on his own. And, with the feeding should come Kissinger-style private conversations in which each side airs its program, wish list and ideas for working together, in the absolute certitude that whatever is said will remain sacredly private.
As for Tantawi, he is the real power to be reckoned with in Egypt, and even Mosri knows it. If anyone can save the Egyptian people from the clutches of radical Islam, it is he. So, telling him to cooperate with Mosri is akin to telling Obama to cosy up to Romney.
The message from President Obama should be very private and very clear -- the United States supports his effort to preserve secular government in Egypt; it supports his efforts to be moderate in the face of growing indications that Mosri will not be moderate; it offers its military aid and advice, and even troops if need be, to keep the most important country in the Middle East from falling into Islamist hands.
Mrs. Clinton was clearly sent to Egypt with other messages, more soft and ambiguous. That is the Obama foreign policy at work, if there really is an Obama foreign policy, which I seriously doubt.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Syria Is in a State of Civil War According to the International Red Cross

The International Red Cross has now declared that the conflict in Syria is a full blown civil war. This means that combatants captured will have certain rights relating to their care and non-torture, and that the opposing forces and groups are automatically accountable before the International Criminal Court for war crimes.
I don’t think this will make any difference in the behavior of the al-Assad regime, but at least one international organization has finally had the courage to call the Syrian conflict by its proper name.
And let me say that :
I am tired of every person trying to bring an end to the crisis appearing before TV cameras to say he or she is “shocked”. No one ought to be shocked anymore.
I am tired of diplomats going to Damascus to try to reason with al-Assad. Diplomacy requires two willing sides and there is no one in Damascus willing to listen to reason.
I am tried of international groups organizing meetings to discuss what should be done and who should do it. The results are meaningless.
I am tired of al-Assad saying he is only trying to eliminate terrorists. He is the terrorist.
I am tired of Russia saying that the Syrian people should be allowed to decide their own future when it seems clear that Russia is supplying al-Assad with the weapons he needs to ensure that no Syrian ever gets the chance to voice his or her opinion in a civilized way.
I am just tired.
When is someone going to take out al-Assad or at least disable his military capability?
Those are now the only questions that anyone ought to be asking or discussing.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

France and America United in Revolutionary Democracy

Today, the 14th of July, is the French Feast of the Republic, usually called simply 14th of July by the French. In the English-speaking world, we call it Bastille Day.
The 14th of July 1789 ushered in a decade of unrest and successive government formats. It was a troubled and dangerous time to be French.
But, one thing never changed during the Revolution -- The French wanted to be in control of their lives and their country and they wanted to be free of the absolute monarchy.
Between 1789 and 1799, the French eliminated the monarchy, feudal forms of land ownership and tenure, aristocratic and religious privileges, and replaced them with the sense of the Rights of Man -- liberty, equality and fraternity. That is, the notion that there are unalienable rights inherent in every person and that citizenship should be based on birth, ideas which were called the Enlightenment in France, a name that became the label for the entire period in European history.
Surprisingly, the Revolution leaders, which had formed an Estates General in 1789 to serve as a national assembly, tried to keep the monarchy intact as a constitutional monarchy, but the right-wing efforts around Louis XVI made this idea collapse, and the King was guillotines in 1793, and his wife, Marie-Antoinette, later. This led to the beginning of what is today the National Assembly, the French Congress.
There were mass marches, barricades in the streets of Paris (think of Les Miserables), and the rise of predominantly left-wing political groups (think of Robespierre and the Reign of Terror of 1792-94 in which tens of thousands of French were guillotined simply because they were aristocratic by birth or disagreed with the extremism of what had become a virtual dictatorship under the Committees of Public Safety, even if they had supported and worked for the Revolution). Robespierre was himself finally guillotined, opening the way for the Directory, which put civil order into the period.
What we call the French Revolution actually began to be called that by the French in 1792, with the military expansion of the Republic into northern Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium and some territory west of the Rhine that touched what is now Germany. These territorial conquests had been attempted by the monarchy but had never succeeded.
These conquests led to the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, who took control of the French government in 1799, forming the Consulate that was the beginning of the modern period of French history.
The French political and social upheaval of the 1790s is the foundation of the modern era in Europe, with the rise of democratic assemblies, constitutional monarchies without real power, ideals around the concepts of liberal democracy, and the spread of modern secularism in which political states were freed of religious constraints.
So, as you think about France today, dear readers, think also about its key place in modern democratic history. It has been alive almost as long as the United States, although it was formed with much more internal unrest and bloodshed.
Not surprisingly, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson spent time in France during the period leading up to the French Revolution, bringing with them the ideas of John Locke as developed in the American colonies in their fight against the British monarchy.
And, the Count de Lafayette, who was the first French military supporter of the American Revolution, was spared the guillotine because if his work in America. His statue in Washington in Lafayette Place facing the White House is evidence of his importance to the American cause.
Vive la France! Vive la Republique!
And may America and France remain united forever in the cause of human dignity and civil rights.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Racial Debate on my Blog

Dear Readers,
I think we have exhausted the reasonably acceptable commentary on this subject. So, tomorrow I will remove from the comments section, the comments about race in America. This will give everyone one last day to read the comments, if they want to.
I do not mean to censure, but I don't want my blog to be in any way a reference point for those who might try to use it for their own racist purposes. Sorry, Anonymous. If you want to pursue the topic, why not start your own blog?
Casey Pops

Penn State's and Joe Paterno's Shame

CNN published a long article today concerning the release of the scathing Freeh Report about how Penn State University dealt with a sexual predator who for years abused young boys on and off campus.
The Report is not the conclusion because Penn State is still under investigation by the Department of Education and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which could do more damage to Penn State's reputation and that of its legendary football program.
The organization that grants universities their crucial academic accreditation is following the details of the scandal around university officials' handling of Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State football defensive coordinator convicted in June of sexually abusing children over a 15-year period.
Two former university administrators are awaiting trial for their role in the scandal, and more charges are possible as Pennsylvania’s Attorney General's Office investigates what Penn State may have known about Sandusky's behavior.
There is also the possibility of many costly civil lawsuits after former FBI Director Louis Freeh's finding that Penn State's most powerful leaders showed "total and consistent disregard" for child sex abuse victims and covered up attacks by the school's former assistant football coach.
"The university hired their own executioner when they hired Louie Freeh," said CNN legal analyst Paul Callan. "They are going to get pounded in civil litigation," which will probably cost Penn State millions of dollars by victims who use Freeh's report as "a roadmap" in their case.
Though in some ways, Callan added, Penn State should be commended for "hiring an investigator who was so brutally honest" in his review.
Freeh's report was so scathing that some say it could be the low point in the collapse of the university's reputation.
"In the public minds, yesterday was the moment that everyone remembers about Penn State, the higher ups and Paterno," said Callan. "You didn't hear it to that extent in even the Sandusky trial. This was likely the biggest moment of adverse publicity the university will endure."
Freeh released the Report, funded by the university, on Thursday, reporting that his team of investigators had found that several school officials had "empowered" Sandusky to continue his abuse.
Legendary head football coach Joe Paterno also could have stopped the attacks had he done more, Freeh concluded.
"Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State," Freeh wrote. "The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized."
He blamed Paterno, former Penn State President Graham Spanier and administrators Gary Schultz and Tim Curley for having "never demonstrated ... any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky's victims until after Sandusky's arrest," while the board of trustees failed to perform its oversight duties.
That collective failure "to protect against a child sexual predator harming children" lasted "more than a decade" and allowed Sandusky to further harm his victims, the full report says.
There is also an on-going grand jury investigation into charges of perjury and failure to report abuse against Curley, a former athletics director for the school, and Schultz, a former vice president.
Richard Pokrass, a spokesman for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which issues the school's academic accreditation, said that because university leaders have acknowledged a problem and have been up front, it seems unlikely the school will risk losing that accreditation.
It is less clear what the Department of Education and NCAA inquiries will bring the school.
In November, the Education Department notified Penn State that it was looking into the school's compliance with the Clery Act, the federal law that requires universities to report crimes on or near campus and provide timely warnings if reported crimes threaten the campus community.
In his report, Freeh said top university officials forged an agreement to conceal Sandusky's sexual attacks more than a decade ago, outlining a culture of secrecy while pointing to an incident in which janitors aware of the abuse took no action, out of fear.
"They witness what I think in the report is probably the most horrific rape that's described," Freeh told reporters. "And what do they do? They panic." One janitor, a Korean War veteran, said it was "the worst thing he's ever seen." He and other janitors were "alarmed and shocked," but were afraid that if they reported it, they'd be fired.
The law carries fines of up to $27,500 per violation, but more critically, schools that fail to comply can be suspended from the federal financial aid program, according to the Department of Education.
Meanwhile, Joe Paterno's family is also dealing with the aftermath of the scandal and Report, which cast an even deeper shadow over the school's storied football program and the career of Paterno, who was widely beloved for bringing Penn State football to national prominence.
The former head coach died in January, just months after the scandal broke.
Whether or not Joe Paterno knew, knew but did not understand the implications, knew but chose to let it pass in trying to protect Penn State football, the truth is that his legacy is ruined forever. Joe Paterno had one moment in which to prove his mettle and worth as a human being, and he failed.
You can read my blog of November 6, 2011, for more on Paterno's catastrophic fall from grace.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Race Relations in America

Race Relations in America
As I've read the comments the past two days, I've felt a lot like I was back in one of those 1970s corporate seminars on race relations - with the corporate membership being lectured to and given information by "professional" race relations experts and whoever the corporate Black Human Resources guy was.
We sat and listened politely. But, finally, someone would lose his or her cool and all the venom and anger and despair and disgust came pouring out. The rest would look at their shoes and wonder when the tirade would stop. It stopped, all right, but the feelings it represented never went away. They are as alive today in some Americans as they were in 1975. And, sometimes I wonder if those very well-meaning race relations seminars didn't add to the problem -- because most of us didn't and don't feel animosity toward Black people.
Blacks are people. They are Americans. They are educated or not. They have tried to help themselves or not. They have found a mentor or two along the way or not.
And, perhaps most important, they have come to understand that white Americans do not love or dislike them. They just want them to try to make a real life for themselves, to be good citizens and to succeed as best they can along the Bell curve that we all fit on somewhere.
But, I do know one thing.
Railing at Blacks or anyone else who is having trouble succeeding will just make them more resentful and less likely to try to fit into a society that they don't feel at ease with. That is probably one thing Condaleesa Rice would say.
In 1966, I was a university prof who volunteered to teach returning Black Vietnam vets and other Black high school graduates who had taken advantage of the new "free" university education grants. The vets were battle-hardened. But many, like the high school graduates, couldn't read. So, giving them university level Western Civilization texts was useless.
A dear friend, long dead, and I to on the job. We came in at 7:30 am and tried to teach reading the traditional way.
We failed.
Finally, in despair, I just looked out over the class and asked a simple question. Do you read anything?
Surprisingly, they did. Popular Mechanics. Motor Trends. Playboy. Ebony. Glamour. Good Housekeeping.
I had found my hook. They really didn't read much but they looked at the photos and tried to decipher the words. We became a class of magazine readers. I made 35 separate classes out of them. We talked and read together. The teaching was acceptable to young adults because it wasn't "kiddy" vocabulary cards.
They learned to read. We found the easier texts for them so they could continue to read in their regular classes. Their grades shot up. Their interest levels and politeness improved remarkably. A few of my students actually got scholarships to prestigious universities.
It was tough, slogging work for them and for me. We sweated and laughed and cried together. And, I learned the most important lesson of my adult life.
So, when I defend Black Americans, I do it with my heart.
Just to give the other side. Later on, when one of those students was in one of my English Lit 101 classes, he was in trouble. He couldn't keep up and wouldn't accept my help. He was rude, absent, failed every exam, refused to turn in papers, and generally tried to disrupt the class the few time he showed up.
I failed him - the dean and department head had told me to pass him to get rid of him, but I wouldn't - the issue wasn’t so much him as the rest of the young Black students who were working hard and watching me to see if I’d cave. He came into my office one afternoon, unannounced. His 200 pounds pushed up against my 115. I thought I was going to be killed. He ranted and screamed at me. Threatened me. I would not budge. He stormed out and went to the dean, who told him he couldn't change my grade. He left the university. Later, I heard he was in jail. That was a real failure for me. And for him. And he was not alone in his failure.
Then, there was the young woman who stayed after class one morning to tell me she was leaving the university. I was surprised because she was a good student who worked hard. She started to cry and said that her father was threatening her because she was at school and it was not a place for Blacks and surely not for Black girls. He wanted her to get married and have babies. I spent a lot of hours trying to talk to the man. He was a steelworker who thought he knew both his place and his daughter's in society. I talked so long that Patricia had a chance to finish the semester with brilliant grades. She was later accepted at the University of Pennsylvania.
Perhaps in today's polarized America, I would not have had a chance with my old-fashioned approach and maybe that's the problem today.
But, I do not believe that anyone is beyond saving, except the very few who are just plain evil, for such people exist, too.

Vice President Joe Biden's NAACP Speech

If Mitt Romney’s speech before the NAACP convention yesterday was an act of courage, Vice President Joe Biden’s speech today was a plate of cold mashed potatoes.
Biden appealed to members of the nation’s oldest civil rights group to rally behind President Obama and reject a Republican vision for the country that Biden said would roll back progress for minorities.
Speaking at the NAACP conference in Houston a day after GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Biden attacked Romney’s contention that his policies would be better for black families than Obama’s have been (right! with unemployment among Black Americans at 14.4 %).
Biden said the Republican Party is hostile toward the middle and working classes on voting rights, health care, taxes and education and argued that a Romney administration would be detrimental to blacks.
The Vice President played the crowd for all it was worth, shouting to friends in the Delaware delegation and recalling his work on voting rights when he was on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“Did you think we’d be fighting these battles again?” he said. “I didn’t think we’d be back. I remember working with Republicans — and by the way, this ain’t your father’s Republican Party — on ”Motor Voter” [legislation], expanding the [voting] franchise. Some of these were Republican ideas. This is not the Republican Party’s view today, nor Romney’s. They see a different future in which voting is harder [rather] than easier.”
Biden added, “There’s a lot more to say, but this is preaching to the choir.”
Yes. Polls indicate that black voters massively support Obama, even if they are frustrated by the economy and the unemployment rate, which is much higher among Black Americans than the general population.
Whereas Romney drew three outbursts of boos, Biden received a friendly welcome and applause. When he said he would wrap up his speech, some in the audience shouted, “No!”
Apparently heeding the criticism of Black leaders about his absence at the NAACP convention, Obama addressed the audience via video before Biden spoke, repeating his campaign stump speech by telling the crowd that his administration is committed to a country where “no matter who you are or what you look like or where you come from, America is a place where you can make it if you try.”
Yesterday, Romney told the NAACP that Obama has failed to restore prosperity and security.
Biden argued that the President has succeeded despite Republican obstructionism.
“They were seas of obstruction,” he said. “Their discipline was amazing. They never let up. But neither has my guy, neither has Barack Obama. He hasn’t given up.”
Biden tied Romney directly to Capitol Hill Republicans, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), saying that under a Romney administration, they would collude to undo critical reforms.
“Close your eyes and imagine — imagine what the Romney Justice Department would look like,” Biden said, drawing shouts of “No!” from the crowd. “Imagine who he’d recommend to be the attorney general or head of the civil rights division. Imagine what the Supreme Court will look like after four years of a Romney presidency.
“This election, in my view, is a fight for the heart and soul of America,” he continued, adding of Republicans: “These guys aren’t bad guys, they just have a fundamentally different view.”
Dear readers, as I said several days ago, do not take Joe Biden for granted. He is a pro at stump politics, especially with blue collar audiences. Today, he showed his no-holds-barred approach to divide-and-conquer with Black Americans. He will go on until election day.
Now that Mitt Romney has seen Biden at work on Romney’s agenda, he and his staff need to get a plan fleshed out to counter-attack. It is possible, but not by being politely in control of one’s emotions.
Romney needs an attack dog, even if the attack is more polished and factual than Joe Biden’s. Factual? Biden would be hard-pressed to define the term.
That is what makes the naming of the GOP VP candidate important. And we need him now. Someone who can attack the low life demagoguery of Biden, Obama and the rest for the Democratic pros are fighting for their political lives. And, I have to add that it requires a man -- sadly but truthfully, a woman cannot do the job that needs to be done and remain electable.
Washington Democrats know that if Obama loses, they lose, too -- no more private jets, no more congressional perks, no more inflated salaries or expense accounts, no more cushy health insurance or pension funding. No more Washington and its unique brand of political bling-bling.
This is what makes Obama and all of them dangerous. It is not their ideas, which can be countered rather easily. It is their heels dug in to save their political skins - facts be damned.
Nothing is more dangerous than a cornered politician.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Romney NAACP Speech and Black Americans

I read the comment of Anonymous after I wrote my blog today. I'd just like to add a few points.
The NAACP is an honorable American organization, that was trying to help Black Americans and other minorities before most of us. Like the Urban League, the NAACP tries to be even-handed in matters of racial inequality. They don't always succeed because no organization can "vet" every member. Mr. Sheldon's remarks after Mitt Romney's speech go far toward making this point.
Because of the work of the NAACP, Urban League, US and state governments, many corporate CEOs and senior managers, and millions of caucasian Americans, as well as the gigantic effort of Black Americans themselves, there are now middle class, upper middle class and upper class Black Americans. They contribute to America's culture and economic success and they represent the future of their race in America by their example and effort - and their ability to tough it out in the face of racial prejudice that a non-Black will not and cannot ever understand fully. Thankfully, I believe that "gut" racial prejudice is greatly diminished in America today.
The tragedy is that sometime in the 1930s, the Democrats in charge of Washington realized that there were poor Black Americans who needed a lot of social assistance. They set out to deliver it, all the time reminding the Blacks who received help that it was the Democrats that had come to their rescue. That led to ghettos, unemployed Black men who grew up in generations in which work was not available and not needed because the government paid them to do nothing. Other results included unmarried mothers with several children, poor schools in the ghettos that had already formed, drug dealers feeding on boredom and social decay, and no real path out.
Starting in the 1960s, this began to change. But the long-term damage to the Black community in America is still all around us. And it is exacerbated by the later immigrant populations which cluster around Black areas to get their free shares of America's dole.
I have worked all my life to try to help, as have many others who have devoted much more of their time than I to the effort.
The proof of the Democrat Party's inability to provide a way out, or if one were cynical its desire to keep the American Black community "barefoot and pregnant," can be seen in the Obama administration, which talks the talk but doesn't even put on shoes when it comes to walking the walk.
Mitt Romney is absolutely right. He will be a better President for Black Americans than any Democrat would ever be.
Please, Anonymous...be openminded. Put the blame where it belongs - there's enough to go around to both Blacks and caucasians. Work hard to undo the wrong. Do not make excuses for Black Americans, but do not paint them all with the same brush either.

Mitt Romney Speaks at the NAACP Convention

We all know the story of Daniel in the Lion’s den. That’s was probably somewhat how Mitt Romney felt today speaking to the NAACP convention (National Association of the Advancement of Colored People), the oldest American organization supporting civil rights.
It was not an occasion that the Republican presidential candidate would have taken on lightly. While the NAACP is, and was today, polite for the most part, there were scattered boo’s and some heckling while Romney was delivering his address.
His message was simple:
1. President Obama has not delivered on his promises to the Black community (14.4% Black unemployment vs 8.2% overall in the US).
2. Education overhaul is a paramount need in the Black community as in all of America, and in 4 years, Obama has not delivered better programs or improvements.
The Black audience was for the most part polite, applauding when Romney spoke about why he was there at all, saying that more than 90% of Black Americans vote Democrat (95% voted for Obama on 2008), and so some would consider it a waste of time for him to be there at all.
But, Mitt Romney displayed both his courage and his values today.
“I believe,” he said, “that if you understood who I truly am in my heart, and if it were possible to fully communicate what I believe is in the real, enduring best interest of African-American families, you would vote for me for president.”
Romney also received applause when he reiterated his defense of traditional marriage.
At another point, the former Massachusetts governor received a warm response by emphasizing the historic nature of the President Obama's election.
"If someone had told us in the 1950s or '60s that a black citizen would serve as the 44th president of the United States, we would have been proud and many would have been surprised," Romney said. "Picturing that day, we might have assumed that the American presidency would be the very last door of opportunity to be opened. Before that came to pass, every other barrier on the path to equal opportunity would surely have to come down.
"Of course, it hasn't happened quite that way. Many barriers remain. Old inequities persist. In some ways, the challenges are even more complicated than before. And across America -- and even within your own ranks -- there are serious, honest debates about the way forward."
But, Romney then moved on to his theme, jobs. "If our goal is jobs, we have to stop spending over a trillion dollars more than we take in every year. And so, to do that, I'm going to eliminate every non-essential, expensive program I can find. That includes 'Obamacare.'" That prompted a chorus of loud boo's from the audience.
In another uncomfortable moment, Romney listed 5 steps to restore the economy, including expanding trade, nurturing skilled workers and restoring economic freedom.
"I know the President will say he's going to do those things. But he has not. He will not. He cannot. And his last four years, in the White House, prove it definitively. If I'm president, job one for me will be creating jobs," Romney said.
"I submit to you this: if you want a president who will make things better in the African-American community, you are looking at him."
Both lines prompted a separate chorus of boo's.
Of course, Mitt Romney is not so naïve as to believe that he will carry the Black vote this Fall, but he could make some inroads, and in some swing states a small shift in Black voting could be important - North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Ohio. As an example, in 2008 in North Carolina, Obama carried the state by 14,000 votes -- helped, in part, by 95% of African-Americans there voting for him.
Hilary Shelton, the NAACP's Washington bureau director and senior vice president for policy and advocacy, said he feels that Romney could "surely" capture more black votes if the candidate offers economic proposals that appeal to the community.
"African-Americans, like every other demographic in our country ... vote their economic interests," she said. "We want to know that the plan that you have to address the issue of unemployment in our society will also reach us; that we'll see a tailored plan that will recognize that disparity and show us how you make sure we move the entire country forward, but also eliminate that disparity in the process."
He added, "Our history has shown us that when African-Americans came out of slavery, African-Americans overwhelmingly voted Republican ... because Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. Abraham Lincoln moved the policy that freed them from the bondages of slavery."
It is heartwarming to hear a Black American leader say that it was the Republican Party under President Abraham Lincoln that fought a Civil War to free them. The GOP was, in fact, formed because of its adherents’ united stance against slavery, and its goal was to eliminate it in the South.
A job well done which the GOP has often neglected to emphasize.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Texas Is the Top State for Business, for the Third Time

CNBC's list of the best states for business was published today. For the third straight year, Texas is Number One.
Texas Governor Rick Perry was on CNBC tonight to discuss why Texas is doing so well in this competition.
His first remarks sounded familiar because they were the talking points of his short campaign for President during the GOP debate period.
Why is Texas best for business? Governor Perry says it's because taxes are low, laws and regulations are not skewed against business and business knows it can count on Texas government for help but not to unnecessarily interfere.
And, while I've said this before, every time I see Rick Perry and hear him talk, I feel that the GOP lost a real opportunity when it booted him out of the presidential competition. He is articulate, although not Harvardesque. He is easy to understand. He really believes in what he is doing in Texas and it is working. Witness - Texas is the best state for business in 2010, 2011, 2012. Not easy years, but Texas managed to attract companies from other states and around the world, helped them set up in the Lone Star State and it is working. Texans have jobs.
And Rick Perry has a smile that reminds me very much of President Reagan's. I know it's too late for Perry to be a candidate. And Mitt Romney is a super choice, too. Rick said again tonight that he'll support and work for Romney this Fall.
When asked about the possibility of going to Washington to work in a Romney administration, Perry wisely said all the GOP governors, himself included, are working closely with the Romney campaign and will do whatever they can to help because it is imperative that America avoid four more years of an Obama presidency.
Will Rick Perry become the VP. Surely not. But, could he be a Secretary of Commerce? Why not.
On the same day that Texas and Governor Perry were being honored in New York City by CNBC, Mitt Romney made an interesting statement. He said that a Romney cabinet will not be filled with academics and politicians. That was a shorthand way of saying that Obama chose the wrong people to manage the key areas of the federal government and the White House staff.
As for the Vice President choice, I have said again and again that Romney needs to put the VP issue to rest now (the first time I said it was in April). We need to know who his running mate will be. He or she needs to be on point before the convention and be given issues, voter interest groups and regions as areas of responsibility.
Romney is not in a piece-of-cake race in which he can name anyone and still sail into the White House in November. The Vice President will be critical in a way that earlier VP choices were not. And, pitting the GOP VP candidate against current Vice President Biden will not be as easy as we are reading. Joe Biden is a seasoned politician who knows where the blue collar voter hot buttons are and how to use them effectively. That is one of the reasons why having the GOP VP in place early will help - it will force Biden to blow his wad and then actually have to match his counterpart on serious issues, or begin to sound like a broken record. If the GOP VP candidate starts too late, Biden will still have his particular type of homespun powder dry into November.
Come to think of it, Rick Perry would do just fine against ole Joe. It'd be a down home contest to beat all.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Iran's Ploy in the Stait of Hormuz Brings Swift US Response

It seems to have passed almost unnoticed because of the 4th of July celebrations, the mess in Syria and the continuing crises in financial markets in Europe and around the world, but something else happened last week.
The United States quietly moved significant new military forces into the Persian Gulf to attempt to stop any idea among the Iranian leadership that they could try to close the Strait of Hormuz as a response to new sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic.
The US forces are meant not only to patrol and keep open the Strait of Hormuz but also to provide strike capability if needed against Iran, the New York Times reported.
The American action came after the European Union imposed a severe new oil embargo against Iran in an effort to force Iran to comply with international requirements in its uranium enrichment program.
Iran’s response to the new embargo was to announce that it would consider legislation to disrupt marine traffic in the Strait of Hormuz by blocking oil tankers on their way to countries that no longer take Iranian oil because of the embargo.
The increase in US forces includes minesweepers, doubled from 4 to 8, and stealth jets, including additional F-22 stealth warplanes and older F-15 aircraft sent to two Gulf bases. Carrier strike groups are always on patrol in the region.
The US Navy has also moved a converted amphibious transport and docking vessel, the Ponce, into the Persian Gulf, where it will serve as a “logistics and operations hub for mine-clearing,” according to the Times, and has a medical suite, helicopter deck, and bunks for combat troops.
In addition, even though U.S. troops have been withdrawn from Iraq, the Pentagon still maintains a force equal to a combat brigade in Kuwait.
Things are quiet for the time being, and perhaps the rapid action of the US military helped convince Iran to reconsider before it lost face once again, as happened in 2011 when it tried to harass American ships in the Gulf area.
On thing is sure. The Gulf region remains a critical point of confrontation between the Iranians, who now have few friends left because of the Syrian insurrection and its strains on Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas. Iran needs to show “leadership” if it hopes to hang on to its influence. But, it is difficult for Iran to pretend to be able to confront the American naval presence in the Gulf, so its show is all words for the most part.
This is not to say that the balance cannot change. As an example. Kofi Annan, after admitting that his earlier peace plans had failed, met with Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Monday and “agreed” to take an as-yet secret proposal to the insurgents for consideration. The immediate reaction from the rebel spokesman was that Annan should not have gone to Damascus at all but worked with them.
This may seem unrelated to Iran’s Strait of Hormuz threat, but the point is that al-Assad is not gone, or under arrest, or even seriously constrained within Syria. He continues to be able to convince the UN that he is the Syrian head of government, and so he buys time and undermines rebel cohesion.
This is just the sort of thing that could re-strengthen Iran’s position in Syria, and al-Assad knows it. And with Iranian help, who knows how long Assad could hold out or even win. And, if al-Assad stays, Iran’s threat and Russia’s destabilizing presence in the Gulf become more entrenched.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

That Magical Twenty Percent

Dear Anonymous,
That is what I've been saying. We must go after the magical 20% who are independent or old-fashioned moderately conservative Republicans. That's where November 2012 will be won or lost.
And for the life of me, I do not understand all the navel contemplation and soul-searching going on in the GOP right now, although I must say it seems to be declining a little. Romney won the right to be the GOP presidential candidate, and we must support him -- or take what we deserve with 4 more years of Obama and his crew.
As for Chicago, I need only say November 1960 to put the town into political perspective. Without Mayor Daley and his quaint way of registering and counting votes, Nixon would have been elected. Okay, we lost. But, for goodness sake, let's not let it happen again, either in Chicago or anywhere else where registration lists and vote counts are rather flexible.
And, let's have no illusions. The American fiscal picture is ugly. The budget deficit is almost beyond salvation now, but with another 4 years of the Democrat tax-and-spend, it will be hopelessly out of control.
Ask the Greek people. They now know bigtime why a government and country cannot spend forever to "buy" citizen loyalty. The very people who enjoyed the payouts are the ones now being ruined.
America needs to focus on this instead of talking about the details of fiscal cliff timing scenarios. There's a job to do and it needs to be done now. If now is November, okay, but only if Romney is elected with a Congress that is also GOP-led. If November is Obama territory, then forget it. America is cooked.

Some Facts about Mitt Romney to Think about and Share

I’ve followed the Bain Capital bashing by President Obama and his merry band of campaign hooligans for just about as long as I can.
So, today let’s take a look at Mitt Romney’s record in life and cast a sideward glance at Barak Obama’s along the way.
Mitt Romney actually has a proper first name. It’s Willard. So, we could be calling him Wills, like his friends call Prince William, but Mitt is Governor Romney’s middle name and if that’s what he wants to use, why not.
He’s 65 years old, and compared to Barak’s 50, I would just like to repeat President Reagan’s remark when his opponent said he was too old to be President, “I’m not going to hold his youth against him.” The truth was that everyone in America began to see Reagan’s older age as a real positive.
We all know that Mitt Romney’s father was George Romney, CEO of American Motors and governor of Michigan, with a desire to be President himself, but he never made the finals.
The reason I bring up Mitt’s family is because he had a stable and loving childhood, with interested parents actively engaged in his life and future. While no one, not even President Obama, can pick his childhood or parents, it seems to me that Romney’s adult life has very much reflected his stable and nurturing childhood. One cannot help but see it in the success of the Romney family. Two parents very much in love after 50 years of marriage have raised 5 boys into responsible adulthood, and now have daughters-in-law and 18 grandchildren, all of whom seem to be getting the attention from their grandparents.
Ann and Mitt Romney are living out the continuation of their view about what it means to be a family. While we may sympathize with the President, one thing is certain, Mitt Romney has had the kind of loving and attentive childhood that made him a stable and loving father to his own family.
Please don’t bother to say that it’s easy if you have enough money. Just take a look around America and the world at the very rich failures -- people who married, had children, divorced, and somehow left their children to one side while they concentrated on their “adult” angst and “middle age crises.”
Mitt Romney has a B.A. from Brigham Young University, and a Doctor in Law and M.B.A. from Harvard. Now, I don’t particularly want to renew the debate about President Obama’s university record at Columbia -- but we all know that it is under wrap and that it has been pulled from the Columbia database of graduates.
After his degrees at Harvard, earned simultaneously, Romney went to France for 30 months as a lay missionary of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, as Mormons are required to do if at all possible. Again, I don’t want to draw comparisons, but Obama says he came to religion late and found Jesus as an adult. Terrific. Many people have done the same. But, let’s not underestimate the value of lifelong held religious convictions that are taken to heart and acted upon. It builds a calm and peaceful spirit that makes it easier to face life’s tough moments and easier to be kind and outgoing to those around us, particularly those in need.
While Romney was CEO of Bain Capital, which we’ll address in a second, he was called upon to save the foundering 1992 Olympics. He resigned from Bain, took on the job and saved the Games. At the end of the same year, he was elected Governor of Massachusetts and “saved” that state by balancing its budget.
Now - lets’ get to Bain Capital.
In 1984, Mitt Romney founded Bain capital as a private equity investment firm. That means, quite simply, that individual people lend their money to the firm in order to help grow businesses and new ideas and they expect to be reimbursed through payment of their principal input, with a profit for lending their money to the firm. A reasonable idea, home grown in America, that has helped thousands of start-ups and technical developers without any sense about how to get their ideas into the commercial marketplace.

Some facts about Bain Capital:
- starting with one small office supply store in Massachusetts, Bain turned it into Staples, now with over 2,000 stores employing 90,000 people.
- performed the same kinds of business miracles again and again, with companies like Domino's, Sealy, Brookstone, Weather Channel, Burger King, Warner Music Group, Dollarama, Home Depot Supply, and many others.

Some interesting personal facts about Mitt Romney:
- He was the unpaid President of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee for three years.
- He took no salary and was the unpaid Governor of Massachusetts for four years.
- He gave his entire inheritance from his father to charity.
- In 2011, Mitt Romney gave over $4 million to charity, almost 19% of his income. Just for comparison purposes, Obama gave 1% and Joe Biden gave $300 or .0013%.

Now, dear readers, I have a couple of questions to ask you:
- Did you ever hear of a Heisman Trophy winner who was the worst high school and college quarterback of his generation?
- Did you ever decide to have your car repaired at a garage because you knew from friends that it had the worst reputation in the city?
- Did you ever send your son or daughter to a school voluntarily because you knew it turned out the worst-educated graduates in the community? (Put aside being forced to do so…we all know that needs to be changed.)
- Did you ever seek a doctor or surgeon who had such a poor record of results that most of his patients had to go to a second doctor to get the bungled mess fixed?
- Did you ever invest your hard-earned money, if you were lucky enough to accumulate it in the first place, with a bank or investment firm because you knew that their return on your investment was the lowest in the country?
- Did you ever buy stock in a company whose record of making profits and paying dividends to its shareholders was the worst in its industry?

Of course not.

Now, just one last question --

Why would you even consider re-electing someone President who has no record of achievement as an adult, who doesn’t disclose his educational and draft records, and whose first term of office cannot begin to compare to the record Mitt Romney has had both inside government and in the private sector?

Think about it.