Friday, August 31, 2012

Iran Benefits from Obama's Timidity and Indifference

The International Atomic energy Agency IAEI) has published its quarterly report, with the conclusion that Iran has doubled its production capacity at the Fordo nuclear site buried deep in a mountain near the holy city of Qu’um. The number of enrichment centrifuges at Fordo has gone from 1,064 in May 2012 to 2,140 today, although the IAEA says these new centrifuges are not yet in operation.
Iran says that it is producing uranium enriched to 20%, while the IAEA says it has found traces of uranium enriched to 27% at Fordo in May.
The IAEA also reported that the other Iranian enrichment site, Parchin, was “sanitized” so that an adequate inspection was not possible.
It is at the Parchin site that the IAEA and the international community suspect Iran of trying to produce nuclear weapons. The overall Parchin complex is one of Iran's leading munitions centers for the research, development and production of ammunition, rockets and high explosives.
Iran says its uranium enrichment program is aimed at producing nuclear materials for energy and medical needs. The international community has offered to supply to Iran all the enriched materials it would need for these purposes but Iran has refused.
Today on BBC International TV, two Iran experts, one a nuclear scientist and the other an expert on Iran, said that Iran is stonewalling the IAEA for two reasons.
First, Iran believes that Obama will win the US presidential election and that he will not go beyond sanctions, e.g., will not use military force to stop Iran’s program. So if Iran simply drags its feet until November, its nuclear program will then be able to go forward with relative ease.
Second, because the Iran nuclear sites are so far underground, and with Iran now preparing sites even deeper underground, it is unlikely that Israel alone could destroy the capability without American military aid. But, Iran believes that if Obama is re-elected, Israel-US relations will further deteriorate and this aid would not be offered.
The scientist added that if Iran is enriching uranium to 20% and slightly above, it will be able to reach the 90% enrichment level required for nuclear weapons in a matter of one year, perhaps 10 months. He said that at 20%, the climb to 90% is geometric.
Yesterday, former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was the guest for a half hour program on the Bloomberg Channel. She talked about Iran’s nuclear capability as part of her analysis of the state of America’s foreign policy and image.
Rice said that the US is not now part of the key group in the Middle East, and that the international conference of “so-called unaligned” nations in Teheran this week proves that. She was critical of the presence of UN Secretary General Ban-ki-Moon at the Iran-sponsored conference, calling it “too bad.” The implication was that America should have been able and willing to stop him.
But, Condoleezza Rice’s most critical comments were saved for the US-Israel relationship. She said that the relation is now broken and that as long as Obama is President it will remain broken. Her worry is that this will embolden Iran to continue its nuclear program unchecked.
Rice also believes that Iran will achieve its nuclear weapon status unless the US makes its presence felt in a much more forceful way than it is now doing.
For her, this means a bigger presence in the region, a much more active support for Israel, and a much more public leadership of the world’s effort to halt Iran’s nuclear activities.
She said that as Iranian nuclear facilities go deeper underground, the likelihood that Israel can act alone to destroy their capabilities lessens. And, for her, unless America makes its opposition absolutely clear to Iran, there will be no diplomatic resolution of the problem.
Rice, like the BBC experts, says that America is the key to stopping Iran. But, Condoleezza Rice goes farther, saying that, if all else fails in the appropriate timeframe, America must be prepared to use military force to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities before they can produce weapons-grade materials.
Appropriate timeframe? For Condoleezza Rice, it is a matter of perhaps a year or so, not much longer.
So, dear readers, what do we do?
Short of moving to America and voting for Mitt Romney, I really don’t have an answer.
But, one thing is clear. President Obama’s strategy of talking to the Iranians and then disappearing from a visible and muscular leadership position for long periods has not served either America or the world. Nuclear weapons in the hands of the leader of a hostile world group bent on destroying the West - Europe and America and its allies - is not a matter for Political Science 101. It is a matter for experts and seasoned diplomats.
Right now in America, we have neither experts nor experienced senior diplomats working on the critical Iranian problem and Iran is using President Obama’s timidity and seeming indifference to advance its own anti-West agenda.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Media, the Forest, the GOP Marchers and Animal Farm

Sometimes the media pundits get it so wrong that it’s really laughable - if it weren’t so serious.
How many times in the past two days have we heard that none of the Republican Convention speakers mentioned Mitt Romney by name until the last minute or so of their speech? I have, frankly, lost count.

But, the joke is on the pundits and analysts -- they are missing the forest because they’re dangling by their ankles from Democrat-woven cords on a Democratic oak tree of considerable diameter, making it impossible for them to see beyond the rough tree bark that’s ripping away at the skin on their noses.
But, the forest is out there, just beyond their line of vision. It is full of Americans - a forest species that most media types have some difficulty in recognizing - who are able to see beyond the tree in front of them because they aren’t dangling. They are marching -- marching -- marching. And like all high quality Marchers, they have a Band to lead them.
That Band, in the past two days, has been made up of key GOP leaders who have talked to the Marchers about Mitt Romney, the man who will be leading them onward after the Convention has been gavelled into history.
The Band is composed of :

- Former GOP US Senator Rick Santorum (PA), who told the Marchers his history, one of immigrants coming to Pittsburgh, educating their children, working hard and fulfilling their dream to become Americans.
- Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich, who told the Marchers that in the midst of the national malaise his state is the fourth in the nation in job creation and the first in the Midwest.
- Kentucky GOP US Senator Rand Paul, who told the Marchers about his grandfather’s and father’s efforts, leading to the acceptance of his father, Texan Congressman Ron Paul, a Libertarian by philosophy, as a member of the Band that is leading the Marchers.
- New Hampshire GOP US Senator Kelly Ayotte, who told the Marchers about her husband’s and her landscaping business, as an example of the all-important American small business phenomenon, and of her husband’s service in Iraq as a fighter pilot.
- Ted Cruz, the Texas GOP US Senate candidate, who thanked his father for being brave enough to come to America with just $100 sewn into his underwear, because he wanted to be an American.
- Wisconsin GOP Governor Scott Walker, who told the Marchers about his successful confrontation with public unions that refused to contribute their share to the needed economies caused by the current fiscal problems his state is facing, and who was thunderously applauded when he mentioned that the unions attempted to oust him in a recall, but he won.
- South Carolina GOP Governor Nikki Haley, whose own life story, that of the daughter of Americans of Asian Indian descent who rose through the GOP to become governor of a southern state, is in itself a story of courage and determination.
- Virginia GOP Governor Bob McDonnell, who told the Marchers about his grandfather leaving a poor dirt farm in Ireland to pass through Ellis Island on his way to fulfilling his American Dream.

How are the media pundits characterizing these testimonials?

Here’s what Dana Milbank wrote in his Washington Post Opinion piece today:
“As a rule, politicians aren’t the most loyal lot. It’s often self first, party second and country third. But Romney has a particular problem commanding loyalty, and the Republicans playing Brutus at this week’s convention have been just brutal.
“Exploiting the tepid enthusiasm for Romney, up-and-comers in the party are using the convention to put down markers for their own presidential bids in 2016. They haven’t gone so far as to disparage Romney — such flagrant disloyalty would be a turnoff — but they are using their moments on stage as auditions. Unfortunately for Romney, the implied assumption is that he’s going to lose.”

If that is not the biggest piece of GARBAGE you have ever read, please send me your nomination.

The reality is that these Republican leaders have been delivering a message that every Marcher and every honest-to-God American understands, because they feel it in their guts and souls and hearts. America was built by immigrants who came to America and worked hard. America is now in great fiscal trouble because only about 50% of Americans are working hard. But, it is not too late. The GOP governors recited their success stories to show what can be done if there is a will to do it. The others told of their families because they wanted all Americans to understand that in America we work - we do not wait for the government to feed and clothe us. We find work and we take care of ourselves. Only the truly needy should expect and receive help.
They told their stories to underscore the fact that President Obama has failed -- to lead, to have the will to turn the country around, to say to the 50% who are working, I’m with you. Instead, he has chosen to take the taxes of the 50% who work and distribute the money to the other 50% in the hope that they will vote for him, whether they are eligible voters or not.

That is the message coming out of the Republican Convention for the past two days.

But, Milbank and all the others are so sure that the large tree in the forest holding them by the ankles while they dangle in front of the nose-scraping bark is the entire world that they are completely missing reality. If they ever fall to the ground, peek around the tree and see the forest, they will feel a lot like the poor cows and horses and sheep in Animal Farm peeking through the dining room window to see their leaders, socialist pigs, eating at a banquet table while they themselves were being fed garbage before being carted off to the slaughterhouse.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mitt Romney, a Humble Man

It was clear last night as Ann Romney delivered her energetic speech in defense of her husband’s human qualities that the GOP, or at least the Republican delegates in the Tampa Convention Center, did not need to be convinced.
Their cheers, jangling of trinkets with Romney’s name on them, waving of flags and posters that read, “We love Ann” and “Romney Ryan” were proof that they didn’t need any convincing.
Political conventions are like that. The delegates are there to nominate their standard bearer for the most important election Americans face. Thank goodness, it’s only once ever four years.
They are partisan. They love the person who will be nominated. They think he will be the best President ever elected, and then they go home to work hard to get him elected. We’ll see it all again next week in Charlotte when the Democrats convene their convention to nominate Barak Obama for a second term.
But, this time around, there has been a media frenzy about whether Mitt Romney is “likeable.” Likeability is supposed to be the new glue that connects a President to the American people for the four years of his term. Obama is “likeable” and it shows up in every poll.
But, likeability is a vague term, “made up” as words often are in English to define a new concept. It seems to mean that the person will be your friend, confidant, cheerleader, pastor, scout master, older brother, mother and grandparents - all rolled into one.
When you consider these definitions - likeability seems easier to understand.
Likeability is being friendly, being easy to talk to, caring about you, being rooted in a way that makes the person dependable and dependably on your side, no matter what.
And, if you consider what Ann Romney said about her husband last night, he is all of those things, and more. It is not only Ann Romney who feels that her husband is likeable, almost every person who has ever worked with or for him expresses the same feeling about him. And, his five sons say he is a super dad.
So, what is the media talking about?
I don’t think it is a question of likeability at all.
It is a matter of character and personality.
Mitt Romney was raised in a Christian church that emphasizes service to others. His family lived those values. He went to France for 30 months to do the same. And when he returned to the United States, he took on church duties, helped his neighbors, and was polite and unassuming about it. His later achievements tell the same story of a man who is downright humble about himself, even in the face of overwhelming success.
If you have watched Mitt Romney deliver a political attack of any kind during the past year, you will surely remember that the attack was always softened by saying something good about the person, or by smiling - not a smirk but a genuine smile - as much as to say, I don’t want to say this, but since I need to, please understand that I’m not attacking you as fellow human being.
I don’t know how he’ll do in the debates against Obama, because Barak Obama is a person full of pride in his accomplishments and his place in the world. It shows in his words, in his facial expressions and in his walk. That is not a criticism, it is just a fact. And, Obama is far more the norm in this regard than is Romney. There are very few people who are successful in the sense that Mitt Romney has been successful who maintain this kind of humility.
Often they are soldiers. My father, who was a decorated and distinguished warrior, never could understand why anybody made such a fuss about it. For him, it was simply a matter of duty. Of doing the best job possible.
I thought of my father last night as I watched Mitt Romney, sitting and forming almost a protective curve of his body, as the convention hall exploded with applause when Governor Christie praised Romney as the next President of the United States.
If you were watching his face, you might have thought he was going to tear-up. His eyes were soft and disbelieving. His body language was that of someone who wished the spotlight would shine on someone else.
Ronald Reagan was like that. Despite his smiling face and twinkling eyes, President Reagan was an unassuming man, proud to serve his country and sure that he had been called to do something important, all the while wondering why he was the one.
His famous, “If not now, when? If not us, who?” was almost the motto of his public service.
Mitt Romney will be the same, in his own way. He knows he has been called to serve. He knows he can do the job. And, I know that what he wants is just to be allowed to get on with it while America can still be saved.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mitt Romney - a Real American

The Republican Convention in Tampa, Florida, gets into full swing today with speeches this evening by Ann Romney and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. In the next three days, Mitt Romney will be nominated as the GOP presidential candidate, with Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate.
In the media drumbeat up to the convention, I have been angered, appalled, dismayed, irritated and even downright mad -- but never surprised -- at the negative commentary heaped upon Mr. Romney by the media. It seems, if we put any faith in the media’s description of the man, that he is -- aloof, too rich, unconnected to the real world, unloved by most Americans, unable to match President Obama in a popularity contest -- just not “the kind of person who would be a good President for ordinary Americans” is the all too clear implication.
This morning on the early CNBC show, one of the anchors known for his conservative and Republican leanings actually suggested that the media is biased. He dared to ask out loud: Why did we not hear that John Kerry was rich - and worse that he married his wealth which is much greater than the wealth that Mitt Romney accumulated through his own effort and hard work? His answer was: because Kerry is a Democrat and we all know that Democrats are the people’s party.
A sad comment, but oh so true.
Worse yet, the Democratic Kennedys were never lambasted for their wealth, garnered by their father’s moonshine empire during Prohibition. In fact, the media loved to call them the American Royal Family dedicated to social good works.
But, if a Republican has worked hard, as Mitt Romney has all his life, made money, created jobs, married the woman he loved, is still married after 43 years with not even the first hint of extra-marital affairs or cars run amok on island roads, and raised five well-behaved sons to be proud of - well, he’s just out touch with Americans. Because he’s a Republican.
But, to put Mitt Romney into perspective as an American with a Big A:

- he went to public high school
- he married his high school sweetheart
- he served has served his church in many ways all his life - always refusing to be paid for his work
- he earned both law and MBA degrees from Harvard
- he managed the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics into a $100 Million success after taking the job over from those who had piled up a $400 Million deficit - refusing his entire salary and working unpaid
- he served as governor of Massachusetts and got along with a Democratic legislature well enough that they agreed to help him eliminate the Commonwealth’s $1.5 Billion deficit - refusing his salary and working unpaid
- he gave his entire inheritance from his father to charity

Mitt Romney is one of the wealthiest self-made men in our country but he has given more back to its citizens in terms of money, service and time than most men.
But, Mitt Romney doesn’t like to talk about these things because he considers them to be normal, his duty as someone who has been blessed by life.
As an example, in 2011 Mitt Romney gave over $4 million to charity, almost 19% of his income....
- Just for comparison purposes, Obama gave 1%
- Joe Biden gave $300 or .0013%.

So, although I do not like personal attacks and I do not agree with negative political ads, I feel that it is time for the exception that proves the rule.
Who would you rather see as the next American President?
The man I just described, or a man who :

- was raised outside the United States in non-Christian cultures until he was a young teenager
- went to a Muslim school as a child living in Indonesia
- will not tell us anything about his educational records
- will not release any notes about who his clients were during his law career
- was a community organizer who never created the first job for anyone but himself
- came to Christianity late, by his own words, and as we know, at the knees of a pastor who is anti-American in his sentiments as his own words prove.

For me, the answer is so clear that it defies argument.
And maybe that’s why the media is assassinating Romney with doubt-spreading meanly negative innuendos.
Maybe the media knows that this is the only way that Obama, whom they favor because he shares their leftist views, can win.
Because if the real truth and the real comparisons were made by the media, Romney would win 100% of the vote come November.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Screams of Syrian Children with Schrapnel Wounds

On Sunday, the al-Assad minister of state for national reconciliation, Ali Haidar, visited Teheran to discuss matters related to the conflict in Syria. He said it was completely unacceptable for al-Assad to step down at the request of “western capitals” and opposition leaders.
At the same time that Haidar was in Teheran, a key Iranian leader, Alaeddine Boroujerdi, was in Damascus, to deliver the message to al-Assad that Iran now believes the fighting in Syria is at an “impasse” and that it favors “a political solution.”
Al-Assad responded immediately that he would put down “at any price” the rebellion led by “terrorists” and paid for by “foreigners.”
Not to be rebuffed so easily, Iran will present its plan for a solution at a conference of non-aligned nations that will meet in Teheran on Thursday.
Also on Thursday, a ministerial meeting of the UN Security Council will discuss what to do about humanitarian aid, since there has been no agreement from Russia to stop its support of al-Assad’s regime.
Humanitarian aid is key now because there are an estimated 80,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey, which has temporarily closed its border to give it time (3 days, it hopes) to build two more camps to welcome another 20,000 refugees. Turkish officials say this is the maximum number their country can manage and is suggesting a holding zone along the Syrian-Turkish border, under international control, to take the excess Syrian refugee flow.
Jordan, which has seen tens of thousands of Syrian refugees cross its borders, is asking UNICEF for USD 500 Million to help it in caring for them properly.
All this is occurring against the horrific backdrop of 320 bodies found in Daraya, 5 miles south of Damascus. The al-Assad regime seemed to take responsibility for the execution-style massacre, saying that it had “eliminated terrorist mercenaries” from the Daraya area.
Paris said it was “profoundly shocked” by the discovery of the bodies, while Washington said the Daraya killings were new proof of the “brutal repression” of al-Assad and called for him to step down.
The rebels themselves say they shot down a helicopter over Damascus as retaliation for the Daraya massacre.
And so, dear readers, we have put another chain in the already long chain of death, retaliation, massacre, failed diplomatic efforts and al-Assad’s impunity in the face of international pressure that cannot seem to rise above words.
Russia is still holding the UN at a stand-off, but the fact that Iran is now calling for a political, i.e., negotiated, settlement is obviously a problem for al-Assad because Iran is one of the few allies he has left.
Can Iran succeed where the UN and the world have failed? It sounds like al-Assad has sent a strong message that he will not bend to Iran’s will anymore than he has to world opinion. And, because Iran has other matters on its plate - the petroleum embargo that is almost worldwide, frozen external bank assets - as well as a wary Israel watching its nuclear program very closely, will Iran actually try to stop al-Assad. Or will Teheran merely make the noises needed to maintain its role as the leader of the opposition to the UN and the world.
The key remains Russia, because Russia is supplying the al-Assad regime with the weapons and materials it must have to continue to bomb its own cities in the hope of either killing all the opposition or driving the Syrian people away from the rebel Free Syria Army that is leading the revolt.
There must be a key to bringing Russia to its senses while there are still Syrians alive who can be saved. If talk will not work, what about an embargo on a percentage of the exports of a number of important Russian products (petroleum, natural gas, aluminium, agricultural products), or a freeze on some of its external bank assets, or a refusal to allow Russian banks to do business in Europe.
There must be something the UN and its leaders could do, it they really wanted to.
Otherwise, we will continue to watch as doctors in make-shift bombed-out hospitals try to patch up the shrapnel wounds of small children hit by al-Assad bombs that often find them because they are oblivious to the sound of bombs and cannot run fast enough in any case - children who scream in terror that they don’t want to die as the few doctors and nurses available work to save them.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Neil Armstrong Is Dead

I just heard the news that Neil Armstrong has died at the age of 82 because of complications related to heart surgery.
Neil Armstrong was not just an astronaut, not just a space explorer. He was the real thing. The first Space Age hero who was American through and through, but loved and admired by the world.
His walk on the moon on 20 July 1969 will live forever in the annals of human history...and so will Neil Armstrong, right alongside Christopher Columbus and Charles Lindbergh.
I'm reprinting my blog of July 12, 2011, which touched on the end of the manned moon program for the United States. If one man symbolized that program, it was Armstrong.
Rest in Peace.


To Touch the Face of God
On 25 May 1961, President John F. Kennedy made a bold announcement before Congress in which he committed “…this achieving the goal before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon….”
Alan Shepard made the first manned sub-orbital flight in the Mercury Freedom 7, on 5 May 1961. He answered when asked what he was thinking about just before lift-off, “that every part of this ship was built by the lowest bidder.” Alan Shepard also pirated a golf ball and club onto a later moon flight and hit the first golf shot in space.
Apollo XI took American astronauts to the moon, landing 20 July 1969. Neil Armstrong said, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." These first men on the moon were proud to plant the Stars and Stripes on its surface, something most who watched the astonishing feat of the descent and moonwalk will never forget.
Then came Apollo XIII’s famous “Houston, we have a problem” that led to the live-TV solutions that rescued John Swigert, Jr., James Lovell and Fred Haise Jr., when their April 1970 moon flight developed technical problems that threatened their ability to re-enter the Earth’s orbit. They came home safely and it had become clear that manned space flight was dangerous, but manageable for the experts on the ground and in the ships.
But, the American space program has come to an end for the time being. NASA’s Atlantis made its landing at Kennedy Space Center just before 6 a.m. local time, today, 21 July 2011, marking the end of a 30-year space shuttle program, a program that has become a symbol for American space exploration leadership.
The next phase of America’s space program is said to be to land on an asteroid and on Mars. A precursor of these goals was the Messenger Probe around Mercury, with the announcement of its handlers, “We have orbit” on March 17, 2011.
America’s love affair with space is not over, but President Kennedy’s call was only the first of many. We have put men on the moon, walked in space, built the space station and launched the Hubbell telescope that is bringing back to Earth startling photos of outer space.
We also lost the valiant crew of Space Shuttle Columbia and her crew of 7 during her re-entry on 1 February 2003. And the crew of Space Shuttle Challenger was lost during lift-off. It was on 28 January 1986. That same day, President Reagan gave one of his most memorable speeches. It ended with the lines that will live in the hearts of Americans forever.
"We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them this morning as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God."
Americans cannot help but be sad today. Yet, we know we will be back in space, for as Ronald Reagan would have said, “If not us, who?”

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Question of Criminal Insanity

This is one of those days when a lot is going on and it’s difficult to choose just one topic. But there is one story that raises questions that will have an impact on all of us, everywhere in the world.
Anders Behring Breivik was condemned by a Norwegian court to 21 years in prison for murdering 8 people in an Oslo government building by planting a bomb, and then gunning down 69 young people who were on an island for a political meeting in what we would call “cold blood.”
The court unanimously held that Breivik is not insane, specifically that he is not suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, but rather from anti-social and narcissistic personality disorders.
The sentence amounts to 3.27 MONTHS for every young person he killed. Not very much if you’re trying to put a value on human life.
He will serve the sentence, which can be extended if he shows “dangerous” tendencies, in a prison not far from Oslo. He will be isolated from other prisoners and will have three 8 square-meter rooms at his disposal - one for sleeping, one for exercise, and one for work. He will also be given a PC but without an internet connection.
A recent poll showed that 72% of Norwegians believe he is sane enough to go to prison and not to a psychiatric hospital. However, 54% think the conditions of his imprisonment are too lenient.
Breivik himself did not want to be judged insane. Today, he had to declare that he would not appeal before the judge could pronounce the sentence. When Breivik tried to extend his answer by saying that he was glad that he had been declared sane because that supported his thesis that he was carrying out his racist and zenophobic acts as part of a worldwide organization and started to apologize for not killing more people, his microphone was cut off.
The sentence also raises a basic question about terrorists. Are they obviously insane because they deliberately kill innocent people? Or are they "rationally" driven by their “cause”?
Should they be tried as sane defendants or are they insane, by the very fact of their obsession with their “cause” that leads to murderous actions against innocent people, even children.
If they were incarcerated in psychiatric institutions, would their obsessions disappear with rehabilitative treatments? Nothing is less sure, as, for example, with the terrorists tied to the 9.11 Twin Towers attack who have been incarcerated for many years, who seem to hold fast to their “cause.”
These questions are relatively “easy” in countries in Europe where the death penalty does not exist. But, in the United States, Japan, China and other countries, the Gulf States among others, that maintain the death penalty, the question is vitally important.
Would Berivik have chosen to plead insanity if a death penalty awaited him as a sane person? The Guantanamo detainees seem not to be bothered by the question of facing death for their acts. They often glory in the fact that they will become martyrs. Is this behavior in itself an indication of insanity?
I have no idea what the answers to these questions are. Most mental health professionals will disagree from time to time about whether someone is sane or insane for the purpose of recognizing his being able to recognize his own acts as criminal.
But, we can be sure that the question will become more common as the world’s battle with terrorism continues.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Hispanic Vote in the Presidential Election

CNBC offered some interesting statistics today concerning the Hispanic population in the United States.

- There are now 50 Million Hispanics in the US, up from 35 Million in 2006.
- The unemployment rate among Hispanics is 10.3% compared to 8.3% for White Americans.
- There are now 1.8 Million young Hispanics who have been given a two-year deportation reprieve by President Obama so that they can continue their education in the US.
- Fewer than 50% of eligible Hispanics voted in 2008 compared to 66% of White Americans.

The Hispanic spokesperson who talked about the Hispanic role in this year’s presidential election said several times that what Hispanics want is jobs and health care.
That cuts across the two candidates rather clearly: jobs - votes for Romney and health care - votes for Obama.
The spokesperson also said that the Hispanic community would have preferred Senator Marco Rubio to Congressman Paul Ryan as the VP choice of Mr. Romney, but he added that at the end of the day, it is jobs that will count in voting.
He also said that the move Obama made to save the education of 1.8 Million young Hispanic immigrants was a political plus, but that he believes neither party will step up to the immigration reform that is really needed.
Where does this leave us, dear readers?
It seems to me that the GOP and Mitt Romney have a chance to pull Hispanic votes into the Republican column in November, but they cannot do it by ignoring them. I hope that after the Convention, Mr. Romney will organize a team around Senator Rubio to rally Hispanics to the GOP cause. It could be done if the message is jobs, jobs, and jobs. Not just mouthing pieties but offering specific programs that could help Hispanics get back to work.
Of course, this is also what White and Black voters also want to hear, so it is the central message Romney ought to be delivering.
It was encouraging to see that Romney took his economic program to center stage today on the campaign trail, but he needs to do this much more in order to force Obama to respond. Because the President does not have a story to tell. His efforts have fallen flat, for whatever reason he chooses to rely on as his excuse.
America needs jobs and President Obama has not been a President leading the way in this area.
And, if the social and religious right of the Republican Party would just let Mr. Romney get on with his campaign theme -- creating the atmosphere for business to rebound and create jobs -- it would be a big step forward.
This presidential election is not about abortion or gays or right to life. It is about getting America back on her feet.
These social and religious issues, while important to many Americans, are not going to solve America’s fiscal or economic problems. They are non-critical matters right now, and should wait to be discussed after the American fabric has been re-woven around industrial output, employment and debt reduction.
But, I fear that as long as these groups in the GOP continue to force abortion and right to life and gay rights into the forefront, Romney will be saddled with defending ideas that will only drive Hispanics into the arms of Obama in November.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Greece Will Not Win No Matter What Happens

Eurogroup president Jena-Claude Juncker was in Greece this week to hold his first meetings with the Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras, who was named after the June 17 elections.
Mr. Juncker told Mr. Samaras that he thinks it is vital for Greece to honor its commitments and stay in the Eurozone and added that he is “on Greece’s side” and is sure she will re-establish her fiscal credibility.
He said that the troika of financial representatives of the parties that are lending money to Greece to keep it afloat will finish their work in September and only then will Juncker and his other Eurozone partners be ready to discuss the most important item on the Greek prime minister’s agenda -- getting a two-year extension of its austerity program. The extension, until 2016, would give Greece extra time to get its public budget back into balance.
Without such an extension, it is possible that Greece will have to go into bankruptcy and leave the Euro behind.
Prime minister Samaras said that Greece is only asking for a little more “breathing room” and that granting it would not automatically mean that Europe would have to lend additional sums to Greece.
Mr. Juncker replied that the ball is now in Greece’s court and that it must adopt a “robust and credible” strategy for recovering its fiscal balance.
Juncker also called for the restart of the Greek privatization program for divesting government properties and businesses. This is a very sore point for the Greek people, who see it as a demand for the oldest nation in western culture to sell off its national treasures, both of antiquity and of present times. The Greeks are smarting because they have the sense that Germany, and some other European countries, are using Greece’s catastrophe to buy up her treasures and businesses, especially land, tourism sites and energy, at bargain basement prices because Greece has had no choice but to sell in order to meet Europe’s demands and receive a bailout.
Juncker added, “it is Greece’s last chance, and the Greek people must understand this.”
This, dear readers, seems to me to be the latest in a long line of Eurozone threats to Greece in the tradition of “with friends like these, who needs enemies.”
To add salt to the already gaping wound, German Chancellor Merkel said today that she will not even discuss an extension of the Greek program until the troika’s report is completed.
The hard and sad truth is that after two-and-one-half years of austerity -- with increasing unemployment and business closings, falling state tax revenues -- Greece is now in its fifth year of recession. Without funds to pump the economy and provide basic social services, the country cannot possibly turn around its fiscal situation.
And, yet, Europe is now awaiting “payment” of yet another 11.5 Billion Euros in government cutbacks and economies before it releases the next payment of 31.5 Billion Euros agreed to as part of the Greek austerity program. Juncker has delayed this payment until October, while he knows full well that Greece lacks operating funds now.

The Greek situation is a study in the basic flaws in the European Union:

- No one is in charge until a committee is formed for a specific problem.
- No one can say no or override the wishes of the countries that pay the bills for the rest of the EU - Germany and France, and to a lesser extent Britain, The Netherlands, Denmark. So the EU is really a tyranny of the rich.
- Those countries who are considered as being inferior because their economies are driven by tourism or agriculture - Spain, Greece, Ireland, Portugal - are at the mercy of the industrialized EU members - Germany,
France (but France also has a huge agricultural presence in the EU), Great Britain and those Scandinavian countries that are EU and Eurozone members.

The European Union - the classic example of the rich driving the poor into greater poverty.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What Has Obama Learned?

Not much.
He is probably trying to save his skin in November by sounding brave and important.
But, at least he said it. Will the US military take this as a sign that they have more freedom of movement? I don't know.
But, I suspect that Syria would not like to see Romney elected. However, if they move chemical weapons and the US reacts, and htis gives Obama a victory, what would Syria have gained if their regime is put into ruins.
And, we ought to be watching Israel, which certainly wants to see Romeny elected. Will Israel take the chance not to play the chemical weapon card before the election so as not to help Obama?
Interesting if unanswerable questions.

The Deadly Afghanistan Dilemma

A rocket lobbed into Bagram Air Field north of Kandahar Monday hit the C-17 US military plane that had brought US General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Afghanistan for meetings with Afghan and coalition leaders.
The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, saying it hit the plane through “pinpoint” targeting. A US military spokesman says that Bagram is hit by rockets or mortar on average twice a month and that the rocket hit was a lucky shot.
The very fact of the attack seems to me to be far more important than whether it was a lucky or pinpoint hit.
Afghan military and police personnel have in the recent past, ominously, killed 40 coalition personnel, 23 of them Americans. These attacks have come from people who are supposed to be allies working with and receiving training from the coalition to be able to take over the job of protecting Afghanistan when the coalition withdraws at the end of 2014.
Whether these attacks are the acts of disgruntled Afghans who believe they have been wrongly treated by coalition personnel, or whether they are the work of infiltration by the Taliban into the heart of the coalition's on-the-ground forces, the problem is real and has serious consequences.
First, in any war zone, when insurgents prove that they can strike with impunity at the center of the established authority, the political ramifications are significant. Civilians begin to ask if they are safe with the government, or if they would be better off choosing the insurgents while they have the chance to do so without being targeted themselves. The government itself begins to doubt that it can prevail and probably starts to think about what kind of a deal they could make with the insurgents in order to maintain at least some of their power and privileges.
On the military side, soldiers on the ground begin to wonder if their mission was ill-conceived, whether their commanders understand the real problem, whether they have a fair chance while they go about their tasks or are sitting ducks in a confrontation without a face. These elements played a role in the US endgame in Vietnam, and it could now be beginning to be influential in Afghanistan.
And, back home in America, citizens, and especially military families and their supporters, begin to wonder whether the strategy in place is correct, whether they should re-enlist or move on into civilian life, whether the commander-in-chief and his military advisors are competent.
And, when the American President and Generals continue to insist that the strategy is correct, that the 2014 withdrawal announcement was appropriate and has not given aid to the enemy, then those 23 lost lives become symbolic of an even greater mistrust that begins to build up in America over Afghanistan in general and against any politician who supports staying the course.
Bailing out. Leaving the field. Letting the Afghans fight it out themselves. Coming home so that no more young American soldiers are put in an invisible harm’s way for no good reason. Call it what you will.
I don’t know where we are along this curve, dear readers, but I feel sure that there are military in the Pentagon studying the problem and that a White House unit is trying to figure out how to minimize the political damage.
And, it seems to me that predictability is the enemy of victory in wartime. If the enemy knows what you are going to do and when you are going to do it, how can you possibly win?
General Custer learned that lesson with his life and the lives of most of his men at the Little Big Horn. Do we have to learn the same lesson all over again 150 years later in a barren country that has never been united, let alone at peace - even with itself.

Monday, August 20, 2012

President Obama Wakes Up about Syria

We now know where President Obama stands vis-a-vis the use of US force against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.
It is in the movement or use of chemical or biological weapons. In his strongest statement to date, President Obama said today:
"We have been very clear to the Assad regime -- but also to other players on the ground -- that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus; that would change my equation."
Perhaps “a whole bunch” is not the most exact or presidential use of the English language, but I feel sure that al-Assad has understood the message.
The American President added, "We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region that that's a red line for us and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons."
A senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told CNN last month that Syria has "probably has the largest and most advanced chemical warfare program in the Arab world,” including "thousands of tube and rocket artillery rounds filled with mustard-type blister agents, thousands of bombs filled with the nerve agents sarin and possibly VX , and binary-type and cluster Chemical Weapons warheads filled with nerve agents for all its major missile systems…and production facilities and numerous storage sites, mostly dispersed throughout the western half of the country.”
Syria is also believed to have a biological warfare research and development program.
One wonders what the result would have been, dear readers, if President Obama had taken such a tough stance 18 months ago concerning the general mayhem and massacres engaged in by al-Assaad and his forces against his own people. Would we today not be counting 20,000 dead but many fewer.
And, would the world be more secure knowing that Syria could be and was contained simply because the American President had spoken out forcefully and bluntly.
It is not always easy to put one’s word on the line -- to commit one’s forces to preserving peace and the lives of innocents. But, sometimes it must be done.
And for the better part of the past century, it has been up to the US President to draw the line, with the American military to back him up.
In the case of Syria, it is tragic that Mr. Obama has learned this lesson so late.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

An Attempted High Level Syrian Defection Prevented by al-Assad

Earlier on Saturday, French TV networks were reporting that Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa had defected and was trying to make his way out of the country to Jordan with the help of the Free Syria Army. UN reporters were also suggesting that al-Sharaa may be in the process of defecting from the al-Assad regime.
But, later on Saturday, the Syrian State TV network reported that the Vice President was in Damascus and never had had the intention to “leave the homeland in whatever direction.” However, the story was not accompanied by photos or video showing al-Sharaa present in Damascus on Saturday. The TV report also did not use the word “defect”, which some take as an indication that perhaps al-Sharaa meant to defect but was stopped enroute or before he could even begin an attempt.
The Free Syria Army, for its part, in effect largely corroborated the official Syrian version of the situation in reporting that there had been an attempted defection but that it had failed.
The Free Syria Army said that al-Sharaa had left Damascus a week ago to go to Daraa where his family lives, and which is close to the Jordanian border, to check that his family was safe. The FSA added that it believes that the increased regime bombing of the Daraa province was an attempt to assassinate al-Sharaa. The FSA also thought that the al-Asaad regime might have been holding some of al-Sharaa’s family to insure that he returned to Damascus.
Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa is a sunni member of the al-Assad Alawite-led government and a confidant of Assad. He had served under al-Assad’s father as foreign minister and was for many years head of al-Assad’s diplomacy system before becoming vice president in 2006. Al-Sharaa is considered to be more important than the new prime minister, appointed after the defection of his predecessor just last month, because of al-Sharaa’s long and loyal service to the al-Assad family.
During recent Arab League meetings, al-Sharaa was considered as a successor to al-Assad under a variation of the Annan transition plan, similar to the one in Yemen, where the president left office and the vice president assumed office.
This possible defection was perhaps unintentionally leaked by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Thursday when he announced that there would be another “spectacular” defection from the al-Assad regime’s inner circle, which has suffered multiple defections recently, many from the military leadership.
A former al-Assad petroleum minister, Adbul Houssameddine, who defected in March, is quoted by French news as reporting that al-Sharaa had intended to defect, but that for the past several days he has been at home “under surveillance.”
Syrian state TV took la-Sharaa’s official photo off its website on Saturday, and announced that he had been talking to all side in an effort to end the bloodshed. Syrian state TV emphasized a statement of Al-Sharaa supporting the appointment of the Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, as the UN replacement for Kofi Annan as special envoy to Syria.
Al-Sharaa is considered to be a stern figure who has only recently become concerned about the civil war as it becomes more sectarian and his sunni majority is being massacred.
But, some opposition leaders are now saying that even if al-Sharaa tried to defect, it may be too little too late to save him from being bundled with al-Assad partisans when the war ends.
In any event, dear readers, if al-Sharaa is now under surveillance, we may expect that he will not be around when the war ends, compliments of the security forces of al-Assad, which tolerate no defectors or anyone who may have doubts about the Alawite cause.

Friday, August 17, 2012

America's Fiscal Armageddon

Former Wyoming US Senator Alan K. Simpson, who was Co-Chair of the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, lashed out again today on CNN about the state of American federal politics and the inability to get any sort of fiscal reform enacted.
Granted that former Senator Simpson is a very moderate Republican, whose views on abortion and gay rights are not in tune with the majority of the GOP, but he speaks with authority on the mess in Washington, having co-chaired the commission that proposed a format for reducing the national debt and bringing the federal budget under control - a format that was rejected by everyone, including the President who had asked for it to be done.
Simpson said today that it will be impossible to do anything before the November election about the fiscal cliff America is facing. This is not news, but his commentary was so negative that it made me wonder if anything can be done, even after the election.
His opinion is that everyone in Washington knows full well that the United States is on a collision course with high inflation and high interest rates for federal borrowing if something is not done soon to control the $1.3 Trillion budget (his estimate of the Obama budget by the end of the 2012 fiscal year) and to begin reducing the national debt, which stands at about $16 Trillion. The figure of 41 cents of every Dollar spent by the federal government being borrowed has not come down in 2012.
But, Simpson said, nobody does anything because everyone knows that there is no possibility to re-establish fiscal sanity without making almost every American angry because of one or another program that must be cut or cutback. Add to this the special interest groups that lobby for the loopholes that make their tax burden easier and the problem becomes unsolvable.
And, even if Congress had the fortitude to do what needs to be done -- reduce the budget, reform the tax code, restructure welfare and Medicare programs, slightly reduce the military budget -- the work would be reversed because those who would vote for such reforms would lose their seats in the next election and those elected would understand that doing nothing is the way to stay “elected.” So, it would be back to the loophole and something-for-everybody approach to fiscal affairs.
And so America goes on re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
But, the Titanic sank, and so will America, if nothing is done to correct past mistakes.
What a horrible mess. How to get out?
Perhaps Mitt Romney will be elected and then will be willing to stake his future to making the needed changes. Perhaps there are sufficient numbers of American voters in agreement with his programs that he would receive enough popular support to do the hard things. Perhaps. But, if Romney fails - and to be clear, if Obama is re-elected, there will be no possibility of fiscal reform - then the House that the Founders built comes tumbling down, sooner or later.
It would be catastrophic to wait for the markets to do the job for America. And, believe me, the markets will do just that. When the tipping point arrives -- when the amounts America must borrow and the interest rates it must pay are no longer supported by those who are now buying US Treasury bonds -- then the markets will turn their backs on America. She will be left to turn in the wind, without funds to operate or protect herself. Think Greece. It is not an exaggerated comparison.
It is a Black Hole of an idea. But, it could happen, if nobody in Washington steps up to the plate and faces the problem head on soon.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ecuador Grants Diplomatic Asylum to Wikileaks' Assange

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been granted diplomatic asylum by Ecuador. For the past two months, Assange has been sheltered in the Ecuador Embassy in London.
Assange apparently won asylum because of his allegations that he would face persecution if extradited from Great Britain to Sweden. His expressed fear is that a closed United States federal court indictment awaits him nd that if he is taken to Sweden he would then extradited to the US, where, depending on the charges brought against him, he could face the death penalty - if he were convicted of treason in time of war, for example.
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has said that he is sympathetic to what Assange stands for and that he was in favor of granting Assange asylum. So, it would have been difficult for him to refuse diplomatic asylum without losing face.
Correa, a leftist economist, has vilified the United States with his allies in the region and elsewhere - Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Bolvia's Evo Morales, Cuba's Fidel Castro and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
As far as angering Great Britain is concerned, Correa has shown he is not embarrassed to do that. In February, Correa called for sanctions against Britain for its long-running dispute with Argentina over who owns the Falkland Islands.
In addition, Ecuador’s presidential elections are scheduled for next February and giving Assange asylum could be useful to Correa’s leftist image, making his chances of re-election even more likely.
Correa seems to like disclosure when it suits him, as in the case of Assange and Wikileaks, but he has a reputation of cracking down on journalists, with defamation complaints against journalists, pre-empted TV programming and temporary shutdowns of some stations.
Assange, too, purports to support freedom of the press but his broadcasts are apparently financed by a network financed by the Kremlin, and we all know of President Putin’s great respect for freedom of the press.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said that the United States Justice Department has an "active, ongoing criminal investigation" into the WikiLeaks disclosure of classified U.S. diplomatic documents. Holder did not comment about the existence of a US indictment.
Great Britain is not pleased with Ecuador’s decision and has said that it will not allow Assange to leave the Embassy in order to board a diplomatic plane bound for Ecuador. British Foreign Minister William Hague denied, however, that the British government ever threatened to storm the Ecuador Embassy and take Assange into custody. This would violate international treaties concerning embassies. In the event, Britain would not want to put its own foreign embassies in jeopardy by storming the Ecuadorian Embassy in Britain. The stakes in the Assange affair are simply too insignificant for such an extraordinary move.
The British government has reiterated its commitment to send Assange to Sweden to face questioning on sex crimes charges.
Assange’s choices are few for the moment. While diplomatic treaties make foreign embassies the territory of the country which they represent, Assange cannot leave the Embassy by diplomatic car because the Ecuador Embassy occupies only part of a building and has no interior parking facility where Assange could enter a diplomatic car without first touching British soil and being arrested.
Where would the diplomatic car go, anyway? To a British airport, with the same problem facing Assange. He could not get out of the diplomatic car and into an Ecuadorian diplomatic plane without touching British soil and being stopped and arrested.
So, Julian Assange has diplomatic asylum but will have to stay inside the Ecuador Embassy in London. The British have the building under surveillance and will act if he steps outside the Embassy.
It could be a long and tiresome affair for everyone.
Diplomatic efforts must reach an agreement that will save everyone’s face, while at the same time satisfying Great Britain and the United States that their legitimate disagreements with Assange are not abandoned in the process.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Romney in a Landslide

It’d be easy to predict who’s going to be elected in the American presidential election on November 6. Just wait until the last week of October and read the polls.
But, before the conventions, before the September campaign gets into full swing, before the October debates, before the political ads spewing onto the TV screens turn into “I Robot vs. Transformer 3” -- I’m going to make my prediction.
Mitt Romney will be elected President by a margin wide enough to be called a landslide. I think it will be something like Romney 55% - Obama 45%.

Why am I so sure that I’m willing to be held accountable now? Here’s my reasoning :

- Mitt Romney, even when he’s angry, is a calm, confidence building person whom we want to believe because we trust him to tell us the truth -- Obama looks and uses sound bites that are so slick at times that it’s impossible to believe that he’s sincere or can be trusted.

- No matter what Obama says or how he tries to manipulate the numbers, he has failed miserably on the economic watch and the unemployment figures, sad and troublesome to be sure, will betray his failure -- Romney will provide the answers that Americans know will work to restore the economy and create jobs. There is simply no way Obama can avoid this hole in his presidency except by reverting to bigger and bigger lies, something that will finally disgust American voters and defeat him.

- Obama’s scare campaign about Medicare and Social Security and the budget and taxes will blow up in his face when VP candidate Paul Ryan gets his numbers and explanations out into the public eye -- and if Biden is dumb enough (and he is, make no mistake about that) to raise these issues during the October VP debate, he will be swamped by Ryan.

- If Obama tries to attack Romney and Ryan on foreign policy weakness, it will be tossed back at him, because he had “zero” foreign policy experience, and in fact little real world experience of any kind, when he was elected in 2008, and so in attacking the GOP team, he will be attacking himself. When Americans get into the voting booth, they are going to ask themselves, “Why did I ever vote for him?” The long silence in their hearts and heads will make them vote for Romney.

- The major spokespeople for Romney (Rubio, Jeb Bush, Christie, McCain, Pawlenty, de Mint, Trump, Gingrich) are all articulate and down-to-earth people who come across as being sincerely interested in their country -- Obama’s spokespeople (Axelrod, Reid, Pelosi, it’s hard to name others) are political pro’s with sharp huckster-like tongues whose word is not as sincerely delivered or credible. Of course, Obama has Bill Clinton, but the autumn will tell us just how far Bill is willing risk his own reputation to save the skin of a man who was very unkind to Hillary and who Bill disliked until he felt like getting back on the campaign trail, mostly in behalf of Hillary and his own stature.

Michelle Obama joined her husband on the campaign trail in Iowa today. She introduced him to one audience by saying:
“It all boils down to who you are and what you stand for...we all know who my husband is, don’t we? And we all know what he stands for.”

Although Michelle probably didn’t realize it, Mitt Romney had provided the answer before she asked the question. At a campaign appearance earlier in the day, Romney said
“President Barak Obama’s campaign is being driven by division, attack and hatred...he is running just to hang onto power and I think he would do anything in his power” to remain in office.

And, of course, there is the Biden card, which could be played again and again to the dismay of Obama and the pleasure of Romney. Vice President might even threaten, as he did yesterday to a racially mixed audience in Virginia, “to put y’all back in chains.”

Romney 55% - Obama 45%.

You heard it here first.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Republican Party Ideals and the 2012 Presidential Race

There’s a lot of talk these days, most of it fiction, about the Republican Party, what it stands for and what it wants “to do” with America and Americans.
This is not all the result of Mitt Romney naming Paul Ryan as his VP running mate in the 2102 presidential race. Talking fast and loose about the GOP has been in fashion ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President in 1932, during a depression that Republicans were blamed for, even though, like today, they were more victims, as was everyone else in the world, than perpetrators.
And, by the way, although we all today use the letters GOP to mean Grand Old Party, it may be that originally, when the acronym was created in 1875, the G stood for Gallant - and that’s not bad, either.
And, while we’re digging around in the GOP’s history, we all know that the symbol of the Republican Party is the elephant.
But, why? Well, during the mid-term elections in 1874, Democrats tried to scare voters into thinking President Ulysses S. Grant would seek to run for an unprecedented third term, which the Founders had not envisioned, because of President Washington’s stern advice that two terms is enough. Should we add that it was finally Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt who did that, adding a third and a fourth term, making it necessary to amend the Constitution to prevent such a thing from ever happening again. But, as for the elephant, the Harper’s Weekly cartoonist Thomas Nast depicted a Democratic donkey failing to scare a Republican elephant – and both symbols stuck.
But, what does it really mean to be a Republican?
If had to choose just three ideas, they would be -- individual liberty, citizen responsibility, and equality.
The GOP actually started with people who opposed slavery. They were ordinary people who could not accept the notion that men had any right to oppress, let alone own as property, their fellow man. In the early 1850’s, these anti-slavery activists teamed up with rugged pioneers looking to settle in western lands, free of government charges. “Free soil, free labor, free speech, free men,” was their slogan.
So, it was a profound opposition to human enslavement and government tyranny that made liberty loving Americans give birth to the Republican Party.
The name “Republican” was chosen because it meant equality and reminded individuals of Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party. In 1856, the GOP became a national party by nominating John C. Fremont for President. He lost.
But, four years later, with the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, the Republican Party was firmly established as a major political party.
In 1861, the Civil War exploded onto the American scene, lasting four terrible years. During the Civil War, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves. The Republicans then worked to pass the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlawed slavery; the Fourteenth Amendment, which guaranteed equal protection under the laws; and the Fifteenth, which helped secure voting rights for African-Americans.
All of these feats preserved the fundamental freedoms that the Founders had envisioned and that America continues to enjoy today.
The GOP also played a leading role in securing women’s right to vote. In 1896, the Republican Party was the first major political party to support women’s suffrage. When the 19th Amendment finally was added to the Constitution, 26 of the 36 state legislatures that voted to ratify it were under Republican control. The first woman elected to Congress in 1917 was a Republican, Jeanette Rankin from Montana.
So it was by the groundbreaking beliefs and work of Republicans that color and gender barriers were first demolished in America.
The Republican Party’s beliefs are simple and deeply felt by its adherents:

- individuals, not government, make the best decisions, when they are guaranteed the right to speak and discuss freely and then vote;
- all people are entitled to equal rights; race, color and religious convictions do not enter into the granting of these fundamental human rights;
- decisions are best made close to home, locally, by the people who best understand the problem and the right solution for them.

And, finally, Republicans have always fought to constrain the size of government, both federal and local. When confronted with problems and decisions, the GOP chooses to reduce the size of government, streamline bureaucracy, and return power to individual states. This fundamental belief is in harmony with both the Constitution and the Republican principle that individuals are to be protected from government and their liberties preserved. The Republican Party, since its origin, has been at the forefront of the fight for individuals’ rights in opposition to large, intrusive government.
Why, dear readers, do I write all the today? Because we are witnessing a deliberate and vicious attack on Republican principles and political motives that needs to be put into historical context.
The Obama team is trying its best to divide and conquer by using the groups of Americans who are the weakest and most in need of support -- by deliberately scaring senior citizens and the poor and jobless who are being told by the Obama election team that the GOP presidential nominees, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, will leave them without health care, without jobs, without a home and without anyone in Washington who cares what happens to them.
There is no Republican - not one - anywhere in America who would support such candidates or permit such disgraceful actions.
There is no Republican - not one - anywhere in America who wants to elect the Romney-Ryan team so that other Americans can be hurt and mistreated.
There is no Republican - not one - anywhere in America who would permit anything like the fantasies concocted by Obama and his team to happen.
That is the real message in this 2012 election.
Republicans are trying to speak truthfully, to work with everyone in America to find the best, most American way out of the mess we are in today.
If Medicare needs to be fixed, and it must be, then the Romney-Ryan team will be sure that no one is left out.
If the budget needs to be cut because we are running up astronomical debt every year, year after year, then the Romney-Ryan team will make everyone safe by keeping our military strong, while cutting out waste, eliminating runaway welfare which no longer seems to want to help those caught in its net to get out and regain their dignity, and by making sure that the tax code is re-designed to support these goals, not by taxing the poor but by taxing everyone fairly and seeing to it that the tax system makes it possible to create the jobs that Americans so desperately need.
They are Republicans - Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. They believe in the principles of Lincoln and Eisenhower and Reagan. They want to save the great nation that individual liberty and freedom to succeed created.
They want, above all, to represent every American -- not just the rich, not just businesses, not just Republicans. They want to represent Americans who live in the heartland, and in the great cities, and in decaying communities ruined because their jobs disappeared, and in the small towns where people are struggling with problems that they have never faced before in trying to preserve their way of life.
The Romney-Ryan team wants to help poor Americans to grow their income so they can rejoin the march forward of the American Dream.
They want to help Americans of color and minorities who are now being left behind by an economy that Obama has run into the ground at their expense.
Do not be fooled. It is not too late to turn America around. But, it cannot be done by mirrors and accounting tricks. It will require hard work, cooperation and a renewal of the American spirit.
And that is what Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are all about.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Egyptian President Morsi Shows His True Colors

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi seems to have declared war on Monday - against the Egyptian military and the Egyptian Supreme Court, both of which were the only protection standing between the Egyptian people and the uncontrolled excesses of yet another dictatorial regime in the country.
When Morsi ousted Army Marshall Hussein Tantawi and annulled the recent directives Tantawi promulgated giving the military far-reaching powers to control the civilian presidency without waiting for a Court decision, he, in effect, announced that he alone is the power in Egypt.
The White House piously commented that it hopes the actions taken by Morsi will “serve the interests” of the Egyptian people.
The Pentagon indicated that it will pursue its close relationship with the Egyptian military. This undoubtedly means that the 1.3 Billion US Dollars being supplied to the military will continue.
Egyptian media have noted with surprise the “revolutionary” actions of the new president and some expressed concern that it means that the Muslim Brotherhood is now in control of Egypt and its government.
“The Mulsim Brotherhood Officially in Power” blared the headline of the independent Al-Watan newspaper.
The Al-Ousboua newspaper, often seen as being close to the military, decried “the dictatorship of the Brotherhood.”
The independent Al-Chorouq newspaper said that Morsi has “put n end to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces led by Tantawi, with whom he has had a difficult cohabitation.” Al-Chorouq stated that Morsi’s actions in taking back all power over the parliament means that he now has more power “than Hosni Mubarak.”
This is in reference to the fact that Morsi has taken back the power to appoint the Committee which will draft the new Egyptian constitution.
The Egyptian stock market responded positively, rising 1.5% on Monday, probably in the realization that things are now more stable in the country, if less democratic.
Israel, to be sure, is very concerned.
An unnamed Israeli government source said that “it is premature to make evaluations, because everything is in flux in Egypt, but we are following closely and with disquiet what is happening.”
In addition to firing Tantawi, Morsi also fired his number two in the military, and the heads of the navy, air force and air defense. These posts will be given to high level civil servants. The navy head will be given charge of the Suez Canal, one of the largest income-generating organizations in Egypt.
General Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, chief of military information, will replace Tantawi.
The official Egyptian news agency, Mena, says all these actions were taken in consultation with the armed forces.
President Morsi said that he is simply trying to give military affairs over to a younger generation. Tantawi is 76.
A judge who has been lenient in decisions concerning those opposing the Mubarak regime was named as an Egyptian vice president.
As was to be expected, a private TV outlet owner has been cited, as well as the editor-in-chief of an independent newspaper, for making statements “offensive to President Morsi.”
Need we say more, dear readers?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

It's Paul Ryan for VP

The mild-mannered Mormon from Massachusetts goes straight for Barak Obama’s jugular.

That should be the headline all over America this weekend, as Mitt Romney picks House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan to be his Vice President running mate. The message is clear. “Mr. Obama you have given America its last free lunch. It is now time to pay the bill.”

There’s really not much more to add. Romney chose not to be safe - as in Portman or Pawlenty.

He chose not to insert show biz into the campaign - as in Chris Christie.

He chose not to pander to minorities but to make them Americans important enough to be treated like everyone else - in not choosing Marco Rubio.

And so, we have a stark, clear-cut, easy to understand battle shaping up after Labor Day.

It will be Romney and Ryan making their case that America needs one thing more than any other - fiscal order and responsibility.

There will be no slack cut for special interests calling for their pie not to be cut - special interest like doctors, drug companies, hospitals, senior citizens, welfare recipients, or anyone else.

And that will make the choice amazingly easy in November.

Either it will be Obama-Biden, and their something-for-everyone, blame-the-GOP-for-everything attitude that caters to special interests at the cost of jeopardizing the future of America.

Or it will be Romney-Ryan, and their put-the-house-in-order, take-care-of-everyone-equally, keep-the-military-strong, and don’t-ask-for-special-interest-favors-because-there-won’t-be-any, attitude that means business in straightening out what 25 years of shoddy federal government has produced.

It’s too late to play fast and loose with America’s future. It is now up to all Americans, whatever their voting record or preferences in presidential style, to stand up and be counted.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The 4x100 Meter Relay Comes Home to America

Tianna Madison…

Allyson Felix…

Bianco Knight…

Carmelita Jeter.

Four young American women brought home this evening the Olympic Gold Medal in the women's 4x100 meter relay.
And, they did it in 40.82 seconds, absolutely pulverizing the 27-year-old world record of 41.37 seconds held by the East German relay team of 1985.
Carmelita Jeter was, as were they all in their leg, magnificent in the last 100 meters. She even had the presence of mind to watch the clock and point her baton at the world record time they had just posted.
The 4x100 meter relays, both men’s and women’s, are special for the United States. And, the American women have had a few rough years, including dropping the baton in 2008 in Beijing.
But, tonight…it was pure Gold.
I hope you watched, and had a tear in your eye, as I did, when the record flashed. Cutting a half second off any world record is almost impossible.
These four young women did it in real world-class style tonight in London.

Tunisia Today

A woman who is a Tunisian engaged in human rights activities in her country gave a long interview on Radio Swiss this afternoon. I have confidence in Radio Swiss and so I feel sure she was vetted before the Swiss aired her interview.
It was eye-opening in its first hand account of how human rights are faring in the post-Arab Spring Tunisia.
She said things are better now, but that torture and vindictive actions by police and the military continue. Her perspective was much more measured than ours would be, I feel sure.
She makes allowance for the “rooted” culture of torture in Tunisian jails and prisons. Her wish is to begin a long-term campaign to uproot it over years. Wisely, she said that torture is not something that can be eradicated overnight. But, one has to begin.
Her examples included both civilian and military officials, because she said that even in the joy of being freed of Ben Ali’s regime, the military then went after those who had mistreated military during the revolution and tortured them, killing some and releasing others to serve as a warning.
She also talked about the routine torture of jail and prison inmates, now as before the Arab Spring revolt.
Her comment about this was frightening in its clarity. She said that Tunisians know that torture continues but that now, they will not allow it to prevent them from speaking out. She says freedom of speech has improved greatly, not so much because the new government wants more freedom of speech but because Tunisian citizens demand it, even at the risk of being jailed and tortured.
She also noted that Islamists are at work in Tunisia, harassing women, forcing them to wear a veil when they can, and even encouraging female circumcision, something the woman said was never carried out in Tunisia before.
Hers is a bold and encouraging story. If this spirit of freedom is alive in Tunisia, may we hope it will also be alive in other Arab Spring countries in the aftermath of each revolution.
I continue to admire the real Arab Spring seekers of freedom. We are often caught up in the reports of al-Qaida gaining ground, as we have heard today about Syria, and we worry about who will control the Middle East after the Arab Springs are all history and somebody new and often unknown is in charge in each country.
But, let’s keep remembering the real democratic spirit that started the Arab Spring - the people who were terrorized by dictators, tortured and maltreated economically and emotionally. It is easy to let these people fade into the background as other stories take center stage.
Remember them. Say a prayer for them. Try to find something, anything, to do to help them reap the reward of their bold and fearless revolts.
May we be as brave if the need ever arises.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Romney's VP Choice

We’re at crunch time for the Romney Vice President pick. It’s going to happen after the Olympics are over for maximum TV coverage, according to the experts. So, that could mean as early as next Monday or Tuesday. And, Romney is getting all the advice he probably doesn’t need from everyone, even Democrats, about who to pick.
But, I can’t resist…so --
The Democratic Super PACs are already issuing blue books up to an inch thick on every possible GOP VP candidate. The books are all negative, of course, but they do give a decent starting list for who Romney is likely to name - Christie, Pawlenty, Portland, Rubio, even Jindal.
Now, dear readers, you know I’m not opinionated, not in the least, but I’d say that Portland, Pawlenty or Jindal would be catastrophic choices. They’re too isolated in the GOP and have no real independent personal image to add to Romney’s.
Jindal comes close vis-à-vis image, but he’s lacking in national exposure, except for hurricane seasons, and he needs to be “older and wiser” before being put next to the presidency.
Pawlenty and Portland are very button-down collar types, a little too much like Romney himself. Now, I like a nice button-down collar, but I never wear two at the same time, and I bet you don’t either. Enough said.
Marco Rubio would bring charm, charisma and a big chunk of the Hispanic vote to the Romney side. He has Senate experience, but not any more than Obama had when he was elected President in 2008. That's the problem in a nutshell - Rubio is young. Too young. He could manage the VP spot but what would happen if he ever, God forbid, had to step into the President’s shoes on short notice. Marco Rubio has time. Time to grow, to mature, to develop a real voice of his own. To be much more important to the GOP than just bringing in Hispanic votes. He would make a fine cabinet member - it would put him on the right track.
Governor Chris Christie. He’s got an independent national image. He is definitely not button-down, or button-up, as in lips, either. But, he is not more conservative than Romney, who is already not conservative enough for the bigger half of the GOP.
But, Chris Christie would bring one key skill that Romney doesn’t have. His brash approach to taking on anybody anytime if he’s feels he’s right about an issue and they’re wrong would make him a very effective attack dog against the tatoo job Obama and his team are going to try to do all over Romney and whoever he picks for VP. Mitt Romney is just simply not made for back alley brawls. Christie is. He could take on and beat Biden, Obama and their TV talking heads and ads with no hesitation. He is also experienced in government executive management. That will be important after the election, when President Romney starts his governmental re-organization, program elimination and money-saving campaign.
The only other real alternative keeps saying he’s not interested. Jeb Bush. I still believe that he would be the best all-around choice. He’s got government executive experience, lot’s of it. He’s charismatic and conservative enough for the bulk of GOP voters. He’s also a tough debater and could do the same job as Christie against the Democrat spinners of untrue tales.
And, frankly, it angers me that anyone should think that Jeb's family name is a negative. Two GOP Presidents proudly bear that name. They served honorably and well, better than we give them credit for. And history will prove that George W. Bush did the right things, even if they were unpopular at the time around the world. But, Jeb says, “no.”
Outsiders? Bolton. Rice. Perry. Boehner.
I can hear you saying, don’t think so.
It looks a lot like Christie to me.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dear Anonymous - on Russia and China

Your comments are right on point. I would just like to point outa couple of details that hit me as I read:

1. The Orthodox Church didn't invite the Pussy Riot to sing - they broke into a service and sang a song, suring the election period, that said in so many words, Putin is a tyrant - vote him out. That kind of thing is the onyl out let Russian dissidents, i.e., democratically minded Russians or at least non-Putin minded Russians, have because Putin has blocked all other accesses to media nad party politics.

2. Defecting is not always easy, unless you are alone and have no family back "there" to pay the price.

3. I still hope the cheater will be stripped of his medal. Perhaps after the Games. But, it is by no means certain.

Obama's Lose-Lose Arab Spring Policy

The al-Assad army entered Aleppo this morning at dawn, hoping to retake the important rebel district of Salahhedine. The battle went on all day, with the al-Assad forces taking five streets in the district, only to have three of them retaken in the afternoon by Free Syria Army forces, reinforced with men coming for other districts of Aleppo.
With al-Assad sending tanks, artillery and 20,000 troops to Aleppo, one wonders how long the rebel forces can resist. There have already been unconfirmed reports of rebel soldiers being taken prisoner by al-Assad troops.
At the same time, after the formal meeting yesterday between Said Jalili, the secretary of the Iranian security apparatus, and al-Assad, who made a public appearance for the first time since four of his generals were killed in a bomb attack on the Damascus security headquarters of the regime, Jalili announced that Iran would not let Syria fall away from the “axis of resistance” and has called for a meeting in Teheran on Thursday of 12 nations who are also considered to be part of the axis.
The third prong of today’s Syria story is the commentary of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton concerning preparation for a Syria “after Assad.”
Mrs. Clinton spoke to the media while in South Africa, saying that those working "to exploit the misery of the Syrian people, either by sending in proxies or by sending in terrorist fighters, must recognize that that will not be tolerated, first and foremost by the Syrian people."
Clinton said that the opposition "is becoming increasingly coordinated and effective," holding territory from northern Aleppo to the Turkish border and seizing regime weaponry such as tanks.
She called for a united international effort of planners to begin talking about what happens after the regime falls, even though there's no timeline.
"The intensity of the fighting in Aleppo, the defections, really point out how imperative it is that we come together and work toward a good transition plan," she said.
"We must figure out a way to hasten the day when the bloodshed ends, and the political transition begins."
Dear readers, I won’t go on with her statements, because they are rather sadly out of touch with the world of the Arab Spring. It reminds me of the Monday morning quarterbacks who know exactly how their losing football team should have played to win.
First, we must remember that Hillary Clinton has no official personal opinion about Syria or the Arab Spring. She is the US Secretary of State, following the policy guidelines set out by her boss, President Obama.
What is sadly out of touch are those guidelines.
Barak Obama has allowed the United States to be eased into a position that places America outside the engagement for the future of the Middle East.
He delayed so long in Libya that the French and British moved ahead and he had no choice but to follow. He delayed again in Egypt, allowing the Islamists to take the high ground and elect their leader as the new President.
It may be academically interesting to wait until we know exactly who the rebels are and what their goals are before intervening in any of the Arab Spring conflicts. But, it has cost America her position as leader in the region.
There are times when the “sea change” is so great and obvious that allowing the ships to list in the water without changing direction will lead to their being capsized. That is what President Obama has done in Libya, Egypt, and now Syria. Instead of recognizing the sea change and moving to stay afloat, he has forced the United States diplomatic and military systems to float without direction in these very important troubled waters.
I do not agree with those who say that America could not act because she didn’t have enough details about the rebels and their goals.
Unless the US was planning to provide her state-of-the-art military and nuclear technology (obviously not the case), what the US would have risked was the putting into place of governments that may not have been as democratic as she would have preferred - perhaps they would even have been Islamist. America deals with these kinds of states every day, so I really do not see the problem, taken compared to doing nothing.
By standing on the sidelines, America has delivered the message, intended or unintended, that she is indifferent to the plight of peoples in the Middle East living under dictatorships. She has made it clear that she is not an ally to depend upon when the question of human rights is in issue. She has suggested that known dictators are to be preferred to unknown revolutionaries trying to free themselves from tyranny.
The result?
The United States is in exactly the same position she would have been in if she had entered the fray, tried to help the rebel causes in the Arab Spring countries and they had lost.
Just what is the difference between being excluded for acting and being excluded for not acting to support Arab Spring rebels?
It is not a Zero Sum Game.
The result is that America has lost the Middle East to new faces who are skeptical about America’s intentions and interests.
Not a good place to be in a region of great strategic importance that will never again be as it was before Tunisia sounded the Arab Spring starting bell.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Russian and Chinese Show Trials and the Olympics

There are two trials - one in Russia and the other in China - that should be in the minds of all of us right now, even if the Olympic Games are taking up most of the media time and space.
In Moscow, three member of a punk rock group, Pussy Riots, are being tried for hooliganism and inciting religious hatred because they sang a song in a Russian Orthodox church that criticized President Vladimir Putin. The song also criticized the close ties of the Russian Orthodox Church and the government and President Putin.
Putin has asked for leniency for the three, saying they should not be judged too harshly, whereas the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has denounced their "profanation" of a church.
Nadejda Tolokonnikova, 22, Ekaterina Samoutsevitch, 29, and Maria Alekhina, 24, who have already been held in jail for five months, sat in their barred cage in court yesterday and heard the Russian Prosecutor, Alexander Nikiforov, demand a penalty of three years in work camps for their “crimes.” Nikiforov noted that he was asking for a light sentence because two of the young women have no police records and one of them has young children. Isn’t Russian leniency a thing of beauty.
The defense lawyers have asked for an acquittal and have said that they intend to ask the European Court of Human Rights to consider both the conditions under which the women are being held and the procedural aspects of the trial, which include falsified prosecution documents entered against the accused, threatening defense witnesses and threatening the defense lawyers.
Madonna is in Russia for two concerts - in Moscow and St. Petersburg - to call for clemency and release for the three singers.
Other international entertainers, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sting and The Pet Shop Boys are calling for dismissal of the charges, as are many Russian human rights activists.
The European Union says it is disturbed by the conditions of detention of the three accused, as well as by the intimidation of their lawyers.
Meanwhile, in Russia’s neighbor, China, a trial that will start next week has all the makings of a first rate political scandal.
Gu Kailai, the wife of disgraced former Politburo member Bo Xilai, who is the son of one of the Eight Immortals who led the Communist revolution in China, is expected to start in the eastern city of Hefei.
Gu is accused of poisoning a British business partner, Neil Heywood, last November in a dispute over money. It has been claimed anonymously that Heywood was helping the couple to secretly smuggle money out of China. Heywood has lived in China for ten years and is married to a Chinese woman.
If convicted, Gu could face the death penalty, but a friend said her life is expected to be spared. Each of the defendants will be allowed to have two relatives at the trial, which is expected to be speedy, according to the friend.
When Heywood was found dead in his hotel room, officials quickly blamed his death on excessive alcohol and cremated his body without an autopsy.
But controversy began in February, when Bo's longtime lieutenant, Wang Lijun, sought refuge at the U.S. Consulate in nearby Chengdu. Wang is the former police chief who managed Bo's anti-crime push, which Beijing found to be too excessive and reminiscent of Mao’s Cultural Revolution.
Wang asked for political asylum, apparently fearing for his life and was allegedly in possession of incriminating information against his boss. Wang’s appearance made the Communist authorities re-open the Heywood case, leading to the charge of murder against Gu and an associate, Zhang Xiaojun.
Wang was taken into custody once he left the consulate for entering the diplomatic post without authorization.
Gu and Zhang were arrested in early April and have not seen their relatives since then, according to the same friend.
The Xinhua news agency also announced in April that Bo had been stripped of his seats on the Communist Party's Central Committee for an unspecified "serious breach of regulations."
Authorities say Gu and her son fought with Heywood over "economic interests," and she regarded him as a threat to her son's safety.
Although Great Britain is following the trial, British Foreign Minister William Hague has formally denied that Heywood was a British M6 operative, even though he managed a company in China formed by several ex-M6 employees.
The Chinese hierarchy is trying to put its best face on the trial, to keep it from becoming a cause celebre in China, where both Bo and Gu are well-known public figures.
But, expert China watchers point out that whatever happens, the members of the Politburo will not be sleeping easily, because such corruption is widely present in senior Chinese political figures, who often become very wealthy because of their positions.
These two trials point out the long way both Russia and China have to go before they can represent themselves as democratic in any sense of the word.
It may also explain why China has become the new Russia in the Olympic Games family of nations. The world used to view with suspicion every Russian victory, suspecting doping or other tricks. Now, China is on the receiving end of such generalized suspicion.
While many - probably most - of China’s Olympic athletes are clean and honest competitors, uneasiness lurks when they win, not because of they themselves, but because they represent countries where trickery, political elites, and staged trials of political adversaries are commonplace. The suspicions about the regimes just naturally spill over into questions about the validity of the successes of their athletes.

Monday, August 6, 2012

To Dodie

Sorry, Dodie. I realized later that I had mis-read your comment. No harm done, I hope, to someone who is a loyal reader. Have a terrifc week, and keep me on my toes. I need it.
Casey Pops

A Potpourri of News for Monday

There’s a lot happening today :

…the Syrian prime minister of 2 months has resigned (or been fired according to al-Assad’s news service version) and defected, but whether he’s on his way to Qatar or Jordan is not clear. A reported 30 to 40 al-Assad army general officers have already defected.

…Syrian refugees keep pouring into Turkey and now Jordan, which has an estimated 38,000 in camps on its Syrian border. One camp on the Jordan-Syria border is reporting up to 300 refugees per day, helped along the way by Free Syrian Army escorts so that they don't get killed by al-Assad forces while they try to escape the regime. There are tents for 10,000 people in the camp, but reports from international agencies on site say the situation is very difficult. The Syrians fleeing to Jordan are moving south from Damascus and the capital region, which may be an indication of the intensity of the fighting around Damascus.

…the Mars rover, Curiosity, has landed safely on the Red Planet’s surface, using advanced engineering to combat the thin atmosphere which would have made a normal parachute landing impossible. The first pictures are already being shown on American and European TV. The Jet Propulsion Lab and all the NASA team can be rightly proud of this achievement, proving again that America needs to free herself to devote more resources to science and technology. Instead of cutting NASA budgets, they should be enlarged, with more public-private joint ventures to boost the useable output and reduce taxpayer costs.

…the destruction in China, North Korea and Taiwan caused by the latest cyclones to hit their coasts - at least two, one immediately after the other - remind us again that there are some things that engineering and science have not yet understood sufficiently, and so the death and property destruction and ruined lives continue, this time not from wars but from Nature’s most severe face. At the same time, Hurricane Ernesto is headed to the Honduras - Belize region and perhaps the Yucatan in Mexico. This is the first real hurricane of the 2012 season. Another, Florence by name, had formed off the Azores, but it appears to have fizzled out.

…the Sinai remains unmanageable, or at least unmanaged. Truck attacks along the Egypt-Israel border killed 8 Egyptians and would have killed Israelis in their path if Israeli air reconnaissance had not stopped them, killing 6. The Sinai is a vast area between Egypt and Israel that was controlled by Israel before it was ceded back to Egypt, which has been lax in its control. Now, Egyptian president Morsi says Egypt will step up its patrols and rid the Sinai of the marauders. Even Palestinians are calling for Egypt to do more to stop the terror being sewn in the Sinai.

…and the London Olympic Games continue. Britain is doing exceptionally well, and it again shows what an advantage the home team has. There’s nothing wrong with this, because it makes for more excitement in what could become the playground of a few large countries. I like all sports, and both the winter and summer Olympics, but the summer Games are always a treat because the mix of countries is larger, the winners come from countries such as The Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico and Jamaica and Kenya and Ethiopia, as well as the US, Russia and China. The flavor is different and it seems that the athletes enjoy meeting and mixing, because even after favorites lose there are lots of hugs and jersey exchanges. But, this week, we get down to serious basketball, and the US 2012 dream team is the one to beat.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

America's Olympic Athletes, Mars Rovers and Military Capability

It seems fitting that on the day when Michael Phelps won his 18th and last ever Olympic Gold Medal in swimming, and on the day when America is on top of the 2012 London Olympic Games medal table, that another typically American feat is about to occur.
On Monday morning at 1:31 am EST, the US Mars rover Curiosity is expected to touch down on the martian surface.
It follows in the footsteps of the two prior Mars rovers, Opportunity and Spirit, which landed on Mars in 2004. The twin rovers lifted off from Cape Canaveral in June 2003 aboard separate Delta II rockets and landed successfully the following January, bouncing onto the surface inside a cocoon of air bags. Spirit went silent in May 2010, but Opportunity continues to work and send back valuable information to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
Opportunity was expected to survive for 90 days on Mars’ harsh surface climate, but it is still working after 3,000 days, and after being half-buried in a sandstorm, injured on one of its shoulders, and surviving five martian winters at temperatures of -80°C (-112°F).
The two rovers cost $800 Million to build and launch. It seems money well spent. They have analyzed martian rock and soil and convinced NASA that there once was water on Mars. Opportunity later found a vein of gypsum, a mineral that also confirmed the prior existence of surface water. Opportunity has also sent back 100,000 pictures from Mars.
Opportunity and Spirit were 5 feet long and weighed 380 pounds.
But, Curiosity is much larger, weighing 2,000 pounds. It also benefits from the lessons learned from Spirit and Opportunity, and was designed with a longer, more advanced robot arm, a hammer drill that can crack apart rocks and a laser that reduces rock to a hot plasma, allowing an on-board spectrograph to determine its composition.
Curiosity will land in the area known as the Meridiani Planum, a sandy desert located a few degrees south and west of the martian equator, and halfway around the planet from Spirit's location. It can travel 100 meters (325 feet) per day and can climb 30-degree slopes.
The average distance between the Earth and Mars is 225 million miles, varying widely during the year as both planets orbit the sun. When farthest apart (about 400 million miles), a radio signal from NASA takes more than half an hour to reach a rover. And every day, a rover receives a message giving it the instructions for the day. The rover then carries out the program and beams the data back to Earth via two satellites circling the Red Planet, the Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The instructions must be completed by the time those satellites are in range, adding one more degree of difficulty to the Jet Propulsion Lab’s task and calculations.
Why, dear readers, is it fitting that Curiosity should land on Mars while Michael Phelps and the United States are atop the Olympic charts?
Because Americans have tended to forget since 9.11 that what America does best is not fight wars, although she is very good at that.
What America does best is push technology and science and engineering to its limits - and then push some more.
Just like Phelps and all the other American athletes now in London are pushing the limits of sports competitiveness farther and farther, America’s scientists and engineers are world class pushers of the boundaries of what is possible technically.
That is America’s real strength. It is not in the numbers of soldiers who can be placed anywhere in the world within hours. It is in the technology that makes their placement possible. And in the equipment and support systems that make them so effective when they are in position.
It is for this reason that America is great and the protector of others not able to protect themselves. If it were merely a race for sheer numbers, we would fall far behind China or Russia.
But, America has always depended on more than her soldiers, critical as they are. She has depended on knowledge and skill and on the execution of those parameters.
Please don’t write to say that I am belittling America’s armed forces. Without the best trained, most dedicated soldiers, sailors, marines and air personnel, all the equipment and technology in the world would not carry the day.
But, without the best equipment and technology in the world, the best trained, most dedicated soldiers, sailors, marines and air personnel in the world would not prevail.
That is why it is so important to separate America’s military budget from the overall mess surrounding the fiscal cliff and forced cutbacks, including those for the military, which the combined suicidal tendencies of President Obama and Congress produced last year.
Senators John Mc Cain and Lindsey Graham are now barnstorming, trying to alert average Americans to the fact that their military is in grave danger of becoming second-rate if the forced cutbacks occur.
Michael Phelps - Curiosity - the American military. They have one thing in common. It takes talent, but it also takes the equipment and the money to provide for the development of the talent. And that is what makes all of them the champions they are today.