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January 31, 2012

Iran Cannot Be Allowed To Go Nuclear

One more from Powerline:

On Israel and a Nuclear Iran
by Scott Johnson
January 31, 2012

Finding the video of Douglas Murray at the Cambridge Union debating the question of a nuclear Iran, apparently last year, I looked around for some background on the debate. I haven't found the background, but I have found a handy summary at Seraphic Secret:

This is an incredibly powerful video of the brilliant and erudite British Conservative Douglas Murray speaking at Cambridge about a nuclear Iran. It's eleven minutes long and builds to an incredible pitch of logic and emotion. Stay with it.

Allow me to underline several of Murray's most important points:
1. Murray expresses gratitude that this debate is purely theoretical because England is a third rate power who could not stop Iran even if she wanted to--which she doesn't because England and Europe cannot be trusted to get it right.

2. Murray quotes a Holocaust survivor whose life lesson is something Seraphic Secret has repeated over the years: "When someone says they are going to kill you, believe them."

3. Israel knows not to trust the Europeans who care more about their Arab oil than Jewish blood. Murray doesn't come out and say it, but the implication is clear: Europe is a boiling cauldron of Jew-hatred.

Posted by Tom at 8:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Do Wind and Solar Work? No

No time to write a proper post, but this piece over at Powerline caught my eye:

Do Wind and Solar Work?
by John Hinderacker
January 30, 2012

Everyone knows that wind and solar energy are inefficient sources of energy compared to fossil fuels. But, as the Science and Environmental Policy Project points out in the current The Week That Was, the extent to which "green" energy actually works is surprisingly opaque:

Someone experienced in analyzing potential investments in innovative industries may be surprised by the lack of hard data on the performance of solar and wind in generating electricity. Certainly, it is understandable that solar and wind companies may wish to keep certain trade secrets from the public, such as manufacturing design and techniques. But if the results are as solid as the promoters claim, than one would expect the promoters would give the hard data on performance. Yet these are being withheld on the claims that such data is proprietary - confidential.
Slowly, information is leaking from nations that have spent heavily on wind and solar, such as Germany. This information should give pause to those touting solar and wind, including politicians. England is pulling back from wind, Germany has announced drastic cut-backs on its subsidies to solar, and Spain has announced the elimination of subsidies for renewable power. These actions are not the result of success. The erratic nature of these sources is well established. Further, electricity is rather unique among energy types - it cannot be stored on an affordable, commercial scale.

The leaders of countries that have spent heavily on solar and wind assumed that the erratic nature of these sources, and that the lack of storage, can be compensated by installing the facilities over a broad geographical area. They were wrong. A winter high pressure system can cover a broad area of Europe, rendering wind turbines useless when solar panels can generate little electricity, and none at night. Reports are indicating that at least 80% conventional back-up is needed. [One exception may be Denmark which relies on pumped hydro storage from Norway and Sweden, selling excess wind generated electricity to pump up reservoirs when possible and buying the hydroelectricity when needed. The pricing should be quite interesting.]

A further complication is that fast back-up from conventional sources, such as coal or natural gas, is very demanding on the equipment, inefficient, and polluting - the pollution control devices do not work properly when heat output varies. According to reports, no coal plants have been de-commissioned in northern Europe rendering the claim of lower carbon dioxide emissions questionable.

Those proclaiming the virtues of wind and solar should be compelled to reveal actual output data from these sources, the required back-up, and data on the actual reduction of carbon dioxide and other emissions when alternative sources are used.

Posted by Tom at 8:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 28, 2012

Obama: Economic Failure by the Numbers

President Obama has been out of ideas for some time now, which is one reason why the State of the Union speech was such a yawner, full of the same old cliches and tired liberal nostrums. His economic "plan" consisted of spending like crazy, hoping that a Keynesian demand-side "stimulus" would boost the economy.

It didn't work as this chart clearly shows:

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Yup, the failure of Obamanomics is on full display for all to see.

I found the above chart at one of my favorite blogs; Mike's America. Mike is a staunch conservative with a no-holds-barred approach that drives liberals nuts. Bookmark it today.

And what has the result of all of Obama's spending been if it hasn't improved the economy? To drive the federal debt to sky-high levels, as this chart from Mr Conservative shows:


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Liberals will whine that "Reagan and Bush had high deficits too!" What they ignore is that their deficits were puny compared to Obama. Watch this video: "The National Debt Road Trip:"

Want some more?

* The '"misery index" today is at its highest level in 28 years.
* Long-term unemployment is at its highest level in more than 70 years.
* The national debt is $14.8 trillion -- nearly $5 trillion more than four years ago.
* The federal deficit is $1.3 trillion -- more than eight times higher than four years ago.
* Federal spending is $3.57 trillion -- nearly $1 trillion more than four years ago.
* The United States' credit rating has been downgraded for the first time in history.
* You spent $814 billion on a stimulus program so unemployment wouldn't rise above 8 percent and would drop to 6.5 percent by today. Since then, unemployment has never dropped below 8 percent and is 8.5 percent today.


For any liberals who insist that military spending is to blame, go here where I lay out chart after chart showing the history of spending on our military from 1945 to present. You'll see pretty clearly that entitlement programs are to blame for our current mess, not the military. For starters, here is a chart showing federal receipts and outlays:

Federal Receipts v Expenditures FY 2010


Does George W. Bush bear any responsibility? You bet, and I and every other conservative complained loudly during his administration that programs like No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, and TARP were terrible mistakes. Iraq and Afghanistan (both of which Democrats initially supported until they saw the political advantage in opposing them) were minor in their costs compared to the time bomb that is entitlements. Wars come and go, entitlements go on forever.

What we need to do is start listening to people like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) and less to President Obama.

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Obama's Wrongheaded Concept of American Greatness

If President Obama's ideas are so bad, perhaps it is because his concept of American history is so flawed. But what do you expect from someone who went to Trinity United and listened to Jeremiah Wright for 20 years?

Andrew Cline explains:

Obama and American Greatness The Corner at National Review By Andrew Cline January 25, 2012

If you want a good distillation of this president's wrongheaded view of the United States of America, look no further than this rhetorical bit from the end of tonight's State of the Union address: "No one built this country on their own. This Nation is great because we built it together. This Nation is great because we worked as a team. This Nation is great because we get each other's backs."

Unity is central to American identity, but not the way Obama envisions it. E pluribus unum is not Latin for, "Hey, bro, let's invest in some infrastructure together." The notion that this nation is one big team that acts collectively toward shared goals set by the state would be completely foreign to the men who founded it. But that is Obama's concept of America.

The Founders thought the nation was great, or could become great, because its people had secured individual liberty for themselves and their descendants by strictly limiting the power and reach of the state. The president uttered the word "liberty" only once tonight, and that was in relation not to the American people, but to emerging regimes in the Middle East: "We will support policies that lead to strong and stable democracies and open markets, because tyranny is no match for liberty."

By contrast, Ronald Reagan in his 1982 SOTU said the word four times. "In forging this new partnership for America, we could achieve the oldest hopes of our Republic -- prosperity for our nation, peace for the world, and the blessings of individual liberty for our children and, someday, for all of humanity," Reagan said. And he concluded with this: "Let us so conduct ourselves that two centuries from now, another Congress and another President, meeting in this Chamber as we are meeting, will speak of us with pride, saying that we met the test and preserved for them in their day the sacred flame of liberty -- this last, best hope of man on Earth."

We have gone from "the sacred flame of liberty" to "we get each other's backs." It gives new meaning to the epithet, "President Downgrade."

Posted by Tom at 7:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 27, 2012

Obama Can Dish It Out But He Can't Take It

Despite that in this photo Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is pointing her finger at the President, it is Obama who tried to lecture her when he landed in Phoenix earlier this week:

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Thou Shalt Not Write Bad Things About Obama
The Weekly Standard
by Jonathan V. Last
Jan 25, 2012

Drudge has a story about Obama getting off of Air Force One in Arizona, greeting Republican governor Jan Brewer, and immediately giving her a piece of his mind. Evidently our president did not appreciate something Brewer wrote about him. According to the pool report, they had a testy exchange from which the president walked away as Brewer was still speaking.

Sound familiar? Bobby Jindal got the same treatment when Obama came to visit Louisiana and the governor met him on the tarmac. Jindal would later recount in his book:

I was expecting words of concern about the oil spill, worry about the pending ecological disaster, and words of confidence about how the federal government was here to help. Or perhaps he was going to vent about BP's slow response. But no, the president was upset about something else. And he wanted to talk about, well, food stamps. Actually, he wanted to talk about a letter that my administration had sent to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack a day earlier.
The letter was rudimentary, bureaucratic, and ordinary. .  .  . We were simply asking the federal government to authorize food stamps for those who were now unemployed because of the oil spill. Governors regularly make these sorts of requests to the federal government when facing disaster.

But somehow, for some reason, President Obama had personalized this. And he was upset.

There was not a word about the oil spill. He was concerned about looking bad because of the letter. "Careful," he said to me, "this is going to get bad for everyone."

Obama is a lot less concerned with the state of our country than the state of his own popularity. And why not? Throughout the campaign he experienced nothing but the fawning adoration of both voters and most of the media. He is vain, conceited, arrogant, and narcissistic.

President Obama dismisses the episode, saying that it was:

..."blown out of proportion." In the end, he said, "it's always good publicity for a Republican if they're in an argument with me. But this was really not a big deal."

More reaction by Governor Brewer:

"It was [as] though President Obama thought he could lecture me, and I would learn at his knee," she wrote, according to Capitol Media Services. "He thinks he can humor me and then get rid of me."

Knowing Obama, I'm taking the governor's side. Raw video here, watch it for yourself.


Not the way to get along with the political opposition.

Posted by Tom at 6:30 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 26, 2012

Obama was for Subsidies to Corporations Before He was Against Them

Jonah Goldberg at National Review points out an obvious contradiction in Obama's State of the Union speech:

This is from the same speech:
On the day I took office, our auto industry was on the verge of collapse. Some even said we should let it die. With a million jobs at stake, I refused to let that happen. In exchange for help, we demanded responsibility. We got workers and automakers to settle their differences. We got the industry to retool and restructure. Today, General Motors is back on top as the world's number one automaker. Chrysler has grown faster in the U.S. than any major car company. Ford is investing billions in U.S. plants and factories. And together, the entire industry added nearly 160,000 jobs.

We bet on American workers. We bet on American ingenuity. And tonight, the American auto industry is back.

And:

It's time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts. An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody.

For all his fancy talk in the first paragraph, Obama is admitting to giving big business a bug fat bailout. And we know why he did it; all those Democrat voting UAW members. Got to keep the unions happy.

Posted by Tom at 7:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

State of the Union 2012: What is Tax Fairness?

Consider this from Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night:

We don't begrudge financial success in this country. We admire it. When Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it's not because they envy the rich. It's because they understand that when I get a tax break I don't need and the country can't afford, it either adds to the deficit or somebody else has to make up the difference, like a senior on a fixed income, or a student trying to get through school, or a family trying to make ends meet.

That's not right. Americans know that's not right. They know that this generation's success is only possible because past generations felt a responsibility to each other, and to the future of their country, and they know our way of life will only endure if we feel that same sense of shared responsibility. That's how we'll reduce our deficit. That's an America built to last.

What is "fair share?" What does that even mean? Obama seems to assume that we all share his vision of a steeply "progressive" tax whereby those who have money over a certain amount are obligated to pay whatever amount he deems necessary to fund the government programs that he thinks necessary.

But there's no reason that should be so.

What is "Wealthy?"

First, how do we even define "the wealthy?" Is it someone who makes over a million dollars a year? Half a million? One hundred thousand? Is it measured in total income or in total net worth? Does it matter whether you get your income from salary, investments, playing the stock market or the horses at the track?

I'm not saying that there's no such thing as "wealthy," just that we all have our own concept of what that is, and my observation is that it's nearly always somewhere greater than our own personal situation. However much money or holdings anyone has, that person will almost all of the time point to someone else as truly "wealthy."

Further, what constitutes paying your "fair share?" Once again, Obama talks as if it's obvious. But there are no stone tables carved in the sky outlining any of this. It's all subjective.

Half Pay No Federal Income Taxes

Worse, almost half (46.4) of all Americans pay no federal income tax. This is terribly unfair, and for a number of reasons.

One, if you're going to consume services you need to pay something somewhere for them. When you have to pay for something, no matter how little, you develop the mentality of having a stake making sure it works well. When you get something for nothing, you don't care, and want more and more and more and more... and demand that someone else keep paying more and more and more for it.

Finally, if Obama's going to talk about us all being in it together and benefiting from our history, previous generations, and government a then fine. But if according to him we all share in the benefits, we all must share in the costs.

So I don't care how little someone makes, everyone should pay something in federal income taxes every year, even if it's only $10. A symbolic payment of something, just to inculcate the attitude of responsibility.

You want tax fairness? Fine; then fair is when everyone pays something.

Speaking of Fairness...

John Hood explains why "those who defend Buffett's false claim about the undertaxed wealthy are either ignorant or dishonest."

The wealthy pay a significant higher share of their income in taxes than the middle class or the poor do. If you combine federal, state, and local taxes together and divide by income, the top quintile of U.S. households pay about twice as much in taxes as a share of their incomes as the bottom quintile does. Because government spending disproportionately benefits lower-income households, the progressivity of government's fiscal structure is even more steep than the tax data alone would show.

If you want to defend this level of progressivity, fine. If you want to argue that the system ought to be even more punitive at higher income levels, go for it. But denying that the wealthy already pay a disproportionate share of taxes is an act of gross irresponsibility.

Why Do Democrats Want Higher Taxes on the Wealthy?

So why do Democrats and liberals like higher taxes those they consider to be wealthy?

Punishment is a large part of it. Liberals believe that people who they see as wealthy got that way because they cheated, stole, exploited the poor, or got lucky.

Political intimidation is a large part of it too. "Get on board and support our policies or we'll tax you more" is the clear message. You can bet that if Mitt Romney was pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, and supported Obamacare there wouldn't be any talk about where he got his money or whether he was paying the right amount of taxes.

So when I hear politicians rail at "the wealthy," who don't pay their "fair share of taxes," you can be sure that they're simply demagogues using all the threatening power of the state to extort money for government programs that they deem are worthy.

Posted by Tom at 7:00 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

January 25, 2012

William Jefferson Gingrich

R. Emmett Tyrell nails Newt perfectly.

William Jefferson Gingrich
By R. Emmett Tyrrrell, Jr.,
Special to the Sun
January 25, 2012

How long have I been saying it? At least for 15 years, but in private I have been aware of it longer. Newt Gingrich is conservatism's Bill Clinton, but without the charm. He has acquired wit but he has all the charm of barbed wire.

Newt and Bill are 1960s generation narcissists, and they share the same problems: waywardness and deviancy. Newt, like Bill, has a proclivity for girl hopping. It is not as egregious as Bill's, but then Newt is not as drop-dead beautiful. His public record is already besmeared with tawdry divorces, and there are private encounters with the fair sex that doubtless will come out.

If I have heard of some, you can be sure the Democrats have heard of more. Nancy Pelosi's intimations are timely. Newt up against the Prophet Obama would be a painful thing to watch. He might be deft with one-liners but it would be futile. There are independent and other uncommitted voters to be cultivated in 2012 -- all would be unmoved by Newt's juggling of conservative shibboleths.

Newt and Bill, as 1960s generation self-promoters, share the same duplicity, ostentatious braininess, a propensity for endless scrapes with propriety and the law. They are tireless hustlers. Now Newt is hustling my fellow conservatives in this election. The last time around he successfully hustled conservatives in the House of Representatives and then the conservatives on the House impeachment committee.

He blew the impeachment and in fact his role as Speaker. He backed out in disgrace. He now says Republicans in the House were exhausted with his great projects. Nonsense, I knew many of them, and they were exhausted with his atrocious leadership. He is not a leader. He is a huckster. Today Mitt Romney has 72 Congressional endorsements. Newt has 11. Possibly the 11 have yet to meet him.

Now he has found his key for hustling conservative electorate. He is playing the liberal media card and saying he embodies conservative values. Like Bill with his credulous fans, Newt is hoping conservatives suffer amnesia. Possibly some do. Perhaps they cannot recall mere months ago when this insufferable whiz kid was lambasting the great Congressman Paul Ryan for "right-wing social engineering" -- more evidence of Newt's not-so-hidden longing for the approval of the liberal media.

After his Ryan moment Newt's campaign was a death wagon, and it will be so again -- hopefully before he gets the nomination. Conservatives should not climb onto his death wagon. He is a huckster, and I for one will not be rendered a contortionist trying to defend him. I did so in his earliest days and learned my lesson.

After Newt's and Bill's disastrous experiences in government both went on to create empires, Bill in philanthropy and cheap thought, Newt in public policy and cheap thought. As an ex-president Bill has wrung up an unprecedented $75.6 million since absconding from the White House with White House loot and shameless pardons. I do not know how much Newt has amassed, but he got between $1.6 million to $1.8 million from Freddie Mac, and he lobbied for Medicare Part B while receiving, according to the Washington Examiner's Tim Carney, "Big Bucks Pushing Corporate Welfare." Now after a lifetime in Washington he is promoting himself as an outsider.

Contending with Newt for the Republican nomination are Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and Mitt Romney. All three are truer conservatives than Newt. I like them all. But John Bolton, former ambassador the United Nations, and John Lehman, President Reagan's secretary of the navy, are for Mitt, and they are solid conservatives. Governor Christie and the economic pundit Larry Kudlow laud Mitt on taxes, on spending, and on attacking crony capitalism. Mr. Kudlow calls Mr. Romney "Reaganesque." Ann Coulter seems to loathe Newt. That is good enough for me.

Back in 1992 I appeared with Chris Matthews on some gasbag's television show. Was it Donohue? At any rate, I said candidate Clinton had more skeletons in his closet than a body snatcher. It was a prescient line then, and I always got a laugh. I can apply the same line today to Newt, though he has skeletons both inside and outside his closet.

Conservatives should not be surprised by the scandals that lie ahead, if they stick with him. Those of us, who raised the question of character in 1992, were confronted by an indignant Bill Clinton, treating the topic as a low blow. To listen to him, character was the "c" word of American politics. It was reprehensible to mention it. By now we know. Character matters. Paul, Santorum, and Romney have it. Newt has Clinton's character.

Mr. Tyrrell, Jr. is founder and editor in chief of the American Spectator.


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January 24, 2012

Newt Gingrich and the Question of Morality in Candidates

Sadly, the stalwarts in my party seem intent on nominating candidates of dubious moral character. First the favorite was Herman Cain, now it's Newt Gingrich. They supported Cain, and are supporting Gingrich, because they are the more conservative candidates and because they are somewhat exciting. Rick Santorum is equally conservative but is not exciting. But Santorum is not polling well enough to be a serious threat for the nomination, so we'll leave him out of this.

Mitt Romney is derided as the "Massachusetts moderate," and for good reason. Yet compared to Cain and Gingrich he's a model of moral character. He's a good family man, has only had one wife with no allegations of fooling around or even a wandering eye, and no scandal to his name(other than whatever nonsense the leftists will invent).

At this point I should mention that I do think that at least some of the charges against Cain were true, and my guess is that given Newt's tawdry past, Marianne Gingrich was telling the truth about that "open marriage" proposal as well. Which brings us to today's editorial from conservative stalwart Wesley Pruden.

Newt Gingrich and the 'moral thing'
By Wesley Pruden
The Washington Times
Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Politicians can't any longer talk about "moral character" without sounding like a stuffy Baptist deacon or a stiff Presbyterian elder. "Moral character" is no longer important in a presidential campaign, even to many conservatives and evangelicals. If it is important anymore, it is only as a talking point.

This was not always so. Barry Goldwater struck the match that ignited the modern conservative movement in 1964, and the tinder that fed the fire was "moral character."

Nelson Rockefeller was the odds-on favorite to be the Republican presidential nominee that year. Everybody said so. But early in the season he discarded his wife of many years, married a younger woman named Happy and survived, but only barely, as a credible candidate. He entered the crucial California primary, which was then the final test leading to the national nominating convention, as the favorite.

Alas, nature intervened. Happy delivered their first child only days before the primary, reminding everyone again of what was widely regarded as "the sordid Rockefeller romance." Barry Goldwater won the primary, the nomination, and lost the election to Lyndon B. Johnson in a landslide.

We've come a long way since then. The wild and wanton decade of the '60s swept away standards like so much household trash and celebrity replaced "moral character" as a crucial qualification for high office. Progress: it's wonderful.

Newt Gingrich testifies to that. Newt thinks anything goes. He may be correct. Wife No. 2 revealed that when Newt demanded an "open marriage" in the spirit of fair play so he could share his wondrous self with all the women demanding to be let into his bed, she asked how he squared that with his blabber and bloviation about "family values." That was easy. "People want to hear what I have to say," he told her. "It doesn't matter what I do."

Good ol' Bubba, bless his pea-picking heart, had a Hot Springs sense of shame that instructed him to lie about it, even though it led to impeachment and the humiliation of a nation that twice bestowed its highest honor on him. "I did not have sex with that woman," he famously said, and then, as if trying to remember which one, added: " ... Miss Lewinsky." Newt not only has no shame, but doesn't understand why anyone thinks he should. "It's not about sex," says Victoria Toensing, a sometime television commentator and the lawyer for Wife No. 2, nor was it "about a wife rejected. Rather it was an insight into the persona of Newt. When he gets power he believes the rules do not apply to him."

You can't blame the slippery Newt for thinking so. But you can blame public inattention to the evidence of who he is. On election night in South Carolina the interlocutor for a CNN-TV focus group asked a young woman, identified as an evangelical Christian, why she supports Newt. She replied earnestly that it was important to have someone speak up "for morality." Many conservatives have so despaired of finding someone who will return with interest the media mockery of the standards and values that served us for so long that they're willing to cheer a four-flusher's shameless hypocrisy as the tribute that vice pays to virtue. Newt's a clever pol who understands that newspaper and television reporters and columnists are fat, easy and inviting targets.

Mitt Romney, who will never be mistaken for the people's choice, is nevertheless finally going on the attack -- not for Newt's unimaginative lady-killing but for his lack of any qualities that would make him a president the country could be proud of. "He's gone from pillar to post almost like a pinball machine," Mr. Romney said. "From item to item, in a way which is highly erratic. It does not suggest a stable, thoughtful course, which is normally associated with leadership."

Newt revels endlessly in his favorite subject. This is the common trait of politicians, of course, but Newt loves to talk and talk and talk, words colliding crazily with every vagrant thought that wanders into his head. He could never be trusted with a security clearance because he babbles about everything in an undisciplined stream of consciousness. "I think you can write a psychological profile of me," he once told interviewer Gail Sheehy, "that says I found a way to immerse my insecurities in a cause large enough to justify whatever I wanted it to."

This qualifies him as a terrific subject for a newspaper interview. But for a president, not so much.

• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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January 23, 2012

At the March for Life 2012

I went to the 39th annual March for Life today with the good people of St John's church of Leesburg VA. I went three years ago and have been looking forward to returning since. The date marks 39 years since the Supreme Court decision Roe v Wade which legalized abortion in the United States. From the website of March for Life:


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On January 22, 1974, the first March for Life was held on the West Steps of the Capitol. An estimated 20,000 committed prolife Americans rallied that day on behalf of our preborn brothers and sisters.

In 1974, the March for Life was incorporated as a non-profit, non-partisan, non-sectarian organization.

News reports have only mentioned figures of "tens of thousands," understandably reluctant to try and nail down a precise figure. The March for Life site says approximately have 200,000 attended each march since 2002. Whatever the figure, I can tell you that an awful lot of people were there today. From my vantage it was impossible to really get a picture that conveyed the size of the crowd.

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There were the obligatory aborted fetus pictures, both on a billboard here and also on a giant-screen TV. There is a bit of controversy within the pro-life about using these photos. I am of the opinion that they do our cause more harm than good as they make us look like a bunch of nutty extremists to people who might otherwise by sympathetic to us. Sonogram videos, yes. Aborted baby pictures, no.


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There was a preponderance of Catholic church groups at the march, as was the case three years ago when I last went. I saw a few protestant church groups, but they were far and few between. I'm not sure if it's always been this way, but my hat is off to the Catholics for their unbending commitment to the pro-life cause. As such, it was hardly surprising to see EWTN there.

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"Byzantine Catholic" means "Eastern Orthodox" or "Eastern Catholic." They broke away from the Roman church in 1054

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The March starts with a rally on the Capitol Mall, where from noon until about 1:30 a variety of speakers address the crowd. At 1:30 people start marching down Constitution Avenue past the Capitol Building, then turn right and end up at the Supreme Court, which is across the street from the Capitol. This year we didn't get there until 1:30, so we missed the speeches and the march had just started. It would have been good to get there a bit sooner, but no matter.


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Turning around, here then is the U.S. Capitol


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Previous: March For Life 2009


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January 21, 2012

Newt's Negatives: "America does not love Romney, but boy do they hate Newt"

Via the Washington Examiner, this is a chart showing the combined Favorable/Unfavorable ratings of President Obama with the two major Republican contenders, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. The chart shows the favorable number minus the unfavorable number. If the result is a positive number, the bar goes upward. If negative, downward.

Favorables Candidates

Here are the three surveys that went into the composite figures in the chart:

Fox News, 1/12-1/14:
Obama, fav/unfav, 51%/46%, +5
Romney, fav/unfav, 45%/38%, +7
Gingrich, fav/unfav, 27%/56%, -29


CBS/NYT, 1/12-1/17:

Obama, fav/unfav, 38%/45%, -7
Romney, fav/unfav, 21%/35%, -14
Gingrich, fav/unfav, 17%/49%, -32

PPP, 1/13-1/17:
Obama, app/dis, 47%/50%, -3
Romney, fav/unfav, 35%/53%, -18
Gingrich, fav/unfav, 26%/60%, -34

As the author comments, "America does not love Romney, but boy do they hate Newt."

No kidding.

RealClearPolitics Composite Poll

Don't think it's just the polls above that have Gingrich so far down, because the RealClearPolitics composite show Obama destroying everyone except Mitt Romney:

Obama v Romney
46.9% Obama
45.0% Romney

Obama v Gingrich
50.6% Obama
39.6% Gingrich

Obama v Santorum
50.1% Obama
40.3% Santorum

So if anyone should drop out to consolidate the non-Romney field, it's not Santorum, it's Gingrich.

Analysis

I am frankly astounded that Newt Gingrich is doing as well as he is. Ever since he resigned as Speaker, I've always held the same opinion of him; great policy analyst, brilliant speaker, articulate defender of the conservative cause, and terrible candidate. No way I ever imagined he'd ever win the nomination because the other Republican candidates would expose his weaknesses in a flash.

The explanation, though, is a pretty simple one; the rest of the field is pathetically weak. Herman Cain and Rick Perry were jokes. Ron Paul is a nut, and not a conservative. Rick Santorum is boring and looks like he's about 30 years old. Mitt Romney is not really a conservative and comes across like a wind-up Ken doll.

Another problem is the debate-heavy format of the Republican primary system. This is crazy because it favors the candidate who has the best debating skills, not necessarily the best campaigner or who would be the best president. We're only going to get three debates with Obama, and Gingrich is nuts if he thinks he's going to get the series of Lincoln-Douglas debates he wants. But Newt shines in debates, so this format favors him.

Further, Newt Gingrich does have some good history. It was he who single-handedly changed the mindset of House Republicans in the 80s and early 90s and instilled the attitude that we could capture control of that body. Before he came along we had pretty much resigned ourselves to permanent minority status. Newt was the original "Yes We Can" man, and sure enough, he did.

Newt Gingrich will therefore have a secure spot in he conservative hall of fame. He's a great speaker and if he wasn't running for president I would pay good money to see him.

But the numbers above should give even his most ardent defenders pause. It's one thing to not have a high favorable as long as your negatives are low (meaning people aren't sure about you, the number need not add up to 100). This simply means you have to come across well the a vast body of undecideds. Hard, but hardly impossible.

But high negatives mean you have to first convince them you're not the devil, then second convince them to vote for you. This is not just hard, it's just about impossible.

The fact is that once you get out of hard-right Republican circles, Newt Gingrich is hated. And this isn't just a recent development; it's been this way since a year or two after he took over as Speaker. You simply cannot turn this level of negative opinion about a candidate around.

Mitt Romney can't close the deal with the Republican/conservative base, and Newt will never close it with the independent swing voters. However, if nominated, most of the Republican/conservative base will vote and even campaign for Romney, because he will most assuredly pick a hard-right Tea Party type running mate like Senators Jim DeMint and Marco Rubio, or Representative Michelle Bachmann.

Newt Gingrich, on the other hand, will have the Republican/conservative base all sewn up if he wins. However, he will never win the independent swing voters.

So I retain my assessment of a few weeks ago; it'll be hard for Mitt Romney to beat Obama, very difficult for Rick Santorum, and impossible for Newt Gingrich.

Posted by Tom at 8:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 20, 2012

Book Review - In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir

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Few people have been involved in as many administrations and important world events as Richard Bruce "Dick" Cheney. Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1941, he came to Washington in 1969 as an intern for a congressman, and from there was hired by Donald Rumsfeld, who was then Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity. When Ford became president Cheney went to the White House, eventually becoming Chief of Staff. In 1978 he was elected to the House of Representatives from Wisconsin, where he served for 12 years, eventually became House Minority Whip. President George H.W. Bush appointed him Secretary of Defense, an office held throughout Bush's term. During President Clinton's time in office Cheney worked at the American Enterprise Institute and Council on Foreign Relations (1993 to 1995). In 1995 he was made Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Halliburton. He was chosen to be George W Bush's running mate in 2000, and served as Vice President from 2001 - 2009.

All this is told in his memoir, In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir. His oldest daughter, Liz Cheney, is listed as a contributor.

Book Summary

I don't have time these days to do as full a summary as I used to, so following are just some highlights that I noted while reading the book.

Structure

As is typical of most autobiographies, the book is weighted so that most of it is about his time as Secretary of Defense and Vice President. Of it's 527 pages, only about 40 are about his childhood and high school, another hundred or so about his time in the Nixon and Ford White Houses and as a congressman from Wyoming, and then it's on to Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Another hundred pages are about his time out of power, and then we quickly move to the election campaign and George W Bush Administration, with all of the issues we are familiar with. As is also typical, the book starts off with his account of what he saw and did on the most important day of his life; in his case September 11, 2001.

Evaluation of Contemporaries

Many political figures use their memoirs to settle scores. Although Cheney criticizes some of his contemporaries, this is kept fairly sparse, and it's not really "settling scores" as the term is generally used. For major figures come under some criticism in the book:

Of the four, has the most critical view of Colon Powell, and even with him it's only in a few paragraphs here and there. During Desert Shield he notes that General Powell "seemed more comfortable talking about poll numbers than he was in recommending military options." To temper this, however, he notes that this was understandable in that one could say that Powell was simply trying to avoid another Vietnam. On the other hand, as a general Powell spent too much time talking politics and not enough developing military options for the president.

Cheney believes that the "watershed moment," in his relationship with the White House came in the spring of 2002 with his trip to the Middle East. Without authorization Powell had announced a Middle cast conference and had been forced to issue a retraction. Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, took it as a personal affront and relations went south from there. After this, Cheney notes, he he started hearing that the two were not only unsupportive of the president's policies, they "were openly disdainful of them."

Time and again Cheney heard that Powell was opposed to the war in Iraq. Yet at no point when they were in power did he ever actually hear it from Powell; not in any meeting, not in any memo. It seemed that Powell operated through leaks to the press.

Cheney wanted a harder line against North Korea, and thought that Secretary of State Condoleza Rice was dedicated to diplomacy for diplomacy's sake and lost sight of the objective. She made concession after concession and got nothing in return

Although George W. Bush is generally praised, Cheney does express disappointment with him near the end of of his second term. Cheney thought he was too accepting of Rice's recommendations, should have pardoned Scooter Libby, and a few other small things I can't quite remember the details on....

President Obama comes under some criticism for the obvious reasons. Obama criticized the Bush Administration's conduct of the War on Terror in ways Cheney thought unjust. He doesn't spend a lot of time on it, but in three of four pages Cheney pretty much says that Obama doesn't know what he's talking about.

Desert Shield / Desert Storm

Cheney leaves no doubt that he never thought that sanctions would work and that the military would have to be used to evict Saddam from Kuwait. In retrospect, it is hard to imagine that he was anything but correct. Yes, diplomatic pressure and sanctions were worth trying for a few months, but dragging them out would only delay the inevitable.

The other theme is that the Pentagon generals and admirals doubted at first that the president meant business with the buildup in the Gulf. General Schwartzkopf made clear that the first deployment of 200,000 or so troops was not sufficient to guarantee success. When Cheney made it clear that he would send as many troops as the generals thought necessary, they sat up and paid attention.

War on Terror

Much political hay was made of the alleged use of "torture" by the United States, with the liberals and Democrats joining the fray. Legitimate inquiry and questioning is fine, but most of the time it went overboard into a hate-America sentiment. Bluntly, it was and is used as a political tool by the kook left to attack America in general and the Bush Administration in particular.

Of all the methods we used, water boarding was arguably the most controversial. Cheney cites the statements some Air Force pilots who had been Vietnam POWs to bolster his case that water boarding was not torture. Medal of Honor recipient Colonel Leo Thorsness said that it was "harsh but not torture. Medal of Honor recipient Colonel Bud Day concurred, saying that "I am a supporter of water boarding. It is not torture. Torture is really hurting someone," and when asked what he would say to the CIA officer who used it on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he replied "You did the right thing."

No need to go into the whole controversy here, but suffice it to say that the use of harsh measures was controlled, used sparingly, and certainly got a lot of results. And despite what a few congressional Democrats have tried to say, the evidence is overwhelming that they were fully aware and supportive of the program when it was occurring.

Iraq and WMD

CIA Director George Tenant doesn't come in for any criticism for the mis-evaluation of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program. All the stories are in the book; the "It's a slam dunk, Mr. President. It's a slam dunk" and "most Iraqis will rejoice when Saddam is gone."

But Cheney's evaluation is the correct one; the analysts did the best they could with the information they had. As I have discussed ad nauseum here at Redhunter, Saddam was playing double (or triple) game; he tried to convince his countrymen and regional neighbors that he had WMD while simultaneously trying to convince the US and UN that he didn't have them. Given his history of deception (much of it quite successful), we took the contradictory signals as evidence of more deception and concluded that he had stockpiles of WMD. Far from evidence that "Bush lied," it is evidence of just how hard intelligence work is. More than that, what so many in the hate-Bush crowd forget is that the burden of proof was always on Saddam.

Further, while we did not find actual WMD, inspectors David Kay and Charles Duelfer concluded that "Saddam wanted to re-create Iraq's WMD capability... after sanctions were removed," something that he was working hard to do and which would probably have been the end result anyway.

Resignation Attempts

Three times before the 2004 campaign got going he offered to take himself off the ticket. The first two times Bush brushed it aside, but the third time Cheney demanded he take it seriously. Cheney had seen enough of power, and was willing to give it up so that the larger goal of a second Bush term could be met.

Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld made the same offer to Bush (twice, actually) in the wake of the Abu Ghraib revelations, and as with Cheney demanded that the president take it seriously. As with Cheney, Rumsfeld saw the larger objective.

Hard Core

Cheney was never one to back down on anything in the face of public pressure. He thought that Rumsfeld shouldn't have been asked to resign in 2004.

He also wanted a harder line against North Korea, and thought that Rice was dedicated to diplomacy for diplomacy's sake and lost sight of the objective. She made concession after concession and got nothing in return

When Israel presented us with irrefutable evidence that North Korea had supplied Syria with a nuclear reactor suited only for production of bomb-grade material, they told us that either we needed to attack it or they would. Alone in the cabinet, Cheney wanted an American attack.

My Take

As with most books about political figures, it's pretty simple; if you like Dick Cheney you will love this book, if you don't you'll hate it. If you're somewhere in the middle you will find it useful and helpful, if for no other reason than you'll come away with a better understanding of one of the most important politicians of our time.

To readers of this blog it's no revelation that I am an admirer of Mr. Cheney. He was more focused and principled than any of the presidents he served under, and certainly more than the Democrats in the intervening years. Our nation would be better off had they listed more closely to him. Even so, his council was accepted often enough so that our country, and thus the world, is the better for it.

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Obama Kills the Keystone Pipeline
Panders to the EnviroCrazy Left

When the Washington Post tells Obama he blew it, you know he's really gone off the deep end.

Obama's Keystone pipeline rejection is hard to accept
By Editorial Board
Published: January 18

ON TUESDAY, President Obama's Jobs Council reminded the nation that it is still hooked on fossil fuels, and will be for a long time. "Continuing to deliver inexpensive and reliable energy," the council reported, "is going to require the United States to optimize all of its natural resources and construct pathways (pipelines, transmission and distribution) to deliver electricity and fuel."

It added that regulatory "and permitting obstacles that could threaten the development of some energy projects, negatively impact jobs and weaken our energy infrastructure need to be addressed."

Mr. Obama's Jobs Council could start by calling out . . . the Obama administration.

On Wednesday, the State Department announced that it recommended rejecting the application of TransCanada Corp. to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline, and Mr. Obama concurred. The project would have transported heavy, oil-like bitumen from Alberta -- and, potentially, from unconventional oil deposits in states such as Montana -- to U.S. refineries on the Gulf of Mexico coast.

Environmentalists have fought Keystone XL furiously. In November, the State Department tried to put off the politically dangerous issue until after this year's election, saying that the project, which had undergone several years of vetting, required further study. But Republicans in Congress unwisely upped the political gamesmanship by mandating that State make a decision by Feb. 21. Following Wednesday's rejection, TransCanada promised to reapply -- so the administration has again punted the final decision until after the election.

We almost hope this was a political call because, on the substance, there should be no question. Without the pipeline, Canada would still export its bitumen -- with long-term trends in the global market, it's far too valuable to keep in the ground -- but it would go to China. And, as a State Department report found, U.S. refineries would still import low-quality crude -- just from the Middle East. Stopping the pipeline, then, wouldn't do anything to reduce global warming, but it would almost certainly require more oil to be transported across oceans in tankers.

Environmentalists and Nebraska politicians say that the route TransCanada proposed might threaten the state's ecologically sensitive Sand Hills region. But TransCanada has been willing to tweak the route, in consultation with Nebraska officials, even though a government analysis last year concluded that the original one would have "limited adverse environmental impacts." Surely the Obama administration didn't have to declare the whole project contrary to the national interest -- that's the standard State was supposed to apply -- and force the company to start all over again.

Environmentalists go on to argue that some of the fuel U.S. refineries produce from Canada's bitumen might be exported elsewhere. But even if that's true, why force those refineries to obtain their crude from farther away? Anti-Keystone activists insist that building the pipeline will raise gas prices in the Midwest. But shouldn't environmentalists want that? Finally, pipeline skeptics dispute the estimates of the number of jobs that the project would create. But, clearly, constructing the pipeline would still result in job gains during a sluggish economic recovery.

There are far fairer, far more rational ways to discourage oil use in America, the first of which is establishing higher gasoline taxes. Environmentalists should fight for policies that might actually do substantial good instead of tilting against Keystone XL, and President Obama should have the courage to say so.

Ok, so if killing Keystone was dumb, why did he do it? Post columnist Robert Samulson gives us the answer; to placate the envirocrazy left:

Rejecting the Keystone pipeline is an act of insanity
By Robert J. Samuelson
Published: January 19

President Obama's rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico is an act of national insanity. It isn't often that a president makes a decision that has no redeeming virtues and -- beyond the symbolism -- won't even advance the goals of the groups that demanded it. All it tells us is that Obama is so obsessed with his reelection that, through some sort of political calculus, he believes that placating his environmental supporters will improve his chances.

Aside from the political and public relations victory, environmentalists won't get much. Stopping the pipeline won't halt the development of tar sands, to which the Canadian government is committed; therefore, there will be little effect on global-warming emissions. Indeed, Obama's decision might add to them. If Canada builds a pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific for export to Asia, moving all that oil across the ocean by tanker will create extra emissions. There will also be the risk of added spills.

Now consider how Obama's decision hurts the United States. For starters, it insults and antagonizes a strong ally; getting future Canadian cooperation on other issues will be harder. Next, it threatens a large source of relatively secure oil that, combined with new discoveries in the United States, could reduce (though not eliminate) our dependence on insecure foreign oil.

Finally, Obama's decision forgoes all the project's jobs. There's some dispute over the magnitude. Project sponsor TransCanada claims 20,000, split between construction (13,000) and manufacturing (7,000) of everything from pumps to control equipment. Apparently, this refers to "job years," meaning one job for one year. If so, the actual number of jobs would be about half that spread over two years. Whatever the figure, it's in the thousands and thus important in a country hungering for work. And Keystone XL is precisely the sort of infrastructure project that Obama claims to favor.

The big winners are the Chinese. They must be celebrating their good fortune and wondering how the crazy Americans could repudiate such a huge supply of nearby energy. There's no guarantee that tar-sands oil will go to China; pipelines to the Pacific would have to be built. But it creates the possibility when the oil's natural market is the United States.

There are three things to remember about Keystone and U.S. energy policy.

First, we're going to use lots of oil for a long time. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that U.S. oil consumption will increase 4 percent between 2009 and 2035. The increase occurs despite highly optimistic assumptions about vehicle fuel efficiency and bio-fuels. But a larger population (390 million in 2035 versus 308 million in 2009) and more driving per vehicle offset savings.

The more oil we produce domestically and import from neighbors, the more we're insulated from dramatic interruptions of global supplies. After the United States, Canada is the most dependable source of oil -- or was, until Obama's decision.

Second, barring major technological breakthroughs, emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, will rise for similar reasons. The EIA projects that America's CO2 emissions will increase by 16 percent from 2009 to 2035. (The EIA is updating its projections, but the main trends aren't likely to change dramatically.) Stopping Canadian tar-sands development, were that possible, wouldn't affect these emissions.

Finally, even if -- as Keystone critics argue -- some Canadian oil were refined in the United States and then exported, this would be a good thing. The exports would probably go mostly to Latin America. They would keep well-paid industrial jobs (yes, refining) in the United States and reduce our trade deficit in oil, which exceeded $300 billion in 2011.

By law, Obama's decision was supposed to reflect "the national interest." His standard was his political interest. The State Department had spent three years evaluating Keystone and appeared ready to approve the project by year-end 2011. Then the administration, citing opposition to the pipeline's route in Nebraska, reversed course and postponed a decision to 2013 -- after the election.

Now, reacting to a congressional deadline to decide, Obama rejected the proposal. But he also suggested that a new application with a modified Nebraska route -- already being negotiated -- might be approved, after the election. So the sop tossed to the environmentalists could be temporary. The cynicism is breathtaking.

Posted by Tom at 7:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 16, 2012

Obama and Gates Sink Our Own Navy

In three posts over the past week I discussed Obama's defense cuts: Obama Cuts the Military Budget, More on Obama's Defense Cuts, and The Obama Administration's "Defense Strategic Guidance" Document. We were pretty much assured that the cuts would come at the expense of the Army and Marine Corps, but the Navy and Air Force would be spared.

Turns out they lied. It was all a campaign of deception.

Most administrations at least put a decent amount of time inbetween their lies and the exposing of them. It didn't take a week with Obama. The Washington Times has the story:

New Navy budgets may sink plans for aircraft carriers
Fight is on to save flattop fleet
By Rowan Scarborough
The Washington Times
Sunday, January 15, 2012

...As Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta prepares to introduce the strategy's first budget next month, the Navy has been in a furious fight behind the scenes to protect only 10 carriers, sources familiar with the issue told The Washington Times.

The sources say that, while the fiscal 2013 budget may well continue 11 carriers, the Navy will be down to 10 or even nine carriers within in the next five years.

...

A scenario discussed inside the Navy: Reduce the carrier fleet by retiring the flattops short of their 50-year life spans, and continue to build more advanced carriers at the Newport News, Va., shipyard at seven-year intervals instead of launching one every five years.

Reducing one carrier would set off a fight in Congress, which under law has required the Navy to maintain 11 active flattops. A source familiar with the discussions said the Obama administration would not want to take up that fight until after November's presidential election, given the importance of Virginia and its 13 electoral votes.

In general, the Navy has three carriers at sea, three returning from six-month deployments, three preparing to be deployed and two in some type of overhaul. For example, the USS Ronald Reagan, commissioned less than 10 years ago, is going into dry dock this month for a year of extensive repairs.

In addition, they're going to cut back on purchases of the fifth generation F-35 Lightning II fighter. Since Obama stopped production of the F-22 Raptor, the F-35 was our only hope for maintaining future air superiority, given that Russia is building fifth gen fighters like there's no tomorrow and China is headed in that direction too.

Here are the excuses, the first offered by Loren Thompson, identified as heading up the libertarian Lexington Institute defense think tank.:

"First of all, they have become extremely expensive to build and operate," he said. "Secondly, some countries, such as China, are developing the capacity to target and disable them from long distances.

"And, thirdly, the advent of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and unmanned aircraft will make it easier to accomplish air missions from other sea-based platforms."

Actually they are cheap compared to the economy and total Federal budget of the United States. The problem is that we spend far too much money on entitlements which are eating up our tax revenue.

Yes China is developing the DF-21 missile, with which they hope to target our carriers. I discussed it in a post here some time ago. But as I also noted in the post, missiles like the DF-21 do not spell the end of the aircraft carrier but are simply another threat we can successfully counter. It won't be easy, as the weapon is nothing to take lightly, but neither is it the wonder-weapon it's advocates seem to think.

As for the F-35, yes we need it but one, Obama-Gates are cutting back purchases of it, and two without the large carriers we can't field it in sufficient numbers to matter. They apparently want us to only have the VSTOL version on the much smaller Wasp or America-class ships or something.

"Do we really need 11 carrier strike groups for another 30 years when no other country has more than one?" Mr. Gates asked during a 2010 speech to the Navy League, a naval support association.

The answer to Secretary Gates is "hell yes," and for several reasons. First, China is hurrying to buy and build multiple carriers. Second, we have worldwide commitments so our ability to put more than one or two in any area at once is limited. Third, unless our carriers are in the area when the fighting states they will have a long way to sail and by the time they get there the war may be over. Fifth, the enemy will also have land-based aircraft which are in close proximity to the war whereas our land-based aircraft will have to fly longer distances.

To any commenter who wants to say "didn't you support Sec Gates when Bush was in office?" (as if I'm somehow being hypocritical) my response is that I praise someone when they do good and criticize when they do wrong. That's pretty simple, I think.

"If ever we encounter a competent military with an air force, a navy with ultrasilent diesel electric submarines -- and both with superfast, superlow anti-ship missiles -- I suspect carriers will quickly be extinct if they go into unsafe waters. At $13 billion-plus each, more are an unwise investment for the future."

The final quote is completely disingenuous. It is by one Winslow Wheeler, identified in the article as "an analyst at the Center for Defense Information, a military reform group."

Ha. You can be sure that "reform" means "disarm America" and that this is a leftist group.

First, while the danger is real he overstates the problem (I've been over this here before). Second, and the bigger question is, so if carriers are so old fashioned and vulnerable, what do you plan on building in their absence that will allow us to maintain absolute control of the air and sea?

The answer is "nothing." It's not as if Thompson, Gates, and Wheeler are proposing new types of ships and battle groups. They have no ideas other than to disarm America.

So we know where all this is going and the purpose of all of it. As Charles Krauthammer has said, "decline is a choice," and sadly it is the one that Obama has us embarked on.

The result will be that we are no longer able to control the world's seas. This will have several very bad effects, the first of which is to encourage regional wars. Tinpot and other dictators will fill the vacuum with their own forces and take the opportunity to settle old scores and seize new territory. It will also have a disastrous effect on the ability of American businesses to trade worldwide, as totalitarian/authoritarian nations will step in and demand preference for their products and services. People like Ron Paul who think that we can step back from the world and everything will continue on as before are simply deluded.

If these cuts were part of a general slashing of the Federal budget I'd sigh and say "ok, this stinks but it's what we have to do to get us out of our current fiscal mess." As it is, though, Jennifer Rubin, writing in the Washington Post, told us last week exactly what this is all about:

President Obama is determined to have national security on the cheap. Or to put it more accurately, he is willing to pare back defense spending to dangerously low levels so he can keep spending like there's no tomorrow on the domestic side.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 12, 2012

The Obama Administration's "Defense Strategic Guidance" Document

In two posts last week I discussed Obama's defense cuts (Obama Cuts the Military Budget, and More on Obama's Defense Cuts). Today we'll go through the eight document they released, titled Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense.

A few key excerpts and commentary:

U.S. economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia, creating a mix of evolving challenges and opportunities. Accordingly, while the U.S. military will continue to contribute to security globally, we will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region.

(emphasis here and later in the original)

I agree that the Asia-Pacific region needs our attention. Communist North Korea and China are threats and potential military adversaries. What I doubt is that we will be able to "rebalance" and move away from the Middle East. That area of the world has a way of getting our attention whether we like it or not.

In the Middle East, the Arab Awakening presents both strategic opportunities and challenges. Regime changes, as well as tensions within and among states under pressure to reform, introduce uncertainty for the future. But they also may result in governments that, over the long term, are more responsive to the legitimate aspirations of their people, and are more stable and reliable partners of the United States.

They are smoking crack if they believe this.

Most European countries are now producers of security rather than consumers of it. Combined with the drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan, this has created a strategic opportunity to rebalance the U.S. military investment in Europe, moving from a focus on current conflicts toward a focus on future capabilities. In keeping with this evolving strategic landscape, our posture in Europe must also evolve.

Yes we should draw down forces in Europe. But the Europeans are neither producers nor consumers of defense. Because of it's aircraft carrier the Charles de Gaulle (R91),France is the only one of them with the means of projecting power. But NATO couldn't even take care of Bosnia without the United States, so the idea that they are producers of defense is rather absurd.

Our planning envisages forces that are able to fully deny a capable state's aggressive objectives in one region by conducting a combined arms campaign across all domains - land, air, maritime, space, and cyberspace. This includes being able to secure territory and populations and facilitate a transition to stable governance on a small scale for a limited period using standing forces and, if necessary, for an extended period with mobilized forces. Even when U.S. forces are committed to a large-scale operation in one region, they will be capable of denying the objectives of - or imposing unacceptable costs on - an opportunistic aggressor in a second region.

Note that "victory" does not appear here or anywhere else in the document. "Defeat Aggression" is there, and maybe that counts. But the language of "denying the objectives" and "imposing unacceptable costs" is either bureaucratese or written by someone who doesn't see the objective as winning.

Also, have you noticed the amount that is in italics? I've read no small number of these type of documents from the government, and this is just about the only one that uses italics to emphasize at all, and they do it in almost every paragraph. My snarky side says they don't think we'll take them seriously.

States such as China and Iran will continue to pursue asymmetric means to counter our power projection capabilities, while the proliferation of sophisticated weapons and technology will extend to non-state actors as well. Accordingly, the U.S. military will invest as required to ensure its ability to operate effectively in anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) environments. This will include implementing the Joint Operational Access Concept, sustaining our undersea capabilities, developing a new stealth bomber, improving missile defenses, and continuing efforts to enhance the resiliency and effectiveness of critical space-based capabilities.

This is some good news. As mentioned in my previous pieces, the Navy and Air Force come off relatively unscathed, at least for now. The Army and Marine Corps are in for immediate cuts of between 10 - 15 percent, though. Wars against Iran and China will be naval and air conflicts.

It is possible that our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force, which would reduce the number of nuclear weapons in our inventory as well as their role in U.S. national security strategy.

They had better be right.

Conduct Stability and Counterinsurgency Operations. In the aftermath of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States will emphasize non-military means and military-to-military cooperation to address instability and reduce the demand for significant U.S. force commitments to stability operations. U.S. forces will nevertheless be ready to conduct limited counterinsurgency and other stability operations if required, operating alongside coalition forces wherever possible. Accordingly, U.S. forces will retain and continue to refine the lessons learned, expertise, and specialized capabilities that have been developed over the past ten years of counterinsurgency and stability operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, U.S. forces will no longer be sized to conduct large-scale, prolonged stability operations.

They had really better be right about this one. History tells me that predicting future wars is a fools errand in that the predictions are almost always wrong. I have a terrible feeling it's deja vu all over again. So many times after a war we have cut our military to the bone, only to have to surprised by a new enemy and have to quickly ramp back up again after taking serious losses.

...we have sought to differentiate between those investments that should be made today and those that can be deferred. This includes an accounting of our ability to make a course change that could be driven by many factors, including shocks or evolutions in the strategic, operational, economic, and technological spheres. Accordingly, the concept of "reversibility" - including the vectors on which we place our industrial base, our people, our active-reserve component balance, our posture, and our partnership emphasis - is a key part of our decision calculus.

I have no idea what this jibberish means other than "hold on folks because we're going to cut some important weapons systems shortly," and they're just trying to get us ready for it.

Conclusion The United States faces profound challenges that require strong, agile, and capable military forces whose actions are harmonized with other elements of U.S. national power. Our global responsibilities are significant; we cannot afford to fail. The balance between available resources and our security needs has never been more delicate. Force and program decisions made by the Department of Defense will be made in accordance with the strategic approach described in this document, which is designed to ensure our Armed Forces can meet the demands of the U.S. National Security Strategy at acceptable risk.

It sounds like a lot of risk to me.

My Conclusion: The Cuts Are An Excuse for More Domestic Spending

As military theorists have said from time immemorial, there are two basic strategies: One is to calculate the minimum amount of force you will need to achieve your objective and go with that. The second is to calculate the minimum and then go with double, triple, or quadruple that.

Go with the first, and and your calculations are correct you will win but just barely. More importantly, you will sustain a large number of casualties in the process.

Go with the second and not only will you be assured of victory but you will suffer far less casualties in the process.

Yes I realize that there are budgetary limits which intrude on these nice formulas. And there are certainly situations where spending a lot can provoke an arms race in which you never achieve overwhelming force.

But our budgetary problems are not because of military spending, as I have demonstrated time and again. They are because of out-of-control entitlement programs such as Medicare and other Great Society programs. And Obamacare hasn't even gone into effect yet.

So as I and others have said these cuts in military spending have nothing to do with either reassessing defense priorities or an attention to fiscal discipline. They are being made so Obama and his liberal Democrat friends (aided by some unprincipled Republicans) can continue spending like there's no tomorrow on domestic programs. In short, they are sacrificing our standing in the world and our ability to influence world events for domestic programs which will in turn eventually bankrupt us. It's a Lose-Lose proposition if I ever saw one.

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Unexplained Killings and Bombings in Iran

From the print edition of the Washington Times (details added through various other Internet sources):

October 2010 - Explosion at Iranian missile base housing Shahab missiles

January 11, 2012 - Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a supervisor at a uranium enrichment facility in Nantaz, isd killed by a bomb attached to his car in Tehran

July 23, 2011 - Darioush Rezai Nejad, a nuclear scientist, is fatally shot outside his home in Tehran

June 2010 - Iranian scientists discover the Stuxnet virus, which has infected and destroyed various parts of Iranian nuclear enrichment facilities

November 12, 2010 - An explosion at the Moddares garrison missile base (also referred to as Shahid Modarres missile base. 17 members of the Revolutionary Guards are killed, including Major General Hassan Moqaddam.

November 28, 2011 - Explosion in the Iranian city of Isfahan, where a uranium enrichment facility is located.

November 29, 2010 - Majid Shahriari, a nuclear engineer for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, is killed in a car-bomb attack. Fereydoun Abbasi, a nuclear scientist at Shahid Beheshti Univesity and now head of the AEO, is wounded in a similar attack.

January 12, 2010 - Massoud Ali Mohammadi, a physics professor at Tehran University, is killed by a bomb attached ot a morobike near his car.

I'm sure I've missed some, so if you know of more please leave them in the comments preferably backed up by links. I just don't have time for a more detailed search right now.

The MO is the similar in the targeted assassinations; two men on a motorcycle drive up next to the car while in traffic, the man on the back of the bike attaches a magnetic bomb to the car, they speed off, and a few seconds later the bomb explodes and the man inside is killed.

Some of the explosions are probably simple accidents; these things happen and happened in developed countries as well. But there are too many for this to explain everything.

We can speculate, but no one has any hard evidence of any involvement by any specific state actor. Secretary of State Clinton denied U.S. involvement, but this is more a matter of routine than anything else.

I do hope the United States is involved, though, and if so my hat is off to President Obama. I have been recommending these types of actions for years (see "Iran" under "categories" at right).

Between these attacks and the new stringent sanctions we might be able to stop Iran from getting the bomb. We'll know sometime this year. If this strategy works, so much the better. If not, our only option is direct military action. It really is just about that simple.

Posted by Tom at 8:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 10, 2012

Romney Wins New Hampshire, Looks Like Those Class Warfare Attacks Didn't Work

Via Yahoo News the AP has former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney winning big:

MANCHESTER, N.H.--Mitt Romney won the New Hampshire primary Tuesday, the second state in a row he has carried in his campaign for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

Romney is the first Republican, not including incumbent presidents, to win both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary since Iowa Republicans began holding their first-in-the-nation caucuses in 1976.

Ron Paul is expected to come in second; Jon Huntsman will take third.

(Updated) The final results are:

39.4% Romney
22.9% Paul
16.8% Huntsman
9.4% Gingrich
9.3% Santorum
0.7% Perry

Paul has a built-in base and ceiling so in a way he doesn't count. What's revealing, then, is how strong Romney is and how weak Gingrich and Santorum are. If Romney can do well in South Carolina he's on his way to the nomination, if not it'll be a long process.

But either way those class warfare attacks by his fellow Republicans aren't taking hold. Thankfully

A Quick Mitt Bio

via Wikipedia. I think I have this right but if you see an error let me know please

  • 1947 born in Detroit Michigan
  • 1965 est. Started dating future wife Ann Davies as senior in High School
  • 1966 - 1969 Mormon missionary in France
  • 1969 married Ann
  • 1971 undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University
  • 1975 MBA from Harvard Law School
  • 1976 Boston Consulting Group
  • 1977 Bain & Company
  • 1978 made Vice President
  • 1984 co-founded spin-off Bain Capital
  • 1990 returned to Bain & Company as CEO
  • 1994 US Senate campaign against incumbent Ted Kennedy, lost 58 - 41 percent, Kennedy's narrowest victory in his eight campaigns. Romney stepped down from Bain to run.
  • 1995 - 2002 Bain & Company
  • 2002 CEO of Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the Winter Olympics
  • 2003 - 2007 Governor of Massachusetts
  • 2008 ran for president in the Republican primary
  • 2012 running for president in the Republican primary

Whatever you want to say about his position on the issues, a few things are clear

  1. He is not a career politician
  2. He has more business experience than the rest of the field, and Barack Obama and Joe Biden, combined
  3. He is no inside-the-beltway type

So What's the Fuss About?

From the Washington Times:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry criticized Mr. Romney for his work at the helm of Bain Capital, where he gives himself credit for creating at least 100,000 jobs. Opponents of the former Massachusetts governor argue that he specialized instead in takeovers and layoffs.

"It is the ultimate insult for Mitt Romney to say he feels your pain when he caused it," said Mr. Perry, campaigning in Anderson, S.C.

Mr. Gingrich said on NBC's "Today" show, "At some point, Gov. Romney has to hold a news conference and walk through in detail some of the companies that Bain took over where they apparently looted the companies, left people unemployed and walked off with millions of dollars.

I expect this nonsense from Democrats. That it's coming from Republicans is shocking.

Everyone knows Perry's a dope. Gingrich, however, is supposed to be Mr Genius (at least according to my friends who support him). And this is his line of attack?

What gets me is that there are many legitimate things to go after Romney on. Romneycare is just about the same as Obamacare. His flips on the social issues are disturbing. And then there's the worry that he won't hit Obama hard but will be Mr Nice Guy instead.

In a post on NRO a few days ago titled Conservatives vs. Capitalism, Jay Nordlinger alerted me to the controversy a few days ago (I've just been too busy to really follow the news). Nordlinger made a point that now seems obvious but which I hadn't even thought, about, and it is that along among the Republicans running for president, "Romney defends and explains capitalism."

Over and over, Romney defends and explains capitalism. And he's supposed to be the RINO and squish in the race? That's what I read in the conservative blogosphere, every day. What do you have to do to be a "real conservative"? Speak bad English and belch? ...

Now Romney has said, "I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. You know, if someone doesn't give me the good service I need, I want to say, 'You know, I'm going to get someone else to provide that service to me.'" Simple, elementary competition. Capitalism 101. And conservatives go, "Eek, a mouse!"

I could go on: the $10,000 bet, the pink slips, conservatives wetting their pants, over and over. They have no appetite to defend capitalism, to persuade people, to encourage them not to fall for the old socialist and populist crap. I fled the Democratic party many years ago. And one of the reasons was, I couldn't stand the class resentment, the envy, the hostility to wealth, the cries of "Richie Rich!" And I hear them from conservatives, at least when Romney is running.

Go ahead, have your "bloodbath" in South Carolina. Make Romney the little guy in the top hat and tails, from the Monopoly game. Have your Santorum, your Perry, your Newt. They may carry something like four states in the fall, but at least they've never sullied their hands with -- eek! -- business.

Perhaps after the election, while Obama is deepening the country's poverty, Romney and others like him can find a party friendly to capitalism. We conservative Republicans turn out to be cradle-to-gravers, like everyone else.

Ditto that.

I've been laid off, and it stinks. But the fastest way to permanent economic recession is to prevent business from making itself efficient through reallocation of resources... a fancy way to say "lay people off.

Huntsman, Perry, and Gingrich are making fools of themselves. None of them have any significant time in the private sector, so what do they know about running a profitable business? Answer as has been revealed by their words; almost nothing.

Romney's words were probably poorly chosen, and that is a lesson for him the general election, should he win the nomination. Saying the right thing the wrong way is just as bad, if not worse, than saying the wrong thing the right way. You can turn people off and lose an election with one poorly chosen sentence or phrase.

That said, as the editors of National Review point out, as painful as it is to "reorganize" a company, in the end everyone is better off, including the people let go. Having been there myself, you're better off being let go from a company that is going downhill or where your skills don't match and taking a hit for awhile to end up better off. As the editors point out,

As you can imagine, companies that are buyout targets often are in very poor shape, and reviving them is no small thing. Many of them go into bankruptcy. Product lines are discontinued, retail locations are closed, assets are sold off, and, almost inevitably, jobs are lost. Some never recover. When the restructuring is successful, reinvigorated firms expand, add locations, develop new products, and create jobs. That is the creative destruction of capitalism. Staples has 2,000 stores instead of one store because of a Bain investment. And, as Herman Cain is well-positioned to appreciate, Burger King was severely underperforming when Bain and a group of franchise owners acquired it from corporate parent Diageo in 2002. The restructured burger chain, which went public a few years back, is now valued at more than $3 billion. Household names from Dunkin' Donuts to Guitar Center have been among Bain's projects.

It's shameful enough that Obama and company are going to to play the class (and race) card against Romney. We don't need it from fellow Republicans.

Update

The Weekly Standard has the definitive breakdown of the results by demographic, political affiliation, and more. Follow the link for the details, but here is the bottom line:

We have heard a lot over the last couple months about the anti-Romney sentiment in the Republican party. However, this statistic suggests that, in New Hampshire at any rate, Romney is the only candidate with whom a majority of the party is satisfied. The rest of the candidates seem to have alienated more than half of the GOP.

That is Romney's biggest advantage, far and away.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 8, 2012

Santorum Will Do

While I'm sticking with my selection of Mitt Romney as the Republican most likely to beat Obama, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum stands the next best chance. He is, as Charles Krauthammer says, a worthy challenger.

One thing I want to say to my conservative friends before we get to the editorial; lay off the media conspiracy nonsense. The Republican establishment and the liberal media are forcing Romney on us! We're not being given a choice! and so on.

Cut it out. The media are simply reporting poll numbers. I am sorry if these numbers do not reflect your wishes but they are what they are. They are not ignoring any candidate, as reflected by the fact that as soon as Paul and Santorum surged in the polls they got all the media attention they wanted.

As for the dreaded "establishment," these are the people who have actually won elections as opposed to people who lose them and they spend their time complaining. Interestingly, I've noticed that when Tea Party types win elections they suddenly decided that being in power doesn't make you "establishment" after all. Got it. It's mostly just become an all--purpose insult to hurl at Republicans you don't like.

Enough of that. On to Krauthammer:

A Worthy Challenger
After Iowa, Santorum emerges as Romney's greatest threat.
National Review
January 6, 2012 12:00 A.M.
By Charles Krauthammer

After every other conservative alternative to Mitt Romney crashed and burned (libertarian Ron Paul is in a category of his own), from the rubble emerges Rick Santorum. But he isn't just the last man standing. He is the first challenger to be plausibly presidential: knowledgeable, articulate, experienced, of stable character and authentic ideology.

He'd been ignored largely because he appeared unelectable -- out of office for five years, having lost his Senate seat in Pennsylvania by a staggering 17 points in 2006.

However, with his virtual tie for first in Iowa, he sheds the loser label and seizes the momentum, meaning millions of dollars' worth of free media to make up for his lack of money. He's got the stage to make his case, plus the luck of a scheduling quirk: If he can make it through the next three harrowing primaries, the (relative) February lull would allow him to build a national campaign structure before Super Tuesday on March 6.

Santorum's electoral advantage is sociological: His common-man, working-class sensibility would be highly appealing to battleground-state Reagan Democrats. His fundamental problem is ideological: He's a deeply committed social conservative in a year when the country is obsessed with the economy and when conservatism is obsessed with limited government. Republicans, after all, swept the 2010 election on economic concerns and opposition to big government. The tea-party revolution was not about gay marriage. Which is why so much tea-party fervor attaches to Paul.

Santorum did win the tea-party vote in Iowa. But because he was such a longshot, his record did not receive much scrutiny. It will now. He is no austere limited-government constitutionalist. He participated in George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatism," which largely made peace with big government. Santorum, for example, defends earmarks and supported No Child Left Behind and the Medicare prescription-drug benefit. It's a perfectly defensible philosophy -- but now he'll be called upon to actually defend it.

Moreover, Iowa is anomalous. It's not just that the Republican electorate is disproportionately evangelical and thus highly receptive to Santorum's social conservatism (as it was to Mike Huckabee's in 2008). It's that Iowa's economy is unusually healthy, with only 5.7 percent unemployment, high agricultural prices, and strong real-estate values. Although the economy did rate as a major issue in the entrance poll, in such relative prosperity it registers more as a concern for the nation than as a visceral personal issue -- diminishing the impact of Romney's calling card, economic competence.

For his part, Romney remains preternaturally inert. His numbers, his demeanor, his campaign are flat-line steady: no highs, no lows, no euphoria, no panic.

With one minor exception. Romney wasn't expected to do very well in Iowa. A top-three finish would have been good; a first or second, a surprising success. But feeling his Iowa prospects rise, he let fly a last-minute high. (Two hairs were seen dangling over his forehead.) He began touting his chance of winning, thus gratuitously raising expectations.

That turned a hairline victory into something of a setback, accentuating his inability to break out of his flat-line 25 or so percent support. How flat? His final 2012 Iowa vote count deviated from his 2008 total of 30,021 by six votes. (Not six percent, but a party of six.)

For a front-runner who can't seem to expand his base, he's been fortunate that the opposition has been so split. But the luck stops here. Michele Bachmann is gone. Rick Perry will skip New Hampshire, then dead-man-walk through South Carolina. And then there is Newt.

Gingrich is staying in. This should be good news for Romney. It's not. In his Iowa non-concession speech, Gingrich was seething. He could not conceal his fury with Paul and Romney for burying him in negative ads. After singling out Santorum for praise, Gingrich launched into them both, most especially Romney.

Gingrich speaks of aligning himself with Santorum against Romney. For Newt's campaign, this makes absolutely no strategic sense. Except that Gingrich is after vengeance, not victory. Ahab is loose in New Hampshire, stalking his great white Mitt.

What a lineup. Santorum and Gingrich go after Romney. Paul, Romney's unspoken ally, needs to fight off Santorum in order to emerge as both number-one challenger and Republican kingmaker -- leader of a movement demanding respect, attention, and concessions. And Jon Huntsman goes after everybody.

Is this any way to pick a president? Absolutely. It works. It winnows. And it has produced, after just one contest, an admirably worthy conservative alternative to Romney.

Posted by Tom at 8:15 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 7, 2012

More on Obama's Defense Cuts

On Thursday President Obama announced new defense cuts. From the White House website:

Details are not out yet about the president's defense cuts that were announced on Thursday, but the Department of Defense did release an 8 page document titled Defense Strategic Guidance that oulines the new strategy. More on this in another post.

News Stories also give us a good idea what is going on. You can also get good information from the Defense Department's own website.

First up is
Fox News:

"The Army and Marines Corps will no longer need to be sized to support the kind of large-scale, long-term military operations that have dominated military priorities and force generations over the past decades," (Secretary of Defense Leon)Panetta said, adding that forces will have to become more flexible and adaptable to conflicts around the globe.

Panetta said the U.S. will focus its security more on challenges from the Asia-Pacific and Mideast and it must manage the rising cost of health care for military families even as the Pentagon pledges to uphold its commitment to troops. He said in some cases, investment may increase in special operations forces; in new technologies, like unmanned systems; in space and cyberspace capabilities; and on quick mobilization techniques.

That doesn't mean hollowing out the military, he and the president said. Obama stressed in his remarks that the comprehensive defense review that resulted in the new structure emphasizes counter-terrorism, nuclear deterrence, protecting the U.S. homeland and deterring and defeating aggression by any potential adversary.

Next is the Wall Street Journal:

The Pentagon shouldn't be immune to fiscal scrutiny, yet this Administration has targeted defense from its earliest days and has kept on squeezing. The White House last year settled with Congress on $450 billion in military budget cuts through 2021, on top of the $350 billion in weapons programs killed earlier. Defense spending next year will fall 1% in nominal terms. The Pentagon also faces another $500 billion in possible cuts starting next January under "sequestration," unless Congress steps in first.

Taken altogether, the budget could shrink by over 30% in the next decade. The Administration projects outlays at 2.7% of GDP in 2021, down from 4.5% last year (which included the cost of Iraq and Afghanistan). That would put U.S. outlays at 1940 levels--a bad year. As recently as 1986, a better year, the U.S. spent 6.2% of GDP on defense with no detrimental economic impact.
...

Specific cuts will be spelled out in detail in the next Pentagon budget. The Navy, Air Force and Marines are flying old planes and waiting on the next generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet, which comes with stealth technology. Previous Pentagon chief Bob Gates justified ending F-22 purchases by pointing to the F-35. But now the F-35 will likely be further trimmed and delayed.

Finally, some more details from the Washington Post:

The U.S. military will steadily shrink the Army and Marine Corps, reduce forces in Europe and probably make further cuts to the nation's nuclear arsenal, the Obama administration said Thursday in a preview of how it intends to reshape the armed forces after a decade of war.

The downsizing of the Pentagon, prompted by the country's dire fiscal problems, means that the military will depend more on coalitions with allies and avoid the large-scale counterinsurgency and nation-building operations that have marked the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Instead, the Pentagon will invest more heavily in Special Operations Forces, which have a smaller footprint and require less money than conventional units, as well as drone aircraft and cybersecurity, defense officials said. The military will also shift its focus to Asia to counter China's rising influence and North Korea's unpredictability. Despite the end of the Iraq war, administration officials said they would keep a large presence in the Middle East, where tensions with Iran are worsening.

Budgetary Implications

My general take on this is that I am ok with defense cuts if, and only if, they are coupled with cuts in domenstic spending. The reason is that our budgetary problems are not the result of military spending but the growth of entitlement programs such as Medicare. Until we tackle them we will continue in our downward spiral.

But instead, it seems obvious that the president is only cutting defense so he can continue spending like wild on domestic programs. And neither cutting defense or raising taxes on the wealthy is going to eliminate or even have a serious impact on our huge annual deficits.

The Good News

The good news is that the Navy and Air Force get off light, with the Army and Marine Corps absorbing most of the cuts. Given that the threats from China and Iran are primarily naval ones, there is some logic to this.

Drafting a budget always means setting priorities. Looking around the globe, the threats are mostly from nations that will challenge us in the air or on the water. They are somewhat tied together, but not entirely.

Naval threats come from Iran and China. Iran wants to control access to oil exports that are shipped through the Strait of Hormuz. China wants hegemony in the southwestern Pacific. The American economy, to say nothing of the post-WWII world system, depends on freedom of the seas as guaranteed by democratic nations.

These threats can be countered by naval, air, and anti-missile assets, as well a a focus on cyberwarfare. It is good that the cuts will not (immediately, at least) come in these areas. At least in the short run, then, we should be able to adequately meet the threat.

The Bad News

The bad news is twofold. One, more cuts are likely coming, and two this absolutely sends the wrong signal to our potential enemies.

Worse, all this comes only a few days after Iran threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz. In their mind, the announcement is a sure sign of weakness, a sign that we are in decline. This, then, increases the chance of a war, which is exactly what we don't want.

Further, although we can meet our obligations now, what happens in 10 or 15 years? The oldest Nimitz-class carrier is nearing 40 years of age, and the Enterprise 52. Will we continue to build the new Ford class in adequate numbers? Other systems, like the Perry-class frigates are getting old, to say nothing of the "teen series" of aircraft (F-15, F-16, and F-18). Will Obama commit to building enough Burke-class destroyers and F-35 fighters to replace them?

For that matter, what about missile defense? Liberals like to poo-hoo these systems as unreliable. But negotiations and diplomacy have not at all stopped the Chinese, Iranians, or North Koreans from arming themselves with a variety of short and medium range missiles that could rain down destruction on U.S. bases over a thousand miles away from their respective homelands. Note that most of these missiles are armed with conventional warheads; it's like of like World War II but with missiles rather than B-17s.

Refocusing to the Asia-Pacific Region

Much of the goal behind the new strategy is a refocusing to the Asia-Pacific region. This is warranted in that China and North Korea are obvious threats. No mention is made of focusing on the Middle East, to which I say "good luck." That region of the world has a way of making us focus on it whether we like it or not.

Next Up: An examination of the Defense Strategic Guidance document


Posted by Tom at 9:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 6, 2012

Obama Cuts the Military Budget

Yes we need to cut the federal budget. Yes the military should not be totally exempt. But since military spending is most certainly not the cause of our deficit or debt the majority of the cuts should come elsewhere. But that is exactly what Obama has done.

I hope to get up more on this later, but for now two quick quotes. Jennifer Rubin, writing in the Washington Post, sums it all up perfectly:

President Obama is determined to have national security on the cheap. Or to put it more accurately, he is willing to pare back defense spending to dangerously low levels so he can keep spending like there's no tomorrow on the domestic side.

Yup. Medicare is the biggest spending problem in the federal budget, and Obamacare is going to blow that up even greater. But instead of serious spending cuts on domestic programs, Obama, like the leftist he is, goes after the military.

Historian Arthur Herman explains:

America's Disarmed Future
President Obama's Pentagon cuts are indefensible
National Review
January 6, 2012 4:00 A.M.
By Arthur Herman

You have to give President Obama credit. It takes serious gall to tell the American military to its face that you are putting it on the road to second-class status.

That's exactly what our commander-in-chief did at the Pentagon yesterday, as he announced nearly half a trillion dollars in new spending cuts, after already chopping $480 billion during his first three years in office. He also set out plans for drastic reductions in our force size and continuing weapons programs, including the F-35 fighter -- our last best hope for maintaining American dominance in the skies.

Obama's been trying to reassure Americans all this won't endanger our national security or our strategic interests. Everyone in or out of uniform who's free to speak knows better -- and that with a full-scale war still underway we are standing on the brink of our weakest military posture since Jimmy Carter, and our smallest forces since before World War II.

Part of Obama's rationale is his declared belief that America no longer needs to have a military big enough to fight two wars at once -- even though that's been our historical experience more often than not (think the European and the Pacific theaters in World War II, Vietnam and the Cold War with Russia, Iraq and Afghanistan).

More important, President Obama doesn't understand that our military's role isn't just fighting wars. It's providing a strong strategic presence that will influence events in our favor -- and away from that of adversaries and rivals. Even he admits these drastic cuts can only come through shrinking that presence world-wide, which means deep cuts in our forces in Europe and the Middle East, while expecting a shrinking navy (which could wind up with barely 230 ships by 2020) and air force to keep our interests safe in the Pacific region -- where China is surging.

Yet as the latest confrontation with Iran over the Strait of Hormuz shows, while a war rages in Afghanistan and a peace threatens to come unglued in Iraq, not to mention Pakistan, the Middle East is still a major crucible of conflict. And even if our European allies are willing to take up the slack and beef up their defense budgets as we leave -- a highly dubious proposition -- our vote on what happens there and with a belligerent Russia and increasingly anti-Western Turkey will count for less and less.

Still, the lasting damage the Obama chainsaw does is not to our military's present, but to its future.

Of course, Obama's team says it can still defend that future by spending smarter and cutting out "waste, fraud, and abuse" -- this, from the people who inflated our deficit by $1.5 trillion, and gave us the $787 billion non-stimulus and Solyndra. In fact, it's the programs that define the cutting edge of future military technology, and will lead the next military revolution, that are now the most in peril.

A good example is the Future Combat Systems, the program for transforming the Army into a highly mobile force with unmanned combat vehicles and other futuristic technology launched by Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon. The program itself was axed two years ago, with the promise that the resources allocated for modernization would go directly to the Army and Marines. Don't count on that now.

Other examples are the Airborne Laser, also axed in 2010, and the Navy's hypersonic electromagnetic rail gun, which could help combat Chinese anti-ship missiles aimed at our carrier strike groups in the event of a conflagration in the Pacific, the region President Obama claims he's so worried about. It lost its funding earlier this year. Missile defense will certainly be next to feel the knife.

Unlike our big army or naval bases, these programs have little or no constituencies, which means they get little attention or protection from Congress. Yet they are vital to preparing America for its future wars, and to its credible strategic presence. A cash-strapped Pentagon is bound to cut them first, even as our present force structure is dwindling to potentially perilous levels.

Fortunately, some of the Republican presidential candidates have seen the danger coming. Mitt Romney has urged keeping the defense budget at 4 percent of GDP -- today's baseline programs are barely above 3 percent -- and wants to expand the Navy's desperately endangered shipbuilding program. Rick Perry has asked Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to resign rather than accede to cuts that are, in Newt Gingrich's words, "very dangerous to the survival of the country."

Still, until Congress and the American public wake up to the peril lying ahead, Obama will continue his program of unilateral American disarmament -- that is, unless the 2012 election can stop him cold.

-- Arthur Herman is the author of the forthcoming Freedom's Forge: How American Business Built the Arsenal of Democracy That Won World War Two, which will be released by Random House in May.

Posted by Tom at 7:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 5, 2012

Update on the GOP Field

Gingrich's star has fallen, and Santorum's has risen. What to make of this?

Between the three front runners, I figure that the probability of each beating Obama is: Gingrich; terrible, Santorum; poor, and Romney, less than likely. In other words, I'm not optimistic about anyone winning, but everything I see still tells me that Romney stands the best chance, especially if he picks a Tea Party-type running mate, which he assuredly will.

Ron Paul has a built in ceiling that he will never exceed, so we can eliminate him as a serious contender. Only in the fantasy world of his... "exuberant" ... base can he win.

My conservative friends who favor Gingrich mostly base their support on his ability to debate. This is not for nothing, and indeed he would do the best of any of the Republicans against Obama. But he's only going to get three debates (his idea of a series of Lincoln-Douglass debates is a fantasy), and he'll be so far down in the polls by they time they come around that they won't save him. More than that, it's not as if Santorum and Romney are not good debaters themselves.

By the time the end of his term as Speaker came around (1994-98), Gingrich was one of the most unpopular politicians in America. This alone should give even his most ardent supporters pause.

Quite unlike Gingrich, Rick Santorum has a lot of good qualities that would make him an acceptable candidate. He is a pretty solid conservative (none are perfect) and well spoken. He is telegenic, but unfortunately with a touch of boyishness that will hurt him. He won a Senate race twice in Pennsylvania, a state with a decent number of electoral votes (20) and one that is in the northeast, an area of the country the GOP cannot concede.

On the downside he is known mostly as a social conservative. While I like this, I realize it doesn't play well on the national stage. It's ok to be a social conservative, but it has to be somewhat in the background, and Santorum has a habit of saying things that are a bit overboard and can be used against him. Most of the "scandals" that are alleged against him seem inside baseball to me and mostly exaggerated by liberals who don't like that he's an unabashed social conservative... but that's just the point. He also lost his last Senate election by a whopping 18 points, and although there are some mitigating factors (2006 was just a bad year for Republicans), it's still a big margin.

I am ideologically closest to Michell Bachmann, but I never gave her a serious chance of winning either the nomination or the White House. You simply have to prove you can win something bigger than a House seat before you're going to be taken seriously for the White House. Worse, as much as I agree with her I am forced to recognize that she just has a way of sounding extreme to the average voter. While that plays well with the base, it scares the vital swing voters.

In the end, I could live with Santorum as our nominee, though he would face a more uphill battle than Romney. I would be much more despondent if it turns out to be Gingrich, who is just so erratic and temperamental that I'd be on edge the entire election.

And there is a big benefit to having a true conservative like Santorum doing well, even if he doesn't eventually win, and that is to push Romney to the right. If he is to be our nominee, we need to hold his feet to the fire on the issues that are the most important to us.

None of this is, of course, to say that Mitt Romney would not face serious challenges. Very few (and I mean as in counting on one hand) of the activist base of Republicans/conservatives that I know (and I'm pretty active so I know a lot) support Romney. From that standpoint it would be John McCain Part II. He could mitigate much of the doubt, and generate a lot of enthusiasm, by picking a Tea Party candidate like Senators Marco Rubio or Jim DeMint, but it's still always better to have that on the top of the ticket rather than the bottom.

On the upside Romney himself would be a far better candidate than McCain ever could be. He's more telegenic, even-tempered, and would run a better campaign.

We're done with Iowa, and it's on to New Hampshire. I'll write another post on the election when the results are in on that one.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 3, 2012

Jeff Kuhner: If Mitt Romney is the GOP nominee, conservatives must back him

Jeff Kuhner is a solid conservative who faces the reality of a probable Romney nomination, and what conservatives should do:

Is Mitt the one?
If he's the GOP nominee, conservatives must back him
The Washington Times
By Jeffrey T. Kuhner
January 3, 2012

Mitt Romney is on the verge of delivering a knockout blow. The former Massachusetts governor leads in the polls heading into the Iowa caucuses. If he wins, especially by a large margin, he almost certainly will capture the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 10. Mr. Romney will have all the momentum, the big donors and - most importantly - the air of inevitability going into South Carolina and Florida. He may then be unstoppable in becoming the Republican presidential nominee.

That begs the question: Should conservatives support him? Mr. Romney is not a man of the right. Rather, he is a pragmatic technocrat who champions efficiency and market-driven growth. He is primarily a businessman, a numbers cruncher with a fetish for data and "analytical models." He represents the GOP's green-eyeshade wing: Budgets need to be balanced, spending never should outstrip revenues. It's not sexy; it's not inspirational; and it's not even truly conservative. A Romney presidency would not hack away at Social Security or Medicare. It would not substantially roll back big government, and it would not restore federalism and substantially devolve power to the states. In short, a Romney victory represents a triumph for the Republican establishment.

Yet Mr. Romney has one overriding virtue: He can defeat President Obama. In our television age, Mr. Romney has numerous strengths. He is very telegenic, he is attractive, and he looks presidential. Moreover, his moderate politics means he appeals to a vast spectrum of voters - independents, suburban women and disaffected Democrats. He can cobble together a majority electoral coalition.

Those who claim Mr. Obama can be trounced easily are living in a fantasy world. Despite his dismal performance and the sclerotic economy, the president has several strong assets. He has the power of incumbency. He has the mainstream media propping him up. Most important, he has bribed large segments of the electorate. Contrary to popular myth, liberalism has nothing to do with compassion. It is about expanding government in the service of power. Mr. Obama simply has been following the model established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt: Use massive public spending to buy votes. The nearly $1 trillion stimulus, Obamacare, the auto bailouts, nationalizing the student loan industry, record numbers of Americans on food stamps, the unprecedented extensions of unemployment insurance, Wall Street and housing bailouts, billions spent on the "green" economy and the record deficits - all have created potent political constituencies dependent upon government handouts. They will do almost anything to re-elect Mr. Obama; their very livelihoods are at stake.

This is why conservatives should not only rally behind Mr. Romney if he becomes the Republican nominee but support him enthusiastically. Mr. Obama is the most radical, destructive president in living memory. Defeating him is the most important issue for conservatives; everything else pales in comparison.

There is another reason to support a Romney candidacy: He will repeal Obamacare. Its costs are kicking in already. The benefits, however, don't really start until 2014. Obamacare is the president's signature legislation. It is a multitrillion-dollar entitlement that not only imposes government-run health care and rationing but threatens to break America economically. Its massive costs can only be paid through permanently high taxes. Its sole purpose is to fuse the middle class to a public health care system, making it dependent upon government handouts. It is central to his social-democratic agenda of transforming America into a European-style nanny state. Once the benefits - and the resulting dependency - begin, there will be no turning back. The 2012 election is the last chance to rescind it. After that, as with Social Security and Medicare, any attempts to reform it - never mind repeal it - will be denounced as "right-wing social engineering."

Mr. Romney's passage of universal health care in Massachusetts is well-known. It served as the basis for Obamacare - especially the individual mandate to purchase insurance. Mr. Romney is vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy from Democrats. Yet repeal is a seminal plank of his campaign platform. Should he win the White House, he could not - and would not - reverse himself. The result would be political self-destruction. Hence, Mr. Romney would block America's dangerous slide toward socialism and economic ruin.

Mr. Romney is someone who specializes in resuscitating dying companies. He spent decades at Bain Capital doing precisely that. America is like Lehman Brothers - overleveraged, overextended and drowning in debt. Mr. Romney aims to cut out the fat and fire the dysfunctional, failed old management; he will unleash the animal spirits of the private economy. He can reverse our decline and turn around the giant bankrupt corporation that is America.

The 2012 election is about one central reality: We are going broke. If the current trajectory continues, America will be Greece in four years. The country will have to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. America will be crushed by its national debt, runaway deficits and huge entitlements. There will be no one to bail us out - not China, the European Union or the International Monetary Fund. We will be insolvent, racked by skyrocketing inflation and high unemployment, our social safety net shredded and riots in the streets. We will no longer be a prosperous republic; rather, we will look more like a disintegrating Third World nation. We are in the midst of a crisis. Ideological purity is a luxury we can no longer afford. If Mr. Romney wins the GOP nomination, I will back him. So should every conservative.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute.

Posted by Tom at 8:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mitt Romney: More Conservative Than You Think

This won't make a lot of conservatives happy but I think John Hinderacker at Powerline has it about right:

More on Romney's Record
John Hinderacker
January 1, 2012

A few days ago, I endorsed Mitt Romney. In the course of that endorsement, I noted that he had "a solid record of conservative accomplishment as governor of Massachusetts," but didn't elaborate. This post explains why I think Romney's record in office was solidly conservative.

First, here is Romney himself discussing, briefly, his term as Governor of Massachusetts:


The Club For Growth, a relatively purist group, gave Romney's term a mixed but generally favorable review. Here are some highlights:

Governor Romney's single term contained some solid efforts to promote pro-growth tax policy. In May of 2004, Mitt Romney proposed cutting the state's income tax rate from 5.3% to 5.0%--a measure Massachusetts voters had approved in a 2000 referendum, but was blocked by the State Legislature in 2002. The proposed tax cut would have provided $675 million in relief over a year and a half. When the Massachusetts Legislature refused to budge, Romney proposed the same tax cut in 2005 and again in 2006 with no success. Romney was more successful when he took on the State Legislature for imposing a retroactive tax on capital gains earnings. After a bloody fight, Romney succeeded in passing a bill preventing the capital gains tax from being applied retroactively, resulting in a rebate of $275 million for capital gains taxes collected in 2002. ...

Governor Romney's record on spending must be considered within the liberal political context in which he governed. ... On balance, his record comes out more positive than negative, especially when one considers that average spending increased only 2.22% over his four years, well below the population plus inflation benchmark of nearly 3%. ...

Governor Romney successfully consolidated the social service and public health bureaucracy and restructured the Metropolitan District Commission. Romney even eliminated half of the executive branch's press positions, saving $1.2 million. He also used his emergency fiscal powers to make $425 million worth of cuts in 2006, taking particular aim at local earmarks, instead of allowing the Legislature to dip into the state's $1.2 billion rainy day fund. While there is no question that Governor Romney's initial fiscal discipline slacked off in the second half of his term, on balance, he imposed some much-needed fiscal discipline on a very liberal Massachusetts Legislature.

On welfare and entitlements, Romney's record was excellent:

As governor, Romney pushed for important changes to Massachusetts expansive welfare system. Although federal welfare reform passed in 1995, Massachusetts was woefully behind, relying on a waiver to bypass many of the legislation's important requirements. Romney fought for legislation that would bring Massachusetts' welfare system up to date with federal standards by increasing the number of hours each week recipients must work and establishing a five-year limit for receiving benefits. Much to his credit and to the dismay of many Massachusetts liberals, Romney successfully forced Medicaid recipients to make co-payments for some services and successfully pushed for legislative action forcing new state workers to contribute 25% of their health insurance costs, up from 15%. Governor Romney also deserves praise for proposing to revolutionize the Massachusetts state pension system by moving it from a defined benefit system to a defined contribution system.

Those achievements are reminiscent of Scott Walker's. Romney's record on regulation was also very good:

He also vetoed a "card check" bill that would allow unions to organize without a secret ballot election. As governor, he often clashed with the knee-jerk anti-business Legislature over his attempts to ease Massachusetts' regulatory burdens. Though some of his largest undertakings were ultimately crushed by liberal opposition, Governor Romney deserves praise for attempting to change the relationship between government and private enterprise for the better. These efforts include:

* Pushed to revamp the Pacheco Law, a union-backed measure that makes it nearly impossible to privatize or outsource state services
* Aggressively pushed to deregulate Massachusetts' "Soviet-style" auto insurance industry. Massachusetts is the only state in which the government mandates maximum insurance rates and requires insurers to accept every applicant
* Called for the privatization of the University of Massachusetts medical school
* Proposed measures to eliminate civil service protection for all municipal workers except police and firefighters and exempt low-cost public construction jobs from the state's wage law
* Proposed easing decades-old state regulations on wetlands
* Proposed easing pricing regulations on Massachusetts retailers
* Signed a bill streamlining the state's cumbersome permitting process for new businesses
* Eased regulations for brownfield development
* Vetoed a bill limiting the ability of out-of-state wineries to ship directly to Massachusetts consumers, calling the legislation "anti-consumer"

When Romney took office, Massachusetts's legislature was 85% Democratic. Rather than just trying to get along, Romney battled the Democrats, issuing more than 800 vetoes, the vast majority of which were overridden. Many of those vetoes were not politically popular. For example, he vetoed an increase in the minimum wage, explaining "there's no question raising the minimum wage excessively causes a loss of jobs."

The Cato Institute-another commendably purist organization-publishes biannual ratings of America's governors. These ratings tend to be low, as very few meet Cato's exacting standards. Still, they are useful for purposes of comparison. In 2006, near the end of Romney's term, Cato gave him a score of 55 on its fiscal policy report card. Not great? Well, Romney tied Tim Pawlenty in Cato's ranking system, and scored better than such stalwarts as Haley Barbour, Jeb Bush, John Hoeven and Mitch Daniels.

All of this must be viewed in the context of Romney's governing a very blue state. Unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger, he didn't go native after losing many battles with a Democratic legislature. Moreover, while my emphasis is not on the social issues, Evangelicals For Mitt point out that even in that realm, his record is more conservative than is commonly known:

If you think Bay State Democrats aren't any different from their Arkansas or Alabama or Tennessee counterparts, try defending traditional marriage or vetoing stem-cell funding up in Boston, as Governor Romney did, and see what they do. But Governor Romney did -- in addition to helping turn the economy around, opposing driver's licenses and in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants, and defending Catholic Charities' right to restrict adoptions to man-woman couples.

Taken as a whole, I think it is fair to judge Romney's record in office "solidly conservative." Of course, this discussion leaves out Romneycare. That will be the subject of another post.

In short, Governor Romney made the best of a bad situation in Massachusetts.

All of the Republican candidates have serious faults, Romney included. It is not so much that I am enthusiastic about him, more that I choose him because he has fewer faults than the rest. Far fewer, I think. He stands the best chance by far of beating Obama, which has to count for a lot.

This said, I will support the eventual Republican nominee, regardless of who that is, except for Ron Paul. If he somehow gets the nomination I will quit the party and work only for the local Republican candidate of my choice.

Posted by Tom at 8:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack