How's it going in the new year? Let's see....
--Defense Secretary Robert Gates ventured to China for strategic negotiations. But the Chinese largely stiffed him. They have recently disclosed development of (a) their first stealth fighter, the J-20, and (b) an anti-ship ballistic missile (the Dong Feng-21D), that can vaporize -- please sit down for this one -- aircraft carriers.
--The inquiring mind asks why -- what uses could China possibly have for such weapons? And it asks why, in the face of them, Gates is proposing $78 billion in defense cuts over the next five years?
--Meanwhile, the U.S. military? It's left to wonder whether the nation's prestige universities now will lower themselves to reinstate ROTC on their campuses, given the departed Congress' repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. It is left, as well, to cogitate the prudence of installing shower curtains and designating homosexual barracks.
--The Tucson horror has generated mountains of rhetorical nonsense about blame. Many of the same people who cautioned about over-reacting in the aftermath of Ft. Hood are mired in the fever-swamps over-reacting about the likes of...Sarah Palin. Please.
--Just as conservatives were initially blamed (wrongly) for the shootings of the brothers Kennedy, so today conservatives are said to be responsible for the "climate of hate" that gave us Tucson. Or is it that the alleged lunatic triggerman in re Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords et al. suggests the alleged lunacy of all non-leftists?
--Here's a thought: If Mrs. Palin is so stupid, and herself such a lunatic, then why does the left regard her as such a threat?
--Maybe you missed it. Given key advantages by a unionist Obama administration, two unions held fall elections to organize the 56,000 employees of Delta Airlines after Delta -- the largest U.S. airline with a non-union workforce -- acquired Northwest. This was Big Labor's most important effort to unionize a company since putting the union label on 70,000 Ford workers in 1941.
--The unions lost all the Delta elections, one by a margin of 72-28. The three-member National Mediation Board, boasting two former union bosses appointed by Obama, is investigating. Of course.
--And speaking of President Obama, two items. (1) With former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel now a Chicago mayoral candidate to succeed Richard Daley, Obama has named Daley's brother -- William -- to succeed Emanuel in the White House. Emanuel's term on the board of Freddie Mac overlapped with Daley's term on the board of Fannie Mae (Bill Clinton appointed both). Fannie and Freddie, cesspools of patronage and corruption, played key roles in the housing "bubble" central to the Great Recession. It's all part of The Chicago Way.
(2) Hawaii's new Democratic governor, Neil Abercrombie, wants to end conspiracy-theory speculation about the place of Obama's birth. So Abercrombie, who boasts family friendship extending back to Obama's parents, has ordered the state attorney general and the state health department director to release more documentation about the president's birth "as quick as we can."
A certified birth certificate would be nice. But, well, you see, under Hawaiian law, a certificate apparently can be released only to someone with a tangible interest in receiving it. Maybe the intrepid Abercrombie could find such a someone at oh, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington.
--Illinois shares with California the nation's worst credit rating among the states. Indeed, California's $21 billion deficit (20 percent of the state's budget) is just half of Illinois' $15 billion deficit (40 percent of its budget). So as a corrective, Illinois is...raising taxes.
--Gov. Pat Quinn proposes to hike the state income tax by 67 percent over the next four years. In addition, hikes in the state's corporate tax rate (to 10.9 percent), combined with the 35 percent federal corporate rate, will give Illinois -- according to the Tax Foundation -- the highest corporate taxes in the industrialized world. What a distinction.
--Finally, consider, please, Harry Reid -- majority leader of the U.S. Senate. He said recently on "Meet the Press" that people should "stop picking" on Social Security, that it is "fine," that it is in crisis only in "the minds of Republicans," and that notions it is not fine are "perpetuated by people who don't like government." OK.
--And during the two-week recess he gave his overworked Senate colleagues, Reid is noodling about the filibuster -- i.e., whether in his new world of a diminished majority to reduce from 60 to 51 the number of votes to shut off Senate debate. In 2005, when Republicans held a similar Senate majority, Reid had a different view about "the nuclear option" and changing the filibuster threshold. "Some in this chamber," he said, "want to throw out 214 years of Senate history in the quest for absolute power. They think they're wiser than our Founding Fathers."
--That was then. Now the hungerer after absolute power, far smarter than the Founders, is Harry Reid.
Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.
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