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Nu Obs & Ops
News, Observations and Opinions with a Sensa Humah  


9/6/13: Underway:  Preparations for War.

The US has ordered nonessential personnel out of our embassy in Beirut Lebanon because of security concerns.  The US has four Navy destroyers deployed to the Mediterranean within firing distance of Syria, and the USS San Antonio an amphibious ship nearby --  even as Congress debates approval for President Obama’s plan to attack in reaction to claims that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on civilians.  

The US has now moved military assets to areas not far from expected military action, including the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier and three destroyers in the Red Sea, according to the Wall St. Journal.   

Diplomatic missions are said to be working with the military to tighten security at embassies in the Middle East and Africa.  Marines in the area are said to be on standby at various locations. 

The state dept says terrorist activity in Iraq is at levels unseen since 2008.   An order has been intercepted from Iran to militants calling for an attack on the US embassy in Iraq should there be an attack on Syria – in which case Iran says it will stand with and defend Syria quote to the end. 

And unprecedented, a former Iranian official warns that following an attack there will be mass kidnappings and  brutal killings of Americans around the world. 

Now, CBS News says the Pentagon has expanded its plans for bombings in Syria to include new targets since Syria is moving its military around – and more Russian naval vessels are on their way to the Mediterranean. 

8-29-13: Walking back a strike on Syria 

With a stern and intense secy of state John Kerry talking of helpless children killed by chemical weapons administered by Syrian president Bashar Al Assad, it seemed Tuesday the US was preparing with allies a bombing attack on that nation. 

Now, president Obama is emphasizing to the news media that he hasn’t made up his mind what to do.   

The New York Times is wondering aloud  if there’s really any proof at all that the chemical attack was indeed administered by Assad.

France unlike Tuesday, now seems a little skittish about bombings.

And a few hours ago British Prime Minister, confident that Britain would accompany the US in a punishing attack on Damascus, shockingly lost a vote of the House of Commons on whether there’ll be military action – and while the vote is nonbinding, Cameron is now stuck with a vote that represents the will of the British people – no attack on Syria. 

Meanwhile, Russia is sending naval forces to the Mediterranean, but officials there say it has nothing to do with any planned strike on Syria.  

By the way, there’s more to this than meets the eye -- it’s interesting to go back and read a series of stories in The Financial Times from May of this year on how the oil rich Middle East nation of Qatar has financed the anti-Assad opposition forces – and I’m talking financed! – pouring in somewhere between one and three billion dollars.  

The White House has not commented on what the British-less future of war plans might be or on whether it will release information directly linking chemical weapons attacks on Syrian civilians and the Assad government. 

Meanwhile, The Washington Post has received more from US government secrets leaker Edward Snowden – this time the 2013 budget for America’s 16 spy agencies – a more than 52-billion dollar spy budget.  The Post is holding back much of the information for national security reasons, but the paper concludes that the intelligence apparatus in this country has become huge and aggressive since the 9-11 attacks – but still can’t deliver the kind of intelligence we might deserve to keep the peace. 

Meanwhile the IRS now says gay couples can go married-filing-jointly just like heterosexual couples – and they can file to get retroactive refunds for the past three years if they've been married since then, even if they live in a state that doesn't recognize gay marriage, as long as they married in a state that does.

And the Justice Dept says it’ll now stop enforcing marijuana laws in states where pot is legal.  But federal taxes on pot are probably on the way.  True.  Now who was it who said that really sounds just like something the IRS would do – try to get blood from a stoner.   

8-28-13: Rand Paul may wonder if we're being played for dummies

The ft. Hood shooter has said he welcomes the path to martyrdom that the death penalty will give him. With today’s sentence for his 2009 murders, he’s got it.

The Obama administration continues to say chemical weapons were used in Syria, and US forces are in place for a two or three day attack on about 50 Syrian targets in order to punish president Bashar al Assad for using those weapons.  Attacks to begin within days.  International analysts say prepare for terrorist attacks on Western targets as soon as the first shot is fired.  The price of oil and therefore our gasoline remains to be seen after that shot is fired.  Israel is handing out gas masks to civilians.  Russia and China are against our opening fire on Syria, and they’re using the United Nations to register their dissention, asking why we’re not waiting for UN weapons inspectors to make a report before the bombing is to begin.   The UN is expected to authorize the use of force by the US against Syria.   So have we seen real proof of the chemical attack or the trail of evidence? Ron Paul’s son Rand Paul asks the question today –Is it possible that the anti-government forces in Syria are the ones who actually used those chemical weapons on civilians so that the US would attack the Assad government?  Either way, Texas Senator John Cornyn and two or three dozen other Congresspeople are demanding that President Obama bring his case to Congress, as the Constitution demands, before any attack.

When states such as Texas began push Planned Parenthood out of the government funded abortion business, pro-abortion forces began thinking of a way to open the business back up again.  One answer from California state Democrat Toni Atkins – a bill that would allow physician assistants, nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives to perform abortions, anytime.    

The fiftieth anniversary march on Washington, 10s of thousands turned out, but it’s gone quite political with the unwritten invitation to Democrats only, excluding America’sonly black senator – he’s a Republican.

8-27-13: Adventures In Syria

The situation in Syria has deteriorated – some say there are few options for the Western allies left.   As US Army major David French puts it so eloquently, the failure by the Obama administration to make a decision has put us in a bad situation -- there was not long ago a rebellion by relatively moderate people in Syria, the kind of people who would welcome help from the US.  But the US sat on the sidelines because it wanted to engage with Syrian leader Bashir Al Assad the same way it had with the regime in Iran. Talking about possible peace talks. But as the rebels in Syrian started to fight, they started to lose battle after battle, so jihadists began to move in from all over the middle east.  They joined the rebels to try to take down the Assad regime.  But while the Obama administration sat on the sideline, jihadists and al Qaeda fighters took over the rebel cause. 

Now, 100-thousand dead civilians later, we can’t buddy up to Assad and the jihadist rebels don’t really want to alighn with us, though they will take whatever aid we offer them.  But are those rebels working with us or are their interests similar to ours?  No.  WE have in common with the rebels in Syria little more than contempt for Bashir Al assad.  We’re working alongside al Qaeda here.  And after the use of chemical weapons, we’re left few options other than bombing campaigns.  Word is US air strikes will target half a dozen air fields in Syria plus military installations – warplanes will fly from Cypress and cruise missiles may be lobbed from one of the four destroyers the US has in Mediterranean. 

One news organization says the US bombing operation will start Thursday – another says it will last three days.  If we’re being told this so are Assad, al Qaeda, the Iranian Mullahs, the Saudi Sheiks and the Muslim Brotherhood.  Is the release of all this information in the best interests of our efforts in the middle east?  Russian Deputy Premier Dimitri Rogozin says in the case of Syria today, the western powers are acting in the Islamic world like, quote a monkey with a hand grenade.

Is Obamacare falling apart?

The Chicago Tribune notes in an editorial that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is deeply flawed and it's not helping that President Obama keeps flouting Capital Hill's powers to amend it.  Maybe Obama feels that Congress is so useless he needs to take on their duties. 

Reconfiguring GDP History

Richmond Virginia is considering an interesting plan to deal with heartless banks throwing out of their homes people who owe more on their mortgages than the homes are worth.  Richmond may buy the houses  – sell them at below market value to satisfy loans.  Banks won’t work with them?  Richmond says take ownership of the homes under eminent domain laws, then force the banks to negotiate to keep homeowners in their homes.

The best way to make people think things are getting better is to twist the statistics – which the government has been doing for decades with the unemployment figures.  The current unemployment rate of 14 percent has been lowered to 7.6 percent by twisting the statistics.  Now with the Gross Domestic Product.   Now, the Commerce Dept has revised the way it estimates the basic size of the US economy. So a less than one percent GDP is now one and eight tenths of a percent, which is more than Wall St. Exected and caused excitement in the money markets.  But the Commerce Dept. took it a step further and reconfigured the GDP going all the way back to 1929.  We can't wait to dig into those numbers.

President Obama is "frustrated with our republic," with the way it works. That’s the estimation of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, commenting on Obama’s speech this morning calling for more control on guns and gun owners. Rubio says that when Obama made 23 executive orders instead of allowing the gun control debate to fully go to Congress, Obama was abusing his power and ignoring the constitution. But there are analysts on Capital Hill who say Obama’s challenge to Congress to ban certain weapons is being met with little enthusiasm by members of Congress.  So what's the difference?

New York, Atlanta and other outposts of The Universe

It’s the biggest thing in the universe.  The Royal Astronomical Society says an international team of researchers has found the largest known structure in the universe – a big clump of quasars – which are the center of galaxies – quasars that are lumped together in a mass so big it’s mind boggling even to astronomers.  So big, seriously, that if you wanted to cross this mass of outer space matter in a starship  -- travelling at the speed of light – it would still take you about 4 billion years to cross it. 

Here in the United States, what are people in general concerned about? Gun laws?  A Gallup poll says people are worried about the state of the economy in general – then the budget deficit second – dissatisfaction with government third.  And then, fourth, unemployment; fifth, lack of money; sixth, taxes – then gun control.

An Atlanta man named Larry Ward has designated this Saturday as Gun Appreciation Day.   He says it may be coincidental that it's just hours before the president’s inauguration. Word is spreading fast and gun appreciation events are being scheduled nationwide. 

Fitch’s rating service says the US will see a credit downgrade if Congress and Obama don’t raise the debt ceiling.

Dell computer is treading water on the markets – stock down 40-percent over the past five years – now the company based near Austin is talking with investors about going private.  Investment houses are skeptical, though, that that will turn the company’s fortunes around.

Obama says US troops this spring will begin taking on a supporting role in Afghanistan, as part of the winding down of our military operations there.  We’ll still be training Afghan troops – but before you know it we’ll be leading from behind.

The White House announced today that the state of the union address is set for Feb. 12.  If that date sounds familiar, well, it’s Lincoln’s birthday.  But it’s also Josh Brolin’s birthday and he’s a big Obama fan.

The more we’re reading about the background of what happened in last year’s presidential election, the more it seems like the two candidates didn’t really want all that much to be president.  It must have been nice to be around for the 1968 election. Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. Now there were two guys who really wanted to be president.

Houston’s mayor Anise Parker says she’s supporting Wendy Greuel for mayor of Los Angeles.  Sorry if I sound like Andy Rooney, but I have trouble supporting anyone who’s last name reminds me of that terrible food they kept feeding Oliver Twist in the Charles Dickens novel.

A study of the Texas legislature meeting this week shows that nearly a third of members are lawyers.  That means all you have to do is stand there in the senate or house and scream the words "I've fallen and I can't get up" -- you may draw a crowd.

Most of all, it’s nice to know that new Texas US Senator Ted Cruz has a sense of humor.  After spending a week getting settled in Washington, he landed in Texas and said, "It's great to be back in America!"

Politics as practiced in Washington today is doing serious harm to the nation.  That’s the takeaway from today’s Gallup poll – 68-percent of democrats agree – 79-percent of Independents – 87-percent of Republicans agree --  politics as usual is bad for America.

Lots of partying in Austin last night – the Texas legislature convened today at noon – Joe Straus remains speaker of the House – politicos will be settling in for a couple of days before they face a number of problems, including the increasingly scarce and important resource – water. 

The Obama administration will be around another four years – so if you’ve got big bucks its time to get on board – a committee paying for the inauguration on January 21, encouraging everyone to contribute up to a million bucks.  ASAP.

The National Climatic Data Center today said last year was the warmest ever.  USA Today says 2012 was the hottest year in the history of the United States.  The New York Times says, "It’s official: 2012 was hottest year ever in US."  Okay.  Actually, records have only been kept since 1895, so there are plenty of years when it could have been hotter but we don’t know.  1782, perhaps.  But you can read the entire article on the New York Times website and they don’t even tell you how hot it actually was last year – but the answer is -- 2012’s average temperature was one degree higher than the previous hottest year, 1998 when the average national temperature all year was a scorching 54.3 degrees. 

Masking In the Limelight


We were worried about this whole election.  As a friend of ours points out, this election was complicated and verbose and very, very expensive and it put a lot of money into my industry, broadcasting, so I enjoyed it.  And I enjoyed doing radio commentary about it, reporting the news stories about the election and hearing what people said about it and what people said about what people said and so on.


But we were worried because the whole election was a done deal days ago, if people had just been paying attention.  Oh, we were caught up in the game of politics and the usual Gotcha stuff and My Way Or the Highway stuff that politics -- and political correctness -- is all about these days.  And we were caught up in doing Hallowe'en with our kids too, so we didn't notice that an important bellwether had been mentioned in the news media.


The sales of Hallowe'en masks gave away the direction in which the election winds were blowing.  The Obama mask outsold the Romney mask by a landslide: 60% for the incumbent, 40% for the challenger.  No contest. 


For heaven's sake.  Why, our friend questions, did it take Romney till November 6th -- a full 6 days after the Obama mask landslide results were in -- to concede the election?


"Let’s get one thing clear once and for all: the only person who has ever been allowed to “reach out” (and, in her case, touch someone you love) was Diana Ross. Anyone else should just “get in touch with” their colleagues, perhaps even “write a letter” asking for their views. What was once a mild rash has become a contagious bug and we need to find a vaccine for all this reaching out. Not only is it a drippy, meaningless phrase, it also conjures up an unpleasant image of people’s sweaty paws grabbing at you.

"The people who 'reach out' are also those whose thinking is always “blue sky," who can’t describe anything vaguely contemporary without incorrectly enlisting phrases such as “minimalist” or “modernist” and who don’t have to hurry to the airport but need to “rocket” there. But for now if we can just get everyone to delete “reach out” from their memory banks, opening our emails will be a less tense experience. And if they don’t, perhaps we’ll have to reach out – and grab them by the throat."
-- Monocle magazine

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Mike Shiloh, editor at TheLatest.Net, is an award-winning broadcast news reporter, anchor and Internet writer, a regular on CNN, as heard on WINK News Radio, KNTH, KKHT, KTRH, KRBE, KILT, KKHT, KKBQ, KVST, KNTH, KSEV and KQUE.

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