Today’s post will feature an assortment of news. First, remember the Syrian chemical weapons that Assad agreed to destroy? It looks like Assad is digging in his heels and won’t let them be destroyed just yet.

(Reuters) – Western governments are growing impatient with Syria’s failure to follow up promptly on a first small shipment of chemical weapons and fear Damascus will miss a deadline to hand over all toxins by mid-2014. … Syria agreed to dismantle its entire chemical weapons program by June 30, under a deal proposed by Russia and agreed with the United States. … That deadline had already been expected to slip, but the concern now is that the entire destruction program will be pushed back. Syria says the program faces security concerns.

Failure to eliminate its chemical weapons could expose Syria to consequences that might include sanctions, although these would have to supported in the U.N. Security Council by Russia and China, which have so far refused to back such measures against President Bashar al-Assad.

Perhaps the president can ramp up the pressure on Assad again but he’ll have to wait until the Navy finds the money to sail the fleet over. “The U.S. Navy is about to cut in half the number of aircraft carriers it keeps ready for combat. Starting in 2015, just two American flattops will be on station at any given time, down from three or four today.”

The change is spelled out in a presentation by Adm. Bill Gortney, head of Fleet Forces Command. The U.S. Naval Institute’s published the presentation on its Website on Jan. 24. …

But the undeniable fact is that there will be fewer Navy ships near potential hot spots starting next year. Based on historical patterns, it’s likely the Navy will keep one aircraft carrier in the Western Pacific near China and another in the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf to watch over Iran.

U.S. flattops will be routinely absent from the rest of the world’s oceans, although the Navy will also be able to deploy two assault ships carrying helicopters and Harrier or Joint Strike Fighter jump jets—mini-carriers, in a sense.

The Navy isn’t what it used to be, not even what it used to be when Obama talked about “Red Lines” last year. But that’s only because he’s found a better way, like handing out incentives to all our partners for peace. One puzzling thing is why Keynesian economics, which seems to argue that government can never run out of money, and indeed can invent a Space Alien invasion as a pretext to print money can’t use this capability to fund the navy.

Good thing there are lawyers in government who understand the intricacies of Keynesian economics because many don’t, which is why we elect people like Hillary Clinton. Anthony Weiner explained: “If Hillary were to run, she’d be an amazing candidate, arguably the most qualified candidate in the history of the United States ever to run for president.” Hillary can explain this Keynes stuff to us. Take it from Weiner. He went to college.

And while there may not be any aircraft carriers to spare at least the Pentagon has relaxed the dress code to allow turbans, scarves and yarmulkes.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, spokesman for the Pentagon’s personnel and readiness office, said the Defense Department does not know how many troops would be affected by the amended policy, but the hope is it “will enhance commanders’ and supervisors’ ability to promote the climate necessary to maintain good order and discipline, and would reduce both the instances and perception of discrimination among those whose religious expressions are less familiar to the command.”

And if that news doesn’t excite the reader here’s another story that will. In furthering the untiring efforts to keep governance dynamic, vibrant and relevant, The Daily Beast describes an Obama-created commission’s proposals to fix America’s ‘broken elections’.  As everyone knows America’s elections are broken except with respect to Voter ID, the lack of which is just fine.

One year ago, in his State of the Union address, President Obama decried the long lines that marred the 2012 election. Winding up for a major proposal, he announced the creation of … a commission…

The commissioners looked at the electoral mess, and concluded that strong steps should be taken to avoid further fiascos. They start by recognizing that the underlying cause of Election Day chaos is our antiquated, paper-based voter registration system. In the age of smartphones and tablets, most Americans still register to vote using ink-and-paper form. Illegible handwriting and typos lead to errors and duplicate entries. These voter roll problems create havoc on Election Day. The panel embraced some of the innovations now flowering in states, including online registration and electronically transferring data from the Department of Motor Vehicles to statewide voter lists. These are among the steps needed to truly modernize the system. …

The panel also addressed some more divisive topics. Take early voting, which is wildly popular and which eases long lines on Election Day itself. In 2012, some states, including Florida, cut back on early voting, with predictably unsettling results. The panel declared that early voting should be available to all citizens. This implicitly rebukes North Carolina as it moves to cut back on early balloting as part of its wildly controversial plan. (Not to mention illegal, and unconstitutional, in my view.) The commissioners also declared that no voter should have to wait more than a half hour. That will now be a powerful national benchmark.

What could go wrong? And of course 2014 is going to be the year of immigration reform! Excited yet? No. Well what’s wrong with you?

Some strange malaise has descended like a pall over the great Republic. Ratings for the Beltway celebrity show have fallen. Peggy Noonan complains that everyone in Washington has fallen asleep, almost as if all this exciting government and international diplomacy is turning them off. In former days, people waited to hear the State of the Nation with eager eye and bated breath. But now nobody seems to give a damn. She writes:

So the president’s State of the Union address is Tuesday night, and it’s always such a promising moment, a chance to wake everyone up and say “This I believe” and “Here we stand.” … In a State of the Union a president tries to put his stamp on things. Here we are, here’s where we’re going, all roads lead forward. We can face whatever test, meet whatever challenge, united in the desire that we be the greatest nation in the history of man …

And here I think: Oh dear.

Because when I imagine Barack Obama’s State of the Union, I see a handsome, dignified man standing at the podium and behind him Joe Biden, sleeping. And next to him John Boehner, snoring. And arrayed before the president the members, napping.

No one’s really listening to the president now. He has been for five years a nonstop windup talk machine … The speechwriters know the answer is fewer applause lines, more thought, more humility and candor. Americans aren’t impressed anymore by congressmen taking to their feet and cheering. They look as if they have electric buzzers on their butts that shoot them into the air when the applause line comes. “Now I have to get up and enact enthusiasm” is what they look like they’re thinking. While the other party thinks “Now we have to get up too, because what he said was anodyne and patriotic and we can’t not stand up for that.” And they applaud, diffidently, because they don’t want the folks back home—the few who are watching—to say they looked a little too enthusiastic about the guy who just cost them their insurance…

But nothing interesting was being said! Looking back on this presidency, it has from the beginning been a 17,000 word New Yorker piece in which, calmly, sonorously, with his lovely intelligent voice, the president says nothing, or little that is helpful, insightful or believable. “I’m not a particularly ideological person.” “It’s hard to anticipate events over the next three years.” “I don’t really even need George Kennan right now.” “I am comfortable with complexity.” “Our capacity to do some good . . . is unsurpassed, even if nobody is paying attention.”

Nobody is!

The reason for the inattention, Noonan thinks, is because the political class has nothing interesting to say. Maybe if the speeches had more pith, more zing …

But perhaps Noonan has got it exactly backwards. Maybe the public finds everything the political class says deeply gripping. They dimly apprehend the import of it all: whether an admission, in the most orbicular and veiled terms, that they’ve let Assad lead Uncle Sam around by the nose once again; that they’ve spent the navy budget on vote buying; that they’re covering up for it by dressing up the remaining troops with fezzes, cummerbunds, turbans, scarves, ascots and cravats  and all the paraphernalia of the Grand Duchy of Fenwick. They understand it.

The public may even comprehend the electrifying news that the political class is about to reform elections to forever save the public the trouble of voting again. And nobody can have any illusions about the bright prospects of employment for anyone who isn’t an American citizen, most especially the unemployed.

No it’s not that what the politicians say isn’t exciting. It’s all very electrifying stuff.  The reason nobody seems to be listening is nobody wants to hear a death sentence, or get a pink slip, nobody wants to open an envelope containing bills. So they tune out. And besides they understand despite the spin and the high priced dissimulation that the political class has stopped conversing with the voters long ago. It’s all one-way. The noises they are making on the lecterns aren’t  talk but announcements, like the braying of public address loudspeaker. Hear ye. Hear ye. This is how is it’s going to go down today.

And people stand there with lidded eyes. But they’re not asleep, just stunned like someone watching his company disappear, waiting to ride it down to zero. Interested in the news yet? No? Well maybe next year.


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