By Alan W. Dowd
Pumping the Primary
Even though the presidential primary and caucus season doesn’t officially begin until next month, it feels like the primaries have been going on for year. That’s because candidates launched their campaigns earlier than ever before, news networks convened and televised debates earlier than ever before, and scores of states shifted their primaries to earlier dates.
A tri-partisan group of senators wants to do something about this last item. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) are cosponsoring the Regional Presidential Primary and Caucus Act, which would prevent a replay of what will happen in 2008—namely, states moving their primaries up in the calendar and thus frontloading the primary season.
Klobuchar believes the measure would put an end to what she calls “the primary arms race” between states. “States racing to schedule early contests have made the nomination process too long and too expensive,” adds Alexander.
Starting in 2012, the Klobuchar-Alexander-Lieberman measure, if passed into law, would bar states from holding primaries earlier than March, with the exception of Iowa and New Hampshire, which would retain the special place they have traditionally held as the first caucus and primary states. To ensure that states are not left out or left behind by late primaries, the bill groups states into four regions, each of which will have the opportunity to hold the first primary on a rotating basis. In other words, the region that holds the first primaries in 2012 will hold the last in 2016, while the region that holds the second in 2012 will hold the first in 2016, and so on.
District of Columbia
Return of the Red Phone
The U.S. and China have agreed to set up a military-to-military hotline akin to the phone system that kept communication lines open between Moscow and Washington during the Cold War.
Calling it a “confidence-building measure,” deputy national security adviser Jim Jeffrey told TheNew York Times that the hotline is about preventing tensions between the two powers, not reducing them. “I wouldn’t say that it would relieve tension because right now we don’t have tension in the military sphere,” he explained.
In a related development, Japan has announced its intention to establish an emergency hotline between Tokyo and Beijing.
In Hawaii, where land is costly and homelessness is a growing problem, a coalition of community- and faith-based groups hopes to convert a decommissioned Navy ship into what the Associated Press calls “a floating homeless shelter.”
Built in 1981, the destroyer USS Acadia held a crew of 1,500 before its decommissioning in 1994. The Navy decided to sell or otherwise dispose of the Acadia in early 2007. Now, some 30 organizations are working to acquire the ship from the Navy and earn approval from the state of Hawaii to dock the ship in a harbor in Honolulu or West Oahu. They have already persuaded Sen. Daniel Akaka’s (D-Haw.) to introduce the legislation necessary for the ship to be transferred to a private organization.
The coalition estimates that it will cost $2 million to convert the ship into a homeless shelter
Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez wants to buy 5,000 Russian-made Dragunov rifles, which “have become one of the most lethal and effective weapons against American troops and their allies in Iraq,” according to a recent report by The International Herald Tribune.
“Sales like this, and other sales of military equipment and arms to Venezuela, don’t seem consistent with Venezuela’s needs,” deputy assistant secretary of state David Kramer told the Tribune. “It does raise questions about their ultimate use.”
The planned purchase of Dragunov rifles comes on the heels of Chavez’s purchase of 100,000 AK-103s, the latest generation of AK-47. Chavez also intends to open a factory to produce Russian assault rifles.
Here are some of the amazing facts about an amazing plane, the B-2 Stealth Bomber:
-The B-2 has a two-person crew. The B-1B has four crewmembers, the B-52 needs five, the B-29 had 12. And as The Atlantic Monthly’s Robert Kaplan observes, only 374 people have ever flown in the B-2. In fact, he notes that “more people have been in space.”
-The B-2 can travel 6,000 nautical miles without refueling, carrying a payload of 40,000 pounds.
-All 21 B-2s are based at Whiteman AFB in Missouri, although some have been forward-deployed for operations and training missions. During a deployment to Anderson AFB in Guam, as Kaplan observes,, four B-2s needed a maintenance crew of 155 and literally tons of equipment, which required one C-17 and four C-5 transport planes.
-In 1999, B-2s flew nonstop, roundtrip missions from Whiteman AFB to Serbia, where the bombers destroyed 33 percent of all Serbian targets in the first eight weeks of Operation Allied Force; and they flew perhaps the longest nonstop bombing mission in history in support of operations in Afghanistan. As a B-2 squadron commander observed during the Kosovo War in 1999, “There’s not a target on the planet that we can’t hit.”
As a contributing editor to The American Legion, Dowd writes columns and news briefs on national security, foreign affairs and U.S. politics each month for the magazine's "Rapid Fire" section.