Amusing Christmas Traditions: The Most Senior Ranking Jewish American Military Officer Is In Overwatch In Support Of Santa’s Deliveries

Yes, you read that right Gen David L. Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the Air Force and the most senior Jewish American officer in the US Military, is supervising this year’s tracking of Santa by NORAD.

This US Air Force tradition of tracking Santa began back in the 1950s when a typo in an advertisement led a call to Santa to go awry and wind up on the line of Col. Harry Shoup, of Continental Air Defense Command, now known as North American Aerospace Command (NORAD).

Shoup’s children, Terri Van Keuren, 65, Rick Shoup, 59, and Pam Farrell, 70, recently visited StoryCorps to talk about how the tradition began.

Terri remembers her dad had two phones on his desk, including a red one. “Only a four-star general at the Pentagon and my dad had the number,” she says.

“This was the ’50s, this was the Cold War, and he would have been the first one to know if there was an attack on the United States,” Rick says.

The red phone rang one day in December 1955, and Shoup answered it, Pam says. “And then there was a small voice that just asked, ‘Is this Santa Claus?’ ”

His children remember Shoup as straight-laced and disciplined, and he was annoyed and upset by the call and thought it was a joke — but then, Terri says, the little voice started crying.

“And Dad realized that it wasn’t a joke,” her sister says. “So he talked to him, ho-ho-ho’d and asked if he had been a good boy and, ‘May I talk to your mother?’ And the mother got on and said, ‘You haven’t seen the paper yet? There’s a phone number to call Santa. It’s in the Sears ad.’ Dad looked it up, and there it was, his red phone number. And they had children calling one after another, so he put a couple of airmen on the phones to act like Santa Claus.”

“It got to be a big joke at the command center. You know, ‘The old man’s really flipped his lid this time. We’re answering Santa calls,’ ” Terri says.

“The airmen had this big glass board with the United States on it and Canada, and when airplanes would come in they would track them,” Pam says.

“And Christmas Eve of 1955, when Dad walked in, there was a drawing of a sleigh with eight reindeer coming over the North Pole,” Rick says.

“Dad said, ‘What is that?’ They say, ‘Colonel, we’re sorry. We were just making a joke. Do you want us to take that down?’ Dad looked at it for a while, and next thing you know, Dad had called the radio station and had said, ‘This is the commander at the Combat Alert Center, and we have an unidentified flying object. Why, it looks like a sleigh.’ Well, the radio stations would call him like every hour and say, ‘Where’s Santa now?’ ” Terri says.

“And later in life he got letters from all over the world, people saying, ‘Thank you, Colonel,’ for having, you know, this sense of humor. And in his 90s, he would carry those letters around with him in a briefcase that had a lock on it like it was top-secret information,” she says. “You know, he was an important guy, but this is the thing he’s known for.”

“Yeah,” Rick says, “it’s probably the thing he was proudest of, too.”

It says something important that a whimsical tradition, born of a moment of empathy at the start of the Cold War, is now being overseen and promoted by the highest ranking Jewish American military official. That despite all the meanness and smallness and pettiness of the past year there is still resilience left in American civil society.

For those celebrating Christmas tonight: a very Merry Christmas to you. For those that aren’t:

Merry Christmas! And Happy Holidays! Drive safe, be safe, and enjoy!

Open thread!

The President Presents the New National Security Strategy

The President will be giving an address at 2:00 PM EST to introduce his administration’s first/new National Security Strategy. You can find the document here.  If you want to see the previous one to compare them, prepared by the Obama Administration and released in early 2015, you can find that document here.

The new National Security Strategy states that it is rooted in

… principled realism that is guided by outcomes, not ideology. It is based upon the view that peace, securi , and prosperity depend on strong, sovereign nations that respect their citizens at home and cooperate to advance peace abroad. And it is grounded in the realization that American principles are a lasting force for good in the world.

It delineates four vital national interests:

First, our fundamenta l responsibility is to protect the American people, the homeland, and the American way of life. We will strengthen control of our borders and reform our immigration system. We will protect our critical infrastructure and go after malicious cyber actors. A layered missile defense system will defend our homeland against missile a acks. And we will pursue threats to their source, so that jihadist terrorists are stopped before they ever reach our borders.

Second, we will promote American prosperity. We will rejuvenate the American economy for the benefit of American workers and companies. We will insist upon fair and reciprocal economic relationships to address trade imbalances. The United States must preserve our lead in research and technology and protect our economy from competitors who unfairly acquire our intellectual property. And we will embrace America’s energy dominance because unleashing abundant energy resources stimulates our economy.

Third, we will preserve peace through strength by rebuilding our military so that it remains preeminent, deters our adversaries, and if necessary, is able to fight and win. We will compete with all tools of national power to ensure that regions of the world are not dominated by one power. We will strengthen America’s capabilities—including in space and cyberspace—and revitalize others that have been neglected. Allies and partners magnify our power. We expect them to shoulder a fair share of the burden of responsibility to protect against common threats.

Fourth, we will advance American inf luence because a world that supports American interests and reflects our values makes America more secure and prosperous. We will compete and lead in multilateral organizations so that American interests and principles are protected. America’s commitment to liber , democracy, and the rule of law serves as an inspiration for those living under  ranny. We can play a catalytic role in promoting private-sector-led economic growth, helping aspiring partners become future trading and security partners. And we will remain a generous nation, even as we expect others to share responsibility.

Strengthening our sovereignty—the first duty of a government is to serve the interests of its own people—is a necessary condition for protecting these four national interests. And as we strengthen our sovereignty we will renew confidence in ourselves as a nation. We are proud of our history, optimistic about America’s future, and confident of the positive example the United States offers to the world. We are also realistic and understand that the American way of life cannot be imposed upon others, nor is it the inevitable culmination of progress. Together with our allies, partners, and aspiring partners, the United States will pursue cooperation with reciprocity. Cooperation means sharing responsibilities and burdens. In trade, fair and reciprocal relationships benefit all with equal levels of market access and opportunities for economic growth. An America First National Security Strategy appreciates that America will catalyze conditions to unleash economic success for America and the world.

In the United States, free men and women have created the most just and prosperous nation in history. Our generation of Americans is now charged with preserving and defending that precious inheritance. This National Security Strategy shows the way.

If you’re going to watch the President’s address, the key to look for is how close or how far he strays from the actual document. A lot of this new National Security Strategy is straight up International Relations realism with some of the President’s favorite phrases worked in. In many ways it is what one would expect with LTG McMaster as the Assistant to the President – National Security Advisor and Defense Secretary Mattis. The references to border security and sovereignty are the result of inputs from Attorney General Sessions and Stephen Miller, Assistant to the President for (Domestic) Policy.

Today, as was the case with the President’s speeches when visiting NATO earlier in the year, the question is whether LTG McMaster is able to keep the speech from being changed at the last minute by Stephen Miller. If LTG McMaster can keep the speech locked down and control what is fed in the teleprompter, the President should stick close to the just released document. If he can’t, and Miller is able to revise it as he did during the NATO visit, then things could get very, very interesting. Live stream is below.

Open thread!

Something to Think About During Today’s Army/Navy Game


Three weeks into the 2014 school year, Lewis, who was still on crutches and needed surgery, says she met Ahmad Ali Bradshaw, a West Point quarterback who was best friends with her roommate.

One night, as Lewis later told West Point investigators, she came back to her room after a shower. Bradshaw was there and, she claimed, he raped her.

Bradshaw denied having any sexual contact with Lewis at all, according to an internal investigation report obtained by The Daily Beast. Bradshaw also chose to not render an official statement and invoked his right to remain silent.

West Point’s internal investigation concluded that a consensual sexual relationship between the cadets had occurred, and a second investigation, by the Army Criminal Investigation Division and the Staff Judge Advocate, found there was “insufficient evidence” to charge Bradshaw with sexual assault.

Bradshaw declined to comment on the allegations when contacted by a Daily Beast reporter, and West Point denied an interview with Bradshaw, saying in an email that it was a “really busy time given the classroom environment and the upcoming Army Navy activities.”

Read the whole thing. I wonder if this has caught Gillibrand’s attention.

Russiagate Open Thread: Meanwhile, What News of the Prince of Amway?

Erik Prince, brother of Betsy deVos, founder of Blackwater (now Academi), testified before the US House of Representatives Select Committe on Intelligence on November 30th. A 105-page transcript of his testimony has been released, and is providing much fodder for specialists…


Read more

The DPRK Has Conducted Another Ballistic Missile Test

I’m sure Cheryl will be along with greater details once we have them, but in the meantime:

This is a little unusual for this time of year. The typical pattern is that the DPRK essentially stops weapons testing from the late fall through the winter.

Pyongyang’s last recorded weapons test occurred 73 days ago, on Sept. 15. That launch, in which a missile was fired over Japan, capped a bout of activity that had heralded a number of technological developments in North Korea’s weapons program, including the test of its most powerful nuclear bomb yet.

The DPRK’s military training cycle also contributes to the annual fourth quarter slowdown’s in testing.

North Korea hasn’t fired a missile for 60 days, but that may have more to do with its own winter training cycle than with Pyongyang easing off on provocations.

Since Kim Jong Un took power in late 2011, only five of the isolated nation’s 85 rocket launches have taken place in the October-December quarter, according to The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies’ North Korea Missile Test Database.

The Korean People’s Army regularly enters its training cycle every winter “and getting ready for it involves a calm before the storm,” said Van Jackson, a strategy fellow at the Center for Strategic Studies at Victoria University of Wellington.

“Fall is the harvest season, and a lot of military labor is dedicated to agricultural output when not in war mode; inefficient, but it’s the nature of the North Korean system,” said Jackson, a former U.S. Department of Defense adviser. “It’s a routine, recurring pattern, which means we should expect a surge in provocations in the early months next year.”

North Korea’s last launch was on Sept. 15, when the isolated state fired its second missile over Japan in as many months. That missile that flew far enough to put the U.S. territory of Guam in range.

As more information becomes available, what we know about today’s launch is likely to change. So stay frosty!

ARA San Juan: The Argentinian Navy is Reporting All Hands Lost

The ARA San Juan went missing on November 15th. Provided it didn’t sink below its crush depth, and without being able to surface and employ her snorkel, it had seven days of oxygen reserves. Those reserves would have been exhausted yesterday and it appears that the Argentinian Navy has come to the conclusion that the ARA San Juan is lost. The San Juan carried a crew of forty-four, including Argentina’s first female submariner.

Since it was first written in the mid 19th Century, a number of additional verses have been written by different authors for the Navy Hymn. These cover naval aviators, Coast Guardsmen, naval aviators who have become astronauts, Sea Bees, and, of course, submariners. Here is the specific verse penned for the members of the silent service:

Lord God, our power evermore,
Whose arm doth reach the ocean floor,
Dive with our men beneath the sea;
Traverse the depths protectively.
O hear us when we pray, and keep
Them safe from peril in the deep.
David B. Miller (1965)

One Hundred and Fifty-Four Years Ago: The Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address

(Lincoln Address Memorial, US National Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA)

One hundred and fifty-four years ago today Abraham Lincoln gave an address to dedicate the national cemetery. He did so about 300 yards from where the memorial in the picture above stands, hence the explanatory marker in the lower left. Lincoln’s address, now known as the Gettysburg Address, was written in DC and revised upon his arrival in Gettysburg.

As is often the case with historic documents before the advent of carbon paper, let alone photocopying, word processors, and computers, there are multiple surviving versions of Lincoln’s dedicatory remarks. This includes two copies written before the speech, including the actual reading copy, and three others prepared for specific individuals after the speech. You can read all five versions here. The Nicolay copy, which was written on White House stationery also includes Lincoln’s revisions and additions after his arrival in Gettysburg on a second page of foolscap, is the reading copy he delivered at Gettysburg on 19 November 1863.

The Nicolay Copy (2nd and Reading Draft) of the Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal.”

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow, this ground—The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.

It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us —that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

(Nicolay Copy of the Gettysburg Address)

And here is what I always think of as the definitive documentation of how President Lincoln drafted his remarks.