Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008--The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Year 2008 was not what I would call a banner year. In an effort to put a little bow upon this steaming pile of a year, I offer the following summary.

THE GOOD

1. The Surge. The success of the war effort in Iraq is indisputable, and the President's resolve to win will go down in history as one of his administration's brightest points. My hat is off to the brave men and women who executed the strategy, and of course to General Petreaus who devised it.

2. The Rise of the Young Guns. Republicans in the hinterlands are positioning themselves to lead the party out of the wilderness. Bobby Jindal, Mitch Daniels, Mark Sanford, Tim Pawlenty, and maybe even Sarah Palin--are out there leading and succeeding, awaiting the time when our Devil's dance with big government proves too much for our wallets to take.

3. The Election of Barack Obama. A nation that fifty years ago segregated schools, bathrooms, hotels and drinking fountains elected a self-identified black man to the Presidency. Although I disagree with many of the stated policies Mr. Obama talked about in the campaign, it is my fervent hope that he wildly succeed in office, causing me to fundamentally question everything I believe about government and politics. I wouldn't bet on that, but I keep the possibility open. Additionally, given the nearly unanimous support Mr. Obama received in the African-American community, I would hope that his election would stand as a message to young people in our cities (well, young people everywhere!) that being smart is cool, studying hard is worthwhile, and hard work pays off.

4. The Creation of This Blog. I am grateful to all who read it and in the debt of those who comment on its content. This little corner of Al Gore's Internet serves as Political Therapy for a guy who is in love with a liberal who happens to be much smarter than he.


THE BAD

1. It's the Economy, Stupid. No question about this. We're in a hurt locker and it won't start getting better for nearly a year. Hunker down, change your habits, love your country and things will get better.

2. NATO's Shameful Performance in Afghanistan. Our European "allies" are not holding up their end of the bargain in Afghanistan, the place of the "good war" where their liberal sensitivities are less offended. Once again, this conflict shows what a sham NATO is, and how Europe remains a bunch of free-riding libertines who cower behind our skirts when the going gets tough.

3. The Vapidity and Hubris of the Washington Based Republican Party. Power corrupted the Republican Party in Washington, and the elections of 2006 and 2008 showed the extent to which the American public wished to punish them.


THE UGLY

1. The Continuing Addiction to Middle Class Entitlements. The middle class is the new welfare queen, with tuition tax credits, tax credits for simply having children, and tax credits for buying houses all beginning to fall into the category of human rights.

2. The Continuing Inattention to Infrastructure Investment in the United States. Roads, high-speed rail, rail/air connections, mega-ports....all are necessary to keep us competitive and very little is being done in a coherent manner to address them. The federal government governs best when it governs least--but these are areas right in its wheelhouse.

3. The Auto Bailout. No good answers here; sort of how Jefferson talked about slavery as a "wolf you've got by the ears...you don't like where you are but you don't dare let go." I think it might be time to let go.

Showdown in South Carolina

Interesting story coming out of South Carolina, where Republican Governor Mark Sanford is playing a high stakes game of chicken with the state's Employment Security Commission over seeking federal loans to cover shortfalls in the state's unemployment compensation system. Seems that Governor Sanford has the absolute temerity to demand that the Employment Security Commission answer for how money is being spent, and he wants an independent audit conducted to provide some answers. The folks at the ESC don't want to play ball with the Governor, and so the state's unemployed are likely to go without checks until this thing is settled.

Good for Governor Sanford. This guy is the real deal--a Republican to be reckoned with and a future player on the national scene. He ran for the House a few years back on a three term limit pledge, and he stuck to it. He's in his second term as governor now, and he's fighting an uphill battle against a state constitution that was changed in the late 19th century to create powerful commissions and cabinet offices arrayed against a governor--all in the fear that a black person would be elected governor.

By way of full disclosure--I had several long chats with Governor Sanford about coming down to Columbia and working in his administration when I left the Navy. He was looking for a strategic thinker with demonstrated leadership skills to help organize his staff and to help create the strategy to redress the power imbalance in the state between the Office of the Governor and the commissions/cabinets. I was looking at what I was going to do with myself when I took the uniform off. Ultimately, I took my name out of contention for good reasons and bad (good: wanted to make more money, didn't want to be away from the Kitten--bad: wanted to be Chief of Staff, not Deputy Chief of Staff), but I came away from the experience with a deep and abiding respect for this man's wisdom and integrity. He has a passion for good government and a genuine sense of distaste for the people's money being wasted. This is the kind of Republican we need more of.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

China Considers an Aircraft Carrier

The Chinese are considering constructing and operating an aircraft carrier. An aircraft carrier, you say? You mean they don't have one? The big, bad, fearful Chinese don't even have ONE? Nope. Not one. We have eleven.

Building and operating aircraft carriers--especially nuclear powered ones--is a tough business. Creating a force of pilots proficient in carrier take-offs (and more importantly, landings) is quite another thing altogether. The Soviets tried and failed. The French have given it a go, and the Brits have operated STOVL (short take off vertical launch) carriers for years (though STOVL carriers can accommodate smaller planes with shorter legs and less carry).

Read what the Chinese defense ministry official says. He refers twice to the carrier as a "symbol". We don't use carriers to protect our nation's maritime security and safeguard its sovereignty--we use aircraft carriers to project power--to kill people and wreck things far from our shores so that we don't have people killing people and wrecking things within our shores. If the Chinese wished to protect their maritime security and sovereignty, they'd build a bunch of frigates and corvettes and essentially trick-out its Coast Guard. But that's not what they are doing.

The question of China's naval buildup is the $64,000 question among US naval strategists. Are they building a Navy to create regional dominance and a winning hand in a Taiwan conflict, or are they building a Navy to challenge US worldwide naval dominance as Chinese interests become more far flung? Those who see the Chinese buildup of submarines suggest that they are seeking to create a Navy capable of ensuring victory in Taiwan, as the subs main role would be in taking OUR carriers out. Still others see the Chinese buildup of surface ships (and now the carrier) as a sign that they are seeking to protect their widely spaced interests throughout the world, and that their recent deployment of a surface action group to participate in the anti-piracy effort off the Somali coast is a sign of this impulse (which makes their Navy begin to look a lot more like ours--something naval strategists find troubling).

What's really going on here? A couple of things. China is a nation growing in economic, political, and military clout. It is a maritime nation; though this history had long been suppressed, China's emergence as a huge exporter has brought with it a growing sense of the importance of maritime issues. Throughout modern history (and for the sake of argument, I'll point to the rise of the modern nation-state as the start of modern history), nations on the rise BUILD NAVIES. This is a very predictable phenomenon. China's maritime/military aims seem to me to be fairly modest and sensible (from a Chinese perspective). They seek first to be the major naval power in Asia, which is unsurprising given their size, wealth, and influence. The problem here is that the current naval power in Asia is.....the United States.

Next, they seek to build a Navy capable of creating the impression that they can take Taiwan. Note my choice of words. I do not think they are building a Navy to take Taiwan, because I do not think the Chinese want to risk what would come from that act. No, they are building a Navy that gives the US and Taiwan the impression that this is their intent. This could lead to A) a naval arms race in Asia (signs of which are appearing) or B) a continued weakening in the US/Taiwan link, incentivizing the Taiwanese to seek a peaceful Hong-Kong like reunification.

Finally, they are building a Navy to protect their interests around the world--not all around the world at one time (like ours can, to a degree), but where around the world they think they need it. They are creating a Navy with which they would be able to apply considerable and punishing power for a short period of time in a limited geographic area. Let the US continue to spend its money on a world-wide police-force kind of Navy upon which the rest of the world can be free-riders--China's Navy will be for the protection of CHINESE interests.

What does this mean for the US? It means we'll increasingly operate with and around Chinese vessels, in a variety of locations around the globe. It means there will be opportunities to cooperate with the Chinese in areas of mutual concern (piracy), but it also means there will be more opportunity for friction where our interests are less aligned. It means the Chinese are growing up as a nation, and they'll have to be treated as a maritime force with which to be reckoned, something the US Navy has not had to deal with since the demise of the Soviet Union.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Miracle on Ice

I went down to North Carolina over the weekend to visit my Mom and Dad. Along the way, some horrific little organism inside me demanded retribution on my system that forced me to spend the first night of my visit largely in bed, or in the bathroom. For a short while though, I managed to find my way into where my Mother was watching TV, and there she was watching the movie "Miracle on Ice" about our 1980 Olympic Hockey victory in Lake Placid. Although the movie is a dramatization, the acting is great (lots of authentic Boston area hockey players) and Kurt Russell does a wonderful Herb Brooks (coach of the team).

Watching that movie brought back unbelievably real, nearly 29 year old memories. Here's a clip I pulled from Youtube, with an announcing crew that is presumably Canadian. We've all heard the Al Michaels "Do you believe in miracles--YES!" call, but I wanted to hear something different. Spend the ten minutes or so watching this clip and tell me that you don't wind up with big tears in your eyes....just like you did the very first time you saw it.

I was not quite fifteen at the time, and the game happened the night of a party at Jackie McQuade's house. Jackie was a high school classmate who had a ton of great parties, and she sat near me in homeroom for four straight years. A great girl, all in all. This was one of those early high school parties before there was a lot of drinking...but there was a ton of getting to know the other sex, if you know what I mean. If I remember correctly, the game was played at 5PM but tape delayed to be shown in prime time....so on the way to the party, I had heard that we won the game. But no one at the party seemed to know....

Basically, the game took the legs right out from under the party. The whole group of 14 and 15 year olds spent their time in front of Jackie's TV nervously watching the game. When it was over, there was pandemonium in that living room.

I told my Mom the other night while watching the movie that I thought this was the most amazing and meaningful sporting event I'd ever witnessed (followed closely by Franz Klammer's 1976 Downhill at Innsbruck that in which he carried an entire nation on his back). Remember what February 1980 was like? Jimmy Carter was still President. The Soviet Union hadn't quite figured out that it was going to fall in 9 years, and it gave the very outward appearance that it was a real threat to displace Western Democracy. Oh, and they had just invaded Afghanistan. Remember inflation? And Viet Nam had only been in the rear view mirror for five years (though it still dominated politics and culture). The thugs of the Ayatollah had only recently taken hostages at our Embassy, and they held them for the following 444 days. Bottom line--the US was on the ropes. We were in a real rut...the greatest country on Earth was in the midst of an identity crisis...when a bunch of 21 year olds reminded the world what it was the Americans are made of. Brooks drove those kids....he got them into shape....he created a team dedicated to each other. He told them on the night they beat the Soviets (not the Russians. The Soviets) that they'd lose 9 of 10 games they'd play against them. But not that night. That moment was theirs.

I just watched that clip I've linked to again, and I'm all teared up again. Thanks 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team, and thanks Ronald Reagan, for turning the corner on a time in our history where our country's leadership position was in doubt.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Scope of the Obama Victory

I had a six hour car ride yesterday from the Eastern Shore to my folks' place in Central North Carolina. Along the way, I saw a good many Obama bumper stickers, and as I drove (and saw more and more), I began to put together a theory; well, more of an observation than a theory.

The Obama victory was a HUGE victory. It was a washout in the Electoral College and a trouncing in the popular vote. But even more impressive is the scope/breadth of the victory as measured by the correlation (or lack thereof) of driver to bumper sticker. Here's what I mean.

For the past eight years, as I've come up upon a car besmirched by a Gore/Lieberman or a Kerry/Edwards sticker, I'd chuckle to myself as I drove by at the predictability of the person driving; young women, men with facial hair and or long hair, marmy looking women of dubious sexuality, and non-white folks.

During this drive, there were plenty of easily correlated pairings--but more interesting were the complete surprises. White men in their thirties driving SUV's and sports cars. Lots and lots of high end cars with well-tended folks in them. Rednecks in pick-em-up trucks. By this unscientific measure, Obama's victory was pretty impressive, and it represents a serious challenge to be overcome by hopeful Republican politicians.

"She's A Kennedy, But She's A Lot Like Us"

This is the headline for an editorial seeking to support Caroline Kennedy's desire to be appointed to Hillary's Senate seat. I read this with considerable disgust, and thought I might blog about it. Then I read through some of the 93 comments already posted on the WaPost's website, and once again saw that readers much wiser than I had already eviscerated this vapid woman (not Caroline Kennedy, but the editorialist).

(LINK REPAIRED)

Life on the Chesapeake Bay

Mudge and I both live on the Eastern Shore (of the Chesapeake), he in Virginia and I in Maryland. When we get together, we sometimes talk about the problems facing the folks who live and work on the water, the problems discussed in this article. I'm sort of a part timer, and I live in a bit of a shee-shee place, where some of the folks consider themselves authentic Eastern Shore folks as they trundle their kids to lacrosse practice in their Range Rovers. Mudge has fully integrated himself into the historic life of real live watermen and
Eastern Shore denizens, folks who speak a dialect of English that is slightly unfamiliar to the rest of us.

The life these watermen once plied is dying, as the oysters and crabs that once lived in abundance in the Chesapeake suffer the twin assaults of overfishing and environmental siege.

The Kitten and I live on a tributary to the Chesapeake, and the environmental restrictions we have on what we can do with our property are staggering, but I understand why they are in place. The watermen bristle under the restrictions placed on their activities on the water, designed to protect and nurture the crab and oyster population that remains. Listen to the watermen, and most of them blame the decline on sewage--from chicken farms, hog farms, and folks who live along the bay and its tributaries. They push for greater restrictions on what man can do and not do, while never quite realizing that their own activities have an equally devastating impact on marine life.

The Bay can come back, but it is going to cost watermen jobs. They simply cannot continue to fish in the numbers they do now, and prices are going to rise. Additionally, Maryland and Virginia are going to have to pass increasingly onerous restrictions on what can and cannot be done close to the water.

The Double Standard Israel Faces (and So Do We)

News of Israel's long expected strike into the heart of Hamas' power and influence in Gaza brings yet another round of Palestinian complaints of civilian deaths and the accompanying round of Israeli assurances as to the precision of their targeting and attacks. Does the world media hold Hamas to the same standard? Do "moderate" Arab governments who reflexively denounce Israel for its defense measures EVER criticize Hamas (publicly) for their indiscriminate use of rockets and missiles against civilian targets? No. We never see these things.

What really sticks in my craw are the breathless mentions of "mosques" as targets. Normally, the law of armed conflict treats mosques (and hospitals and other religious sites) as "no-go" zones for attack. Normally I say, because those sites lose this protected status when used as part of a war making operation. In the case of Islam, where civil and religious authority are mixed--by design--the extension of this status to mosques makes little sense. It is EXACTLY in the mosques where insurrection and mayhem are planned, it is in the mosques that weapons are stored and it is to the mosques that these miscreants retire after carrying out their attacks.

As we continue to confront this cross-civilizational enemy (that's right, I do see this as a "Clash of Civilizations"), we are going to have to understand the nature of the opponent better. Here are a few suggestions.

1. There is little or no distinction between the social, religious, and civil in Islamic society. "Render unto Caesar" makes no sense to a population who sees it all as being rendered unto God. Where we do see attempts to insert secular authority in Islamic lands, there is an inevitable tension between it and conventional religious authority. In fact, it is this tension that has given birth to many of the major Islamic terror organizations in existence today.

2. Not all civilians are innocent. Hamas exists and thrives due to a huge amount of support from the civilian populations into which it has woven itself. Part and parcel of that support is to have taken on a good many of the functions of civil government, providing an option for the local population as to whom they go to for services. We saw the extent to which Hizbollah exploited this relationship in Southern Lebanon a couple of years ago as Israel tried to defend itself from cross boarder attacks from Lebanon. Hizbollah and Hamas are not holding down terrorized populations; they are the heroes of local populations who see them as the authority in their jurisdiction. The civil populations are culpable in their own targeting.

3. It is in the Levant that our ongoing civilizational struggle will see its major theater of operations. Just as the Cold War was hot only through third party surrogates, we are unlikely to fight Iran and/or the world Islamic terror front head on. Israel is the dog we have in this fight, and we will have to continue to see to her defense and protection as a bulwark against Islamofascism.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Nervous Investors Helping My Bottom-Line

Interesting story here of folks pulling their money out of equity funds and stashing it in cash and bonds. For some, this makes sense, especially those nearing retirement or some other event in which capital conservation is the key objective. Aside from that? They are unwise--they bought high and are selling low. This will give them the unique opportunity of sitting on less cash and then buying BACK in when the market rises at higher prices--a double blow. Me? I'm buying. Aggressive Growth. Emerging Markets. Small Cap, Large Cap, mid-Cap....international. I'm spending like a drunken Sailor picking up the bargains that nervous folks are leaving for me. Greenspan once talked about "irrational exuberance" when describing the tech bubble; I think we're seeing some "irrational negativity" about the long-term prospects of our economy. I talked with my friend at Postcards the other night, and he sits on the gloomy side of the tracks. My argument is this: the economy has over-corrected. Yes, a Dow at 14000 was overvalued. But does anyone really believe that the average business in this country is over 40% less valuable than it was a year and a half ago? I don't. I think we're working our way through a very tough time and a new normal will soon be established....and it will be higher than 8500. Wise investors will soon return to the market in search of quality companies selling things the world needs.

The Predictable Lunacy of Environmentalists, Part 27

Canada's effort to extract oil from tar sands is coming under fire from environmentalists for threats to certain migratory birds. It seems the Connecticut Warbler and the Blackpoll Warbler's habitats are threatened by the activity, which environmentalists hope to stop until an environmental impact study can be conducted. The oil shale industry points to the impact studies already done as sufficient.

The environmental lobby will not be satisfied until we are in the dark and cold eating raw meat and fish. No to oil shale. No to offshore drilling. No to ANWR. No to nuclear power. Good thing we have solar! Whoops...the big solar farms necessary to efficiently gather solar power threaten the habitat of numerous ground birds. Thank God then for wind energy! WHAT MAN, HAVEN'T YOU HEARD OF THE SENSELESS SLAUGHTER OF BIRDS BY WIND PROP STRIKES?

Study Criticizes War Funding Mechanisms

The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments has come out with a new study criticizing the method in which the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are paid for. Bypassing the annual appropriation process, the Bush Administration has largely funded these wars through "emergency supplemental" appropriations. This maneuver set up annual battles between the Congress and the Administration in which the White House was able to back Congress into a corner by making it seem to be abandoning the troops in the field by questioning the size and scope of war funding. Brilliant political tactics by the White House, but ultimately not the right way to do it. Supplemental appropriations should be for unforeseeable emergencies (such as our response to 9-11), not for the conduct of land-wars of years in duration that include long-term construction and civil aid packages. Ultimately, if the war is so unpopular that Congress won't fund it, then it might not be a war worth being in.

PEBO Relaxes Before Saving Us

Just kidding with that headline, I don't begrudge the man and his family their Christmas Vacation. He seems to be making all the right moves, working out at a Marine Corps base, visiting with Marines and their families eating Christmas Dinner....all good stuff. Look at pictures of Bill Clinton at the start of his eight years, then at the end. Do the same with George Bush. This job takes its toll on the occupant, and there is no such thing as a vacation when you are the President of the US. Enjoy the fun, Mr. Obama, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Another Reason to Love the CIA

I've always had a lot of respect for the CIA; I once dated a CIA Case Officer and got to know some incredibly sharp people. This story strikes me as a classic case of resourcefulness and cunning, though I'm sure across this great land of ours there are liberal dorks who find reason to question. Seems that in addition to the usual baubles, trinkets and cash we use to entice tribal leaders to cooperate with us, enterprising CIA case officers have been using "the litte blue pill" (Viagra) to gain credibility with tribal chieftains. In one case, a 60 year old recalcitrant with four young wives became very cooperative after getting a certain matter straightened out. Bully for us, and thank goodness for the CIA.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Christmas to All, and to All a Good Night!

I know it is cliche, but this is my favorite time of year. The Kitten has outdone herself decorating this year, and her Kittens are just about to burst in anticipation of tomorrow's bounty. I'm going to take the rest of today and tomorrow off from blogging, but I'll return on the 26th. Merry Christmas friends. And in the meantime......

Luke 2:1-20 (New International Version)

Luke 2
The Birth of Jesus
1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own town to register.

4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
The Shepherds and the Angels
8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Best Article on the Housing Finance Issue

This article is a bit long, but it is probably one of the most clear thinking and rational summaries of where we are and how we might think about getting out of here. Although I remain convinced that Congress did the right thing in passing the $700B TARP program (I feel there was really no other choice), lots of other things Congress and the Administration have done don't make sense. Homeowners have become a privileged class of investor, risk means little or nothing anymore.

Taxpayer Return on Investment

Though it focuses on North Carolina, this nifty little study shows where taxpayers are getting the best ROI on their state and local taxes. Hint: Maryland is not in good shape....but surprise, North Carolina is worse!

Chrysler Ad

Anyone else notice the Chrysler ad that keeps showing up in the Google Ad window? Click it, for heavens sake, save Chrysler AND me!

Applebaum on Athens

Characteristically insightful analysis of the recent Greek anarchy by the Post's best international editorialist. Key line: "If nothing else, they (the riots) show what can happen to a highly developed, post-ideological society whose organized politics no longer interest large groups of people." These rioters believe in nothing but their own mayhem.

Shocker: E.J. Dionne Sees Furor on the Right....and Cohen's Sister Cancels the Party!

Finding the one angle in the Pastor Rick Warren story that even the most slavish PEBO devotee had not yet concocted, Dionne sees the invitation extended to Warren to deliver a prayer at the Inaugural as a tactical victory for PEBO's campaign to separate Evangelicals from the conservative movement. Claiming that Warren's acceptance has "enraged" Warren's allies on the right, Dionne delights in the possibility that Warren's acceptance will result in some kind of destabilization of conservatism. Only problem is, I haven't seen much "rage" on the right about Warren accepting this offer. In fact, the only reaction I've seen on the right has been delight, as the hyperventilating Code Pinkers who so vociferously pushed The One on us show their true colors in vocal criticisms of Obama for his choice.

Update: this one is classic. Richard Cohen's article this morning is about his (gay) sister's cancellation of her Inauguration Night party because of Obama's invitation to Warren. Joe Biden may be a blowhard, but he sure does understand Democratic voters. They will turn on Obama in a New York Minute if he doesn't sufficiently toe whatever party line it is their victimology requires.

Gutless Euros Court PEBO; Now Willing to Take Guantanamo Detainees

Preferring to bitch about Guantanamo rather than actually do anything to hasten its closure, our gutless and ungrateful European "allies" have been quietly pulsing the Obama people about accepting some of the less hardened and frightening detainees. They are marketing this overture as an "overture" to the new Administration. Do nothing to help the Bush Administration carry out the exact same policy goal (Guantanamo closure), but melt at the thought of The One unifying us. This is classic European perfidy.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Has the Housing Bust Bottomed Out?

Very interesting story here about a flurry of mortgage applications as rates have fallen (and, so have prices). Should this be even modestly sustainable, it is good news. The "new normal", with mortgages obtained with down payments by people with jobs who can actually afford the monthly payments. Quite a system, huh? Just like the one that sustained the housing market for years, and years, and years....

2009 Predictions

Well, Postcards from the Backbench beat me to it, as I was going to wait until after Christmas to release my predictions. But since he's on record, I need to keep up with the Jones':

--On December 31, 2009, the Dow Jones Industrial average will be above 10,200
--On December 31, 2009, unemployment will be at 6.6%, on a downward trend
--The BCS will announce a playoff system to begin with the 2011 season
--Israel will not attack Iran (directly) in 2009, Iran will not attack Israel (directly)
--Israel will be involved in another war in Southern Lebanon
--Brad Pitt will win a "Best Actor" Oscar
--Hillary Clinton will withdraw her name from consideration for Secretary of State after an uproar following new disclosures of her husband's post-presidential dealings with foreign powers
--at least one major newspaper (that is, one of the top ten in circulation) will cease to publish in 2009. No one will notice.
--Ten thousand US troops will be deployed somewhere in the world in support of some humanitarian operation (not in the US)
--The average price of unleaded regular in the US will be $2.96
--The US will announce unilateral reductions in its Strategic Nuclear forces to less than 1400 warheads. The nuclear triad will be disestablished, with all our strategic forces moving to submarines and manned bombers.
--Lindsay Lohan will return to a strictly heterosexual life
--On 31 December 2009, there will be less than 90,000 US troops in Iraq, but there will be 45,000 in Afghanistan


That should be enough for now.

In Defense of Earmarks

The Post has an editorial this morning urging PEBO not to allow his upcoming stimulus bomb to be larded with earmarks--that is, personal pet projects of the 535 members of our two national legislative bodies. Well, I rise in favor of the besieged earmark, and I do so proudly for two reasons.

The first is that it is an excellent way to distribute taxpayer money back into the economy. Yes, I know, the Museum of the Onion and funding for the study of cow flatulence make for great headlines, but you know what? At the end of those earmarks are real American citizens with jobs, jobs funded ultimately from that earmark (and very often matching state or local funds). At the heart of the earmark system is the knowledge that others are doing it and you might as well get yours (for your district) while the getting is good. If you don't participate, you don't get projects in your district...good or bad. Which brings me to my second point....

Pork-busters don't seem to have come up with a better way to distribute federal money back to localities. Were each individual project to be put up for up or down votes, the mechanisms of federal legislating would grind to a halt; there would be no time to work on other important NATIONAL legislation.

When someone comes forward with a better way to distribute federal money, well then I'll back it. Yes--I know--tax refunds are an excellent way to distribute that money, and I will always back tax refunds over earmarks. I just don't see us being in that position now or in the future.

Barney Frank, the New Democrat Brand

I am relishing the continued prominent position gained in Democrat circles by Barney Frank. The first openly gay member of Congress, Frank's speech impediment, his Northeastern Liberal demeanor, and his spotty record of mixing the political, the personal and the immoral all serve to make his recent prominence a God-send to conservatives. Over the course of the next few years, America will be reacquainted with the fact that the Democratic Party is not a party of ideas or philosophy, but a loose confederation of interest groups with victim mentalities. To the extent that the Party does have ideas, they are either wrong or stolen from conservatives in an effort to appear more moderate.

Howard Dean, Man on the Outside

Good vignette here on Howard Dean, author of the Democratic comeback (the 50 state strategy he devised was the blueprint for PEBO's success), and former Presidential Candidate; he's not on Rahm Emanuel's Chrisms...whoops Hanuka Card list, and he couldn't beat out Daschle for HHS. Howard Dean is a bloviating gas bag who clearly relished a Democrat Party that lurched to the left...but he's also a brilliant political strategist to whom the Democrats owe a great debt of gratitude. But that's just not PEBO's style...what have you done for me lately, Howard?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wesley Clark gives the Dems Some Advice

Wesley Clark dispenses with some wisdom to the incoming Obama Administration. Very little here with which I disagree.

Tales of Woe in Rhode Island

This story in the morning newspaper brings up memories of several periods of residence in Rhode Island. It seems that "The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations" (its real name) has the second highest unemployment rate in the country. To what does this article attribute the misery? High tax rates, both personal and corporate--which discourage businesses from starting or staying. This is also, by the way, the case in Michigan where our auto industry currently resides on life-support. Oh, by the way--Rhode Island also has a higher than national average percentage of unionized employees. I'm just sayin....

Holiday Addition to the Pet Peeve List

The holidays are a time of cheer, good will, family and happiness...and here at the CW, they are also the source of an addition to my Pet Peeve list. Why do so many people with whom I've had friendships of decades in length persist in sending me Christmas Cards with pictures of their children on them? Just their children, mind you. While I am of course happy for the good fortune my friends have found in their strong, brave, and comely children, the plain truth of the matter is most of the time, I wouldn't be able to pick them out of a milk carton lineup if a gun were held to my head. If you're going to send a picture of the children as a Christmas card, include a shot of yourselves, darnit! That way I'll know who the heck sent me the card.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Franken, Coleman and Third World Elections

Is there anyone else who thinks that the way we run elections in the US is a bit third world? Every time I read another story about the Minnesota Senatorial election, I find myself waiting for Jimmy Carter to be called in to arbitrate, as if the election were happening in Equatorial Guinea.

The UAW and the Bailout

I don't even know where to begin with this one, so I guess I'll just jump into the middle. I'm not a big fan of unions. In fact, I think that whatever usefulness they once had has now gone by the wayside. The kinds of worker protections that the threat of strike and collective bargaining once brought are now largely enshrined in employment law. Unions now primarily artificially inflate wages and make US goods and services more expensive than the market would dictate.

Case in point is the current auto imbroglio. I have seen estimates that wages, healthcare and retiree benefits for UAW members add upwards of $2000 to the price of every union made automobile manufactured in the US. While US automakers have made great strides in closing the quality gap with foreign competitors, starting $2K in the hole on every car made creates a market in which they are clearly uncompetitive.

Apparently, the White House tendered loan guarantees set "targets" (which I fear are simply that) for UAW to concede wages in order to bring them into parity with non-union automakers. Here's how this article puts it:

"Those and other concessions would essentially erase the significant distinctions between union and nonunion auto workers, and the lack of such union worker advantages would render moot the union's fundamental purpose, some industry analysts and labor experts said."

Well there you have it. The UAW has artificially inflated the wage scale of union labor, and now that they've helped create a situation in which the companies they serve are non-competitive, they are crying foul as their very reason for being is questioned.

I find it also interesting that we see here an entire industry coming apart at the seams in no small part due to the machinations of organized labor---at the same time that the new administration and its stooges in Congress are getting ready to force "card check" legislation upon the workplaces of this nation, making free and fair elections a farce where unions try to organize. Do we really want to see MORE of this kind of thing? What industries are we next willing to prop up?

He whose 15 minutes surely is over, Barney Frank, had this to say: "The president has added an unfair assault on working men and women, which could require them to accept a disproportionately large reduction in what is currently legally owed to them," he said in a statement. "I am particularly opposed to the notion . . . that could give foreign auto companies in effect the ability to dictate wages for all American auto workers." A couple of things on this one: the President seems to be the only person capable of actually doing something for the labor unions at this point, i.e., help them keep their jobs--I don't know why Barney is bitching. Secondly, foreign auto companies are not "in effect" dictating wages for American auto workers--the free market for labor is. If the plants in the South weren't paying enough, well then people wouldn't work there. It really is that simple.

Ford doesn't want the loans (it wants access to them if it needs them) and Chrysler shouldn't get them (they are a private company, owned by Cerebrus, a Private Equity firm). It comes down to whether or not to save GM--Chrysler is done (let's not forget, Chrysler was saved by loan guarantees from Uncle Sam once already). I find myself increasingly thinking that it is time for GM to go bankrupt and restructure. Yes, it will be yet another hit on the economy...but I am also increasingly beginning to feel we've just about bottomed out on this, that there isn't much downside (if any) left. Let's get it over with and start rebuilding this country.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Back from California

Just back from California, and I'm spending a night in Arlington before heading back to the farm tomorrow. A quick thought on living here in the vicinity of the nation's capital. There have only been two things people talk about here for the past few weeks--the crappy Redskins and the Inauguration. It was nice to be in California for a few days, where neither subject was discussed.

China Executes our Maritime Strategy

News here of China's decision to send a task force to the Horn of Africa (HOA) to aid in international efforts to combat piracy. Lo and behold, China is 1) acting like a responsible world citizen and 2) using the broad maritime commons as a low-impact venue for international cooperation. What China is doing is entirely consistent with the central tenets of the US Maritime Strategy "A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower" with which I was associated while on active duty. We were heavily criticized for not calling China out in the document, but our data mining of both intelligence and media sources indicated that they knew EXACTLY which sections were targeted at them. Moreover, we sought with this strategy a methodology for tying China EVEN MORE CLOSELY to the international system in which it has considerable and growing equity. What is it that will keep the US and China from fighting a war someday? Shared interests. Pure and simple. We share an interest in the smooth functioning of the international order, and Navies are uniquely postured to help regulate that functioning (what Tom Barnett calls the "Sysadmin" function).

Bad News for Vets, Good News for the Country

In a blow to Veterans Groups seeking to force the VA's hand in speeding its disability adjudication procedure, a federal judge ruled that such a fiat from the bench exceeded his authority, and that such action was for the Congress and the VA to determine. Bully for you, Judge Walton, for doing your job correctly. The VA makes rules, the Congress provides oversight. It is the proper function of the Congress to regulate the departments, not the judiciary. It isn't often these days that we see true judicial restraint (and it is likely to become even more rare once PEBO starts to appoint judges), but when we do see it, it is wonderful.

Shameless Media Fawning (continued)

lThe Washington Post steals a march on the rest of the sycophantic media with a fawning profie of the 27 year old man with the job of heading up the Obama Speechwriting Team. Some glimpses into the world of executive speechwriting remind me why I hated that job so much. Favreau seems to have it pretty easy, as his own talent, his knack for knowing Obama's mind, and Obama's own discipline seem to make for a smooth cadence between them.

Got a story for you. I was at one point in my life, the speechwriter for the Chief of Naval Operations. I spent virtually every day of the first eight months I was in the job thinking I was going to get fired...I just wasn't giving my boss what he wanted. I'd go off and write a beautiful, lyric speech on whatever it was he was to talk about, and he's trash it and do his own stuff from his head.

Two things changed that. The first was the realization that I wasn't there to write lyrical, memorable speeches. I was there to write speeches that he felt comfortable giving. The second was one day when we were working on a speech for the next day (he never looked at anything I'd written until the end of the day before it was to be given...usually late in the day...). I could see he was getting frustrated, that I hadn't hit the mark (again). He blurted out "Crimedog (what he called me), you're just not listening to what I'm saying". At this point, I figured I was on my way out anyway, so I'd go down with an empty magazine. "CNO, my listening skills are not the problem here. My mind-reading skills clearly need work." He looked at me and asked what I meant. "Sir, where exactly would it have been that I heard you express your opinion on (blank)?" He answered, "well, I said it just the other day in (blank meeting)". "Sir, that's a meeting I'm excluded from. In fact, most of what you say that is of interest takes place in meetings from which I am excluded." He looked at me and said, "You're right, and that changes today." He told the EA to make sure that I'm invited to important meetings, and for the rest of my time, I got to be a fly on the wall in some really incredible meetings and my speechwriting improved. I didn't abuse the privilege, I just went when I thought there would be interesting dialogue.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I Don't Know What This Is, but It Isn't Rape

Another story here of an older woman bumping uglies with a teenage boy. It seems these stories come out once a week or so, raising the question of whether or not middle aged women have all of a sudden become more attracted to teenage boys, or was this something that has gone on quietly and consistently, but without the national megaphone of the internet and 24 hour news cycles. I believe it is the latter.

Let's raise the sensitive issue, shall we? I don't believe this is rape, I don't think the word rape should be used in connection with events like this, and I don't think this kind of behavior should be felonious. There was no violence here, the young man attempted to defend the honor of his Cougar, and he certainly attempted to downplay what was going on.

Criminologists and others tell us rape is a crime of violence. "Statutory" rape then, should not apply to events like this. Child advocates would have you believe that there are potentially long-lasting detriments to the boy involved in a relationship like this--but I'd love to see the data on those studies. Let's face it, there are also potentially long-lasting detriments to a 13 year old boy falling in love with a 13 year old girl....but no one thinks that should discourage young love.

I'm a bit sexist on this one (surprise), but I get more creeped out when the older party is male--though I still do not think the term rape can be used when dealing with consensual sex. Again, child advocates would have you believe that a child cannot be relied upon to make adult decisions about sex. One wonders how many of these child advocates would be so concerned about the teenage girl's decision making skills if she became pregnant from such a coupling and wished to have the fetus aborted. I presume a good many of them would reject the utility of parental notification laws.

On the other side of the equation, let's face it--a teenage boy who is knocking boots with an older woman enjoys folk legend status in the locker room. No, this kind of thing should not be rape and it should not be felonious. If our society wishes to discourage this behavior (and I think it should), it should do so as a misdemeanor.

PEBO and Blago

Ok Sally, here's a little red meat. I think that there is more than meets the eye to the Blago issue, but less than some hope. First of all, this isn't going to bring down PEBO and it isn't really even going to nick him. What I DO think will happen though is if the (Chicago Trib) reported 21 taped conversations between Rahm Emanuel and Blago/members of his team are released--Emanuel will be exposed as at least as foul-mouthed and Chicagoland thuggish as Blago and his wife. This is probably why Rahm's been so quiet...I'm sure he knows he's been taped and he's waiting for the shoe to fall. It would be nice if the conversations included Rahm telling Blago he was a crook and that he should stick it where the sun don't shine...but that's probably too much to hope.

Smart Marketing Here

I always hated the 1.20.09 bumper stickers....here's one for them to hate....

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Richard Cohen on the Bubble

PEBO refers to the veil of silence, isolation and deference that surrounds the President as "The Bubble", and he aims to find a way to pierce through it. As of now, his Blackberry is thought of as the means for doing so. Richard Cohen tells us today that the real answer is "the Newspaper", and he brings up a great 1956 Eisenhower quote to back it up.

Yes, in theory, that's what newspapers are for. But newspapers have lost their credibility (if they ever had any) as neutral arbiters as a result of their clear bias for progressive politics. They simply aren't trusted anymore, and their bottom lines are beginning to show it.

Hollywood, the Left and Che Guevara

Reason TV does a nice job here of bringing up some of the inconvenient facts about Ernesto Guevara. I've got a great T-shirt with an image of Ronald Reagan striking the iconic Guevara pose. I love to wear it to the gym in Maryland....

Israel and The Palestinians

I cannot do justice to this topic in a blog entry, so do not read this hoping to gain a Readers Digest sized understanding of one of the great, intractable squabbles of modern (?) history. I simply want to remind (or inform) readers that while the Jews and Arabs have been at it since the Zionist movement began, there was an excellent chance to reset the issue when the UN issued its mandate in 1947 that created the State of Israel (something modern Arabs don't like to talk about). What is often lost in this debate is the fact that the mandate ALSO created a Palestinian state--but because the creation of Israel was so distasteful to Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Egypt, they chose to 1) ignore the Palestinian mandate and 2) declare war on Israel. The infant state of Israel did what they have come to do reliably, and that is, defeat the Gangs that Can't Shoot Straight next door. Subsequent attacks on Israel by these same neighbors (who are happy to use the Palestinians as chess pieces) resulted in Israel acquiring additional territory at its attackers expense to create security buffers (i.e, Gaza, Golan Heights, West Bank of the Jordan River).

So the "two state solution" everyone likes to talk about what enshrined in the 60 year old mandate that created Israel. Only after several (lost) wars and thousands of deaths (and consistent US Support for Israel) has the Arab world come to see a the two-state solution as inevitable.

Brooks on Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell (author of "The Tipping Point" and "Blink") has a new book out called "Outliers", and I recommend it to you. Gladwell is a brilliant interpreter of human behavior and a very readable author. But I think he sometimes is guilty of being logical and clear-thinking all the way from A to Y....then losing it on the next step. David Brooks calls him on it in this piece.

Essentially, Gladwell pokes holes in the "great man" theory, reducing individual success to a series of propitious circumstances and repetition (his "10,000 hours" to mastery theory). Bill Gates got to be where he is because he was a child of privilege, studying at a private school with the means to buy a computer at the dawn of the computer age--and then he got thousands of hours of free mainframe time at local college computers while his friends were doing things "normal" teenagers do. Reading Gladwell's book, I was comforted by the fact that his examples of greatness didn't just effortlessly glide into the role. They worked hard. They had supportive parents. Yes, they had circumstances on their sides in may cases. But this does not mean that any other schlub in the same circumstances would have achieved the same outcomes. The thing about truly great human beings is that they are TRULY GREAT; there is something elementally different about Bill Gates, or Warren Buffet, or Tiger Woods that caused the happy intersection of means and ability to create a singular individual.

Brooks does a nice job in poking a hole in the egalitarianism of Gladwell's argument.

UPDATE 12/17: I see in the Corner where Jonah Goldberg did an entry on this same subject. Please be assured that I did not see his before I wrote mine.

Booms, Busts, and Wall Street

A nicely written article here by Henry Blodget, he of the tech stock bubble disgrace. While I think Henry understates the willful market manipulation of which he was guilty in the 1990's, his thoughts on the current bust are right on target. I especially like his comparison of busts to hurricanes....they are a natural part of the cycle. Plus, "Henry Blodget" has always sounded like such a fantastic Dickens character to me. Hat tip to Thairish for this one.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday Morning Madness

Sorry so light lately, my friends. Between the hunting trip and then lots of family time yesterday (brunch with Santa, Christmas Tree raising/decorating, etc), I've been a little behind on the blogging. Today, I'm sitting in the Red Carpet Club at Dulles (my God, I hate those trams out to the terminals), ten feet away from Senator Richard Lugar and his staff, apparently off to somewhere important, discussing nuclear arms issues (no really, they are), on my way back out to Sunnyvale for the week. Sort of an end of year management round-up out there, should be interesting.

Of note, could be sitting under the basket Wednesday night with three fraternity bros watching the Stanford game. Haven't seen these guys in years, but there is a contingent of Sigma Chis out there and we've talked about a little socializing.

About the hunt. Mudge could not have been a more gracious host. We arrived Friday night and feasted on a wonderful venison and andouille sausage chili. Mudge had hats and blaze orange vests personalized for us, with the "Hunting Sea-sons" Hunt Club emblazoned on them. We drove late in the evening over to one of Mudge's several residences (he's a bit of a tycoon by Eastern Shore standards) where I and two others would bunk. Good cigars and fine whiskey were consumed (never fear, I managed to resist--the whiskey, that is) and fantastic conversation was had. Here's another reason I couldn't stay in the Navy anymore...I'm not a good story-teller. I've come to realize that the story-telling gene just didn't get passed to me. It isn't that I can't express myself, it is that i simply don't have a good memory for things like that. And being a good story teller seems to be part of the qualification package for being an admiral.

We arose early Saturday, but there would be no bird hunting this day, as the fields were soggy/covered over. I suppose there was a chance for ducks later in the day, but we proceeded to our deer stands after a fantastic breakfast at the Exmore Diner (I ate "sausage links" that came as a single, elongated link. Of course, there was much speculation as to how it might reappear later after its gastrointestinal journey). Here's the deal with hunting from a deer stand---it isn't the most interesting thing in the world. You survey your surroundings over and over, you think you hear things (I didn't have my hearing aids in, so I probably had even less of a problem than most), and then, if you've been up until 0130, you begin to nod off. Because I hadn't tightened my hold strap, had I fallen, I would have been arrested after about a nine foot fall, just before hitting the ground. This did not seem like a good deal to me, so I had to fight the urge to sleep--over, and over, and over again.

We sat in our stands for a few hours, none of the four of us so much as thinking we saw a deer. I knew this would drive Mudge wild, as he so wanted this to go well. Never fear Mudge, it did go well! We then climbed down, had a little lunch, and then took up positions on the ground in propitious spots should the fellas on the next property over hunting with dogs flush deer our way. This they did not do.

We packed it in, then went home where Mudge whipped up an amazing steak dinner, with the best fake mashed potatoes I've ever tasted. He also made these duck breast roll-ups that were to die for. One of the guys needed to go back over to the bunk house to collect up his stuff, as he had to head back over to Va Beach that night. He returned, ate dinner, and left--taking with him the only set of keys to the bunk house (not really a bunk house--it ia a nice little cottage with all the amenities--which now included all of our stuff which we could not get access to). So we stayed at Mudge's house and bedded down for the night.

Up early and back to Easton for the brunch with Santa--Mudge and one other went off to Mudge's weekly Sunday morning breakfast with the Onancock Illuminati, a breakfast that takes place in a tower built on waterfront land belonging to one of the crowd.

You know, you hang out with a guy for nearing 20 years, and you learn new things about him. Mudge is an AMAZING host. He should run a bed and breakfast/hunting service. Everything was thought about, the food was wonderful, the fellowship was superb. I think this could become an annual event--at least I hope it will. But I also want to just drive down and sit in a blind with Mudge and his boys someday. I'd like to take up hunting, but only if the company is as good as it was this weekend.

I'll try and hit the site hard before going to bed tonight.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Great Hunt Quicklook

A few minutes in front of Mrs. Mudge's computer offer me the opportunity to report in--the great hunt is over, and there were no injuries to either the hunters or the hunted (one of the participants called it "PETA sanctioned hunt"). But a magnificent time was had by all, and Mudge outdid himself with his unmatched hospitality. The "Hunting Sea-Sons" had a great time, and I think this will be a much repeated event.

Friday, December 12, 2008

FREE FOR ALL FRIDAY.....AND SATURDAY....AND SUNDAY!

Well ladies and gentlemen, here it is, Free For All Friday once again. Today's the day where you post on this thread those thoughts you really want to get off your chest, those you seek my (or others') opinions about, or those that you think aren't getting quite enough attention.

I'll be heading off into the hinterlands of the Virginia Eastern Shore today to join Mudge and a couple of others on my inaugural hunting trip. Won't be back until Sunday morning, then there'll be a full day of holiday activities with the Kitten and her kittens. Look for some feedback from the hunting trip Sunday night....

"Our Plan Was to Fight Downhill"

Read this story and be grateful for these men, for their courage, and for a country that produces them and others like them. Ten Army Special Forces soldiers will receive the Silver Star for their actions in a battle in Afghanistan in April. Want a little flavor of the action?

"As Ford and Staff Sgt. John Wayne Walding returned fire, Walding was hit below his right knee. Ford turned and saw that the bullet "basically amputated his right leg right there on the battlefield."

Walding, of Groesbeck, Tex., recalled: "I literally grabbed my boot and put it in my crotch, then got the boot laces and tied it to my thigh, so it would not flop around. There was about two inches of meat holding my leg on." He put on a tourniquet, watching the blood flow out the stump to see when it was tight enough.

Then Walding tried to inject himself with morphine but accidentally used the wrong tip of the syringe and put the needle in this thumb, he later recalled. "My thumb felt great," he said wryly, noting that throughout the incident he never lost consciousness. "My name is John Wayne," he said."

Again--where do we get men like this?

Auto Talks Break Down

It looks like the bailout talks have broken down, and I'm not sure that's a bad thing. The market will lose 800 points today, and I'm not sure that's a bad thing. Chrysler and GM have retained bankruptcy lawyers, and I'm not sure that's a bad thing. Intervening to save a dying, poorly run industry WOULD be a bad thing. Continuing to prop up an industry whose management is moribund and whose labor is gangsterish would be a bad thing.

It is Friday, and Fridays seem to me to be disproportionately wild days on Wall Street. I think it is going to be a rough one. I feel bad for my friends who make a living in the financial world, but the continuing talk of bailout and the sturm and drang it caused has kept the market from appropriately factoring in auto restructuring. It will today.

We're in for a rough time, and I don't see it getting any better in the near term (one year). But my money's still on us, and I'm still buying in. Things will get better and I intend to be on the winning side of it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Energy Department Pick a Good One

PEBO's selection of Steven Chu for the Energy Department chair is a good one. Chu's got a great reputation in the scientific community, and he's run a world class lab at Berkeley. What I'm really hoping for out of him is cold, analytical rigor when it comes to determining where federal money goes as we seek to encourage more alternative and renewable energy sources. It is hard to conceive of a man of hard science being anti-nuclear, but I don't know enough yet about his stance on nuclear power to comment.

Auto Bailout Marches On

....but it looks like it may get some resistance in the Senate--thank goodness. Frequent contributor Tom de Plume surmises that the Auto Workers Union is simply trying to keep the companies alive long enough to get a fully Dem Congress and Administration, pass card check legislation, then move ahead in unionizing the competitors plants in the South--a strategy of RAISING the other guys prices to make Detroit more competitive. Sounds like a long-shot, but a very interesting strategic gambit if true.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bjorn Lomborg on Global Warming

This thirty-minute video is worthwhile viewing if you'd like a non-hyperventilating, scientific, unemotional approach to the issue of global warming. Lomborg is Public Enemy Number 1 to the Al Gore Wind Machine crowd because 1) he's right and 2) he's persuasive.

The Very Definition of Grace

A Marine Corps jet crashes into your house, killing your wife, two little girls, and mother-in-law; you ask people to pray for the pilot. I feel horribly for this man, but what immense respect I have...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Illinois Governor is a Piece of Work

This is a wonderfully delicious story. The BALLS this guy has!

Democrats and The Military

Apologies for AGAIN linking to a Dionne editorial, but it raises an issue I'd like to write about, and that is Democrats and the military. Dionne actually does a pretty fair job in laying out the history of the recent attraction that the Republican Party has held for members of the military officer corps. Wholesale political abandonment of the war effort by the Democratic Party in Vietnam, Bill Clinton's ill-advised desire to push gays in the military in his first months in office...these kinds of things had an impact. The officer corps I served with was overwhelmingly Republican and conservative. But by the time I got out in the Spring of 2008, it had begun to change.

I left the Pentagon in January of 2004 to go back to sea. At that time, the insurgency in Iraq was really just beginning to start. Rumsfeld was at the height of his power. The services were cowed by a Secretary who wielded incredible authority. There seemed to be no end to Rumsfeld's ability to challenge long-held assumptions (a quality I loved about him), many of which gored other powerful interests' ox's. I then went off to command my ship--returning to the Pentagon in the fall of 2006. What had happened in those two years was REMARKABLE. The Pentagon to which I returned was rife with hostility to the Secretary and the President. Officers were very open about their disdain for both, and you began to hear whispers of support for Democrats and Democratic ideals. Officers believed that Rumsfeld was guilty of incredible ineptitude in his handling of the war, and they believed that he was doing so with the full backing of the Republican President. I said at the time that President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld had done something that Democratic policies and politicians had heretofore been unable to do...they made the Democratic Party into a real option for many officers. I used to stand up at a meeting in the morning with a three star Admiral who would openly chastise the "neocons" running the show.

The Democrats have indeed made inroads with the military, and that might not be a bad thing--for the military or for the Democratic Party. That said, we must all be on guard for the Democratic Party's most despicable tactic, and that is, supporting a panoply of benefits and rights for Veterans as a cheap way of appearing to be strong on defense. Job training, health care, education...all those things are nice, and ladling them out by the truckload to veterans help create a critical reaction of future entitlement-craving Democratic voters...but it is NOT defense policy. Supporting the military means using them to defend American interests and giving them the tools they need to win.

Shinseki at VA

My apologies for linking to an E.J. Dionne editorial, but it is a convenient way to raise my support for the nomination of General Shinseki as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. This is really a good choice, but not for the reasons Dionne so gleefully points to. This is a really good choice because Shinseki is a really good man. In the interest of full disclosure, he is the father-in-law of a college friend of mine (who will likely find himself relatively high in an Obama Justice Department).

I think he was treated dreadfully by the Rumsfeld crowd, and his prescience about what it would take in Iraq was spot on.

What REALLY always impressed me about Shinseki was something very different. He's the guy that brought the black beret into the Army. My God, when he first brought this subject up, there was a near-muntiny! "Only the elite Rangers get to wear a beret" and "only the elite Green Berets" get to wear a beret and "only the elite 82nd Airborne" get to wear berets....you get my point. He said screw it, we'll all wear berets. And you know what? He made it so (though all the "elite" folks wear their own colored berets still). And now, even Army REMF's look tough.

Just before Shinseki retired, I wrote him an email telling him how awfully I felt about his treatment. He responded with all the class you would expect from an incredibly classy man. And he got a big kick out of a Navy guy's respect for the beret call.

Ruth Marcus Hearts Caroline Kennedy

Please have something in which to dispose the contents of your stomach close at hand after reading this. I can imagine Ruth Marcus writing this little piece of drivel while wearing a precious little chiffon dress and black patent leather shoes...

What's the difference between Caroline Kennedy and the other unqualified people she mentions (Schwarzenegger, Corzine, Bono et al)? THEY WON CONTESTED ELECTIONS! They submitted their names and their fame to the electorate....they didn't pick up the phone and call the Governor of their state and ask for a job.

My Inauguration Week Plan

News continues to flow in of the masses expected to flow into the DC area to watch PEBO's inauguration. It should be quite the event, there's no doubt about it. I will however, choose to enjoy it from afar. I'll be flying out to California that week for work...getting there a few days early to "prepare" for meetings, so that I can escape the madness here in the big city.

I considered renting out my oh so trendy pied-a-terre here across the Potomac to some hapless Obamaniac who wanted to give me thousands of dollars to live in it while they usher in hope and change....but then thought better of it. Offered the place to misguided buddy Tom and his family for free, but don't know if they'll take it.

Auto Bailout Gathering Steam

Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank and willing co-conspirators in the Bush Administration are nearing completion on a $15B package of "bridge loans" to the auto industry. Talk about a "bridge to nowhere". I love the little digs the churlish Dems put in the measure....no bonuses, no corporate jets, no dividends to stockholders....all designed to punish capital and management. Where is the retribution to the union leaders who have added $2000 per car in costs, rendering this industry irrelevant?

9-11 Suspects Plead Guilty, Then Don't

It looks like Khalid Sheik Mohammed and some of the other deeply complicit terrorists pleaded guilty the other day, then recanted their plea when informed that (for some reason I can't understand) they might not be executed. My knowledge of the law is pretty low in general, but it is almost non-existent here.

Long-time readers know that I am not a death penalty supporter. I look at these killers--whose desire is to die--and I have wish in no way to enable their desires. But if it saves this country the mockery of a civil trial in which KSM and his cronies are afforded the full protection of American civil rights, if it saves this country the embarrassment of good men being smeared because they waterboarded or roughed up people with DEEP insight into the heart of the enemy--well then I can put down my objection to the death penalty for just this once.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Bush Waxes Reminiscent

Interesting story here on NRO, in which President Bush sat down with writers and editors from the National Review for an interview. Putting aside the ridiculous loyalty to the idea of Harriet Myers as a Supreme Court Justice, the President said about what I'd hope he'd say, and I agree with him on the content.

I really liked his discussion of "connecting the dots". Lots of criticism came his ( and Bill Clinton's) way for "not connecting the dots" of AQ growth in the 90's and the activities leading up to 9-11. The country is viciously attacked--so he puts forward an apparatus that actually begins to give us the ability to connect dots...and he is attacked. His reminder to us of what it was like after 9-11 is important; I can't even imagine the pressure and importance of the decisions that were being made in the White House at that point.

Bill Kristol Gets it Right

Kristol is on message today, making the case that "small government conservatism" is less politically popular than it once was, and it may never have been an actual force within the Republican Party. The American Public isn't much interested in "small" government...it is interested in "effective government" in which they feel they are getting value for their tax dollars. The key graph in this story:

"So talk of small government may be music to conservative ears, but it’s not to the public as a whole. This isn’t to say the public is fond of big-government liberalism. It’s just that what’s politically vulnerable about big-government liberalism is more the liberalism than the big government. (Besides, the public knows that government’s not going to shrink much no matter who’s in power.)"

Saturday, December 6, 2008

So If This Is True, Why Are There So Many Dumb People Walking Around?

Intelligent men have better, more mobile sperm.

Army Navy

Here it is again, a wonderful game, a wonderful tradition. I absolutely LOVE Army Navy, not only because I served in the Navy, but because now that I'm retired, I look down on the field and see 150 young men who signed on during a time of war--and in the stands are thousands of others they represent. Where do we get such people of character? The answer is all across this country. We are singularly blessed. We're facing adversity across the world and in our economy, but with men and women like those who attend our Service Academies leading the way, my money's on us.

I've already teared up three times, and the coverage has been on for 15 minutes. Hearing the ROAR of the crowd when President Bush was introduced got me all verklempt. That man has worked his BUTT off to keep this nation safe, and no one recognizes that better than the people on that field and their families at home. He has earned our respect, and that the people in the stands demonstrated it made me proud.

Caroline Kennedy and The NY Senate Seat

I had initially thought to protest what seems to be a growing sentiment that Caroline Kennedy should be appointed to Hillary Clinton's Senate seat, should the latter be confirmed by the Senate. I would have protested on experience grounds, on the fact that she'd done little or nothing in her life worth note (expect, well, be a Kennedy), and that she Senate would be a better place with NO Kennedy's....but then I remembered that we just elected a President with no experience, and Caroline has no control over the family she's born into, so what the hell.....Caroline Kennedy for Senate!

Conscience and the Constitution

This is a bit of a rambler, so stay with me.

Ace asks in another post: "So the certainty I seek is on this question: what is the standard of conscience or the legal test of enmity with the Constitution? I suspect the definition of a foreign enemy is relatively simple, but what of a domestic enemy? What must one do to qualify as a domestic enemy of the Constitution?" Then further: " So what is the relationship between the oath taker and a domestic enemy of the Constitution? In other words, what is the duty of one who has sworn this oath?"

What's happened between the two posts above is that the question changed slightly. I answered the first by stating that a domestic enemy was someone who attempted to subvert the proceedings or authorities of one of the three branches of government. Ace then got to the heart of his question, which is what should one (duly sworn to defend the Constitution) DO if they feel they are witnessing the activities of a domestic enemy of the Constitution.

The first thing to keep in mind is that individual citizens, while certainly charged with bringing to the attention of competent authority transgressions that they believe rise to the level of threats to the Constitution, are not competent authority. Those determinations get made elsewhere. If found within the legislative branch, they are adjudicated in the judicial (and to some extent legislative) branches. If within the Judicial, the legislative and judicial branches apply, and if within the Executive, the same.

Keep in mind--simple transgressions of the law are only tangentially unconstitutional, and do not make up "threats to the Constitution" except through a tortured reading. Yes, breaking and entering/larceny 1) violate privacy (a dubious constitutional right) 2) violate property rights and 3) violate laws made by legislatures with duly constituted authority to do so. But breaking and entering is NOT a threat to the Constitution. A state which seeks to decriminalize breaking and entering would be threatening that document.

Which brings me again to the subject of competent authority and duty. Should someone sworn to uphold the Constitution find conduct threatening to that document, they should seek to alert the mechanisms of competent authority to adjudicate such conduct, in a manner consistent with the gravity of the charge and their responsibility to the Constitution.

Young CW wrote about this ten years ago during the Clinton/Lewinsky mess, in an editorial printed in the Washington Times. In it, I responded to a Marine Corps Major who had been publicly calling for the impeachment of the President--presumably someone who had 1) taken the oath and 2) believed to be responding to threats to that document. Major Rabil likely believed he was upholding his oath--I took issue with that assertion. There were mechanisms available to him--communication with his Congressman, discussions with the US Attorney's office--yet the one he took, a broadside in a major metropolitan newspaper--was improper.

Long and rambling yes, but key take-aways are 1) breaking the law doesn't represent a "constitutional" threat 2) constitutional crimes have constitutional adjudication mechanisms and 3) those who find "unconstitutional" behavior should bring it to the attention of legitimate authority.

And so--let's look at an example, shall we? Let's look at the "is PEBO a natural born American citizen?" First question--Is this a Constitutional question? I think the answer is obviously, yes. Second question--are there leg imitate mechanisms for determining A) the basis of this charge and B) pursuing its endgame through appropriate adjudicating authority? The answer to both is also, yes. Finally, have the appropriate authorities been informed? The answer is also, yes. Suits have been filed, the process is working.

Let's move now finally to the "special" case of someone in the military--someone sworn to defend the Constitution but then also now a protector of the military's unique relationship with modern US political society. What should he or she have done in the case that they "uncovered" the conduct? I would answer--follow my three step process above.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Christmas in the People's Democratic State of Maryland

Classic. Montgomery County shuts down a Christmas Tree operation run by a church because it violates a law saying Christmas Tree sales cannot begin before 5 December. No one in power seems to know why the law was passed in the first place. Gotta love the nanny state.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Re-emergence of ADM Denny Blair

Sorry to go all Naval on you this morning, but maybe I'm feeling a little nostalgic. This article is interesting in and of itself, but it interested me more because it repeated something I've heard a bit lately, and that is ADM Denny Blair (former CINCPAC, back when they were called CINC's) is in line for a big job in the Obama Administration, possibly Director of National Intelligence. I'd be all for that--I'm a Denny Blair fan and the country would be well-served with him in that job (hopefully, his first act will be to have his job eliminated, as I think the DNI has really just put a layer of bureaucracy atop the intelligence establishment without really adding value).

I've got a good Denny Blair story. Got a call one day when I was XO of USS PRINCETON (CG 59--great, great ship) one day, from a guy who had been XO of PRINCETON twice removed. He was a staff officer on the Third Fleet staff, and he was calling to tell me that CINCPAC would be in town the next day, and that he would be visiting PRINCETON. I was thrilled, as I maintained a line with the crew that the reason we had all these VIP visits was because we were 1) a great ship and 2) a clean ship. Denny Blair was the highest ranking Surface Warfare Officer in the Navy, and he was rumored to be a good guy. The catch? The guy at Third Fleet told me the Admiral would not be able to arrive until 1600. He (the staff officer) apologized that we'd have to hold up liberty call (the end of the work day) while the admiral was visiting.

At this point the conversation turned a bit. "We won't hold up liberty call", I said. You see, we worked an incredibly fast-paced 0600-1300 work day--no meals, no breaks, no special liberty, no doctors appointments. Nada but training, maintenance and cleaning. I explained to the staffer that I was not going to hold 275 people on the ship for essentially four extra hours. The duty section plus a few volunteers who want to hang with a four-star can handle this. He was very unhappy, and he called my CO after our call to get him to overrule me. The CO didn't (he was a gem, by the way).

Well, Admiral Blair showed up had a great visit, and then we repaired to the Wardroom for some refreshment and conversation with a group of officers who stayed around to chat with him. What did Blair say? "Captain, I'm glad you didn't hold up liberty call on my account. I really just wanted to poke around a ship for a while." Game, set, match, McGrath.

But this wasn't even the best part of the visit. During the conversation, I asked the admiral a question about our policy of "strategic ambiguity" toward China and Taiwan--that is, giving neither of them full confidence that we would or would not intervene in a conflict. He then recounted a story of a discussion just two weeks earlier with what was essentially the Chinese SECDEF and CJCS combined. Conducted in native languages with interpreters, the Chinese official asked the standard (to those who engage in dialogues with senior Chinese defense officials) question about the defense of Taiwan. Blair then said, "I looked him directly in the eye and said, you know, I can't really say for sure if we'd intervene--but I can tell you one thing. If we did, we'd kick your ass." He said it was obvious that the Chinese official knew English, because he visibly recoiled at the statement....and his interpreter was very uncomfortable at passing that comment further...

Great day. The ship looked great, Blair was happy, and the sanctity of liberty call was upheld.

The Pentagon, Irregular Warfare, and the Maritime Strategy

In an important policy directive released yesterday, Deputy Secretary of Defense (I wish it were still Secretary of War) England has raised "irregular warfare" to the same level of importance within DoD as "traditional warfare". For those of you who are confused, irregular warfare is basically a lot of stuff that you do against enemies who aren't willing to dress up in battle rattle and drive tanks against you in suicidal resistance. Think irregular warfare when you think of the Iraqi insurgency, of 2003-7, think traditional warfare when you think of Saddam's resistance in 1991. I know this is simplistic, but if you want better insight, go to the military blogs.

I am interested in this subject because the Maritime Strategy with which I was associated while on active duty was I think prescient in how it viewed irregular warfare, counterinsurgency, and war in general. We said in that document that the prevention of war was as important as the conduct of war...a very important statement that meant a lot more than simply the deterrence of the mailed fist. It was about raising the importance of maritime security and pro-active humanitarian assistance WITHOUT de-emphasizing traditional Naval missions that involve killing people and wrecking things. We took a lot of criticism from the talking heads in DC for "ignoring the war we are in" in the strategy--which means that we didn't focus maniacally on the Global War on Terror/War in Iraq and Afghanistan. What they missed was that we shot over those wars, aiming at trying to achieve what Assistant Secretary of Defense Vickers refers to in this article as the creation of a "persistent, ubiquitous presence against our adversaries....and essentially smother them over time" Anyone who reads the Maritime Strategy cannot fail to see that in our "globally distributed, mission tailored forces" devoted to maritime security, capacity building and the creation and maintenance of cooperative relationships with other maritime nations.

Anyone who sees in this latest directive a threat to Navy budgets (which is EXACTLY how this will be read by most folks in the DC defense chattering class) failed to read the Maritime Strategy. Where DoD is now headed is simply following in the wake of where the Navy is already going.

New Metro Line to Dulles May Be a Reality

News yesterday of federal approval for a "Silver Line" to extend the Metro from East Falls Church to Dulles Airport in a series of construction stages. When this line is completed, all three major DC area airports will be serviced by rail, with National and Dulles on Metro, and BWI on the MARC. This is true progress, this is the kind of thing I do think government has a role in financing.

But there are always unintended consequences...to everything. Boosters of the line speak of its relief of congestion on the Dulles Toll Road (which can be grinding). But commuters turning to metro will then empty at East Falls Church into an already crowded existing metro backbone. Metro is going to have to look at the system as a system, rather than just adding branches without thinking of system impact.

On Travel--Sorry So Lame

Sorry friends; I've been in California for a couple of days, and between the time change, work, and after work social obligations, the blog has suffered. I'll be back with a vengeance in a few days.

The Auto Bailout Talk Continues

It looks like the CEO's of the big three are driving to DC this time, in energy efficient cars that they'd like us to believe are the future of their brands. I read recently where GM and Toyota have about the same US market share, but GM has about five times as many dealers across the country. I honestly think the US automakers need to go into bankruptcy just so one of the three can survive.

I keep thinking that if PEBO were going to help them out, if he were committed to "saving" them.....he'd SAY SO. That he hasn't said so yet leads me to believe that he is actively entertaining options short of a bailout. If so, good for him.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hey, No One Said They Were Allowed to Fight Back!

Mudge---what's up with this? I thought this was sporting and all, you know, I shoot the defenseless deer, deer dies, I eat him. Simple, right?

Chambliss Pulls it Out

Well, the filibuster is safe. Saxby Chambliss retains his seat in Georgia...now if only Al Franken could be put away for good, we can have ourselves a Senate.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

PEBO National Security Team Announced

As expected, PEBO announced his team yesterday, and it is a group of relatively moderate adults. I think that the choice of General Jones as National Security Adviser is probably the weak link in this chain--not that I think the General is not capable of doing the job, but that I think the job (if done correctly) demands more of a consigliare or conciliator than a command figure. The NSA needs to make trains run on time, needs to make sure the National Security decision making apparatus functions smoothly. He or she has power and authority, but only that given by the President. Given Mr. Gates' (and Mrs. Clinton for that matter) thorough lack of political loyalty to PEBO, I think the NSA is going to have to be deft in handling disagreements between State and Defense. Putting that aside, these are substantial people who have all the requisite skills and power bases to get things done. Like his economic team, the national security team shows PEBO tacking to the center and distancing himself more and more from the fringes of his party.

Recession Now a Year Old....Thanks for the Update

News just in from the National Bureau of Economic Research that the economy entered a recession in December of 2007. I repeat--just how useful a term is "recession" if we have to wait until a year's worth of data (well, really only two quarters) is accumulated and analyzed before it can be declared? Are there not a series of in-stream measurements that can be looked at together that correlate with a contracting economy? Or do we simply prefer as a society to talk about whether or not we're in recession while the economists gather the data?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sending Groh a Message

UVA Athletic Director Craig Littlepage declined to extend Al Groh's contract another year (into 2012), after Groh's second losing season in three years. While this is certainly a welcome development, it is insufficient. Groh must go. And he should take his son (hired as offensive coordinator three years ago) with him.
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