David Broder has a message for gleeful Democrats celebrating the defection of Arlen Specter to their assembly...be careful what you wish for. It's clear from this view that Broder has no great affection for the Senator from Pennsylvania.
Well, he certainly seems to have a command of the facts, and he certainly sounds reasonable.
I liked his answers about not wanting to be in the car business and the banking business....I hope he abides by them.
He surely wants to be in the health care business though...so I wonder why he feels more qualified for that business than the others?
His answer to the NY Times question on what is troubling, enchanting, humbling, etc was great.
My biggest complaint though is in the way he portrays Republican opposition (it's funny, at one point in answer to another question, he said he didn't want to build a "straw man", but that's exactly what he does with Republican opposition). He wants us all to believe that it is HE who is reasonable and accommodating, that the Republicans are mad because HE doesn't accept their positions lock, stock, and barrel. This is of course, nonsense. The problem hasn't been that Republican positions haven't been adopted wholesale; Republican opposition springs from the fact that Republicans feel that their positions don't INFLUENCE the final bills.
All in all, a solid, smooth performance. And I'm glad he didn't call on that little old troll in the front row.
Tom Friedman's editorial in the NY Times today starts out by praising President Obama for exposing but not prosecuting those who may have tortured prisoners during our prosecution of the war on terror--because, you know, those were bad things, they were bad men and the rest of the world didn't like it. Then he goes on in the rest of the article to demonstrate why enhanced interrogation and looking at Al Qaeda differently than other enemies was a perfectly responsible thing to do.
Included is this little gem of a paragraph, in which Friedman accidentally makes the case that the war in Iraq made us safer in the US....something the Bush folks said all along:
"I believe that the most important reason there has not been another 9/11, besides the improved security and intelligence, is that Al Qaeda is primarily focused on defeating America in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world — particularly in Iraq. Al Qaeda knows that if it can destroy the U.S. effort (still a long shot) to build a decent, modernizing society in Iraq, it will undermine every U.S. ally in the region."
There was once a lot of talk of Iraq as "flypaper", a place where the Al Qaeda flies would go to die, rather than dying here. This was never put forward as a primary or even a secondary strategic rationale for the war. But it surely does turn out to have been at least a very useful unintended consequence.
Commanding Officers measure the success of their commands by many different metrics, most of which are immediate and tangible. Not me. I always considered that my command would be measured (by me) as having been successful if the people who worked for me continued to thrive--and the measurement of that metric is being selected to command ships of their own.
I made my people a promise--plan well, execute precisely and be the best ship--and all will prosper. This is quite a statement, given that nearly two thirds of those eligible are never selected to command. But I saw it work once many years ago, and I knew we could pull it off. Anyone who has been around surface warfare can tell you that there is a perception of back-stabbing and sink-or-swimism. Not on my ship.
Just got an email this morning from one of my Junior Officers. In it, he revealed that he had been talking with another guy from the ship. Turns out that we are six for six in eligible officers being selected for command (two Executive Officers and four Department Heads).
Arlen Specter has finally admitted what the rest of us knew all along...that he was much closer ideologically to the center of the Democratic Party than he was to the center of the Republican Party. His move to switch parties, heralded by some as "courage" is simply cold, hard political calculation. He could not possibly win a Republican primary battle, and so he would be denied his sixth term.
Many interesting questions arise here. Specter says his party left him. He's probably right about that. The Republican Party has indeed gotten more conservative during his tenure as a Republican. But guess what? The Democratic Party has gotten more liberal than the party of Clinton! Specter was always a bit of a lib, but he loved being an iconoclast in the Republican Party, and he loved the spotlight it gave him.
So now he'll just be another run of the mill Democrat, consistently liberal and reliable. I can't wait to see the seniority battles that flow out of this one, though I imagine they had this all greased before the announcement.
I do fear for a loss of moderates in the Republican Party--but Arlen Specter was not a moderate, at least by my understanding of the term.
There are lies, damnable lies, and statistics. So here's the summation of a set of statistics for you: Barack Obama is less popular at this stage in his presidency than Jimmy Carter or Richard Nixon were (oh, and George W. Bush too...). You wouldn't know it though from the fawning coverage he and his toned-arm wife continue to get. The media's investment in this President's success is manifest, and it will not lightly move away from its responsibility to prop him up.
The Fox Network has announced that it will not carry the President's news conference Wednesday night, instead urging viewers to catch the President on FOX News. This seems like a sensible business decision to me. The President is already ridiculously overexposed, and giving up an hour plus in prime time yet again for what is likely to be a ratings snoozer simply doesn't appeal to FOX execs.
Now of course, this will be put forward by Fox's detractors as a sign of its continuing alliance with the Republican Party. But Fox News was created in order to focus on....well....news. If the entertainment network is to make money, it needs to provide entertainment. That said, I do wish it had been NBC who made the first move on this one....
According to the GAO, female federal employees make 89 cents for every dollar made by male employees. How useful a statistic is this? Amalgamating the entire workforce by gender proves nothing. Comparisons of apples to apples are the only relevant measures, and I have little or no doubt that at GS14 step 3 female makes the same money that a GS14 step 3 male makes.
The creeping skulk toward socialism worldwide continues, as Britain has reinstated a 50% tax bracket, much to the chagrin of some of its more wealthy citizen. Supported by 68% of those polled (naturally, since very few of them will ever have to pay it), Britons will realize its stupidity not when their economy continues to tube due to brain drain, but when the quality of play in the English Premier League dips as athletes decide to take their soccer skills elsewhere.
Porter Goss, one of George Bush's CIA Directors (probably the least favorite one among career intelligence folks) comes out swinging in this morning's Post against the circus atmosphere gaining momentum in the nations capital over torture, non-torture, enhanced interrogations and who knew what, when and how.
His recollections are clear--those who needed to know, knew. They offered even more help. That we may now in the "bright sunshine" of an April day look back and say that this or that practice was torture, at the time, in that place, it was considered by those who were charged with making such decisions, not to be outside acceptable practice.
We're learning. We're getting better. Not a single nation on earth does this kind of thing to itself like we do. Anyone who thinks we need a truth commission needs to explain how it will make us 1) safer or 2) more free. In the meantime, the President has said what is acceptable to him, and those are the rules we live under.
I've taken this from Facebook....folks tend to post things they find interesting there, and one has the opportunity to respond. One of the very best men I know posted the Sullivan article as a way of demonstrating (presumably) inconsistency in argument and thought (Peggy Noonan's in this case). But it is just sloppy logic, as my answer below hopefully illuminates:
"So beginneth the lesson: enhanced interrogation techniques were not used until field operatives obtained legal sanction to do so. Legal sanction to do so was gained in the appropriate manner within the Justice Department. Great, weighty debates and legal memos were filed attempting to discern between that which is torture and that which isn't--a useful distinction in a nation attempting to prosecute a nihilistic enemy while maintaining its own identity. These techniques were approved by the President and briefed to the senior members of Congress with oversight responsibility. "I" were dotted, "T"'s were crossed. This notion that a bunch of cowboys just up and decided to pull toenails might be fun for Andrew Sullivan and his ilk, but it just isn't true. There was a process, a legal process followed. Don't hate the player, hate the game.
Now, onto President Clinton. While Sullivan dismisses his actions as having occurred in a "civil" matter, he is wrong. It was a Constitutional matter. No one likes thinking about the matter at the heart of the matter--it was tawdry and low. But when the single embodiment of one of the three co-equal branches of government (El Presidente Los Estados Unidos) undertakes on his own to undermine the duly constituted proceedings of one of the other three branches (the Judicial, as embodied in Paula whathername's civil suit) through perjury and the suborning of perjury, it is no longer a mere "civil" matter. So what we have here is Sullivan greatly de-weighting the issues at hand in the Clinton matter and just as greatly de-weighting the legitimacy and propriety of the process followed in the Bush Administration in an effort to create a parallel. And you bit like a great big Sullivan fish."
I always enjoy a good barb thrown toward wind and solar energy, especially when it comes from a former Secretary of Energy. Don't get me wrong--wind and solar are part of a coherent energy solution for our country. Part if it, mind you. But there is an increasingly vocal and missionary segment of the population who believe wind and solar can scale up sufficiently to become something more than geographically oriented niche providers of power. It just ain't so.
One quibble I have with the authors though, is that pot-shot they take at the federal subsidies necessary to make wind and solar viable. I'm convinced that purely free-market conditions will NOT solve this problem. As long as people hit their light switches and there is power available, they don't care where it comes from. It will take considerable government investment in infrastructure to upgrade the nation's electrical grid and to provide that grid with clean, renewable, reliable, and constant electrical power.
Very interesting story here about the extent to which "the heavy hand of government" was used during the dying days of the Bush Administration, just as it is being now used in the Obama Administration. Bank of America Chairman Ken Lewis testified to a New York prosecutor that he had been pressured by the former Treasury Secretary and Fed Chairman Bernanke to go through with the deal to buy Merrill Lynch even after the full extent of Lynch's insolvency was discovered. BOA felt that it could get out of the deal through an escape clause in the contract, but the feds believed such an action would send a devastating signal to the financial world, one that would have unbalanced the whole system.
So we see again the notion at work that in order for the system to survive, it would have to be artificially propped up. I'm unwilling to dismiss this approach, because I simply do not have the experience or insight to dispute it. But anyone who blames "free markets" on what has gone wrong in our country thoroughly understands how un-free those markets always were, and how less free they are becoming.
A story here about how the worldwide global downturn has hurt the flesh trade in Europe. Check out the names of some of the clubs....and a "discount" for golfers and senior citizens. Is there some kind of sex industry study that shows golfers are worthy of a price break for some reason? Inquiring minds want to know!
But seriously folks, the libertarian in me comes out when it comes to this subject. Look at the German model as described here....health insurance, registered (taxed) businesses....there's a lot to like about getting government out of the legislating morality business (let's hear it from Ghost of Halloween Past!). It is the oldest profession because it serves the oldest, most durable market.
Here's a story about the current issue of whether and how banks can pay back TARP money they received from the government, money which came was then larded with strings such as executive compensation attached. When Geithner talks about the being concerned with the health of the "entire" system, what is he talking about?
Here's the deal. While capital markets are beginning to thaw and many banks are beginning to make money again, there are some banks that are simply insolvent and close to failure. Geithner's reticence to accept OUR money back from the banks is born of a desire to prop up the nearly insolvent banks. The logic goes, if Treasury begins to accept TARP payments back from the banks now, it will set up the appearance of "healthy" vs. "sick" banks, and depositors in those "sick" banks (the ones not publicly trumpeting their repayment early) will swoop in and remove their money...tipping the balance and causing those banks to fail.
So I get what Geithner is trying to do. But what is wrong with allowing the "sick" banks to fail? I continue to be amazed at the extent to which "free" markets are criticized as the cause of all our problems, when their LACK of freedom was probably more to blame. Free markets? In free markets, banks don't lend money to people who probably won't pay it back. Our regulated and politically enlightened market forced them to, and in response, the financial industry chopped up and mitigated the risk to a level that resulted in no value at the end of the food chain--when the market bottomed, we had a financial crisis.
Keeping sick banks alive strikes me as yet another instance of government intrusion in the market. The creative destruction of recession sets the stage for future growth.
Fearing an existential threat from Iran more than the nagging, constant threat from Hamas, new Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has embarked on a strategy that links US and world pressure on Iran to end its nuclear ambitions with progress on negotiations with the Palestinians. Netanyahu is not going to be easy to work with for Obama, and this linkage surely will serve to complicate things. But Israel has few trump cards in its deck, and it--like much of the Arab world--does not trust the Mullahs in Tehran.
For this to work for Israel though, it must not come to be seen as simple cover for ignoring the Palestinian question, or worse, for building new settlements.
I was asked yesterday in a comment made on a post from July, whether in the light of new evidence I was prepared to review my thoughts about waterboarding etc. The answer is yes, I am prepared to do do.
This editorial, and others like it, have described the interrogation tactics practiced on certain high value detainees in great detail.
While I continue to support the Bush Administration's effort to define just what constituted torture, I cannot support the way these techniques were implemented. While an instance of waterboarding on its own may not rise to the level of torture, 183 instances surely does. After oh, I don't know, maybe the 47th waterboarding, did they not think Khalid Sheik Muhammad had figured out that he was indeed NOT going to drown and that he was indeed going to make it through? This was simply sadistic and wrong.
The President has a duty to work with the intelligence community, law enforcement and the military to come to an agreement on what the acceptable techniques are. It looks to me like they've done that. I also believe the President needs the "ticking time-bomb" option with respect to even more drastic procedures. But KSM wasn't a ticking time-bomb anymore, and his treatment over time can only be described as torture.
Neat little story here about Chrysler turning down some $750M in government money, reportedly because it would have subjected their executives to as yet undetermined compensation limits. They instead went elsewhere to the private markets to obtain their funding.
Putting aside for a second the wisdom of Chrysler's decision, this story brings front and center the issue of institutions that the Obama Administration believed MUST be saved through billions of taxpayer money, now beginning to walk away from or give back government funding because of the onerous strings attached to it...some of which amount to ex post facto restrictions.
The logic of the big money aid was that it was necessary to get the big lending institutions lending again....more liquidity in the credit markets was seen as a way of jump-starting the financial system, something most observers thought was as a necessary step to broad economic recovery. Without the money (the thinking went), the recovery would be hampered.
But by attaching executive compensation strings, the federal government has created a situation in which the targeted recipients are realizing that the cozy relationship with the feds comes at too high a price. Firings of CEO's, dilution of common stock value, limits on executive compensation...these are all some of the costs of letting Uncle Sam into your boardroom. So some of these guys are saying they'd rather come out of this recession more slowly, but intact, than more quickly as some kind of public receivership.
So the money that was voted to help move the the recession more quickly into the past is actually acting to keep it around longer. Follow the law...of unintended consequences....
I'm not a big Ruth Marcus fan, but every once in a while she writes something that strikes me as sensible and balanced. On the subject of Sarah Palin's recent revelation that she considered aborting her most recent baby, Marcus threads a tough needle with moderate language and insight.
What Marcus finds interesting is the depth of Palin's thinking on the subject of terminating the pregnancy (I guess all it took was to THINK about having an abortion for Sarah Palin to get a fair shake from the left), a rich and emotional inner monologue only made possible for Palin through the availability of a choice to terminate the pregnancy. As Marcus points out, it is clear that this was not a point Palin was attempting to make in her speech--but she made it nonetheless.
I struggle with this issue....mightily. I cannot say that I am pro-choice, because I find abortion horrific. I cannot say I am pro-life because I cannot begin to conceive of what goes through the mind of a woman who is carrying a baby she does not want to have.
The Pro-Life movement does an insufficient job in demonstrating its understanding of the real and emotional struggle women go through who are considering abortions. Additionally, they might make up some ground were they to be seen as the leading advocates of early childhood education, health care and adoption.
The Pro-Choice movement would go a long way if it for just one minute...just an instance in time....actually considered the morality of abortion. Rather than looking at the choice as the end game, talking frankly about what it is the choice will do--destroy life--would make them appear (to me at least) to be more than a collection of moral relativists without any moorings to their fellow human beings.
I realize there are people on either extreme of this issue who will criticize me for my indecision and fence-sitting here. So be it. I am unprepared to speak with certainty on issues of which I am so uncertain. But Ruth Marcus' editorial pushes forward a view that should be considered, and her deft touch in its crafting should be recognized.
Fine editorial here from Jackson Diehl discussing the inconvenient realities of foreign policy in the increasing difficulty of the Obama Administration in getting anyone to believe that tough foreign policy questions really were the fault of the blundering Bush Administration.
A fine editorial here from the Washington Post pointing out that Members of Congress are far more likely to send their children to private school than are members of the general public. The Post goes on to raise the issue of hypocrisy, given the Democratically controlled Congress' recent moves to kill the District of Columbia's nascent voucher program, a program popular with residents but anathema to the teacher's unions and the education lobby.
The unremitting noise of liberal Dems who bleed for the future of our nation's public schools while shuffling their progeny off to tony private schools is one of the great hypocrisies of our time. They preen about smaller classrooms (more teachers), parental involvement, "progressive" learning environments and all manner of other enhancements "necessary to save" our public schools, a support bought cheaply as they are not themselves willing to subject their children to its decline. Vouchers are a way to ensure SOME children of modest economic means are able to escape the system while all the wonderful experiments of modern liberalism play themselves out.
CW mentioned I attended a Tea Party last week and so of course he put the pressure on for me to write about it (as thanks, I got him one of those Jesus Hope Shirts). I don’t know when each of you are most proud of being an American (I’ll resist the too-easy shot at the person who only recently took pride in her country), but every once in a while I have one of those moments that gets me all choked up with American pride--when my Little Leaguer lines up with his teammates before a game as they play the National Anthem…watching the commissioning of the George HW Bush last month…watching the Fargo residents working last month to stave off flood, a community coming together without the need for government assistance. But nothing (and I mean that sincerely) nothing compared to what I felt observing the Tea Party experience last week in Newport News. By nationwide Tea Party standards it was small (400 or so), but teeming with peaceful, pleasant folks – folks that under any other circumstance you’d never see at a political rally or protest of any kind. There were seniors, vets, dogs dressed in flag sweaters, men dressed as Minutemen, some college kids, young families-you name it, they were there. I’m sure you saw some of it on the news, but like a ship homecoming, or childbirth, it’s difficult to fully appreciate unless you’ve been there. Despite the claims of Krugman and others as to the funding of these events, the only expenditures I could see were by those folks who’d spent five bucks on posterboard and Magic Markers at Office Depot to make signs. There were knots of folks (of all ethnicities) singing God Bless America, knots of folks gathered around various speakers, and despite rain and cold an overwhelming abundance of good feeling.
So I found the coverage of the Tea Parties mystifying – the snotty, condescending CNN reporter, the smug Robert Gibbs who simply can’t understand why anyone would be unhappy with the great deal this President is giving to ‘95% of Americans’, and the always priceless Nancy Pelosi who spoke confidently of the ‘fat-cat funded tea parties for those rich Americans who are losing their tax cuts.’ These people either SO don’t get it, or they do in fact get it and are somehow scared of it. What kills me is the folks at the Tea Party I attended couldn’t have been more civil, pleasant, and more representative of those average Americans the Democrats purport to care so much about. Why aren’t they at all concerned that someone may point out to them 'hey, these are regular folks you’re putting down’ ? For his part, I understand the President was ‘unaware’ of the tea parties (I know, I know). Wouldn’t this have been a fabulous opportunity for him to say something along the lines of how he respects the feelings of those who felt obligated to get out and gather peacefully with their fellow Americans, and it’s great to see we live in a true democracy?
At any rate, after last Wednesday’s events, I can’t help but think that perhaps there’s hope for the Republic after all. If not, I suppose we can all move to Texas
I'm going to go off on a little rant here, I'm sorry to say. You see, The Kitten and I went for a bike ride last week along the winding country roads that make up this most exquisite part of Maryland's Eastern Shore where we live. In the process, we got an up close and personal look at the ridiculous amount of litter thrown along the sides of these beautiful roads, a view you just don't get from your tank-like SUV or your sleek four door sedan.
So we resolved last week that we'd do something about it. Today, the Kitten and I and her two little girls staked out a portion of a road--maybe a half-mile or so--and simply picked up every piece of garbage we could find. Four big trash bags later (all we brought) we hadn't finished the job. It was disgusting. Cans, bottles, feminine products, fast food wrappers, you name it, someone had thrown it out of his or her car window.
What is this, the 70's all over again? Do we need another crying Indian Chief to remind us that you shouldn't throw litter out of your car window? Who are these people? What in the world would prompt them to do it? I'm no environmental freak but my goodness, this just doesn't make sense.
And you know who really gets me? It's the smokers. Well--the littering smokers, at least. I'm not a big anti-smoking guy, but I am anti-litter. Are you telling me that the stinking tobacco you put in your mouth and light on fire, which then makes your clothes and hair smell, is somehow an inappropriate smell for your car? Are you nuts? Putting aside for a second the fire hazard associated with carelessly throwing a cigarette butt out the window, what is so damn hard about snuffing it out in your own ash tray and then dumping the ash tray in a trash can--you know, the one you failed to throw your Bud can in a mile back.
There, I did it again, I went and read another one of Dana Milbank's columns. In it, he treats us to the remarkable finding that the choler and vitriol extended to his columns is even stronger from the left than from the right. And he simply can't figure out why. Perhaps I'll help.
When your ENTIRE political ideology revolves around what you "feel" and around "the politics of meaning" and what is "fair", your reaction to the rough and tumble of actual politics is bound to be emotional. Tip O'Neil once told us that "all politics is local", but he was wrong, at least for liberals. For them, all politics is personal.
This story shows the extreme downside of Congressional ear-marks, a process that I have on occasion defended. That this downside comes at the hands of our most accomplished practitioner of pork (well, I guess Senator Byrd of West Virginia is also way up there) should strike no one as a surprise.
John Murtha sort of reminds me of Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, except for all the parts that had me feeling sympathetic for Kurtz. Murtha has set himself up, seemingly beyond the reach of the rules that govern everyone else, and he is operating without restraint. This unnecessary airport is just one of many instances of Murtha's machine style influence over the appropriations process.
The Washington Post has an interesting article this morning on upcoming civil rights cases bound for the Supreme Court docket. The case most closely described in this article is one involving the New Haven, CT fire department. From the article, here's the crux of the case:
"When the results of the 2003 exams came back, only white firefighters, including one who is Hispanic, scored high enough to be considered for the openings for lieutenants and captains. All 27 black firefighters who took the test were below the cutoff. After tumultuous public hearings, with minority groups arguing that the tests were flawed and the white firefighters saying officials were caving to political pressure, the city's Civil Service Board voted not to certify the results. The promotions remain in limbo."
When I first read this, my blood pressure raised a bit....so I read it again. And it raised a little bit more. I immediately decided that this MUST be one of those ridiculous cases in which because the outcome moved in a certain direction, the test must OBVIOUSLY be flawed.
Then I continued to read the article, and a seed of doubt was planted in my mind:
"The city argues that the test it commissioned, in which 60 percent of the score came from a multiple-choice questionnaire and 40 percent from an interview, must have been biased, despite its best intentions. It is not specific about the problems with the test, though it says the exam did not measure "command presence" and should have given more weight to the interview."
Hmmm....we have a problem, Houston. Nearly half the test was based on interviews (subjective analysis)? Wow. What an opportunity for mischief. Who were the interviewers? Was the "old (white) boy" network in action, giving buddies of long-term standing a push because of years on the softball field? I'm far less apt to accept the argument that a test is biased if it is multiple choice (objective analysis), than I am if this huge element of subjectivity is injected. But the answer here is not so cut and dried as I felt upon first reading.
The bottom line here is that things HAVE changed in our country, and civil rights cases are going to continue to be tougher and tougher, and they will be derived from narrower and narrower instances of grievance. For the Supreme Court NOT to recognize this would be a gross miscarriage of justice.
Photos hit the press this morning of a smiling handshake and backslap between President Obama and President Chavez of Venezuela. I've seen a bit of grousing in the conservative press and some cheap potshots at the President for the interaction. Bottom line for me? This is what Presidents do; better still, this is what a gentleman does. Although I disagree with much of what Barack Obama is trying to do in his Presidency, one does not act like a petulant child in a setting like that, or ignore someone with whom political disagreements exist. The President did the right thing.
I am officially endorsing Pat Toomey in the 2010 Republican Primary against Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania. Specter has never been much of a Republican, and his support of the Obama stimulus package cannot be excused.
UPDATE: This should be considered a provisional endorsement. Should a better Republican candidate get in the race, I'll review this. But Specter must be sent out to pasture.
Secretary of State Gates has spent a whirlwind week visiting the service War Colleges, including this trip to the Naval War College in Newport, RI.
Gates is saying a lot of the right things, and he appears to be a force of nature when it comes to pushing his agenda of acquisition reform and curing the Services of "next war-itis" by forcing them to think more deeply about the world-wide counter-insurgency we are in, rather than myriad conflicts we are not.
I think the Navy came out of his FY10 Budget drill fairly well; it could have been much worse. Gates' often repeated line about our Navy being bigger than the next 13 combined (11 of which are allies) always left me a little leery of whether he saw the Navy as superfluous and overstuffed. His words in Newport at least, demonstrated his appreciation for what the Navy does for the country and the criticality of staying on top.
It will be interesting to see how the next Quadrennial Defense Review shakes out. In order to remain strategically (and politically) relevant, the Navy is going to have to alter its force structure to produce greater numbers of modestly capable ships while continuing to push the limits of sensors, propulsion, and weapons technology on future large combatants and submarines. This concept has often been referred to (derisively) as the "high-low" mix, and it is something the Navy has never been in favor of.
There's good news from the Chesapeake; it seems that the blue crabs are making somewhat of a comeback, proof say officials of the effectiveness of previous years of harvesting restrictions.
This is good news--for those of us who love to eat blue crabs on the Eastern Shore, for the watermen who collect them, and for the crabs themselves. As the article states, even this bumper crop is far below historic populations. I am hopeful that Maryland/Virginia officials will continue to work with the watermen to work out a way to sustain the crabs while sustaining the livelihoods of the watermen.
A dear friend of mine posted this editorial from Paul Krugman of the New York Times yesterday, and I wrote about it a bit over there. I decided you'd probably enjoy it more than folks over there would.
"I enjoy Paul Krugman as a political commentator as much as I enjoy Michael Jordan as an orthopedic surgeon. Just not his field, you know? He's an eminent economist apparently, as he has won a Nobel Prize. But why pray tell, does this make him a political commentator? His rhetoric and logic as a political... Read More commentator is adolescent and derivative. He is, for want of a better term, a political hack. I read him with interest (an often disagreement) when he speaks on the economy. I read him with bemusement when he speaks on politics.
While the tea parties are certainly emblematic of a growing sense of unrest in the Republican Party, to say that they represent the Republican Party is about as fair as saying an ANSER rally represents the Democratic Party.
And this amazing fascination with Limbaugh...it is deranged. Limbaugh is no more the voice of conservatism and or the Republican Party than Olbermann or Maher is to the Democratic Party."
Now about the Tea Parties. I think they are clearly a legitimate and important manifestation of taxpayer dissatisfaction--and I don't think they are going to go away any time soon. I paid less attention to them than I should of, but Sally attended one and talked about perhaps posting about her experience. From the media coverage I've seen, it looks a lot like Fox over-covered them and everyone else under covered them. Or worse, they got to the story late only after it was too big to ignore.
I'm pleased to announce the addition of two occasional contributors to the site...both should be well known to those of you who stop by regularly. Mudge and Sally have both agreed to pitch in when they feel they have something to say, and you already know that Goldwater's Ghost has that privilege.
I think that the addition of new voices will signficantly strenghthen the blog, especially when I find myself distracted with other pursuits.
Today's mention in the Weekly Standard and the very positive feedback I get from the politically active crowd in and around DC make me very proud of our little effort, and the great people who add their comments.
Mudge, Sally, GG--welcome to the team. And no, I'm not sharing the Google revenue.
Nice little report here from Fox about the growing discontent on the left about the Obama Administration's failure to provide the prisoners at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan with the kind of fundamental constitutional protections they (the left) fought so hard for at Guantanamo (to the detriment of both our ability to wage the war on Islamic extremism AND our system of criminal justice--a left-wing twofer of breathtaking scope).
The New York Times has its thong in a wad about Bagram as "the next Guantanamo" and the President's exaggerated claims of executive authority. Sound familiar? Yep. Same stuff they said about GWB---and by the way, Obama was one of the leading critics of GWB's claims of executive and Commander in Chief authority. Nice to see the NYT being consistent on the issue, just as it is nice to see the Obama Administration assert the claim. Candidate Obama was scoring cheap, political points. President Obama is realizing the realities and pressures of governing and leading.
Running a blog like this takes a bit of time, and time is always at a premium in a busy life. GG lives a full and rich life, and the blog was growing to take an ever expanding bit of it. I know the feeling.
Farewell, Postcards. I only hope that GG's turning away from his own blog does not push him away from this one, as his views and humor are as much a part of this blog as my wordiness and pomposity.
Incidentally--GG got his start after guest hosting here. He retains "the secret codes" for posting. I haven't discussed this with him or any of you yet, but it's my blog so I do what I want, right? Goldwater's Ghost--you are now welcome to blog here on this site whenever the spirit moves you and on whatever subjects you desire.
The Obama's tax returns are out, and they had a good year. Bully for them! Would that more of us had their industry and ambition. In addition to paying a big bill to Uncle Sam (more than $800K), they donated a goodly portion of their income to charity.
Joe Biden on the other hand? Well, Joe's charitable contributions mere pretty meager...but thank God he had "time" to donate! Too bad you can't put a price on that, Joe.
....or so you would think after reading this story in the Washington Post. As a nation, we are going to have to grow up. We're going to have to recognize that there is no free lunch, and that if we are going to pursue the laudable and related goals of carbon footprint reduction AND a reduction in our reliance on foreign oil, there may be costs. Sometimes those costs will be a reduction in prairie grouse mating areas.
Wind and solar will be a part of our future, but we'll need to understand that two things are required for either to be effective--lots of land and a way to transport the power from the source to the grid. Neither of these certainties floats the boats of the environmental crowd, who continue to be deluded by the notion that we can conserve our way to energy security.
In an editorial this morning, a group of retired Flag and General officers comes out swinging against the growing sense of finality that the Obama Administration is going to allow openly gay people to serve in the Armed Forces. I've said it here before, and I'll say it again...this one isn't worth fighting over anymore, and it is time we moved beyond it.
I just don't buy the whole argument that allowing gays to serve would cause a breakdown in morale. The reality of the situation these days is that the existence of gays in the service is well-known in the ranks, and their "dismissal" from active duty is very, very rarely the result of being ratted out by someone else. The overwhelming number of dismissals for homosexual conduct are the result of service people coming forward and testifying to their own conduct...either as a way of getting out of the service or as a method of protest.
There just isn't a witch hunt going on, and there really isn't any appreciable sense within the young people who make up our military that gay people shouldn't serve. Let them serve--and better yet, remove from any service member the "get out of jail free" card that homosexual conduct provides as a means to break a service contract.
The Washington Post does a good job of calling the President on the doublespeak that dominates his standard routine these days. He'll spend a good bit of time talking about how we got where we are in this financial crisis, he'll talk about what his administration is doing to correct it, he'll talk about the long way we have to go and the hard times ahead, and every now and then he'll talk a bit about some of the encouraging signs that appear. All of this is good and right.
Where he goes astray is in linking the solution to our economic problems with his overly ambitious menu of policy prescriptions underwritten by a budget blueprint that is what we referred to in the Navy as "PFM" or "Pure....Magic". Additionally, the suggestion that these policy changes--sweeping and generational as they are--will do anything but exacerbate the present crisis (by making government a competitor to private industry in the capital markets) is loony.
Stick to the message Mr. President, and think hard about how Bill Clinton became the last successful Democratic President. It's the economy, stupid.
I remember many a night huddled up next to my little transistor radio listening to the Phillies as I went off to sleep. Harry Kallas and Ritchie Ashburn were the guys in the booth, and their voices were just what I needed to fall asleep. Kallas went on later to be the voice of NFL films (headquartered in my hometown, Mount Laurel NJ!) after John Facenda (another Philly icon) died.
Mark Fidrych had a magical rookie season in 1976, winning 19 games. It was more than half the wins he'd amass in his injury-plagued career. His ungainly style on the mound and his incredibly eccentric off-field persona made him an object of intense national fascination, and as an 11 year old baseball fanatic (yep, used to be) I was intrigued how this guy who was just a few years older than I was mowing down major league hitters.
And then there's Marilyn Chambers, the adult film star. The first time I saw a complete version of "Behind the Green Door" was in college, not in some smoky dank fraternity but at the biology building, Gilmer Hall. Gilmer Hall had a big auditorium in which student organizations ran films to make money, and apparently "Behind the Green Door" and "Deep Throat" were big fan favorites. The porn industry has changed quite a bit since Marilyn's virtuoso performance, with video cameras and You-tube like sites providing the means for everyone to be a porn-star (while not everyone can be a major league pitcher!). Marilyn Chambers' greatest talent was in her ability to make a viewer believe she was enjoying herself--immensely.
The risk premiums on a life of piracy off Somalia just increased, after a trio of the miscreants met their timely demise at the hands of Navy SEAL snipers deployed on the fantail of the USS BAINBRIDGE, an ARLEIGH BURKE class destroyer. I watched this develop over the weekend with some new friends in Florida, sort of in the position of ad hoc CNN talking head. I gave them whatever insight I could to help explain the situation.
I honestly thought we'd just wait them out, relying on the fuel, food and water to run out. I explained to them that there were probably SEALS onboard the BAINBRIDGE who would perform a take-down if necessary--though I didn't know until today how they would have gotten there. The SEALS are such a high demand/low density asset (HD/LD) that they don't spend much time floating around in ships anymore (not that they used to float around in destroyers, mind you), so when the BAINBRIDGE sortied in the direction of the MAERSK ALABAMA late last week, I was pretty sure it didn't have SEALS with it. It seems they did a C-17 infil, possibly from over the horizon in order not to spook the hijackers. Think about it....you get dropped from a C-17 with your little rubber raiding craft at night. The horizon at sea level is about, oh, say 12 miles. You and your buddies make your way to the ship with all your gear, at least part of the way paddling the boat in order not to raise suspicion. You set up your position and some time later, the Captain of the ship gives the take order. Three shots, three kills. You gotta love the SEALS.
Piracy remains more a problem of perception than fact. For every ship that gets approached by pirates, hundreds sail by unmolested. But insurance premiums are rising and that gets factored into prices. Additionally, the PERCEPTION that the global system of trade is threatened is enough to unbalance that system. The world's maritime powers will have to come together to work on this problem with the US in the lead. Direct, precise action on land will likely be required, and some empty seats at pirate dinner tables will ensue.
He's been hinting he'd go in this direction since taking office, and yesterday President Obama announced significant changes in our policies toward Cuba. I fully support this overture, and I believe it is only the first necessary step to take in toppling Cuba's Marxist regime. Next will come the massive amphibious invasion by American tourists, and the concomitant addiction to their dollars by the Cuban people.
This really is good news, and it is a foreign policy initiative behind which conservatives should fall. It is the beginning of the end of the Castro brothers.
We're heading down to Florida to bunk with one of the Kitten's college buddies this weekend, and I'm not bringing the computer or the Blackberry. It's been a brutal week, one I may share with you someday. Feel free to post just about anything you like below, consider it a free for all weekend. But for now, have a great weekend and a Happy Easter!
By a party-line vote, the Virginia Legislature has turned down $125M in stimulus money from the Obama Administration because its strings obligate the state to change the way it distributes unemployment benefits. Bully for them. This is the same argument some Republican governors have been making, and it is a good one.
The news from off of Somalia gets interestinger and interestinger. The pirates made a big blunder this time, taking an American flagged ship. The crew has already gotten control of the ship back from the pirates, and a Destroyer is steaming in to try to rescue the Captain who is being held hostage on a lifeboat.
Piracy is not a huge problem...until it is. The actual economic consequences thereof are minimal, but the psychological damage to be done to the global system through a loss of confidence in the freedom of the seas is immense.
It is time to take care of this problem at sea and on land. Sounds like a good job for the Marines.
As the American auto industry drives itself over the cliff with Barack Obama at the wheel, the Ford Motor Company continues to distinguish itself for its--dare I say--self-reliance. I'm surprised they haven't found a way to tap into the problems of their competitors yet by advertising themselves as the company that will be here when the sun rises tomorrow....
In what will probably go down as one of the great corporate decisions in history, Ford arranged billions of financing in 2006/7 that they are now using to guide them through this storm. They haven't taken any bailout money from Uncle Sam yet and they just might make it through this thing without taking a penny. One can only hope the market rewards them
Richard Cohen's editorial in this morning's paper does a good job of exposing the stupidity of criticizing administration figures for the money they made in the private sector. Larry Summers took a $7.9M pay cut to join the administration, and others surely are taking quite a dive too. Well, you say, it is temporary--maybe so, but the President made them sign ethics agreements that forbade them from lobbying the White House for 5 years after their service ends....which clearly puts a bit of a crimp in the "well, I'll earn it back later" plan.
That said, the assault on Reagan's view of government service and patriotism seems a bit out of place. Lots of rich guys joined his administration too--their patriotism is seemingly as worthy as that of rich Democrats, no?
Great little column here by a UVA law student skewering the inconsistency of the "diversity" industry on campus--even one as conservative as UVA. It seems Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the 4th US Court of Appeals has been selected as the commencement speaker this year. A fine choice as far as I'm concerned, as his consistent voice of judicial restraint is one that clearly gets little hearing on campus today. This seems to me (and the author) as the very meaning of diversity. Not so to the diversity merchants who see diversity mainly as differing views agreeing on the same thing.
On another note--the conservatism of UVA. Much is made of this. But too much, I think. UVA has a conservative streak, but it is just like most other colleges...a bastion of do-gooders who think that they have cornered the market on social justice and world compassion. I'd be shocked if Obama didn't get 65% of the vote there. It's just that there are a few more conservatives than elsewhere.
Hope and change, hope and change. Keep saying it everyone. The President sought more help from Europe in Afghanistan, but he's not going to get it. The difference between Bush asking and Obama asking? Europe smiles now when saying no.
After news yesterday of members of the Obama Economic Team cashing in from the banking industry prior to joining the administration, we now have word of several of them cashing in from the media.
Good for them! They had expertise that was in demand, so why not sell it? They were not legally or ethically bound to poverty, and their support for a presidential candidate did not render them voiceless in the public square. Same goes for the folks who were advising the financial industry. That it brings into question their vaunted, seemingly irreplaceable judgment is valid; that they did anything wrong is not.
Ok--before you read this---make me a promise. Promise me you'll put aside all notions of conspiracies among the mainstream press and the Democratic Party, promise me you'll reject the notion that Barack Obama got special treatment in the past election because the Press was personally invested in his success. Put all that aside for a moment, and then read this report. Go ahead---I'll wait for you.
Now. What do you feel? Do you think there might be a conspiracy among the mainstream press and the Democratic Party? Do you think Barack Obama got special treatment in the past election because the Press was personally invested in his success?
It is now four days after this report was posted. That it hasn't been widely reported in the mainstream press is a sign of one of two things: 1) it simply isn't true or 2) it is true, and it is sickeningly inconvenient. I don't know which it is--but where are the stories in the media that debunk its truth? I'd like to see some of them. If you have, please send them along.
Monday should be a bombshell day here in our nation's capital, when Secretary of Defense Gates bursts forth with his very well-gagged deliberations on how to make significant trades in the defense budget. I won't call them cuts, because they aren't...the defense budget is slated to rise in 2010. Any discussion among folks on this side of the aisle simply must acknowledge this fact--and the intellectual vacuity of referring to a smaller increase as a decrease.
That said, Gates is taking on quite a task. He'll gore the oxes of some of the biggest programs out there, he'll annoy some of the most powerful legislators there are, and he'll piss the armed services off like nobodies business. Guess what--that's his job, and that's one of the truly beautiful things about civilian control of the military. That he is gracefully transitioning from a superb Defense Secretary under a Republican to a stalwart Defense Secretary under a Democrat is a tribute to the man's integrity.
That said, I think he's gone a little over the edge in his devotion to "irregular" or "hybrid" warfare. For those of you who don't spend your workdays reading defense journals (or writing for them), these terms are buzz-phrases of note in the defense vernacular. Referring basically to stuff that isn't included in the old-fashioned "killing people and wrecking things" approach to military hardware and strategy (you know, ships, tanks, bombers, missiles, etc), hybrid or irregular warfare is a continuum that seeks to influence the behavior of pre-hostiles through engagement and capacity building, contain the impact of insurgent efforts with an increased adherence to the fashionable dictates of counter-insurgency theory, all the while maintaining sufficient kinetic force to shape, deter, and defend against traditional threats.
Gates' thinking is very much in line with a lot of the strategic work we did in the Navy at the end of my career. Secretary Gates has been very supportive of the Navy's new strategy, but it is in how that strategy (or one like it) gets carried out that I differ with him. I'm not saying that hybrid/irregular warfare is a lesser-included offense in old-fashioned Naval warfare; to do so would ignore the reality that there are tactics, equipment, and strategies involved in low-end conflict and shaping that are simply not useful in kinetic warfare. But to do as Gates is doing by culling out hybrid warfare into a protected zone of its own, worthy of investment separate and apart from the other missions and contingencies the Services plan for--strikes me as short-sited in an era in which competition for influence across the globe has begun anew, this time with a new band of players and much different rules.
Rather than looking at the service budgets as potential bill-payers for ramping up investment in irregular capabilities, we should be assessing service programs for their extensibility and flexibility, the degree to which they are useful in both hard-core kinetic warfare and also low-end irregular warfare. Those that provide benefit across the spectrum would occupy a privileged place; those that service only one end would be looked at with circumspection (though not necessarily ignored, as there are capabilities at both ends of the spectrum that are truly critical to national defense).
I wish Mr. Gates much luck in his effort. I caution him not to get so carried away with fighting the last war that he leaves us unprepared to fight the next.
Great story here of the duplicitous nature of the Obama Administration...talking out one side of its mouth about the horrors of executive compensation, leading the pitchfork brigade to string up Wall Streeters, and openly conspiring with the Pelosi-wing of the Democratic Party (is that redundant?)--all the while setting up special entities through which they will launder bail-out money so that firms who accept it will not have to comply with their (and Congress') current campaign of class warfare. It seems there are plenty of firms who are willing to sit on the sidelines and NOT take bailout money (they believe they are strong enough to survive)--even if it means slowing the national recovery from the current financial crisis. Executives at banks like this simply don't want to have the strings and control that come with the Obama/Pelosi brand of socialist banking, and I don't blame them.
The problem here is a political one; Obama knows he needs results on the economy sooner rather than later--because that's what his grasping, entitlement conscious constituency wants. If major portions of the financial industry simply say they'll wait out the storm without government money...Obama fears a glacial recovery, one that puts the Democratic Party in a bad position for 2010 mid-terms and one that even jeopardizes a second term. To solve the political problem, they've moved to create dubiously legal entities through which they can wash recovery funds in a way that firms can accept it WITHOUT succumbing to restrictions on compensation and other matters. That such a plan openly flouts the will of Congress seems secondary to the Chicago mob running the White House...largely because they'll do so with the tacit support of Reid and Pelosi.
South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford continues to provide an interesting and politically viable counterpoint to the ongoing slide into socialism as this reasonably fair New York Times story outlines (their editorial earlier in the week was not quite so fair).
The South Carolina Republican Party is an odd beast, especially as represented in the state legislature. There, a mix between true-blue Republicans and Republicans of convenience (plenty of turncoats from the Democratic Party who simply traded party affiliation but not their slavish adherence to big, corrupt government as the savior of the people) holds sway. The Governor--one of the last true fiscal conservatives around, is trying to use the very limited power he has under the SC Constitution to decline some 1/4 of the $2.8B in stimulus money headed to his state---or barring that (as it seems that he may not actually have to power to refuse it), channel the money into retiring some of the state's massive debt load.
What stories of this nature rarely do is actually talk about the facts of why Sanford, Palin and other Republican Governors have been less than enthusiastic about the stimulus money. These are not guilt-free gifts from Washington; the money comes with significant policy-changing strings, strings that will create in the citizenry an expectation of more to come long after the stimulus money runs out. Who will be left holding the bag? Why the citizens of South Carolina, of course.
Sanford's strategy is politically risky, but when you hear him talk, you get the sense that he'd rather be an out-of-work politician than a successful one who supports bad policy and wasteful spending. But I also sometimes wonder exactly how risky his approach is...I find myself clearly supporting the merits of his case, but also thinking the politics of the issue run his way. Let's face it....if he'd like to be President someday, it is a long-shot proposition. Why? Because it often is irrespective of who is running. So why no distinguish yourself from virtually every politician in America? Why not be seen as the Republican Party's leading deficit and debt hawk, at a time when even Democrats are beginning to blanch at the President's reckless profligacy? No other Republican in the field has been as insistent, as eloquent, and as consistent on this matter. When Sanford finds himself going from house to house in Des Moines in January of 2011, he'll find a most hearty welcome from the Republicans who will help pick our next candidate.
Fascinating but long article here in this morning's Post about Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner's tenure as President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the lofty perch from which he jumped to the even loftier perch of Treasury Secretary. Seems that Geithner was quite a bit more anxious about the state of health in the investment banking industry than he let on in his Congressional testimony, pointing to the logical conclusion that he had power as the NY Fed chief that he DID NOT exercise in a timely fashion to help stop the financial melt-down.
So the President demagogues AIG officials getting bonuses as (and I paraphrase) "rewarding the very people who caused this crisis." How is that any different from his "rewarding" Tim Geithner with the Treasury Secretary job, given his culpability in this mess.
President Obama's reckless and socialist budget blueprint was passed by the House and Senate yesterday, giving additional breathing room to Democrats who are looking to solve the doubling of the national debt under President Bush by doubling it again under President Obama.
Key graph here: "The House voted 233 to 196 to support the Democratic budget proposal, with just 20 Democrats voting with Republicans in opposition. The Senate approved its blueprint 55 to 43, with all but two Democrats voting yes."
So let's read into that, shall we? Clearly, the "bi-partisan" view is AGAINST this blueprint---every single Republican in both chambers voted against it, and so did 22 Democrats....will this be the story line covered in the press? Of course not.
I've written here before about what I consider to be President Obama's most disastrous strategic error--limiting the service in his government by lobbyists and then hobbling the economic prospects of those who DO serve for years after their service. I had a chance to chat yesterday for about an hour with someone who will be nominated by the Administration to a high-level post any day now. When I mentioned this criticism, he heartily concurred with my assessment...he agreed that Obama's holier than thou approach (my words) was depriving the Administration of many talented and knowledgeable people.
News this morning that President Obama's Justice Department reached the conclusion that the DC Voting Rights Act--which would grant the District a vote in the House--was unconstitutional, but that conclusion (by the Office of Legal Counsel) was overruled by the Attorney General (who supports the measure) after consulting with the Solicitor General's Office.
The Office of Legal Counsel can't catch a break--under GWB, they were criticized for reaching conclusions that some felt were highly political, including support of harsh interrogation tactics for the war on terror. Here, they are clearly swimming upstream against the tide of support in the Administration for an additional reliable Democrat seat in the House.
That Attorney General Holder did a little "venue shopping" and sought the advice of an office favorable to the measure is being decried as "politicizing" the situation. What? There's politics going on at the Justice Department? I'm shocked. Shocked!
This one will be a good Supreme Court case. It is clear that the framers sought to vest the Congress with sovereignty within the District, and much of the evolving relationship between the District, its people and the federal government has arisen out of a proper understanding of that sovereignty. Put another way, since Congress runs the District, Congress can choose NOT to run the district by giving it Home rule, etc.
But where the Constitution SPECIFIES the bounds of that relationship, it may not be altered by legislative action. We've already seen this concept in action--and it is known as the 23rd Amendment to the Constitution:
"Section 1. The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as the Congress may direct:
A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a State, but in no event more than the least populous State; they shall be in addition to those appointed by the States, but they shall be considered, for the purposes of the election of President and Vice President, to be electors appointed by a State; and they shall meet in the District and perform such duties as provided by the twelfth article of amendment.
Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article using appropriate legislation."
The Congress could no more have given the residents of DC representation in the Electoral College than they can grant them representation in their own body. It is simply unconstitutional, and if people wish to grant them such representation, there are methods for amending the Constitution.
The Blog: A compendium of thoughts on politics, world affairs, economics, pop culture and social issues, from the center right perspective of me--Bryan McGrath--a University of Virginia graduate who spent a career in the world's greatest Navy keeping my mouth shut about politics and social issues (ok, publicly keeping it shut). Those days are over! I've also invited a few friends to join in, so pull up a chair and chime in where you will. Keep it clean, civil, concise and relevant.
The Fish: The fish is a "coat of arms" for the blog, symbolizing three formative influences in the life of the blog founder. The first is his experience at the University of Virginia--symbolized most importantly by the fish itself, or a caricature of a "Wahoo", the fish we have acquired as an informal nickname. Additionally there is the sword, the sword of a Cavalier. It is not wielded in a threatening manner, as this is a civil blog. But it is there, should it be needed. Thirdly, there is the influence of 21 years in the Navy--symbolized by the anchor on the Wahoo's fin (and again, the sword) . Finally, there is the bowler, tuxedo, and monocle, symbols of a refined, intellectual conservatism, or what I seek to encourage here.
The Policy: I take FULL responsibility ONLY for what I write. I do not take responsibility, nor will I be held responsible, for what my guest bloggers write or for what those who offer comments write. I will occasionally exercise my right to edit/delete both blog posts and comments if they do not meet my view of what clean, civil, concise and relevant mean.