Tuesday, June 30, 2009
"When the executive branch is dominant you often get coherent proposals that may not pass. When Congress is dominant, as now, you get politically viable mishmashes that don’t necessarily make sense."
1. Joe Jackson, Michael's abusive maniac of a father, is a pimp and a scoundrel. His children have been his meal ticket his entire life, and now Michael's (sort of) children will be.
2. Al Sharpton. What the _ _ _ _ is he doing in this picture? What is his role in this? Is this the man black America looks to as a voice for its grievances? Just what is the grievance here? Michael Jackson was a very rich man, whose song catalog alone is worth a billion dollars. Al Sharpton is simply put, a fame-seeking huckster without any redeeming social value.
The National Center for Environmental Economics had a dissenting view on where the Obama Administration wanted to go with its global warming agenda. The NCEE is a government organization WITHIN the Environmental Protection Agency.
Read the Executive Summary of this document, at least. It is the NCEE's dissent on the EPA's Technical Support Document.
Then read these two emails.
Then decide for yourself if science is being politicized.
Yes, yes. I know there will be others who will say that global warming deniers are Druids at best and Nazis at worst...but there is a growing and important body of knowledge that disputes MANY of the fundamental assertions for action on global warming. One reader likes to point out that we conducted a pre-emptive war of choice under less threatening circumstances with less conclusive data--neither of which is true. The data available and the level of consistency across the intelligence community before going into Iraq--both home and abroad--far outstrips the vocal and coherent dissent from across the scientific community as to the specifics of global climate change.
And given that NOTHING climate change could bring will happen quickly, man's inate ability to adapt (not to mention the considerable new bits of the earth that will be revealed as habitable) renders the disputed long term Apocalyptic impact of global climate change as little more than a mobility problem.
Monday, June 29, 2009
The plant was a world of temptations unto itself, with drugs, alcohol, numbers runners, bookies and even “parking-lot girls” who would come to the plant during lunch breaks to service male workers. “Anything you can find outside the plant, you can find inside the plant,” Powell says. Hardly "emblematic of the American spirit" as put by President Obama.
I'm not naive enough to think that our other American institutions are without their seedy underbellies, but I have to wonder with an already defunct business model is a company where this vice is allowed to go on as well really worth saving? Is this Detroit plant "emblematic" of others among the Three?
On the other hand, I'm incensed by the matter of fact reasons that Marvin and his wife both dropped out of college, which likely guaranteed the path to their current predicament - their fate tied inextricably to the plant's.
[Marvin] dropped out halfway toward his degree. He wasn’t the most focused student. What’s more, he had a weakness for trendy clothes and racked up about $800 in credit-card debt. His father was already covering his tuition...." Similarly his wife, Shirese, dropped out of college during her sophomore year having "sour[ed] on the party scene. Both were in school and CHOSE to drop out. This part chips away at my empathy a bit.
Part of the way, Marvin maintains his optimism is his faith. He's an armor bearer at Greater Grace, a community ministry occupying a modest $35 million dollar campus. His faith, along with many in his community, is strong and believes that God will provide. Their consistent tithing clearly demonstrates. Here hope seems to be the overriding plan.
Poor past decisions aside, Marvin and Shirese are doing the best they can, having invested their lives in an industry driven into the ground by greed and myopia, in a situation that I cannot even fathom. For me, the larger question is what should we do about the dying of a once great American city? I believe in the idea of creative destruction like a good capitalist. But the realist in me thinks that "spirit of creativity" cannot and will not grow from the economic wasteland that Motor City has become. Are we compelled to help revive Detroit as we have to a certain extent New Orleans? Is there shame in having a major city die within our own borders?
For some, that step means you have to take an even more basic step--and that is familiarizing yourself with these bills and their impact on the economy and your freedom to choose.
I HIGHLY recommend Keith Hennessey and Greg Mankiw's blogs as places to get good, right of center economic analysis on these incredibly important initiatives. Both served under Bush 43 and both have forgotten more about the practical implications of economic theory than some other more "famous" economists.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
"A lot of people walked the plank on a bill that will never become law," Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) told The Hill after the gavel came down.
Here's the bill, should you have some spare time to peruse its 1092 pages.
I was a teenager when "Off the Wall" came out--which to my memory was his "break-out" solo effort following his time as front-boy of the Jackson Five.
My memory of that album was this: it was the most different, the most electric, the most instantly likable and catchy music I'd ever heard. He then followed it up with "Thriller" which made him the global superstar he became.
If the clock stopped in 1984 for Michael Jackson, I'd have nothing but good things to say about him. But the clock did not stop, and we have before us a 25 year record of at best--weirdness at a professional level, and at worst--criminal pedophilia. From what I've heard, that any Jackson child to grow up "normal" in that Gary, Indiana house would be a trick. But Michael was off the scale weird.
His power and fame were responsible for his not being in prison right now. His death will likely come to be shown as the result of some misused prescription drug. A sad, tragic end for someone who had it all at one point.
"Great ideas often come from the intersection of two or more other lines of thought.
Back in the day, producers of 8 inch floppy disks missed the inflection point and allowed producers of 5 1/4 inch floppy disks to flourish while they essentially perished. Creative destruction if you will. Numerous examples exist, perhaps GM is one. The thing about 5 1/4 inch floppies was that at first, they were more expensive for the same capacity of storage and required new hardware so there was quite a bit of risk associated with making the jump to the new "S curve" on the part of the producers of 5 1/4" disks. There was not a consumer demand for the new product because it did not exist. Again, the producers of 8 inchers who held on to their business model went away. The destruction of one firm often comes at the hands of another firm since it is very hard for managers with a profitable product to scrap it at the point of inflection and commit resources to a new product which may not (at first) result in the same profits.
On another axis, we have a potential threat with global climate change. We have preemptively acted on lesser threats, the threat of WMD's in Iraq for one. By lesser I mean that a) less people were potentially threatened and b) there was, arguably, less intelligence on the subject. Could there be a lesson somewhere at the intersection of these two points? Is it possible that we could miss the inflection point because of our fear of the chaos that comes along with creative destruction of our current energy reliance, the same creative destruction that we proponents of capitalism espouse or worse yet, individual greed set on wringing the last bit of profits from an old business model?"
"Violence upswing in Baghdad as 30 Jun withdrawal of US security forces approaches. At least some US Commanders on ground saying they would stay if left to them...leaving during upswing in violence makes no sense and opens the door to lose all they accomplished over the last several years. Counter argument is you'll never get to the point where you can leave without an upturn in violence as opportunists attempt to position for early advantage as the last forces depart. My feeling is as long as we make it clear that we are not in this for the long haul any longer, the latter argument has merit. Only if you let the opportunists know that we will outlast them and that their best course of action is to help create, rather than destroy, the society in which they live, will we ever get to the point that a withdrawal could occur similar to our eventual withdrawal from Japan in WWII for example (not that this is a very good parallel geo-politically). I'm an at sea guy though, so curious how our ground-based veterans see this. Or anyone else who has a, preferably, informed opinion."
Friday, June 26, 2009
Here it is again ladies and gentlemen...a Free For All Friday! Except I'm adding a new wrinkle...I'm deputizing all of you in my fight to mitigate the impact of age, sloth and poor eating habits as I attempt my annual summer weight loss ritual. I'll report weekly the status of my effort, opening myself to the praise or condemnation of readers, whichever is warranted. As you can see from the provided chart (above), I am a bit obsessed with measuring my weight--there's 4.5 years of data in that chart, and as you can see, the last year has provided a new high and a new low.
The diet started June 1, at which point I was 189 lbs (I know, I know).
This morning I weighed in at 184.6.
More importantly though, use the comment section of this post to ask a question, pose a riddle, make a comment or provide a topic for further discussion.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
1. Do you really need that on your phone? I mean, can you really not wait until you get home to do that kind of stuff?
2. Are you planning on using this on public transportation instead of doing Sudoku, listening to MP3s or reading the paper to avoid interacting with the person beside whom you sit? If so, are you going to be able to stand up when you get to your stop?
3. Were you expecting something special from the touch screen?
Look, I enjoy looking at women as much as the next guy does, but fellas, a little control will serve you if and when you actually find a real one who will talk to you. Plus, as I learned, reluctantly, in an earlier post, you won't have to make so many "sock puppets".
Following her divorce from Majors, Fawcett went on to fame in her own right as star of “Charlie’s Angels”, although her success on that show never seem to translate to the silver screen. However, Fawcett received critical acclaim and career resurgence in the mid 1980’s for her role as a battered spouse in the TV movie “The Burning Bed.” She also captured more than her share of tabloid headlines over the years through her tumultuous relationship with actor Ryan O’Neil.
Grab your bikini Angel, you’re on a mission to eternal rest…you've earned it.
I'm sorry I read this, because I knew it would make my eyes bleed. I've always considered the whole "role" of First Lady thing to be much ado about nothing, and the kerfuffles that ensue as the "staff" of the First Lady (you know, we PAY for this...) battles with the staff of the President for their due.
But a couple of things strike me from this puff piece....
The first is that it sounds like there's a lot of...well...cat-i-ness going on in the East Wing.
Secondly....does it strike anyone else as ironic that we're all supposed to take this First Lady thing seriously, we're all supposed to nod our heads that she actually has a job and that she is making a contribution....we're all supposed to believe that she is a serious political figure....but then NO ONE asks (at least not at the WaPost) "where are the men on your staff?" As a matter of fact, the article lets us know that:
"Up and down the hall are professional women with whom she has a longtime connection and whom she trusts to execute her vision"
Where's the diversity? If a white, male President had nothing but white males advising him in this day and age, wouldn't we look at that askew? But we're supposed to just "get" this. You know. That the First Lady is "different" and that she should have the option of just packing her staff with "the girls" from Chicago.
How is this any different from the Old Boy network?
Entry 1 contained four rules that I hope I have followed and enforced: 1)keep it civil 2) keep it clean 3) keep it relevant and 4) keep it coherent. I set out to share my thoughts on politics, world events, economics and pop culture. Along the way, the blog gave birth to the brief, shining star that was "Postcards from the Backbench", Goldwater's Ghost's wonderful blog that showcased his conservative principals and his incredible sense of humor.
Early on, someone asked me if I'd open the site up to contributing authors. My reaction was horror...kinda like a couple inviting a third person in to assume responsibility for raising their children. But as I spent more and more time in front of the computer, scouring the interwebs for material, putting down my thoughts and responding (sometimes) to yours, I came to realize having a few homies in on the project wouldn't be such a bad idea. Now we're a stable of five contributors, with one more still trying to figure out the technology so that he can join in. All I can tell you is that when I open the blog and see an unfamiliar entry--one clearly not written by me or even forgotten in an increasingly frequent senior moment--I dive into it with the excitement of Christmas morning knowing that it will be a pearl of great price simply for having been put there by someone smarter and more eloquent than I.
The site has been visited 36,717 times by 12,207 different people (or more properly, different IP addresses). They spend an average of two minutes and fifty six seconds on the site, and then return to their daily lives in all 50 states and 104 different countries.
Thank you for stopping by, and of course, for clicking those Google Ads! This site is a great pleasure to me, and I hope you find it useful and enjoyable.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Now, if the General Electric Networks can follow suit (admittedly at the risk of putting GE corporate objectives of federal funding for their compact flourescent light bulbs, smart grid technology, computerized medical records, etc....) and allow their "news bureaus" to actually do what they always claim they do after wrapping themselves tightly with the First Amendment: "to provide the public service of shining a light into the deepest, darkest recesses of government" then we might possibly have the beginnings of a step away from (or at least a less steep step toward) the Euro-social-democratic state that the Reid-Pelosi-Obama trivumerate is attempting to create.
And who would have thought that the end of the honeymoon would come from this Administration forgetting professional journalists' primal concern: their own jobs?
But Ponnuru is also brilliant and open-minded, and in this piece, he quite rightly points to hypocrisy on the right in two race-based cases before the Supreme Court.
Read the article, as it shows Ponnuru at his logical best. Bottom line here is that "not every wrong has a judicial solution". Clarence Thomas' dissent in the recent Civil Rights Act case feels and sounds right (basically, that the country has moved past the conditions that warranted the egregious section 5 of the CRA) to conservatives, but if you want to walk and talk as an originalist, then the plain truth of the matter is that it is up to the legislative branch to determine the out-datedness of the statute, not the Supreme Court.
This is deeply disappointing to me personally, as I have come to know Governor Sanford over the past year and a half and grown to like him personally and respect him politically. Though I am disappointed in him and his conduct, neither of those conditions has changed.
I am also disappointed as a Republican, in that as a party, we cannot seem to get out of our own way.
I honestly don't see how he can stay in office, or even that he should. If he's serious about saving his marriage and family, that's where he ought to spend his time.
Both Ignatius and I generally approve of the Obama Administration's handling of the Iranian election issue. I believe we have few good options, and so waiting and seeing remains at the top of the list. As Ignatius says, these are the early innings of what will be a long game.
One problem here though (and one seen throughout media reporting) is the extent to which the leader of the Iranian opposition (Mr. Mousavi) is legitimized as some sort of democratic icon (though somewhat undercut by Ignatius). Nothing could be further from the truth--he's an opportunistic politician riding a wave of youth-fueled enthusiasm. President Obama's statement last week alluding the the very real likelihood that a Mousavi government wouldn't be much different from an Ahmadenijad government is hinted at here by Ignatius:
"But the opposition has tough leaders, too, with deep roots in the 1979 revolution. Mir Hossein Mousavi, the defeated presidential candidate, is no starry-eyed democrat. As prime minister, he supervised the Department of Investigations and Studies, which ran some Iranian operations in Lebanon in the early 1980s."
"Ran some Iranian operations in the early 1980's" is a nice way of putting that he was one of the founders of Hezbollah, the Iranian backed terror movement that dominates Southern Lebanon and acts as an agent of Iranian mayhem in the region.
There is a really good chance that the only well-intentioned people in the Iranian electoral battle are the ones dying in the streets. The politicians they support seem cut of whole cloth.
But it seems Harvard is about to let some 275 employees go (none of them faculty, thank God) as a result of the worsening economy and its declining endowment.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, times are tough at Harvard, what with a devastated endowment now all the way down to $28.5 BILLION DOLLARS. Yes, that's right. $28.5 BILLION DOLLARS. Let's try and put that into perspective, shall we?
If Harvard were to liquidate its endowment, it could educate every resident of Syracuse NY--every man, woman and child--at full tuition.
If Harvard were to liquidate its endowment, it could simply give every one of its employees a check for $1.7 million.
If Harvard were to liquidate its endowment, it could offer each of the 275 unfortunates $103.6 million in severance pay.
And if my math is right, if Harvard makes 2% this year on its $28.5B, it would kick off enough income to pay each of the fired folks a salary of $2 million.
You wanna know the biggest crime of all? Harvard's endowment isn't TAXED (nor are other endowments). That's because Harvard is "tax exempt", a status non-profits have come to enjoy in our society. The open question right now is whether Harvard or any other institution racking up billions of dollars in endowment money isn't looking and acting like any other corporation. I think they are, and I applaud moves underway in several states to question the tax exempt status of the mega endowments.
Harvard and its fellows in academia seem quite good at producing advocates of soaking the rich as coherent policy---but only when we're not talking rich universities....
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
I hope that's all there is to this. Governor Sanford has generated a firestorm of criticism in South Carolina for inconveniently reminding people that you cannot spend your way out of debt. The fiscal malfeasance of the legislature is inexcusable in light of the ongoing financial crisis, but a wallow of old bulls in the legislature is more committed to anesthetizing the population with more goodies and consolidating their own power.
Sanford's been under a grueling amount of pressure, 90% of it self-generated. In the process, he's become the spokesman for the most interesting alternative to the current path of debt-fueled destruction that this nation is on. He's a good man, and I hope he's just recharging his batteries.
Ruling narrowly, the court did not rule on the basic constitutionality of Section 5, though several justices did hint that they found it dubious, with Clarence Thomas providing the single dissenting vote, saying that provision was unconstitutional.
The Roberts Court has sent a message to the Congress. The Chief Justice, by ensuring that some version of justice was meted out narrowly in this case, has let the legislative body know that a thorough review of the Civil Rights Act is required. Overturning Congressional statutes is not taken lightly by the Supremes, and it is always better for the political branch to do its job and decide matters politically than it is for the Court to decide political matters judicially.
Monday, June 22, 2009
For me, the question is "what are we prepared to do to implement our policy goals?" If we make it our policy goal to support a bottom-up revolution, then what are we willing to do to support it? Will we fund it? Will we provide intelligence? Will we provide military support? Exactly what is it we are prepared to deliver to the Iranian people along with our exhortations to continue marching and resisting? Will we make promises? Will we keep them?
Our history shows us examples of where our cheap, idealistic cheerleading for freedom leads to the deaths of those we pushed (Hungary 1956, Southern Iraq 1991). You don't cheerlead unless you're willing to do the hard dirty work of helping the people you are emboldening.
Johnson, as many of you remember, was the Chief of Naval Operations from 1996-2000, taking over when ADM Boorda committed suicide. I served as Johnson's speechwriter for two years during that time, a tour that was often fascinating and sometimes just plain grinding.
What I always admired about Johnson was that when he left the Pentagon, he didn't put on a suit and then shill for some big defense firm. He went down to Richmond and took a VP of Strategic Planning job with the Dominion Corporation. Two years later he was the CEO of a business unit there, then he became CEO of an even bigger business unit. Point is, he left the military for something completely different, a move that took a lot of courage and confidence. He built a reputation for himself in business and is now back in the defense world, where I think we'll see him do a solid job at GD.
Jonah Goldberg and Amity Schlaes have both covered this ground wonderfully. All of this seemingly altruistic price cutting and corporate cooperation should more properly be viewed as craven conspiracy to protect market share and stifle competition. Who benefits? Government and business. Who suffers? Consumers.
That said, the administration isn't helping itself in this effort. American business...especially small and mid size business (you know, where jobs are created)...pays attention to the newspapers and the interwebs. They can read the tea leaves as well as anyone. The Administration is going to tax and spend in order to attain its policy goals, and it is going to be on the backs of business that this happens (health care sticks out here). Some may say that this is an acceptable sacrifice given the goals in mind (I of course, do not agree); what must be recognized is that the sacrifice consists of a business owner sitting back and weighing the consequences of hiring one more worker, then not doing so because he or she can't afford it. Extend this across the economy and......
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Putting aside for a moment that Rhee might be acting a bit pettily in this case, one has to wonder just who it was that died and made the Washington Post boss? If Michelle Rhee doesn't want to talk to a reporter, that is her CHOICE. She is under NO obligation to talk to the Post and especially to someone with whom she has a beef.
It appears as though Mr. Torque might have to resort to desperate measures in his quest for the "DC Schools" story. He's actually going to have to "report".
I'm thankful David Rohde was released. But I am bemused by the Times' (and the rest of the media) circling the wagons around one of their own to "protect his life" while they routinely report on classified matters that could EASILY lead to far more catastrophic loss of life.
I've written a bit about fatherhood here in this blog, which many of you may find odd given my lack of membership in the club (ever hear the expression "those who can't do, teach?"). And while my personal experience as a father is limited to those duties delegated to me by the Kitten (and Jimmy's mom), my credentials to comment upon the subject are in fact quite good, given that I learned about fatherhood from a master--my Dad. So in the spirit of the day, and in warm thanks and love to James A. (Jimmy Wires) McGrath, I'd like to spend a little time on "What I Learned From My Dad". Dad's very much alive, so where I use the past tense, it is only for style.
1. Balance. My Dad led an incredibly balanced life. He started a business from the ground up and built it into a going concern that fed, clothed and housed his own family and those of several other men. He had an active social life, with a huge circle of friends through the country club, his men's club (go Dad!), and the tavern where he ate his lunch. He was a father to six children and managed to be a big part of our very busy little lives. And he loved his wife, as I'll talk about in another entry. Point is, he had a lot of varied interests, and he indulged them all. Where I say I "learned" balance from my Dad--I'm actually fudging it. I watched balance, then failed to implement it in much of my own adult life. The older I grow, the more I admire the way he pulled it off, and the more I try to emulate him.
2. Love of wife. Even in a house of six frantic children, there was never any question of who came first in my Dad's life--his wife, my Mom. As I've said here before, when I asked him years ago how to be a good Dad, he said "love your wife". When I last wrote that, some correspondent wrote in to take issue with that, recounting wonderful walks he used to take with his Dad. I never responded to that entry, but it bothered me because I didn't write "love your wife, ignore your children". What I'm trying to get across here is that what he meant (and the lesson I've taken) is that if a man showers his children with love, affection, understanding and attention--yet fails to love and respect their mother--he will have failed in executing one of his most important jobs as a father. That is, providing an example to the next generation of how a loving couple works.
3. Be a man. Dad's a man's man and always has been. This fact was always on its most grand display on the golf course, which is where I got to see my Dad socialize up close with other men, talk smack with other men, and show deference and respect to older men. I spent countless mid-teen years carrying his golf bag around (for pay, mind you) listening to him and his buddies do their thing. Years later, when I was in a class for officers about to assume command of Navy ships, I remember sitting there one day listening to the chatter and realizing how much of it resembled the golf course banter I'd heard as a teenager. Pure smack talk. Loved it. But I also learned that it is OK to cry from my Dad. I'll never forget the first time I saw it--it was when HIS Dad died. I'd been carrying on manfully (or as manfully as a twelve year old can), but when Dad lost it, so did I. I was so sad, not necessarily for losing a Grandpa, but for my Dad. His tears came from his soul.
4. Face your demons. I led an alcohol fueled college life, then joined the biggest fraternity of them all in the US Navy, where my partying continued unabated. Along the way, I flamed out a marriage to a wonderful woman at least in part due to drinking. When I'd hit bottom and realized that I had to make a change, I went to talk to the guy I knew who had already given up drinking--my Dad. I told him that I wanted--no, I needed to stop drinking. I asked what I needed to do--should I go to AA? Do I need to see a doctor? Should I sign up for rehab? He just looked me in the eye and said, "just stop drinking". Now I realize that such advice might not work for everyone--but I think he knew it was all I needed. Sixteen years later, he was right.
There's a whole lot more, but I think you get the picture. So here's to you, Dad, on your special day! Enjoy it, and thank you.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Does anyone believe greater government play in the system is going to solve this problem? If anything, more government will likely move things the other way, and here's why.
Let's face it...being a doctor just ain't what it used to be. Doctors used to be independent contractors, independent owners/practitioners etc running a business as a partnership or LLC. Now, most work for corporations/hospital systems, and they abide by corporate pay-scales. That is, as these corporations have sought to control costs, they have sought to control compensation. Big government getting more involved will exert even more negative pressure on the compensation system. Lower wages (or the perception thereof) combined with what is still a grinding system of education and training for MD's will invariably result in an exacerbated shortage.
Friday, June 19, 2009
1. Though I realize writing this will probably jinx me, I'm a believer in regular service. I spend a good bit of time fantasizing about what it is that will replace this car, but she's comfortable, reliable and in relatively good shape. I like to think the regular service contributed to this.
2. There are very few places on earth I feel more uncomfortable than an auto service center. You could drop me into a neurosurgery theater and I'd feel like I had more to offer than I do in a garage. They could walk into the posh waiting lounge and tell me that my car had to have its appendix removed and I'd nod knowingly.
3. My trips to the Acura dealer are always scheduled for the morning, and as I sit in the Gucci waiting area, the banality of morning television drones on in the background. We'll likely move straight from "Today" to "Regis and Cathy Lee". There are five men sitting in the waiting area and no women...it's usually like this. The TV channel selection is clearly made by the receptionist/cashier ladies. The "Jonas Brothers" are on Today this morning, and I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
One thing really began to get on my nerves after a while, and that was the extent to which speaker after speaker--irrespective of their ideology, party or background--talked about climate change as if it were a problem that we had created and a problem that we can--no, should--solve.
I realize that raising questions about climate change science and the like put one in the category of Holocaust Denier and Flat-earther, but here goes.
I am ready to acknowledge that man has and is changing the world's climate in some measurable way through his activities. I am ready to acknowledge that man can and in some cases should move toward activities that contribute less to this problem.
But I am not ready to concede that the change in our climate is MOSTLY or even SIGNIFICANTLY impacted by man's activities. The sea has claimed and revealed land for time immemorial--that is, climate change is the natural condition of our planet.
What I see at work here is a strain of do-gooderism that attempts to restrain the bad (read man, corporations, the West) in order to advance the good (Mother Earth, rain forests, primitive peoples, etc). By whipping the world into a frenzy of fear (remember AIDS?) proponents of radical climate change therapy hope to scare the rest of us into actions they desire. Their propaganda is so thoroughly ingrained in the academy and in certain political ideologies that it is seen now as irrational to doubt.
Second, the member of Congress involved, Eric Massa, is a friend of mine. We served in the Navy together and I had a nice talk with him at a breakfast on the Hill just a few months ago.
A couple of things to note. My friendship with him notwithstanding, Massa is just plain wrong here. This is populist grandstanding and it represents a ridiculous intrusion in free markets.
Here's how brother Jim put it in an email:
"Boo friggin hoo! I’d like to see the NY Yankees play baseball and sit behind the Yankees dugout. But the tickets are minimum $285 (and much more against say the Red Sox). Can Rep. Eric Massa sponsor a bill to get me cheap tickets in this section? Yea, I know I can pay $34 for bleacher tickets, but it is my God-given right to pay $34 for a behind the dugout ticket isn’t it?
On health care, many in the debate (on your side of the aisle) wish there to be a government provided health care option for healthy-working people. Many on the other side oppose it for varied reasons, not the least of which is the lack of evidence that the government can do so efficiently and effectively.
In the spirit of pragmatism, why not delay moving forward with the idea of a government sponsored health care plan for healthy working people until we have some evidence that the portion of the health care system ALREADY UNDER THE CONTROL OF GOVERNMENT can be run efficiently and effectively? Medicare and Medicaid are travesties of inefficiency and mismanagement. Why not fix them first, build some capital and believability on the subject, then show Americans that a government administered system can work?"
I support Judge Sotomayor's desire to hang out with women, there being no men present. I simply wish to have the same right (or its analog), without there being some hyperventilation about it being some kind of patriarchal conspiracy. This is known as a "First Amendment" right, that off peaceable assembly. Free association is a protected Constitutional right, and I would LOVE for her to take a principled stand on the issue should it come up.
But as we all know (and Kinsley points out nicely), we tolerate discrimination BY (perceived) oppressed groups, but do not tolerate discrimination against them.
Here's why--I describe myself most often as a foreign policy "realist"; power politics continues to dominate the world scene, and nations continue to act in what they consider their "interests".
Obama and his team are taking a cold, hard look at what is going on in Iran. While they aren't terribly upset that the mullahs have a problem on their hands, they realize that what we are seeing is a "proto-movement", something that may have actual impact in ten or twenty years, but which for now is really not a serious threat to the authority of the regime--a regime with whom they have to contend. As long as Khamenei is in power, it doesn't matter who the civilian henchman is. The challenger in this election believes many if not all of the same things that the winner did. It may very well be in our interest for Ahmadinejad to stay in power--his rantings, his looniness--do a great deal of harm internationally to the reputation of Iran, and it is in that undermining that our long term opportunity exists.
Now--here comes what my conservative audience has been waiting for...the rest of the story. This kind of foreign policy realism makes sense to me if and only if it is practiced consistently. We act when necessary to defend and advance our interests. If the Obama Administration comes to settle into this paradigm, I'll be a happy camper. But it MUST be practiced consistently, and that's where the problems come up. A "realist" sees no national interest in intervening in ANY way in Darfur. A "realist" will look at many horrible tragedies across the world and recognize the inhumanity--but do nothing. A "realist" understands that our interests are limited and worth fighting for, and that much of what is left simply doesn't rise to that level.
Does a realist back away from the world? No. He encourages those with "dogs in the fight" to manage things. He catalyzes responses. He leads--but he doesn't always "do".
I simply don't have any faith that the Obama Administration will be able to follow through consistently with a realist foreign policy. Domestic pressures will drive them to selectively pick and choose, and it is in that inconsistency that mischief will arise.
First, it is difficult, if not impossible, to avoid the conclusion that the regulatory structure in place failed to do its job in this latest financial crisis. "Regulator Shopping", the cozy relationship between regulators, lobbyists, and Congress....lots of places where strengthening regulatory bodies makes sense.
Second, Conservatives must avoid the reflex reaction that increased regulation is BAD (in this case). The perception out there (for good or bad) is that the "free market" failed us. This is nonsense. A poorly regulated market in which there was a LACK OF FREEDOM failed us--and by a lack of freedom I mean the market was tilted in a manner in which people lost any sense of there being a "moral hazard" associated with investing. There was no perception of risk. This is not a free-market, this is a fantasy market. Regulation of financial markets must strive to create more freedom, and there is an excellent opportunity here with this package of proposals to make a freer, fairer market than that which failed us.
Conservatives MUST NOT abandon the playing field here...this is our turf, and we should work with the President to strengthen our markets by making them more free.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
But, I've got an even better idea for a supercarrier...this would be a carrier built from the keel up to launch and recover Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAV), and UAV's (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). The model is the alien spaceship from the movie "Independence Day"--you remember that movie, don't you? It's the one where the aliens disgorge literally thousands of little fighter planes at a time to take on the forces of good (Will Smith et al).
Back in the day when I was plying the world's oceans, our carriers considered it a bang-up day if their embarked air wing could generate 200+ sorties a day--many of which weren't bomb droppers.
Imagine if we designed a carrier that served as an assembly line launch and recovery platform for UCAV/UAV's. Here's the concept--a UCAV returns from its mission and lands on the carrier. It is caught and guided to an assembly line that takes the plane below decks for refueling, re-arming, and re-programming (with the next mission). This same assembly line moves the UCAV to a ready position until the mission needs to be flown, at which point the UCAV is selected and launched. In full automatic, the UCAV's drop their bombs, return, refuel, rearm and reprogram, only to then relaunch and head out to the next target.
The weak point in high performance aircraft is the fact that we have to put a human being in it. If we took the human out, we could basically strap an engine on a bomb, a computer and a wing and send it out to do ridiculous maneuvers over target that would kill a human being (forces of gravity being what they are). These maneuvers would make it much more difficult to shoot down such a vehicle, making it even MORE survivable than a comparably armed manned aircraft. Satellites could provide for in flight re-programming and/or recall.
How many THOUSANDS of combat sorties a day could a carrier such as this one carry out? The possibilities are mind-blowing.
I had a very pleasant chat today with Ambassador Mitchell Reiss (here's a short bio). Ambassador Reiss was a panelist at the Current Strategy Forum here in Newport, RI today, and during one of the breaks I strolled up and chatted him up. Instantly engaging, very interesting, and quite witty, Reiss served as a senior foreign policy advisor to Mitt Romney during his recent Presidential primary run. We talked a bit about foreign policy, the current President (Reiss was very fair about giving the President his due where he deserved it) and Republican presidential prospects for 2012 (he was not sanguine).
Ambassador Reiss is now an official at William and Mary, so I couldn't resist asking why he'd take a job at the Commonwealth's second tier school....he laughed and said that UVA was too slow to offer a job.
I'm beginning to keep a mental note of the kinds of people who are ultimately going to be behind a Republican Renaissance someday....Ambassador Reiss is one of them.
First, the folks on the other side of the aisle will point to the hypocrisy here (Conservative, family values guy dipping his wick in the staff inkwell), and they'll be right.
Secondly, it is clear that lots of guys cheat on their wives. But MAN, why would you do it when you're in a place where you KNOW someone wants to rat you out? Clearly, Ensign did this(admission) to head off some embarrassing scandal that was sure to follow. He should have known better, much better.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Rhode Island is as corrupt a state as there is....fifteen years ago while attending a training course in Newport, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Providence Journal decrying not only the corruption of this state, but the people's acceptance of it as a part of life. Got a death threat on my answering machine for that one....
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Obama's plan---whipsaw the economy into gear with HUGE spending--and worry about debt later when the economy is in a better position to withstand it--makes sense on some levels, most of them short-term political. But it is an incredibly risky plan, one that could drive the economy into deeper problems than we've seen if it fails to improve like he hopes. There are better ways, one of which includes NOT SPENDING huge amounts of money and allowing the economy to work through the problems it has over time (his stimulus has had NO IMPACT on recent signs of uptick--save psychological)
This "we inherited a huge problem" line is now simply ridiculous. The extent to which they've ballooned spending and piled on the debt in order to solve a debt problem defies credulity.
Yes, that Ahmadinejad. You see, we continue to view him through our own Western lens, and increasingly through the lens that Barack Obama has inserted across our national view. What we fail to see in all this is the great national pride the people of Iran have in this little twerp--and the great pan-Islamic pride he generates by being the guy who stands up to the U.S.
We look at the rioting in the streets and it nicely coincides with our narrative....which goes something like "the people of Iran want to be closer to the US, President Obama is making that happen, Ahmadinejad is in the way, therefore, the Iranian people must therefore be rising up against a rigged election."
I don't see it that way. I see this as an "urban elite vs. rural peasant" kinda thing. Are they rioting in the streets of the major cities? Sure. That's happening. But these city dwellers are likely to be more urbane, more internationalist, more like us...whereas the folks out in the hinterlands (remember, Iran is a BIG country) don't give a crap about better relations with the U.S. ....they care about populist, local issues and that's where Ahmadinejad gets his mojo.
Iran's going to be a stick in the mud for years to come and we're just going to have to get used to it.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
Dear fellow members of our University community:
For several months, the Rector and Visitors and I have discussed how best to manage my retirement from the position of President. The issues are complex, both because I have served longer than most presidents do and because the Board will eventually need also to find successors for several of our senior administrators and managers who have worked with me, some since as early as the late 1960s.
As a result of these discussions, and with full support for the Board as it prepares for and conducts the search for my successor, Betsy and I have decided, and I have informed the Rector and Vice Rector, that I will stand down at the end of July 2010, somewhat more than a year from now. I am now 65. When the time comes for me to go, I will be 66, and I will have served as president here for fully 20 years, and previously at Connecticut for five years -- a quarter century, all told.
These 19, soon to be 20, years feel today like a very short time. My work and friendships with the University's faculty and staff, students (and their parents), alumni, and other supporters are as energizing today as when I took on these duties in August of 1990. These years have been magical times for me -- years of supporting and admiring excellence in faculty work, of rediscovering the University's original mission as we have come to understand it for our time, and perhaps also for the next generation, of hard and exciting work full of satisfactions that have come of observing the maturation and then the adult successes of well over 100,000 new Wahoos, young and old.
It has been our privilege as a family to live in and watch our children grow and reach adulthood in what I have come to see as the grandest and happiest of American homes in the most exciting and inspirational of all American villages -- this one conceived as America's center for learning. Relationships with women and men who believe in and sustain our students and their University have been at the center of my and our lives. And the greatest of all these privileges has been planning and building what I believe is one of the world's great universities, a university that was in its beginning and is now one of our Republic's cornerstones.
I came here as a student in 1961 filled with awe that this majestic place would accept and teach me. Despite adult occupations that showed me other places and other forms of the opportunities that learning opens up, my thoughts and aspirations always returned to the Rotunda, the Lawn, the Library, to the sounds of students singing and laughing and chattering while walking along the Corner, across the Grounds toward libraries and dorms and up and down Rugby Road, of crowds at football and basketball (and suddenly now baseball!) games, to the calming murmurs that one hears in the reading rooms and lounges where faculty members and students carry out the work of learning -- a special pleasure that belongs to persons who lead their lives within the University.
To come here as president, to work these 20 years in good times and bad, to be surrounded by family and friends and many generous colleagues, to have a part in making our University the global force that it now is, to share this work and place with Betsy and our children -- these have been the substance and privileges of my life here. Ending this chapter of our lives is not an easy thing, and yet a time to step aside to make way for others comes for all of us, and to me. I am profoundly grateful for these years.
I look forward to this next year of work with the University's women and men, and to exchanging greetings with all who come to the alumni, parent, and other events that have been such agreeable parts of my life since 1990. Thank you for your many kindnesses during the last two decades, for your generosity to the University and to my family and me, and for your commitment to the well-being of the young women and men who come here to "drink the cup of knowledge and fraternize with us."
With you, I look forward to applauding and greeting the University's eighth president when she or he is selected, and then I shall look forward also to returning to the life and work of a faculty member.
June 12, 2009
Eugene Robinson reflexively points to the right wing media this morning in fanning the flames of "lone wolf" acts like the one by the idiot at the Holocaust Museum.
Putting aside for a second the media's near silence on the identity/religion of the recruiting station killer recently (too busy with the abortion doc killer, who fit more neatly into the narrative), Robinson makes an tangential assertion in his column here....that von Brunn was a right winger. What evidence does he have?
Well, he hated Black people. And he wrote anti-government screeds.
But he also hated the Jews, and Israel--hardly right-wing positions these days, what?
Oh, and he also wrote anti-corporation screeds.
Why is it then that he fits so neatly into the "right" side of the spectrum. Truth is, he doesn't. He's simply a hateful, evil old man who defies political labeling. But that doesn't fit the narrative either.
UPDATE: Mudge, feast your eyes on THIS gun show! I happen to be sitting in GHP's dorm room.
He and I were not acquainted.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
David Ignatius lays out a dust-up in progress now between Panetta and Blair, over who will appoint the CIA Station Chiefs around the world. I've never been a fan of the Director of National Intelligence (Blair) position...the goal of bringing the intelligence agencies under unified management was a good one...but the role of DNI ought never be severed from the role of Director of the CIA.
This issue strikes me as a manhood issue more than anything else. Ignatius is right, this is Panetta's call.
Word is they apparently didn't make much (or any) money for their work--it was strictly ideological. That said, their choice of potential escape (sailing on their yacht to the Caribbean) hardly seems fitting for people so enamored of Cuban life. Casting themselves adrift from Florida toward Cuba in an open boat would be so much more authentic.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
In her column today, Parker dissects Sarah Palin's recent "scheduling" problems and kerfuffles with the national Republican Party. As we saw in November, Palin's just not ready for prime time, and much of that flows from the simple fact that she's the Governor of a small state whose national prominence is not supported by a rigorous, disciplined support structure back home in Anchorage. Whatever attraction she may hold to a slice of the electorate may ultimately come to be undone by the dual evils of her own traits and the enabling support structure that her staff has more than likely become. The simple truth is that Palin cannot "scale up" until she overcomes her own bad habits and presides over an organization that achieves ruthless efficiency....then and only then will her personality and message resonate.
I've worked very close to a few big cheeses in my day, and no matter how smooth and on the ball they look in public, there are always huge warts when one gets up close. A thorough and efficient staff helps smooth over those warts, but it does not remove them. If Palin wants to play ball on the national stage, she's going to have to develop better habits and turn up the heat on her staff.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Man, was it a good time. I realize now how much I missed it, and that I need to work it back into the routine somehow.
I've attached a little video evidence of the rust on my swing.
My apologies for dropping out of the scene without warning; I had intended to wake at my folks’ place in NC last Friday morning and write a few blog entries, including one saying I’d be out of pocket for a bit. When I woke, Dad’s internet was on the fritz, so I just got on my merry way to a weekend to remember.
I and what seemed like about 150 other committed Conservatives were invited down to Governor Mark Sanford’s (R-SC) farm near Beaufort, SC for a weekend of wonky policy discussions, bonhomie, great food and a ton of fun. Sanford’s desire was to bring together this group, share common hardship (mostly everyone camped out in tents, more on that later), and bond as a way of gathering strength in the Conservative movement for the important work we have ahead of us.
We all met at the Sanford place (a beautiful spot I was told Sanford’s father purchased) on Friday evening for cocktails and conversation, followed by dinner and some great music provided by some friends of the Governor. Pretty much just an icebreaker, Friday evening served as a chance for people to get to know one another, something vitally important for me, as the South Carolina contingent was strong and very well connected to each other.
Saturday morning was right up my alley---about five straight hours of serious policy discussion with some incredibly interesting speakers. We had Stephen Moore (formerly of the Club for Growth, now of the Wall Street Journal), Pollster Frank Luntz, Conservative Radio Personality (and former Georgia Senate Candidate) Herman Cain, an economist who did a fascinating study on the impediments to business in West Virginia (he was preparing to do the same for SC), another economist who has done exhaustive research that leads him to believe our worsening debt situation will lead to hyper-deflation, and a diet and fitness physician who did a great job describing EXACTLY why bad carbs are bad for us.
Saturday afternoon was filled with watersports, driving range, skeet shooting, reading, napping, jogging, bike riding and all around goofing off. We met again for dinner and entertainment Saturday night, and said our goodbyes after breakfast on Sunday.
In between the formal stuff and the fun, there were countless policy/political conversations with a group of very well-informed, very committed, and very concerned Conservatives. Most interesting (and gratifying) to me was the complete scarcity of discussion about “social issues” like abortion or gay marriage. People were here for one thing, and that was to focus on the economy. Sanford’s recent fight with the Obama Administration and the SC legislature over stimulus money is really only the tip of the iceberg as far as his commitment to eradicating crushing debt. His six and a half years (after six years in Congress) has been monument to TRYING to get his state to live within its means---but he’s been only partially successful. He’s now coming to be known as the voice crying in the wilderness that debt will be the albatross around this nation’s neck, and that we must get our spending under control. In my opinion, he is articulating the clearest philosophical and programmatic alternative to Barack Obama’s vision of the role of government available in the Republican Party today. Sanford is a libertarian conservative, and as such, I find myself very much aligned with a lot of what he has to say.
Some highlights: Frank Luntz was a SCREAM…very funny, lots of ethnic Jewish humor AND searing insight into the language Conservatives MUST use to move the agenda forward. Herman Cain—an Atlanta based talk show host—was inspiring. An older African-American fellow, he used to be the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza. Stephen Moore and the economist who predicted deflation got into a bit of a (very civil) policy dust-up over whether we were headed for hyper-inflation (Moore’s view) or hyper-deflation. Governor Sanford stepped up and offered that whichever way things go, both views had at their heart the insidious evil of mounting debt.
All in all, it was a great weekend…oh—about the tents. Sanford made it very clear that one’s worth as a human was tied to weather you roughed it or stayed in a hotel. I arrived in Beaufort in the late afternoon in a monsoon. I naturally alighted to the “Sleep Inn” and got myself a room. Later, I headed over to the farm for check-in etc, and the skies cleared. Thinking this an excellent opportunity to try out my only once before tested camping skills, I set up my tent and enjoyed the evening’s events completely convinced that I would tame the elements in my Eddie Bauer tent. Around 10 PM, I went to my tent and began to read a bit (the Kitten having seen to it that I have all the gear I needed, including head-mounted reading light). Around 11, I put my book down to go to sleep, and these Philistines a few tents over lit off their generator, which provided the power to light their garish Christmas lights festooning their tent and nearby tree. Because the generator was making noise, they naturally began to talk very loud. I rolled up my pillow around my ears and tried to block the noise, but to no avail. So I headed down the road ten miles to my nice quiet hotel room. The weather was pretty sketchy most of the day Saturday, so I slept there again Saturday night.
Perhaps next year I’ll make it through a night in a tent.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Under the American Health Choice Act, insurers would be required to offer a basic level of care and may not turn anyone down for coverage because of preexisting conditions. A government-sponsored “affordable access” plan would also be created to compete with private insurers.
Two quick observations about AHCA – OK, maybe three. The first, I hope they come up with some snappy acronym or buzzword for this; something like Medichoice or FreedomPlan. Heck, I’d even settle for the Ted Kennedy Benefits and National Choice Required Universal Plan, or BANCRUP for short.
The second, the insurance industry is not likely to roll over on this one without a protracted fight. Exactly how are private insurers supposed to “compete” with a government-subsidized plan – will insurers have access to taxpayer funds as well? Oh, and there’s also a provision in the draft that would limit insurer profits. Doesn’t sound like there’ll be much competition in this competition.
And finally, while the bill is loaded with dessert, there’s not much in the way of spinach. That is to say, there is nothing in the bill that speaks to how all of this will be funded. Remember, "we're out of money."
Maybe BANCRUP is an apt name after all.
Friday, June 5, 2009
So I need some advice. The candidates are essentially neck and neck in the polls. They are--
--Terry McAuliffe, who makes me throw up in my mouth whenever I see him on TV, but who has high negatives and could possibly be beaten. Such state Democratic Party icons as Douglas Wilder have suggested that McAuliffe's nomination could create a lot of McDonnell Democrats.
--Creigh Deeds, who is a little more tolerable, an earnest casper milquetoast who's big on education. Unlike McAuliffe, he doesn't have a lot of money for the general election. (And let's be honest, it would be kind of cool to have a governor named Mr. Deeds).
--The third is Brian Moran, who admittedly I don't know much about, but I don't like his brother. That's a good enough reason to vote against someone, isn't it?
So what should I do? Vote Deeds, because if McDonnell cannot win at least he is palatable as governor, or vote McAuliffe, because he's such a disgusting human being that if gets the nomination he will turn voters off and make it easier for Bob McDonnell? (Yes, I know the right answer is vote Deeds or not at all, but I'm torn). As an aside, all three Dem candidates poll anywhere from 8-13 points behind McDonnell. Thoughts?
That suicide is unpleasant is self-evident; but that Carradine’s death may have also been an accident – the result of autoerotic asphyxiation as some reports on the internet suggest – is even more unfortunate for his family and friends.
UPDATE: In a conversation with CW on the matter, he put forth the "other side of the coin" argument to the autoerotic asphyxiation angle - that Mr. Carradine was able to enjoy such pursuits well into his 70's is a testement to the man's zest for life. My "other side of the other side of the coin" response is that if Mr. Carradine was indeed into such libidinous pursuits, why the need to hole himself in his hotel room...in Bangkok of all places?
And in this corner, wearing the pinstripe trucks and weighing in at a hefty 800 lbs, the guy who has dared to throw down the gauntlet by suggesting his company would move employees offshore if taxes become prohibitive to business, give it up for Microsoft CEO Steven "Dr. Evil" Ballmer!
Let the games begin…
*Yes, I realize Microsoft is headquartered in Redmond, WA but nothing pugilistic-sounding rhymes with “Redmond”
The money quote: “On the whole, it is not a show to watch.” You got that right, Doc.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Never embraced with the fervor of his predecessor Tony Blair, Brown is sinking fast. I have a feeling that Britain will be the next big European government to move rightward (toward the center, that is), hopefully presaging the same thing here.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
As I've said in this blog before, I've read a lot of books, but I am not particularly well read. I only got around to "Catcher in the Rye" about two years ago, and there are a number of classics that an educated American man of nearly 44 summers should long ago have read.
But I am not at all disappointed at having put off "Catcher" as long as I did. It was unremarkable, except for the remarkable distaste I had for its main character. Perhaps this new fellow can put something into JD's boy worth reading.