Saturday, August 31, 2013

Happy Birthday, Hammer

I hope I look as good as you do when I'm 74.

Friday, August 30, 2013

On Syria

As naval forces gather in the Mediterranean for the express purpose of spearheading an attack on the Assad regime in Syria,  the time presents itself for some thinking about the wisdom and strategy of such a move.  Not having insight into what the strategic objectives of such an attack might be, I am made uneasy by its prospect and by its potential unintended consequences.

As I have written elsewhere, President Obama's foreign policy has been one of detachment, attempting to keep the world at arm's length in order that entanglements not endanger his domestic priorities.  For a portion of his Presidency, I was unsure whether his approach was the result of a wise balancing of risks and interests, or a more straightforward, ideologically based aversion to the use of American military power.  As his Presidency progresses, it is clearly the latter.

The distinction is important.  If the President and his team had looked at the Iranian uprisings in 2009, the turmoil of the Arab Spring, the Iranian nuclear issue,  the revolution in Libya, and the civil war in Syria--and decided that the United States did not have interests worth becoming militarily involved over--I would generally tend to have agreed with those decisions.  In order for such an approach to operate effectively, the President must approach each new crisis separately and evaluate it against his own risk/rewards/interests construct.  But that isn't what I believe the Obama Administration has been doing.  It has had an entering argument, a default position--and that is, don't get involved...don't lead....let others manage it....all of those questions had first to overcome that position before any decision to become more involved could be reached.

Not only has the default position been to avoid using military force, the Administration has actively sought to reduce our military power with nearly a trillion dollars of reductions to defense spending planned in the next decade.  This would be accomplished through a previous half trillion dollar cut, and also the half trillion dollars assessed to defense as a result of sequestration, which it is generally acknowledged was a policy choice hatched in the White House with members of the Senate Majority Leader's staff. 

Yet the real world continues to bedevil Mr. Obama's best laid plans.  Libya showed the Europeans to be feckless and incapable, with the US having to become substantially involved in order to salvage European prestige, and US reticence exposing itself in the unfortunate choice of words of one of Mr. Obama's staffers who referred to our stance as "leading from behind".  The President wanted to remain largely out of the fight, which was in my view, the right decision.  But he reached the right answer for the wrong reason.  He wanted to stay out of it because he didn't want the distraction; he should have wanted to stay out of it because vital American interests were not at stake.

Syria has been enmeshed in a civil war for over two years, its beginnings traceable to the much talked about "Arab Spring".  In the process, some 100,000 people have died.  Just over a year ago, after reports that chemical weapons had been employed in Syria (it was unclear at the time by which side), the President stated that chemical weapons use was a "red line" for the United States, and their use would bring about "enormous consequences", the nature of which was unstated.  This was an unfortunate remark for the President, because at its heart, it carried with it the explicit message of US military involvement, something he clearly A) did not want and B) was not planning.  It was, an idle threat.  Again, this lack of planning was the result of the "default" approach to foreign affairs, the one which demanded detachment in order not to hazard domestic priorities. 

One year later, the US still has not done much in Syria.  And last week, chemical weapons were again used there, with the Administration asserting the existence of intelligence that clearly implicates the Assad regime.  Which is where we find ourselves today.  Several questions to consider:

Should a government's use of chemical weapons on its own people within its own borders be a "red line" which would trip a US military response?  My view is no, it should not.  Of the 100,000 killed thus far in this conflict, approximately one percent are estimated to have lost their lives to chemical attack.  It is simply illogical to assign so much importance to the use of one class of weapons over another, especially when conventional arms have been so efficient in taking lives.  But, if the Obama Administration had put forward a policy statement asserting such a red line, its support with more than words WOULD then become a compelling national interest.  We have an interest in being seen as a world leader who backs up its words with action.  Such a perception is in fact, one of the bases of power.  With such a policy in place, we would have massed appropriate military power, the government would have made its case to other governments and the American Congress, and we would have been in the position to back up our words.  Instead, owing to the Administration's detachment, none of this happened (a year ago).  And so we find ourselves a year later, with chemical weapons again having been used, with a President with his back up against a wall and US prestige on the line.  We are one year more diminished militarily, we have insufficient forces in the area for anything other than some punishment strikes, and we have very, very few other nations as of yet signed up to join us.  The British Parliament dealt its Prime Minister (and the alliance with the United States) a blow by voting against UK involvement, a act of some logic.  The contrast with previous administration's ability to create coalitions of friends and allies is notable.

What can we accomplish with the forces that appear to be involved?  The attack would largely be cruise missile based, from ships and submarines in the Mediterranean.  There would be considerable damage to key regime targets, including command and control, leadership sites, and potentially, Syrian WMD locations.  The Assad regime would likely remain in place, but would  be weakened enough that over time, the rebels could prevail.

What happens if Assad falls?  If Assad falls, yet another Arab country with zero experience with democracy would be thrown into political upheaval as rebel elements contend for leadership.  In Syria, we have the added complication of a witches brew of unsavory Islamist groups involved in the struggle.  It is difficult to consider that whatever government that would emerge would be 1) MORE aligned with the US than Assad (a low bar, admittedly) or 2) less of a threat to our ally, Israel, to the south.  From a cold, realistic standpoint, Assad and his Iranian backed Hezbollah mercenaries killing and being killed by Al-Qaeda inspired Islamist rebels did not exactly constitute something we have an interest in seeing end.

Does the President need Congressional approval.  Probably not, but he should try and get it.  More importantly, John Boehner should call the House into session to consider a resolution supporting the use of force in Syria.  Let it ride...get members on the record.  The American public is against this intervention; if House votes against it, perhaps the Senate will take it up.  In the end, a President who acts without public or congressional approval on a matter that is tangential to our national interests is taking a considerable risk.

What are some possible unintended consequences?  Where to begin?  First, the creation of yet another basket case country in the Arab world populated with a surfeit of men with guns who do not like us.  Next, the emergence of an openly hostile neighbor for Israel.  Moving up the scale of badness, an Iranian attack on US or Israeli interests.  Probably worst of all, could be an exchange at sea between the Russian Navy and the US Navy, the Russians having been sortied to the Eastern Med in order to look after Russia's interests and to shadow the US fleet.

So, what's your bottom line, Bryan?   We are in a dreadful position as a result of a poor foreign and defense policy.  We don't have enough force to do anything significant, so whatever we do we run the risk of looking weak and unable to achieve our aims.  If we unhorse Assad (unlikely), we unleash events we cannot hope to control.  There are no easy answers here, not because the problem is so hard, but because our policy dithered long enough to make it hard.  I do not support an attack simply because the President needs to save face, and I don't support an attack large enough to oust Assad.  We should call off the dogs of war.

And then find a new President. 

Big Fat Friday Free For All

Sorry folks, I've been a little busy getting my company up and operating.  Things are on the upswing, and I appreciate your patience.

I also appreciate the return of the Sage of Suckhollow, the Wizard of Weeping Notch--The Hammer. 

So--share!  Get the bad stuff out so the good stuff has some room!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tar Heels Head South to Lick the Cocks!

Buckle your seat belts sports fans, it’s time once again for college football! A time when amateur athletes can come together on the gridiron in the spirit of good will and clean, wholesome competition for no other reward than presenting themselves as good role models for America’s youth and the pride in representing their respective institutions of higher education. Yes friends, it’s a wonderful time of year for all real Americans.

And to kick off the season we have two outstanding teams with a long history of cheating and thuggery (which is in no way representative of college football in general): The University of South Carolina Gamecocks versus the University of North Carolina (at Chapel Hill) Tar Heels. Yes fans it’s Carolina vs. Carolina in a North-South battle that promises to be as entertaining as anything you might see on HGTV.

First let’s take a look at UNC. Coach Larry Fedora is coming off a first year campaign with a not too shabby 8-4 record, but unfortunately for his overwhelmingly LGBT fanbase he loses two starting wide receivers, a star running back and half his offensive line. And considering that the Tar Heel offense is what saved their baby blue asses last year, well they could be in a spot of bother. Defensively they return most of their secondary (the good news) but that secondary gave up close to 250 yards a game through the air in ‘12 (the bad news) which I’m sure had something to do with their opponents averaging about 30 points a game. So in keeping with Tar Heel tradition, and in spite of a few mercenary hold-overs from the Butch Davis era (most were lost due to marijuana convictions, DWIs, beating shit outta their girlfriends, institution-wide academic cheating and fraud etc., incidentally almost none to graduation!) the Heels should pretty much suck this year. What that means for other ACC teams is they’ll most likely finish third or fourth in the league behind FSU and Clemson...because everybody else sucks worse.

Now, on to the Gamecocks. As you may know I get a little crazy when the other Carolina is brought up. I remember as a mere four month old in 1970 when they left the ACC and the bitterness and anguish still apparent today. USC (that’s right, I said USC!) is an ACC school and no amount of SEC or Pitt or Syracuse or Boston College pretenders can change that! You are what you are and I view South Carolina’s absence from our league as another sign of the END TIMES spoken of in Revelations. As I’ve said before, they’re a bunch of beligerent assholes but they’re OUR beligerent assholes!

WOW...I feel much better now…let’s get back to football. The Cocks may have indeed arrived and be legitimate national contenders. They finished 11-2 for two years running in a conference that has produced every National Champion since Agincourt (it seems). They do have a few holes to fill from last year (they lost all their linebackers and running back Marcus Lattimore) but good teams just re-load and this ain’t Spurrier’s first rodeo. On the plus side they’re returning a veteran quarterback and have an NFL caliber offensive line which averages 314 lbs. (and they’re good!). Hell, me and CW could play in their backfield and pick up yards. And here’s a little factoid for you, Spurrier is 8-0 in opening games at Carolina!

So, The Hammer predicts a devastating and humiliating loss for the Tar Heels in front of a nationwide audience, AND considering this is the only game going all eyes will be on Williams-Brice Stadium this evening. It just don’t get any better than this!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Desperation as Art?

It's been said artists need either inspiration or desperation, I suggest a little talent helps too but what the hell do I know? Miley Cyrus' performance at the VMA Awards reeked of desperation. It was so obvious, so pedestrian, so devoid of talent, I'm not sure why she's getting all the attention. Look, I'm no prude and I know sex and rock and roll (well pop) go together like biscuits and gravy (or CW and stupid pet names), but you have to do it well. Art is meant to push boundaries, and yes sometimes be shocking. But the cheapest way to do that is through lewdness. And the difference between being sexy and hot or cheap and slutty is a fine line, but it's there. Miley Cyrus just ain't sexy (and I think she knows it). She's awkward, gangly, she can't sing and her ass is ugly. She rates a near zero on the bone-o-meter, even though she does score a few points for her "Wolf-Style" pose (as we NCSU folks like to call it). And sticking her tongue out and running around half naked didn't help, jeez, it's been done to death! She acted like a freshman chick at a fraternity rush party drunk on jello shots. She tried to compensate for her lack of talent by doing what any good stripper would do, but not nearly as well.
So I think it's safe to say Miss Cyrus aspires to be the next Lady Gaga (without the nice bum) who was the next Britney Spears (without the nice rack) who was the next Madonna who was the next Cher etc. etc. ad infinitum. But for my money I'd rather watch a 200 lbs. pie-faced Linda Ronstadt, at least she can sing.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Big Fat Friday Free For All

It's that time of the week again, friends.  Your opportunity to blow off some steam.  What's got your goat?  What's eating you?  A penny for your thoughts?

Share, friends.  Share.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Last Day of the Summer Beard

Defiant, in charge, the man
A bear riding a bicycle in the circus

Big Fat Friday Free For All

What's got your interest, folks?  Anything bothering you?  Something you need to share?  Better in than out, better in than out.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

It's Never Too Early....

Ok friends, who will the GOP nominee be in 2016?  The rule here is that just because you make a pick does not mean that is who you are supporting.

My guess?  Chris Christie.  He'll be a media favorite, but after a bruising primary, he'll be the guy the Party turns to in order to give Hillary the best run for her money. 

What say you, and why?

Obamacare? Full Speed Ahead

There's a lively debate underway within the Republican Party about what to do about Obamacare.  Some say we should use Congressional pressure and the coming debt ceiling debate to "defund" it.  Some say we should work to slow down its implementation through a variety of methods.

What I don't hear Republicans saying is that we should ACCELERATE the implementation of Obamacare to the maximum extent possible.  Get rid of the roadblocks. Let it come.  If the President uses executive authority to slow it down for whatever convenient reason he sees, use legislation to try and overrule it. Here's why.

Obamacare is completely tied to the President and Congressional Democrats.  If Republicans believe that it is as bad as they say it is, then they need to get out of the way and let the badness begin.  They don't have the votes to delay, defund, or repeal it, but perhaps they have the votes to let it actually begin to do its damage. 

Only pain is going to impact the American voter.  Pain in the wallet.  Bureaucratic pain.  If Republicans truly believe that this is what Obamacare will bring, then the surest path to electoral victory is to let it rain and be there with good plans of your own when the public casts about for new leadership. 

It appears though, that Republicans are afraid to call the President's bluff, and fear really is the only reason.  Fear that they are wrong, and that Obamacare will prove to be more popular than they concede and that its popularity will translate into its enshrinement.  Clearly, this is possible.  But this is what political gut checks are all about.  In order to be proven right the Republicans need to be brave enough to be proven wrong. 

Democrats voted for this mess and then the country re-elected President Obama.  Have the courage to let them go down with their ship and stop throwing them the life ring of delay. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Conservative Writes About Love

Spend a little time with this essay.  There is a lot of truth here. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Little Somethin' for the Navy Readers

Professor Rob Farley of the University of Kentucky and I do a Bloggingheads session on war, deterrence, AirSea Battle, China and Sequestration.

The full link (48mins) can be found at Bloggingheads. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Some Thoughts on the Word "Nigger"

A word of consummate ugliness, "Nigger" has once again crept into our national consciousness, this time as a result of a short video of a Philadelphia Eagles player using it (and a threat of violence against same) at a Kenny Chesney concert (talk about disconnects).  Here is the distasteful video.

I will not resort to the fashionable "N-Word", as if 1) your tender ears and eyes are incapable of dealing with the word spelled out or 2) as some would have it, my pigmentation renders me unable to use the word in any of its culturally appropriate uses. 

The player in question (Riley Cooper) is not only guilty of extremely bad behavior and horribly uncivil conduct, but bad judgement, as 70% of the league in which he plays is black, many of whom quite a bit bigger than he, and now incentivized to address the issue with him, physically.  I leave it to the NFL, the Eagles, his teammates and his opponents to deal with Riley Cooper.  I seek here only to make a proposal for my fellow Americans to consider, whatever race they may be.

I do not wish to be lectured on the origins of the word and its dehumanizing impact.  All of that is stipulated. 

I propose that the word is so hateful, so beyond civil discourse, and so painfully evocative that we all stop using it, and that we ostracize those who do.  All of us.  Irrespective of our race.  Can we all agree on that?

Because if we can't--if one segment of our population is both psychologically devastated by the use of the word AND determined to protect its own culturally approved versions of its use--then we will not see its use disappear, especially as black culture in the United States has such significant crossover appeal.  I simply cannot and will not accept that a word--this word--the word "Nigger"--can only be used by black people.  There simply cannot be a list of approved users and uses. 

Now I get that Mr. Cooper used the word in its most heinous form.  And I get that the threat of violence he attached to it adds to its stench.  But what about that young white boy who has a group of black friends, where the word is thrown around casually?  What happens when he uses it among a group of black people with whom he is not acquainted? 

There is too much room for misinterpretation, mis-perception, and misalignment.  If the black community wishes to continue to use the word in its culture, music and literature, than the word will be used, and used widely. 

So, just stop it.  Stop using the word.  Use something else.  And so should the rest of us.

A Trip to the Doctor

The first, third, fourth and sixth of the McGrath siblings are all blessed with fullback like undercarriages, whilst the others are sadly bird-legged, like our sainted Father.  The cost of this inequity has been, for the gifted children, hip problems.  I've had one replaced, number 1 has had one and I think is working on the second, number three is considering his first and number six is working her way through some hip issues.

There's something amiss with my port-side hip, and I fear I am on the long road to its replacement.  Different kind of pain than what drove me to have the starboard gear switched out, but pain nonetheless.

So I navigated my way through the military retiree healthcare system known as Tricare Prime, to obtain a consult with an orthopedic surgeon.  This is the second time I've seen this fellow, the first being four years ago to discuss some charleyhorses in my right leg.  The system isn't really that difficult to figure out, and I obtained all appointments easily.

So I went to see him this morning, and for whatever reason, he remembered our last visit four years ago, and our common interest in the military (me having served, him being interested).  Our conversation then turned to a discussion of a number of side businesses in which he is invested.  "What's wrong, Doc--not enough cash in medicine for you," I asked?  "Obamacare" was his quick reply.  "I'm plotting my escape from medicine."

Now, I surely don't know all the details of his decision, nor the logic thereof, but this is a very successful orthopedic surgeon with what appears to be a thriving practice.  And he's gonna quit.  I realize this is an N of 1, but I've gotta believe he's not the only guy contemplating this move.

Big Fat Friday Free For All

So, what's got you down?  Press figure out there was a football sized squad of CIA agents on the ground at Benghazi?  House voting to strip IRS of power to regulate Obamacare?  Footage of you spouting violent, racist spew find its way into training camp?

Share friends, share!

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