Friday, May 30, 2014

Obama Gives Us What We Want, Not What We Need

Written for War on the Rocks, cross-posted here:  
President Obama’s speech at West Point yesterday was touted in advance by his team as an important opportunity to lay out his vision for American leadership in the world.  In that sense it was a success, in that there was indeed a vision, and that it was laid out.  But the victories stop there, for the speech and for American foreign policy.
In conversations with colleagues who bemoan the President’s seeming disinterest in assertive American leadership, I often remind them that he is very effectively broadcasting on the carrier frequency of American public opinion.  The foreign policy of the Obama Administration is designed not to protect, advance, and sustain the position of the United States in the world, but to do as little damage to the President’s domestic agenda as possible.  Indeed, for weeks now the White House has been leaking that President Obama’s foreign policy mantra is “don’t do stupid stuff.” And it seems to stop there. He—like the country as a whole—is focused inward.  He and his approach are far better tuned to the political environment in the United States than the more assertive and engaged policy that I and others might prefer.  It is we who are out of step with the country, not the President.  Time will tell whether the President’s political judgment is matched by his strategic judgment.
Yesterday’s speech does little violence to the President’s symbiosis with the prevailing winds of public opinion, as most disinterested Americans would find nothing objectionable in what he said.  He effectively threaded the rhetorical needle of marrying full-throated American exceptionalism with a series of straw-man arguments against military intervention.  In the President’s mind, there is the over-reach of his predecessor, there is the isolation of the past century, and there is his wise path, laid out in four broad ideas.  His words were powerful and direct, and – if one does not think too hard about the linkage between words and deeds – comforting.
First, he established his credibility with “national greatness” Americans by restating his past commitment to using military force where core interests demand it, unilaterally if necessary.  The speech did little to expound upon what the President would have us believe are core interests, and I get the feeling he prefers it that way: fungible, temporal, situation dependent.  In essence, a core interest worth fighting for creates a “red line,” and while he has drawn such lines, he did not, in the event, follow up on their enforcement.  Fool him once…
Where the threat is not a direct one, the President spoke of mobilizing partners and of collective action, both of which are sound, if difficult objectives.  That said, the absence of such conditions should not hamper action worth doing.  For instance, if we had information on where and how the young Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram were being held and the capability to carry out their rescue, would we wait on some kind of coalition to form in order to attempt it?  The point is, there are “non-core” interests worth pursuing unilaterally and we should understand that.
Second, the President re-asserted the primacy of terrorism as the most important direct threat to the nation, though he derided those who would advocate a strategy of “…invading every country…” harboring terrorists (whoever they may be).   This position again plays to the crowd, to Americans who can still remember devastating terrorist attacks on our soil but who have forgotten the horrors of great power competition.  He defended the right to pursue terrorists wherever they may be, under certain conditions of course.  Among those conditions appears to be the notion of not creating more enemies than we take off the battlefield. How this is measured, I cannot with certainty say.  This is clearly a reaction against what the Obama Administration views as the fallout of his predecessor’s policies. As a hard and fast rule enforced absent context, this condition might put one at a disadvantage against an opponent without the same sensitivities.
More importantly though, the President – while mentioning Chinese actions in the South China Sea and Russia’s activities in Ukraine – fails to grasp or even evince concern that great power competition is on the comeback trail.  Such a competition would be incredibly injurious to Mr. Obama’s attempts to remake American society: one can wage an aggressive war against terrorist networks at a fraction of the cost of deterring conventional major power conflict.  As for his assertion that we have a military with “no peer”, he is – for the time being – correct.  Yet the trajectories of our drawdown and China’s buildup present a difficult match for the United States that is on course to become deeply apparent in East Asia by the 2020s.  Were we to continue to fixate on terrorism as our greatest threat, we would surely accelerate that imbalance and make such a war more likely.
His third tenet is to strengthen and enforce the international order.  He is absolutely correct when he asserts that respecting international law is not a sign of weakness, but he is absolutely wrong in implying that a failure to sign the United Nations Convention on Law of the Seas somehow emboldens China in the South China Sea.  There are good reasons for the United States to sign the treaty, but they are irrelevant to China’s actions in the here and now.  His reference to climate change as a “creeping” national security threat (which would necessarily require collective action to address) dramatically overstates the case, unless one sees a three hundred year horizon as somehow appropriate for national security policy-making.
It was at this point in his speech that I experienced an inability to suspend willful disbelief, when the President said “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.  But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it’s our willingness to affirm them through our actions.”  Three phrases, three seriously dubious contentions.  His conversion to American Exceptionalism seems feigned, as he has already made hash of his view on the subject before an international audience when he said, “I believe in American exceptionalism just as I suspect the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” In the second phrase, the President seems to indicate his understanding that there are those who see America’s greatness as bound up in international banditry.  Who are these people?  What office do they hold?  And finally, in the third phrase, he asserts that the essence of American exceptionalism is bound up in our willingness to abide by international norms and the rule of law. Many nations, including our own, do this routinely in ways large and small.  Is our status as exceptional underwritten solely or largely by our capacity to do what virtually all other nations do?  How is this exceptional?
Fourth and finally, the president asserted his willingness to act on behalf of human dignity, which he declared to be a matter of national security.  Hearkening back to his first point though, the question remains whether it is a “core” interest.  If so, how then would this be any different than George W. Bush’s “freedom agenda,” which was centered on the promotion of human dignity and liberty?  If it is not core, would we be willing to intervene to support it without a coalition?  One has to consider the ongoing situation in Syria when dissecting the logic of this point.
The bottom line is that the President is giving the American people what they want to hear.  They want to hear that we are exceptional and great, and that this status is a birthright and does not require cross-generational devotion of effort to sustain.  They want to hear that we are world leaders without having to consider what world leadership requires.  They want to believe the narrative, the narrative that our President is ably providing us.
But this is not the job of the President, at least it has not been the job undertaken by great Presidents.  Great Presidents lead the country; they listen to it, then they guide it in the direction leading to the accumulation of American power, greatness, influence and admiration.   They explain what is required and why.  They recognize the threats of an often cold, dark world and they convince the nation that excess caution and risk aversion are the pathways to decline.  President Obama is making a short term political calculation designed to ensure a fundamental domestic remaking of the country at the cost of long term power and influence in the world.  The only question is whether the American people will ultimately recognize this before the consequences are irreversible.

Big Fat Friday Free For All

What's the matter, Chum?  About to lose that car, driver, and annual invitation to the White House Christmas Party?  Your wife gonna sell your basketball team?  Give a big speech this week that nobody gave a damn about?

Share with us, friends.  Share!

Weighed in at 186.4 today, down 2.0 from last Friday.

As you can see from the photo sent in by Tom de Plume, he's making solid progress too.

But I'm coming after you, de Plume!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Serious Emergency on the Eastern Shore: Scarcity of Crabs

Like many of you, I will spend at least a portion of this weekend thoroughly standing the concept of why we solemnify Monday on its ear by laughing and feasting with friends at two barbecues, the first of which happened last night at a friend's lovely place on the Tred Avon nearby.  Amidst the burgers, tasty hot
sausages and libation occurred a discussion that we seem to have more and more often in these parts lately, the possibility of a "crabless" summer.  

As many of you know, the Chesapeake provides us with the wondrous "blue crab".  I first began to eat crabs at the elbow of my father, who taught me not only to savor them but how to properly consume them.  There is good meat in those segmented phalanges, which only wasteful barbarians throw into the pile of shells picked clean.  I can sit down and polish off a dozen and a half large crabs in a sitting, leaving behind nary enough meat for a couple of houseflies.  But not this summer.

As the story linked to tells us, there is a shortage of crabs this year.  In many commodities, this means generally that the price would go up, and that is something we see clearly on the Shore this year, but I believe I would pay almost any reasonable price to sit down to a tasty feast of Old Bay dusted callinectes sapidus. No, the problem is not price, it is size.  The crabs are not only expensive, they are small, and light.  Simply put, they are too young to be worth the effort to extract their bounty.  Every now and then in other years, I would sit down to a pile of these lovelies and run across one that was a stretch to call a "medium" let alone large. Those are the norm this year, I am told.  

I will miss crab feasts this summer, but I simply will not sit down and pay $100 for a dozen crabs that should have spent more time in the water.  

Friday, May 23, 2014

Big Fat Friday Free For All

Hey girls, gather round.  Listen to what I am put-tin down.  Hey baby, I'm your Handy man....

What's on you mind, friends?  Wondering if you've got enough hamburgers and hotdogs for the weekend?  Can't get an appointment with a specialist at your local VA hospital?  Let the world feel your pain!

I'm writing this on Thursday night and scheduling for Friday AM posting, so no weigh in for me.  Will pop in with a comment and my weight after my morning meetings.  But I KNEW I would hear about it from Brother Tom if I didn't provide the space for him to crow about his impressive weight loss.  So, Tom?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Light Reading

Take a look at this NYT story from today.  I've downloaded the policy book and plan to read it this weekend.  Here's some of what I like from the piece:

"These writers and scholars thought Mitt Romney was overly focused on entrepreneurship. Kate O’Beirne, who is an adviser to the YG Network, said the 2012 Republican convention “seemed like an N.F.I.B. convention,” a reference to the National Federation of Independent Business.

“News flash: Most people don’t own their own businesses,” she said.

The “reform conservatives” also hope to avoid a repeat of some of the 2012 debates.

“There was more talk in the Republican primary debates about electrified fences than higher education,” said Mr. Wehner, referring to discussions about border security. “We’re not going to win another presidential election if that is our approach.”

This is some of what Rick Santorum said at CPAC, and I think they are onto something.  It was nice to go around yelling "You didn't build that", but for the overwhelming number of people who vote Republican--they didn't build it either.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Why Obama Did Not Fire Shinseki Today

Let's face it folks; the Secretary of the VA should have been fired today (or the President should have accepted his resignation).  But the fact is, the President and his liberal supporters simply cannot have a scandal that points to the historic pattern of inefficiency and ineffectiveness in the nation's Veteran's hospitals.  This is because they have for five years now, held up the VA system as a shining light about how effective single payer systems in general are, and specifically as an example of how more government intrusion into the health care system is a good thing.

To fire Shinseki would make it seem like the President thinks that there is anything other than the actions of a few bad actors at play here.  What he hasn't figured out, or better yet, what he does not want YOU to figure out, is that the problems in the VA hospitals are not a "bug" or an aberration; this IS the system.  This is what you get with single payer systems.  Waits, claims stacking up, rationing.  Inefficiency and ineffectiveness.  Where he wants to take America's health care system is TOWARD the VA model, and that model CANNOT be shown to be ineffective.  Which is why Eric Shinseki still has a job.

A Race to the Bottom

I'm not a big Glenn Beck fan. Don't get me wrong, it's not his politics that bother me, more often than not we're in agreement. It's his shtick. He so easily opens himself up to criticism and the media loves to position him as a sort of half-assed lunatic conspiracy guy (a few bricks shy of a load) which they then use to smear the whole conservative movement. But on the plus side he's somewhat informative and he's not afraid to call out scumbags like George Soros. But then, the next thing you know he'll pull some embarrassing shit like cry (or something) and give ammunition to his critics. So he's very much a mixed bag.
However a few years back he did expose the Cloward and Piven strategy which absolutely nobody was talking about at the time and I, your favorite redneck blogger had never heard of. Yes I know, incredible but true especially since I'm a Goddamned fountain of political knowledge and enlightenment! But heck, you know that already.
Now, in case YOU have never heard of C&P (which is completely understandable given who YOU are), in a nutshell it postulates that the welfare state is just a means to appease the lower classes so as to thwart the inevitable Marxist revolution by the proletariat. These two lame brains came up with the brilliant idea to overwhelm the welfare state, break it financially, create tumult and chaos and thereby put everything back to where it should be along the lines of the Bolsheviks storming the Winter Palace. Real sweethearts these two. They power tested their theory in New York City in the John Lindsey days forcing Gerald Ford to bail out the Big Apple (you're probably too young to remember that you bunch of Goddamned whippersnappers!), so they know it can be done.
With 11 million on disability, food stamp recipients at an all-time high, Clinton era welfare reforms thrown out the window and the labor participation rate the lowest since Jimmy Carter days, well one must give the Devil his due. Judging from these factors, and with little or no interest coming from this Administration to address these unsustainable programs I have to conclude Obama is a Cloward and Piven kinda guy. I guess it really is a race to the bottom; a race to see if we can survive Obama's next two years.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Where There is No Accountability

Like others, I read the stories of the growing problems within the VA hospital system with great concern.  I am a part of that system, and I recently affiliated with the local clinic here on the Shore.  The reason was that they have an on-site audiologist, and I needed to have my hearing checked and to get updated hearing aids. I am happy to report that everything there was ship shape, none of the horror stories that others have experienced either in the past of currently.

That said, the VA really is in a world of hurt, and the Secretary of the VA--Eric Shinseki--was up on Capitol Hill testifying this week on the mess.  He said he was mad as hell.  He said that there was an investigation in progress.  He said that they were trying to get to the bottom of things and to determine the extent of the problems in the system.

What he didn't say were the words we need to hear more of these days:  "I resign".  Or their corollary, uttered by others, "you're fired".  I have always admired Eric Shinseki.  I think he is a very good man and I think he told the truth and paid for it when he told the Congress that many thousands of more troops would be required in Iraq than were in the war plan.  But there is no taking of accountability in government and there is no demanding of it.  Shinseki should have ended his opening statement by saying "I am in charge, I have failed, and I have offered the President my resignation".  It doesn't matter whether he believes he was doing a good job, or that he was doing everything he possibly could.  The system he oversees is in a state of trauma and its constituents are rapidly losing what little confidence they had in it.  If Secretary Shinseki does not believe he should resign over these incidents, then the President should fire him, and he should make it clear that he is firing him because of this situation.

That Kathleen Sebelius--after the utter failure that was the rollout of Obamacare--could leave office with a Rose Garden ceremony--is simply another instance of this failure of accountability.  Who lost their job over the abandonment of a U.S. Ambassador and three others in Libya?

Government is BROKEN, friends.  It used to be able to accomplish things, to get things done.  It is no longer, and one of the reasons is that we don't demand anything of it.  We cannot acquire ships efficiently, we cannot build large public works projects on budget, we eviscerated our space program and became lackeys to the Soviets Russians, we utterly failed after two years of preparation to launch a website, and we cannot treat Veterans in a timely and humane way.

We need to start.  We need to begin insisting on accountability.  Drew of DrewMusings has a good post today on a simple message that conservatives can get behind--make government work.

I've run this before--twice--about accountability in the Navy.  It is the text of an editorial that appeared in the Wall Street Journal in 1952 after the collision of the USS HOBSON and the USS WASP in which 176 men died (including the CO of the HOBSON). I find it as relevant today as it was then; perhaps more:

"One night past some 30,000 tons of ships went hurtling at each other through the darkness. When they had met, 2,000 tons of ship and 176 men lay at the bottom of the sea in a far off place."

"Now comes the cruel business of accountability. Those who were there, those who are left from those who were there, must answer how it happened and whose was the error that made it happen."

"It is a cruel business because it was no wish to destruction that killed this ship and its 176 men; the accountability lies with good men who erred in judgment under stress so great that it is almost its own excuse. Cruel, because no matter how deep the probe, it cannot change the dead, because it cannot probe deeper than remorse."

"And it is even more cruel still because all around us in other places we see the plea accepted that what is done is done beyond discussion, and that for good men in their human errors there should be afterwards no accountability."

"Everywhere else we are told how inhuman it is to submit men to the ordeal of answering for themselves; to haul them before committees and badger them with questions as to where they were and what they were doing while the ship of state careened from one course to another."

"This probing into the sea seems more merciless because everywhere else we have abandoned accountability. What is done is done and why torture men with asking them afterwards, why?........"

"We are told men should no longer be held accountable for what they do as well as for what they intend. To err is not only human, it absolves responsibility."

"Everywhere else, that is, except on the sea. On the sea there is a tradition older even than the traditions of the country itself and wiser in its age than this new custom. It is the tradition that with responsibility goes authority and with them both goes accountability."

"This accountability is not for the intentions but for the deed. The captain of a ship, like the captain of a state, is given honor and privileges and trust beyond other men. But let him set the wrong course, let him touch ground, let him bring disaster to his ship or to his men, and he must answer for what he has done. He cannot escape...."

"It is cruel, this accountability of good and well-intentioned men. But the choice is that or an end of responsibility and finally as the cruel scene has taught, an end to the confidence and trust in the men who lead, for men will not long trust leaders who feel themselves beyond accountability for what they do."

"And when men lose confidence and trust in those who lead, order disintegrates into chaos and purposeful ships into uncontrollable derelicts."

Sunday, May 18, 2014

CW's Day Job

Here's a panel I did on naval issues May 9th in Washington.
U.S. Navy in the 21st Century

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Morning reads

Stephen L. Carter, professor of law at Yale University and recipient of eight honorary degrees, dispatches a love note to the campus lefties who have been figuratively and literally shouting down commencement speakers. It is a shame that it takes a law professor to write this, and it is a reminder that lawyers are different from the rest of us, insofar as they are literally trained to argue both sides of any issue.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Age of Corruption

This is the Durham, NC VA Hospital. My first experience with the VA was in 1970 with my pal Danny. You see Danny's dad was a WWII vet and he he was dying of, well all kinds of stuff, he was just worn out. But anyway Danny's mom was worn out too driving the 250 mile round trip to visit her terminal husband, so my friend asked me if I wanted to drive up with him one Saturday. Well, no 16 year old is opposed to taking a road trip in the family Impala (especially for such a good cause) plus, check this out, the hospital was directly across the street from Duke University! Cameron Indoor (along with Carmichael at UNC, Reynolds at State and, well never-mind Wake Forest) was like a Holy site for me conjuring up images of Bob Verga, Jeff Mullins and Art Heyman. So I squared this humanitarian mission with my folks and the next Saturday morning we took off.
Things kind of went sour though. This was a hospital like none I had ever seen, not that I had seen that many. The place was dark and foreboding, it smelled of disinfectant hiding some kind of bad medicinal/biological/fecal odor and the place was grungy. The staff all seemed to have attitudes ranging from "who give a shit" aloof to hostile and bossy. Nobody seemed to be doing anything.
Anyway, we walked down a big corridor past the six man rooms and there was shouting coming from one. There was some patient giving the business to presumably a doctor and a couple of nurses. As I recall they were trying to restrain the guy and get him back in bed. I was kind of embarrassed as again, this was outside anything I had ever experienced. Where I came from one did not cuss at a doctor, it would be like cussing a preacher, would not could not happen.
So we continue on and spent about an hour or so with Danny's pop and decided to go get him some magazines or something (he wasn't that talkative). We get in the elevator and guess who we see, the irate patient, AND he's still fuming. Although he never addressed us directly it turns out he was a F4 pilot shot to hell in the skies over North Vietnam and he's upset he's not getting the appropriate treatment he deserves, and Goddamnit he's going to call his Congressman etc. I learned a lot of new GI swear words that day but at the time my 16 year old brain could not fathom the idea that our government wouldn't take care of our combat casualties. Unfortunately I can now.
This VA scandal we're currently reading about is a damned disgrace, but I guess we're getting used to damned disgraces with this bunch of incompetent, corrupt pricks running our government. Plus it seems General Shinseki's only qualification for the VA's top dog was his opposition to GWB's Iraq policy, and now he's fired some underling who was retiring anyway! Big friggin' whoop!
Here's my thinking, I never liked the fact that just because you served a tour in the service then all of a sudden you're entitled to healthcare for life. That to me is taking advantage much the same as a welfare whore. You served the country, did your duty and now it's somebody else's turn, get on with it. But by God an active duty or most especially a war zone casualty, those people deserve the best we can provide end of friggin' story! Obviously they're not getting it.
The facts seem clear, the VA is mismanaged and corrupt...and all the Obama Administration sees is a PR problem (as they see every problem). So don't expect anything to be done about it, at least anything that will make a difference.

Big Fat Friday Free For All

What's on your mind, friend?  Anything bothering you?  Well, this is the place to express it!  Your afternoon attack on a toddler undermined by a particularly aggressive housecat?  Your dickhead older brother losing weight effortlessly while you remain a splendid tribute to endomorphy?

I weighed 189.6 today.  Way too fat.

Big brother will likely fill us all in on his progress below.

Goodbye, Dr. Ed

RIP Dr. Ed
On occasion, I have shared that fellow blogger Tigerhawk had been my inspiration in starting this site. Paying it forward, Erik Travels sought advice from me before starting his blog, The View from Erik Travels' World.  This morning's post there is simply wonderful. Poignant, heartbreaking, love-suffused.  Erik's blog entries really should be collected into book form--and would make a pretty good movie.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Springtime on the Shore

Like a good bit of America, spring has re-awakened life here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  I live here because that's where the Kittens live.  For much of the year, say from November to April, the 75 mile each way commute over to DC--much of the time made in the dark--makes me question the wisdom of living out here. Life on the water in fall and winter is nice...what with winged table fare offering itself for my consumption...but it isn't great enough to justify the drive.  Spring and summer however, more than amply make up for the it.

The Kitten hosted a party at our place today, a luncheon for the folks who volunteer at the kids' school here in town.  I took a little time out of my at home workday to act as parking superintendent and to make nice with the local ladies.  The place looked wonderful.  The pool is open, the grass was freshly cut, color is everywhere--though her peonies are a bit reticent to show their faces this year.  As I walked around the yard, I thought of the time I'd spend in the pool this summer, the time I'd spend on the back porch eating crabs, the time I'd spend fishing on the end of our dock, the time I'd spend ripping around the river in the Whaler (ok, with the Kitten driving most of the time.  She's just a better boathandler than I), the time I'd spend playing with the dogs in the yard--and I began to question why I ever envy city dwellers.  But I know...when the snap returns to the air....I'll think about a high rise, and wall to wall carpet again.

Truth be told, if I had an everyday job over in the city, I'd probably take an apartment there like I used to.  Maybe I will again someday.  I do miss walking everywhere, I miss the sound of the newspaper being dropped in front of my door early in the morning, and I miss the utter convenience of Arlington.  When I first started courting the Kitten, we talked about keeping the apartment, turning the second bedroom into a room for the Kittens, retaining a little pied a terre....but it didn't work out that way.  I traded the expense of the apartment for the expense of the Jag.  Good trade, in many ways.

We have a good summer ahead of us.  The older Kitten comes home from school around the first of June, and then three weeks later she, her sister and her mother take off on vacation, with me joining them in progress. I don't think I'll take a place on the Outer Banks this year, maybe I'll do a little late August "StayCation" here.  Point is, come and pay us a visit.  There are worse things then cocktails in the gloaming overlooking the Miles...

Mystery photo

The building below is a former national capitol. What is the building, and under what circumstances was it the capitol?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Inequality as political gambit

Megan McArdle's argument that inequality is a "loser for Democrats" is worth your time, if you did not already click through on Instapundit. She argues that inequality is the most extreme in districts that are already controlled by the Democrats, and that class warfare whining will not resonate much elsewhere. I agree, and would add that unemployment is higher in "blue" states.

That said, what may be a losing strategy in the mid-term elections may turn in to a winner in the presidential race in 2016 if the GOP does not take its obligation as the defender of innovation in the private sector seriously.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Cowardice in the academy

We are well along in "disinvitation season," during which universities appease protesters by pressuring controversial speakers to withdraw. This year's embarrassments began with Brandeis withdrawing its invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Brandeis students and faculty objected to Ms. Ali, who, having been mutilated as a girl by a Muslim in the name of Islam, and repeatedly threatened with death by Muslims in the name of Islam, has been found to have made "statements that are critical of Islam." Then Condoleezza Rice, quite possibly the most historically consequential African-American woman of her generation, if not of all time, declined to speak at Rutgers after its students and faculty accused her of war crimes.

Just when we were about to believe that the pressure groups were focused on women of African descent who are to the right of Jane Fonda, Robert J. Birgeneau, former chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, "backed out of speaking at Haverford College’s commencement scheduled for Sunday, following concerns expressed by Haverford students and several professors over his leadership during a 2011 incident when UC police used force on students protesting college costs." Actually, Chancellor Birgeneau's sin was doing his job, which was to prevent the Occupy people from disrupting the actual mission of the university. Hayakawa nods.

Finally, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde is out at Smith College, apparently because students and faculty signed a petition "objecting to the policies of the IMF."

The title of this post is "Cowardice in the academy," which is manifest, but who in these cases are the cowards? The administration of Brandeis, the only one of the universities actually to withdraw its invitation in public, was certainly afraid of something. The question is only whether the object of its fear was the disapproval of politically correct faculty and students, or the prospect of violent retaliation by Islamic terrorists. Both seem plausible, and we suspect both factored in to Brandeis' thinking when Ms. Ali, who is definitely not a coward, refused to let Brandeis off the hook by withdrawing on her own.

In the other cases, the public claim is that Rice, Birgeneau, and Lagarde all withdrew because of protests, not because Rutgers, Haverford, and Smith "disinvited" them. One might conclude that the three speakers are the cowards in the play. After all, it is they who pulled the plug. But more likely these speakers withdrew because they simply do not want to be bothered. Unlike Ali, they are not activists, and are no longer trying to gain publicity for a cause or a policy objective. They are impressively successful people in their own right, and do not need to spend a spring morning getting heckled and accused of criminality, especially by the very people they have been invited to celebrate.

No, the real cowards in these situations are the students and faculty who cannot stand to have their sensibilities ruffled, even on the slight chance that they might benefit from listening to somebody who has accomplished far more than the vast majority of the petitioners and protesters can ever hope to do. They would rather score cheap points and a little publicity in "solidarity" with Berkeley student demonstrators, 2012 edition. (Is there anything more banal than "student demonstrators" at Berkeley? Well, maybe a French general strike, but there you have it.)

Anyway, the question now presents: Who in her right mind would entertain an invitation to speak at the commencement of an elite American university? Only somebody who has never made an actually consequential decision, as Rice, Birgeneau, and Lagarde all have done. That leaves the job of inspiring the future leaders of our country to the most anodyne gum-flappers in the chattering class, a result that elevates professional talkers over the leaders and executives who actually drive change.

How can that possibly be good news for our posterity?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Why I Am A Republican

Hammer has once again laid out for us below his difficult to pin down political philosophy, a party of one so to speak.  In this piece, I'll try and lay out for you why I am a Republican.  In order to do so, I will make generalizations, both about the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.  You will be able to point out exceptions to these generalizations until the cows come home, but that will not change the prevailing point.

1.  Republicans support the free market and capitalism.  They recognize that for the market to be truly free, some regulation is required as human nature can and will result in attempts to gain unfair advantage--which means that that market is not free.  Republicans believe deep down that capitalism is the most successful force in human history for alleviating poverty.  They don't walk around thinking that capitalism is a necessary evil.  They believe regulation is the necessary evil.

2.  Republicans tend to believe that the United States is a force for good in the world.  We tend to believe that when the US has intervened in world events, it has been for both the good of our citizens and for the good of the world. Not only do we not "apologize" for our success and influence, we celebrate it.  We believe that the United States is indeed indispensable, and we believe that the world works best with the United States in a position of unchallenged leadership.

3.  We believe that the first duty of the U.S. government is to protect its citizens and their sovereignty.  This tends to mean that we are strong on defense and that we believe it is not only possible, but required, that our borders be controlled.

4.  Republicans believe that all things being equal, the more government does and provides, the less the individual will seek and the market will supply.  We believe that our society does indeed have a duty to see to it that the truly needy have food, shelter, and medical care.  We believe that this provision must not become or be allowed to become a dependency relationship for anyone but the most indigent.  We believe that this basic level of entitlement has been vastly exceeded and that as a result, a permanent underclass almost completely dependent on government has emerged and is perpetuating itself.  We believe policies designed to lift people from poverty are more effective than those which seek round the sharp edges of poverty.

5.  Republicans believe that less taxation is better than more.  They understand that the things we require of government cost money, and that taxes are necessary.  Republicans generally believe that taxing consumption is better than taxing work.

6.  Republicans believe that there are few things that the federal government should do, and that it should do them well.  We believe that there are more things state and local governments should do, but not considerably more. And they should do those things well.  The government should not compete with private industry.

7.  Republicans tend to believe that the Constitution was an inspired document, and that the intent of those who wrote it should be considered when seeking Constitutional sanction (if the wording is unclear).  We believe that the Constitution is a "living document", in that it contains within itself mechanisms for its being updated with the times.  Should the document be found wanting, the citizenry can change it.  Neither Congressional fiat nor Judicial mandate can legitimately do so.

This is a pretty good starting point of things about the Republican Party that I like and why I am a Republican.  Because I believe these things, and because the Republican Party is the primary political organ devoted largely to advocating for these positions, I choose to associate myself with it.  You can be pretty sure that I believe in general, that Democrats do not believe these things or that they do so only superficially.

Two morning reads

Richard Fernandez, on "The Day Obama's Presidency Died." Maybe Benghazi is all he suggests, maybe not. But the core of the essay is a fascinating conjecture about the true strategy behind the administration's devotion to assassination as a tactic in the war against the jihad. That alone is worth reading, plus a perspective on the Battle of Midway that I had not known.

P.J. O'Rourke takes a hilarious tour of Russia's history of strategic, administrative, and cultural failure, in which we should take heart. In the long run.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Why I'm NOT a Republican, Reasons Number 3,486 and 3,487.

Rand Paul thinks we're being mean, especially with this voter id obsession thingy. 
"Everybody's gone completely crazy on this voter ID thing," Mr. Paul said in an interview. "I think it's wrong for Republicans to go crazy on this issue because it's offending people."

Wow, wouldn't want to do that, you know, like OFFEND somebody! After all voting and elections are no big deal, so WTF, come one come all.
Sorry Senator Paul, I've had my quota of bullshit this week and I have to ask, were you drunk during this interview? Did some janitor catch you at the office sunk to the gonads in some UK cheerleader hottie? Because I'm confused. You were singing a different tune a few months back when you stood up before a bunch of pre-emergent Eric Holder types at Howard University and declared voter id laws good and righteous. You showed real courage, so what's up now?
Well somebody is going crazy but it ain't us. Here's an interesting graphic that may shed some light on the problem from just one minor Redneck state down South that nobody cares about. 
These are registered North Carolina voters compared to registered voters in other states with the same first and last names and the same birth dates. Now of course some will turn out to be legitimate, I would guess a percentage or two, but that leaves 30,000 plus who are potentially double voting in more than one state, and remember this is only ONE state. What would these number look like nationwide I wonder?
I've always maintained that voter fraud accounts for 5% or more of election totals nationwide. But Senator Paul thinks it's much ado about nothing. But not to worry, if the Republican leadership gets its way amnesty will make the point moot, after our new citizens hit the polling booth the next "conservative" you see elected will be only at the local level. You see they'll have to keep some Republicans hanging around for show.  Good bye Constitution hello California!  

Good Lord, what have we here? Mitt Romney, CW's Numero Uno Fair Haired Boy (it's been rumored there's a poster of Mitt in CW's "mancave" dressed in ... eh, ...well... swimsuit attire). Anyway, Mitt thinks raising the minimum wage is a fine idea, so let's get it done! I tend to agree, and while we're at it let's make the fahrenheit/celsius/kelvin (you name it) temperature scales variable. An insane idea you say, well hold your horses bucko. Think about it, no more global warming, climate change bullshit, no more squawking about it's too hot or cold. Now, granted we have to keep it within reason, maybe a ten degree sliding scale, otherwise it all becomes too much, but within reason, hey it's all good. 
So, here's how it'll works. Wake up on a freezing cold January morning and it's 24 degrees outside (by the OLD thermometer). The kids are bitching and the wife is worried about icy roads. PRESTO CHANGO, it's now 34 degrees outside so shut the hell up woman the roads are fine, and while you're out stop by the nursery and pick up some tomato plants for the garden this year.
See how it works? It is what we say it is. Mitt Romney is a Goddamn genius!

That's all I got, so piss off.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

I'm Right, You're Wrong and The Country is Going to Hell!

Did you see this? Thom Tillis, our Republican establishment backed Senatorial candidate, fresh from his NC primary victory, feeling good feeling right like Saturday night, the first thing he does after getting the required 40% thereby avoiding a runoff is high tail it on over to...(think of something crazy now)...wait for it... that's right, MS-Goddamn-NBC for an interview! I can hear you now, "Really, is he an idiot or what?" Well I quite agree friends. Call me crazy but if I'm the winning pitcher for the New York Yankees and I've just kick hell out of the Red Sox at Fenway, my next interview will not be with the local Boston sports radio station hawking my new manly fragrance line at K-Mart. "The Hill" wasn't that impressed either as you can see from their headline...

Tillis opposed increasing NC wage in 2010

Hmmm, ya think they might be referring to the state mandated job killing minimum wage or just wages in general, because that's what it sounds like. But what the hay, you go on MSLSD you deserve what you get. Kay Hagan will probably die in office.

In more local NC politics you could give a shit about, two former mayors of North Carolina's two largest cities, Charlotte "The Queen City" (eat your heart out Chapel Hill) and Raleigh, the honorables Richard Vinroot and Charles Meeker think it's just horrible that legislators are allowed to decide congressional districts. There's got to be a better way rather than all this gerrymandering, by Golly it's just not right! "We tell our children to play fair, this is about playing fair in elections" said the former Tar Heel basketball standout who remains oddly silent on the academic cheating scandal currently (and for the past 5 years) unfolding at UNC. Mayor Vinroot, ostensibly a Republican, had no similar criticisms during his tenure as Charlotte's chief executive when part of his city was in the "pinwheel" district which ran from Greensboro to Charlotte along I-85 for 180 miles. I wonder how many people live in the middle of an Interstate highway? I'm thinking not that many.
But we've all come to expect this from our Country Club Republican types. I can hear the conversation now..."Richie, this is Charlie, in the spirit of bi-partisan cooperation we Democrats would like your support so we can change this racist, homophobic, misogynistic system where Republicans get to draw the districts when they're in charge, only Democrats should be allowed to do that... can I count on you?" "Sure Charlie, anything for a fellow progressive."

Well it looks like CW's favorite NC Republican Renee Ellmers will be squaring off against CW's favorite American Idol Clay Aiken in what promises to be a knock-down, drag-out political slug-fest. Ellmers has thrown the first volley with cutting remarks like "He couldn't even win American Idol, he came in second". Aiken responded that Ellmer's fashion sense was atrocious and that red pantsuit she's so fond of makes her look like a used tampon. Friends this will get ugly...stay tuned.

So there you have it, it's 10:40 AM, time for a cold one.

The continuing crisis

Hillary Clinton's bad week. I hope that she decides not to run, if for no other reason than to save us all from 30 months of rehashing the Clinton years. Unfortunately, the Democrats are in the same situation as the GOP in 2012, with one real candidate trailed by a cacophonous clown posse, so there may be no way out.

Apropos of nothing:

Fascinating: How humans, especially Europeans, got a lot taller. It isn't just nutrition. The question, of course, is whether genetics could have played any role in such a short period as 150 years. Any actual scientists want to weigh in on that one?

Bad news for America. We need to turn this trend around.

News you can use:

My friend and favorite retired prosecutor -- a short list, to be sure -- on how to get to the bottom of the IRS scandal (which, for this blogger's money, is a vastly bigger deal than Benghazi, just as Watergate was a bigger deal than, say, pretty much anything else Nixon did).

My favorite MP asks the question:

Would you rather live in a 1000 square foot house where everyone else’s was 800, or a 1200 square foot house where everyone else’s was 1400? I sometimes think it’s the most elemental question in politics. Where we stand on equality versus prosperity depends, more than we usually admit, on personality traits rather than logic.
The fight over inequality is gaining ground in the United States, though, because the standard of living of the American middle class has declined in recent years. Our economy is creating too few jobs, and costs of four critical things -- education, health care, housing, and energy -- have risen faster than the capacity of many Americans to pay for them. If we can cut the costs of those big four inputs, the American standard of living will soar by any meaningful measure.

The president gets "four Pinocchios." Again.

Putin's walking all over us. We ask again: If Putin's Russia is not fascist, what is it? How is it different from the fascist regimes of old? And if it is not different, why have we not resurrected the term? Please discuss in the comments.

More later.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Orwell weeps

"Because if there’s one thing George Orwell stood for, it’s distorting the plain meaning of words to advance your collectivist political agenda."

No additional commentary required, because if you cannot see that irony, you cannot see any irony.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


Ok, so God comes down and says, "Bryan, here's the deal.  You get to sleep with Gisele Bundchen every night.  But you have to let her dress you and do your hair."

I'd probably take the deal.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Crony watch: The innkeepers gun for Airbnb

The "share economy" -- web technology that allows ordinary people to monetize their property, skills, or time -- proposes to achieve at least three things. First, it can raise the standard of living of such people by allowing them to earn extra income or liquidity. For example, people who rent out rooms via Airbnb, or who give rides via SideCar or Lyft, or who sell their junk on eBay or Amazon, make more money that they can then spend on goods and services or invest in another business. Second, it can raise the standard of living of customers by lowering their costs because they can, say, get a room in a distant city for less than Hilton would charge. Third, the share economy will generate new competition for businesses -- hotels, for example -- and force them to lower costs or improve service to survive.

For all three reasons, the share economy will lower prices for consumers and generate profits in the pockets of ordinary people, profits that otherwise would have gone to incumbent conventional businesses. If one believes that improving the standard of living of ordinary Americans is an important objective, the share economy in all its various forms would seem to be one of the solutions. If you are a newly-minted Piketty lefty, you might appreciate that the share economy at least appears to move income from "capital" to "labor," which you would think would be a feature, rather than a bug. If you are an accountability-conservative, you will admire how the share economy rewards enterprise and pluck in daily life.

Alas, the empire is striking back. The taxi regulators and the industry they protect have been gunning for Uber for at least two years, and now the hoteliers are trying to kill Airbnb in its crib:

The hotel industry is finally mustering its considerable public relations and lobbying muscle to tackle the topic of short-term online rental companies, such as Airbnb. In a message to its members yesterday, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA), announced that it plans to work across the country to battle against the current practices of short-term rental companies.
The hoteliers hope to exploit the fears of local governments who worry that their fat hotel room taxes will dry up under pressure from the share economy. Of course, local politicians could come up with different taxes to impose if the economy becomes inhospitable to those already on the books, but they mostly do not want to be troubled to vote for new taxes.

In other words, we have to protect hotels from casual room-renting and prevent ordinary Americans from competing against Hilton so that politicians will not have to design new taxes to replace the taxes that might be lost if some of those hotels go out of business.

We note -- really as an idle musing -- that the political party that controls most of the big cities with high hotel taxes is also the party that positively weeps for the declining standard of living of the American middle class. We suspect, however, that when push comes to shove, most urban Democratic politicians will choose to protect their massive hotel tax revenues rather than permit ordinary Americans to earn money squeezing the margins of hotels, taxis, and other well-entrenched businesses. And that will be a shame.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

White Privilege and Affirmative Action

The topic of "White Privilege" got a big boost this week when a Princeton freshman wrote an essay in Time in which he disputed the phrase "check your privilege" which is apparently in vogue on campuses across this great nation.  Here's how he describes it:

"That’s the problem with calling someone out for the “privilege” which you assume has defined their narrative. You don’t know what their struggles have been, what they may have gone through to be where they are. Assuming they’ve benefitted from “power systems” or other conspiratorial imaginary institutions denies them credit for all they’ve done, things of which you may not even conceive. You don’t know whose father died defending your freedom. You don’t know whose mother escaped oppression. You don’t know who conquered their demons, or may still conquering them now."

Go ahead and read it--it's an interesting essay with which I wholeheartedly agree.  This person doesn't, but I include it so that you get a chance to read the dripping disdain the victimhood lobby has for the young man who wrote the piece.

Putting all this aside for a moment--if it is OK for the victimhood lobby at Princeton to look at Tal Fortgang and tell him to "check his privilege" solely because he is white and male, is it OK for Fortgang or any white male at Princeton to look at African Americans on campus and assume that they are there as a result of quotas and affirmative action?  I would hope not.  That would be unfairly judging an individual without any knowledge of that individual's personal story.  It would be racist.

The continuing crisis

Coastal elites watch: New York schools are the most segregated in the country. Roll that puppy out at your next cocktail party. (Friendly reminder: New York State spends more money per student than any other state. One cannot help but wonder if all those liberal New York voters are willing to spend so much on their local schools because their districts are so, er, homogeneous.)

Do you drive with an erect posture and hands in the recommended "10 - 2" position? That, according to at least one hanging federal judge, is probable cause. All the more reason to watch this spectacular video.

Lost in the "Dude, that was two years ago" thing was this interesting moment:

VIETOR: That's fair. And I was among people who prepped Susan Rice. And we talked about, you know -- the protests were front and center in Ben [Rhodes]'s e-mail because there was still concern about additional violence in the region.

BAIER: Let's go to the talking points.

VIETOR: It was and there were Friday prayers in a number of countries like Pakistan and we were extremely worried.

Why would people praying make the Obama administration "extremely worried"? Do tell.

How not to be awful on Cinco de Mayo. The analogy to "Everyone’s a Jew and Also Drunk Day" is pretty good, actually. Oh, and an old TigerHawk post on the origins of the day.

Dartmouth College took in 14.5% fewer applications, following a year of protests on campus. Apart from the lost revenue, this hardly matters. On the numbers, Dartmouth has become absurdly difficult to get in to, along with the rest of the elite colleges. If it admits 2200 out of 19,500 instead of 22,000, who cares, apart from a few Ivy League scorekeepers? But -- and this is the really interesting question nobody will even try to answer -- has all this turmoil influenced the applicant pool to the left? That, it seems to me, is the probable (if impossible to prove) consequence of all of this. The question is one of degree, and whether the knock-on effect might be to nudge Dartmouth's competitors to the right.

Oh, and I'm available to speak at Rutgers' commencement. Pass the word.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Tigerhawk: Just What This Blog Needed

I began this blog five years ago, largely inspired by the cerebral right of center blog "Tigerhawk", authored by an Iowan/Princeton grad who seemed to write about a lot of things that I thought mattered.  He did so with great wit and insight, and he had about him a number of comment makers who did not necessarily see the world his way, but with whom he had an easy banter.  I set out to make this blog into something like it.

As he describes below, Tigerhawk had to stop his political blogging, and I felt the interwebs got a little less interesting when that happened.  So when I read on Facebook that he would be retiring soon, I thought he might like a little space here should he wish to re-start his political scribblings.  He took me up on the offer almost immediately, and we--the Conservative Wahoo readership--are the better for it.

Life has caught up with me, and I invariably spend less time with this blog than I would like to.  Hammer's done a great job of keeping up content, but Mudge seems content to hurl comments from Virginia's Eastern Shore, while Sally has fallen off the map.  The addition of Tigerhawk to the team--and the whiff of Presidential politics beginning to simmer--will invariably draw me back in to the fold in a much more applied way.  If only Goldwater's Ghost--the premier witty Conservative blogger for my money--would come out of retirement, we'd be a force to reckon with!

But fair warning, gang.  I continue to exercise comment approval, and I will be ruthless in that practice in order to maintain the civility that we seek here.  Tigerhawk's followers were smart, creative, and often disagreed with him--and they let him know it.  I imagine they'll come find him here, and they will be heard.

Tigerhawk--welcome.  I am grateful to you for hanging your shingle here, and I look forward to reading your thoughts.

Surveillance state update

From The Wall Street Journal, more surveillance from your federal government: Get Ready for Regulators to Peer Into Your Portfolio.

In December, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which oversees how investments are sold, proposed what it calls Cards, an electronic system that would regularly collect data on balances and transactions in brokerage accounts...

Under Cards (which stands for Comprehensive Automated Risk Data System), Finra would collect—probably weekly—a record of activity at all of the more than 4,100 brokerage firms nationwide.

Finra would scour the data continuously, looking for any hints that a firm or a broker might be taking advantage of a client: excessive trading or commissions, switching from one mutual fund to another, overcharging for bond E*TradeETFC +0.04%s, overconcentrating in risky or illiquid securities, and so on.

Cards “would provide us with a treasure trove of information and the ability to focus quicker on firms that are placing investors at high risk,” Richard Ketchum, Finra’s chairman and chief executive, said in an interview.

Because, you know, there is nothing we would prefer the government to have than a "treasure trove of information" about our financial transactions.

Anyway, the arguments in favor of this practice at least sound like those used to justify the NSA's routine surveillance of the communications of ordinary Americans. Yes, this is all for our own protection. Yes, there are supposedly safeguards to prevent the government or any other nefarious agency from connecting the "treasure trove of information" to individuals. Yes, we are supposed to trust that not only will the federal government not use this information to gain leverage over us in some respect, but that it will protect this now aggregated data from others.

Even people who understand this issue -- and we do not pretend to do -- are concerned:

“This goes beyond mere concerns about Big Brother,” says Henry Hu, who oversaw data analytics as former director of the Division of Economic and Risk Analysis at the Securities and Exchange Commission and is now a law professor at the University of Texas in Austin. “I think Cards creates a new form of systemic risk.”

Mr. Hu worries that Cards would take data that is widely dispersed—say you have money scattered across accounts at E*Trade, Fidelity Investments, Morgan Stanley and Charles Schwab — and centralize it for the first time. That could make it more vulnerable.

“It’s a Pearl Harbor problem,” Mr. Hu says. “All the ships and airplanes are in one place at the same time.”

The probability of the data being breached by a disgruntled employee, a terrorist or an unfriendly government is probably very low, Mr. Hu concedes—but the consequences could be dire.

“Just read any trashy spy novel,” he says. “If you were a hostile foreign government, you would immediately put some of your top people to work” trying to crack into Cards.

True, he's citing trashy spy novels, but it seems to me that we ought to listen to the former director of economic and risk analysis of more or less anything, much less the SEC. It is slightly possible that Professor Hu knows who's on first here.

The urge to control is bipartisan. It is in the nature of people who want to work in government. That is why we need strong legal constraints on the size and power of government. That, in turn, requires a population that understands the danger, and the dehumanization, in demanding that every problem have a solution, and that government be the responsible agency for every solution.

More later.

In the house!

A few of there out there may remember me, TigerHawk, from the early days of righty blogging. Quite the rage back in the day in certain hawkish-libertarian circles. We wound it up a few years ago "because busy," as we say now but did not then, and because my company had gotten big enough that my notionally anonymous and overtly disclaimed opinions were troubling to the HR department. That happened after an ex-employee cited this post as evidence in a law suit that I, and therefore our company, was racist. Judge for yourselves. We're calling micro-aggression.

Regardless, Mr. C. Wahoo, who knows my barely but officially secret identity, noticed that this week my company announced my prospective retirement. Not quite as liberating as an actual retirement, but a prospective retirement does allow one to spread one's wings a bit, so I was delighted to accept his offer of login credentials. Let us hope that the feeling is mutual after a few posts.

For those of you who do not know or remember, here is the origin of "TigerHawk":

TigerHawk (ti*ger*hawk): n. 1. The title of this blog and the nom de plume of its founding blogger; 2. A deep bow to the Princeton Tigers and the Iowa Hawkeyes; 3. The nickname for Iowa's Hawkeye logo. Posts include thoughts of the day on international affairs, politics, things that strike us as hilarious and personal observations. The opinions we express are our own, and not those of each other, our employers, our relatives, our dead ancestors, or unrelated people of similar ethnicity.
All that still applies, especially the disclaimer at the end, which ought to be assumed as given in all conversations in any decent society, but sadly is not. Because trial lawyers. See, e.g., the Mark Twain thing.

The point is fun borne of bright engagement among smart people. Not anger, partisan advantage, or -- with rare exceptions -- cranky exorcism of lefty atrocities against all we hold sacred. Read others for that. But we do hope to make it interesting, and perhaps strike a blow for freedom along the way. One warning: However low your expectations may be, please lower them. Blogging, like pool, requires constant practice, and like "Fast Eddie" Felson, we're going to have to shoot some games before it is safe to say we're "back."

More later.

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