Saturday, January 27, 2018

Virginia vs. Duke Preview

There are about five and a half hours until tip-off of the UVA vs. Duke game, and I can legitimately say that I haven't been this excited about a UVA sporting event since the tragic UVA/Syracuse game in the elite 8 a few years ago. I still lose sleep over that.

In Durham, the Hoos (#2 in the country) will take on Duke (#4 in the country). Their rankings alone make this a must watch game, but there is far more to it than that.

We have today, photographic negatives of each other. Duke is a high powered, fast moving offense--the #2 ranked offense in the country according to the wizard of college hoops metrics--with a so-so defense (#69). Virginia on the other hand, has the nation's top defense (#1) and a so-so offense (#42). Duke has firmly embraced the "one and done" philosophy", and Virginia has a spread of talent on the floor.

The game is at Duke--where UVA hasn't won in the last 17 trips (since 1995).

I have a ton of trepidation about this game--I can't wait to watch it, and I can't wait for it to be over.

On the White House Immigration Proposal

Earlier this week, word out of the White House/Congressional Republican negotiators was that they had arrived at an immigration proposal that "deals with the DACA" folks--DACA folks being those here illegally as the result of illegal immigration decisions made by their parents , who as adults, had registered to work here under a clearly unconstitutional program set up by President Obama. The program under which they were here is expiring, and their status (illegal) once again manifests itself unless something is done. They are particularly "vulnerable" as their registration for DACA status essentially outed them as being here illegally in the first place. There is a second, considerably larger group of illegals -- known as "Dreamers" -- who are-- like DACA--here illegally through no choice of their own, but who chose NOT to register under DACA.

Early in his term, President Trump did something I thought was wonderful. As DACA was expiring, he essentially said, "go figure this out Congress." For those of us who believe that the previous two Administrations had expanded Presidential power too far--with Congress' complicity--this move to motivate Congress to do its job was welcomed.

Congress has done its job, or at least part of its job, and between the GOP and the White House a proposal has emerged, which you can read about here.   The broad outlines include:  a path to citizenship for what is conservatively estimated to be 1.8 million people here illegally (DACA plus DREAMER--though this could inevitably rise), $25B for border security/wall (the 2013 plan included $30B), an end to the "diversity lottery" and a dramatic scale back of chain migration. I think this is a superb plan, the kind of plan that a sensible GOP puts forward to help solve a tough problem (DACA) by giving the other side something (DACA plus Dreamer) in order to get what it wants (wall, legal immigration reform). Of note--"E-verify" is not in the plan--which while I believe is terribly necessary--serves as a disincentive to Democrat votes because it could actually have an impact on a ton of future Democrats illegal immigrants here already.

Again--I really, really like this proposal. This is the way things are supposed to work--compromise and recognition that one side rarely gets everything it wants, and if it does, what it gets is probably not worth having (see "Obamacare" and perhaps in the future--the GOP tax cut--which I liked).

So--those who are still reading to this are waiting for the other shoe to drop, aren't you. I couldn't possibly come forward with unadorned praise for something that the Administration was part of, could I?  You know me too well.

First, I don't care how wonderful and reasonable this plan is, IT IS NOTHING LIKE WHAT HE CAMPAIGNED ON.  What this plan represents is the considered wisdom of virtually every other person in the GOP race, except for Ted Cruz who has already put himself on the path to pick up those Trump Immigration voters who must now reconcile the fact that their man could be responsible for the legalization/citizenship of nearly 2 million illegals.

We could have had this plan with virtually any of the other GOP candidates, along with the tax bill and Gorsuch--without the goddamn daily carnival we get from the White House and the progressive diminishment of the office by the ethically and morally flawed man occupying it. We got stuck with this chump because a whole slice of Americana wanted to blame immigrants for their lot in life, and he promised them the moon.  What do I mean by that?

"I will build a great wall -- and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me --and I'll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words."  This line was always delivered to roars of approval by his crowds--and it is a lie.

"Within ICE I'm going to create a new special deportation task force."  No deportation force here--thank goodness--but this whole thing is about granting a path to citizenship to millions of people. Trumpkins used to call this "AMNESTY".

"there will be no amnesty," Whoops.

Folks--keep in mind--I never, ever wanted the insanity of the Trump Campaign immigration approach--I wanted something MUCH like what we're getting with this proposal. My task here is to point out to the suckers who stuck us with him is (first) that they have been lied to and (second) that they are getting EXACTLY the kind of GOP policy approach that the cucks and GOPe have been talking about for years.

So yes--I am perfectly capable of being incredibly positive on a policy basis for something the Trump Administration has proposed, while simultaneously doing an end-zone dance of joy that his vaunted base is taking it in the backside--all the while lamenting the destruction of a once great Party that this Presidency is creating.

Friday, January 19, 2018

National Defense Strategy Quicklook--Two Cheers for the Department of Defense

This morning, Secretary of Defense Mattis announced the promulgation of a new National Defense Strategy. The strategy is classified, but an unclassified companion document has been released. I urge you to read it, because it is important and because it represents a significant but insufficient resetting of America's military sails.

The most important take-aways for me from this unclassified companion are the clear and unimpeachable messages that 1) we are again embroiled in great power competition with a significant military component and 2) our readiness to compete military has eroded markedly. This document minces no words on these two subjects, and I could not be happier with its focus. Taking its clues from the recently released National Security Strategy, this document (like its parent) represents a solid, rational, unemotional approach to national defense that is in some elements, undercut by repeated statements of the President whose approach it purports to represent.  Because this document is an unclassified companion, what will be done to reverse this erosion is not particularly well explained, and that is generally acceptable. But at the meta-level, because this document is directing a clearly different emphasis than its predecessors, there is some responsibility to specify what hard, strategic choices are being made to enable it. The public document does not do this, aside from a de-emphasis on Middle East operations and the always predictable economy of force approach to AFRICOM and SOUTHCOM. My background discussions with responsible officials indicate that these tough choices -- the kinds of choices that alter the proportional allocation of resources within the Departments of the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Defense Agencies--are deferred for later.

Additionally, there is little or nothing in this document that reinforces the importance of the defense buildup promised by candidate Trump. My personal interest is in a 350 ship Navy (which is also in my view, a key tool in this approach to great power competition), but Secretary Matttis' statement this morning sent another clear message that the buildup if it ever comes, is priority two behind improving the capability of the existing force.  Of note is a Tweet this morning from Breitbart's Defense Reporter Kristina Wong. 

This capability vs. capacity debate continues to dominate defense strategy and resources discussions, largely because we have not made a solid argument to the taxpayers that the buildup Trump promised is required. It is--but it has been lost in the noise of the past year, and the narrative behind this strategy essentially says to me, "we have little or no hope of actually and substantially building the force capacity, and so we'll concentrate on making what we have now better." This is an entirely rational approach to the subject, and the one that rational people made all through the Obama Administration too. The primary difference between the Obama and the Trump approaches is naming the targets (China and Russia) and ponying up to the problem (erosion of military strength).

A few selections from the document with my comments:

Page 1:
"...we must make difficult choices and prioritize what is most important to field a lethal,
resilient, and rapidly adapting Joint Force."  It remains to be seen what this actually means in implementation and resource allocation. 

"A more lethal, resilient, and rapidly innovating Joint Force, combined with a robust constellation of allies and partners, will sustain American influence and ensure favorable balances of power that safeguard the free and open international order." This is wonderful rhetoric, and I utterly believe Secretary Mattis believes it. But I also believe his boss does great injury to the convening authority of U.S. leadership by his intemperate conduct in office.

"The costs of not implementing this strategy are clear."  In the abstract meaning of the word, yes. In the particular meaning of "costs", and the manner in which those costs are allocated, clarity is in short supply.

Page 2:
"Another change to the strategic environment is a resilient, but weakening, post-WWII international order. In the decades after fascism’s defeat in World War II, the United States and its allies and partners constructed a free and open international order to better safeguard their liberty and people from aggression and coercion." Again--this is something I believe Mattis gets in his bones--but I'm not as convinced it animates his boss.

Page 3:
"It is now undeniable that the homeland is no longer a sanctuary." It occurs to me that thousands of ICBM's pointed at us during the Cold War also rendered the homeland a sanctuary.

Page 4:
"In support of the National Security Strategy, the Department of Defense will be prepared to defend the homeland, remain the preeminent military power in the world, ensure the balances of power remain in our favor, and advance an international order that is most conducive to our security and prosperity."  This is excellent and clear.

"A long-term strategic competition requires the seamless integration of multiple elements of national power—diplomacy, information, economics, finance, intelligence, law enforcement, and military." Indeed, and given the degree to which the nation is utterly unprepared to consider--let along prepare for--great power competition, the difficulty of this coordination is manifest.

Page 6:
"Nuclear forces. The Department will modernize the nuclear triad—including nuclear command,control, and communications, and supporting infrastructure. Modernization of the nuclear force includes developing options to counter competitors’ coercive strategies, predicated on the threatened use of nuclear or strategic non-nuclear attacks." There is no question as to the importance of the subjects raised here; that they come as the first in a series seems to indicate priority--and I believe that buttressing CONVENTIONAL deterrence forces is more important than the priority afforded strategic deterrence here.

"Forward force maneuver and posture resilience. Investments will prioritize ground, air, sea, and space forces that can deploy, survive, operate, maneuver, and regenerate in all domains while under attack."  Kinda hard to read any real prioritization from this. Kitchen sink approach.

Page 8:
"Strengthen Alliances and Attract New Partners".  This entire section raises my eyebrows. Of course this is critical. Of course Secretary Mattis believes this. But the behavior of the President and the statements he makes about friends, allies, and humanity in general--severely undercut the seriousness of this goal. 

Page 10:
"Deliver performance at the speed of relevance".  I'm gonna need some time to consider this one. This, as opposed to what? Delivering performance at the speed of irrelevance? Delivering failure at the speed of relevance?

Clearly I have a few nitpicks here--but overall, this unclassified companion hints at some very positive developments. I remain skeptical as to the prospects for achieving its ends given the vacuum of Presidential leadership on National Security matters and the seeming deferral of choices about where we should do more or less---but I'm very pleased with the general direction this document lays out.  

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Cruel Sea and Navy Accountability

Many readers are aware that I spent much of my adult life in the Navy, and that I eventually had the great joy and honor to command a destroyer. I left that command nearly twelve years ago, but the sweet taste of it remains to this day. There simply is no other job on the face of this earth like commanding a warship; grab a multi-starred admiral some day and chat him or her up, and if they came up through the surface warfare community, they'll almost certainly tell you that command of their first ship was their favorite tour. 

One prepares for the job over the course of some eighteen years or so, and part of that preparation is watching other officers in command. You pick and choose elements of their approach and style as you form your own idea of how you'll do the job. I kept a little green standard Navy log-book with the words "How I'll Do It Better" on it for several years, a place where I could jot down spurious thoughts that came to me. 

Part of what you learn on the way up is that the commanding officer of a Navy ship is a singular individual, even within the pantheon of leadership positions in the U.S. military. There simply is no other place where responsibility, authority, and accountability are so tightly combined. Additionally, everyone on the ship knows it. Including the Captain. It is deeply woven into the culture of the Navy, and it is something that I have been proud of since I could understand the concept. I remain proud of it today--and consider it the great binding strength upon which all else good about the Navy rests.

We have before us now a tests of that great strength, as last summer's tragic collisions in the Western Pacific have produced criminal charges against the captains of the two destroyers involved, in addition to several other crewmembers. Social media was alive yesterday with reaction to the announcement of these charges (or actually, the seeking of these charges--an Article 32 hearing will determine which charges they will actually be tried for), and it was universally one of shock. Granted, the shock of the collisions themselves last summer was greater--as it should have been--but the shock yesterday was nevertheless interesting to me. There was utter surprise at the possibility that honorable men and women who voluntarily decided to serve their country might wind up in military prison as a result of accidents six months ago,  about which many commenters then asked, "how can this happen?"  

What few people seemed to grasp is that their wonder about how the collisions could happen is in no small measure the product of a system in which otherwise honorable men and women face prison for causing them. Collisions at sea are NOT common both because of the physics involved AND because of the fact that mariners are supposed to know "the law" and follow it. The law of the sea is older than our Constitution or any other law we know in this country, and its perceived cruelty is at the heart of its effectiveness.

I feel horrible for the men and women who may someday face courts martial. None of them woke up that day and decided to be complicit in a collision. Ultimately, the charges they face may not be what have been preferred. And ultimately, they may be found guilty of lesser crimes, or innocent altogether. 

But they must face the military justice system, and that system must assign culpability. The strength of the system depends on it, and it is a system that has served this Navy and this nation well. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

For Those Who Think I Am All Anti-Trump, All the Time

People I Love

The recent death of a friend has been an opportunity for me to reflect on the people I love. I didn't love Shawn Brimley, but I admired him a great deal and liked him immensely. I wish I had told him these things before he died, and I think it is a good late addition to my 2018 Resolutions to be more expressive of my affection for the people in my life.

This morning I had my monthly massage (don't judge me). I usually am able to clear my mind for this hour and concentrate pretty much on the massage itself, but today was different. I found myself thinking about who I love--and by that, I mean the people in my life whose health, contentedness, and safety are of great importance to me. I did this because I resolved to be more forthcoming with these people in the year ahead. And to start this process, I list them here today. If you are not on the list, it is because 1) I don't love you (I may still like you a whole lot)  2) I love you, but I am a forgetful and addled curmudgeon and I hope to rectify leaving you off the list or 3) I already tell you a great deal that I love you. The list is chronologically ordered by decade, using the names under which I came to know these people. Some I see every day. Some I rarely see. Some--I am pretty sure think far less of me than I do of them. But I love them nevertheless, and if by some happenstance they see this, I want them this very minute to know that I love them.

Jim McGrath, Tom McGrath, Sean McGrath, Patrick McGrath

Kelly McGrath, Mark Sanders, Bill O'Keefe, Dave Ottignon,

Art Sharon, Sam Evangelista, Jennie Gillies, Chris Wutzer, Kathy Zeaser, Jack Ewing, Paul Garvin, Toni Cudney, Stephanie Wilson, Alyson Buchney, John Shea, Tom Coulter, Rob Ganus, Mark Senell, Scott Waskey, Dan Sweeney, George Davidson, Caroline Cobb, Julie Greer, Art Greer, Marti Greer, Adam Greer, Craig Devlin, Gordon Ballard, Fred Sheehy, Robert Duran, Nevin Carr, Bernie Carter, Debbie Borelli, Sue Beck

Alan Eschbach, Eric Sweigard, Dave Britt, Hank Giffin, Steve Hampton, Brad Cooper, Pat Piercey, Dan Sunvold, Eric Watkins, Bruce Curry, Hans Gulick, Con Xefteris, Chris Peterschmidt, Jim Kilby, Kristin Schmidt, Joe Harrington, Dave Deutermann, Julie Williams, Tim Long, Fred Kacher, Jake Ross, Joe Corsi, Jill Serrano, Kevin Mooney, Mark Gorenflo, Stephanie McGrath, David Odoherty, Meaghan McGrath, Kevin McGrath, Lauren McGrath, Morgan McGrath

Skaidra Blanford, Jimmy Blanford, Jim Blanford, Sally Blanford, Phil Waggoner, Dan Karbler, Bob Barwis, Nate Kring, John Ennis, Peter Swartz, Bryan Clark, Jeff Wilson, Todd Leavitt, Ann White, Tiny White, Hope Murphy, Hannah Murphy, Colin McGrath, Liam McGrath, Emma McGrath, Conor O'Doherty, Rory O'Doherty

Sandy Clark, Tim Walton

I may have forgotten people. Some readers may think my bar is low, and that what I believe is love for another human being is insufficiently differentiated from "like" or "care about". So be it. I have my standard, these people meet it, I want them to know it, and I am utterly grateful to have the love in my heart for them that I do.

For those with a discerning eye, neither my parents nor the Kitten are on this list. I felt they fall under #3 above. But it goes without saying that I love them very much.

Shawn Brimley was a Man

Man at Work
Masculinity, manliness, manhood--I'm using them interchangeably here although I suspect incorrectly--have been on the ropes for a few years. By masculinity, I mean the display of virtues not exclusively identified with biological men, but virtues generally and socially understood to be associated with biological men. Among these I would suggest are strength, honor, protectiveness, compassion, resilience, responsibility, leadership, stewardship, and decisiveness. I won't be drawn into a debate as to the inclusiveness of this list or its applicability to the feminine--I'll only say that I think a modestly sentient reader will be able to understand what I'm getting at.

This traditional concept of masculinity has been radically distorted of late, both by those who seek to undercut it and those who seek to wield it as a weapon. Our media is replete with tales of what has come to be known as "toxic masculinity", the cumulative effect of which is to pervert any real understanding of the traditional meaning of the unadorned noun while advancing a political agenda comfortable to those using the malformed term. Equally distorting has been the rise of amped-up roid-ragers who peddle their supplements and their misogynistic conquest philosophies alongside master-race political rhetoric. This crowd is cheered on by a President who has urged crowds to physically assault hecklers, and whose past admitted history of sexual assault is passed off as "locker-room" banter. Nearly lost in these dueling "house of mirrors" concepts of manhood are the exemplars of the traditional view. And Wednesday, the group of exemplars was reduced by one.

Shawn Brimley, about whom I wrote in this blog on Monday, died on Wednesday. He has been wonderfully eulogized elsewhere; I particularly recommend Andrew Exum's piece in The Atlantic. He will be buried on Saturday, and I will attend his funeral in company with hundreds of others who loved him. The young Brimley family has lost its Dad, and its husband, and their loss is irreconcilable. Mentioning my loss in the same paragraph as theirs is perhaps a conceit, but more to the point, it restates the entire purpose of this elegy: I have lost a living model for the kind of man I have always wanted to be; the kind of man every man should want to be.

Shawn Brimley loved his wife and children with a singularity and a quiet ferocity. As another friend Jerry Hendrix and I agreed yesterday in a chat, they were everything to him. Shawn loved his country--America--as much as any natural born citizen, and served to make it better and stronger. Shawn cared deeply about the people he worked with, and he extended himself to promote their fortunes. Shawn cared about those in need, those left behind, those in pain, and those in doubt. He walked the walk, while most others talk the talk, if even that. He was the most complete man I have ever met, and were one to attempt to define the manly virtues, one could do no better than to consider him. I know this sounds like hagiography, that I am puffing him up to speak well of the dead or in an effort to comfort myself. It is neither of these things. I am stating a simple truth--that this country and this world would be a much better place if more men thought and acted like Shawn Brimley--and if they did, masculinity, manhood, manliness--whatever you wish to call it--would be prized and sought after rather than lampooned and attacked.

Someone very wise once told me when I took on the role of fatherhood to two fatherless daughters that my job would be to provide them with a model for that which to accept no less than. That the best thing I could do for them was to love their mother, so that they would one day know how to recognize real love without confusing it with other, sometimes damaging emotions. I think about Shawn's daughter as I write this, and while I am heartbroken for her and her brothers, I am glad that she got a chance to form a view of manhood during very impressionable years that may someday sustain her.

Shawn Brimley was a man. And a magnificent one at that. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light

The email informing me that he was dying came yesterday from his wife. She has been assiduous in keeping his considerable group of concerned friends informed as to the progress of the cancer--which if memory serves, was only diagnosed in the days before Thanksgiving. Weeks later, doctors are preparing her (and us) for the worst. If he does die, his loss at such a young age will be inexplicable and cosmically unjust. He is -- as I put it in a message to another friend this morning -- a lovely man. Brilliant, handsome, compassionate, friendly, collegial.

He and I have never been aligned politically. There have been times where I have judged him for his misguided domestic policy preferences. There is a bit of a social justice warrior in him, but I suppose if we must have them, I prefer that they be him. But a warrior he is, nevertheless, and while we are divided on many domestic issues, we are of a like mind with regard to American strength and the importance of American leadership in this troubled world. After the election in November, we met several times to discuss how we might collaborate in order to see that our common principles would not perish. I hope and pray that we will be able to move forward on those discussions.

I follow him on Facebook and delight in the beauty of his young family and their activities. There is a very small boy who seems always to be smiling. There is a daughter who seems to luxuriate in the love of her father, with the two of them providing me with a sense of just how much I missed in meeting my daughters later in their lives.

My last thought before sleep last night was of this best of men, and of his family. I long ago ceased to argue with God about His decisions, as the realization that I cannot know His mind finally won out against my own ego. But like a good Executive Officer, my job is to make sure He knows my views before that decision comes. And so I made them plain. Let this man live, God, please let him live.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Tips for Prospective Commenters

From the earliest days of this blog, I have had policies guiding how I wish for it to operate. They are found in the three paragraphs to the right of the main page, and they are repeated here:

The Blog: A compendium of thoughts on politics, world affairs, economics, pop culture and social issues, from the center right perspective of me--Bryan McGrath--a University of Virginia graduate who spent a career in the world's greatest Navy keeping my mouth shut about politics and social issues (ok, publicly keeping it shut). Those days are over! Pull up a chair and chime in where you will. Keep it clean, civil, concise and relevant.

The Fish: The fish is a "coat of arms" for the blog, symbolizing three formative influences in the life of the blog founder. The first is his experience at the University of Virginia--symbolized most importantly by the fish itself, or a caricature of a "Wahoo", the fish we have acquired as an informal nickname. Additionally, there is the sword, the sword of a Cavalier. It is not wielded in a threatening manner, as this is a civil blog. But it is there, should it be needed. Thirdly, there is the influence of 21 years in the Navy--symbolized by the anchor on the Wahoo's fin (and again, the sword) . Finally, there is the bowler, tuxedo, and monocle, symbols of a refined, intellectual conservatism, or what I seek to encourage here.

The Policy: I take FULL responsibility for what I write. I will not be held responsible for the content of my comments section--as long as it is civil and passes my own inscrutable sniff tests, it will appear. If the comment offends you, that is on you.

At times, this blog has had unmediated comments, and I would periodically go in and excise those that I felt were not up to snuff. The current policy is mediated comments. If you attempt to comment here, a notification will come to me. I can post it, I can delete it, or I can mark it as spam -- and then if you (using a handle) comment again, it will go directly to spam and I'll never see it.

Since I restarted this blog after my hiatus, the comment section has been lightly populated. First, my absence from social media between Thanksgiving and Christmas dropped readership dramatically. Second, from the restart--I was avoiding putting links to posts directly on Facebook (which drives readership), instead only alerting readers that there was new content. All of this drove readership down, which I'm trying to reverse. However, there have continued to be comments even in this time of low interest, but many of them haven't been published. Here are a few tips on why.

1. Don't insult me. This is my blog, your views have no place here except if I say so--you have no First Amendment right here. If you think that you do, you need more civics education.

2. Don't ask me to cater to your desires or informational needs. You can request that I write about subjects if you like, and if I wish to, I will. But you have no claim on my time or my efforts.

3.  Don't expect me to allow you to spout your MAGA, Trumpkin, crap -- especially if it is loaded with violations of #1. If you have coherent arguments to make, make them. I may or may not respond. I make no apologies for being anti-Trump, and I dramatically limited participation from former co-bloggers who have a different view, urging them to start or resume their own blogs. This is --for me--a megaphone, not a telephone.

4. If I print your comment I have no obligation to comment on it. See #2. I say what I think. You say what you think. If it passes my process, I post it. Game over. Sometimes I'll respond, sometimes I won't. 

Sunday Potpourri

The only thing better than quietly sitting by the fire on a chilly Sunday morning with a hot cup of coffee reading North Carolina sports media ponder the dismantling of their precious Tar Heels yesterday by my Wahoos, is doing so on a morning in which Duke also lost, which they did courtesy of Hammer's North Carolina State University Wolfpack. Yesterday was a spectacular day for college hoops, and from what I can see things are only going to get better. There are essentially two real powerful teams this year--Michigan State and Villanova; everyone else appears to me to be playing for #3--and all of those contestants are relatively well-matched. Even #1 and #2 aren't invincible--so this is going to be a tremendous season of college hoops. Have a look at this wonderful dunk by a UVA freshman yesterday on UNC's top player. 

Also this morning, I am reading coverage of our taxpayer funded royal flatterer Stephen Miller taking to the talkshow circuit to remind us how much of a genius his boss is, and how "...exaggerated..." Stephen Bannon's role was in both the campaign and the administration. This is the cycle of use in TrumpWorld--you join the team and work hard--not because you have belief in the agenda of the Man but for personal gain. As long as you are useful, you are retained. Then, when you aren't useful--you are disposed of, and your previous significance is then derided (see Bannon, Priebus, Spicer, Flynn, Papadopoulous, etc).

It is also interesting to remember the boasts of the Trumpkin class in the campaign, that because their man was such a successful businessman (four bankruptcies notwithstanding), he would surround himself with "...the best men...".  If his first year has proven anything, it is that there are a lot of really substandard people working close to the President. Birds of a feather, one supposes.

I was asked the other day why this circus is happening within this Administration, but hasn't in previous ones (this was in response to what I called the very human trait of looking out for oneself which is hyper-evident in this group). I answered that while it is human to look out for oneself, it is not the ONLY human trait. Another strong one is the desire to be part of something bigger than oneself, to be part of an agenda for change and a top-notch team to create it. This is what happens within a campaign staff--where a huge group of people who believe in the candidate come together to give of their time and energy because they want to advance his/her agenda. Trump never had this. His policy staff was in his head. The free media he got allowed him to run a lean operation. There was no real governing agenda to believe in, and so those people who did sign on were largely there to advance their personal agendas--seeing none provided by the President. And so without a common sense of mission, there is an "every man for himself" mentality--which is of course exacerbated by the conduct and behavior of the Chief Executive, the ongoing Justice Department investigation into his campaign, and a media which is involved in a hostile takedown effort. Welcome to the Thunder Dome.

The annual gathering of your Navy's Surface Warfare Community occurs this week in Arlington VA, and front/center are the two collisions last summer that resulted in the deaths of 17 Sailors. I look forward to hearing Navy leadership talk about what they're doing to internalize the lessons of those tragedies, but I sincerely hope this is not a garment rending exhibition designed to palliate those who would rather focus on blame and recrimination than the business of killing people and wrecking things from the ocean's surface. It is high time that we begin to prepare for this new age of great power competition, and contemplating our navels regarding last year's accidents is not the way to go.

Today's goals include not going outside, 500 calories on the treadmill, and much football and college hoops watching. The Kitten is having the Ladies over for an afternoon bridge game, and so making myself scarce to watch sports will be penalty free.  Enjoy your Sunday.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Our President is Unstable

I wrote Thursday of the Michael Wolff tell-all that is adding texture to what we already knew--that the President is unfit for the job and his senior advisers know it. An entire nation whistles past the grave-yard as this amazing time plays out before us. For those readers with the good judgment not to be on Twitter, I will reproduce a few of our Chief Executive's Twitter offerings from earlier today.

Which was followed by:

And then: 

This series of Tweets elicited the following from me:

Let's face it folks, very few if any people reading this blog are capable of making clinical diagnoses of DSM-V cataloged personality disorders. Even those qualified to make such diagnoses often get it wrong. What we are all (or most of us) capable of doing is judging the character, morals, and ethics of another human being based on the things he or she says or writes. We don't need degrees, we don't need advanced education, we don't need the DSM-V. "That boy ain't right" is not the utterance of a clinical psychologist--but an assessment most of us have made about someone else simply based on a common understanding of humanity. And by that standard, Donald Trump just ain't right.

Friends--this is the most powerful man in the world. There is NOTHING above this. In the annals of what can be achieved within an American life, Donald Trump has unquestionably succeeded wildly. So why must he continually seek validation? Why is the approval of the mainstream media so critically important to him (and don't kid yourselves, it is)?  

There is another dysfunction at work here. In the great contest between anti-Trump former Republicans/faithful conservatives and the Trumpenproletariat, the former (like me) have no problem granting that this man we consider vile has had a handful of laudable accomplishments (which are incidentally, the kind of GOPe stuff they railed against); the latter however, are simply unable to grant that their man's character and demeanor are the least bit troubling. Noted. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Trump v. Bannon: Can't They Both Lose?

During the Iran/Iraq War of the 1980's, there was a nifty bon mot dropped in the international relations community...."Can't they both lose?"  This is the perfect way to think about the Trump v. Bannon battle.  Both men are detestable human beings with no more noble goal than their own aggrandizement. That they came together in the summer of 2016 is a tragedy of happenstance, one the country will pay for in the years to come. That their partnership is now utterly unraveling should surprise no one. Bannon is one of the " men..." that Trump claimed would surround him. Now that the relationship has soured, Trump would have us believe that Bannon was just a staffer and a clerk and a man of low character who lost his mind after being fired. Yet these men and women of low character seem omnipresent in Trumpworld. It is because the President prefers them.

There is no end to the irony of this situation. Much of what is coming out in Michael Wolff's new book is already known--that Trump's subordinates (and family) thought they'd lose the election, that Trump is held in low esteem by his staff, and that our President has the attention span of a gnat. That ANY of it though appears in this book (and the additional salacious stuff--like Ivanka's rendering of her father's hair-do and Bannon's blunt depiction of the famous meeting with Russians in Trump Tower as "...treasonous...") is entirely due to the unimpeded access that the author was granted to simply hang around the White House. There was never any doubt but that he was preparing to write a book. The terms of his invitation were well known.  Ex post facto claims that of "...I thought it was off the record..." are ridiculous in this day and age. This is--like virtually all of Trump's previous injuries--self-inflicted.

And now, we'll hear from the Trumpenproletariat. They'll tell us that this is fake news. They'll tell us that the press is out to get their man. They'll tell us that Bannon was never a key part of things, and he's just settling scores (which he is). When Trump said that he could commit murder on Fifth Ave and his supporters would stay with him, he was right. They are no longer sentient, or perhaps never were so, at least in an ethical sense. They will stay with him. Those who voted for him out of a sense of Party duty, or because they could not abide by a Hillary Clinton presidency and believed that their vote would tip the balance--perhaps these people retain enough vestigial morality to create room for a  Republican with ethics and morals to primary the President in 2020. Or perhaps they'll make it so clear to him that he will not be re-elected, that he pulls a Lyndon Johnson and bails. Only time will tell. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year

For the few years I've maintained this blog, the week before New Years brought a standard couple of posts. One was resolutions, and the other was predictions. In each, I reviewed the success of the previous year's version and then made ten new ones. With this new and improved version of the blog, a new New Year's tradition. No more predictions--I sucked at them anyway. And I won't labor to get ten resolutions out. Just a few.

Resolution Number 1: Focus. If I'm watching a basketball game, watch the game. If I'm talking with Catherine, talk with Catherine. Put the phone or the laptop down and do one thing at a time.

Resolution Number 2: Under-react. More poise, self-control. Less huffing and puffing.

Resolution Number 3: Be more social. I do plenty on the Western Shore--mostly related to my job. I (and Catherine) need to do more socially here in Easton. It's too easy to hunker down on the farm by the fire--need to get out more.

Got up early today and spent the morning in a goose blind with superb company. I didn't shoot anything, but I walked away with two fat geese as my buddy was more successful and has a freezer full of goose already. It was 16 degrees when the hunt started, and 21 when it was over--but the wind was non-existent and I was dressed warmly.

The view from the blind, with decoys deployed

The Kitten put me to work when I got home on making my famous roasted cauliflower and roasted brussels sprouts. She's resolving to eat more healthy, and we now have a refer full of these delicacies. A long nap followed, before committing to watching college football. As I write this, Georgia and Oklahoma are headed to overtime in what has been a superb game. Moving these semi-final games to New Year's Day makes a lot of sense. NCAA was stupid for having them previously on New Year's Eve.

I wish you all a Happy New Year and a superb 2018.
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