Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Final Solution?

As the silly season accelerates it seems that presidential candidates are stepping all over themselves trying to pander most effectively to the audience they face at the moment. Unfortunately in the process they say the most outrageous things and they should not be afforded impunity for those gaffes.

How about this one from John Edwards:

What do you suppose he meant?

It's almost a cliche that we recite, the canard about more black men in jail than...fill in the blank to fit the occasion... So, Edwards takes the great leap of logic that if we continue the trend we will soon have no more African-American men. They will all be incarcerated or dead.

The National Review Online skewers the statistic pretty effectively by noting there are MORE black men in college than in jail--the initial number shows a frighteningly small margin, but then NRO points out that the straight up comparison isn't a very good stat. If reduced to the number of college-aged men, then the proportion goes to four to one in college versus jail.

And, what would be the conclusion Mr. Edwards wishes us to draw? Should we stop building jails so as to not have so many African-American males incarcerated? Would that stop the crime? Would that protect society? While it might be very popular to imply that there is some sort of racism involved here and he is the guy to correct it, it seems to ignore the crime stats for urban areas.

What is his solution to this problem? He doesn't seem to offer one, but then the audience he was addressing was an MTV forum--you remember, "Rock the Vote"? Would it be elitist or even ageist for me to point out that the MTV viewer is probably not very politically astute? Can you hear the comments from the audience? "Wow, that is like so true, Dude." "It's like the establishment, man." "It's like that town in's Jena-cide."

Sorry, John, but the reason folks are in jail is because they break the law. We've got poverty and drugs and ghettos in this country and that's bad. But we've also got a system of law enforement and advocacy justice and due process and punishment. When folks wind up in jail it is because they were apprehended, indicted, tried and convicted. It isn't a plot to do away with Black men and it is disingenuous to imply that it is.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Proxy Wars

We’re not talking about corporate takeovers here. The proxy wars I’m referring to are the remote controlled comments of presidential candidates’ clones. The most recent twist in this long-standing political tradition is the unleashing of the wives.

Unfortunately mud-slinging, fault-finding, scandal-disclosing and simple disparagement of the opposition has become the stock methodology of campaigning. Ask a hundred voters if they like negative campaigns and the preponderant majority will tell you that is the most distasteful aspect of American politics. Yet, it is undeniable that the negative gets the accentuation in contravention of the old Johnny Mercer song. Even the Eagles got it right in pointing out that we like “Dirty Laundry.”

The critical catch is that you’ve got to have someone deniable doing the dirty work. That’s how we wind up with “former National Guard Officers” suddenly recalling records from thirty years ago to allege draft dodging or combat avoidance. It’s how we read of former professors who recall a sub-par student performance. It is how an unaffiliated researcher or blogger begins to beat the drum about some miscreant running for office. It’s the greater-than-arm’s-length voice crying in the wilderness and it had better not be the candidate or the candidate’s organization. There has got to be deniability. No one wants to vote for a mud-slinging officer-seeker. We all want to vote on the issues and the qualifications, not the sordidness. We also like to watch slo-motion train wrecks.

We’ve got an exciting new twist unfolding in this hyper-length horserace that is the current presidential campaign. Now it is the era of the liberated, self-assured, confident, intelligent, independent, (complimentary adjectives begin to pile up at this point), woman who coincidentally is the spouse of the candidate. Maybe Eleanor Roosevelt was such a woman, but Bess Truman wasn’t nor was Mamie Eisenhower. While Jackie Kennedy might have made the first lady position into a popular news focus, it wasn’t typically a political statement that drove the attention but one of fashion, style or the arts.

Probably we can attribute development of the strong-willed, almost uncontrollable-in-speaking-her-mind model of presidential spouse to Hillary Clinton. How appropriate then that the new wave of proxies is aiming quite often at Ms Clinton herself.

The new, self-assured spouse is first profiled by the media to create stature and credibility. We got an examination of Elizabeth Edwards when John was VP candidate with John Kerry. Background was established and an aura of sympathy was brushed in when it was disclosed that she was suffering from cancer. She becomes a perfect proxy now. She’s got credibility because she’s been through a national campaign. She’s been an insider and she’s her own woman supporting her brilliant trial lawyer/millionaire/dedicated public servant husband. She can speak with authority. She’s got a platform. The media are listening.

And, with the recurrence of her cancer, she’s not subject to brutal counter-attack. One does not kick at the disabled just because they’ve insulted, accused or libeled you. It simply isn’t done by civilized folks. She becomes an invulnerable voice which will be heard and cannot be effectively countered. Along with it comes deniability from the candidate who simply acknowledges that she has a right to say what she thinks. Take that Ann Coulter!

This week it was Michelle Obama. What a perfect proxy! She’s attractive (remember, Joe Biden likes Obama because he’s “mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy…” Michelle is intelligent and successful in her own right. Barak even admits that she is smarter and he defers lovingly. She is the sort of strong woman who will be an asset to any President and a role-model to millions of young women of any ethnicity. Therefore, she can speak with authority and impunity. She has a platform. The media listen. And the candidate can assert deniability.

Through it all, we the American electorate suffer. We’ve been placed at arm’s length from accountability of our candidates while they use immune proxies to cast the stones of the campaign. The proxy speaks and then the talking heads parse the statements of the proxy providing first an opportunity for us to nod in agreement at what the proxy pointed out, then a chance for the candidate to distance from the statement, and inevitably a flood of press to put the candidate at the top of the news hour again.

What will be next? Presidential candidate spouse debates? During this first ever Presidential election through media coronation, we might be watching the final demise of the democratic experience of the Founding Fathers. Reality TV becomes the process of government rather than informed electoral decision.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Reaping What You Sow

A couple of long years ago I did a couple of items here on “ProfessorWard Churchill at UC/Boulder. He provoked outrage when he declared quite vocally that the victims, those men, women and children that died in the World Trade Center on 9/11 were the guilty parties, deserving of their fate and likening them to Adolph Eichmann and the Nazis. That would certainly be a warped opinion if put forth by a deluded, drug-addled street person. From a tenured professor at a major university it seemed ill-advised at the very least.

First Comments On Ward Churchill

The Circus Comes to Town

The incident brought the case of Churchill under the lens of public scrutiny. In fairly short order it was revealed that he received his education from a somewhat questionable college that catered to extreme left wing views and wasn’t accredited. He was hired to teach a single course on Native American issues and based on that experience he was offered, first a full professorship and almost immediately a department chairmanship—all of this without possessing a PhD!

Credentials lacking, further checking uncovered clear evidence of plagiarism in his writings and very questionable sourcing of his research. In short, he was demonstrably a fraud. Not only was his willingness to appropriate other’s writing as his own apparent, he also was uncovered as posting art work under his own name which was simply an image reversal of another artist’s painting.

In short order, Churchill became a cause celebre for the extreme leftists on the Boulder campus (who are the majority by a large margin) and the academic apologists of the nation as they rallied to his cause. Academic freedom, they shouted. He has a right to spout whatever drivel he wishes to promote intellectual curiosity in his students. Whether right, reasonable, accurate or not, he should not be muzzled. TV cameras followed his every appearance and provided a forum for his agony. He would fight, he would stand up for Native Americans, and he would prevail.

But, then it was discovered that even his Native American-ness was very questionable. He was it seems the recipient of sort of an associate membership in some miniscule tribe. You have to be an Indian to be an authority on Native American studies apparently, so he bought himself an ethnicity.

Now, after researching the allegations and conducting in-depth discussions the Board of Regents has finally canned this fraud.

Standing Up for Truth

Naturally the defenders of the twit continue to obfuscate the issue with First Amendment pronouncements. That clearly isn’t the issue. The issue is that the guy is a liar, a cheat, a loon and a fraud. He isn’t qualified to teach at a pre-school. He’s a throw-back to the revisionism of the ‘60s when guys like Timothy Leary were confusing research with recreational mind-blowing drugs.

University of Colorado/Boulder has done the right thing. It took them long enough, but eventually they got around to it. Now we can look forward to Churchill’s posturing in court and hopefully it will cost him a lot of money and strongly confirm his unsuitability. One can only hope.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Even The Left Notices

I don’t like Susan Estrich very much. She’s probably a very nice person, but her voice simply grates on me. It reminds me of one of those wrong side of the tracks gin mill harpies who have smoked cheap cigarettes and downed straight shots of Kessler’s for way too many years.

I don’t like her politics very much. She’s out there on the far left in Mao country. Her rise to national prominence came when she managed the presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis and we all should recall how that worked out. Riding around in an M-60 looking like a GI Joe bobble-head doll was the kiss of death for him. Almost as funny as John Kerry striding around in camo with his shotgun and a lackey running behind carrying a dead goose as he attempted to demonstrate hunting credentials to the electorate.

But, Susan offers a great commentary on Barack Obama in this piece:

No Room In The Boat

The fact is that when we go to the polls to choose the leader of the free world and the President of the United States we are going to be selecting someone who will be directing a huge enterprise in perilous times. Barack may be intelligent. He may be articulate. He may have potential. He certainly can raise money and his campaign so far has shown some creativity and wit. The reprise of the “1984” Apple commercial with Hillary in the starring role was great theater. The bouncy little music video of “Crush on Obama” was charming as well.

But he doesn’t have any experience.

That’s the key word. EXPERIENCE. He hasn’t been tempered in the cauldron of life. He’s done nothing beyond go to school and spend a few years lawyering for social welfare programs—a sinecure without much in the way of challenge. Some time in the Illinois senate without a list of great policy accomplishments doesn’t show much either. And, a mere two years in Washington won’t cut it. There’s nothing on the stage of real achievement to recommend him.

Estrich points out that Obama has got a wheelbarrow full of money. That’s going to make it interesting. But it also should make us afraid. Let’s hope that the electorate demonstrates some wisdom. Let’s hope that it isn’t going to be a slick media blitz without substance that elevates this young man to the most important job in the world. It makes me apprehensive that the Republic might not be strong enough to survive the experience.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Becks, Barry, Benoit, Bikes and Vick

I’m astonished at the sports pages these days. I know pro sports is all about the Benjamins and hardly about the competition, but aren’t things getting out of hand?

Let’s start with Becks and Posh. Does anyone really believe that bringing Beckham to LaLa Land is going to suddenly convert all of redneck America into avid soccer fans? Whoever it was that thought there might be justification for writing a $33 MILLION check to this guy in anticipation of future revenues for American soccer teams had to be ingesting some sort of illegal pharmaceuticals.

We’ve had soccer in America for decades. It’s the game suburban kids play on Saturday mornings in large grassy fields behind the mega-mall surrounded by Stepford moms in gas-guzzling behemoths. It teaches “teamwork” and sportsmanship and it’s very inexpensive compared to Pop Warner Football or Little League Baseball. You don’t need a lot of equipment or uniforms. Simple shorts, T-shirts and shoes are pretty much it. Oh, yeah, you need one of those black and white volleyball things too. It’s perfect for the ultra-lib set because you don’t have a lot of contact or bruising. Nobody scores very often, so there’s not a lot of damage to self-esteem by keeping score. And, the chubby kid can play goalie so he doesn’t need to run around too much.

But beyond tiring the brats out for the weekend, nobody really cares much about soccer. They didn’t forty years ago, they didn’t twenty years ago and they don’t today. Watching a bunch of guys run around a pasture for ninety minutes without hitting each other or scoring isn’t exciting television for us. Having a referee in short pants hand out little colored cards for infractions and writing a name down in a notebook is nowhere near as exciting as third-and-long with fourteen seconds to play and a four point deficit. It doesn’t have the visceral joy of seeing a power play in the third period as your star center is in the penalty box with blood streaming down his face. No, there’s not much appeal to soccer in America.

So, we’ve got this big paycheck for Becks and Posh. We’ve got a TV special for Posh to coo about life in America and we’ve got dinner parties for the couple hosted by Tom-Kat and all of the Hollyweird glitterati. Then we’ve got THE game, but poor Becks has got a sore ankle—didn’t they do a physical on this clown like an NFL team would for an aging quarterback? Becks plays ten minutes, the game is lost one-zip and there’s reinforcement that this isn’t going to be the Next-Big-Thing in American sports.

Meanwhile in San Francisco we’ve got the Bonds watch. There’s this Hulkamaniac, all bulked up on clear and cream and human growth hormone, waddling to the plate to swat a ball out of the park and break a record for career home runs set by a gentleman without the aid of chemicals using only his God-given talent a few decades ago. Frankly, I don’t care. Bonds can hit a million home runs and the record will always be tainted. Give me Ruth and Aaron. Hell, give me Pete Rose.

Could all sports be headed the way of pro wrestling? Until a few weeks ago we thought it was simply escapist entertainment. But, how harmless can it be when the plot for the show revolved around the chairman of the “sport” being supposedly murdered in a bombing that blew up his white stretch limo? Is this what we want to teach our kids? Reality intruded and real people got killed when one of the stars in an alleged “roid-rage” incident wiped out his wife, kids and himself. Hardly the role-modeling we should want for our ten year olds whether the fiction or the real life drama.

We could seek escape by turning to Europe where the Tour de France is wending its way through the countryside. No Lance Armstrong this year, so we find it hard to cheer for a Yank particularly after last year’s discredited victor. Each day we see who wears the yellow jersey and get new allegations of doping. Isn’t there any place that’s going to teach us that fair play, hard work, dedication and grit will get us through life? What does sport teach us these days?

Maybe basketball? Ooopss. Nope. How can you trust a sport played by seven foot oddities and controlled by referees with a couple of large riding on the outcome against the spread? Probably reinforces your kid’s distrust of authority and unwillingness to submit to justice.

At least there’s football. All we need to confirm our faith is for the NFL to summarily suspend Michael Vick for his disgusting after-hours activities at his mansion. Don’t start with that “innocent until proven guilty” business. That’s about the law, this is about the reputation of the sport. If the league is to be consistent in their expressed determination to bring responsibility back it must act against Vick, a franchise player, as it has against the secondary collection of thugs and miscreants it has fined and suspended so far. One can only hope.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Healthy Skepticism

The problem is the collection of the “usual suspects.” I’m naturally skeptical of almost everything I hear, see or read these days. Whereas once I might have accepted pronouncements on face value, particularly if they seem consistent with independent observations, now I often look for ulterior motives. Is there a hidden agenda? Are the data being accurately presented? What’s going on?

So, I try to make sense of the global warming crisis. Last year I spent my first full summer in Texas since 1971 when I lived in San Antonio. It was a record-breaker—almost—in that we had forty-some days in a row over 100 degrees. But, it wasn’t a record, because the year was badly overshadowed by a sequence of quite a few more days of high temps more than thirty years ago. Yet, it seemed like it might be a first-hand view of the planetary crisis with worse to come.

Oh, sure, I remember being fascinated as a sixth-grader about the ice ages alternating over millennia with the semi-tropical bogs and rain forests that provided habitat for the dinosaurs. That would indicate to most folks that the planetary climate is cyclical. But, man is now here and we might be doing damage to screw up the normal cycles. Or, maybe not.

This year, the drought is long gone in north Texas and the water crisis is not about lack but about over-abundance. So much for the warming cycle in that regard. And, the temperature has yet to come within five degrees of the century mark even though we are in the middle of July. Time for some personal research—and mine will be worth as much as Sheryl Crow’s observation that the beach these days is much hotter than she recalls from thirty years ago.

I’ve started checking the year for the record high temperature each day that is reported on the weather page of the local fish-wrapper. If there is an accelerating trend, we should see the record dates clustering toward more recent years in the history of weather data documentation. I’d think we’d have some meaningful numbers if we saw that the record high temps were consistently within the last ten or twenty years. Today, for example, the record high was noted as occurring in 1980. That seems supportive.

But, in the last month, I’ve seen many more record high dates from 1911, 1913, 1935, 1951, 1947, etc. etc. Might that mean it was just as hot or hotter a hundred years ago? In many instances during periods without the broad use of the internal combustion engine? Why yes, I think it might! I know that is anecdotal and in no sense scientific, but it is at least as valid as the hysteria we saw last week at the global Live Earth concerts.

As record cold, snow, rain and wind were being demonstrated globally there was a gathering of “usual suspects” who were there to raise awareness and “Save the Planet!!!!!” But, the hysteria looked so much like a Leni Riefenstahl Nazi propaganda film. Shouting and posturing and chanting of slogans to indoctrinate and fire up the masses with the purity of their mission along with vilification of the current administration who somehow seems targeted for shouldering the entire blame for the problem—if indeed there is one.

Check the cast of characters. They seem to be the same folks that march in step with and Michael Moore. Their motivation seems as focused on bringing socialism to government and tearing down the administration as saving the planet. The hypocrisy of flying hundreds of private jets to massive concert venues filled with energy consuming lights, air conditioning, water, trash, and whatnot so as to stop global warming seems obvious.

The hypocrisy is apologized away, however, by the purchase of “carbon offsets.” Why of course, we—the elite who know what you should know—can waste energy and pollute the planet profligately if we simply say we are offsetting our carbon footprint (whatever that means,) by planting some trees in the rain forest or recycling some trash in Indonesia. Or maybe not doing that, but simply say that we are doing it by sending some cash to a carbon offset fund somewhere which may or may not do anything at all that changes a thing in the environment.

Gimme a break. We’ve got divinity school drop out and Yale C-student Al Gore along with such intellectual giants as Madonna, Sean Penn, Bon Jovi, Rosie O’Donnell and who knows who all else providing us with sloganized science that somehow implies that we are destroying the planet by living comfortably and that they are the ones who know how to cure it by first ousting the administration and second by feeling guilty enough to drive a hybrid cracker-box car.

Sorry, the cast of characters and my own observations and the list of questioning scientists challenging the global warming assertions all lead me to believe that this isn’t about the environment at all but rather about personal aggrandizement for a few.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Unintended Consequences

“Don’t just stand there. DO SOMETHING!” Say that to a legislator and you’ll get action. It will make everyone feel better, because once enacted the problem will be solved and the issue will go away. Won’t it? Actually the problem will usually get worse. That’s the impact of unintended consequences.

I remember the oil shortages and dire predictions of 1975. Suddenly the pundits were calculating that the world would be out of oil by the year 2000. We needed to “do something.” What we did has apparently had very little impact on the problem. The doom-and-gloom crowd was proven wrong, the efforts to reduce our consumption were largely ineffective and now we’re well past the end year. We’ve still got plenty of oil and a lot more consumers of it as the economies of China, India and other regions are booming.

We steadfastly refuse to harvest our own petroleum reserves and the enviro-whackos won’t allow refineries to be built in this country. They scream about reducing our dependence upon foreign oil and the latest solution is ethanol. Why, it’s perfect. It’s renewable, so we can simply grow another crop of corn to fuel our cars for the coming year. It’s compatible with the internal combustion engine, so we see the Indy Car Racing League running their exotics exclusively on ethanol. And, we don’t need those nasty old despots of OPEC telling us what the price of oil will be for our lifestyle. What’s not to like?

Oh, sure, we know that ethanol doesn’t have quite the energy bang for the buck that gasoline does. We’ll get a little less horsepower and a little bit poorer gas mileage. We can pay that price willingly. Oh, and it will cost us a little bit more per gallon because of production and shipment costs. That’s a bargain if it will save the environment, isn’t it?

And, by the way, the tanks for the ethanol will have to be specialized and the old gasoline refineries will need some upgrading and the engines of your cars will have to be modified a little bit to burn more than a small percentage of ethanol. There will be costs, but think of the benefits.

Now, we’re learning more about the issue. The first hint after the applause of the Iowa, Illinois and Indiana corn farmers died down was the clamor coming from south of the border as the population of Mexico suddenly discovered that there was a corn shortage for their dietary staples. Yep, it may be renewable but it isn’t infinite in supply. Use corn here and it isn’t available there.

But, this year we see something else. Not only tortillas are more expensive, but corn-on-the-cob for our summer picnics is a bit pricier. And, that steak dinner is costing significantly more as well as our legislators learn that beef eats corn on the way to the table. Lots of food costs are higher because of the ethanol demand.

When we add it all up, we find that we get less efficient energy, much higher production and shipping costs, a huge boost to food costs, and an unquantifiable impact on our foreign energy dependence. In the long run we’ll see land depletion as farmers attempt to meet the artificially induced demand for corn. Whether the impact on the environment from the consumption and production of ethanol will be plus or minus for the long term, it is becoming increasingly clear that the costs are well above those estimated at the onset. Clearly the consequences have been unintended.

Later That Same Day

Friday, July 06, 2007

Suspend Your Disbelief

Shortly after the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1979, a book discussing the events leading up to the fundamentalist revolt of Khomeini was released. The Fall of the Peacock Throne discussed the culture of Iran and dissected the immediate history leading up to the events. I recall few of the details of the book which I read more than 25 years ago other than one unusual observation. The author pointed out that an unusual characteristic of that Middle-Eastern culture is the ready acceptance of statements as facts which are clearly in disagreement with actual observation. Essentially there is an eagerness to believe things that are said regardless of known facts. Whether this is simply a courtesy to the speaker or a philosophical acceptance that possibly events which one observes are interpreted incorrectly it makes little sense to the Western mind. The old cliché of “don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see,” is turned upside down.

Fast forward twenty years to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Recall the Iraqi Minister of Information standing before the TV cameras and reporting on the abject failure of the coalition forces to defeat the brave Republican Guards of Sadaam’s army even as US Abrams tanks rolled down the street in the background. “Baghdad Bob” became a punch-line for late night TV comedians and a symbol of the convoluted repression of the collapsing regime. But the behavior fits perfectly with the cultural observation of the book. The people of the region accepted the statements regardless of the conflict of their observations.

Now we can hardly pick up the morning newspaper without reading a tale about our misunderstanding of Muslims. We regularly hear of Islam being a religion of peace which forbids torture, murder, killing of Muslims and suppression of women. We are cautioned not to blatantly condemn the millions of Muslims because of the intemperate actions of the few fundamentalists. Muslims, we are told, are people just like us who seek to raise families, prosper, live in peace and make a better life for themselves and their children.

Yet, we see surveys of American Muslims which disclose double-digit percentages in favor of al-Qaeda and the jihadists. Extrapolating the numbers we quickly discover that there are hundreds of thousands living in the US who conceivably could be the next generation of suicide bombers.

Last week we watched a cadre of medical professionals in Great Britain, Muslims all, conduct a series of botched terrorist attacks. Here we have a double conundrum: not only are they supposedly peace-loving Muslims, but they are also healers under an oath to “first, do no harm.” Can we suspend our observations to believe the statements of peace?

Last year it was France that had the adherents of this religion of peace spilling into the streets of French cities burning cars wholesale. Should we consider this merely an unruly sub-set of the peace-lovers and deny the observation in favor of the declarations of peace?

Israel, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, throughout Africa, in most of Europe, in short, wherever we find significant Muslim populations we see evidence of murderous extremism. Fatwas declaring that this or that individual should be murdered for a drawing, a publication or a statement that might be construed by some Imam or Mullah as disrespectful of the Prophet are commonplace. Is this the conduct expected of civilized people who are believers in a religion of peace? Should we believe what we see or what we are told?

An editorial this morning in the local newspaper, written by Clarence Page, pointed out a fact that needs regular and consistent repetition. “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all of the recent acts of terrorism have been committed by Muslims.”

Which raises the politically incorrect question: What is wrong with profiling? Why would it be improper to concentrate efforts to thwart terrorism on young, bearded, Middle-Eastern Muslims? Until young suburban soccer moms with babies on their hip start being linked to suicide bombings we might spend less time shaking them down at airports. Until eighty year old men with canes start parking bomb-laden vehicles in no parking areas we might lessen the focus on them for a while.

Should we believe what we observe or should we accept the cultural custom of the Middle East and believe what we are told regarding the desire for peace. I know what I think.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

How Clear Need It Be?

The hoopla attendant to the commutation of Scooter Libby’s prison sentence makes even the most jaded political observer gape with disbelief. How about Representative Jesse Jackson Jr’s comments on impeachment for the action?

A Need to Read

On the off chance that the Honorable representative might stop in here, I post the text of Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution:

Section. 2.
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

It seems pretty clear to me that this act was well within Presidential authority clearly stated and certainly wouldn’t be any stretch of the document to cover the situation. But, then again, maybe Rep. Jackson hasn’t read it recently. And probably neither have his constituents.

It also seems a little hypocritical to be so upset by this commutation which leaves intact the $250,000 fine for apparently obstructing justice by not offering evidence of a "crime" which the prosecutor was never able to prove that anyone commited. For comparison we might note this list of pardons granted by the predecessor of the current President:

Pardon Me?

Somehow the outrage seems exaggerated.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Warriors Cried

Yesterday we laid a hero to rest. Fighter pilots from across the nation came together at the US Air Force Academy to remember, to honor and to memorialize Brigadier General Robin Olds. The events were extremely moving with full military honors, copious tears, hearty laughs remembering the great times shared and prodigious consumption of adult beverages. Robin wanted it that way. He earned the honors more completely than many who have passed before. The affection that those of us who knew him carried for the man led to the tears and the wonderful memories of his grand sense of humor prompted the laughs. The consumption of adult beverages was exactly what he would have led were he still alive to join us.

Minimalist Insight Into a Giant's Life

The formal ceremony at the Air Force Academy chapel was highlighted by reminiscences from his friends, his two daughters and his granddaughter who tearfully recalled the lessons he taught her and finished with a reading of John Gillespie Magee’s poem, “High Flight”. General Ralph Eberhart, now wearing four stars, was a cadet when Robin, recently returned from the war in Southeast Asia was Commandant of Cadets at the Academy. He told of Robin’s impact in changing the emphasis at the Academy from “management” to LEADERSHIP and the unculcation of the warrior ethic. Brig. General Bob Titus, Robin’s closest friend, spoke eloquently of Robin’s larger-than-life impact on fighter pilots, the military, his friends, his family and his community. Verne Lundquist, hall-of-fame TV and radio sports announcer and neighbor of Robin during his final decades in Steamboat Springs CO, told wonderful stories of Robin’s love of life, his enthusiasm for golf and skiing and one amazing encounter between the triple ace fighter pilot and Olympic Gold Medal ice skating legend, Scott Hamilton.

The long stairway and approach to the chapel was lined first with an incredible contigent of bikers in Harley-Davidson regalia standing at attention and holding eight foot standards with American flags. The stairs themselves were lined with the Academy cadet honor guards at stiff attention. The urn bearing Robin’s remains was carried into the Chapel by bearers from the USAF color guard. The urn itself was a magificent case of dark mahogany adorned with brass plaque and bronze sculpted wreaths, topped by a two foot high eagle sculpture with wings spread and head held high. A truly fitting repository for the grand man.

The cemetery ceremony included the traditional 21 gun salute and taps. Then the air warrior was honored by a series of flybys commemorating much of his aviation life. Two T-33s, symbolic of the F-80 fighter that Robin flew with the first USAF aerial demonstration team, followed by a P-51 Mustang reminding of the aircraft in which he earned many of his WW II kills, then a MiG-17 to recall his adversary of the Vietnam war, a flight of four F-16s and finally a flight of four F-4Es executing the famous “Missing Man” fly-by. The F-4 pilots modified the pass and rendered the ultimate (and appropriate) honor—the leader of the formation, not the #3, executed the pull-up and departure from the flight. It reflected the truth that we all knew, Robin would always be our leader.

Flyby Honors Hero

The memorial then went to a nearby hotel where friends and family gathered to share drinks and great anecdotes of encounters over the years with General Olds. His daughter, Christina, spoke briefly of his life and then unveiled a small oak barrel, bound in brass and sealed bearing a small portion of Robin’s ashes. “He wouldn’t have wanted to miss the party,” she noted, “so here he is!” That was followed by unveiling of a plaster sculpture of Robin’s gloved hand displaying the single digit salute that so many of us received over the years and usually felt honored that he felt strongly enough about us to offer it.

Nickels on the grass were freely rendered, tears continued to flow, ribald songs were sung and I’m sure that from Valhalla, Robin looked down upon the party and smiled. What a ride it was.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Orwell, Bradbury, and Huxley Built a Better World

Who didn’t have queasy dreams after reading 1984, Fahrenheit 451 and Brave New World? The horror of living in that kind of totalitarian environment pales, however, in comparison to the visions of the newest gurus on the global warming hustle. Yep, I’m talking about those two middle-aged beauties in the bio-diesel bus who are flaunting their scientific credentials, oops, make that media popularity by touring the country lamenting the heat wave that’s coming. Sheryl Crow and Laurie David, both lacking any sort of technical expertise, are roaming the hinterland and pitching to the mushy minds of the college age population their view of the “Inconvenient Truth.”

These musings come directly and without filtering from the two bimbo’s blog:

Biodiesel Bus Blog

Last week we heard Ms Crow lamenting the climate change that she personally has viewed in her lifetime at her favorite beaches. That’s right! In just twenty short years of observations, none of which are accompanied by scientifically compiled data, she has noted a significant increase in temperatures! I could point out to Ms Crow that women her age occasionally sense a higher temperature than ambient due to hormonal rather than climatic change, but that might be viewed as sexist.

More critically, it would be good to note that global warming is a function of single-digit degree changes over centuries, not generally notable to individuals in a lifetime. But, I doubt such details would have significant impact.

Now, the dynamic duo seeks a broader attack on the problems. Going directly to the source of greenhouse gas emissions, they now seek a toilet paper limit per application. I’m wondering if they envision some sort of program similar to the carbon credit system to allow them to possibly trade their rate of usage with the restraint of some other cultures in terms of personal hygiene techniques. Bidet users could reap a lot of credits by foregoing TP consumption and in return get to drive larger vehicles or maybe fly their private jets more. Yep, another opportunity for trade.

But, if Crow and David have their way, how will this “one square is more than fair” dictate be enforced. You know that if there is a demand for this sort of activism to fight the temperature fairies, there will also be scoff-laws who piddle and poop without regard to the damage they are doing to the environment. That will necessitate an army of Toilet Police to enforce the rationing.

We’re looking at a world of time-controlled TP dispensers. We’ve got the technology. If we can master the 1.6 liter flush and the limited dispensing paper towel roll, we can certainly apply the same social consciousness to the TP issue.

I’m envisioning a seat-to-roll interconnect with a pressure switch on contact that then unlocks the dispenser for a limited release. The technology that detects smoking in airliner bathrooms might help to detect seat bouncers who would try to get multiple dispersions. Attempts to circumvent the system would result in alarms and flashing lights, probably with an associated stall lockdown.

There would be significant manpower requirements to certify equipment, monitor bathroom effluent and confirm that residuals of incomplete jobs were not detrimental to public health. This might be a simultaneous economic boon in terms of reducing unemployment, creating new technologies and maybe even have a lateral benefit in boosting bloomer production for replacements.

There are bugs to be worked out here, but we can do it if we all take a swipe at the problem.

Yet, I sometimes think that maybe we are having our leg pulled here. Or, possibly the dynamic duo have been wearing their thongs too tight and underestimate the magnitude of the job they are facing.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Let’s Roll Redux

Who can’t, hasn’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t or didn’t already comment on the Virginia Tech tragedy? I mean besides me.

It has evolved almost the way one could predict while sitting in an isolation booth. There have been the stupid media filler pieces with the incessant inanities coming from reporters and interviewers who somehow think they are “probing” for new insights and information. Nope, they aren’t.

There has been the expected hand-wringing. “What could we have done?” “Why did this happen?” “When will we do something about guns in this country?” “Couldn’t we have helped this poor, young man?” It’s all whimpering over spilt milk. Can I revert momentarily to the cliché about it not being guns that kill people? Sorry, but it’s true.

What we have here is failure of leadership in America. What we have here is lack of initiative from people who should be responsible. What we have is inculcation of cowardice in several generations of Americans. Virginia Tech is simply an extension ad absurdum of the sort of “leading” we are seeing in the legislature of the US. This is Harry Reid thinking applied with a broad brush. Poor Harry can’t see a thing worth supporting, so he declares the “war is lost” and seems blissfully unaware that we only lose if we say we have, not while our brave men and women are in harm’s way on our behalf.

Here's a relevant piece that predates the tragedy:

On Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs

Let’s look at a few things that have been uncovered at VTU:

Two people are murdered on campus in a dorm and it is reported a 7:15 AM. The shooter is on the loose. The reaction of the administration is to call a meeting and discuss courses of action! Two hours pass and their choice is to send out an email asking people to be on the lookout for someone who looks suspicious! C’mon, give me a break. This is a 2600 acre campus with its own security force. Why not immediately, like at 7:20, start setting up a perimeter to close off the campus, cancel morning classes, secure all buildings, begin door-to-door canvassing and search while advising all persons in the area to lock their doors and stay inside?

No, they send out an email asking people to kind of keep an eye out for something unusual. Business goes on as usual. No courage or decisiveness from the administration.

Or, how about that episode in which the disturbed Mr. Cho signs into his new class as “?” and then refuses to respond when asked to do as all of the other students and introduce himself. I’ve taught at much smaller colleges for about ten years now and there has always been a policy that classes are not open to persons who are not registered. Obviously there was no “?” registered, so why didn’t that teacher ask this sullen individual to leave the classroom? No courage or responsibility from the teacher.

Then how about the stalking and threatening episode? Why didn’t the victims press charges? Much easier to simply roll-over and avoid further inconvenience. No courage from these two.

And what about the psychiatric evaluation that diagnosed the shooter as a danger to himself and others? With that report in hand, a bit of courage from the doctors could have pursued a course of commitment. The judge who over-ruled the medical recommendation lacked courage to do what was right. But, even so, once the psychological report is in hand a courageous administration could disenroll a student who has been identified as a danger. And, a resident alien identified as a danger to himself and others could reasonably be deported. No courage from doctors, judges, admin or immigration.

What do the students do? When the shooting starts they crawl under their desks and wait to die. These are college students, young, healthy, agile and supposedly intelligent. A single individual walks from room to room in the building shooting methodically, stopping to reload and then continuing. When does an intelligent person analyze the situation and decide that doing nothing results in inevitable death while doing something provides at least the possibility of survival? Very little courage from the students here. But, that’s what we teach these days, isn’t it?

How about that SWAT team? Lots of video of them deployed in all of their really cool gear, guns and helmets. There was a great video loop I watched on Fox News with Bubba suiting up then returning to the hood of his “unit” and recovering his Starbuck’s venti latte. Notice how many casualties the tactical team took in attempting to save the students who were waiting to die? How does NONE sound? Not much courage, aggressiveness or initiative in that operation.

Of course we could throw in the inverse courage component of the university administration which vetoed the idea of weapons or concealed carry on campus a few months ago. We should be able see very clearly how effective that kind of ruling can be in terms of making folks feel more secure. Unfortunately FEELING secure isn’t as important as actually BEING secure. No courage here either.

But, there’s a bright spot and it is very illustrative. There’s the professor, a guest lecturer and an elderly man from Europe. A Jew who lived through the Holocaust in Nazi Romania. He knew that sitting still and waiting to die was not a good option. He died while blocking the door and enabling his students to escape through the classroom windows.

And, in class yesterday, I asked my students what they thought of the tragedy. After the usual expressions of sadness and sympathy we talked about what to do. My kids aren’t in a prestigious East Coast university, they are in a small town regional college and have a lot of the toughness of the North Texas country in which they live. They acknowledged that they couldn’t wait for the police to save them.

Then a couple of the young women noted that swarming the attacker would be a good option. One of those on an athletic scholarship suggested she could pick up and toss her arm-chair desk at the assailant. Another realized that the room was filled with suitable projectiles—books, backpacks, purses, cell-phones, etc. Under a barrage of thrown items, the attacker could be overcome. Some might suffer injury or even death, but they wouldn’t wait passively for the grim reaper. Maybe Todd Beamer was smiling in his heaven.

I like these kids.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Who is More Cowardly?

I can’t help but flash back on John Kerry’s monumental gaffe—that dismal attempt to have it both ways on the war in Iraq; “I voted for it before I voted against it.” It epitomizes the modern politician, seeking to be all things to all people all of the time. Maybe Lincoln could have worked the paraphrase into fooling the people some or all of the time.

So, now we’ve got the panderers of the presidential race trying to stir the pot of anti-war activism and show who is the most anti-war of the bunch. Competition to demonstrate the greater level of weakness and cowardice with regard to defending America against those who would do serious harm to us doesn’t seem like an effective way to gain votes, but what do I know.

Check this out from the Clinton machine against Obama:

I voted for it before I voted against it--again!

Poor old Hillary is up against it. She voted for the war, although confessing an unprecedented level of naiveté with regard to accepting the administrations rationale for the move. And, she has been surprisingly prudent with regard to keeping the effort funded. It doesn’t look good to cut off the dollars for beans and bullets when Americans are in harm’s way. Mothers and voters don’t like that. So, she’s got a record that is in dissonance with her campaign stance of declaring immediate defeat and bringing the warriors home.

The solution apparently is to point out that Obama is equally guilty of announcing anti-war intentions but being forced to fund the defense of the nation in spite of himself. The Clinton gambit is to point out that both of the Democrat front-runners are equally duplicitous.

I guess that it is a truism that no one really likes war. Occasionally we try to paint industrialists as somehow pro-war because they make money on selling arms. But there isn’t much to support that thesis if we consider that arms producers are pretty well diversified these days and can make profits producing consumer goods as easily as weapons. We know for certain that parents of young adults who have volunteered for military service are a bit ambivalent—on the one hand proud of their children’s patriotism and courage, but on the other hand apprehensive about the dangers involved. No one has ambition to be a Gold Star Mother.

What is missing from this debate is a clear explanation of what immediate, Clintonesque-Obamaesque withdrawal from Iraq will accomplish. Some questions that need to be asked include:

What do you think will happen to Iraq?
What do you think Iran will do?
What will happen to Israel?
What will happen to world energy prices?
Will we be safer in Fortress America?
Where will the next threat come from?
Will Syria, Iran, Saudi and Iraq suddenly play nice?
Is a nuclear attack on Israel, Turkey, Europe or the US acceptable?
Do you think France will like us better for our weakness?
Why have a military if you are going to keep them home awaiting the next attack?
How is your plan better than the President’s?

Don’t simply sing your Kumbaya songs about bringing the troops home, lack of WMD, wrong wars, and firing US attorneys or outing Valerie Plame. Tell us how your plan is going to be better. Inquiring minds and all that jazz…

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Spinning the Pleasure

What is there about plain English that Senator Clinton can’t understand? A few weeks ago she was spouting that she would confiscate the profits of a private corporation, Exxon, because in her vaunted opinion they were excessive. She would then use them for what in her superior judgment was the public good. Having spent little time in the private sector, I guess she simply doesn’t understand the free market concepts of capitalism. The idea that a company is SUPPOSED TO make profits seems foreign to her. The idea that prices are determined in a free market by what a willing buyer and a willing seller agree doesn’t make sense to her socialist conscience. The relationship in price-setting in a competitive marketplace between businesses isn’t in her background. OK, I can understand that reasoning, even if I think it is pure political pandering and ungrounded in reality.

But, now we’ve got her spouting in the realm that she should know a bit about. Take a look at this from the mainstream media:

It's called "at the pleasure" for a reason!

Let’s quickly establish some basics. The Attorney General is the chief of the Department of Justice. He or she is a member of the President’s cabinet, a member of the executive branch. The folks that work for the AG at the top levels across the country are similarly members of the executive branch. They aren’t civil service, but are political appointees of the President. They serve under conditions described as “at the pleasure of the President.” That means, they can be dismissed without cause if they fail to meet the goals or expectations of the President. It even means they can be discharged if the President takes a disliking to the color of their suits.

Is it uncommon for a President to discharge U.S. Attorneys? Not a bit. In fact, it is customary for an incoming President to discharge the entire slate across the country—ninety-three of them. Did former President Clinton do that? Of course he did. Less than two months in office and the shops were purged, with his people put in the seats. That’s the way it works. That’s what most presidents do.

So, what’s the issue with the discharge of eight attorneys now? Remembering that they serve at the pleasure of the incumbent there doesn’t seem to be anything to get into a kerfuffle about. What gives with Hillary?

It’s simply a means to get her face on the front page. She is, after all running, for president. Let’s not recall those attorneys that her husband cut loose. Let’s not rethink those members of the White House travel office that got sent packing. Let’s not even consider the White House chef that packed his knives and recipes without recourse when she pitched him onto the street. No, this is “different”—how?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Rolling Thunder at the Wall

This came to me from a bunch of vets who still work and play in the D.C. area. Regardless of what the sniveling pacifist spokesperson says, the evidence of the last fifty years dealing with anti-war folks is that they will degrade every honorable memorial to make their point. While the Capitol police stood by last month to let the slime spray paint the steps of the legislature, this time they opportunity will apparently not be provided at the Wall:

Veterans Vow to 'Protect Our Memorials' During Anti-War Rally
By Randy Hall Staff Writer/Editor
February 23, 2007

( - When protesters arrive in Washington, D.C., on March 17 to
mark the fourth anniversary of the "criminal invasion of Iraq," they'll be
met by members of several veterans' organizations determined to protect
memorials from being damaged during the demonstrations.

"We're going to be there to protect our memorials and to show support for
our troops," Artie Muller, founder and executive director of the group
Rolling Thunder, told Cybercast News Service on Thursday.

According to the organization's website, Rolling Thunder has "more than 80
chartered chapters throughout the United States."
While the group's main purpose is "to be an advocate for our troops,
veterans and POW/MIAs (Prisoners Of War/Missing In Action)," most members
are Vietnam War veterans, and thousands are also motorcycle riders.

When Muller learned that the upcoming anti-war rally would begin at
Constitution Gardens - near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, also known as
"the Wall" - and move from there to the Pentagon, he grew concerned that the
black granite memorial, which bears the name of every member of the military
who died in that war, might be damaged.

He put out a call for as many chapters, members and supporters as possible
to gather in D.C. that Saturday "to ensure that the Wall and other memorials
in the general area are not defaced."

Muller said, "We do not want, nor will we tolerate, a repeat of what
happened" on Jan. 27, when tens of thousands of anti-war protesters gathered
for a rally in Washington, and a small number of them spray-painted
anarchist symbols on the steps and pavement outside the U.S. Capitol.
Sarah Sloan, a national organizer for the International Act Now to Stop War
and End Racism (ANSWER) Coalition, told Cybercast News Service the groups'
fears are unfounded.

"Information has been circulated that has been entirely inaccurate, alleging
that there's going to be some defiling or attack on the Vietnam Veterans
Memorial, which couldn't be farther from the truth," Sloan said.
"First, we're not even going to be at the memorial," she noted. "We will be
in a park near the memorial but not at the same location. Then, we plan to
march on the street from Constitution Gardens to the Pentagon, so there will
of course be no damage done to the memorial."

Sloan added that "many of the people who are involved in this other effort
are supporters of the war, and they're using their status as veterans to
perhaps mobilize additional people. This is similar to other events that are
always called and generally are very, very small in comparison to our

She also said many veterans would be among the protestors.
"To say that it's just veterans who are somehow 'counterposting' themselves
to our event is really inaccurate because many, many veterans are going to
be part of the march on the Pentagon."

Veterans participating in the march are doing so "because they oppose the
war and don't want there to have to be an Iraq War memorial. They want the
killing of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi people to end, which is why we're all

Sloan pointed to a letter on the rally website that has been signed by more
than 1,000 veterans, soldiers and their families supporting the march on the
Pentagon and pledging their participation, and the number of people signing
that is growing every day."

'Criminal invasion'
The letter calls for people to gather on March 17, because "on that day, the
Iraq war will become the second longest in U.S. history, after only the
Vietnam war." Since "the criminal invasion of Iraq," "hundreds of thousands
of Iraqis have been killed," "more than 3,100 U.S. soldiers have died, and
'non-mortal casualties' are nearing 55,000."

The site also notes that "2007 is the 40th anniversary of the historic 1967
anti-war march to the Pentagon during the Vietnam War," which "marked a
turning point in the development of a countrywide mass movement."
The site lists dozens of persons who have endorsed the event, including
former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.),
former Rep. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia and "peace mom" Cindy Sheehan.
However, Larry Bailey, a retired Navy captain and co-chairman of the
Gathering of Eagles, a group "formed by Vietnam veterans to protect the
Vietnam Veterans Memorial from being desecrated as the Capitol was at an
antiwar march last month," was not impressed with the names on the list.
"They stand for things that are a total anathema to those of us who were the
next generation after the 'great generation'" of Americans, Bailey said.
"We believe that the war memorials are sacred ground; as such, we will not
allow them to be desecrated, used as props for political statements or
treated with anything less than the solemn and heartfelt respect they - and
the heroes they honor - deserve," he said.

"We stand to challenge any group that seeks the destruction of our nation,
its founding precepts of liberty and freedom or those who have given of
themselves to secure those things for another generation," Bailey added. "We
will be silent no more."

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Déjà vu Again

Navy Commander Paul Galanti is a friend of mine. He’s one of the NamPOWs—an organization of former prisoners of war from the Vietnam days. He was shot down over North Vietnam early in the war and spent many long years languishing in the most brutal of captivity. He’s a gentleman, eloquent in his speech and proud of his country—unashamed to be patriotic and willing to speak out for what he believes is right. Here’s an editorial he wrote for this morning’s Richmond VA Times-Dispatch:

The View From Inside

We’re in significant agreement on this. His view of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC is much like mine as expressed in the last chapter of Palace Cobra. It is much more about back-handed slap and mitigation of pacifist guilt than about honoring the warriors. But, that’s beside the point. The point today is whether or not we will continue to slither down the decline in our intestinal fortitude that renders us not only unwilling to defend ourselves and our nation from a very manifest threat, but to even be reluctant to allow others the wherewithal to defend us in our stead.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

“How Hard Could It Be?”

That was the campaign motto of Kinky Friedman during his recent independent run for Governor in Texas. It’s a slap in the face for pompous politicians who run for office and then muddle through their terms, dodging disasters, raising taxes, building campaign coffers and then getting re-elected because “we the people” are too stupid to demand more. Really, it is also a testimonial to the wisdom of our founding fathers. They devised a system that is pretty close to idiot-proof. There are so many checks and balances to impetuous government that the structure can survive fairly high levels of incompetence.

Certainly it still holds true in small towns and cities. Kinky was assuring us that it was true for even large states. But, does it still work for the single super-power in the world in these terrorist-filled times? Can it possibly be harder today than it was in 1787? Might the dangers be so great that we need some level of immediate capability when a new chief executive of the nation assumes the reins of power? Is on-the-job-training still a viable alternative?

I hope we don’t have to find out. Yet, the almost immediate anointing and impending canonization of Barack Hussein Obama as the Messiah of American politics is scaring the bejeezus out of me. He’s handsome, in a raw-boned, metro-sexual, ethnically correct sort of way. He’s clearly intelligent as his degrees would attest. He’s articulate and appealing in presentation as demonstrated in his Democratic convention keynote address and his subsequent national public appearances. He’s slick, all right. But, inquiring minds of crusty old-timers like me want to know what he has done. What are his accomplishments?

Here are some bios of the job applicant:

Barack Obama Bio

That’s fairly complimentary at least at first reading. But, then read between the lines. Catch this regarding that best-selling autobiography about all those lessons he learned from dear old absent dad ("Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance"):

Although Obama’s father only visited him once after he left, the son grew up with stories of his father’s brilliant mind.”

So, dad who took a powder shortly after Barack’s birth and left him all of this fodder for his book really wasn’t involved in the upbringing. The anecdotes are second-hand at best. Or, maybe they really are nocturnal imaginings, the dreams his father MIGHT have given him if he’d been around. OK, stuff like that isn’t disqualifying for the presidency. Bio Quite Brief

C’mon. You’ve got to be kidding. The official congressional bio source has one scant paragraph describing a life that qualifies him to be president? Where’s his employment history? What did he build, buy, own, design, develop, create? Where’s the payroll and profit statements of his business. OK, he chose to be a lawyer. Where are the cases he tried, the suits he won, the case law he established? OK, he chose to be a politician. Where are the executive positions? Was he mayor of a town and responsible for crime and garbage and potholes? Was he a bureaucrat? That’s not necessarily good, but it might indicate some management capability. Nothing there apparently.

What's In the Wiki?

At least Wikipedia gives some details. Yet, there’s almost a ten year gap between undergraduate college and completion of law school. In that period we find one year of employment. That’s hardly a career. When he hasn’t been in some welfare oriented sinecure, he’s been in school. Honestly, if a 45 year old man came to me and sought employment on this sort of resume, he wouldn’t enter the career ladder at the top rung in any company that I had an obligation toward.

I’ve got no doubt that Senator Obama is sincere. He’s intelligent. He’s certainly ambitious. I might even give him the benefit of the doubt regarding his professed intention to conduct politics in a more issue-oriented and less personally destructive style. But, is there a shred of evidence that he could manage, organize, lead, protect and defend the largest bureaucracy in the world. Does he have a clue about bullets and beans? Does he know which end of the jet the hot air comes out of?

Is America going to get caught up in the hype of a presidential race that is focused on a black face in a two-thousand dollar suit? Maybe we’ll see Paris Hilton on the ticket to round it out, pretty-face and gender-wise.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Embracing Defeat

So, we’ve heard from the party of the left that they want a new policy for the war in Iraq. Remember the run up to the elections? They were incensed that we needed more troops. They demanded that the President acknowledge mistakes and take responsibility. They wanted a clear statement of intentions. They wanted to hear a plan for the Iraqi government to handle security. “Step up so we can step down.” That’s what the election was about. That’s the mandate. That’s what the President did last night—at least as I watched the speech that appears to be what he did.

So, why then did we have to watch Dick Durbin come out immediately after with his simpering defeatist complaints? The President sounded pretty clear to me, but Durbin and the Democrats seem to demand defeat. They don’t care about the lives that have been sacrificed for the mission—they say they do, but to walk away from the battle at this point would be surely to underscore for the future the fact that America will never back up her troops again. The Democrat’s position seems to be that there is nothing worth fighting for, nothing worth dying for in this world. They might find a reason at some time in the future to apply military force, but if this war and the Vietnam experience demonstrate anything it is that they will then abandon the effort and undercut the sacrifice as soon as it becomes politically efficacious.

What do the Democrats want in terms of a policy? Do they have a coherent plan beyond total abandonment of the field of combat and huddling behind our oceans waiting for the next jihadist to situate himself in a crowd and claim his 72 virgins? Do they want a timetable for withdrawal on a date certain? Well, sometime they do but usually even they are smart enough to realize that isn’t reasonable. Emotional, yes, but reasonable? No.

Do they want more troops in the field? Well, I’ve heard them say it. Remember their regular and consistent pointing at General Shinseki’s comments about the insufficiency of the deployed force? They wanted more troops for the job. That’s what they regularly faulted Don Rumsfeld for—not giving the generals what they needed in terms of manpower. So, the Prez says five more brigades, but they’re unhappy.

Do they want the Iraqi security forces to be at the tip of the spear? That’s what they’ve said and that apparently is what the Prez has stated will be the policy. But, they’re unhappy.

Do they want us to deal with Muqtada al-Sadr? Who wouldn’t? Let’s admit that the core of the conflict today is a Shia’ majority redressing years of grievances against the Sunni Baathist regime. The Mhadi militia, with the urging of the Iranians, is stoking the fire of civil war. They see a power vacuum with Sadaam gone and the constitutional government weak. If they can seize power now, the Iranians will be happy, they will be in control and the US will be embarrassed. What’s not to like about that outcome? It seemed that the President said last night that this is going to be a focus. We’ll be supporting the Iraqi Army in controlling Sadr city. But, the Dems are unhappy about that.

I want to know the Democrats plan. I want to know what they would do instead. I want to hear more from them than the incessant whining that the people are demanding something different, but they don’t tell us what. It’s time for them to stop telling us we’ve got a problem and now tell us that they’ve got a solution. If they aren’t happy with the President’s admission of past errors, acceptance of responsibility and proposal for handling the situation, they need to provide a viable alternative. It’s got to be something more than a Cindy Sheehan rant about bringing the troops home now. It’s got to provide some semblance of a solution and it better come with a description of why their idea is better than what I heard last night.

Frankly, I don’t think I’m going to get that.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Recall your high school civics classes. Remember that dull block of instruction on “how a bill becomes a law”? There was introduction in either house of Congress. Then committee assignment followed by hearings and debate to insure that the law was going to be just, equitable and avoid unintended consequences. Then, assuming passage in committee, it went to the floor and more debate and maybe amendment before voting. Time to allow input from the people and to allow consideration of impact. Then, assuming passage, off to the other end of the building for the other chamber to do the committee thing and then the full chamber. Followed by conference to resolve differences. All of which were designed by the cunning founders of our republic to avoid helter-skelter populism and knee-jerk reactions to emotions.

So, we’ve got Nancy Pelosi posing with a bull-whip and suddenly abandoning her preachments about bipartisanship and comity. She’s got the 100 hour agenda on her mind. Wow, it sounds great to the unwashed masses. Simple phrases appealing to emotions and getting things they want. Can’t beat that for a re-election platform in two years. Let’s look:

Day One: Put new rules in place to "break the link between lobbyists and legislation."

We seem to be overlooking that fact that lobbyists, for all the bad press that Abramoff got, are the voice of large interest groups—you may translate that as “we the people.” It seems that Ms Pelosi seeks to eliminate public input to the legislative process in favor of disorganized “squeaky wheel seeking grease” mass demonstrations. It’s an idea that sounds good, but really is counter to what representative democracy is about.

Day Two: Enact all the recommendations made by the commission that investigated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Let’s note that the 9/11 commission was reviewing events that took place five and half years ago. Their report had some good recommendations, but let’s acknowledge that a lot of water has passed over, under and around the dam since then. As with any bi-partisan, independent commission, there are degrees of relevance and efficacy to the recommendations. Not all merit implementation and not all are still relevant. Simple adaptation of all the recommendations is nothing more than abrogating the Constitutional responsibility to make choices. Once again it is a populist appeal and probably ineffective. It might even be counter-productive. Can anyone say USA Patriot Act?

Time remaining until 100 hours: Raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, maybe in one step.

Oh boy. That’s easy. The people love it, and it doesn’t even take any tax dollars. Just issue a royal edict that businesses must pay more than their labor is worth to people. The money will simply come out of thin air. I’ll bet Socialist Nancy can even orate for an hour or two on the social justice and need for living wages and the responsibility of the bourgeoisie to support a family of four above the poverty level. And it really will boost the economy and no one will pay higher prices, etc. Bottom line is that the founders never in their wildest dreams envisioned the government dictating private business wage rates.

Cut the interest rate on student loans in half.

Here’s one that I’m ambivalent about. There’s a good case for student loans by government. And, they should be subsidized or at least affordable for students who might otherwise not be able to get a college education. But, there should be qualification standards, grade requirements and, most important, a well regulated pay-back program. No forgiveness, no ignoring defaults, no amnesty. Period.

Allow the government to negotiate directly with the pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices for Medicare patients.

No! Did you notice the free market response of Wal-Mart (villain of the Democrats) recently? A huge formulary of $4 generics available to everyone. That’s free-market, folks.

I just explored Part D and Medicare supplement insurance for my 91-year-old mother-in-law. Would you believe there were more than fifty plans to choose from for her—someone I thought virtually uninsurable? Would you believe that the most expensive plans were less monthly cost than what I pay as a military retiree for my supposedly guaranteed health-care for life? That’s the fact. We don’t need government setting drug prices—that’s what this is about, not negotiation but dictation of prices. The free market does a great job of promoting research, finding effective drugs, making them available at prices that people can afford with or without their insurance plans—which are also free market. No government intervention required. It’s a slippery slope first step to national healthcare.

Broaden the types of stem cell research allowed with federal funds -- "I hope with a veto-proof majority," she added in an Associated Press interview Thursday.

This issue is based on a false promise. The fervent hope is that embryonic stem cell research will lead to solutions for a wide range of medical problems. The evidence for this assumption is minimal, but “hope springs eternal” particularly for those with terminal or debilitating illnesses. It further assumes a significant difference between embryonic stem cell research, which is anathema to the pro-life crowd, and other forms of stem cell research. Finally, it once again imposes government in a place it shouldn’t be; legislating on the directions of scientific inquiry. Science should not be reverted to the days of the Inquisition. Neither the cardinals nor the congressmen should be telling scientists what they can explore. And, as a corollary, government should stand aside and let free enterprise fund the research.

All the days after that: "Pay as you go," meaning no increasing the deficit, whether the issue is middle class tax relief, health care or some other priority.

That’s one I’ve got to see. Can you believe for one minute that the party of welfare is really going to be constrained by revenues, particularly in the run-up to the presidential election of 2008? That simply is an unrealistic expectation. Certainly avoidance of deficit budgets is desirable, but if necessary, particularly in a time of ongoing hostilities, deficits might be necessary.

Note further the caveat that Ms Pelosi introduces—“whether the issue is middle class tax relief…” Is she saying that she is willing to avoid deficits by piling taxes on the man in the street? That could be what she means.

I remember the “Contract With America” of Newt Gingrich and the fresh majority of 1994. Those goals were a bit more objective and not quite so emotionally appealing. They didn’t have the time constraint of Ms Pelosi’s agenda, but they were pushed through the House fairly expeditiously. Then, they died unceremoniously in the Senate. And, the “Contract” got morphed by the left-wing media into the Mafia-tinged “Contract ON America.” Pretty soon, no one wanted the actions.

This time around, I wonder whether common sense will prevail in the Senate. I somehow doubt it. This is a time of populism, of “bread and circuses” that pander to the demands of the masses. There’s little consideration to what these proposals really mean and how they will impact the future erosion of our capitalist system and our republican form of government. I’m afraid. I’m very afraid.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Creative Accounting 101

A big appeal when I first considered moving to Texas was the lack of a state income tax. As a former beneficiary of that policy when I was moved by the Air Force for a couple of years to Texas, I appreciated the idea that government wasn’t getting paid even more of my hard earned dollars. Yet, way down deep inside I know in my heart of hearts that there is no such thing as a free lunch. If you want to have schools and roads and police and parks and the other niceties of living in society, you’ve got to pay somewhere and somehow. It could be property tax or sales tax or licensing fees or excises or something. Yet, it won’t have that progressive tax stigma of demanding more of my money the harder I work. I really stumble over being penalized for success. I like to pay my share and I may even accept the social responsibility of a bit of contribution for the benefit of those less fortunate. But it ends there.

That’s why I had to read this piece in Dallas Morning News a couple of time to try to understand it:

Riddle Me This

You might not see it at first glance. But let me simplify. The “budget mess” that is reported on is that tax cuts enacted last year to reduce the fairly heavy ad valorem property taxes for homeowners are listed in the budget for the coming year as an expenditure. And, despite those cuts, revenue projections are indicating a huge surplus based on the booming economy with rises in sales tax returns and new levies on sinful activities that government is trying to (tongue-in-cheek) discourage, like smoking. Lots of money coming in despite tax rate cuts—remember Reaganomics? Remember David Laffer? Remember that voodoo about letting people keep more of their money and the economy booms sending tax revenues skyward? Still works!!!

So, a simple mind like mine would say no problem here. That’s where we stumble across the illustrative insight of the legislative mind. See, there’s a budget cap imposed by the voters on the legislature. They can’t spend more than a pre-established increased each year. Fine, you think. No problem really if revenue is up, you’ve got the money to cover the necessities. But, alas, there is the rub. Under the convoluted thinking of the bureaucratic mind, the tax cut is AN EXPENDITURE! That’s right; the legislature is making a payment. They are spending by letting us keep our money in the first place.

They just don’t get it. It isn’t their money to spend. It isn’t their largesse that lets us keep what we already own. Reduced tax rates aren’t a payment. They shouldn’t be in the budget anywhere. The budget should list expected revenues based on tax rates in effect for the period. Then the expenses should reflect payments out of the funds. Money in on the assets side. Payments out on the obligations side. Revenue that doesn’t come in because taxes don’t exist anymore shouldn’t by any convoluted thinking be considered as a payment. It can’t be a payment because it isn’t their money to pay!

But, they roam the hallowed halls of Austin befuddled by how to “pay for our tax cuts” and still spend the excess revenues from a booming economy. What am I missing here?