Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Why Didn't McClellan Quit Sooner ?

So, if Scott McClellan was so hacked-off about the President's use of an "aggressive 'political propaganda campaign'" in his effort to "sell" the Iraq War (which started in 2003); and was so upset about the President's acting in a way that ensured that the use of force was the "only feasible option," how come Mr. McClellan didn't resign as White House Press Secretary until April of 2006 ?

Nepal Abolishes the Monarchy

As expected, Nepal's Constituent Assembly (dominated by Maoist "former" rebels) has voted in its first session to abolish that country's 239 year old monarchy. The king has been given 15 days to leave his palace.
Humph. Note that this blog is not the "Republic" of Chaos. Were I king I'd abolish the Assembly, like, yesterday.

Obama's Auschwitz Moment

On Memorial Day, the Washington Post reported that St. Barack of Obama told us:

I had a uncle who was one of the, who was part of the first American troops to go into Auschwitz and liberate the concentration camps. . .
Well, that's interesting. But what actually happened was:

The Soviets gained the grimy wealth of the Upper Silesian Industrial Region on 29 January [1945]. . .Also in the possession of the Russians was probably the most terrible place there has ever been on earth -- the death camp at Auschwitz, which had been uncovered by the Sixtieth Army a couple of days before. If the Soviet soldiers needed any justification for why they were fighting, they found it in the skeletal corpses, the bones and the grey mud which were all that remained of the victims. . .
Christopher Duffy Red Storm on the Reich: The Soviet March on Germany, 1945 (Da Capo Press 1993, p. 93).
I don't think that St. Barack meant to imply that his uncle was in Stalin's army. The Washington Post piece notes that the Obama campaign organization hastily clarified Obama's remarks, pointing out that his great uncle had actually been present for the liberation of Ohrdruf, a sub-camp of the more well-known Buchenwald, another concentration camp in Thuringia (central Germany), liberated by the US Third Army on 4 April 1945. This is far away from Auschwitz, in Silesia, which was then part of eastern Germany.
Clearly, St. Barack just remembered vaguely that his uncle, or great uncle had been part of liberating some Nazi concentration camp, and, wanting to tell a story on the stump, just dumped Auschwitz out there. Name a Nazi concentration camp. . .
Maybe a slip's understandable, and maybe El Jefe is playing history bingo unfairly with the Savior of the Nation. But, remember, Obama's the fellow who wants to have his hand on the nuclear button, and use "tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions."
Still, it's hard to use "tough, direct presidential diplomacy" if your line of diplo-speak is weak, and your knowledge-base inferior. Obama's a Harvard Law graduate, so he's reckoned to be pretty smart, right ? Now, a Harvard Law graduate who is a candidate for President of the United States ought to have read up enough to: (1) know enough basic Euro geography to mentally locate Auschwitz (now Oświęcim) in southern Poland; (2) know generally that the US Army didn't come that way in World War II, so that uncle or whoever probably didn't get to Auschwitz (and basic knowledge of communist-bloc history should clue him in that the Soviets got there first); (3) know that the fact-checkers and history nerds were going to be all over him; so, it follows that (4) winging this family tale was a bad, bad idea.
That's just the kind of guy I want doing my country's "tough, direct presidential diplomacy" -- the fellow who is sure he knows everything, doesn't know anything and cannot BS very well. I really, really want to play poker with this guy. . .Lucky for us that he probably can't even find Iran on the map, so he won't be selling the Mullahs the store anytime soon.
Still, it's not all bad. Maybe he can make Democratic Party peace by accompanying Hillary on her next trip to Bosnia.

Memorial Day 2008

When you go home,
Tell them of us and say,
For your tomorrow,
We gave our today.

Inscription, British War Memorial, Kohima, India. (attributed to John Maxwell Edmonds, Times Literary Supplement[London], 4 July 1918).

Out of action for a couple of days, and I am sorry that I missed commemorating Memorial Day on here, for which I beg your pardon. I was happy to see that so many of my blogging comrades did the day proud with a number of splendid posts. Although I'm late, I wanted to add my own thanks, and remember all of those who wore the country's uniform, who paid the ultimate price, and who gave all their tomorrows, for all of our todays.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Another Bobo Comes to Obama

It's not reason that is at the heart of modern-day liberalism but rather the claim to superior virtue and, even more important, to a special knowledge unavailable to the unwashed or unenlightened. Depending on the temper of the time, such virtue and knowledge can derive disproportionately from scientism or mysticism -- or it can mix large dollops of both.
Ben Smith over at Politico writes today about Linda Douglass, presently a contributing editor over at National Journal, who has just joined St. Barack's campaign as a "senior strategist and as a senior campaign spokesperson." Marc Ambinder's blog at Atlantic quotes Ms. Douglass as saying she sees ". . .this as a moment of transformational change in the country and I have spent my lifetime sitting on the sidelines watching people attempt to make change. I just decided that I can't sit on the sidelines anymore." Ms. Douglas, it should be noted, has had a pretty good seat on the sidelines, interviewing recently, among others, Obama's campaign manager.
National Journal has rated Obama the most liberal US Senator, and Ms. Douglass's new job makes it clearer than ever that Big Media (or at least a lot of Chattering Class members) is securely in Obama's corner. One of Mr. Smith's commenters says it best, noting that "the union of media and Obama is now becoming whole." No kidding! Is an official change of job title really that necessary ? Not only are the chattering classes praising and worshiping the new Messiah, they're leaving their workplaces to witness for Him and to save others too.
More generally, I find the Bobo Cult of Obama endlessly fascinating. Not all Democrats are drinking the Kool-Aid: Hillary Clinton is utterly finished as a Presidential candidate, but she got 249,000 votes more than St. Barack in Kentucky last night. Meanwhile, we have Joe Lieberman, former Democratic candidate for Vice President of the United States, all but calling Obama's foreign policy ideas lunacy. Today in the New York Times, we can find predictions of $200.00 per barrel oil. And St. Barack is pretty much guaranteed to raise your taxes.
This sounds, at a minimum, like a very expensive future for the swells. But, if you live in a big city, take a drive through the upper middle class/lower upper class neighborhood of your choice and count Lexuses with Obama stickers. Check out all the million dollar-plus houses with Obama signs. Listen to all the Bobos with luxury homes, who vacation at Destin, in British Columbia and spend weeks in Europe, just begging for the Change We Can Believe In. It's like seeing pigs cheering for the wolf.
Looks more and more like the Bobos will get what they think they want. If the wolf wasn't going to eat the rest of us too, it would almost be entertaining.
Only almost. More seriously, the flash-in-the-pan popularity of a comparatively unknown Senator who can (unlike your average Republican) Really Talk; and the idolatry towards Obama on the part of a lot of people who should know better is profoundly troubling. Similarly, the quasi-religious aspect of the Global Warming movement tells me we have lots and lots of spiritually and intellectually unmoored Seekers looking for Answers. Careful what you wish for.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Got Milk ?

A real-life Oh My Gosh situation !

A truck carrying 20,000 pounds of Oreos has crashed on I-80, near the town of Morris, Illinois. The cause of the crash is under investigation: and it is certain there will be no shortage of volunteers willing to pull apart the, er, wreckage, and evaluate the accident scene. The driver wasn't hurt, but the highway apparently had to be closed down while the mess was cleaned up.
Quite possibly, Stop and Go's and other convenience stores throughout that part of Illinois had runs on their milk supplies due to mass purchases by cleaner-uppers and helpful bystanders.
No indication that the accident resulted from action on the part of Al Qaeda intended to disrupt US Oreo supplies. Still, given the gravity of the situation, presumably the President was informed.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Explosion Deferred

El Jefe is busy at the moment, working, and probably sorting through the stacks and stacks of off-track betting receipts and secret police reports. Too busy, at any rate, to comment much for the moment on all the outraged and outrageous bleating from the Democrats and their allies on President Bush's kid-glove treatment of the Left in his Israeli speech yesterday, or Senator McCain's simple request for an explanation from St. Barack why he wants to negotiate with terrorist governments. But my thoughts, like the Democrats, will keep.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Helprin on Remaining a Great Power

No regular post today, because of other business. However, a post from me is not needed, because Mark Helprin has written a splendid piece in the Wall Street Journal on the great power implications of the rise of China and what it means to us; and how America should respond to maintain its own position.
"The Challenge From China" tracks El Jefe's thinking in virtually every particular. In particular, Mr. Helprin argues for a vast increase in our defense budget, and maintains that we can afford it:
We must revive our understanding of deterrence, the balance of power, and the military balance. In comparison with our recnt history, American military potential is restrained. Were we to allocate the average of 5.7% of GNP that we devoted annually to defense in peacetime from 1940-2000, we would have as a matter of course $800 billion each year with which to develop and sustain armies and fleets. . .(emphasis in the original).
For comparison, the US military budget for FY 2007 was about $450 billion (depending on how you crunch the numbers). Spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (funded through special legislation, not through the regular budget process) was about $170 billion in 2007.
Read the whole thing.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Obama Gets His Third Party

St. Barack of Obama's prayers have been answered.

Bob Barr, a former Republican member of the House of Representatives from Georgia, has announced his candidacy for the office of President of the United States on the Libertarian Party ticket. Friends, unless St. Barack implodes, this sounds very much like curtains. Barr, if he can organize any kind of campaign at all, will bleed enough votes from McCain in close states to tip the election against the Republicans.
The odds are now very good that St. Barack of Obama is going to be the next President of the United States. The Republicans must now try to save enough Senate seats to preserve the ability to filibuster.
Many of our fellow citizens are, in all probability, now going to get the Change they claim they're begging for. Oh brother, are they ever ! I wonder if the dish will be to their liking ?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Obama Needs a Third Party

Following the Democratic race through the prism of Jay Cost's "Horse Race Blog" over at Real Clear Politics, I'm struck by two things: (1) what a brilliant race that St. Barack and his handlers have run -- beating Hillary on a shoe-string, maximizing their own resources, and defending their weaknesses. However, this is counterbalanced by (2) Obama's more or less complete inability to get downscale white Democratic votes, which have remained largely Hillary's property. Obama also does not do well with Hispanics. This changed a little in Indiana, but not much.
The Obama people have really been trying to close this gap, but nothing they're doing is working. This spells real trouble for them this fall: many of these voters will undoubtedly wind up in their column, but they have to count on a significant percentage of them going to McCain.
The Obama campaign has to understand this. What are they doing about it ?
I think that the only thing that can possibly secure Obama's election is a third party candidacy. This is virtually a requirement for Democrats anyway: not even Bill Clinton could get elected without Ross Perot to siphon-off Reagan Democrats.
It looks like a Democratic year: but Obama's (so far) general unpopularity with beer-drinking Democrats (he's got the wine and cheese set locked up) is a real weakness. He must have this group or neutralize them. He needs Bob Barr or Ron Paul. Must have, in fact.
What can McCain do ? The gathering of support for a third party must be delayed till summer. Voters who can't stomach Obama must have their search for alternatives delayed for awhile. Pray that Hillary stays in awhile longer. Perhaps she can be encouraged by noises that McCain plans to be only a one-term President. She must find an interest in St. Barack's implosion.
The sticky part of McCain's situation is closer to home. McCain does not dare give his conservatives the one thing that would certainly buy him a little domestic party peace, which is the Vice Presidential spot on the ticket. This buys short run peace at the price of eventual defeat. If McCain runs a conventional campaign, he'll go down to a conventional Bob Dole defeat. The object is to WIN -- and not lose rightly. An Obama presidency's a disaster the country cannot afford. McCain must, must with his choice force St. Barack to play some defense. Job One is to convince people that divided government is good and safer, that Obama is a risk. But he also has to threaten the Democratic coalition somehow. A young Hispanic or other minority candidate. . .or an appeal to Hillary Democrats. How about Joe Lieberman ?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Fork-Sticking Time

She's done.
Senator Clinton didn't win Indiana big enough, and she wasn't competitive in North Carolina.
The interesting question is why Hillary performed somewhat under expectations in Indiana. She should have done well there. True, it's close to Illinois (St. Barack's home territory), but Indiana was chock-full of the kind of voters Mrs. Clinton has done well with . My horseback guess would be that committed Democrats have become worried about how much the continuance of the primary struggle has damaged the party's November prospects, and that some likely Hillary supporters held their noses and voted Obama to end it.
Frankly, this doesn't bode well for Republican prospects this fall. They have to find a way to split off some Democrats or "Independents." Wretchard, writing at Belmont Club, brilliantly states the conservative problem:
It's a safe bet that Hillary and Bill are probably at low tide tonight. There's probably unease among conservatives too. Barack Obama has demonstrated that "reasons" to vote against him are not enough. They count, but they count less than they rationally should. He's riding an emotional tide in a weather system where logic is the smallest of zephyrs. Obama is the candidate of feeling. The expression of a mood. What he is in and of himself has proved less important than his symbolism.
To successfully combat Obama conservatives will need more than reasons. They'll need a cause. A reason to believe. What remains to be seen is whether John McCain can provide one.
This sort of thinking may come hard to John McCain: who is only to a limited degree a man of causes. What cause can Republicans come up with ? More fundamentally, how can a man who has seen life from the sharp end -- from a cell in the Hanoi Hilton -- stand up to the "candidate of feeling ?" How can the original straight-talk Maverick compete with Mr. Unity offering "change we can believe in ?" Only by making people read St. Barack's fine print; by letting St. Barack, his record and his personal history do our convincing for us. Senator Clinton has done much to show us the way here, but Senator McCain is, very likely, not going to want to do that.
As for Senator Clinton, my guess would be that she will try to stick it out through the end of the month, assuming the money holds up and pray for another Wright scandal. Given that she's asking supporters for cash, the campaign's probably running on fumes already.
In any case, it's over.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Indiana and North Carolina

The two biggest primaries left on the Democratic side are today. I think Hillary wins Indiana, probably 53-47 percent.
I think Obama beats Hillary in North Carolina, but I'm going to say that it's much, much closer than predicted. Say 51-49 percent. I'm thinking that all the churning and campaigning that Bill and others have been doing in parts of North Carolina off the beaten track (the "Bubba Tour") are going to help, and I think Obama has been hurt by the Wright business, not least among his own supporters. But Hillary still should fall a little short. See Blogging Caesar for his, and for other predictions.
I feel less certain about North Carolina than anything so far this year. The bloom is definitely off Obama's rose, and Hillary looks better than she has, but is it too late to matter ? Who is coming to the polls today ?
Of course, if El Jefe's predictions are sub-nominal, there will be an official investigation, which will be full, complete, fair, transparent and completely exonerate El Jefe and will find those responsible. Heads will roll.
ADDENDUM: (noon). Have a look at Jay Cost's "Reflections on the Democratic Race" over at the Horse Race Blog on Real Clear Politics. Mr. Cost analyzes wins by Hillary, wins by Obama, and the performance of battleground states such as Ohio in prior elections, and concludes that a victory by Obama in the general election would need to look "different than anything a Democrat has ever put together" (emphasis in original). Also, Mr. Cost correctly points out the real reason for superdelegate reluctance to take another look at Hillary: her ". . .pat to the nomination is necessarily 'dirty.' She must out-muscle Obama at the convention. That's the only way." Read the whole thing.
ADDENDUM NUMERO TWO-O (12:45 p.m.). Drudge says the Hilla-ites are expecting a massive defeat in NC. . . Could be. Could be they're playing expectations games, too.

Tragedy in Burma

The scale of death and devastation in Burma defies description. The Daily Telegraph, citing the military rulers of Burma, say as many as 65,000 people may be dead, after Tropical Cyclone Nargis struck the very densely populated Irrawaddy River delta region and Rangoon (former capital and the country's largest city) this past weekend. The fact that the famously xenophobic and isolationist Burmese miltary junta is officially asking for international help is itself testimony to the scale of this disaster.
The final death toll is likely to go higher. There is little fresh water, and the transportation facilities to move what supplies there are have been destroyed. Both food and water aid, and the means to move and distribute them, are needed. The situation may be worsened by the unwillingness of the dictatorship to allow foreigners to actually distribute aid or operate in the country -- there are reports the government is holding up visas for aid workers. Jesus have mercy on this unhappy place.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Fifth of May

Launch of the Mercury-Redstone 3 spacecraft on 5 May 1961, 9:34 a.m. EST, with Alan Shepard onboard
All kinds of interesting historical events, today.

On this day in 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space when Mercury-Redstone 3 blasted-off from Cape Canaveral's Pad 5 and took Astronaut Shepard and his capsule Freedom 7 into space. Freedom 7 did not orbit, only going up, and then right back down (a "suborbital" flight), and he was only up for 16 minutes. After moon landings and space shuttles, it doesn't sound like much now, but if you have ever seen a real Mercury capsule (eleven and a half feet wide, just over six feet in diameter), you would understand how absolutely brave a stunt it really was to climb into this thing (actually, you pretty much wore it, you didn't get in it) and sit quietly on the pad while the smart boys fired up a rocket as likely to crash or explode as to fly.
Rear-Admiral Shepard, who later played golf on the Moon commanding Apollo 14, died in 1998. I will never forget, when I was about 16, having the honor to shake the man's hand and talk with him briefly.
Today is also the anniversary of the death in 1821 of French Emperor Napoléon I, while in British captivity on St. Helena in the South Atlantic. "To live defeated is to die every day" the Emperor said, during this bitter period of his life, and, passing his days at rat-infested Longwood house, he had ample time to ponder the subject. But Napoléon never gave up or accepted defeat lying down: as a captive exile he fought and won his last (political) battle for control of the popular imagination. Aided by the petty humiliations of his stupid and unimaginative British jailer, the Emperor constructed a political and historical narrative of his life (which was even a little bit true) describing a great man brought low by pygmies. The "Napoleonic legend" helped his nephew become Emperor Napoléon III.
Speaking of Emperor Napoléon III, on this day in 1862, his forces in Mexico (there to collect debts and carve out a Mexican Empire) suffered a check at the Battle of Puebla, on the road to Mexico city, in 1862. The Count of Lorencez, with his tough little army of line infantry; Chasseurs a Pied; Zouaves; mounted Chasseurs d'Afrique; sailors with rifles; and the Troupes de Marine -- the French Marines -- tried to overrun General Ignacio Zaragoza's dug-in Mexican Army and militia straight off the march, but soon learned that fighting even raw or half-trained troops in buildings and behind the walls and trenches of both regular and extemporized fortifications was quite different from catching them in the open.
General-de-Division Count Lorencez possibly deserves a marginally better press than he gets. True, he rushed into a fight after only slapdash reconnaissance and after ignoring advice from friendly Mexicans. But he had reasons for haste: he was trying to collapse resistance to the French and the Mexican faction they supported with a quick blow to the Mexican forces around Puebla. Plus, he had some really splendid troops, and had routed a similar Mexican force with ease on 28 April at Aculzingo. Count Lorencez would not be the first general confronted, without realizing it, with a politico-military situation that was quite beyond him. Possibly my Francophile side is showing. In any case, the anniversary of the Puebla engagement is celebrated in Mexico as Cinco de Mayo.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

"Fire When Ready, Gridley:" Manila Bay, 1 May 1898

USS Olympia (protected cruiser, completed 1895) on display as a museum ship in the Delaware River, Penn's Landing, Philadelphia, 15 September 2007 (Photo by "Jan's Cat," and displayed on Flickr as "battleship").

Today in 1898, the US Asiatic Squadron under (then) Commodore George Dewey destroyed the Spanish Pacific Squadron at Cavite, inside Manila Bay, Philippines (then a Spanish colonial possession). The Battle of Manila Bay was the first battle of the Spanish-American War (the US declaration of war was on the 23rd of April).

Commodore Dewey had ample warning of the coming conflict (from, among others, Theodore Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy) and the outbreak of war found Dewey and his fleet at Mirs Bay, near Hong Kong, which place he left on the 27th, after receiving up-to-date information on the Spanish fleet from the former US consul at Manila. After finding no sign of the Spanish fleet at Subic Bay (west of Bataan Peninsula) Dewey’s force: three protected cruisers, (including his flagship USS Olympia, pictured above) two gunboats and support vessels, rounded Bataan and entered Manila Bay the night of the 30th, appearing off Manila early the next morning.

Finding nothing but merchantmen off Manila proper, Dewey located the Spanish squadron at nearby Cavite. Spanish Admiral Patricio Montojo y Pasarón’s placement of his ships at Cavite was perhaps a mistake (it was out of range of the forts nearer Manila which could have helped him), but it also avoided having US “overs” that missed Spanish ships land in the streets of Manila. The Spanish ships (two protected cruisers, four unprotected cruisers and a gunboat) were old, in poor repair and hopelessly outgunned.

Dewey’s squadron got through the Spanish minefields without difficulty, and, at 5:41 a.m., the Commodore gave Olympia’s captain, Charles Gridley, the famous order to open fire. The US ships, deployed in line, passed back and forth in front of the Spanish vessels and forts, from ranges between 5,000 and 2,000 yards. The American fire was devastating: the Spanish return fire, while “vigorous," was, as Dewey put it, “generally ineffective.” The Americans took a break from between 7:35 and 11:15 a.m, moving out into the bay to re-distribute ammunition.

Fire was resumed from 11:15 till about 12:30 p.m., when it became apparent the Spanish fleet was completely destroyed (some of the vessels surrendered). The Spanish had at least 150 dead, and many wounded. The Americans had seven wounded, none killed (although there was one death due to a heart attack). Dewey’s Marines and sailors landed at Cavite on the 2nd, destroyed the shore batteries, and took possession of the Spanish arsenal there on the 3rd.

Following the battle Dewey was immediately promoted to Rear-Admiral, and eventually to Admiral of the Navy, a rank nobody had held before, and nobody since. Naturally, news of the victory created a big sensation in the United States, not to mention making big waves in Europe: serving notice that America had arrived as a world power.

Admiral Montojo, it should be said, had a nearly impossible task: defending his country’s far away colonial outpost with his obsolete ships, and he got precious little help doing so from his home government, or the local Spanish bureaucracy. Admiral Montojo did the best he could with what little he had, and his subsequent inprisonment was a grievous miscarriage of justice. Eventually, Admiral Montojo was absolved by the Spanish authorities (Admiral Dewey gave evidence for his legal defense: correspondence here and here). American commanders in the Philippines in 1942 facing the Japanese would no doubt have understood Admiral Montojo's problems well.

Finally, Olympia had a long career in the US Navy, finally decommissioning for the last time in 1922. Olympia outlived Dewey, her crew and her enemies, and she still exists today, as a museum ship in Philadelphia, and a tangible reminder of the long-ago era of George Dewey, the sinking of the USS Maine, Teddy Roosevelt and San Juan Hill.