Monday, December 28, 2009

Bye Bye Filibusters?

According to The Hill, Senator Tom Harkin (D. Iowa) is preparing to introduce legislation to curb the filibuster in the Senate. According to Senator Harkin, the filibuster is being abused by Republicans who use it too often:
You're supposed to filibuster something that is a deep seated issue. . . The idea is to give some time for extended debate but eventually allow a majority to work its will. I do believe there's some reason to have extended debate.
The good Senator Harkin assures us he comes by his proposal honestly (since he first proposed it when a member of the minority); and is not coming forward with it now simply because he’s in the majority -- that same majority that has been absolutely beside itself with spitting angry rage at the minority’s recalcitrance and refusal to drink either the Left’s health care Kool-Aid or the cap-and-trade hemlock. The Democrats are furious that the Republicans are making them amass 60-vote super majorities over small beans like a government takeover of a sixth of the US economy.
Now I know that as a conservative I am supposed to be against this. Jay Cost, over at Real Clear Politics, has today provided all three bipartisans still existing in the United States with very cogent arguments setting out why keeping the filibuster is a smart idea, and arguing that this pesky parliamentary device is more essential now than ever before:
. . . the party extremes have grown farther apart. . . there are now fewer genuine moderates in the United States Senate than at any point in the last half century. Third, there used to be a sizeable ideological overlap between the two parties . . . It no longer exists. Put simply, the Senate parties have become ideologically polarized.
This helps explain the increasing use of the filibuster. As the parties drift apart ideologically, the majority party will more likely introduce legislation that the minority party can't accept . . . Using the filibuster is thus a rational response when one finds oneself in the smaller half of a polarized chamber, which is more likely to be the case today than 45 years ago
That all makes splendid practical sense,  if you disregard the fact that the filibuster is not working. Thanks to last year's perfect storm of an electoral debacle, the Democrats have the 60 votes to break  filibusters, especially since the Blue Dogs are a bunch of spineless lapdogs. (Oh, they'll bloviate, whine and promise, but the Left buys or rolls them every time, while the lapdogs  hold their noses, pocket their money and assume pious expressions). Thanks to the same filibuster, once this monstrosity is passed, there is very little chance of undoing it, whatever happens in 2010 or 2012. This albatross will have to be endured until it fiscally wrecks us.
It’s time for a display of bipartisanship. Senator Harkin is right. The majority should eventually be allowed, as he puts it, to “work its will.” Here’s hoping his bill gets 40 Republican co-sponsors in the Senate. As our President has so rightly told us, "elections have consequences." For a time, the Democrats can keep running wild, and we can have the government the Left thinks we deserve.  But that’s not the end of the story. Come November 2010, there are likely to be some more consequences, and even bigger ones in 2012. Perhaps majorities will work their will in ways not at all to Senator Harkin’s liking. Nice thought anyway.

Friday, December 11, 2009


No American will think it wrong of me if I proclaim to have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy . . . but now at this very moment I knew the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death. . . So we had won after all! Yes, after Dunkirk; after the fall of France; after the horrible episode of Oran; after the threat of invasion, when, apart from the Air and the Navy, we were an almost unarmed people; after the deadly struggle of the U-boat war -- the first Battle of the Atlantic, gained by a hand's-breadth; after seventeen months of lonely fighting and nineteen months of my responsibility in dire stress, we had won the war. . . How long the war would last or in what fashion it would end, no man could tell, nor did I at this moment care. . . We should not be wiped out. Our history would not come to an end. . . Hitler's fate was sealed. Mussolini's fate was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to powder. All the rest was merely the proper application of overwhelming force.
Winston S. Churchill's reaction to the news of Pearl Harbor, in his Memoirs of the Second World War, Volume 3: The Grand Alliance.
Several days ago, the United States remembered the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, which, among other things, brought the United States into the Second World War. With the Japanese attack on the United States, the line-up of major powers at war was almost complete – but only almost. The US declaration of war, passed-out of Congress on the 8th (with but one dissenting vote) – named only Japan.

The United States had not yet heard from Japan’s allies, Germany and Italy – co-signatories to the September 1940 Tripartite or “Axis” Pact. On 11 December 1941, this changed when Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. A good argument can be made that with this step, Nazi Germany committed suicide.

In the strategic sense, Hitler’s decision to make war on the United States – for it was his alone – was absolute lunacy. In December of 1941, Germany had all it could handle in Russia: Operation Barbarossa, Hitler’s plan to conquer the Soviet Union in a single campaign in the summer and fall of 1941 – had already failed, and the German Army was stuck in the snow in front of Moscow: its supply lines a shambles or non-existent, casualties already numbering over a million (front line infantry regiments barely fielding the strength of companies). On the 6th, the Russians – who seemed to the Germans to have bottomless resources – launched a massive counteroffensive.

Germany’s other enemy, Great Britain, was running its own war in North Africa, and at sea, relying on massive dollops of American financial and military aid to stay in the war. But without more, and as long as Germany could keep the situation in Russia more or less under control, Britain’s efforts, strategically, were an irritant, and not a threat. But with the Russian campaign teetering in the balance, Germany verged on strategic bankruptcy.
So why then, did Hitler compound his problems? Why did Adolf Hitler, with his eyes open, enter into war with the greatest industrial power on Earth? Pre-war German military planners concluded that Germany had lost the First World War because the Kaiser’s Navy had dragged America into it. But on 11 December 1941, Hitler proved to the world he was an amateur strategist, and repeated the mistake.
On the other hand, Hitler might well have considered that, practically speaking, the US and Germany were already at war. Legally, Germany and the US were at peace, but US ships were protecting convoys of US military aid to Britain in the North Atlantic; aid that the US, through the convenient fiction of Lend-Lease, was essentially giving to Britain. In fact, Britain (out of money, and without a sufficient population or resource base to really fight Germany on its own) was on US military and economic life support. Without the Lend-Lease breathing machine provided by Uncle Sam, Great Britain would have been forced to the peace table with Germany by mid-1941.
But convoying and massive aid was still not full-scale war, which the Germans, up till late 1941 – seemed to understand very well: the German Navy in the Atlantic being under orders to “avoid incidents with the USA.”

It seems that Hitler, just as he had underestimated the Soviet Union, underestimated the industrial and military power of America. Partly on the basis of bad advice from his admirals, and his own assumptions about Germany's ability to defeat the Soviet Union for good in 1942, he reasoned that Japan would keep the Americans busy enough for him to win his war in Europe without much American interference.
Time would prove that Hitler made himself and his country a sucker's bet. Fortunately, American resources were vast enough to fight a full scale land, air and sea war with Japan; raise and supply a major army to fight land campaigns against the Germans in Europe; arm and feed the British; help the Soviets; build the ships to move the army and supplies around in; build an air force from scratch to level Germany’s cities; build roads and ports on five continents; work on costly experiments like the atomic bomb – and still manage to pay for all this. America could afford it. By comparison, Hitler's Germany, and every other power in the conflict -- fought a poor man's, shoestring war.
Perhaps more importantly, Hitler made the fatal error of taking the struggle personally. He wanted a confrontation with the rich plutocratic Americans -- in any way that he could get one. The Führer really, really hated America, and in particular the US President, Franklin Roosevelt – as a reading of his diatribe in the Reichstag, announcing war with the United States -- makes amply clear:
And now permit me to define my attitude to that other world, which has its representative in that man, who, while our soldiers are fighting in snow and ice, very tactfully likes to make his chats from the fireside, the man who is the main culprit of this war. . .
More even than his faulty strategic assumptions, Hitler's hatred and envy of America and its President drove him to abandon rational calculations of interest and advantage, and into the fatal misstep that would destroy him.
What if Hitler had declared neutrality in the Pacific War? Not that treaties were ever an issue for the Nazis, but technically, Article 3 of the Axis Pact did not require Germany to go to war with the United States. Probably, neutrality would not have helped Hitler much, but it would have gravely complicated the allied position politically.
President Roosevelt could probably have obtained a declaration of war on Germany anyway, (Congress was working on that already), but there were large segments of American opinion that wanted to stay out of the European War. On 12 August 1941, with Hitler holding almost all of Europe, his U-Boats in the Atlantic, and the German armies knocking at the gates of Moscow -- the US House of Representatives, evidently living on another planet, opted to keep the draft by a majority of one vote.
It is very unlikely that the United States would have enjoyed the unity that allowed it fight the war to the finish had Hitler not moved first. Hitler, by stealing Roosevelt’s thunder, did the world a favor by destroying in advance the arguments of the isolationists, solidifying the conviction of the American people that there could be no deals with the Nazis or the Japanese, and that the war had to be prosecuted until total victory. Isolationism was mortally wounded by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and finished-off by Hitler’s speech in the Reichstag, as the ensuing American declaration of war (after Hitler's) proved. Churchill's reaction to Pearl Harbor, recorded above, more accurately reflected the situation after 11 December 1941.
Suppose, however, that Hitler had not only declared neutrality in the Japanese war, but torn-up the Axis pact and actually declared war on Japan? Unlike democracies, dictatorships can change policies on a dime -- as Hitler had shown in 1939 with his deal with Stalin, that he tore up in June 1941. What if Hitler had gotten up in the Reichstag, denounced the Japanese sneak-attack on America, and offered the US "help?" Not that Germany would have ever really fought such a war, but it seems improbable that the United States could have gone to war with Germany under those conditions.
With America out of the European war, and what was left of the isolationist lobby demanding full focus on the war with Japan (no aid for Britain and Russia, and no second front, ever). Hitler might well have forced the British to a separate peace and beaten the Russians. At the least, Hitler could quite possibly have achieved a stalemate with Stalin, thus managing to keep much of Germany's ill-gotten gains, and having his hands free to maintain his criminal Nazi regime indefinitely.
Fortunately, Hitler’s half-baked views of strategy -- and his paranoid fantasy that Roosevelt and the Americans were part of his mythical world-wide Jewish conspiracy – drove Hitler and Nazi Germany to suicide. On 11 December 1941 – Hitler abandoned strategy and just did what he wanted to, cast off ambiguity, and made the quasi-war with the United States real.
Now that pretense was over, the very next day, as the historian Christian Gerlach has shown, Hitler took steps to move the Holocaust (already begun in Russia) into high gear, announcing to his intimates his decision to annihilate European Jewry. But history had other plans. Matters would end quite differently than the architect and maker of all this misery supposed, because Hitler’s decision on 11 December 1941 led not to a German-dominated Europe but to his squalid suicide in his miserable little Berlin bunker, and the burning of his carcass on some rubbish-heap.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Messy Desk

Whenever I finish a major writing project, at work or at home, I have a ginormous mess of papers to clean up. Some of them are normally related to whatever I'm working on, but other stuff is usually totally unrelated, and usually pertains to (1) possible blog projects; (2) weird historical/political material I like to read; (3) correspondence; or, (4) just misc. kaka.
Here's a sampling of today's gleanings. As will be apparent, I tend to print hard copies of virtually everything. I also probably have serious ADD. . .
(1) Collective Bargaining Agreement between. . . (parties omitted).
(2) measurements for a home shelving project.
(3) notes on opposing party's brief in (case names omitted).
(4) article: Ballistic Tests on the IJN Shinano's Turret Face Armor, by Nathan Okun, 31 Aug. 1999.
(5) article from the New Republic "The Reinvention of Robert Gates" by Michael Crowley, 9 Nov. 2009.
(6) Memorandum for File concerning conversation with . . .(business, never mind).
(7) Article from "Twenty Years after the Fall" [of the Berlin Wall], by George Friedman, 9 Nov. 09.
(8) Personal e-mail letter from X to moi, dated 25 Mar. 09.
(9) Print-out of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure No. 56.
(10) Article from Mysteries of the Imperial Japanese Navy: "Death of Battleship Hiei: Sunk by Gunfire or Air Attack?" by Anthony P. Tully, 1997.
(11) Article from Wall Street Journal Online "The KSM Trial Will be an Intelligence Bonanza for al Qaeda" by John Yoo.
(12) Print-out of Texas Property Code § 209.006.
(13) Photocopies of 10 pages from Elkouri & Elkouri's How Arbitration Works.
(14) Old receipt from Tony's Mexican Restaurant.
(15) "List of H.M. Ships operating in the English Channel, May 1805" (printout, 3 pages, source unknown).
(16) Friend's Christmas letter from December 2008.
(17) Annotated copy of page from O'Connor's Texas Rules * Civil Trial (2009).
(18) Article from the American Interest "Pillars of the Next American Century" print-out dated 26 Oct. 2009.
(19) Article from National Affairs "Who Killed California?" by Troy Senek (print-out dated 2 October 2009).
(20) A random copy of a page from Black's Law Dictionary with, among other definitions "Nomographer."
What's on your desk?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Why is the President Bowing?

Who in Hell does Obama think he is, in his capacity as the President of the United States, to bow before the Emperor of Japan?
A proper respect for crowned heads is appropriate, but a well-mannered greeting in the name of the United States, is quite enough. Ostentatious deference to a monarch by a sitting President is at best an idiot's breach of protocol and at worst a cavalier act of disrespect for both his own office and the people who elected him.
The United States submits to no earthly power. The President is the elected representative of the republic, and appears in the name of the United States before foreign heads of state and governments. He has no right to bow to anyone in the name of the United States.
(Hat tip: Power Line Blog).
UPDATE (16 Nov. 09) Check this most interesting You Tube video, which speaks for itself.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day, 2009

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)

As our soldiers, sailors and aviators serve and struggle for us throughout the world, particularly today in Iraq and Afghanistan, pause in your business for a moment, and think of them, and of our veterans who have already served. Remember those who are not with us today, because they made the ultimate sacrifice. The terrible events of the past week at Fort Hood make it especially important for us to reflect gratefully on all they have given.

In particular, I am remembering in my own prayers today three casualties of the Battle of Midway (4 June 1942). Wesley F. Osmus, Ensign USNR, (USS Yorktown), Frank W. O’Flaherty, Ensign USNR (USS Enterprise), and Bruno P. Gaido (Aviation Machinist's Mate (1st Class) -- O'Flaherty's gunner). All were aviators shot down and captured during the attacks on the Japanese fleet, and murdered by their captors. They faced their fates alone, but they are never forgotten.

Went the day well ?
We died and never knew.
But, well or ill, Freedom, we died for you

John Maxwell Edmonds, Times [London], 6 February 1918.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy Birthday Marine Corps!

On 10 November 1775, before the United States was yet a country, the Continental Congress created what became the United States Marine Corps, the resolution of that date providing for the raising of two battalions of Marines. Legend has it that the first Marine recruiting post was in a bar (most say Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, although the precise identity of the hostelry is in dispute). Recruiting had produced five weak companies 300 strong by December 1775, and in March of 1776 the Marines found themselves on ships headed for the Caribbean for the first of their many amphibious expeditions (a raid on the Bahamas). The Corps has been carrying our flags around the globe ever since, participating with distinction in every American war (even in the Civil War – both sides had Marines). Today, the Marines are 200,000 strong.

It is altogether typical that on their Corps’ 234th birthday, America’s Marines are carrying the fight to the enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan, just as their fathers and brothers did before them in Kuwait, Grenada, at Hue City, the Chosun Reservoir, Iwo Jima, Peleliu, Tarawa, Guadalcanal, Corregidor, Belleau Wood, the Argonne, Peking, Nicaragua, Mexico City, Tripoli and a million other places. Semper Fi guys, and thank you. May God be with all of you every day, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Hello Mr. President?

So what's with a Commander-in-Chief making a speech following the news of the shootings at Fort Hood, and not even mentioning it till just under two minutes into the light preliminary banter of a totally unrelated speech?
Obama's remarks -- when they got to the subject -- were appropriate. But the coolness, the detachment, the disconnect between our glacially calm President, the plight of the soldiers of which he is the commander, and the shock of much of the rest of the country was profoundly unsettling.
Couldn't the introduction to his (no doubt) deeply important speech to something called the "Tribal Nations Conference" hosted by the Department of Interior's Bureau of Indian affairs (yawn) have waited for just a minute? Why does the President get to the important matter -- a crime that concerns the whole country -- two minutes into his talk; when the speech is getting TV coverage, and much of the country tuned in precisely because it's seeking reassurance and information from the President?
Who is advising Obama? Why did the speech go forward? What makes Obama tick?
Who is this man?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Election 2009

A day shy of a year from the Great Disaster of 2008, America went to the polls again. For Republicans and conservatives, accustomed to an almost uninterrupted diet of political disaster since November 2004; the election of 2009 was the first good news in a long, long time. El Jefe has some very general observations.

1). A very good night for Republicans, better, actually, than if they had won the much-watched race in New York Congressional District 23. Had Mr. Hoffman prevailed there, extreme conservatives would have taken this as a hunting license with which to harass Republican Party moderates. Ideological purity is well and good, for purposes of arguments, but elections are about assembling coalitions (difficult even under the best of conditions). It is helpful to be reminded of the need to make converts, not to simply preach to the choir.

2). New Jersey was a good win, but despite Obama’s appearances there, and his apparent investment in the campaign, much of the reason for the Democratic loss here was Jon Corzine and his baggage. Not to detract from Governor-elect Christie’s victory, but New Jersey was mostly a nice surprise, a one-off, produced by a confluence of very favorable circumstances, and a very well-run Republican campaign.

3). Virginia is the real bad news for Democrats (in particular, as Karl Rove points out, the suburban vote-swing). Obama carried Virginia in 2008 with 53 percent of the vote. The Democratic candidate for governor could manage only 41 percent of the vote this last Tuesday. Democratic Senators and Representatives elected from Red States (many of the so-called “Blue Dogs”) will have to think very carefully about the likely consequences of supporting Obama’s health care and environmental schemes.

3a). While thinking on the election results, the Blue Dogs would do well to reflect on the posture of their own Congressional leadership, which is dominated by the Democratic Party left. The party leadership would certainly like their votes for Obamacare and for cap and tax, but would probably not be displeased to see many of them lose in 2010 – thus eliminating more conservative voices from Democratic Party councils. At any rate, there might well be rich seams of divergent interests available to be mined between Blue Dogs and Lefties; Senate and House; White House and Congress and any other combination Republicans can think up. Hey Republicans, how's it going with Lieberman these days?

4). Thinking of the Democratic Party leadership, positively the most stupid reaction to Tuesday’s results was Comrade Pelosi’s declaration yesterday that “we won last night.” No report yet saying that the Speaker of the House has been arrested for smoking crack.

5). The Republicans have gotten off the deck, and found a bit of a voice, but they have work to do. We know what Republicans are against: the expansion of government by Obama and the Democrats; the administration’s reckless spending and feckless foreign policy. But what do Republicans support?

6). While developing a more affirmative program, the Republicans must keep fighting. Dick Morris should be correct in asserting that Tuesday’s returns constitute Obamacare’s death certificate. There is a chance not only to block the public option, but to stop the legislation entirely, and probably the cap and tax environmental scheme as well. The key will be finding ways to fracture Democratic Party discipline – and given the problems Tuesday shows the Blue Dogs might have in 2010, this is now within reach. A bill is going to come out of the House soon but Senate Majority Leader Reid is now saying that there may be no bill on his side till 2010. If this is so, time is very short: if matters are spun-out much past March, we will be too deep into the 2010 election cycle for the production of meaningful legislation.

7). There is now the interesting question of what Obama will do? Barring a foreign policy crisis (which will change all calculations) he has, essentially, two choices:
(a) Doubling Down – mobilizing all the liberal lobbies and interest to arm-twist the Blue Dogs to secure the legislation he wants by Valentines Day. Don’t know enough about the liberal set-up to know if this can work. I think he needs the complete support of the unions to do it, and unless card check’s coming, that might be tough.
(b) The Bill Clinton Three-Step – essentially, this involves pulling back some – giving up the public option on health care, ensuring environmental legislation is harmless to small business interests; and focusing instead on jobs and employment. This would perhaps cause the Chamber of Commerce and the business lobby to demobilize somewhat, and would probably produce a modest recovery in independent support – thus, better poll numbers. If Obama triangulated a la Bill Clinton, the Left would be furious, but Lefties have nowhere to go. The Right would be flat-footed by losing its most potent rhetorical talking points.
8). As a narrowly political matter, the smart move for the Democrats (in the short term), and probably the best move for the country (period) would be Plan B. Set against this though, the Democrats have to consider that whatever 2010 looks like, the historical probabilities indicate that the Republicans, as the completely out of power party, have no place to go but up; and that in all likelihood, Republicans will gain congressional seats. Put another way, the Democrats will never be as strong as today, and now might be the time to use their votes, before they lose them.

Friday, October 9, 2009

President of the World

April Fool's Day in October! President Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize?
For what?
Clearly so that the Nobel Committee can gloat that the US President is Not Bush (nominations were due 1 February, so what else could it be?) Giving an "attaboy" to Obama for his kumbaya kaffee klatch foreign policy of apologizing to everybody for everything (in the modern Euro manner) is no doubt high on the list too.
I wonder if Obama will travel to Oslo to accept the award? He would probably like to: the man seems to enjoy the company of Europeans and world celebrities more than he does tending to the business of legislation and government in Washington.
During the late campaign, Obama often appeared as an unknown, unknowable, distant figure, a man who kept everyone at arms length; a robot which his handlers could program with happy talk and point at useful groups of voters; and a screen on which the credulous could project their good wishes for whatever different future was appealing at the moment. Not for nothing did Obama use appeals to "hope" as a campaign theme.
Now that we are learning more about Obama the man, he increasingly seems seems dreadfully miscast as President of the United States. The office of President combines the roles of Head of State (think of the British Monarch) -- the greater of foreign visitors, the host of state dinners, who appears at ceremonies and serves as the face of the state to the world; and of Prime Minister. The Prime Minister does the real work of government -- produces legislation, presides over the cabinet, tends to the construction and maintenance of a political coalition to do all this -- and positively enjoys the nuts-and-bolts of figuring out what Senator X wants to vote for Project Y.
Obama, clearly, has nothing of the Prime Minister about him. He is in such trouble on health care (supposedly a main legislative priority) because he largely ignored the nuts and bolts -- trusting Pelosi and Reid to do it for him. A similar condition obtains on environmental legislation. Obama appears to neither know about, nor have any interest in, the production of legislation. Contrast Obama with Clinton -- whatever problems Slick Willie had as Head of State -- he certainly understood how to be Prime Minister.
But Obama, who cannot bear to get his hands dirty with government, is not much of a Head of State either, at least of the United States. America is, perhaps, too small; too parochial a stage for him? Obama clearly wants to appeal to a larger audience. Obama doesn't really want to be President of the United States. To Obama, haring-off to Copenhagen to hob-nob with the Olympic committee is much more important than spending an afternoon with Senator Snodgrass of Noplace to grub for his vote or staying in a room with General McChrystal for more than 25 minutes. If rubes in Texas and Missouri can't stand Obama, what of it? What is the approval of uneducated, unsophisticated American nobodies next to the approbation of the Worldwide Great and Good?
This will end badly. There is even an element of personal tragedy in it: Obama is more of a Secretary-General of the UN -- more a world conscience type than he is a President of the United States. But that's not what he's being paid for. What will he do when the rubes figure him out?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

On the Sidelines

El Jefe apologizes for his silence of late.
In general, I have used this blog for my comments on things political, and since the elections of last year, I have cared a good deal less, primarily because I have not seen the point. It is no secret that I am conservative: and for the moment, conservatives in this country are politically powerless.
Watching the gyrations of the left-wing Democrats and the "blue dog" Democrats in Congress over Obama's health care legislation, the cap-and trade foolishness, and the other dog's breakfast of legislation favored by this administration has been beyond boring for me. The royalist Baron Astley's comment in the English Civil War to his parliamentary captors: "You have now done your work and may go play, unless you will fall out amongst yourselves" has summed-up my attitude since last November perfectly. I am sick about what is being done to the country by these people, but have felt both powerless to influence it as well as cut out of it.
Meanwhile, there have been other diversions: Facebook; my family; friends; too much food and wine; books. I have found ways to stay busy, and have tended to put the newspapers aside. It has been better for my blood-pressure, in any event.
Time has passed, and I've become more interested in matters political lately. Maybe things are not as hopeless as they have appeared, although the situation of the country seems worse than ever. Our President seems hopelessly out of his depth, and unable to distinguish between campaigning and governing. I'm not sure if he thinks that he is President of the World or of the United States. At any rate, I'm thinking it's time to saddle-up again.

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 Remembered

Today is the eighth anniversary of the murderous Al Qaeda terrorist attack on the United States. May our enemies ever be remembered for the cowardly and dastardly nature of their attack on our country; and, today, in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan, in Iraq and other places, the armed forces are serving our foes with the appropriate condign punishment.
Eight years later, some of the foul perpetrators are in Hell already. Others are waiting their turn to go there, rotting in jails, in Guantanamo and other places; we can only pray God speeds their appointment with the hangman.
Spare a moment, reader, and remember the dead: especially heroes like Rick Rescorla.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

"Soul of the Democratic Party" Indeed

President Obama today lauded the deceased Senator Ted Kennedy as the "soul of the Democratic Party. . ." Truer words were never spoken.
The late Senator was a silver spoon to the manor born, never in any trouble that family influence and position could not work him out of. Senator Kennedy spent most of his adult life becoming the liberal "Lion of the Senate," all afire with virtuous, expensive and patronizing plans to spend vast sums of other people's money for their own good; certain that he, his fixers, lawyers, media pals, professors and other hangers-on (such as our new President) -- all knew better than the intended beneficiaries what was good for them, and their country. How appropriate and fitting that his liberal colleagues want to "win one for Teddy" and ram government control of health care down our throats under his name . Soul of the Democratic Party," indeed.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ted Kennedy, R.I.P.

I have not got much to say about the passing of Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy (D. Massachusetts). It is hard for prey to mourn, unduly, the passing of the "Lion of the Senate," particularly when said Lion's political allies are obviously going to use his death as a banner to rally their people behind ramming a particularly pernicious piece of legislation through the Congress.
The Senator's political life and positions are well known, as are the less savory aspects of his personal life. All this will no doubt be dissected by the press for weeks and weeks in nauseating detail. But those discussions will be left to others; and I will say no more other than that all should pray for the repose of his soul, and that God may guide his tragic family to some kind of peace.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Texas Governor's Race

As widely expected, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison announced her entry into the Texas Governor's race today. According to the Dallas Morning News, Senator Hutchison told a crowd in LaMarque that Governor Rick Perry ". . ..dedicated public servant. . .I know he loves Texas. But now he’s trying to stay too long.”
Senator Hutchison added some complaints about Perry's tenure -- high taxes, pricey college tuition, among others. We need "results, not politics," Senator Hutchison tells us, plus term limits for the Texas governorship. Yeah, I can see where she might have an interest in that. . .
I've never been overly sympathetic with a demand for term limits, I think if people are bored with a politician they can simply vote him out at the next election. But more fundamentally, I cannot find a reason for Senator Hutchison's candidacy, other than the fact she wants to be governor, Perry's had the job for awhile, and the Senator thinks it's her turn. Governor Perry's a dedicated public servant, and loves Texas, the Senator assures us -- but she's really got a beef with his "trying to stay too long." Sorry Senator, but that's not enough.
I'm going to support the Republican candidate for governor, whether it's Governor Perry, or Senator Hutchison, but I have been well satisfied with Rick Perry, and see no reason for a change. It would be better for Texas and the country if Senator Hutchison would abandon ideas of Austin, and keep her seat in the Senate. The Republican Party and the country have enough troubles without Senator Hutchison engineering needless faction fights, and producing opportunities for Texas Democrats to put another Obama supporter in the Senate.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Last Boat Home

The Daily Telegraph reports that Harry Patch, last or next-to-last surviving British veteran of the First World War, died yesterday at the age of 111. I had a long post prepared on Mr. Patch, his wounding near Ypres in 1917, the deaths of his friends, and some thoughts on the First World War as the agent of ruination of modern civilzation. However, on second though I'll leave you with his Telegraph obituary (and another from the New York Times this morning) which together cover the ground well enough; as well as these words from one of Patch's fellow soldiers:
When the Last Long Trek is Over
When the last long trek is over,
And the last long trench filled in,
I’ll take a boat to Dover,
Away from all the din;
I’ll take a trip to Mendip,
I’ll see the Wiltshire downs,
And all my soul I’ll then dip
In peace no trouble drowns.
Away from noise of battle,
Away from bombs and shells,
I’ll lie where browse the cattle,
Or pluck the purple bells.
I’ll lie among the heather,
And watch the distant plain,
Through all the summer weather,
Nor go to fight again.
Written near Arras, France, by Alec deCandole, Lieutenant (4th Bn., Wiltshire Rgt., attached 49th Coy., Machine Gun Corps) on 2 September 1918. Killed in action near Bonningues-lès-Ardres, France, 4 September 1918, age 21.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Why Does Obama Side With the Liberals? Well, Duh...

If Obama offends the left, what are they going to do apart from whine? Let them whine. If he offends the center, he loses votes and is deeply wounded electorally. . .

Obama could fix this problem so easily. . . But he has to start disappointing the party's liberals. He has to pick a fight or two, and takes sides with the centrists. In choosing the party's liberals over the party's moderates, he is repudiating one of the most brilliant campaigns ever seen. I simply don't understand it.

Mr. Crook needs a visit from Captain Obvious. This doesn't take an Ivy League degree, or a job at the Atlantic to comprehend. What's hard to understand here? Maybe Obama sides with his party's liberals because he is. . .um. . .a liberal?
Just a thought.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

China Must Pay Eh? How's that?

According to Reuters, yesterday , US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke told the Manufacturing Council (what Reuters calls a private sector advisory group) that China must help pay for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming:
"They've got to step up. They've got to pay for the cost of complying with global climate change. They've got to invest in energy efficiency and conversation, but also [take] very definitive steps in reducing greenhouse gas emissions" Locke decreed.
I must have missed it -- when did the US Army occupy Beijing? When does Hu Jintao go on trial? What else do we want from China besides their "stepping up" on global warming? Cancellation of our debts, maybe? Dream on.
Mr. Locke is not alone on the homily circuit. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, when in India recently, was telling that country to step up also: “It is essential for major developing countries like India to also lead because over 80 percent of the growth in future emissions will be from developing countries."
The Indians have been unimpressed with US arguments, but the Chinese have been making cooperative noises on global warming lately. Since the present depression has hit their manufacturing sector rather hard, it could well be that the Chinese leadership is simply making happy talk that costs them (at present) absolutely nothing.
But, seriously, just what are Mr. Locke, Ms. Clinton and their pals thinking? Mr. Locke and Ms. Clinton aren't newspaper columnists, bloggers, actors or other nobodies, they are cabinet members of the United States government, speaking for that government -- making public demands of the sovereign governments of great powers; of the type normally made only at bayonet-point, after an unconditional surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship? This is particularly pertinent in the case of China, which has its own dire internal problems, and is apt to stand very much on its dignity when it comes to being ordered about in its own house by foreigners.
Is it any wonder that on so many issues, the Chinese are telling us, in diplo-speak, to piss-off? Is it any wonder that the Indians, aware that we need their help on Iran, and other matters, are somewhat dismayed at the talk coming out of Washington? Hopefully the government's representatives moderate their public tone somewhat; and we should hope, also, that the government which they represent moderates its fantasyland objectives.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


The former President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, is, or is about to be, on his way by air to Honduras, aboard the President of Argentina's official aircraft. Mr. Zelaya is accompanied by a crowd of do-gooders and right-thinking people, including the Nicaraguan Sandinista U.N. General Assembly President, Miguel D'Escoto.
The position of the United States government -- specifically, President Obama -- on events in that country has been most disappointing and troubling. Former President Zelaya was about to hold a "referendum" on amending the country's constitution to allow him to seek another presidential term. Mr. Zelaya was told to cease and desist from doing so by Honduras's Supreme Court and by the Congress -- but Mr. Zelaya -- figuring he could find some group of people willing to anoint him Jefe, got himself some ballots and advice from Hugo Chavez and was planning to go ahead anyway. At this point, the army, with the support of the rest of the Honduran government -- aborted Mr. Zelaya's coup and quite properly removed him.
Now Obama is standing with Chavez and the Castro brothers and the United Dictators club to tell Hondurans they can't do this -- that the rest of the world has more to say about who is President of Honduras than Hondurans do.
Honduras has been one of the USA's best friends in Central America, particularly in the hard times of the Soviet, Cuban and leftist Nicaraguan backed insurgency in El Salvador and the years of the confrontation with Nicaragua's Sandinista regime. The Obama administration's stand towards events in Honduras is despicable.
Hopefully, the Hondurans turn Mr. Zelaya's plane away. If it actually lands in Tegucigalpa, here's hoping they give the accompanying do-gooders the boot and put Mr. Zelaya where he belongs -- in jail.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Little to the Left, Please. . .

Well, Obama's "appalled and outraged" at Iran. With good reason, to be sure. Maybe he's getting tougher, but I'm joining Dick Morris in not holding my breath. It's hard to escape the view that the President views Iran, North Korea, Iraq and the wars as annoyances, distracting him and the country from the real job of reforming health care and building a green economy.
I'm not even sure I blame Obama, much. Sometimes the options available are limited to bad and awful, particularly when the military account is both underfunded and overdrawn. More to the point, the President of the United States is not the only one with options and plans. Our dear friend the Dear Leader and his minions in North Korea have been heard from today.
No doubt Obama is appalled and outraged about this also, and people throughout Asia and the Pacific very nervous. But for all our sakes, President Obama needs to be careful, because it looks a little like the Dear Leaders and Khameneis of the world have decided Obama's actually Hans Blix of the UN and Team America World Police. . .

Friday, June 19, 2009

Letter to Khamenei

An Iranian exile, Professor Dr. Afshin Ellian, teacher of the philosophy of law at Leiden University in the Netherlands, has published (in the online journal Telos) a splendid open letter to the Iranian "Supreme Leader,"Ayatollah Khamenei.
Excellency Khamenei, you and I know that no tyranny has ever succeeded in creating a political system that lasts. Your advisors have been misinforming you these past years. They have made you deaf and blind to what is really happening. The truth is that the ruling elite is despised by the people. Your puppet Ahmadinejad, who likes to appeal to Iranians in populist terms, is reviled. If you continue to use violence against your people, then you have obviously learned nothing from the tragic fate of the last shah of Persia.
The mothers of the members of my family who were executed will not forgive you. But they will let you withdraw peacefully, for the sake of freedom and the peace of their grandchildren. Time is pressing for the Iranian people, and for the international community. I wish you wisdom and peace. . .
The whole piece should be read, not only because it catalogues the serious grievances so many Iranians have against their rulers today; but also because Dr Eilian's letter is a window into the dreams of those, including the Professor, who made and fought for the Iranian Revolution of 1979. But Ayatollah Khomeini and his friends (including the present Supreme Leader) -- far from answering Iranian dreams of freedom -- brought nightmares instead.
Khomeini and those around him, the Professor says, repaid their millions of backers in false coin: hijacking the Iranian revolution against the Shah and using it as a vehicle to establish their theocratic tyranny. I would be less than candid if I did not admit I have little sympathy for the Professor's claims on this score. Bloody revolutions and the bastard states they throw up are themselves the very negation of the law and philosophy the professor today teaches in the Netherlands. Revolutions of the French, Russian or Iranian variety usually just replace one tyrant with a bigger one -- deadlier because the new master supposedly rests on a species of public consent. The squabbling lawyers of the Tennis Court Oath and the Estates General gave way to Robespierre and the Reign of Terror; Kerensky gave way to Lenin and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat; the moderate professor Mehdi Bazargan to the radical Islamic Republic of Khomeini. In revolutions, the democrats always, always lose out to the radicals, the fanatics and the guns. Then starry-eyed supporters and romantics elsewhere tell us that Next Time will be different.
Do not misunderstand. I hope and pray devoutly that the crowds marching through the streets of Tehran prevail. I hope they go all out, that the Islamic "Republic" is toppled, and that the Ayatollahs and thugs who run it and have caused more misery and death then ever the Shah did on his worst day are paraded through the streets in chains, and that they wind up in ditches. I hope it happens. But I don't know if it will make things any better. It's possible, but I'm not holding my breath.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iran Round Up and Links

El Jefe has been preoccupied of late with personal business (of the good kind) but the situation in Iran demands attention, and he hopes to have a little more on this subject presently.
Meanwhile, check out Michael Ledeen, writing over at Pajamas Media, frequently. In addition to Dr. Ledeen's posts, be sure to read the comments -- sometimes the commenters seem uncommonly well informed.
Today Dr. Ledeen tries to assess how things are going. In a nutshell, he thinks that if the crowds in the streets get organized, the regime is in real trouble; but if not, the system will muddle through, as was the case during lesser periods of unrest in 1999 and 2003. The money quote:
. . .The regime has the guns, and the opposition has the numbers. The question is whether the numbers can be successfully organized into a disciplined force that demands the downfall of the regime. Yes, I know that there have been calls for a new election, or a runoff between Mousavi and Ahmadinezhad. But I don’t think that’s very likely now. The tens of millions of Iranians whose pent-up rage has driven them to risk life and limb against their oppressors are not likely to settle for a mere change in personnel at this point. And the mullahs surely know that if they lose, many of them will face a very nasty and very brief future.
If the disciplined force comes into being, the regime will fall. If not, the regime will survive. . .

Dr. Ledeen's most interesting comments concern the state of morale in the regime's security services. The Iranians have a National Police (under the Ministry of Interior and Justice) but the true prop of the Islamic Republic, and its most important guarantee, is the Sepáh e Pásdárán e Enqeláb e Eslámi ("Army of Guardians of the Islamic Revolution") or, more frequently the "Revolutionary Guard" and its associated militia the "Basij" ("Mobilization"). Dr. Ledeen seems to think that the senior Iranian leadership somewhat distrusts the Revolutionary Guard's bosses, who have perhaps gone soft. Read the whole thing.

Robert F. Worth and Nazila Fathi write in the New York Times this morning about the demonstrations in Tehran. Worth and Fathi report that some of the demonstrators:

. . .were especially outraged that Mr. Ahmadinejad on Sunday dismissed them as nothing more than soccer fans who had just lost a game and as "dust." One demonstrator fired off a Twitter message. . .proclaiming: "Ahmadinejad called us Dust, we showed him a sandstorm."

The Times piece said that on Monday, the police stood "on the sidelines" at least during daylight, but that violence erupted after sunset, when the "Basij militia opened fire, leaving one dead and several others injured." It is not clear from the Times piece exactly where this shooting took place. On this subject, Dr. Ledeen says that the regime ordered the Basij and "imported Hezbollah thugs" to open fire on the crowds, and that the UK Guardian (which Ledeen considers very reliable on Iran) had reported "a dozen or so" killed Monday. Haaretz's round-up of wire-service reports comes up with a total of twenty killed today around the country.

Given the size of the crowds shown in the photographs and on You Tube, the numbers of dead reported indictes to me that the crowds, for the moment, are mostly peaceful. Despite the thousands in the streets, and the great degree of provocation necessary to produce demonstrations of this size, the Times article quotes an actor as saying that people ". . .are not seeking a revolution." For the moment, this appears to be correct.

The Guardian is live-blogging events in Tehran. Today's Guardian online has a story about the decision by the Iranian "Council of Guardians" (senior clerics that operate as sort of a Board of Directors of the Islamic Republic) to recount the election ballots. I question, from the point of view of the mullahs, the wisdom of this move -- it is seldom wise for rulers to make concessions in the face of mobs on the streets. On the other hand, it gives the government time to indoctrinate the riot police, bring up reinforcements, kick out the foreign journalists (they are already officially barred from street reporting, God protect those disobeying) -- shut down Twitter access, put down the crowds when ready, and spin a good story.

Twitter, by the way, is an important part of how things have developed. The demonstrators have been using Twitter to coordinate their efforts, and the government has been unable, at least partially, to close down access to it. Twitter is helping -- the service has delayed scheduled downtime maintenance to help the demonstrators. Good for them.

Stay tuned.

ADDENDUM: Michael Rubin, writing in National Review Online's "Corner" speaking to the question of whether the Mullah regime could actually fall, gives us a useful list of points to ponder. See also, Richard Fernandez's "The Moving Finger Writes" -- at his Belmont Club site on Pajamas Media). Mr. Fernandez, also known as "Wretchard" includes a great link to an AEI article on the organizational evolution of the Revolutionary Guard, driven in part by that organization's concern with countering and crushing popular movements.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Justice Ginsburg's Chrysler Fiat. . .


The Chrysler secured creditors unhappy with the government-brokered Fiat purchase of Chrysler's assets might get a hearing after all. Fiat can walk away if nothing happens by the 15th. . .

Comprehension Dawns

Somebody sees the light. Too bad it's too late.

Like many Americans last November, I voted for change. I had hope. I no longer have hope since the president I voted for never mentioned a fraction of the agenda he now espouses. I did not vote to lower my standard of living, humble as it may be. Nor did I ask to jump into the economic abyss in order to “save” the planet.

When the economic chickens of this agenda do come home to roost, many people will change their perception of the whole quasi-religious scam known as “climate change.” Once you view the fall you’re about to take, it’s natural to turn around and take a good look at who is pushing you.

I voted for change, not economic suicide.

All is not lost: this is a rich, big nation, full of people who don't want socialism. Perhaps someday, the largely self-inflicted damage the country is about to sustain can be undone. It will be for our children to resurrect the concept of capitalism and to redeem the promise of American nationality once our wanna-be Euro socialists are through. But that's all for later. Elections have consequences, and the Left is well and truly in the saddle, and gets its chance to take us for a ride.

Hat tips: Confederate Yankee, American Thinker.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

D-Day, 65 Years On

Official U.S. 1st Army Group position map at 2400 hours on D-Day (6 June 1944).
(Source: Library of Congress G5701.S7 svar .A4, via Wikipedia).
In this column, I want to tell you what the opening of the second front entailed, so that you can know and appreciate and forever be humbly grateful to those both dead and alive who did it for you.
Ernie Pyle, 12 June 1944 (as quoted in Stephen Ambrose, D-Day, June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II (Simon & Schuster, 1994).
65 years ago today, the western allies returned to the European continent: the Normandy landings signaling the beginning of the end of Hitler's Germany. The invasion, Operation Overlord, with 15,000 vessels, over ten divisions of troops (from the US, UK and Canada as well as Free-French contingents) and thousands of aircraft, is still the largest amphibious assault ever attempted, only approached in size by the invasion of Okinawa in 1945. (Operation Olympic would have dwarfed Overlord, but thankfully, that one never happened).
Neither D-Day nor the ensuing Normandy Campaign (Operation Cobra, and the breakout across France) decided the war -- in retrospect, the Germans had lost the war, probably, by August 1941, certainly (as I wrote here) by December 1941. But the allied armies delivered the western half of the continent from Nazi bondage and barbarism, and by their victory bought liberty and freedom for much of Europe. In the fullness of time, eastern Europe too, would be delivered from tyranny: and the foundation for that outcome was laid in particular by the sacrifices of the Americans, Canadians, Britons, Poles and Frenchmen who died on Normandy beaches, and in the hedgerow country (bocage) in the summer of 1944.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Been on Vacation

El Jefe has been in the provinces, specifically Seaside, Florida, far away from computers, and seldom bothering with newspapers. Have been eating and drinking too much, getting sunburned and doing some reading (Telford Taylor's Munich: The Price of Peace) and several crime novels.
Back in the World today, and the papers have all kinds of news, most of it bad. I should have stayed in Florida! I will be back to speed commenting, soon enough.
This morning, listening to Beethoven's Symphony No. 2 in D-Major, feeing virtuous but hungry for passing on the doughnut at Starbucks, and trying to find the top of my desk. It's here someplace, I'm certain.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

America's Broke, So How About Some Cars and Gov't. Health Care?

US revenues are down $138 billion (about 34 percent) from April a year ago, reports USA Today.

The UK Daily Telegraph reports that China has expressed concern about recent purchases by the Treasury of US bonds. The story, by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, reports that the president of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, Mr. Richard Fisher, was questioned repeatedly by Chinese officials about the US government's intentions to "'. . .monetise the actions of our legislature'" -- essentially, whether it was going to just print money.
Mr. Fisher is, according to Mr. Evans-Pritchard's article, "running a fervent campaign to alert Americans to the 'very big hole' in unfunded pension and health-care liabilities" to the tune of $99 trillion.
When do we get Obama care for everybody? You know that's coming, right? If China doesn't pay for that, you will. . . What utter good sense. The treasury's broke, the lenders are balking, and Obama wants health care "reform" and he's putting the government deeper into the auto business.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Freedom Then, and Now

Here's something to think on:

Until August 1914, a sensible law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman. He could live where he liked and as he liked. He had no official number or identity card. He could travel abroad or leave his country for ever without a passport or any sort of official permission. He could exchange his money for any other currency without restriction or limit. He could buy goods from any country in the world on the same terms as he bought goods at home. For that matter, a foreigner could spend his life in this country without permit and without informing the police. . .

* * *

Substantial householders were occasionally called on for jury service. Otherwise, only those helped the state who wished to do so. The Englishman paid taxes on a modest scale. . .or rather less than 8 per cent. of the national income. The state intervened to prevent the citizen from eating adulterated food or contracting certain infectious diseases. It imposed safety rules in factories, and prevented women, and adult males in some industries, from working excessive hours. . .Expenditure on the social services had roughly doubled since the Liberals took office in 1905. Still broadly speaking, the state acted only to help those who could not help themselves. It left the adult citizen alone.

(A.J.P. Taylor, English History, 1914-1945, (Ed. Sir. George Clark, Oxford Univ. Press, paperback, 1992) at 1.

Now, just who lives, or lived, in what the Founders of our republic might have called a free country? Pre-1914 Britons in a limited monarchy where relatively few people could vote; or modern Americans in our 2009 land of universal suffrage, civil rights for every hyphen-group imagined or imaginable, global warming legislation, border controls, passports, v-chips, the internet, drinking age regulations, prolix statutes and regulations on jaywalking, the layout of parking lots, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the FBI, CIA and the IRS?
Food for thought.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day, 2009

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).

For a moment, pause in your enjoyment of a day off of work, spent with your families, and remember our soldiers, sailors and aviators, serving, struggle and carrying the flag for us, in Iraq and Afghanistan and throughout the world. Particularly keep their families in your thoughts and prayers. Remember the wounded who are reminded of their service to us daily. Never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice; who gave all their tomorrows, for all our todays.
God be with them, with you, and with our country, today and every day.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Watch Obama TV, Keep Your Head Down. . .

As if the regular TV media were not enough, Obama's now got his own Ministry of Propaganda -- Obama TV, complete with its own logo.
Meanwhile, more and more people are afraid to speak up when they disagree with this administration. Peter Robinson writes in Forbes about Clifford Asness, who runs "an approximately $20 billion dollar money management firm" who is fearful of criticizing President Obama's economic policies in writing: "It's really a bad idea to speak out" Mr. Asness wrote. "Angering the president is a mistake."
Robinson's piece goes on to supply several other all tending to show that opposing the administration is bad for business, and that there's real fear of reprisal in the future:
. . .Lately, a professor explained, students and faculty had begun quietly approaching him. "Everything's on the hush-hush," said the professor, a senior member of the faculty. "But they're looking for support. . ."
What did those who had approached him fear?
"They're afraid for their careers," the professor said, now serious. "These are young people I'm talking about. they don't want to become known as opponents of this administration. They [sic] way things are going, they figure, this new pattern we're seeing, with the government ordering businesspeople around, could become a permanent way of life."
So far, so fast. Not even five months into this administration. Obama the dictator is no longer such a joke.

Obama's Outrageous Speech

I hope to have a fuller, more reasoned reaction, soon, to President Obama's absolutely outrageous speech yesterday, at the National Archives Museum. For the moment, I want to think more on what he said, on what Vice-President Cheney said; and on what I'm going to say, and read everything again. But the explosion will come in due course.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Obama's Auto Fiat

The subhead of a Wall Street Journal piece on President Obama's auto-fuel efficiency increase decree yesterday neatly sums up the whole thing, and further comment by El Jefe is mostly superfluous:
Bankrupt companies making 39 mpg autos. Are we nuts?
No, but courtesy of the voters, the nuts are in charge for the moment. Elections have consequences, and two of them are a Speaker of the House with a CIA persecution complex who is upset she can't have President Bush's head on a platter; and beyond-insane fiats from the O-God on auto fuel efficiency (mostly to appease the global warming cult) while the whole domestic automobile industry is dying.
But the nuts won, so they get to do damage for awhile. The only real issue before the house is how much of the country can they wreck till the adults are in charge again.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ghost Fleet, Storm Warning. . .

The first page of yesterday’s New York Times business section has a story by Keith Bradsher on a vast ghost fleet of cargo vessels, which are now congregating in the Straits of Malacca, by Singapore and Malaysia, across from Indonesia.

The Times article, citing a research department of Lloyds, reports some 735 vessels now sitting idle there. Truly an immense fleet: some of these vessels displace almost 300,000 tons. For comparison purposes, a Nimitz class aircraft carrier displaces approximately 100,000 tons at full load. “To go out in a small boat along Singapore’s coast now is to feel like a mouse tiptoeing through an endless heard of slumbering elephants,” Mr. Bradsher writes. No doubt the Ghost Fleet is truly awesome to look at, but it is also terrifying, as it is a visible symptom of the utter collapse of world trade.

The normal business of this cargo fleet is the carriage of raw materials from all over the world to the factories of Asia (particularly China). The ships then turn right round, and then move the produce of all these factories to the markets of Europe and North America.

But the ships – each with crews, maintenance expenses, berthing contracts, fueling and victualling contracts, insurance policies and miles of ledgers and lists of other associated expenses – are all just sitting. America and Europe are not buying right now. There is no need for raw materials at the factories, no cargo moving to the docks. Chinese exports, reports the Times, fell 22.8 percent in April from the same period in 2008. Philippine exports fell 30.9 percent in March from the same period a year ago.

Think on those idle ships, their crews, the factories and business they serve, and all affected by the collapse of that trade. Contracts are going unfulfilled, wages are being stretched and unpaid, millions of people have lost, or are losing, their livelihoods – maybe (eventually) including us both, dear reader. That’s not the worst of it, either: the ramifications of those idle ships and shops haven’t even begun to work through the world nervous system.

The Malacca Ghost Fleet is more than economic disaster for millions of people – it’s going to be a political nightmare of the first order, as the destituted demand that their leaders produce quick solutions and easy answers – neither of which will be forthcoming. The tide of fear and populist rage that’s building is going to be terrible, likely sweeping away governments and bringing chaos all over the globe. The Ghost Fleet is warning us that a tsunami is coming.

Monday, May 11, 2009

McKiernan Replaced in Afghanistan

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has, according to the Associated Press, decided to replace General David McKiernan, who is double-hatted as both the US commander in Afghanistan, and the commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) there. General McKiernan's replacement is to be Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal, presently in the Pentagon as Director of the Joint Staff.
The Associated Press story states that Secretary Gates asked General McKiernan to resign his post and that this "probably" ends his career.
I am sorry to read this, I happen to think that General McKiernan (commander of the US 3rd Army, which was US Central Command's main ground component during the Second Gulf War [ARCENT] march to Baghdad) -- never got the promotion, recognition and preferment that should have been his due.
During the planning phase of the war in Iraq, General McKiernan consistently (and correctly) demanded more troops than Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and his boss (General Tommy Franks) wanted to allocate; and he was the first senior commander to recognize that the Fedayeen Saddam (and not the Republican Guard) were the real locus of military opposition. Despite the lack of cooperation or even understanding from seniors higher up on the command chain, General McKiernan worked with what he had, solved his problems and still got the Army to Baghdad faster than the Iraqis thought remotely possible.
When the war yielded to pacification operations, McKiernan was (in my opinion) wrongfully passed over as Franks' successor to the command in Iraq in favor of the much more junior and recently promoted Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez.
It will be interesting to see what prompted Secretary Gates to relieve General McKiernan so publicly. My bet would be that McKiernan's side of the story will be both hard to come by, and very well-reasoned. The US effort in Afghanistan is at best stalled, at worst in serious trouble, but this is hardly General McKiernan's fault: the General has, to the best of his considerable ability, been running a poorly-funded war in a land-locked country with few roads; populated by people who hate foreigners and foreign soldiers; with hostiles on virtually every border. The reinforcements McKiernan and others have been crying for are now in the pipeline. Whether more troops will actually make a difference, and whether this war is at all winnable, I beg leave to doubt.
In any case, General McKiernan's relief really smells, and for the second time in his long and decorated service to the United States, it appears that General McKiernan has been ill-used. General McKiernan has no reason to envy the incoming General McChrystal custody of the Afghanistan tar-baby, but this is a sad end to the career of a man who, based on the quality of his service, probably should have been Chief of Staff of the Army.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Fifth of May

Astronaut Alan B. Shepard, first American in Space, in his capsule "Freedom 7 " during a test shortly prior to his flight on Mercury-Redstone 3, 5 May 1961 (NASA[KSC] Image No. 61-10515).
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.
On this day in 1883, the first Earl Wavell, or to give him his full titles, Archibald Percival Wavell, Field Marshal, Earl Wavell, Viscount Wavell, Viscount Keren of Eritrea and Winchester, GCB, GCSI, GCIE, CMG, MC, PC -- was born in Colchester, England. Colchester, the oldest Roman town in Britain, seems an appropriate place of nativity for such a distinguished soldier, of a family of soldiers. The future Lord Wavell was not long in Britain, however: he spent most of his youth in India. Wavell's father, like his son and grandson, was a career soldier in the British Army, the father retiring with the rank of Major General.
After a glittering British Army career in the First World War and between the wars, Wavell was given command of all British forces in the Middle East early in World War II. Wavell was given an almost impossibly huge task (containing the Vichy French, beating the Italians and later Rommel, and keeping the Arabs quiet) -- with far too few forces.
Wavell's problems were compounded by excessive political interference, particularly by Winston Churchill. In early 1941 Wavell's forces were winning in Libya and mopping-up the Italian East Africa colony. However, in February 1941, Wavell was ordered by London (that is, Churchill) to halt his advance from Egypt into Italian Libya (Wavell was beating the Italians), and send his best forces off to Greece to fight Germans and Italians. Wavell protested, and the British intervention in Greece proved, as Wavell had predicted, a complete disaster.
The intervention in Greece, with the diversion of effort it occasioned, and the loss of much of the intervention force and its heavy equipment in Greece and Crete, gave the Italians and Germans a breathing space in Libya, and an German general named Rommel his opening. Wavell's efforts to stop Rommel were unsuccessful, although he was able to keep Iraq in the British orbit by successfully suppressing pro-German nationalist rebels (the Anglo-Iraq War), as well as ending Vichy French control of Syria (Operation Exporter).
Wavell was eventually shunted off to Asia, being made the British commander-in-chief there, just in time for Japanese entry into World War II. Again, Wavell was asked to do much too much with far too little, and he made as good a job of it as could be expected, finishing his career as a Field Marshal, and Viceroy of India, and the king creating him Earl Wavell in 1947. Upon Wavell's death on 24 May 1950, all his titles passed, of course, to his only son, another Archibald, another soldier. Major Lord Wavell was killed in action in 1953 in Kenya (fighting the Mau-Mau), and with the son's death, the titles became extinct.
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, Napoléon 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. General-de-Division Charles Ferdinand Latrille, Comte de 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 regulars and local 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, where French fire discipline and training would have told to best advantage.
Count de 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. Most importantly, Count de Lorencez knew he had with him some really splendid troops, which had routed a similar Mexican force with ease on 28 April at Aculzingo. However, the quality of his own force led him to discount that of his Mexican opponents: many of whom (even the militia) were veterans of Mexico's most recent civil conflict and were fighting on their home ground.
In any case, the Mexicans repulsed the French attack, and de Lorencez fell back out of range. The French waited in their own positions for two days, hoping to draw a Mexican attack on their own positions: and when it did not come, they fell back on Orizaba to await reinforcements, allowing the Mexicans to claim the victory.
Count de 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 parts of Mexico, and among Mexicans in the United States as Cinco de Mayo.