Date ►►► June 30, 2011

Daughters of the UnAmerican Revolution

Hatched by Dafydd

Here's a nugget to gnaw on. Buried at the end of Attorney General Eric Holder's press statement on the long-running investigations of the "enhanced interrogation" of sundry terrorists held in Guantanamo Bay and other facilities, "rendited" to other countries for more enhanced interrogation, or otherwise pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered, is this casual, jaw-dropping announcement:

"[DoJ Prosecutor John] Durham and his team reviewed a tremendous volume of information pertaining to the detainees. That review included both information and matters that had never previously been examined by the department. Mr. Durham has advised me of the results of his investigation, and I have accepted his recommendation to conduct a full criminal investigation regarding the death in custody of two individuals. Those investigations are ongoing," Holder said. "The Department has determined that an expanded criminal investigation of the remaining matters is not warranted."

Well!

The two cases remaining are presumed to be the deaths of Gul Rahman and Manadel al-Jamadi; they're only two homicide investigations studied by Durham, which does tend to narrow the field of possibilities:

Holder did not identify the two death cases. But former and current U.S. officials who requested anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation said Durham was looking at the deaths of Gul Rahman and Manadel al-Jamadi.

Rahman died in the early hours of Nov. 20, 2002 after being shackled to a cold cement wall in a secret CIA prison in northern Kabul, Afghanistan, known as the Salt Pit. He was suspected of links to the terrorist group al-Qaida.

Al-Jamadi died in 2003 at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The death has been known to the public for years and a military autopsy declared al-Jamadi's death a homicide.

Since neither of these two remaining cases involves a detainee subjected to waterboarding, nor rendited to a foreign country for interrogation, nor interrogated after 2003, nor interrogated in the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility and subjected to stress positions, the belly slap, caterpillaring, or the attention grab -- then clearly the Justice Department under Holder and his boss, President Barack H. Obama, has come to the conclusion that none of these horrific and unfathomable methods of enhanced interrogation constituted "torture," "war crimes," or "crimes agianst the human race," as scores of elected Democrats and hysterical liberals have bellowed for the last decade.

Mighty nice of you to tell us, guys.

So what about the two deaths? Aren't they proof positive of the previous administration's complicity in ghastly and gruesome depredations, denial of basic human rights, and of course murder under color of authority? Surely that counts as a war crime!

Nope; not even close. First of all, the George W. Bush administration defended neither of the two deaths; in fact, both were investigated as possible homicides by the Bush administration. The Army classified one as a homicide in 2004, while the CIA was unable to determine in the other case whether the detainee death was due to criminal neglect or the stupidity of an inexperienced agent.

Second, the plain facts of each of the two deaths make plain that they did not result from either Bush-administration policy or turning a blind eye to rogue agents:

Gul Rahman, alias Abdul Manan, was a known jihadi and bodyguard to the notorious Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Rahman was violent and uncooperative after being captured in Pakistan. When he was transferred to the Salt Pit prison in Kabul (a former factory made of brick), he became even more violent and uncooperative. Following a fruitless interrogation, he was left shackled in a cell overnight; the temperature dropped to 36°, and he was found dead the next morning. An autopsy revealed he died of hypothermia.

The CIA launched numerous investigations, finally concluding that they could not determine whether the death was due to intentional abuse or plain inexperience on the part of the CIA interrogator in charge; the agent interrogator and the station chief in charge of the Salt Pit requested guidance during the interrogation, but Langley never responded. Everybody agrees -- and has agreed since 2002 -- that Rahman died because of his treatment in the Afghan prison; what they can't determine is whether that treatment rises to the point of criminality (presumably what Durham will now attempt to decide).

But certainly there was never any attempt by the Bush administration, the CIA, or the military to order, cover up, conceal, or defend what happened in the Salt Pit. In fact, the death led to a wholesale revamping of the CIA's interrogation procedures and techniques, under Bush's first Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, to prevent future such deaths. (My source for this summary of the fate of Gul Rahman is that right-wing propaganda mill, the Hufflepuffington Post.)

Manadel al-Jamadi was beaten to death, his injuries sustained either during interrogation by a CIA agent and a contractor or else by the U.S. Navy Seals who captured him. He died in Abu Ghraib during its period of lawlessness under Army Brigadier Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was subsequently removed from command and demoted to colonel. The Army prosecuted numerous military and civilian personnel for the abuses at Abu Ghraib, and they classified the al-Jamadi death as a homicide in 2004.

In the absence of any shred of evidence that the previous administration orchestrated, defended, or condoned the deaths, or through inaction allowed them to continue, there simply is no way to hold the president responsible for criminal or negligent actions committed by field agents against policy, particularly since both incidents resulted in extensive changes to policy to prevent it happening again (successfully prevented, I should add).

So it appears that in addition to finally admitting that the "enhanced interrogation techniques" authorized by the Bush administration were neither torture nor war crimes nor crimes against nature and nature's god, Holder and Obama must now be prepared to admit that not even the two deaths themselves constituted any of the above, committed by any of the following:

  • President George W. Bush
  • Vice President Dick Cheney
  • Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet
  • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
  • National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice
  • Attorney General John Ashcroft
  • Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel Jay Bybee
  • Member of the Office of Legal Counsel John Yoo (who, one presumes, need no longer fear being extradited by President B.O. to Spain to be tried as a torturer, for the high crime of having clarified current U.S. law);
  • Or even the notorious reputed Republican Karl Rove (who, one presumes, need no longer fear being frog-marched anywhere, for the high crime of being Karl Rove).

Rather, it appears that some bad actors took advantage of the frog of war to commit heinous crimes, and/or inexperienced incompetents made stupid mistakes. A revelation!

Thus it seems that after nearly ten years of increasingly bizarre and wild-eyed accusations of heresy, perfidy, villainy, and mopery with intent to gawk emanating from the penumbra of the Democratic Party, the Emily Litellas of the Left now clarify their position to... "Never mind!"

But at least the Left had a solid decade in which to savagely assail the United States of America as the worst terrorist state on the globe, to destroy our standing among our allies, and give aid and comfort to the enemy; so it wasn't a total loss!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 30, 2011, at the time of 6:25 PM | Comments (0)

Date ►►► June 29, 2011

Well There's Your Problem Right There! (number Shrimp Cocktail)

Hatched by Dafydd

I was lending an ear to Hugeus Hewittus as he played excerpts from Barack H. Obama's press conference today (his first in three months!) when I heard the most remarkable exchange. The president was angry that Republicans in the debt-ceiling negotiations have called for huge spending cuts -- satisfying "their" constituency, which I presume means the American people -- but offer nothing in the way of massive tax increases on "millionaires" and evil corporations that operate corporate jets, to satisfy the Left's constituency (welfare eaters, rent seekers, and citizens of the world).

Attacking aristos and priests has been the only plan the Left has to offer since 1789. At least today's Democrats don't resort to the National Razor... not yet.

But this particular Obamasm almost made me pull over and check my hearing. Here is President B.O. venting his spleen about Republicans and their unfair tactics:

He said “every single observer who’s not an elected official” agreed that the only way to bridge the debt gap was to address both spending and revenues and he called on Republicans to accept that, saying, “Democrats have had to accept some painful spending cuts that hurt some of our constituents and that we may not like. We’ve shown a willingness to do that for the greater good.

“If everybody else is willing to take on their sacred cows and do tough things, then I think it will be hard for the Republicans to stand there and say that the tax breaks for corporate jets is sufficiently important that we’re not willing to come to the table and do that.”

I am stunned. Leave aside the fact that he insisted that he had nothing to do with the economic troubles, the skyrocketing unemployment, the rising inflation, the collapse of the housing market, the seizure of banks and other corporations, the ruination of the domestic energy policy, or the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, all of which he blamed on previous Congresses and presidents. (Who does he mean, I wonder?)

Forget all that; it's the usual Chicago rules. What shocked me was that the President of the United States believes that the point of these negotiations is not to get the economy moving again, or to boost the job market, or to set out fiscal house in order... it's to share the pain fairly among Republican and Democratic politicians!

He appears to be uninterested in what will actually work to jump-start the economy (more Capitalism and private-sector expansion, less government spending, regulating, and intruding into private affairs), and incurious about why we're in such a calamitous and parlous financial situation in the first place. Nevertheless, Obama is absolutely outraged that Republicans demand "their" stuff (spending cuts), but won't allow in the Democrats' stuff (staggering tax increases).

I mean, where's the fairness? Where's the balance? "You said that if I ate my spinach, I could have a big, gooey piece of devil's food cake!" Oh, the humanity! I want my cake, and I want it now.

Personal reminiscence: In days of yore, anytime a parental decision did not hand my little sister J. everything she had demanded, she would set up a banshee-like ululation that could be heard all the way to Scotland:

"That's not fair to meee!"


Strangely enough, she never found bias when the decision went the other way; J. never complained when she got everything and the rest of us got bupkes. Nothing unfair then!

And of course, nothing unfair during the last four years, and especially since the 2008 election (until the 2010 correction), when Republicans may as well have been on walkabout in Tasmania for all the impact they had on federal legislation and regulation. "Shut up," Obama exclaimed; "I won. The world is mine. All your base are belong to us!"

Now it's B.O.'s turn to schrai gevalt, just as sister J. did in the ancient times. But J. had a perfectly legitimate reason to act like that: She was five years old.

Good grief.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 29, 2011, at the time of 9:31 PM | Comments (2)

Date ►►► June 28, 2011

Biden Buy

Hatched by Dafydd

"George Orwell" wrote in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past." To which we may add, Who controls the presidency controls the "bipartisan" panels.

The Biden deficit-reduction panel perfectly fits this mentality, for President Barack H. Obama stacked the membership to create a tax and spend steamroller. Its roster of members comprises:

  • Vice President Joe Biden - chairman
  • Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner
  • White House budget director Jack Lew
  • Director of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling
  • Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Dan Inouye (D-HI, 80%)
  • Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT, 85%)
  • Assistant House Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-SC, 95%)
  • Ranking member House Budget Committee Chris Van Hollen (D-MD, 100%)
  • Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ, 96%)
  • House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA, 100%)

I make it eight Democrats vs. two Republicans, but who's counting? (Why, President B.O., it appears!) Does the panel decide on recommendations via voice vote?

(I find it particularly delicious that four months after the November 2010 elections, Obama and Biden decided that the House Democratic minority should be represented on the panel by two members, while the House Republican majority should have only one.)

Last week, the "childish" "temper-tantrum"-throwing Republicans walked away from the panel after the Democrats on it made clear that they want most of the deficit reduction to come in the form of tax increases, $600 billion worth:

Negotiations collapsed Thursday when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, walked out after complaining that Democrats refused to budge on their demand for tax increases. Mr. Kyl, the only other Republican member of the Biden panel, quickly followed suit, essentially rendering the group dead.

I understand that an overwhelming consensus -- fully eighty percent! -- of the "bipartisan" panel favored the new taxes, though I'm sure they prefer calling it "cutting excess spending from the tax code." After all, it's well understood in mainstream circles that the deficit is not caused by too much spending but by insufficient taxation. Darn it, if we could only just restore that 90% bracket for "millionaires" (defined in Democrat Newspeak as anyone earning more than the average government worker -- members of Congress exempted, of course) and apply it. Retroactively to 2006.

The Dems called out their big guns to defend tax-code spending cuts:

Democrats and the White House have accused Republicans of falsely suggesting that they want to raise taxes on average Americans. Rather, Democrats say, they want to close certain tax “loopholes” for wealthy corporations.

“How do you call closing loopholes to oil companies that are making billions of dollars in profits … how do you call that a tax hike?” Rep. James E. Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”“I don’t know of anybody who would define a tax increase as closing the loophole.”

(Where "loophole" is defined in Democrat Newspeak as an oil company taking a specific tax deduction that every other industry in America is allowed to deduct from taxable income. It's like accusing accusing Bill Gates of crawling through a loophole because he deducts his payroll as a business expense.)

Democrats added they have been willing to accept some GOP demands, such as reductions in Medicare spending, though no cuts in benefits.

“This was not about coming to an impasse,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said Friday regarding the breakdown of the Biden panel. “There was just a lack of political will by Republicans to accept the kind of compromise that was taking shape.”

Churls who retort that Democrats simply want to force Republicans to do their dirty work for them should have no place at the Joe-gonquin round table. This critical debate isn't about partisan bickering or silly complaints about tax increases; it's about Republicans stepping up and passing the Democrats' vital agenda.

If not now, then when? If not the GOP, then who?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 28, 2011, at the time of 12:42 AM | Comments (0)

Date ►►► June 26, 2011

Famous Words

Hatched by Dafydd

President Barack H. Obama gave his customary weekly radio broadcast yesterday:

"Of course, there's been a real debate about where to invest and where to cut, and I'm committed to working with members of both parties to cut our deficits and debt," Obama said in his weekly radio address. "But we can't simply cut our way to prosperity," he added.

     .

     .

     .

Wait for it.

     .

     .

     .

Yes we can!

 

 

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 26, 2011, at the time of 12:45 AM | Comments (0)

Date ►►► June 25, 2011

Atlas Revived

Hatched by Dafydd

Perversity's blowback as the savior of marriage

Now that New York State has approved same-sex marriage -- rather, now that the New York State legislature has done so, probably over the objections of a strong majority of its own citizen constituents -- we need a battleplan to hold the line against this becoming the norm.

Why? So what if the federal circus courts begin striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in this and that circuit, forcing states that oppose SSM nevertheless to have it de facto anyway. What's the big deal?

The "big deal" is that once same-sex marriage (SSM) has become nearly universal around the country, then we're going to see the same terrible effects on our society that we already see in Europe: diminished interest in marriage (it's no longer special), more domestic violence, even quicker divorces, a marked drop in the fertility rate, massive importation of fecund immigrants who have no loyalty whatsoever to the United States... and of course ever greater pressure to also allow polygamy and polyandry, group marriage, and so forth.

Pro-SSM people (like Patterico) are fond of making the argument that somebody else's SSM doesn't affect his own marriage; his marriage is still just as strong! Just as strong, perhaps; but not just as special as it used to be, not when any random association between two or more people of any gender can also be called a "marriage."

It's like counterfeiting money: If I print my own twenty-dollar bills, that doesn't physically change the real bills you have in your wallet at this moment; they don't magically change into newspaper, the ink doesn't turn a different color, Andy Jackson doesn't morph into George Soros. In that sense, my counterfeits don't directly affect your sawbucks... but my counterfeits indirectly devalue your real bills, creating uncertainty about which currency is real and which is fake, how much is out there, which is truly legal tender and which an ersatz copy that, if discovered, is worthless.

My counterfeit currency spreads fear, uncertainty, doubt. Private counterfeiting is as bad as rampant money-creation via the Federal Reserve; worse in the sense that at least the Fed must report on its activities from time to time.

By this analogy, traditional marriage is the currency backed by some form of specie, that which gives the institution of marriage itself the very cachet and social benefit that same-sex couples want to claim for their own. Contrariwise, any other form of union that is legally called marriage is the fiat or counterfeit currency; it piggy-backs on the real institution of marriage, hoping some of the moral, emotional, and sacred virtue rubs off.

Marriage is quite a special social institution; that's why it's the one to which we entrust child rearing. But to paraphrase Dash in the Incredibles, when everything is "special," then nothing is special.

So what to do, what to do? With the third largest state in the U.S. falling, I fear that train has left the station. Even if there is a later referendum in New York and the people reverse that decision, already hundreds of thousands of people across the nation will have flown to the Bug Apple and gotten legally married. And as we're finding out in California, you can't put the genie back in the bottle again, even if it was let out in despite of the voters.

You can't fight something with nothing; we need something positive to fight for, not just something negative to fight against; we can't allow ourselves to be put on the defensive by the Left and by libertarians who oppose legal marriage altogether. I believe there is only one answer: The Covenant marriage movement must become a popular front, just as the Tea Party movement already has.

Covenant marriage (CM) as a distinct legal institution arose comparatively recently, in response to the jump in the divorce rate in the 1980s. It differs significantly from normal legal marriage in ways that make it vastly more exclusive an institution:

  • In a CM, couples must first undergo pre-nuptial counseling before they can marry.
  • They agree to limit the grounds for divorce from the standard normal around the country -- if either party wants a divorce, that's grounds for divorce -- to a much narrower set of grounds, usually spousal or child abuse, felony conviction, or adultery. (If a state allows a CM couple to negotiate its own covenant, there can of course be more or fewer grounds for divorce.)
  • Any CM passed by citizen demand would, by its enabling legislation, be restricted to the traditional definition of marriage -- one man, one woman. Creating a new form of marriage to exclude non-traditional groups of people being married is the only reason that CM legislation is likely to be passed in most states.
  • CM is non-denominational and can be performed by civil authorities as well as religious; there's no religiosity requirement.

But how could CM become "the savior of marriage?" It's clear that the law cannot confer any greater legal status upon a couple married under CM than normal marriage confers upon the two, three, n-number of males and/or females who "marry" under that regime.

Yet that very point should make it harder for the courts to subvert CM: Same-sex couples (and later, groups of people larger than two) cannot argue that they're excluded from legal marriage, up to and including the name "marriage." They have the same legal rights and status, insofar as the secular law is concerned. Therefore, they have no legal ground to demand that Covenant marriage be forced to allow same-sex, polyamorous, group, incestuous, or under-aged marriages. The only difference between normal and Covenant marriage is that the latter has a number of restrictions not found in the former.

True, CM confers no more legal rights than normal marriage; but extra legal rights were never really the source of the specialness of marriage -- except perhaps the legal right for spouses not to testity against each other. (That last will certainly have to be revisioned when polyamorous marriages are allowed, unless we want entire Mafia families and street gangs to "marry" each other, so that nobody can squeal.)

No, the specialness of marriage has always flowed from its exclusivity and its permanence... which is why the Left has persistently attacked both those qualities by (a) twisting the definition of marriage towards making any association of any number of people a "marriage," and (b) making it easier and easier to walk away from a marriage upon the slightest pretext, provocation, or whim.

By restoring exclusivity and strengthening permanence, CM becomes the "real" marriage, and ordinary legal marriage just a trendy domestic partnership. And if that is how people begin to see it, we'll see more and more traditional couples getting married under Covenant, so they can demonstrate to the world their commitment to, and determination to work at, the union.

Ordinary legal marriage will persist, and will still confer the same legal status and rights; but it will probably fall into greater and greater disrepute among the majority: "Oh, you won't marry me with a Covenenant marriage? What, you want a back door out whenever you get bored with me? Drop dead, you creep!"

Women especially will have good reason to demand a CM or nothing: They know better than most men how vital is an intact family, with a male father and a female mother, when raising children.

A few caveats, none of which changes the basic equation:

  • It's very unlikely that Congress will pass a federal version of CM. Nor should it. We have an enviable system of federalism; let it work! Each state can decide what exact kind of Covenant marriage to allow, if any, in its enabling legislation.
  • Even if your state enacts a strong version of CM, it cannot make it illegal for one of the partners to move to another state, establish residency, and then get divorced under that state's no-fault divorce law that doesn't recognize the covenant. That's the price of liberty.
  • There will never come a time when normal marriage is abolished altogether; because if it did vanish from a state, then the Left could once again raise the spector of "unequal treatment." Specious though it is -- gays and straights alike are constrained in who they can marry; neither can marry a sibling, for example -- the judiciary has signalled that it is ready to cram SSM down our throats, and to hell with voters.

    But that's a feature, not a bug; when state citizens must actually make a choice which type of marriage to enter into, they necessarily will have to think longer and harder about it that with a normal legal marriage. (As of course we all should, and do, if we believe it to be a solemn vow.)

Just as tea parties have swept the nation in a "popular front" -- and I believe I was the first person to so desribe them, back in February, 2010 -- I see Covenant marriage doing the same (with a vast overlap, most likely). And that means those of us who support traditional marriage no longer need wage a defensive war, trying to protect every state, city, village, and farm from the contagion of the "love bug," the untenable and cockamamie meme that "love is all you need" for marriage.

That bit of wrongthinking leads directly to our present discontent, the conclusion that any two or more people who "love" each other should be allowed to marry... men, women, siblings, fathers with their daughters, forty year olds with fourteen year olds, one man with eight women.

Instead, we can revert to the traditional American strategy of opening our own offensive. Rather than try to defend the status quo ante, we fight to implement a new form of marriage that is more exclusive and more permanent, bucking the leftist trend towards inclusion and impermanence. We slap both kinds of marriage on the table, then let the people choose. I predict that after an astonishingly brief time, "normal" marriage, with its unspecial universality and unserious provisional nature, will sink into desuetude, the last step before moribundity.

Americans may be many things, but not generally a mob: When the Left forces mob-rule upon us -- or more accurately, when they gin-up mobs to force tyranny upon the rest of us, with themselves as smug, self-satisfied tyrants -- we the people have a glorious history of rising up against them. This is true whether it's the tyranny of socialism, the tyranny of "diversity," or the tyranny of perversity.

As SSM spreads and infects more and more states, CM will grow alongside and surpass it in every venue. Soon the Obamunists will be fighting the defensive war, clinging to their "inclusive" definition of marriage. We achieve victory within the culture, despite -- even because of -- the Left's victory in the courts and legislatures. As an institution that is far more societal than legal, a solid victory within the culture is of much greater moment and future value than merely winning legal and legislative battles on the ground.

As the pushback becomes a wave, then a tsunami, and more and more states enact some version of Covenant marriage, then we'll once again have an exclusive and durable form of union to offer in preference to the liberals' and leftists marriage-lite. I sense that people, most especially young adults, have grown tired of weak tea and tolerance of everything, including intolerance itself. They crave something permanent, solid, bigger than themselves.

Give us Americans the choice, and I believe we will once again lead the rest of the world out of its moral morass.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 25, 2011, at the time of 10:16 PM | Comments (10)

Date ►►► June 23, 2011

Can I Buy a Clue, Vanna?

Hatched by Dafydd

I readily admit that I'm quite ignorant when it comes to macroeconomics. (I was a math major; we try to avoid actual numbers.)

I do know a bit about household (and micro-sized business) finances, given that I have negotiated eighteen book contracts, prepared my own federal and state taxes for several decades, negotiated the sale of our previous condo and purchase of our current house, managed to stay solvent, managed to avoid overdrafts, and managed to stay out of prison. I also worked on the Contracts Committee and the Grievance Committee of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for several years, delving into other people's contracts and financial disputes.

But as my best buddy Clinton says (I don't mean Bill), a man's got to know his limitations. And as my close pal Donald says (I don't mean Trump), known unknowns are much less dangerous than unknown unknowns. So I cheerfully own that I'm clueless when it comes to the economy of an entire country (or lone superpower, as in the present case -- so far). I'm hoping one of youse readers can comment and explain to me why, in the event that the Republican walk-a-way from the debt-ceiling negotiations becomes permanent, my cockamamie prescription for what to do next is wrongheaded and unworkable.

Here's the setup:

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor pulled out of talks with Vice President Joe Biden on a deficit reduction-debt ceiling deal, saying they had reached an impasse over Democratic demands for tax increases to be paired with spending cuts wanted by the GOP.

The Virginia Republican said in a statement that the Republican-dominated House simply won't support tax increases, and that he wouldn't participate in the budget meeting scheduled for Thursday. Cantor said that it's time for President Barack Obama to weigh in directly on the budget because Democrats insist on negotiating some tax increases.

Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, who is representing Senate Republicans in the talks, also dropped out. White House press secretary Jay Carney declared the talks "in abeyance" but said they had been successful in identifying areas of common ground.

Here are the allegedly dire consequences upon epic fail of the talks:

There are only 5 1/2 weeks remaining until an Aug. 2 deadline for enacting an increase in the nation's debt limit to prevent a U.S. default. Economists warn that could damage the nation's credit rating and force the government to pay higher interest rates to continue to borrow the $125 billion a month it needs to finance its operations.

Reuters apes the Associated Press:

Negotiators had hoped to reach a budget deal by next week that would give lawmakers political cover to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling before the Treasury Department runs out of money to pay the country's bills.

Default could occur if Congress does not act by August 2, pushing the United States back into recession and sending markets plunging around the globe.

Now please bear with me, as my main man Pete (I don't mean Sneaky) would say, because I must be making an elementary and risible oops. Anyone with actual training in economics, feel free to leap in with both feet in the fire! But I have long been under the impression that a "default" occurs only when a person, corporation, group, or other entity fails to meet a payment by the mandated deadline.

And as I understand (or wildly misunderstand), in the case of a government, "default" only occurs if it fails to pay the interest on its national debt. For the United States, that interest would be the interest on Treasury bills and other debt instruments held by individuals -- mostly American citizens -- or by other countries. Here, look at this chart from Business Insider:



U.S. National Debt Pie Chart

U.S. National Debt Pie Chart

(It's not really germane to the point, but I think it's interesting.)

I've always thought that so long as the interest on T-bills and similar instruments is paid on maturity to Americans and others who own them, we're not in defaut.

My touchstone here is in my personal finances and in the book contracts: Darn near every month, various creditors -- the mortgage company, the gas company, water and power, credit-card companies, car insurance, medical and dental professionals and facilities, the gym, and so forth, send us letters enclosing bills. Each bill lists an amount due and a "pay by" date.

A couple of times a month, I gather all the current bills together and write the creditors a bunch of checks. This money is deducted from our income that month. From the remainder, we pay for food, clothing, gasoline, vodka, and other necessities. Then when all that is allotted, we spend on entertainment, books, CDs, and suchlike frivolities. Finally, whatever still remains we can invest or hold in a savings account or give away to lovable tramps who come to our back door.

You may note, by the order in which I wrote the above, that we always pay the bills first, before spending on anything else. If a particular month has more bills than usual, we spend less on current purchases (duh). If a particular month is lighter in the bill department, we have more disposable income, allowing us to buy more stuff or invest more in stocks or mutuals or gold. But we pay the bills first.

And so long as we pay each creditor by its due date, we're not in default on our debt, and they can't take us to court or jack up our interest rate or otherwise take vengeance against us.

This all seems straightforward to me; but I reckon it must be completely different with a government. Because otherwise there would be a very simple way, a scheme, a strategy to ensure that our government never finds itself in default, thus never suffering the dire consequences that Reuters and AP threaten is about to engulf us, now that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA, 100%) and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ, 96%) have "walked away" from the negotiations to raise the limit on the national credit card.

Here is my cunning plan: In the event that the negotiations "collapse," and the debt ceiling isn't raised -- can't Congress simply prioritize paying interest on the national debt?

That is, when it's crafting a budget, can't Congress budget the funds to make any required payments for maturing U.S. national-debt investment instruments, such as T-bills, first, before any other budget item? Once those payments are accounted for, Congress can budget money for other purposes, such as funding departments (Defense, State, etc) and paying federal salaries, funding so-called "entitlement programs," and finally discretionary spending. Why not prioritize interest on the debt over eveything else, just as they prioritize "entitlement" spending over discretionary spending? (The analogy to the household finances is that we pay our bills first, then we pay for necessities, and finally we spend on unnecessaries.)

All right, maybe we wouldn't be able to fund all the discretionary projects we wish we could. But hey, them's the breaks. As Mason said to Dixon, "you gotta draw the line somewhere!" (I don't mean Perry and Cromwell.) But at least the national debt would be serviced, if that's the word I want. (It sounds oddly salacious.)

I realize it can't possibly be that easy, or else Congress would routinely enact a budget like that. Heck, the Democratic Senate hasn't enacted any budget at all since Barack H. Obama became president, so there must be some arcane reason why "pay the interest on the debt first" budgeting isn't possible or feasible for the wealthiest nation in all of human history.

But could somebody please enlighten me as to why not? I hate feeling so completely gormless.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 23, 2011, at the time of 2:37 PM | Comments (9)

Date ►►► June 21, 2011

Playing the Erase Card

Hatched by Dafydd

First, two months ago, the FBI under the Obama administration shuts down all the main online poker sites, using a 2006 law that defines it to be a criminal act to operate an "illegal" gambling site on the internet. Under this law, an "illegal" gambling site means one that doesn't have a license to operate a gambling den, not only where the servers actually live, but also in every possible location on Earth from which a customer may access the poker site.

Since it's impossible to have universal licences, the law quite naturally makes all private-sector online sites illegal and criminal. (The 2006 law exempts governments.) In consequence, the sites have all been expunged from the ether, along with all the real money players had invested in personal accounts there.

And then yesterday, the District of Columbia -- with the evident acquiesence of the federal government -- spontaneously decides to open its own online gambling site... which includes poker games. States and cities are sure to follow suit, if I may put it that way.

Thus by immaculate coincidence, the FBI has cleared the decks of all private competition for online gaming.

This does not of course prove that the Federales' giddy trampling of the internet version of what is perfectly legal in brick-and-morter buildings in many states was part of a vast conspiracy to replace yet another private market with a government monopoly. But I'm just sayin'...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 21, 2011, at the time of 6:00 PM | Comments (0)

Laughter Is the Best Rebuke

Hatched by Dafydd

One must presume that a particular word in yesterday's transcript from la Casa Blanca (via Drudge) is simply a "word-o". In this section of his speech to (who else?) the Democratic National Committee -- does he ever preach to anyone but the choir these days? -- President Barack H. Obama is extolling his administration's exemplary performance on the economy... starting from the worst economy since the depths of the Republican Great Depression, which the Obamunist inherited from his Republican predecessor, and taking it to the powerhouse and envy of the world it is today:

It is wonderful to see all of you. I've got a lot of friends in the room here. People who knew me before anybody could pronounce my name. (Laughter.) People who knew me before I had gray hair. (Laughter.) It is wonderful to see those of you who’ve been friends for a long time, and it’s wonderful to see new friends here as well.

What I'd like to do is to make some very brief remarks at the top and then have a chance to take a few questions, because that will give us a chance to have a dialogue, and you might have some suggestion that we haven’t thought of. And it’s one of the great things about these kinds of events is people here have so much expertise in so many different areas that it’s a wonderful thing for me to be able to pick your brain as well as just you guys hearing me chatter.

We are obviously going through one of the toughest periods in American history. We went through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and immediately after being elected, I had to take a series of very difficult steps to rescue ourselves from the brink. We had lost 4 million jobs in the six months before I was sworn in; lost another 4 million during the period probably six months after I was elected. And so as a consequence, we had to do some things that we didn’t expect we would have to do, just to save the economy -- stabilize the financial system, make sure that states and local governments didn’t have to lay off police officers and cops and firefighters. We had to save an auto industry. I never expected to be a automobile executive. (Laughter.)

As a consequence of that swift, decisive, and sometimes difficult period, we were able to take an economy that was shrinking by about 6 percent and create an economy that is now growing, and has grown steadily now over many consecutive quarters. Over the last 15 months we’ve created over 2.1 million private sector jobs. (Laughter.)

I'm sure the laff line will very swiftly be "corrected" to (Applause), assuming the Obama administration is slightly more attuned to the internet than it is to the functioning and discontents of the economy itself. But until it is, it stands as a witty retort to the fundamental absurdity of his incessant, and increasingly mocked, victory laps around the Oval Orifice.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 21, 2011, at the time of 9:48 AM | Comments (0)

Date ►►► June 17, 2011

At Least George W. Bush Won His Wars

Hatched by Dafydd

Anybody who has been following the Libya "war" must have noticed something rather peculiar and depressing, if not altogether unexpected: At the moment, after many weeks of standing up not only to the United States but all of NATO, the only person who is clearly winning is -- Muammar Qaddafi. After all, he can say with absolute truth, "I still seem to be here, señor."

That's a line from my all-time favorite television show, Walt Disney's Zorro: El Zorro, "the Fox," is dueling a professional swordsman who had confidently predicted swift victory; after disarming the man (and cutting free a hanging potted plant to plummet into the duelist's head), Guy Williams delivers the line with just the right mix of aplomb and amusement. While Qaddafi certainly doesn't have Williams' suavity and savoir faire, he is still the winner at this point -- by virtue of not having been visibly defeated.

That is just one of the three major differences between Barack H. Obama's wars and Bush's wars:

  • Whatever one may think of how the peace has gone, it's impossible to dispute that George W. Bush won the "major combat operations" phase of both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. (I argue he also won the peace, as both countries are markedly better off, more democratic, and less a threat to the United States than either was on January 20th, 2001.)
  • When George W. went to war, he led from in front; he didn't try to "lead from behind." He picked the generals, the strategy, he got out front and forcefully defended them, he promised victory, and he delivered. There is no doubt in anybody's mind that Afghanistan and Iraq were America's wars... not NATO's, not the UN's, not France's or Germany's. And Bush stud up like a man and personally took the political hits as the wars "dragged on" longer than the unrealistic expectations of American voters.
  • And again, whatever the merits of Afghanistan and Iraq, and whatever qualms or second-thoughts the Left might have about them now, the indisputable fact remains that Bush got congressional approval for each, as the Constitution requires: A congressional "authorization for the use of military force" has been held to be legally the same as a declaration of war.

As pathetic as the economy is under Obamunism, it's the president's national-security policy that most clearly illuminates how incompetent, inattentive, flighty, hysterical, fickle, and in general, unserious his team is. The entire administration of President B.O. is like unto a ditsy blonde in a TV sitcom -- think Chrissy Snow in Three's Company -- but without the honesty or heart of gold such farcical characters usually display.

I can only say, once again, thank God for Ronald Reagan; if a dolt of the caliber of Barack Obama had been up against a Brezhnev or Gorbachev, we'd all be drinking vodka and whistling "Polyushko Polye."

I suspect that eventually, NATO will simply weary of the war and withdraw, leaving Libya still in the hands of a terrorist dictatorship. Qaddafi himself and his standing within the ummah will be enormously enhanced by the obvious victory, just as Cuba was after JFK bumbled the Bay of Pigs invasion. Obama will parade around the country, thumping his chest in a four-month "victory lap." And the lapdog media will trumpet Obama's claim to be the first American president ever to achieve a military victory against a Moslem despot.

Maybe NATO will eventually turn the tide and take out Qaddafi and his murderous regime; whether or not we should have entered the war in the first place, now that we're there, we'd bloody well better win it. But if we do, I suspect it will only be because the alliance finally gets serious, ignores the Obama administration's advice, and sends in ground forces.

Led by the French, of course. From in front.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 17, 2011, at the time of 1:49 PM | Comments (0)

Date ►►► June 14, 2011

As Gomer Pyle Would Say...

Hatched by Dafydd

Follow-up to our post Monday about Chief Judge James Ware, former Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker, and Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau: To nobody's astonishment, Judge Ware decided not to vacate the risible ruling of his close buddy and predecessor in the post of Chief Judge of the Northern District of California... despite the extreme personal interest Judge Walker had in the outcome of the case he decided.

Rather, Walker's ten-year relationship with a same-sex partner, coupled with his decision to throw out a citizen's initiative that was passed by California voters (twice!) to restrict marriage to one man, one woman, and therefore allow a class of people that includes Judge Walker himself to marry their same-sex partners, stands as an eternal monument to the limits of judicial impartiality.

Simply put, federal judges need to recuse themselves from a case if and only if two criteria are met:

  • The case poses a conflict of interest for the judge; and,
  • The judge has no interest whatsoever in the case -- because otherwise he will hear it himself to make darn sure the decision lands on the side that personally benefits the judge himself.

Just demonstrate that both these two conditions are met, and the judge will happily recuse himself without waiting for another thing.

By the way, I hope you understand the bombshell of Judge Walker's ruling: If the Supreme Court ultimately affirms this decision, then they will have held that the U.S. Constitution mandates that every state, county, city, village, hamlet, and farm in the United States adopt same-sex marriage, because that is what the Founding Fathers intended all along.

I think you might have a stake in this decision, even if you don't live in the Northern District of California -- that is, in San Francisco.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 14, 2011, at the time of 11:50 PM | Comments (3)

Date ►►► June 13, 2011

(Same) Sex, Lies, and Videotape

Hatched by Dafydd

Shockingly, AP has chosen to trivialize today's hearing seeking to overturn former federal Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker's ruling that declared California's definition of marriage as traditional marriage unconstitutional. The defendants are asking Chief Judge James Ware to rule that Walker should have recused himself from the case because of conflict of interest.

In the case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, two same-sex couple plaintiffs -- Kristin M. Perry and Sandra Steir, and Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo -- sued to overturn the voter-approved, citizen's constitutional amendment Proposion 8. Prop 8 passed very strongly in 2008, despite the leftist trend in California; through the citizens initiative constitutional amendment, voters declared that only traditional, opposite-sex marriage will be valid or legal in the state.

In response, Judge Walker issued a sweeping ruling in Perry that the United States Constitution mandates same-sex marriage. (The ruling only formally applies to the Northern District of California; but if the reasoning is generally accepted by the courts, it would apply equally throughout the state, and indeed throughout the entire country.)

The defendants, defending the initiative, argue that Walker (nominated in 1989 by George H.W. Bush) should have recused himself from the case. Not because he is gay, which was fairly well known; but because he was secretly in an undisclosed, long-term, committed, same-sex relationship, thus very likely to have an interest in marrying his companion if Prop 8 were overturned. He did not disclose his relationship until he had retired from the bench -- after striking down the amendment.

Defendents argue that, in other words, Walker should have recused himself because he was acting as "judge in his own case."

Defendants have made it quite clear from the beginning that the problem is not being gay; the problem is being in the very class of people most affected by the ruling: People for whom there is a strong presumption they want to marry their same-sex partners.

But of course, the Left's best strategic line of attack is to smear anyone opposed to same-sex marriage as a bigot and "homophobe;" and the best tactic in service to that strategy is to caricature the defendants' objection to Judge Walker as the mere fact that he is gay. Surprise, surprise, the Associated Press plays ball.

They begin with an honest recitation of the argument:

Lawyers for the sponsors of the voter-approved ban asked the chief federal judge in San Francisco to vacate a decision issued by his predecessor last year that declared Proposition 8 an unconstitutional violation of gay Californians' civil rights.

They maintain that former Chief Judge Vaughn Walker should have recused himself or disclosed his relationship status before trial because he and his partner stood to personally benefit from Walker's verdict.

But in all subsequent reference, they revert to form:

Ted Olson, one of the lawyers for the two same-sex couples who successfully sued to overturn the measure, said he was unaware of any other cases in which a ruling was challenged because of the issuing judge's sexual orientation. He called the move to disqualify Walker frivolous and demeaning and said that expecting judges to reveal parts of their personal lives when hearing gay rights cases would set a dangerous precedent.

"What would a judge do who was Mormon knowing the Mormon Church took such an active role" in campaigning for Proposition 8, Olson asked. "What would a judge who had a nephew or niece or son or daughter who was gay or lesbian do? We have an unlimited number of permutations of what a judge might be asked to disclose."

Well, all right; a nasty smear; but they're just quoting Ted Olson -- it's not the AP's editorial voice!

But then there's this:

Many legal scholars have said they do not expect Ware to overturn Walker's decision. They point out that while having a judge's impartiality questioned because he is gay is new territory, efforts to get women judges thrown off gender discrimination cases or Hispanic judges removed from immigration cases have failed.

In this case, the vague phrase "many legal scholars have said" clearly means "we at the Associated Press, along with all progressive-thinking people, emphatically state that...." The tip-off is the tendentious, misleading, and inapt equating of defendants' recusal request in this case and "efforts to get women judges thrown off gender discrimination cases or Hispanic judges removed from immigration cases" -- two obvious cases of bigotry, sexism, and racism. The analogy is not crafted to illuminate the issues in the case; it's purpose is to villify the defendants.

Judge Walker's handling of the trial truly lived down to his "show trial" intentions. Initially, there was a strong possibility that there would be no defendant at all. Generally, the state attorney general defends any state law from lawsuits to overturn it; barring that, the governor defends the law.

But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, despite being named as defendant in the case, refused to defend the lawsuit. And of course Attorney General Jerry Brown (now California governor) was equally unwilling to defend either traditional marriage or the citizens-initiative process.

Without a defendant, the case would have been decided via summary judgment; but that did not serve the propaganda purposes of Vaughn Walker: He wanted a chance to stage-manage the trial to issue pronunciamentos, lectures, hectors, and especially a huge series of "findings of fact" that would forever enshrine same-sex marriage as a fundamental constitutional right. Thus he allowed the Alliance Defense Fund to represent the backers of Prop 8 as defendants, giving him a forum to pontificate.

He indeed issued his findings of "fact" by the bucket full, characterizing them (with astonishing arrogance) as "beyond any doubt" and "beyond debate." But after issuing his all-encompassing diktat, defendants became a liability. So in a stunning move, he simply wished them away.

Walker issued a ruling that the backers of Prop 8, the very defendants that Walker himself accepted as advocates for the proposition in his own courtroom, no longer had standing to file an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals! In fact, Walker went on to rule that nobody had any standing, and therefore his decision was unreviewable by the appellate courts or by the Supreme Court.

Then he retired from the bench, mission accomplished.

(The question of whether a judge can first rule and then declare that his ruling is beyond all review is still pending; the Ninth Circus awaits a decision from the notoriously left-leaning California Supreme Court, which itself previously struck down the earlier citizens initiative, Prop 22. It was the state Supreme Court's overturning of Prop 22 that forced voters to return to the polls and pass traditional marriage all over again, this time as a state constitutional amendment. Now that same court holds the key to whether anybody is allowed to appeal Walker's verdict. What could possibly go wrong?)

But back to examples of Walker's indisputable findings of "fact" about same-sex marriage. He found as a "fact" that beyond any doubt, children raised by two fathers but no mother, or two mothers but no father, were just as well off as children raised by a mother and a father.

I have discussed the "studies" that purport to show that either mothers or fathers (or both?) are dispensible; every one of them relies upon the subjective opinon of teachers and counselors, or worse, the subjective self-report of the same-sex parents themselves. ("Hey, is your kid well adjusted?" "Heck yeah!")

But there are quite obviously many objective measurements of such children that could be undertaken that would be much more dispositive and credible, from behavioral problems, drug and alcohol abuse, arrest records, and aggressiveness/passivity; to graduation rates, marital history, health, economic well being, psychological adjustment, and socialization; to sexual preference of the children, religiosity, and political activism and orientation.

Oddly, secular psychologists and sociologists appear to have shied away from conducting any studies based upon objective criteria; yet they repeatedly publish "studies" based entirely upon the subjective reports and self-reports noted above. Sometimes, you just have to wonder.

Vaughn Walker also held as an undisputed "fact" that opening up the definition of marriage to same-sex couples has no impact on opposite-sex marriages. Not only is this disputed, it is at the very heart of the popular resistance to same-sex marriage in the vast majority (90%) of states in the United States.

The damage is not direct, of course; if Vaughn Walker marries his live-in lover, it will not cause Sachi and me to divorce. But there is a definite and measurable indirect impact on all real marriages from allowing counterfeit marriages to fly under false colors. That impact is is exactly analogous to the impact of counterfeit money on real money: The value of money (or marriage) itself is devalued when the term is granted, willy nilly, to items that don't deserve it, whether hundred-dollar bills printed by some guy in his basement or a marriage between two guys or two gals.

The value to society of an institution like marriage is precisely its exclusivity; being married improves one's life not directly because a cleric or clerk utters a few words, but because the status of being married indicates that two people have achieved a specific standard of relationship.

In academia, being an A-student means that the student has learnt the material well enough to achieve an A on tests and projects. It's a reasonably good predictor of future academic success because it represents past academic success. But if teachers change the standard to give an A to any student who even attempts the test, no matter how good or poorly he does, then being an "A-student" will become meaningless; and it will no longer be a good predictor of how well that student will do in his later career at an institution that doesn't grade on good intentions.

Similarly, if any old relationship between X adults of either gender, for any old purpose whatsoever, can be called a marriage, then being "married" is meaningless; and it will not predict anything at all about one's future life.

If you'll recall, on the question of whether Walker, in a committed, long-term, same-sex relationship, should have recused himself from deciding whether same-sex marriage is mandated by the United States Constitution, AP weighed in by equating the question to whether any female judge must recuse herself from hearing a case of gender discrimination, and whether any Hispanic judge must recuse himself in any immigration case. The analogy is argumentative and a risible reach from the facts in the Walker case.

I can think of a much better analogy, closer to the issue but equally clear. It also has the advantage of being neutral, unlike the AP's handwaving.

Consider a lawsuit seeking to overturn laws against bigamy by arguing that they are unconstitutional. Now the judge doesn't tend discuss his religion, but suppose it's known that he is a Mormon. I would absolutely agree with the plaintiffs in that case that mere membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) is not sufficient to require the judge to recuse himself. (For one reason, the LDS church prohibits polygamy and has for more than a century.)

But suppose after the judge rules in favor of the plaintiffs, striking down the law against polygamy, he reveals that he's a member of a heretical Mormon sect that endorses "plural marriage." And suppose we discover that he's married but has lived for years with his wife and another woman, all of which he successfully concealed throughout the trial.

I believe there is a strong supposition he hopes to be able to marry his second wife, thus we could make a good case for an extreme conflict of interest. How say you then about recusal?

It's hard to read the tea leaves on this one. Judge Ware appeared to attack both sides' arguments, according to another AP story.

In any event, we should know by tomorrow; according to Aaron Worthing at Patterico's Pontifications, observers of the hearing tweeted that Chief Judge Ware said he would rule within 24 hours.

If I had to guess, I would place a bet (and give odds) that Ware will not overturn the Walker decision, if for no other reasons than that the current Chief Judge identifies very strongly with his pal, the former Chief Judge; and that what we see as the arrogance of an out-of-control judiciary, Ware sees as the firm hand of judicial wisdom guiding the country to a more just, equitable, nondiscriminatory, and progressive America. They are two peas of a feather.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 13, 2011, at the time of 9:50 PM | Comments (1)

Date ►►► June 8, 2011

Exhibit A in Big Lizards' Degeneration into the Basest of Stereotypes

Hatched by Dafydd

Power Line's Scott Johnson has aptly diagnosed Anthony Weiner's (D-NY, 100%) real underlying problem:

In the voluminous commentary that I have seen on Weiner's case, I have been struck by the lack of an awareness or description of his problem. His problem is not that he is indiscreet, or rude, or monstrously egotistical, or obnoxious and untruthful, or all of the above. Based on everything we know, I think it is safe to say that Weiner represents a newfangled throwback to an old-fashioned syndrome. He is an exhibitionist using the social media to ply his wares. He gets his thrills from exposing himself to women.

Where Dr. J. and I part company (somewhat) is towards the end of the post, where its author expresses his disgust at the syndrome:

Exhibitionism is a psychiatric disorder. Weiner appears to present a classic case, updated for the digital age.

Technically, I'm sure he is correct; exhibitionism is listed in the DSM-IV (that would be the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders version IV, published by the American Psychiatric Association), and I'm sure it's still in the upcoming DSM-5. Where I depart from conventional wisdom, if not reality, is that I see exhibitionism as perfectly normal in half the human race; and when it occurs in the other half, it's a weird version of gender identity disorder.

Don't freak; I'll explain.

Start with the basics. Dennis Prager is fond of saying that women offer sex to gain love, men offer love to gain sex. This may be true at the individual level; but at the species level, a better formulation is that women offer sex to gain security, men offer security to gain sex.

That is, unlike peahens and peacocks, human females entice and incite, while human males respond and pursue. Whatever you think of gender roles in society, the reality is that they exist and have existed as long as Mankind. While individuals vary, that's still the way to bet it.

Boring down still further, a woman's primary mode of attaining security is the display of her body, especially those parts of it associated with sex. Men's primary mode of attaining sex is to demonstrate the willingness and ability to protect a female and her offspring.

In other words, women are natural exhibitionists by evolution.

Theory is verified by everyday experience. Most women at social occasions -- or often even in the workplace or at the gym -- dress to emphasize their breasts and bottom, sometimes even their nether regions. (What does Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson call it, the lady garden?) They wear tight dresses or pants, a décolletage, slimming clothes (I mean women, not the hosts of Top Gear); most women wear makeup (or would, if their culture allowed it) to emphasize or fabricate physical beauty; and they spend far more time on their hair than do men. They select shoes and socks or stockings more by looks than practicality.

When circumstances allow, everything they wear screams "Hey, look me over!" And even when c.'s don't a., such as a school that requires uniforms, they'll often cheat as much as possible -- sneaking some lipstick, wearing the school hat a little differently, or slyly undoing a couple of shirt buttons ("Whoops! How did that happen?").

By contrast, in most eras and cultures, men tend more towards uniformity of dress, sort of a "one size obscures all." Men with 12% body fat and men with 25% body fat all look pretty much the same in a well-tailored suit. Rather than body display, men compete via the price of the suit itself and the power it represents -- "Check this $2,000 Armani suit; see how rich and powerful I am?" (Again, the usual caveats -- individual variation exists but is negligible.)

While styles change from era to era, the basic behavior is constant: Women exhibit themselves, whether that means wearing tight flapper dresses in the 'twenties, bell-bottoms and peasant blouses in the 'sixties, short-shorts and tube tops in the 'seventies and 'eighties, or provocative tattoos and piercings in the two thousand 'teens. The language varies but the content is the same: "I'm available, and I'm a hotie. See for yourself!"

(Heck, women tend to dress sexy even for other women; though there I think it's more a head-cutting competition than any latent sapphic tendencies: "Give up, girlfriend, I'm hotter than you!")

Go to the beach; what do you see? Generally, gals in skimpy bikinis or lycra one-piece suits... and guys in baggies and t-shirts. Occasionally you notice some guy strutting his stuff in a Speedo; but it's uncommon, and I think most of us find it a little weird. (Picture that video of John Edwards primping and preening during the 2004 presidential campaign; it makes you feel kind of... eew.)

Since girls, especially teens and young adults, tend to wear the bare minimum to avoid actual arrest, I think it safe to say that if the law allowed toplessness on ordinary beaches, an awful lot of girls would go topless. If it allowed complete nudity, a third of the nubile femmes would be starkers. The great majority of women are shameless exhibitionists; the great majority of men are neurotic chest-thumpers, each (of each sex) with varying degrees of success.

So back to the thesis (yes, there is one): What creeps us out about a man "exposing himself to women" -- is that he is usurping the traditionally female role, preening and displaying. As any student of mythology knows, when men become women or women become men, it shakes the earth and stampedes the cattle.

Here's your gedankenexperiment: You're walking in a public park, and you suddenly encounter a good-looking, naked woman. Reaction? You're surprised, of course, but you probably smile and watch her for a while, whether you're an innie or an outie. (Assuming you're not a male with his wife or girlfriend, in which case you abruptly go blind, if you know what's good for you.) You don't call the cops, unless you're a real Miss Grundy of either gender.

Now... you're walking in a public park, and you abruptly encounter a good-looking, naked man. Reaction? After you get over your initial shock, I suspect you beetle out of there -- whether you're hart or hind -- and rat him out to the laws.

Why the difference? Because an unexpectedly naked woman is a siren to men and a curiosity to women; an unexpectedly naked man is an outrage to men -- and a likely sexual predator to women.

It's a superweird version of John Edwards' hair games, a freakshow. But would anybody have given a rip about a video of Kay Bailey Hutchison or Hillary Clinton spraying her hair and touching up her makeup? No, for that is a traditional display mechanism for women. Contrariwise, imagine a female politician chasing her male aides the way Bill Clinton put the make on every woman he met. The brain recoils.

(And yes, I understand the implication of my thesis: I do indeed think that an awful lot of male bodybuilders are, in a psychological sense, girly men. It's the girly-male version of a beauty pageant.)

And that's what really turns our stomachs about Anthony Weiner. Many people secretly admired Clinton for his sexual escapades... because he was such a guy about it, so masculine in his horndogginess, especially considering his favorite -- well, you know what I mean. But no one on God's green earth will admire Anthony Weiner for tweeting his gentleman sausage (Clarkson again). We feel only disgust and apprehension and call it a sick perversion (which you'd never say about a Playboy model stripping for a centerfold). When it's a gent, however loosely defined, it's scary and weird.

So there goes Weiner's career, his community standing, his power and influence, and possibly even his family... all in a flash.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 8, 2011, at the time of 7:09 PM | Comments (1)

What's In a Name?

Hatched by Dafydd

I'm in the midst of writing a big, weird post sure to offend 82% of Big Lizards readers (the 82% who foolishly expect our blogposts to be in good taste); but something horrible just occurred to me.

Evidently, Huma Mahmood Abedin, Anthony Weiner's wife, chose to keep her maiden name when they married. I can certainly understand why: The prospect of going through life forever known as HumaWeiner must be daunting indeed.

Having dodged that dreadful bullet, she should certainly be up to the task of salvaging the mere marriage.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 8, 2011, at the time of 4:09 PM | Comments (0)

Date ►►► June 7, 2011

Green Tea for the Gelded State

Hatched by Dafydd

The California Republican Party totally collapsed some time ago -- possibly when "Republican" Matt Fong ran for the U.S. Senate in 1998 against incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Lackwit, 95%). Fong was dogged throughout the campaign by repeated accusations that the only reason he won his primary (by a whisker) against Darryl Issa -- indeed, the only reason he was even considered a viable candidate -- was that voters held fond memories of his mother, March Fong Eu, who served as California Secretary of State for twenty years... as a Democrat.

He finally deigned to respond to the charge via a campaign ad -- in which his mother appeared and told voters that her son was a good boy! (That's a paraphrase; I don't have the text of the advert.) He lost to Boxer by a 10-point landslide; surprise, surprise on the Jungle Riverboat Cruise tonight.

Since then, the aptly named CRP has been a state and national humiliation that in the Tokugawa Shogunate would have forced numerous officials to cut their stomachs. When I telephoned CRP in 2008 to ask which Republican was running against my Democratic U.S. Representative -- since I hadn't seen any sign of a campaign -- the headquarters of the California Republican Party had no idea; indeed, they didn't even know who the incumbent was in that district.

It's gone downhill since then. It's hardly a shocker that California was perhaps the only state in 2010 to take a hard turn to the left; every statewide office, from top to bottom, is now held by a Democrat; and Democrats control the Assembly and state Senate by margins of 52-28 and 25-15 -- in both cases just two seats short of a 2/3rds majority, which would allow Democrats to pass a budget and spending bills without any Republican votes whatsoever.

As you might expect, I'm pretty desperate for a voter turnaround here in the formerly Golden State. Since turning to CRP is about as useful as a vasectomy for Barney Frank, I'm thinking more like California tea parties targeting a bunch of seats and getting their own kind nominated. (If they do, I'm sure that CRP will immediately begin campaigning for the Democrats; fortunately, that could only help the tea parties.)

But we need an issue. I doubt the economic crisis will work any better in 2012 than it did last year; if looming fiscal obliteration (especially in this state!) of magnitude 10 wasn't enough to persuade voters to turn to the GOP, would jacking it up to 11 make the slightest difference?

But last week, the state legislature gave us a golden gift for the Ungoldly State:

The California state Senate voted 28-8 Wednesday to exempt itself from the pointless gun-control laws that apply to the rest of the populace. Legislators apparently think they alone are worthy to pack heat on the streets for personal protection, and the masses ought to wait until the police arrive.

This is just one of many bills Golden State politicians used this legislative session to set themselves apart from the little people, the ones who pay their inflated salaries. Annual compensation for legislators averages about $140,000, not counting luxurious perks such as taxpayer-funded cars and free gasoline. By comparison, the average Californian earns $50,000 a year, and the unemployment rate is 11.9 percent - far above the national average. Exact salaries for state assemblymen and senators are obscured by the use of a “per diem” payment scheme that shelters a significant chunk of income from taxation.

Well! That certain puts us in our place, doesn't it? (Ironically, Matt Fong died that very same day of skin cancer.)

There you go: If fiscal responsibility won't yank voters' cranks, how about the politics of legis envy? If the California tea parties will just focus like a Marine-Corps sniper on the toxic ooze that infests the Democratic legislature, then run tea-party candidates on the platform of "no more corrupt than a typical used-car salesman," the contrast of slight shadiness vs. utter moral decay and hubristic arrogance will be so patent, we might pick up eight to ten seats in the Assembly and at least four or five in the state Senate.

Desperate times call for desperate measures; and the times they are a-desperate:

Left coast politicians lack all shame regarding their self-enrichment at public expense. Even though their outrageous conduct has sunk a once-prosperous state $10 billion in debt, the public seems not to care. In November, voters recycled Jerry Brown as governor even though Gov. Moonbeam’s disastrous tenure during the 1970s enabled the compensation packages for a unionized public sector that are busting the budget today. When California finally goes bankrupt, voters need only look in the mirror when wondering who deserves the blame.

Not just voters, but the limp-wristed, apathetic tea partiers who didn't run robust campaigns. I think when you spread the guilt around, it's good for everybody in the electorate.

Note that the vote to exempt state legislators from all gun restrictions was 28-8; that means that a minimum of seven GOP members (47%) at least abstained from the vote; and at least three actually voted aye. But this is no barrier to the tea-party drive anti-corruption campaign, as step number one is to defeat corrupt RINO incumbents in the primary. So we acknowledge that many incumbent Republicans are corrupt -- but demonstrate that the Democrats are worse by twelve parsecs.

All right, California tea partiers; let's throw it out on the stoop and see if anyone salutes. At least, for God's sake, it gives us something to campaign on.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 7, 2011, at the time of 6:06 PM | Comments (0)

Date ►►► June 6, 2011

Now That Anthony Weiner Has Confessed, Can We Put a Sock on It?

Hatched by Dafydd

The non-stop coverage, I mean. Or am I the only person in America who is tired of having Weiner shoved down my throat?

All right, already; Weiner's toast. Can't we let the whole sordid thing deflate a bit now?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 6, 2011, at the time of 4:34 PM | Comments (5)

On Beyond al-Qaeda: the Long War Ten Years After

Hatched by Dafydd

After the long-overdue death of Osama bin Laden, Barack H. Obama has chosen to reduce the war against radical Islamism -- the "long war" -- to "finishing the job" in Afghanistan; it's a monstrous caricature of synecdoche that underpins every foolish program of his foreign policy.

Afghanistan has symbolic and military significance; but truly, I'm far more concerned about radical Islamists running their own countries -- with advanced technology and deadly weapons already -- in Iran, Syria, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Turkey; or living (and plotting) within high-tech, war-torn countries such as India, Russia, Bosnia, Lebanon, and Israel; or living within extremely high-tech countries as spies and sabateurs, using the cover of poorly administered "guest worker" programs and relatively unvetted legal or illegal immigration -- in countries such as France, Australia, Great Britain, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, Central and South America, and the United States.

Afghanistan was only centrally important for a while because it was the current address of al-Qaeda in 2001; but as near as makes no difference, al-Qaeda no longer exists. That doesn't mean the threat is gone; in the amorphous, soupy manner of this kind of long war, the threat center has simply shifted locations.

Until and unless we change the entire wartime equation -- the one where you input the current security and ideological situations at one end, and a horrifically unacceptable level of successful terrorism pops out at the other -- we will be in as much danger and more as we were ten years ago.

The major difference is that back then, the deadly peril of terrorism was largely an unknown unknown; today it's a known unknown, which is a huge leap forward -- if we can maintain that consciousness. Alas, under the second Bush term and Obama's term, I fear it's slip-sliding away.

Still, many Americans have begun to realize that the danger will only increase until we attack it at its root. We've achieved that understanding before -- in 1776, 1787, 1860, 1941, 1981, and 2001; and what Man has done, Man can aspire to do.

We must find a way to achieve two critical goals:

  1. We absolutely must alter how post-Cold War Americans think about security issues; we must re-learn that "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty," vigilance not only against enemies without (radical Islamism and Communism) but those within (Obamunism).

As Jefferson wrote, "Against us are... all timid men who prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty... We are likely to preserve the liberty we have obtained only by unremitting labors and perils."

Americans used to understand this, and not so very long ago, within our own conscious memories. We persistently fall into the fatal fallacy that having defeated the enemy du jour -- the Nazis, the Soviets -- vigilance has become passé. We no longer need those scary men on the wall; let's make them get real jobs, like being a ward heeler or a community activist.

But vigilance alone is not enough; it's a strong defense, but we all know what is the best defense...

  1. Begin fighting just as hard to advance our ideology of liberty, free will, individualism, ethical monotheism, and Capitalism as the radical Islamists and the bloody-handed socialists fight to advance their despicable ideologies of religious and political submission and eternal servitude.

That is, as hard as Americans used to fight in decades past to advance the ideology of liberty. What Man has done... did I say that already?

Liberty always has at least some appeal in every culture; even people who like to be bossed around generally hate their own bosses. For God's sake, on today's great anniversary, let's start defending, promoting, advancing, and spreading the ideology of liberty once more.

We've done such a great job evangelizing American Borg culture and the wealth, security, and choice it provides; we must expend even more effort spreading the "good news" of that same culture's ideological foundation. That is our most urgent long-term task.

The last president who really achieved that was also the last to attempt it: Ronald Reagan -- thirty years ago. But Americans are again ripe for such a crusade; the post-Cold War moral drift is, I believe, largely driven by the lack of a higher calling. We thrive on a reach that exceeds our grasp, it is our natural state.

More than anything else, it is America's yearning for that evangelist feeling, for knowing we're not just hunkering down to preserve our own bitter-won gains but boldly advancing them across the world, that makes political superstars out of people like Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and the raft of small and subversive groups collectively called the tea partiers (subversive of the last three decades' political understandings). For all their flaws, they call us to a higher and distinctively American purpose in life, something beyond meaningless "hope" and "change" and "spreading the wealth around."

Vigilance and ideological evangelism: That is what will, in the end, win this particular long war. Let's hope it won't take so long to ramp up for the next grand crusade after that!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 6, 2011, at the time of 2:11 PM | Comments (0)

The Commencement of History

Hatched by Dafydd
So long mommy,
I'm off to get a commie,
So send me a salami
And try to smile somehow.
I'll look for you when the war is over,
An hour and a half from now!

In a previous post on Big Lizards, perennial commenter MikeR took issue with a central (if unstated) point. I had noted that, while Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI, 96%) was excellent on matters of budget and the economy, he didn't seem to have much of a grasp, let alone any fire in the hole, for fighting what has been dubbed the Long War, the war against radical Islamism. Therefore I concluded that he was not yet ready for promotion to President of the United States.

MikeR responded in the comments:

Dafydd, I think a lot of this hangs on whether one thinks that the Long War against Islamic Terrorism is still a critical job of the president. At some point during the Iraq War, I guess we parted ways on that....

I no longer see radical Islam as being an existential issue for the United States....

I think that most Americans are probably closer to my point of view.

I am certain MikeR is right about that last: They are closer to his point of view... as were they in 1940, 1980, and 2001. Americans have a bad tendency to mistake holding our enemies at bay with having no more enemies.

We've all seen that wonderful piece of inadvertent, pro-vigilance propaganda, the Bush-41 era movie a Few Good Men, starring Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise, and some woman. Let me quote the part that was supposed to make viewers roll their eyes and smirk knowingly, winking about those insane few who actually believed the United States needed actual "defense" from our "enemies." The writers were actually true to the characters (until the very end), and the very opposite happened as they had expected: The scene instead became perhaps the best articulation in any recent movie of why complacency is prelude to national disaster.

Please bear in mind that my argument isn't directed at MikeR, but rather at those "most Americans" he called upon for authority:

Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg?

I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives.

You don't want the truth, because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall; you need me on that wall.

We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline.

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

Again I note that I'm not saying MikeR is merely complacent; nor am I trying to explain why he personally no longer thinks radical Islamism poses an existential threat. I am certain he thought deeply about it before arriving at that conclusion. But he wrote something further; he wrote that "most Americans are probably closer to my point of view"... And it is that to which I respond here.

Yes, I agree; most Americans probably are closer to his point of view. But but I fancy they are for very different reasons than his own.

Many Americans, perhaps even most, recoil in horror or disgust from the thought that hundreds of thousands of people are actively seeking to kill as many of us as possible to overthrow liberty and individual conscience -- that millions are actively aiding and abetting them -- that hundreds of millions are in sympathy with their goal of a world caliphate run by Moslems with everyone else enslaved or discriminated against -- and that 1.5 billion at the very least acquiesce to that dream, a nightmare that is the real "long war," going all the way back to the seventh century founding of Islam.

Americans reject the very well established fact of a determined, thirteen-hundred-years war for two reasons:

  • First, because it is so existentially terrifying that mere war, normal war as in Iraq and Afghanistan, becomes a comforting mental euphemism.
  • And second, most Americans reject the existence of monsters because the men on our wall have done such a bravura job of protecting them, like Strider and his Rangers protected the hobbits in the Shire. Only a handful of monsters have breeched our wall, and the protected have concluded that no more orcs or balrogs lurk on the other side; they've all been driven away. The danger is over -- and it was blown all out of proportion in the first place!

In fact, many Americans now believe the only real danger to the protected comes from those scary protectors themselves.

MikeR is right: I part company with "most Americans" on this point. I know the orcs are still there; and even though we've killed one or two balrogs, there are still plenty left in stock. We haven't slain Sauron yet, and we never will; because Sauron (and Morgoth before him) isn't a person -- he's an ideology, a diseased mode of thought with an infinite number of faces. Sauron is, in Thomas Jefferson's words, "every form of tyranny over the mind of Man."

In the past, tyranny used the face of a bloodthirsty god, Moloch, or his divine successors, the iron gods of fire and blood and death. Then in the eighteenth through twentieth centuries, tyranny put on a new face: It tarted itself up as the vox populi (as in the French Revolution), ultimately wearing the face of "scientific" socialism, both national and international. And now, the wheel having come full circle, we're right back to a leering, false god of servitude, slavery, and submission.

But it's the same old Evil: You produce, and I consume; you labor, and I loaf; you obey, I command. That demon can be defeated in this theater or that, but never destroyed.

The storm outside our wall still gathers, and it rages stronger now, with more ghoulish gales having joined the whirlwind, than it did on September 11th, 2001. The trumpet that heralded that lightning blast wasn't the culmination; it wasn't playing Taps; it was actually blowing Charge, signaling commencement of the next phase of the longest war.

Too bad America hasn't yet even sounded Reveille.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 6, 2011, at the time of 5:25 AM | Comments (9)

Date ►►► June 4, 2011

I Like Paul Ryan, But... vol. 1

Hatched by Dafydd

In company with Beldar, I am a big fan of the Roadmap for America's Future, crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI, 96%), Chairman of the House Budget Committee; I believe it to be the best and most feasible plan for true economic recovery in the United States... in fact, the only feasible plan; and at that only feasible in the 113th (next) Congress. But unlike Beldar, I am still rather skeptical of electing (or for heaven's sake, "drafting") Ryan to become President of the United States. I just don't know enough about the man, the Commander, or the leader.

I am a bit shaken, for example, by this speech of Ryan's, delivered last Thursday to the Alexander Hamilton Society, outlining his views (Ryan's, not Hamilton's) on foreign and military policy. In particular, I am troubled by the lack of specificity, of any real plan to defeat the axis of radical Islamism, of any real understanding of what such a long war entails, and especially by the "on the one hand, on the other hand" dithering that reminds me rather disturbingly of Sen. John Kerry (D-MA, 85%).

Heck, Ryan doesn't even seem to have much of an opinion on non-economic domestic policy either, at least as far as one can tell from his official website. His interests seem somewhat limited, although if he runs, I'm sure he'll flesh them out some; his only committee assignments are the Budget, Ways and Means, and the Ways and Means subcommittee on Health -- which I presume primarily deals with health care from an economic perspective. Ryan is a green-eyeshade accountant, good on economic issues; but the presidency encompasses so much more than that!

He gives us no discussion of strategy in the long war, neither grand nor regional strategy. His only reference to our greatest cultural and wartime enemy, Iran, and its national (Syria) and extra-national extensions (Hezbollah), is almost farcical in its perfunctoriness:

In Syria and Iran, we are witnessing regimes that have chosen the opposite path. Instead of accommodating the desires of their peoples for liberty and justice, these regimes have engaged in brutal crackdowns, imprisoning opposition leaders, and killing their own citizens to quell dissent....

We have a responsibility to speak boldly for those whose voices are denied by the jackbooted thugs of the tired tyrants of Syria and Iran. [Emphasis added.]

This is straight out of Lewis Carroll:

Speak roughly to your little boy,
And beat him when he sneezes:
He only does it to annoy,
Because he knows it teases.

Our Iran strategy is to verbally chastise them? And what else? What are we going to do to counter Iran's determined war against us, against our allies in the Middle East and Europe, and its existential threat to Israel?

Anent Israel, he has little of substance to say:

What we can do is affirm our commitment to democracy in the region by standing in solidarity with our longstanding allies in Israel and our new partners in Iraq.

Meaning what? Does he support or oppose a Palestinian state? With what boundaries? Contiguous, even if that means Israel must be cut in half? I wish he would just spill the beans about what he really would do, were he living in la Casa Blanca.

How about the other prong of the axis: the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, al-Qaeda, and other extra-national threats to the United States and the West? He never really addresses this scourge squarely; in fact, he only mentions al-Qaeda once:

Our ability to affect events is strongest in Iraq and Afghanistan, where for the last decade we have been fighting the scourge of global terrorism. In these countries, we can and we must remain committed to the promotion of stable governments that respect the rights of their citizens and deny terrorists access to their territory.

Although the war has been long and the human costs high, failure would be a blow to American prestige and would reinvigorate al Qaeda, which is reeling from the death of its leader. Now is the time to lock in the success that is within reach.

Would anything here sound strange or bizarre coming from George W. Bush -- or Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 73%), John Kerry, or even Barack H. Obama? This is simply hand-waving: He recognizes that since we have troops in those two countries, we have more of a say there; that we like stable governments that respect rights; and that it would be bad if we screwed up now. It tells us exactly nothing about Ryan's strategy for the Middle East and Central Asia.

What's his plan for eliminating, or at least crippling, the wave of violent, anti-American, anti-Jew, anti-democratic, thoroughly radicalized Islamism? Has he one? Has he even thought about it?

Ryan does recognize that there's a series of revolutions going on in Arabia (or perhaps one many-headed, revolutionary hydra). Here is his prescription, such as it is:

In the Arab Spring we are seeing long-repressed populations give voice to the fundamental desire for liberty [on the one hand...]. But we are also seeing the risks that emerge when the advancement of freedom is stunted for want of the right institutions [on the other hand]. In such societies, the most organized factions often lack tolerance and reject pluralism. Decades without a free press have led many to treat conspiracy theories as fact.

It is too soon to tell whether these revolutions will result in governments that respect the rights of their citizens [on the one hand...], or if one form of autocracy will be supplanted by another [on the other hand]. While we work to assure the former [on the one hand...], American policy should be realistic about our ability to avert the latter [on the other hand].

I hate that formulation, which Kerry made famous in 2004; I suppose it's intended to sound above the fray, taking the long view, seeing all sides. But what the heck does it mean as a practical matter?

  • What criteria should we employ to separate new "governments that respect the rights of their citizens" from those where "one form of autocracy will be supplanted by another?"
  • Should we help the revolutionaries that appear to fall in the first category?
  • If so, how? With American forces, with arms, with "advisors," with humanitarian aid, or just with brave words of exhortation?
  • Should we interfere with revolutions that appear more like the latter category, say those that appear headed towards creating a sharia state ruled by Hamas or the Ikwan, the Muslim Brotherhood?
  • If so, how? Merely with strong words of denunciation, with monetary aid to the existing government, with intelligence sharing and advice, or with actual U.S. troops helping put down the latest incarnation of the Moro Rebellion?

It's nice that he hopes the rebellions are led by democratic republican nation-builders; but as the saying goes, hope is not a strategy. What actual policies would Ryan push?

Ryan tells us he opposes promiscuous budget-cutting in the Department of Defense (though I'm sure we already knew that):

A more prosperous economy enables us to afford a modernized military that is properly sized for the breadth of the challenges we face. Such a military must also be an efficient and responsible steward of taxpayer dollars in order to maintain the confidence of the American people. The House-passed budget recognizes this, which is why it includes the $78 billion in defense efficiency savings identified by Secretary Gates.

By contrast, President Obama has announced $400 billion in new defense cuts, saying in effect he’ll figure out what those cuts mean for America’s security later. Indiscriminate cuts that are budget-driven and not strategy-driven are dangerous to America and America’s interests in the world. Secretary Gates put it well: “that’s math, not strategy.”

But what is Ryan's vision of the ideal military for the United States in 2013 and beyond?

  • What mix of traditional combat units and units organized more for counterinsurgency (COIN) warfare does he forsee?
  • What mix of expensive high-tech and cheaper low-tech?
  • How much should we rely on air power versus boots in the mud?
  • How much should we invest in battlefield intelligence -- including exotic (and expensive!) new intel platforms?
  • What is his position on gays being allowed to serve openly in the military and women being allowed to serve in overt combat roles?

On virtually every issue other than the budget and intimately related programs, Paul Ryan's policies seem vague, if not MIA, a fluffy cloud of good wishes and skyhooks. I'm not saying he doesn't have specific visions or ideas about them, nor even that they would be antithetical to my own positions; I simply can't say, because he won't enunciate his non-economic positions with clarity and precision.

In fact, if you read the entire speech, he appears observe everything on America's plate through the crystal goblet of economic policy. For example, he is scornful of President B.O.'s proposal to cut $400 billion from the Pentagon budget (over some number of years), yet proud of his own proposal to cut $78 billion -- solely (it seems to me) because Ryan's plan, unlike the president's, is that of "an efficient and responsible steward of taxpayer dollars in order to maintain the confidence of the American people."

Well that's fine. It's nice to be fine. Who could be opposed to efficiency and responsibility anent taxpayer dollars? But given the military's function, there are other overriding concerns.

Ryan mentions grand strategy as an afterthought, never making any attempt to define it or flesh it out. He is either unaware of (or uninterested in) designing a force structure based upon the missions we expect them to undertake; he focuses instead like a laser pointer on how much we can afford to pay.

And what about non-economic, non-budgetary, domestic policies? Where does Ryan stand on vital issues such as:

  • The right to self defense (on his website, he sees gun rights only in terms of "Sportsman's Issues")
  • Defending DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act
  • Card check (I presume he's agin' it, but has he ever said so in a policy speech?)
  • The misuse of the Endangered Species Act to shut down farms, recreational facilities, factories, power plants, and suchlike
  • A federal law requiring picture ID for federal elections and allowing states to implement the same requirement for state and local elections

Hard to say where he stands, as not a single one of these issues is so much as mentioned on his website.

He does discuss immigration policy; his position is quotidian within the Republican Party, falling somewhere between Hugh Hewitt and John McCain -- e.g., he supports 700 miles of actual fencing plus a "virtual fence," but he opposes an immediate "path to citizenship" for existing illegal immigrants. Nothing here but standard positions that could be enunciated by 90% of the Republican congressional conference.

His energy policies seem adequate, though I'm not a fan of his insistance upon "alternative energy" and "conservation" (the latter means continuing to increase the CAFE (combined average fuel economy) standards by government fiat, rather than allowing the market itself to take care of the problem. Again, there's nothing original or particularly interesting here: He wants to streamline regulation of gasoline refining and nuclear power plants. I can't tell if he supports ethanol subsidies.

None of this gives me confidence that Ryan would be a leader on any issue other than the economy. None of this encourages me to call for him to be drafted into the presidential snoozeapalooza.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 4, 2011, at the time of 3:26 PM | Comments (1)

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