Day By Day

Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Trip South

The weather has been horrible up on the mountain so "She Who Must Not Be Named" and I have retreated down to Baltimore where the Winter Restaurant Week is being observed. It's a pretty good marketing device. Top restaurants throughout Charm City are offering limited menus for reasonable prices. It's a good opportunity to visit places you wouldn't normally go and to sample their offerings and not spend too much. We did this a few months ago and enjoyed it, so once again we have been restaurant hopping.

So far we have sampled the Brewers Art [good food but loud and crowded]; the Rusty Scupper [not bad, but not particularly good -- standard tourist fare]; the Capital Grille [good steak and seafood, a business crowd] Bistro 300 at the Hyatt [not good at all]; Meli's in Fells Point [superb, everything was perfect, great pastries]; the Lebanese Taverna in Harbor East [good khofti and the best pita bread anywhere]; and the Black Olive, also in Fells Point [great ambience, excellent seafood, especially the crabcakes]. Tonight we are going out again but I don't know where. "She" will let me know.

What all this means is that I don't have much in the way of new Pennsylvania pictures to post, but here are some I took in on the road and in Baltimore instead. Think of it as an advertisement for a nice day trip for those of you still stuck up in the frozen tundra.

UPDATE:

We finished up our tour of Baltimore restaurants tonight with a visit to Pazo, part of the Cindy Wolf/Tony Foreman empire. Cindy and Tony sit on top of the Baltimore food chain and all of their restaurants are great. "She" particularly likes Pazo, I prefer Cinghali, Charleston is generally considered the best restaurant in the State, but as I said, they're all good. The restaurant week menu consisted of tapas, a choice of entrees [small servings], and a dessert for two. Good food, excellent service, delightful ambience. Only one problem -- the place is dark, really dark, and unless you are young with very sharp eyes you might want to bring a flashlight in order to read the menu. I had been to Pazo before and brought a pocket light with me. We were glad I did.



The frozen Susquehanna. Brrrrrr.



The Inner Harbor -- a view from the Rusty Scupper.



Snowcapped sentinels outside the Capital Grille.



Inside the National Aquarium -- Whale Bones



Also inside the Aquarium -- "You Lookin' At Me?"



Finally, over at Harbor East, a memorial to the fallen -- Polish officers exterminated by Stalin at the outset of World War II. A reminder that there are far more important things in this world than restaurant week.

Another Democrat Tax Cheat

Gotta love those Democrats. There's a good reason why they don't mind raising taxes -- they don't plan on paying them.

AP reports:

WASHINGTON (AP) - Former Sen. Tom Daschle, picked by President Barack Obama to lead the administration's health reform efforts, recently filed amended tax returns to report $128,203 in unpaid taxes and $11,964 in interest, according to a Senate document obtained by The Associated Press.

The White House acknowledged Friday that "some tax issues" had emerged in connection with the nomination, but a spokesman said the president is confident the former Senate Democratic leader will be confirmed as the new health secretary.

Read the whole thing here.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Media Racists Report Steele Victory

My former Lieutenant Governor, Michael Steele, was today elected Chairman of the NRC. He is an excellent choice to be the public face of the Republican Party. He is bright, personable, articulate, media savvy, and well-respected within the Party. But, in these supposedly "post-racial" times the punditry place primary emphasis on only one characteristic of this multi-faceted individual -- the color of his skin.

CNN reports: Steele Becomes First African-American RNC Chairman. [here]
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Members of the Republican National Committee elected their first-ever African-American party chief on Friday, choosing former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele to chair the organization after six tumultuous rounds of voting. [here]
Ben Smith leads off with: Michael Steele makes history as the first black chairman of the Republican National Committee.... [here]

Wonkette leads with this nonsense: Congratulations to Michael Steele, who finally beat out that actual Confederate slaveowning plantation owner to become the first African-American President of the United States! [here] I have no idea what they are talking about, but the racial obsession is blatant.

Then there's this:

Republicans elect Steele first black chairman

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Republican Party picked its first black chairman on Friday as it elected former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele to rebuild the party after a string of devastating defeats.

AP:

Michael Steele becomes first black RNC chairman

WASHINGTON – The Republican Party chose the first black national chairman in its history Friday, just shy of three months after the nation elected a Democrat as the first African-American president.
NPR:
Leaders of the fractured and demoralized national Republican Party on Friday turned to a charismatic, nationally recognized African-American to lead it into the future.
The Chicago Tribune:

GOP elects first African-American party chairman

WASHINGTON -- Republican officials voted Friday to elect their first black national party chairman, a response in part to election defeats that have left the party's base more white and Southern at a time when the country is growing more diverse.
Carlos Slim's New York Times:

Republicans Choose First Black Party Chairman

Published: January 30, 2009

WASHINGTON — Michael Steele, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland, was elected the chairman of the Republican National Committee on Friday as the party chose its first African-American leader in a vote that signaled a desire by Republican leaders to put a new face on an embattled party.
BBC News leads with

Change has come to the Republican Party. To the top of it, at least.

For the first time in the Republicans' history (and for only the second time in the history of America's two major parties) an African American has been elected party chairman.

It goes on and on and on. This obsession with skin color is more than bizarre. It's demented. And such heightened racial sensitivity is nothing less than systematic racism. That's right -- racism. the people who wrote these stories and the editors who approved them are blatantly proclaiming the fact that they are racists. Future American historians will have a great time tracing the development of this cultural deformity but for now it is enough to note the prevalence of racist themes in the mainstream and liberal media.

Noah's Flood Update


A few years ago geologists Bill Ryan and Walt Pitman caused quite a stir when they published a study of Black Sea sediments that suggested a sudden and massive inundation of the region approximately 7,500 years ago. They suggested that this event, triggered when waters from the Aegean Sea broke through a land bridge at the Bosphorous, was the factual basis for Middle Eastern flood legends, including the Biblical account of Noah's Flood [here].

Their study was widely popularized and generally well-received by a credulous and sensationalistic journalistic estabilishment, although some geologists questioned the evidence as to the size and duration of the inundation and nearly all archaeologists rejected the causal link they asserted between the Black Sea flood and the Noah story. I myself was quite sceptical. The Sumerian stories upon which the Biblical account is based were simply too far distant both geographically and temporally from the original event for such a connection to be plausible. Moreover, the Mesopotamian stories were clearly of local origin and contained no hints of a Black Sea context.

Still, there remained the tantalizing possibility that the Black Sea inundation may have been linked to the spread of neolithic cultures along the Rhine/Danube axis into Northern Europe. The scenario proposed by figures as illustrious as Colin Renfrew was that flooding of lands along the Black Sea shorelines forced agriculturalists to migrate westward into Central, and eventually Northern Europe producing what archaeologists call the Bandkeramik Culture [here]. These ideas, however, have never been generally accepted.

Now new evidence from Danube delta sediment studies [here] casts further doubt on the flood scenario. In now appears that the inundation did take place, but was on a far smaller scale than was previously hypothesized. Earlier estimates suggested that the waters in the Black Sea basin rose as much as eighty meters and submerged many thousands of square miles of fertile land. The new study suggests that the rise in sea level was probably no more than ten meters and that the area submerged was much smaller than previously thought. In other words, there is now little reason to believe that the Black Sea inundation precipiated any major migration.

Oh well, it was a fun idea to play around with.

Homo Erectus Update


It has long been assumed that the first human ancestors to leave Africa were representatives of the species Homo Erectus, which was thought to have originated in East Africa approximately 1.8 million years ago. Recently, though, redating of geological layers at the African find sites makes it appear that the earliest appearance of Homo Erectus in Africa dates to around 1.65 million years ago [here]. Also Homo Erectus remains, dating to approximately 1.8 million years ago were found in the Republic of Georgia [here]. There are some interesting morphological differences between the Georgian and African specimens, but the real significance of the find is that the fossils outside Africa are significantly older than anything found there. This calls into question the whole "out of Africa" scenario for early human development which is the currently ruling paradigm, raising the possibility that Homo Erectus evolved from earlier hominids, as yet unidentified, somewhere in Asia. That possibility has just been given an important boost by a report of Homo Erectus remains dating to approximately 1.83 million years ago found in Malaysia [here].

It is too early to declare the "Out of Africa" scenario dead -- the fossil record is far too spotty to support such a conclusion. Moreover, genomic analysis still points strongly to an African origin for modern humans. But what just a few years ago seemed to be a clear and straightforward story of human evolution has become much more problematic.

That's the way science seems to work. Just when a clear and ideologically satisfying developmental scenario seems to be screaming out at you, things get complicated again. Policy makers would do well to remember that.

UPDATE:

According to John Hawks, what was found in Malaysia was not human remains but human artifacts, tools of a type commonly associated with Homo Erectus. He notes that this is not in itself surprising, since there is other evidence of early homo in the region, but that the method of dating is a bit "wonky" and may not be very accurate. [here]

Gangs Of the Potomac -- Humiliating Hillary

The fundamental viciousness of the Rahm-Bam mob is becoming ever more apparent. One by one the White House gang is eliminating and neutralizing any source of effective opposition. In recent days we have seen the destruction of Blago for dissing "the One", the opening volleys in a war on Rush, the humiliation of the Kennedys, and the continued marginalization of the Clintons. Yesterday Obama upped the pressure on Hillary by naming Samanta Power to a senior foreign policy position in his administration [here]. Power, you will remember mad news during the campaign for calling Hillary, now Secretary of State, a "monster". That should make for some dicey foreign policy confabs.

The whole thing is beginning to look like something out of the Godfather, or perhaps the Sopranos, and for the first time I am getting interested in the beltway hijinks. The Young Messiah may have made a mistake in hiring Rahm as his consigliere. The list of enemies is getting long and the Kennedys and Clintons in particular are known for their vengeful ways. Teddy is probably too sick to play the game effectively, but Bill is biding his time, waiting for the opportunity to strike, and sooner or later it will come and the revenge will be delicious.

I can hardly wait.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Object Lesson -- Chicago Style

So Blago is gone --might as well be dead and buried. They sure play rough in Illinois. Here's a popular Democrat governor who made the mistake of denying Rahm and the Big "O" their choice for Senator and look what happened to him. The point will not be missed by other Democrats who might be tempted to deny the New Messiah anything he or his consigliere desires.

I wonder if New York's Gov. Paterson sleeps easy tonight.

And something else to think about -- remember what happened to Jack Ryan when he went up against Obama [here].

And, for that matter, does anybody remember Blair Hull, a respected businessman and politician who went up against Obama back in the 2004 Illinois primary. Check out what happened to him here.

Just sayin'.

The Latest from Zo

This guy is amazing!

Who Is This Sarah Person?

Josh Painter over at RedState notes that pundits are still trying to figure out the answer to that question. Depending on who is writing the Governor of Alaska is either a libertarian, a neo-con, a fundamentalist theocon, a leftist, a populist, an elitist, a second coming of Reagan, or whatever is convenient to their theory.

Read it here.

Whatever she is, Sarah sure has them befuddled, and some of them scared. I like that.

Lies of the Left -- The Bush Legacy

Currently left-leaning journalists and politicians are trying to cement into conventional wisdom two particularly pernicious lies about President Bush. They claim, in the face of a mountain of contrary evidence, that the Bush administration did little or nothing to further the peace process in the Middle East. They also are promoting the idea that President Bush "rushed to war" in Iraq, when quite the opposite is manifestly true. Of course, rather than critically examine these claims the MSM simply parrots them as fact.

Read about it here.

If It Had Been Gerald Ford....


Our fine young President seems to be taking this "the One" stuff a bit too seriously. Yesterday he tried to walk through a closed window.

Read about it here.

Even Lord Keynes Didn't Believe In Obama's Version of Keynesianism

Our fine young President seems to feel that the New Deal failed because FDR didn't go far enough with Keynesian stimulus spending [here]. That is odd considering what Lord Keynes had to say about the programs in 1942 after observing their performance:

Organized public works, at home and abroad, may be the right cure for a chronic tendency to a deficiency of effective demand. But they are not capable of sufficiently rapid organisation (and above all cannot be reversed or undone at a later date), to be the most serviceable instrument for the prevention of the trade cycle.

Read it here.

Hmmm, let's see..., what other instrument might be available and more serviceable...? How about tax cuts!


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Iowahawk

Iowahawk has some advice for liberal celibritards:

More than ten years after the Kyoto accords, our planet continues to careen helplessly toward certain environmental destruction. The skies are choked with pollutants. Adorable helpless polar bears plunge through thinning ice caps. Ben Affleck still can’t find a decent comeback project.

The signs are ominous, but it’s not too late to do something. As a member of the entertainment community, you are uniquely qualified to save our planet from coming climate disaster. But it will take more than raising awareness — it will take action. Have your personal assistant add these 10 to-dos to your Blackberry, and let’s get the Earth on the road to recovery!

Moving Right Along.... The Bigotry of the Liberal Media

Peter Kirsanow, over at the Corner, summarizes the current relationship between Obama and the MSM:
So . . . we're going to have a tax cheat in charge of the IRS, a man instrumental in the pardoning of terrorists as top terrorism watchdog, and a woman whose husband gets tens of millions from foreign governments in charge of implementing foreign policy.
Press reaction: Move along . . . nothing to see here.
Read it here.

Now, just for a minute, imagine that this was a Republican administration staffing its highest levels with similar miscreants. What do you suppose the press' reaction would be?

I know, I know, press malfeasance and the application of double standards is nothing new. It's just more blatant these days than ever before.

Conservatives argue that ideological bias is the reason, and to some extent that is true, but I believe something more is operating here. Since the middle decades of the Twentieth Century wooly-headed liberals have bought into the old Stalinist Popular Front line that the American public is largely comprised of ignorant, vicious racists. Against all evidence to the contrary they believe this to be true and in large part their own personal sense of worth is based on showing that they, unlike the common herd, are enlightened and harbor no racist sentiments.

The sense of moral superiority attached to that belief is important to the liberals' self image and as such is impervious to rational argument. Members of the "enlightened" class feel that any criticism of a Black figure is tantamount to evidence of racism, therefore they cannot engage in such criticism lest they open themselves to charges of racism. More importantly, they feel that Obama, America's first Black president, must succeed at all costs because his failure would lend support to what they see as the racist bias of their social and moral inferiors.

Because this perception is not rational, but rather class and culture based, it cannot be defeated by mere argument. Nor is exposing it a sufficient response. Instead such blatant bias must be stigmatized. It is, as several commentators have noted, "liberal racism" and it should always be branded as such.

Nor can simple exposure of liberal bias do much to blunt the effect of liberal racism. Perhaps the most important expository statement was President Bush's declaration in a speech to the NAACP that "low expectations" applied to members of favored minorities was a form of "soft bigotry" [here]. Nor has rational disputation made any difference. The argument and its implications have been elaborated by writers like Jim Thornton [here], Shelby Steele [here]; Tom Sowell [here]; John McWhorter [here]; and many others [here], [here], and [here]. The indictment of liberal racism is, or at least should be, devastating, but it isn't.

Nor does accommodation of racist demands make much difference. Affirmative action was supposed to redress racial grievances, but it only exacerbated them. The election of Obama was supposed to mark an end to the moral imperative underlying this liberal bigotry, or at least that is what many mainstream analysts argued, but the post-election behavior of the MSM makes it clear that liberal bigotry is still alive and well. Colin Powell and Condi Rice were not enough to lay liberal racism to rest. Nominating Barak Obama for president was not enough. Electing him president didn't even put a dent in the racist imperative. Now it is judged inappropriate to criticize the black standard bearer even when he occupies the most powerful position in the world because HE MUST NOT FAIL.

What is needed is systematic stigmatization. Liberal bigots must be challenged everywhere, loudly and repeatedly in whatever media are available. Now is no time to be polite. Call them out, identify their bigotry, and denounce it in the strongest terms. Only moral obloquy will suffice.

The Roots of Violence

Over at the Middle East Forum Steven Slotsky has an interesting piece in which he argues that Western aid is to some extent responsible for the persistence of Palestinian violence.
In the midst of the effort... to bestow unprecedented sums of foreign aid on the Palestinians, there was little discussion of the unintended consequences — often deadly ones — of previous aid regimens. The recent history of foreign assistance shows a distinct correlation between aid and violence. Perhaps aid itself does not cause violence, but there is strong evidence that it contributes to a culture of corruption, government malfeasance, and terrorism that has had lethal consequences for both Israelis and Palestinians over the past decade.
Read the whole thing here.

This is the second time I have run across this argument recently. It is interesting because it turns the conventional wisdom in the IA community on its head. As long as I can remember international affairs "experts" have assured us that violence and revolutionary agitation are a direct consequence of economic deprivation and frustrated material aspirations. The proper response to violence, they argue, is to meliorate economic disparities by channeling money to the protesters. What Slotsky is arguing is not just that Danegeld is ineffective in diminishing violence, but that it might well be a primary cause of that violence.

Interesting.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

More Pennsylvania Pictures

Once again it is the weekend and that means some more Pennsylvania photos.



Right after the snowfall it is like driving through fairyland.



Once you get off the main roads, though, it's a tilted, icy world. Good thing we have a four-wheel drive vehicle. Rendering this picture in black and white didn't really change the quality of the shot much, a testimony to just how bleak the landscape is back here in the coal region.



And only occasionally do you see a flash of color.



And then it's back to the same old, same old.

Friday, January 23, 2009

From Tonight's Gregalogue

If you dont know what a "Gregalogue" is, check out Fox News' late night show, "Redeye".

[O]ur very handsome President mentioned a new era, one based on "mutual respect," which suggests he may feel we deserve much of this global scorn. Of course, this is nothing new – America often corners the world in anti-Americanism. But am I nuts in thinking that we weren't the people who left a giant hole in Manhattan? And that afterwards, the expected "backlash" was nil?I mean, we may be the only country in the history of the world that worried about hurting people's feelings after we were brutally attacked.

Indeed! Well said, Greg.

Read it here.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Idiossey of Obamacles

The Iowahawk strikes again, hilarious as always:
The Idiossey

The Not-Really-That-Epic Poem of Obamacles
Revised and Updated

(with Apologies to Homer)

Book the First: A question for the Muse

Speak to me, O Muse, of this resourceful man
who strides so boldly upon the golden shrine of Potomac,
Between Ionic plywood columns, to the kleig light altar.
Fair Obamacles, favored of the gods, ascends to Olympus
Amidst lusty tributes and the strumming lyres of Media;
Their mounted skyboxes echo with the singing of his name
While Olbermos and Mattheus in their greasy togas wrassle
For first honor of basking in their hero's reflected glory.
Who is this man, so bronzed in countenance,
So skilled of TelePrompter, clean and articulate
whose ears like a stately urn's protrude?
So now, daughter of Zeus, tell us his story.
And just the Cliff Notes if you don't mind,
We don't have all day.

Said the Muse:

I will tell the story of Obamacles through my scribe Iowahawk.
But this poem is copyrighted, so reproduce at your peril.

Read the whole thing here.


The Madness..., The Madness!!!

Check this out. Hypercreepy!!!!



These people are starting to really, really scare me.

The Most Eco-Friendly Inaugural In History


Oh well, it was a thought.

Unintended Consequences

Oops!

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — It seemed like a good idea at the time: Remove all the feral cats from a famous Australian island to save the native seabirds.

But the decision to eradicate the felines from Macquarie island allowed the rabbit population to explode and, in turn, destroy much of its fragile vegetation that birds depend on for cover, researchers said Tuesday.

Removing the cats from Macquarie "caused environmental devastation" that will cost authorities 24 million Australian dollars ($16.2 million) to remedy, Dana Bergstrom of the Australian Antarctic Division and her colleagues wrote in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology.

"Our study shows that between 2000 and 2007, there has been widespread ecosystem devastation and decades of conservation effort compromised," Bergstrom said in a statement.

The unintended consequences of the cat-removal project show the dangers of meddling with an ecosystem — even with the best of intentions, the study said.

Read the whole thing here.

Only a fool would call for precipitate and fundamental action to deal with climate change, but there seems to be a superabundance of fools in this administration.



Michael Ramirez

He's my favorite cartoonist. Here are a couple of reasons why.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Good President (continued) -- Bush and Truman

Noemie Emery writes:

Bush and Truman got all of the big issues right. Truman saved Western Europe with the Marshall Plan, saved Greece (and perhaps Italy) with the Truman Doctrine, limited the Communist thrust to the areas already held down by the Red Army, and halted the military advance in Korea, with a difficult and sometimes mishandled war.

Bush defined the attacks as a war, not a crime, and took steps to safeguard the American people; liberated Afghanistan, liberated Iraq (in a difficult and sometimes mishandled occupation), that saw the Iraqis turn on both al Qaeda and jihad, and align themselves with the west.

All people remember now of Truman are the Marshall Plan and containment. Soon, all people will remember of Bush will be the ouster of Saddam and the rout of Al Qaeda, and the suitcase bombs that never went off in Manhattan, or in Farragut Square.

Read the whole thing here.

"Sean Penn Is an Ass" -- Don't Be Like Him!

TV's Andy Levy has some good advice for conservatives.

DON’T question the motives - question the policy. When you disagree with Obama’s policies, say so, and make it clear why. But remember that President Obama is doing what he thinks is best for the country, as President Bush did. Both men love America and want what’s best for her. End of story.

DON’T make it personal. We don’t need another Derangement Syndrome. We don’t need people doing things like emphasizing Obama’s middle name in a derogatory fashion. How anyone would think that’s beneficial to their cause, or to the country as a whole, is beyond me. Also, it’s not even clever. Neither are smushwords like BusHitler, or sillywords like Rethuglicans and Dhimmicrats.

DON’T cozy up to and champion foreign dictators and despots. Sean Penn is an ass. No reason to be like him. ‘Nuff said. (Corollary: Don’t cozy up to and champion foreign dictators and despots and then act outraged when people question your patriotism.)
Read the whole thing here.

Lies of the Left -- The Battle of Algiers


I remember the first time I saw the Battle of Algiers. It was in the early seventies at a university venue and it scared the Hell out of me. I had heard a lot about the film through the late Sixties and was eager to see what all the fuss was about. I was shocked, not just by its in-your-face anti-western tone and its brutality, but more by the reaction of the audience (overwhelmingly privileged young Ivy League lefties) who cheered on the Arab terrorists with bloody enthusiasm.

Battle of Algiers is a sympathetic depiction of the emergence of an Islamist revolutionary movement in North Africa and it is a shocker. It is one of the most terrifying and important films you will ever see. It is available free on the net. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out here.

Made in 1966 by Italian Marxist, Gillo Pontecorvo, the film is based loosely on the Algerian war of independence from France that took place from 1954 to 1962. The film has been screened by the Pentagon as an illustration of the kind of warfare being waged by Islamist radicals in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it supposedly has been used as an instructional and recruiting film by al Qaeda. It has purportedly inspired radical movements from the IRA to the Black Panthers. That's how relevant it is in these troubled times.

Many people, especially among our cultural elites, have viewed this film and taken its lessons to heart. And that is a tragic thing because it's main message -- that radical Islamism is an unstoppable, authentic, and virtuous force against which weak-willed and corrupt Western democracies cannot stand -- informs much of the opposition to both American and Israeli efforts in the Middle East. But, as Robert Averich argues [here], that perception and the strategic doctrines that flow from it are false and may well prove to be a fatal to the Islamist insurgency.

It is clear that radical Islamists have tried to recreate in Iraq and Afghanistan the conditions that, according to Pontecorvo, brought victory in the Algerian War. So too the tactics -- brutal terrorist attacks that spark even more brutal reprisals from the West, reprisals that victimize and radicalize the local population and enlist them on the side of the radicals.

But Pontecorvo's account of the Algerian insurgency is far from accurate -- Battle of Algiers, after all, is a propaganda film that focuses more on romantic and poetic rather than factual understandings of what went on in Algeria, and far more important America is not France. The actions of the American military and George Bush's administration are far different from those of the ill-fated Fourth French Republic. The American efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan have been prosecuted with far greater sophistication and determination than anything undertaken by European powers in the age of anti-colonialism. And, as we are seeing in Iraq, the results are quite different.

Read Averich's piece [and this followup]. It makes for interesting reading, and it sparks some important lines of thought, not the least about the relationship of film and film-makers to political culture.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

How Far We've Come


That's what a lot of commentators have been saying today, and invariably their reference is to the civil rights movement. Well, here's another perspective. The above photograph was shot in 1857 and is the first inaugural picture ever taken. The occasion is the swearing in of President James Buchanan, the only Pennsylvanian ever elected President. Note the size and attitude of the crowd. Now look below at the crowd attending Obama's swearing in. Quite a difference, eh?


Adam Kirch puts his finger on what bothers me about modern inaugurations, especially this one we just witnessed.

There was inevitably something imperial about the inauguration today: the praetorian pomp, the Capitoline backdrop, the giant crowds, all seemed more redolent of Caesar than George Washington.
Read it here.

I don't know it if is inevitable, but it sure seems to be what people want. It just seems to me to be more than a bit too much.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tribes

One of the more interesting quotes to surface in recent days was Debra J. Saunders' admission that for many in the MSM, "To trash Bush was to belong." [here]

Think about that for a second -- bashing Bush was a mark of admission to and acceptance within the journalistic fraternity. To defend Bush or to fail to trash him would be to invite exclusion from your peers.

On one level this is simply peer pressure operating and it is horrifying to contemplate the implications of such group think in an institution so important to the functioning of democracy as the press, but it might also be seen as a manifestation of an even more troubling development -- the tribalization of America.

This is not in itself a new subject -- historians and social scientists have long been describing and denouncing the fragmentation of American culture. But for the most part their concern has been the persistence and salience of ethno-cultural divisions that, for many of them, were to blame for the failure of Americans to develop a European-style class consciousness.

More recently there has been much anguished commentary on the subject of "culture wars" that plague our political system as opportunistic politicians and consultants exploit "wedge issues" that can reliably pit constituencies one against another.

Finally, there has been a dawning recognition that the "meritocratic" mechanisms instituted in the middle decades of the Twentieth Century are today being manipulated to perpetuate an increasingly closed credentialed technocratic elite whose values and beliefs stand in sharp contrast to those of most Americans. This realization has begun to spark a reappreciation of an old Marxist concept -- the "New Class" especially the reconfiguration of that idea by Canadian economist and Kennedy advisor, John Kenneth Galbraith [here] and [here].

These sources of fragmentation -- political, functional, class-based, regional, ethnic, religious, and the like, seem to be hardening into relatively impervious group identities that might be described as "tribes". This, at least, is the conceit that informs one of the more interesting blogs I have recently encountered. Check out the "assistant village idiot", a New Hampshireman who has had some interesting observations of the phenomenon. Check out his musings on the subject here.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

More Pennsylvania Pictures -- After the Snow Falls

Wandering around a parking lot, this is what I saw:




Friday, January 16, 2009

RIP Andrew Wyeth


Andrew Wyeth has passed away. Read about it here. This is perhaps his most famous work -- "Christina's World". A couple of years ago "She Who Must Not Be Named" and I spent several hours at the Farnsworth Museum up in Maine admiring the amazing technique in his work. It was a terrific experience. He's one of my favorites, but then I'm one of those strange derriere garde guys.

Goodbye Andrew, you did good.

The Community of Values

NRC.NL, the Dutch News Service, has a revealing piece on Guantanamo today. It asks:
Should the Netherlands assist the US with the closure of the Guantanamo prison? For example, by housing former detainees whose lives would be put at risk should they be repatriated to their own countries? When it was the Bush administration asking for help, the request could be brushed aside. The question will, however, become more complicated when it is posed by the incoming US president Obama. The new president starts with a clean slate next week - and so will the transatlantic relationship.

The article urges the government to accept the former detainees, just as Germany and Portugal have agreed to do, in the name of international humanitarianism.

What is interesting is the current position of the Dutch elites. Hysterical accusations that the United States was crushing the human rights of the detainees coupled with an obstinate refusal to assist the Bush administration in solving the problem. One gets the impression that the Dutch were less interested in the rights of the detainees than in having a convenient cudgel with which to bash Bush.

And what of the new attitude, now that "The One" is ascending to the Presidency? Their reasoning:

Obama appears to be prepared to put an end to the exceptional legal status of this group of detainees. The ad hoc military jurisdiction seems to be on its way to being scrapped. That is a step of great importance. The weakened image of the US would thereby be restored, to that of a constitutional state respectful of the rule of law and as a model democratic nation.
And if Obama also abandons other Bush and Clinton era programs like rendition it would affirm the status of the United States as a member of a Western "community of values".

Read the whole thing here.

And there we get to the core of the argument. To European political elites the corporate term, "The West" represents a "community of values" in which the weakest members get to define the terms of membership. This "community" would replace strategic alliances, national interests, economic relationships and all other such real-world constructs. But, as the Dutch citizenry is learning, the real world does not go away and it does not submit to legalistic fantasies. Right now the Euro-fantasists see Obama as one of their own. In future months, if we are lucky, they will be sorely disillusioned.

UPDATE:

Rob Dawson has an interesting take on the European [and American Euro-phile] naive and almost religious faith in the efficacy of talk, talk, talk.
You have to understand that Europeans have convinced themselves that any armed struggle against Islamist terrorists is ultimately self-defeating. They believe that killing one breeds a hundred more. It’s not clear why they actually believe this, but placating their large and growing domestic Islamic radical population is likely part of this. If you can’t fight them, all that’s left is to talk to them. This has led to the second European belief: that talking can solve all problems. This quasi-religious belief in diplomacy generally seems to involve only one side (the Jews or the West) providing concessions.
Read it here.

The Good President (continued) -- Bush and Lincoln

For the past few weeks the media have been filled with comparisons between Barak Obama and Abraham Lincoln. Frankly, I can't see any. But as Richard Connor reminds us, George W. Bush, more than any recent president approximates "Lincoln-Like Greatness".

Read it here.

I have to admit, there are some striking parallels.

Farewell From the Chief

In case you didn't get a chance to see President Bush's moving farewell speech, here it is.

Transcript here.

One thing about the Bushes, they are a class act.

Blame Bush at Breitbart

TV's Andy Levy discerns the real culprit behind the airliner crash in New York -- no surprises, it's rampant anti-gooseism promoted by Bush and his cabal of speciesists.

Read the whole thing here [and check out the comments, Iowahawk lurks there].

And while you are there, check out Breitbart's other offerings. Quality film reviews and stories from people in the industry, columns both serious and humorous, and this.



Find yourself a comfortable place to sit, go to this site, and enjoy.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lies of the Left -- Shredding the Constitution

About those charges, frequently expressed loudly and vehemently, that President Bush was "shredding the Constitution" with his Terrorist Surveillance Program..., well, never mind! Not only will Obama continue the program, but the federal courts have affirmed its constitutionality.

It understates the case to say the Bush administration has been slandered for asserting this power — accused of shredding the Constitution and violating the principle that no one is above the law (even as Congress put itself above the law — the Constitution — by enacting and trying to enforce a statute, FISA, that sought to diminish the president's constitutional authority). It was never true.
[emphases mine]

Read about it here.

The surveillance court decision was made all the way back in August, but was kept secret until today. Why?

Funniest Man Alive

Iowahawk previews the new movies being released this year. [here]

Mrs. Popularity


No matter how avidly the Beltway political class desires it, she ain't going away anytime soon. Sarah Palin was recently voted "Most Desirable Celebrity Neighbor".

Read about it here.

I know I speak for many when I say I wouldn't mind if she moved in next to me.

Patrick McGoohan has Died


One of my favorite shows from the Sixties was Patrick McGoohan's "The Prisoner". It is now available for free on the net [here]. Check it out and remember the contributions of this remarkable actor.

Rest in Peace, Patrick.

Bush and Obama -- Continuity, not Change

Victor Davis Hanson notes the continuities between the policies of the current administration and the emerging position being taken by Obama in several areas and suggests that Bush's policies, far from being radical and unconstitutional, fall well within the mainstream.

Read it here.

Bush Was Right

At least that is the position taken by Andrew Roberts writing in the Telegraph. I agree with him.

Read it here.

Dick Cheney Says Iraq Was Worth It

Gateway Pundit has the text and video plus links [here]

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Fighting Back

In recent days Sarah Palin has been speaking out against the trolls in the blogosphere and the MSM who have been promoting all manner of nasty rumors about her and her family [here]. And of course she has been ridiculed and castigated for doing so. She has been branded a whiner and establishment Republicans have taken to the airwaves and print with advice to simply ignore the slanders. After all, that is the conventional wisdom -- ignore liberal slanders and the mad dogs of the left blogosphere. Be quiet, decent, hope that people notice that you are a better person than those who attack you.

But there is a price to be paid for such high-mindedness, and the Republicans have suffered dearly for not confronting the ankle-biters. Jay Nordlinger notes that completely inaccurate and unfair evaluations regarding President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Governor Palin, because they have not been effectively rebutted, have taken root in the public mind.
It seems to me that the Left has won: utterly and decisively. What I mean is, the Saturday Night Live, Jon Stewart, Bill Maher mentality has prevailed. They decide what a person’s image is, and those images stick. They are the ones who say that Cheney’s a monster, W.’s stupid, and Palin’s a bimbo. And the country, apparently, follows.

....

A country that believes that Cheney’s a monster, W.’s stupid, and Palin’s a bimbo is a country with its head up its . . .
Read the whole thing here.

Liberals control the major entertainment media, the schools, the news and music industries, and they decide how people and institutions are branded. In large part that is because Republicans feel that it is beneath their dignity to respond to the slime.

Such a dismissive attitude is inappropriate in today's media-saturated age when politicians become celebrities and vice versa. Gresham's law applies to information as well as coinage. Image management has become absolutely essential to success. Obama knows that. So does Sarah. It is good to see that she is beginning to fight back. Let us hope that others on the right begin to do so too.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Where is Rush? I Think I know!

Today Rush Limbaugh mysteriously disappeared. The guest host who filled in for him at the last minute confessed that he knew nothing of Rush's whereabouts, only that he had been suddenly called away to Washington.

Well, now we can make an educated guess as to where Rush was. This evening Not Yet President Obama had dinner at George Will's house with a number of "conservative" opinion makers. They included Charles Krauthammer, David Brooks, and Bill Kristol. Presumably Will was also there and, although it has not been confirmed, rumor has it, so was Rush.

Oh to have been a fly on the wall....

Read about it here.

UPDATE: The Huffington Post says that its sources say that Rush was not in attendance, so the mystery continues.

MORE: Mike Barnicle says that Rick Lowry was there too.

It turns out that Rush was at the White House with the current President. Mystery solved.

The Good President (continued) -- Accomplishments

Fred Barnes has a nice column in the Standard in which he lists some of President Bush's "ten great achievements".

1 He refused to buy into the global warming hysteria.

2 He allowed "enhanced interrogation" of terrorists.

3 He restored Presidential authority.

4 He was constant in his support for Israel.

5 No Child Left Behind.

6 Promoting democracy around the world.

7 The Medicare prescription drug program.

8 Superb Supreme Court appointments.

9 Building ties to Asian powers without alienating China.

10 Winning the war in Iraq.
Read the article here.

There's much more that could be listed. Expanding NATO protection to Eastern Europe; medical assistance to Africa; building up the petroleum reserve; creating extensive conservation zones; etc. Few presidents come close to matching his accomplishments. In a just world George W. Bush would be ranked among the great ones.

And So It Starts....



I seem to remember some silliness about Barak Obama restoring America's image in the world. Well, it ain't gonna happen. The guy's not in office yet and already they are burning his image.

[Reuters] Hardline demonstrators burn posters of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, during a demonstration in support of the people of Gaza, in front of the Swiss Embassy in Tehran January 13, 2009.
So much for adolescent dreams.

Read about it here.

Tom Sowell on the Myth of Middle Class Stagnation

Tom Sowell discusses one of the ways in which economic analysts misrepresent the actual state of the economy -- substituting "household" for "per-capita" income. It is true that household income has stagnated for three decades, but during that same time per-capita income has skyrocketed. Why the discrepancy? Households have changed.




Remember, next time you hear some pundit talk about "household" income statistics, you can assume that he/she is either ignorant or is deliberately trying to make things look worse than they are.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Demography and Terrorism

It is often said that demography is destiny.

Gunnar Heinsohn, a German demographer, has an interesting perspective on Palestinian terrorism. He argues that it has little to do with the historic grievances articulated by the terrorists and their apologists and everything to do with what he calls the "youth bulge".

No, this is not about teen obesity, but a tendency for some societies to produce abnormally high numbers of children, particularly young men. The social consequences of this imbalance are dire:

In ... "youth bulge" countries, young men tend to eliminate each other or get killed in aggressive wars until a balance is reached between their ambitions and the number of acceptable positions available in their society. In Arab nations such as Lebanon (150,000 dead in the civil war between 1975 and 1990) or Algeria (200,000 dead in the Islamists' war against their own people between 1999 and 2006), the slaughter abated only when the fertility rates in these countries fell from seven children per woman to fewer than two. The warring stopped because no more warriors were being born.
Interesting -- an argument analogous to that offered by Stephen Levitt in "Freakonomics" to explain high levels of criminality in urban America [too many young black males being born].

One Middle East population stands out sharply as being afflicted by a "youth bulge". That is the Palestinian refugees, among whom the average woman bears six children producing in aggregate hundreds of thousands of young men.

And why are so many young warriors being born?
The reason for Gaza's endless youth bulge is that a large majority of its population does not have to provide for its offspring. Most babies are fed, clothed, vaccinated and educated by UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Unlike the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, which deals with the rest of the world's refugees and aims to settle them in their respective host countries, UNRWA perpetuates the Palestinian problem by classifying as refugees not only those who originally fled their homes, but all of their descendents as well.
It is Western aid, he argues, that is subsidizing the creation and maintenance of a permanent warrior class in Gaza. And a solution to the Palestinian problem would be achieved not through endless negotiations or the application of military force. A realistic accommodation could only be reached once the West dramatically reduces or cuts off aid and forces Palestinian parents to limit their birthrate.

As I said, interesting. Of course the situation is more complex than Heinsohn presents it. In many Western countries social subsidies result in a lowered birth rate. A key variable seems to be differences in the status of women as well as cultural traditions such as polygamy, which restricts the reproductive opportunities of young men. Still, Heinsohn has presented a serious argument that needs to be considered.

Read the whole thing here.

HT: Andy McCarthy at the Corner

The Good President (continued) -- Valedictories

President Bush has been saying a long goodbye to the nation and clearing the way for his successor. Here are a couple of his valedictory appearances.

Here is a transcript of President Bush's last formal news conference.

And here is a transcript of a long interview he gave at the American Enterprise Institute.

And here is the interview he and his dad gave to Brit Hume.

Taken together they reveal a great deal about the way the President thought about the responsibilities and the duties of his position.

The Good President (continued) -- Responding to Crisis

The general consensus is that President Bush has opted out of trying to solve the current crisis in the financial system, leaving the problem for Obama to deal with. And, as usual, the general consensus could not be more wrong. Roger Kimball notes that vigorous action by federal officials in recent weeks has had several positive outcomes [not that you would learn about them in the MSM].

In the past 8 weeks or so the following events have occurred:

  • Bank solvency has been largely addressed
  • A template for shoring up weakened banks is in place with Citibank
  • Financial liquidity (bank to bank lending) has been restored
  • The LIBOR/T-Bill relationship is getting close to historical norms
  • Depositors have stayed put as a result increased deposit insurance
  • Money market funds have been stabilized through similar measures
  • The commercial paper market is flowing via the Fed
  • A $200 billion facility to enable consumer debt securitization is in place
  • The Fed is purchasing $500 billion of high grade mortgage paper to free up that market
  • The Fed has begun to purchase impaired assets — a hint of what may be coming
  • Interest rates are effectively zero
As Kimball notes, there are still a lot of problems ahead, but a lot of things are going right thanks to decisive action on the part of the Bush administration.

Read it here.

The Good President (continued) -- Policy and Partisanship

During a recent interview with Brit Hume George Bush stated proudly that he refused to withdraw from Iraq, despite knowing that such a course would have been good for his party going into the 2006 elections.

President Bush says he refused to "bail out my political party" by withdrawing troops "during the darkest days of Iraq," a decision now lauded by his father in an unprecedented joint interview of both presidents by Brit Hume on "FOX News Sunday."

"During the darkest days of Iraq, people came to me and said, 'You're creating incredible political difficulties for us,'" the current president said as his term draws to a close. "And I said, 'Oh, really? What do you suggest I do?' And some suggested retreat, pull out of Iraq.

"But I had faith that freedom exists in people's souls and therefore, if given a chance, democracy and Iraqi-style democracy could survive and work," the president said. "I didn't compromise that principle for the sake of trying to, you know, bail out my political party."
Read it here.

This is one of the things I really like about Dubya. He understands that being President involves much, much more than simply being a party leader. He has never confused the two roles and, unlike many of his critics, has always known which is more important.

Movies to Miss: Benjamin Button and Gran Torino

We went to see a couple of films this weekend. Neither was very appealing to me, although they did have their strong points.

Let's start with the good stuff. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a gorgeous film. The cinematography, set design, and costuming are superb. Several times during the nearly three hours of watching I said to myself, "now that's a beautiful shot!" The trouble with the film, though, is that I was so uninvolved in the story that I could make such observations. I could also note filmic references -- Gee, there's Juliette Binoche reading an old diary to a dying person, now where have I seen that before? In fact much of the movie seems to be lifted from other work, The Notebook, Forrest Gump [also written by Eric Roth], Titanic, 2001, etc.

There are a couple of brilliantly executed set pieces. The tugboat attack on a submarine was particularly well-made and was the only point in the film where I was sucked into the story. There was a lot of good acting from supporting players, especially Tilda Swinton who is always wonderful, but the main characters, played by superstars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, evinced no real passion and their relationship was completely uninvolving. Still it would have been a good movie if the screenwriters [Eric Roth and Robin Swicord] had taken advantage of its unusual conceit [Brad Pitt's character is born old and ages backward toward infancy] to make some sharp and possibly profound observations on the human condition, but the meditations offered in this flick never rise above the level of dorm-room BS sessions. Particularly annoying was a long and silly piece on the role of happenstance in human affairs. And there were other nonsensical aspects to the film. I kept wondering, for instance, why David Fincher and associates decided to place the whole thing against the backdrop of Katrina's impending disaster. What did it mean that the backwards clock was still operating at the end of the film? And why should I care about any of this?

That's the real problem with this flick: I didn't care. It isn't a bad film, and it has a few good moments, but ultimately it is, like much of Fincher's work, cold, empty, and devoid of significant meaning.

And then there was Gran Torino Clint Eastwood's tribute to his own cinematic self. Unlike Benjamin Button, this was a tightly written and plotted piece of fiction that actually had some purpose. It served as a commentary on the career of one of Hollywood's most important figures. It has been billed as Eastwood's last film appearance, and it seems to have been designed [by Nick Schenk] as a farewell to his most famous characters. Walt Kowalski, as played by Eastwood, is "Dirty Harry" in retirement, the plot situations reference those of the "Outlaw Josey Wales" and Walt handles a cigarette just as "The Man With No Name" wielded his Denobili Black Cigars. There are even references to "Coogan's Bluff" and "Million Dollar Baby". All of this is great fun for anyone who has followed Eastwood's career.

The story is well structured and carries a clear message, one of disdain. Kowalski, a retired auto worker, still lives in his old neighborhood which has been invaded by immigrants for whom he has undisguised contempt. His wife has just died and he is alienated from his family, for whom he has undisguised contempt, his religion, for which he has undisguised contempt, you get the idea. His only connections are with other old men who remember when life was better. They gleefully flout all the strictures of today's PC culture, and it's fun watching them do so.

In essence the whole film is a long expression of disdain for contemporary American culture and a sad yearning for a better world that is rapidly receding into the past, but it is not despairing. Eastwood also offers a hope for the future. At the beginning of the film Walt Kowalski has walled himself off from the world he so despises and waits, grimly defiant and nursing dark secrets, to die. But the world won't leave him alone and slowly but surely he is drawn into violent confrontation with the enveloping forces of evil. In the course of doing so he gradually forms profound ties with his immigrant [Hmong] neighbors and particularly with their teenage son to whom he becomes a hero and mentor, passing on to them the values and skills that once made America great. And as he protects and nurtures the boy and his sister, Walt begins to re-engage with the world, finding in them something worth living and perhaps dying for.

It is a film guaranteed to resonate with conservatives, especially those who remember the world as it was before the catastrophe of the late "Sixties". And it is fun to watch Clint deliberately violate every rule in the PC canon. But ultimately the film just isn't very good. Eastwood, in reprising his most famous roles, has reduced them to the level of parody. He growls, he grits his teeth and sets his jaw in nearly every scene, he even shouts at some teenage gangbangers, "Get off my lawn!" Particularly embarrassing are the episodes in the barbershop where he and John Carroll Lynch instruct the Hmong boy in how to swap ethnic insults with people. I'm old enough to remember the days when such talk was common, and the dialogue here is so formulaic and over the top as to be ridiculous. And that could be said of much of the movie. It is hyperbolic, but then that has always been a characteristic of Eastwood's work. He's much more comfortable with a sledge hammer than a scalpel. Most embarrassing of all is the final confrontation between Eastwood and the gangbangers. It is so obvious and so cliched that it alone would have ruined a good film. Here it is just one of many false notes.

I won't say much about the supporting actors. Many of them are non-professional and it shows. Even the pros aren't very good because the dialogue is so unrealistic and the situations so contrived.

As in all Eastwood films, the parts of Gran Torino click into place smoothly and form a coherent whole. He's a very efficient film maker. The trouble is, the parts aren't very good and ultimately neither is Gran Torino.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Bad Idea

Greg Mankiew explains why the proposed "stimulus bill" is likely to be less effective than a tax cut [here].

Saturday, January 10, 2009

More Pennsylvania Pictures -- Ice

Snow and ice, freezing rain, a brief letup, then the next storm system arrives. When I was a kid I loved this weather, but I ain't a kid no more.


The hills are leaking.



Gotta admit, ice on the branches is sorta pretty though.


And occasionally the Sun comes out, and if conditions are just right there are diamonds in the trees.

Friday, January 09, 2009

MLA Bigots

In recent years many of the most blatant examples of academic intolerance and bigotry have been on display at the annual meetings of the Modern Language Association. This year, to their credit, the MLA allowed one of their harshest critics, David Horowitz, to speak. Liz McMillan describes what ensued in the Chronicle of Highter Education here.

Shameful and sad.

Richard John Newhaus has Passed

He was a great and good man -- one of the most important voices in contemporary American religious discourse. He was a powerful influence on my thinking, and even when I disagreed with him his opinions were worthy of respect. He will be missed.

Joseph Bottum, Editor of First Things wrote:

Our great, good friend is gone.

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus slipped away January 8, shortly before 10 o’clock, at the age of seventy-two. He never recovered from the weakness that sent him to the hospital the day after Christmas, caused by a series of side effects from the cancer he was suffering. He lost consciousness Tuesday evening after a collapse in his heart rate, and soon after, in the company of friends, he died.

My tears are not for him—for he knew, all his life, that his Redeemer lives, and he has now been gathered by the Lord in whom he trusted.

I weep, rather, for all the rest of us. As a priest, as a writer, as a public leader in so many struggles, and as a friend, no one can take his place. The fabric of life has been torn by his death, and it will not be repaired, for those of us who knew him, until that time when everything is mended and all our tears are wiped away.

Amen,

Read it here.

The Anchoress has a nice roundup of reactions to the death of this remarkable man [here].

What Bush Has Wrought

Contemplating the current situation in Gaza, Victor Davis Hanson wrote:
Hamas has learned that for all its adept theater and victimization, its European megaphones and American sympathizers, it still was left largely hanging alone by the Arab capitals as it was systematically attrited.

....

Hamas was isolated and learned that Arab authoritarians worried more about Iranian influence than Arab solidarity.
Read it here.

This is a remarkable development, something never anticipated by fantasists like Former Secretary of State Zbigniew Brzezinski and other foreign policy "realists" who naively proclaim their faith in an endless "peace process". And, it is something that President Bush has accomplished.

It has long been clear to anyone but a "realist" that the interminable peace negotiations were never going to produce a satisfactory result so long as regimes in the Middle East had a vested interest in maintaining hostilities against Israel. It was their all-purpose excuse -- when pressured by Western powers to institute reforms their reply was always that nothing could be done until the Israeli/Palestinian problem was resolved. And, Israel was always a convenient boogey man they could invoke to rally support among their own populations.

Bush has changed that. The Iraq invasion and adversarial role played there by Iran has produced a more plausible enemy for Arab despots to worry about than Israel. Attention has been drawn away from the Palestinian cause, and their appeals have fallen on deaf ears. Military realities have produced a fundamental shift in the region, one that may have produced conditions in which a negotiated settlement might be possible. If the Obama administration achieves such a result, the "realists" will claim victory for their "process" and will conveniently forget that the fundamental shift brought about by the application of military force was what made the process work.

And, of course, President Bush will get no credit at all.

Sarah Strikes Back

Check it out. Ron Ziegler interviews the Mama Grizzly.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Panetta Choice

For a long time now it has been blatantly apparent that the American intelligence community, and especially the CIA, has been woefully incompetent. More, it has provided employment to a substantial number of officials whose loyalties lie more with the agency in which they serve than with the nation [a common problem in Washington]. In broader terms one might consider this a generalized resistance on the part of professional managers to direction from political appointees.

Recognizing the widespread dysfunctionality rampant corruption of the intelligence community the Bush administration sought to reform it. Unfortunately its efforts -- shifting functions away from the CIA toward the military, reorganizing the top administrative structures, and the like were inadequate to the task. Veteran Intelligence Professionals (VIPS), with the cooperation of a compliant media and opportunistic Democrats, struck back effectively. They failed to bring down the administration, but their efforts did seriously undermine the war effort and impede efforts to protect the country from terrorism.

It can be plausibly argued that the great failure of the Bush administration was that it lacked sufficient ruthlessness in dealing with bureaucratic obstruction. Officials soon recognized that there was no price to be paid for obstructing and subverting administration policies. That, I suspect, is about to change. Obama's appointment of Leon Panetta to head the CIA suggests that now we are playing by Chicago rules. If the VIPS do anything to embarrass the administration there will be reprisals. Administrators will be held responsible for the actions of their subordinates. Heads will roll. At least we can hope they will.

In many ways I find Obama's combination of naivete and ruthlessness alarming but in this case I think it is just what the country needs. Under Bush the military was effectively reformed and the obstructionist officers removed. It now falls to Obama to effect comparable reforms in the intelligence community. I think..., I hope he will succeed. A left leaning, celebrity smitten media is not likely to be as receptive to VIP subversion in the future as they have been and the opposition party is unlikely to be as cynically opportunistic as the Democrats have been. This will give Director Panetta the freedom to effect necessary reforms, even if it means the eradication of entire levels of intelligence managers. The CIA's days as a rogue agency may be coming to an end. At least that is change we can hope for.

RELATED:

K-Lo has a fascinating interview with former CIA officer "Ishmael Jones" over at NRO's Corner.

A key quote:

Bush felt a misplaced sense of loyalty to the CIA, a loyalty the CIA never returned.

Partisan political conflict during the Bush years allowed CIA dysfunction to thrive and grow. The CIA may have difficulty running basic espionage operations, but when its way of life is at stake, it fights like a retrovirus regardless of the commander-in-chief’s political party. The CIA’s sophisticated system of press leaks has been a textbook covert-action operation, in which journalists are given leaked information in exchange for articles which support the CIA’s agenda. CIA-stoked controversies over terrorist interrogations, wiretapping, the Libby case, and Iraqi WMD kept President Bush off balance, and at times even threatened to put his people in jail.

Former CIA director Porter Goss attempted some minor reform, but without White House support he was quickly expelled by CIA bureaucrats. Obama’s choice of a loyalist shows he understands the threat he faces from a dysfunctional CIA. That the CIA served President Bush poorly doesn’t make it the Democrats’ ally.
Lots of nuggets of wisdom here. Check it out here.