Archive for May 2009

The Council Has Spoken: May 29, 2009

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Bookworm Room - Does Brown v. Board of Education constitute the Supreme Court’s one free pass?

Noncouncil: Melanie Phillips - A Wary Encounter

Full voting here.

Obama Appoints Czar to Oversee Appointed Czars

WASHINGTON —President Obama announced on Friday the creation of a “Czar czar” to oversee the officials he has appointed as czars since taking office. “There are so many people running around the White House who have not gone through any vetting whatsoever that I think it’s important for me to appoint a czar just to keep track of them.”

If only. The president did appoint yet another czar today – a “Cyber Czar” that would somehow protect America’s computer networks. According to David J. Rothkopf of Foreign Policy, this would make the 19th czar position.
In addition to (Border Czar Alan) Bersin, we have energy czar Carol Browner, urban czar Adolfo Carrion, Jr., infotech czar Vivek Kundra, faith-based czar Joshua DuBois, health reform czar Nancy-Ann DeParle, new TARP czar Herb Allison, stimulus accountability czar Earl Devaney, non-proliferation czar Gary Samore, terrorism czar John Brennan, regulatory czar Cass Sunstein, drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, and Guantanamo closure czar Daniel Fried. We also have a host of special envoys that fall into the czar category including AfPak special envoy Richard Holbrooke, Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell, special advisor for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia Dennis Ross, Sudan special envoy J. Scott Gration and climate special envoy Todd Stern.

At this rate the Obama Administration will have 228 czars running around by the end of his first term – so maybe my idea isn’t as far fetched as it seems.

UPDATE: On June 5, 2009 he announced the 20th “Pay Czar“.

UPDATE: July 15, 2009 Fox News reports Obama has as many as 36 czars. Some even estimate 100. The Car Czar has quit though because he’s under investigation a pay-to-play scandal in New York. Will the car industry survive the departure? Only time will tell.

A Haunting Holocaust Photo

I ran across one today that I just can’t shake. Even after decades of reading about the Holocaust I still find pictures that simply horrify me in ways that defy explanation. The suffering displayed by the victims. The inhuman cruelty shown by the Nazis. Even the evil of the photographer who felt that the event should be preserved like a trophy by snapping the photograph. It’s as if the whole picture is a portal into Hell.

But here I am seven decades and an ocean away from the act, stunned with impotent rage. Even though I want to crawl through the picture and rip the Nazi apart with my own hands and stop the horror, there’s nothing I can do. The suffering is over. The Nazis in front of the camera and behind it most likely long dead like their victims. Yet the moment has been captured and lives on in the photograph.

The photograph reminds me that while the term is thrown about loosely today, and is often used against those who suffered it themselves, there is only one Holocaust – one true Sho’ah.

China Exports Crap, US Firm Surprised

Link.

Royal Marketing sued China Lucky for negligent misrepresentation, breach of warranty and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing—seeking an award of over $135 million.
In March, China Lucky got lucky. Royal Marketing won its lawsuit, but a California jury awarded it only $3 million. And, so far, that’s $3 million more than China Lucky has paid.
Ourian’s 27-year-old business is now on the ropes—its reputation damaged, its staff shrunk from 26 employees to five.
Meanwhile, China Lucky, which is nearly 50 percent owned by the Chinese government, continues to thrive.

The pattern for Chinese companies when dealing with foreign companies is to provide the best product for the best price, and then after the contract is signed cut corners and export garbage, and stealing IP like there is no punishment because (ahem) there is in fact no punishment. Royal Marketing Inc found this out first hand, but they are not the first foreign company to do so. As I said, it’s a pattern and RMI should have recognized it. The CEO should have gone to Target and 1. tried to buy something NOT made in China then 2. bought $1000 stuff and see what lasted longer than 3 months.

Verizon Wireless’s 3G Network

1. Gee I hope I can get a signal here.
2. God d****t what do you mean “communication error” on my Blackberry? I’m showing 5 frickin’ bars!
3. Guess I should’ve gotten an iPhone on AT&T.

China Is Key to North Korea

Gordon Chang writes the US has a China problem, not a North Korean one:

Today, China supplies about 90% of North Korea’s oil, 80% of its consumer goods and 45% of its food. Beijing is Pyongyang’s only formal military ally and its primary backer in the United Nations Security Council and other diplomatic forums. If it weren’t for the Chinese, there would be no North Korean missile program, no North Korean nuclear program and no North Korea.

North Korea is China’s proxy. If it wanted to, China could fix the North Korean problem the way we “fixed the problem” of Grenada in 1983. We should tell the Chinese across all of our communications channels with them:

“North Korea is your proxy and we hold you 100% responsible for their actions. We are going to ignore them for now because we trust that you have them on a tight leash. However if they attack the USA or its allies, the US will consider the act as if it was planned and executed by you and you will be held completely accountable.”

Do I expect Hillary or Barack to say this? I can’t even imagine it.

12 Years in IT Today

Happy Anniversary to me…

Is Obama Another Jimmy Carter?

Bahukutumbi Raman, a retired officer of the Indian intelligence service and director of the Institute For Topical Studies, in Chennai, India thinks so in this Forbes piece.

Jimmy Carter took a little over three years to create the image of the U.S. as a confused and soft power. Obama is bidding fair to create that image even in his first year in office.

I Dream of a Political Party That…

  • Keeps the government out of people’s way.

  • Keeps the government out of people’s hearts. If two men or two women want to marry and there’s a church or temple that will marry them, then the government should not stand in their way.

  • Recognizes that environmental conservation is a conservative virtue. I dream of a a political party whose environmental plank doesn’t sound like it’s been written by real estate developers and oil company lobbyists.

  • Supports the second clause of the 2nd Amendment without reservation or hesitation.

  • Supports religious freedom but doesn’t dictate morality. Dictating morality is the role for religion – not the government.

  • Seeks to end the creeping legalism of American society. I dream of a party that malpractice and personal injury attorneys fear to the point that they donate money to it in the hopes of watering down its legislation.

  • Appreciates America’s innate isolationism yet is willing to extend the fight to America’s enemies wherever they may be. Americans should not be asked to sacrifice their sons and daughters for nothing less than a direct threat to the United States. This means abdicating our role as the World’s Policeman and pursuing only our own objectives – not anyone else’s.

  • Recognizes “special relationships” with the following countries: Canada, a nation that has “had our back” for over a century. Australia, America’s most reliable and fiercest ally. Great Britain, our best and pretty much only true European friend. Israel, a special relationship unlike any other. Japan, our quiet yet dependable ally in East Asia.

  • Sees the War on Drugs as nonsensical at the least, inhumane at most. People should have the ability to harm themselves if they so choose, for what is freedom truly mean if they cannot? I dream of a party that adds to planks to its party platform: an official end to the war on drugs and the decriminalization of all drugs as well as the legalization of marijuana.

  • Advocates responsibility as well as freedom. Freedom without responsibility is fine for children, not adult human beings. I want a party that challenges citizens to succeed and fail on their own without prospect of a government bailout. Likewise when they do succeed, I expect a party that will not sanction them with punitive taxes.

  • Does not exist and probably will not during my lifetime. But I will dream about it anyway.

Raising Kittens: Week 3

The kittens are 2 1/2 weeks old and are pushing 400 g now. Eyes and ears are open, but they are now in the mastering gravity phase. They don’t stand all the way up and walk unsteadily. Yesterday we heard our first purr, and one seems to have a severe case of wanderlust: he crawls away on his own. The queen is taking excellent care of her four kits, and I must say that I look forward to coming home from work, grabbing a kitten and kissing it. Nothing lowers the blood pressure like a basket full of kittens.

Mu Kitten age 2.5 weeks
Kittens age 2.5 weeks

Death to Inclusiveness!

I’m starting to wonder if the reality I live in is the same that “Republicans” like Colin Powell live in. Powell states

“I believe we need a strong Republican Party that is not just anchored in the base but has built on the base to include more individuals,” Powell said. “If we don’t reach out more, the party is going to be sitting on a very, very narrow base. You can only do two things with a base. You can sit on it and watch the world go by, or you can build on the base.”

First off why should the Republicans take advice from a “Republican” who endorsed the most liberal Democratic candidate since Walter Mondale? Even Jimmy Carter portrayed himself as a conservative in the ‘76 election. “He said the reason he endorsed Barack Obama for president last fall—a decision that prompted a wave of conservative discontent with Powell—was he believed Obama was “best-qualified” to lead.” Okay. That makes someone an independent; party people vote for Mondale, Dukakis, and Clinton twice not because they are “the best qualified to lead” but because they are Democrats and Democrats vote for Democrats. I know because I used to be one and I voted for each one of those Democratic candidates. Regrets, I have a few…

Imagine if all Republicans voted like Colin Powell last November, all merrily voting for the “best qualified” to lead. The Party would be dead; after all what need would there be for one when the other team is better? And yet Powell has the audacity to blame a “narrow base” (read Conservatives), Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney for the troubles of the party.

The Republican party is in dire straits because of “leaders” like Colin Powell and the other RINOs and so-called “centerists”. These are the people who sold-out our party’s principles during Bush II’s term – who pushed for big government, higher deficits, and took the power out of the hands of the People and handed it to federal and state agencies. That’s not Republicanism – that’s what Democrats do!

Aside from Iraq, the GWOT, and judicial appointments, the Republican party under Bush II wasn’t very Republican at all; it was Democrat-lite. The base realized this and agitated against it but the party leadership ignored the base – and the Republican base did what the Democrat base did during the Clinton years. It stayed home and the party got walloped.

Today the bond between the Republican base and party leaders is gone. It doesn’t exist. The base is adrift, attending TEA parties and rubbing shoulders with libertarians and conservative Democrats. Cheney and Limbaugh recognize this – but all the GOP politicians in Washington seemingly don’t have a clue – and that especially goes for Michael Steele.

When the Democrats were in the wilderness during the Contract for America and early years of the Bush II admin, their party leader Terry McAuliffe was just as clueless about the problems besetting the Democrats. There were calls for the party to become centerist, more Republican-lite in order to win elections. But what saved the party and laid the foundations for its dominance today was one man: Howard Dean.

Howard Dean inspired the hard-left at the Democratic base with his opposition to the Iraq war and his support for other progressive causes like gay marriage and universal health care. His Wikipedia entry notes “By challenging the war in Iraq at a time when mainstream Democratic leaders were either neutral or cautiously supportive, Dean positioned himself to appeal to his party’s activist base… His message resonated among frustrated Democratic primary voters who felt that their party hadn’t done enough to oppose the policies of the Republicans.”

Dean’s meteoric rise scared the pants off the Democratic establishment in Washington. In Nov 2003 he received the endorsements of two influential unions. The next month he was endorsed by Al Gore. Dean was a juggernaut going into the primary season, but his early flameout allowed the centerists to reassert themselves – which they did. They were soundly beaten the following November.

Their loss forced Terry McAullife to fall on his sword, and the base replaced him with Dean. With the base solidly behind Dean, it was able to field candidates that the base supported. Conservatives like Zoell Miller were shown the door. In their place were leftists like Barack Obama. In 2006 the Democrats retook congress. In 2008 centerist candidates like John Edwards and Hillary Clinton were pushed aside for the inspirational figure of Obama and his hard-core liberal policies. The centerists ended up going along for the ride when Obama and his agenda was swept into office last November. His election was due not to “inclusiveness of the party” but to a base energized by his policies.

Unfortunately it is a history that “Republicans” like Colin Powell haven’t read, and until they do the party is doomed. It may eke out a governorship here or there, and might even gain a few seats in the House and Senate as the Democrats overextend themselves. But the party will not return to power until it learns from history.

It is not time for the GOP to become inclusive. It is time for the GOP to reevaluate its principles. That will come from the base, and will be channeled by a man like Howard Dean – not by the centerists like Colin Powell. Powell should leave the party officially; by endorsing Obama he’s already left it in spirit.

Pelosi Should Apologize to Americans Not Killed In Attacks

One of the charges made against those of us who supported the war in Iraq or war in general is that we must take responsibility for each and every casualty. “Visit the parents of a Marine killed in Iraq and ask them if it was worth it,” was once spat at me. That’s a responsibility that those of us who support such actions have to bear I suppose.

But the other side of that conceit rarely figures in debate. I realized that recently during Nancy Pelosi’s struggle to square the circle of her actions in 2002 versus her beliefs in 2009 regarding waterboarding. One of the few terrorists who was waterboarded gave intel during the procedure that prevented an attack in Los Angeles. That attack could have killed thousands of Americans.

So if I am burdened philosophically with facing the loved ones of each and every dead American soldier killed in a war that I support, shouldn’t Nancy Pelosi and those opposed to waterboarding face those who are alive today and state their regret that our American principles have been compromised and they would rather these Americans be dead? Perhaps they should visit the homes of those who weren’t killed and explain to their loved ones why their beloved should have perished to spare a terrorist some discomfort.

The Council Has Spoken: May 22, 2009

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Joshuapundit - Land For Peace, American Style

Noncouncil: Seraphic Secret - The New-Old War Against the Jews

Full voting here.

The United States of California

I used to live in California. California gave me my education and my wife, and I’m sure that before my time is done I’m going to return there. Conservatives who despise the state forget that it gave us Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. It might contain Berkeley, but it also contains some of the reddest counties found outside of the South. It contains some of the most beautiful places on earth. Yosemite. Big Sur. Joshua Tree (which in turn inspired one of the best albums ever – U2’s Joshua Tree).  I used to jokingly tell my students that if God lived anywhere in America, He would choose to live in California. Spend a week in Yosemite  and you’ll see why part of me still believes it.

But God wouldn’t live in California today. The state’s economy is a shambles, and I’m sure God would be pretty pissed about the collapsing services and soaring taxes. An article in this week’s Economist calls the state ungovernable and blames the mess on the people. It reckons that should the next round of ballot initiatives fail (as seems likely) California will enter a “full-blown financial crisis that will require excruciating cuts in public services.” Unfortunately those cuts are exactly what the state needs.

In FY 2008 the state spent $41 billion more than in FY 2004. Of that $41 billion, $13 billion went to education and $10 billion went to health and another $10 billion went to transportation. The rest went to cost of living adjustments for various programs. In 2008 the state spent $10,377 per student. Public school teachers now earn an average of $59,000 a year – tied with the state of Connecticut for the highest teacher salaries in the nation.

Does the average parent feel that their student is getting a top-tier education? The National Center for Education Statistics ranks California in 2007 at well below the national average for eighth grade reading and mathematics. Clearly taxpayers and parents aren’t getting their money’s worth when it comes to education.

California is proof that government spending does not solve problems, it exacerbates them. Between 2004 and 2008 California boosted spending by $41 billion. Now the economy has turned, but all that spending is still on the books so the state faces an annual deficit of $15 billion. Kind of makes you wander if Californians regret that extra $41 billion.

The state is facing draconian cutbacks and people are voting not only at the ballot box but with their feet. In 2005 the state had the second biggest outflow of population in the US - and that was at the height of a booming economy. In fact over the past 4 years emigration has outpaced immigration to the Golden State reaching 135,000 in 2008. This relative trickle of .4% in 2008 threatens to become a flood as taxes rise, services are cut, and jobs continue fleeing the state. And each drop of the flood isn’t equal.

“When California faced a Mount Everest-sized $14 billion deficit in 2003, one of the major causes for the red ink was the stampede of millionaire households from the state,” says a report called “Rich States, Poor States” by economists Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore. “Out of the 25,000 or so seven-figure-income families, more than 5,000 left in the early 2000s, and the loss of their tax payments accounted for about half the budget hole.” (link)

Unfortunately this is a lesson that President Obama and the Democrats are preparing to teach the rest of the nation – and there’s nowhere the rest of us can move to escape it. As California goes, so goes the nation is an aphorism that has never been more appropriate.

Facebook: A High Tech Sandbox

The Wife made an astute observation today. She said that she thought Facebook and other social networking sites were the high-tech equivalent of a sandbox.

When toddlers are playing in a sandbox, there isn’t much interaction between them. Instead each is in his or her own little world, babbling away. Sometimes the worlds of two or three might intersect briefly, but eventually they pull apart and the tots are alone again.

Facebook is quite similar. Most posts are mundane and few garner comment. When there is interaction, it’s usually brief – a comment or two on a particular post. There are a few people who get more attention than most, and there are some celebrities whose every grunt and online fart spawns hundreds of comments from fans. But Facebook is a sea of people babbling away in their own little worlds with little interaction between them.