Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: December 2010


DADT

I think it should be obvious – even to Sen. McCain – that DADT is going to be repealed at some point whether anyone likes it or not.  That repeal can be a purposeful one, implemented in a way in which the military can decide on a timeline and methodology by which to do so, or it can be by a court order that will end it immediately and not allow the military any control of the transition.

The Pentagon’s DADT study was recently published and it essentially concluded that most troops really don’t care about gays serving openly. That sentiment mirrors what most of the country feels as well.  The Pentagon report concluded that the threat to the force of repeal is “low”.

As I’ve said for years, when the dominant culture concludes sexual orientation isn’t relevant to job performance, that would eventually filter into the military.  If the Pentagon’s study is to be believed, that’s happened.

I’m reminded of one NCO who essentially boiled down the issue in a way that best reflects my feelings.  I’m paraphrasing, but he said that in the military there are two types of soldiers – those that are squared away and those that are dirt bags.  If a soldier is squared away he wants him, and he doesn’t really give a rip what his sexual orientation might be.  If he’s a dirt bag he wants him gone, and again that means straight or gay.

The top leadership in the military seems prepared to make the change.   The majority of the military, as reflected in the study’s numbers, seem prepared to make the change.  The experience of other nations, to include Israel, seem to indicate little risk in its implementation.

One of the things both sides have trotted out at various times in an effort to score political points when considering military issues  is  we should “listen to the generals”.  In this case I think that’s exactly right.  Repeal it and let them implement what is necessary to make the transition as painless as possible.  Refusing to do so leaves only the courts as an alternative.  And the courts aren’t going to give a rip about “transitions” or “time lines”, etc.  They’re going to order it stopped now.

John McCain said he was “open” to abiding by what the Pentagon study concluded.  That was apparently when he believed it would conclude something completely different than it did.  As far as I’m concerned, we’re making official something that has been the military’s dirty little secret for centuries.  That is we who have held command in the military have always pretty much done precisely what the NCO I paraphrased above said.  If you’ve been in the military for anytime at all, you’ve been in units in which gay soldiers served.  You knew it.  Everyone else knew it.  They knew you knew.  But as long as they showed up every day, in proper uniform, did their job to the utmost of their ability – i.e. “soldiered” – no one cared.

That should be the only standard by which we judge our soldiers, and we should make it the sole standard as soon as possible.

~McQ


Good news–GOP to “upend” spending process

One bit of advice I’ve been consistently throwing out there for the incoming GOP House majority is to act on those things that lead to less spending and smaller less costly government.  If they sit back and complain that even if they pass these things the Senate will vote it down or, if by chance, it gets past the Senate, President Obama will veto it, they’re gone in 2012.

So I was rather pleased to see that they intend to do exactly that in a POLITICO article today:

On some level, their plans may create a sense of organized chaos on the House floor — picture dozens of votes on dozens of federal program cuts and likely gridlock on spending bills. And don’t forget that a lot of these efforts will die with a Democratic-led Senate and a Democrat in the White House.

But the intent is to force debate as much as to actually legislate — and make Old Guard Republicans and Democrats uncomfortable with a new way of thinking about the size and scope of government.

For every action, however, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  And, per POLITICO, that opposite reaction is going to come from the “Old Guard” Republicans and Democrats who feel they’ve earned their power via seniority and don’t want to see it threatened or disrupted.

Insiders who have made a living under the old system are sure to push back, and many fear that Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) may not understand what he is doing.

“John should talk with the professional appropriators about the complexities, rather than talk off the top of his head. His plans would take a huge amount of the House’s time, but what would it accomplish?” said a dubious former House Republican member of the Appropriations Committee who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A former Democratic appropriator also was skeptical about describing prospective changes at that committee, which has a strong tradition of producing 12 bills every year from 12 subcommittees run by 12 very powerful Appropriations “cardinals.”

“On the practical side, it has to be nuts. Given the difficulty in passing the current bills, adding these changes would be a dream world. … There could be a revolt by members, who will want to get home and campaign.”

What is Boehner’s heresy? 

The plans include slicing and dicing appropriations bills into dozens of smaller, bite-size pieces — making it easier to kill or slash unpopular agencies. Other proposals include statutory spending caps, weekly votes on spending cuts and other reforms to ensure spending bills aren’t sneakily passed under special rules.

Yup … real change comes hard.  The “cardinals” want their power to be undiminished.  There’s a shock.  So let’s attempt to answer the question of the “dubious former House Republican member of the Appropriations Committee” shall we?

What would it accomplish?

Well, let’s see – one, if it took more time, it would be more time spent on bringing sanity to the appropriations process – a vital job of the House – and less time celebrating such things as the Smackover Arkansas junior league squash team’s championship or recognizing National Skunk Ranchers day.

Secondly, it would take a serious look at the appropriations process in detail.  Understandable, “bite-size pieces” that one can wrap their head around and vote down if the spending can’t be justified vs. huge omnibus bills so large and complex that it is difficult for anyone to understand what they’re voting for.

Third, as the paragraph states, doing it that way would “ensure spending bills aren’t sneakily passed under special rules.”  Or said another way – actual debate would be encouraged, not avoided.

And frankly, I like this idea as well – for the “detailed look” and context it would bring to the process:

Perhaps the most dramatic change is Boehner’s planned Appropriations Committee overhaul to require funding on a department-by-department basis, first reported by POLITICO on Wednesday. His proposal would subdivide the dozen current appropriations bills so that funding for each major federal agency would require a separate House vote.

Size and complexity are the enemy of good legislation and certainly sane appropriations.

“The [suggested] changes may be easier to follow and make more sense” than the existing practices, said Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste. “As long as members can make a case for or against a particular program, they will have the basis for objective decisions.”

Precisely. And an objective process in which to identify and eliminate waste, fraud, abuse, parts of agencies (redundant) or entire agencies (unproductive bureaucracies)if the case could be made (and it can – the question is whether it will). But this sort of process at least is a step in the right direction of bringing fiscal sanity back to the appropriations process if it can be introduced and followed.

Of course we’re talking politics and vested interests here so you never know.  And, of course, the GOP members must “buy into” the new process to make it work.  That, of course is a leadership problem, and it will be among Boehner’s first tests if he and his leadership group truly hope to change the way the House does business and enact measures that will indeed reduce spending and dial back government’s size and cost.

~McQ


The left hypocritically whines in unison about Senate GOP filibuster threat

I know this comes as a shock – shock I tell you – but the left is just in a tizzy today about the GOP Senate caucus’s unanimous decision not to allow anything to go forward in the Senate’s lame duck session until the tax cut question is settled.

Andrew Sullivan characterizes it as "dickishness" (and Dan Riehl comments that Sullivan has finally found something to like about the GOP). John Cole is on about "first priorities being millionaires", Charles Johnson hits it with "GOP totally committed to obstructionism", and the not so Moderate Voice snarks "Common ground, Republican style".

Whatever happened to the celebration of the minority power of Senate Democrats when they were not in the majority? As I recall then, Minority Leader Reid was aghast that the majority should want the ability to ramrod it’s agenda through the Senate without any input or ability to check it by the minority. And at the time he used the filibuster (and that’s what this is by the GOP, a filibuster) he certainly considered it a check against "absolute power" and something that our much "wiser" founding fathers encouraged.  Then it ensured “that no one person and no single party could have total control” according to Reid.   He even lectured everyone on it:

…when legislation is supported by the majority of Americans, it eventually overcomes a filibuster’s delay, as public protests far outweigh any senator’s appetite for filibuster. But when legislation only has the support of the minority, the filibuster slows the legislation, prevents a senator from ramming it through and gives the American people enough time to join the opposition.

Mr. President, the right to extended debate is never more important than when one party controls Congress and the White House. In these cases, the filibuster serves as a check on power and preserves our limited government. …

For 200 years we’ve had the right to extended debate [i.e., filibuster]. It’s not some procedural gimmick. It’s within the vision of the founding fathers of our country. … They established a government so that no one person and no single party could have total control.

Some in this chamber want to throw out 214 years of Senate history in the quest for absolute power. They want to do away with Mr. Smith, as depicted in that great movie, being able to come to Washington. They want to do away with the filibuster. They think they’re wiser than our founding fathers. I doubt that that’s true.

Ah, but that was then, and this is now. When it was the "evil" GOP in charge of the Senate, and brave Sir Harry and the Dems were the only shield against their tyranny, the founders were "wise". And the lefty blogs agreed.

Now, apparently, when it is used in exactly the same way Harry Reid and Senate Democrats used it while they were in the minority, well it’s pure obstructionism, “dickishness” and other such descriptions driven  by the left’s collective tantrum. 

Apparently ensuring a system exists “so that no one person and no single party could have total control” is just outside the pale now.  They want total control and they want to ram through what they desire without anyone’s interference.  And they’re willing to have the necessary convenient memory lapse they’re all experiencing right now to ensure their “outrage” seems driven by principle.

Save it, boys and girls – I’ve been in the blogosphere more than one day and I remember quite well your arguments of “principle” when Harry Reid was playing the same game as the GOP is now (see above).  Now you want everyone to swallow this faux outrage of yours and accept this argument of convenience that essentially throws your previous “principled” argument  under the bus?

Sorry, no sale.

~McQ


In which a blue blood princess gets offended by the term “blue blood” even though she apparently still doesn’t understand the term

For the most part I watch the Sarah Palin sideshow with bemusement and mostly ignore it.  Frankly I don’t want her as president but I think she’s good for politics in general because she stirs things up.  And lord knows it needs that.  I also get a kick out of watching the left obsess over her and in particular watching Andrew Sullivan make a fool of himself.

So I had to laugh as I watched the blue blood beer princess Meghan McCain rip into Palin this week for calling Barbara Bush a “blue blood”.   The humor factor? It seems our Columbia educated McCain had no idea of what a “blue blood” was and had to Google the term.  Even then she still didn’t seem to understand the term.

McCain’s a rather Obamaeque figure in my view.  She’s in a position of national prominence – a “pundit” with a national publication – although she’s really done nothing to earn such a position. That doesn’t stop her from having a rather inflated opinion of herself and her talents and abilities.  And as you might expect her work reflects that problem. 

Let’s get real here -  she’s in the position she enjoys because of her Dad’s political prominence. Otherwise she’d be a wannabe pundit slogging away on some obscure blog and wishing someday to have a national platform – sort of like me.   Because of her name, and as someone who nominally claims to be a Republican but spends most of her time ripping Republicans, she makes the perfect token for the publication where she contributes.

That’s not to say there’s anything particularly wrong or unique about her situation.  I think we know it happens all the time.  All sorts of organizations hire the children of famous “blue bloods” hoping to trade off the name they bring.  And obviously, the Daily Beast isn’t above such motivation.

The irony, of course, is she seems completely oblivious to the fact that her “blue blood” is why she’s where she is at the moment.

I remember, when Sarah Palin broke upon the scene, the almost sneering condescension she received from, well, members of the media aristocracy (blue bloods aren’t found just in politics, Ms McCain) when it was discovered her degree was from  …. the University of Idaho?  God forbid.  Idaho?  Is that even a state (yeah, one of the 57 we have out here in flyover land)?

And she had actually worked on a fishing boat and liked to hunt. She was treated like an 6-eyed alien just come to earth, something unseen and unheard of before.

True, Sarah Palin has managed to shoot herself in the foot many times, but I see that more as a function of instant celebrity, the attempt to adjust to that celebrity and the media culture’s negative obsession with those who don’t fit their template of an “acceptable” female politician.  As we’ve remarked many times, she was 1,000 times more thoroughly vetted by the media than was our current President (he fit the template perfectly).

I’d also point out that as long as she offers political commentary, she is fair game for the so-called “pundit class”.  That’s true about anyone in the political arena.

But I’m not sure I’d extend the title “pundit” to someone like Meghan McCain.  Other than snark and bad sentence structure she doesn’t offer much.

Call it tangential blue blood celebrity, but it seems to me that if you want to be taken seriously and actually earn and keep that celebrity (after daddy retires from public life and prominence)  you have to have something of value to offer. Badly worded and vapid diatribes about commonly understood terms you still don’t get aren’t likely to accomplish that.   As James Joyner says, if the Daily Beast intends upon keeping McCain, they could do us all a favor and at least get her an editor.

And yes, this will likely be the first and last Meghan McCain post – I know, thank goodness for that.

~McQ


Dear Harry – Senate GOP sends Harry Reid a message

And it’s a pretty pointed one showing a very solid Republican lame duck caucus – at least on this particular issue:

Senate Republicans promised Wednesday to block legislative action on every issue being considered by the lame-duck Congress until the dispute over extending the Bush-era tax cuts is resolved and an extension of current government funding is approved.

All 42 Senate Republicans signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, vowing to prevent a vote on "any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers."

If you’re wondering about the 42 Republicans, don’t forget Mark Kirk was sworn in yesterday as the new junior Senator from Illinois.

So there’s some solidarity that Democrats have to address if they want to pass anything else this session because with 42 automatically saying no, there’s nothing going to cloture and a vote. 

Democrats are trying to pass several pieces of legislation before a more Republican Congress is sworn in in January, including the START nuclear arms treaty with Russia, a repeal of the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, and the so-called DREAM Act, which would create a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants.

Naturally, Mr. Reid isn’t happy:

Reid blasted the GOP letter on the Senate floor Wednesday morning, calling it part of a "cynical" and transparent" Republican strategy to "obstruct" and "delay" legislative progress while blaming the Democrats for failing to effectively govern.

I thought “transparent” was good?  Heh … is this anymore cynical than trying to push through all the garbage on the Dem agenda while they have their last shot when the American people have said “jobs and the economy?”  Yeah, I didn’t think so either. 

And for once, Reid is at least partially right – this is a tactic to obstruct the majority party’s intention to do as it wishes without having to contend with the minority’s desires.  That, as I’ve observed over the last few decades, is how minority parties have acted on both sides of the aisle in Senatorial politics.  I get a little tired of both sides complaining about it.  That’s the reality of the rules the yahoos making the complaints agreed upon (and used – Harry Reid was the minority leader once as well, and was very complimentary of the Senate’s tradition of protecting the rights of the minority party to have a say).

Anyway, the gauntlet is thrown.  Other than whine, it’s going to be interesting to see how Reid, et al, react to this.  Time is running out rather swiftly.

(HT: Neo)

~McQ


Gates statement on Wikileaks release provides a dose of reality in foreign affairs

eriously, I really enjoyed reading what Sec. Gates had to say about why nations deal with the US and while the leaks are embarrassing and awkward, aren’t particularly significant.  I think his assessment of their impact is right on the mark:

But let me – let me just offer some perspective as somebody who’s been at this a long time. Every other government in the world knows the United States government leaks like a sieve, and it has for a long time. And I dragged this up the other day when I was looking at some of these prospective releases. And this is a quote from John Adams: “How can a government go on, publishing all of their negotiations with foreign nations, I know not. To me, it appears as dangerous and pernicious as it is novel.”

When we went to real congressional oversight of intelligence in the mid-’70s, there was a broad view that no other foreign intelligence service would ever share information with us again if we were going to share it all with the Congress. Those fears all proved unfounded.

Now, I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on. I think – I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought. The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it’s in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets.

Many governments – some governments deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation. So other nations will continue to deal with us. They will continue to work with us. We will continue to share sensitive information with one another. Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.

Emphasis mine.

The reason I’ve highlighted that portion of the text is it speaks to something I’ve said for years and is an answer to those who claim we must be “liked” in the world community to be effective.

No.  We.  Don’t.

It isn’t at all important that we be “liked” by anyone  – to include our allies.  It is much more important that we be respected, feared and indispensible.  Being “liked” is simply not important in international affairs.  We can be friendly, a “friend”, an ally, and a supporter to other countries, but other countries don’t deal with us because they like or dislike us – they deal with us because of what we can do to them or for them depending on how they act toward us. 

Or said another way, they act in their own rational self interest, with “like” being so far down on the priority list that it isn’t worth mentioning.

However, whenever I hear a candidate, party or group talking about the importance of other countries “liking” us, I immediately tag them as hopelessly naïve and, if in power, dangerous to our best interests.

Gates’ statement is a bit of fresh air considering the Commander-in-Chief’s “like” priority.  Obviously he doesn’t have the final say in foreign policy decisions or our foreign policy priorities, but it is nice to see that there’s a least one adult in DC who, unlike the “reality based community” and their “reset” buttons, understands how (and why) the real world works.

~McQ


Julian Assange: Tattletale

[The original version of this post appeared at the Washington Examiner on Nov. 29, 2010]

Well somebody really doesn’t like the United States now, do they? Or perhaps, as childish antics often turn out to be, Julian Assange’s provocations are really cries for attention from the most powerful nation in the world. Then again, maybe he just needs a nap. Whatever the actual reasons, Mr. Assange and Wikileaks do not warrant being treated as public enemy number one.

Some disagree, of course, such as Rep. Peter King (R-NY) who ranked Assange’s (and, consequently, suspected leaker Bradley Manning’s) actions as worse than al Qaeda’s:

“This is worse even than a physical attack on Americans, it’s worse than a military attack,” King said.

King has written letters to both U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking for swift action to be taken against WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

King wants Holder to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act and has also called on Clinton to determine whether WikiLeaks could be designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

All hyperbole aside, Rep. King’s suggested course of action — i.e. pursuing judicial remedies — are a bit over the top, but at least somewhat within reason. I’m not sure that anything Assange has done is actually prosecutable since he did not steal the information, and there is no discernible difference between his release of the information and that of, say, the New York Times. But at least criminal prosecution is within the realm of reason.

I’ve heard others mention much more violent courses of action for Assange, up to and including assassination. That would be truly ludicrous, especially given that the information leaked thusfar has done little more than expose the diplomatic corps as petty, niggling and dishonest.

Is that even news? If exposing stuffed shirts to embarrassment is all that is necessary to hurl the globe into World War III, so much so that assassination is deemed an appropriate penalty for the likes of Assange, then that would sort of obviate the need for diplomats in the first place. And while a world without pompous and pampered scolds pretending to be in charge of everything does seem like paradise, knocking off some waifish ex-Aussie just seems like a really poor way of bring that about.

So what do we do then?

Well, the first thing would be for the U.S. government to get a better hold on anything it deems “secret” or “confidential.” Step 1 might include such precautions as limiting access to sensitive information to something less than 3 million people:

The US embassy cables are marked “Sipdis” – secret internet protocol distribution. They were compiled as part of a programme under which selected dispatches, considered moderately secret but suitable for sharing with other agencies, would be automatically loaded on to secure embassy websites, and linked with the military’s Siprnet internet system.

They are classified at various levels up to “secret noforn” [no foreigners]. More than 11,000 are marked secret, while around 9,000 of the cables are marked noforn.

More than 3 million US government personnel and soldiers, many extremely junior, are cleared to have potential access to this material, even though the cables contain the identities of foreign informants, often sensitive contacts in dictatorial regimes. Some are marked “protect” or “strictly protect”.

Step 2 should probably involve an intense training program for all State Department personnel called “The Internet is Forever” including a two-day workshop on “What not to write in an email accessible by over 3 million people.”

Although I am being glib, I don’t find anything redeeming about the behavior of Assange and Wikileaks, and if there is some law akin to charging them with receipt of stolen goods, then sobeit. Bradley Manning, if he is indeed the leaker, should face much stiffer penalties, primarily because he was placed in a position of trust and he violated the duties commensurate with his position. Facing the death penalty for treason is too much, but a court martial and potential jail time would appear to fit the crime at this point.

What we should not do is overreact. Assange and his cronies are acting like children, and that’s how they should be treated — i.e. neither ignoring the bad behavior outright, nor giving undue attention that will ensure further incidents of such behavior. Getting into a high dudgeon just gives the insolent mite the reaction he’s looking for. It is true that the leaks have caused a great deal of embarrassment for the United States, but other than the first four French Republics, no nation has been rent assunder by embarrassment.

Let’s not act like that’s the danger we’re facing.

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