Follow the Whig by Email!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Keep Marijuana Illegal! 

I'm posting a great article by David Frum, a steadfast advocate for keeping pot illegal.  Read the whole thing here.

One of his best points:  as we are become MORE restrictive on alcohol and tobacco use, we are becoming LESS restrictive on marijuana use.   More:
  • Rampant fraud in the medical marijuana industry 
  • The resale of pot to minors by med-mari. card holders
  • Los Angeles's attempt to ban ALL med-mari. dispensaries
  • The rise of marijuana-related accidents
  • And: if smoking is harmless, why do people tend to give it up as they mature?
Fundamentally:  if you want to restrict access of marijuana to kids, DON'T legalize.   This merely increases its availability and eliminates the moral disincentive to use it.   Anyway, the article is one of the best I've seen in awhile, but its just a pebble in the path of a juggernaut.   My only consolation in looking to the future is this:  eventually the marijuana industry will become so big, it will be preyed upon by expensive class action suits and ambitious state attorney generals.   At least then the public might be able to wring some money out of the new dope pushers.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Obamacare Will Stay, No Matter What Happens in November

Even if the Republicans capture the Senate in November--highly unlikely, in my view--they will not repeal Obamacare.  Even though the GOP since 2009 has made its repeal the reason for its existence!  Why?  Well, when has the Congress ever repeal an entitlement program?  That goes against its very nature.  Even Candidate Romney vaciliated on the topic.

McMorris Rodgers says ACA likely to stay

Campaign talks cover health act, Air Force tankers, immigration
By The Spokesman-Review

Sorry, but you need to be logged in to share stories via e-mail. This helps us prevent abuse of our e-mail system.
Don't have a account? Create one here for free.

McMorris Rodgers
(Full-size photo)
With the news this week that more than 600,000 Washington residents have acquired new health care plans through the state exchange, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said it’s unlikely the Affordable Care Act will be repealed.
“We need to look at reforming the exchanges,” the Eastern Washington Republican said Thursday.
The five-term congresswoman and chair of the House Republican Conference kicked off her re-election campaign this week with visits to Walla Walla, Colville and Spokane. She faces Democratic challenger Joe Pakootas.
McMorris Rodgers has been part of the Republican leadership in the House that has voted multiple times to repeal parts or all of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. GOP members have said the law is unworkable, will increase costs for some and force others into inadequate coverage or plans they don’t want.
McMorris Rodgers continued those criticisms Thursday, but said the framework established by the law likely will persist and reforms should take place within its structure.
“It is a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to health care,” she said. Consumers should have more choice for their coverage, and Democrats should abandon the idea that everyone will enroll because of the mandate, McMorris Rodgers added.
The congresswoman also said that the 85 percent of enrollees who received Medicaid coverage is a sign the program is not sustainable and many will receive subpar care.
“You’re seeing where they’ve had to reduce programs for the very people it’s meant to help,” McMorris Rodgers said. “Somebody’s going to have to pay the bill.”
She also discussed the assignment of a new fleet of Washington-made jet tankers to an Air Force base in Kansas instead of Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, the feasibility of immigration reform this year and efforts to address the need for more medical education opportunities in Eastern Washington.

KC-46s go to Kansas, Oklahoma; not Airway Heights

McMorris Rodgers said the Air Force’s final decision not to send its first batch of next-generation jet fuel tankers to Fairchild should not be read as an indication base officials and the community made a poor pitch.
“I believe Fairchild is doing everything right,” she said.
The KC-46 Pegasus, replacing the 1950s-era Stratotankers that soar above Spokane’s skies as part of the Fairchild mission, is manufactured by Boeing in Everett. The yearslong vetting process of bases to house the new tankers ended with Wednesday’s announcement that McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kan., and Altus Air Force base in Oklahoma will be the first to receive the aircraft in 2018.
McMorris Rodgers said top defense officials at the Pentagon have assured her Fairchild remains in a strong position to receive tankers sooner rather than later.
Cited as a priority issue by many members of Congress and Obama, 2013 came and went without an immigration package, to the chagrin of many advocacy groups.
McMorris Rodgers said she still thinks a deal could be struck before the election. “I believe there is a path that we get a bill on the floor by August,” she said.
A bipartisan plan was passed in the Senate last spring but made no headway in the Republican-controlled House. McMorris Rodgers echoed the concern brought up by many in the chamber, saying she wants to see stronger border security. But she said she’d support a bill that grants legal status to those undocumented immigrants working toward citizenship, allowing them to remain in the country to work and go to school while they wait their turn in the current system.
“We’re going to have to push that this is a legal status, not amnesty,” she said.

Changing graduate medical education funding

McMorris Rodgers is pushing for a pilot program that will break the link between graduate medical education funding and Medicare compensation rates that put Washington at a disadvantage. The goal is to increase residency opportunities for medical students at health care providers in areas like Eastern Washington that have historically had few such positions.
Greater Spokane Incorporated has embraced such legislation, saying it will increase residency opportunities for graduates trained at the new Biomedical and Health Sciences building on the Washington State University Riverpoint campus.
The proposal has been mired in committee since its introduction in February 2013. McMorris Rodgers said there’s been resistance from those who benefit under the current Medicare-based model.
“There’s winners and losers in this,” she said. “The winners aren’t interested in changing it.”

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Getting John Paul II Wrong:  Michael Brendan Dougherty and Rod Dreher are Misinformed and Foolish

Dougherty is a young journalist and self-described "Traditional Catholic" (whatever that means) who thinks that Irish pop singer Sinead O'Connor spoke truth to power when she ripped up a photo of John Paul II on national TV 22 years ago, declaring him "evil."  In Dougherty's telling--he's obviously too young to actually have seen the telecast, but I'm not!--Sinead was protesting child abuse. Dougherty implies by all this that JPII's allegedly ineffective response to the church's child abuse scandal disqualifies him for sainthood. 

JPII led a life of heroic virtue.  But obviously he still has his enemies, even to the right.  Alas, Dougherty's article is being widely read as some kind of courageous testimony.  Rod Dreher, his colleague at the American Conservative, called it powerful and suggested Sinead as some kind of witness to the truth. (Dreher is the self appointed Christian conscience on the priest scandal and at the time was apparently the only Catholic troubled by it.  He's since left the church, and we'll just have to get along without him, somehow.)

I remember the telecast and the fallout that followed.  The disapproval of  O'Connor action was widespread.  (See Joe Pesci's response.) Everyone thought it was an attack on the Pope, widely viewed in America as a good and just man.  No one interpreted it as some kind of protest on child abuse.  Supposedly O'Connor ad libbed that into the song she was performing, which had nothing to do with child abuse whatsoever. Anyhow, if that's what she was doing, it went over everyone's head. 

I couldn't find any articles interpreting O'Connor's picture-ripping in that way until 2002.  It looked like a clear case of ex post factor justification, because the priest scandal was peaking then.  However I did find this piece from the liberal and anti-Catholic Guardian, which  doesn't mention anything about her protesting child abuse as a motive.  What do you know?  It was a publicity stunt!   We see something of the real Sinead here:

Dougherty,  recommend you refine your google searches.   We'll read your future "journalism" with a critical eye.

For a sane perspective, here's one you might like to read by Fr. Barron:

Friday, April 25, 2014

Democracy: What a Concept

Krauthammer praises the strong majority Supreme Court decision upholding Michigan's law that prohibits the state from discriminating either for or against any citizen on the basis of race.  He's right. The Courts should not be overturning popular votes unless they contradict explicitly the constitution. (I believe the same thing about the Affordable Care Act too--that was an issue decided by the Congress, and not explicitly unconstitutional--but most conservatives disagree with me.)

Note that Ruth Bader Ginsberg joined the opposition.  Famously, she criticized the Roe v. Wade decision because it created great social division when the "reforms" on abortion were already being untaken politically by the states.  Now that state reform is proceding against affirmative action, she doesn't support popular sovereignty. 

One thing about Michigan: it takes this law very seriously.  Anecdote: When I was recruiting for a federal agency, the University of Michigan administration forbade us from individual meetings with advocacy groups based on ethnic or racial identification.  No privileging one group over another. So, no individual sitdowns with the Black Student Union, or the Latinos, or Asians, or what have you.  We therefore held meetings open to all students, regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender.  (I didn't sense that that university admin types liked this, but they enforced it.)  Go Michigan!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Did Turkey Try to Engineer Our Intervention in the Syrian Civil War?

The turnaround in Washington on intervention in the Syrian Civil War was one of the remarkable stories of 2013.  To illustrate, in late 2012 I attended a conference in which former CIA director Mike Hayden said that we probably needed to get involved in the war in support of the rebels.  One year later, after a year of stories about how Al Qaida-inspired groups had taken over the rebel movement, Hayden said that probably the least bad outcome was Assad winning.  

As you'll recall, last summer it was revealed the Assad regime had used sarin gas on a rebel-controlled village.  This crossed President Obama's "red line" on intervention.  Then after some vaciliating, he took the issue to Congress, which rejected intervention.  The Russians then made a deal to monitor Damascus's disposal of chemical weapons, which we accepted. 

The following long piece by the famous report Sy Hersh argues that the administration started to have doubts about the Assad regime's use of sarin.  (It never made sense either strategically or tactically, but war has a way of getting out of hand.)  The piece strongly hints that the Turks may have engineered this with its controlled rebels to get us to step up our covert intervention, or to bomb Syria.

One comment about piece, which has created a lot of buzz:  nothing new, it seems to me, on the doubts about who used the sarin.  But I do know one thing, and this contradicts his reporting:  last year the principal deputy of the director of national intelligence (PDDNI) made an unclassified speech to private sector analysts at the ODNI.   This senior officer bragged about how the intelligence community proved to the White House how the Assad regime used  WMD on its own people.  PDDNI considered this to be a major success story for the IC, and even suggested it did much to fix the intelligence failures over WMD in Iraq.  Clearly, the IC believed the Assad regime used sarin, unlike what Hersh suggests here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Is World Government Inevitable?

Birchers beware: the academic community might be rediscovering the Dantean dream of the universal monarchy.  I suspect climate change is driving this, at least in part.  (Or is world government driving "climate change"?)   Here's a piece that lays out the current thinking on it.

With reference to Dante above, see Burnham's classic takedown of this acute realism deficit in "the Machiavellians." He makes the important distinction between formal reasoning and real reasoning in political affairs.  Keep this in mind when you start reading more world government articles. 
Was Hurricane Carter Innocent?

Here's an episode from the Great American Carnival that at least deserves a passing nod.   Growing up in NJ and having an interest in boxing,  I learned something about Ruben "Hurricane" Carter, the Paterson fighter convicted of triple murder in the early sixties.  Eventually his conviction was overturned on procedural grounds, after decades of activism on his behalf.  For liberals, Carter was embraced as a victim of systemic white prejudice.  See the Normal Jewison movie with Denzel Washington.  Bob Dylan dedicated a whole album to him,  with the title song defending his case.  Here's his obit in the NY Times:

Here's a more populist view of his story, which is entertaining if somewhat unenlightened:

Some sensible people did believe Ruben was wrongfully convicted:

Bottom line:  a very good fighter, who once knocked out the great Emile Griffith (a smaller fighter) in one round, but who went into decline after losing a UD to titleholder Joey Girardello.    As NJ sportswriter Jerry Izenburg said about him, he was railroaded, but I'm glad I don't have to write his story.

Postscript:   Here's a NJ columnist who did his research and does not think he was railroaded.  This might be the best piece on Carter:

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bye-bye Sebelius

Kathleen Sebelius resigned from HHS last week, with the albatross of Obamacare still around her neck.  Really the fall-gal for the disastrous implementation.  When you think about it,  having one of the least competent bureaucracies in the federal government run a vast program like Obamacare doomed it from the start.  Tim Carney in the Washington Examiner sums up her sad legacy here:

The Big Pharma lawyers were brought over to implement Obamacare shouldn't surprise.

Carney is a must-read for following the lawmaker-lobbyist nexus.  Get his columns emailed to you.

In principle,  the U.S.A. should ensure all its citizens have access to good health care.  That seems like a reasonable goal for the good society.  In practice, Obamacare was always a Trojan Horse to socialize the health care industry.  It will blow up the federal budget and create health care shortages.  This is an inevitable as nightfall.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Grappling with the Broad Historical Questions

Samuel Huntington's "the clash of civilizations" thesis might be criticized, but it's hard to deny its empirical truth.  Look at what is happening in the "torn state" of Ukraine.  Robert Merry in the National Interest wonders if Washington these days is even capable of asking the necessary questions on what the new world order should look like.  Instead, the capital just seems to sleepwalk through policy decisions made years ago.   See his provocative piece in the National Interest here:

Is this the worse mess since the 1930s, as William Pfaff recently asked?   I do not think there is any great power that is fundamentally revolutionary, as we had in the Thirties.  Russia is trying to defend its sphere of influence; not overturn the world order.  But we do have a lot of issues on the plate lately.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cannabis, Inc

A good piece from the American Conservative.  Note that Colorado has earned only a disappointing $2 million in tax receipts on pot so far.  Watch out for the attempts to market pot at the corporate level; that's coming.

But don't miss the quotes by Mark Kleiman of UCLA:  he wants a federally regulated pot market to encourage states to monopolize the sale.  (Kleiman is a longtime advocate for drug legalization.)

All very predictable:  1) legalizing pot requires MORE legislation, not less.  2) government's take will be disappointing; and 3) you still have to suppress the illegal market.  

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Today's Veterans Are Proud of their Service

Here Andy Bacevich, who grows more isolationist with each passing year, seem nonplussed that veterans are not jumping on the anti-war bandwagon.

Bacevich typically is worth reading.  He lost a son in Iraq, which makes this personal for him, and who can blame him? But I'll offer a few reasons for why veterans are not alienated.  To me, this is not mysterious:

1) They believed the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were just wars.  The cause was right.  That doesn't excuse the mistakes in execution.

2) They knew that, under Bush at least, Washington was committed to the cause.  They did not see the same from Obama.  (See Gates's book on Obama's lack of moral commitment to the Afghanistan surge that he approved.)

3)  They volunteered for service.  They weren't draftees like in Vietnam.  Just spoke to an Afghanistan veteran this week.  A Texan of Hispanic origin deeply proud to have served, and who benefited personally from the experience. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Is the Party Over for China?

We keep reading that China is bound to slow down its growth, or reform, or tackle corruption, or float the yuan, or democratize, or what have you.  If you read the entertaining Gordon Chang, the China collapse will happen Any Day Now.  Did China's banks make too many bad loans?  That's entirely the point; that's the system they run. But here's a quote from a column by David Ignatius:
What's different now is partly that Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, the new Chinese president and prime minister, respectively, seem to mean business about puncturing the bubble economy. Stevenson-Yang quotes a 2013 warning from Li that reforming China's banks would be like "disarming land mines," because they had made so many questionable loans.
I heard former Ambassador Jon Huntsman at an OSAC conference describe Xi Jinping as "a reformer to his bones."  Will see. The country is, as Ignatius admits, "opaque."

If we are concerned about China from a security perspective--and the PLA keeps giving us and the Japanese reasons to be concerned--we should welcome this news.  Other low-wage countries in our allied rimlands will start picking up the slack.

As Edward Luttwak maintains in his recent book, the only real counter to China's rise is a rational geoeconomic strategy.  This would entail privileging our industrial base.  But our government is divided; the US Treasury under Mr. Geithner has been on a mission to promote China's growth. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Benghazi:  Common Sense Slowly Prevailing

Trying to get to the bottom of what happened at Benghazi on September 11 2012 is Congress's responsibility, and as citizens we should be gratified it has taken this seriously.  The Republicans have not been inordinately preoccupied with Benghazi. 

That said, I do not see a conspiracy here either to abandon the base under attack or to cover up the aftermath.  Ignorance, poor analysis, bureaucratic stumbling, and basic ass-covering probably are the main drivers here.

Some have blamed Ambassador Chris Stevens for his foolhardiness in going to Benghazi at that time.   Ambassadors are on the front lines every day, or should be.  They have to take some risks to promote and defend American interests.  Stevens may have been an idealist, but by visiting Benghazi he was operating in tthe best tradition of the Foreign Service.

I don't know why senior State department officers who had decisionmaking responsibility for the security of the mission facility (it wasn't a consulate; it don't know what to call it) in Benghazi have been reinstated in their jobs.  That no one was fired over these lapses is a travesty.

All the fuss over "talking points" is a distraction.  The CIA clearly didn't know what was going on.  It was still locked on to the idea that this was a "demonstration" by "extremists" over a youtube video insulting the Prophet.  State department thought the same thing.  Probably this flaccid analysis was due to lack of any decent intelligence whatsoever. Susan Rice should have known better than to be still hawking this flawed line of analysis days after the attack, and it rightly cost her the Secretary of State job.  (One good thing came out of Benghazi, at least.)

The Pentagon may be off the hook for the Benghazi lack of response, but its whole "rapid reaction" force approach to security emergencies at embassies has been exposed as inherently flawed.  The response after the event was weak and ineffective.  (No airlift was available for the Marines, among the many issues.)

Was this a mission by Al Qaida to kill Stevens?  Doubt it.  AQ as we once knew it know longer exists.  Groups aligned to its ideology do.   To me the link between the demonstrations at the Embassy in Cairo and the Benghazi incident seems strong.  But the attackers at Benghazi seemed to be improvising.  It is unclear if they knew they had killed Stevens.  They didn't try hard to look for him and verify if they were successful. 

In the end, like the Kennedy assassination, the truth probably won't be clearer over time.  And likely the killers will never be brought to justice.  But bad guys are getting killed in Benghazi and nearby areas all the time, wasted by other bad guys.  So we might take some solice in knowing that some of them are probably dead already.

Here's a link on a good summary of the Benghazi investigations.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Geo-economics vs. Globalism

This piece nicely captures the essence of the (flawed) US strategy over the last few decades.  Mandelbaum says keep pushing globalism, the free movement of goods and people, and the use of American power to break down the pockets of resistance (in the BRIC nations).  It is the economic version of Fukuyama's "end of history" and liberal democracy: the end of history is the unfettered global market.

The trouble is this ideology is it is leading to a decline in American power and relative prosperity.  This form of global capitalism cuts the rug out from under us if we no longer have a manufacturing base and if we are constantly importing poverty in the service of the free movement of peoples. 

Anyway, Berkowitz writes approvingly on it here:

We will post more extensively on this theme.  As Edward Luttwak has written, we should let "strategy" determine our global economic policy.   His book on China and the logic of strategy goes into this in detail, which will be the theme of a later post.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Defend the Interrogation Program

Former Senate staffer Thiessen stands up for the agency.  Will Brennan?

The Global War on Terror must really be over.  Remember: it is okay to assassinate suspected terrorists, but not interrogate them harshly. 
Identifying the Pivot of History

Here's an interesting piece on Halford Mackinder, one of the most important 20th century strategists.  His ideas on how geography shaped history still enjoy influence.  Strategy transcends politics.  Think of our current attempt to "pivot to Asia."

Monday, April 7, 2014

NOAH:  An Okay Epic

A lot of people in the press will pretend to like this movie either because they like the "green" message (secularists) or they are just relieved that Hollywood will take the Bible seriously (Christians suffering from cultural war battle fatigue). 

Some of the public discussion of the Russell Crowe movie "Noah" has focused on its departure from the Genesis narrative.  The film's writers had to introduce dramatic tension and character development, and I didn't think the liberties taken were excessive.  I thought the movie was imaginative and in some parts beautiful.  Naturally it had a vegan message: save animals, don't eat them. I didn't mind that Noah didn't entirely understand his tasking, but he thought that all mankind, including his family, had to perish.  He came off like a early version of the Rev. Jim Jones. 

The overall message is a little skewed. A bad local king, who improbably chops his way into the gigantic ark, delivers the message that the "creator" gave man dominion over animals.  The movie omits that God told Noah that all animals now are our food.

I recall the older movie "The Bible" with John Huston as Noah.   He gave the role a bit of a comic twist.  That would have been welcome, as this movie labored.  Noah has always been a vaguely endearing figure--he gets drunk on wine--but this guy was a bit of a jerk.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Our Unemployment Rate Stinks.  Could be Worse.

According to the latest labor statistics, our national rate of unemployment is now 6.7 percent.   We regained all the jobs lost since 2008.   Whoopie.   In Spain for a conference last week, I asked a Portuguese colleague how his country's recovery was progressing.  Better, he said.  Unemployment has gone down to about 16 percent.  Europeans have just gotten used to this. 
Defending CIA's Hard Interrogations

In the WaPo this am, the man who ran the CIA's enhanced interrogation program, Jose Rodriguez, defends it against a highly critical Senate report.  See the link:

One takeaway from Robert Gates's memoir--see my review in an earlier post--is how psychologically affected the Bush administration was by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  Gates states the administration felt it had let the country down, and it would do anything to prevent another attack.  That observation came in 2006, when he joined the government; five years later, it still weighed heavily upon the White House.  When Bush was presented with the option of approving enhanced interrogation techniques, according to his own memoir, he replied, "damn right." (Or words to that effect; I quote from memory.)  Clearly the administration was committed to do whatever it took within the law to unravel the Al Qaida network. 

Gates mentioned somewhat obliquely that it would have been beneficial if some more reflection had been undertaken to determine whether "waterboarding"--the hard technique used--was consistent with American values.  That's a legitmate point.  With the benefit of hindsight, I wonder if any of the proponents would have approved it, given the endless fuss it has caused.  It is 2014, and we are still debating a program that ended 10 years ago, was used on few people, and probably did yield some intelligence on our enemies. 

Hard interrogation was not torture.  Some Hollywood actors and journalists have willingly submitted to it.  Obviously its proponents did it to break some very tough men WITHOUT using torture.  These were men who planned and committed mass murder, without remorse.  Some people will see this issue differently, and that is their right. Glad they weren't in charge after 9/11, though.

I always thought it was somewhat telling that Leon Panetta, a liberal if ever their was one, always defended the hard interrogation program when he was CIA head. Obviously the Democrats on the Hill are attacking the CIA over this because, well, because they can.  Let's be clear: principles have nothing to do with this.  

As for American values...well.  We've always been hard on our enemies.  We are killing them now with drone strikes, and sometimes this leads to death of innocents.  (Not as many as people would suppose, though.)  This program has been undertaken by a conservative and a liberal administration.  We the People seem more than okay with it.