You are currently browsing the daily archive for 25 September 2009.

The NYT, and others, disclose that Iran has an additional facility for the processing of weapons-grade uranium. Many of the usual suspects are on the case.

Meanwhile, Closing Velocity notes:

By scuttling the long range interceptors in Poland, Obama has chosen to make the Eastern (and Southeastern) US more vulnerable. The dirty secret of missile defense is our lack of an East Coast interceptor base. While they can boogie cross-continent to intercept an East Coast ICBM threat very late in its flight, our West Coast interceptors in Alaska and California are primarily tasked with defending against North Korea.

(Read this fellow, folks. He doesn’t post often, but when he does, he knows what he’s talking about.)

Sitting out here in redneck flyover country, far away from anything foreigners might identify with American power, I look forward to the calls for bloody retributive WAR! when the mullahs blow up something the Progs treasure. Note that I say “when”, not “if” — it’s a foregone conclusion that Israel is doomed, but when that garners the expected reaction (“Oh, that’s terrible! Let’s not do anything that might offend those poor misguided fellows!”) the next step is pretty well inevitable.

I’d rather it didn’t happen. Noting that it will is not the same thing as wishing for it.

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Erik at No Pasaran talks about a John Vinocur article in the NYT:

When Russia issues a reminder that it wants to buy an advanced, helicopter-carrying warship from France that’s built for amphibious assaults — hello all you folks along the Black, Baltic and Caspian Seas — then it’s pressing deeper its own reset button on altered relations with the United States and NATO.

Read the whole thing.

It’s my belief that when Hillary Clinton announced use of the “reset button”, and when Obama announced the end of plans to build ABM sites in Europe, they really did imagine that they were ushering in a new era of international chumship, in which all parties could desist from the difficult and expensive business of jockeying for dominance and concentrate on feeding the sick, housing the hungry, and curing the homeless.

It didn’t work out that way, and cannot work that way, because there are many, many people out there who consider their positions in the world lower than they deserve, and are ready and willing to take advantage of perceived (and real) weaknesses in the United States’ foreign policy to advance their own cause. Many of them are calmly prepared to bury the sick and ignore the hungry and homeless in order to gather the resources for their self-aggrandizement, and a few of them are not merely ready, but avid, to try themselves against American power, in the belief that whether or not American power can stand against them, it won’t be used for that purpose.

For valid and gripping historical reasons, Russia will, for the foreseeable future, see any power outside themselves as a threat against the rodina, the homeland. That predilection got bound up in the ideology of the USSR, and a lot of people, left and right, assumed that when the USSR went away so did the paranoia. It did not. It preceded the USSR, it preceded the Czars; it goes all the way back to Attila the Hun. It isn’t going away in the lifetime of anyone here, and it will always impel a Russian leader — whatever his or her ideology — to always seek expansion of Russia’s area of control.

An American not at least dimly aware of that has no business being employed by the State Department, let alone appointed its Secretary.

The last two chapters and epilogue of the earlier, “downbeat ending” of Temporary Duty are now up.

They aren’t 100% consistent with the full version as posted, because there was considerable editing done prior to them.

Enjoy, or not.

Breitbart reports a PRNewswire/USNewswire story that the 9th Circuit has convened a panel to hear arguments about the size of the House of Representatives.

This is, IMO, a Good Thing, and I hope it goes through.

My own proposal is to multiply the number of legal voters in the US by three, divide by the number of legal voters in the State with the fewest such, and “scientific round” — add 1/2, then truncate. This would result in a House of roughly 1,500 members, with the smallest State having three Representatives, and strikes me as a useful compromise between horrid inequalities in representation and a body too large and unwieldy to function.

Yes, the Capitol is too small. No, that isn’t a problem. They can build another one (preferably outside Dismal Swamp — Minot, N.D. would be good) and in the meantime meet at FedEx Stadium a.k.a. Redskins Stadium. It’s plenty big enough.

Paco wants to know why so many “czars” in the Obama Administration. The answer is simple.

Cabinet Secretaries and other positions are part of the Executive Branch, effectively assistants to the President. If the President had time to manage monetary affairs, there’d be no need for a Secretary of the Treasury.

Assistants have to be people you are confident will do the job you want. They aren’t independent actors; they have to follow instructions and do the work the person they’re assistants to want done, not hare off on their own. High officials have to be people the President knows, at least by reputation and recommendation, and people the President has confidence in and can work with. The President is expected to pick people of more or less his own way of thinking, but with the different expertise needed to do the specific job.

Leaving it all to that, though, invites abuse — the President, instead of picking competent people, might appoint ne’er-do-well relatives, buddies, and Party hacks who will make a hash of things. To put a check on that, high appointments require “advice and consent” — confirmation.

This President doesn’t have anybody like that on tap. There is nobody in his close circle, and nobody his close circle could recommend, who is simultaneously someone Obama can feel warm fuzzies about and someone who can survive the confirmation process. His Cabinet and high-level appointments are thus nonentities, mainly drawn from the near-endless supply of Party hacks and ideologues the Party-dominated Senate can stomach, although some of them are holdovers who have already been confirmed. They’re incompetents who for the most part have neither the knowledge, the talent, or the inclination to do the job — and that’s fine with this President, who would prefer that they play King Log while he controls the whole schmear.

The President still can’t do it all, and needs assistants. Thus “czars” — assistants to the President to take the load off in certain categories of the necessary work. Sure enough, they’re drawn from his circle of friends and acquaintances, or from the wider groups that circle knows and recommends. They’re people Obama can feel confident will carry out his plans and implement his policies, because they’re people whose notions of how things work jibe with his own.

And they don’t have to survive confirmation, so he can hire whatever “czars” he pleases. Win-win, eh?

… but, as usual with Leftists, they don’t really get it. The result is perverse.

The Founding Fathers regarded Government as a necessary evil. They didn’t express their distaste in terms of “strong central control”, because they didn’t have any other examples of strong central control other than the Church (which they disparaged, in forbidding Establishment of Religion), slavery (which was recognized at the time as as Not A Good Thing by many), and the labor-gangs, businesses, and Army units they were familiar with, in which the groups were small enough that the leadership principle was both necessary and workable.

Nowadays we have many examples of strong central control, and all of them creak and leak at the seams. It’s easier to recognize the problems with the idea when you have James J. Ling (the bee in my personal bonnet; there are many others) to kick around. (Yes, Virginia, a Corporation is an instance of the class “Government”.)

Obama and the rest of the America-Lasters, whose picture of the world is amply illustrated by Obama’s UN speech, see the situation as an instance of strong central control of the world by the United States, and recognize that as a problem which they wish to eliminate. That’s the philosophical impetus behind the objection to “Imperialism”.

Leftists don’t recognize that even in their own thought processes, because like all Progressives they are focused on the effects and not the causes. They see poverty and oppression, cast about for a source of power that can be logically connected to it, and when they find such a source they go after it with hatchets and knives. It’s much easier to make the logical connection when there’s an overwhelming example of power visible. The US is the hyperpower. Poverty and oppression exist. Connect the dots. It’s a facile explanation, easily comprehended by the sort of mentality that thinks tossing paving-stones through shop windows is an effective protest against the G20.

It’s perverse, because as they see it (and they are perfectly correct) the only way to change the situation is to gain sufficient power to modify the US’s behavior. In doing so, they themselves become (perhaps have become) an instance of strong central power, with all the ills appertaining thereto — a tail-chasing, positive-feedback perversion of the original concept. That’s inevitable if you don’t go back to first principles. You can’t break Monopoly unless you have sufficient power to oppose the Monopolists. You can’t prevent oppression of the Workers without building Unions strong enough to oppose the employers. In every case, the new power centers simply merge into the old, and the problems either continue or get worse.

The Founding Fathers of the US saw that the only way to break that positive-feedback cycle was for the strong central power to limit itself. The Constitution of the United States attempts to define the maximum powers of Government, and the Bill of Rights lays out a list of the most-likely abuses of the power of Government (as they saw it) and forbids them. Generations of people, most of them with the best of intentions, have been seduced by the opportunity to oppose power with power, and spent great effort and ingenuity to interpret the Constitution in ways that would allow them to gain power to eliminate the problems. The tactic doesn’t work. It can’t work, because it creates a new instance of the problems that adds, rather than subtracts, from the original one.

The Progressives and Pacifists are right about something else, too — the power of example. The US is a Great Power. Others “naturally” (or “instinctively” </sneer>) attempt to gather enough power to oppose it. If the United States had continued to restrain itself from the accumulation of power, and continued to prosper under that philosophy (which it did for a long time, however attenuated its allegiance to the philosophy became), it would have served as a powerful example to other power-seekers that the way to become powerful was to abjure power-seeking. Two things block that road.

First, nobody ever articulated and preached that principle. It is very difficult, almost impossible, to convince a power-seeker that his own efforts are self-limiting, that minimizing power leads to greater power in the long run; and because nobody ever codified that principle and tried to communicate it in those terms, it never reached the consciousness of the people who needed to hear it. It is, after all, counter-intuitive, and thus must be appreciated intellectually rather than viscerally.

Second, much of the US’s behavior has contradicted it. Lincoln accumulated the power to preserve the Union in order to use the power of the Union to better the lives of the People. The Government accumulated the power to bust up Standard Oil in order to prevent the concentration of power represented by Monopoly. There are a thousand other examples, each perfectly justifiable on its own merits — but they add up to a violation of the original principle. Power must limit itself, or the whole thing devolves into the power vs. power vicious cycle.

In the present day, Obama and his philosophical allies are reaching for an application of the same principle that led to Breaking Monopoly. They see the US as a monopolist, controlling the lives and fortunes of many with no effective counterbalance, and seek to reduce the power that allows it to do so. In order to do that, they must build their own power — and thereby pervert their own ideals. Sauron was a Good Man.

…in his own estimation, and that of his followers.

All he wanted to do was to bring the chaotic mess that was Middle-Earth under rational control — eliminate the inefficiencies, get rid of the waste, redundancy, and duplication of effort, do away with all the messy interpersonal and internecine conflicts, and get everybody singing from the same piece of music! Who could possibly object?

Clearly, anyone who did object was doing so out of a selfish desire for personal aggrandizement and personal gain. Such people are vicious and cruel — evil — and deserve to be swatted aside like the nasty predators they are. Crush the hobbits! Their barns are full, and there are starving baby orcs in Mordor!