Wednesday, September 3, 2014

When Democrats Have No Answers . . .They Make Stuff Up

The Democratic Party knows that the gas that Obama put in the tank in 2012 has about run out.  Most likely, they counted on the Hillary rollout earlier this year to help boost their brand.  For the first time, she stepped on the national stage unencumbered by powerful men such as her husband and Obama.  Unfortunately for her, the book tour turned into a book snore.  She came away looking both out of touch and saddled with painful reminders that foreign policy devolved into a mess under her stewardship.

Hillary was the last chance for a Democratic Party that has clung more to appearances than accomplishments.  But she turned out to not have nearly the political savvy of her husband, which most had assumed whether they supported her or not.  Without Hillarymania, Democrats have nothing on which to hang their hat.  No one wants to own either Obamacare or the rapidly deteriorating foreign policy disasters.

What is a Democrat to do?  When you don't have the facts, just make something up.

Liberal media coordination showed its weird face again last week.  Almost simultaneously, Think Progress, MSNBC, Atlantic, and other outlets posted stories about the Republicans planning a government shutdown over possible executive order amnesty for illegal immigrants.  This naturally took the GOP by surprise, since it is confident that voters will oppose Obama enacting law on his own.

The Daily Caller and other conservative media exposed the crude ruse yesterday.  Quickly following this came White House word that Obama had backed off on his amnesty proposal, calling for a national debate before doing anything.  The Daily Caller's Neil Munro speculated that this is a retreat, if not a white flag.

Did the White House gin up a fake concern, lead supporting media by the nose, and then start to dump the whole issue?  Maybe not, but clearly someone made up the shutdown story for some purpose they thought would benefit the Democratic Party.

This all came only weeks after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spent weeks wasting the Senate's time grousing about two Americans promoting their ideals within the letter of federal and state laws.

With many predictors indicating Republican control of Congress after this election, desperate times must have called for desperate measures from the Democratic Party.

West Virginia is not immune.  Natalie Tennant's campaign actually brought in anti-coal Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts to campaign with her.  No sane campaign official could have thought this would help Tennant against Capito; it seemed more of a rally for Warren's possible presidential run than anything for Tennant's benefit.

After Warren's visit, Capito increased her polling lead dramatically.

Meanwhile, Nick Casey's campaign against Alex Mooney has also gained no traction.  From Stephen Elkins to Jay Rockefeller to Patrick Morrissey, the Mountain State's supposed prejudice against outsiders has usually proved illusory. Polls indicate that prior residency is still not an issue in this race.

Casey's supporters have tried to paint Mooney as anti-coal, based in part on his opposition while state senator to putting a trash incinerator within literal shouting distance of a national battlefield.  Also Casey, owner of five separate houses, has tried to cast himself as a frugal common man.  He slammed Mooney in the past because he, like many other West Virginians, rented his home instead of owning it.

The WVGOP has enjoyed poking fun in particular at Casey's claim that he only buys black shoes and socks.  Some criticized the party for making a point of showing that he indeed had other colors of shoes and socks, but state Republicans have made the Casey campaign look trivial in the spat.  Mooney talks about jobs; Casey talks about his socks.

Capito, Mooney, Evan Jenkins, and David McKinley all run on common sense proposals that would help the state and national economy while enhancing our security.  Tennant, Casey, and others try to run on the tired old stereotypes of the rich Republican, seemingly unaware that Obama has made the Democrats the party of golf and Kobe beef.  More damningly, they are also the party of rich environmental elitists putting working men out of jobs.

Nationally, Democrats face the same set of crises.  They followed left wing policies on health care and the environment, only to see them lead straight to what the GOP predicted. They exploited the easy politics of the cult of personality, until that personality was shown to be bankrupt of ideas and listless in action.  Republicans do not have a beautiful image to rally behind, just a set of tried and true ideals that most people happen to agree with.

And Democrats have no real or imaginary answers to both their upcoming political defeat and the escalating crises facing the US.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What Story Could Link the Shadier Parts of the Internet to Apple's Corporate Image?

Last weekend, the news broke that nude pictures of a large number of female celebrities had been swiped from iCloud.  The list includes Kate Upton, Jennifer Lawrence, Mary Kate Olsen, and many others.

Deadspin reported that a reader approached them weeks ago with a tale of a Facebook offer to trade nude pictures of Jennifer Lawrence for similar pictures of his girlfriend.  This has led some to believe that these pictures have actually been in circulation for a long time in the nether regions of the internet.

The pictures have turned up mostly on a site called 4chan, a site dedicated to picture sharing.  According to the Washington Post, one particular area of the site known for graphic images of sex and violence hosted most of the leaked celebrity pictures.

Users of 4chan tried to use the leaked pictures to launch a campaign to get young women to pose nude in sympathy for Jennifer Lawrence and other victims of the leaked pictures.

If they are celebrity pictures.  Some of the victims have taken to social media and shown that the images are fake.  Others may be genuine.  The FBI has launched an investigation, particularly in the case of specific victims. And Kirsten Dunst, another possible target, publicly lashed out at Apple.

Another related issue for the stars does not simply come from the breach of privacy, but also comments made on the pictures themselves.  Emma Watson condemned anonymous comments that she said "lacked empathy."

Dunst's choice tweet directed at Apple, calling them a sliver of excrement, could symbolize a backlash against the ubiquitous use of that company's products.  If consumers start to question the safety and wisdom (which they should!) of putting most of their lives into the digital realm, this could take a bite out of Apple's plans to link everything, including your microwave and crockpot, to the internet.

Putting nude images in something called a cloud should seem like a bad idea to begin with.  The cloud is a digital community as safe or unsafe as a tangible one.  If you put something up there in high demand, like naked pictures or Quentin Tarentino's next script, it could very well be stolen.

It's a violation of rights to steal celebrity pictures, or anything else, from the cloud. Those who did this ought to be prosecuted. But the crime is tantamount to someone stealing a car with the keys in it.  The victim did not take sufficient care to protect his or her property.  Apple is a company that mastered the art of planned obsolescence.  It is less a moral force and more of a company that short ends its consumers in the same manner as US automakers in the 1950s. Can such a company really be trusted with your secrets?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Three Speeches That Destroyed Presidencies

Andrew Johnson's speech on Washington's Birthday 1866.  He compares himself to Christ and his Radical Republican political opponents in Congress to the recently defeated Confederates.

Jimmy Carter's "Crisis of Confidence" or "Malaise" speech.  He lays out a laundry list of demoralizing American problems with no solutions and no real hope of success.

Barack Obama's stunning admission, after a summer full of golf and vacations that he has no strategy for ISIL revolutionaries.

CNN: Living Proof That Market Dominance Does Not Necessarily Last

People under 30 probably have no direct memory of it, but at one point, CNN equaled news.  And if you did not believe that, Darth Vader told you so.  This week, however, layoffs and "managerial changes" are convulsing the network.

When movies wanted to include realistic news references in the early 1990s, they cited CNN.  They were everywhere and showed everything.  Why wait for Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw's updates at the top of the hour or their full broadcast at 6:30?  You could see it now on CNN.

The era of CNN's ownership of modern news came only a little over a decade after the retirement of CBS' Walter Cronkite.  It also came in most major newspapers' most profitable years.

What happened?

Part of the problem emerged in the 1990s when a personal friend of President Bill Clinton's was chosen to lead CNN.  Regardless of the resulting coverage, this created at least the perception, if not the outcome, of a conflict of interest. 

A real or perceived liberal bias opened the market for competition.  This included the conservative leaning Fox News and (at the time) the even more conservative MSNBC.

Does anyone remember when MSNBC featured Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, and Tucker Carlson?

Viewers latched onto Fox News, which eventually became the leading cable television news outlet.  Others turned away from television (and tangible newspapers) altogether and started using the internet as a primary news source.

CNN struggled to adapt while trying to maintain their image as the "real" news source.  A 2012 Pew survey praised CNN for keeping 55 percent of its broadcast focused on news (as opposed to 45 percent for Fox News and less than 10 percent for MSNBC.) 

Recent hires should have helped.  Jake Tapper headlines one of CNN's premiere spots.  He is one of the few media figures respected from all ideological points of view.

Problems, however, continued. Reports of extravagant overspending in times of declining ratings dog the news of layoffs.  And these layoffs and early retirements affect many of CNN's most senior, most experienced, and core personnel.

Whatever the problems are, clearly CNN has still not discovered the solution to its viewership and profitability woes in this competitive media age.  The network built its reputation and market dominance in an era of no competition. Only figuring out a way to regain competitive advantage can bring it back towards what it once was.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Has Republican Revival in West Virginia Brought Hope to State Residents?

Shelley Moore Capito is running away with her race for US Senate.  David McKinley has not seen any serious challenge.  Alex Mooney maintains a double digit lead in his race.  Evan Jenkins has the momentum against his opponent and is nearly statistically tied.  House Republicans anticipate taking over chamber leadership next year.

Republicans have ascended in West Virginia.  The only question now is whether the state will remain a two party or transform into a Republican dominated system by 2016.

A recent Gallup Poll shows that 36 percent of West Virginians see their state as one of the best to live in, well below the national average of 46 percent.  Nearly three-fourths would prefer to remain in state, much higher than the national average of nearly two-thirds.

Part of this comes from better government.  By necessity, state Democrats have had to (for the most part) adopt a quasi-Republican plan of governance.  Don't raise taxes, cut spending, reduce obligations.  Had they followed the bigger government ideals of their predecessors, voters would have switched parties long ago.

One way to interpret this is that people in the state have hope for the future.  Despite 80 years of Democratic policies that have prevented prosperity, despite the federal government's assaults on coal, farming, and other ways that West Virginians can better themselves, people want to stay.

West Virginia Republicans have ideas that are proven to bring more investment and jobs to the state.  Those running for the House of Representatives and Senate have vowed to roll back bad regulations that hurt the Mountain State.

Residents want to stay.  They are no longer satisfied with the same old leaders. What is coming next makes them want to stay.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ministry of "Truthy" Coming to a Federal Government Near You

Elizabeth Harrington of Washington Free Beacon gets an award for the creepiest federal government story of the week.

It has shades of 1984, George Orwell's masterpiece about a totalitarian society. Three ministries control the government under the watchful eye of Big Brother.  One of these is the Ministry of Truth.  This outfit tirelessly works to create the government's narrative while ruthlessly annihilating dissenting voices, or even history.  "We have always been at war with East Asia."

The Obama Administration gave a $1 million grant to a group led by an Organizing For America (Obama's old campaign organization that still exists for some reason) member.  The group is creating a program designed to spot "misinformation" and "suspicious memes" in campaigns and public discourse.

They call it "truthy" after a Stephen Colbert bit.  Referencing a comedian with a liberal agenda is hardly a good starting point.

Why is this problematic?

The New York Times recently called Obama and his minions the worst threat to press freedom in a generation.  No president has worked so hard to control the narrative about his policies, using spying, coercion, and any other tactic possible.  Few can compete with Obama and his team in the creating of "misinformation" and "suspicious memes."

Journalism school teaches about the marketplace of ideas.  The public can decide which are beneficial and which are not.  Certainly the federal government, as a player in that marketplace, cannot be trusted to referee.

A Useless and Contrived Study On Coal Meant to Support Obama's Coal Plant KIlling

Duke University recently released a study that has almost no use whatsoever.  The study indicates that if South Korea would stop using its own coal sources and start importing US coal, it could save America's coal industry.  They also guess that, even accounting for the long transit, that it could reduce the so-called "greenhouse gases" by 21 percent.

What they mean by "save" is interesting.  Although South Korea does rely heavily on imported gas, oi, and coal, the country is slightly smaller than the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  It currently ranks 11th in use of energy, but it utilizes a lot of imported gas and oil.

Do the Duke researchers mean that South Korea alone could preserve all US coal jobs?

Most likely, if US coal fired plants all go off line, the coal will go to the Third World and China.  Many backers of EPA regulations against coal fired plants in the US also back construction of unregulated plants in poor countries.

Tim Carney, currently with the Washington Examiner reported that this scheme was at the heart of Enron's demise.  When George W. Bush refused to sign on, it helped the company collapse.

In other words, EPA regulations kill relatively clean US coal plants.  Environmentalists rejoice.  World coal prices dip.  New coal plants open in developing countries with no regulations whatsoever.  World pollution gets worse thanks to the US EPA.

The Duke study, like many academic products, only posits what will happen if they waved a magic wand.  It has no real world use.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

One Thing That Every State Legislature Can Do To Help Rebuild Confidence in Law Enforcement

Complaints about police abuse of power had grown rampant way before the Ferguson riots.  If outlets such as Mother Jones, Daily Caller, Huffington Post, and Reason agree on anything it is the all too common episodes of abused state authority.  Comprehensive study and reform is necessary.  It can start here.

According to the Governors' Highway Safety Association, 33 states allow police to pull over individuals for not wearing seat belts.  In these states it is a primary offense, meaning that the officer has probable cause to stop a vehicle if he or she suspects a person does not have their seat belt on.

A Reason writer in 2012 predicted that primary offense seat belt laws could open the door for abuse and harassment.  If it has not happened yet, it could.  Not wearing a seat belt does not threaten the safety of anyone else.  It's time to get this law off the books.

It would seem that this could be a rare opportunity for liberty minded Republicans to join forces with the NAACP and other groups concerned about police power.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Political Old Timers Used to Call This a "Boom"

In the old days of politics, one used to often hear about "booms."

These were efforts to boost one person or another into politics or into a higher office.  Sometimes, the desired candidate knew full well about the boom, other times they didn't.  Sometimes they embraced the support, other times they quashed it politely.

When effective, they brought a groundswell of popular and party support behind a figure who could run a great race and do a lot of good.

Such a boom may be forming around Holly Fisher.

Delegate Suzette Raines, due to several misfortunes piling on her almost at the same time, had to exit her race.  Today, Kanawha County Republicans learned that they could not nominate a replacement for her on the ballot.

But the people can still choose a Republican to replace a Republican via write in votes.

Write in wins are rare, but they do happen.  To win, a candidate needs high name recognition and media presence.

For the 35th delegate district, Republicans could not choose better than Holly Fisher.

Last spring, Fisher's gun photos brought national media attention.  The mother and military wife represented herself and her ideas well during her appearances on television and radio.

Fisher has been active in Republican circles for a long time and, as a wife and mother, gets the concerns of many West Virginia voters.

No one else could quickly mobilize as much name recognition and potential financial support as Fisher.

Is she even interested?  Who knows at this point. There is, however, a lot of interest in convincing her to make the run.

But she would be perfect.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Police In Military Style Attire Confront Rioters In St. Louis Area

Set aside for a second what caused the St. Louis riots this week.  Also set aside the fact that there is no connection between anger directed at social injustice and looting a shoe store.

The Atlantic ran a story today with a picture of three officers dressed in fatigues, military style rifles raised at a small young man with arms up.  One can understand the weapons, at least in a riot situation. Police should be able to protect themselves in dangerous situations.

But what about the combat fatigues?

The militarization of American police continues unabated.  Reports of small town and even campus police obtaining armored personnel carriers strike most people as absurd.  SWAT style raids have hit farms who sell raw milk to willing customers as well.

Add to this the outpouring of stories where police needlessly shoot dogs.  In Mason County, police shot a dog on its owner's property where no crime had taken place.

The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 expressly forbids the US military from acting in a law enforcement capacity within the country.  It passed before the rise of city and state police departments, as well as much of the federal law enforcement apparatus.  Police departments need equipment and weapons in case they must confront the most dangerous elements.

They, however, should not be outfitted in military style apparel unless a specific situation calls for it.

And we cannot allow police departments to grow into alternative military units.  The US Army in 1898 had about 28,000 officers and men.  The New York City Police Department now has around 40,000 officers.

Traditionally, city police wear blue uniforms.  Some say that this goes back to the London Metropolitan Police Department who supposedly chose the color to distinguish police from the army.  State Police, however, wear uniforms similar to those worn by the US Army during the First World War.  Many states formed their police after the war and used surplus uniforms.  As military uniforms quickly evolved, most state police kept the old style.

Beyond the uniforms, the tactics and equipment of the police have grown to more and more resemble the military.  Rarely, this may be necessary, but not for routine use.

Appearances matter, though.  Police in fatigues inspire more fear and less confidence in those they are sworn to protect.

American police cannot go around like Sheriff Andy Taylor with a broad smile and no gun.  But likewise, they cannot approach every situation like Samuel L. Jackson in SWAT.  Police safety must be upheld, but the public is losing confidence in police to do their jobs with discipline and restraint.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Autocross Fight Leads to Maryland "Losing" An Airport, Criticism of Violations of Meetings Laws

Once upon a time the National Road Autocross was routinely held without incident at the Greater Cumberland Regional Airport in Wiley Ford.  It brought substantial crowds and pumped $3 million into the economies of Allegany and Mineral counties.  The race also helped to justify the existence of a federally approved airport with no regular airline service.

Correction: The original article referred to the event as "motorcross."  It is actually an "autocross."

Then the Potomac Highlands Airport Authority decided to get involved.

Local newspapers have covered the unfolding of the issue.  When the PHAA first announced the discontinuation of the race, enthusiasts and local businesses protested and demanded reasons why. The Maryland dominated PHAA responded by taking the meetings into closed session.  Delegate Gary Howell and other West Virginia officials pointed out that this violated the West Virginia open meetings laws.

Despite the fact that the airport is physically in Wiley Ford, West Virginia, the board leadership claimed that it followed Maryland state meetings laws which allows for a wider scope of closed meetings.

The State of West Virginia fired back.  Susan Chernenko, Director of the West Virginia Aeronautics Commission, wrote in a letter that it "is (and always has been) a West Virginia airport."  She cites Federal Aviation Administration sources that also assign the airport to West Virginia.  Maryland only participates because Cumberland is considered by the FAA as "an associated city."

Maryland officials had always before acted under the assumption that the airport "belonged" to their state.

Besides open violations of West Virginia state laws, the PHAA leadership, which includes Allegany County commissioner Creade Brodie and William Smith IV, used misleading statements to the public explaining why it cancelled the race.  PHAA leadership claims that allowing the race to continue would jeopardize federal funding of the airport.

They are wrong again.

Eduardo Angeles, associate administrator of the FAA, says differently in a letter.  If the airport has FAA permission, "the Airport Authority would not necessarily be in jeopardy of FAA withholding future airport funding."  Since the autocross had been held there regularly in the past, the FAA would not have suddenly yanked funding for the airport unless there had been a major shift in policy.  Angeles' letter conforms there was not.

The Greater Cumberland Regional Airport belongs to the taxpayers who deserve to derive the greatest benefit possible from its use.  Residents, elected officials, and the State of West Virginia rightly question why PHAA leadership seeks to shut off one of the airport's most important economic benefits to taxpayers on both sides of the Potomac River.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Yet Another Food Stamp Fraud Conviction

Last week in Texas, two men received sentences for food stamp fraud.  Chief US District Court Judge Sidney Fitzwater passed sentence on Kamardeen Ogunleye and Robert Gordon. Both received 27 months in prison and were ordered to pay $1.9 million in restitution.

According to the Department of Justice, between March 2010 and September 2013, the owners of the KSO Dollar Mart in Dallas purchased food stamp benefits for fifty cents on the dollar and laundered the proceeds through their store. They defrauded taxpayers of over $2 million in benefits meant for the poor.

The Justice Department's statement implied that the fraud may have been one of the main sources of revenue for the KSO Dollar Mart.  The statement said that the store "offered very few food and beverage items to its customers."

This comes on the heels of a bust of 54 individuals accused of defrauding the food stamp program of $18 million in Georgia using a similar tactic.

The food stamp program lost over $2 billion in fraud in 2012.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Are Hamas Attacks a Catalyst For Acceptance of Israel?

For the first time in almost 70 years, Israel has the active backing of nearly all Arab states in its battle against Palestinian extremists.  One long time CNN reporter called the support "unprecedented" and speculated that it could represent a new era in Middle Eastern relations.  Moderate governments fear extremism more than they wish to nurture historical hatreds.

The process of breaking down the walls of anti-Semitic diplomacy is nothing new, however.

In the beginning, Israel faced enemies on every side.  The British evacuated the old Roman named territory of Palestine in 1948.  The United States, followed quickly by the Soviet Union, recognized the new state almost immediately.  President Harry Truman later recalled that he had resolved that "the United States would do all that it could to help the Jews set up a homeland."  In this, he went against the "striped pants boys" advice at the State Department.  Truman believed that Israel had very strong potential for development.

All bordering states, however, pledged themselves to Israel's destruction.  Since then, both time and the ago old maxim of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" have started to soften the old hate filled viewpoints.

Despite repeated wars between Israel and its Arab neighbors in the 1960s and 70s, Israel had one friend in the Middle East.  Iran under the Shah.

Iran's monarch served as a pole of power within the Middle East, navigating between the Arab states, the United States, and Iran's neighbor the Soviet Union.  Repeated Soviet and Czarist Russian attempts to absorb some or all Iranian territory meant Iran would support US interests through much of the Cold War.

Many Americans mistrusted professions of friendship. Shah adviser Asadollah Alam remembered columnist Joseph Kraft coming to Iran in 1976 at the request of several senators.  "Apparently the senators who were here recently disbelieved the US ambassador's stories about close relations between Iran and Israel," Alam noted.  Under the Shah, Iran pursued its self-interests of building national strength and wealth alongside American priorities.  Productive relations with Israel enhanced those bonds and gave Iran some leverage when it did disagree with the US over issues such as oil production.

In the 1970s, nationalist authoritarians and monarchs led most Arab states.  At the time, the nationalists seemed radical.  They linked American influence to the real and imagined sins of the old British Empire. Israel, an oil free haven of liberty and prosperity, had to remain a whipping boy to corrupt regimes with little freedom and much economic misery.

But that decade also brought revolutionary violence.  The formerly nationalist radicals now saw Islamic revolutionaries and Palestinian terrorists disrupting order in the region.  Another pillar of the anti-Israel gang fell away.  President Jimmy Carter brought Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachim Begin to the United States to hammer out normal relations.

Sadat helped to open the conference by saying "I hope the spirit of King David will prevail at Camp David."  In a sense it did.  David's reign over Israel was often contentious and occasionally messy, but overall succeeded tremendously.  Similarly, Begin and Sadat bickered for 13 days, but found common ground in the end.

For the next 40 years, however, the anti-Israel front remained almost in stasis.  It neither overtly threatened nor worked to reconcile with Israel, regardless of whether or not negotiations with Palestinian groups went well or poorly.  Anti-Semitism remained unofficially and sometimes officially endorsed. The Anti Defamation League notes that "Anti-Semitism often serves as a political device intended to undermine normalization with Israel."  Even Egyptian media joins other Middle Eastern states in promoting points from the Russian secret police forgery Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion

 The Hamas attacks on Israel this summer come in a different context.  With ISIS/ISIL expanding its murderous control over parts of Iraq and Syria, with Turkey moving in a direction closer to its medieval Ottoman past rather than secular democracy, with Muslim Brotherhood and associated terrorist groups threatening moderate national governments, many governments now shy away from indiscriminate support of Palestinians against Israel.  Eric Trager of the Washington Institute For Near East Policy told CNN "The Arab Spring showed the region that uprisings can lead to the Brotherhood gaining power.  So it's a threat to the governments it opposes"

Also, no one expects Hamas to stay quietly within the boundaries agreed to.  The Washington Free Beacon's Adam Kredo reported on the contents of a Hamas terror handbook that included television shrapnel bombs and how to use donkeys as mobile device carriers.

Kredo also notes the war for public opinion, which dupes outlets such as BBC and others into sympathetic coverage. "Anyone killed is to be called a civilian of Gaza or Palestine" regardless of their military rank or "role in the jihad."  It also encourages the tactic of talking about martyrs in the Middle East, about wounded or dead to Westerners.

Although the public relations strategy has swayed some in the Western media, it has not blinded many in the Middle East to the fact that the new Islamic radicalism has the potential to overrun many countries and impose its terrifying brand of totalitarianism.

And also that Israel is a capable ally, or at least the enemy of their enemy, against that fate.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Last Ship: Strangely Reminiscent of Shatner, etc's Star Trek

TNT's opening season of The Last Ship does not try to be more than it is, an entertaining look at how the American military deals with a germopacalypse. Basically, they deal by being virtuous badasses. 

The premise comes from the William Brinkley book of the same name.  While on a secret mission for four months in the Arctic, the entire world has disintegrated while they were on radio silence.  Now the officers, crew, and a medical researcher must speed across the oceans to discover answers, find what they need for a cure, and maintain their food, water, and fuel levels.  Meanwhile, survivors have taken refuge or exploited the virus induced state of nature as much as possible. Familiar places like Costa Rica and Guantanamo Bay are now mysterious havens of danger.

A highly disciplined warship on an idealistic mission conducted in almost total isolation from authorities, where crew runs across bizarre societies, fascinating villains, and danger in every episode.  In many ways, The Last Ship is very much like the original Star Trek series.

Commander Tom Chandler, played by Eric Dane of ( Gray's Anatomy, Marley and Me) is the morally upright, square jawed all American hero.  Even though the gangster/village dictator El Toro tauntingly asks Chandler if he is John Wayne or Clint Eastwood, the commander clearly favors the first.  Like William Shatner's interpretation of Captain James T. Kirk, Chandler fearlessly tells his antagonists exactly what is on his mind.  Few characters in television history would dare dictate terms to an evil tyrant with automatic weapons aimed at their head.  Kirk and Chandler certainly bring bravado to that level.

First Officer Mike Slatterly (Adam Baldwin) so far has served as both a pragmatist and a moral center, one of the more complicated characters on the show.  He can be counted on to give rational advice (dare we say logical?) based on the situation as he sees it.  But Slatterly will also rise to the occasion when moral justice demands it.  The occasional tensions between Slatterly and Chandler have so far been underappreciated in reviews complaining of a lack of depth in the characters.

The Last Ship even has a wise Southerner, a Blackwater style contractor known as "Tex."  The show starts off making Tex a typical wild eyed Southern boy, but increasingly allows him to demonstrate a depth of intelligence and feeling.  Tex increasingly looks less and less like a stock Southern hillbilly, more like a Dr. McCoy who has mastered hand to hand combat training.

Rhona Mitra succeeds in portraying Dr. Rachel Scott as the outsider.  The crew doesn't trust her because she hid the epidemic from them while in the Arctic.  She has an arrogant stubbornness that sometimes undermines her powerful sense of mission. This actually makes her an endearing character as she deals with failure and frustration.

One major difference (okay, there are many) between the two shows is that The Last Ship has not yet made the ship itself a character.  The Enterprise functions as a character in Star Trek almost as effectively as the human characters, although that aspect eventually gets way overblown. Enterprise also comes from a long United States naval tradition.  There has never been a ship, or even a famous figure, named Nathan James.  There was, however, the destroyer Reuben James named for a hero who died in the Barbary Pirate wars.  It was sunk by the Germans just before World War II.

The Navy and its traditions themselves have emerged as a character of sorts.  Discipline, honor, and leadership pervade every episode.  Mistakes get made and rectified.  Chandler (much like Kirk) embodies the "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" attitude of the US Navy, at one point risking running his ship aground on canal choking coral based on his own intuition.  And Chandler goes ashore at every opportunity, even as others ask what might happen if he didn't come back.

The Last Ship even offers a promising recurring villain in Admiral Ruskov, formerly one of the finest in the Russian Navy, now clearly out to rule the ruins of the world.  He is no Khan, not yet anyway, but he does have a more powerful ship, more experience (an author on naval strategy), and more ruthlessness.  Viewers know that at some point, they will get more Ruskov. Yet Chandler outwitted Ruskov's bid to steal Dr. Scott and the developing cure.  I almost wanted to see Chandler yell defiantly, George C. Scott in Patton style, "I read your book!!!"  Of course, that's not part of the character's nature.

Both shows have similar qualities.  They unashamedly portray heroism, military virtue, and American style leadership to audiences during times when the culture has turned against such values.  Michael Bay's productions work hard to roll back attitudes of irony, skepticism, and sometimes even contempt expressed by cultural elites towards the military.  And this, in addition to their entertainment value, makes The Last Ship very enjoyable to watch..

It also makes this show and Star Trek before it culturally significant.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Growing Crisis In Liberia

World attention last week focused on the escalating war between Israel and Hamas, then the shot down passenger plane in Ukraine.  A humanitarian disaster, however, has hit West Africa hard.  Over 700 have died in possibly the worst Ebola virus outbreak ever.  And the usual measures have not contained its spread. The coastal nation of Liberia has taken the most severe hits while adopting the most radical containment measures.

Ebola virus is one of the deadliest on earth.  It affects humans and other primates, such as gorillas and chimpanzees.  Four of the five strains can infect human beings. According to the Center For Disease Control, the virus first appeared in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1976.  It appears, spreads rampantly for a time, then dies away only to return sporadically.  Ebola causes hemorrhagic fever, symptoms of which can appear anywhere from two to 21 days of infection. The disease has a very high rate of transmission and can spread by contact with bodily fluids.

Liberia, led by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has taken strong steps to stop the spread of the virus in her country. The descendant of American born slaves, who is also the first female to win a head of state or government election in Africa, closed almost all border checkpoints.  International flights to and from Liberia have mostly ceased.  The country also suspended soccer matches and even imposed regulations on how many people may ride in an elevator.  Liberia's government embarked on a campaign to increase awareness and encourage better hygiene.

Outbreaks have also occurred in neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone.

One troubling aspect of the outbreak has been the infection of doctors treating the patients.  Liberia's most prominent expert in the virus, Dr. Samuel Brisbane, became infected at later died at Monrovia's John F. Kennedy Medical Center.  An American doctor and a North Carolina based missionary have also suffered infection.  A Ugandan doctor also died of the disease.

Liberia has a special relationship with the United States that few know about.  After the War of 1812, many Americans became troubled about continued use of slaves in the southern states.  The American Colonization Society, led in part by James Monroe and Chief Justice John Marshall, encouraged the emancipation of slaves and their return to Africa. They carved out a plot on the western coast, settled, organized an agriculture and trade based economy, and formed a government.  Liberia's capital, Monrovia, honors President James Monroe.  Another city is named after President James Buchanan.

As Europeans later in the century divided up Africa, US influence ensured that British, French, and German colonists stayed away from Liberia.  Occasionally, the US Navy would help its government put down revolts of the native African peoples.  A social divide between the natives and the Americo-Liberians remains to this day.

The country remains one of the poorest in the world. Today the Tennessee sized nation has about 4 million people. Its mining of ore and diamonds, plus natural rubber production and small scale agriculture, do not offset an unemployment rate of over 85 percent.  Decades of civil war and dictatorships ruined a once capable economy.  Democracy returned to Liberia after an Marine expedition sent in President George W. Bush's first term.  Johnson won election in 2005 and has remained in office ever since.  Her government's efforts to rebuild the shattered nation are seriously threatened by the disruptions caused by the Ebola outbreak.

Despite Liberia's efforts, the disease continues to defy attempts at control.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Our Dangerous World . . .

Just a few stories this week from a world grown increasingly terrifying . . .

Liberia has closed its border, quarantined many communities, and has seen even top experts stricken with the dreaded Ebola virus.  Sick officials made it onto international flights despite stringent precautions by the Liberian government.  West Africa has seen the most serious outbreak of the extremely contagious disease yet.  No end in sight.

Libya faces its worst violence since 2011, causing several nations to shut down their embassies there. The country's "fragile government and fledgling army" currently struggle to keep control of the capital's international airport.

War continues in Gaza.  Secretary of State John Kerry continues to undermine the cease fire agreement supported by Egypt, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority in an effort to kowtow to Hamas extremists.

Boko Haram crossed the Nigerian border, raiding Cameroon.  The terror group best known for kidnapping hundreds of young girls seized the wife of Cameroon's vice prime minister.  Cameroon has suffered three attacks from the terrorist group.

European Jews, particularly in France, are fearful of a continent wide spike in active anti-Semitism.  Could this produce an exodus from Europe to Israel and the United States?  An ambassador appointed by Hungary to represent that nation in Italy resigned after criticism of his "raging" anti-Semitism.

US intelligence officials released images that seem to show Russian artillery firing into Ukraine in support of separatists there.  This threatens to escalate the conflict into a full scale war between two of the European continent's largest nations. With Ukraine the home of some of Europe's most productive farmland, a full scale war could disrupt food supplies for millions.

While the female mutilation edict attributed to ISIS may be fake, Christians have fled areas under its control by the thousands. Islamicist officials have imposed prejudicial sanctions on Christians which have not existed in Iraq in generations.  Islamic State officials also ordered the destruction of the tombs of Jonah and Daniel, figures holy to the Jewish, Christian, and other faiths.

Meanwhile China, which has threatened the neighboring countries of Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines in recent years, has accelerated its naval program. Iran also continues its quest for more effective weapons capable of hitting Europe and North America.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Speaking Of . . .

The issue of money keeps dogging Hillary Clinton and she seems unwilling to do much to escape the increased scrutiny from all sides.

This week, the Washington Free Beacon reported that Clinton received $275,000 for a one hour speech and very limited photo session at the University of Buffalo.

Although the media focuses on the money paid out, the real story may be tax law problems for non profit educational institutions.  Most colleges and universities fall under the 501 (c) 3 category protecting them from paying taxes.  That status can be jeopardized by overt support of a political party or a political candidate.  Under Obama, the Internal Revenue Service has imposed significant burdens on conservative institutions applying for this coveted status.  Political activity is often cited as a reason.

By not officially announcing herself as a candidate (although she has made frequent and coy allusions to it), Clinton has given cover to colleges and universities willing to fork over hundreds of thousands of dollars to be graced with her presence.  Some would say purchase influence.

The Free Beacon report contained criticism from MSNBC's Chuck Todd that Clinton earned "presidential" level payments.  In 2011, however, the Daily Beast covered criticism of former President George W. Bush's speaking fees, which typically run between $100,000 and $150,000.

Almost every time, Bush collected six figure payments from private sector institutions.  The University of Buffalo is a public school.

Others who achieved Clinton's highest office, secretary of state, do not make as much for appearances.  Condoleeza Rice was set to collect $35,000 from Rutgers before bowing out in the face of protests.  This only outpaced reality star Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi by $3,000.

Clinton's pay days seem to have backfired.  The MSNBC panel discussed how quickly Clinton's approval ratings fell after the sustained drip of money stories commenced.  Most Americans do not begrudge money honestly made, but few want to hear about rich people crying poverty.  Nor does it look good when public universities, in a time of outrageous tuition, pay out $275,000 for anyone to show up for an hour.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What to Make of France's Violent Anti-Semitism: Should Jews Abandon France?

Ten years ago, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told France's Jewish community that it should leave its home country.  A series of shocking anti-Semitic crimes had shown an ugly turn among some Frenchmen against Jews.  France's foreign ministry replied with indignation, surely the world knows France's reputation for tolerance.

This week, Sharon's words proved prophetic.  A pro-Hamas demonstration spawned a rush by fanatics towards a synagogue; the malefactors had "murder on their minds."  They rushed toward a synagogue full of worshiping Jews, brushing aside "inadequate" police protection.  Only security posted by the synagogue itself blunted the attack.

Haaretz details the strident opposition of the French government to Israel since the leadership of Charles de Gaulle.  Part of this could be explained by France's search of a foreign policy to separate itself from American interests during the Cold War.  That country's government, however, has demonstrated institutional anti-Semitism dating back before the First World War.

The 1890s "Dreyfuss Affair" scandalized the French Army for decades afterward.  A Jewish and French officer, Alfred Dreyfuss, was accused of espionage.  While a number of individuals could have been accused with the same evidence, investigators focused on Dreyfuss's religion.  A secret tribunal sentenced Dreyfuss to Devil's Island.  Meanwhile, another investigator turned up more evidence that pointed conclusively to another officer.  Rampant institutional anti-Semitism pervaded the army; even the investigator who exonerated Dreyfuss was known to intensely dislike Jewish people.

While occasional German anti-Semitism still gets the most attention, France's looks most dangerous.  The government has taken consistent stands against Israel and the Jewish people, including an honor guard for the corpse of Yasser Arafat.  The vandalism and destruction of ten years ago has escalated into a riotous attack reminiscent of Kristallnacht and such comparisons should never be made lightly.  To what degree is the very long standing institutional anti-Semitism of the French government responsible? Difficult to say.

Unfortunately, the lesson that Jewish people have learned from history is that the best course may be to abandon a nation irretrievably gripped by hatred for their people.  France currently has the third largest Jewish community in the world.  The question for them is, at what point do they decide to go to Israel or the United States (the two nations in the world safest for Jews) or has that point already passed?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Maybe, Just Maybe, It's Time To Lay Off the Germans About World War II

After steamrolling Brazil in the semis and handling Argentina in the championship, Germany had to expect the inevitable patronizing advice.  Enjoy your World Cup Germany, but not too much.  Remember the Nazis.

Foreign Policy published a roundup of post World Cup commentaries from inside and outside of Germany.  Many echoed the "worry that accomplishments on the soccer field might lead to the kind of nationalism that once fueled Nazi aggression."  Foreign Policy itself chided the pundits, saying that no one could reasonably think that a World Cup win would spark an invasion of France.

It is true that international fans see soccer in different terms than US sports fans follow their sports. Not even Southeastern Conference football, with its us against them overtones of the old Confederacy, comes close to the rabid nationalism of soccer.  Oakland and Philadelphia NFL fans also pale in comparison.  Neither fan base has ever brought dynamite to fan events.  International soccer, even at its least violent, gives countries a chance to air historical hatreds and grievances in a relatively safe environment.  English fans still love to torment Germans with "two world wars, one World Cup."

Certainly Germans will for the foreseeable future be reminded by other countries' fans of lost wars and historical horrors. Serious punditry, however, must stop reading "Nazi" into every expression of German patriotism.

Germans eligible to vote in the early 1930s when Hitler's Nazis first gained control of the Reichstag would be over a hundred years old now.  Young men called up at the very end of the war to fill the withered ranks of the Wehrmacht would be, at the youngest, 85.

National Socialism is not an a priori congenital defect of every German.  It was a social sickness brought on by economic desperation and fear.  When elections were free, voters did not give a majority of their votes to the Nazis, but did give them more votes than other parties.  It is no comforting thought that the Germans gave the second highest number of votes to Communists who had a proven track record of mass murder and destruction.  Germans had lost faith in both democracy and the highly structured business system's (not a free market at all) ability to solve fundamental problems. As the national economy collapsed for the second time since the end of the war and street fighting militias battled in the streets, the people grew tired and terrified at the same time.  Faith in the old imperial family and aristocracy had died for most Germans in 1918, even though those old institutions might have offered the most peaceful way back to domestic order, had they tried.

Multiple national traumas of complete military defeat, admitting to being the sole cause of the horror of World War I, utter economic collapse provided the context for Nazi electoral victory.  The likely senility or Alzheimer's of the aged President Paul von Hindenburg also greased the rails.  Germany's Weimar Constitution also provided no checks and balances against the whims of the electorate. James Madison's fear of the "tyranny of the majority" (in this case, tyranny of almost 40 percent of the voters) came to life in its worst form.

This is not to say that Nazi supporters deserve a pass.  Adolf Hitler ruled the Nazi Party completely, even before the Night of the Long Knives purges.  His Mein Kampf is satanic scripture, dripping with evil in all its forms.  No one could say that they did not know Hitler's most horrible plans for Europe, Jewish people, and others.  They allowed themselves to be deceived by Joseph Goebbels (who had studied American advertising during his doctoral education) into seeing the Nazis not as ambassadors of stone cold hatred, but as friends of the middle class. Again, however, this was a moment in the history of the German nation.

There is, today, no lurking heart of darkness in the German character waiting to be unleashed by athletic triumph.

Wartime propaganda, necessary at the time, did create a powerful narrative not easily shaken.  American and British media experts painted a line of unbroken malevolence straight backwards from 1940s National Socialism through World War I to Prussian aristocratic militarism.  It condemned Germany as a nation unable to contain its will to power and thirst for bloody violence.

Historical facts did not fit the narrative.

Germans have historically seen their nation as one with a special mission in Europe and to civilization at large. Their barbarian hordes undermined the Western Roman Empire, but assimilated its spirit and aspirations. Germanic tribes under warrior kings carved out sections of the old empire.  They tried to adopt Roman forms of government, did become Christian, and in a half civilized manner set out to civilize the non Roman parts of Europe controlled by their brethren.

About a century after Emperor Charlemagne's heirs divided his empire, separating Germans from French forever, Otto the Great's conquering armies established control over all of central Europe, including much of Italy.  Otto then proclaimed what Germans call the First Reich, what almost everyone else calls the Holy Roman Empire.  Ideally, the Holy Roman Empire served as the sword and the shield of Roman Catholicism.  It would defend Catholic Europe against external enemies, such as the Turks, and the internal threat from heresy.  Emperors claimed jurisdiction in some form over the entire world, sparking fear from nearby kings and amusement from other world-emperors in Constantinople and China.  Over time, the civilizing mission faded along with the Empire's power and influence.  The Holy Roman Empire receded from the land of other national groups until it covered mainly Germany.

Voltaire was witty, but wrong, when he said it was not holy, Roman, nor an empire.  It aspired to a mission understood in medieval times, but not the Enlightenment.  Rome and Catholicism meant civilization and the emperors did try to defend and extend those ideals whenever necessary and possible.  What the First Reich bequeathed to Germany was this sense of historical mission beyond that of other nations.  The word "reich" itself has multiple important meanings.  It can mean simply the state.  Reich can also refer to what the nation is and is supposed to be.  It refers to the country's exceptional nature and national mission.  The American word "country" has shades of meanings similar to what the Germans once meant by "reich."  The patriotic song "My Country "Tis of Thee" embodies it perfectly in shared meaning and vague definition.

The German people inherited this collective ideal from centuries under the Empire.

But there was no Germany until 1871.

Two major states had emerged as the Holy Roman Empire faded into history before its 1806 end.  Prussia, growing in the flat, featureless plains to the northeast, lay between different threatening powers and had a militarized society.  Its farmland produced poorly, its men fought well, and its culture emphasized the discipline underlying both pursuits.  More so than any of the other German states, Prussians tolerated religious differences.  The Calvinist Hohenzollern ruling family typically did not

Austria took over the imperial mantle.  Its Catholic Hapsburg family had served as emperors of the old empire for centuries and had extended control over a large number of non German subjects. Its focus lay on leading the German states.

Bavaria, Saxony, and a number of other smaller states emerged from the Napoleonic Wars intact, but incapable on influencing events in what was then called the German Confederation.

Starting in the 1860s, by planning or luck depending on who explains it, Otto von Bismarck created the Second Reich.  Most called it simply the German Empire.  Austria was excluded from the state, which centered on Prussia.  Under Bismarck, the German Empire served as a keystone country that kept other European rivalries in check without allowing them to combine against it.  Any clash of powers could cause a war that would destroy Germany; Bismarck worked to keep them from happening.

The Second Reich stood for stability above all else.  Many call Bismarck a conservative, but this simplifies his complex nature.  Bismarck believed in holding the political and international system in place and would do anything necessary to preserve it, including adopting radical (at the time) social prescriptions like social security and workman's compensation. When looking for the original ideas that helped to spawn the 20th century welfare state, Otto von Bismarck deserves credit for helping to father it.

They don't make reichs like they used to.  Kaiser Wilhelm II turned Bismarck's quest for stability into a crusade for "a place in the sun."  For many reasons, some of them stemming from deep personal angst against his British royal cousins, Wilhelm pushed hard to challenge the Royal Navy and British Empire.  Wilhelm was no bringer of demonic evil, but he did act as a classic bully.  He tried to intimidate other nations until the actual war came to him, then tried to back away from its horrific consequences.

Germany has a well ingrained sense of a national mission with roots in Roman civic mythology and Christian tradition.  These once defined how to bring and maintain order in civitas mundi.  In an imperfect world, the Germans could be counted on to guard orderly systems.

Of course, Germans can also be the prime mover in destroying orderly systems.

Wilhelm upset the European system while playing, for the most part, by European Great Power rules.  Hitler tossed the rulebook aside in his determination to found his own terrible version of reich.  He took the German national sense of mission, a half baked mythology invented in the 1800s, latent anti-Semtic prejudice, and the deconstruction of the German interwar world to create his own Leviathan.

Hitler could not have done it without a significant part of the German people, but that Germany is gone.  A wiser Germany has replaced it.

Germany has re-emerged as an arbiter of affairs.  In recent years, Chancellor Angela Merkel has positioned the country as the 21st century "honest broker" image that Bismarck liked so much.  He arbitrated exchanges of territory while Merkel has tried to keep the economic fabric from unraveling.  At times, Germany has poised itself to financially bail out many of Europe's problem areas.  The unspoken point, however, lies in the fact that accepting German backing means accepting German planning.  Countries such as Greece remember German occupation and fear the rise of German influence, even benevolent power.

And that is actually a legitimate question.  How far should sovereign states go to surrender control when unable to handle their own affairs.  Admittedly there is a difference between submitting to European Union control and a European Union facade masking a mostly German run core of influence,  Unless, however, the EU makes the unlikely move of admitting Russia, Germany's continued growth will continue to outstrip other traditional European powers.  Unlike the American bankroll of the United Nations, if Germany must contribute more to the project and shoulder more of the risks, it will ask for more say.  And who is to say that they would not deserve it?

In terms of dealing with the moral limbo imposed upon it since the war, Japan has offered a path that Germans themselves could follow.  Collectively and politely, but firmly, it has sent the message that enough time has passed and it can now morally rejoin the community of nations. Few would argue that the vast majority of Japanese people of today bear the burden of shameful actions in the past.

Whether other countries, or even German pundits themselves, like it or not, the country will return to prominence in the 21st century as something besides the shield bearer of the United States.  As a nation, it paid a penance for the horrors it inflicted on the world.  It repressed its own national history, both the vile and the virtuous, lest its people feel any unhealthy pride.

Those years have passed.  Germany has done its time. The malefactors themselves are nearly dead and only the lunatic fringe wants to bring back the bad old days. The World Cup win should not be an occasion on which Germans should lower their eyes in supplication, but should allow the people of that country to rejoice in the centuries of history before and after the war that made it truly great.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Eric Holder Resuscitating the Sedition Act of 1798

Once upon a time, the party now calling itself "Democratic" placed itself at the forefront of defense of constitutionally protected speech.  Now its leaders move openly against 1st Amendment freedoms such as the press and political speech.

In the 1790s, freewheeling partisan publications launched hyperbolic, bitter, and occasionally hilarious tirades against political figures.  It created a political climate less civil than today, but more so than the English custom of pelting unworthy candidates for office with rotten food.  Federalists, who controlled all three branches of government, concluded that enough was enough and passed the Sedition Act.

This legislation, alongside more serious and defensible measures, made it a misdemeanor to bring any part of the government "into contempt or disrepute."

This included, of course, President John Adams.

Along with the less threatening Alien Act, Democratic-Republicans finally found their winning issue.  Under the leadership of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, they chased forever from power the party that passed the Constitution and supported the policies of George Washington.

Ever since, Americans have been loathe to return to the issue.  Free speech has most often been seen as part of the protection of rights.  Serving in government means exposing oneself to the unkind jabs of opponents.  Abraham Lincoln's features, now seen as physiological signs of majesty, were attacked as unspeakably ugly. At 300 pounds on entering office, William Howard Taft was doomed from the start.  Schenk v. United States did put limits on speech, but only in terms of preventing reasonably predictable violence or harm.

Now the Department of Justice has extended its heavy handed reach to restore the spirit of the long dead Sedition Act.  A 4th of July parade float featuring a zombie like figure and an outhouse marked "Obama Presidential Library" has prompted an investigation.  A Kenyan national found it offensive, used the word "racist," and reported it to the government.

It does not matter if the float was as tasteless as similar visual jokes made about George W. Bush's legacy several years ago.  This is protected free speech.  Any hint of government action is highly inappropriate because of the chilling effect created.  Parade sponsors, the Odd Fellows, have discussed limiting the scope of allowable floats in response.

What about this float threatened anyone?  Certainly it encouraged people to view the president with contempt.  In America, that is not only legal, but often expected out of some quarters.

Whether or not a display is too tasteless is the purview of the community, not the federal government.  The attorney general needs to recall the investigators. Free speech is still the law of the land in the United States.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Twenty-Five Years Ago Today: The Most Dangerous Game Day Promotion Ever

Hard to believe when Americans currently live in a time when companies weigh legal ramifications of every move, but 25 years ago tomorrow a professional sports franchise had a promotion involving dynamite, illegal drugs, and potentially deadly flying discs.

Welcome to the 1970s.  Welcome to "Disco Demolition Night."

Between two games of a twi night double header, the Chicago White Sox declared the end to disco by blowing up thousands of records on the field at Old Comisky Park.

Few could recount this as well as the New York Times  Joe Lapointe in 2009.

It was disastrous, possibly deadly, completely irresponsible, but memorable enough to bring a smile a quarter century later.

And it reminds you that fun is almost dead.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Beulah Balbricker Is Alive And Well And Working As a Police Investigator In Manassas, Virginia

One must watch this rather NSFW video to understand the comparison here.

The Washington Post reports that Manassas police want to bring a 17 year old boy to the police station, inject him with an erection causing substance, and photograph his  . . . shall we call it a tallywhacker?

Why?  They believe that he sent a photograph to his 15 year old girlfriend via text.  This technically violates child pornography laws and could subject him to years in prison and a lifetime of being a registered sex offender.  

But forcing him to strip in front of a group of men, injecting him, and photographing his erection is somehow OK.

Remember, actually having sex with her is legal.

In the 1970s, a loose approximation of this was seen as fodder for laughing at the prudishness of some in society, represented by Beulah Beulah Beulah Balbricker.  Now it is seen as acceptable police practice?

Child pornography laws were passed to protect children, not to allow police to victimize them.  And certainly not to impose upon a 17 year old a stigma that could annihilate any chances at a normal life.

Child sexual abuse and pornography is a serious and dastardly problem.  But the investigation and punishment need to fit the seriousness of the crime. No way should a 17 year old who sent a picture to his girlfriend have to face jail or a lifetime stigma.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The War On Holly Fisher

Once upon a time, Holly Fisher was an active conservative gadfly in the Charleston social media community. Now the mother and Army wife is liberal hate target number one.

Two posed pictures and struggles with the new reality of Obamacare put her in the crosshairs.  Fisher first posed in front of a Hobby Lobby with a pro life T shirt and a Chik Fil A cup with a guarantee that liberals would lose their minds.

Of course they did, attacking her body, her hometown, and any other target they could imagine.  Obviously, her attackers showed almost as much disdain for her conservative home state of West Virginia as they did her and her values.

When gently chided (much like David Allen Coe to songwriter Steve Goodman) that she did not in fact have the perfect All American woman picture, she posed with an American flag, Bible, and gun.

The Blue Street Journal blog responded by putting her beside a picture of an Islamic woman with a Koran and gun, asking rhetorically if this is the image that we want sent to the world.  Such a comparison directly insults both her husband, currently engaged in the War on Terror, and the reality of a free and outspoken American woman.  Fisher's daily dose of common sense would get her jailed or beheaded in Terror World.

Why does the Left attack so violently?  Why the war on this particular woman?

Fisher is everything that old feminism purported to stand for.  She is empowered, meaning ready, willing, and able to defend herself confidently.  That may be via argument on social media, or, worst case scenario, she is handy with all manner of guns, too.  As an Army wife, she must take charge at home when her husband is doing his duty for country.  In a world where women are free to choose, Fisher chose to make her family her priority.

Although I have no idea if they ever met (it's likely their paths crossed at some point) this reflects the conservative feminism that former secretary of state Betty Ireland used to talk about.  

Liberals really fear this trend.  A generation ago, women almost uniformly gravitated towards the liberal left.  Although Republicans do not have a majority of women behind them, those that do have grown outspoken.  In West Virginia, and many other states, they have assumed top billing in the state party.  Liberals think in terms of group identity, whereas conservatives look at individuals.  That is why liberals cannot fathom why women or minorities would ever adopt conservatism and vote Republican. 

Follow Michelle Malkin's coverage of Fisher.  The party of "binders full of women" has gone on a hate bender over Fisher.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Five Important American Events That Happened on July 4th

July 4th is the day we celebrate our independence, despite the fact that the actual act declaring independence passed the Continental Congress two days earlier.

Today, it's a day of fireworks, barbecues, and celebration.  In the past, however, it also was remembered for humiliating defeat, sad passings, and decisive victories.  Each involved one of America's most respected figures.

Fort Necessity at Great Meadows.  Here in a clearing in western Pennsylvania began a world war that transformed the British Empire and gave an American icon his first taste of military responsibility.

Europe had divided into two camps: Britain and her small club of allies against France and the most formidable empires on the Continent.  Any spark could set off a war covering the globe.  France and the British colony of Virginia both claimed the Forks of the Ohio, now Pittsburgh.  Virginia's colonial government sent 19 year old Major George Washington to set their claim on more solid ground.

Washington found Fort Duquesne already built at the forks, watched his Indian allies butcher a French patrol, then went to Great Meadow and built one of the worst fortifications ever constructed.  It sat near a source of water, but was surrounded by high ground on all sides, had large gaps in the wall, and had treelines within shooting distance.  The French could fire into it all day while hiding behind the massive virgin timber.

The Virginians fled the fort on July 4th.  French troops caught up, forced Washington to sign humiliating terms of capitulation, then sent him home to Virginia who immediately put him to work . . . building forts. 

July 4, 1754.  Proof that failure teaches better than success. 

One of the greatest friendships/rivalries in the history of this, or any other country.  John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

They knew each other for nearly 50 years, although no one would say they spent that long as friends.  Adams' careful editing of the Declaration of Independence chased Jefferson from the Continental Congress into a multi-year pout.

Jefferson's self-imposed exile eventually ended.  Both men spent the post war period struggling to represent the United States (one nation or 13, many asked before passage of the Constitution.)  Both Adams and Jefferson earned more respect as individuals than they could sell for their country.  Their intellects differed, Adams more pragmatic, Jefferson more idealistic, but they complemented each other at this point even as they mainly interacted through correspondence.

Later, Jefferson and Adams clashed.  Not so much when Jefferson served as a restive secretary of state and Adams an ignored vice president, but  certainly when both ran for president.  One of the few major flaws in the founding document gave second place in the Electoral College the vice presidency.  The Federalist Adams had to constantly fend off attacks from his own vice president in the highly partisan press of the time.

Both men ran again in 1800.  Reason turned some of the more vicious partisan statements into campaign ads. Their mutual hatred lasted for well over a decade after.

Eventually hard feelings softened.  The two preeminent American intellects of the early 19th century sat on the political trash heap, rarely consulted.  Adams' son John Quincy and Jefferson's political son James Madison assumed the stage.  Between the two men emerged a remarkable series of letters about a wide spectrum of subjects.  Much of the correspondence involved questions, answers, and responses to answers.  
Intellectual sharing grew into a fully reborn and close friendship that lasted until July 4th, 1826.  As Adams lay on his deathbed, his final words were, Jefferson still lives.

But Adams was wrong.  His former bitter rival and close friend had died the same day.

One thing often forgotten about the Civil War, the Union did not see its victory as inevitable until the very end.  Northern superiority in so many fields could not easily defeat a fully mobilized Confederacy fighting on its own soil.  

The Union in 1862 had come close to capturing the Confederate capital of Richmond, but had to retreat despite being in sight of its goal.  Antietam was technically a victory for the Union in the fall of the year, but left Lincoln frustrated because General McClellan seemed uninterested in finishing off Lee's army.

Meanwhile, social cohesion in the South deteriorated.  Most of the Confederate States saw their ability to enforce authority break down in the back country.  Lee knew that European help would not come and that the South would lose a war of attrition.  He gambled on a master stroke: striking north.

Meanwhile, Ulysses S. Grant hammered his own war of attrition against Mississippi Valley strongholds.  Like Lincoln, he understood the Confederacy would only lose when its armies were destroyed.  He ground away at strong points that the South felt compelled to defend, like Vicksburg.

Lee's three day assault on fortified Union lines near Gettysburg cost his army.  The best of his beloved Virginians died on the third day and his Army of Northern Virginia staggered home on July 4th.

Grant surrounded Vicksburg, last Confederate held position on the Mississippi.  Over several weeks, his tightening grip strangled Confederate resistance.  When Vicksburg ran out of victuals, its commander proposed surrender.  Grant refused to accept until the 4th of July.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

American Veterans' Center's Latest Videos: Remembering Some of Our Finest

American Veterans' Center just released a three part video series based on the remembrances of Colonel Edward Shames of the 101st Airborne in World War II

Part 1 describes the grueling and competitive regimen required to even qualify for Airborne training.  It involved a lot of hiking all over Georgia in the hot summer sun.

Part II describes deployment to England and the pivotal landing in Normandy

Part III takes viewers through the hard fighting in northern France as the Allies closed in on the Third Reich.

Colonel Shames tells his story with precise and entertaining detail.  AVC did a wonderful job editing in period music and pictures to make it come even more to life.

Thanks to the good people at AVC for bringing great stories of great veterans.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

ISIS Versus the World?

Obama continues to gradually raise America's investment in protecting the tottering Maliki government in Iraq.  A total of 800 US troops, mostly Special Forces, have gone to help retrain the Iraqi Army to face this new threat.  According to Russia Today, widely seen as a Kremlin mouthpiece, Russia delivered five combat planes to Iraq to help in that nation's defense.

This comes as ISIS announced the formation of a caliphate.  In Islamic tradition, a caliph is a religious leader with somewhat less spiritual authority than a Roman Catholic Pope.  The closest Western approximation might be the Anglican title for the British monarch "Defender of the Faith."  Holy Roman Emperors also had similar combinations of temporal and spiritual authority.

According to Time, even Sunnis (whom the caliphate supposedly represents) have fears about the radicalism of the new movement.  Unease about new rules for worship and civil interactions could dampen enthusiasm for ISIS outside of areas it controls.

Control of Baghdad is key.  As the inheritor of civilized traditions reaching back 5,000 years, it would give legitimacy to the aspirations of ISIS terrorists.  This has spurred action from both the United States and Russia on the side of Iraq.

Russia has specific worries.  Around 20 million of its 142 million people worship in the Muslim faith.  Most of these live in the southern regions of the country.  The effect of a rising radical Muslim state must worry Moscow.  Similarly, Red China's Xingjiang Province has a high concentration of Muslims who have rebelled against Beijing.

Shi'ite Muslims have religious reasons to oppose the ISIS caliph.  Traditionally, they believe that it is blasphemous to name a caliph outside of the lineage of Mohammed.  Iran and much of Iraq worships in the Shi'ite tradition.  They likely would strongly resist rule by a Sunni caliph they found not only invalid, but a blasphemy against their faith.

The backing of Russia and the United States should boost the morale of the Iraqi government, so long as ISIS momentum can be dented.  Allegedly, ISIS plans to seize Africa north of the equator, Iran, India, and the rest of the Middle East and Central Asia.  Its designs include the conquest of three NATO states and parts of Russia, as well as Europe up to the borders of Germany and Poland.

Currently they control northeastern Syria and most of Iraq north of Baghdad outside of Kurdish territories.

Significant ISIS gains would likely bring together a number of states usually not on friendly terms.  Already, Iran has approached the United States to discuss a coordinated response, although working with the mullahs has its own danger.  Should Baghdad fall, likely many states would set aside differences in an international effort similar to the Boxer Rebellion expedition in 1898.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Unlearned Lesson of World War I

World War I will always be remembered in history by many as a colossal waste.  Millions died; billions were spent.  The accumulated accomplishments of centuries of European history ground away to prepare for an era more known for evil.

The spark that lit it happened a century ago this month.  Serbian terrorist Gavrillo Princip assassinated the next in line to the Hapsburg imperial throne.

And yet, the war could not have been prevented.

Each nation involved played by the rules of national ambition and/or rose to defend historical obligations or interests.

Each followed a logical path that brought it into conflict with others.

Hindsight tells us that World War I's nihilistic effect on human history should render it tragically absurd, especially since that era had no leaders like Hitler and no nations with the ambition of 1941 Japan.  World War II actually may have colored our perception of what causes war.  Surely it must be an implacably evil madman behind it; no one could go to war otherwise.

No mad men here.  Truth be told, all of the major national leaders, Czar Nicholas II, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Franz Josef, H. H. Asquith, and France's premier of the month in the Third Republic were all fairly average men.  Not a brilliant visionary among them.

True, Germany under the Kaiser aggressively pushed itself into every territorial dispute and sought international parity with Great Britain and France. This, however, was one of many intertwining factors leading to war.

Anyone can look into the buildup to the war, but it would be challenging to find a decision made by any party which was not consistent with its national interest and explainable logically. One may not agree with the decision, but no country, for example, invaded peaceful and non threatening neighbors. Germany backed its ally, Austria-Hungary, Russia backed Serbia, Britain backed Belgium, and so on.

Point here is that the potential for war cannot always be discounted when all states have rational leaders.  States can avert war, certainly.  Pretending that major wars require some element of insanity or evil, however, remains a dangerous delusion.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What Does It Mean to Be "Poor" or "Broke?"

In the past week, this discussion has come up over and over.  Spurred on by the dueling poverty stories of Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden (in the last 15 years, not their childhood), many are taking a closer look at what people mean when they say "poor" or "broke."

In a related and strange statement, the former president's daughter blissfully confessed that she cared little for money.  Of course Chelsea Clinton makes $600,000 per year doing half the work of unpaid or low paid interns.  One does not need to care for money when the nest is permanently and opulently feathered.

Even the federal student loan people got in trouble for a tweet that seemed to minimize poverty. But what is it?

The federal government has a one size fits all measure of poverty.  It considers a family of four impoverished if it makes a little over $23,000 per year or less in every state outside of Alaska and Hawaii.  Cost of living, however, varies widely.  Earnings of $14,000 in West Virginia's most affluent area, Berkeley County, equals nearly $23,000 in Hartford, Connecticut, according to an online CNN Money cost of living adjuster.  Simply put, a dollar goes much farther in West Virginia than in Connecticut for a variety of reasons.

This shows that one cannot put a simple number on poverty, but doesn't explain what poverty actually is, or feels like.

Hillary Clinton described what many Americans occasionally experience regardless of income.  Her family's lifestyle ran their finances briefly into debt.  On one hand, they struggled with mortgages, tuition, and other financial commitments.  Fair enough, until you hear that these were multiple mortgages on multiple mansions.  They did not owe tuition to local state college, but to one of the most costly educational institutions in the world.

Paying bills when revenue dips causes stress and anxiety.  Having to sell a house to pay for bills could cause social embarrassment in their set.  The public, however, rightfully laughed at the Clintons' protestations of poverty.

The Census Bureau reported a few years ago that 30 million, or just under 10 percent, of Americans live in poverty.  They base this on income statistics instead of investigating actual conditions.  If being poor is defined as simply not making a lot of money, then the case gets rested.  Americans, however, assign a more stringent definition to the term poverty.

To most, poverty means real deprivation.  Does a family lack shelter?  Can they not pay for basic utilities? Do they not eat properly because of a lack of resources?  In most cases, the family may not be financially comfortable or secure, but they do eat consistently, they do have shelter, and they not only pay for utilities, but also vehicles (plural), cell phones,  and cable or satellite TV.

Submitted for your approval: if one regularly pays for satellite TV, alcohol, cigarettes, internet, and/or cell phones, one may not call oneself "poor."  If a family is starving and has all these things, it is not poor, but in sore need of re prioritizing.

Some institutions have a vested interest in inflating the poverty number.  More poverty means more money for the poor but also, more importantly, for bureaucrats and non profits that supposedly handle programs to help them. Examining true poverty does not help them expand their agencies, much less solve the real problems.

The more time spent on servicing the financially insecure as if they were poor, the more likely that the truly poor will escape notice.

Hillary and Chelsea Clinton's foray into the verbal forest (and we should not forget that Bill actually did know real poverty as a child) is great for poking fun.  It should, however, lead the country to discuss what poverty really is and examine the policies intended to address it.

Striking Back Against An Evil Empire

Last night a Republican revolution overturned an old order in central Maryland that could put that state's party on the road back to having a voice.

Moderates were sacked (in the medieval sense instead of the football) by conservatives more determined to fight the power of their Ruling Party than cooperate with it.  Delegate Michael Hough won nearly 70 percent of the vote against long time moderate incumbent David Brinkley.  Two of his "conservative team" of delegate candidates won their primaries in the three seat multi-delegate district.  Conservatives also seized command of Frederick County's Republican Executive Committee.

This, paired with Neil Parrott's victory in Washington County, among others, shows that Maryland Republicans will likely continue their march rightward.

Republican rediscovery of conservatism in the nominally Free State can be explained in a number of ways.

First, a handful of Maryland Republicans have honed campaigning to a fine confluence of art and science.  Ted Dacey ran the Hough campaign, whose coattails extended long enough to help elect two more conservative delegates and overturn the Frederick County GOP committee.  Dacey has a quiet and unassuming personality, but is also a tireless organizer and strategist.  He helped to elect his brother as Frederick alderman and has worked many campaigns.  Another up and coming, highly respected campaign leader is Delegate Parrott's campaign manager, Kari Snyder.  Both work endless hours and perform any task to make sure the campaign runs right.

They are only two of a growing army of young conservatives in that state who don't accept the idea that their Ruling Party cannot be dethroned or beaten.

Maryland conservatives also tap into growing discontent with the policies of their Ruling Party.  Issues such as the "rain tax," the "bathroom bill," and other Free State absurdities have turned Republican voters sour on "going along to get along."  Marylanders see their private sector at the state's extremities suffering.  Now they are fighting back.

Resurgence of Maryland conservatism will ignite voters who, otherwise, would see no difference between the parties.  If Maryland's GOP can continue this momentum, it can make more congressional districts and senatorial races competitive.  This will force their Ruling Party to seek more money nationally, taking Democratic resources away from other races.  Also, the failures of Maryland's leftist experiments will get wider examination and discussion.

Maryland's road back from Democratic domination will be long.  They can take heart that West Virginia's Republicans had to struggle and fight to get back to competitiveness, but succeeded against tradition, a corrupt machine, and other factors.  If they can go to the next step with successful outreach, continue to groom successful conservative leaders, and take advantage of the inevitable federal government contraction, Maryland's Republicans have no reason to not count on brighter days ahead.