Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why We Won in Iraq; How to Win in Afghanistan

Victor Davis Hanson:
"NS: Given the current situation in Afghanistan would you be willing to offer an opinion on the merit of ramping up the battle by the current administration?

"Dr. Hanson: I don't think surging or not is the question. In Iraq, the key was not just the 30,000 extra troops of the 2007 surge, but the message that Bush was escalating and staying rather than leaving, as well as changing tactics, enlisting the help of the sons of Iraq, and the sheer cumulative toll of years of eliminating jihadists that finally reached a tipping point.

"So the key is whether Obama will back off from his set in concrete withdrawal dates, whether he talks daily to his generals on the ground, whether the war is number one on the daily presidential agenda, whether he uses the word 'victory' rather than pontificates that there is no such concept in postmodern warfare. Afghanistan can be stabilized in the manner of a Iraq, but it requires an executive commitment that we have not seen since 2009 — no doubt because the 2007-8 Obama campaign binary of 'let me at' the supposedly necessary, winnable and good UN/NATO sanctioned Afghan war versus 'I will end' the supposedly gratuitous, lost and bad unilateral war in Iraq was fossilized and out of date by his inauguration day in 2009.

"The result was a sort of confused catch-up as Iraq was suddenly redefined as the administration's 'greatest achievement', while tribunals, renditions, Predators, and Guantanamo became OK — even as the once necessary EU-approved multilateral effort in Afghanistan was proving a mess."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thank You from Sarah Palin

I received this in the mail today from my favorite living public figure. Smile.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bachelors Degrees for $10K? Yes!

chart from Measuring Up 2008: The National Report Card on Higher Education
Texas Governor Rick Perry is addressing the question of ballistic costs in higher education by calling on Texas to offer bachelor's degrees for $10,000 in tuition and book fees for the total course.

Here are some ideas on what could be done to make a $10K bachelor's degree a reality.
"1. Focus on 25 of the most important and popular majors: ten of the liberal arts, five natural sciences, two business degrees, five engineering degrees, and one program each in communications, education, and nursing.

"2. Offer a three-year bachelor’s program, requiring 90 credits (thirty three-hour courses). Three-year bachelor’s degrees have been the norm for centuries in Great Britain, with no negative consequences.

"3. Simplify and streamline the curriculum by eliminating all electives and standardizing all required courses. All students in Texas would be required to complete a twelve-course core, sixteen-course major, and two-course minor. This simplification means that the entire state would need only 412 standardized courses (twelve core courses, plus sixteen courses in each of the twenty-five majors).

"4. Select the state’s top scholars and scientists to design the courses, videotaping the best lecturers, purchasing the copyright of the best textbook materials, and designing a suite of web-based learning tools. This would require a significant one-time investment of approximately $500K per course, for a total of $200 million. This money could be drawn from the state’s Permanent University Fund (which generates over $500 million in income each year). For a first-rate education in the 21st century, we need intellectual property.

"5. Require all state universities to offer all 412 courses to their students at a cost of only $250 per, plus $400 per semester for registration services and IT support. If a student took five courses per semester for three years, the total cost per student of the degree would be $9,900. Each student would be given free access to the state’s library of videotaped lectures, the online textbooks, and the web-based tools. The university would provide online discussion sections and laboratory sections.

"Let’s suppose that each instructor receives $40K in salary plus $10K in benefits and teaches 150 students per semester. For each instructor, the state university would receive $75,000 in tuition (300 students times $250), in addition to the $800 per student to cover administration.

"6. Provide mandatory state-wide standardized tests for each year of each program, providing an accurate measure of student learning. The College Learning Assessment, as well as CLEP and GRE Subject exams, could be used to measure students’ progress in critical thinking, logic, writing skills, and discipline-specific competencies. These results could be used to evaluate both courses and instructors on a rigorous, value-added basis for students of different backgrounds and aptitudes."
I got my bachelor's for $430/yr in tuition. Current cost at the same state university is $4,500/yr in tuition.

It's time for a change in strategy--especially since a bachelor's degree for most graduates does not teach future job skills.

Nor does it usually prepare for post-graduate studies since a bachelors in one major does not preclude from going for a master's in another. In fact, my second master's was in a different field from my bachelor's degree. It didn't delay either my ability to understand the material or stop me from keeping up with fellow students who had majored in the same field at the bachelor's level.

Oregon with its out of whack college debt per student needs to be looking at the Perry plan.

For those who need or want more specialized, one-on-one teaching, the $25,000 option is already widely available both in public and private college/university settings.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mr. President, Stand Up for Said Musa and Human Rights

Said Musa Released
February 24, 2011 12:48 P.M.
By Paul Marshall

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which, together with the U.S. Embassy, has been active on the case, is reporting that Said Musa, the Afghan man facing a death sentence for having become a Christian (see here and here) has now been released and is safely in another country.

— Paul Marshall is a senior fellow at Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.

In a country U.S. troops are dying to defend, an Afghan Christian convert is sentenced to death for converting to Christianity.

Paul Marshall reports that Said Musa converted to Christianity eight years ago.
"Musa was one of about 25 Christians arrested on May 31, 2010, after a May 27 Noorin TV program showed video of a worship service held by indigenous Afghan Christians; he was arrested as he attempted to seek asylum at the German embassy. He converted to Christianity eight years ago, is the father of six young children, had a leg amputated after he stepped on a landmine while serving in the Afghan Army, and now has a prosthetic leg. His oldest child is eight and one is disabled (she cannot speak). He worked for the Red Cross/Red Crescent as an adviser to other amputees.

"He was forced to appear before a judge without any legal counsel and without knowledge of the charges against him. “Nobody [wanted to be my] defender before the court. When I said ‘I am a Christian man,’ he [a potential lawyer] immediately spat on me and abused me and mocked me. . . . I am alone between 400 [people with] terrible values in the jail, like a sheep.” He has been beaten, mocked, and subjected to sleep deprivation and sexual abuse while in prison. No Afghan lawyer will defend him and authorities denied him access to a foreign lawyer."
Musa is only asking to be transferred to a different prison not asking to be spared from the death sentence. Though being spared from the death penalty is what the United States pushed for and gained under President George W. Bush for Abdul Rahman. In 2006 Rahman's case "sparked Western criticism, with the US, Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy and Sweden among those demanding Afghanistan respect international laws on freedom of religion and human rights."

It's time for President Obama to demand respect for international laws protecting freedom of religion and human rights. Paul Marshall points out that Obama was quick to publicly plead with Florida pastor Terry Jones to not burn the Koran.

If President Obama is willing to lead, he might find the same strong allies that President Bush found in the Rahman case: Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Sweden as well as other nations--maybe even the United Nations.

The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner needs to stand up for human rights for Said Musa in a country currently draining over $100 billion a year in U.S. funding not to mention the 499 US soldiers who died last year to safeguard Afghanistan's democracy--a democracy which is crushing human rights and headed again to being run by the Taliban and brutal sharia law.

Wisconsin Strategy a Loser

A new Rasmussen poll shows that 48% of Americans support Governor Scott and only 38% support the unions.

This is a losing issue which is being made worse by the lying and fraud that unions, teachers and doctors are promoting.

The Rasmussen poll was just on the basis of the right of public employees strike and wage issues. The poll found that 49% said teachers, firemen and policeman should not be allowed to strike (11% more than thought they should be allowed to strike). And a plurality of 36% said public employees make more than private sector employees (15% more than thought private sector employees make more).
"Thirty-eight percent (38%) of voters think teachers, firemen and policemen should be allowed to go on strike, but 49% disagree and believe they should not have that right. Thirteen percent (13%) are not sure."
. . .
"Thirty-six percent (36%) of all voters say that in their state the average public employee earns more than the average private sector worker. Twenty-one percent (21%) say the government employee earns less, while 20% think their pay is about the same. Twenty-three percent (23%) are not sure."
That's already an uphill battle to convince people that unions and teachers are victims. Lying and fraud from unions, teaches and doctors create a perfect storm to turn the public even more solidly against the unions. Added to that is the specter of Wisconsin Democrat senators fleeing the state and refusing to perform their legislative duties.

Who wants their child being taught by someone who says it's okay to lie about being sick? Who wants their child being treated by a doctor who will lie about whether a patient is sick? Just in general who wants their child around someone who promotes lying? Irrespective of salary and strike issues, this is a big loser.

The sponsors of Obamacare know this first hand. What was supposed to be a sure fire popular entitlement is now odious. Though originally a majority of people saw the need to reform health care, now a solid majority wants Obamacare repealed. That swing is surely due as much to congressional shenanigans, kickbacks, and admitted lack of even doing the due diligence of reading the bill before passing it as to its murky content.

When those in authority are willing to lie, cheat and refuse to do their duty to win, then both those in authority and what they support get a bad name.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Harvard Prof. Niall Ferguson on Obama Foreign Policy Failure in Egypt

What's really scary is his correct historical analysis.
"And I want to emphasize the risks that are currently being run in that region. If you look at history, and remember I'm a historian, most revolutions lead not to happy, clappy democracies but to periods of internal turmoil, often to periods of terror, and they also lead to external aggression. Because the simplest way to mobilize people in a relatively poor and not very well educated country like Egypt is to point to the alleged enemy within and then, of course, the enemy abroad. The scenarios that the Israelis are looking at involve a transition not to some kind of peaceful and amicable democracy, but to a Muslim Brotherhood dominated regime which then pursues an aggressive policy towards Israel. This is not a zero probability scenario. This is a high probability scenario, and as far as I can see the president isn't considering it."
UPDATE: More complete transcript at Newsbusters.

H/T Greg Pollowitz

Friday, February 11, 2011

Happy Birthday, Governor Palin!

LED's Another Green Fiasco

Now that the Green Revolution has brought us compact fluorescent bulbs (sometimes called mercury bulbs because of their dangerous mercury vapor) as a replacement for incandescent bulbs, hopes were high that LED's might take over as a safe, preferred light source.

Unfortunately, University of California researchers have discovered that LED's have hazardous levels of lead, arsenic and other toxic substances.
"To see what LED lights contain – small Christmas-strand LED lights, in particular – Ogunseitan and his team smashed up some bulbs and tested their contents.

"They found that low-intensity red lights contained up to eight times the legally allowed level of lead in California.

"In general, however, the higher-intensity, brighter bulbs had more contaminants than lower-intensity ones.

“'We find the low-intensity red LEDs exhibit significant cancer and noncancer potential due to the high content of arsenic and lead,' the researchers wrote in their study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology."
. . .
"Lead and arsenic have been linked to cancer and other noncancerous health concerns, such as neurological damage, kidney disease and other illnesses."
[emphasis added]
Further, as with compact fluorescents, mini Hazmat precautions need to be taken to clean up broken LEDs.
"If an LED light bulb breaks at home, Ogunseitan suggested using a special broom to clean it up, as well as wearing gloves and a mask. He said emergency teams dispatched to clean up car crashes should take special precautions.

"Currently, there are no restrictions on putting LEDs into the trash. The team has sent their findings to state officials and federal health regulators."
Once again, without doing basic research, environmental activists, clueless "experts", and "finger in the wind" politicians have lead cities, states and the nation on a road to worse environmental danger than what they are phasing out.
"In 2009, Los Angeles announced a plan to replace 140,000 existing streetlight fixtures with LED units."
That'll make LA more healthy and attractive.

UPDATE: Another view from National Review's Deroy Murdock.

H/T Steven Hayward

Thursday, February 10, 2011

How Bright Are Ron Paul Supporters at CPAC?

Apparently not very. TPMDC reports:
"Dick Cheney just popped up here at CPAC to introduce his old pal and Bush administration colleague Donald Rumsfeld. Fans of Ron Paul turned what should have been a friendly moment before an audience of fellow conservatives into a screaming match and protest action that resembled what a Cheney-Rumsfeld hug at the Netroots Nation convention might look like.
"Rumsfeld is being given CPAC's 'Defender Of The Constitution' award, a concept that apparently rankled [Ron] Paul supporters in the crowd. Many of them got up and walked out en masse at the mention of Rumsfeld, though some stayed behind in the conference hall to heckle the architects of the invasion of Iraq.
. . .
That led to the pro-Cheney contingent (which it should be said greatly outnumbers the opposition) to shout the hecklers down with the familiar 'USA, USA' chant."
. . .
"[Justin] Bradfield [of Maryland] said the moment showed that 'half' of CPAC this year is libertarian, which means his side is winning in the civil war between 'libertarians and right-wing conservatives.'

"'We're loud,' he said."
Being loud seems to be the best thing they've got going for them.

They can't count. Being "greatly" outnumbered does not equal "half".

And they're not too good at planning for the future of their own meetings. What's to keep even a small portion of the majority from coming to meetings with people and ideas that Paul supporters like and share the heckling experience? Well, except for common decency.

I'm reminded of how Democrats have used every nasty and procedural device against conservative candidates for the judiciary and then are amazed that the process has been politicized when their candidates come up for confirmation.

Some people never get the concept of Proverbs 17:14:
Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam;
so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.

U.S. Bumbles on Egypt

U.S. diplomacy, which was supposed to improve dramatically under Barack Obama, is apparently failing in a major way in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, "America's closest ally in the gulf", is not pleased with the administration's current clumsiness and insults to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. King Abdullah has even threatened to act directly against U.S. policy.
"Saudi Arabia has threatened to prop up embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak if the Obama administration tries to force a swift change of regime in Egypt, The Times of London reported Thursday.

"In a testy personal telephone call on Jan. 29, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah reportedly told President Obama not to humiliate Mubarak and warned that he would step in to bankroll Egypt if the U.S. withdrew its aid program, worth $1.5 billion annually.

"America's closest ally in the Gulf made clear that the Egyptian president must be allowed to stay on to oversee the transition towards peaceful democracy and then leave with dignity.

"'Mubarak and King Abdullah are not just allies, they are close friends, and the King is not about to see his friend cast aside and humiliated,' a senior source in the Saudi capital told The Times."
. . .
"The revelation of Saudi concerns sheds new light on America's apparent diplomatic paralysis and lays bare the biggest rift between the nations since the oil price shock of 1973."
[emphasis added]
If the Saudis wanted to, they could just tell the U.S. to pay Egypt some of the debt the U.S. owes Saudi Arabia. It can sometimes be uncomfortable being a big borrower.

Since this information came from The Times of London, one wonders where U.S. reporters are in getting such key information. Apparently down mingling with the folks (or hiding out after being threatened) in Tahrir Square.

Victor Davis Hanson: Snatching Victory from the Jaws of Defeat

Dr. Victor Davis Hanson
Great piece by Victor Davis Hanson on military leaders (he calls them "savior generals") who turn impending defeat into victory.
"Radical changes in fortune during the course of a war often immediately precede a final verdict. Sometimes deliverance at the eleventh hour arrives from savior generals who manage to win — just when most at home deem the war irrevocably stalemated or lost. These are the few commanders who are asked to salvage a seemingly hopeless situation that others of often superior rank and prestige have created — a crisis in confidence in which the general public of a consensual society may already have favored retreat or even acceded to capitulation."
In this long piece, over 2,700 words, Dr. Hanson goes on to describe some of the main attributes of "savior generals". This is well worth the read for anyone interested in the type of military commander who can win despite utterly bleak prospects.

Hanson's conclusion:
"When we are safe, we value consensus and resent troublesome gadflies who claim the enemy is on the horizon, our strategies wrong and prescriptions for defeat, we are spending too little on defense, or that a dangerous complacency has set in among the populace. But when war is upon us, we blame yesterday’s timidity, borrow what we do not have — and in extremis seek out a different sort who can ensure us victory when few others dare."

Monday, February 07, 2011

On AOL's $315 Million for the Huffington Post

Professor William Jacobson:
"It always amazed me that HuffPo bloggers (not the handful of well paid staffers, but the great unwashed) thought they were so special by being allowed to blog at HuffPo, when in fact they were being treated as unindentured servants. They were able leave, but they were working for free to help Arianna build a business.

"Who knew that the website devoted to a living wage and moral imperatives actually manged to get liberal bloggers to work for free to make money for the boss-lady and her investment banking investors.

"There's a sucker born every minute...."

The Controversial John 3:16 Super Bowl Commercial

Talk about edgy! No wonder Fox wanted to reject it for being offensive and too religious.

H/T Newsbusters

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Politico's Jonathan Martin Doesn't Read the Polls

Gallup Poll chart

The press has gone from having the confidence of 72% of Americans in 1976 to garnering the confidence of only 43% in 2010.

Still, Politico's Jonathan Martin is shocked to hear that Governor Sarah Palin thinks that "much of the mainstream media is already becoming irrelevant". Martin thinks Palin needs to follow Ronald Reagan's example in trusting and praising the press.
"Recalling his travels with the political press corps during a tough campaign, Reagan offered nothing but praise for the reporters who covered him and often wrote skeptical stories about his primary against President Ford.

"'I have to say their treatment of me was fair,' Reagan said.

"He added: 'We parted friends and I'm richer for their friendship.'

"Now, was such a gushing message only a heartful tribute to the fourth estate? Of course not. Reagan used the period between his '76 and '80 runs to court reporters — sitting for interviews with such big feet as then-Wall Street Journal writer Al Hunt — in hopes of improving vital relationships."
Martin thinks the press is the key to "improving vital relationships". With whom? Apparently not the American people.

Palin's problem, according to Martin, has nothing to do with current credibility problems of the mainstream press. Rather, it comes from Palin's hurt feelings because criticism from the press "does get to her."
"Sarah Palin offered an extended tribute to Ronald Reagan in Santa Barbara Friday night, praising him specifically for not being bothered by criticism. Then, in an interview the CBN's David Brody following the speech, she said that if she ran for president she'd follow the same course of ignoring the naysayers.

"But she couldn't help but get in a jab at the press in the same interview, telling Brody that 'much of the mainstream media is already becoming irrelevant.'

"Such shots have, of course, become staples of Palin's repertoire. They illustrate that, despite her claims, criticism plainly does get to her."
Martin apparently hasn't noticed that there has been a change in the press in the last 30 years. Or at least the American public thinks the press is quite different.

57% of Americans don't trust the media

Confidence in newspapers and television news is a "rarity"

More Americans express confidence in getting their political news from family and friends (46%) than from news reporters (32%).

Governor Palin's observations on the need for the mainstream media to be more balanced, truthful and factual in order to be relevant is in line with the American public's current view of the media.

Martin, on the other hand, seems to be stuck in the late 1970's. Not the best vantage point for a 21st century political commentator.

Palin's Tribute to Reagan

photo by Jensen Sutta
Governor Sarah Palin gave a telling speech at the Reagan Ranch in celebration of Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday. The basis of her talk was Reagan's 1964 speech "A Time for Choosing".

Besides tracing the central issue in Reagan's speech, Palin noted his tone. Stark and somber--not like the inspirational, optimistic tone we associate with President Reagan. (see transcript below)

In the years between 1964 and 1980 Ronald Reagan learned that an effective leader inspires as well as educates. Thus, in Palin's words, Reagan asked if the nation had "the courage and the will to not only endure but to arise and succeed and soar." Arise, succeed, soar--none of those words are in Reagan's speech. They express what Sarah Palin knows was central to Reagan's effective leadership of a great nation in time of trouble.

Governor Palin is blessed, earlier in her political life than Reagan, with the ability to talk of serious matters in a light-hearted way. Her optimism brims over in her speeches. She, like Reagan and JFK, is gifted with exceptional ability in using humor.

Palin has serious philosophical content in her speeches--not just standard political palaver. Her summary of Reagan's central theme is masterful.
"[Reagan] wanted to know then if Americans still had the courage and the will to not only endure but to arise and succeed and soar. So he asked us candidly and soberly that day, he asked us whether we still believed in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandoned the American revolution and confessed that a little intellectual elite in a far distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can for ourselves?"
Palin's application of it to today's politics is apt, biting and humorous all at once.
"But just days ago in the State of the Union address less than 90 days after that freedom message was sent at the ballot box, and it was an historic election. Yet we were just told, no, the era of big government it’s here to stay, and you’re going to pay for it whether you want to or not.

"But they can’t sell it to us with the old sales pitch anymore. So this new version isn’t just the tried and tired liberal nanny state of the Great Society. No, now it’s much worse, and it’s couched in the language of national greatness. Which, I think, to the left that is their version of American exceptionalism. It is an exceptionally big government where bureaucrats declare [laughter, applause] bureaucrats would declare that we shall be great, and innovative and competitive, but not by individual initiative anymore, no, by government decree.

"It’s the same old tax and spend policies, or rather now it’s borrow and spend and then tax the job creators, but we’ll no longer call it government spending for awhile. They called it stimulus, but that didn’t work because clearly it didn’t stimulate anything but a Tea Party. [cheering, applause]

"So now they’ll call it investing. Okay. But you have to ask yourself well if government overspending is investing then bankruptcy would be a sign of economic strength. [laughter] And it just isn’t so. Sure they’ll try though.

"And they have all sorts of half-baked ideas on what to spend, I mean invest, our hard-earned money on for their idea of 'national greatness.' These 'investments' include everything from solar shingles to fast train tracks, but as we struggle to merely service our unsustainable debt, the only thing these investments will get us is a bullet train to bankruptcy. [applause]”
Palin may also have found small, helpful hints from studying Reagan's 1964 speech.

In critiquing liberal suppositions in the 1964 speech, Reagan says:
"Yet anytime you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we're denounced as being against their humanitarian goals. They say we're always 'against' things -- we're never 'for' anything.

"Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant; it's just that they know so much that isn't so."
Reagan uses the term "do-gooders" in the first paragraph and the more neutral, but just as descriptive, phrase "liberal friends" in the second. He was describing the same people, but "do-gooders" tends to distract from his point because it carries a slightly pejorative meaning. It is more biting than necessary, whereas "liberal friends" has some of the lightness and optimism that would come to predominate in Reagan's later rhetoric.

Interestingly, in a recent interview with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network, Palin referred at least five times to the "mainstream media" rather than the "lamestream media".
"Does she want to make the mainstream media irrelevant?"
. . .
"Sarah Palin: I think much of the mainstream media is already becoming irrelevant. Because there is not balance in many cases, david, there is not truth coming out of the mainstream media and I know that first hand, I live it everyday. And what would give me great joy is if what would become irrelevant is just the untruthful the misreporting out there. I want the mainstream media, and I’ve said this for a couple of years now, I want to help ‘em. I want. I have a journalism degree, that is what I studied. I understand that this cornerstone of our democracy is a free press, is sound journalism. I want to help them build back their reputation. And allow Americans to be able to trust what it is that they are reporting. We’re so far from being able to trust what so many of the mainstream media personalities, characters, feed the American public that it scares me for our country. What would give me great joy is what would become irrelevant is the misreporting that comes out of the mainstream media."
Maybe this is just because Brody asked the question using the phrase "mainsteam media", and does not signal a change on this insignificant matter.

But, maybe, Sarah Palin is learning from the Gipper about the importance of even the smallest details in leading the American people at a major time of choosing.

Palin points out that Reagan "was mocked and he was ridiculed and criticized and put up with so much. And he was able to handle that criticism though."

Governor Palin has proven that she is able to handle even despicable criticism, and grows every day in her ability to lead the nation when our question too is whether we have "the courage and the will to not only endure but to arise and succeed and soar" because we really do believe "in our capacity for self-government" and have not "abandoned the American revolution and confessed that a little intellectual elite in a far distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can for ourselves".
Transcript of part of Palin's speech:
"[Reagan] saw our nation at a critical turning point. We could choose one direction or the other: socialism or freedom and free markets; collectivism or individualism; in his words we could choose 'the swamp' or 'the stars.'

"Not a typical jovial speech of Reagan’s that he gave that day. Remember we got so used to before and certainly after hearing more of the chipper Gipper. You hear more of his jokes and more of the humor that he was so known for. But not that day.

"Because the vision that he laid out for us; he outlined this vision that was quite stark. It was more somber than normal because that vision that was so stark, it was based on the fact that unlike others Reagan seemed to be able to look out over the horizon and see what unsound policies, policies of big government expansionism and a foreign policy of Soviet appeasement where that would ultimately end. And that was in decline and defeat.

"He wanted to know then if Americans still had the courage and the will to not only endure but to arise and succeed and soar. So he asked us candidly and soberly that day, he asked us whether we still believed in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandoned the American revolution and confessed that a little intellectual elite in a far distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can for ourselves?

"Those were strong words. And the country as a whole wasn’t quite ready to hear them. But his message did catch on slowly. He was mocked and he was ridiculed and criticized and put up with so much. And he was able to handle that criticism though. I talked to some of his former colleagues, his friends, today about how did he handle that criticism that came his way. And you know they said oh, he let that criticism just kind of roll off his back like a duck with water off its back. But not when it came to Nancy. He said, 'Don’t touch my Nancy.' [laughter] Great respect for that. [applause]

"His message did catch on though. In 1964 the conservative movement heard him. In 1966 California listened to him. In 1976, finally, the GOP rank and file listened to him. In 1980 the nation listened to him. And in 1984 the whole world heard him." [applause]

Happy 100th Birthday, President Reagan!

1968 Reagan for President bumper sticker
I was privileged to be able to vote for Ronald Reagan for president way before most of the rest of the nation. Though Reagan did not campaign in Oregon, his name was on the Oregon primary ballot in 1968. I still have a bumper sticker and some campaign literature from that campaign (pictured at left).

Reagan was a classical liberal pushed into the conservative camp.
"I think the so-called conservative is today, what was in the classic sense, the liberal. The classical liberal, during the Revolutionary time, was a man who wanted less power for the King and more power for the people. He wanted people to have more say in the running of their lives and he wanted protection for the God given right of the people. He did not believe those rights were dispensations granted by the King to the people, he believed that he was born with them. Well, that today is the conservative." - Governor Ronald Reagan, Interview, Sept. 15, 1973.
I remember the day after President Reagan was shot one of my usually nice co-workers, Rachel, said she was "glad" Reagan had been shot. I said, "But, he's our president." Didn't make a dent. It was shocking to hear a young woman with such hate for another human being she had never met. Where did the hate come from? From the press.

Ronald Reagan overcame the barrage of negative, and at times hateful, press the old fashioned way. He proved them wrong by succeeding and not in just one major area, but in two.

Reagan fixed the economic mess Jimmy Carter had left. The misery index (inflation + unemployment) under Carter in 1980 was 20.76. By 1982, Reagan's second year in office, it had been cut almost 1/4--to 15.87. By the end of Reagan's presidency it had been cut by more than half--to 9.57.

More than this, Reagan is the only president to win a major war without a shot being fired. He believed in winning rather than following what everyone else said:  peaceful coexistence ("detente") or stalemate through mutually assured (nuclear) destruction were the only alternatives. Mark Steyn writes:
"It was the era of 'détente', a word barely remembered now, which is just as well, as it reflects poorly on us: the Presidents and Prime Ministers of the free world had decided that the unfree world was not a prison ruled by a murderous ideology that had to be defeated but merely an alternative lifestyle that had to be accommodated. Under cover of 'détente', the Soviets gobbled up more and more real estate across the planet, from Ethiopia to Grenada. Nonetheless, it wasn’t just the usual suspects who subscribed to this feeble evasion – Helmut Schmidt, Pierre Trudeau, François Mitterand – but most of the so-called 'conservatives', too – Ted Heath, Giscard d’Estaing, Gerald Ford.

"Unlike these men, unlike most other senior Republicans, Ronald Reagan saw Soviet Communism for what it was: a great evil. Millions of Europeans across half a continent from Poland to Bulgaria, Slovenia to Latvia live in freedom today because he acknowledged that simple truth when the rest of the political class was tying itself in knots trying to pretend otherwise. That’s what counts: He brought down the 'evil empire', when few others in the west would even entertain the possibility.

"At the time, the charm and the smile got less credit from the intelligentsia, confirming their belief that he was a dunce who’d plunge us into Armageddon."
Ronald Reagan won the four decades long Cold War, that had bedeviled six previous presidents and had erupted into two "hot" wars. He did it through economic strategy rather than military force. That will not only put him in the top five greatest presidents, but among the greatest military strategists of all time.

Reagan said, "I am not a great man, I just believe in great ideas." Yes, but it turns out that if you believe in great ideas and have the courage to stick with them through hard times, you become a great man.

Happy Birthday, Mr. President! And may God continue to bless America by giving her leaders like you.

Friday, February 04, 2011

York Spins a Bit Out of Control

UPDATE: Byron York meet Victor Davis Hanson (it's probably not fair to mention Jonah Goldberg)

The usually solid, clear thinking Byron York has gone a little wobbly. Maybe a small touch of Palin Derangement Syndrome? It's hard to break completely free of it since it's at a media high point right now what with WaPo's Dana Milbank calling for no mention of Palin in February irrespective of what happens in the real world.

York, in his usual insightful manner, points out that there is a division in the Reagan legacy ranks. There are the more establishment, personally conservative types who run the Reagan Presidential Library. But, only 60 miles away is the Reagan Ranch Center and Library run by the types who wanted Reagan to say "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall" rather than drop it from his speech as was advised by their more cautious, politically correct brethren. It's sort of like the "cowboy" foreign policy of George Bush vs. the "bowing" foreign policy of Barack Obama. One is more interested in changing the world and the other in oiling the gears already in motion.

Governor Palin has been invited to give the primo address at the Reagan Ranch, thus highlighting the division since she is on the "cowboy" end of the spectrum.

York points out that Palin is going to speak on Reagan's 1964 "stark", "hard edged" call to action, "A Time for Choosing".
"At the Ranch Center, Palin will take another iconic Reagan text as her subject. 'A Time for Choosing' was Reagan's case for the presidential candidacy of Barry Goldwater, delivered a few days before the 1964 election. Speaking to a studio audience in Los Angeles, Reagan painted a stark choice between a government headed toward socialism and one dedicated to freedom. 'This is the issue of this election,' Reagan said. 'Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.'

"'It's time we ask ourselves,' Reagan continued, 'if we still know the freedoms that were intended for us by the Founding Fathers.'

"Does that sound familiar today? Watch Reagan's speech -- it's available on YouTube and elsewhere on the Web -- and you'll be struck both by the freshness of its message and the sternness of Reagan's delivery. This was not the soft-voiced grandfatherly man people remember from the White House years. This was Ronald Reagan in his prime -- he was 53 at the time -- delivering a hard-edged message."
Ah, there's the rub. Though it's still a fresh message, Reagan was immature in its delivery (if not its content). He was not "soft-voiced" nor "grandfatherly". Fortunately, he matured.

Interestingly, Palin is not stark or stern in her speaking style. She is upbeat and happy when she speaks and uses lots of humor to make her points, as Reagan did in his maturity. Palin has already matured as a speaker.
"But echoing Reagan's words and being Reaganesque are two different things. In 1964, Reagan was still 16 years away from becoming president. In that time, he not only served two terms as governor of California; he also devoted himself to studying the most important political questions of his day, carefully thinking through positions and gathering a team of advisers to work through a broad range of policy issues. It was a lot of preparation, and we haven't seen Palin doing that."
It was a lot of preparation. Reagan, himself, thought he was ready at least four years earlier in 1976 when he challenged President Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination and lost.

Funny how 20-20 hindsight works. At the time no one saw Reagan doing all that studying and maturing. In fact one of the criticisms he faced in the 1980 campaign was that he was washed up politically. He had been out of office 5 years and had done nothing politically except lose the 1976 nomination and weaken Gerald Ford's chances of re-election. He was not on the cutting edge either in getting Republicans elected or driving policy discussion. He lost on the Panama Canal treaty debate--the most visible policy issue he pushed after leaving the governorship.

Conservatives loved him not because of his well thought out policy positions. It was not a slam dunk to defend him against the charge that he had problems with policy details. Conservatives loved him because he was, well, conservative. He championed smaller government. His policies, as well studied and formulated as they were, did not allow him to deliver on that as president. He championed American strength and going toe to toe with the Soviet Union. President Reagan won big on that.

York asks:
"Will she ever develop the substance to back up the Reaganesque message she will deliver this weekend? She's got time -- Palin is six years younger today than Reagan when he delivered 'A Time for Choosing'-- but she has a long way to go."
Palin has been very successful politically in her two years out of governorship. She has endorsed and campaigned for more than 60 winning candidates. She has been the most effective driver of popular and political rejection of ObamaCare. She has been the most effective force to keep the Tea Party within Republican ranks.

Reagan and Palin are different people, with different lives, interacting with different times. Greatness cannot be copied. York's desire for Palin to prove herself by shadowing Reagan's steps does not meet the common sense test of daily life. No person is a copy of any other person, nor does anyone achieve great success merely by copying another person's life steps.

However, just as Reagan's political preparation and greatness were mostly hidden before he became president, it's a good bet that neither we nor Byron York have the authoritative view of Governor Palin's "substance".

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Palin: ObamaCare Game Changer

Governor Sarah Palin is the game changer both in politics and the press. She is even able to use the questioning and criticism of the "formerly mainstream media" to defeat their agenda.

The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto:
"'Death panel' was especially effective at cutting through the hockey. Lots of people warned about rationing, but, as PolitiFact grudgingly acknowledged, it was Palin's vivid language that 'launched the health care debate into overdrive. The term was mentioned in news reports approximately 6,000 times in August and September, according to the Nexis database. By October, it was still being mentioned 150 to 300 times a week.'

"Many of these media mentions were disparaging, 'raising issues,' as PolitiFact prissily puts it, about 'the bounds of acceptable political discussion.' In other words, Palin's statement was widely propagated by journalists who thought it 'unacceptable.' Americans recognized the essential truth of Palin's words and strongly opposed ObamaCare.

"Palin got the truth out with the help of journalists determined to bolster the deceptions at the heart of ObamaCare. She was instrumental in winning the political argument that looks increasingly likely to render ObamaCare's legislative victory a Pyrrhic one. Sarah Palin outsmarted the formerly mainstream media simply by being blunt and honest. That is why they burn with a mindless rage against her."
Apparently Sarah was the only effective adult in the room.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

How About that Stable Democracy in Iraq?

Maybe one Middle Eastern country that is not on the list to be a domino should tell us something about successful, though not easy, foreign policy. Victor Davis Hanson:
". . . given that it has become one of Obama’s 'greatest achievements,' surely someone in this administration can channel some sort of support for the dissidents in a way we did not in 2009 in Iran, by pointing to American support for the consensual and constitutional government in Iraq. Its free elections, complete control of its own fossil fuels, and open and unbridled media did not come out of the head of Zeus or because Saddam got tired of killing people."
"For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny—prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder—violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat. There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.

"We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."

George W. Bush, Second Inaugural Address, January 20, 2005

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Breaking News on Healthy Eating (and Lower Prices!)

This New York Times article is full of interesting ideas.

1. Breaking news: To avoid obesity government says, "Eat less"!
"More important, perhaps, the government told Americans, 'Enjoy your food, but eat less.' Many Americans eat too many calories every day, expanding their waistlines and imperiling their health.

"While the recommendations may seem obvious, it is nonetheless considered major progress for federal regulators, who have long skirted the issue, wary of the powerful food lobby. (The 112-page report even subtly suggests that people eat less pizza and dessert.) [Maybe the pizza lobby hasn't done enough campaign giving.]

"Previous guidelines urged Americans to curb sugar, solid fats and salt, but avoided naming specific foods, let alone urging consumers to eat less food over all.

"'For them to have said ‘eat less’ is really new. Who would have thought?' said Margo G. Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. 'We should have been saying ‘eat less’ for a decade.'" [The third world is way ahead of us here. Unless Gary Taubes is right.]
2. Change behavior with more direct and simple communication.
"Robert C. Post, deputy director of the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion at the Agriculture Department, said regulators hoped simple messages would resonate better than the more technical prose of the past.

"'Maybe that is what will help this time to get the consumer’s attention,' he said.
3. Lower prices by applying pressure.
"Just two weeks ago, Wal-Mart Stores announced a five-year plan to reformulate its store-brand packaged foods and drop the price on fruits and vegetables. Wal-Mart said it would pressure its major suppliers to do the same."
4. Plant more fruits and vegetables and people will eat more fruits and vegetables
"August Schumacher Jr., a former agriculture under secretary, said government farm policies needed to be revised to provide incentives for farmers across the country to plant more fruits and vegetables."
5. Those on food stamps could be "helped" first.
"In addition, Mr. Schumacher, now executive vice president of Wholesome Wave, a nonprofit group that promotes access to healthy foods, said the government needed to help consumers, particularly those on food stamps, get access to fruits, vegetables and other foods recommended in the guidelines."
The rub? People ignore government advice.
"But many Americans already eat more calories each day than they are supposed to eat by ignoring the dietary guidance."
H/T Le-gal In-sur-rec-tion