President Obama is up a tree on Afghanistan. It was the war he said time and again that we had to win. As many have pointed out, beginning with the 2004 presidential campaign, the Democratic Party endlessly lauded Afghanistan as the "necessary" and "just" war, shamelessly employing the anemic military action as a rhetorical club with which to beat George Bush. Fast forward to 2009. Now the Democrats are stuck with the faltering Afghan war--and they have no idea what to do with it. If it all wasn't so tragic, the irony would be delicious.

But the moment is tragic and portentous. The President seems paralyzed with indecision. Democratic Leadership in Congress seems to be running for cover. Even more disturbing, Vice President Throttlebottom seems to be taking the lead in the policy deliberations. Could this all get any worse?

Actually, YES. The above is just the low hanging fruit. The most alarming element in this drama may well be the spectacle of the United States military high command and their ongoing campaign to martial public opinion on behalf of their position. I suppose we cannot call this insubordination. Presumably, the generals had permission to mount their media blitz (although I cannot imagine that the White House approved the leak to the Washington Post that began this whole public discussion).

The [London] Daily Telegraph reports: "[President] Obama furious at General Stanley McChrystal speech on Afghanistan."

Quoting the article:

"An adviser to the administration said: 'People aren't sure whether McChrystal is being na´ve or an upstart. To my mind he doesn't seem ready for this Washington hard-ball and is just speaking his mind too plainly.'"

Speaking of naivete and not-ready-for-prime-time: hello pot; this is kettle.

Bottom line: even though I think the Obama strategy in Afghanistan is likely to be disastrous, the precedent of a chief executive incapable of controlling his military is much more worrisome.

Even though it would precipitate a political firestorm, the President needs to rein in those generals right now--or, better yet, sack them immediately to make the greater point. Civilian control of the military is one of the fundamental tenets of the American tradition.

Right or wrong, presidents trump generals.

The nagging question: does the President have the fortitude to stand up for civilian authority in the face of the inevitable massive political fallout?
I feel a wee bit unpatriotic for saying so, but choosing Rio de Janeiro to host the 2016 Olympics was the right move, coming from an international relations angle.

Reasons why:

1st: South America has never hosted an Olympic games. Never. Just in the spirit of the Olympic movement's goals to promote world peace and equality, after more than a century of modern Olympics, it's time.

2nd: As WF points out in his essay below, American power and influence are waning, as is European power. When Europe held the majority of power in the world, it made sense to have the games there. When the US and the USSR dominated, it made sense to host in those countries and their allies (whether or not it made sense to boycott the opponent's games is another story). US hegemony post Soviet collapse deserved representation (see 3rd point, below). The rest of the world, the "global south" or however you want to phrase it, is gaining in economic power in absolute terms, which is translating to a gain in political power in relative terms. The IOC was smart in recognizing this.

3rd: The games have been in the West enough recently. Canada is hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics, London the 2012 Summer Olympics; the US just had the 2002 winter and 1996 summer games, and Australia hosted the 2004 Olympics. All told, that's 5 out of 10 (1996-2014) Olympics in Anglo/Western states. If the list is broadened to include continental Europe, the number is 7 or 8 out of 10 (depending on if you include Russia or not - 2014 host Sochi is kind of on the line between Europe and Asia). A Chicago 2016 Olympics would have tipped the scales in a decidedly Western favor, which is out of sync with the times.

4th: As the B in the BRIC countries, Brazil is widely recognized as an up-and-coming economic power. Just as China sought and deserved a chance to shine on the international stage (human rights violations very rarely have any actual impact on international relations), so does Brazil now deserve its chance. Russia is hosting in 2014, which just leaves I, India, which is preparing a bid for 2020 (in Delhi, which is also hosting the 2010 Commonwealth Games).

Part of me is a little sad that Chicago lost the bid - I live just 5 hours from the city, and have always wanted to go to the games. But who knows, maybe I'll get a chance to be in Brazil in 2016, or India in 2020, or South Africa in 2024.
Category: Thinking Out Loud
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I have been thinking a lot about the Republican Party (and, hopefully, a post will be forthcoming soon). However, Pat Buchanan gets to the heart of things today. Save for the part about things turning around by the midterm elections, Pat has it almost entirely right (and you don't hear me say that about him very often).

Read here.

Pat correctly points out that all this Democratic euphoria is personality and media driven. President Obama is remarkable and on top of the world--but he won't be president forever. The Democrats are still the Democrats. And, when Obama leaves, his New Deal 3.0 programs will have us in a world of hurt.

While Pat does not emphasize this quote from Robert Menzies quite enough in my view, I appreciate the mention and applaud the sentiment. Everyone should read it carefully and take it to heart:

"(T)he duty of an opposition ... is to oppose selectively. No government is always wrong on everything. . The opposition must choose the ground on which it is to attack. To attack indiscriminately is to risk public opinion, which has a reserve of fairness not always understood."

What to do in the present: Republicans need to take a breath and look to the future. We need to rally around our true conservative principles and be patient and rational.
For ten years I have defended Arlen Specter as a "principled moderate Republican."

I apologize.

PREDICTION: even with the guarantee of support from President Obama (which he undoubtedly will honor--to some extent), my hunch is that Specter will find it extremely difficult to win the Democratic nomination in Pennsylvania in 2010.
I continue to assert, even in the face of the obvious tragic consequences, there are compelling reasons for American citizens to have the right to arm themselves against a hostile world.

However, for weeks now (even before this twenty-four-hour period of murder and mayhem), I have had the sense that we are reaching a public opinion tipping point in re guns. Ironically, for political reasons, the Obama administration has remained silent. Convinced that gun control was a losing issue, the President has taken great pains to put gun owners at ease (although it is far from clear that he has succeeded in that respect).

Don't look for this hesitation to last forever. This uptick in gun violence, and the inevitable public clamor for a crackdown, will flush out those activists within the Democratic Party who have sincerely believed for decades that America would be much safer without an armed citizenry.

I suspect we are in for a big fight over guns in the near future.

I think reasonable people can disagree on this issue, but, in truth, I am not expecting a very reasonable or honest debate. Get ready for a no-holds-barred donnybrook.
Is the administration setting up Tim Geithner as a scapegoat?

Geithner was never an Obama confidant. In fact, he was one of the "cross-over" nominees. He was one of the early choices designed to make us feel more comfortable with the stealth president about whom we knew so little, save for his extreme liberal voting record and his penchant for associating with radicals.

Geithner hailed from the Rubin-Summers wing of the DLC-Bill Clinton centrist Democratic Party. Tapped to lead Treasury while has was the sitting president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Geithner was then a Bush-appointee and already waist-deep in the immensely unpopular (but, nevertheless, essential) plan to rescue the financial sector of our economy.

Does the White House plan to let Geithner twist in the wind and then sack him at the most politically beneficial moment?

The Obama administration has not shown any urgency or even much inclination to concentrate resources on solving the banking crisis; in fact, they have disingenuously conflated the very serious banking problems with the much more familiar economic recession.

The Obama administration has already forced Geithner to the forefront with a half-baked plan, and done essentially nothing to make his life any easier.

As things continue to spiral downward, the Obama administration seems more and more prone to roil the waters with attacks on easy targets: fat cats, Rush Limbaugh, CNBC screaming heads, and the previous administration. In the coming days, at a moment of crisis, will Obama play the Geithner card? Fire the Treasury secretary and frame the move as the final break with the tired and bankrupt solutions of the past. No more Bush appointees. No more Robert Rubin acolytes. We need fresh approaches from the Paul Krugman-Robert Reich wing of the Democratic Party.

One other development worth noting: SNL, where company policy prohibits criticism of anything Obama, offered its first scorching rebuke of an Obama administration figure this weekend, skewering Geithner as lost and incompetent.

Prediction?

Granted, all this is way too conspiratorial--but, just in case, if I were Tim Geithner, I would watch my back.

UPDATE: A big Texas welcome to Instapundit readers.
The Good News: the events of the last week have united the GOP.

More Good News: the Republican Party will be back someday (probably sooner rather than later).

The Bad News: this development came at a frightful price.

What really happened to Barack Obama? Or, how did the era of bipartisanship, cool competence, and common-sense solutions come to a conclusion before we could even settle in our seats (one of my buddies was out getting popcorn and missed it completely).

TWO POSSIBLE SCENARIOS:

It was all a big lie. Obama never intended to be different. He is just another politician--more gifted than most, but at his core a prevaricator and soulless opportunist.

MORE LIKELY: he really believed a lot of his rhetoric--but a funny thing happened on the way to the forum.

He got rolled by his own party. The 380-pound veteran bull-rushed the Rookie. The sharks just inhaled the guppy.

We are reminded that five years ago, none of us had ever heard of this man. Five years ago he was a less-than-spectacular state senator whom most of the people in his own state did not know.

We are reminded that we convinced ourselves that this man was somehow so blessed with superhuman powers that he would overcome his deficiencies of experience.

Okay. We were wrong.

Side Note (and this is important): why were so many of us (Republicans) hoping against hope that this new man really was somebody totally different?

Simple. For those of us who can be honest with ourselves and objectively discuss our Grand Old Party, we know that we squandered the golden opportunity. After forty years of Democratic Party leadership based on fatally flawed assumptions, the American people came to see modern liberalism as a well-meaning ideal in the abstract but a recipe for disaster in practice.

And what did we do when our turn came? In general, we were even less responsible than our predecessors. Drunk with power and delusions of grandeur, we broke the bank. During our twelve-year window to right the course, we made absolutely no headway toward saving the nation that we love so dearly.

We are crushed. We are mortified. We are sick with disappointment in ourselves--and we lash out.

Some of us try to blame the media. Some of us blame the perfidy of the opposition. Some of us try to blame one another.

It was us. All of us. We did it to ourselves.

Okay, so some of us who understand how disastrous our missed opportunity really is were hoping against hope that the mysterious Obama was something different than a Nancy Pelosi Democrat. He said he was--and we desperately wanted to believe him. We were hoping that he could somehow slip in the Democratic backdoor and restore good sense to our national dialogue regardless of his party affiliation.

Looking back, none of that seems very logical right now.

The Bottom Line: Obama is NOT the Devil. We should still support our President. Let's don't go off the deep end and start spewing insane accusations and conspiracies. But those of us who have been clinging to a fantasy world for the past few months need to shake it off and get back in the game.

Okay. We are in a mess of our own making. We cannot count on any significant help from this president (at least not in the foreseeable future). Let's figure out where to go from here.
Category: Thinking Out Loud
Posted by: an okie gardener
Story here, forwarded by Photognome.

In a nutshell, the sun has cycles in its intensity. During intense periods the sun can release strong magnetic storms into the solar system. Such magnetic storms can disrupt electronic devices on earth. For example, in 1989 a solar storm caused power outages in Quebec.

A study recently completed looks at the effect of a major storm on modern economies. The last really, really big storm was in 1859. It shorted out telegraph wires, starting fires. If a storm of similar magnitude occured today in our electronic communications, satellite-dependent, interconnected-power-grid world, major whooey would hit the fan.

The study called for plans to be made.

For those of us conservative, liberty-loving types, we believe we should be pro-active, not passively waiting for someone (i.e. the government) to take care of us.

So, readers, what can we do. For starters, how about at all times having power-outage kits in our houses. Things like candles, flashlights and batteries in the package. How about "blizzard kits"? A shelf with canned and dry foods, including powdered milk and canned meat, to last a week at least. A first-aid kit.

As you've guessed, I think everyone should have these sorts of things on hand to deal with more ordinary kinds of disruptions.

A file of printed copies of bank records, retirment account statements, insurance policies, etc.

Any suggestions for alternative heating and cooking if the grid goes down? I have a couple of small propane tanks and a camp stove for cooking. Maybe I should look into a propane heater. (Here in SW Oklahoma a major ice storm several years ago put many counties into a pre-industrial state for about a week.)
Category: Thinking Out Loud
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Very disappointing. Sad news for the Senate. Sad news for the nation.
TWO THOUGHTS.

Are we at the end of the Goodfellas Era
of the American Century?


But now Paulie could do anything. Like run up bills on the joint's credit.

And why not? Nobody will pay for it anyway.

Take deliveries at the front door and sell it out the back at a discount.

Take a two-hundred dollar case of booze and sell it out for a hundred dollars.

It doesn't matter. It's all profit.

Then finally, when there's nothing left...

...when you can't borrow another buck from the bank...

...you bust the joint out.

You light a match.


ONE MORE. Explain this:


For years we have clucked at the Chinese for establishing an economy on the backs of working people who labor under sweatshop conditions at slave wages. We don't want that kind of an economy. We want to send all our citizens to college and teach them to earn a living with their brains not their brawn.

My question: why are those poor ignorant bastards the only folks with any savings and the only nation on the face of the earth with solvent banks?