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Belmont Club

Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Random Walk

August 24th, 2012 - 12:51 pm

The administration has announced another secret plan to keep the world safe from Syrian WMDs. The Los Angeles Times says “the Pentagon has made contingency plans to send small teams of special operations troops into Syria if the White House decides it needs to secure chemical weapons depots now controlled by security forces loyal to President Bashar Assad, senior U.S. officials said.”

President Obama warned this week that any effort by Assad to move or use his arsenal of chemical munitions in the country’s conflict would cross a “red line,” implying it could prompt swift U.S. intervention. …

Securing the sites would probably involve stealthy raids by special operations teams trained to handle such weapons, and precision airstrikes to incinerate the chemicals without dispersing them in the air, the officials said. U.S. satellites and drone aircraft already maintain partial surveillance of the sites.

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Where No Man Has Gone Before

August 23rd, 2012 - 1:35 pm

Rich Lowry’s reply to Michael “Hockey Stick” Mann’s threat to sue the National Review over a Mark Steyn article which reflected less than creditably on the climate scientist was essentially met by a dare to open a can of worms. Lowry wrote:

Possessing not an ounce of Steyn’s wit or eloquence, poor Michael didn’t try to engage him in a debate. He sent a laughably threatening letter and proceeded to write pathetically lame chest-thumping posts on his Facebook page. …

If Mann sues us, the materials we will need to mount a full defense will be extremely wide-ranging. So if he files a complaint, we will be doing more than fighting a nuisance lawsuit; we will be embarking on a journalistic project of great interest to us and our readers.

Go ahead. Make my day.

That is to say any lawsuit Mann might attempt would force upon the all the files and records on which Mann’s reputation depended and Lowry was confident that Mann had so little left he would not risk the pitiful remainder. This is the standard defense against plaintiffs with too much to hide. The reason “espionage trials are rare [is] because there’s a danger the accused will spill even more secrets during the court proceedings — a defence tactic known as ‘greymail,’ said Craig Forcese, a law professor at the University of Ottawa who has written extensively on national security.”

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Mutually Assured Stupidity

August 22nd, 2012 - 10:32 am

The State Department has published an unofficial report on a proposed new doctrine that will guide the US relationship, primarily with Russia, but also with the world. It is described as “mutually assured stability” in which “increasingly interdependent states having incentives to cooperate on political, military, and economic issues, [act and thereby] reducing the need for adversarial approaches to managing security challenges.”

The report’s authors explain what steps must be undertaken to achieve this desirable “end state” but decline to say whether that pathway is feasible or not. “This report does not assess the feasibility of the desired end state, nor the feasibility of achieving the proposed essential components.” The basic roadmap consists of a staged build-down of nuclear weapons stockpiles with Russia, getting the stockpiles of rogue nuclear powers under control and lastly confidence building measures and economic cooperation.

At the end of the process Russia/USSR should no longer be the notional enemy. In the new scheme of things either everyone is the enemy or nobody is. According to Recommendation #4:

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Diversions

August 21st, 2012 - 11:39 pm

Stephen Hunter wrote to say he was going to send me an advance reader’s edition of a 2013 Bob Lee Swagger novel, The Third Bullet. I was wondering how long it would take for the book to get to Australia. Not long as it turns out. And sure enough, today after a long day figuring out how to transform this data into that data, I trudged down shopping center by a long meandering path, bought a pound of coffee and stopped at the post office. And there was this parcel in the box together with a misaddressed parcel of documents entirely in Japanese.

I took the Japanese stuff to the lady at the counter and went straight home. To those who’ve read the earlier books, Swagger needs no introduction. What is Bob up to now? This time he crosses paths with something almost as storied as he is: the Kennedy Assassination. The back cover blurb tantalizingly describes the contents:

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Cresting the Hill

August 20th, 2012 - 4:44 pm

Suppose the President’s campaign is falling apart? The Washington Times reports that the Obama campaign is explaining small turnouts by arguing that it is intentionally limiting crowd sizes. It is isn’t that the masses have abandoned the President. It’s just that the rooms are smaller. As early as June Ed Driscoll believed he was watching a preference cascade unfold.  A preference cascade happens when suddenly you realize everyone’s been thinking what you’ve been thinking, as in “the emperor has no clothes”.

Now Powerline says the latest FEC filing shows that the now has less in his campaign war chest than Romney. Obama had more money; only his blown his wad and couldn’t scare up enough money to replace it.

The numbers are pretty stunning, and bode well for Mitt Romney. The Obama campaign has been spending money like water. That is partly due to what appears to be an inefficient operation, and partly due to Obama’s attempt to smear Romney before Romney has a chance to introduce himself to voters. The result is that as of the end of July, the Romney campaign had $185.9 million on hand, compared with $123.7 million for the Obama campaign. These totals include the campaigns, their respective national party committees and joint victory funds that raise money for both.

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The Empty Sandwich

August 20th, 2012 - 9:16 am

Glenn Thrush at Politico describes the inner turmoil of the Obama campaign based on notes for a book titled Obama’s Last Stand. Thrush says that unlike 2008, when there was an “eyes-on-the-prize strategic focus,” the 2012 effort has been afflicted “by a succession of political disagreements and personal rivalries that haunted the effort at the outset.”

What changed? Thrush offers a succession of vignettes which are really a description of symptoms. Nowhere does he identify the cause of the disease. But the symptoms themselves strongly hint at what ails the president’s effort.

Most of the “political disagreements” described in the article have to do with messaging — the way things are presented. For example, Joe Biden’s “gaffe” on gay marriage had nothing to do with substance, only with timing: “Biden’s misstep, also in May, in announcing his approval of gay marriage — which forced Obama to do the same before he intended — caused greater disharmony in the White House than was reported at the time.” Timing was the problem, not substance, in one of the most momentous policy initiatives of his presidency: gay marriage.

The disharmony resembled a chronic grabbing for the steering wheel — what Thrush calls “self-promotion” among aides. In a case of life imitating art, the inmates of the actual White House acted like the cast of a fictional White House where actors vied for speaking parts. When David Axelrod got the cue, he fluffed his moment in the limelight:

As Axelrod was greeted by pro-Romney hecklers chanting “Axel-Fraud,” Obama was in the West Wing watching with growing disgust as the event unfolded on cable news. The scene, he scoffed to a nearby aide, was an ill-conceived “spectacle.”

“We aren’t going to do that kind of thing again, are we?” he asked peevishly, not a question but an order. Obama has no qualms about throwing a punch, his close intimates say, but can’t stand looking foolish when he does.

The comparison between the Obama campaign and the movie making is disturbingly apt. Aides were carefully evaluated with respect to how they came across in talk shows and interviews, exactly as if they were in show business. There were prima donna rows. An argument between David Axelrod and Stephanie Cutter flared up because “Axelrod suspected Cutter of taking a network TV appearance he had been asked to do.”

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The Past Future Tense

August 19th, 2012 - 12:28 pm

George Will reviews environmentalism’s track record at predicting the future of the earth by the technique of reviewing the past. Using newspaper archives, Will takes us back to yesteryear where we are confronted by one of environmentalism’s many predictions of doom.  Then he speeds the archival time machine forward to show what actually happened. The depressingly consistent result is that environmentalism has missed the mark by a country mile.

The modern disaster cycle began in 1972, when “when we were warned (by computer models developed at MIT) that we were doomed. We were supposed to be pretty much extinct by now, or at least miserable. We are neither. So, what went wrong?” Will asks.

That year begat “The Limits to Growth,” a book from the Club of Rome, which called itself “a project on the predicament of mankind.” It sold 12 million copies, staggered the New York Times (“one of the most important documents of our age”) and argued that economic growth was doomed by intractable scarcities.

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The Once and Future Dad

August 17th, 2012 - 7:55 pm
YouTube Preview Image

The interesting thing about this video (which was produced incidentally, by L3′s dad) is that it references things and ideas which were once presumed common to all, but which are now in the process of abolition.

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Get Shorty

August 17th, 2012 - 11:54 am

Greg Sargent at the Washington Post asks why Romney would imagine that Obama would lose to him by a big margin in the coming presidential election. He scoffs at any suggestion that 2012 will be anything but a tight race. Citing author Craig Shirley, Sargent asserts there is no way that President Obama, “a vastly superior politician to Carter” at a time “that the economy is nowhere near as bad as it was in 1980,” can show poorly against Romney, who “is not even a poor imitation of Reagan.” Therefore he finds it slightly suspicious that the Romney/Ryan team should exhibit such confidence. Sargent thinks that at worst it will be a tight race:

I fully expect the race to tighten, and I’d say it’s still a toss-up, given the bad economy. But it’s interesting to ask why the Romney camp is spinning this scenario. I don’t know how heavily Romney and his advisers are banking on things unfolding this way, but the fact that they are telling folks this suggests they think they need a theory of the race that explains why they aren’t yet winning.

But in fact the question should be asked the other way. Why is it tight? Why is Barack Obama, with all the resources of the incumbent, after having spent literally hundreds of billions on political patronage, backed by the wholehearted support of the media, not streets ahead of that rich old white Mormon and his miserly running mate?

Hillary Clinton is apparently asking herself the same question. And she’s sitting it out, which is a polite way of saying she’s looked at the odds and declined to bet the farm on Barack Obama winning in 2012. Ed Klein, the author of the New York Times bestseller on Obama, The Amateur, says Hillary was invited to join him as running mate in the coming elections — and she declined.

“As recently as a couple of weeks ago, the White House was putting out feelers to see if Hillary Clinton was interested in replacing Joe Biden on the ticket,” Klein told Secrets. “Bill Clinton, I’m told, was urging his wife to accept the number two spot if it was formally offered. Bill sees the vice presidency as the perfect launching pad for Hillary to run for president in 2016.”

He made similar comments Thursday night to CNBC’s Larry Kudlow. The White House has dismissed speculation of a Clinton for Biden swap despite a string of recent gaffes by the vice president.

Klein, whose book is No. 2 on the NYT bestseller list, quoted unnamed sources who revealed that top Obama aide Valerie Jarrett put the vice presidency on the table during a lunch with the secretary of state. “The lunch was ostensibly about policy issues, but the subject of the vice presidency came up,” he said. “Hillary told Valerie Jarrett that she was not interested in running as Obama’s vice president.”

Klein said she cited two reasons: If elected, she didn’t want to be tied to Obama’s left-leaning politics in her own 2016 bid. Second, if Obama loses, she would be tarred as a loser.

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Who’s the Fairest of Them All?

August 16th, 2012 - 12:48 pm

There’s something in the water, and nobody is sure what it is. Neo-neocon notes that Maureen Dowd is acting funny — like she’s met Ted Bundy and is two minds about whether to run or ask for a date.

[Ryan]‘s the cutest package that cruelty ever came in. He has a winning air of sad cheerfulness. He’s affable, clean-cut and really cut, with the Irish altar-boy widow’s peak and droopy, winsome blue eyes and unashamed sentimentality. Who better to rain misery upon the heads of millions of Americans?

Ezra Klein’s warning is even more stark. He sees a dark fairytale represented in Ryan. The Republican vice presidential candidate is Dr. Obama’s monster, jolted into life by the currents from the Lightbringer himself. “Here’s the weird thing about Paul Ryan being named to the Republican presidential ticket: It’s all part of Barack Obama’s campaign plan — a plan that’s working better than his strategists could have hoped. It could also backfire more disastrously than they have ever imagined.” Like another Doctor, whose German sounding last name starts with an “F”, there were apparently unforseen consequences in bringing this creature into existence.

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