Wednesday, August 20, 2014

HWX: Tuesday Night Is All Right for Fighting

It was a special Tuesday night broadcast of the Hinderaker-Ward Experience, with John Hinderaker of Power Line and Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas reconvening to discuss the critical issues of our time. Topics include:

*  Fond recollections of the dwindling summer and tales of State Fair radio show appearances past

*  Race relations, politicization, and the tragic events playing out in Ferguson, Missouri

*  Illegal immigration and the potential for imminent executive orders

*  Politics and professional football, Redskins and Vikings in the news

*  Loon of the Week and This Week in Gate Keeping

There are many ways to hear the podcast, including over on the mother ship at Ricochet.   You can be sure to never miss an episode by subscribing via iTunes.  Or you can just use the player embedded in the upper right hand corner of this website.  If all of these fail, send me an email and I'll come to your house and read from a written transcript.  Hope you enjoy.

How Not Why

David Harsanyi-hisself a non-believer-skewers Richard Dawkins (an admittedly soft target if there ever was one) and exposes the limits of science to shape morality:

A few years back Newsweek reported that 90 percent of women whose fetuses test positive for Down syndrome choose an abortion. Only a small percentage of mothers even used the test back then. Soon many more will, and it’s not outlandish to believe that close to 90 percent of parents will continue to terminate those fetuses. Does this mean those in comas, critically injured or mentally unable to “feel” in the way Dawkins defines significant life, are also superfluous? If not, why not? And why only Down Syndrome? I assume he would be ok with deposing of any diseases we can find in the womb? We’d be doing them a favor, no? And what happens when we have advances in genetic testing that allow us to measure intelligence or appearance of a future adult? Surely not all of them are cut out for life. Maybe we’d be doing them a favor, as well. If they don’t feel anything, what the difference? Dawkins offers no scientific formula for when life is worth protecting that I can discern. And if he comes up with one it”ll have nothing to do with science.

If you want to know what it might look like when a society no longer feels a moral responsibility to protect life you could do worse than watching or reading the The Giver. I haven't yet caught the big screen version, but if it sticks anywhere close to the book, it will have a somewhat shocking and unmistakable pro-life message to deliver.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Beer of the Week (Vol. CXCIV)

Another edition of Beer of the Week, sponsored as always by the mellow folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can eagerly help you find the wine, whiskey, or beer you need to enjoy the hazy, lazy days of summer in style.

Back to school sales are already over, the State Fair starts next week, and fall beers are appearing in stores. (sigh) But there’s still plenty of summer to enjoy and plenty of beer well suited to the warm weather.

A good example of just such a beer is Deschutes River Ale:

Once called Riviere des Chutes by French Trappers the Deschutes River feeds our beers and souls alike. Merci.

Here’s one that’s clean and refreshing enough for the long haul, but fully graced with hop aroma, malt heft and clear craft passion. Sit back, relax, and let the subtle pleasures reveal.


Six-pack of twelve bottles goes for $8.99. Appealing label features serene river scene.

STYLE: Blonde Ale

ALCOHOL BY VOLUME: 4.0%

COLOR (0-2): Golden brown and clear. 2

HEAD (0-2): Bright white color with good volume. 2

AROMA (0-2): Floral hops and slightly sweet. 2

TASTE (0-5): Pleasant hop flavors provide more than you expect given the low alcohol content. Light bodied with a smooth and clean finish. Very drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Flavors follow through nicely but a little faint. 1

OVERALL (0-6): A well rounded summer beer that whets the whistle while still tickling the taste buds. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 14

Monday, August 11, 2014

For Jeff Johnson

Tomorrow voters in Minnesota will trample trickle to the polls to vote in the DFL and GOP primaries. There are four candidates on the Republican side vying for the right to take on incumbent DFL Governor Mark Dayton. I will be casting my ballot for Jeff Johnson.

I first met Jeff some years ago back in my days as a member of the Northern Alliance Radio Network. Along with my NARN co-hosts, I had the opportunity to interview Jeff on a couple of occasions and always found him to be engaging, intelligent, and at times amusing. He also had an all too rare quality among politicians: he was real.

In 2010, I hoped that he would make a run for governor as I thought he would make an excellent candidate. He opted instead to run for attorney general and lost. Four years later, my support for Jeff remains as enthusiastic as it did then. He is the best candidate on the governor’s slate.

It’s not that I have anything against the other GOP contenders. I think they all would make far better governors that Mark Dayton and will support whomever emerges victorious after the votes are counted tomorrow.

But I firmly believe that Jeff Johnson provides the GOP with the best chance to beat Mark Dayton in November. He’s a good man with a good message and a good name. And don’t downplay that last factor when it comes to Minnesota elections. Vote for Jeff Johnson tomorrow.
The Nihilist adds: Once Jeff wins on the 12th, the real fight begins. Click here to donate to Jeff's campaign. Defeating Mark Dayton is the single most important thing Minnesotans can do this November. Your donation will help make victory possible.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

American Movie

Last week I attended a showing of Dinesh D’Souza’s "America:  Imagine the World Without Her".  And I witnessed a movie resplendent with inspiring, patriotic imagery and a complete dramatic story arc full of tension and heartbreak and evolution and ultimately resolution and glorification of what it is to be an American.  Unfortunately, these were two different movies.

The latter experience was Oliver Stone’s “Born on the Fourth of July.”  It was released 25 years ago and I’m an admirer of Stone’s work, but I had not seen it before.  A reluctance to subject myself to a full color, wide screen exploration of the horrors of war, combined with Stone and Kovic’s overt political agenda kept me away.  Stone’s previous movie “Platoon” is one of my favorites of the 80’s and it is a variation of the same recipe.  But Platoon’s arguments were safely buried in the past, firmly fixed on an old war for which the political wisdom of fighting it did not affect the contemporary context.  (By the way, Platoon was released in 1986, a mere 11 years after the fall of Saigon, but at the time, to a teenager, it felt like near ancient history).  Of course, Born on the Fourth of July is about the same old war.  But its agenda was forward-looking, the lessons learned from Vietnam were intended to be visited upon political decisions made in the current day.  That was made clear by Kovic’s continuing political activism in the name of “peace” but in exclusive service of the Democrat party and whoever on the world scene happened to be opposing the United States.  So, I skipped it, until now.

It was worth the wait.  The first 30 minutes are a live action Normal Rockwell painting, with scenes of young, All American boy Ron Kovic being taught to believe in the American dream by earning it, and living it, and enjoying all the benefits.   All the iconic moments of American life are present, with tributes paid to the traditional nuclear family and gender roles, religion, sports, the military and civic pride.  Stone imbues it all with a stylistically sepia tone and surrounds it with a languid, melancholy orchestral score intermixed with pitch perfect romanticized pop standards.  There are no cheap shots about blind jingoism or naïve patriotism.  It’s a red blooded, red state American dream for those who want to believe in the dream.  It could have been directed by Frank Capra in another generation as the entrée to a linear narrative reinforcing nothing but those themes over two hours.  The first act crescendo is Kovic (played by Tom Cruise) on the eve of fulfilling his dream of serving his country by leaving for Marine boot camp, getting back the high school sweetheart he nearly lost forever at their last school dance to the strains of 50’s fantasia “Moon River”.   Fade out.  Fade back into … the horrors of war.

It’s a roller coaster ride from there.   The true American believer fighting the war America asked him to fight, gets caught up in an irresistible momentum that leads to civilian atrocities and fratricide, getting grievously and permanently wounded, getting mistreated and ignored by his country and his family, and his subsequent descent into isolation and darkness.  In the classic dramatic arc, we then get his painful journey to self-actualization, his re-engagement with his lost, beloved nation and the fight to bring truth to it for their mutual benefit.  It ends with his victory, to the applause of his countrymen, and his humble acknowledgement that he finally feels like he’s home.  Wow.

Was any of this true?  Was it a fair retelling of history?  I don’t know.  Stone admits to deliberately using his films to create a “counter myth” to official history.  But, for the purposes of a movie and its effect, it doesn’t matter.  What a story! And due the skill of Stone, Cruise, John Williams, et al., what a cinematic experience.

There is nothing like this in Dinesh D’Souza’s America.   Which, to be clear, is also a movie.  It is other things as well, like a hopeful political venture into virgin cultural territory.  But that’s context and motivation and abstraction, and not the end product itself.  The play’s the thing.  And that thing D’Souza does is not very good, relative to the cinematic experience described above.

The moral universe masterfully depicted in Born on the Fourth of July was persuasive that America’s war in Vietnam, and by extension, almost any war, wasn’t worth the terrible personal sacrifices and suffering, as encapsulated by Ron Kovic and his severed spine.  It takes extremely hardened ideological blinders for a viewer not to clearly perceive that after viewing it.  Even I was ready to add my voice to a chorus of “Give Peace a Chance” during the closing credits.

There are other lefty movies that have this same effect.  After watching John Ford’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” it’s nearly impossible for a sentient being to avoid the desire to pick up an axe handle and stand next to Tom Joad in the fight so hungry people can eat.  Or John Sayles’ “Matewan,” where the dichotomy between good and evil is so cleanly and effectively depicted between the coal miners and the union vs. the corporations and the corrupt authorities.  Immediately after seeing this, I wanted to start a coal miner’s union in my neighborhood.  But for the lack of a vein of anthracite within a thousand miles of Minnesota, I just might have.  (Interesting to note, these inspiring leftist tales always concentrate on the beginning of a socialist movement, or the temporary failure of a beautiful socialist dream that lies just over the horizon.  I think that’s because history shows us that these experiments never have an inspiring, happy ending).

Of course, I know better than to take what these movies are presenting at face value.  A lifetime of pursuing intellectual truth in the realms of politics and history has a way of inuring one to artistic flights of fancy.  When the lights come up in the theater, I can let it go.  The concern is, that may not be the case with the masses consuming these powerful, provocative products.

This is not a new concern.   It is the very reason that two and a half millennia ago Plato would have banned artists from his rational, ideal world:

Then the imitator, I said, is a long way off the truth, and can do all things because he lightly touches on a small part of them, and that part an image. For example: A painter will paint a cobbler, carpenter, or any other artist, though he knows nothing of their arts; and, if he is a good artist, he may deceive children or simple persons, when he shows them his picture of a carpenter from a distance, and they will fancy that they are looking at a real carpenter.

Flash forward to the 21st century and the average American (simpleton or not) confronted with an incredibly powerful artistic medium and story reasonably concludes they are looking at the real nature of capitalism or socialism or of America, instead of a lightly touched upon imitation of a small part of these entities.

Based on America, Imagine the World Without Her, Plato would have allowed Dinesh D’Souza into his ideal state.  That’s good for Dinesh, bad for the success of this political venture into virgin cultural territory.
His movie is competent, well-reasoned, intellectually substantial, and mildly entertaining.  As artistry and spectacle, it barely rises above the level of a CSPAN broadcast of a college history course lecture.   Fine for what it is (and I do dig that), but that’s it.  It is a small dream, it has not the power to stir men’s hearts.  It will not generate word of mouth buzz necessary for mass appeal, and no one will see it other than those who already want to believe.

Some, including D'Souza, have been touting the movie’s A+ rating on CinemaScore.

… an A+? That’s the brass ring.  In the last 29 years, only 52 films have received an A+ from CinemaScore, including seven Oscar Best Picture winners: “Gandhi,” “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Dances With Wolves,” “Schindler’s List,” “Forrest Gump,” “Titanic,” and “The King’s Speech.”
[The Hollywood Reporter] added that an A+ typically “signals a long, prosperous theatrical run.”

But this just goes to show that CinemaScore is, more than anything, a measure of a movie’s success in eliciting confirmation bias among a self-selected sample.  Succeeding in that does means something.  But for box office success like Titanic, you need a Titanic-sized potential audience in which to motivate to self-selection.  There are vastly more people (women) seeking doomed romantic fantasies with big special effects than people seeking an intellectual defense of American exceptionalism.  Perfectly hitting the target with each audience yields vastly different results.   D’Souza’s success with America will result in a tiny ripple in the cultural waters, not a tidal wave.

D’Souza’s America certainly does not merit the laughable “F” rating given by such mainstream reviewing sites as AV Club either.   But that demonstrates the other impediment his film faces in its quest to make a difference in the culture.  The keepers of the narrow ideological gates of the mainstream media will not give it a fair hearing.  So the only hope is to go around them and win the hearts and minds of the general public. And this film is not equipped to do so.

Two other criticisms of the movie itself.  First, the premise as communicated in the title “Imagine the World without Her”.  Yes, what would have happened in history, and what would the human condition be, if this nation state did not exist?  It’s an intriguing counterfactual that has huge cinematic and dramatic potential.  It’s  the kind of skewed, alternate history broached in The Watchmen, which could have been titled America, Imagine the World if Cold, Megalomaniacal Costumed Freaks were Calling the Shots.  (Which, come to think of it, may not be so counterfactual after all).  D’Souza starts down this path, showing George Washington shot off his horse and killed before the American Revolution was won.   Then we get a few scenes of American landmarks melting into air. But then it’s dropped entirely for the rest of the movie.  What happened to imagining the world without her?  I guess we’ll have to imagine imagining that.  I’m reminded of the immortal words of super lawyer from the Simpson’s Lionel Hutz:  “this is the most blatant case of fraudulent advertising since my suit against the film, "The Never-Ending Story".

Instead, most of the rest of the movie is an exhibition of fallacious leftist criticisms and D’Souza’s pedantic responses.   And he really lets the lefties fly, filming interviews with the likes of Noam Chomsky and Ward Churchill, and letting them express their tired, but angry and withering criticisms of America and its unforgivable historical crimes in their own words.  These are prolonged, anxiety producing scenes, with D’Souza just sitting back and listening in.  I assumed it was being played like a classic underdog fighting picture, the Karate Kid or any Rocky movie.  Our hero has to take a beating (or series of beatings), in order to increase the dramatic payoff of him rising from the canvas and exacting his brutal but justifiable and satisfying retribution.  The problem is that D’Souza never really does that.  His response to their inflammatory rhetoric is a separate PowerPoint presentation enumerating their themes with bullet points and providing clean, regimented, equally bullet-pointed responses.  Chomsky and Churchill are long gone by then, D’Souza never confronts their arguments to their faces.  They get away with saying what they did and are never get a chance to respond to D’Souza’s counter arguments.  D’Souza’s arguments may very well have been superior, but it doesn’t feel like victory.  Maybe that’s because in a movie, a victory requires a winner and a loser.   The America bashers deserved to get personally beat, and D’Souza lets them off the hook.  It’s like if the end of The Karate Kid was Daniel LaRusso getting his ass kicked, but still getting handed the coveted All Valley Karate Championship belt because the officials noticed the Cobra Kai punk was indeed using an illegal kick.  We won, but we didn’t WIN!  And the Cobra Kai is still sneering and laughing at us.

The left has magnificent instruments of ideological propaganda in the likes of Oliver Stone.  Dinesh D’Souza is no Oliver Stone.  If there is ever going to be a successful conservative political venture into this cultural space, we need one.

Until then, I guess we’ve always got Red Dawn.



Friday, August 08, 2014

Everybody Has Something

I heard Dennis Prager explain “The Missing Tile Syndrome" on his radio show during one (or perhaps more than one) of his weekly happiness hours. He now has a Prager University video which lays it out in vivid detail:

Have you ever thought to yourself, "I wish I were ____"? Adjectives may have included: thinner, taller, smarter, etc. If so, you're like virtually everyone else, and afflicted by "The Missing Tile Syndrome." As Dennis Prager explains, we often focus on the missing tile(s) in our lives, which robs us of happiness. In five minutes, learn how to fix your focus.


Thursday, August 07, 2014

Hoppy History

Today is National IPA Day and the appropriate and obvious way to celebrate is to quaff a few pints of the delicious beer style. But while you’re at it you also may want to take a moment and familiarize yourself with the real origins of IPA:

Because of its popularity, most craft drinkers know – or think they know – how IPA began. To quote one version of the popular history of the style: "Back in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, England held a large colonial presence in India. The soldiers, sailors and civilians had a huge appetite for beer. Trouble was, the voyage to India was long, and by the time the ship made it there the traditional beers had spoiled. Even when they didn't, the dark porters that were popular at the time weren't quite the ticket in the hot climate of India. George Hodgson of the Bow Brewery in London was the first person to come up with an answer to this problem. He began brewing a lighter style of beer, known as pale ale. Hodgson realized that high alcohol and hop levels would retard spoilage. His process succeeded, and for about 50 years he held a virtual monopoly on the market."

Trouble is, almost none of the above is true. Ale and beer were being successfully exported to India – and farther – from at least the beginning of the 18th century, and while there was some spoilage, the beers that were being sent out could easily last a year or more in cask. So nobody needed to invent a new style of beer to survive the journey better. Porter continued to be popular in India through the 19th century, and strong dark beers are still drunk in hot climates, from Sri Lanka to the West Indies. Pale ales were around for at least a century before George Hodgson began brewing.


Like many others, I too had long subscribed to the theory that IPAs were created to survive the long sea journey to India and were named thusly. It sounded good and it made sense. In fact it was only a few years ago when I read the article above that I was made wise to the fallacy that had been so oft peddled.

What’s surprising is how often I still see it repeated today especially by those who should know better. Just last week in Milwaukee, I came across the erroneous IPA back story at a craft brewery.

So when you’re knocking back a couple of gloriously hoppy ales tonight please keep in mind that the story you’ve probably heard about its origin is not exactly the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And if you get a chance pass the word so that other hop heads also understand that they've been mislead.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Hard to Hit a Moving Target

I got into blogging to change the world.  Thus far the evidence is inconclusive as to my success.  Although today’s news makes me think I don’t need to get my aircraft carrier sized “Mission Accomplished” banner out of storage any time soon.

Breaking news from the front page of the Star Tribune:

Target Corp. has for the first time come out publicly in support of gay marriage, as a growing number of high-profile businesses take positions on the divisive issue.
Gay marriage has been a source of controversy for some of the state’s major corporate players since Target, Best Buy and 3M donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to an organization that supported Republican Tom Emmer in the 2010 Minnesota governor’s race. Emmer is a vocal opponent of gay marriage.


Target finally threw its corporate weight behind marriage equality Tuesday, with the Minneapolis-based retailer joining an amicus brief in a court case.
… [Target executive vice president Jodee Kozlak] also hinted at a degree of corporate soul-searching as gay marriage spreads. She did not mention another change: the firing of Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel, who in 2010 was criticized after Target made a $150,000 campaign contribution on behalf of an anti-gay-rights Republican, Tom Emmer.

From MinnPost:

… four years after Target Corporation backed fiercely anti-gay rights candidate Tom Emmer for Minnesota Governor, and three years after it refused to oppose Republicans’ mean-spirited ballot measure to enshrine a gay marriage ban in the Minnesota Constitution, corporate executives have apparently read rapidly changing public opinion surveys and are consequently endorsing a legal brief backing  marriage equality.

Twin Cities professional journalists, I’m not mad. I’m disappointed.
  
Not only did you get the facts of the story wrong, but over three years ago I gave you a detailed account of the back story of this issue and if you would have used it like you were supposed to, none of this would have happened.

Let’s go over this one more time.  First, the issue of “anti gay rights’ Tom Emmer.  In 2010, he wasn’t any more “anti-gay rights” than Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were, or Paul Wellstone was when he died, or that 44% of Minnesotans currently are.  All of the above opposed the state recognition of same sex marriage.  That’s it.  Whether you agree with it or not, it was a mainstream position then, and it is now. 
 
The “anti-gay” sobriquet Emmer has been given has now evolved to “fiercely anti-gay” in the press.  This is laughable.  Interviewing him on the old NARN show shortly before the 2010 election, he tried to shame me for bringing up social issues.  He begrudgingly acknowledged his support of traditional marriage, which was the position of the overwhelming majority of people in his party, but he rebuked me, saying 2010 wasn’t about social issues, it was about the economy and jobs.  That was his strategy in 2010, being a jerk to volunteer weekend radio show hosts and not prioritizing social issues like gay marriage.  (I suspect the former was the real reason he lost the election by a mere 9,000 votes).  Fierce, perhaps, but not “fiercely anti-gay”.
   
My words from 2011 ring all the more true now, seeing how this press formulation lives on into 2014:

You've got to love how Tom Emmer's support of traditional marriage now earns him the sobriquet "anti-gay candidate Tom Emmer". Now that he's no longer a candidate, does he get to keep the title? On Friday mornings, listen to anti-gay talk show host Tom Emmer on KTLK. On Saturday, anti-gay broomball coach Tom Emmer will attempt to lead his son's pee wee team to victory. Then Sunday anti-gay grocery shopper Tom Emmer will pick up on his family's weekly supplies.

Secondly, the controversy about Target supporting an “anti gay” candidate, another stale, half-truth fantasy that endures in the press.  The full story, as detailed on this website in 2011:

Target Corporation donated $150,000 to a group called Minnesota Forward, whose goal was to improve the environment for business in the state. Their focus was entirely economic and directed toward job creation in the private sector, which was perhaps the primary concern of voters in the recession year of 2010. The goals of Minnesota Forward were admirable, entirely reasonable, and beneficial to any business trying to operate in Minnesota. A company that employs the number of people in the state, and pays as much in taxes, as Target would be particularly disposed to supporting this organization. It would have been foolish for them not to donate to such a group. And so they did. As their spokesman articulated: 

"... the company gave $150,000 in cash and in-kind contributions to Minnesota Forward because the group's mission is to elect candidates from both parties who are focused on making "economic growth a priority."
"Target is very proud to call Minnesota home," said Michaud. "We want a business environment that allows us to be competitive, provide jobs, support our communities and deliver on our commitment to shareholders."
Ultimately, Minnesota Forward determined that Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer was most in agreement with their goals. This was not a close call. His Democrat opponent was an extreme liberal, one of the few candidates in the entire country who was calling for more income taxes and more corporate taxes, to fund even greater expansion of government during a recession and debt crisis. Emmer, on the other hand, called for cutting government expenses and not further burdening the private sector in this difficult economic environment.

To support Emmer, Minnesota Forward independently paid for a television ad.  Excerpt from the narration:

"As a legislator, Emmer voted against job-killing taxes and for reduced government spending. Now he's running for governor, working to grow jobs, getting government out of the way." 

Nothing controversial about that. Nothing controversial about Target supporting that position, especially compared to what the other side was offering.
And then the Alinsky explosion hit. The tactics utilized, and media portrayal of the "controversy", are exemplified in this headline from CBS News:
Target Boycott Movement Grows Following Donation to Support "Antigay" Candidate
The cries of outrage were sent forth, the story went national (carried by the dutiful press), and suddenly it was wrong for a business to support its own economic interest because of something to do with gayness.
It was an interesting bit of sleight of hand. In order to demonize the support of a Republican candidate for pro-business reasons, the liberal pressure groups focused on an unrelated issue, gay marriage. An issue which Tom Emmer was adamant, to a fault, about not emphasizing during his campaign. Plus, it was an issue in which Tom Emmer's position (support of the one man-one woman definition of marriage), agreed with the overwhelming majority of voters, including, for one, Barrack Obama. Yet it was characterized as somehow "hateful" and "anti-gay" and a boycott movement was launched because Target supported him (for entirely other reasons).

Do we have this straight now, Twin Cities media?  I hope so.   But I suspect that since Target is now overtly supporting a liberal agenda, and won't be donating money to anything remotely associated with Republican candidates, we won’t be hearing much about any controversy over their political activities any more.   Maybe someone can get some use out of my "mission accomplished" banner after all.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Been There, Done That

Given the increasingly unstable nature of the global geopolitical order and the number of hot spots that are flaring up at the moment it would seem like an inopportune time for the United States to be cutting back on and even worse gutting our military capabilities. But as Max Boot notes that seems to be exactly what we're doing:

The panel identified “disturbing” and “dangerous” gaps between the “capabilities and capacities” called for under the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review and the actual “budget resources made available to the [Defense] Department.” Specifically the panel determined that both the Navy and Air Force need to grow and the Army and Marine Corps should not shrink as much as currently envisioned.

The Navy, the panel noted, should have between 323 and 346 ships yet it is currently “on a budgetary path to 260 ships or less.”

The Air Force, the panel found, “now fields the smallest and oldest force of combat aircraft in its history” and that situation is going to get much worse because it is going to lose half of its current inventory of bombers, fighter aircraft, and surveillance aircraft by 2019. The panel called for an increase in “the number of manned and unmanned aircraft capable of conducting both ISR [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] and long range strike in contested airspace.”

The panel also found that currently contemplated reductions in Army end-strength go too far. “We believe the Army and the Marine Corps should not be reduced below their pre-9/11 end strengths–490,000 active-duty soldiers in the Army and 182,000 active Marines,” the panel concluded. Yet on the current trajectory the army is likely to wind up with 420,000 soldiers and the Corps with 175,000 marines.

The defense panel rightly warned that “sustaining these significant cuts to our defense budgets will not solve our fiscal woes, but will increasingly jeopardize our international defense posture and ultimately damage our security, prospects for economic growth, and other interests.”

But no one in Washington, on either side of the aisle, seems to care. All Republicans seem to care about anymore is avoiding tax hikes. All that Democrats seem to care about anymore is avoiding cuts in entitlement programs. Whatever happened to the parties of Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy? They seem to be as gone as those presidents. And America is going to pay the price unless we see some leadership on defense issues at the top of our political system on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.


The world is better off with a strong and secure America. And while there are costs to be borne for us to carry this burden, it's also far better for us if we have the military capability to maintain our strength and promote global stability. If you think things are bad now just wait to see what happens if we continue down the road of continuing to weaken our military.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Back to the Front

rac·on·teur: 
noun, plural rac·on·teurs  
a person who is skilled in relating stories and anecdotes interestingly.

There are many words that one could use to describe writer Mark Yost (some of them actually not obscene), but raconteur is probably the one that comes to mind first. From his work on the business of sports to his Nick Mattera series of thrillers to the new Rick Crane noir, Mark covers the base and does so with style and flair. 

His latest effort is to serve as a virtual tour guide for World War One's Western Front at a blog called The Western Front in a Week:

As many of you know, I am an avid World War I historian.

I lived in Brussels for three years, writing for The Wall Street Journal. I have visited most of the battlefields, monuments, cemeteries and museums related to what most Europeans still call “The Great War.” Along the way, I’ve written numerous articles over the years for The Wall Street Journal and other publications.

August 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of what many consider the major events that actually began the 20th century. Over the next four years, more people than ever before (hopefully) will be visiting the Menin Gate in Ypres, the British memorial at Thiepval on The Somme, and the Ossuary at Verdun.

Given all the renewed interest in World War I, I am offering my expertise. I can guide your tour across France and Belgium. I can help you plan your self-guided tour to make sure you visit the most informative museums, most moving monuments, and most haunting cemeteries. And, I am available to speak to your book club, luncheon group, or professional meeting.

World War I is an oft-forgot piece of history, overshadowed by World War II and other events. I hope that changes with the advent of the 100th anniversary.

In short, I’m here to increase your knowledge of World War I and make your trip to the Western Front enjoyable and informative, in whatever way I can.

Over the course of the next four years, I will be commenting here on the anniversary of important battles, republishing my articles past, present and future from The Wall Street Journal, and curating what I hope you will find to be a lively and engaging discussion on World War I.

Our boys will be studying World War One next year as part of their home school curriculum. At this point, requests to have Mark swing by for personal tutoring have not been responded to.  Check out Mark's new blog anyway and his other writing. It's all good stuff.