A Troopathon update

troopathon2014_banner_160x240Just before heading into the Independence Day holiday, I wanted to update you on the status of Troopathon 7.

When I last left you on the subject, they were looking to reach a goal of $300,000. At the end of the telecast they finished about $1,600 short of the goal, but subsequent offerings enticed them to raise the goal to $350,000. As of this writing, they are at $317,950.

One thing I have not been able to track down is how much this site raised in the overall bloggers’ competition. I know that Wayne Dupree won (and received the AR-15 they were giving away) but I don’t have my own number. I will tell you that one of my readers donated to my PayPal account with the intention of using that as a donation, so I purchased another care pack on her behalf (made sure the note said so as well.) If, between her donation and my personal purchase, that was all I accomplished I would be a little disappointed in my readership but secure in the knowledge I made a little bit of difference.

It will be interesting to see in which direction Troopathon goes next year, since plans have been made to withdraw most of our remaining armed forces from Afghanistan. Unless we suddenly decide to slug it out with the ISIS terrorists in Iraq, 2015 will bring perhaps the smallest number of Americans in combat this century, since Barack Obama is hellbent on wrapping up the Long War whether victory is in hand or not. Of course, it won’t mean those few who remain won’t appreciate the efforts provided by Move America Forward, but I think it’s a question I think is worth asking. So I will and if the response is worthwhile it can be featured here.

Update: I raised $50 out of the total bloggers’ pool of $600, good for fourth-best. I think as a group we did better last year, but every little bit helps. It’s sort of sad that a number of bloggers who agreed to participate didn’t even help for themselves.

Local TEA Party welcomes ‘Betrayed’ author

It’s been quite awhile since we’ve had a local TEA Party event in Wicomico County, but the hiatus appears to be ending – not with a typical rally, but with an author who’s advocating a more robust military. From Greg Belcher, who is organizing the event:

Billy and Karen Vaughn are the parents of fallen Navy SEAL Team VI member, Aaron Carson Vaughn. The downing of a chopper (call sign Extortion 17) carrying thirty fearless American warriors was the day Aaron’s life ended and the day their lives began again.

As Billy and Karen began searching for answers their eyes were opened to vile atrocities being played out on America’s military. They’ve now become advocates for our war fighters, exposing the criminal Rules of Engagement, which have unnecessarily cost so many American soldiers their lives. Billy has authored the book “Betrayed” detailing the days, weeks and months after his son’s death, as he began compiling this devastating information.

The Vaughns spend a considerable amount of time on Capitol Hill, and have shared their story on countless local, state and national radio outlets. They’ve made many appearances on Fox & Friends, as well as Beck TV, The Huckabee Show, Hannity’s America, The Today Show, The Andrew Wilkow Show, The Willis Report, The Kelly File, Geraldo at Large, and more.

Their mission statement: Our defenders deserve to be defended. The burden of their covering rests on us, the patriots of this nation. It is imperative that we stand together and demand change. “Let them fight or bring them home.”

Billy Vaughn will be making the appearance at Adam’s Taphouse Grill (most people still know it as Adam’s Ribs) on Fruitland Boulevard in Fruitland on April 1 at 6 p.m.

Obviously Vaughn will be discussing the book, but there are other insights which can and should be gleaned from this appearance.

First of all, we can determine if  there is still interest in the Afghanistan conflict, which for our part is being wound down as we speak. Once it was the “good war” all those who were opposed to our excursion into Iraq thought we should be pursuing, but it’s apparent that was just a smokescreen. Once Barack Obama spiked the football of Osama bin Laden’s demise (at the hand of many of those killed on Extortion 17) the question was: how useful were those guys? The conspiracy theorist could posit that having a lot of heroes who could point out just how uninvolved Barack Obama really was cast their die for them.

This may also show where the libertarian, Ron Paul wing of the TEA Party movement – the one which believes we shouldn’t be involved in the affairs of far-off countries with little to no national interest at stake – might not play well with the element that believes the battle against radical Islam is truly the Long War I’ve occasionally written about, a battle without clear borders or defined enemies.

But as the rebirth of the local TEA Party, this could be a good kickoff. Most indeed believe America should have a strong defense which fights to win, not to not offend local populations. As the Vaughns ask:

Don’t you want to know what went so terribly wrong in our military strategy that the single largest loss of life in Naval Special Warfare HISTORY came at the hands of a 14 year-old Afghan farmer? AND…the SECOND largest loss of life in Naval Special Warfare HISTORY ALSO came at the hands of a young Afghan goat herder. The dialogue MUST begin.

One of the upcoming points for that dialogue will be next Tuesday in Fruitland. And for my friends up Cecil County way, Billy Vaughn will be the guest at the Cecil County Patriots meeting on Thursday, April 3rd. That meeting will be held at the Cecil County Administration Building in Elkton starting at 7 p.m.

Reversing the process

I got an interesting e-mail the other day – not necessarily for the content, but who it was from and what it may represent.

After the 2012 Republican primary campaign wrapped up, a number of the also-rans decided to form political groups or super PACs to keep their names out there, continue compiling e-mail lists, and – most importantly – keep the money coming in. Two good examples are Rick Santorum’s Patriot Voices group he formed shortly after withdrawing and the American Legacy PAC Newt Gingrich is wrapped up in.

But as we begin to inch toward the 2016 campaign, the Republican field is (hopefully) looking beyond the retreads from past elections, and the potential first-time candidates are numerous. Sure, you have your share of governors like, for example, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Mike Pence, and Scott Walker, along with a number of those already in Washington like Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, who has began the slog by winning a couple key straw polls.

Yet there’s always something about a campaign: the issues you may think will be the hot-button issues a couple years in advance rarely turn out to be; heck, even six months is a political lifetime. But Barack Obama’s foreign policy weaknesses, which were successfully swept under the rug for 2012, seem to be much more prominent of late. It’s interesting how the race to enroll people by the March 31 deadline for Obamacare and the entirety of the debacle itself still hasn’t quite been able to succeed in pushing the Russia/Crimea/Ukraine situation off the front pages, no matter how hard the Obama admnistration tries to mash that “reset” button.

So yesterday, thanks to the always-growing number of people who seem to have my e-mail address on file, I found out that former Ambassador John Bolton created a PAC last year. He was looking for donations, of course, but one has to ask whether the time has arrived for a foreign policy hawk to assume the Commander-in-Chief’s position? I can’t answer the question, of course, but it’s relevant to ask because Bolton drew 3% of the vote at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference. Granted, that’s not in the league of the aforementioned Paul, Christie, et. al. but it’s three times better than Martin O’Malley is doing in Iowa and everyone knows MOM’s gunning for the White House sooner or later. Like O’Malley, Bolton is even a Maryland native.

Maybe what got me to thinking Bolton may make a run is the PAC website. Its look and feel gives me the impression that it’s a couple little tweaks from being the John Bolton for President website. Instead of featuring candidates the PAC may be helping, it’s focused completely on Bolton himself – not a bad thing, but why have the pretense?

At the risk of being called a neocon, I don’t think it would be a bad thing for Bolton to make a run and create a referendum on our foreign policy. Obviously John was there during the George W. Bush years when we were hip-deep in Iraq and Afghanistan, but unfortunately it’s beginning to appear all that blood and treasure was for naught because we left before the job was (or will be) done. In both cases, we stopped short of annihilating the enemy with overwhelming force as we did in World War II. (Arguably, this is true of all our conflicts in the post-atomic era – well, maybe Grenada turned out pretty good.)

Unfortunately, those who have opposed us since the Vietnam era have learned that our resolve is only as good as the news cycle allows it to be. One would think after 9/11 we would see the Long War through but it doesn’t appear our current Commander-in-Chief is interested in victory or even rules of engagement which would allow the possibility because someone here may be offended. In the interim, much damage has been done to both our military and our national psyche, and Hillary Clinton won’t be the right person to fix it – for one thing, she wouldn’t hire John Bolton, PAC or no PAC.

Some Syria reaction

Among those who have weighed in on the Syrian issue are our Congressman and two would-be Congressmen from the Sixth District.

First District representative Andy Harris, who has a vote in the matter, put out this statement today:

After much consideration, including attending a classified intelligence briefing, I do not believe using military force against Syria is in the national security interest of the United States. At this point, I won’t be supporting any authorization to use military force if it is brought to a vote in Congress. The use of chemical weapons is a very serious matter for the international community that should not be tolerated, but this Administration has failed to lay out a coherent strategy for why using American military force in this situation is in the best interest of the country.

Fairly straightforward and boilerplate; I could probably find similar statements coming from six dozen other Republicans in Congress.

On the other hand, those who are running in District 6 had more of a rhetorical flourish. Since he was first to the post, let me present what candidate David Vogt had to say:

The Congressional vote on Syrian military intervention will most likely occur this week. While there is heated debate from many sides arguing for various actions, I am calling on Congressman John Delaney to consider the overwhelming opinion of the American people and to side with reason, not emotion, in this debate.

I suffer no illusions about Bashar al-Assad or the vile act of a leader murdering his own people. The suffering and death of the Syrian people are very real. My thoughts and prayers are with them.

However, the difficulty, as an outside nation, is in determining not only if we should intervene, but how? What is our objective, and what is our exit strategy? Are we accomplishing a goal, fighting for a stalemate, or further destabilizing the conflict? Would we be removing chemical weapons from the hands of a tyrant, yet creating the risk that they fall under the control of an unknown opposition force with their own agenda? After all, the lesser of two evils is still evil.

Faced with more questions than answers and such little international support, we must balance our desire to police the world with our obligation to act rationally. This particular situation is one with no defined goal, and American interests are not threatened by a lack of action. Diplomatic options have not been exhausted, and it is not even clear that they have been fully explored.

The world should take a stand against the use of chemical weapons in any country, but the time to have made a direct impact on Syria has passed. This situation has devolved from a humanitarian mission to a political game in which the American people want no part.

In a case of the people versus the establishment, the people’s voice must always be heard. This Marine is saying no to the establishment and no to military intervention.

I would vote “No” on this resolution, and I am calling on Congressman Delaney to do the same. The Congressman should not vote to authorize military conflict, but should instead push the President and his peers to pursue a solution that places the chemical weapons under secure, international control.

This was actually quite perceptive because I think this is the solution currently being favored as the answer to avoid direct American military involvement. Vogt makes the great point that if action were to occur, it should have already commenced.

Meanwhile, fellow Republican candidate Dan Bongino had his own thoughts:

Last week during a Senate hearing on the use of force in Syria, Sen. Bob Corker asked what the United States is “seeking” in Syria. Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had no answer. “I can’t answer that, what we’re seeking,” he said.

This is indicative of the Obama administration’s lack of a discernible foreign policy strategy towards Syria. A limited strike in Syria is nothing more than a face-saving measure for President Obama which could potentially draw America into yet another full-scale war in the Middle East.

After a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan where billions of dollars were spent and thousands of lives were lost, a military intervention in a Syrian civil war that is not connected to the national security interest of the United States is the wrong course of action for our nation.

Dan makes the case, by tying this situation into that in Iraq and Afghanistan, that Americans are tired of war – and he’s right. I’m not as sure this situation is equal because we have no al-Qaeda or Taliban to use as an enemy; in fact, the solution advocated assumes that only the Syrian government has chemical weapons, not the rebel groups. If the rebels have secured their own supply we just barked up the wrong tree.

For his part, District 6 Congressman John Delaney was coy on his Syria stance in a September 1 interview with WTTG-TV in Washington. He hasn’t made a public declaration on Syria since that point.

If there will be a vote of Syria – after President Obama’s remarks this evening, it’s anyone’s guess whether one will occur – it’s plain that Andy Harris will be a “no” vote, siding with the American people unconvinced our national interest would be at stake from events there and having no desire to lob a few cruise missiles into the beleaguered nation. I suspect that will meet with the approval of his district.

Finally, as an aside: shouldn’t we be hearing from Republican candidates from the other six districts on this?

Another vote for Vogt

It’s beginning to look like a race out in the Sixth District, but the question is now becoming one of whether the establishment Republican is really Dan Bongino, who earned his stripes by garnering the Maryland GOP’s senatorial nomination last April. Consider that Dan’s closest opponent in that race, Richard Douglas, is now backing Vogt:

Service in the armed forces is not the only quality required of a conscientious member of Congress. But it is an enormous asset. For this reason, I believe that former Marine rifleman and Afghanistan veteran David Vogt is the best choice to represent Maryland District 6 in the U.S House of Representatives.

During the last twelve years, our nation’s most important national security enterprises have been combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. After September 11, 2001, Americans like Mr. Vogt enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and other branches of the armed forces to perform our nation’s dangerous and demanding work. They volunteered without fanfare, fully aware that they would be deployed to combat theaters, rifle in hand. Their willingness to go in harm’s way is the essence of service and sacrifice.

Even Americans who opposed U.S. operations in Iraq or Afghanistan can appreciate the worth of such badly-needed qualities, today, in every walk of our often-troubled national life. These qualities are important because the interests of Maryland and our nation often demand that elected representatives in Congress, regardless of party, cross swords with the people who govern us from the White House, the Pentagon and other Executive branch departments and independent agencies.

Staring down the President, the Pentagon, a massive bureaucracy, or your own party leadership to serve the people takes genuine courage. But that is a House member’s duty, regardless of the political consequences. Armed forces veterans — particularly those with combat experience in the ranks — understand and have lived the duties of self-sacrifice and courage. They are less likely to become the star-struck cheerleaders for bad military, foreign, and domestic policy which, sadly, populate Congress today.

Service, seasoning and wisdom matter. Marylanders have had a bellyful of tough-talking lightweights in public life. Mr. Vogt is a step forward. He is the Republican primary candidate who has demonstrated the courage, seasoning and experience required to represent Marylanders well.

Mr. Vogt’s Afghanistan service in the U.S. Marine Corps did not make him a better American than his electoral opponents. But it will make him a better member of the U.S. Congress.

I’ll leave aside the question of Douglas’s backing vis-a-vis the question of establishment vs. conservative for the moment, because it’s worth pointing out that Bongino and Douglas were rivals for the same job last year, and the backbone of Richard’s campaign was his foreign policy experience as well as his tenure as a Senate staffer. At the same time, the question of Afghanistan was still in the air and Dan made a compelling case for pulling out, which automatically and immediately puts him at loggerheads with the Afghan campaign veteran Vogt. For that reason alone, I’m not surprised at this endorsement, which could help Vogt most in the extreme western part of the district where Douglas prevailed in the 2012 primary.

But this is also shaping up to be yet another establishment vs. outsider proxy battle, with Bongino again playing the role of outsider against Douglas in an election with few established names. It’s true that Vogt has no elected political experience, but the same could be said for Douglas – yet he was embraced by a number of MDGOP insiders as well as those inside the Beltway.

I find it interesting, though, that Bongino hasn’t chosen to begin rolling out endorsements yet. Maybe he feels less need to since it’s implied that many of those who backed his Senate run will do the same for a Congressional bid, but if Vogt’s ball keeps rolling he could make it a race. While it’s very unscientific, the most recent Red Maryland poll gives Bongino a solid – but not convincing – 17-point edge. Considering his name recognition from being on the ballot last year, that’s got to be too close for comfort.

So how will Dan Bongino play this? I can only speculate, but I suspect the big push will begin after Labor Day and it will center on pocketbook issues.

Meanwhile, there are some in the online media who are questioning the way the Vogt campaign is being run, particularly staffing decisions. There’s no question that Dan Bongino has rubbed some in the Maryland GOP the wrong way, but one name in particular continues to pop up on the radar screen of Jeff Quinton and his Quinton Report, and apparently that person is now involved in Vogt’s campaign as well.

Leaving aside the personality aspect, Jeff makes a valid point – why would a story like this be buried on a weekend? (I received this word before this evening, but it was embargoed to today and I respected the campaign’s wishes.) One might posit that a release on Saturday assures more attention during a slow news period and perhaps placement in the Sunday paper, but having done this gig for awhile I know the ebb and flow of readership and when certain material works best and Saturday is an unusual day for political activity like this. And having noticed a similar line on a Facebook posting from Monday, arguably that would have been the time to lead with it if the endorsement were in the can.

So far we have proven that first-time campaigners make mistakes. The question is whether the unforced errors will doom the Vogt campaign.

Ten Question Tuesday: January 22, 2013

After several days of trying to nail this busy lady down, I finally had the chance to speak with writer and author Diana West. You may recall her from the recent Turning the Tides 2013 conference, although I’ve actually linked to her website for some time.

The Death Of The Grown UpShe is the author of The Death of the Grown Up: How America’s Arrested Development is Bringing Down Western Civilization (2007) and the forthcoming American Betrayal: The Secret Assault On Our Nation’s Character. Diana is also a syndicated columnist whose work appears in dozens of outlets around the country.

**********

monoblogue: We actually met last Saturday – I’m going to bring my readers up to speed – you and I met last Saturday at Turning the Tides and you did a talk on “Toward a Conservative Foreign Policy.” I noticed this morning that it’s now up on your website, which is very convenient for the readers. I guess the question I would start out with is that you’re more known as a cultural speaker, so how did you get put into talking about foreign policy?

West: Well, really it goes back to 9/11. That’s really when I started writing about how our culture was being changed by this conflict with Islam. And most writers, most thinkers, most pundits and politicians, (they) continued to look at the last decade as a decade of terrorism. Most of the voices you hear discussing how to keep America safe, defend American interests, and so on are really looking at this as how to combat attacks (such as) terrorist attacks (or) military attacks – and while those are, of course, important because no one wants to be attacked at an airport or a stadium – coming from a more cultural lens I started looking at this in terms of how we were being changed culturally by this conflict.

I guess the first part of my writing career definitely had a focus on culture, although I did cover politics as well, but again with a definite cultural emphasis. This past decade I have definitely been looking at the war as a cultural event, and that’s why I’m so interested in things like what’s known as “civilization jihad,” which is, again, the turning from within of our civilization.

monoblogue: Right. And as I read your book, which I did finish – it’s very good – I noticed in The Death of the Grown-Up you started out in the vein that you described, just talking about our culture, but then as the book wrapped up you interspersed a look at the Islamic effect on our culture. The book’s evolution mirrors what you just said…

West: Yes.

monoblogue: …where you started out as talking about culture but then wrapped in the element of Islamic terror after 9/11.

West: Yes. And there’s a backstory to that book, really, which I’m glad you brought up. It explains the way of thinking about some of these problems. I was actually thinking about that book and working on it before 9/11, and it would have been a very different book. It would have definitely outlined the cultural decline as I saw it in terms of this increasing emphasis on youth and this increasing fear and denial of adulthood, and what went with it.

After 9/11 – I was living outside New York at the time, in Westchester County about 45 minutes from Manhattan – after 9/11 happened I shelved the book because I thought ‘who cares, what does it matter?’ We’re in this terrible fight, we’ve been attacked, and trying to understand these new issues I put that project aside. A year or so later, it suddenly became very apparent to me that the cultural decline that I had been trying to work through had a terrifying application in the post 9/11 age. That was how the book became a description of where we had come in terms of an infantile culture and how dangerous that cultural development was for our chances in battling this totalitarian threat which, if you look back through Islamic history, the hallmark of non-Islamic populations living under Islamic law is really one you could describe as infantilized in the sense of not having full rights, not being allowed to speak out, being afraid – these are the hallmarks of non-Islamic populations across centuries, across cultures, across continents.

I looked at this and said, oh my gosh, we are ripe for this kind of takeover and indeed, I ask your readers to look at our speech codes that we willfully put on ourselves. We are afraid to discuss Islam in any kind of rational, logical, and truthful manner. I would ascribe that to this very infantilization that I tried to see in the culture. The book is an argument to see this development and understand how  we have to overcome it if we’re going to withstand this.

monoblogue: Well, 9/11 kind of synthesized and crystallized your thesis then is what you’re saying.

West: Yes, I’m glad I didn’t write the book beforehand because I really felt that application was much more compelling – for me, anyway – and certainly seemed to have more significance for our future.

monoblogue: The other thing that’s interesting, and it’s a matter of how they paired the speakers up at the Turning the Tides Conference, was that you spoke right after Pamela Geller, and Pamela got most of the attention – and she’s the lightning rod for…

West: Sure.

monoblogue: …for pro-Islamic protests. But your message is almost as powerful as hers in the fact that, yes, this Islamic influence is not a good thing for America.

West: Well, I suppose that’s true. Of course, Pamela is a well-known activist at this point, and I think that as an activist she is certainly going to draw the attention of the CAIR demonstrators and things like that. I work strictly as a writer, journalist, and author, so I move in a different track although I would say we have similar goals and very often discuss similar topics so there is a commonality of theme here, but we have different roles and different careers.

monoblogue: That’s fine, but it seemed interesting to me – they’re actually out there protesting her and not you for your message, which – you kind of get to fly under the radar in a way.

West: I suppose so (laughs.) I work, perhaps, in more of the journalistic milieu – maybe it just doesn’t rile them up quite as much.

monoblogue: That’s all right (laughs), sometimes it’s good to be stealth. I’ve found that out myself. But when we heard you last Saturday, I noticed that you were coming in and saying ‘this isn’t really my forte, I hadn’t been thinking about that sort of thing as a broad foreign policy.’ And like I started out, it was interesting to hear you talk about that when you’re more known for culture. So how long did you have to prepare for this speech?

West: Oh, I guess I worked it out over about a week. I mean, in terms of – if you go to my website and comb through some of the back archives I have not written on culture per se for, really since 9/11. And while I definitely examine the cultural impact of war, I have also been looking very minutely and intensively – for example, in war policy, in military doctrine, in examining the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – so I wasn’t quite the fish out of water that I may have made you think in terms of thinking about a foreign policy address.

What I was trying to say was, when I was asked to come up with a conservative foreign policy for the conference, I think I was asked because I’d been thinking through jihad, the Islamization of the United States military, which is something I write a great deal about (and) my sense of the futility, and indeed dangers, of nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan. So what I was trying to explain was that I had not put these things together in the sense of a comprehensive political policy.

I think with that address, I kind of wish that Mitt Romney had made such a foreign policy address as mine, in terms of putting these various cultural and national security concerns together because I don’t think you can talk about – you can successfully talk about and battle the threats to our country in terms of terrorist events, in terms of a bad man with a bomb getting into a building, what we tend to do – and this gets back to what Pam is so good at, and others in this field, is understand that these actions (like) bringing bombs to a building are the expression of an ideology, and this ideology goes back to classical mainstream Islam. It is jihad, it is Islamic law to the entire world, to the caliphate – which is something else that I write about a lot – it is jihad to exert Islamic law over the world and everyone in it, including non-Muslims. And this is where we come in, and I’ve always felt that Islam itself doesn’t interest me, except insofar as the nexus between expansionist Islam and our life.

Where you come in to understand this is the impact of jihad and something called dhimmitude. Dhimmitude is the condition of the dhimmi, which are Christians and Jews living under Islamic law, and it is in effect a third- or fourth-class degree of citizenship. That’s where I’ve become interested in Islam; it is a cultural interest but, again, it also becomes a national security interest. In trying to knot this all together in a talk for a whole foreign policy address, of course it also involves things like border security and the importance of Congress becoming more involved in foreign policy. At this point, I think we have a very dictatorial foreign policy that is set at the White House, mostly, and Congress is merely there to rubber-stamp funding for whatever it is the President wishes to do.

These were some of the things I was trying to bring together into a more macro sense than I was accustomed to doing as a weekly columnist and almost daily blogger.

monoblogue: Right. And that’s something – I just happened to look (yesterday) morning and here’s the speech that you happened to give at Turning the Tides, which is very convenient. The website, by the way, is dianawest.net – I’ll plug that for you – and you also have the syndicated column.

West: Yes. I have the syndicated column and the speech actually was published at American Thinker as well. But mostly I write my column, which runs in something around 100 papers at this point, and I also write books. I have my new book coming out in May, which is called American Betrayalwhich, again, is a foray into history, actually, and how we got into this condition we’re in. I think of it as a prequel to The Death of the Grown-Up, really; it goes deeper and back a little farther to kind of set things straight.

monoblogue: That’s good, I’ll be interested to see how that does when it comes out. Obviously you’ve been working hard on that because, I recall as I was getting this set up and talking to you for (this interview) that you originally had this coming out in April, but now it’s going to be May.

BetrayalWest: Yes. (laughs) It’s been done for quite awhile. It’s a long book, and in talking about the old-fashioned way of doing things (referring to our small talk prior to the interview) publishers are doing things somewhat old-fashioned. It turns out that getting everything straight, typeset, and properly footnoted and everything just simply takes more time, so we had to push it off to May. But I do not believe there will be any further delays.

It’s been done – actually it was turned in back in May of 2012, and we’ve been editing over the months and so on. Books just take time, especially a large book that is very heavily footnoted.

monoblogue: Chock full of information.

West: Yes it is! Definitely value for the dollar. (laughs) A heavily researched book; it’s no cut and paste job here.

monoblogue: And I would expect no less. It sounds like you’re a very thorough-type person, and that’s good. We need more of those on our side. We have to put up with a lot of lies from the other side, people who just make it up as they go along and don’t check their facts. It’s refreshing to see our side portrayed in that way. You’re crafting.

West: Thank you. Yes, I try very hard and try to be thorough and try to be correct because it is very important. And I also try to admit when I change my mind or make a mistake – I think that’s equally as important. That’s one complaint I have with general journalism is that there is very little interest in correcting mistakes, and also changing minds. Sometimes the facts appear and there is reason to reconsider, and that is actually, I think, a sign of human growth and not anything less.

People tend to get very entrenched in their views of the world and vested in them so it becomes very difficult to reconsider and reformulate policies, which is one of my complaints with, for example, the Bush administration over its period in Iraq and Afghanistan, and certainly the military over these many years of fighting the same war, even as it became more and more apparent that “winning hearts and minds” in the Islamic world was not going to happen short of conversion to Islam. It’s that clear-cut; there’s no room for wiggle here. It is an absolute brick wall in terms of trying to persuade or win over an Islamic culture to a Western way.

You would think after a decade of trying there would be some reconsideration here, but I think there’s even less willingness to consider  a larger picture, much to the detriment of our country and just too many of our fellow citizens from the military.

monoblogue: Right, and in a way I can tie this to together to conclude it, this gets to be a battle between infantilization and maturity. We’re not showing the maturity to evolve our thought process as situations dictate.

West: That is certainly one way to think of it; it does seem to be that way. I think there’s also people with careers in mind, and reputations they’re too vainly wed to – these are some of the very human characteristics, yes, but I would say they are not of the more mature side. Certainly the ideal to which we aspire – and of course, we’re all human so there’s not some super standard that we all hit all the time every day – these are very serious problems and none of it is theoretical, none of it comes from an academic milieu where a theory can be argued.

We’ve been battle-testing these theories, which have led to loss of life, loss of limb, and tremendous losses to our national treasury, to our fitness of our fighting forces – I mean, it’s really been a cataclysmic decade and there’s really no end in sight (nor) any interest in looking back and actually saying what went wrong and how can we make it better for the future. I hope that that changes.

monoblogue: I hope it does too, and that actually turns out to be a good spot to wrap this up. Your book comes out in May, and I wish you the best of luck with it. I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.

West: Thank you, Michael, I enjoyed it.

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We actually chatted for a few minutes after the interview, comparing notes on the conference and other topics. A thought we extended on during the impromptu conversation was regarding the process of writing her book since I obviously chose a different path in getting my book to market because I wanted it out before the 2012 election. It boggles my mind that her manuscript has taken so long in the editing process, although I’m sure verifying the footnotes is a tedious batch of work.

The key thing was that I learned a lot in speaking with Diana, and hopefully you did as well in reading this. I haven’t determined next week’s guest quite yet, so stay tuned.

Odds and ends number 59

You know them, you love them…bloggy bits of goodness I expound upon which run from a sentence to a few paragraphs. Here’s my latest batch from a chock-full mailbox all but neglected over the weekend.

Actually, the first item doesn’t come from my mailbox but was shared with me on my Facebook page by Jim Rutledge, who urged me to read and share this piece by Diana West about how we’ll never win if we kowtow to Islamic radicals.

West writes about the saga of Marine Lance Cpl. Greg Buckley, Jr., who was killed in a “green-on-blue” attack last month. Chillingly, Buckley predicted, “one day they are going turn around and turn those weapons on us.” And so they did.

Of course, that leads to the obvious question of why we remain in Afghanistan, which has no clear-cut answer. At this point, it truly makes no difference to the most radical Islamist whether we stay or go as we’re the Great Satan just the same. Right offhand, I have no idea what the body count is on their side, but I’m sure it could be a lot more if we didn’t pull our punches. Once we bombed Tora Bora back to the Stone Age to get Osama bin Laden, but it was a more precise Seal Team Six which sent bin Laden to those 72 virgins, with Obama trying to heist the credit. Certainly there are those Afghans who love the accolades they receive from their comrades when an American is cut down as well.

All in all, the Patton rule still applies: “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.” Just substitute “religion” for “country” on their part.

Another old saw from the Left is that not throwing money at education produces inferior results. But that theory is debunked by a study recently released by State Budget Solutions. If the liberals’  theory was correct, then states which spent the most per pupil would have the best results – but the numbers suggest otherwise. In announcing the results, SBS noted:

From 2009 to 2011 the national average for state educational spending as a percentage of total spending dropped from 30 percent in 2009 to 29.3 percent in 2011. The top state spenders across all three years were Texas, Vermont and Arkansas, all spending at least 4 percent more than the national average. Michigan made the top five in 2010 and 2011. Virginia earned the #4 and #5 position in 2009 and 2011, respectively.

The states that spent the least as a percentage of total spending during 2009-2011 were Alaska, which came in last all three years, Hawaii and Tennessee. New York and Massachusetts also made the bottom five in 2010 and 2011.

For states that spent the most, only Vermont saw significant results from 2009 to 2011.  In fact, four out of the five states spending the most on education failed to produce correspondingly high graduation rates or ACT scores. Arkansas remained in the top five states in spending for all three years, yet Arkansas’ average ACT scores consistently fell below the national average, and continue to decline annually. In 2010 and 2011, Texas ranked first in the nation in spending, 36.9 percent each year, but fell below the national average in graduation and ACT scores.

One can have whatever educational Taj Mahal the taxpayers willingly – or begrudgingly – pay for, and teachers who receive the highest pay around, but if they can’t teach then all the money is essentially wasted. Otherwise, why would bright homeschooled children be the academic leaders of this country?

At this time in the election cycle, endorsements are always news. Recently the Conservative Victory PAC added two new Republican hopefuls to a growing stable of CVPAC-backed candidates as Second District Congressional hopeful Nancy Jacobs and Third District candidate Eric Knowles got the CVPAC blessing.

On Jacobs the group wrote:

CVPAC supports Ms. Jacobs’s education reform agenda, including expansion of Charter Schools in failing school districts, means-tested tax credits for parents with children in religious schools and other private schools, and tax credits for Maryland businesses that invest in schools or hire graduates from local schools.

CVPAC Treasurer Ruth Melson had this to say about Knowles:

Let me tell you why Eric Knowles must be your next United States Congressman from Maryland District 3.  Eric knows about defending the United States Constitution against foreign enemies and he will defend it at home the same way; he is a US Air Force veteran.   He knows about our terrible economic plight; he works as a bartender talking to regular folks every day.  In the United States Congress, he will always represent the interest of Marylanders like you and me.  He is not an ivory-tower politician building castles in the air; he is pragmatic.  Government, he says, must stay within its constitutionally enumerated powers; government must be rolled back to what we can afford.

Along with U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino, the Conservative Victory PAC has endorsed four of Maryland’s six Republican Congressional challengers: Ken Timmerman, Faith Loudon, Jacobs, and Knowles. I suppose they have a few weeks to add Fifth District challenger Tony O’Donnell and Seventh District aspirant Frank Mirabile to the list.

Bongino, meanwhile, keeps adding to his national profile by getting key endorsements of his own; most recently Lt. Col. Allen West added his vocal support:

The differences cannot be any clearer in the race for United States Senate. Ben Cardin has been an elected official for 45 years and you need to question ‘Is Maryland better off than it was in 1967?’ It is time the people need to elect someone who has some real experience, and that is why I am endorsing Dan Bongino for U.S. Senator for Maryland.

We need someone who has walked a police beat and not someone who all he knows how to do is walk into a chamber and vote aye and nay all day long!

West is a conservative darling who some believed would have been a great VP pick.

On the other hand, “establishment” Republicans may have been enamored with an endorsement closer to home – former Governor Bob Ehrlich:

Dan has the unmatched integrity and unique depth of experience necessary to defeat an entrenched incumbent like Senator Cardin. His background in law enforcement and federal investigations, combined with an entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen, afford not only a broad overview of the political arena but also personal expertise in job creation, fiscal responsibility, and community involvement.

We cannot continue down the same non-productive road we’ve traveled for the last 45 years. It’s time we elect someone new – someone who can relate to the needs of the average Maryland family. Dan’s message resonates strongly with both Democrats and Republicans alike, and he is the right person at the right time to represent Maryland and shake things up in Washington.

Gee, Bob, that sounds a little bit like your 2010 primary opponent I voted for. While it’s nice to have the endorsement, honestly I’m not sure the Ehrlich name carries the cache it formerly did among rank-and-file Republicans, let alone those who call the TEA Party home. They were more enthused by the Allen West statement, I’m sure.

Speaking of those who have spanked Ehrlich electorally, Martin O’Malley is once again getting beclowned by Larry Hogan and Change Maryland as they point out Maryland’s unemployment rate is rising as the national percentage drops:

Maryland’s unemployment rate inched up to 7.1%, marking months of consecutive upticks since January’s rate of 6.5%,  in the latest state employment picture released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The preliminary August numbers show a slight gain in employment due to July numbers that were revised downward by 1,600 jobs.  In August, Maryland payrolls increased by 1,400 over July.

The slight change in employment numbers, however, is not enough to lift Maryland out of the doldrums when it comes to competing with neighboring states.

“We are lagging in job growth in the region and are simply not competing with our neighbors,” said Change Maryland Chairman Larry Hogan. “This year’s performance on job growth is abysmal as it has been since 2007.”

On a percentage basis of jobs lost, Maryland’s decline of 1.4% since January of 2007 is the second-worst in the region after Delaware.

And Change Maryland had even more fun at O’Malley’s expense, reminding its audience that each and every Republican governor berated by DGA head O’Malley scored higher on job creation than he did:

In recent remarks in Iowa, O’Malley said, “We are the party that grows our economy; they are the party that wrecked our economy.’ This false statement is borne out today in the latest August employment numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that show Maryland’s loss of nearly 7,000 jobs this year is worse than Florida, Ohio, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Virginia, Texas, New Jersey and Maine. In some cases it is much worse.  For example, under Gov. John Kasich, Ohio has created 68,300 jobs this year; Florida Gov. Rick Scott, 50,500 jobs; and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, 26,200 jobs. So far this year under Gov. Rick Perry, the Lone Star state has created 140,000 more jobs than Maryland, which some have dubbed the “Fee State” as opposed to the official “Free State.”

“Martin O’Malley has no credibility whatsoever talking about jobs,” said Change Maryland Chairman Larry Hogan.  “What he can talk about, but chooses not to, are the 24 taxes and fees he has raised since taking office which remove $2.4 billion annually from the pockets of struggling Marylanders.”

I know Jim Pettit doesn’t necessarily write these releases to be laugh-out-loud funny, but when you consider the material he has to work with, you have to laugh to avoid crying – particularly if you still live in Maryland. As I’ve put myself on the record saying, take away the nation’s capital and Maryland is Michigan without all the lakes – or the jobs. (By the way, even that state is creating jobs much faster than Maryland.)

A surefire way to curtail job creation, however, is to overregulate land use to a point where no growth is possible. Whether consciously or not, the effect of new state rules may be the eventual death knell to the Eastern Shore’s economy.

There is an upcoming “Growth Offset Policy Meeting” Thursday morning to discuss these proposals, dryly described as follows:

The meeting will include a presentation by staff from Maryland Department of the Environment about the draft Growth Offset policy and the proposed timeframe for acceptance and implementation of the policy. Following the presentation, the remainder of the meeting is dedicated for a question and answer period. Participants are invited to ask questions and express concerns to staff from Maryland Department of the Environment, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Planning.

The Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology is organizing this event and would like to thank the Town Creek Foundaiton (sic) for their generous support which allows the Center this opportunity.

You can register here; it’s no surprise that plenty of seats are still available. I’m sure the Radical Green in this area will take time off their public-sector, taxpayer-funded jobs to try and convince these people that every acre in Wicomico County not already developed needs to return to its pristine, pre-settlement state.

If we were to take a path, I say join the one being blazed by Cecil County and say “to hell with the maps.” If Rick Pollitt wants to do something useful for a change, this is something to consider when you think about how similar Cecil County is in population to Wicomico.

Finally, turning to the national race: there’s a constituency group out there which is always assumed to be a solidly Democratic bloc and that’s the Jewish vote. But according to this ad from the Republican Jewish Coalition, voters are turning away:

Perhaps borne out by this ad, a survey by the American Jewish Council of 254 registered Jewish voters in Florida showed only 69% would vote for Obama. It’s noteworthy the survey was conducted prior to the 9-11-12 Islamic attacks on our embassies in several Middle Eastern countries, most notably Libya. On the other hand, they didn’t ask about the respondents’ 2008 vote so in that respect the survey has limited value – we have no basis of comparison to truly determine a trend.

But another number from the AJC survey serves as a way to tie this post together: 62% of those Jewish voters surveyed either strongly or moderately support U.S. military action against Iran’s nuclear program. 74% of them would support Israel doing the same.

It all comes back to wars and rumors of wars, doesn’t it?

Odds and ends number 52

As usual, the collection of oddities and things I run across which merit a paragraph, two, or three. Once I figure I’m up to 600 words or so I decide it’s time to add another chapter to this long-running series.

So let me begin with the shrill diatribes of one Pat McDonough. I’m going to pick out two paragraphs from a release he put out today.

The President’s fiat providing amnesty rights to illegal aliens by allowing them to acquire work permits circumvents the Congress and violates the Constitution and the Federal Immigration Act.  This political stunt initiated in an election year cries out for immediate impeachment hearings and a preventive federal lawsuit. Congressman Steven King of Iowa, the Chairman of the Immigration Reform Committee, has announced that he will launch a federal lawsuit to stop Obama’s reckless executive order.

From a practical point of view, the President’s actions will seriously hurt American workers. Twenty-four million people are underemployed in this nation and 43% of the unemployed have been collecting benefits for more than 6 months.  With a stroke of a pen, Mr. Obama has generated 1.5 million new work permits to people who are in our country without lawful presence.  The result is 1.5 million jobs will be stolen from Americans.  This illegal action is designed to promote his re-election at a time when we are suffering a “jobs depression” which he has been unable to resolve are unbelievable.

Pat is mostly correct in what he says, but it seems to me the message needs to come from other venues as well. After all, when the first thing out of Pat’s mouth in the wake of Obama’s Friday announcement was a call for his impeachment – a wish that stands less than zero chance of happening in this political climate – it makes McDonough look too much like an opportunist. Never mind he’s toyed with the idea of running for several offices before keeping the one he has.

On the other hand, I get more of a impression of sanity with Larry Hogan and Change Maryland. Referring to budget trends among the states based on data from the National Governor’s Association, he also managed a swipe at the outgoing incumbent:

“What happens when you increase spending by more than most other states and you pass 24 tax and fee hikes? You end up having the biggest job loss in the nation,” said Change Maryland Chairman Larry Hogan, referring to the latest U.S. Department of Labor report which showed Maryland leading the nation in lost jobs.

Now I will grant that Hogan was also in and out of a electoral race, bowing out midstream in favor of Bob Ehrlich in the 2010 gubernatorial race, but he’s not cultivated a reputation for bombast like McDonough has. There are ways of selling one’s self which are more effective than others and Hogan seems to have that knack.

Turning to other state events, Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin blasted the secrecy of expanding gambling in Maryland.

“The (Workgroup to Consider Gaming Expansion) is operating in the privacy of a windowless, third floor conference room in the Lowe House Office Building without a single member of the public present. If this isn’t a sad example of the proverbial ‘smoky back room,’ I don’t know what is.” said Pipkin. Earlier Monday morning, a Pipkin staffer was barred from the Workgroup’s meeting.

“Behind closed doors, and out public sight, this group is crafting policy,” said Pipkin. “Maryland’s emerging casino gaming industry will soon be pumping millions into the state’s coffers, and now the workgroup is cutting deals in private. Members of the public who wish to attend these meetings should not be barred. Obviously the O’Malley administration has no interest in a transparent process or open governance.”

“They are pulling every political trick of the trade to ram through a sixth casino location in Prince George’s county and table games at all six casinos.  The Governor’s staff operates like a crew of barroom bouncers guarding the door and refusing public access to these secret meetings.”

Bear in mind that the eleven-member group was selected by three politicians: Governor O’Malley, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., and House Speaker Michael Busch, all Democrats. So imagine if a Republican had such secretive meetings – it would set off a firestorm of withering criticism from the press. Instead, it’s left to Pipkin to make his statement while the workgroup hammers out a bill for a July Special Session.

If you’ve been following the Dan Bongino campaign as I have, you probably know he did a money bomb last week, raising  nearly $15,000 according to this Gazette article. While the paper correctly notes that Ben Cardin has a huge cash advantage at this date, it’s also worth stating that Bongino’s $60 or so average contribution is peanuts compared to the thousands of special interest dollars Cardin seems to have at his beck and call. Just as one example, it’s interesting how much attention has been paid to our Eastern Shore postal distribution center since the letter carriers’ union and postmasters forked over $10,000 to “our friend Ben’s” campaign coffers – and that’s just since the beginning of 2011.

I have no problem with money in politics, but it’s amazing to me where all Ben’s money comes from.

This billboard is along U.S. 13 near the Maryland-Virginia line.

Speaking of money, the Worcester County Republicans raised enough, through a number of means, to at least make one of their planned two billboards a reality. I’m told by Don Stifler, who sent along this photo to me, that the sign is located just north of the Virginia line along U.S. 13, so I’ll have to look for it in my upcoming travels down that way.

Honestly, though, I’m not sure the sign isn’t too clever by half in its reference. There’s no question we need to get rid of Obama, but I think there could have been a better message. Regardless, the sign is what it is and I’m sure some people will tell me that it’s a perfect analogy – to each his or her own, I guess.

I’m going to close with a riddle – what do Afghanistan and Mexico have in common?

You probably know from a previous article that my blogging friend Bob McCarty is trying to raise funds to help him launch his upcoming book. But he raises some good questions about the similarities between events in Mexico and “green on blue” attacks in Afghanistan that bear closer examination – not that much of it is forthcoming from those who can address the issue. And in both cases, people are winding up dead.

Meanwhile, Bob is about 1/6 of the way to his goal. No doubt a lot of people want money these days, but if the subject seems interesting perhaps you can help Bob out. (You can even rattle my tip jar, too.)

So there you have it, as I actually went way beyond my 600-word barrier, even though I counted the blockquotes. I wrote a lot nonetheless, so I hope you learned at least as much as I did.

Mucking around in Afghanistan

Those who are more interested in foreign policy than I am are welcome to comment; I’m just going to throw this out there because I found it interesting. It’s from a group called the Institute for the Study of War:

Most protests in Afghanistan over the past week have not been spontaneous or independent spates of anti-Americanism, tracking done by analysts at the Institute for the Study of War shows. Instead external actors, insurgent groups and Afghan political factions aiming to harm their local rivals have orchestrated most violent protests.

“If the current protests were a burst of anti-Americanism, we would expect them to be occurring in areas where the Taliban has traditionally been strong and Americans are large in number,” wrote research analysts Paraag Shukla and Isaac Hock. “But this is not the case.”

In provinces such as Helmand and Kandahar where U.S. and coalition forces have concentrated their efforts, protests have been limited and non-violent. In eastern provinces where insurgent groups including the Haqqani Network are still influential, such as Paktia, Khost and Nangarhar, protests reflect a history of violence orchestrated by insurgent groups and Afghan rivals to President Hamid Karzai. Iranian state media and religious figures have incited protests in two western provinces.

The protests started following the accidental burning of Islamic religious texts at Bagram Airfield on Feb. 20. Since then ISW analysts have mapped the spread of violent and nonviolent protests and have updated a timeline of statements by U.S., Afghan and insurgent officials on the response. Karzai’s statements condemning the Koran burning in particular stirred controversy in the U.S.

“Karzai initially released a statement denouncing the Koran burning incident, and it appeared that he would use the situation to further push the U.S. to hand over prison control to the Afghan government, a key element of the strategic partnership agreement that is currently being negotiated,” Shukla and Hock wrote. “However, once it became clear that violent protests had occurred in multiple locations and caused civilian casualties, Karzai called on the population to refrain from resorting to violence.” (Emphasis mine.)

Remember, this is the incident for which President Obama profusely apologized but two American troops were murdered in its wake anyway.

Yes, there is a sentiment for “an eye for an eye” but it’s beginning to appear that we are in more of a “quagmire” in Afghanistan than we were in Iraq. If the ISW study is correct it seems like we’re only getting involved in a civil war, and if that’s the case either one of two outcomes is possible:

  • We should intervene every time there is civil strife in a nation; or
  • Until we determine the exact national interest, we should attempt to do as little as possible and let them fight it out.

Our current President has a mixed record in the first regard, getting involved in Libya and Uganda but not in other African or Asian nations which seemingly endure constant turmoil. One could argue that the Libyan adventure was limited to ousting Moammar Gadhafi, a mission which was achieved, and that we sent only a tiny amount of personnel to Uganda to hunt for Joseph Kony, leader of the insurgent Lord’s Resistance Army – so would both fall under the second category. Perhaps this could be the start of Obama’s war for oil, but I doubt many on the Left would chastise him for it.

Indeed, one could argue that there’s not a lot of compelling national interest in Afghanistan but consider the staggering amount of mineral riches locked beneath its rugged terrain. Moreover, there’s no doubt that China, which has all but cornered the market on some of these rare earth minerals, would want a piece of the action in a neighboring country. They’ve been accused previously of helping the Taliban through an Iranian proxy.

As it stands now, though, our involvement in Afghanistan – which Obama and other Democrats originally supported as the “good war” in comparing Iraq and Afghanistan – is beginning to wind down anyway, as troops were supposed to be out of the country by the end of 2014. So we’ve made it into the Millennial Generation’s Vietnam, although we haven’t yet seen the embassy evacuation.

It’s ironic that now, nearly 40 years later, the Communist Vietnamese government has liberalized trade to such an extent that a Department of Commerce website now calls the nation “the next frontier for U.S. business in Asia!” Whether the Taliban will ever be so accommodating to its former enemy remains to be seen, but it’s likely that the civil war we seem to be entangled with in Afghanistan will end just as badly for the Karzai regime as the Vietnamese conflict did for South Vietnam.

America, the great abandoner. Next time we need to be in it to win it.

Friday night videos – episode 57

The things I have sent to me…oh boy.

Of course, a sore subject on our side is President Obama’s State of the Union address, to which Renee Giachino of the Center for Individual Freedom responds.

“Tired and disproven ideas.” Got that right. By the way, the owner of that building needs a handrail on that stair in the background.

But maybe the President was trying for one of these, great moments in liberal history.

Let’s hope that works right or it’ll be a bad moment in monoblogue history.

Americans for Limited Government pays homage to Ronald Reagan by pointing out “taxes should hurt.”

Yes, he would have been 100 years old Sunday.

Since it was Groundhog Day earlier this week, the people at the Sunlight Foundation found it the ideal time to seek lobbying reform.

My idea of lobbying reform: get the money out of Washington through lower taxes! See how I tied those together?

The next video deserves a warning label for graphic violence, definitely NSFW. This is the punishment Islam metes out for adultery?

Since this is from Afghanistan, I would hope this is representative of the Taliban enemy and not our allies there – otherwise, there’s little point in staying.

I’d prefer a little more cheer in a war zone, and this video reminds us that making our soldiers laugh is important for morale.

To finish, here’s one from someone more representative of tolerance. Recorded at the Refuge, here’s Not My Own with “Giver Take.”

Until next time…