Thursday, October 30, 2014

The rules don't apply to us!

American military personnel returning from Ebola-threatened West African nations will be put under a three-week monitoring program (the quarantine that dares not speak its name!) while the nurse in Maine threatens to sue anyone who obliges her to stay away from the diner and the multiplex. She is of course supported by the New York Times and the president of the United States. She's not a mere soldier. She's doing "God's work," in Mr. Obama's weird phrase. Why, if doctors and nurses had to endure the rigors of quarantine, they might not volunteer to go to Africa in the first place! Working with Ebola victims is a splendid and uplifting experience, but not if it's followed by a three-week home stay. Educated people like Mr. Obama, the nurse in Maine, and the doctor in New York are perfectly able to judge what's safe and what's not, unlike those soldiers in the United States Army. Oh, wait. The New York doctor went bowling and traveled by subway as he was coming down with the disease, didn't he? Well, never mind! He's one of us! The rules don't apply to us. This is settled science, after all.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Welcome to Putin-ville

The Council of Europe reports (no surprise!) that there's some ethnic cleansing going on in the Crimea, recently invaded and annexed by Russia. (Poor Russia! The country has almost never been ruled by a government that wasn't toxic, whether it was the tsars, the commissars, or Vladimir Putin's thugs.) The Crimean Tatars, who almost to the end of the 19th century were the region's largest ethnic group, are suffering the most, as they did during the Stalin years, when they were first starved and then deported to what is now Uzbekistan. Allowed to return after the fall of communism in the 1980s -- the half of them who survived -- they once again are Russia's most disfavored minority. They are subject to regular raids by masked and uniformed "self-defense" forces known as Samooborona. Ethnic Ukrainians, pro-Kiev activists, and journalists have also been targeted, with some dozens of abductions and several killings.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Devil's Alliance

Revisionists are fond of pointing out that, without the Red Army, the western allies would never have defeated Germany in 1945. The theory overlooks an equally sobering fact: without the Red Army, Germany probably wouldn't have gone to war in the first place, thus sparing the world some 60 million early deaths and thrice that number of wounded, raped, and exiled.

In The Devil's Alliance, the British scholar and journalist Roger Moorhouse examines the August 1939 pact between Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin that divided Europe between them. Within a month, their armies had invaded and occupied Poland, and within a year (aided by Italy) they'd moved into every continental nation except Sweden, Switzerland, Portugal, and Spain--and those were half-hearted allies. Would any of this been possible without the Hitler-Stalin pact? It's very unlikely. 

Nor was that the limit of their cooperation. Russian oil helped lubricate the German panzers as they crashed through the Ardennes Forest and routed the British and French defenders (though Mr. Moorhouse argues that food, not oil and raw materials, were Germany's major benefit from the pact). In turn, the Russians received German machine tools, locomotives, and weapons technology that helped the Red Army turn back the German onslaught after June 1942, when the partners finally found themselves at war.

The Second World War in Europe lasted 69 months. For 22 of them -- nearly a third of the war! -- Russia was on the wrong side, and arguably the war would never have happened if it hadn't been so eager to grab half of Poland in September 1939.  Available on Amazon in hardcover and Kindle editions.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Those who work for us

The wonderful Peggy Noonan is always worth reading, and sometimes she is simply glorious. Her Saturday column (available online the day before) is one of her best. She deals, as only she can do, with the phenomenon of the unresponsive government employee testifying before Congress or to the television cameras. The column is located on the Wall Street Journal website  -- and if you can't get past the paywall, here's a sample from toward the end:

Sometimes it looks as if everyone in public life is in showbiz, only showbiz with impermeable employee protections. Lois Lerner of IRS fame planted the question, told the lie, took the Fifth, lost the emails and stonewalled. Her punishment for all this was a $100,000-a-year pension for the rest of her life. Imagine how frightened she was. I wonder what the Secret Service head's pension will be?

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Father & son

I saw this on Facebook and didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I'm not sure whether Mr Putin's lineage is more closely related to Adolf Hitler or to his nemesis, Joseph Stalin, but perhaps it's a distinction without a much of a difference.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

On taking full responsibility

Julia Pierson, the director of what's laughably known as the Secret Service, says she takes "full responsibility" for what happened at the White House the other day, when a nutter hopped a fence, opened a door, overpowered a "female guard" (it would be nice to know something about the woman's physique and martial-arts training), and roamed about before he was finally tackled and brought down.

Well, taking full responsibility is a refreshing advance for an official of this administration, but it seems to me that Ms Pierson could best serve her country if she simply wrote a brief, non-exculpatory letter of resignation.

In the great tradition of government employees, from my home town of Durham to the seat of American power, the Secret Service at first blamed -- are you ready? -- the fence! Yes, an armed intruder (okay, it was only a knife, but it might as easily have been an explosive vest) broke into the White House because the fence is forty-nine years old.

Here in Durham, we recently turned our two-lane Main Street into a single lane plus a green bike lane. Within days, the inevitable happened: a biker pedaled happily along the green lane, a parked driver opened his door, and the biker died. Our town administrator explained -- of course! -- that it wasn't his fault, or that of our public works department, because a consultant had advised them on the project. Furthermore, they'd been prevented by budgetary constraints from hiring a more expensive consultant.

Nothing is ever government's fault. Everything is always the taxpayer's fault, for not giving government more money, whether for White House fences or for Durham consultants.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mr Putin's victims

The Dutch investigation into the downing of a Boeing jetliner over eastern Ukraine has made its report. It's couched in careful legalese, but the facts are clear: the airliner was shot down, and its passengers and crew murdered, by a surface-to-air missile. That missile was Russian, and it was fired either from Russia itself or from the part of Ukraine that Russia invaded, probably the latter. The "rebels" paraded just such a missile launcher before the attack. The BBC has published testimony that the men controlling the launcher spoke Russian in native and not Ukrainian accents. One or more missile launchers were photographed crossing back into Russia immediately after the shoot-down.

This murder began in the Kremlin. The immediately responsibility belongs to Vladimir Putin, but some also sticks to Barack Obama and the other western leaders who did so much to empower him.