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.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Goodbye to all that

Barack Obama campaigned in 2008 against America's campaign in Iraq, which he claimed had taken resources away from the "necessary war" in Afghanistan. So he pulled US forces out of Iraq, where the war had been won, and by 2012 was doing the same in Afghanistan. As a result, both countries have been ceded to the bad guys.

Now he's sending troops back to Iraq and ordering US warplanes to bomb the Islamic State, not only in Iraq but also in Syria! (The less said about his manifold bumbles in Syria, the better.)

Libya, where Mr Obama formulated his famous "leading from behind" doctrine, has likewise sunk into the morass. Chinese pilots feel free to harass American reconnaissance planes. Ukraine has basically surrendered to the Russian troops who came to the rescue of those beleaguered "separatists" who among other tricks shot down a Boeing 777 airliner and got away with it. Iran continues to develop its nuclear bomb, and the Palestinians to wage their war of extermination against Israel.

"The tide of war is receding," Mr. Obama told the UN, less than three years ago. He truly believed that if the United States stopped making war, then war itself would have to stop. Rarely in the history of the American presidency has there been an individual who did so much to damage the country that trusted him to lead it.

Friday, September 05, 2014

The war game at Lviv

"Rapid Trident" is not much in the news, perhaps because the newsies can't understand the US Army's explanation of what will happen:

"Rapid Trident 2014 is a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff directed, EUCOM scheduled, USAREUR conducted, Ukrainian led Situational and Field Training Exercise held at the International Peace Keeping and Security Center (IPSC) in Yavoriv, Ukraine."
In fact, it's a dramatic and encouraging response to Russia's invasion of the briefly-free country of Ukraine, now being sucked back into the Russian Empire. A thousand or so Polish, German, British, Norwegian, and American soldiers will conduct a brief war game in the vicinity of Lviv, which until 1939 was the Polish city of Lwow.

Seventy-five years ago this month, the Russian Red Army occupied Lwow and sent its defenders into the Gulag. Stalin lost control of the city when his best friend Adolf Hitler turned on him, but got it back in 1944 and incorporated it into the Soviet "republic" of Ukraine. Then Ukraine gained its freedom when the Soviet Union imploded in 1990. Now Vladimir Putin is engaged in a long, clever, and so far effective campaign to get the lost territories back. He'll probably settle this time for southeastern Ukraine while he moves on to another target, such as Kazakhstan.

But those Polish soldiers, playing war on the outskirts of the former Lwow -- do they know that that this land is part of the historic Poland?

Rapid Trident is scheduled for September 15-26, 2014. The timing couldn't more poignant: the Red Army crossed the Polish frontier on September 17, 1939, and entered Lwow on September 22.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Os ydych chi’n hoff o’ch meddyg neu’ch darparwr triniaeth iechyd, fedrwch eu cadw nhw

I thought I'd give the Washington Post website a try, in hopes that Jeff Bezos's ownership might have spruced it up a bit. Indeed it has! It's still rather, um, bold, but there's lots of delightful stuff including a Welsh phrasebook for Barack Obama to use at the NATO summit this week. I particularly liked the translation of "If you like your doctor or healthcare provider, you can keep them," which I have used as the title of this post.

Go here for the phrasebook.

Given the astonishing combinations of vowels and consonants embodied in the Welsh language, there's a helpful audio option that you can click on. This was especially helpful to me, because fifty-nine years ago over many pints of beer, Malcolm Hopson taught me how to pronounce the name of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyllllandysiliogogogoch, which on road signs is shortened to Llanfair P.G. Come to find out, all these years I have been making a hash of the last two syllables, which I had been rendering go-gah but which apparently should be pronounced go-go.

Thank you, Jeff Bezos!