Monday, September 15, 2014

Scotland, Again. Bad Metaphysics . . .

A little break from discussing the Islamic Jihadis to discussing another kind of obsession.

Scotland's independence referendum takes place next Thursday. I have written before that I, as an outsider, hope the vote is "No." There are all sorts of reasons why I think that would be the best result for Scotland, the UK, and the West. There are lots of economic factors at work that are not fully understood, and huge political consequences to a successful "Yes" vote -- e.g., Might the Chinese or some other ill-wisher question the UK's seat in the UN Security Council? You can read about all that from people who know a lot more than I do. My comment today will be somewhat metaphysical and driven by my generally negative view re progressive movements in our age.

Simply put, this is a bad time intellectually to become an independent nation.

A little context. From the 1940s, through the 1950s, and into the 1960s the world saw a boom in the independent nation business. These new nations in Africa and Asia became independent generally (pace Singapore) under elites influenced by the progressive rages of the time, such as Fabianism, Communism, and other odd blends of statist philosophy and practice hostile to free enterprise and to the West. These new states, frankly, did not do all that well by almost any calculus you care to use. Nearly all were economic, political, humanitarian, and moral disasters that made colonialism look positively munificent. How many poor subjects of deranged African dictators, for example, would not have preferred some avuncular, efficient, and non-brutal British colonial officer running things?

If the "Yes" vote triumphs, Scotland would become independent when progressivism is having another of its periodic upticks or surges. It would appear that the putative future ruling elite of Scotland is fully in thrall to just about all the progressive themes: environmentalism, feminism, vast expansion of the power of the state. Go to the  SNP website and read the SNP's political platforms. They read like something conjured up by a Democratic Mayoral candidate running in Detroit: Free stuff for everybody! Down with the evil bankers! The results of the SNP program will probably be not too dissimilar from those obtained in Detroit.

The pro-independence forces, of course, use another weapon from the progressive arms cache, dopey youngsters. Voters as young as 16 and 17 will be casting ballots. How many 16- and 17-year-olds do you know who know anything about the world? Progressivism relies on supporters with low information and high emotions, and dependent on somebody else's coin. Yep, that would be a 16 or 17-year-old, be it in Scotland or in the USA.

Another classic tactic from the progressive handbook is to keep hammering away. If the vote goes "No," do not expect this to be the last referendum on Scotland's independence. If, however, it goes "Yes," I doubt we will see another referendum in which voters are asked whether Scotland should seek re-entry into the UK.

My one hope is that the media is reporting the outcome as too close to call. That usually, I repeat, usually, means that the progressive cause or candidate will lose. May it be so again.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11/14: Year Thirteen in the 1400 Year War

I have written before about where I was 9/11/01 (here and here, for example), and won't repeat it.    Let's just take a brief look at the past thirteen years of our long war with Islam, yes, Islam.

Thirteen years after that horrid day, we are still under attack by Islam. We have had some great successes, no doubt. Nobody would have believed that the US could so quickly mount such an effective operation in Afghanistan; within eight weeks US-led forces had taken Kabul, and sent the Taliban and its AQ masters running for the hills and the Pakistani border. It was a brilliant and unprecedented victory which highlighted Usama bin Laden's ultimately fatal mistake in attacking the US homeland--when the right President was in office, that is.

I have noted before that Islam is a rotten house which holds hundreds of millions of unhappy souls within its walls. To defeat the Islamic Jihadis requires constant pressure, attack, counterattack. It is a strategy in someways similar to that advocated by George Kennan in his 1947 "X Article" which advocated constant pressure and resistance to Soviet expansionism as the way to force the USSR to collapse or to reform from within. The Islamists must be resisted and defeated constantly and wherever they attack in the hope that eventually forces within Islam will rise up against the Jihadis and that a process of enlightenment will take hold in that now brutal and totalitarian creed.

Let's repeat: The war with Islam did not begin September 11, 2001. It began some 1400 years ago and continues. That September 11 was just a reminder that we live in a world of Islamic war.

President Bush seemed to understand that we were in a long war. He made some tough and right decisions. The requirements, however, of political correctness and expediency forced him to make major errors. The first, was to tell Americans in the immediate wake of the 9/11 attacks to carry on as though nothing had happened--to go shopping. It was LBJ's "Guns and Butter" policy on steroids.  The second was to utter one of the stupidest and most consequential statements made by a major Western leader, to wit, "Islam is a religion of peace." Whoever wrote that line for the President completely misunderstood the nature of enemy we faced then and now and have for 1400 years. That utterance undermined and basically ruled out a true understanding of our enemy. The thinking that line represents prevented and prevents sensible immigration reforms, and sets the stage for the prancing and utterances of dangerous clowns such as CAIR. Islam is not a religion of peace; it is a totalitarian creed out to destroy us and our allies in the West. It is as though in the midst of WWII, we were to allow thousands upon thousands of Nazis to immigrate to the UK, the US, Canada, and Australia.  The Jihadi with his knife bloody from killing the unarmed is Islam and vice-versa.  The so-called "crazies," "radicals," "fringe," in fact, form the core of Islam. An almost unbroken record of 1400 years of mass murder, enslavement, and misery speak to the truth about Islam. This is not new.

This all leads to the abomination we now have as President. This man who came into office pooh-poohing the "war on terror" (Note: Another mistake: It should have been called the war against the Jihadis) and apologizing to the Muslim world, now finds himself facing a rampant Jihadi threat--one which his absurd policies have fostered. He discarded the victories in Afghanistan and Iraq (and don't forget that Saddam was a terrorist enabler), drew down our military forces, resisted efforts to make us energy independent, turned over Libya to the Jihadis, nearly did the same in Egypt, and almost got us into a war in Syria on behalf of the Jihadis. He now is our "leader" in the battle against ISIS/ISIL. Between rounds of golf, he first tells us that he has no strategy, then that we shouldn't worry because it is a manageable problem, and now he makes a dramatic speech last night announcing he plans to destroy ISIS/ISIL, but to do so in a very cautious way. He has declared a sort-of, semi-war on the very same people a few months ago he (and McCain) wanted us to help overthrow Syria's Assad (I noted at the time how quiet the Israelis were on proposals to overthrow Assad; they know what will replace him.)

Ok, got it. The best comment I have heard on this silly Obama speech was by one of my sons. He called me and said, "I would love to play chess against Obama. He tells you upfront what he's not going to do. He tells you he won't use his knights and queen. Why did he announce we won't use ground troops? Why tell them that? What if we have to use them?"

Obama also repeated the nonsense that Islam is not the issue. He even stated that ISIS/ISIL is not Islamic. Oh, yes they are, Mr. President. They are the very essence of modern Islam. When will the White House and the rest of our political and chattering classes realize that?

This is not the way to conduct the 1400 year war. But then, as I noted some time ago, "we are not at war, just under attack."

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

This, That, a Bit of Madness, and a Night at the Beach

My heart has not been in the blogging business. I have been playing with my dogs and taking care of our new digs.

The whole political scene in this country has gone mad, and it is a madness that was clearly foreseeable. As I said before, one did not need to be Nostradamus to see what was going to happen to the United States and the West when the ultimate fraud became President, January 2009.

The haters of Western civilization and the low information public services-consuming munchkins got what they wanted: a President just like them. The results are everywhere to be seen from the streets of Missouri to the shores of the Black Sea; from our southern border to the arc of murderous insanity that now rules the fates of millions from Nigeria to Pakistan; from decaying blue California to rising Red China. We have a post-USA world, nay, a post-West world, and it is a miserable place.

We have a President with no concept of leadership. The world watches as he throws away our victories in Iraq and Afghanistan while he blithely, oozing bored condescension, tells that same world that--Surprise!--the USA has no strategy for dealing with the madmen of ISIS, but that--yawn--it is "a manageable problem." The real threat, of course, comes from global warming, er, uh global climate change . . . and the Washington Redskins need to change their name.

So, what did I do to keep my sanity? I escaped.

The wife and I went to a dinner on the beach in Malibu to hang for a bit with the hated "one percent." Nice party at a private club on the Pacific. Beautiful night, clear sky, zillions of stars, and steak and lobster and shrimp and oysters and, and . . . The party, given by our stockbroker, was attended by a few dozen evil rich white people. I was the only ex-government employee; the others, apparently, had had real jobs and created real wealth--I think, but I don't really know for sure.

They seemed mildly amused on hearing that I had spent some 34 years in the State Department; not very interested, but amused. One asked if that meant I knew which fork to use with the lobster. They never asked how I had gotten an invite to the party.  There was even a slightly faded, with a lot of plastic surgery, Hollywood actress who had been "A-List" in the 1970s and 1980s, but was now a B-lister --although she still works regularly on a daytime soap pretending to be a doctor. She had zero interest in foreign affairs but expressed some passing confused "interest" in the environment--I couldn't make heads or tails of it. I didn't have the heart to say I had never seen her show.

The rich are different. Almost nobody talked about money or what they do now or had done in the past. We generally talked about cars, dogs, the weather, and the hoax of "rehab." A pleasant few hours in an apolitical Gatsby bubble. At  the end, they squeezed into exotic cars and sped off to Beverly Hills and Pacific Palisades; the Diplowife and I clambered into our 2010 Chevy Tahoe and rumbled off to a more modest zip code. It reminded us a bit of the three thousand or so diplomatic receptions we had attended while overseas, except the people on the beach in Malibu were much less pretentious.

That's my story and I am sticking to it.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Is Obama our Boabdil?

Apologies for the very long delay in blogging. I had to deal with some boring health issues. The lab results were, well, what can I say? Just this: as with most of what happens in life, the results were worse than I hoped, but better than I feared. So, as one does in response to the majority of life's events, one muddles on and through. As the Brits, back when Brits were Brits, used to say, "Keep Calm and Carry On," or was it "Keep Clams with Curry On"? One or the other . . .

This will be a minor rant. I don't have the energy for a full-blown one. Besides, I have said so much of this before that I don't know whether it bears repeating anymore.

I won't link to all the Diplomad postings on the disaster that is Obama's foreign policy. You might want to entertain yourself on a very dull evening doing that. Suffice it to say, that the disaster was foreseen. One did not have to be Nostradamus to see that Obama's sneering disregard for American and Western interests, and the institutions and principles which maintained those, would have dire consequences for the West and the world. We see those consequences in the arc of insanity that runs from Mauritania to Iran; in Putin's gleeful mocking of the West and in his drive to rebuild the empire of the Tsars; in China's growing aggressiveness; in the collapse of our foreign policy in Central and South America epitomized by the wave of illegals blatantly crossing our southern border and the increasingly bizarre politics of Argentina, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Brazil. Everywhere we look around the world, the interests of the West--not just of America--are in retreat or collapse.

We see the disaster that has become Iraq. Obama has thrown away a stunning military victory and done so in exchange for what? Well, the same folks for whom just a few short months ago we were going to go to war for in Syria (remember the "red line" days?) are now on a Jihadist rampage in Syria and Iraq; known as ISIS they vow to set up a Muslim caliphate and to exterminate all the infidels. It now seems that we are discovering that the pencil-necked dictator of Syria, the very one we were preparing to attack, is now our possible ally against the Islamist murder machine. We are now conducting a desultory bombing campaign against the very people we were preparing to defend with a desultory bombing campaign. Orwell must be having a laugh, "We were never at war with Eastasia." And, at the State Department, the NSC, and the CIA? Nobody gets fired, nobody resigns, nobody stands up and says this is wrong.

The saddest, most frustrating matter of them all is that the opponents we face today are weak. They are nothing compared to Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan or even the old USSR. They should present no real challenge for the United States and the West. Russia is a gangster state kept afloat by oil money and bluff. China is largely bluff and kept afloat by our tolerance for their trade practices and the cupidity of Western governments and businesses willing to give, "lend," sell, and turn a blind eye to the theft of technology and industrial processes in exchange for, in essence, cheap or even slave labor. Islam is a hoax when it comes to warfare. Despite its chest beating and violent language, its "warriors" are good at killing the unarmed, the defenseless, and the weak. They do not do well when confronted by a determined Western army. These Jihadis, too, benefit financially from our refusal to become fully energy independent and to develop realistic and, yes, self-serving immigration laws.

When discussing Obama and his foreign policy, the range of options are that he is stupid, uninterested, or an evil little worm out to destroy the West. I think, others might disagree, that he is, in fact, all three. I will discuss that further in a subsequent post.

One of the things I have been doing on my down time these past weeks, has been  brushing up on one of my favorite topics, Spanish history. I am surprised that Hollywood has not done more with the amazing, at times, even unbelievable history of Spain. I was re-reading, in particular, accounts of the final days of the once great Muslim empire in Spain. The war to retake Iberia from the Muslims lasted nearly 800 years from a small but important victory in Covadonga to the final dramatic capitulation of Granada in 1492--an event, supposedly, witnessed by Christopher Columbus.

It was on reading the accounts of Granada's surrender to the forces of the Catholic Monarchs, Isabel and Fernando, that I thought a good name for Obama is Boabdil. Bear with me. I know there's football on the tube. Boabdil, aka Mohamed XII, was the at-times confused, somewhat hapless, and at others conniving and always desperate last Muslim Emir of Granada. It fell to him to surrender Granada when it became clear that help was not on the way from the rest of the Muslim world and that he was facing alone the rampaging and victorious Christian forces of the Catholic Monarchs. The story, perhaps apocryphal, is that as Boabdil, his family, and his reduced band of hanger-ons left Granada, he paused on a hilltop to look back at the magnificent city he had just lost. The story goes on to relate that he began to cry on viewing that sight. His mother, Sultana Aixa, who had been urging a fight to the death against the Christians, reportedly said to the son who had so disappointed her, "No llores como mujer lo que no supistes defender como hombre" ("Don't cry like a woman over what you could not defend like a man.") There are slightly different versions of what she supposedly said, but the thought was the same.

Is Obama the Boabdil of the West? Nah, he won't cry when the West collapses, he'll play golf . . .

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Reminisce: Grand Theft Auto Murder

Still not feeling great. I have no appetite for reading or commenting too much on all the appalling news, including "our" Commander-in-Chief's appalling half-baked announcement of "his" going to half-baked sort-of "war" in Iraq. My stomach churns when I hear him talk about sending our folks into harm's way. He so obviously does not believe his own words that it makes me want to scream. The new Islamist horror in Iraq is on him; he built that.

So, instead of dealing with all that mess, I will tell a little tale of which my wife (the Camaro driver) reminded me. It has to do with our time in the wonderful, strikingly beautiful, and often violent country of Guatemala.

When we lived in Guatemala in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was a country still grappling with a thirty-year communist insurgency that had been backed by the Soviet Union, Cuba, Mexico, and later Sandinista Nicaragua. By the time we got to Guatemala, the insurgency--the URNG--was in its death-throes but it was hard to tell. It was like a mortally wounded gator thrashing its powerful tail and snapping its jaws: it was dying but still looked pretty dangerous. The Soviets were preoccupied with the impending collapse of their empire in the "Near Abroad"; Cuba was running out of money for foreign adventures; and Mexico was tiring of the rebellion--which eventually turned around and bit Mexico--and sought a NAFTA deal with the US. The Sandinistas did not have much to give, either, as they had their own serious internal problems. The guerrillas, however, continued to draw support from North American and European "human rights" activists and church groups. The Guatemalan military had proven successful at defeating the insurgency; cut off from significant assistance from the outside, they had developed their own doctrine and tactics--often brutal, but effective. The Guatemalan Army was one tough outfit; along with the Colombian and Sri Lankan militaries it had to be one of the most combat experienced militaries in the world. Every officer from lieutenant to general was a combat vet.

The poor campesinos were caught in the middle of this war. They hated and feared their "liberators" in the URNG. They hated and feared their "protectors" in the military. They wanted to be left alone. No such luck: libertarianism was not the ruling philosophy on either side.

Aside from the war and the politically motivated violence, Guatemala had an extremely high ordinary crime rate. Murders, kidnappings, robberies, the vast majority non-political in nature, were very common. I don't know what the situation is now in Guatemala City, but when we were there easily two-thirds of all the cars and trucks on the road had been stolen, principally in Texas, and were carrying around false papers, switched plates, and even homemade tags. There was, for example, a Ferrari for sale on a car lot that we suspected had been stolen in the US. It still had Texas plates. When we ran those plates, they came back belonging to some sort of farm machinery.

Numerous car import brokers had offices in Guatemala City. One could go to one of these and order a car, "I want a late model blue 4x4 Toyota with under 20,000 miles and a good roof rack." They would take a deposit, and transmit the "order" to Central American and Mexican gangs mostly in Texas but also in California who would go "shopping" for the car. Most of the time they would boost it off the street or a parking lot, and make for the Mexican border as fast as possible before the car was reported missing. The more sophisticated gangsters, however, would approach the owner, especially on high-end cars, and offer a sum of money to delay reporting the car's theft. The crooked owner would take the money and then, of course, eventually would get reimbursed by his insurance after the theft got reported several days later. There was, of course, violence implied throughout the deal. In Mexico, paid off officials and well-organized smugglers would get the cars down to Central America.

OK, the scene is set. I don't want to make this too long.

At that time, US Embassy employees had to find their own residences in Guatemala. The Embassy provided a monthly stipend for rent, some guidelines on what houses we could and could not rent, and off we went into the local market. Since my wife and I spoke fluent Spanish, we did not rely on the usual crowd of realtors that hung around the diplomatic corps. We found a spectacular house in, admittedly, one of the rougher neighborhoods. The house had huge walls topped with concertina wire, a beautiful courtyard, a wood-panelled "pub" with a large hart's head on one wall and a magnificent bar. It even had a "discotheque" with a mirror ball and a modern sound system built in.  We convinced the Embassy security officer to OK the rental, and there we were.

The house belonged to a wealthy Lebanese family who lived in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Lebanon. They owned properties in all three countries and ran an ill-defined "export-import" business that would probably not have withstood too much scrutiny. We dealt mostly with the elderly grandmother but upon her death, we were told to deal with one of her grandchildren, Francis. From the beginning, I found Francis, in his late twenties, a bit odd. Even after we were living in the house, he, often drunk or high, would show up unannounced "to check on things." Showing up unannounced in a yard in Guatemala at night--he had the gate key--is a good way to get yourself shot. I came very close on one occasion to putting a .45 slug into his drunken body. I complained to his father about these visits, but he did nothing. I had the locks changed and told the guards that Francis was not to have access.

Francis liked money. He wanted to make his own. He got himself involved with a car theft ring run by some crooked military officers operating out of the Presidency. As we later found out, ol' Fran, who spoke French, Arabic, and English, in addition to Spanish, and passed himself off as a sophisticated man of the world, convinced these somewhat unsophisticated and unworldly military that he would be the perfect guy to go to Texas and deal directly with the car theft gangs there, and cut out the brokers. He proposed bringing cars down to Guatemala and selling them directly to interested customers. Well, Fran went off to Houston one fine day with around $250,000 of his military backers money, and, as luck would have it, immediately fell afoul of a well-planned Houston PD sting operation. He got arrested along with several members of a car theft gang. He appeared before a judge, and despite the prosecutor's sensible argument that Fran posed a "flight risk," was freed on bail in the amount of, you guessed it, $250,000. He deposited his Guatemalan passport and the money with the court; using one of his other passports, he took off for Mexico and back to Guatemala.

Returning to Guatemala proved a major mistake; I never understood what he thought would happen. He, certainly, did not get a hero's reception. His military business partners put the various family properties under surveillance. My wife, who worked in our security office, noted that a certain Jeep Cherokee kept driving past our gate, and that many nights it was parked half a block from our driveway. I took down the plate numbers and gave them to our security officer. The plates on the Cherokee came back belonging to a VW minivan in the Presidency's motor pool. Our security officer raised this with his contacts who assured him that the Jeep was there for our "protection." A day or so later, we never saw it again.

For months, almost nobody knew what had happened to Francis: He was reported in El Salvador, in Lebanon, still in the US, and on and on. Meanwhile, my rent allotments from the embassy were piling up in my bank account, and I could not find anybody from the family willing to take my checks. My wife concluded that we now owned the house. No, not quite. Fran's sister eventually came into town from her usual abode in Lebanon and swung by to collect several months of rent. She was very evasive about the fate of Francis, but did buy all of our personal furniture.

It wasn't until an intrepid local reporter found Francis's very decomposed body that we learned his fate. This reporter had a source inside the smuggling ring who described Fran's final moments as a would-be car smuggling kingpin.

His uniformed friends had found him near the Salvadoran border which he apparently sought to cross. The officers "interrogated" Francis with considerable energy. They then drove him out to a field, stood him up and asked one last time, "Where is the money? Where are the cars?" Francis tried, again, to explain the intricacies of the American bail system; one of the officers reportedly said, "Oh, Francis, that is such a bad answer," and put two 9mm rounds into Fran's head.

Isn't this a nice story? Hope it cheers you up. It has done wonders for me.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Still out of Commission

Waiting on the lab results as I continue to do battle with a range of issues that befall FOGs (Fat Old Guys).

Did read an interesting article about a statement by Congressman Brooks accusing the DNC of launching a war on white people. He must be reading the Diplomad who discussed this very issue some three weeks ago.

Hope to get writing soon, sorry for the delay.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Friday Fluff

I am back. Feeling mightily awful. Too much sun, airplane, and general stress produced by having the kids back in our house for their summer vacations. Hope the antibiotics work for all that.

Spent a few days in Miami--one of my favorite cities. As luck would have it, our motel in Coral Gables had its wifi go down just before we got there, and had it come back just as we were leaving.  That meant that I was almost entirely off the grid, and disconnected from the world--I am not much of a TV watcher. At first this lack of access to Drudge and all my other webby friends was intolerable, but after a bit, it became kind of nice. I forgot about Obama, Holder, Reid, Pelosi, Putin, and the other whackos who are running and ruining our country. I had wonderful coffee, great breakfasts, and totally pigged out on massive quantities of meat at my favorite Argentine restaurant in Miami, The Knife. I tormented the very nice Argentine manager by telling him I was adopting the Argentine government position on debt. I freely without coercion would have his very nice dinner, and refuse to pay. Didn't work. He made me pay. You cannot default at The Knife.

Got back to California and gave my wife her birthday present. A very nice Aussie-designed, Canadian-built "American" car, a convertible Chevy Camaro. The Aussie designers did a great job of capturing the spirit and sheer fun of an old-time American muscle car--kind of makes you wonder if the "American" spirit hasn't moved on to places such as Australia.

It's a nice machine even if I had to buy it with an automatic transmission as my wife has gotten it into her head that she can't drive stick--she most certainly can. Anyhow, the Diplowife seemed happy as a clam (are clams happy?) driving her big black Camaro around town. I, of course, would run the thing at 80 mph and above. Under the Diplowife's reign, however, I don't think the beast will ever see life above 35 mph. All of this makes the point that cars are about personal choice and, yes, having fun. The hideous progressives would deny us both of those facets of life, and force us all into absurd "Smart" cars, or, even better for them, public transportation all in the name of polar bears, children, transgender rights, or something else. Buying big fast cars is one of the few legal acts of rebellion still open.

Enjoyed being back with my dogs, and watching them behave without a care in the world. The younger one had finished destroying the screen door and done a good job of modifying one of the window frames outside. He also has eaten the cable connecting the thermostat to the a/c unit, thereby leaving me without a/c in the blistering SoCal heat. I can't punish him. He is so genuinely happy to see me. The only time I have seen anybody else that happy was my personnel guru at State when I told him I was fed up and leaving State.

Anyhow, I am back. I hope to have my head clear up and be able to start posting something useful.