December 27, 2012

"...to see the face of God."

On Christmas day, after a very relaxing morning opening presents and having a bit of brunch, we trekked to the local theater to see Les Misérables, a film we've been waiting to see since the first announcements it was in production. We've seen the musical performed on stage twice and the soundtrack has been a family favorite for many years. Victor Hugo's classic tale set in early 19th Century France follows Jean Valjean along his tortured road to redemption and the various people with whom he comes into contact - he shaped by them and they fundamentally transformed by him. It is a story of compassion, injustice, hope, despair, duty, mercy, cruelty, grace and profound love. 

The movie now in theaters features some additional songs when compared with the long-running musical that has moved audiences for nearly thirty years but they fit the tone and mood of the beloved musical seamlessly. The last chorus of the Finale (Do You Hear the People Sing (Reprise)) has also been changed to give it a more explicit message of final-victory-in-faith and I think it works very, very well.

Anne Hathaway plays Fantine and gives the most heart wrenching, anguished performance I think I've ever seen on stage or screen. Hugh Jackman's transformation from embittered ex-con to devoted father and protector to forgiven soul is simply remarkable.

I am deeply moved every time I listen to the songs and dwell on the message they convey and this time was as impactful as ever. And just like every other time I've heard them I couldn't help but swell with emotion as Valjean and Fantine sing the greatest line I've ever heard in song -- "To love another person is to see the face of God!"

Merry Christmas, my friends. I hope the coming year is full of blessings for you regardless the many challenges facing us. Perhaps they are best seen as opportunities to extend love, mercy and forgiveness to those around us as we are loved and have been forgiven by our Great Lord and Savior! Amen!

December 20, 2012

"Hobbits, Orcs, and the Human Condition"

We are certainly immersed in dark days even as I know other people in other times and places have experienced darker. What really frustrates me is our seeming inability to recognize the dangers of the decisions we, as a people and as a government, are making and the policies and consequent paths we are accepting - policies and paths that history and our own knowledge of human behavior shows are ultimately destructive. Why can't we pull back? Individual aspects of the various values, principles, and related policies so much in vogue today are by themselves seemingly desirable but the reality is that collectively they promote conditions that are inevitably destructive over time...e.g. normalizing negative behaviors, eliminating the stigma from once socially undesirable things, creating “victim mentalities” that absolve people of the natural and/or logical consequences of their own decisions. Our approach today leverages 'good' things - a charitable Christian spirit, care of/for the dispossessed, 'equality' and 'fairness' for all, etc., - but toward ultimately harmful conclusions. Christian charity for the poor is good; incentivizing a multi-generation welfare class in our society isn’t. Of course, having the proper discussion on such issues takes more time and attention than most people seem to be willing to devote. 

For all the problems we have gathering about us and the lack of political will in our society and certainly in our governmental structures to change our course, there is still much good we can each do in our daily activities and even greater good that warrants whatever time and attention we can give it. It all reminds me of something that great Middle Earth philosopher Samwise Gamgee once said: 
    "Frodo: I can't do this, Sam. 
   "Sam: I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something. 
    "Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam? 
    Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for."

My little musing here was spurred by a dear friend who shared the following article with me, a superb item that warrants the slow, intentional and thoughtful reading it takes to absorb the author’s message. I hope you have the time and interest to invest! 


By Glenn Fairman, December 18, 2012

It was with a burdened and weary heart that I made my way to the IMAX theater to catch the premiere of Peter Jackson's rendition of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit." The stormy night had blackened my already dour mood, having arisen that morning to another of man's inconceivably brutal horrors that had taken place at an elementary school thousands of miles away. 

But upon seeing the face of my lovely daughter, the "almost pharmacist" and her devoted fiancée, both of whom had invited me to this 3-D showing of a classic book that has a special place in my life, I put aside that volume of human tragedy in anticipation of a literary master's fantasy world.

Transitions and New Routines

I've been away from this blog for far too long. Regardless the actual readership I have enjoyed putting together these postings and have missed the opportunity to do so these past few weeks. I've been immersed in getting our family moved from the Midwest to the East Coast and undertaking some new projects, all of which has consumed time and attention. As we get settled into a new routine, I'm fairly certain I'll be able to devote the time I'd like to this project in particular. I am loath to post things just to post things but I know a blog needs more than a little 'freshness' to maintain interest. Hopefully I'll get better at more regular updates!

November 25, 2012

How are we doing? Not so good.


Here are a few items that while not directly related to each other do provide some insight into the challenges our culture, society and country are facing:

- In 2011, the total fertility rate in the U.S. was 1.89, the fourth year in a row it has been below the replacement rate of 2.1. For context, demographers have learned that a society must produce at minimum 2.1 live births per woman of child bearing age to maintain a stable population size. Higher fertility rates mean a population is growing while a rate lower than 2.1 means the population is gradually dying off. In general, the relatively rich and developed countries like those in much of Europe (mid-to-upper 1.X's) and even Japan(a depressing 1.4) are dying while the 'poor' but dynamic countries of Africa and the Middle East are statistically young and growing. Alarmingly, nearly 41 percent of babies in America were born out of wedlock. Short story, we're not making enough babies and half of those who are born are born into single-parent families. Full report here.

- Our education system is failing us, both in terms of actually providing a practical education in areas that lead to job potential (especially in the maths and sciences) but also in an understanding of the "hows and whys" of our country, its place in the world, and the themes that comprise Man's experiences in the world - i.e. a classical 'liberal arts' education that includes immersion in history and political science. Undermining any effort to correct this deficiency, perhaps even understanding that a deficiency exists, has been the rise of 'multiculturalism' and its lethal cousin 'campus censorship' both of which have dramatically reshaped what passes for 'education' on our college campuses. For more on this, see this item by Sohrab Ahmari. 

- Of more immediate concern, Act II of this Administration's approach to federal control of and/or involvement in all aspects of America's commercial and private sectors (i.e. our business and personal lives). I'll simply direct your attention to the Wall Street Journals' take on the upcoming 'Regulatory Flood.' Scary reading especially when one considers the already heavily-discussed 'looming fiscal cliff' comprised of expiring tax cuts, mandated budget cuts, implementation of 'Obamacare' mandates, and a likely slide into another recession during 2013.

To what cause do I chalk most of this up to? A disinterested, uninvolved, and willfully uninformed public. Politicians, academics, and activists will do what they want unless checked by the public at large. If 'the people' want something different than what we have--and what we are soon to get--then they have to make that known. Otherwise, they'll get what someone else determines they should have. Pointing fingers at politicians, political parties, and extremists at both ends of the spectrum misses the point. The blame for our national problems lies with us, 'The People', who get what we ask for or don't oppose in sufficient numbers. Something to think about.

Lincoln

I've just returned from seeing "Lincoln." It is an extraordinary film. Spielberg, Lewis, Jones, Williams and crew deliver a masterstroke of film making. Throughout this epic we see Lincoln's moral and spiritual courage underpinning and driving his absolute dedication to doing the right thing, for the right reason, against extraordinary odds. Even though we know the outcome of the story, I couldn't help but be on the edge of my seat awaiting the final count of the House vote on the 13th Amendment!

    "Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
    With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."
                                                                                                      - Abraham Lincoln
                                                                                                        Second Inaugural Address
                                                                                                        March 4, 1865

Our National Problem in Micro

If you are interested in the future-story of our country, check out this item about the slow-motion suicide of San Bernardino. I think the particulars embedded in San Bernardino's woeful tale of self-interested groups; an apathetic, detached public; and a local media that seems entirely absent from the mounting crisis stand as warning signs re scarily similar situations at local, state and national levels. 

As observed by the authors: "[The] city's decades-long journey from prosperous, middle-class community to bankrupt, crime-ridden, foreclosure-blighted basket case is straightforward — and alarmingly similar to the path traveled by many municipalities around America's largest state. San Bernardino succumbed to a vicious circle of self-interests among city workers, local politicians and state pension overseers...No single deal or decision involving benefits and wages over the years killed the city. But cumulatively, they built a pension-fueled financial time-bomb that finally exploded."

Our country is currently saddled with a mind-numbing level of 'unfunded liabilities' - that is, promises that have been made to various groups (in the form of pensions, subsidies, benefits, etc.) that exceed plausible revenues and numerous (and growing) mandates, usually from Federal to State and local governments, that require certain expenditures but make no provision for how they will be paid. Estimates of these liabilities range from $100 trillion to three times that depending on what one includes, the long-term time horizon used, and assumptions made about future economic (and therefor tax revenue) conditions. 

The truth that should guide such decisions is this: don't make promises you can't keep. Sadly, we seem to ignore this with regularity.

South o' the Border

(Click on photo for interesting statistics)
Every once in a while the 'drug war' in Mexico makes the news here in the U.S., usually on the heels of some really nasty gun battle between cartel and government forces or between the cartels themselves as they battle for control of key 'plazas', the townships along the U.S.-Mexico border through which illicit drugs, people, and contraband are transported into the U.S. market. The issue largely fell by the wayside in our media during our Presidential election but that doesn't mean it went away. On the contrary, it is as troubling a situation as ever and seems poised to become an even more challenging threat to the U.S. proper in the months and years ahead. 

When Calderon, the PAN nominee, won the Mexican Presidency in 2006, it was the first time in 70 years that the PRI party lost control of national power. On entering office, Calderon initiated an aggressive war against the controls, largely waged with national military forces since local police departments had become so corrupted or cowed into submission by the Cartels. During the war, Mexico suffered in excess of 35,000 deaths with some estimates much higher. Though advances were made against the Cartels, public outcry about the increased violence steadily mounted much like U.S. public concerns about our casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan influences U.S. operations in those countries. This past summer, the PRI regained control of the Presidency with their man, Enrique Peña Nieto, set to take office next month. Among the many promises made during the campaign was one devoted to reducing the level of violence, something the public seized hold of. Of course this begs the question 'how?' but that doesn't seem to have mattered much in practical terms. One would have to believe that either the cartels will reduce, if not cease, their destructive behavior or the government will somehow magically find a way to bring them to heel...but of which seem highly improbable. I think what will actually happen is that the government will withdraw from its aggressive efforts against the cartels thus resulting in reduced violence if only because the cartels won't have to combat government forces. The actual effect will be to cede large swathes of Mexico to Cartel control thus cementing Cartel presence and control. Short term win, long-term loss.

For those interested in the issue, Stratfor has the go-to graphic used by everyone else:
Business Insider has a very interesting post that shows how Cartel control of Mexico has expanded since the mid-1990s.

The two best blogs I've found that track this issue are Borderland Beat and the Los Angeles Times' Mexico Under Siege. Readers should know that Borderland Beat does not shy from the graphic truth of the drug war; it's photos/postings can be quite disturbing. The Economist also tracks the issue here

Much has been written here in the U.S. regarding the best approach to solving this problem, whether it's a supply issue (implying operations to stop the source of drugs at their point of origin), a trafficking issue (go after the Cartels and related gangs, improve border control, etc.), or a demand issue (address the problem of drug use in America). Any real solution will have to address all three issues, of course. Our national budget woes will certainly effect our efforts vis-a-vis supply and trafficking. Our cultural woes will effect our approach vis-a-vis demand, i.e. so long as our society tacitly approves of a drug culture (in our entertainment and academic sectors, especially) I think it unlikely we'll see any significant progress in this area.

The recent votes in Colorado and Washington to legalize 'recreational use' of marijuana certainly weren't helpful.

Two Americas

Coming along not too far apart, these two items really piqued my interest as I seen them as reinforcing each other. The first is a short item by Michael Barone, published in the National Review about the "Two Americas" reflected in our recent national election. In the article he briefly describes the two perspectives of the people populating each "America" but also mentions that in our past we got along as a single country because we collectively chose to 'leave each other alone', increasingly not the case today. Mitt Romney implied this same argument in his '47% comment'; as impolitic as it was, it was nevertheless a pretty accurate summarization of Barone's thrust in that Romney was commenting about a portion of the electorate that benefits in some way from government subsidies and is unlikely to vote itself free from such support. 

With this in mind, the following two graphics rather starkly illustrate another aspect of the 'Two Americas,' urban vs. rural. Mark Alexander comments on this divide in a recent issue of The Patriot Post, in the section entitled The Real 2012 Election Map. In the first map, election results are shown by county, with BLUE representing counties won by Romney and RED won by Obama. (Alexander switched the normal blue/red associations for reasons he explains in his post.)


In a following graphic, he adjusts the map to show how each county compares when weighted for population, clearly highlighting just how much of an impact the urban counties have on the outcome of national elections. 
For me, it is a reminder of the importance of our Electoral College system for the reasons I discussed at the link. 

One can only muse about the implications of all this as we think about the future of our country. It does seem to suggest that the populations of urban areas are more reliant, or chose to be more reliant, on government programs and are more keen to support politicians who promise to sustain and expand such programs. Conversely, rural areas are populated by people who prefer smaller government and less government involvement in local and personal affairs. My view: the former is inherently more expensive both in terms of money (cost to taxpayers) and loss of personal liberty while the latter is less bureaucratic and expensive but makes greater demands on the individual, i.e. increased personal responsibility. Over the long-term we're so much better with the latter perspective. The challenge, of course, is the related necessity for people to say 'no' to the government lifeline upon which they've grown dependent. Any bets on how this turns out?

November 12, 2012

"...and not to yield."

If you've not yet seen the new Bond movie, Skyfall, spend the money and the time to do so!  It is a first-rate film of several layers and a very worthy addition to the Bond series, perhaps one of the best.  In one of the most memorable scenes (for me, at least), 'M', played masterfully by Judi Dench, provides testimony to a government committee about the necessity to preserve the ability to confront the faceless threats that plague our modern world, closing her remarks with the final stanza from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's "Ulysses":

                Though much is taken, much abides; and though

                We are not now that strength which in old days
                Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
                One equal temper of heroic hearts,
                Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
                To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

If you aren't familiar with the full poem, it is Tennyson's treatment of Ulysses (Odysseus) in his old age as he muses about his past adventures and his current aged state. But rather than spend his twilight years reminiscing about the past, he calls for his shipmates to strike out with him one more time to seek the next great adventure and to show that even though their youth may have passed they still had the heart and the will to strive for noble things. 

Much has been written over the past few years about the supposed 'decline of America.' I, for one, refuse to accept such. Though I was deeply disappointed in the outcome of our most recent election cycle I still believe there are enough people in our country who remain committed to the original ideals upon which this country was founded that "Some work of noble note, may yet be done"; that even though we may have been 'made weak by time and fate' (most clearly seen in our grossly irresponsible spending habits) there is still a heart in our Country 'to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

We are facing truly incredible odds. We have accumulated more debt by any measure than any other great country in history that I can think of. Our government is expanding at a breakneck pace and our people are willfully becoming more dependent upon it. We are gradually withdrawing from our security commitments of the 20th Century and reducing our security capabilities in a naive belief that the world is a less dangerous place than it was during the Cold War. But it is not  a less dangerous place. The dangers have changed in their form and method of attack and have been made more lethal, thanks to 21st Century technologies, even as they have become more difficult to identify, define, and defend against. As the U.S. withdraws, the world becomes more destabilized. Just look at what is happening in the Middle East, North Africa, the South China Sea, in Russia, and even in Latin America. 

For the past 70 years, the Free World looked to America for leadership, example, and protection. Today, it questions the ability of America to fulfill any of those roles. Perhaps America has grown tired of shouldering such responsibility. Perhaps the lack of a clearly understandable existential threat since the dissolution of the Soviet Union has caused us to become distracted and to become soft. There is ample evidence to support such a view. But I hope that at our core there still smolders an ember of the fire that once animated the American Spirit to do great things, to 'strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield' to the darker forces of our world. I hope so. And I hope we find the ability to not only preserve that ember but fan it back into the flame the Free World needs. If we let it die -- smothering it with layer upon layer of encumbrance -- then as Ronald Reagan warned in 1964, we will lose the 'last best hope of man on earth' and 'sentence [our children] to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.'

November 10, 2012

Drawing a Line

With the upcoming debates on sequestration, mitigating the impact of our 'fiscal cliff,' dealing with the consequences of our debate...all of which limit our options and constrain our abilities when faced with the inevitable 'surprise' challenge to our interests...where will we draw the line?

Happy 237th Birthday Marines!



October 19, 2012

"Brought to you by the letter "O" and the number 16 trillion"


The Scariest Little Corner

This is a long article but well worth the time to read. Luke Mogelson, in The Scariest Little Corner of the World, paints a graphic picture of the complexity of Afghanistan re relationships among its ethnically diverse population and with Iran. He describes the multitude of issues effecting life in this remote part of the world, from religious fanaticism to illicit trades in weapons, drugs, and refugees. Warlordism, shifting alliances, water-wars, economic interests...they're all here and further complicate the future of Afghanistan.

In spite of all that's been written about 'cultural awareness' and the massive sums of money and time spent by the military in trying to equip our forces to understand and operate effectively in this part of the world, we continue to underestimate the magnitude of the challenge to entice cultures still firmly rooted in the 9th Century to join the 21st...or even the 20th, or perhaps just the 19th. 

Should we write-off this region given the cost in people and treasure we have borne over the past decade or so? No, not entirely. The U.S. still has security interests linked to the major actors in the area. Iran's pursuit of a nuclear capability, its support of various groups at war with Israel and the West, and Pakistan's relative instability are all concerns for the U.S. Better to be present in the region if only to be able to collect intelligence and maintain a 'feel' for the region (something that cannot be done from Washington DC) than to be absent and find ourselves continually surprised by events that inevitably cost more to respond to than would otherwise be the case if we had advance warning or were able to shape events even a bit. Does this mean a continued presence of 65,000 troops and billions of dollars? Certainly not. But we have a tendency to swing from one extreme to another in our policies and I think we should guard against the urge to withdraw from the area entirely. 

It would be most helpful, of course, if our approach to engaging a given region actually accounted for the nature of the region rather than presuming all peoples everywhere eagerly desire to make themselves 'little Americas'.

October 13, 2012

Modern Warfare

I saw this story this morning and just had to post a comment. Per the story, if you are playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 using a certain 'map' and employing a rifle scope inside a bathroom you just might scan the frame of a mirror and see mention of Allah, something offensive to Muslims. So...the game maker, Activision, is deleting the map and issuing an apology for the 'offense', this from the maker of a product where the focus of the game is to kill as many enemy combatants as possible using knives, handguns, rifles, machine-guns, explosives, airstrikes, grenades... Violence per se doesn't seem to be a problem, but the placement of a reference to Allah in a bathroom that can only be seen under specific conditions somehow is.

Quite a head-scratcher if you ask me. 

Of course I couldn't help but be reminded of similar lunacy in other areas of the commercial world:
- A McDonald's 'Happy Meal' toy yanked from circulation because little swirls on its base could be interpreted as a reference to Muhammad.
- Burger King withdrawing a soft ice cream because the swirls on the lid meant to represent a swirling ice cream cone could be interpreted as an inscription for Allah.
- Nike withdrawing basketball shoes and apologizing for its stylistic design of the word Air on the sneakers that could likewise be interpreted as 'Allah'.
- Ikea airbrushing its Saudi-version catalog to remove women so as not to offend Muslims. And,
- Starbucks weathering criticism of its logo, supposedly because the young mermaid depicted was actually Queen Esther and this might be offensive to Muslims.

In stark contrast, Christianity is routinely attacked, defamed, insulted, exploited for 'art' and otherwise mocked in countless ways, yet this presumably isn't a problem. 

Returning to the original story, I find more than a bit of irony in the title of the game: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.  It seems to me we are engaged in a form of 'modern warfare' - a battle of cultures. If so, what is our 'call to duty'?

October 11, 2012

Talking Turkey


A week ago I briefly mentioned the growing conflict between Turkey and Syria, noting the potential for NATO involvement with the implied danger that the US could get dragged into another war in the Middle East. A string of news reports over this past week highlights this evolving situation. 

Two items in The Christian Science Monitor (here and here) directly address the potential for NATO involvement with the latter of the two articles noteworthy in its quoting NATO's Secretary-General, "'We have all necessary plans in place to protect and defend Turkey if necessary,' said NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen." 

The Telegraph and The Atlantic both have good overview stories about the potential for war between Turkey and Syria, noting the problems caused by the flood of refugees into Turkey (also here), the support Turkey is providing the rebels (angering Syria) and Syria is providing the Kurds (angering Turkey), and the pressure likely being felt by both governments to not be seen as 'backing down' in the face of the other's provocative actions. 'National pride' can be a powerful motivator for starting wars that no one actually wants to happen. 

Then there is this complicating piece about Turkey taking exception to Russia allegedly sending advisors and equipment to Syria through Turkish airspace. 

Hmmm...a tangle of alliances, national pride, ethnic rivalries, insurgencies, great power competitions, tottering regimes attempting to maintain power at all costs. Reminds me of the conditions leading to World War I. How interesting...

October 10, 2012

The Electoral College

Election Day is just four weeks away, Nov 6. I've no doubt as we get closer we'll hear the usual discussions about past election results, the pros and cons of a national popular vote vs. the electoral college, the history of voting irregularities and odd outcomes in the U.S., etc. To add my two cents worth, I'd like to take a moment to address the Electoral College issue and provide some useful links to solid references on the subject (at least I think they're 'useful' and 'solid').  

Criticism of the Electoral College process generally focuses on the fact that a Presidential nominee can win the popular vote but still lose the election by not garnering sufficient Electoral College votes as has happened three times in U.S. history. (In the 1876, 1888, and 2000 elections the popular vote winner lost the Electoral College vote. In 1824, Andrew Jackson won more popular and electoral votes than John Q Adams but because he didn't win a majority of either vote (more importantly, a majority of the electoral vote), the outcome of the election was decided by the House of Representatives who elected Adams.)

Interestingly, there have been 18 instances in our history when the winning nominee won a plurality but not a majority of the popular vote, i.e. he won more votes than the next closest nominee but did not exceed fifty percent of the popular vote. This is of interest because it means that more people voted  for someone other than the man who won. 

For an excellent overview of the pros and cons of the Electoral College, see Tara Ross's article published on the Heritage Foundation website entitled The Electoral College: Enlightened Democracy. A summarized version is here. Additional concise explanations of the Electoral College can be found at the FEC, National Archives (with a good 3-minute video), and Wikipedia websites. 

At its core, the Electoral College approach to electing our President (and VP) reflects the 'republic' form of democracy codified in our Constitution. The structure of our country was founded upon the organizing principle that the United States of America was to be a federation of autonomous states that ceded some authorities to a central government (see discussion of the 10th Amendment here). Various compromises were made to address a wide range of concerns among the Constitutional Convention delegates and the various state populations who would ultimately vote on the proposed document, concerns that included protecting the interests of small, less populous states from those of the larger and more populous states and the interests of minority populations or factions from the absolute domination of majorities. 

James Madison discussed the problem of 'factions' in Federalist 10 while Alexander Hamilton  applied Madison's reasoning in Federalist 68 wherein he (Hamilton) discussed the merits of an elector-based system for choosing the chief executive officer under the new Constitution (an approach later codified in the 12th Amendment).

Effectively, the U.S. elects a President and Vice President via the aggregated results of 51 independent elections (the 50 states and Wash, DC) that are themselves based on the popular vote in each state and the District. This system was deemed preferable in that it ensured smaller, less popular states could compete in some way with the larger states, rural areas could compete with urban centers, and instances of fraud would be largely isolated and highly unlikely to spread nationally. It preserves the federated nature of the United States and prevents a majority of any type - ethnic, religious, economic, etc. - from so dominating the political landscape that any other group is effectively disenfranchised. 

Though it can be confusing and certainly frustrating (as was seen most recently in the 2000 election between Bush and Gore), I continue to believe that our current process is far better than any other yet devised.

Update: Since posting this I realized I didn't include one other item for consideration, that being the matter(s) of identity or perspective as it pertains to American citizens. I think that over time our identity has shifted from that of a state-centered one to one that is largely national-centered. In times past an American more closely identified with his/her state: I'm a proud Texan,Virginian, New Yorker, etc. As our country more firmly established itself as a 'country' and as technology (especially in transportation and information-sharing) and our economy shifted to create a more mobile society, people more easily lost their once-firmly-fixed roots in a specific locality and adopted a broader perspective of 'America.' I realize my view is presented here as an assertion but if accurate, perhaps it explains much of the criticism of the Electoral College process in favor of a popular vote -- people are more apt to believe in the individual-centered framework of a popular vote election process where 'Americans' collectively  and directly vote for the President rather than naturally inclining themselves to prefer a state-centered vote. Are we a nation of individual citizens who happen to live in locations arbitrarily defined as 'states' or is our country as federation of states operating in a national framework overseen by a federal government? 

October 5, 2012

Britain in Twilight

"I think I can save the British Empire from anything—except the British." - Winston Churchill


Sadly, in the 'special relationship' between the US and the UK our once mighty 'elder' has become an enfeebled great aunt who while retaining all the great history that is accumulated over time can now do little more than care for herself...and even that is increasingly in doubt. 

This article expresses quite well the dangerous decline in Britain's once exemplary form of democratic ideals. From the article: 
   "The reality is that representative democracy, at the core, has to be about people voting, has to be about people engaging in political parties, has to be about people having contact with elected representatives, and having faith and trust in elected representatives, as well as those representatives demonstrating they can exercise political power effectively and make decisions that tend to be approved of," said Wilks-Heeg.
   "All of that is pretty catastrophically in decline. How low would turnout have to be before we question whether it's really representative democracy at all?" The UK's democratic institutions were strong enough to keep operating with low public input, but the longer people avoided voting and remained disillusioned, the worse the problem would get, said Wilks-Heeg.
   "Over time, disengagement skews the political process yet further towards those who are already more advantaged by virtue of their wealth, education or professional connections. And without mass political participation, the sense of disconnection between citizens and their representatives will inevitably grow."

In terms of military power, the news is even more disturbing. Consider this item, an article penned by some of the most senior members of the British military establishment. (Their full report can be found here.) The authors point out with great clarity the dangerous implications and consequences of Britain's military decline. As stated in the article:
   “In international relations, an ally is worth as much as, and no more than, the resources and specifically military resources it is capable of contributing towards implementing a shared purpose by force or the threat of it.”
   "It is astonishing, as Andrew Roberts has noted in the Foreword to our report, “that politicians themselves should not want a stronger military, as that and that only gives them a voice worth listening to in the councils of the world”."

Owing to Britain's dire financial condition, the government has slashed their military services to the point where observers question whether the UK can field any credible military capability at all. The last time its navy had as few ships was in the 1700s. Its army is half the size of our Marine Corps. The totality of its first line air force capability is less than that of a single U.S. fighter wing. See these articles for examples and discussion: here, here, and here.

Whereas Greece, Italy, Spain and now France should be stern warnings to the US of reckless financial and spending policies, Britain's sad military state of affairs, the increasingly widening chasm between its public and their government, and their loss of identity as a people, should similarly warn us of the risks we run if we don't attend to our own civic, cultural and security matters and interests both at home and abroad. Whether we like it or not, decreased ally capability means we will have to shoulder a greater burden ourselves to protect our interests. 

Challenges don't go away just because one stops spending on the capabilities necessary to address them. Our shoreline doesn't insulate us from the influences of stronger, more aggressive cultures. In fact, the weaker we grow the more threatening competing interests become.

VDH: The Neurotic Middle East

If you've not noticed, I'm a fan of Victor Davis Hanson. Add him to your reading list. His latest article for NRO is a must read. [Thanks to my dear friend HR for forwarding!] As I've written previously, much of the Middle East's problems lie in the philosophical underpinnings of the fundamentalist form of Islam many of its people embrace (note that other countries with large Muslim populations, such as Indonesia, somehow still embrace modernity) and the cultural framework that not only tolerates the behavior we are observing but encourages it. Our foreign policy must account for this or else we'll continue to suffer the consequences. At the very least we need to regain a sense of who we are as a country, what we stand for, and why our approach to individual freedom, liberty, and Western-liberal democratic political principles is superior to other systems...and make no apology for it. 

Selected excerpts:
"[The] world tacitly gives exemptions to the Middle East - and expects very little in return. It assumes that the rules that apply elsewhere of civility, tolerance, and nonviolence are inoperative there - and perhaps have reason to so be.

"The world also assumes a sort of Middle Eastern parasitism: Daily its millions use mobile phones, take antibiotics, hit the Internet, fire RPGs, and play video games, and yet they not only do not create these products that they rely upon, but largely have antipathy for those who do.

"Asymmetry is, of course, assumed. One expects to be detained for having a Bible in one’s baggage at Riyadh, whereas a Koran in a tote bag is of no importance at the Toronto airport. The Egyptian immigrant in San Francisco, or the Pakistani who moves to London, expects to be allowed to demonstrate against the freewheeling protocols of his hosts, while a Westerner protesting against life under sharia in the streets of Karachi or Gaza would earn a death sentence. What is nauseating about this is not the hypocrisy per se, but the Middle Eastern insistence that there is no such hypocrisy. We expect the immigrant from Egypt to deface public posters and call it freedom of expression; we expect Mr. Morsi, who enjoyed American freedom while he studied for his Ph.D. and then taught for three years in California, to deny it to others and trash his former host.

"So how do we make sense out of this abject nonsense? Superficially, it occurs because the world is cowardly, and we accept that terrorism is far more likely to emanate from the Middle East than elsewhere. Principles or tastes do not explain why movies mock Christ and not Mohammed. Fear does, and all sorts of empty pontifications must dress up the necessary compensatory selectivity."

Read the article for VDH's prescription for how to deal with this "delusional neurotic"!

A Splash of Cold Water

Victor Davis Hanson is at it again with a nice post highlighting three current situations that should remind us that knowing and understanding history and what history has to teach us is important. See 'World Order, Under Siege?' for his discussion of Germany vs Europe, Iran vs Israel, and the broader turmoil in the Middle East vs Obama's wrongheaded world view.

One just can't escape the geopolitical realities of our world. Consequently, our policies are most effective when the account for such realities.

On a loosely related note, keep an eye on the clashes developing between Turkey and Syria (two good stories here and here). Turkey's Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is trying to consolidate his power through a deepening alliance with Islamist elements in his government. Meanwhile, Syria's President, Bashar al Assad, is waging a brutal civil war against a very mature popular insurgency to retain his hold on power. Syrian operations against rebels have led to cross-border attacks into Turkey, with Turkey responding in kind against Syrian installations. Given that Turkey is a member of NATO, there exists the potential that any serious cross-border incursion by Syria could result in Turkey's call for NATO support against Syria. 

This could present a 'back door' option to the US that would enable it to support the rebels against Assad, something our country has been unwilling to do. Adding complexity is the frustration Turkey has had with their Kurdish problem; the Kurds seeking some level of autonomy for their people who occupy an area that overlaps Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The Kurds were generally supportive of US efforts in Iraq since the security umbrella provided by our operations protected their interests relative to the more powerful Shia and Sunni power blocs. Now that we're out of Iraq, however, they are on their own. (In an interesting 'what if' exercise, you could wonder how things might be different in that region had we retained an operational capability in Iraq. How would it have impacted our response to the Syrian uprising, Iran's continued pursuit of nuclear capabilities, the saber-rattling between Iran and Israel, etc., etc.?) Whether US involvement in Syria is advisable or not, it is an evolving situation and one can't know with certainty how it will all fall out.

[Update: See this about challenges in Saudi Arabia. Thanks HR, again, for forwarding.]

October 3, 2012

Executive Orders

We had an interesting discussion this morning regarding the use of Executive Orders by Presidents. My eldest was reading about it in her U.S. Government textbook and she wondered why they weren't used more often; after all, it seemed an easy way for a President to 'rule by fiat' in a sense. That led to discussion of why they are used, the character of the person using them, and the context for their use (period in history, what was going on at the time, what was intended to be accomplished, why an EO was needed vice simply enforcing a law passed by Congress, etc.). 

Over the past couple of years much has been made of the Obama Administration's use of Executive Orders, especially given concerns about the Administration attempting to by-pass a 'do nothing' Congress. I checked the National Archives site for a listing of EOs and have copied it below. 

The king of EOs remains FDR at 3728, averaging 310 per year for his twelve years in office. So far, BHO and GWB are tied for least EOs issued averaged over their term(s) in office (GWB-36 per year, BHO-35 per year).

For the most part, Presidents issue EOs to clarify specific points of policy or enforcement actions within the context of a more broadly worded law passed by Congress. Occasionally, Presidents attempt to 'legislate by EO', that is to write and enforce their own perspective that may or may not be in accordance with Congressional action. When this happens, challenges are usually raised via the courts. 

Wikipedia has a very good overview of Executive Orders here (lots of footnotes, links to other references).

The National Archives site for Executive Orders is here.


Barack Obama (2009-Present) 
EO's 13489 - 13628 (140) (updated to account for EOs signed but not yet recorded by the National Archives)

George W. Bush (2001-2009) 
EO's 13198-13488 (291)

William J. Clinton (1993-2001) 
EO's 12834-13197 (364)

George Bush (1989-1993) 
EO's 12668-12833 (166)

Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) 
EO's 12287-12667 (381)

Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) 
EO's 11967-12286 (320)

Gerald R. Ford (1974-1977) 
EO's 11798-11966 (169)

Richard Nixon (1969-1974) 
EO's 11452-11797 (346)

Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) 
EO's 11128-11451 (324)

John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) 
EO's 10914-11127 (214)

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) 
EO's 10432-10913 (486)

Harry S. Truman (1945-1953) 
EO's 9538-10431 (896)

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945) 
EO's 6071-9537 (3728)

Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) 
EO's 5075-6070 (996)



October 2, 2012

Call a Terrorist a 'Savage'? How Uncivilized

An anti-jihad message is 'hate speech' by today's topsy-turvy standards.

By WILLIAM MCGURN

"In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad."

So reads an advertisement that went up a week ago in New York City subway stations. Sponsored by Pamela Geller's American Freedom Defense Initiative, the ads were meant to provoke, and they did. Denunciations poured in, activists plastered "racist" and "hate speech" stickers over the ads, and an Egyptian-American activist even got herself arrested after spray-painting one poster pink.

Establishment opinion quickly rallied to a consensus. As the Washington Post put it, while the words could be read as "hateful," "an offensive ad" nonetheless has the "right to offend." A rabbi summed up the media orthodoxy in the headline over her column for CNN: "A right to hate speech, a duty to condemn."

Columnist Bill McGurn on the reaction to a New York City subway ad that urges people to "support Israel" and "defeat Jihad." (Photo: AP)

Certainly that's one way to read this ad. Then again, most Americans probably read it the way it is written: Israel is a civilized nation under attack from people who do savage things in the name of jihad. Whatever the agenda of those behind this ad might be, the question remains: What part of that statement is not true?

Ah, but the use of the word "jihad" inherently indicts all Muslims, say the critics. There are millions of peaceful Muslims for whom jihad means only a spiritual quest. So why do so many people associate jihad with murder and brutality?

Getty Images
A controversial ad, which has already been defaced, that condemns radical Islam is viewed in a New York subway station.

Might it be because violence is so often the jihadist's calling card? Might it be that some of these killers even incorporate the word jihad into the name of their terror organizations, e.g., Palestinian Islamic Jihad? That may not be the exclusive meaning of jihad, but surely it is one meaning—and the one that New York subway riders are most likely to bring to the word.

The same goes for "savage." Exhibit A is Oxford's online dictionary, which defines a savage as "a brutal or vicious person." There are innumerable Exhibit Bs, but let me invoke one of the most powerful.

This is a Reuters photo that ran on the New York Times front page for Sept. 1, 2004. It shows an Israeli bus after it had been blown up by a suicide bomber. Neither bloody nor gory, the photo is nonetheless deeply disturbing, because it shows the lifeless body of a young woman hanging out a window.

The Times news story added this detail about the reaction to that attack. "In Gaza," ran the report, "thousands of supporters of Hamas celebrated in the streets, and the Associated Press reported that one of the bombers' widows hailed the attack as 'heroic' and said her husband's soul was 'happy in heaven.' " What part of any of this is not savage?

Two years ago, Time magazine ran a cover photo of an 18-year-old Afghan woman whose nose and ears had been cut off by the Taliban. This weekend, an al Qaeda-affiliated jihadist group in Kenya threw grenades into an Anglican church, killing a 9-year-old boy attending Sunday school. In light of these atrocities, "savage" seems profoundly inadequate.

The point is that what makes someone a savage is not the religion he professes. It's the actions he takes. Notwithstanding the many Jews and Christians who have been attacked, those bearing the brunt of this savagery are innocent Muslims who find themselves targeted—at their mosques, in their markets, at a wedding reception—simply because they belong to the wrong political party or religious tradition.

The people of Libya appear to understand this better than the president of the United States. The Libyans know that a civilized society is one where the strong protect the weak. In July they voted for such a future when they rejected Islamic radicals in their first free elections since toppling the dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The Libyans' problem is that the extremists are better armed and better organized than their elected government, which leaves the strong free to prey upon the weak.

Back home in America, amid all the gooey indignation about how the subway ads are hate speech but must be defended, the idea seems to have taken hold that the beauty of the First Amendment is that we get to insult each other's religions. Certainly that's sometimes the price of the First Amendment. Its glory, however, is as the cornerstone for a self-governing, free society whose citizens know that someone saying something disgusting about your faith is no excuse for murder.

What a curiosity our new political correctness has made of our public spaces. Let your sex tape loose on the Internet and be rewarded with your own TV show; photograph a crucifix in a jar of urine and our museums will vie to exhibit it; occupy someone else's property and you will be hailed by the president for your keen social conscience.

But call people who blow up, behead and mutilate "savage"—and polite society will find you offensive.

September 28, 2012

Don't Know Much About His-tor-y...

I received this story from a great friend who has long been concerned about the quality of education (more accurately, the 'lack of') in our public school system. In the combined six years his two girls have been in a well-regarded high school in northern Virginia, neither has had any instruction in 'modern history' stretching from WWII through the post-Cold War period. Of my three kids, only one is old enough to have completed high school so I have fewer data points but my insights are similar. Our kids simply aren't receiving much, if any, education about 'how' and 'why' our world is the way it is, what forces  have shaped it in the modern age or even explanation of the various regimes and/or ideologies that vied for dominance across the 20th Century. I guess it shouldn't be surprising to see Che Guevara shirts or hammer-and-sickle graphics adorning our youth if they don't have the slightest notion of the terrible cost in human lives and squandered opportunity exacted by communism from hundreds of millions of people. 

In a similar way, one can't expect people to vote on policies, or the people who espouse them, with any sense of historically-based understanding if they've never been exposed to the harsh realities of our own history. I believe the truth of the matter is that most parents have largely ceased to care about such things...not all, of course, but a majority sufficiently large enough such that state governments and local public school systems are allowed to teach whatever drivel they choose without having to worry about being held accountable by the very population they are failing. What a shame. 

   By Paul Kengor, September 27, 2012, FoxNews.com

“What do you think of this?” So began a phone call from Todd Starnes of FoxNews Radio. Starnes called me for a comment on a shocking story: A band at a high school near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania performed a halftime show titled, “St. Petersburg 1917,” a musical commemoration of the Bolshevik Revolution, replete with hammers and sickles, military uniforms, and red flags.

“No way,” I responded. “Are you sure this wasn’t a joke, a parody?”

It wasn’t. And parents of the students aren’t laughing.

The superintendent of the school genuinely pleaded innocence. “It’s a representation of the time period in history, called ‘St. Petersburg 1917,’” she said. “I am truly sorry that somebody took the performance in that manner. I am.” She continued: “If anything is being celebrated it’s the music…. I’m just very sorry that it wasn’t looked at as just a history lesson.”

Well, as a history lesson, I give it a giant, red “F.”

To be fair to the superintendent, she sincerely doesn’t seem to understand what’s so bad about this incident, and why it’s in bad taste. In fact, therein is the basic problem: We have failed to teach the horrors of the Bolshevik Revolution specifically and of communism generally.

Those horrors include over 100 million corpses generated by communist governments, starting with the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917—that is, “St. Petersburg 1917.” For perspective, 100 million is twice the combined deaths of World War I and II, the two deadliest conflicts in history. Even then, 100 million dead, which is the estimate provided by the seminal Harvard University Press work, "The Black of Book of Communism," is a conservative figure. The latest research claims that Mao Tse-Tung was responsible for the deaths of at least 70 million in China, and Joseph Stalin alone may well have killed 60 million in the USSR.

And yet, far too many American are ignorant of this catastrophe, especially younger Americans. I know. I’ve been observing it carefully for years. I could give a thousand examples, but here are just a few:

September 27, 2012

RIP PFC Jon Townsend, USA

We considered ourselves privileged, today, to take part in turning out for the return of PFC Jon Townsend, a U.S. soldier recently killed in Afghanistan (local stories here and here, national here). PFC Townsend, 19, was a 2011 graduate of Sequoyah High School--the same school from which I graduated 30 years ago. He was on his first deployment. He leaves behind a young bride, only 18 years old herself. We read and hear stories on almost a daily basis of US losses in distant theaters. Our town of Claremore ensured this loss didn't become just another statistic; there was a terrific outpouring of support to honor this young man along the route taken by the lengthy convoy of escorts accompanying him. It was a solemn and moving occasion. Here's some video taken by my wife:



September 26, 2012

Semper Paratus!


The U.S. Coast Guard is one of those organizations that has a great reputation with the general public but about which that same general public knows very little. Unless you are involved in a business that brings you into direct contact with the Coast Guard on a regular basis or that depends heavily on what Coasties do especially when it comes to 'aids to navigation', the most any of us really know about the Coast Guard is that they save stranded boaters and occasionally pluck flooding victims from roof tops. That's a shame. The U.S. Coast Guard is one of those unheralded services that does so much for the country, on a shoe-string budget, and with little fanfare. I've had the great pleasure of getting to know various Coasties over the years and they are as solid, professional, and patriotic a group of people as one could wish for.

No surprise, then, that this article on the potential impact of sequestration on the U.S. Coast Guard caught my eye. Scary stuff made worse in that such arbitrary cuts would come on top of the long-running budget and programmatic challenges with which the Coast Guard is already struggling. Its effort to modernize its force, especially its fleet of ships many of which date back to the 1960s and 70s, has been fraught with problems. Just mention "Deepwater" to any Coastie and you're likely to see a shudder ripple through their body. The missteps associated with this program have accumulated over time to leave the Service operationally challenged though its spirit of service and courage in carrying out its missions remain unbroken - thank goodness! It is forging ahead (and here) in its efforts to replace old ships/craft, improve its ability to secure America's ports and harbors, interdict bad guys from making it to our shores, and ensure that commerce flows along our waterways. But all this might be undone if sequestration is allowed to happen. 

If you have little idea of what our Coast Guard does, what its origins are, or where it needs to head in carrying out its core functions, take a few minutes to read this excellent article written by a dear friend of mine a couple of years ago. You'll be better informed than 99% of your fellow citizens.

September 25, 2012

The Vagaries of War

A number of stories have hit-the-wire over the past few days regarding the end of the 'surge' in Afghanistan, the recent Taliban attack on Camp Bastion, and the publication of a new book by Michael Gordon and LtGen Bernard Trainor (USMC, Ret), 'The Endgame' (review here by John Barry (thanks for the h/t, Wes) the key points of which are summarized by Gordon in this NYT piece.) Much too much to cover in a single post so I'll just make a few remarks:

- Iraq. Read Gordon's NYT piece first, then Barry's book review. The short story: lots of mistakes were made, certainly, but that's the nature of war. What can't be forgiven is the lack of understanding and willpower exhibited by the Obama administration necessary to address America's long-term interests vis-a-vis Iraq, Iran, Syria and the larger Middle East. While he did inherit the war via election, he had to deal with the presence of the US in Iraq and the consequences of the situation that could evolve along a number of paths. Obama's opposition to Iraq in favor of the 'good war' in Afghanistan was essentially a political tactic in his contest with McCain. Once in office, he couldn't backtrack on his campaign pledge to 'end the war in Iraq' and shift emphasis to Afghanistan. That said, his higher responsibility was for the long-term security interests of the US which did not include the rise of a dysfunctional Iraq and a leadership overly influenced and leverage by Iran. Much like Afghanistan, our military leadership advised certain force levels to accomplish stated objectives but were ignored in favor of a domestic political agenda that did not account for the compromised security situation that would result from short-changing our efforts.

- Afghanistan. The 'surge' was a strategic mistake. As mentioned by Fred Kaplan here, our initial war objectives were accomplished fairly early on in Afghanistan, i.e. the breaking up of the Taliban and subsequent damage to Al Qaeda to eliminate it as an effective threat to the US (something very different than eliminating Al Qaeda). Though Obama had to make good on his campaign rhetoric to reinvest US efforts in Afghanistan, he committed a fraction of what his military commanders assessed (and privately requested) was necessary to accomplish the objectives articulated by his Administration. So, lives and treasure were committed to an end that could not be achieved. What a waste. For their part, the military commanders did the best they could with the resources they had, but given the odds stacked against them it was a fools-errand. As in Vietnam, successful tactics were found such as the Marine Corps' CAP effort. Counterinsurgency properly done however is very manpower- and time-intensive. Obama committed neither the necessary manpower nor the time. Further, like in Vietnam, one can only do so much when the host country's national leadership structure is fundamentally corrupt. 'Free and fair' democratic elections are the result of democracy, not the catalyst for it.

- War objectives and reasonable expectations. The military is inordinately fond of quoting Clausewitz, but for good reason. It was he who said 'war is the continuation of politics by other means,' meaning that war is carried out to achieve some political end...not for its own sake. Therefore, the resources committed to war must reflect the political objective to be achieved by means of military action OR the objectives must be adjusted to account for the resources available or the objectives that can actually be achieved by military action. In Afghanistan we have seen a terrible disconnect between objectives and resources. Gian Gentile gets at this point in his latest opinion piece entitled 'War: Sometimes There Is a Substitute for Victory,' I only disagree with Gentile in my interpretation of the extent to which the military has argued 'for' national building in Afghanistan. As stated above, the military does its best to accomplish the mission handed to it. It is not in our (US) military tradition for our forces to refuse orders from the civilian leadership. Tell our men and women to dig wells, promise democracy, establish local security, etc., and they'll given their lives to the cause. All the more important, then, for our civilian leadership to think carefully before ordering 'surges'.

It has been said that the primary objective of NATO during the Cold War was to "keep the U.S. 'in', the Russians 'out', and Germans 'down." In other words, the political-military alliance had broader motives than just marshaling the military strength of many countries to offset the numerical superiority of the Soviet Union. The strategic thinking underlying the compact took into account the characteristics of the primary actors, their main objectives, and the context of Europe...all necessary to maintain peace in the region.

We've forgotten this and so many other lessons of history these past few years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sadly, we're doing much the same thing in the Middle East with respect to the "Arab Spring," Israel, Iran, and Egypt and even in Asia when one considers the evolving dispute in the South China Sea and increasing tensions between China and Japan.

What a mess.

September 21, 2012

Bookends

I've already commented a bit about 2016: Obama's America. As stated earlier, Dinesh D'Souza presents an explanation for Obama's 'world view' that, in turn, provides a basis for understanding the policy decisions Obama has made since gaining the Presidency. D'Souza explores the various people, settings and relationships that shaped Obama's view of the world and, arguably, America's place in it, advancing the theory that the anti-colonial views of Obama's father, reinforced by a series of mentors and associates of Obama, are the driving force behind the President's beliefs and actions. 


With D'Souza's movie providing the global context for Obama's ideology, The Washington Examiner has published an in-depth 'special report' entitled "The Obama You Don't Know" in which the Examiner's staff presents a critique and clarification of Obama's domestic story, in effect countering the idealized narrative repeated by the President and his supporters since the beginning of his political career. 

It's not a pretty picture. 

While the story does spend time correcting the myths of Obama's 'impoverished childhood' and reported success as an educator at Chicago Law School (anything but...), The Examiner spends most of its time reviewing Obama's rise through the Chicago political establishment and the rather sordid set of characters he meets and befriends along the way. 

Take a few minutes to read the story. With the amount of coverage given to Romney's time at Bain Capital (in reality an American success story if ever there was one), you just have to marvel at the complicity of the media establishment in keeping the details of Obama's rise and relationships so hidden from public scrutiny.