Archive for June, 2010

McChrystal case forces us to confront the real question

Should he stay or should he go?

The sense in Washington seems to be unanimous that Gen. Stanley McChrystal has done enough damage to civilian-military relations and to U.S. efforts in Afghanistan to justify removal from his post. But the real questions go deeper:

Do his remarks REQUIRE his removal? What would do more damage to our national interests: bringing in new leadership at this pivotal moment in Afghanistan to carry out a strategy that McChrystal himself designed, or leaving the general in place, despite the harm he has done?

But even that isn’t the important question. The real question is: Do WE stay or do we go?

In comments yesterday, I noted that McChrystal’s staff in the Rolling Stone piece had floated the option of requesting even more U.S. troops next summer, the point when current strategy says we will start reducing our footprint in Afghanistan. So I posed a question in comments: Who believes such a step would be appropriate?

Not a single person, right or …

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Federal judge overrules Obama on Gulf moratorium

From the AP:

NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge in New Orleans has blocked a six-month moratorium on new deepwater drilling projects that was imposed in response to the massive Gulf oil spill.

Several companies that ferry people and supplies and provide other services to offshore drilling rigs had asked U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans to overturn the moratorium….

Feldman says in his ruling that the Interior Department failed to provide adequate reasoning for the moratorium. He says it seems to assume that because one rig failed, all companies and rigs doing deepwater drilling pose an imminent danger.

In effect, Feldman has ruled that Obama lacked the legal authority to issue the moratorium based on the evidence he had before him. He may very well be right, and if so, that’s how the check-and-balance system works. Unless it decides to appeal, the administration will now have to find another way of ensuring that deep-water rigs are operating safely.

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In NCAA, athletics are the tail that wags the dawg

Last week, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics released the results of an 18-month study into the finances behind college athletics (”Restoring the Balance: Dollars, Values and the Future of College Sports”).

Among other findings, it reported that “expenditures in big-time college sports grew 38 percent – nearly twice as much as spending on academics – from 2005 to 2008.” It also predicted that athletic budgets at each of the ten biggest-spending public institutions would exceed $250 million, on average, by 2020, up from $98 million in 2009.

With university and state budgets suffering due to the economy, the commission warns in its transmittal letter, “this financial arms race threatens the continued viability of athletics programs and the integrity of our universities. It cannot be maintained.” The report itself warns that educational activities are in danger of being compromised to sustain ever higher sports funding.

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As the chart above demonstrates, the …

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Large rift opens between Washington, McChrystal

In a story to be published Friday in Rolling Stone, Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his aides are quoted as being highly critical of civilian leaders in Washington, including President Obama and U.S. Sen. John McCain.

Two former high-ranking generals now in civilian roles, National Security Adviser James Jones and Ken Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, apparently come in for the harshest criticism. (The article has not yet been posted; the account here is patched together from various news accounts.)

Jones, a retired four-star general and former Marine commandant, was apparently dismissed as a “clown” by one of McChrystal’s aides. Eikenberry is a retired three-star Army general. Special envoy Richard Holbrooke and Vice President Joe Biden are also targets of criticism among the general’s circle. The only major figure to be lauded by the general and his staff is apparently U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

According to the article, McChrystal has seized control …

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In crunch, Gulf residents learn who their friends aren’t

NOTE: This includes material published in earlier posts. It is published here as the electronic version of today’s newspaper column.

Tom Price, the GOP congressman from Roswell, was impatient.

With oil still pouring into the Gulf and President Obama about to address the nation, Price wanted action. In fact, as chair of the 115-member House Republican Study Committee, Price demanded it.

“Tonight, President Obama needs to finally take charge of this disaster and show some real leadership,” Price said.

That night, when Obama laid out his battle plan in the Gulf, it included a demand that BP contribute $20 billion to an escrow account to compensate shrimpers, fishermen, motel owners, waitresses and others whose livelihoods are threatened.

The next day, in a meeting at the White House, BP agreed to the account, producing the first geniune good news that those in the Gulf have had for weeks. But rather than laud the step, Price and the RSC chose to condemn it, accusing Obama of …

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Imagine it: Bill and Ted’s excellent dinner party

I was recently asked to fill out a questionnaire that included the following familiar query:

“Which three figures from history would you most like to have over for dinner?”

My three choices were Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Jesus Christ.

Jefferson, because he was an intelligent man of great contradictions. I’d want to know how much he grasped about the implications of freedom and how the basic philosophy that he espoused might be expanded to realms he had not imagined.

Lincoln, because of his sense of humor and the innate wisdom about human nature that he demonstrated.

And Jesus because, questions of godhood aside, his philosophy and teachings were so far ahead of his time and place, and so far ahead of our own as well, as to be extraordinary.

And of course, listening to Jefferson and Jesus discuss the Nazarene’s deity status might be the highlight of the evening.

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Barton’s first apology was the sincere, honest one

After U.S. Rep. Joe Barton’s craven apology to BP last week, House Republican leadership let it be known that it had threatened to strip Barton of his post as ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

But there’s a real problem with that approach.

Barton’s apology to BP was not a slip of the tongue; the controversy that resulted is not a media-driven tempest in a teapot, like the mini-scandal about Tony Hayward going to a yacht race or the phrase “small people” escaping from the lips of the BP chairman. Nor was Barton’s sentiment that of some rogue congressman.

No, the problem with Barton’s statement is that it honestly expresses core GOP values.

Just the day before his apology, the 115-member Republican Study Committee, led by U.S. Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, issued a statement of its own accusing President Obama of “Chicago-style shakedown politics.” Stuart Varney of Fox Business News said Obama’s action “is Hugo Chavez-like, is it not? To seize a …

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Happy Fathers Day to all, and to one in particular

My mom and dad are in town for the weekend, and today we’re taking them to see a Braves game. The Bravos happen to be playing Kansas City, which is where Mom and Dad — both in the USAF — met, dated and married.

One of their first dates, I was told yesterday, was to see a ballgame in Kansas City, which at the time was home to the Kansas City RoyalsAthletics (sheesh!). Growing up, Dad was my hero, and gaining adulthood has done nothing to diminish that feeling.

So Happy Fathers Day!!

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BP was active agent in its demise, and that of others

At first, it was hard to tell whether BP had been the architect of its own demise and that of others, or the unlucky victim of chance, the place where the gambles that are inherent in deep-water drilling finally just came up snake eyes.

That’s no longer true, thanks to a series of recent revelations both about the company in general and more specifically about this catastrophe. They include:

– The documented and longstanding pattern of safety violations across the range of BP operations, from pipelines to refineries to drilling rigs, that far exceed industry averages.

– A corporate culture that valued cutting costs and saving time over safety, a culture that we now know drove a string of misbegotten decisions on board the Deepwater Horizon.

– An apparently conscious corporate decision to pretend as long as possible that the most serious environmental calamity in this nation’s history was really nothing much, a deception that may have delayed a more effective national response. …

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A sorry tune for tonight’s Travelin’ Music seems right

If he’s good enough for Rush Limbaugh…

Anyway, with everybody apologizing to each other, and then apologizing for apologizing, I thought this would be appropriate.

Or, as Joe Barton said to Tony Hayward, “What do I have to do to make you love me?”

It’s a sad sad situation, and it’s getting more and more absurd.

Continue reading A sorry tune for tonight’s Travelin’ Music seems right »