For several days, the media was awash in stories about the dismissal (half-heartedly disguised as a resignation) of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. In the usual blend of reporting from anonymous sources and outright speculation, various theories were advanced as the reasons for his departure. While such theories commanded a certain amount of gossipy interest, they were largely beside the point. We often see things rather differently from both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, but this time we think they each had it right. Continue reading
The scenes of burning buildings in Ferguson, immediately following a Grand Jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, were appalling and depressing. They were all the more so because they were not all that surprising. Could they have been avoided or contained? Perhaps. The threat of violence had been widely anticipated, and despite advance pleas for calm from community leaders, clergy and the Brown family, the anticipation may have become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. There were numerous factors contributing to the violent upheaval, but one of them may have been a basic misunderstanding of the criminal justice process. Continue reading
A starting place for discussing the current furor over President Obama’s actions on immigration is to understand that the President and many Republicans have, each for their own political purposes, exaggerated the impact of those actions. Speaking on Fox News Sunday on November 16, in anticipation of the President’s announcement, George Will wisely observed that: “It’s going to shield from deportation millions of people who actually face no realistic prospect of deportation. He’s going to give work permits to millions of people who are already working.”
Will went on to describe the proposed policy as one about which intelligent people could agree or disagree. He focused his criticism on the process, which he described as “execrable” and a violation of the “etiquette of democracy.” In a somewhat similar vein, we had observed in Blog No. 50 that:
We sympathize with the President’s goals in this area and understand his impatience, but we believe that creating protections for illegal immigrants that the law does not authorize, and that Congress has thus far declined to provide, would be a serious mistake. Although we support comprehensive immigration reform generally, and in particular the bill passed by the Senate, we think that acting outside the law and in defiance of Congress would be a major setback to reaching agreement on immigration, and most likely, a range of other issues.
Nothing in the President’s actions, or the reaction to them, has changed our mind. Continue reading
On November 15, 2014, a remarkable panel was assembled at the Reagan National Defense Forum to discuss a variety of national defense issues. The panel consisted of:
Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense under Presidents George W. Bush and Obama
Steven Hadley, National Security Adviser to President George W. Bush
Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense under President Obama
Jeh Johnson, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
John McCain, soon to be Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee
The panelists not only gave illuminating vignettes of their personal experiences in dealing with national security matters, but expressed candid views on current issues including ISIS, Ukraine, and the impact of sequestration and reductions to the military budget. It was a cogent and compelling presentation. Rather than attempting to summarize the observations of the participants, we would strongly urge readers of RINOcracy.com to view the discussion at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bk0CdVe6IQ&list=PLHNOi2zcxo7vZiUKL2WytZJzAhd2f5KA_&index=3
The entire presentation lasts approximately an hour and a half, but we believe it is worth watching from start to finish. For those who cannot spare that much time, we would particularly recommend the comments of Secretary Panetta at 33:33 and 54:35, Steven Hadley at 43:24, and 1:06:08, Secretary Gates at 49:05 and Secretary Johnson at 1:05:30.
On November 13, The New York Times published an article reporting on the hundreds of career Army officers being forced into early retirement as a result of the drastic reduction in the size of the Army:
For the first time since the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, the Army is shrinking. Faced with declining budgets, the Army, the largest of the services, cut its force this year to 508,000 soldiers from 530,000, with plans to trim an additional 20,000 troops next year. If funding cuts mandated by Congress continue, the Army could have fewer than 450,000 soldiers by 2019 — the smallest force since World War II.
The focus of the article was the personal hardships imposed on the soldiers and their families, hardships especially stinging in light of the many sacrifices made by the soldiers, often including multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. A further irony lay in the timing of the article, coming on the heels of Veterans Day on which Vice-President had expounded on our “sacred obligation” to veterans. Continue reading
The 2014 elections produced an outpouring of commentary and analyses from the Cacophony of Pundits (Cf. Pride of Lions, Murder of Crows). The products of the Cacophony began with explanations to why the elections came out as they did and proceeded to consider the prospects for cooperation between President and Congress going forward. Given the volume of the punditry, it may be difficult to provide observations that readers will not have already come across somewhere else. Nevertheless, we will attempt to provide, as briefly as possible, our own perspectives. Continue reading
Last week, as the Ebola virus still raged in three countries in Africa, a psychological “Ebola Fever” continued to sweep America. Now a decision by a single judge in a state court in Maine has appeared to break the fever. The decision, by Judge Charles LaVerdiere, was brief but carefully reasoned. It paid due respect to the risk posed by nurse Kaci Hickox: the “potential severe harm posed by this devastating disease.” Nevertheless, the decision lifted her quarantine in favor of the more modest restrictions found in Guidelines issued earlier that week by the Center for Disease Control. The Governor of Maine, Paul LePage, called the decision “unfortunate,” but quickly decided against an appeal.
It is often argued that courts in the United States play too large a role in the shaping and resolution of public issues. With deferential nods to Brown v. Board of Education (which was once controversial but has not been for a long time), critics from both left and right have criticized the courts, and particularly the Supreme Court for overstepping the bounds of the judicial role and “legislating from the bench” in its interpretations of the Constitution. For critics on the right the poster children are Roe v. Wade and the decision of the Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act. And the left has been equally offended by decisions of the Court in Citizens United, and in striking down a section of the Voting Rights Act. Fortunately, the decision by Judge LaVerdiere in Mayhew v. Hickox was largely immune to such criticism. Although Nurse Hickox’s constitutional rights lurked in the background, the decision was based solely on the facts and an application of the pertinent Maine statute. Nevertheless, it promises to have a significant impact, extending well beyond the borders of Maine, remarkable for the ruling of a single judge. Continue reading
Last week brought news of yet another school shooting, this time from Marysville, Washington. This latest tragic event resulted in five victims, with two killed and three seriously wounded. Because the shooter took his own life, it may appear that there can be little in the way of an immediate and direct response to the shooting. Ironically, however, there is an opportunity next week to take one small step toward gun safety in Washington and, at least symbolically, in the nation.
The ballot in Washington will allow a vote on a referendum, I-594, requiring a background check for all gun sales in the state. It is a modest measure, and there is no claim here that had the law been in effect it would have prevented the Marysville shooting. (It has not been reported where and how the gun used by the Marysville shooter was obtained.) Nevertheless, it would demonstrate the ability of a public, weary of gun violence, to take action to rein it in. For that reason, the referendum is being strongly supported by the gun-control organization founded by Mayor Bloomberg, Everytown For Gun Safety. Inevitably, it is vigorously opposed by the NRA.
An email message from Everytown seeking financial support asserts that passage of the referendum would “send shockwaves through the leadership ranks of the NRA. They know that if they lose in Washington, the national tide will turn against them.” That may be a touch hyperbolic, but the essential message is accurate: that passage of the referendum will have positive ramifications far beyond the borders of Washington State. Everytown explained that funds raised would be expended to support the following activities:
$15 will provide walk lists and clipboards for organizers to knock on more than a hundred doors tomorrow
$35 will cover the cost of 50 pieces of mail about I-594
$50 will help volunteers make more than 500 phone calls to voters
$100 will help keep ads on TV and online in critical markets in Washington State
RINOcracy.com has made it a practice not to support solicitations of funds for particular candidates or causes. This cause, however, we believe merits an exception. If you agree, please consider contributing to Everytown and their referendum campaign here.
“Most people envision their own death as a peaceful and an ideally rapid transition. But with the exception of accidents or trauma or of a few illnesses that almost invariably result in death weeks or months after diagnosis, death comes at the end of a chronic illness or the frailty accompanying old age. Few people really have the opportunity to know when their death will occur.”
That unsurprising but sobering observation was included in the Preface to a report issued on September 14 by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), “Dying in America: Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences Near the End of Life.” The IOM is an affiliate of the National Academy of Science and the report was prepared by a nonpartisan committee that included physicians, nurses, insurers, lawyers, and gerontologists. The goal of the report was to offer a road map to providing care at the end of life that is “person-centered, family-oriented, and evidence-based.” To that end, the report proposed sweeping reforms to end of life care, including the nature of care provided, how the government and insurers compensate for medical service, and the focus of medical education. It is a lengthy report, some 507 pages, that reflects the complexity of the issues and the care that went in to the study of them by the IOM committee. It is a document that deserves the attention of the medical community, patients and their families, political leaders, and the public at large. Continue reading
In recent years, some conservatives have expended time, effort and money in arguing (without benefit of any credible evidence) that recognizing same sex marriage would somehow undermine traditional marriage. The end of that era may be in sight with the action of the Supreme Court in refusing to hear appeals from decisions by three federal circuits (having jurisdiction over 11 states) that struck down bans on same sex marriage. In the meantime, however, such conservatives have generally paid too little heed to the fact that traditional marriage has indeed been undermined, but by factors having nothing at all to do with same sex marriage. Continue reading