Obama’s Cotton Candy National Security Strategy


If you get RT America on your cable TV — or if you click here — you can watch me deliver some fair and balanced criticism of the Obama administration’s new National Security Strategy (or, as it is known in wonkese, NSS). Though he’s made some blunders, optical and otherwise, I’d been pleasantly surprised at the president’s ability to shepherd the nation through the tricky geostrategic obstacle course we inherited from the Bush years. But it’s time to shift into a more focused and creative gear — with our thinking uncluttered and undistorted by what I’d call the ‘strategic misidentification’ that characterizes this NSS. One might venture that beneath the finely spun sugar of this document is a core of carefully acknowledged truths about the reality of our world and our position in it. But that kind of rhetorical finesse is out of place in a statement meant to carry the clarity and heft that it must.

Living The Ricochet Life


At the end of the site’s first work week, I’d just like to observe that the two best political pieces on my Rushian stack o’ stuff this week happened both to be by Ricochet contributors. Peter Robinson’s Uncommon Knowledge interview with John Podhoretz really is superb. And so too is the article by my fellow City Journal contributing editor Claire Berlinski on the indifference to the records of Soviet evil (linked, as Claire mentions in her post, by that fine, fine paper The New York Times). How genuinely delightful to be in such company!

That said, I now plan to leave my computer behind to join my former karate instructor on the shooting range where we will continue our training for the coming zombie wars. Have a wonderful Memorial Day.

Summer Reading for the Kids


Thanks to Drew Klavan, Rob Long, Ursula Hennessey, and the many Ricochet readers who have made suggestions, the summer reading list for the three teenaged Robinson males has begun taking shape:

The mandatory pile

Someone start a petition


Gov. Jindal needs to borrow a little of Gov. Christie’s moxie. The oil is lapping at the bayou and the Corps of Engineers — one more example of bureaucratic delay and non-responsiveness in the Gulf — is dragging it’s feet on the necessary approvals to let them put in prophylactic sandbags. The Governor needs to take ownership, put on his waders, lead the sandbag brigade, challenge them to throw him in jail, and be willing to go if necessary. Now that would earn him some love!

A crisis too good to waste


Did FOX this AM on the Administration’s decision to extend the moratorium on drilling. Remember, there have been 3000 deep water wells drilled safely, but we’re not stopping there but including approved sites in Alaska and shallow water wells. Either this is a huge political overraction, or taking advantage of an opportunity by an administration staffed with people who never liked offshore drilling and thinks $5 gas is a good thing. Can we say lost jobs? Higher costs? If we’re going to shut down things which are potentially harmful, any votes for including Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, and the White House on that list?

This Sestak-Clinton-Emanuel-Obama Thing


Let’s just get the nonsense out of the way first. I, Ursula Q. “Public,” am not at all “assured” by you, Mr. President, that “nothing improper took place.” Nonsense. However, to my Ricochet political experts, please help me fill in some blanks with this New York Times story about Bill Clinton passing on Rahm Emanuel’s “message” to Joe Sestak.

1) Why would Clinton do this? What does he get out of it?

Transparency And The Despotism Of Data


The brilliant PEG points my eye toward this observation on the limits of transparency in an era of big government:

People who are hip to the we-gov (as opposed to e-gov) concept are beginning to see that in order to bring netizens in as partners in governance, they need to be data literate, and need to be empowered with an understanding of what data actually means. Otherwise data — data that is useless to anyone except an intellectual elite — is largely just another tool for public relations, or a way to lower costs.

Are Open Primaries a Step in the Right Direction?


Making sense of the California ballot is like reading Chinese.  Literally, it actually is — although the state graciously provides English and Spanish translations.

One proposition that I find especially baffling is Proposition 14, which would introduce the open primary process for congressional, statewide, and legislative races.  In an open primary, all voters can choose any candidate regardless of political party preference.  The two candidates receiving the greatest number of votes appear on the general election ballot.

Obama’s Press Conf


I don’t know about you, but when I heard Obama mention the dead turtles, I sat in my car and wept for a full hour. Then I collected myself, went into my office and started playing Frogger.

Frogger – how old school is THAT?



My four year-old has Down syndrome. Yesterday, I sent her off to school for the first time in our new suburban town. We chose this particular suburb because of its reputation for a committed and loving approach to educating and including children with special needs. In New York City, where we lived for eight years, the best strategy for families with limited financial resources looking to get their special-needs kids into decent education environments was to sue the city. Every year. Until they turn twenty-one. Usually these suits are successful, but we have no stomach for this kind of thing, and we don’t have the finances to keep a lawyer on retainer for seventeen years, so we moved. Even though we’re now in a better neighborhood, I can’t help but worry a little bit extra about my sweet Miss M, since the country seems to be falling apart on so many fronts. Five years ago, the medical team who told us our unborn baby would have Down syndrome advised us to “terminate.” Hearing a diagnosis of Down syndrome is a horrible, terrible shock. All your hopes for your unborn baby, for your family, for your own journey into old age, change in an instant. To have people not-so-subtly reminding you that your child will also be a burden on society is a crushing blow. Yet this is the message that all too frequently gets sent to people in this very unfortunate, and vulnerable, position. We know Miss M won’t be going to Harvard, just as we knew we had to get out of the city in order to find a more hospitable place to raise our family, a place where she has the freedom to pursue her interests and talents. Maybe she’ll end up living on her own, holding down a job, and, at least partially, supporting herself. Come to think of it, that’s what I’m hoping for all my kids. But under a government that seems intent on making ALL of us wards of the state, how long before some of us are deemed too much of a burden? After all, we’re living in a country where the president’s right-hand man feels free to drop the R-bomb in the White House and Mr. Obama himself jokes on late-night TV that his atrocious bowling skills might qualify him for the Special Olympics (remember? he got a few laughs). I wonder what the future holds. Not just for my little Miss M, but for all of us.

Europe at Peace? Thanks to Uncle Sam


Below somewhere, Conor Friedersdorf makes this observation (I know I’m supposed to be able to link to his original post, but I haven’t yet figured out how):

And isn’t it nice, incidentally, that none of us fear the French, German or Italian overreaction that the former German foreign minister mentioned? Given even recent European history, that is an achievement to be celebrated.

Calling Andrew Klavan


At the beginning of each summer vacation, Drew, I like to buy a stack of books, set the books on top of the dining room table, and then command my children to start reading. (“Command?” That’s the way I’d like it to happen. The truer words would be “cajole” and “beg.”) May I ask your advice? My oldest, home from her first year in college, will be reading for courses she’ll be taking next fall, while my youngest, only eight, will devote her time to children’s books. That leaves the three teenaged boys in the middle.

All three of the boys have already read–devoured, actually–your first book for young adults, The Last Thing I Remember, making it more or less mandatory for me to begin my summer book purchases with your second book in the series, The Long Way Home. But where do I go from there? Ideally, I figure, I’d give the boys half a dozen or ten books, including, perhaps, a work or two of American history, a work or two of good sports writing, and maybe a brief volume of good science writing. What would you recommend?

Kagan, Presidential Power, the New York Times


I wanted to share my piece today in the New York Times, which argues that Elena Kagan is not the great friend of presidential power that her supporters claim. Her academic work praises Bill Clinton for taking the authority to issue regulations from the agencies (which are given that power by Congress) to enact what she calls progressive solutions to national problems. But she says it is not because of any power that the Constitution grants the President. Because of that, I argue that she would not recognize any powers of the President, under the Constitution, to wage the war beyond what Congress allows him — the common view in the academy, I must admit.

I must admit surprise that a) the New York Times would let me appear on its pages, except as a target (let me make clear, that being a moving target for the New York Times can be great fun) ; and b) that it would allow a criticism of her for not supporting presidential power. Thoughts?

POTUS in Pacific Heights


President Obama made two stops in my town tonight to fundraise for Barbara Boxer’s reelection campaign. Here’s an excerpt of the President’s remarks, as shown on San Francisco’s local KTVU Ten O’Clock News:

Here you got folks driving a car in a ditch, and then we’re out there in the mud pulling the car out of the ditch.  And they’re sittin’ there, comfortable, drinkin’ on a slurpee or somethin’, sayin’, “Uh…you’re not pulling the car out of the ditch fast enough!”  Then we finally get the car out of the ditch, and they want the keys back! I say, “You can’t have the keys! You don’t know how to drive!”

More re: Mark Steyn, Call Your Office


What Mark proclaimed to the world in his 2006 book, America Alone–namely that Europe is suffering demographic collapse and civilizational exhaustion–the New York Times, I noted the other day, has finally gotten around to confirming. To which James Poulos in effect replied, aw, cheer up:

[S]urely some among Europe’s rising generations will revolt against the notion that exhaustion and failure are their only birthright….We’d better prepare ourselves now, I wager, for a few inspiring surprises in Europe.

Sebastian Junger, Serious Man


Just finished taping an episode of Uncommon Knowledge with Sebastian Junger on his new book, War. Based on five extended trips to the American outposts in the Korengal Valley, the location that saw more combat than any other in the Afghan theater, War is beautifully written and full of acute, vivid portraiture–incomparably the best extended reporting on actual combat in Afghanistan that I’ve encountered.

Before we sat down, though, I’d developed the suspicion that Junger might simply want to discuss the experience of war, limiting himself to description and narrative while avoiding the larger questions. In the book itself, after all, he takes pains to demonstrate how irrelevant all the big think seems to the young men doing the fighting.

Behind enemy lines


Greetings from Park Slope, Brooklyn:

The good news is that there’s a thriving two-party system in Park Slope. The bad news is that it’s Democrats vs. Greens (seriously, the Greens outpoll the GOP in local elections). But it’s a beautiful neighborhood, so I put up with the ACLU petition drives, the militant locavores, and the eye-rolls I get when I say “why yes, I would like a plastic bag.”

In Defense Of Los Angeles


An easy city to hate, perhaps. But there’s something about L.A. that keeps me coming back. And back. At The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf rises to the defense against Bernard Henri Levy’s very old world attack on the City of Angels. A representative gripe:

[…] what must be true for a city to be legible?

Norks making trouble


Interesting, and troubling, that something seems to be up in North Korea. First they torpedo a patrol boat — now confirmed by South Korean MOD — now talk of Nork military alerts. Seoul remains under the gun of a lot of NKorean artillery. One itchy trigger… This could be POTUS’ next foreign policy headache. As usual the PRC is being less than helpful. After all, a crisis on the Korean pennisula might interfere with iPod production…

Taking The War Out Of The Drug War


Remember this?

Things being as they are, and people as they are, there is no way to prevent somebody, somewhere, from concluding that “NATIONAL REVIEW favors drugs.” We don’t; we deplore their use; we urge the stiffest feasible sentences against anyone convicted of selling a drug to a minor. But that said, it is our judgment that the war on drugs has failed, that it is diverting intelligent energy away from how to deal with the problem of addiction, that it is wasting our resources, and that it is encouraging civil, judicial, and penal procedures associated with police states. We all agree on movement toward legalization, even though we may differ on just how far.