A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Monday, April 23, 2012

Spring Housecleaning

 Washington Post opinion columnists are making suggestions for what we can throw out.  Thomas Ricks suggests we start by throwing out the all-volunteer military.  Yes, that's right.  The liberals want to bring back the draft!  The reason is that a president would think twice about getting us involved in wars if the military consisted of amateur draftees.  You know, like Viet-nam. 

Then Dana Milbank suggests we should get rid of the President's cabinet, except for State, Defense, Treasury, and AG.  Now, this isn't a bad idea.  There are way too many cabinet positions.  But a) he doesn't want to get rid of the massive bureaucracies they head; and b) the reason he gives is... odd. 
Cabinet officers have become figureheads by design. Because they are appointed with Senate confirmation, they can be hauled before Congress to answer questions. The president, therefore, has a powerful incentive to keep them out of the loop. White House advisers, by contrast, are often protected by executive privilege. These officials, many of them young and unknown, are the ones who hold the real power over the Cabinet members
Now that sounds to me like a good argument for getting rid of presidential advisors, authorization for which I find not in that Constitution.  Milbank apparently feels that their unaccountability is a plus!  Heaven forfend that they "hauled" before the people's representatives and made to answer questions!  Not to mention that they are young unknowns; i.e., anonymous, inexperienced, callow,.....

I miss the Sixties.  At least back then, the Left wanted openness and more accountability.  (At least those I knew.)  Now they want unaccountable, anonymous "advisors" to be in charge -- and a large draftee army. 


  1. I would cut back everything to whatever they were able to find how they spent in the latest audit.

  2. From the NY Times

    "But increasingly in recent months, the administration has been seeking ways to act without Congress. Branding its unilateral efforts “We Can’t Wait,” a slogan that aides said Mr. Obama coined at that strategy meeting, the White House has rolled out dozens of new policies — on creating jobs for veterans, preventing drug shortages, raising fuel economy standards, curbing domestic violence and more."

    Yeah, trying to get things done with the press, public and two other branches of gov't all bugging you is SUCH a bummer!

    1. These people have no sense of history. Once before the West was overtaken by an impatience with bourgeois parliamentary inefficiency, and looked instead for Leaders who could just Make Things Happen. Didn't work out real well in the end.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. That was a great article by Charlie Savage (no surprise there), and I've seen it cited even on some conservative sites. It's nice to see conservatives finally concerned about the "unitary executive."

      At the end of the article, Jack Goldsmith says something that's all too true:

      “This is what presidents do,” Mr. Goldsmith said. “It’s taken Obama two years to get there, but this has happened throughout history. You can’t be in that office with all its enormous responsibilities — when things don’t happen, you get blamed for it — and not exercise all the powers that have accrued to it over time.”

      Similarly, Jack Balkin, discussing an interview with Charlie Savage on the National Security State, noted that:

      Obama has played the same role with respect to the National Surveillance State that Eisenhower played with respect to the New Deal and the administrative state, and Nixon played with respect to the Great Society and the welfare state. Each President established a bi-partisan consensus and gave bi-partisan legitimation to certain features of national state building.

      Presidents will use the power their predecessors give them; that's the seduction of power.

    4. G.K.Chesterton put it best when he said that it was the nature of progressives to go on making mistakes, and the nature of conservatives to see to it that the mistakes are never corrected.

  3. Heinlein, if Starship Troopers can be trusted, was against the draft. I'm probably for it, actually --- it will kickstart public engagement, and is a potential cure for an apathetic, fat generation --- but for my own absurd reasons rather than theirs.

    1. Heinlein regarded the draft as involuntary servitude and once said that any nation that had to draft soldiers to defend it was already lost. (He discounted the drafts in WW1 and WW2, since those were primarily used to allocate to the different services.)

    2. Thomas Ricks rightly points out two problems:

      (1) An extremely small percentage of the population bearing the cost of endless war, which erodes civil-military relations.

      (2) American's runaway militarism.

      However, Ricks is wrong that a draft will fix all of that. Putting aside the fact that the Founding Fathers were extremely wary of -- and even hostile to -- the whole idea of a standing army, conscription won't alleviate the two problems Ricks articulates.

      The real source of those two problems lies in the explosive growth of executive power over the last couple of generations and the Congress' abdication of its authority to declare war. Another source: the expansion of a military-industrial complex, which members of Congress dutifully serve in exchange for campaign contributions, funding weapons systems that we don't need and that the military itself doesn't want.

      A better cure for the ills Ricks articulates would be for Congress to reassert its power regarding the declaration of war, and to scale back the growth of the executive. And perhaps even raising taxes -- which everyone hates -- during wartime. Having to actually pay for wars can also have the effect of slowing down the rush to war.

      Not to mention endless war is the enemy of liberty itself.

  4. I miss the Sixties. At least back then, the Left wanted openness and more accountability. (At least those I knew.) Now they want unaccountable, anonymous "advisors" to be in charge -- and a large draftee army.

    In defense of "the Left," if you want to know what liberals think, might I suggest you look beyond the opinion pages of the Washington Post, which is regularly slammed by liberals.

    When it comes to the Beltway press, I've found that it's less about "Left vs. Right", and more about revering and worshiping power -- which explains why they love unaccountable officials. Despite what to say above, inside the Beltway, the so-called Left and Right shun openness and transparency.

    This kind of power-worship is completely bipartisan in the Beltway press. It's not just "the Left."

  5. Wait a minute...I thought that the Draft was evil. Allowed the government to send the sons of America into the killing fields by the tens of thousands. And all right-thinking people opposed to such things also opposed the Draft.

    Except now the people opposed to foreign military adventures think that the Draft might make such things less popular. So they are in favor of the Draft.

    (That transition didn't happen as fast as the death of the Dissent is patriotic meme. But they both have the same flavor, to my ear.)

  6. From the paper that broke Watergate...secrecy in government is now a good thing...amazing.


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