THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 647 November 1 - 7, 2010
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November 1, 2010
The Wall Street Journal has an interesting dilemma. It is owned by News Corp, and while its primary editorial loyalty is to Wall Street, there has seeped into it a measure of Fox News as well. Today's Journal has "Wall Street Still Doesn't Love the GOP," one of those mixed emotion pieces. (link) I'm glad to see this happen.
Which is fine by me. I have always said that one of the first moves in a genuine return to something like the Old Republic will be to restore some of our historic measures -- including some that came in with the New Deal -- to end the economic elitism that Wall Street has drifted into. In particular we need some trust busting. The answer to "Too Big to Fail" is not bailouts but breakups. If the US has to bail out a bank because it is too big to fail, this is a signal to take that bank apart. Instead of the Big Five, there ought to be a "Not so big Fifty" in banking. The notion that some institutions can take big risks, with the bank retaining the gains and the public shouldering the losses is a capitalist's dream but it's a public nightmare.
Adam Smith noted that capitalism has two trends: toward freedom from social restrictions, and toward monopoly. Marx noted the same things. Left to itself, unregulated capitalism will end with slavery (people putting themselves up as bond for debts) and human flesh for sale as meat in butcher shops. Left to its own devices, capitalism will also trend to monopoly: buying competitors to reduce competition, resulting in "growth" rather than production efficiency and consumer service, and in particular, use of government regulation to make it far more difficult for competitors to enter the market. Most of the regulations will look as if their goal is to protect the public, but in fact they will mostly have the purpose of making it very hard to get into a particular market. They do tht very well.
In other words, the public interest requires regulation; but the reins ought to be light, and general. The more regulation imposed the less competitive the market will be, and the more concentrated it will become. Economic freedom brings about efficiency. Energy plus freedom brings economic boom. We need the ferment of new startups, new businesses big and small, and heavy regulation stifles that; as we have seen. At the moment the proper vector is toward the libertarian direction. We have aye enough regulation, and it didn't start with Democrats. One of the worst federal regulations is Americans with Disabilities Act which Bush remains proud of, although it resulted in a federal protection of alcoholics and addicts at the expense of their employers. Compassion for the disabled can safely be left to the States; as can many of the Federal business regulations.
The public interest requires protection from monopolies, and from economic concentrations and cartelization. That's the kind of regulation we ought to be looking into at the moment. Start with the Big Five banks.
And be sure to vote tomorrow and find someone else who votes your way and get that person to the polls as well. One more vote per precinct will make a big difference in the message being sent to Washington.
And now it's time for my walk. The October Mailbag is up over at Chaos Manor Reviews.
Google -- Liberal Hecklers Won't Let Obama Speak -- and you will get a lot of hits, all with pointers to a Fox video of the incident, but I haven't found a reliable report of what went on, and from the video it's not easy -- at least for me -- to figure out who was chanting what, and why. I have some reports that it was an organized group from Move-On, and they have been dogging the President's footsteps. That seems reasonable, but so far I haven't seen an account from anyone I trust. I am a bit astonished that there's no news reporting on this. The President of the United States shouted down at his own rally in Bridgeport, Conn., a liberal stronghold. If the President has to campaign in Bridgeport Connecticut this close to a major election, the Democratic strategists are desperate. Of course that was pretty obvious when they decided that Democrats in California needed bucking up.
Having been treated to the Liberal Chant as a substitute for rational debate, I can sympathize with President Obama. In my case it happened fairly often during the Carter years of national malaise, when I would give University and College lectures on "Models of Doom" and the Club of Rome predictions of coming doom and disaster, with a predicted massive famine in the 1980's, and general projections of the destruction of the planet before the Year 2000. I would be invited to speak by a campus organization for a reasonable fee and expenses (I had to charge fees or I'd have done nothing else, and I had to make a living); I'd get to the campus, the hall would be full, and a strategically placed group, generally led by junior faculty and graduate students would start a chant. "Small is beautiful" would be one of them. Variations on themes of stooge of the oil companies, or stooge of the nuclear industry were also common. Some faculty groups might try to quiet the hall, while other faculty members cheered on the protestors. Generally the students would finally shush the goons because after all they had paid for me to come -- I'd remind them of that -- and many were curious as to what I'd say. After all, few young people really want to be told that their future is busted and there is no hope.
When question time came there would be genuine questions, and a few attempts at reasoned argument, but mostly the clacque would attempt to get the microphone and make speeches. They couldn't draw a crowd, but I had, and they demanded the right to address it. This was apparently approved by many in the faculty as a substitute for rational discussion, and often it happened when what was supposed to happen was a formal debate, as at USC when I was supposed to debate actor Robert Vaughn; Mr. Vaughn had been awarded a Master's degree in Communications, and he had agreed to debate me; but when the time came, I was told that "Mr. Vaughn feels so strongly about this issue that he will not be on stage with you, and will address the group after you have left."
So I have a bit of sympathy with Mr. Obama. He, at least, doesn't need to be afraid of being assaulted. The day I was to debate Tom Hayden (accompanied by his then wife Jane Fonda) I wasn't so sure. This was also at USC. I will say that both Hayden and Fonda were polite and well mannered, and Hayden did demand that the clacque be still and allow the debate to procede. I thought that a productive day, unlike my non-encounter with the Man from UNCLE.
Bad advice. If you don't like the government you have, vote against the party in power. Turn the rascals out. For those who know, the party in power is the Democratic Party. If you don't like the way things are, go to the polls, and vote against the party in power. If you do like the way things are you might want to go vote for the party in power, although traditionally those who usually don't vote don't do that. We can argue that it's the job of those who make the country run to persuade you that you ought to support them, and if they can't do that they don't deserve a vote of confidence; in other words, if you're happy with things but it's all vague, then you can make a case for not voting.
But if you don't like what you have, you certainly should go let people know! And the only way to do that is to vote against the party in power. Go do that, even if you don't care much for the people running against the Democrats. Go do that even if you live in a district with incumbent Republicans. Go vote against the party in power if you don't like the way things are.
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|This week:||Tuesday, November
The Tuesday Next Following the First Monday in November
Too early to infer anything from the turnouts, and of course the absentee ballots will change a lot. Look for demands for recounts in any election that comes anywhere near to being close.
Obama apparently has conceded: his India trip will have forty (40) aircraft and an entourage of hundreds and perhaps more. One wonders who has been selected to deliver the panegyric; surely there will be one. Is India impressed by Imperial glory? This is entirely unprecedented, so far as I know; I certainly recall nothing like it in my lifetime and it wasn't possible prior to the airplane. Roosevelt took a cruiser to one of his wartime conference, which would technically involve more people since cruisers of that time had large crews and of course there would be escort ships. But that was a President in wartime at a time when face to face conferences were important.
I don't think of any other Presidential excursions including Nixon to China that were anywhere near as elaborate as this coming Presidential trip to India.
Incidentally, Robert Heinlein's friend and classmate R. N. Clark was the signals lieutenant on that cruiser. Clark was part of my team at North American in the 1960's and told several stories about the President, who was quite ill. Roosevelt signed an executive order exempting the ship's wardroom from the US Navy prohibition on alcohol including wine at dinner for the duration of the cruise.
And it's now time for me to go vote. I note that Los Angeles no longer has local precinct polling places. I have to go several miles to the top of Mulholland to vote, in a place that few can walk to. I find that interesting.
Bill Carroll of KFI Fox News is a common scold and gossipmonger masquerading as a social philosopher. There are a lot of them out there, but he's one of the strangest. I suspect he actually believes his own excuses for being a gossipmonger. They certainly don't slow him down from repeating any gossip he can find about people he doesn't know, particularly if they are female conservatives.
The Democrats hope that the election will turn on common gossip not discussion of ideas. There is a barrage of this: all personal attacks on opponents by people who can't defend their programs.
There will always be a Bill Carroll out there pretending to be neutral who takes great joy in repeating gossip from a high moral place.
2100: The Republicans have the House but not the Senate. Some of the patterns are interesting, but they may not be real. We'll have to look closer. It looks like interesting times.
It looks as if Art Robinson has lost in Oregon, but Toomey took the Pennsylvania Senate seat. It would have taken a larger Republican tsunami to carry southwest Oregon, I suppose, but it was worth a shot.
Now the Republicans need a strategy. My concern is that they come up with a sane science strategy that will help put American back on top in high technology. That means judicious funding of key x-projects.
And I have just heard that the Fiorina/Boxer race which Fox declared for Boxer is now "Too close to call." That's an interesting development. Given the early voting and the California precinct counting patterns, that's very interesting.
November 3, 2010
The interesting lesson is that the "moderate" Republicans in California were repudiated. In Delaware and Nevada the country club party wing of the Republican party didn't support the conservative women, while the Democrats ran vicious personal attack campaigns. They came close in races that the Democrats considered vital. In California two liberal Republican women didn't stir up much enthusiasm, while the tea party movement was discouraged and even rejected. In Alaska it's still undecided, and won't be for a while: the Country Club Republican leadership didn't support the tea party candidate and allowed one of their ruling class to retain committee assignments. All told, it was an extraordinary election: sixty sets, and the key conservatives won in most cases; and there were informative lessons in the cases where they lost.
One lesson is that the country is appalled at what has happened in the past four years, but not ready to turn to the Republicans in a blind trust. Another is that the mechanics of party structure remain important.
Carly Fiorina ran as "a Republican willing to compromise". She took conservative stands, but she didn't try to rally the conservatives and the tea party. California has a highly professional Democratic machine with a unionized ground game; the only way to defeat it is to turn out the Republican and Independent vote, and that didn't happen. There were local movements against Sanchez in Bob Dornan's old seat, but they weren't good enough. California is a special case, with a long established and well oiled political machine; it won't be turned around easily. The same is true of New York.
Obama is now calling for openness and compromise. We must find common ground. Hardly astonishing: now he is eager to sit down with both parties. A typical and predictable speech. He has learned nothing and forgotten nothing.
The question is, have the Republicans learned anything?
The election has given the Republic another chance, but only a chance. It's time to build on that. We can begin by thinking hard about what "building consensus" means. We know what it means to the President. We know where Carly Fiorina got by making her willingness to compromise a key part of her campaign. Does the Republican leadership?
First, send an Obama-care repeal bill to the Senate. See if any Democrats will vote for it. If not, get them on record. If they will, then Obama must veto it; try to pass it over his veto. Get those who are defending it on record.
Second, refuse any appropriation for enforcing it. Append "provided that no revenues appropriated under this Act shall be used in any way for enforcement of the Health Care Act" to every appropriation for anything else; then just don't initiate or pass any appropriation for its enforcement. Again make the Democrats step up and defend their agenda.
The nation repudiated the Obama agenda last night. The Republicans need to make certain that the next election is also a referendum on that agenda.
The Tea Party needs to think hard about its candidates, understanding that every one of them is going to be subjected to vicious personal attacks designed to make them appear to be flakes or crooks or utter incompetents. The attacks will be unrelenting, and may not be based on anything factual. Candidates need to learn how to deal with la calumna as a campaign strategy. (See the Barber of Seville) and only choose candidates who can shrug that off and stay to message. That's not going to be easy.
The Tea Party can be proud. They hold the balance of power in the United States. It is no mean accomplishment.
And the Republican leadership needs to understand: the Tea Party played by the rules. They ran in primaries, and where they didn't win they still turned out to vote Republican. It is now the turn of the Country Club Republicans to learn how to play to win. The Tea Party holds the balance of power here -- and West Virginia shows there are alternatives to the Republican Party if the Country Club hasn't learned that. It's not an attractive alternative. It is better if the Republicans become a genuine center-right party.
All told it was a great night for the Republic. Not as great as I had hoped it would be, but it will have to do. It's a great start.
November 4, 2010
A matter that was delayed by the election news, but a matter of real importance.
A long time reader asked for comments on this:
For a long time I have been critical of Israel's handling of the Palestine situation, particularly of their treatment of Christian Palestinians, and at one time my "advice" such as it was, was for Israel to decide what territories it wanted, build a wall around that, and leave the rest to the people who lived there: let them establish a state if that was their will, but hold that state accountable to the usual obligations of a state, and face the consequences of acts of war against its neighbors. The Israelis tried that in Gaza. The result was thousands of rockets aimed in the general direction of inhabited areas of Israel. Imagine the consequences if Cuba began firing rockets at Florida, of if San Diego were daily subjected to unguided rockets and mortar fire from Tijuana. Now what?
I look at Middle East policy from an American viewpoint. One unchangeable factor in American policy decisions is the emotional attachment of a large segment of the American population to Israel. That is thoroughly understandable, and a view shared by many Christians in America. The United States and Israel are two countries, and while they have a number of common interests, their national interests are not identical. This would not matter if Israel were just another nation, or were Israel located in a less strategic area, but then if wishes were jobs there would be little unemployment. The world is as it is.
As I often do I have asked for Joel Rosenberg's comments on the above:
I am not sure I have much to add to that. I do believe that Republicans have a more emotional attachment to Israel than the American Left including the President. It was not always so.
I do note that a great deal of innovation now comes from American corporation laboratories and think tanks in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Given the American school system this is likely to gain importance.
The Country Club Republicans are blaming the Tea Party for not taking the Senate and defeating Harry Reid. I find that astonishing although I suppose I ought not be surprised. There is no evidence I know of that the results in Delaware, a deeply blue state where the race was for Joe Biden's seat, would have been different had there been an establishment Republican. It would still have been a key race subject to a great deal of Democratic attention and funding. It would have taken resources away from the rest of the country as the establishment felt obligated to pour in more in support of one of their own. As it happened, the result was interesting: the Tea Party supported O'Donnell and allowed her to run so effective a campaign that for a while there looked to be a real chance that the Democrats would lose that seat. The Democrats had to use their big guns in Delaware "just in case."
It was similar in Nevada, where it was predictable that Nevada would draw national resources from both the Unions and the Democratic establishment. It was thrilling to think that the Senate President Pro Tem might actually be defeated. It was also inevitable that this would be an expensive election decided in large part by the ground game.
I would be a lot happier had these two senate races gone the other way. It would make reform -- actually, transformation -- of the Republican leadership a great deal more certain and a lot easier to accomplish. That didn't happen.
What did happen was a repudiation of the radical transformation of the United States into European style socialism, sixty House seats, and a transformation of the legislative majorities in many states. There are two factors at work here: the rejection of the Democrat agenda, and the vital energy of the Tea Party which turned Delaware and Nevada into actual contests, and even, for a few glorious moments, gave California Republicans some hope.
Now it is time to make sure the Republican leadership understands that this landslide wasn't a vote of confidence in them: It was a last chance opportunity.
The Fed is printing more money. I still have, somewhere, a Weimar Republic stamp, originally 3 pfennig (first class letter) overprinted several times with a final value of 3 million marks. It was still a first class letter stamp. Three million marks. One wonders when our stamps will have the same value -- and will "forever" stamps still work when the overprinting begins here? I recall once having a stamp overprinted to mird millionen (presumably an abbreviation for milliard) but that seems to have vanished with my teen-age (not very valuable) stamp collection which I gave up sometime in high school. I still wonder if today's "forever" stamps will be honored when, after the government keeps printing money to finance pension plans, we find that running the printing presses has inevitable consequences.
Regarding the Delaware election: Delaware has one member of the House, and thus both the Senate and the House are statewide races. In both the Senate and the House elections, the Democrat candidate got 57% of the vote. In 2006 the Democratic candidate got 70% of the vote. In 2002 Biden got 58%. In 2008 Joe Biden, running for Senate (as well as for VP of the US) won by 65% against -- Christine O'Donnell, who was considered a sacrificial lamb in a race that no one believed would be any kind of contest. We can all wish that the country has become so fed up that deep blue states like Delaware would go Republican or at least Tea Party, but the likelihood always was that Delaware would go Democrat in 2010 as it did in 2002, 2006, and 2008.
November 5, 2010
Guy Fawkes Day
I got the number from a radio news report. I have no confirmation. Of course since there will be an aircraft carrier as part of the fleet assigned to stand off shore from Bombay, technically there will be more than 40 aircraft, but that's a quibble. Probably forty aircraft is an over-estimate, but we will never know the actual number, which will include the at least two Marine One helicopters disassembled and flown in cargo planes (at least one cargo plane). Presumably those planes will be unescorted, but we may also assume that Air Force One will have an escort. Since we don't have any fighter aircraft with that range, there will either have to be relays, or aerial refueling, to enable the escorts to fly that far. The escort operation is likely to involve a dozen aircraft. That's fifteen plus Air Force One which is two more (we've been told there will be two copies of that). We are up to seventeen. So perhaps twenty is a closer approximation than forty. Understand I am doing this in a hurry off the top of my head.
So perhaps forty aircraft is an exaggeration, but it's still an expensive visit. Just as we have:
And we still do not know who will deliver the panegyric.
I hope that the Republicans will have an Obamacare repeal bill through the House the first day of the new session, well before the State of the Union. Democrats in the Senate will either kill it or delay the vote (probably the latter) but the pressure will be on them. The debate will be healthy, and the President ought to address Obamacare in the State of the Union.
There ought also to be already drafted and ready for insertion into every money bill -- every authorization of expenditure whatsoever -- a clause that states that "no money appropriated under this Act shall be used in any way to pay for the implementation or enforcement of The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act commonly called Obamacare". Obamacare gets its own authorization bill, with full debate as to what parts should be funded, and until that is passed, Obamacare will be stalled, no bureaucracies created, no pensions accumulated, no businesses harassed, etc. The House has this power and it ought to be used; and by forcing debate on the funding of Obamacare it will be made clear just what the costs and benefits of The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act will be; a debate that we didn't have when it was up for passage.
The specifics of these actions can be worked on NOW, and ought to be in process NOW. Tell your Congressman, or newly elected Congressman elect, that you want these measures and you want them to be in preparation now. A few hundred letters and phone calls on this can be important, since it's not likely that the Republican leadership is thinking about these measures. Let them know that the voters are thinking about them.
Note that I have not said that no part of Obamacare ought to be funded. Perhaps all of it ought to be. But if so it ought to be funded under its own authorization, not as part of some other appropriation. We had to pass it before we could know what was in it, according to Speaker Pelosi. Well, it is passed. Presumably we know what is in it. Now is time to fund it. Let it be funded on its own, not as a rider or as a hidden insert into something else.
If Obamacare is a good idea, it ought to be funded; but since we don't really know what its effects are, and there was no cost/benefits analysis during its passage, is it not time that we found out before we pay for it? The Republicans can't repeal it even if they could get a repeal through the Senate, but they certainly don't have to fund its enforcement without specific debates on the subject.
I'm off for a hike. I'm collecting ideas of what the federal government ought and ought not to support in Science in the coming years. I need a list of proposed projects which fit the Adam Smith notion of projects "whose benefit to all is great but whose benefit to individual investors is small." I'm looking for game changer projects with great public benefit. Suggestions welcomed.
November , 2010
So perhaps the 40 aircraft questioned yesterday wasn't so much of an exaggeration. From the same article:
It will certainly not be very convenient for anyone living in Bombay, although perhaps, being Americans, the security forces will be generous in their tips to the indigent slum dwellers who, I am told, have settlements well within the view of the President's web center. I've never been to India, and my only visual knowledge of Mumbai is from watching the movie Slumdog Millionaire, but I gather that having the poor intermixed with the middle classes is an old and continuing custom there.
As to whether all that security is necessary, I am reminded
of Vice President Nixon's South American trip (http://www.time.com/time/
Reagan was often reduced to fuming anger by the thoroughness of the Secret Service. On one notable occasion he visited a friend in Tennessee who had a hunting lodge with a famed view of the Smokies. When the President and his host arrived they discovered that the Secret Service had nailed drapes over the window in order to thwart potential snipers' plans. Reagan tore the curtains down, but that was in a different age.
The more important question is, should it be thus? The world is a complex and dangerous place, but is it that much so? In Reagan's time there were still 26,000 nuclear warheads aimed at the United States, all kept at launch readiness, and while we could count on some of them not being in launch condition, all of my war models assumed at least 0.85 probability of launch readiness. There were strong reasons to have Presidential continuous command and control, and the assassination of the President might well be a prelude to Armageddon. I do not believe we are in quite such a hair trigger situation today. There is risk to the President, but there are downsides to the huge entourage and military security. It certainly projects an image of the United States that Reagan rejected when he planned the Reykjavik meeting with Gorbachev.
There are those who say that the United States is the most powerful nation on the Earth, and it is appropriate that the President travel in Imperial style; that glory and opulence have always been tools of international negotiation, particularly in that part of the world, and remain so now. The President arrives in style and shows imperial power. I am reminded of the incident in Crusading times when the Crusader Army leaders were treated to a lavish feed in Constantinople, at which the Emperor appeared in silks and jewels. "See the Emperor in all his glory, and taste vernal delights in mid-winter."
Unfortunately, the result of this demonstration wasn't quite what was intended, and the subsequent sack of Constantinople was a real factor in the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire. Demonstrations of opulence may generate envy rather than awe; it depends in part on what else is projected about the opulent power.
The Pentagon is protesting that 34 ships is 12% of the Navy and the numbers are absurd. And yet -- we know that two carrier battle groups, with a bit more than 20% of the active duty ships of the Navy, are in the area already. The Indian press reported 34 ships and many including me repeated that number; I have no idea how many ships are in a standard carrier group. I certainly believe that the Navy would use any resources it has to protect the President from an attack by sea, and I don't find it at all astonishing that they are quite vigilant in searching for unusual activity off Mumbai during the time when the President is to be there.
As to costs, I don't know where the number "$200 million a day" came from but I've never found that credible. It is widely reported that two entire luxury hotels in Mumbai have been rented lock stock and penthouse; I don't know how much such a hotel rents for in Bombay but I am pretty sure that the two don't add up to more than ten million a day, and I suspect they could be had for less.
On the other hand, Presidential travel, even in the United States, is a Big Deal nowadays. In Los Angeles whole neighborhoods were shut down, and by that I mean that home owners found themselves barricaded in their driveways unable to leave their houses for more than an hour. This caused considerable protest. To get a picture of the magnitude of a Presidential convoy, see http://neveryetmelted.com/2010/11/05/the-ships-were-already-nearby/. There is a video which was taken recently in Seattle on a street (NE 75th Street) I am familiar with. I once owned a house on 5th Avenue NE about a block north of NE 75th; it's a residential neighborhood which in my time was affordable by a Boeing Engineer, and it is not on the way between the airport and downtown or for that matter downtown and the University. I don't know what the President was doing in that neighborhood which is somewhat north of the city, but I suppose he was going somewhere in the rather toney Greenlake district which is just west of there (my house had a view of Greenlake from an upstairs window). From what reports I can find, the President was in Seattle to take part in campaign events. This was in October 2010. The entourage is, I would say, impressively large. I recall when President Truman gave a speech at West Point; his entourage was practically invisible. But then Truman's custom was to take a daily walk on the streets of Washington DC and through the Mall.
The Indian Press seems to have found the Presidential Entourage to Bombay worthy of comment. They may well have exaggerated its size. The question remains, is this the the world image the Republic wishes to project? The United States has not acted very competently as an empire. Perhaps we don't know how. Lately we haven't looked much like a Republic either. I doubt that the Chancellor of Germany travels with such an entourage. Indeed I doubt that any head of state in all this world travels with such an entourage.
November 7, 2010
I continue to receive "so disappointed" emails berating me for repeating gossip about the President's entourage, but in examining them I don't see much that needs correction. I never did quote the absurd $200 million a day number that first appeared in the Indian press. It is reported in many papers both Indian and US that the President's arrangements include exclusive rental of two major luxury hotels, which can't be cheap, but is unlikely to me more than a few million a day, which is not trivial chicken feed unless it is compared to the $200 million. As to the number of airplanes, it is easy to show that there are at least twenty. That's not forty, but the difference is not important. Similarly, 20% of the US Navy is deployed in the region. How much of that is being used to search and patrol the sea connection between Mumbai and Pakistan is not known to me, but I'd be astonished if the number is small. I will freely "confess" that I used widely reported numbers without looking up specifics,, but I will also protest that the numbers are unimportant: the President's entourage is unprecedented in modern times, and that I think is indisputable: certainly the Indian press believes that. That is the relevant fact, and whether the Fleet is employing 12% of the US Navy or 4% of the US Navy, it's a lot; whether the number of aircraft involved is 25 or 40; and whether the entourage is 750 people or 2000 doesn't change the fact that this is, and is widely seen to be, a Very Big Deal visit.
My question then and now is whether that is a good thing: it looks Imperial. It does not look Republican. Ben Franklin and John Adams had that argument in Paris during the Revolution, and it has continued ever since. The US did not have the rank of Admiral for a long time because it was considered too monarchist and imperial. We did not appoint Ambassadors for the same reason. After a while our diplomats tired of having precedence just after Ambassadors from trivially small states.
(Incidentally it is hard to discover just who was the first American to hold the rank of Ambassador as opposed to Minister. I presume it was Thomas Bayard, who was the first Ambassador to the Court of St. James. He was given that rank in 1893, and I assume that our first full rank Ambassador would be to Britain. We know from Henry Adam's diary that his father was Minister Adams in both Britain and Russia during and after the Civil War. After WW II all our overseas legations were upgraded to embassies on the theory of equality of nations; thus we have embassies in Tonga as well as in Great Britain, Russia, and France, all being assumed to be equal Great Powers. This has been a great boon to Foreign Service careers.)
The US has not had a policy of what I would call competent empire. We have been a rather incompetent empire. If we are to be imperial we need to rethink how we are acting. If on the other hand we intend to look like a Republic we need to think on that. That was my point in commenting 0n the entourage. For the rest I point to what I said last night.
President with enormous entourage cheers up Indians: he says that there is insufficient progress in Pakistan's dealing with terror. That was immediately seen as very encouraging to India. See also here. If you thought Kremlinology was an inexact science, you haven't looked at the Indian theory of US relationships and policies. One presumes that President Obama knows that India and Pakistan cordially detest each other, and neither has any trust whatever in anything the other says. We can hope he is very careful with his answers. What is seen as encouraging in India is seen as hostility in Pakistan. A student in a Jesuit run college during a Q&A session with President Obama asked why the US does not declare Pakistan a terrorist state. The President said he had expected that question. Apparently he was able to get past this, although accounts differ. So far the President has done well in India. How that affects our relationship with Pakistan is not clear. It's a very delicate dance he is doing, and every move will be significant.
I have no real comment on any of this. The Great Game over there continues: the major players are China, Russia, Pakistan, and India. The US has stakes in this game. We are in a better position now that the Russians are acting like allies rather than enemies (a result of the US abandoning the provocative notion of encircling Russia by inducting Georgia and Ukraine into NATO). US policy toward Pakistan has never been intelligently formed since the end of the Cold War, and the US provocation of Russia over the Balkan mess was a policy blunder with immense consequences. It will be interesting to see what comes out of this massive trip to India. It may well have required the massive entourage to get the world's attention. We can't really know until after the event.
Note that the President of Russia chose this moment to make the first visit of a Russian head of state to the Kuril Islands, causing no end of consternation in Japan (and concentrating the minds of the Japanese policy makers something wonderful). Japan and Russia are still technically in a state of war, the Japanese claim the Kuril Islands, and for that matter many Japanese consider Sakhalin, which the USSR occupied after WW II, to be Japan Irredentia. The only reason for the Russian President to visit such an obscure place is to draw attention to it -- and incidentally to remind the Japanese that it is good for Japan to have American allies and an American Naval/Marine base in Japan. The Philippines are now regretting ending their long status as the principal Far East base complex the the US Fleet.
These visits of Heads of State into India and the far eastern part of the Russian Empire focus a great deal of attention on the area, and bring in other players: Viet Nam being one of them, since Viet Nam and China are not friends, and Viet Nam has at Cam Ranh Bay a great location for a US naval base; a US-Vietnamese alliance is not out of the question.
The world changes. Nations always have interests, which often trump issues of friendship and enmity.
Terror: Georgina Bloomberg, billionaire heiress, was seriously injured in a horse show accident. All of us with children or grandchildren in the horsey set can now worry a lot. I am relieved to discover that she initially got up after the fall, but that too is worrisome.
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