C N S News Scroll

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Best of Smerc

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right – Michael Smerconish – (Temple University Press)

Before making the shift to morning drive, when I was doing an afternoon talk show, I would spend some time dialing in Michael Smerconish’s show based out of Philadelphia; WPHT had a big enough stick (radio lingo for powerful enough signal) to reach Erie. I always liked his show because he proved that you could talk politics, have an opinion, but still talk about a whole world of other things. Smerconish also proved that with his newspaper columns where he covered a full range of things in and out of politics.

I also admired Smerconish for his steadfast take on the case of Mumia Abu Jamal, the convicted murderer of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Falkner. Smerconish is out with a new book, Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right, which collects a diverse and interesting group of 100 of his columns. To pare down from a collection of more than 1000 columns over time had to be a difficult and daunting task, especially when most writers think of their words on paper as children.

Since I tend to like my talk show hosts/writers steeped in conservatism and hard to the core, I was puzzled by Smerconish’s flip flop to the mushy middle of things a few years back, because it seemed so self-serving, notably his endorsement of Barack Obama. I guess I can chalk it up to the knowledge that before law school and radio, Smerconish had his fingers in politics and actually ran the Philly portion of Arlen Specter’s 1987 re-election campaign, after all Specter was the ultimate self-server.

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right is full of easily digestible, roughly 800 words each, columns that cover everything from politics, to family life and Smerconish’s oddly outsized obsession with the progressive rock band Yes. I give Smerconish big points for taking the author proceeds from this collection and donating them to the Children’s Crisis Treatment Center, which serves children who are victims of trauma. This is not the first time Smerconish has donated the profits from his book sales to having donated his take from Murdered by Mumia to a charitable trust in Falkner’s name.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Dog Whistle or Dose of Reality

Messing With The Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians and Fake News - Clint Watts (Harper)

Author Clint Watts serves up a dynamic book that is part autobiography, part call to arms, the makings of a high tech thriller and a bit of a political screed, in the form of Messing With The Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians and Fake News. This is all based on his real world interactions with dirtbag terrorists, hackers and his meandering career path that has included stints in the U.S. Army, the FBI as an agent (twice) and as a cyber security guru/expert/blogger.

When he writes about playing high tech cyber-tag with terrorists as he tracks them around the wild frontier of the world wide web he offers up close insight into how the evil doers have transformed their game; transitioning their recruitment efforts from dodgy audio and video pronouncements to a steady diet of social media outposts and content. He paints a truly chilling portrait of this almost wholly un-policed realm.

While he clearly has first hand knowledge of the nefarious dealings that are ongoing in this online world and he paints a detailed if albeit scarry portrait of the new global jihad, it is when he shifts to politics that the book devolves into a bitter liberal screed, bashing Fox News, conservative media and the President.

He questions the level of expertise to be found in the current administration, which leads me to wonder what exactly so-called “expertise” of prior Washington leaders has gotten us? Never-ending wars on poverty and drugs that clearly aren’t working. Add to that terrible and expensive government healthcare (Medicare/Medicaid/VA), not to mention failing schools and infrastructure. So much for expertise.

Watts should stick to what he knows best; sound the warning bell on the negative impact of social media and offer up some insight into how to address the problem.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Peace Through Strength

War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence – Ronan Farrow (W. W. Norton)

President Ronald Reagan famously summed up his foreign policy doctrine by saying that America’s mission was to “nourish and defend freedom and democracy.” He, likely many strong leaders before him, dating back to Roman Emperor, Hadrian in the first century AD had a stated policy of “peace through strength.”  This policy of military might drove Reagan’s naysayers in the Democrat party and the media to the brink of their sanity as they often labeled him a cowboy or much worse. Yet the results speak for themselves with the fall of communism in the Soviet Union and around the globe attests.

Writing for the CATO Institute, Doug Bandow summed it up with the simple line “peace was the end and strength was the means.” Since Reagan, U.S. foreign policy has been a mishmash of failed policies that focused on trying to chit chat, or buy our way to influence around the globe with failings like the Clinton era of having former President Jimmy Carter negotiating a nuclear deal with North Korea, to Clinton’s failure to deal with international terrorists like Osama bin Laden; who famously dubbed the U.S. as a “paper tiger.” George W. Bush couldn't quite wrap his arms around whether or not he wanted to be a nation builder, and don’t even get me started on Barack Obama’s international apology tour and utter failure to deal with American’s held hostage around the globe, best summed up by his trading of five terrorists for an Army deserter. Then there is the debacle of the Iran Nuclear deal.

Apparently in the midst of him being thrust into the global spotlight for his investigative journalism on the sexual harassment/assault/#me too front, journalist Ronan Farrow found time to pull together his thoughts on the demise of American foreign policy in the Trump era in the form of War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence. Farrow tapped into his time working in various advisory roles in the Obama State Department and offers some interesting insight into the inner workings of the negotiations and process of working with globetrotting ambassador Richard Holbrooke.

I can’t help but think there is an almost childlike quality to liberal’s belief that you can somehow talk and buy your way to peace. While it may be a hard lesson for some, peace is not negotiated, it is won. So-called peace negotiations all too often boil down to battling over the size of the conference table for the peace negotiations (see Viet Nam War.)

For Farrow, much like Mark Twain’s death, the reports of the death of American foreign policy and influence are greatly exaggerated. While Farrow’s colleagues in the media will breathlessly speak of trade wars with China, in their eyes wrongheaded Presidential Tweets about “little rocket man” in North Korea and the utter folly of scrapping the awful Iran Nuclear deal and moving on without our European allies, the ends will be the return of a stronger United States on the international stage and the means will be through a position of strength, not kowtowing to thugs and dictators.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Welcome to the Swamp

Secret Empires: How Our Politicians Hide Corruption and Enrich Their Families and Friends – Peter Schweizer – (Harper)

Have you ever wondered how a hick from Searchlight, Nevada can go from the comfortable middle class to owning a multi-million dollar condo at the Washington, DC Ritz Carlton? (Harry Reid) Or how a guy from Delaware who never had a private sector job and was always in elective office could own a multi-million dollar house? (Joe Biden) Or how any number of the offspring from elected officials, who by and large are screwups, seem to magically land high paying, high profile jobs or become partners in big firms?

Welcome to the Swamp! Peter Schweizer, the president of the Government Accountability Institute, investigative journalist and bestselling author once again details the inner workings of just how corrupt Washington, DC politicians are in his new book, Secret Empires: How Our Politicians Hide Corruption and Enrich Their Families and Friends. Schweizer seems to possess the magical ability to track down the finite details of the sketchy dealings and connect the dots that flesh out the stories corruption, self-enrichment and seemingly free pass these folks get when it comes to acts that would find ordinary folks starring down law enforcement types from any number of Federal agencies.

Schweizer does an incredible job of stringing these stories together and he sets in sites on folks from both sides of the aisle, because neither Democrats nor Republicans have cornered the market on being virtuous. Unfortunately for taxpayers, this kind of nefarious activity is nothing new. Tales of scummy politicians steering business to family members, lobbying and legal firm that employ family members or guiding legislation to the benefit of family member’s business concerns is a time honored tradition. It does take much to find stories of dirtbags like the late Congressman John Murtha steering favorable defense contracts to the clients of his brother’s lobbying firm or Arlen Specter’s son benefitting from legal work at his Philadelphia firm.

Rather than just lamenting these shady deals, Schweizer suggests steps that can be taken to address, correct and eliminate this stuff outright. Here’s the problem; the actions to address the problem would take legislative action, and what’s the likelihood that the swamp would punch their own meal ticket?

Sunday, February 18, 2018

An Establishment Tantrum

Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic – David Frum – (Harper)

The clues that lead to insight into author David Frum’s thinking about the Presidency of Donald J. Trump aren’t a few stray breadcrumbs spread occasionally along the path through the book; instead Frum lays out a full blown bakeries worth of crumbs that make it clear exactly where he bitterly stands as an establishment, Never Trumper.

This is about what you’d expect from a so-called “conservative” who naturally earns praise from liberals, not because they actually respect his position, but more so because he like they, is against pretty much everything the President has done or will potentially do while in office.

Frum tries, but fails to make the case that somehow Trump is a danger to the Republic. Here’s the problem with Frum’s establishment tantrum and liberals thoughts on Trump Presidency; Donald Trump had less to do with his election victory than Frum’s much vaunted, establishment approach to governing. In a very real sense it was Frum and his ilk that created the Donald Trump victory.

So while he jumps up and down waving his arms about the potential damage to the “system” being done by Trump, it is that “system” that pushed Americans to vote for Trump. Frum and friends seem to forget that the American people, the voters, know clearly the differences between right and wrong and when they saw Hillary Clinton and her band of cronies continue to screw the American people for their own self-enrichment, they got fed up with being dealt the short end of the stick, and Trump became their solution to the problem.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Triggered States of Liberalism

How Democracies Die – Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt (Crown Books)

I weep for the future of the United States…not because of the ridiculous, faulty case the authors of How Democracies Die, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt try desperately to concoct, but more so because the pair are professors of government at Harvard University and charged with mold the minds of the snowflake generation.

Levitsky and Ziblatt seem to be clueless to the fact that they try to make the case in their introduction by citing examples of how global democratic nation states have been brought to their knees by liberal, socialist policies and try to equate that to the policies of Donald Trump.

Levitsky and Ziblatt fail miserably due to the simple fact that their argument on its face is based on a faulty premise. Liberals love to argue that we live in a democracy, but anyone with even a passing knowledge of the U.S. Constitution should know that we live in a Constitutional Republic. Pure democracies are mob rule. If we were a democracy, then Hillary Clinton would be President and California would have elected her, hence the need for the electoral college to level the playing field for all states.

Levitsky and Ziblatt are clearly suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome, choosing to wallow in self-pity not pity for the nation, rather than enjoying the clear cut successes of Trump’s first year and more to come.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Strategic Collection

The Art of War: The Quintessential Collection of Military Strategy (Knickerbocker Classics) Sun Tzu, Nicolo Machiavelli, with An Introduction by Erik O. Ronningen - (Racepoint Publishing)

Over the course of time there have been shelves full of books written about strategic thinking and how to apply strategy to business. While many of these books have been touted as classics and have offered up nuggets of useful information most have not held up in the same fashion as the classic military strategy books that date back hundreds, if not thousands of years.

These military treatises have been interpreted and re-interpreted many times and have had variations that point to a way to utilize them in the world of business. Four of these truly classical takes on strategy are collected in a beautiful and extremely useful package dubbed, The Art of War: The Quintessential Collection of Military Strategy.

Housed in a sturdy slip cover, this well designed collection includes; Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Nicolo Machiavelli’s, The Prince, General Carl von Clausewitz’s, On War, and Fredrick the Great’s, Instructions to His Generals. Military veteran Erik O. Ronningen provides an introduction to the collection that not only informs, but adds historical context for each of the individual books.

While many renditions and interpretations of Sun Tzu have come before; I have muddle through any number of variations, the version included in this set tracks very well and is among the most relatible versions I have encountered. The von Clausewitz is a book that I have recommended many times after an instructor at West Point passed along his recommendation to me. There is something quintessential about each of these pieces that translates to even modern situations.

Perfect for fans of military history or business strategy, it has allowed me to jettison the individual, often dog eared copies of the four books. There is something substantial about the heft of this book/case that tells me it will stand the test of time, much like the texts it contains. While I have gifted my son with some of these books individually, I plan to purchase an additional copy to pass along to him this holiday season.