License to Shoot

I remember a bumper sticker from my College Republican Days: “Gun control is being able to hit your target.” Amusing to some, infuriating to others, especially in light or recent events.

Let us follow that little aphorism down to its roots. The US military does not put a rifle into the hands of a private/airman/seaman until they’ve been trained in its safe handling, care, safe storage, maintenance, and competent use. Neither does any self-respecting police force in the land.

Should standards for the common citizen be any lower than those established for public servants and sworn officers of the law?

The great missi…

The great missing debate in contemporary politics is about the role and reach of markets. Do we want a market economy, or a market society? What role should markets play in public life and personal relations? How can we decide which goods should be bought and sold, and which should be governed by nonmarket values? Where should money’s writ not run?

Michael J. Sandel
“What Isn’t for Sale?”

Toward a New Moonshot

NASA (Photo credit: Luke Bryant)

William H. Gerstenmaier’s “Our Brick Moon” in the Summer 2012 issue of Strategic Studies Quarterly does a passing fair job at explaining some of the benefits America and mankind have derived from the International Space Station.
He talks about the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, an instrument that allowed scientists aboard the ISS that is helping investigators in 16 countries to understand the composition of the universe. Space-grown superbugs have led to better vaccines, including a pathway to a vaccine for the virulent methicillin-resistant staph, or MRSA, that kills nearly 99,000 people in the US alone each year, and one for Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy. Liquidmetal, an ISS-developed material with the strength of titanium and the moldable properties of plastic, has been licensed by Apple for better, lighter electronic devices.
He explains how the environmental control system developed for ISS recycles up to 80% of the water used by the crew, and an oxygen generation system that is totally self-contained. Aside from the implications for deep-space travel, there are lessons to be learned for an increasingly thirsty world. What is more, doing all of this taught NASA – and everyone involved with these projects – how to make multinational efforts work more smoothly in space and on the ground. As someone who has spent a quarter century running cross-cultural workplaces, I can attest this is no small triumph. Finally, the ISS has made possible a new era in government-private partnerships that have led to the development of promising firms like SpaceX, Orbital Systems, and dozens of subcontractors. A new space-economy is born.
It is a shame, however, that he stops here, because in doing so he either overreaches, underreaches, or both.
Let me explain.
America does not need lengthy eloquent justifications for money the nation has already spent on space. We get that. Microwave ovens, freeze-dried food, microprocessors, countless technical breakthroughs and the competitiveness that each of those innovations have bestowed on the nation were spinoffs of the space programs from Vanguard to the international space station. Open-sourcing the innovations that came out of nearly six decades of tax-payer funded effort was a part of the bargain that brought funds to NASA in the first place.
If, however, Mr. Gerstenmaier expects American taxpayers to continue their financial support of NASA manned space programs because of those benefits, he is mistaken. If he believes that he will get American taxpayers underwrite future manned space programs because of what Apollo did for computers, or the IIS as did for esoteric biomedical research, he overreaches. American taxpayers understand that past results do not guarantee future results.
Yet if he only wishes to extol the accomplishments of his pet programs he under reaches. What NASA needs more today than ever as for its senior administrators to explain to the American public why the United States still needs the space agency when its roads are crumbling for lack of highway funds.
America needs a vision for its space future. That vision needs goals, it needs a vision that incorporates a public–private partnership, but incorporates NASA’s role as a driver of key research, that frames benefits beyond those that are bestowed upon the largest government contractors, that lays out the programs in the payoffs therefrom, gives a timeline, and provides practical route of funding.

Ike and Fiscal Conservatism

President Dwight Eisenhower delivers his farew...
President Dwight Eisenhower delivers his farewell address. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“As we peer into society’s future, we — you and I, and our government — must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage.”

– Dwight D. Eisenhower, Farewell Address, January 17, 1961

Thanks to Dennis Prager for this one.

The Future Starts Now

The votes are counted. The confetti and balloons have been swept from the floor.  The challenger has conceded. And the finger-pointing and clothes-rending have begun.

This election, as lopsided as the result was in the Electoral College, did not give the President of the United States a true mandate. It was not a ringing endorsement of his first four years, which were as beset by failures in his own party as by Tea Party obstructionism.

But it did give him the election. And it proved that the forces that conducted a right-wing takeover of the Republican Party have attained their high-water mark, and that their appeal, along with their power, has begun to recede. If the election proved anything, it is that the nation will not long tolerate rule by intolerance, that the reign of reactionaries is as repugnant to the silent majority of Americans as rule by radicals. America chose the unsavory Richard Nixon over the radical George McGovern in 1972. The vote this time was an equal rejection of an extremist from the other side.

We would be foolish to restrict our analysis of this election to the Presidential contest, because some of the more meaningful results came from other races. Elizabeth Warren, who for whatever other virtues she possesses is not the best politician ever to run for Massachusetts senate, won a hotly contested election with incumbent Scott Brown in Mitt Romney’s own state. Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Allen West, and Joe Walsh were defeated, and Michelle Bachmann barely kept her seat. The Tea Party still has influence, to be sure, and the GOP agenda on Capitol Hill looks to pander as much to the far right wing of our party in January as it did a year ago. But the appeal of the Tea Party agenda has suffered a marked decline.

Reviving our Party, Reviving America

We now have an historic opportunity to dust off the big tent and return the Party of Lincoln to its roots, not as a coven for the forces of reaction, but as the standard-bearer of intelligent policy, efficient government, fiscal responsibility, a strong national defense, opportunity for all, and despair for none.

History has placed before us a litany of challenges that would test the limits of any people and any form of governance. We know, as Republicans, that the answer to those challenges lies in repairing and strengthening our institutions, not demolishing them or exchanging them for a fashionable bandolier of silver bullets. Governance is hard work, but undertaken by principled men and women armed with integrity, wisdom, and determination, this nation can and will emerge from our multiple crises better, stronger, and worthy of being what John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan called “a shining city on a hill,” a nation worthy of her people and of the admiration of all peoples.

To do that, though, we must repair the abused foundations of the Grand Old Party.

We must be as aware of the difference between “conservative” and “reactionary” as we are of the differences between “conservative” and “liberal.”

We must remember that progress for its own sake is no virtue, but that progress as an answer to an otherwise intractable question is no vice.

We must remember that it has been under the hands of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and even Richard M. Nixon that this nation has proven that wise policy can be visionary, and that visionary policy can be wise.

Changing our Politics

We must put an end to the politics of ideology, and return to the politics of principle.

We must put an end to the politics of the few and return to the politics of the many.

We must put an end to the politics of division and return to the politics of unity.

We must put an end to the politics of obstruction and return to the politics of construction.

We must put an end to the politics wherein the extremists of both sides set the national agenda, and return to a politics where the most radical or reactionary among us will always have a vote, but will never again have a veto.

And if we cannot see our way clear to do all of this for ourselves, let us do it for those who gave us this country to watch over, and for our children, born and unborn, to whom we must pass a healthy nation, a strong nation, a nation of the people, by the people, and for all people who love freedom and opportunity.

The future starts now, and it starts with us. We are Republicans, and we will take back first our party by placing before the entire nation a vision for a better future and a pathway to get there. A vision not just for the 1%, or the 99% or the 53%, or the 47%, but for all of us.

The Journey of A Thousand Miles

Today, as the dawn of a new week breaks across America, we begin this work.

In the coming days, weeks, and months we will begin crafting the future and our nation. I invite your thoughts, your input, and your debate. We are rebuilding the Big Tent, creating a standard of principles and policies for all America. We will not campaign, and campaigning will not be tolerated. We are forging the intellectual capital of a restored Republican Party.

Some people may laugh, some may ridicule, some may call us fools, RINOs, or worse. Ignore them.

We have a lot of work to do.

Let’s Roll.

Bull Moose Foreign Aid Policy

English: Berliners watching a C-54 land at Ber...
English: Berliners watching a C-54 land at Berlin Tempelhof Airport, 1948. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In order to deliver effective assistance to people in need around the world, we need to adhere to three principles.

First, we need to recognize that foreign aid is not politically sustainable when America’s own social safety net is frayed, broken, or has turned into a hammock for those unwilling (as opposed to unable) to step away from public assistance. Charity begins at home, so let’s put Americans first in all instances.

Second, we still contend that people everywhere would rather have a hand-up than a handout. Our foreign assistance programs should be focused on locally-relevant projects designed to promote long-term self-sufficiency and economic development, not dependency without a deadline. Any outright aid should come with a deadline. Everything else should be left to NGOs.

Third, we should prioritize our help on those countries where the right amount of aid will make the difference between success and failure. Somalia is not our model: the Berlin airlift is.