Monday, June 27, 2016

If Rep. Gowdy Hears Banjos, Will He Paddle Faster?

I'm reading through the report by the Democratic side of the House Benghazi Select Committee, and so far the best stuff is toward the end, where the minority Members unload on Chairman Gowdy.

For example, there is this list of the various unmet deadlines that Representative Trey Gowdy has, over the years, announced for completion of the Committee's business.
Chairman Gowdy has repeatedly postponed his estimates for when the Select Committee would conclude its investigation and issue its final report:
  • In August 2014, Chairman Gowdy stated that he planned to complete the investigation by the “end of 2015.”
  • In April 2015, Chairman Gowdy stated that the Committee’s report would not be issued until 2016.
  • In January 2016, Chairman Gowdy stated that he would finish interviews “within the month.”
  • In March 2016, Chairman Gowdy stated that he would release his report “before summer.”
  • In April 2016, Chairman Gowdy stated that his target date was “mid-June.
  • In May 2016, Chairman Gowdy stated the Select Committee’s work would conclude “before the conventions” in mid-July.

Do you think he'll keep that last promise to conclude by mid-July? Me neither. But he has to end this thing someday, and just maybe today's minority report will motivate him to paddle faster.

I like the recommendations at the end of the report, many of which address the need for Congress to keep budgeting for all the other recommendations that have already been made by the Benghazi Accountability Review Board and other parties.

Most of that funding pays for the continuation of the Capital Security Construction Program, which replaces old and vulnerable diplomatic facilities with purpose-built and secure new buildings. The recommendations section includes this highly pertinent quote from the testimony of Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs:
Then there is there is [sic] the macro [funding] question, Congressman, and that is that the best defense is ability to construct the new facilities that you have provided us additional funds for. Subsequent to the attack on Benghazi there was a major attack on our compound in Tunisia and there was a major attack on our compound in Khartoum. Those buildings held out and not a single American was killed or injured for over 8 hours until host nation security forces mobilized to defend us. But those building, in Khartoum and in Tunisia, were the new, modern buildings that we have had the assistance of the Congress and the funding to build. It is just that on a macro sense, because of the increase in the value of the dollar and because of inflation worldwide, the program that we started after Nairobi and Dar es Salaam [were attacked in August 1998] we were building eight Embassies a year then. Because of the decrease in funding we were building three.

Building more Fortress Embassies isn't the answer to every overseas security problem. But it could very well be the solution to the problem of surviving prolonged incidents of political violence, with our own resources, until our host governments become willing and able to intervene. Isn't that enough?

Mbabane Gets A Fortress Embassy

FYI, cars will not be allowed to park up against the real NEC Mbabane

My good friends in the Bureau of Overseas Office Buildings (OBO) have cut the ribbon on yet another Fortress Embassy, this one in Mbabane, Swaziland.

From the press release:
The new $141 million campus is situated on an 8.9-acre site in the Ezulwini Valley. Sustainable features to conserve resources and reduce operating costs include a photovoltaic system, light-emitting diode (LED) site lighting, water-conserving plumbing fixtures, on-site wastewater treatment, and drought-tolerant landscaping.

-- snip --

Since 1999, as part of the Department’s Capital Security Construction Program, the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations has completed 131 new diplomatic facilities and has an additional 53 projects in design or under construction.

See the press kit for more project details.

Two things stand out about this short-and-sweet press release. First, the price for this new embassy complex is not especially high (as U.S. embassy construction projects go). Second, there is absolutely no happy-talk about Design Excellence, or Openness, or Innovation, or any quotes from an architect with round eyeglasses and a bow tie.

No, this one was more of a Standard Embassy Design job. Yet another serviceable and sensibly priced office complex churned out for OBO by B.L. Harbert International Group. Browsing the thumbnail photos of their leadership team, I find no one who looks anything like a modern Le Corbusier. I am comfortable with that.

One last thought: so OBO has now completed 131 new U.S. diplomatic facilities under the Capital Security Construction Program? That's roughly half the total number of our embassies and consulates. How much longer will Congress keep the money flowing?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

House of Representatives Sit-In Continues (But Where Are the Headbands and Love Beads?)

The WaPo is covering that remarkable sit-in by Democratic House members, and reports on their innovative use of smart phones to get around the official ban on broadcasting from the House floor: C-SPAN makes history via Periscope.

From the looks of it, some of the older Members ought to think twice before sitting-in like that. At their age, getting back up from the floor might not be so easy. They aren't as spry as they used to be back in the 60s.

I have obtained the full streaming video of this historic event, for your use and enjoyment.

P.S. "Don't take the brown acid. The brown acid is bad."

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Donald Trump Interprets Robert Frost

Donald Trump's speaking style shows much more literary influence than you might think. First, a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania traced the roots of his rhetoric to Gertrude Stein - yes, really - and now, courtesy of The Rotting Post (the finest in literate snark), we have a Trumperian rendition of Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening:

I have a pretty good idea whose woods these are, believe me. And let me tell you something, my people say he’s a complete nobody. This guy lives in the village. So what if he sees me stopping here? I dare him to sue me! I dare him!

And by the way, this snow is pathetic. These are by far, the least downy flakes ever! I hear they had to import them from Canada. I don’t know. Maybe they did. Maybe they didn’t. We’re looking into it.

My horse – he’s the most incredible horse, seriously, I have the greatest, the classiest horses – My horse doesn’t even know what the hell we’re doing here. The horses love me though. They do. They’re always shaking their bells at me, it’s very loving. It’s a beautiful thing.

Let me tell you something, these woods are an embarrassment. They’re not dark. They’re not deep. They’re nothing. They’re for losers. And I cannot wait to sue this guy. I cannot wait to sue this guy.

Austere and very moving.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Dalai Lama Tactical Tip Tuesday

“In the present circumstances, no one can afford to assume that someone else will solve their problems. Every individual has a responsibility to help guide our global family in the right direction. Good wishes are not sufficient; we must become actively engaged.” - H.H. the Dalai Lama, The Path to Tranquility: Daily Wisdom (Compass)

His Holiness is not just goofing on a scene in Blackhawk Down. He is, in fact, illustrating the universal value of Responsibility. There can be few human activities which call for greater individual responsibility than defensive gun use.

Range safety rules can be imposed, and overseen. Gun manufacturers can design mechanical safeties and do their best to engineer accidents out of their products. Legal council can provide user manuals full of cautionary advise and even - as Ruger owners know - engrave warnings right on the barrel.

But all of that is external to the individual gun user. The individual holding the gun bears total responsibility for his actions, and truly his trigger finger must be his safety.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Dalai Lama Tactical Tip Tuesday

This one is easy. What other handgun would His Holiness choose but the simplest of them all?  

Simplicity is extremely important for happiness. Desiring little and being satisfied with what you have is vital, whether it's as basic as food and shelter or as specialized as defensive gun use.

There are hundreds of pistols to choose from and an almost infinite number of accessories, modifications, and customizations available for them. Prices range from as low as a few hundred dollars to as high as a pretty good used car. Once you pick one, there are tons of after-market products you might acquire to enhance your choice.   

And then, there is the Glock. Plain and utilitarian, and near-perfect right out of the box. Reliable all day long. Little to fiddle with, and not many options for adding on later.

Find the profound in simplicity!