Stephen W. Browne Rants and Raves

June 24, 2014

The went and did it

Filed under: Free Speech,Op-eds — Stephen W. Browne @ 7:22 am

Well, they went and did it.

The Red Mesa High School on the Navajo Reservation in Red Mesa, Arizona, a public school with a student body nearly 100 percent Navajo Indian was forced to change their team’s name.

Their name is “The Redskins.”

Nah, just kidding.

What really happened was the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, acting on orders from On High cancelled six trademarks owned by the Washington Redskins after deeming them offensive.

Note this likely doesn’t affect the football team in any meaningful way. It’s their trademark registration that got cancelled. Trademark registration makes life easier in some ways but there is still a recognized association in common law with the team and their name and logo. The owner can still sue anyone who infringes them with every expectation of winning.

The issue of Indian sports team names has been building for some time now. The only problem is, nobody really took it very seriously before.

I think most people, like myself, just said, “OK, I don’t think it was meant to be offensive but if I’m wrong and you find it so, then let’s change it. It’s just a football team.”

And how do we know if most Indian people find it offensive?

Well that could be a problem. You see, saying “Indian” is like saying “European.” It covers a lot of languages and cultures as different from each other as Scotsmen are from Albanians.

We could ask the various tribal governments to conduct opinion polls. In my youth in Oklahoma that was done over the issue of “Little Red” the traditional Indian dancer who performed at Oklahoma University football games way back when.

The polls appeared to show the majority of Indian people in the state were rather proud of the association, but enough people made a fuss about it that it was deemed not worth the trouble and the institution was abolished.

Incidentally it broke the heart of the young man chosen to be Little Red that year who’d dreamed of it all his life, but he was doubtless suffering from “false consciousness.”

I don’t know what polling Indian people would show these days, if opinions have changed or if they differ from tribe to tribe.

My attitude has been it’s not worth the trouble. Change the names if it bothers you, and if other Indian people disagree, sort it out amongst yourselves.

Maybe it’s one of those things like the N-word, OK for the in-group, not OK for the out-group.

Then the government had to get involved. And make no mistake, it won’t stop at the Patent and Trademark Office. What certain opportunistic white folks on the hard left are after is to cripple the First Amendment protections of free speech.

What this decision does is force free speech advocates to defend something that looks either silly or offensive. And yes it must be defended, assaults on liberty almost always start with issues most people find trivial, or downright distasteful.

I’m old enough to remember when assaults on free speech came mostly from the right, and usually concerned pornography.

So defend this we must, but we’d better realize we’ve been backed into a corner on this particular free speech issue.

Well played lefties, well played.

June 17, 2014

A world without America

Filed under: Op-eds,Politics — Stephen W. Browne @ 6:54 pm

As I write this Russian tanks have reportedly crossed into Ukraine, and an unlovely group called The Islamic Republic of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is advancing towards Baghdad shooting and decapitating prisoners and posting pictures of their handiwork on social media.

The American Embassy in Baghdad is preparing for their Vietnam 1975 moment.

In Afghanistan the Taliban are waiting on the announced withdrawal of all but a symbolic number of American forces next year.

I could be wrong, and I hope I am, but it seems to me the most likely outcome over the next year or two is: Russia seizes a big chunk of eastern Ukraine, Iraq breaks up in civil war, and the Taliban takes Afghanistan.

The good news is, a lot of people in America and abroad are getting what they want, an America that stays home and minds its own business.

An old saying about being careful what you wish for comes to mind.

Democrats are blaming George Bush. “If he hadn’t lied us into Iraq this wouldn’t be happening.”

No it wouldn’t, and Iraq would still be ruled by a murderous psychopath and his loathsome sons.

I’m not being sarcastic here (or maybe just a little), there are thoughtful arguments made by people like military strategist Edward Luttwak that in the long run it’s best to let local civil wars burn themselves out.

Republicans are blaming Barrack Obama for allowing another debacle like, well like Vietnam 1975.

Obama does seem eerily disconnected from what happens outside the U.S. but this is not entirely fair either.

The fact is, the whole country is sick of foreign semi-wars that seem to accomplish nothing.

And not just on the left either, there are substantial factions on the right that heartily wish the rest of the world would go hang.

In Europe any number of harsh critics of American foreign policy will damn us whichever way it breaks.

If we re-intervene in Iraq we will be condemned for American imperialism. If we don’t, we will be blamed for the chaos and casualties.

When Afghanistan falls to the Taliban, countries which have contributed troops will wonder why they ever backed us to begin with.

As for Ukraine, there is pretty much nothing we can do but we’ll be blamed anyway.

But there is something that should be noted about this. Years of living in Europe convinced me that the Europeans don’t want America to totally renounce military interventions, they want us to intervene in ways they approve of.

A good friend of mine in Lithuania for example, thinks America’s invasion of Iraq was Stalinism pure and simple. And if you know how Stalin treated Lithuania, that’s not an idle criticism.

I don’t think he’ll mind an American intervention when Russia tries to reabsorb the Baltic coast though.

What do I think?

I think that in hindsight there are two viable strategies when it comes to invading other countries which have given us legitimate reasons to retaliate – such as harboring and supporting terrorists who have attacked us.

One is to invade, remove the regime and get out. Perhaps as John Bolton suggested, leaving them a copy of The Federalist and wishing them the very best of luck.

The other is the imperial strategy of staying, repairing the infrastructure, and building all the institutions of civil society: bureaucracy, police, army etc.

The disadvantage of the first is it might leave them in a position to rebuild and re-attack, as Germany did after World War I.

The disadvantage of the second is that it realistically takes at least a generation of continuous occupation, with all the expense and casualties that entails. We evidently haven’t got the patience for that, which is rather a pity because the experience of occupying the Philippines, Germany and Japan seems to show we’re rather good at that kind of imperialism.

Imperialism is one of those things that, if it can’t be done right, shouldn’t be done at all. And perhaps the world will breathe a sigh of relief when America withdraws from those messy foreign interventions.

And then again, when the two biggest countries who have no such scruples about intervening in other peoples affairs are Russia and China, perhaps not.

June 11, 2014

Thank you Hillary!

Filed under: News commentary,Politics — Stephen W. Browne @ 7:50 am

Diane Sawyer: “It has been reported you’ve made $5 million making speeches, the president’s made more than $100 million.”

Hillary Clinton: “You have no reason to remember, but we came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt. We had no money when we got there and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea’s education, you know, it was not easy. Bill has worked really hard and it’s been amazing to me. He’s worked very hard, first of all, we had to pay off all our debts which was, you know, we had to make double the money because of obviously taxes, and pay you have at debts, and get us houses and take care of family members.”

Many years ago in Oklahoma a bud of mine and I were watching an episode of the mini-series “Jennie,” about the life of Jennie Randolph Churchill, Winston’s American mother.

So we’re watching this scene where Jennie and her second husband George are sitting in the dining room of this mansion pouring brandy from cut-crystal decanters and George is wallowing in how he realizes what a failure he is.

“My sisters are eating off of gold plate, and I can’t even keep up the payments on my ancestral estate,” he moans.

Of course we laughed fit to die.

Thank you Hillary I thought I’d never laugh like that again.

Hillary has made as much as $200,000 for a speech. As in, One. Speech.

For $200,000 I could buy a piece of property near here between the mountains and a river, put up a log home on it, and live in it for quite some time before I had to go back to work.

The really side-splittingly hilarious thing about this is – Hillary most likely believes this!

Many years ago (in Oklahoma again) I heard Tom Wolfe give a talk at our university. Apropos of something-or-other Wolfe talked about Jackie Kennedy’s marriage to Aristotle Onassis and how shocked and disappointed people were that America’s princess could marry that decrepit old Greek.

Wolfe’s take on it was that Jackie probably thought Onassis was a fascinating man, at least at first. He said there are levels of rich. The generic rich we see, and the rich other rich look up to with an awe we cannot understand.

That is, there’s the rich who can afford several houses and servants to staff one of them. Then there’s the rich who can afford several houses, each with its own full-time staff of servants.

Wolfe said we peons can’t understand the agony the merely rich feel when they have to tell the servants to pack because we’re moving to the Swiss chalet for the skiing season. And how much they look up to the super-rich who can just pop in to the villa in Cannes for a few weeks a year, knowing it’s fully staffed and waiting for them all the time.

Of course what popped into my mind was, how do I get a job in one of those villas?

We live in a democratic age. Meaning that we are still ruled by aristocrats, but to rule they have to pretend they are “one of us” even though it’s painfully obvious they are nothing of the sort.

They are out of touch and clueless about how out of touch they are. They may yet destroy our civilization.

But in the meantime they provide us with some great laughs from time to time.

June 10, 2014

Clueless, meet clueless

Filed under: Op-eds — Stephen W. Browne @ 8:43 am

Well Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is back in the arms of his loving family, al-hamdu lillah! (“Praise Allah”)

Or at least he will be when he’s released from a military hospital in Germany. That is if he hasn’t been arrested by then.

But that’s not likely after his parents were guests of President Obama in an eerie Rose Garden ceremony which saw his father Bob sporting a Taliban-like beard and spouting phrases in Arabic and Pashto.

This of course was red meat to those who think Bergdahl is a deserter at best, a traitor at worst.

The fact is, we don’t know. There are a lot of different stories floating around about how Bergdahl became a captive of the Taliban five years ago, and how he was treated while in captivity.

We know the Taliban got back five of their toughest, smartest leaders and we got… somebody who was never meant to be a soldier and a legacy of trouble that is going to haunt us for a long time to come.

The story that seems to be outlasting the others is that Bergdahl simply walked off his post, without his arms or his gear.

That looks like desertion but not defection. A defector would take his arms and as many more as he could carry as a gesture of good faith.

Specialist Jason Fry, a friend or friendly acquaintance of Bergdahl’s, said Bergdahl told him prior to deployment in Afghanistan, “If this deployment is lame, I’m just going to walk off into the mountains of Pakistan.”

So many images are going through my head.

Right now it’s that scene from “Private Benjamin” (1980) in which Goldie Hawn tells an officer, “I think I’m in the wrong Army, I joined the one with the condominiums.”

But back to the Rose Garden.

President Obama announced the swap, Bergdahl for the Gitmo Five. This was apparently against a law which requires notifying congress before any such swap.

You’d think this would be cause for great glee among people who like to pounce on every instance of Obama ignoring the law, and it has. But there are also conservatives pointing out the law is a possibly unconstitutional restraint of presidential power.

Obama has said a couple of things about it, some contradictory, but we’ll settle for Bergdahl’s deteriorating health and his stout defense that whatever the circumstances we get our boys back and deal with whatever they may or may not have done later.

Admirable, except it gets really weird. As little as we know for sure about Bergdahl, his capture and captivity, the administration seems even more clueless.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice said Bergdahl was captured while on patrol and “served with distinction and honor.”

No and no.

One thing for sure is that pretty much everyone who served with Bergdahl flat despises him. Many were made to sign non-disclosure agreements which some are now ignoring. And when was the last time you heard of soldiers who did not have high-level security clearances having to sign non-disclosure agreements?

Yet Obama’s Housing and Urban Development flack Brandon Friedman said they’re the psychopaths!

Some sources have it that as many as eight men died hunting for him. Some even say attacks on American soldiers were suspiciously well-prepared after Bergdahl walked off.

Well, maybe so maybe not. Afghanistan is a dangerous place and soldiers get killed there more often than we’d like. And perhaps Taliban leaders were smart enough to figure Bergdahl’s comrades would come looking for him and laid plans accordingly.

And maybe a flakey hippie-soldier who regards enlistment as conditional on his approval of the Army is an easy target for interrogation.

But what’s really weird is why the heck did Obama stage that group-hug in the Rose Garden?

Did nobody think to vet father Bob about what he was going to say? Did nobody anticipate this was going to blow up in Obama’s face?

And does anybody think it hasn’t occurred to the Taliban that all they need to do to get more of their guys back is snatch some more Americans?

Clueless, meet Clueless.

June 7, 2014

A voice from the past, an American internee

Filed under: Social Science & History — Stephen W. Browne @ 10:13 am


A few days ago I interviewed a lady, Eva Nakamura Kuwata. Now 80-years-old she was a former internee at Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming. She was invited back to be advisor-in-residence at the camp for 2014.

When she was eight years old she was sent with her parents to the camp because they were Japanese, and America was at war with the Empire of Japan. She was one of 14,000 issei (first-generation) and nisei (second generation) who passed through the camp.

Oddly, she has no bad memories about the experience. She was too young and not Japanese enough to feel the shame many older inmates felt. She remembers the beginning of lifelong friendships and memories of people being nice to her when she got a day pass to nearby Cody or Powell.Though she does remember some “No Japs allowed” signs in business windows.

One day she went to Powell to buy some butter as a present for her mother, and didn’t realize she needed ration tickets. A “very nice man” in line behind her, whose name she never learned, gave the clerk one of his.

That’s one lesson I got from meeting her. Even in the midst of war, few people were rotten enough to treat a little girl badly.

Mrs. Kuwata was too young to be aware of the choices faced by the older boys in the camp and I think only became aware of it later. Some requested repatriation to Japan. She seemed to think a lot of them changed their minds before they actually disembarked, but wasn’t sure.

When the draft was extended to the camps, some chose to refuse induction, the “Nomo boys.” She said they weren’t afraid, they were demanding their rights as American citizens to be treated as such.

And what is most remarkable, and humbling was about 800 internees chose to trust America. Chose to believe America could become the nation it promised to be but wasn’t yet, and joined the Army.

They were incorporated into the 442 Regimental Combat Team serving with other nisei under white officers. I count 15 killed in action on the camp Honor Roll, and two Medals of Honor awarded, one posthumously.

And there was one other on the Honor Roll from another era. Shojiro Yamashita, born at Heart Mountain Relocation Center to internee parents. Killed in Action, Vietnam.

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