GMO Decentralization

Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are the subject of much debate, particularly as they apply to agriculture.  Most Americans consume some form of GMOs, as most corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically modified.
Proponents of GMOs say that genetically modifying food provides far more abundance and helps to feed hundreds of millions of people in the world who would otherwise lack food.
Opponents or critics of GMOs say that these foods are not healthy and that they should be labeled accordingly.  In the U.S., labeling is not required.  In addition, some critics think GMOs should be banned completely because they are dangerous to the environment and pollute other crops due to “gene drift”.
For those who defend liberty, the last part about GMOs spreading is probably the most controversial.  If it can be proven that GMO pollen is contaminating other areas, then perhaps it should be banned for the violators, as this is an issue of property rights.  You should certainly have the right to grow whatever food you want and sell it to whomever you want, but not if you violating the property rights of others.  This would be no different than dumping chemicals on your lawn that seep into your neighbor’s ground.
Of course, this is a major political issue.  As it seems with so many things, the government pushes things that line their own pockets and puts your health in jeopardy.  Monsanto is a giant corporation that sends money to campaigns in exchange for government favors and protection and Monsanto is probably the biggest proponent of GMOs.
In 2012, an amendment was introduced to the 2014 farm bill that sought to clarify states’ rights in determining whether GMO labeling is required.  The amendment was introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Barbara Boxer of California, who aren’t exactly known as decentralists.
But the amendment was voted down by 71 senators, including several senators who are thought of as more conservative.  Apparently the Constitution means nothing to any of these politicians.
The U.S. Constitution and Agriculture
As with almost everything, the Commerce Clause in the Constitution has been completely turned on its head.  While it original intent was to make sure that free trade existed between the states, the politicians in Washington DC use it as an excuse to pass almost any piece of legislation.
Of course, the Congress and the federal government have no business being in the business of agriculture.  This isn’t an enumerated power in the Constitution.  There should be no such thing as a national farm bill.  There should be no Department of Agriculture.
As a libertarian, I am against mandating the labeling of anything.  It should be the choice of the seller, which ultimately is dictated by consumer demand.  Perhaps more consumers will stop buying food products that aren’t labeled.
At the same time, this is also an issue of states’ rights.  While I don’t agree with a law requiring labeling, it should be for each state to decide this.  It is none of Washington DC’s business.  For this reason, Senators Sanders and Boxer actually had a good amendment that should have been included, even though the whole bill was unconstitutional anyway.
In case you haven’t noticed, the politicians in DC don’t care about the Constitution.  They also don’t care about your health.  They are collecting donations from Monsanto, so they don’t care, unless they start to get significant backlash from their constituents.
You can’t depend on the government for anything, including protection.  Why would they protect you when they are too busy destroying you?  For this reason and others, you have to take personal responsibility and look out for yourself and your family.
If you are concerned about GMO foods, then you will have to do some research yourself and avoid foods that you know are likely to contain GMOs.  Instead of writing a letter to Congress, write a letter to a food producer or to a grocery store, asking for labeling of GMOs.  Perhaps more stores will pick up on this as a niche market to attract customers by keeping a non-GMO section in the store.
If you are going to write your “representative” in Congress, don’t ask for required labeling of GMO foods.  Instead request that they stop passing farm bills and to defund the Department of Agriculture.

Beer Fascism

Craft beer has become quite a popular thing in America.  Unfortunately, when consumers demonstrate their preferences, oftentimes government shows up in an attempt to reverse those preferences.
While there is a lot of cronyism coming out of Washington DC in terms of the government teaming up with big business, it also happens at the state and local levels just as much.
Big businesses don’t like competition, so some of them turn to the government for special favors.  In the case of distributing beer, this is exactly what is happening in Texas.
Three craft breweries are challenging a 2013 Texas law that essentially forces breweries to surrender their ability to sell their distribution rights.  Instead, they are forced to surrender their rights to distributors without compensation.
It used to be the case that beer distributors would compensate the brewers in exchange for the right to sell their beer to the marketplace.  With the new law in effect, the distributors get those rights for free and are then able to sell those rights to other distributors.  You can’t make this stuff up.
Of course, this is already hurting consumers, as some small breweries in Texas are putting plans on hold to expand.  There will be fewer options for consumers around the state.  Unfortunately, these laws are spreading, as Kentucky recently passed something similar.
Three craft breweries are challenging this law in court based on the Texas Constitution, with the help of the Institute for Justice.
No Free Market for Beer
As with so many bad government laws, this stems from previous bad laws.  When alcohol Prohibition ended nationally in 1933 (thankfully), some state governments took control of the distribution of alcohol and even the retailing.
However, most states have what is called a three-tier system, which means that there have to be three independent parties in the process of selling alcohol.  Producers have to sell their product to wholesale distributors and distributors then sell to retailers.  It is then the retailers that may only sell to consumers.  As with everything, there are exceptions.
This actually boggles the mind.  These laws were ridiculous when passed in the 1930s and they are still ridiculous today.  Why can’t a brewery distribute their own beer or sell their beer directly?  Why do there have to be independent parties doing this?
(As a side note, the state of Washington repealed its three-tier system in 2011, but it also boasts of having the highest liquor tax in the nation.)
The problem is that we don’t know what would be most efficient in a free market system because it currently doesn’t exist.
If you like to knit blankets and sell them on your own website, should that be illegal?  Should you be forced to take your product to an independent distributor who then sells it to an independent retailer?
The problem isn’t just this recent Texas law, but also the laws already on the books.  The state legislature should be repealing these archaic laws that were ridiculous and harmful to begin with.
Again, this is just another example of one bad law leading to another.  And, of course, we shouldn’t be surprised it is being done as a form of corporate welfare.
This is nothing more than beer fascism, where the government is seeking to control an industry to benefit some at the expense of others.  They can’t let consumer demand decide what products are best and how they can be produced and distributed most efficiently.
I’m glad these three breweries are fighting back and that the Institute for Justice is helping.  If they succeed, maybe they should go after the silly 1930s era law too.

A “Living” Wage Pays Off For Some Employers

There have been protests and rallies around the country calling for a so-called living wage.  Specifically, some fast-food workers are advocating a minimum wage of $15 per hour.
These workers don’t understand that if the government followed through with their wishes, they would probably be out of a job.  Employers are not going to hire people for more than they are worth, unless they have a lot of money and are willing to be charitable.
We don’t currently live in anything close to a free market environment now, with minimum wage laws, various taxes, and thousands of regulations.  But employers, for the most part, still have enough rights that they don’t have to hire people and they can also pay employees what they want, as long as it isn’t below the minimum wage.
There is a burger and chicken chain in suburban Detroit called Moo Cluck Moo where some workers are paid up to $15 per hour.  When the first place opened a couple of years ago, the starting pay was $12 per hour for all of the workers.
While this is something of a fast food restaurant, it is a step above McDonald’s.  The workers make the buns fresh daily and they use grass-fed meat for the burgers.  Due to the better quality of food (and probably better service), Moo Cluck Moo can also charge higher prices, with burgers starting at around $6.
The higher prices certainly contribute to the employer’s ability to pay higher wages while still managing to turn a profit.  The employees are also expected to know how to do various jobs.  It is a two-way street.  If employees expect higher pay, they need to show more motivation, stronger work ethic, and their ability to please customers.
Not surprisingly, the turnover at the restaurant chain is low and we can be sure that the higher wages are a contributing factor to that.
Employee Advantage
Of course, one obvious thing to point out to all of these protesters is that they are free to leave their job at any time.  Other than being in the military or having to fulfill some contract obligation, you can walk out of any job at any time without penalty.  If you can find a better job with higher pay, you can take it at any time.  The people protesting perhaps would have very limited options if it weren’t for their current employer.
The large majority of workers in the United States make far more than the mandated minimum wage.  So why are employers paying them more than they have to?  Obviously, the employees are worth it to the employers.
If you have skills in demand and show some kind of dedication or work ethic, then some employers are going to want to hire you.  The expensive part of hiring someone is at the beginning.  You don’t necessarily know if the person is right for the job.  (This is why temps and interns can be an advantage for both parties.)  In addition, an employer has to train people, so they are usually losing money at the beginning.
For that reason, employers usually want to keep employees if they are doing a good job.  It is more profitable than to have higher turnover.  It is in the interest of the employer to pay higher wages to get better performance and lower turnover.
The reason that many of these fast food workers are being paid relatively low wages is because they lack demanded skills.  They also sometimes lack a strong work ethic, although that is certainly not true from many others.  These jobs are not really meant for heads of household.  They are supposed to be a beginning, or something of a stepping-stone.  They can also act as part-time work for people needing a second job and some extra income, or for a spouse that is not the primary breadwinner.
If you look at some third-world country where the average wage is $2 per day, the reason for the low wages isn’t a lack of minimum wage laws.  Setting higher minimum wage laws would just eliminate jobs.  The wages are low because they are poor societies with a lack of capital and investment.
For anyone who wants to see higher wages, they need to advocate for lower taxes and less regulations.  This leads to more savings and more capital investment, which increases worker productivity.  The key is to increase worker productivity, which will enable employers to pay higher wages.
A living wage sounds nice, but it needs to be done voluntarily in a free market.  It cannot be achieved through the use of government force.

Statistical Games for Obamacare

The Obama administration has been caught telling lies again.  It was just last month that Jonathan Gruber was caught telling the truth about Obamacare.  Gruber, one of the architects of Obamacare, referenced “the stupidity of the American voter” making it necessary to write Obamacare in a “tortured way” so that Americans wouldn’t oppose it.
Gruber told the truth about his previous lies, not expecting his comments to go viral on YouTube.
Now the administration has been caught deceiving the American people with its reporting of the numbers for Obamacare.  It was previously reporting separate numbers for individuals who signed up for medical coverage and individuals who bought dental insurance.
But then in September, the numbers were reported that 7.3 million people had bought insurance through Obamacare.  But the numbers were reported differently, combining the medical and dental numbers.  If the numbers had been broken out as before, it would have showed that 380,000 people had bought dental insurance.
In other words, the administration was trying to inflate the Obamacare sign-up numbers, thinking nobody would notice, or that it would go unreported.
Of course, this is Obama’s legacy and it isn’t a very good one right now.  The Affordable Care Act has been an unaffordable act.  It has contributed to continually increasing premiums for health insurance for nearly everyone in the country.
Political Lies Aren’t What They Used To Be
One thing that strikes me about this story is that it goes beyond the disaster that is Obamacare.  It is also a demonstration of how times have changed.
In the past, politicians could lie frequently and mostly get away with it.  As long as the major newspapers and major television networks didn’t pick up on it, or didn’t report on it, then it was fine for the politicians.  They could usually depend on the media to stay on their side and keep quiet on certain things.
There is a show in Washington DC that Republicans and Democrats are vicious enemies.  I’m sure some of the political battling is real, but both major parties don’t ever do anything drastic to make people question the system.  It’s almost as if they have a secret agreement that they won’t spill each other’s dirty laundry too much.
Talking to some people today, they think that politics is worse than ever now.  They think that there are more lying politicians than ever.  They think there is more corruption than ever.  But I actually don’t think this is the case.  There have been lying politicians for a long time.  The difference now is that they are getting caught.
The funny thing is that many of these politicians and bureaucrats are not with the current times.  They don’t realize how much things have changed.  They think they can casually tell lies and that most people won’t notice.  They forgot about the internet and today’s world of instant communication.  They forget about video cameras on cell phones.
Gruber made those comments not expecting it to be all over YouTube and eventually on the news.  There gets to a certain point where even the so-called mainstream media can no longer ignore a story that is widespread, because doing so would make them look too biased.
The Obama administration tries to inflate the number of enrollees for Obamacare and they think nobody will notice.  Twenty years ago, they probably would have gotten away with it.  In today’s world, someone finds out and posts a story about it on the internet.  Now the administration is being forced to backtrack and admit the numbers were in error the way they were reported.
We shouldn’t be surprised by this statistical manipulation and deception going on.  Perhaps we should be surprised that politicians and bureaucrats aren’t learning that they are no longer protected the way they once were.
While some are disappointed in the lying and deceiving, I am actually encouraged.  It just means they are now getting caught.

They Hate Us For Our Freedoms

We have been told since at least 9/11/2001 that terrorists strike America because they hate us for our freedoms.  And if that is true, then the only way to stop terrorism is to go after the terrorists, which means more war, most spying, more torture, and more violations of human rights.  (The other option is to stop being free, which means terrorism should have already stopped based on what the government has done since 9/11.)

In the 2007/ 2008 presidential race, there was one particular moment in one Republican debate that really began a new dialogue in this country, at least for some people.  Ron Paul pointed out the concept of blowback.  He said that the terrorists attack us because we are over there.  The term “we” is actually a reference to the U.S. government.

Rudy Giuliani acted like he was outraged by the comment and he said he had never heard that before.  So it is an accepted doctrine by the establishment and the so-called mainstream media that the terrorists hate us for our freedoms.  Because if that isn’t the case, then it means they hate us for what the U.S. government has been doing for decades.  That would mean that we could stop terrorism by simply adopting a policy of non-interventionism.

When the report on the CIA torture was recently released, there were warnings of a higher risk of terrorism.  There were extra precautions being taken due to the increased risk of attacks.

By why would this be so?  I thought the terrorists attacked us because we are free and they don’t like our Western culture.  Why would they be motivated based on some CIA report?  That would mean that they hate us for more than just our freedoms.

With these reports of tightened security, has there been any reporting on the fact that people attack the U.S. because of how the U.S. government has been treating others?  Is there any mention that many American people promote these policies or ignore that they are happening?

This is not a justification for terrorist attacks, as some would like to accuse.  But it is a reason for terrorist attacks.  And Americans have to stop believing that the government that claims to represent them can go overseas and kill people, occupy lands, torture people, and destroy property without there being any blowback.

Suspected Terrorists

Amazingly, there are still many Americans who are defending torture.  They think, quite naively, that it is just bad guys being tortured, so who cares.  But who determined that these are bad guys?

These were suspected terrorists being tortured.  The key word is “suspected”.  They didn’t get a trial.  And the word “terrorist” has become completely meaningless when used by the U.S. government.  It could just mean living in Afghanistan and being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  It could mean being falsely accused by someone else being tortured.

If we knew for a fact that these were really bad guys and that no mistakes could be made about their guilt (which is impossible), then perhaps we could have a discussion about whether torture is moral or appropriate.

But we aren’t even close to that situation.  Many of these people who were tortured were completely innocent.  Some of them died being tortured.  The CIA was supposedly trying to extract information out of people that probably didn’t have any information to give.

The CIA is an evil organization.  John F. Kennedy realized this early in his presidency and began to take a stance against it.  We all know how that worked out.

But most Americans will pretend this didn’t happen or won’t care about it.  They will keep voting for their representatives to go to Washington DC to continue funding the CIA, the NSA, and all of the overseas wars and interventions.

Even if terrorists did hate us for our freedoms, I don’t think we need to worry too much about that any more.

Nuclear Welfare

A couple of months ago, the Australian prime minister signed an agreement to allow selling uranium to India, which would likely be used to manufacture nuclear weapons.  It should come as little surprise that, according to cables published by WikiLeaks, the U.S. government pushed for this agreement.
The U.S. government has been cozying up to India for at least the last 10 years, likely to gain an ally to help neutralize China.  The U.S. government is forever shifting its allies and enemies to suit its current day needs.
In 2004, Bush signed the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) agreement with India.  In order to win Indian support for this, the U.S. government agreed to greater cooperation regarding nuclear activities.
India has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).  With Australia selling uranium, it is violating the NPT.  The U.S. would also seemingly be in violation, since it is encouraging this action.
India previously sought to buy uranium for its nuclear reactors, but it was prevented from doing so because it refused to be a part of the NPT.
I suppose the Indian government realized what it needed to do in order to get the uranium it wants.  It found a friend in Washington DC (for now) and traded favors.  In this case, the favor for India was to have the U.S. deliver a supplier of uranium, even if not directly.
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
If you have paid much attention to the news in the past, you have probably heard of the NPT.  There is a reason for this.  It was often cited by U.S. officials.
The pro-war groups in Washington DC, which are many, have been long seeking to bomb Iran.  The Bush administration wanted to bomb Iran and the Obama administration kept up the rhetoric, although perhaps with a slightly less belligerent tone.
One of the main reasons cited for starting a war with Iran was because it was violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  But even this claim is dubious, as most of the evidence indicated that Iran was not trying to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.  It was seeking nuclear power.
Now Australia is in complete violation of the NPT and the U.S. government appears also to be in violation of it.  So what should U.S. government officials propose as a solution?  Maybe they will advocate bombing the U.S. for violation of the treaty.
Meanwhile, India has continually refused to be a part of the NPT, so there aren’t really any consequences.  If a country such as Iran gets slapped with heavy sanctions and continuous threats of war for supposedly violating the NPT, maybe the country would have been better off not participating in the NPT.
Ironically, many Israeli officials have pushed for war against Iran too, while Israel has also refused to sign on to the NPT.
Basically, what this means is that the NPT means nothing at all.  There can be greater negative consequences for signing on to it in good faith than to not joining at all.  The Iranian people have suffered through devastating sanctions that reduce their standard of living and can sometimes lead to shorter lives.  Meanwhile, Australia can sell uranium to India with no consequences.  It just all depends on if you are on the good side of America, the land of the free.
WikiLeaks has done us another favor in exposing the hypocrisy that goes on around the world.  Will others make the obvious connection that these are worse violations than anything that Iran is doing?
The war makers don’t want Iran to have the ability to use nuclear power, but they will have no problem with India building up its nuclear arsenal of weapons that could blow up the world – as long as India remains in good favor with the U.S. government.

Government Acting as the Milk Police

There is another battle between the Institute for Justice and a government agency over milk – something that is becoming more common.  Government (state and federal) is heavily involved in the milk industry and I have written about the government’s war against raw milk before.
But this latest story doesn’t involve raw milk.  It is pasteurized milk.  This is a government war over words.
Mary Lou Wesselhoeft, owner of Ocheesee Creamery, received an order two years ago from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  As you can guess, this department is not so much in the business of “consumer services”.  The order stated that Wesselhoeft had to stop selling pasteurized skim milk or stop calling it pasteurized skim milk.
The problem here is that the product that was being sold is pasteurized skim milk, just as it was being labeled.  But the government of Florida says that you can only call it skim milk if it is artificially injected with Vitamin A.  But the Ocheesee Creamery does not want to inject anything in its skim milk and it wants to tell consumers what it is selling.
In other words, the Florida government is encouraging the false labeling of products.  Since Wesselhoeft doesn’t want to inject anything into her skim milk and she doesn’t want to mislead consumers as to what she is selling (pasteurized skim milk), she decided to stop selling her milk.
Again, this is the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services causing this.  They are helping consumers by either misleading them or shutting down products that are sought.
The Institute for Justice (IJ) has a National Food Freedom Initiative and has taken up Ocheesee Creamery’s case.  They are filing a lawsuit, arguing that this violates the First Amendment.
The First Amendment vs. Bad Law
I think it is great that we have organizations such as the Institute for Justice that takes up these fights and they should be applauded for it.  Most small business owners don’t have the means to take up these fights in court on their own.
The IJ is basing its main arguments that this is a violation of First Amendment rights, but that really isn’t the case here.  Perhaps the IJ believes that this is the best argument to use in front of a judge in court and is therefore pursuing this avenue as a first resort.
The First Amendment says that Congress shall make no law…  In this case, Congress isn’t making the law.  It is a state law or regulation.  It has almost nothing to do with Congress.  I don’t believe the 14th Amendment or anything else overrides everything the Constitution says, unless we are talking about natural law.
It is better that this is a state law/ regulation and that it isn’t coming out of Washington DC.  But there are still a lot of bad laws and regulations at the state and local levels.  This happens to be one of them and it should be fought.
This could be considered a free speech issue, but it isn’t Congress imposing it.  It is state government.  But just as easily, we could say this is a property rights issue.  It is an issue of voluntary association.  It is an issue of oppressive regulations.
Ironically, most people believe in some government regulation for businesses.  One of the most common arguments is that we need consumer protection.  You will also hear that we need government to protect us from false advertising or misleading labels.
But in this case, it is the government that is mandating false advertising and misleading labels.  This small business wants to label and sell its pasteurized skim milk as “pasteurized skim milk”.  The Florida government wants her to mislead consumers and call it something that it isn’t.
The best form of regulation is the regulation that naturally occurs in a voluntary free market.  Businesses that mislead consumers in a free market will not usually last long.
As we can see, government regulation does not usually protect consumers.  It often does the opposite.  In this case, it is just harming consumers by misleading them and by taking away products that they want to buy.

Chuck Hagel: An Example of What Politics Does

Chuck Hagel has just resigned as the Secretary of Defense, although his resignation was probably highly encouraged.  His story is an interesting one, as it serves as a good example of the almost uselessness of politics.  He is also an example of where a lack of hardcore principles ends badly.
Unlike many politicians, Hagel actually had a business career that did not depend solely on government favors.  He helped found Vanguard Cellular, which made him a multi-millionaire.  It was a mobile phone service carrier formed in 1984, when mobile phones were quite primitive compared to today.
Hagel was a U.S. Senator from Nebraska from 1997 to 2009 (2 terms).  While he was elected as a Republican, he had some differences with the establishment of his party, particularly during the Bush years.
Hagel voted with the majority of Republicans in support of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts.  He also voted for the Patriot Act, which perhaps should have been a sign of caution for civil libertarians who later supported Hagel and had high hopes for him.
From a pro-liberty standpoint, Hagel voted against No Child Left Behind, against the Medicare prescription drug bill, and against McCain-Feingold.  These were some of his better moments in defecting from the Republican establishment.
In 2002, Hagel voted in favor of the resolution to go to war in Iraq.  However, unlike most other Republicans in Washington DC, he later reversed course on Iraq.  He voted in 2007 for a troop withdrawal and he became something of a critic on the war.  He lost favor with the Republican Party and started to gain favor with Democrats.
After Obama was re-elected in 2012, he nominated Hagel for Secretary of Defense.  Whether or not it was a political move, Obama wanted someone in his cabinet from “across the aisle”.  Hagel was a somewhat obvious choice because of his previous opposition to remaining in Iraq.  Hagel became Secretary of Defense in February 2013 after getting approval from the Senate.
Political Power
It is amazing how people change once they are in office.  We see it all the time, but it is still almost unbelievable how all principles go out the window once in power.
We see it with Republicans all the time when they promise smaller government, only to expand it and find government solutions in most everything.
We see it with Democrats who promise more peace and a less interventionist foreign policy.  Once they get in to power, they continue the spying and war making.
Obama was elected as the anti-Bush candidate.  He opposed the war in Iraq.  He campaigned on greater civil liberties, including shutting down detention centers for accused terrorists.
While nominating Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State was a bad sign of the things to come, Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel four years later may have looked a little bit promising.  But, as usual, big government wins.
Interestingly, the position of Secretary of Defense actually comes from what was previously called the Secretary of War.  Since the Defense Secretary now has little to do with defense and a lot to do with war, the previous cabinet position was more accurately named for today’s times.
Under Hagel’s watch, we have seen continued war in Afghanistan.  We have seen the U.S. government help overthrow the president in Ukraine and start something of a war there, along with renewed tensions with Russia.
We have seen continued bombing in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.  The U.S. government almost started a major war with Syria under Hagel’s watch, but was forced to back down due to significant opposition.  Now the military is being sent back to Iraq, with U.S. bombs raining down on Iraq and Syria.
That is quite a record for Obama and Hagel, the supposedly peace people.  I’m not sure it would have been possible to see that much war out of a third Bush term.
I don’t know if Hagel truly changed his mind on the Iraq War or if he started opposing it for political reasons.  But it didn’t matter once he was in his new office.  At that point, all political principle goes out the window.  You have to play ball with the establishment and the establishment was in favor of more war and continued intervention overseas.
While some non-interventionists may see Hagel’s time as Defense Secretary a letdown, it was really just a good example of what happens in politics.  If he had publicly opposed any of the Obama administration interventions, then he would have been forced out earlier.  You have to be willing to play ball or you will be kicked out of the game.
Perhaps Hagel did oppose much of the administration’s meddling and war making in foreign lands, but he did not do it in public forcefully.  He may have voiced opposition behind closed doors and that is probably why he is leaving.  He wasn’t quite hawkish enough for Obama and the establishment.
So who will take Hagel’s place as Defense Secretary?  Does it matter?