Friday, October 31, 2014

The Inequality Chorus

“Income inequality,” we are told, is the greatest evil in society and is the primary drawback to economic recovery that exists today, and something must be done about it immediately. That “something” which must be done, of course, is to punish the rich and take away from them the wealth which they have accumulated.

No one has managed to explain to me how, in and of itself, the disparity is detrimental to society or how depriving the wealthy of their “ill gotten gains” will do any good for anyone. It seems to me that the real problem is the failure of the growth of income for the lower classes, and that the solution lies in improving the financial status of the working class, which is not a subject much on anyone’s horizon these days.

I don’t object to punishing the rich, but even if you tax them at a rate of 110% how does that help the poor schmuck who’s working at a job making $7.25 per hour? He’s still going to be working at a job making $7.25 per hour and eating beans, and the fact that some rich bastard is driving a Cadillac instead of a Rolls Royce is not going to help him in the least.

If you change the numbers so that the rich consist of 10% instead of 1%, how is that going to help the bottom 90% live any better than they are now living? If you change it so that the richest people are living on a mere $10 million per year, how is that going to help the people who are still looking for jobs and can’t find anything but part time work with no benefits?

It seems to me that we are more interested in being pissed off at the rich than we are in solving the problems faced by the working class in this nation. We are more interested in finding someone to blame for the problem than we are in solving the problem. Pointing fingers, fixing blame and calling names is easier than finding solutions and working toward those solutions. We want the easy way.

There is no easy way. The founders of this nation, and the generations which made it great did not sit around and wait for someone else to “fix things.” They didn’t wait for government to pass a bill, they didn’t prate about a “minimum wage,” they stood in the middle of the factory floor, risking life and limb to hold a sign reading “union,” and they made it happen.

Fast food workers are on the right track, and I applaud them, but they don't stay with it. A one day march accomplishes nothing. They need to walk out, stay out and keep the workplace closed until the employer is hurt badly enough to listen to them. It's a risk, a big one, but that is the price of progress. Prior generations took that risk, and even bigger ones.

You want your employer to pay you a better wage? Then stand in the middle of the workplace holding a sign and make your employer pay you a better wage. If you don’t have the courage to do that then shut the hell up.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Craven Nation

Many years ago a monster tornado hit Tonkawa and Blackwater in Oklahoma, and then moved northeast to hit Udall, Kansas. The death toll in Udall was 80 out of a population of about 200 people, and the town was literally leveled, with not one building left standing. My school's football team was part of the rescue party which arrived the next morning and, sixty years later, I still clearly remember it.

So, superstorm Sandy is not the first natural disaster to hit this country; they’ve been happening for a great many years. They used to be, in fact, simply a regular part of life. We grieved for the lives lost, shrugged off the property damage, rebuilt and moved on.

Certainly such was the case in Udall. A year later you could hardly tell that a disaster had occurred. The town was a bit smaller, since some could not afford to rebuild, but most people had been covered by insurance and savings. There was an undercurrent of “we are enduring,” but people were cheerful and getting on with their lives.

To my present point, no one was waiting for the government to come and rebuild their house for them, and certainly no significant number were “still experiencing mental health problems attributed to the storm,” as Monmouth University survey finds two full years after superstorm Sandy.

Salon writer Lindsay Abrams tells us that Sandy survivors, and yes, two full years later they are still “survivors,” are reporting that a quarter of their communities “are only halfway or less back to normal.” She then implies that the blame lies not with the communities but with government because, “More than 90 percent of applications to New York City’s ‘Build It Back’ program are still waiting to receive funding to rebuild their homes; nearly 60 percent of applications for Small Business Administration loans weren’t approved; and FEMA is actually asking households to give back some of the money it initially doled out.”

I don’t recall that it ever occurred to anyone in Udall that the government should rebuild their houses. We didn’t think that way back then. Nor did the people of Udall think that they should hold on to and even nurture their pain and sense of loss. They would have regarded that as revealing a serious inability to cope with life.

What has happened to this nation that has made us so afraid and so unable to deal with hardship? It is fairly recent; has happened in my lifetime. I remember when Americans were a far more hardy people; cheerful in the face of adversity, and unafraid of the boogeyman. Today we are a nation cowering under our beds clamoring to be kept safe and, even more craven, maintained in comfort. I weep for the nation I used to know.

Friday, October 24, 2014

And the losers cry foul

I woke up this morning and checked for a house full of empty bottles. Nope, I’m still good for 32+ years, so that doesn’t explain it. I accused my wife of beating me with a stick, but she claims she doesn’t have a stick. Oh, yes, 35-21 last night.

And of course the players are singing the song they always sing after a loss, even a 14 point loss, the one with the lyrics about "just a few missed plays." Give me a break. If the dog hadn't stopped to scratch it's ass it would have caught the rabbit. If you miss a few plays when you are leading by 21 points you'll still win the game. The issue is to go out and play better than your opponent and not miss plays, a few of them or a lot of them. If, on the other hand, you make enough good plays, you can miss a few and it won't matter. If you are not making enough plays then you can't miss any.

And the fans and sportswriters are, of course, whining endlessly about “bad calls” by the refs, which they do every time the Chargers lose a game. Interestingly, they never seem to be concerned about the performance of the refs when we win. My reaction is much the same as with the "few missed plays" nonsense; if we are outplaying the opponent those few (presumably) bad calls don't matter. We can shrug and move on.

The problem isn't "a few missed plays" or a couple of supposedly bad calls by the refs. The problem is that we didn't have enough good plays and enough scoring to make those few issues not matter. Go out and make 45 good, ground gaining plays and score 35 points, and we won't have to worry about one fumble we didn't recover, or one ref who supposedly can't see past the end of his nose.

A team wins games by playing well for the entirety of the game, not be the outcome of a few plays or based on one or two calls by the official.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Democratic Delusion

The extreme left is heavily divided on Hillary Clinton; divided by visions of “the first woman president,” or “the second Bill Clinton/Barack Obama,” or “omigod, not another dynasty.” They are not so divided on Elizabeth Warren, unanimously convinced that she simply must run; delivering utopian American governance and saving the United States, and the entire world, from the disaster of Republican rule.

None of them, apparently, have read her resume. A professor of economics who was appointed to help distribute the TARP money to the various “too big to fail” financial institutions, she was then appointed to oversee the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but not to actually run it, and was then elected to serve one term as United States Senator, where she has focused with limited success entirely on financial regulation.

You know, the White House also needs painting every couple of years, so why don’t we elect a really good painter as president?

Elizabeth Warren reveals the lack of breadth in her qualification every time she speaks in public. She is highly populist on economic matters, hates the big banks and Wall Street firms and speaks of them in disparaging tones at great length, but she has absolutely nothing to say on any other subject. If asked about Syria she changes the subject. If asked about Ukraine she dodges the question.

Having been an economics professor for far longer than she has been in politics, she may know a great deal about economics. I’m inclined to doubt it, because her rhetoric sounds to me like what she actually knows is how to appeal to the extreme left of the Democratic Party. To serve as President of the United States, however, one needs a great deal more experience on the national and international stage than this woman even pretends to have.

Elizabeth Warren should not run for president, and if she does run we should not take that run seriously.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ball Control Is Overrated

With one minute to play yesterday the Chiefs had controlled the ball for 39 minutes to only 19 minutes for the Chargers, so the score should have reflected a 2:1 margin; something like 20-10. It did not; the game was tied at 20 points each. The NFL does not determine the outcome of games by how long a team controls the ball on offense.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fear Mongering Flop

Knowledgeable pundits call it “threat exaggeration.” I call it fear mongering, and the corporate media is doing a relatively poor job of it recently with respect to ISIS, which is either a pharmaceutical company in Carlsbad CA that is almost certainly thinking of changing its name, or a terrorist/military organization that is attempting to form a state in Iraq and Syria.

Imagine the poor damned drug salesman who has to walk into a doctor’s office and cheerfully say to the receptionist, “Good morning, I’m Bill and I’m here from ISIS.” The corporate media is doing sufficient fear mongering for that to create a problem.

For a while last week they were trying to freak us out by “reporting” that ISIS had captured chemical weapons from the Syrian Army stockpiles where they had overrun Syrian positions. There were a couple of problems with that, one being that they had not recently overrun any Syrian positions, and the other being that the Obama administration had spent more than a year bragging about how we had confiscated 100% of Assad’s chemical weapons, leaving none for ISIS to capture. Soooo… They sort of had to let got of that little ploy.

Now they are hyperventilating about how someone, they don’t know who, is teaching ISIS how to fly three captured Syrian fighter jets, meaning that ISIS will now have an “air force.” This one is not going to fly either, pun intended, because even the civilian most ignorant of military affairs is rather quickly going to figure out that three fighter jets being flown by pilots who only learned to fly them last week is hardly much of a threat.

One has to wonder what the media’s next “discovery” will be.

Friday, October 17, 2014

And In Go The Reserves

Sort of confirming my Wednesday post, Obama has issued an executive order which authorizes calling up of selected Reserve units and members of the Individual Ready Reserve to active duty for use in the fight against Ebola. The Individual Ready Reserve consists of former active duty personell who have completed their tours of duty and left the service. They think they are finished with their service, but... It doesn't include me only because I am more than 55 years old.

This Is Getting Ridiculous

A student at Southwestern College told her teacher yesterday that she had missed class because a family member had been on the Frontier flight with America’s newest Ebola victim and that her sister had been hospitalized and her family quarantined pursuant to that contact. The outcome of that was that the student body was alarmingly warned and one building of the campus was sealed while each person in it was tested for symptoms. There was, of course, a major news freakout.

The most brief moment of reflection by anyone in authority would have prevented the alarm and confusion. The flight in question had occurred just five days earlier, far too soon for the girl’s sister to have developed symptoms, and the quarantine period after contact is three weeks. If the girl’s story was true, she would not have been allowed to return to school for at least two more weeks

All that the faculty member had to do was ask the student a few questions, perhaps make a quick phone call to the family at home, before screaming the alarm to the school population at large, and a great deal of trouble for everyone could have been prevented.

But of course the faculty member did what Americans always do today, which is shit in their pants at the slightest provocation. It is becoming very embarrassing to live in a nation of bedwetters.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Can Kicking To Win

Some time ago President Obama announced that the issue of immigration reform had become too difficult to handle and would be postponed until after the upcoming election. That’s the third time that particular can of worms has been kicked past an election, and I don’t know why he thinks it will be any easier to handle after this election that it proved to be after the last two. Being easier to handle later is not actually the point, of course, the point is merely not to “look bad” by failing prior to an election.

Another can is now being kicked past the election, but we have to hear about this one in the British media because the American media is studiously ignoring it. The Army has completed its investigation of the guy who was traded for five Guantanamo detainees, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who either deserted to the Taliban or was captured by them, depending on whose story you believe.

The results of the investigation will not be released until after the November elections, so I think it’s safe to say that Obama traded five Guantanamo detainees for a deserter, and the administration does not want that known prior to a mid-term election.

What’s interesting to me is that the administration actually uses the phrase “until after the election” these days. They used to be more subtle than that, but now they come right out and admit that they are politically maneuvering to influence the elections. Such is the level of power that those in government now hold; they no longer even need to pretend that we matter. The head of National Security lies to Congress and admits it on national television, and the administration openly admits that it is withholding information from the public which might influence their votes.

Benjamin Franklin said that we had a democracy if we could keep it. His thought was that it might be taken away from us, but we seem to have simply discarded it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

An Empty Barrel

Andrew Bacevich wrote a piece declaiming that our Army should be fighting wars, not fighting Ebola. My initial reaction was to think that I might disagree with him, because sending in the Army’s Corps of Engineers seemed to me like a reasonable method of rendering aid for the Ebola stricken area. That is what the Corps does; build hospitals to treat victims and roads as a way for the victims to reach that treatment.

Of course the command ranks of today’s Corp are so filled with careerist hacks that the proud organization that once built the Panama Canal would probably be incapable today of digging a drainage ditch for a crossroads in central Kansas, but we’ll disregard that and base our thoughts on the purpose of the Corps rather than its capability.

I realized, however, that in all my reading of “sending troops to Africa to help with the Ebola crisis,” I had seen absolutely no reference to the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Corps is seldom referred to simply as “troops.” So I embarked on a search, and it turns out that no one seems to know precisely what part of the army we are sending. Obama never says anything other than the generic “troops,” and news media uses other terms but is no more specific than that.

I found this article in the Army Times, but it is pretty incoherent. Apparently the Army does not teach writing, or perhaps the writer has prepared too many press briefings and has become a bit too fond of obfuscation. Actually, there are three authors, which might also explain the incoherence. At any rate, the first unit which we are told is being sent is the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), which put me back firmly in Andrew Bacevich’s camp that the Army should be fighting wars, not African viruses.

I have this mental picture of soldiers jumping out of C-130s and gunning down Ebola viruses as they land on the ground. Hopefully, they will have close air and artillery support.

Happily, we are sending 700 combat engineers of an unnamed unit, plus “an element” of the 1st Medical Brigade of III Corps and “dozens of Seabees.” Less obvious is the need for “multiple elements” of the 1st Armor Brigade and a “small element” of the 85th Civil Affairs Brigade. (The implication the III Corps has as many as 85 Civil Affairs brigades sort of freaks me out.)

Perhaps the 1st Armor Brigade elements are going to support the aerial assault made by the 101st Airborne when they find out where the Ebola troops are massed.

It seems our military is doing too many things in too many places, and when one more thing is added, when told to send a certain number of “troops” somewhere new, they have to resort to simply scraping up odds and ends off of the bottoms of all of the empty barrels that is the nature of our military today. They can’t be fussy about what type of soldier is suited to the purpose, they have to simply fill the body count as best they can.

Friday, October 10, 2014

How To Make A Decision

Bloomberg News informs us that Hillary Clinton is delighting prospective voters by saying, "I have a history with charismatic, attractive men who just wear me out.” They go on to describe her saying no to Obama's request to serve as Secretary of State repeatedly and then finally saying yes, and we now know that apparently it was because he is a "charismatic, attractive man" who she she just could not resist.

Bloomberg further tells us that this represents, "the Hillary Clinton who a lot of voters longed to see," which I think rather eloquently illustrates how fully and completely fubar is the state of the American electorate. If a male candidate said that his decisions could be, and frequently were, swayed by a pretty girl he would be laughed out of town. But when Hillary Clinton says the same thing, the reaction is to say that this is what was needed to complete her as the perfect candidate.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Well, Mississippi is Happy

Ole Miss defeated #3 Alabama, and Mississippi State put an absolute beat down on #6 Texas A&M. Two unranked teams from one state beating two top-ten teams on the same day. In all, five of the top eight teams, and 11 of 25, went down in flames. The AP rankings tomorrow will be interesting.

The LSU Tigers are rebuilding; are playing a lot of freshmen and will be fine when they mature. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Well, it might have a little bit to do with having hired Cam Cameron. I had reservations about that when it was announced.

Friday, October 03, 2014

"Don't Worry About Civilians"

We have been told repeatedly that when we fire Hellfire missiles at terrorists we first assure that there is a “virtual certainty” that no civilians are nearby to be killed or injured by the missile blast. Apparently the Obama administration defines “virtual certainty” somewhat differently than most people do, because the US says we have killed 2291 “militants” with these attacks and just under 300 civilians, which in itself doesn't seem much like the administration's "virtual certainty," while international investigations suggest we have killed as many as 2400 civilians.

Now that we are bombing in Syria and Iraq, however, the bombing standards have been loosened because we are “on a war footing,” despite the claim by the administration that because it employs nothing other than air power it is not a war and therefor does not require Congressional approval. Thus the rules of engagement have pretty much become, “Bombs away and don’t worry about civilians.”

Meanwhile, we have been castigating Assad and calling him inhumane for “killing his own people,” and so now we are going to go in and do it for him. It’s not okay for Assad to kill Syrian people while fighting ISIS, but it is okay for us to kill Syrian people while fighting ISIS. I would love to read the DOJ memo that provides the legal rationale for that one.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Wierd War

Glenn Greenwald has an article claiming that Obama’s newest terrorist threat, the “Khorasan network” which was bombed in Syria this week, is entirely fictional; something which the Obama administration made up to justify the air strikes against ISIS in Syria. His offers of proof strike me as more suggestive than probative, surprisingly so given that he is an attorney, but you can read his piece and decide for yourself.

I’m sympathetic to his argument, though, because when CBS Evening News first aired the dramatic expose of this dreaded new threat my first reaction was to think that it was certainly convenient in terms of timing. Just when Obama wants to start dropping bombs in Syria a deadly new terrorist threat turns up in, of all places, Syria.

Adding to my skepticism was that this new terror cell was hit with “eight air strikes,” which seemed like serious overkill for a bunch we are being told had been unknown only a few months ago. Even more bizarre was the claim that the strikes had hit, “training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communications building and command and control facilities.” This is a terror cell that we only discovered a few months ago?

The “explosives and munitions production facility” alone struck me as a bit much. An “explosives factory” I would have bought pretty readily, since drug gangs certainly have “drug factories” and explosives are to terrorists what drug are to gangs, but “munitions” in those factories as well? And what kind of terrorist cell has a “communications building,” let alone "command and control" facilities? I might have bought that we were bombing a new terrorist group, but the detailed description of precisely what we bombed clearly comes under the heading of “making shit up,” and casts a certain patina of doubt on the whole story. Sort of the Obama administration’s version of the Jessica Lynch rescue tale.

Adding to the doubt is that after the initial air strikes the “Khorasan network” has utterly and completely disappeared from the media blather.

This whole air war becomes more and more bizarre as time goes on. The battle is being desperately fought between good guys and bad guys, with the good guys begging for close air support, and we are bombing oil refineries. Really? And then it turns out we are bombing the wrong oil refineries, because the ones we bombed didn’t belong to ISIS after all. Why does that not surprise me?

Then we hear that our air forces have flown 4100 sorties, and have made 224 air strikes. Some of those sorties were refueling missions, but assuming that half of them were (which would be pathetic in itself), that means that 1826 odd times a fighter/bomber took off and flew around without doing anything; only about 10% of the missions made actual strikes. And we’re told that after just over a week, the air war against ISIS has already cost $1 billion.

That means that each air strike cost $4,464,285.75

Monday, September 29, 2014

We Need To Steer Our Own Ship

Bernie Sanders talks about “Citizens United” in an interview with Salon. Like many in the political discussion, he claims that it is the root cause of political polarization, that it is catastrophic for American governance, and that this nation cannot be governed until it is overturned.

“Yes. I am not unconfident that it will be overturned. And I’ll tell you why, because the vast majority of the American people do not agree with the Republican leadership that buying elections constitutes free speech. Very few people agree with that. So it’s not just progressives like me, it’s not just moderates, it is conservatives as well. We just put up something on our Facebook which came from Barry Goldwater talking about the same issue.

So the bottom line is, I think the vast majority of the American people believe that we need real campaign finance reform and that billionaires should not be allowed to buy elections.”

He then proceeds to debunk his own argument and embrace the claim that I have made many times, which is that the voting public can render “Citizens United” irrelevant by simply ignoring the television spot advertisements that the money pays for, letting the rich bastards waste their money as much as they want to, and voting as informed citizens.

“The answer is yes, and I’ll tell you what makes me optimistic: Neil Abercrombie is a friend of mine, [so] I’m not happy to tell you this. Neil is the governor of Hawaii. He outspent his opponent by 10 to 1, and he lost his primary bid by 2 to 1.

If you look at Eric Cantor: Eric Cantor had so much money he couldn’t even spend it, and as you know, he lost his primary bid. If you look at Andrew Cuomo, he ran against a candidate [Zephyr Teachout] who nobody knew, who had no money. She won half the counties in New York state in the recent primary. [Cuomo] had all the name recognition and all the money and she had very little.

So I think what we are seeing now is a profound anger at the corporate establishment, at the political establishment, at the media establishment. I think people want change. So to answer your question, yes, money is important, I don’t deny it for a moment. But I think people are paying less and less attention to ugly, 30-second ads and are prepared to hear from people who want real change in this country.”

Add to that list Carley Fiorina, who tried to purchase a Senate seat and Meg Whitman, who tried to purchase the governorship of the state of California in the 2010 election. Neither one of them even came within hand grenade distance of succeeding.

We need to get off of our fainting couches over this silly legal decision, quit demanding that the government take care of this issue for us, and simply take charge of our own damned government, as the constitution and existing laws fully permit us to do.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Death on the Dirt Track

For those of you who haven't heard, the New York State Grand Jury determined that Tony Stewart will not face criminal charges for the incident in which his car struck another driver who was out of his car and standing in the racing lane during a dirt track race. A factor contributing to their decision was that the driver who was killed had a level of marijuana in his blood which was "clearly sufficient to impair judgement."

Like alcohol, marijuana is legal in some places, but one should be aware that you use it at your own risk.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

New Definition for "Terrorist"

I suspect Obama is going to need to form a coalition to stop the Crimson Tide, and he will need "boots on the ground" to do it, and probably heavy armor. There was a certain Keystone Kops flavor to the first half, but even essentially giving up three touchdowns to the Florida defense, Alabama still won the game 42-21. Well, yes, Florida's offense did score twice; on two drives after turnovers, of 16 and 31 yards, totalling five plays.

LSU is rebuilding, especially in the defensive secondary, and lost to a really good Mississippi State team. At times I wondered if the Tigers were even awake back there, but... The less said about San Diego State the better.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Why I'm Not Boycotting Burger King

The guy who runs the local Burger King in my neighborhood is a local businessman. He bought that franchise some dozen years ago and spends about 12 hours per day in it. He spends his day behind the counter hustling orders and directing his employees. He comes out to bus tables, clean the drink machine, and do everything else that his employees do. It is clear that his employees like him. He is friendly to his customers and thanks them for coming in.

He invested his life savings to own his own business and needs the income from the store in order to pay his mortgage and feed his family. I've seen him leave work driving a six year old car.

This is a typical Burger King store, since 99% of Burger King fast food restaurants are not owned by the corporation which bears the name, but are owned by individual small businessmen who hold franchises to own their own businesses. I will not boycott these hard working people in a self righteous expression of anger over the action of some faceless corporation over which they have no control.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"Tell Me How This Ends"

The title quotation is attributed to General David Petraeus but, as with most of his wisdom, it does not originate with him. It comes from studies performed by the military following the war in Vietnam to assure that we do not get dragged into quagmires of endless war again, and became an element of the Powell doctrine, in which he says that we should never enter a war without having a clear “exit strategy.”

Of course that went by the board in 2002 with George W. Bush, when they thought that Iraq would throw flowers at our tanks and that no exit would be required because we would just be passing through. The eventual exit was based on at least a pretense that the country had reached a position of stability; a pretense which has now been thoroughly debunked.

We are exiting Afghanistan later this year, for no reason that I can discern other than that Obama has decided it is time to leave. Our original entry was supposedly for the purpose of capturing Osama bin Laden, but we failed in that effort within a couple of months. We then were supposedly driving out Al Queda, which we effectively did within a year, at which point our mission seemingly changed to defeating the Taliban. No one can even really pretend that we have done that, but we are leaving anyway.

So now we are starting a war to destruction with the Islamic State, and are not even talking about when or how that one ends, other than admitting that if it ends at all it will be “a long time” before it does. We don’t even have any assurance that it will end at all.

So “how does this end” is no longer a question to which an answer is required before we enter a new war, it is a question which we no longer ask.

Monday, September 15, 2014

How Did They Do That?

Either how did the Chargers beat the Seahawks, or how did they lose to the Cardinals? Wtf? It was, in any case, a great football game. The Chargers made me nervous, though, with the way that, while controlling the ball on offense for 42 minutes against only 18 for the Seahawks, they allowed the Seahawks to hang aroung close on the scoreboard. With that kind of ball control, the difference in score should have been greater than a mere six points when 1-1/2 minutes remained in the game.

The Chargers defense attacked like a pack of wolves on a crippled moose, and I hope John Pagano made a note of how that worked out. He has a tendency to "sit on" a six point lead, which not infrequently causes that lead to disappear.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Another "Long War," Part 3

Obama seems finally to have united the nation, having come up with a plan for destroying ISIS which absolutely everyone thinks is utterly stupid. Since he announced it Wednesday, I have not read one single article in support of his plan, and have read dozens which slam it for various reasons ranging from the plan not being sufficiently violent to the fact that it exists at all.

Rosa Brooks punks Obama for violating his promise to avoid “dumb wars” and lists several reasons why this war is even more dumb than was George Bush’s Iraq war. The article is behind a pay wall which grants one free visit per month, I believe, so you might be able to read it. If not her reasons pretty much run along the lines of the ones I've posed earlier, with a couple of additions.

She points out that Obama’s “fatwa of jihad” against the Islamic State is a marvelous recruiting tool for them. Just as jihadists flocked to Afghanistan to throw Russia out of that Islamic homeland, they are surely going to flock to the Islamic State to throw the Great Satan out of the Islamic State desert. If there are 30,000 fighters there now, you can bet there will be 50,000 there in a year or two.

Part of Obama’s eleven dimensional plan is to prevent foreign fighters from joining the fray, of course, but good luck with that for several reasons. It’s not going to happen.

She also points out that Syria is a Russian client state and that bombing in that nation without its permission is not only a violation of its national sovereignty and of international law, but is fraught with a significant risk of bringing us into direct conflict with Russia, which has nuclear weapons and the capability of delivering them to every part of the United States.

I would add that it risks bringing us into direct conflict with Syria, but of course for Obama that is a feature, not a bug.

Obama does not acknowledge the concept of "national sovereignty," of course, and he is not concerned about Russia because he regards them as a “regional power” (apparently nuclear missiles don’t count) which is afraid of picking a fight with us because of our much larger military. He must not have been listening when General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the JSOC, told him that our military is currently so badly broken that it would “shatter” if Obama got us into another war.

Obama’s comments about Russia sound like the same arrogant schoolyard bullying that George Bush engaged in, except that he uses somewhat more refined language. The attitude, however, if you listen beneath the smoother words, is pretty much the same, as is the policy.

Obama admitted in his speech that ISIS does not currently present any threat to this nation, but that there is a chance that it might someday do so, albeit even then not particularly deadly threats, and that he is therefor launching military strikes against it in two countries. Preventive war against possible future threat. He was appalled when George Bush was doing this, but now that it is his turn to do it

Someone posed the question, “Does this mean that we are going to be at endless war forever?” My reaction was that it was a remarkably silly question.

Friday, September 12, 2014

This Is Going To Be Brutal

The Chargers play the Seahawhs in San Diego Sunday. That in itself would make one pity the Chargers, but the forecast is for a high of 96 degrees, 90 at the beaches, and the game is at 1:00pm. The temperature in the stadium will be well over 100 degrees. Yikes.

Another "Long War," Part 2

An interesting aspect of Obama’s declaration of war on ISIS was when he said that the plan is one which “we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.” If those two nations, especially Somalia, are his definition of success, I would certainly hate to see his definition of failure. And I’m not sure than anyone who has more than two functional brain cells would equate the strategies; massive and frequent bombing attacks with manned aircraft does not really equate to aiming at individual “suspected terrorists” with missiles fired from unmanned drones.

I had to wonder what he had been smoking when he said that “It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples' right to determine their own destiny.” Except that when the people of Crimea held a vote to determine their own destiny we called it illegal and demanded that the vote be declared void.

Obama has redefined “leadership” repeatedly during his time in office, and he did so again during this speech. After talking at great length about our strength and leadership, and how urgent it is to destroy ISIS for American security and because two Americans had been beheaded, he then said that we are unwilling to risk our own soldiers to do it. What kind of nation wants other nations to risk their troops to achieve its own security? Especially while boasting about its own strength and leadership.

Someone else, Obama says, will have to do the dying on the battlefield in order to win the war that Obama is starting. That game of “let’s you and him fight” gives new meaning to his penchant for “leading from behind.”

Form a “broad coalition” to start a new war and then say “we’ll provide the leadership, you provide the dying.” American exceptionalism at its best.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Another "Long War"

My reaction to Obama’s speech was basically, “Wow, I skipped The Big Bang Theory for that?” I was, to say the least, underwhelmed, but at least it was mercifully short. I threw up in my mouth a little bit at the “our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden, but as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead” part. Tell that to the people who still don’t have jobs and parents who have lost children on the battlefield.

Pat Lang has an excellent analysis at Sic Semper Tyrannis, and I suggest you read it. The colonel served as an intelligence officer in that area of the world for many years; he knows his stuff, and he writes clearly and understandably on the subject.

I would only add my own commentary on the part of the plan that calls for “arming the Syrian opposition.” For one thing, Obama’s insistence on deposing Assad regardless of the conditions is absurd. Secondly, when you have three groups fighting in an area, how is adding a fourth to the mix going to make the situation better? We are going to be trying to bomb Assad and ISIS while not bombing the “Syrian opposition.” How well is that going to work?

We are bombing in Syria because “if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven,” which was the reason for bombing Cambodia during the war in Vietnam. That eventually led to the killing fields of Pol Pot and the deaths of millions.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Surfing Culture

What intrigues me is that no one seems particularly upset by the Chargers loss to the Cardinals on Monday night. The local sports writers are basically saying that the Chargers did what the Chargers do, which is lose games they should have won; nothing to see here, move along. The coaches and players are saying that they played well and just made some mistakes which cost them the game; nothing to see here, move along.

Nobody asks the question which is sort of the great white shark in the swimming pool; why did the Charger players make those mistakes?

I would suggest that it has to do with a lack of mental discipline, something which the Chargers have suffered from for many years. No coach or general manager has been able to overcome it, and I think it goes with being in a city whose culture is “let’s go surfing.”

I would like to know where the Charger players were on Saturday night. I can pretty much guarantee you that the majority of them were not studying their playbooks, but were in downtown Phoenix studying something a great deal more lively than x’s and o’s. The local sports writers, none of whom have ever played football, all claim that players can be in a drunken stupor on Friday night and have recovered fully to play at peak level on Sunday. They are wrong.

The mistakes which I see being made at game time are for the most part due to a lack of mental focus, and by far the majority of them are being made by players whose names appear in the society pages as having been part of “the scene” on Friday nights. There is a connection. The Chargers will consistently win games, and championships, when they have players who are less interested in being celebrities and more interested in being professional football players.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Funky Red Lines, Maybe Pink

I normally take a dim view of Obama making threats and issuing “red lines,” but the ones he drew at the NATO meeting in Wales don’t bother me much. He said that we would “not hesitate to protect" one of NATO’s members against loss of its independence. He did not specify what might cause that loss of independence, but he was looking toward Russia when he said it.

"We’ll be here for Estonia,” he said. “We’ll be here for Latvia. We’ll be here for Lithuania.” Pretty easy words, since he knows that there is precisely zero chance that Russia will invade any of those countries. It was a little awkward when hi got to the end of the alphabet and had said nothing about “being here” for Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden's rhetoric addressing a different theater of operations about how, "after a proper period for grieving" we will "follow them to the gates of hell because that's where they will live" suggests to me that Joe may be showing his age a bit.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

NFL Kickoff

The opening game Thursday night is Packers/Seahawks which is, to say the least, an interesting pairing. But then we have Monday night bringing us the Chargers at the Arizona Cardinals. Are there any two teams in the NFL which inspire less national interest than those two? That game is the second half of a Monday night double header, starting at 10:20pm EDT, so only about six people on the East Coast will be watching it regardless of which teams are playing, but...

The Raiders are in desperation mode already, and the season has not even started yet. They announced that they will not start Matt Schaub at quarterback, but will go with rookie Derek Carr. That's the second year in a row that the Raiders have traded to get a starting quarterback and not started him, but it's the first year thay benched that starter for a rookie.

The Chargers are, of course, the class of the NFL. They will probably not win sixteen games during the reqular season, but no one will beat them legitimately and they will win the division easily, will all of their post season games without even breathing hard, and win the Super Bowl with one hand tied behind Philip Rivers' back. Just ask the sports writers for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

What's The Point?

CVS Pharmacy is changing its name to "CVS Health" but, according to several reports, will not be changing the signs on its stores, which rather makes one wonder why it changed its name.

The name change is pursuant to the chain stopping the sales of tobacco products, which you would think would generate rave reviews for the management which made such a socially responsible decision. That seems not, however, to be the case, because every social comment I have read in response to the announcement has been that they are remiss in not stopping the sales of soft drinks and candy as well. Because, apparently, stopping cancer is useless unless you stop obesity at the same time. Somebody is going to have to explain the logic of that to me, because I don't get it.

Of course, my father died of lung cancer which undoubtedly originated with his heavy smoking, and I have never had a family member die from obesity, so perhaps I lack perspective. I don't think so, however; I think my perspective is just fine. I think that there is something wrong with a society that refuses to credit a firm for doing something good, but instead criticizes it for not doing more.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

This Is Getting Ridiculous

The college football season kicks off tonight, with Texas A&M taking on South Carolina, so I look to see what channel the will be on. Neither team plays in the Pac-12, so I don't have to worry about the game being on that new silly-ass Pac-12 channel.

Seems I spoke too soon. The game in on the SEC channel, because now the Southeast Conference also has its own television network. So where is that silly thing on the 1800 channels on my stupid Cox list of channels? Or is it even there at all? Yes, it's three numbers away from the Pac-12 channel, at number 1316, and yes, it is high-def.

At least my beloved LSU Tigers will meet Wisconsin on a real network Saturday night. I will have to record it, though, because I will be in Fontana, watching the Indycar season finale live.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mission Creep

According to The Guardian last Saturday, US officials have said that there is now a “new context” for confronting Isis…following the beheading of US journalist James Foley.”

Of course there is a “new context” for expanding violence. America will always have a “new context” for expanding the scope of our infliction of death and destruction.

The original air strikes in Iraq were, according to Obama, in pursuit of an “extremely limited objective to protect lives” in Erbil and tens of thousands on Mt. Sinjar who were in eminent danger of being massacred, and he assured us that there would be no “mission creep.” Turns out the numbers on Mt. Sinjar were more than a little bit exaggerated, as was the threat and immediacy of massacre.

Then there was a “new context” in the need to assist in the retaking of the Mosul dam. Then we needed to “do something” about the killing of James Foley because his beheading was so much more painful than is the peaceful and painless death which we inflict, often on women and children, by means of Hellfire missiles.

So now we need to entirely destroy the Islamic State forces before they develop a “safe haven” from which they can “launch major attacks upon America,” but we are told that the White House is dithering with a “mounting concern” over “how to target Sunni extremists without helping President Bashar Assad” because Obama is “is loath to be seen as aiding the Syrian government, even inadvertently.”

This is a real conundrum, isn’t it? Two forces are fighting each other. One of them is headed by a “evil dictator” who you have declared has “lost his legitimacy,” is a threat to your allies in the region and must step down. You have taken the position that this guy must go and you are not going to back down from it.

The other is a group which you have defined as an existential threat to yourself. You must destroy this force or risk your own destruction, but doing so risks helping the guy that you have said is evil and must go.

Perhaps the problem lies in the way that you have defined the two forces.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hypersonic Spin

Writers who are unfailingly loyal to Danica Patrick are having to resort to desperate measures to write positive things about her. I cracked up at the phrasing of this one,

"Though Patrick would fall another few laps behind, she was able to drive her way back into the top 30 by the time the checkered flag flew."

That means, actually, that several cars running in front of her crashed.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

NFL Fantasy Football

ESPN provides projections of the fantasy points expected for each player in the league, but I'm not sure how seriously we should be taking thses projections when forming our teams. Like most fortune telling schemes, there are inconsistencies.

They project only 84 points for Antonio Gates, for instance, because they say that the Chargers have essentially replaced him with the younger and now seasoned Ladarius Green. For Green, however, they project only 82 points because they say he will be playing in the shadow of the veteran Gates. That's sort of like saying that you can't have your cake because you've alread eaten it, and then in the next breath saying that you can't eat your cake because you don't have it yet.

On the other hand, the two of them add up to 166 points, which is about right for one really good tight end. So maybe each guy will play half of the time and they have it right. I'm no fortune teller either.

They also project 153 points for Johhny Manziel, which is only going to happen if he is awarded 25 points for each concussion and 80 points for a broken leg.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Things That Are Obvious

Hillary Clinton will run unopposed in the 2016 primary election because everyone is afraid to oppose her. The Clintons are famous for punishing anyone who runs against them and no one ever dares to do so.

That is, of course, why Hillary Clinton won the primary election in 2008.

Missing The Point

I watch Grey’s Anatomy and enjoy it, but I wouldn’t say it is my favorite program. I also like the character played by Jesse Williams although, again, not really my favorite. I think I will like him better next season after watching Jesse Williams speak with such elegantly restrained anger on the issues reflected in Ferguson, MO recently.

What’s interesting is that his line that “the media starts in the middle of the story” has caught people’s imagination and, in a masterpiece of irony, every film clip I can find of his discussion on CNN starts with him speaking that line, which is in the middle of what he has to say and misses the very important beginning. His whole point goes something like this:

“When a white kid shoots up a school,” he says, the media discusses the kid for days in terms of background. “We go back to the day of his birth,” Jesse says, “We have to understand him.” (emphasis his) But in a case like what happened at Ferguson Jesse says, in the line that has become famous, “the media starts in the middle of the story, which is a black kid shot in the street.”

He makes a very powerful point, diminished significantly when you leave out the first part of it. I have long asserted that we should not even know the name of the “white kid who shot up a school,” let alone spend days in this ghoulish analysis of his psyche, and Jesse’s point is profound. We know the shooter’s inner workings, but as to “the black kid shot in the street,” we don’t even know what his hobbies were.

And even when people hear Jesse Williams talk about the racist attitude in media they focus on one line, miss the meaning of it and, in discussing what he has to say about the media reporting half the story, they talk about half of what he has to say.

Racism is alive and well, thriving in America.