Thursday, March 31, 2011

Well Stated

This quote is from a comment at, and it is exceptionally elegant. I wish I had said it myself.

The United States suffers from excessive individualism. Too many people think, and are told, that "the Government" is an alien entity out to stifle them, when in reality, "the Government" is us, collectively solving problems that are too large to solve individually.

Update: in response to (deleted) insulting and personal comment:

I was intending to keep this upbeat and positive, but the person who made the comment which I quoted above went on to say that it was unfortunate that the government in question had been hijacked by self-serving politicians who had rendered it no longer the servant of the people but a tool for stealing from the common people and lining the pockets of the wealthy few.

I welcome honest discussion, including from people who do not agree with me, but comments which are gratuitously insulting and/or personal in nature will be deleted.

Lying Liberal Media

Lawrence O’Donnell has long insisted that liberals are too reluctant to call out conservatives when they are dishonest, and too reluctant to come right out and accuse them of lying. He says liberals should not beat around the bush, but should call lies what they are, and call liars what they are.

Okay, Lawrence O’Donnell is a pompous lying jackass.

Last night he tore into Eric Cantor for being “so stupid that he does not know how bills become law in this land,” throwing an absolute tantrum on air, all but demanding that Cantor be expelled from Congress, and calling the people in Cantor’s district idiotic for electing him. He then called on Representative Barney Frank to support him in his outrage but Mr. Frank tried to calm him down instead, saying that Mr. Cantor was not that stupid but was merely grandstanding. O’Donnell would have none of it and continued his tirade about Cantor’s ignorance of the legislative process.

O’Donnell was lying. He knows very well that what Eric Cantor was doing was nothing more or less than political theater, really bad political theater admittedly, and his insistence on it being ignorance was a lie. Let me repeat, Lawrence O’Donnell was lying.

Then he tore into Senator Rand Paul, the one legislator with whatever it takes to stand up for our constitution and take on Obama for employing our military in a foreign land without Congressional authority. To begin with O’Donnell lies about what Obama did, referring to it as “his decision to join the enforcement of a no fly zone over Libya.” That is a lie and O’Donnell knows it. Obama led the way to creating that no fly zone, led the way to creating the coalition that participated in it, and was the sole authority which made the whole thing possible. To imply that the no fly zone was in place and say that Obama merely decided to join in is a lie.

Rand Paul is quoted by O’Donnell as saying that Obama should not have “initiated a war” without Congress debating and deciding on that action and then he lies when he launches into a pompous, indignant and downright Olbermannesque diatribe, repeatedly calling Senator Paul a liar and claiming that Paul declined that opportunity to debate that action when he allowed SR85 to pass by “unanimous consent.” That bill did indeed express that the Senate disapproved of Ghadaffi and would welcome his departure, and that it felt in principle that the UN should consider the possibility of the imposition of a no fly zone.

To stretch that to say that the Senate had thereby authorized Obama to use military force in Libya to accomplish what the Senate had expressed as being desirable in principle is an outright lie, and O’Donnell is a liar for claiming any such thing.

Is that sufficiently specific for you Lawrence?

Arms For A Civil War

Whatever the original intent pretense, it has certainly become clear by now that our purpose for military action in Libya is regime change, and that we are going about it in an astoundingly inept manner. Whatever legitimacy and goodwill we may have gained with our “coalition” and stated mission of “humanitarianism," we are losing now as our government says that we believe we have the right to provide arms and munitions to the rebels in violation of the United Nations arms embargo and merely have not yet decided whether it is in our best interest to do so.

Whatever language we may be able to parse within that resolution, the intent of that resolution is crystal clear, and that is that no weaponry or munitions are to be allowed into that country for either side.

The very fact that we refer to them as “rebels” reveals our admission that we know we have blundered into the middle of a civil war, no matter how unwilling we may be to admit that.

Our government would have you believe that Libyan rebels consist of the entirety of the Libyan people rising up together in a noble effort to throw off the yoke of an oppressor, but it is rapidly emerging that such is not the case. From an article in Time on Tuesday, “Indeed, Bin Jawad may be the first town in the rebels' westward push where many of the townspeople are not on their side.” That report goes on to describe the rebels going door to door in that town, hunting Gaddafi loyalists in much the manner that was described as being threatened by Gaddafi for a different town, a threat which was used by us as a “humanitarian crisis” that needed to be prevented.

These are the rebels to whom we want to provide arms and munitions, using as rationalization the language in the UN resolution that doing so would be “taking all necessary steps to protect civilian life.”

So having assembled a coalition to achieve regime change in Libya under the cover of a “humanitarian crisis prevention,” we have turned the mission over to NATO leadership which is not willing to pursue action which will actually achieve regime change, and we are discussing arming one side of what everyone except us knows is a civil war in a manner that everyone except us will know is in violation of a UN arms embargo.

Stupidity piled upon ineptitude. I am so proud.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The "Obama Doctrine"

Back in the day when I worked for National Steel I wanted to buy a certain machine which cost about $180,000. I had to write up specifications for it and send it to the home office so that they could send out for bids. I wanted a particular brand, so I wrote the specifications very narrowly so that only one brand could meet them and I could be sure of getting the one I wanted regardless of competitive bidding. The home office sent it back and said I could not do that, and that it was actually illegal, and I had to broaden the specifications to allow competition.

It had a happy ending though, and I did get the machine I wanted.

I thought of that in the past few days when various news shows have been discussing the “Obama Doctrine” for invading to prevent humanitarian crises. No two people define it the same way, but they all agree on one thing, namely that it sure as hell is not going to be employed very often. Actually, the consensus is that it will be employed precisely once.

Seems he wrote it for Libya, same way I originally wrote that machine spec.

Torture Redux

I have been astounded at the extreme degree of torture being applied to what is being called “logic” to justify Obama’s efforts in Libya in its various dimensions. Ask how we know that thousands of deaths were imminent and you will get some of the weirdest answers you can imagine, some of which will take several minutes to spin out.

Ask why Libya and not several other places where humanitarian crisis have occurred or are apparently about to and you will get more diverse, and more lengthy, collection of answers. The latest one on Last Word is that our military and its weaponry works well in the open, desert environment of Libya, while it is not as effective in the jungles of some other countries. I wasn’t aware that Syria and Bahrain were jungle country, but the Ivory Coast is at least forested so our military certainly cannot be expected to fight there. The longest answer comes from Obama himself, of course. I’ve always zoned out before he finished saying it, but I suspect it is the broadest and least substantive of any of them.

I always zone out when he’s explaining things. Yes, like the rest of America I love his calmness and the air of confidence he portrays and, other than tending to make me sort of lose interest and dose off, I think its really effective. I usually have no idea what the fuck he’s talking about, though, so I think we need a ten-year-old kid to tell us whether or not he is wearing any clothes. (Figuratively speaking) To tell us, that is, whether he is so intelligent that he is speaking above the heads of us mere mortals, or whether he is just baffling us with bullshit. I’m not real dumb, and it sounds like the latter to me.

Pundits don’t understand his speech either, so they just make shit up.

We’ve certainly gone all medieval on the issue of constitutional authority, and have tortured the logic completely out of recognition as applied to that topic, with magical phrases such as “time limited military kinetic activity” which can be translated to “short war.” Lawrence O’Donnell dragged out a bill from last month which called in principle for Ghaddafi to step down, and for UN action including a “no fly zone,” and he used that on his show as presidential authority for attacking Libya, conveniently failing to note that not only did it fail to call for direct action by this nation, it specifically did not authorize the use of our military forces in any action.

If you asked anyone what the “Bush Doctrine” was you might get any one of several answers, but you would get something that fell within a fairly narrow range of answers. Unless you asked Sarah Palin, of course, but that’s a separate issue.

If you ask about the Obama Doctrine you will mostly get, “Oh, you mean there is one?” Or you will get something like, “Well I know he has one, but I don’t understand it. I think it has to do with leading ships somewhere.”

Torturing logic is not illegal, but maybe it should be; at least in politics.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Irrelevant Facts

A commenter on an earlier post said that I should not “let facts get in your of your sniveling.” Not entirely sure what that means, but I think it was an insult and that the commenter was disputing my assertions. Pretty funny, since it was the commenter who was insisting that GE is “a very profitable international corporation not paying taxes in USA.” Blind insistence that the investment firm GE Capital does not exist, merely because it serves the purpose of demonizing General Electric.

It also serves the purpose of claiming that “in USA international corporations do _NOT_ pay taxes. It's the Republicant [sic] Party way.” Let’s not pay any attention to the concept that the US has no authority to collect taxes on income earned outside of the country by non-domestic entities. Irrelevant to the argument, you know.

Let’s also skip the little fact that the most recent tax law was passed by a Democratic-controlled Senate and signed by a Democratic President. That is a minor detail that is not pertinent to the tax policy discussion of demonizing Republicants [sic] as well as General Electric.

Lets also disregard the little detail that, while corporations putatively pay legislators to pass tax policies favorable to them, the people of this nation indisputably elect these legislators, and keep reelecting them no matter what laws they pass. That is a mere detail, and the legislation that is against the peoples’ interest is entirely the fault of the Republicants [sic] and the corporations, and has nothing to do with the Democrats who were actually in the majority, or with the people who elect the legislators.

I’m glad we have all of those irrelevant “facts” properly debunked.

The President on Libya

President Obama partially sold me on his case for attacking Libya last night. He did not make me a “true believer,” but if the facts on the ground were as he stated them then I can see justification for our intervention and, while not entirely supportive, am no longer entirely opposed to our participation in the instigation of a “no fly zone” in that country.

The facts on the ground being as he stated them is by no means a given, of course, because I believe nothing that anyone in my government tells me, and that includes Obama.

He lost me when he started talking about regime change, though, because while he decried the use of the term, his rhetoric about the need to remove Qaddafi from power is regime change even if you don’t call it that. That whole segment was filled with dissonance, such as describing Qaddafi’s forty years of reign as a tyrant when his predecessor removed Qaddafi from the list of terrorist sponsors and less than two years ago, on Obama’s watch, John McCain was visiting Qaddafi and praising him for his “peacemaking efforts in Africa.”

He spoke at length about the mission being limited to the protection of civilians and that we were not assisting the rebels in overthrowing Qaddafi, which was at odds with rhetoric coming from the rest of his government, which is saying that we can provide arms to the rebels despite the arms embargo, and that we might do so. It is also in conflict with our provision of A-10 and AC-130 aircraft, which have no role other than to attack forces on the ground and are, as we speak, being used to destroy Qaddafi’s ground attack forces in support of the rebels.

As far as I can tell, regime change remains a significant part of American foreign policy. If we lose patience with the leader of a nation, we will start screaming regime change and throw that leader out by force if necessary. The “consent of the governed” is secondary to consent of the United States.

He mentioned that he consulted the United Nations, allied leaders, and members of both parties in Congress before taking this action, which has the be the quickest brush-off ever in failing to address the issue of his taking this action without proper authority under the constitution which dictates the governance of this nation. More on that another time.

He spoke of turning over command to NATO and “sharing the burden,” which is fine, but while we only pay 22% of the budget of NATO, I have no doubt that we will provide a lot more than 22% of the aircraft and ships needed for the operation. How many aircraft carriers does NATO have? How many A-10’s or AC-130’s?

On the question of intervening Libya but not in Somalia, for instance, or the Ivory Coast or anywhere else that people are dying in significant numbers, he spoke at some length, but if he answered the issue it certainly was not apparent to me. Reality is that there is no answer to that question, and that is a serious problem arising from this intervention.

All in all it was a speech that did not resolve for me the empty feeling that is left by one fact – here we are with another war which was started without firm support of this nation’s people, for reasons that are unclear, with objectives that are even less clear, and that has no end in sight. He may have clarified the beginning slightly, but he did not clarify the objective at all, and he did not even mention the end.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Question of the Week

Why in the name of ... was "Undercover Boss" renewed on CBS? It was modestly interesting at first, but now you can write the script in advance. The boss's cover will nearly be blown in one place, he will find an amazing employee in another, will find an employee with a sick child in yet another, and an employee the needs promotion in the last place.

At the end he will give a scholarship to one employee, a free vacation to another, $5000 to the third; pissing off all of the employees who did not appear on the show and get rewards and making no changes that will benefit the company overall.

Missing The Point

Paul Krugman misses the obvious point once again. He writes about financing wars and uses Britain and France during the Napoleonic wars. Britain financed her wars with borrowed money and was in fine shape following the war, while France fought the war on a "pay as you go" basis and suffered hyperinflation and high interest costs on borrowing following the war. In saying that this is "[s]omewhat relevant to current debates," he implies that borrowing money has no negative consequences and that failing to borrow money to fight our wars might prove costly.

He failed to note that the problems France suffered after the war might just possibly be due to the fact that it lost the damned war.

What Does The Pot Call The Kettle?

If I owned two restaurants, and the one located in San Diego made a profit of $10,000 while the one in Los Angeles operated at a loss of $15,000, one would say that my business had a loss of $5000 for the year and that I owed no taxes. Right?

Well, no. The liberal media would pretend that my Los Angeles restaurant did not exist at all, would report that my San Diego restaurant made $10,000 in profits and would be howling that I paid no taxes because I had an army of tax accountants that allowed me to cheat the government.

General Electric is the nation’s largest corporation, and it owns a vast array of manufacturing companies which made a total profit of some $14 billion in 2009. They also own GE Capital, an investment firm that, like most investment firms in that year, suffered enormous losses. As any corporation would reasonably do, they charged their investment losses off against their manufacturing profits and wound up with a net loss on which they owed no taxes. There is nothing out of the ordinary or in any way suspicious or illegal about any of that.

The media is making much of their profits in manufacturing and the fact that they paid no taxes, claiming that “they write their own tax laws,” that “their 24,000-page tax returns are impossible to audit,” and that circumstances which permit them not to pay taxes on their income are some sort of nefarious plot hatched in cooperation with Republicans.

Lawrence O’Donnell even referenced their statement on his Friday night show that “if it were not for losses incurred by GE Capital” their tax liability would have been 21% of the income realized by their manufacturing operations, and then sailed right past that statement as if he had not even made it and launched into a comedy routine about how easy it is to fill out the five page Form 1120 corporate tax return.

The liberal media continues, of course, to mock and criticize the buffoonery and dishonesty engaged in by the conservative media.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bill's Brackets

Brackets are here: original and updated. My picks are blue. As games are played, corrections will be shown in red, with corrected picks in purple on the "updated" brackets. Comments are welcome, and I will add some myself.

Okay, did anyone in the universe pick this Final Four? Three out of four?

Firefox 4: Upgrade?

I am still using Version 3.6.12 at this point. I've read mostly good stuff about Version 4, but every time I have upgraded to a new incremental number I have lost all of my bookmarks and saved passwords, and nothing in their "support" section tells me whether that will happen again. Anyone know?

Ready, Fire, Aim

It is my habit to withhold outrage until I confirm the accuracy of subjects about which I might become outraged, and right here is a perfect example of why I do that. I admire Glenn Greenwald enormously, and if you don’t have his column on your daily reading list, shame on you, but he has been known to fire before aiming.

The short story is that he wrote a column filled with his elegant and lethal outrage over the White House appointing a psychologist to serve on a board serving the emotional needs of military families. This psychologist had been instrumental in the torture of “detainees” at Guantanamo and still has his license to practice only because the statute of limitations had run out before he was brought up on charges in the state where he is licensed. Like Glenn, I was appalled when I read of his appointment, but decided to wait for further developments.

It turns out, as Greenwald’s original column accurately says, that the news of his appointment to the White House board was from a letter distributed by Dr. James himself. I can’t say I blame Glenn for assuming that the letter was accurate, because who would send out what amounts to a press release about something that was untrue?

Well, it turns out Dr. James would. The White House responded to Greenwald’s request for information, and their email named a couple of associations that were involved in the meeting and then said, “We understand that Dr. James is involved with these groups and may have been indirectly invited to attend this meeting.” The message went on to say that he was not specifically on the guest list, and finished, “Dr. James has not been appointed to serve in any capacity with the White House."

Greenwald may miss his intended target, but he hits an even better one. His post serves to remind us of what Guantanamo was all about, and why we should be outraged that it has not been closed. Obama’s plan to move it to Illinois was never sufficient, because the problem was never about an island in the Caribbean. The problem is the whole concept of indefinite imprisonment without trial, of trial by a “justice” system which is designed to convict and of the corruption and subversion of values that made this nation strong for more than two centuries.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Elite Eight

imageWhoa! Ohio State and Duke are both gone, and VCU advances. My current scenario has Kansas beating Arizona for the championship.

Rick Reilly has a discussion on Jimmer Fredette with which I am in total agreement. I have always felt that his offense was slightly overrated, and have been offended at the idea of making some sort of "basketball god" out of a guy who does not even pretend to play defense.

Friday, March 25, 2011

And I'm Proud Of It

Quiz: What Kind of Liberal Are You?

My Liberal Identity

You are a Reality-Based Intellectualist, also known as the liberal elite. A proud member of what’s known as the reality-based community, where science, reason, and non-Jesus-based thought reign supreme.

Take the quiz at Political Humor

Well, It's All Gone Wrong Now

British journalists have been allowed into Tripoli to view the results of strikes by our missiles with their guidance systems that magically kill only militants and terrorists, and it turns out one of those missiles seems to have gone horribly astray. Journalists actually witnessed with their own eyes, "US-made missile fragments that damaged a farm on the outskirts of town and that were reported to have slightly injured a teenage girl." Now we are actually contributing to the humanitarian crisis ourselves, with these missiles that can no longer differentiate between militants, terrorists and teenage girls.

Each missile fragment is apparently stamped "Made in USA." I'm not sure when we started making missile fragments, or why. No, we don't make missile fragments when a missile blows up, the missile itself makes them.

I'm not sure I get the point. Journalists were "taken to see" the atrocities that our "coalition" is committing, and then they were shown one damaged farm and a "slightly injured" teenager.

"The US and Britain claim there have been no civilian casualties." And we know that because we are firing magic missiles that only kill militants and terrorists, just like the missiles we fire from drones in Pakistan.

Except the ones that "slightly injure" the odd teenage girl. I'm trying to picture a Tomahawk missile "slightly injuring" anyone. She was probably disguised as a militant and fooled the missile. Maybe she was going to a militant party.

I can afford to be light hearted here, because for all I can tell from this article about "attacks on civilians," the British and American claims about no civilian casualties may be entirely true. The reporter uses a lot of colorful language to say almost precisely nothing.

Parsing The Resolutions

One headline reads that troops are firing on protesters in Syria, another reports “millions” of refugees in Ivory Coast. Do neither of these represent a “humanitarian crisis” in which we need to intervene?

Meanwhile, American officials are parsing the language of the United Nations arms embargo in Libya to interpret them to mean that we can take sides in the civil war in country by arming the rebels. I have read both Resolution 1970 and Resolution 1973 in their entirety, and the language is very clear; no arms may be transported into that country. Period.

Our officials are saying that those resolutions “neither specify nor preclude” us arming the rebels because they “authorize all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack.” Arming the rebels, I presume, would be a measure to “protect civilians under threat of attack” because the rebels would then protect said civilians.

But it would still be transporting arms into the country in specific violation of the embargo imposed by the United Nations, it would be an escalation of violence and civil disorder, and it would be a violation of the resolution’s mandate that the signatories not attempt to unseat Gaddafi.

Unless, of course, the United States just wants to issue a statement that we can do whatever we want to do because we have the biggest and baddest military in the world, and we are not responding to the humanitarian crises in Syria or Ivory Coast because our intervention in Libya is not about humanitarian crisis in the first place.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

When Does Spin Become Lies?

The Obama administration claims that what is happening in Libya this week “is a limited humanitarian intervention, not war.” I’m not entirely sure what that statement by Dennis Ross is supposed to accomplish, but… Suppose,

On Sunday, Russia flew 60 sorties over New York; Monday it flew nearly 80; on Wednesday it flew 175. At this moment, Russian pilots are bombing and shooting on the outskirts of New York City. Off the shores of New York, a bevy of Russian ships and subs have launched over 160 Tomahawk missiles at New York and Washington.

That would not be “war” would it? Of course not.

Babbling Nonsense

Lawrence O’Donnell is big on mocking conservatives when they babble nonsense, but he is less aggressive about calling out fellow liberals for doing the same thing, even when they do it right in front of his face and on his own show.

He had Anthony Weiner as a guest last night, a liberal Democrat from New York, and not only failed to bat an eyelash but nodded sagely when Weiner said that the “individual mandate” portion of the “health care reform” legislation would be overturned by the Supreme Court because the Court does what ever the leadership of the Republican Party tells it to do. Weiner used more words than that, but I am not misinterpreting what he said.

Weiner than said that that the “individual mandate” being eliminated wouldn’t matter because “people seldom choose not to obtain insurance” when it is available and subsidized and so forth. He used Massachusetts as an example, which is hilarious, since that state’s health care plan does have the individual mandate, and his slip was incredibly transparent in his own words when he said that “only .67% of people in Massachusetts said no to getting insurance when they were forced to.” (emphasis mine)

Weiner’s next point was that once the individual mandate was eliminated the door would be open for Congress to reconsider and pass the “public option,” thereby proving that he had become completely unmoored from reality. O’Donnell merely thanked him for being on the show.

Stopping the Slaughter

The Obama Administration is really good at taking credit for things that didn’t happen. We have 9% unemployment because Obama’s policies prevented it from becoming 11%. We lost 7 million jobs because Obama prevented that from being 10 million. We had a severe recession because Obama prevented an actual depression. Health insurance costs have risen 45% because “health care reform” is, um, providing insurance for millions who could not get it before.

Okay, that last one was a non sequitur, but Obama does that too.

Now we have that same concept applied to starting a third war without constitutional authority. The action is already justified by the assertion that “we have prevented the slaughter of thousands of civilians.” Daniel Larison has a sane perspective on that.

“Saying that the war has averted a humanitarian catastrophe is an extremely useful claim, and there’s no obvious way to disprove it. Outside governments intervened, and a humanitarian catastrophe hasn’t happened, and supporters of the war take it for granted that one would have happened otherwise.” […] “Unlike a preventive war designed to eliminate another country’s arsenal of unconventional weapons, preventive humanitarian interventions can’t be discredited by a lack of physical evidence. If a humanitarian crisis doesn’t happen, there will always be uncertainty about whether the intervention was ever really necessary.”

Not in the minds of the cheerleaders who urged the war, of course, but in the minds of sane people who do not believe that deadly weapons should start flying at the slightest opportunity merely to prove that this nation has the biggest dick among nations.

Chris Matthews has been beating a drum for the past two days on Hardball about former Clinton people influencing the present administration to intervene in Libya and that their motivation is some form of mass national guilt over our failure to intervene in Rwanda. Given the incoherent manner in which this administration seems to manage foreign policy, I guess it might be possible that we would do something stupid today based on the bizarre idea that it would atone for something bad that happened 17 years ago.

Meanwhile the media does its best to support the ”prevention of slaughter” theory, even in the face of a severe lack of facts with which to do so. Hardball aired a report by Richard Engle who said that the “no fly zone” had “been successful in Benghazi, but it certainly hasn’t stopped the slaughter down here in Ajdabiya.” He continues his report merely by saying that the Ghadaffi forces are attacking that town and that there is fighting.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The "New & Improved" NFL

The NFL is adding little white handkerchiefs which will be worn on each hip of all eligible ball carriers. Grabbing and removing either one of these will replace tackling, to reduce injuries. All players engaged in blocking will be required to wear sumo outfits. Any player not wearing a sumo outfit who frightens the quarterback will be suspended without pay for four weeks.

Actually, the first part is okay because NFL players can't tackle worth crap anyway. If you want decent tackling you have to watch college football.

Incoherence Abounds

Chris Matthews and Lawrence O’Donnell have had various “experts” on their shows talking about our UN mandate to protect civilians, and then going on to describe how we should “arm the rebels” or “sell arms to the rebels.” What part of “arms embargo” do they not understand? The UN resolution under which we are operating is very specific in stating that the arms embargo imposed earlier remains in force and that it applies to both sides of what clearly is a civil war.

Chris Matthews is indignant about the concept that “since we have not done it everywhere we cannot do it anywhere,” referring to the prevention of the slaughter of thousands, but he misses the point. The point is that since we have never done it before there is considerable reason to suspect our motives when we choose to do it now.

There is even more reason to be suspicious when in the cases where we chose not to do it there was visible evidence of hundreds of thousands of dead, and in this case there is no visible evidence of any dead at all other than the casualties incurred in the fighting. We have the word of a Libyan diplomat who has turned against Gaddafi, and we have the ranting of a lunatic about “going door to door to exterminate vermin,” but I can find no published evidence that mass killings have actually been seen in Libya at this point.

So we are putting our national reputation and our military on the line based on a combination of rumors spread by a disaffected diplomat and the insane ranting of a mad man?

The stated reason for our mission is to “protect civilians” but does that make any sense at all when we also say that we are going to be there only for a few days and then we will leave? Would anyone settle for a San Diego Police Department that said they would only work for one week and then consider that the population of San Diego no longer needed protection?

Is that mission consistent with Obama and Clinton repeatedly saying that Gaddafi must be evicted from control? Is their insistence on Gaddafi’s exit consistent with the concept that we are operating under a UN resolution, when that resolution specifically prohibits any effort to eject Gaddafi?

Obamabots claim that he did not need the approval of Congress for this “limited military action” because it is not actually a “war.” Right. Let Russia lob 142 cruise missiles onto New York and Washington while their leadership is screaming that Obama must be taken down and that they hope he is killed by a missile, and tell me you would not call that a “war.”

So we’re going to prevent a civilian slaughter for which there is no concrete evidence, but we’re only going to do it for a few days, and in the process we are going to take Gaddafi out of power in violation of the UN mandate which we are using as justification for our non-war and, if we’re lucky, kill him in the process.

This from our Nobel Peace Prize winner who is noted for intelligence.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I probably shouldn't admit...

...that on the way home from the eye doctor wearing the new glasses I just picked up I realized that my windshield was really dirty. I mean really, dirty.

But these new glasses are awesome.

2012 Election Prospects

Digby has a post today titled “Looking Forward to The Primaries? I am.” that lists all of the probable Republican candidates and describes what is wrong with each of them. She then says, “It's going to be the best primary campaign evah.”

I pointed out in a comment, with which two others agreed, that the Democratic primary will consist entirely of Barack Obama, a sitting president who has just started our third war in the Middle East in direct violation of the limitations of his authority under the constitution. I added that I was really looking forward to it, which was intended to be snark.

So come the general election we will be able to chose between an unconstitutional war monger and an idiot. Yeah, that sounds like a real barrel of laughs to me. I can’t wait.

Unconstitutional Decision

I have never in my life voted for the reelection of a President who started a war, even when he did it with the “prior authorization” of Congress. I am not going to change my policy for a President who starts a war which was not in the interest of this nation and who did so without any pretense of authorization of Congress.

Actually, I think the people who are saying that he has committed an impeachable offense are not without some validity. Under the constitution of this nation, the President is not authorized to start military action abroad, which is war even when you don’t call it that, without Congress.

The President presented a letter to Congress in accordance with the War Powers Resolution which he uses as a basis for beginning this new war, but that legislative act authorizes the President to act only “if the United States is already under attack or serious threat.” In this letter Obama claims threat to America by means of a thread of logic that amounts to sheer jackassery.

You can read it for yourself, but it amounts to a) Gadhaffi might defeat the rebels and if he does b) neighboring states might be flooded with refugees which would c) “destabilize the region” in some undefined manner which would d) “jeopardize the national security” of the United States in a manner which he does not spell out.

I hope he is gathering troops to attack the bogeyman under the bed.

At a time when we are desperate to provide funding for the needs of our own people Obama chooses to start spending $1 billion or so fighting a new war against an “enemy” who is about as dangerous to us as a paper clip, with no clearly stated reason for doing so other than that he is taking a madman’s ranting about “killing vermin” at face value, without the support of most of the world’s major nations, with no clearly stated purpose or goal, and with no end game other than a vague promise that we will “turn over the lead role soon.” No decision has been made as to who we are going to turn it over to, or what our remaining role will be.

Additionally, he says that the turn over date will be “determined by our military commanders,” abdicating his responsibility as President and Commander in Chief. The lead of a combined military operation is a policy decision and is not properly left to the military. If he cannot make that decision and has to delegate it to military officers then he is incompetent.

And as has become normal in Washington, we have different people in the White House, in Congress and in the military saying different and conflicting things about what we are doing, why we are doing it and how we are going to get it done. Obama has never been able to keep all of the people in his team on the same page.

Obama will not be opposed by any other Democrat, so I will either vote for a Republican for president in 2012 or I will not vote for that office at all, which will be a first for me.

Monday, March 21, 2011

When in doubt, Don't ask

Back when I was a kid my brother and sister and I would cook up something we wanted to do and I would volunteer to go ask the parent for permission, because I was the only one that was stupid enough to merely pretend to do so, knowing that the parent would say no, and then return and claim that permission had been given. The grits always hit the fan, but I continued to figure that if they were going to say no it was better to not ask. It did not really make me particularly popular with anyone.

It wasn’t really stupidity so much as it was rebellion, and my therapist is having something of a field day with that issue, but this is about politics.

Obama, I guess, figured that Congress is going to say no to anything he asks for so he didn’t bother to ask about going to war in another Arab country. Bush didn’t get a declaration of war, but at least got an “Authorization for Use of Military Force,” but Obama disdained even that formality. He has begun referring to himself as “your Commander in Chief” and it is his military so if he wants to employ it in Libya he don’t need no steenkin’ Congressional approval.

The coalition of the willing broad coalition” excludes most of the world’s major powers, of course, and the Arab part of that coalition is already bailing on the effort, claiming that we are going beyond the “no fly zone” which was all that they supported.

And their concern is not without some validity considering that we have bombed tanks and Gaddafi’s headquarters in downtown Tripoli. Apparently we are concerned that the tanks can shoot down airplanes, which would be news to the soldiers killed in those tanks who did not know that they could do that and undoubtedly were not trying to do so. Bombing the headquarters was certainly not an attempt to kill Gaddafi himself, because we would not do that. We were just concerned that his administrative headquarters might “administrate” some of our airplanes down, and certainly we did not expect any noncombatants to be in downtown Tripoli.

But we have to protect civilians and prevent a “bloodbath,” except in Sudan, or Rwanda, or Yemen, or Bahrain, or one which is certainly ongoing as we speak in the Ivory Coast. Libya is different because…

Sunday, March 20, 2011

On to the Sweet Sixteen

But...     When you have a 3 on 0 break followed by a 2 on 0 break and miss the layup both times...   Fortunately, it looked like both teams were making it a contest to see who could miss the most layups, with one team shooting 43% from the field and the other 39%. Awesome. Suggestion, Aztecs, throw the basketball into the hoop, not at the damned thing.

Come to think of it, why do you even have a 3 on 0 break? What was the third guy planning to contribute to the exercise?

Protecting The Money Pit

In one respect the “health care reform” bill is using a howitzer to kill a fly because it is a 7600-page piece of legislation that tries to solve a problem which could actually be solved by simply stating that “health insurance is not the problem.”

Dean Baker says in Beat The Press that “Of course people who are not dumb know that the story of exploding budget deficits is a story of exploding private sector health care costs.” But everyone knows, of course, that Medicare costs cannot be reduced because to do so would be to implement “death panels” and to sacrifice the elderly upon the altar of a balanced budget.

The problem is that we spend more than twice as much as any other developed nation on health care, and we get poorer results. If we were spending $10 per loaf for bread while the rest of the world was eating better quality bread for $5 per loaf we would not tolerate that, but we not only tolerate getting poorer health care for more than twice the cost, but we actually brag about it. “We’re not them.”

Forget the claim that we use too much health care because we are “insulated from the cost” by insurance. We are far less insulated from the cost because, unlike most developed countries, we have copays, deductibles, “maximum allowables” and we pay insurance premiums. In other countries they merely pay taxes and, because they are getting such good value, they don’t complain about taxes. In those countries health care is completely free and they do not “use too much” of it.

The real problem is that in this country health care is a profit center, and a huge one. Billions and billions of dollars of profit are generated from the illness of the American people, and the more illness that the people of this nation suffer the greater the amount of profit that is generated in the health care industry. Health insurance adds to the cost of health care, but it does not create the cost of health care, and it is not even close to being the largest profit center in health care. The drug companies, hospital companies, laboratories and testing centers generate more profit in a week than health insurance companies do all year. Our most successful doctors do not merely make a comfortable living, they become multi-millionaires.

Everywhere in the world there are people who make their living tending the sick, and in many cases they make a very comfortable living in the process. But only in America is the illness and suffering of people seen as a bottomless money pit to be exploited without mercy. For so long as we worship at the altar of that profit, our health care system is going to remain utterly dismal. No amount of legislation is going to change that, particularly when, as this one was, it is designed to protect the money pit.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Wierd Clouds

Satellite TodayThe clouds where it says "Mtns" is where moist air hits the mountains, is lifted and condenses into clouds. The fact that the cloud formations trail so far to leeward means that the winds are moving pretty fast. Nothing really unusual, we see that quite often. That curved cloud formation is wierd, though. Probably some sort of alien invasion, or possibly caused by the nuclear problem in Japan.

Perversion of Purpose

The United Nations was formed after World War Two for the express purpose of preventing war, and now this nation's presidents use it to provide authority for starting wars. "This action is justified by UN Resolution #x" as we invade another, usually Arab, nation.

The Last Word in Inanity

Richard Wolfe was on The Last Word last night and was talking mouthing inanities about Obama's decisions regarding Libya.

"Here is a president who wants to split the difference." He said. "He's not actually engaged in a third war. He's chosen something in between inaction and intervention, which is very characteristic for him."

That may well be the stupidest thing I have ever heard a political pundit say. It may be the stupidest thing I have ever heard anyone say. Obama didn't like going to war, and he didn't like not going to war, so he chose something that was halfway between war and not war. He engaged us in half-war. That was a half-assed statement spoken by a half-wit.

Wolfe went on to say of Obama that, "He's obviously avoiding the pitfalls of America taking the leadership role," which may be true but is hardly anything the we would want to be said in public about our nation's president. At least not on a network that pretends to be politically liberal.

Unasked Questions

As he did with the Egyptian revolution, Obama has vacillated at length and taken inconsistent stands. He said at one point that it was time for Qaddafi to “step down” with no possible means of making that happen and absolutely zero likelihood that Qaddafi would do so of his own volition.

His present position is not entirely clear. He claims it is limited to the scope of the UN resolution which specifies only the protection of civilians, but much of his rhetoric seems to include the protection of the revolutionary forces as well, something which the UN resolution does not authorize.

He also needs to get his team aligned. His Secretary of Defense was quite clear just a day or so ago that any form of intervention, even a “no fly zone,” was inadvisable, and he has been silent ever since. His Secretary of State is saying that nothing short of the removal of Qaddafi is an acceptable outcome, so that would make it appear that regime change is this nation’s goal, and that is clearly far beyond the scope of the resolution.

Chris Matthews asked last night “With what special constitutional authority is the president acting here? From the people in the region? Or from the people in this nation? These are good questions and we need to know why they are not being asked.” Listen to the whole thing, he makes some very good points. And remember that he really likes Obama, big time.

Another Imperial President

I listened to President Obama speak yesterday to announce the beginning of our third war against an Arab nation in the Middle East. What struck me was the similarity in demeanor and content between that speech and George Bush declaring war on Iraq.

Many thousands could die. A humanitarian crisis would ensue. The entire region could be destabilized, endangering many of our allies and partners. The calls of the Libyan people for help would go unanswered. The democratic values that we stand for would be overrun. Moreover, the words of the international community would be rendered hollow.

Almost word for word what Bush said regarding the continuance of Saddam Hussein, minus only the “mushroom cloud” threat. One has to wonder, though, why none of those things, other than the deaths, will happen as a result of the current brutal repression and slaughter of protesters in Yemen or Bahrain, and why they did not happen in Sudan or Rwanda or Somalia.

The resolution that passed lays out very clear conditions that must be met. […] Let me be clear, these terms are not negotiable. These terms are not subject to negotiation. If Qaddafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences, and the resolution will be enforced through military action.

Let me say again, the UN was formed for the purpose of preventing war. Obama went to great lengths of persuasion to get a resolution passed in order to use the UN to provide the color of international legitimacy for an act of war. If you did not hear echoes of George W. Bush in words like “these terms are not negotiable” and “the international community will impose consequences” then you are probably about ten years old.

And he finished with a line that could have come straight from a GWB speechwriter, “Our goal is focused, our cause is just, and our coalition is strong.”

And so every president in my lifetime has committed this nation to new military action abroad without Congress ever declaring war. Interestingly, the president most reviled for it came the closest to propriety, since the George W. Bush at least had obtained the “Authorization for Use of Military Force” in Afghanistan and Iraq, albeit by rather questionable means.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Car in the Ditch

Europe &, presumably, the United States are declaring starting undeclared war on yet another Arab country. Governments are using military force to put down protests in Yemen, Bahrain and The Ivory Coast. Egypt is in turmoil. Pakistan is demanding an end to American drone strikes which are killing civilians in their country. Afghanistan has told us to end military operations in their country due to the deaths of noncombatants. American military drones are flying over Mexico.

Japan is facing its worst crisis since World War 2, a human and economic crisis of epic proportions, and multiple sources say that American aid was initially based on the requirement that Japan dismantle its aging nuclear reactors, giving up 20% of it's power generation capacity. This, before the reactor crisis developed to its near-Chernobyl proportions.

Israel not only rejected our demand that they move toward peace with their neighbors by ceasing the expansion of settlements in occupied territory, they rejected that demand in the most insulting manner possible. The Palestinians rejected our request to delay a resolution in the UN for statehood and forced us to abstain on the resolution.

In this country, we are five months into the fiscal year and our legislature still has not been able to pass a budget, is now reduced to authorizing the operation of our nation’s programs for three weeks at a time as it postures and poses for political partisan gain.

An American soldier continues to be imprisoned under conditions which international organizations claim amounts to torture but which our president says "meet our standards." We continue to hold prisoners at Guantanamo without due process of law, try them in kangaroo courts, and claim that we have the right to imprison them indefinitely without trial.

The National Security State continues to claim the right to read our mail, tap our phone calls and view our access to the internet and online data without court order and to act in secret in the name of "national security."

Prices for food and energy continue their steep climb while our financial leadership uses numeric legerdemain to tell us that “core inflation” is still low and urge us to buy consumer goods. Our leaders talk about education and “winning the future” while unemployment remains at epic levels and the ranks of those in poverty and those without health insurance grow larger every day.

We have a national debt that is growing larger at an unparalleled rate, with a projected deficit requested by this president of $1.56 trillion for fiscal year 2011, submitted while talking about balancing the budget and “living within our means.” That is a budget for regular annual spending, not special stimulus spending for the specific purpose of creating jobs.

If George W. Bush “drove the car into the ditch” then Barack Obama burned the car, mashed it flat, filled the ditch and buried the car out of sight.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Diplomacy, American Style

Pakistan released our "diplomat" whom they had accused of murder merely because he was carrying eight guns and had shot two people. Clearly, they don't understand American principles. There was $2.4 million involved in that release, which the American government did not provide, so apparently the Pakistani government paid out that money for the privilege of releasing... This diplomatic stuff is over my head.

Anyway, we thanked them for releasing our "diplomat" by firing another Hellfire missile from a drone and killing either "24 38 suspected militants"
or "80 people" depending on who's telling the story.

Nuclear Freakout

We finally have found a government which is less transparent than ours in dealing with disasters. One expert, in describing her view of the nuclear disaster in Japan, said that she was reminded of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, “where they said that they had it under control and as events unfolded clearly they did not have it under control.”

O’Donnell’s Last Word last night was typical of our television coverage.

First he had on a representative of Beyond Nuclear, an “unabashedly anti-nuclear advocacy group.” This man described his view of the events in Japan in highly colorful terms and said that putting water on the melting reactors “feeds the problem” and leads closer to the “coming catastrophe.”

The man went on to agree with O’Donnell that it was “impossible to over-react” to this crisis, and babbled at length about evacuating children and pregnant women, as if it were possible to sort out the population and form convoys of buses in the midst of the chaos of cities devastated by combination of earthquake and tsunami.

He went on to talk about the dual role of promotion and regulation of the NRC and its predecessor the AEC. Some truth to the AEC, which was replaced by the NRC in 1975, so why we’re talking about it 35 years later is unclear. The NRC has never had any promotional role and does not, in fact, promote the use of nuclear energy. He went on the say that “the licensing of the Diablo Canyon plant right on top of the San Andreas fault” was an example of the promotional role of the NRC interfering with its regulatory role when, in reality, the plant is 50 miles away from the San Andreas.

After it was licensed was discovered to be directly on top of the formerly unknown Shoreline Fault and it was reinforced to withstand larger earthquakes. It’s another pressurized water reactor, but other than that I don’t know much about it or the fault it sits on.

Lawrence O’Donnell then brought on Barbara Boxer to engage in some political grandstanding. I would certainly have voted against her if her opponent had been anyone other than Carley Fiorina. I would have voted for my cat had she been running against Boxer. I'm not alone, either. I think the Republicans nominated the one person in the known universe that could get Barbara Boxer reelected.

Boxer waxed poetic in outrage about a State Energy Commission report that the NRC was not implementing because Japan “expected a 7.5 and got a 9.0” and so we feel that we should take another look at our expectations. Never mind that an energy department has no qualifications to evaluate earthquakes, that our strike-slip fault zone creates a completely different type of earthquake than the subduction zone that exists off Japan, or that our pressurized water reactors are an order of magnitude safer than the boiling water reactors that are failing in Japan. None of those issues factored into the rather hysterical discussion between her and O’Donnell.

She then started panting about it being “our own NRC” that was telling people in Japan to get 50 miles away from the failing reactors in Japan and so… I lost track of what she was getting at, but it had something to do with 7.4 million people in San Diego. I am one of those people, so I probably should have been paying attention, but I just could not keep up with her.

She interrupted her rant with a “bye the way” to add that five counties in her state had been damaged by the recent tsunami, and Lawrence O'Donnell added that he lived in a tsunami zone and saw the little signs every day. I live in one too, and I ignore those little signs every bit as often as he does. I’m not sure what that has to do with the failing reactors.

Meanwhile, all of the stores in the country are sold out of potassium iodate tablets because they are reputed to protect you from radiation. They won’t actually do that, of course, and we aren’t going to be irradiated, but facts are always irrelevant.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Oh Good, Health Care Reform

In 2010 the number of new jobs in the health care industry was simply phenomenal. New jobs overall was pretty pathetic, of course, and the number of people without health insurance increased to 52 million. Way to go Democrats.

I Hope They Were Watching Pakistan

It turns out we are flying drones over Mexico to "help in the War on Drugs" now. Today's article in the New York Times assures us, and the Mexican people, that the drones are unarmed and that we are merely watching them, which may or may not be good news to the Mexican people.

It should be pointed out that we began in Pakistan by flying unarmed drones over their country, with permission from their government, to "help in the War on Terrorism" just a few nine years ago, and look where we are now. They are asking us to stop shooting Hellfire missiles from those drones and killing their people, and we're saying no.

This does not, of course, surprise me in the least, and it will not surprise me at all when the drones over Mexico are armed with Hellfire missiles.

"For The People"

San Diego Unified School District just issued 600 “pink slips” and while some of the concern expressed has been about the effect on education, virtually all of the anguish expressed by those affected, by the media and by the school district has been over the effect on those who will lose their jobs.

The New York Times has a piece about a couple in Ohio. Both of them work for the city government and consider themselves fortunate to be doing so because the employment picture in their town consists of “…a thin crust of low-paying service work that makes public-sector jobs look great in comparison.” The whole piece is about everyone in town wanting to work for the city because the city has the only “middle class” jobs in town.

We seem to be losing sight of what government is supposed to do.

Government has, as its sole purpose, providing services to the public, to the people it serves. In order to do that it needs to hire some employees, but it is the public which is supposed to be the beneficiary of government.

We have turned that principle on its head. Government now exists to provide good jobs for its employees, and the taxpayers exist for the purpose of providing the money to support the government in paying for and maintaining the way of life of those employees. The public sector workers are now the beneficiaries of government and it is the taxpayers who work to support those public sector employees.

In making decisions on budgets and revenues, we no longer ask what the public is willing to pay, or what level of service the public needs, we ask what monetary pay and level of benefits the public sector employees demand and we attempt to raise taxes to meet that demand.

I have no problem with the idea that in times of economic stress the government may need to provide some temporary employment for stimulus, but this is not the issue when we are looking at teachers and a city which provides the only high paying jobs in an entire city. Government needs to pay competitive wages to attract competent workers, but why is a city paying significantly higher than prevailing wages, and why does any government allow employees to negotiate wages against the taxpayers’ interests?

We need to return to governing for the benefit of the taxpayer.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Nuclear Watchdog

The developing disaster in Japan seems like a good time to mention an agency of the US government which has gotten too little recognition for a job very, very well done for many years; the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. During the oil disaster in the gulf there was much talk about, “Well, this is the natural result of government regulation.” I kept looking just a few miles up the coast at San Onofre and thinking, “Well, no it’s not.”

Three years ago the NRC caught the operators at San Onofre in some minor safety procedural violations. I read the press release and the infractions were very minor, but the reaction of the NRC was to place full-time, on-site inspectors in the plant for two years to assure proper training and supervision in the plant.

What do they do about major violations? Well, they actually don’t have procedures for major violations, because they are so good at catching and correcting minor violations that major ones simply never develop.

It was the NRC which stepped in at Three Mile Island and prevented that episode from being much worse then it was, and they learned a couple of things from that event. One is that the reactors had been designed with principles that were more pessimistic than actuality. It had been assumed that if fuel elements were exposed to air that they would melt completely and catastrophically, and that did not happen. The reactor actually turned out to be safer than it was supposed to be.

The other thing they learned was that they needed to be more proactive in monitoring the operation of nuclear plants, and they have never slacked off from that lesson. We have not only never had another Three Mile Island, we have never come within shouting distance of such an event, and we have the governmental NRC to thank for that.

My objection to the use of nuclear energy does not revolve around the safety of nuclear plants, and I don’t know that I’m all that anxious about where they are located. Certainly right on top of a fault line is not a good place to build anything, but when backup systems are properly maintained, and with the NRC monitoring their operation, I’m not concerned about the viability of nuclear plants in California. My objection is in terms of the disposition of the spent fuel. Until we have a way to permanently and safely dispose of the waste product of these reactors, we simply do not need to be expanding the use of them.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Unmitigated Disaster

Scenes from Japan will just rip the heart right out of your chest. The most moving are from British journalists, whose reports seem both visually and verbally unscripted. One phrase which particularly struck me was a reference to "a body is removed with as mich dignity as an old blanket can afford." Their focus is on what they are looking at, unlike American journalists whose effort is to dazzle the viewer with scripted prose and camerawork employing closeups of details. At any rate, the devastation in that country is awful.

NCAA Brackets

I am not among those who believe that San Diego state should have had a #1 seed, just because we had a better record than Duke. I am delighted with our placement in the tournament. My brackets can be found online, and I'll leave a bracket link at the top of my blog until the championship is determined.

Needless to say, I have the Kansas Jayhawks shown in the championship spot.

Supporting Democracy

To all of those who are clamoring for us to increase our already profligate use of military power by applying it to the situation in Libya, may I point out that doing so based on the grand premise that "we have to support those who are bravely engaged in a life or death battle in the noble quest for freedom and democracy" would demand that we do likewise for those who are engaged in the same battle in Bahrain, where we actually have military bases. That would mean that we would be engaged in combat with the armed forces of Saudi Arabia. How does that sound to you?

My Vote On Nuclear Energy

I graduated from Nuclear Power School in the Navy, which doesn't mean that I really know much about nuclear reactors. That was in 1963 and the pressurized water reactors I trained on as an operator are much different than the power reactors used today. Still, I do know that when you are injecting sea water into a reactor you are no longer trying to save the reactor. You have written the unit off as a total loss and are trying to save the civilians who live in the area, and you are by no means certain that you will be able to do that.

That being said, while I have not been in favor of increasing our use of nuclear energy, it has not been the plant safety issue that has been my principal reason for opposing it. Until we come up with a way to dispose of the spent fuel, other than storing it in what amounts to large swimming pools adjacent to the reactors which generated it, we should hold off on building any new reactor plants.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Well, yes, it seems we can

We seem to have brought the AK-47s and hand grenades. Plus a couple of howitzers and perhaps an FA-18 or two. My, my, my. Fredette scored 52 points last night and the entire team scored 54 tonight. If this does not get SDSU at least a #2 seed in a western venue, I will be righteously pissed off.

Title Game Tonite

SDSU did their thing last night in Las Vegas; "their thing" being trying to give me a damned heart attack. Final was 74-72 over UNLV to advance to the MWC title game against, uhoh, BYU.

BYU was playing TCU when I was getting a haircut Thursday. TCU was leading, and I observed to the barber that it would be nice if somebody knocked BYU out of the tournament so that we didn't have to play them again. He said no, that we wanted to have "another crack at them to prove that we can beat them."

"Only problem with that," I told him, "is that we can't."

They're talking about Fredette and how they are going to contain him. Right. Maybe with an AK-47 or a hand grenade. Maybe his 52 points against New Mexico last night will have tired him out. And maybe pigs will fly. Maybe the aliens will win in Battle: Los Angeles, which I haven't seen yet.

To plaigerize Anna Russell, I believe that SDSU will beat BYU this evening. That's because I have faith. That's because I am loyal. That's becaise I believe. That's because I'm stupid.

Oh well, we have in invitation to the dance regardless.

Reshaping the Earth

Japan and the United States are closer together now than they were last week because the earthquake that struck Friday moved the island of Honshu eight feet to the East. A whole effing island, with tens of millions of people living on it, eight effing feet. I'm still trying to wrap my head around that.

When I was a kid we used to camp at Grand Teton National Park, and the ranger would give a talk about how the land to the West had raised up and that we were standing on had dropped down, and where the land broke was the East face of the Grand Tetons. For years the process was described as occurring over many millions of years, but recently geologists have been seeing evidence that those 7000' mountains may have been created in as little as a few months. The jury is still out of the strength of that evidence, but... Imagine mountains rising 7000' in mere months.

Now that would produce some big honking earthquakes.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Gas Prices and Politics

As a presidential candidate, with gasoline prices above $4.10 per gallon, Obama opposed the "gas tax holiday" proposed by both Hillary Clinton and John McCain, saying that, it was a "short-term, quick-fix that would not solve the nation's current and long term problems of high oil prices and foreign oil dependency."

As president, with gasoline at around $3.60 per gallon, President Obama is saying today that he is prepared to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in order to keep gas prices under control. The last release of oil from the reserve was in 2005, when Katrina essentially shut down oil production in the Gulf of Mexico, which is the purpose the reserve was designed to serve.

What happened to the man that I voted for?

Update, Saturday am: there seems to be confusion about what he said.

The CNN quote yesterday under the headline "Obama prepared to tap oil reserves," was, "President Obama said Friday that he is prepared to tap the nation's strategic oil reserves to deal with any supply disruptions as part of his effort to keep gas prices under control." (emphasis mine)

The New York Times, in an editorial today, says, "He resisted calls to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, saying he would do so only when oil supplies were genuinely threatened."

But in "The Caucas" today they quote from the same speech, “If we see significant disruptions or shifts in the market that are so disconcerting to people that we think a strategic petroleum release would be appropriate, then we will take that step.” (emphasis mine)

So one reporter concludes he will tap the reserve only to protect the supply, while another concludes he will do so to control prices. I conclude that he worded it deliberately to permit both conclusions.

Reducing Health Care Cost

Paul Krugman certainly has a point in his column today with regard to the manner in which deficits matter, but in his typical fashion he chooses to cite the points which reinforce his argument, and simply ignores those which tend to weaken it.

For instance he says that because the interest rate “is very low by historical standards” there is no rush to quit borrowing. I am forever amazed by the concept that something being “a good deal” is justification, in and of itself, to do it. Let’s buy a house; the house is overpriced, it’s in bad repair, the housing market is falling, and we can’t afford it, but the interest rate is low so let’s buy a house.

But his main point is government spending as it relates to health care costs and that we should spend money on programs that study how to reduce health care cost. An example is “effectiveness study” programs that examine how well various treatments work. We should, he says, not eliminate these programs, because we need to reduce the cost of health care and you can’t do that by deciding to “replace half a kidney” or such.

I have no argument about reducing health care costs, but I’m not sure that we need to spend a bunch of money reinventing the damned wheel.

We could, perhaps, ask France how they do it.

Every developed country in the world has a health care system that works at least as well as ours does, most of them work better, and some of them work quite a lot better. The most expensive of them spends less than half what ours does. We never, ever, look at them and say “How do they do it?”

Are they replacing half a kidney? Do they have death panels? I have no idea. What I do know, if statistics are to be believed, is that the people being treated by those health care systems live longer and have lower incidences of chronic malfunction than do the people in this country. We just look at those statistics and say that we don’t want to know how they do it because “We’re not like Europe.” Well, maybe we should be.

What Paul Krugman actually wants us to study is how to reduce our health care cost while still generating the $billions of profit which are generated by the various levels of industry within that system. That’s going to require one hell of a lot of study.

Do We Listen To Ourselves?

The American people are tiring of the war in Afghanistan, a war that is increasingly being seen as purposeless and not winnable in the classic sense. When President Obama decided to make that war larger, rather than smaller, he knew he was flying against the wind of popular opinion so he made assurance that we would begin our exit in July of 2011. That was not a passing remark, it was a condition upon which the escalation was based.

It seems quite logical that our allies would use that statement as a basis for their own planning, but perhaps that is not quite what our government had in mind. Listen to our Secretary of Defense today, in what the New York Times describes as a deliberately undiplomatic speech at NATO.

“Frankly, there is too much talk about leaving and not enough talk about getting the job done right,” Mr. Gates said. “Too much discussion of exit and not enough discussion about continuing the fight.” Notwithstanding the promise that we, ourselves, are leaving in July.

And is it just me, or is he starting to sound like Donald Rumsfeld?

When Obama made the escalation, with its promise of withdrawal beginning in July of 2011, suspicious people like me commented that said withdrawal might consist of a handful of troops, leaving the war to drag on longer and creating the infamous “quagmire.” No, no, we were assured, the drawdown would be for real. Now, in the same conference in which he is severely and “deliberately undiplomatically” castigating our allies for leaving, Mr. Gates is assuring that the July drawdown will be “limited, perhaps to no more than several thousand troops.”

Get out your coloring book, turn to whatever page my picture is on and color me unsurprised.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

This is Why I Watch Chris Matthews

If you thought Chris Matthews disliked Mike Huckabee... He positively adores him in comparison to his opinion of Newt Gingrich. In his second segment on Hardball last night he unloaded on Newt, first playing a clip in which Newt made the following rather insane comment regarding his numerous marital infidelities.

"There’s no question that at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I feel about this country, that I worked far too hard and that things happened in my life that were not appropriate."

Chris retorts that his response is “loony talk” and says that, “Now we’re hearing that he fell into the sack because he was so patriotic in his passion.” He goes on, “Just don’t talk about your private life if you don’t want to, just don’t use the flag.” He continues at length, with Walsh and Heilemann sort of playing straight man from time to time, and just when you think he’s winding down he plays another clip and cranks back up again.

“It has something to do with that flag that’s behind him,” Chris says at one point, “He thinks he’s Patton.” I laughed, but had to admit that was a bit of a cheap shot. That flag was backdrop at some Republican gathering this past weekend, and quite a few Republicans spoke while standing in front of it in addition to Newt.

Following yet another clip we get from Chris that “...when he’s not accusing Obama of being an Mau-Mauist, someone over in Africa killing Brits, he’s accusing him of being a secular atheist elitist.” By this time he appears to be in danger of rupturing a blood vessel, while Walsh and Heilemann appear to be in some danger of disappearing from the little windows that MSNBC has them in. You really should watch the segment; it isn’t particularly intelligent, but it is funny as hell.

For my part, the present president claims that he has proven that names don’t matter, but if this nation elects as president a man whose first name is “Newt” I fear for our durability. It was bad enough that we elected one who had a brother named “Bubba.” And to elect a man who uses patriotism as justification for marital infidelity…

As to the infidelity itself, I don’t see what the big deal is here. Politically speaking that is, in case my wife reads this. Joan Walsh points out that the present Mrs. Gingrich began that relationship as an extra-marital affair while Newt was still married to another woman. She fails to note that the present Mrs. John McCain began her relationship with him as an extra-marital affair while she was a rodeo queen and he was still married to the first Mrs. John McCain. Republicans don’t care; only Democrats are intolerant of married man shacking up with women who aren’t their wives.

Especially if they get them pregnant, but that's another story.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Manning Up

imageI'm not sure about this idea of college kids having kids, but if you're going to it's important to man up and be a parent to the kid. I'm not sure that includes introducing your daughter to 12,414 people in a basketball arena on Senior Day, but if it floats your boat... How can you not love that little red and black cheerleader outfit?

Malcom Thomas is more than just a good basketball player.

Faster and Faster

Every time we find out that climate change predictions are in error, what we find is that change is happening faster than predicted, often much faster.

We know that melting ice adds to a rising sea level, and that the greatest contributor to that rise is polar ice sheets on land – Greenland and Antarctica. A study lasting 20 years and released by NASA shows that these land mass ice sheets are “losing mass at an accelerating pace” and that they are now predicted to “become the dominant contributor to global sea level rise, much sooner than model forecasts have predicted.”

Nothing to see here folks, just fill up that SUV and move on.

Subverting Government

Wisconsin Democrats continue to subvert the legislative process and, while accusing the governor of “refusing to negotiate,” are angry at him for offering compromise that they say does not go far enough to persuade them. Offering concession does not constitute “negotiation” unless the person offering that compromise surrenders completely to the minority position.

Whether you agree with the majority or not, and as it happens I don’t, Democrats in Wisconsin are corrupting the process of government to prevent the majority from prevailing. They are accusing the Republican governor of refusing to negotiate even though he has offered to meet a portion of their demands, and are demanding that he and the majority of the legislature accede to their position in its entirety.

Rachel Maddow, Ed Shultz, Lawrence O’Donnell and Chris Matthews are hailing the Wisconsin Democrats as heroes and are cheering them on while, in the very same news broadcasts, condemning and castigating Republicans in the United States Congress for doing exactly and precisely the same thing in every detail and respect.

Nothing could more perfectly illustrate the corrupt nature of our media than this. These broadcasters do not credit conservatives, Republicans, with any principles or belief systems. Their presentation is that Republicans do not actually believe anything, but are merely evil and corrupt bastards who have no goal in life other than to prevent the good, pure and wonderful things that Democrats believe in deeply and work tirelessly to implement.

When Democrats disrupt and bring to a halt the process of governance it is praiseworthy because they are doing it in the cause of noble and worthy issues; when Republicans do so it is because they hate the process itself and are trying to destroy the government and inflict chaos upon the governed.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Liberal "Values"

For the past four years Democrats and other liberals have been horrified by the manner in which the Republican minority in Congress has impeded that body’s ability to do business. They have accused the minority party of acting in bad faith, they have accused them of “hostage holding” and have made threats to revise parliamentary procedures in order to render the minority powerless and irrelevant.

But when a Republican governor introduces a bill which the Democratic minority in Wisconsin does not like they obstruct the function of that legislative body not by any parliamentary process, but by leaving the state. Democrats and liberals regard them as heroes. Don’t defend their action by the crowds protesting outside the capitol; that came later and as a result of their action. They did precisely what Republicans in Washington had been doing, only they did it by extra-legal means.

In both cases the minority blocked the will of the majority within a legislative body, and liberals condemned the action when done by Republicans, cheered it when done by Democrats.

President George W. Bush declared that this nation had the right to hold persons in prison indefinitely without trial, and liberals howled in outrage. The closing of Guantanamo was demanded as a “blot on the nation’s honor,” and liberals demanded that persons held in prison either be given legitimate trials or released.

President Barack Obama now declares that this nation has the right to hold persons in prison indefinitely without trial if they “present a danger to our nation” and that Guantanamo is unlikely to be closed, and liberals have absolutely no objection to his declaration.

Liberals object to indefinite detention and the presence of Guantanamo when declared by a Republican president, but they remain silent in the face of the same issues declared by a Democratic president.

The only conclusion that can be drawn from these things is that “liberals” have no actual values; that “liberal” is just another word for Democrat and that they care only about the preservation of their own political party’s hold on power.

Monday, March 07, 2011

"Last Gasp" Again

I don't recall the exact details that provoked the comment, but at one point during the heavy fighting in Iraq Rumsfeld referred to the upsurge in violence as the "last gasp" of the insurgency, and assured us that victory was just around the corner. As I recall, things got seriously worse after that.

Now we are being told that the failure of the Taliban to quit fighting for the winter, the fact that they have kept up their attacks on us during a time when they usually retreat to Pakistan to rest up, is actually good news.

Afghanistan has seen an unusual amount of military activity for the winter, a fact that International Security Assistance Force officials attribute to a greater number of insurgents who stayed in the country to fight, rather than spending the winter resting in Pakistan or elsewhere outside Afghanistan. ISAF officials say that they believe this may give them the upper hand this spring and summer.

(emphasis mine) Not exactly the same thing as a "last gasp," but...

Well, This is Exciting

Hissy FitKilauea is having something of a hissy fit. The image is linked to the movie, but visit the main images site for many images & more movies of the latest eruption. Very cool hot stuff.

Redefining War

Robert Gates is being widely praised for the sanity of saying at West Point that this nation should avoid going to war in the future. Unfortunately, he didn’t say that. He spoke about the manner in which we should not go to war, but he did not even border on suggesting that we should stop doing it. Gates is a much of a war cheerleader as anyone in Washington, he just believes we should do it with airplanes, preferably unmanned airplanes called drones, ships, rockets, robots, and other as yet uninvented high-tech machinery. He does not think we should do it with “boots on the ground.”

What got less recognition in the media was the latter part of that. Gates has cancelled some large military projects, which has caused the media to credit him with “trying to reduce the military budget,” but such is not really the case. He is merely diverting funding from projects which support ground forces, which he believes are obsolete, into high tech projects which he believes will win future wars in a manner that does not require foot soldiers.

Gates has redefined war. Future war no longer consists of engaging in conflict over territory, it now is a matter of just blowing shit up big time. Think “Independence Day” or “War of the Worlds.”

He pretty much told the Army cadets they had picked the wrong branch, actually, and the Navy and Air Force are thrilled pink. Well, the Air Force has mixed feelings, because he is redefining their role to basically that of a big ass video game. Not much glory to be had sitting at a video console in Nevada.

Tom Englehardt has a piece at Tom Dispatch which goes into this subject in greater detail. It is titled Never Again and is subtitled “Old Secretaries of Defense Never Die, They Just Write Bestselling Memoirs,” and I encourage you to read it. I had been considering what to say about Mr. Gates when Tom said most of it for me.

I’ve been critical of a couple of unnamed liberal sites lately; Tom Dispatch is a site that one can count on as being unfailingly reasonable and free of demagoguery and insult. A few of his guest writers become a bit hyperbolic at times, but at their most extreme they are espousing positive causes and advocating for ideas rather than bashing those who disagree with them.

Anyway, I’m with the implication of Tom’s piece. We should discard the whole idea of going to war, cut military spending by 80% and balance our budget without emasculating social programs.