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