Monday, June 30, 2008

Be Cautious in Comparison

Strange as it might seem there are a couple of prominent former four-star rank officers embracing the Obama candidacy. One, a former AF Chief-of-Staff, is notable to almost all AF guys as the creator of the worst insult to the uniform ever devised and very little more. His design of a generic morphing of TWA Captain and a U.S. Postal Service worker brought sneers from both inside and outside of the Force. Once a well-respected fighter pilot and even a Thunderbird, he was a real-life example of one who has “gone over to the dark side” in pursuit of rank; what I called a careerist in “Palace Cobra” rather than a warrior. From him we got this last week:

From an Anorexic Perspective

If that comes across as a bit sarcastic then you aren’t really thinking about it. In truth, it is a reduction of political debate to the level of eighth grade school-girl insult.

Then we find a retired Army officer who once held the vaunted position of Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACEUR). That is the individual in charge of all US and NATO military forces, all services, all countries. He’s a pretty tall dog, but he’s got to remember not to take the adjective of “Supreme” too seriously. Apparently the guy that most of us call “Widdle Wesley” and a Perfumed Prince of the Pentagon has come out of the closet and gotten blatant in his pandering for power. These comments are so illogical as to be obvious even to American voters:

Compared to Whom?

The back-handedness of smarmy compliments about service and honor and the deeply held respect should inspire little but nausea. Then the ludicrous claim that command of a Navy fighter squadron is not a major executive responsibility because it wasn’t war-time makes no sense at all. Years of membership of the Senate Armed Services committee is no qualification either. The oblique deflection of the obvious challenge to his logic when it is pointed out that Obama hasn’t been a fighter pilot, been shot down, or commanded anything military is shallow to say the least.

One can make many arguments about what it takes to be the President of the United States. It is possible, although I consider it quite difficult, to make the case that intellect, vision, passion and charisma fill the bill. I lean toward maturity (naturally because I’ve gained some!), experience in challenging positions, a bit of coping with adversity, some perseverance, an evidence of honor, and a willingness to even confess to some past failure. But, somehow hauling out these universally derided hollow uniforms to prance in front of a public that is generally totally lacking in military background seems quite despicable. To attempt to make the case that twenty years of military experience is not a plus but actually makes you less capable than individuals like Sen. Obama or Sen. Clinton who have never spent one second in military service is embarrassing.

One can only hope that this sort of thing gets noticed even by the great unwashed masses and that the harvest reaped from sowing this crap is appropriate.

Two Parties Defined

Are you tired of trying to shoe-horn yourself into the American two-party system? Not comfortable calling yourself a Donkey or an Elephant? Want something different? Well here’s a fairly lengthy piece, but worth consuming thoughtfully. The writer explains why Obama can’t pull it off. And I agree with her thoroughly, except for one sticking point and that is simply one of semantics. Take a look at this:

A New Way to Look At It

Here’s the breakdown from the end of the piece:

Professors and state employees in college towns and state capitals
Traffic in words & abstractions
Love Nuance
Appreciate Fairness
Dislike force, think it vulgar
Think Jeffersonians beneath contempt
Theme song:

Democrats who live Everywhere else
Prefer men of action
Love Clarity
Appreciate Justice
Admire force, applied justly
Think Academics are inconsequential
Love Toby Keith

Found my bone of contention yet?

The core is that her Jeffersonians are actually Republicans! They are conservative, in the fundamental meaning of the word. They are truly Jeffersonian, in that they identify with that early patriot who called his followers “Democratic” but fail to realize that what is today recognized as a Democrat is a long way down the socialist slide from what ol’ TJ stood for.

The basic premise though, that Obama will lose is correct. And the basic reasoning is as well. The people who espouse the values of the red side of that table and who don’t commonly identify themselves as Republicans will be unable to check off the name on the ballot that clearly associates with the values on the blue list.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Through The Fog

Starting a Sunday morning with a fresh cup of coffee and a couple of stimulating editorials on economics is probably not anybody’s idea of a good time. But, if you can’t take the self-flagellation of wading through what’s behind the links I’ve grabbed some worthwhile quotes for you.

Dr. No Offers Truths

If McCain is elected, the Wall Street Journal speculates that former Sen. Phil Gramm could be a first-round draft choice for Sec. of the Treasury. He’s got some clear, rational thoughts on the economy and what works as well as some bitterness about what doesn’t.

I’ve got a long time acquaintance who routinely rants about highly compensated corporate CEOs. He spouts the talking-points rhetoric of “fairness” and the “injustice” of someone making several thousands of times the wage of Joe Six-Pack on the assembly line. Suggestions that it isn’t government’s business to restrict what a private corporation and their stock-holders choose to pay their management generally fall on deaf ears. Here’s Gramm’s take on it:

"It's simple," he lectures, sounding very much like the Texas A&M economics professor that he was in the 1970s: "In economics, we define labor exploitation as paying people less than their marginal value product. I recently told Ed Whitacre [former CEO of AT&T, who retired with a $158 million pay package] he was probably the most exploited worker in American history because he took Southwestern Bell, which was the smallest of the former Bell companies, and he turned it into the dominant phone company on earth. His severance package should have been billions."

Now that’s “straight talk” and right to the point of market value concepts. How about this analysis of why companies go off-shore with jobs and factories?

“Gramm fingers the U.S. corporate income tax as another competitiveness killer: "We can't possibly compete with a 35% corporate tax rate that is so punitive that if a company opens a plant in Ireland it costs them a billion dollars less than in the U.S. over 10 years because of the difference in corporate taxes."

Why golly gee, Mr. Wizard, you mean if I grab a third of your revenue to hand out on government programs and another country wouldn’t do that you would be so un-American as to take your company over there? Have you no compassion for your less-fortunate fellow-man?

Or how about this on whether it is better to minimize government regulation and taxes or to let free enterprise invest and thrive:

"Why is America the richest country in the world?" he asks. "It's not because our people are more brilliant; it's because we have a better free-market system. Why has Texas created 1.6 million jobs in the last 10 years whereas Michigan has lost 300,000 jobs and Ohio has lost 100,000 jobs? Because governance matters, taxes matter, regulation matters. Our opponents in this campaign are so dogmatic in their goal of having more government because they love the power it brings to them that they're willing to let it impose costs on the working people that they say they want to help.”

How could that be? So, we can actually look at the individual state policies like Petri dishes in a lab and compare the effect of those policies on business, jobs, and more?

But, what would poor President McCain be able to do when he will probably be saddled with a big spending, welfare oriented, centrally planned economy sort of Democrat controlled Congress? The solution is refreshingly simple:

“To Mr. Gramm, the silver bullet is the veto pen. Here's his explanation: "If McCain is elected, he's going to have one thing Democrats in Congress desperately want: control of the money. And his ability to promote his agenda – the tax cuts, his foreign policy – will depend on his willingness to say no. Bush simply signed everything. They could blackmail Reagan by threatening to cut defense. But there is nothing John McCain wants from Congress. He wants to cut defense. There's no place they can take him in cutting spending that he's not willing to go."

That sounds like the old fashioned kind of traditional conservatism a lot of voters on the right say that they want.

For evidence on one of those Petri dishes Gramm mentioned, try this on for size:

It Could Happen Here

The writer notes that in Ohio the situation looks like this:

“And that may actually be a plus for Barack Obama. His party is finding that lofty, vague promises of change combined with high-spending, high-tax, welfare state-ish policies are a political winner in the state.”

Except the numbers then reveal this:

“But as a formula for economic revival, it is madness. Ohio already has the fifth-heaviest state and local tax burden in the country (up from 30th in 1990) and finds itself stagnating. Its unemployment rate, 6.3%, is above the national rate of 5.5%, even as the state's work force shrinks as people emigrate. Ohio's median household income is also falling – in 2006 it was $44,500, down 0.5% from the previous year – while the national figure ($48,500) was up 1.6%. During the closing decades of the 20th century, incomes rose twice as fast across the country as in Ohio.”

Can it really be that simple to understand? Even over Sunday morning coffee and economics editorials? I think so.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Snake Oil Sales Up

It wouldn’t take a genius to figure out pretty quickly that the New York Times is not my first choice for opinions. Their bias has been apparent for a long time and the disclosures of blatant malfeasance in reporting in the last couple of years make it a last point of reference for me. Yet I try to advise folks to keep an open mine and always be willing to listen to the other side’s point of view. If I know the pre-existing bias of the source I can then make an informed decision on the argument they present. I don’t have to like it or agree with it, but I can evaluate it.

So I popped in to read this opinion piece. Once I got beyond offense at their application of one of my nicknames, I had to nod my head in agreement at the keen observations of the writer.

Slicker than Willy

Here is an appraisal, although not quite an admiring one, which is honest. If we have ever seen anyone who has been so successful at saying one thing and then actually being another, I can’t recall it. Glib, ethnically correct, artfully educated, and capable of building visions of an almost Marxist utopia, the savior rises before us standing on feet of the basest clay. He tells us the things we so desperately want to hear then is disclosed to be exactly the opposite of what he has told us he is and we blissfully ignore the obvious. We buy the original dream and somehow ignore the evidence before our eyes. Can we really be so stupid?

A different kind of politics for America is what we asked for and what he promised. We thought that meant abandoning the cliché of “politics of personal destruction.” It was supposed to give us freedom from racist innuendo. There would be no more deniable attacks by surrogates. It was going to be politics of unity, inclusion, possibility, honesty and hope.

The snake oil was going to cure what ailed us. Our indigestion and lumbago would be gone. Our headache would evaporate. Our erectile dysfunction would become functional. Our intellect would sharpen and our gait would quicken.

What seems more likely is that we are going to wake up on a Wednesday morning in early November with a throbbing hangover and without the hope that it will get better as the day wears on. There’s way too much mind-numbing in this bottle of cure-all and not enough bitter pharmaceutical.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Jefferson Smiled and Patrick Henry Grinned

I was deeply pessimistic after Boumediene v Bush and then Kennedy v Louisiana that it was going to be necessary to fortify the walls and stock up on ammo when the increasingly senile group that resides down the block from the back door of the Capitol ruled on Heller.

Chalk Up One for the Founders

Justice and common sense prevailed. The republic gets a short reprieve. But there isn’t much to be overjoyed about if you note a couple of dissent comments.

How about this:

In a dissent he summarized from the bench, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the majority "would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons."
He said such evidence "is nowhere to be found."

Are you serious? John Paul, baby, what are you drinking? The whole point of the BILL OF RIGHTS is that these are very specific things that the Framers made a choice about! They specifically included these rights precisely because they want to limit the tools available to government to regulate civilian life in general. The evidence is so blatantly clear that for the last 220 years no one needed it spelled out for your predecessors.

Or how about this:

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a separate dissent in which he said, "In my view, there simply is no untouchable constitutional right guaranteed by the Second Amendment to keep loaded handguns in the house in crime-ridden urban areas."

Can this guy find his way to the men’s room alone? What could possibly be any justification at all in the Constitution for even considering that government would have a mandate to deny citizens any form of defense in their own home? It is because citizens are denied the guaranteed right to keep loaded handguns in the house that it becomes a crime-ridden area. Throw a little doubt into the mind of some thugs about whether or not the homeowner can defend himself and the equation changes considerably. Does Breyer recommend keeping a cocked banana next to your bed in crime-ridden urban areas?

If the addled thinking of these two liberal stalwarts on the Supreme Court doesn’t send chills down your spine and a wave of nausea up your gullet you might be brain-dead. One can only imagine the outcome if we didn’t have Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito on the court. It will only take one Obama appointee to reverse this next time around and I dread to contemplate the mischief that a pair of his appointments would be capable of hatching.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Despair For The Republic

On August 24, 1963, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev remarked in a speech in Yugoslavia, "I once said, 'We will bury you,' and I got into trouble with it. Of course we will not bury you with a shovel. Your own working class will bury you", a reference to the Marxist saying, "The proletariat is the undertaker of capitalism"; a popular articulation of the inevitable progression of class struggle towards communism.

That’s from Wikipedia, a source for lazy college students and folks requiring reinforcement of their poorly reasoned opinions. Occasionally, they offer pearls. That chunk is one of them.

They didn’t bury us then. They collapsed. We overwhelmed them with technology, productivity, innovation and competitive capitalism. We grew a middle-class, a category that Marx hadn’t foreseen. The workers were simultaneously the owners and held a vested interest in success both for their company and for themselves. In the process, our workers eschewed the heavy hand of Communist party leadership and thrived on challenge. But, as they say, that was then.

Inexorably the dynamic has shifted. Slowly, drip by drip, the erosion of socialist concepts has under-mined the foundations of our society. Concepts that were once antithetical to hard-working Americans are now inculcated in the youth. The media, the politics, the impact of liberal academia, the saturation in welfare-state thinking has them indoctrinated thoroughly.

I see it every day as I read the postings of my government students in the online courses I’m teaching this semester. The unquestioning acceptance of corruption, evil-doing, entitlement, government dependence, and suspicion of America as the great evil in the world. It’s all there.

Want to check? Ask your teen-ager or college student some simple questions.

“What determines the minimum wage?” You’ll get references to cost of living, poverty levels, maintaining a family of four and federal law. What you won’t get is a clear statement that it should be determined by the value of the contribution of the labor. You won’t get “what a willing worker and a willing employer agree to.”

“What’s the first word that comes to mind when I say ‘politician’” You’ll get crook, liar, corrupt, and similar derogatory terms. But you won’t get public servant, representative, citizen, leader or any recognition of the literally thousands who give of themselves in an attempt to build a better community in all levels of government.

“What has caused gasoline prices to skyrocket?” You’ll get speculators, “Big Oil”, Bush-Cheney and their friends, greed, and more. How about rising demand from China and India and the developing world? Any recognition of the damage caused by well-meaning but ill-conceived legislative prohibitions on drilling or construction of new refineries or the boycotting of nuclear power generation? Maybe a consideration of regional instability among oil producing countries? And don’t even go into the unintended consequences of ethanol mandates. None of that is allowed.

“Who should pay for your health care?” Of course, the answer will be the government. Like well trained little automatons they intone the platitude of it being the right of every American to have adequate health care. How should it be paid for? The government should pay for it, just like they do Medicare and Medicaid. “Do you know how Medicare is funded?” No recognition that all workers contribute from their pay-checks to support those over sixty-five in this program. Apparently the belief is that the government simply will create health care by printing more money.

The deeply held conviction is that business is evil. That profit is not good. That government is the dispenser of all beneficence. In simpler words, the essence of Marxism.

Don’t even go near questions like who should be involved in defense of this country. Suffice to say it usually isn’t any of them. And if you really want to watch eyes roll up into their heads, see what they know about income tax. The nuances of the progressive rate structure and how it eats up success totally escape them. All they want is that economic stimulus check without recognition of the fact that it is simply the money from their left pocket being moved to their right.

Maybe the most shocking, at least for someone like me who has achieved a modicum of success and done so without inheritance or public assistance, is the unquestioning acceptance of the concept of equality of wealth as a government goal. Yes, the idea that people in America can be too successful and therefore government should take from them and dispense to those who are failing. Income equity is not a utopian ideal for me.

I’m one of those old dinosaurs who even awards C, D and F grades in class. My self-esteem benefits from it. The student’s self-esteem rises if they are rewarded for hard work but not otherwise. What a concept!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Channeling Ward Churchill

It all surfaced in October of last year. It followed closely on the outrage of Jena, Louisiana where a group of thuggish students beat a fellow student viciously because other students had segregated them at lunchtime. When the thugs were arrested, charged with assault and convicted in court, the cries came up of racism in the Old South. Got the sequence there? Cliques in high-school. Separation into racial groups. Indignation. Then brutal assault on someone not even tangentially a cause of the outrage. Legal process. Then accusations of racial injustice at the result of the law-breaking. Crime deserves no punishment if you are properly offended in the first place.

That was Jena. This incident was Columbia University in oh-so-cosmopolitan New Yawk City. Black, tenured female professor threatened by an inanimate object left on her door.

The Insinuation of a Threat

Hard to believe that someone who walks the streets of New York would be intimidated by a piece of rope, but there it is. It’s the symbolism, you see.

But then, we have backlash. The investigation of the rope threat leads to nothing. It is after all a college campus and students have been known to indulge in hijinks. Could this be true?

Plot Thickens

Plagiarism by one of those left-wing super-liberal tenured types? Wow! That’s a shock. Is the University out to get her? Is this serious? What kind of place are they running here? Have they no scruples? So, she wonders whether a white faculty member would be treated so disrespectfully. A reasonable question to ask. She hires counsel and writes a defense while also expressing her outrage.

You'll Never Make it Stick!

Yesterday the announcement came. Appeal rejected. Guilty as charged. And, don’t expect a complimentary reference from Columbia. Is this the coming of the new world order? Is an ultra-leftist establishment of liberal learning really going to fire her?

Hoist on Her Petard

I guess so. Next step in this drama is undoubtedly going to be a seven figure book contract and a several day gig on Oprah.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

New Excuses On Demand

A new study released by Northeastern University revealed that the majority of births in this country to women under thirty are to unwed mothers. Nearly 80% of African-American births are out of wedlock. Most of those unwed mothers become heads of single-parent households. I’m not a moralist. I don’t really care how other people choose to live their lives. I’m having a tough enough time with my own. But, I am an observer of the decline of our culture. When I turn on the TV and see fathers with their ten year old sons ringside at a WWE event, it makes me shudder. If I see a family sit down in a restaurant and both dad and lad eat their meals wearing their ball-caps, I shake my head. If mom has a cap on at the table as well, I choose another eating place. But, maybe that university study says I should be happy that there is any masculine figure in the scenario at all.

Then I read this pithy rationale:

It's Unemployment's Fault!

That puts a whole new light on the situation. I thought it was flaming hormones, a sex-saturated culture, a total lack of responsibility and a “me-first” attitude that caused single-mothers and bastard children without a man around. According to NYT editorialist Bob Herbert, the cause is poor education and lack of a job.

It was all the fault of being unemployed! If I’d had a job, I wouldn’t have had so much time on my hands to diddle with Suzie Q! And, that’s all because I was deprived of a college edumacashun. If you’d of give me that scholarship to Harvard regardless of my ability and then give me those passing grades like those other folks got, then I’d have had me a good job. Then it woulda been easy to do the right thing when Suzie went and got herself knocked up. She looked like crap then, all bloated and crabby and complaining all the time. You think I wanna be seen wid a tramp like dat? I got my image to maintain, man. Ya see whad I’m sayin’?

I am no longer shocked at the convolutions that apologists for the plight of minority Americans will concoct to explain the situation. And, it is hardly surprising that the solution to any shortfalls is involved with a government program and increased handouts. Don’t forget that it also must be the fault and therefore the debt of successful elements of society.

Equality of opportunity is a goal in our society not yet achieved. Despite great strides there are still huge obstacles to success. It isn’t easy to rise out of the basement of our society, but it can be done if the effort is made. Some clues are readily available. Having children is a result of sexual activity. It isn’t a solo activity. Technology has provided a lot of tools to preclude unwanted pregnancy. There is ample evidence that probability of success in life goes down rapidly for young folks who ignore the obvious. It gets exponentially harder to complete an education, get a job, build a comfortable life and rise in economic class. But, confusing effect with cause and then proposing to band-aid the effect is a fruitless endeavor.

Subsidizing education and creating (what an empty euphemism!) jobs for minorities is not a cure for unwed motherhood. Nor is lack of a job or a college degree any sort of justification for irresponsible parenthood.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Are You Smarter Than a Nobel Prize Economist?

Promising to stick it to “them” while simultaneously giving stuff to “me” is a winning formula in American Presidential politics. We have become a nation seeking bread and circuses willing to submit to the panderer who offers us the most. It is only going to get worse as we slide inexorably down the slippery slope to November’s first Tuesday. But, take fifteen minutes to read this interview with someone who knows some things about markets and money.

Devastation of Taxation

Pay particular attention to those paragraphs about a third of the way in which trace the roller coaster of our progressive income tax rates since that dark day when the Sixteenth Amendment was adopted.

Initially the income tax was established at 3%. No wonder it was acceptable then. Talk about your camel’s nose slipping surreptitiously under the tent wall! The pressures of WW I drove it to 60%--less than a decade after adoption the most successful Americans were having almost two-thirds of their next earned dollar snatched away by the government. With the end of the Great War, the burden got rolled back to 25% but then Herbert Hoover suggested back to 60% in 1932—remember that the stock market crashed in ’29! Also remember that Hoover was unceremoniously booted out of office in 1932 as well. I guess voters were smarter about these things then.

National emergency in WW II drove income tax as high as 92.5%, so maybe one would have to look askance at accusations of war profiteers in private industry. Looks as though the profiteer from the war was the government. Three incremental cuts in the post-war years brought it to a nadir under Reagan. Recall that the two tax cuts of first Kennedy and then Reagan were each touted as the largest in history—and the economy boomed each time, despite Reagan’s vilification as applying “voodoo economics.”

Clinton snuck tax back up to 40% and George Bush eased back to a current top rate of 35%; with the Bush tax cut package slicing not only marginal income tax rates, but also capital gains and corporate taxes as well. Mr. Obama is running on a platform of letting the Bush cuts expire and then further skewing the rate structure to reward those who pay the least and stick it to those who carry the heaviest burden. Take from “them” and give to “me” because there are more of me and few of them to vote.

Is the American electorate smarter than a Nobel prize winning economist? I doubt it. But, will the masses understand the concepts? I doubt that as well. Mr. Mundell argues strongly for further tax cuts, not repeal of the existing effective reductions and he predicts economic disaster reaching not only throughout America but shaking world economies as well. I think he may have something here.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Not So Young Frankenstein

Easily the hottest discussions going on now among political junkies are handicapping the VP selection process for the two candidates. Who’s it gonna be?

Well, this one had me flashing back on Peter Boyle and Gene Wilder in white tie:

Puttin' On the Ritz

No, I’ll admit that it isn’t the text of the story. It is the pictures that are included. If that isn’t the puny brain demonstrating the gentle giant of his choosing in an attempt to glean public support I can’t guess what might be better. The Lex Luther pose and the flaunting of the boots is almost too over-the-top even for today’s audience.

What really astonishes me is the regularity with which the anti-war, anti-military party of the American left regularly pulls out a flag to wrap themselves in and a saber to rattle. Whether it was Mike Dukakis peeking like a whack-a-mole target out the hatch of an M-1 Abrams or the pathetic attempt to re-brand John Kerry from pacifist self-confessed war criminal and traitor to combat hero, the Democrats seem more eager to appeal to our patriotism than arguably more qualified veterans.

It isn’t difficult to find warriors from both principal parties in our past. Washington, Lincoln, Jackson, Grant, T. Roosevelt, Kennedy, Bush 41 and many others qualify. The drums called and they answered without question. It also isn’t a pre-requisite for public office to have served. Make no mistake about it. Minimal service or no service at all doesn’t keep someone from being a transcendent national leader. Wilson, FDR, Jefferson, Madison, Reagan, even Clinton, could be cited.

The issue is the grasp for military credibility when that clearly is not your ideological bent. When Hillary Clinton campaigned aggressively on her qualification on “Day One” to be Commander-in-Chief, was it possible to take it seriously? If your every action, your every policy pronouncement, your total background offers evidence of loathing of both the military and war as a last resort of foreign policy then it is hypocritical to try to “balance” the ticket by a grasp at war-fighting credibility.

That’s this warrior’s opinion.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Couldn’t miss the grand disclosure event of Scott McClellan’s book and now his testimony before the National Board of Professional Panderers, even if I wanted to. Here it is, the smoking gun that every red-blooded Democrat congress-critter knew was there. A book, an insider spilling his guts, an attention grabbing appearance before the flashing strobes and blinding TV lights all creating a platform for posturing of the highest order. Read all about it here:

Wha'd He Say??

The question you’ve got to be asking yourself is, “do I feel lucky? Well, do you punk?” Oops, excuse me. Got carried away there. The question you’ve got to ask is, what is driving this guy? What is his motivation? Is it money? Clearly a lot is being made from the book and the testimony is only going to pump the sales. Is it notoriety? Certainly he is going to rank right up there in my mind with Brutus, Quisling, Vichy, Hiss, Arnold and other traitors of note. Is it justice? If it is, then I’ve got to wonder for what mistreatment. Is it for political gain? Can’t see who is going to vote for him. He’s burned his Republican bridges and despite his current short-term usefulness, Democrats will remember him as the guy who lied for Bush even though he served them this week.

So, let’s pull some quotes from the news item, just to see what was really said. I’m not sure I even have to point out the problems. When taken out of the flowing mass media rhetorical flights and seen in their isolated simplicity, they speak for themselves.

On Karl Rove:

He should have stood by his word,” Mr. McClellan said, adding that Congress should push for testimony from more senior officials but shouldn’t take Mr. Rove at his word even if they get him under oath.” –duh? Why then take testimony?

On being lied to by the President or being told to lie for him:

Under questionng from Rep. Ric Keller, R-FL, Mr. McClellan conceded that the president had never asked him to shade the truth, use innuendo or employ propaganda, nor ordered anyone else to do so in his presence.”---some smoking gun!

On impeachment:

Mr. McClellan said he sees no basis for impeachment, but he pulled few punches in arguing that Mr. Bush misled him and the public over important matters…”---so, no lying, no impeachment, simply Mr. McClellan felt misled. Outrageous.

Or on Scooter Libby’s outing of Valerie Plame when told to report that Libby denied it:

I was reluctant to do it” Mr. McClellan told the committee. “I got on the phone with Scooter Libby and asked him point-blank, ‘Were you involved in this in any way?” And he assured me in unequivocal terms that he was not.”—tough call to make there, Scott, but I’d have to take the words at face value.

The only conclusion one can draw is that Mr. McClellan has fallen victim to his own warped culture of innuendo and less-than-half truths. He says nothing and believes emphatically that it is something. And, that nothing/something he says means anything of importance to anyone.

But, the great unwashed are lapping it up. Sheila Jackson-Lee was wetting her panties with joy over it. I kept flashing back on Travis, Bowie, Crockett, Houston and other Texans as she oozed her Texas pride over McClellan, declaring him a worthy Texan compatriot of herself.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Optimist Defined

Back in the summer of 1966 when I was driving an F-105 in the skies over North Vietnam and we were losing one or two airplanes a day, the statistic was that an F-105 pilot flying a hundred mission combat tour was shot down once every sixty-five missions. Even a fighter pilot can handle that level of math. The sick joke was that the definition of an optimist was a Thunderchief pilot who was afraid he was going to die of lung cancer.

The crew chiefs often customized their airplane by installing an ashtray in the right-hand console where a small chunk of unused landscape was available. They would commandeer one of those disgusting cast aluminum canisters that were made to fit into the inkwell of an old-fashioned side-arm school desk/chair then cut a round hole in the blank panel to slide it into place. Coming off the target it wasn’t uncommon to see your flight lead flip off the side of his oxygen mask and light up an unfiltered Camel. Think about it. You’re in a small metal projectile, five miles above the earth with about five tons of jet fuel still strapped to your butt and a mask dumping 100% oxygen into your face and you’re lighting up a ciggie to calm your shattered nerves. Lung cancer was pretty low on the probability list of things that would kill you.

But, that was then and this is now:

We Know What's Best For You

Symptomatic of what we have become, don’t you think? We’ve known now for thirty or forty years that cigarette smoking will kill you. The laundry list of fatal and debilitating maladies is long and frightening. We know with certainty that cigarettes are addictive. Most folks that start will find it an excruciating experience to quit. We can’t miss the point that cigarettes have become outrageously expensive. Find a coin-operated cigarette machine in the back of your local warm-beer honky-tonk and it will set you back six bucks to get a pack of coffin nails. So, let me see how that works out. Six bucks a pack for a two pack a day habit is $12 every day, seven days a week and thirty days a month. That’s $360 dollars a month if you are math impaired and $4320 per year. Not chump change, although you could conclude there is a chump involved.

Want life or health insurance? Well, if you confess to being a smoker it will cost you more. Want a job? Your employer might discuss your health choices with you and suggest that they would prefer you didn’t smoke. It is virtually assured that your place of employment will have very limited smoking areas and won’t take kindly to several interludes during the work day to feed your habit by frequenting them. If you live in a cold climate you will find yourself standing out in the blowing snow of the parking lot or the loading dock sucking on your butt to keep your jones at bay. And, people will tell you that you stink…because you do. Why would anyone voluntarily buy into this?

So, what’s with Dallas city council and a smoking ban? The question should be why? It is a governmental solution to something that should be a free market decision.

Government can determine what is done in government buildings. Government can make a product illegal. It should be noted that the Volstead Act proved that even a Constitutional amendment can’t change behavior, but they can try. Government should not, however, be in the business of defining what is and what is not permissible between consenting adults in a private business.

The choice is up to the business owner and the client. People like to drink in bars and when they drink some like to smoke. People like restaurants with bars in them. They socialize before and after dining, and smoke in the process. Some people don’t like bars. Some don’t like restaurants. Some don’t like smoke. Choices can be made.

If you want to be a successful bar/restaurant owner, you will get to make a choice in a free society. You can evaluate the marketplace and decide whether you will get more customers in an establishment which allows smoking or in one which prohibits it. Or you can fit your business with an air management system that handles smoking without it impinging on the non-smoker’s sensibilities. It is your unconstrained free choice.

If more folks want to be smoke free and you have chosen smoking, your business will languish. If people want to kill themselves with a cigarette while deconstructing their liver with alcohol, then your smoking bar will be a hit. It is the market’s choice.

But, keep government out of it. Fix potholes. Put our fires. Cut the grass in the parks. Keep the thugs from harassing the nice people. But leave smoking out of it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Unspoken Truth

Have you heard, President Bush has low approval ratings? How could you avoid it? When approval ratings dropped into the forties, we were deluged with the news. It was vindication of the errors of his policies on things like the war on terror, rebuilding the economy after 9/11 and selecting conservative Supreme Court justices. Those choices made with approval ratings in the high sixties, and even as high as 80% were now flogged incessantly as misguided, ineffective and even plainly stupid. When the message of a flawed presidency began to resonate, we heard that approval ratings plummeted. Now only the reclusive can avoid the drumbeat of news informing us that the lame duck President hovers in the low 30% area. Most folks are dissatisfied and will base their voting decisions this fall on that fact. (Note the number of Obama references to McCain as linked to those bad decisions and suggesting blatantly that McCain represents a third Bush term.)

But, what about that Democrat majority in the legislature? You know, the folks that swept into power in 2006 as a response to the dissatisfaction with the incumbents. They wanted control so that they could show us how it was done. How are they doing? Take a moment to Google “congressional approval rating” and check what comes up. You might be surprised, maybe even shocked.

Shortly after taking office, their approval slumped. Chosen eagerly to replace the controlling Republican majority in both chambers, they quickly dropped in approval below the despised folks they replaced. In early 2007, they approached record low approval in the mid-20% range. Since then they haven’t gotten better. They continue to have a lower approval than their predecessors and lower than their disparaged President. How bad has it gotten? Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal released a new WSJ/NBC poll (how about that pairing of political opposite bedfellows?) that showed that only 13% of Americans are happy with the job their elected representatives are doing for them.

Apparently Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid pontificating each day on the evils of the administration while Leahy, Rangel and Conyers keep announcing new hearings on some affront to society isn’t as effective a form of governance as most voters thought it might be. All of the promises of action remain unfulfilled and the agenda of obstructionism runs full steam ahead. Americans don’t seem happy about it.

So, what do we plan to do? Additional polling data shows that in our incomparable political wisdom, we plan in great numbers to ask for more of the same! Yes, despite congressional approval being at record lows with intense dissatisfaction and distrust for the Democrat controlled legislature, Americans are eager to choose more from the same mold. How stupid can we be?

Of course that last question is purely rhetorical. The answer is apparent.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

First Clue

Here’s a good rule of thumb for evaluating Supreme Court decisions. Remember at the start that the fundamental dichotomy that demonstrates “good” or “bad” among the two American quasi-ideologies is whether the decision is strict construction or legislating from the bench. Strict construction ostensibly means that the decision has successfully deciphered the language of the Founding Fathers from 220 years ago and parsed it into an application consonant with that guidance. If that sounds impossible, you are correct. Legislating from the bench means that the Court has applied the now well-established principle of judicial review first implemented in 1803 with Marbury v Madison. In other words, doing what they are supposed to do in protecting the minority from unjust tyranny of the masses imposed by an evil legislature and executive. Also a difficult task to do while satisfying anyone.

The rule of thumb is that if the decision is narrowly split, as in 5-4, it is highly suspicious of being very good or very bad. If the decision is unanimous or the majority is significant, like 8-1 or 7-2, then it means that justice is so obvious and the arguments counter are so ludicrous that even the nine Supremes can see the forest among all those trees. But, 5-4 means craziness afoot.

That’s why Boumediene v. Bush is so problematic. It simply is illogical at best and downright dangerous at worst. The Constitution displays great wisdom for us if we only read the simple words placed before us. We learn that as Americans we, in this great country, have a right of habeas corpus. That Latin phrase essentially means that if our government imprisons us they must tell us why, let us face our accusers and promptly give us a trial or they must release us. Sounds great to me. I like it so far.

But the Founders’ wisdom went further. They could envision a situation in which turning folks loose in a period of national peril might be unwise. That’s why Article 1, section 9 of the Constitution, restricting powers of Congress, forbids the suspension of habeas corpus except, "when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public safety may require it." Under that phrase, Abraham Lincoln suspended the right during the civil war. Seemed like a good idea at the time, although he has been condemned for the action since then by an array of the usual suspects.

That’s what five of the Supremes didn’t get. No, we aren’t in a rebellion as we were in the Civil War. But, quite rationally one could conclude when Islamic terrorists take control of four civilian airliners simultaneously and crash them with all aboard into population and financial centers with the clear intent of bringing the US government to its knees, when the world financial center and the capital of the United States suffer a coordinated attack, you might reasonably conclude an invasion in modern guise is ongoing and public safety is endangered. It defies reason to conclude otherwise.

Anyone who has served in combat in the US military has been exposed to “rules of war”—an oxymoronic, convoluted euphemism if ever there was one. In that bundle we also find the Geneva Conventions, a subset of rules that civilized nations promise to abide by when undertaking prolonged uncivil behavior. All GIs get training in these policies so that we may expect humane behavior in return, but of course we seldom get it if Korea, Vietnam or Desert Storm were any indication.

Some things I learned. I’ve got to wear a uniform so that I may be recognized as a legal military combatant. I’ve got to carry a national identity card that identifies me as a military member of a signatory nation. I’ve got to abide by the rules of warfare, so no targeting of non-combatants. Those things don’t seem that difficult. They aren’t a major restriction to combat operations, unless of course you are an Islamic jihadist not representing a signatory nation or part of an organized military or restricting your targeting to folks who might shoot back. Wear a jalabiyah or thobe, grow a beard, strap a bomb to yourself and kill women and children. No ID or uniform required. Get protected anyway because Justice Souter is a nice guy.

If you had the chance to serve abroad, you learned something else. Get arrested off base for doing something that was not clearly related to military duty and you would probably be subject to local justice. You might get someone from the embassy to bail you out and if there was a national status of forces agreement, you might get remanded to military custody. But, maybe not.

To gain the protections of the US Constitution some conditions seem obvious. We’ve stretched the protective envelope to cover non-citizens within this benevolent country of ours. I’m not too uncomfortable with that. But the incontrovertible fact in my mind is that to fall under American jurisprudence, you would need to be in America. We can’t set up a court in Fallujah or Zagreb or Kandahar to offer American justice to locals caught up in terrorist acts.

So now we have to look at the 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court on this and conclude:
They don’t think we are under siege. They don’t think rules of war and military conventions apply to the terrorists. They don’t think the law of armed conflict restricts anyone else but us. They believe that the US government and military are repressive and unfair to those they capture attempting wholesale slaughter without military uniforms, identification, rank, organization or restraint. They believe that we can be magnanimous and beneficent to those who would destroy us and that won’t lead to disaster in the long run. They apparently believe that we are evil, they are good and danger doesn’t exist.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Atlas Still Shrugging

Last winter, on a whim, I reread Ayn Rand’s great novel, Atlas Shrugged. It’s a bit of a time warp at first as you are immersed in a world of trains, smoke-stacks and cigarette-smoking after sex. It’s the late forties after all and that is the way it was. But, within that framework the reader can’t help but be dazzled at the prescience of the author. Her characterizations initially seem a bit over the top, but it doesn’t take long to realize that the world she painted so ruthlessly is here, today. The radical egalitarianism that seeks to “level the playing field” and preserve our “self esteem” while handicapping creative entrepreneurs and rewarding the least productive in our society is all around us. It doesn’t take the scraping of any veneer to see it in the media, the movies, the classroom, everywhere. It is blatant and obvious. The Dagny Taggart’s and Hank Rearden’s of today are systematically ostracized while the bleating panderers of academia spout pacifism or appeasement and our elected representatives authorize more bread and circuses to buy votes. Rand’s warning fell on deaf ears.

Is it hard to see the imminent collapse of our economy? Is it too brutal to take the Rand vision as a truth, that we will see our towns in shambles, our transportation system grid-locked, our infrastructure crumbling, our creativity penalized, our entrepreneurship taxed out of the market and our basic culture destroyed?

So, if I’ve got this right, it looks as though we’ve got enough domestic oil potential to meet all of our needs for the next two hundred years. But, rather than authorize exploitation by private industry we are going to impose a wind-fall profits tax on the corporations? We could build safe nuclear power generation plants, cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce coal and natural gas consumption, but we won’t store nuclear waste in the deep salt caverns that we spent a billion dollars preparing to receive it? We could build modern refineries to get needed products from our available oil, lower prices and in the process create lots of new jobs, but we’re worried about wind-mills and solar panels which must be in someone else’s backyard? Excuse me for releasing a heartfelt, “Duh?”

The rising cost of jet fuel is crushing the economic viability of our airlines. Rather than a market driven, efficient, competitively priced, free-enterprise the bleaters are demanding re-regulation to improve safety (as though the airlines might think that unsafe transport is going to make them successful,) and to place unrealistic price controls on ticket costs. Airlines are going bankrupt, service is non-existent, routes are being cut (like that will make us well…) and consumer costs rise. Not a pretty picture there.

I anticipated a need this weekend to maybe make a trip from home in N. Texas for a collaboration visit with my co-author on the Robin Olds book in Steamboat Springs CO. There was, as I recalled a non-stop from DFW to Hayden CO, just a few miles down the road, which served the ski industry quite nicely bringing those wild and crazy Texans to the mountains to spend money and scare themselves on the slopes. Oops, no more direct flights to Hayden.

Now, the flight is a trip to Denver and then a regional into Hayden. Not really a problem, until it pops up that it’s $900 round trip. I could go to Paris non-stop from Dallas for less! Or, fly to Denver for about $700 less and then rent a car and drive five hours to the ‘Boat.

So, with Taggart Transcontinental Railroad planted firmly in my psyche, I thought I’d take a look at AmTrak. You know them. They are the federally run enterprise to “save” passenger rail travel in America. Comfortable, modern trains, criss-crossing the countryside, hauling folks without hassle as they relax, sip a cold beverage and admire a detailed view of this great country. An opportunity!

I went to the AmTrak web site. Found Gainesville TX, my nearest AmTrak stop and Steamboat Springs CO on their station list. Sorry, you can’t get there from here. I looked at all of the Colorado stations. Nearest I could get would be Denver. So, what would it take to get from here to there? Click, click, results. It would take four legs. Gainesville to Ft. Worth, then a twenty hour shot up to somewhere in mid-Illinois, with a fourteen hour layover, then a bus ride to another IL town, followed by a thirteen hour ride to Denver at which point I would be back to renting a car and driving the final leg. Total time at the mercy of AmTrak, just under 48 hours. Total bag-drags, six. Total time from Gainesville to Denver, 57 hours! That’s a long lunch short of five full days, each way! And it includes the not-easily acceptable assumption of making all connections on time—something AmTrak is not famous for.

Cost would be about $450 round-trip, provided I was willing to spend five days in a coach seat. If I wanted a sleeper for the two long hops, the cost quickly escalated over $1200. And that doesn’t include meals and the indignities of being cooped up at the mercy of a bureaucracy and sharing a crapper with a hundred folks exercising questionable hygiene for the duration. Ten days of travel to achieve a three day visit.

Where is Dagny Taggart when we need her?

Who is John Galt?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Let’s Get Serious

Here may be the most cogent summary yet of facts relating to energy independence or some semblance thereof for America:

Simply Stupid

You cannot read this and conclude anything else but that our elected representatives are ignorant, feeble-minded, duplicitous panderers who should be quickly basted in several $140 dollar a barrel vats of oil, then tarred with some fine American asphalt and conclusively feathered with bags full of down from foie gras fattened geese before being ridden out of town on a redwood rail carved from old-growth forest trees which had previously housed spotted owls and the last population of some sort of venomous tree toad. Please someone, do it.

We can no longer entertain restrictions imposed arbitrarily, often in contradiction of honest scientific research, with regard to impacts of energy production on the environment. We should have been doing these things a decade ago. We are guilty of failing to do them recently, particularly when a supposedly beholden Republican Party in thrall to “Big Oil” held the White House and both chambers of the legislature. There is simply no excuse.

Further delay now, in the face of clear market trends, is inexcusable. The argument that if we start today it will take ten years to see meaningful production is ludicrous. If we don’t start today we will NEVER see any production. We should have started yesterday. We need to start today. We can’t wait until tomorrow.

And for John McCain to somehow link shale oil production in Colorado and Wyoming with some sort of desecration of national parks like Yellowstone or Glacier is disingenuous at the least and abysmally ignorant at worst.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Another Modest Proposal

I can’t help but chuckle when reading this:

Eating the Children Fried This Time

Then I noticed that the author’s first name is Jonathan. Am I the only one who remembers Jonathan Swift’s classic proposal to end the potato famine? So much satire falls before the unblinking eyes of the literature deprived.

We’re Number Two, We’re Number Two

Here’s a little piece that didn’t get front page press in the US until I saw a one paragraph item on page 14 of the Dallas Morning Snooze yesterday. Googling revealed that the non-news event was first published about eighteen months ago:

What Now Greenies?

So, how does that work to fuel your paranoia? We’ve been weeping, wailing, gnashing over the climate change crisis while those industrious little Asian hordes have been blowing carbon dioxide all over us at an exponentially accelerating rate. Have they no conscience? Or maybe they simply don’t care when they recognize that their choice is to develop industrially and technologically or stifle their advances in anticipation of an event that either isn’t probable or even if it is, won’t happen for a hundred years or more.

Am I now to rationalize our carbon footprint by modifying my mantle of guilt to include that even though we don’t lead the world, we’re more evil because there are fewer of us? I don’t think so. What I think is that the squeals of the greenies about our non-subscription to the Kyoto Protocols ring quite hollowly. Watching the Hollywood airheads prattle about carbon offsets and their quest for mediocrity in America is increasingly meaningless when the most rapidly growing nations in the world are pressing on regardless.

When the pollution generated by the rest of the world simply stops growing at the current rates; it doesn’t have to be lessened, only stop increasing, then maybe I’ll begin to take the environmental whackos seriously. I can’t listen to Sen. Obama tell me that he thinks I shouldn’t drive an SUV (I don’t) or have my thermostat at 72 (I don’t) or eat all I want (I do) if depriving myself will be insignificant in the global scheme and our enemies don’t seem to give a rat’s butt about it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

You Don’t Need to Like Me

Remember Teddy Roosevelt? What a great line: “Speak softly, and carry a big stick.” It is the essence of what should be American foreign policy. We are the world’s only super-power. We prevailed in the long run over the Soviet Union and in the process demonstrated to any who would watch the inherent superiority of the free market over the planned economies of Communism. We fought wars when necessary, defended others freedoms when petitioned, and modeled the best that man has yet achieved. When wars were over, we did not build empire. We rebuilt nations and left them strong and economically robust. We did not need to speak loudly, because any rational leader knew we possessed a big stick which we would wield when necessary.

The core is the cliché of leadership. You don’t need to like me. I only need for you to respect me. If my actions are honorable and consistent, just and fair, equitable and selfless, you will understand when you experience my wrath. Like the strict and caring parent, you won’t always like me. You won’t like me when you don’t get the latest PlayStation or your first Harley-Davidson or that piercing and tattoo which will make you so “in” with the group. But, you will know that it isn’t animosity or arbitrariness that motivates me. It’s my judgment on what is best for you in the long run. And, you will respect me.

That is what makes the bleating we hear on the campaign trail about the rest of the world not liking us any more so pathetic. We offended them by aggressively punishing those who did us serious damage on 9/11. We didn’t reach out to the terrorists with understanding and sympathy. We didn’t cave, we kicked ass. Our bad. But, frankly Scarlett…

Two items in today’s Morning Snooze:

Who Cares? A Dallas News poll shows Europeans think squishy Obama is going to be so nice and will love him in return.

So What? A group of liberal editorial writers are certain that inexperience and compassion will trump responsible wielding of power in our election.

Do I have this correctly? Am I supposed to give a damn about what the sniveling Europeans think as they march in typical lock-step into the abyss of socialism while entertaining the influx of radical Islamists who undermine their culture while plotting their host nation’s destruction? The Euros think Obama will be so much more diplomatic than McCain and therefore they will again like the United States. I guess this is a classic example of misery loving company.

We don’t need affection to thrive. We do deserve respect. We deserve respect for what we contribute to the rest of the world. We deserve respect for what we have done on behalf of others in a couple of World Wars. We deserve respect for our foreign aid and charitable medical and food contributions. We deserve respect for tsunami relief and standing by off the coast of Myanmar while the local national leadership tried to spin our relief effort as something they themselves deserved credit for. We deserve respect for preserving Israel. We deserve respect for integrating the former Warsaw Pact nations into the structure of the North Atlantic Alliance. We deserve respect for our technology development and industrial co-production agreements that raise the global standard of living. We deserve respect for fifty years of turning the other cheek at the United Nations. We deserve respect for doing what is necessary against world terrorism despite the sniveling of European apologists.

You don’t need to like me.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Change in Terminology

Have you noticed the subtle shift in terms? The crisis is evolving. We don’t wail about “Global Warming” any more. Now, the appropriately artful expression is “Global Climate Change”! Get the distinction?

When we have a hot summer it is so easy for the cast of liberal characters, mostly from the California coast as in Streisand, Sheryl Crow, Fonda, etc, to complain that they were never this hot and sweaty (menopausal?) twenty years ago. But what to do when it is snowing in Boston on Memorial Day or blizzards are sweeping through the Dakotas and Minnesota as they were late this spring? Well, then you simply shift the terms so that you’ve got a universal concept that doesn’t require inexorable drift in only one direction. With “Climate Change” as the bogeyman rather than warming, you can now always be correct whatever the situation.

Many years ago when I first moved to Colorado I found that James Michener had written one of his weighty tomes on the state. Like all Michener books in his later years when he was coasting on the reputation made with reasonably sized books like The Drifters, Caravan, or Tales of the South Pacific, the author was churning out a series of thousand pagers on places around the world like Hawaii, Alaska, Poland, and of course, Colorado.

I’m certain that each was ghost-written by an army of interns, each responsible for two hundred pages of the dawn of creation or the ice age or the passing of the dinosaurs at that particular location. There was no possible way that one human being could churn out ten to twelve hundred pages a year, let alone handle the simple research. The books were formulaic, regular as Christmas, and usually at least a bit insightful on the region in question.

One section of Centennial, the Colorado book, covered the settlement of the Platte River valley from the Kansas/Nebraska border to the foot of the Flatirons. Farmers came and saw the bountiful river basin with abundant water and broad flat pastures that could be easily tilled and render grand harvests for the industrious. They came and homesteaded but then something strange happened. The river shrank and the land dried out as a series of dry summers and snow-less winters ensued. With no water, there were no crops and the land lay fallow. The farmers abandoned the land and moved further west.

The second wave came a decade or two later, and lo, the river once again ran through the valley and the fields were green. They stopped, they rebuilt, they farmed and they prospered…for about ten or fifteen years. Then the cycle repeated itself. Michener’s point, of course, was that the micro-climate of the Platter River basin was periodic. It ran on roughly a twenty-year cycle of boom and bust, wet and dry, hot and cold. Just like the entire world!

Twenty-five or thirty years ago we got some new weather terminology for North America. We learned about the impact of warm and cold Pacific Ocean currents on our continental weather patterns. There was something called El Nino, the little boy, that would show up and cause our weather to be wetter. It was remarkable. Scientists told us that we would have a wet year, and we did.

But, El Nino wasn’t always there; sometimes the phenomenon would be reversed. Then the ocean currents caused our weather to dry out for the year. They called it La Nina, the little girl. Boy, wet and cold. Girl, hot and dry. So, we reinforced what Michener had taught me about the cyclic nature of weather. We’ll have a period of several years of warming trend, then we’ll shift the trend direction and go with as much as a decade of cooling. Ain’t science amazing?

Try this for ninety days. I’ve been doing it for a year now. Check your local newspaper weather section. Somewhere buried in the statistics you will find the record high and record low for today’s date…and the year in which the record occurred. Logic would tell us that if global warming is really occurring and the planet has heated up significantly in the last twenty or thirty years, then the record highs should cluster at the more recent end of the dateline. Conversely, the record lows will be found back at the turn of the Nineteenth Century.

Happily, I’ve found that in north Texas, that isn’t remotely the case. Last week, for example four out of five days the record high was in 1909, 1911, 1911 and 1913. Over a longer sample period, the record highs occurred more often in the first half of the twentieth century than in the last fifty years. I’ll freely admit that it isn’t scientific, but when someone starts selling you “cap and trade” taxes as a solution to global warming ask them why they’ve got a sweater on.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Reading Between the Lines

As a career Air Force officer, it is only natural that I would note and be drawn into discussions about the blockbuster firings last week of the Secretary of the Air Force and the AF Chief of Staff. It was as it has always been at the top tier of a profession that cannot tolerate errors. The final report had been delivered regarding the investigation of a couple of incidents involving nuclear weapons. SecDef Gates didn’t take long to call over to the Pentagon and inform the top dogs that they would be out of town by sunset. Either resign or get fired.

Heads Must Roll

I’ve had the weighty responsibility of owning my own nuclear weapon. I was a certified nuclear weapon “bomb commander” when I flew the F-4 in Europe. That meant I signed for and assumed responsibility for a nuclear weapon loaded aircraft, cocked and on alert to deliver twenty times the destructive power of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki weapons to the evil empire of the Soviet Union. All this on fifteen minutes notice. I signed for the bomb on a military hand receipt. That meant I “owned” it and ostensibly would be charged for it if I lost or damaged it.

Even though I owned it, I couldn’t visit my property alone. It was inside of an alert shelter, behind a bright red line painted on the floor. To cross that line I needed a partner, also certified. We were supposed to watch each other at all times to make sure we didn’t do something unauthorized or even crazy. To insure we complied, there was a security police man armed with an M-16 standing at the entry to the shelter. If he did not identify us and we attempted to enter, he was authorized to shoot us. No questions asked.

It was all governed by regulations with codes and signals and procedures and double-check safeguards. We were drilled and trained and tested. If we failed anywhere, even once, we were decertified and would have to go through all of the training and procedures from the beginning to re-certify. It wasn’t something that was done lightly. It was too critical.

That is why the fiasco in which a half-dozen nuclear armed missiles can be loaded aboard an airplane without anyone realizing what was happening is so amazing. Where were the security guards at the storage facility? Who authorized the movement? Who was in the convoy? Who signed them over to the load crew? Where were the guards of the loaded aircraft? Why didn’t the command post know of a weapon loaded aircraft? Who briefed the aircrew? Who did the pre-flight? Who launched them? The places where this indicated procedural failure are too many to count! This was systemic failure, not singular error.

And, that is why Moseley and Wynne are gone.

But, this is politics and things are not always what they seem. Is there more behind this change of administration? Is there an agenda or underlying motivation that might have painted this scenario blacker than it seems at this distant reading? You bet!

First glance when looking for “the rest of the story” leads to kickbacks and corruption possibilities. Beyond the very inflammatory nuclear weapon story there’s the background of a contract awarded for public relations support of the USAF aerial demonstration team, the Thunderbirds. It’s big business, $50 million dollars worth. And, there seems to be ample evidence that the Chief of Staff took an active role into steering the contract into the hands that he wanted it. Is that the real cause of the firings? Might be.

Yet, there wouldn’t be an extension to the SecAF as well in such a relationship. There must be more. What about bigger fish to fry? What about major force structure decisions? What about aircraft contracts? This is the arena in which $50M becomes bait for the big one.

SecDef Gates, who seems well oriented in many areas, believes strongly that the direction of the USAF should be toward UAV, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. The unconventional war in Afghanistan and Iraq is prime territory for the long range, long endurance, low-risk characteristics of the UAV. With limited dollars to fund acquisitions, Gates wants to focus on what is working in this war. Bottom line, cut manned aircraft procurement and buy more robots.

The problem is complex. Gates has a good argument. But, we’ve got twenty years of sunk costs into the F-22 which is just becoming operational as well as F-35 which is destined to replace the bulk of our Viper fleet. There is very little role for an air dominance fighter like the F-22 in this war. But what of the next? And the one after that? Moseley and Wynne argued vociferously for the long-range force structure plan. In other words, “don’t fight the last war,” prepare for the next. That could be the agenda. Get rid of the opposition and fill the seats with amenable suits. The selections for Chief of Staff and Vice-Chief seem to validate the estimate.

Fighter Mafia Replaced

Vice Chief from Bombers

Yep, we’ve got one guy from transports and special ops who doesn’t have a single Air Medal and another from strategic bombers who also has not a single combat credential.

Alas, the days of the warrior in high places seem in decline. And, Dos Gringos will have more chance to sing the lament of the potential Predator pilot:

Predator Eulogy

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Literature’s Next Big Thing...Or Not?

If you live pretty much of your day online, you probably visit with some degree of regularity. If you read books, have an interest in the latest literature buzz, watch DVD’s on the HDTV, or order things of almost any category online, you visit It’s become a part of the landscape of life. And, if you visit there you’ve seen Kindle.

Out of touch? Missed it? Can’t decipher from the cryptic name what it is? It’s a book reading device. One free quizzical look and head-scratch allowed at this point. It is an electronic appliance to download and read books. No requirement any more to buy, haul, open and store actual books. With a Kindle you can have a virtual library of reading material with you in a small gadget just slightly larger than a mass-market paperback volume and slightly lighter in weight. Here’s what the godfather of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, has to say in a Wall Street Journal interview about the gadget:

The Zen of a Kindle

I had studiously ignored Kindle until the WSJ focus piqued my attention. Then I went to Amazon and spent about an hour reading the marketing pitch which includes not only traditional text and pictures but several streaming videos demoing the gadget. It’s clearly got some potential, but will it be the seminal change in the way we interact with literature that Bezos forecasts or will it be the Betamax or 8-Track of the current decade?

Microsoft tried a PC app several years ago called MS Reader that allowed you to download books from places like the Guttenberg Project and then read them on your computer in a TrueType text font with a book-style layout and pages to turn. I dutifully downloaded it, thinking (as the WSJ interview suggests you might) that now would be the time in my life to actually read the works of Dickens. I failed. I simply don’t like reading extended print works on my computer. I absolutely abhor the final edits of my books when I am required to read and proof massive multi-page files for hours on end. You’ve probably never heard of MS Reader and even if you have, I’ll bet you a beer you don’t use it regularly.

So, how is Kindle different and what is going to make it succeed or fail? I frankly don’t know. But I’ve got some opinions from what I’ve seen so far.

I like the concept. The size is right and if the fonts, screen illumination and durability are reasonable, it would be a very convenient way to take a book or two along when traveling or for that matter with textbooks as a replacement for the ubiquitous back-packs that are cluttering our school hallways and classroom aisles. If it really is easy on the eyes and as convenient as a traditional book, then I’m for it.

The concept involves a wireless network that Amazon supports which requires no additional subscription beyond ownership of a Kindle. Turn the device on and shop Amazon (or Guttenberg and other sites) for compatible books. There are already well over 100,000 titles available including the current best seller lists, so content is no problem. Click to purchase for about $10 and get the download in about a minute. Storage allows an estimated 100 volumes on the device. There are also newspaper subscriptions and magazines that get “pushed” to the device so you’ve got your morning paper in hand when you wake up and have the first cup of coffee. Even blogs and RSS feeds. That’s cool. Battery life is supposed to be about a week before recharge is necessary.

So, what’s holding me back from purchase? Well, the price for one. It released at about $400 and has been only slightly reduced to a current $349. That’s a hefty entry fee and will take a lot of $10 books that would be $25 in paper form to amortize away. Lurking behind that price deterrent is the drilled in warning to always wait for version 2.0 on any new techno-geek toy.

Then there are the false starts that Amazon has had in marketing the device. First, where did they get that hokey name? Does it signify a desire to kindle my reading jones? Will it kindle my supply of existing books in the incinerator? Is it named after John Q. Kindle the inventor? What the hell is a kindle?

Maybe more important is the almost immediate sell-out of the device and extended back-orders when it was first announced. Does this signal a half-hearted belief in the product that they didn’t make enough to satisfy the demand? That they weren’t ready to respond quickly to unforeseen success? Maybe that they don’t really yet feel confident for the long term in supporting the concept? Should I invest yet when there is a lurking suspicion that the plug might be pulled and I’ll find myself with a HD-DVD player on a bookshelf full of Blu-Ray discs? Note in the WSJ interview that Bezos dodges the logical question of how many have been sold so far. That’s certainly one that should have had a better response in his interview prep talking points.

And, the damn thing only comes in white. Is it doing an impression of an IPod on steroids? Can’t I opt for a subdued gray or maybe traditional PC beige? Not yet.

I’ll be waiting to see how this shakes out. I could be a push-over for the device by Christmas if there’s an updated version and the price comes to maybe a $200 point. Are you listening Santa?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What CAN We Believe In?

Joseph Goebbels didn’t invent the Big Lie, he merely identified it as the way politics is done and thereby was able to apply it more effectively and ruthlessly than it had been done in the past. Here’s some detailed information on the application of the principle:

Way Too Much Truth In This Story of the Big Lie

Can anyone really observe the political scene in America and not see the parallels? The identification that the populace is too stupid to recognize the lie? The essential truth that people would rather be guided by their emotion than their reason? The tailoring of today’s lie to the audience of the moment, knowing that the previous statements won’t surface until after this lie has hardened into belief? The basic principles of all education that primacy—that which is learned first—and repetition—that which is drilled into rote memorization—will prevail? They are all there today, unfortunately.

Here’s the Dallas Morning Fishwrapper’s front page “news” story which is really editorial masked as reportage:

Change We Can't Determine

Read between the lines. You would have had to pull a Rip Van Winkle to not have noticed that this election is about (drum roll please…) CHANGE! Yes, folks, what we want in this country is change. Change we can believe in. Whatever that means. What are we going to change? Everything. And, nothing. What needs changing. What doesn’t need changing. Taxes, foreign policy, health care, fuel costs, welfare, education, wages, whatever you want. The candidate will change it. And, best of all, someone else will pay for it. We aren’t about to discriminate and ask any tough questions. After all, who cares how Santa Claus pays the bills. We just expect the toys.

Repetition is key to the Big Lie and it wouldn’t be tough to see it in action. It started in the 2006 run-up to elections. The platform to run on was being “Not Bush.” It didn’t take anything else to be successful. Stand up and say you thought the administration was inept, incompetent, corrupt, deceitful, ill-prepared, blatantly ignorant, downright stupid or a bad hunting companion. Bingo, you got elected. You weren’t Bush.

Now, of course we have got the 22nd Amendment in play and whatever we do we are going to have an administration change. That may be the only “Change We Can Believe In” for this year. Everything else, as Baron Von Richthofen used to say “is rubbish.”

Sen. Obama therefore is inevitably redundant when he plasters the world with “Change” posters. Sen. McCain is going to be as much of a change as Obama. Either will mean a new administration, a new cabinet, a new agenda and a new world view. But, Obama has the appeal of youth and more than any demographic the young people of this country fit the mold of a populace amenable to the Big Lie.

Despite the fact that the hard-core of the Republican Party express distaste for McCain as a party maverick who was seldom in lock-step with the uber-conservatives, the Obama campaign is obligated to repeat as a religious mantra the idea that McCain’s election will mean four more years of (all together now,) “the failed Bush policies.” And, exactly as Goebbels told Adolph, the masses believe it.

Will voters actually peek behind the curtain and find out what is moving the levers that activate the Great Oz? Will we get to a point where discerning folks will outnumber the lemmings and ask the critical questions?

How much will universal health care cost us? Can we afford it?
What will restoring the taxes cut by Bush really do to the economy?
What will be the state of the Middle East in five years after we summarily withdraw from Iraq?
Would increased federal involvement in local education be a benefit?
What is the cost/benefit relationship between climate abatement and energy production?
Why aren’t we exploiting our own petroleum resources?
Is a minimum wage realistic as an economic tool?
What should our military look like?
How can we make our government responsive and accountable?
How do we deal with increased global interdependence?

And more.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Is It Over Yet?

I watched on Saturday as the reluctant loser brought her typically tardy road show to a dramatic venue that would rival Leni Riefenstahl’s Nuremberg Nazi extravaganzas but without the Horst Wessel Song. Still unencumbered by the common courtesy of showing up on time and apparently not recognizing the level of selfish disrespect for you audience that such behavior manifests, Hillary arrived fifty minutes late for her sort of concession speech. Yes, at long last, she admitted that her party, the one that in her mind belonged to her and Wild Bill, was now the property of a three-year experience junior senator from Illinois with no credentials to speak of behind his ethnicity.

She filled the mandatory square of perfunctory cheer-leading for the nominal candidate, but inevitably she wandered off the party line to her own version of Mein Kampf. It was her struggle, a woman in the world alone fighting the oppressive forces of male chauvinism and singlehandedly bludgeoning “18 million cracks in the glass ceiling.” Talk about your high flown rhetorical flights of fantasy!

But, ponder this analysis:

Ponder This

It isn’t beyond belief, particularly when one recognizes the thin margin of victory that Obama eked out. And with the arcane Democratic Party elitist practice of un-pledged and un-committed super-delegates the possibility of an August Surprise is very real. Given the right scandal and the right combination of events you could have Obama in a situation that leaves him so politically damaged that the super-delegates abandon him. That leaves him short of the number needed to nominate. Add the intense aversion that more than fifty percent of Americans hold for the Clintons and you find that the supers don’t jump to Hillary and the pledged delegates are then released on a second ballot to go wherever the moment leads them. The result is a new and totally unexpected ticket for the November election.

Read between the lines of this item:

The Audaciousness of Hoping

What are the odds that sloganeering with regard to such empty phrases as “Change We Can Believe In” and “Yes We Can” must eventually be replaced by fervent cries from the back row that “The Emperor is Naked”?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Eagerness For Umbrage

One of the blogs I read regularly was ranting yesterday about a “Professor” of education in England who was apparently involved in recommending curricula changes for the national school system. This purported authority was suggesting an abandonment of the traditional core material such as history, geography, science, math, reading, etc. in favor of a more student-centered approach in which through some sort of a Zen process the middle-school student establishes self-goals and then strives to attain them. The argument was that the traditional courses were generated by a middle-class standard focusing on wealth creation and success in life which was imposed by some sort of oppressive capitalist class structure.

Absurd, you might suggest. And, you would be correct. Yet, I followed the link to the Daily Mail, a Brit news-rag, and there it was for all to see. Needless to say the blogger was incensed by this item and attributed the end of civilization as we know it to this sort of thing.

Yet, it occurred to me that the fault wasn’t with the mis-guided Prof, but with the blogger who failed to recognize the total improbability of such extremist policy being anything more than tabloid fodder. It simply isn’t going to happen, therefore why waste ire upon it?

But, it is symptomatic of what we have become culturally. We are flooded each morning by a rash of emails informing us of the latest outrage and encouraging us to boycott this or that company and forward to everyone on the planet so that we may drive the infidels into bankruptcy through the power of our moral indignation. A regular check of usually reveals the falsity of the basic accusation. How many folks do you know who spend their total waking hours being angry about something? The high point of their existence is finding a new justification for their outrage. Frankly, it’s depressing.

Consider a simple journey on an airplane. The airline doesn’t benefit from inconveniencing you. I know it may occasionally seem that way. They don’t make money by running late. They don’t preplan bad weather. They don’t schedule equipment breakages. They certainly don’t plot to lose your luggage. And, despite all appearances, TSA is actually improving their training, efficiency and common sense. But, when stuff happens you will find the usual suspects outnumbering the folks with patience and common sense to rant, rave, rile and defile whoever appears before them with an airline ID around their neck. Too bad. It’s misdirected, ill-bred and totally ineffective.

Or, what about road rage? Start out with the presumption that you should plan your trip to get where you are going when you need to be there. If you start late, it is no one else’s problem but yours. Then add the recognition that it isn’t your job to control someone else’s speed or driving. Keep right, except to pass. It’s not only courteous; it’s the law in most states. Next thing you know you won’t be all tense, hypertensive and angry when you reach your destination.

I know that things won’t change. But possibly awareness of the humor in life and the benefits of an optimistic versus a pessimistic perspective on society could certainly make this a lot more pleasant place. There are reasons to be angry, but they are few and far between for most of us. And, I don’t need to go looking for more of them.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Free Market Realities

Last month we were entertained by a group of long-haul truckers driving their rigs into downtown Washington DC to protest the high prices of diesel fuel. Their demand? They wanted Congress to act immediately to establish a price of $2.00 per gallon for diesel. That’s all. Why no, there was no mention of how this economic legerdemain was to be accomplished. Just do it.

That followed shortly by more formal theater of the absurd. The Senate held hearings and subpoenaed top oil industry officials to testify about (oxmoronic term warning…) “obscene profits” by the oil companies. The dollar figure for last year’s net profit was droned incessantly, in total isolation from numbers like total sales volume, costs of operating, raw material fluctuations or that most essential defining parameter: percentage profit—the percent of total sales that is actual profit rather than the raw number. Turns out the profit margin is somewhere below a rather puny 8%.

Then one of our finest governing minds of the senior legislative chamber astonished all by proposing that OPEC be called upon to toe the arbitrary price lines the Senate could set or face the wrath of the Senate. I wonder how exactly he would compel those OPEC nations to appear humbly before him?

Here’s a more realistic take on the energy policy front: Growing Up On Energy Policy

The moment of unintentional truth in the Senate hearings came when the august Senators were lectured by the oil execs that, “No, Senator, the oil industry is not a free market.” That is the key and unfortunately for modern America, too few of our citizens understand what that simple declaration means.

Certainly oil companies in America do not operate in a free, AKA “supply-demand” market. Global forces move the market and many of them are politically driven rather than market. OPEC is a cartel; a collection of nations that act in their estimated national self-interest to regulate production of a resource to maximize their profit while still preserving future viability of that consumable product. Satisfy the market without squandering your country’s wealth and dissipating your economic future. It’s a tightrope act.

Within our country the oil companies operate with both hands tied behind their back and blindfolded. We hold domestic resources but the oil companies are prohibited from exploiting them. The demand for refined products has increased exponentially, but the oil companies are prohibited from building new refineries in response. Gasoline and other refined products could benefit from some efficiencies in production and delivery techniques, but the individual states impose a hodge-podge of blends, additives and restrictions to complicate the system. Atop it all we have a multi-level tax structure on the product and an alphabet soup of government agencies breathing down the industrial neck. Hardly a supply/demand driven free-market. Top the whole cake off with the incessant demands of Congress to impose a punitive tax on the oil companies. That should certainly lower consumer prices…or not!

But, the energy policy question is bigger than that. Oil is not the only casualty. We’ve also got issues of natural gas and coal, both of which are prime players in our electrical energy production. Coal, in particular, is a targeted villain. It’s black and dirty. It leaves clinkers in the furnace and smoke in the chimney. But, in large measure that isn’t true. Modern coal power plants are quite clean. I watched one close-up in Colorado Springs for twenty years. It’s right down town, next to I-25 and a few blocks from city hall. Hasn’t been an air pollution alert in the area in nearly two decades. Yet, we resist clean technology coal as a means of power production despite incredible resources of the raw material.

None of which even begins to deal with our eco-paranoia over nuclear power. Japan, India, France, in fact most of Europe, all run on nuclear generated electricity. It’s efficient. It doesn’t create global warming gases—even if we assume that is an issue to be dealt with. It doesn’t consume an unrenewable resource for fuel. And imagine for a moment how much petroleum and natural gas could be freed up if we shifted our electricity production to nuclear.

The WSJ editorial points it out, and I’ll reiterate it. We need to demand that Congress grow up. They can’t play games with environmentalist whacko constituencies by restricting viable energy solutions while simultaneously imposing irrational regulatory restrictions on the industries we expect to satisfy our basic energy needs.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Fragile Coalitions

Even in our two-party political system there is a need to forge coalitions. It is a clear process in parliamentary systems where multiple parties are the norm. No one can create a majority on their own, so parties with similar agendas band together against those that are viewed as opposing them in common. The coalition may not even need to agree on some agenda items as long as the shared opponent is suitably abhorrent. A Shared Proverb

In the US, it is all too easy to view the two parties as each being homogeneous and many Americans extend the view to equate the parties themselves as indistinct and undifferentiated. That is a long way from the truth, as the current state of the Democratic Party demonstrates.

To get elected in our pluralistic society you have to appeal to a broad range of people in a culturally diverse country with regional histories, economic distinctions, educational disparities and often conflicting goals. You can’t achieve an Electoral College majority without a coalition. In the process a key element is to never, repeat never, give the voter a reason to not vote for you. The result, on the one hand, is candidates that seem squishy in their policy pronouncements; unclear on whether they are for or against immigration control or farm subsidies or abortion. On the other hand, it offers us the common accusation that one candidate or the other is flip-flopping. Let’s ignore for the moment that modifying one’s opinion over time based on new experience, learning, facts, or a changed situation might not be a bad thing.

Franklin Roosevelt forged an unholy alliance in the early ‘30s of states-rights Southerners, industrial state unions, liberal elitists and urban minorities to build a monolithic Democratic coalition that prevailed for a couple of decades. Ronald Reagan mobilized fundamentalist Christians on a moral quest and merged them with traditional free-market capitalists and welfare society resistors to wield a similar political power for nearly as long. Vestiges of both coalitions remain, if not in power, at least in potential to influence the elections.

That is why the events of the current political campaign are so noteworthy. You’ve got two precedent-setting candidates in the Democratic Party. A woman, with all of the support of the feminist movement and a long-term liberal record, on one side of the equation; and an African-American, the product of a socially-liberated white woman and a Black Nationalist almost-immigrant father, raised with the career privileges of affirmative action programs that provided him with the opportunity for his immense rhetorical talents to flourish and be recognized. Wow, you’ve got the ultimate liberal woman role-model and simultaneously an African-American race-primed success story. Either one would be the culmination of every American liberal’s deepest fantasy.

The problem is an embarrassment of riches. Too much of a good thing can really screw it up! Therein lays the rub. As we hit the end-game, which isn’t promising a clean end, we’ve got women seeking the first female president (admittedly with that as the singular governing criterion) and vociferously outraged that the world has not beaten a path to her door. But, we’ve got the historically subservient and dependable American Black community equally committed to their (a nod here to Rush Limbaugh’s highlighting of this terminology,) “Magic Negro” without much similar regard to any other qualification to be the leader of the free world. Without Barack, it would have been a virtual anointing of Ms Clinton as President-in-Waiting. Without Hillary, there would have been little challenge to the ascendency of the awaited Black Messiah as liberal savior of downtrodden American society. With the pair, it’s a clash of Titans.

The coalition of the Democrats is shattered. Black women are torn. White liberals are torn. Hispanics display animosity toward Blacks and anticipated antipathy toward a woman in November. Academia is disgruntled. Socialists wish for Solomon to decide about the future of the economic baby. Landslide victory in the fall begins to look like slippery gravel spill on the road to government.

Meanwhile on the broader political front, the required national coalition needed to win the presidency looks to be McCain’s by default. Hillary retains ownership of a huge segment of the population that simply despises her. Obama activates a demographic of Kloseted Klansmen who may have never cared much about voting in the past.

This is going to be good.