Sunday, August 31, 2008

Flip a coin.

Have they learned anything, or not?

Hurricaine Gustav is headed straight for Louisiana. Right straight at New Orleans. On the one hand, it appears that Louisiana, and New Orleans has learned a few things. On the other hand, it could be argued that New Orleans, at least, hasn't really learned anything at all.

Let's start with the idea that there have been at least a few lessons learned.

First of all, this time, the President is advising people to leave, and releasing computer generated damage estimates.

This time, Mayor Nagin, who screwed up so spectacularly with Katrina, ordered manditory evacuation, starting with the lowest-lying areas, on Sunday. People started moving sooner than that.

A dawn-to-dusk curfew has been announced. It's also been announced that looters will be jailed.

This time, there will be no shelter of last resort. No Superdome. No hotels. Nothing but the houses of those who decide to stay.

The governor of Louisiana has gotten legislation passed to prevent the 2nd ammendment violations that happened during Katrina.

However, despite all of what's looking up, there are a few down sides.

Despite all the warnings, there are still people staying. While the city government is saying evacuation is mandatory, they're not forcing it, and making it so. No one has any guesses how many people will stay, or who they will all be, or how good the curfew will be, or how prompt response to looters will be.

The rebuilt leves probably won't hold. Major flooding has been predicted.

Flip a coin. Has Louisiana learned enough to prevent tragedy? Has New Orleans? Or will we have another Katrina style disaster in human life?

Update: I can't speak to whether the government agencies, city and state, have really learned anything, but the people have, at least. Best estimates say that, by the time Gustav made landfall, there were 10,000 or fewer left in New Orleans.

Hooray! A reason to vote for someone!

Robert Heinlein said once that if you can't find someone to vote for, ask any idiot off the street who he's voting for, and why--then vote for the other guy. That's a depressing philosophy. I hate voting against someone. I'd far rather be exited, or at least willing, to vote for someone.

A whole lot of conservatives agree with me. Last January, for example, Dr. James Dobson said he couldn't vote for McCain under any circumstances. Friday, McCain finally gave those who didn't want to cast a vote for him just to vote against Obama a reason to vote, and vote for him.

Her name is Sarah Palin.

She is a mother of five--ranging in ages from 19 years, and headed for Iraq, down to 4 months with Downs Syndrome. She's (obviously) pro-life, "a union member, hockey player and moose hunter. She is said to be a reformer who takes pride in standing up to the 'good ol’ boy network,' and she has served as the top ethics watchdog in her state."

Conservatives are getting excited. Zogby reports that "The latest nationwide survey, begun Friday afternoon after the McCain announcement of Palin as running mate and completed mid-afternoon today, shows McCain/Palin at 47%, compared to 45% support for Obama/Biden. In other words, the race is a dead heat." And this is after the Democratic National Convention, when the Democratic candidate is usually heavily in the lead.

Kill the Cat does a great job pointing out the obvious pros of the Palin choice. His cons are ... problematic. Let me go through them and rebut them here.

1. Who the hell is Sarah Palin? No one knows her. The McCain camp is going to need to define her and hope to hell they do it before Obama does.

First of all, I think that's a pro. Besides, she did a fair job defining herself in her initial acceptance speech, and I think she'll define herself better than anyone else possibly can within the next two months.

The Daily Kos, however, struck the first really low blow in the attempt to define her. I'll link to them here, but I will not repeat what they said.

2. She's under federal investigation for abuse of power. Hmm, abuse of power - that certainly negates the "I'm nothing like Bush" argument.

First of all, she's not under federal investigation. She's under investigation by a state ethics committee. There are allegations, but she has discussed what's going on.

"A state investigation is probing allegations that Ms Palin fired Alaska’s public safety commissioner because he did not fire her former brother-in-law, a state trooper engaged in a child custody fight with Ms Palin’s sister. The vice-presidential pick has admitted that a member of her staff called another trooper, in a move that might have applied pressure to fire her former brother-in-law, but said she did not authorise the call."

The Alaskan politicians under federal investigation are those she cleared out of office as a reformer, and one of the current senators, Ted Stevens, and the current representative, Don Young.

3. She has praised Obama in the not-so-distant past regarding his energy plan - a definite difference between he and McCain.

This is true, as far as it goes. What she specifically praised was this political promise:

"In a speech given in Lansing, Michigan, Senator Obama called for the completion of the Alaska natural gas pipeline, stating, 'Over the next five years, we should also lease more of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska for oil and gas production. And we should also tap more of our substantial natural gas reserves and work with the Canadian government to finally build the Alaska natural gas pipeline, delivering clean natural gas and creating good jobs in the process.'"

I'm glad to see Obama's listening to Paris Hilton. I wish McCain would, too, because I think her energy plan makes more sense than both of theirs initially did.

However, like all political promises, I doubt this one would be fulfilled--by either candidate.

4. She has only held elective office for a total of two years. This causes the McCain camp to give up the argument that Obama is inexperienced. Especially because he has held elected office 8 years longer than she.

This completely ignores her eight years as a mayor of a small town. John Zogby rightfully points out that small town politics can be far more vicious and cutthroat than those of larger towns. In other words, she's not only got two years of elected office experience on Obama, but that all ten of her years of elected office--as mayor and governor--give her ten more years of executive experience than all of the other candidates, presidential and vice, put together.

5. She's a woman. - No, I'm not being sexist here, so stop it. But there is an element of risk here. McCain wants to attract women 35 to 50 to him. But the Palin pick could be seen as a condescending move. It also adds an element of risk because her abortion stance will be seen as a liability to democratic women.

Whether or not McCain's choice of Palin as a running mate can be seen as condescending is, I believe, made a moot point by the woman's own point of view.

"Palin noted that she was following in the footsteps of former New York Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, who was Walter Mondale’s running mate in 1984, and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, who Palin noted had made '18 million cracks' in the glass ceiling in her presidential bid this year.

'It turns out that women in America aren’t finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all,' Palin said to rousing applause."

Somehow, I don't think that, even if the choice was made for condescending reasons (which it may well have been--but not necessarily towards women so much as the traditional Republican base), many people will see Palin as nothing more than a pretty doll of a candidate that McCain chose to get the girl vote.

6. The Alaskan Republican party is a mess and though she is not currently linked to them, Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Don Young are in legal pickles of their own. This is also giving democrats an edge in Alaska and could further hurt the McCain camp up there.

Let's let her record speak first. “In Alaska, Governor Palin challenged a corrupt system and passed a landmark ethics reform bill. She has actually used her veto and cut budgetary spending. She put a stop to the ‘bridge to nowhere’ that would have cost taxpayers $400 million dollars.”

She also sold the former governor of Alaska's jet--a jet bought with corrupt money, on payments, against the wishes of the state legislature--on e-bay, about a week after she was elected governor.

I think she's an excellent choice for VP. I think she's going to do more for McCain's campaign than Biden will for Obama's.

Pollster John Zogby says "Palin is not to be underestimated. Her real strength is that she is authentic, a real mom, an outdoors person, a small town mayor (hey, she has dealt with a small town city council - that alone could be preparation for staring down Vladimir Putin, right?). She is also a reformer."

I say that Democrats had better stop pointing out how old McCain is. Republicans are starting to look at that, look at his veep choice, and giggle.
Update: My friend, Kill the Cat, has responded to this post. His main criticism focuses on Palin's lack of experience. Here's my response to that criticism:

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Here we go again...

Last year, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education was notified that there was a little problem in the University of Delaware's residence halls. Actually, the problem wasn't so little:
The University of Delaware subjects students in its residence halls to a shocking program of ideological reeducation that is referred to in the university’s own materials as a “treatment” for students’ incorrect attitudes and beliefs. The Orwellian program requires the approximately 7,000 students in Delaware’s residence halls to adopt highly specific university-approved views on issues ranging from politics to race, sexuality, sociology, moral philosophy, and environmentalism.

The actual program involved one on one interviews between each student living in the residence halls and one of the Resident Directors (RDs), who asked students intrusive questions about their sexuality, religious beliefs, and political beliefs.

Of course, the FIRE sued. And won. It didn't take long between the time that the FIRE shone a spotlight on the abuses of students' individual freedoms and the time that the university dumped the reeducation program.

Unfortunately, the University of Delaware is up to its same old tricks: they're bringing back the same program, relabeled as sensitivity training, and promised greater oversight of the RDs that carry out the program. However, the new supervisor isn't scheduled to arrive until it's kind of too late for the poor freshmen: "FIRE has learned from two independent sources that the new overseer, Dawn Thompson, will not be joining UD until early November. "

That means new freshman will, once again, be facing questions and pressure to change their beliefs that abuse their freedom to think and believe as they please. They're facing the same program run by the same people
...who pressed students (1) to reveal the origins of their sexual awakenings in private one-on-one sessions with resident assistants (RAs); (2) thought it was right to ask students to ask students, in surveys, whether they were willing to be close friends with or date people of various races, genders, sexual orientations, and ethnicities; (3) thought it was necessary for "strong male RAs" to break the "resistance" of males with "traditional" views; (4) called their re-education battery a "treatment" for students' allegedly incorrect thoughts, values, attitudes, and beliefs; (5) thought it was valuable to coerce students to reveal their political beliefs and then shame students with the "incorrect" views in front of their peers; (6) thought it was good practice to encourage RAs to record the names and room numbers of students with whom they had the "best" and "worst" one-on-one sessions; (7) thought they should coerce students to act out the worst possible stereotypes they could think of in a bizarre attempt to force students to show their own alleged bigotry; (8) pressed to make students aware the program was mandatory, while claiming to their superiors it was not; and (9) repeatedly rebuffed all serious concerns brought to their attention—from parents, students, faculty, and others—about their "curriculum."

The poor kids. I hope at least some of them are stubborn enough to hold on to their beliefs. I also hope that the FIRE's spotlight on this program, once again, will be enough to shut it down permanently.

I won't hold my breath, though.

At least someone has testicular fortitude.

Israel has stated that it will not permit Iran to become a nuclear power. They've asked for real sanctions against Iran, saying that " [a] total embargo in spare parts for the oil industry and a total boycott of Iranian banks would promptly put an end to the regime" if such were emplaced and enforced by the United States and Europe.

Unfortunately, parts of the EU aren't listening: "Switzerland and Austria ... have announced massive long-term investments in Iranian gas and oil fields for the next decade."

The best option, for the EU, US, Iran, and Israel, would be for the sanctions to be emplaced and enforced, but that isn't the only option on the table. Israel's decided to wait until 2010, and then if nothing's been done to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear capable, do whatever it takes to stop them from it. As for the European investments in the gas and oil fields? "'Investing in Iran in 2008,' Sneh [Ephraim Sneh a veteran Labor MK who has recently left the party] told his Austrian hosts, 'is like investing in the Krupp steelworks in 1938, it's a high risk investment.' The Austrians, according to Sneh, turned pale."

In other words, Austria remembers what the consequences of that act would have been, while Switzerland, studiedly neutral in every war in memory, doesn't.

Iran, of course, has blustered and threatened to start a new World War if either Israel or the United States attacks them in an attempt to forestall nuclear development. Of course, Iran claims that their nuclear development is only for civilian use--to create electricity when their reserves of fossil fuels run out.

Granted, this type of foresight, from a responsible, reliable regime would be wonderful for the world to see. However, Iran is neither a responsible nor a reliable regime.

Iran has repeatedly vowed a crushing response to any attacks and it has flexed military muscles in recent years by holding war games and showing off an array of home-grown weaponry and missiles.

Another top military commander said Iran was prepared to "take the enemies off-guard" and would unveil more weapons in case of an attack.

"Some of the equipment of our armed forces have been announced but there are important things hidden whose effect would be shown on the day (of any attack)," deputy army commander Abdolrahim Mousavi told Fars news agency.

During war games in July which provoked international concern, aides to the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that Iran would target US bases and US ships in the Gulf as well as Israel if it was attacked.

Iran also test-fired its Shahab-3 missile which it says puts Israel within range.

Hmm. Those claims make me wonder if they've been shopping in Russia like Syria has. The claim of "important things hidden" sound, at the very least, like they've either developed some type WMD, or bought some from one of their allies, the one currently at odds with us.

They also claim to have 4,000 operating centrifuges, with another 3,000 on the way. That sounds like far more than is necessary for simple, civilian-use, nuclear powered electric plants.

No wonder Israel's getting edgy. I would be, too, if a regime that referred to my country as a "one bomb target" were developing nuclear capability to go with missiles that could reach me.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Personal Responsibility

I’ve noticed, recently, that we’ve become, for the most part, a nation of children and whiners. “The mean old banks are going to foreclose my house! Somebody stop them!” “I can’t afford medical insurance! I want somebody to pay for my medical care for every little sniffle!” “I didn’t save for retirement like my neighbor did, and I have to live on Social Security! Somebody make my neighbor share their money so I can have more!” “I put all of my bills on my credit card, and now they’re charging me 30% interest! On money I used to buy food for my children while I spent my check on myself! Somebody make them be nicer, and forgive my debt!”

By “somebody,” they mean “the government.”

People have forgotten what it was to be responsible for themselves and their own actions. People didn’t used buy a house without at least a twenty percent down payment, or sign their name to a house where the payments were more than they could afford. People used to pay the doctor out of their own pockets, and the doctors didn’t overcharge. People used to save for their own retirement, and didn’t think to do otherwise. And not so long ago, if a family didn’t have the cash to pay for what they wanted, they bought what they needed and did without the rest. People used to live within their means.

What happened? I’m not completely sure, but I think “somebody” intervened to teach people that they didn’t have to be responsible for their own actions.

Let’s look at the mortgage crisis, first. Or maybe the credit crisis, since the two are so closely related.

A while back, we had a low inflation rate of around 1%. Our then federal reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan, cut the federal interest rate to put more easily accessible money out there because he feared that we were beginning to head toward deflation. The interest rate was cut, and cut again, and again, dropping the interest rate on everything from credit cards, to cars, to houses. People started using credit for everything, and applying for more and more types of credit. The average American now has several credit card payments, a couple of car payments, and a house payment.

Many were smart, paying off those loans as soon as they could. Some fell into the belief that if they wanted something, they needed it, and they needed it now, whether they could pay for it now or not. After all, they could always use credit. That wasn't really money, after all, and we were raised in that standard of living. We deserve that house. That car. That vacation. Never mind that we can't pay for it now. The money's there. It just isn't ours, yet.

Some lost sight that, though they were raised in a certain standard of living, their parents worked long and hard to get to that point, and that they lived beneath their means to get there. All they saw was the end result, and decided that they were entitled to those results, because everybody has them, and the government made credit easy to get.

Now, interest rates are headed back up, and people are starting to have problems paying for their credit cards, their cars, and their houses. Many of the people who have the entitlement mentality opted for interest-only, adjustable rate loans so that they could have the house they thought they deserved, whether they could afford it or not. Now that interest rates are beginning to rise, so are their payments, and they're beginning to default on everything. And they're screaming for "somebody" to help them, and save them from the consequences of their own actions.

"Somebody" shouldn't have acted to enable these poor twits to behave like children by making credit so available in the first place.

These same gullible, irresponsible masses are also screaming that "somebody" should help them pay for medical insurance since it's so completely unaffordable.

It's not. The individual in question simply needs to be prepared to shop around and find the best prices on heath insurance, and take insurance with a higher deductible than they think they deserve--it's the low, or no, deductible plans that are so expensive. They also need to realize that "somebody's" interference is part of the reason medical costs are so high to begin with.

A while back, when someone needed a doctor, they paid what the doctor charged out of their own pockets. Insurance didn't come into things, and the doctor and patient set the costs between them. Doctors didn't overcharge, and people (usually) paid what was owed, even if they had to pay "in kind" or work out a payment plan. Eventually, as the population urbanized, health insurance became something people bought. Then, it became something offered instead of extra monetary compensation. Then, jobs began competing for workers by who offers the best.

Now, people think that health care that they don't have to directly pay for is a right. If they have to pay for their own insurance, many scream that "somebody" should be paying for it for them. Many complain that their jobs don't offer insurance, and that they "can't afford it" by themselves.

My spouse and I pay out of pocket for many things. We do have insurance, but it only covers catastrophic illness and accident. It doesn't cover sniffles, doesn't have maternity coverage, dental coverage, optical coverage, etc. It has a fairly high deductible--$3500 each per year--but covers 100% of costs incurred after that amount. It costs $150 per month for the two of us (1 male, non smoking, under 35; one female, non smoking, under 30). We've found that doctors' offices also offer a significant discount for paying out of pocket, and leaving out the insurance paperwork. For example, prenatal care was discounted a little more than $1,000; that savings nearly covers the overnight hospital stay that will, like as not, be all that's needed.

I'm sure there are those out there that think that we should bring WIC into this, but I was raised on the government's idea of health care, and I'd really rather pay my own way than accept "somebody's" interference.

Social Security is failing. Once again, that's not under dispute. No one is arguing that it's not. Everyone agrees that it needs to be fixed, but no one can agree on how. Why is everyone so worried about that program failing? Why not just not take those taxes out of our checks, and drop the program?

Simple: no one is saving for retirement. Everyone knows that they're paying taxes toward retirement. "Somebody" has taken the need to be responsible for our own retirement and reduced it. Unfortunately, the government hasn't been responsible with the money paid into social security(big surprise there), and it won't be there when many who are paying in now need it. In fact, many who are drawing on it are going to be cut off when it fails.

They didn't save. They'll be destitute. They're already screaming for "somebody" to save them. The only ways I've heard floated about that actually have support are to increase the tax rate on that particular "retirement" program for people still in the work force, and for taxes to be added to previously tax-free retirement savings plans.

None of this would be a problem if people had not lived above their means, bought houses they couldn't afford, chosen medical insurance that was more than just insuring them against medical bankruptcy, and saved for their own retirement. This whole financial mess that's threatening to topple our economy could have been prevented with a little personal responsibility.

That wasn't encouraged, though. "Somebody" wanted everyone to depend on them so that they could justify their existence.

It's the same old story...

...same old song and dance, my friends.

Russia has announced that we, the United States, are the ones that provoked the Georgia incident. Putin said, in an interview that we

"sought to present the military operation as a response to brazen, cold war-style provocations by the United States. In tones that seemed alternately angry and mischievous, he suggested that the Bush administration may have tried to create a crisis that would influence American voters in the choice of a successor to President George W. Bush."

He said that, for one candidate (who he carefully didn't name) to win, the administration needed a "small, victorious war."

The thing is, this is the tactic that the Russians seem to be using. They are, after all, now admitting that they plan to absorb the breakaway regions from Georgia.

Keep in mind: we didn't fight. We didn't provide troops. We've been aiding Georgia in updating their military training and equipment, yes, but not necessarily for this purpose. Actually, I doubt that this particular use for our training and the equipment occurred to most of the administration at all. I mean, "Only last spring, Putin, the president at the time, held a summit meeting with Bush in which the two expressed personal affection for each other and sought to smooth over tensions in the bilateral relationship." Personal affection--real, at least, on the part of President Bush, who probably can't lie effectively to save his life--has blinded our current leader to the fact that Putin has been lying to the world for as long as he's been in the government in the Soviet Union, and then Russia.

Our current POTUS does not have the personal judgement to be able to discern the difference between real and feigned affection.

Another...interesting...development is that Russia has announced that it has new nuclear weapons, despite the treaty they signed banning nuclear proliferation. Granted, all they've said is that they've tested a new delivery system, but everyone who remembers the Soviet Union knows what they're carefully not saying. "Moscow’s military chiefs revealed their Topol intercontinental stealth rocket had been fired successfully." Stealth rocket?!? Wonderful. They're already trying to get around the missile shield we're setting up in Europe, despite the fact it's not aimed at them!

And now, they're threatening other allies. "The RS-12M Topol, designed to dodge defence systems, has a range of 6,125 miles — enough to reach Britain — with a 550-kiloton warhead capable of devastating a 14-mile wide area."

I wonder if NATO will say more about that. I certainly doubt they'll do any more about it than they've done about Russia's threats to its former provinces of Poland and the Ukraine, or even than they've done with the outright attack on Georgia, despite the disturbing parallels between current Soviet aggression and past Nazi Germany actions.

Victor Davis Hanson, writer for the National Review reminds us that NATO has been largely ineffective since the initial collapse of the Soviet Union: "We saw NATO’s paralysis in the European inaction over Serbia’s ethnic cleansing in the 1990s. When NATO finally acted to remove Slobodan Milosevic in 1999, the much-criticized intervention proved little more than a de facto American air campaign." He says that, since the disappearance of its initial mission, it's become less and less useful, and more of a liability to the United States. His suggestion? Withdraw our support--and membership--from NATO.

He may have a good point. After all, if we did,

"Europe will at least receive a much-needed reality check. It might even re-learn to invest in its own defense. European relations with America would be more grounded in reality, and the United States could still forge individual ties with countries that wished to be true partners, not loud caricatures of allies."

Non-NATO allies, like Australia and India, are doing more to work with us against Islamofacism (as opposed to the peaceful, largely ineffective parts of the religion and its state appendages) than our old NATO allies, who are discussing withdrawal from our efforts to protect ourselves and the rest of the world.

I don't know, though. If Russia does much more, the NATO nations will begin to see that they're still under threat, and that they have to defend themselves from what they thought was an ally. Same dance, same tune, same partners.

Update: Not that this is surprising, but "European Union leaders at a summit next week are not expected to impose sanctions on Russia but may name a special envoy to Georgia to ensure that a cease-fire between there is observed, officials in Paris and Brussels said Friday." It's especially not surprising, at least to me, that the French are the ones leading the charge behind the white flag.

Georgia has done what it should have done as soon as the first Russian soldier stepped foot across their borders into South Osettia, and the other rebel region of Abkhazia: cut diplomatic ties with Russia. Russia is clearly uninterested in diplomacy with its former satellite states. Georgian diplomats leave Russian territory tomorrow.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Chilling Effect

I understand concerns about security when the lives of our selfless leaders are at stake, especially when there have been threats booted about. Honestly, I really appreciate how well protected Senator Obama is. It's about par for the course that there are threats against a sitting senator and presidential nominee's life, especially given that no one can determine how serious a threat these idiots posed, but it's disgusting that so much of it was race-based. It just shows that, although America as a whole has come a very long way, much farther and faster than most other nations, we still have farther to go.

However, there is a point at which protectiveness can edge over into attacks on constitutional rights. ABC tells us that one of their reporters was arrested on a public sidewalk outside of the Brown Palace Hotel. At the time of the arrest, "Police on the scene refused to tell ABC lawyers the charges against the producer, Asa Eslocker, who works with the ABC News investigative unit. " Later, the lawyers were told that he was arrested for "trespass, interference, and failure to follow a lawful order. He also said the arrest followed a signed complaint from the Brown Palace Hotel."

I'd love to see who signed the complaint. I'd also love to know why. Oh, and how in the world doing a story on a public sidewalk could be considered trespassing.

That's not all, either:

"The sheriff's officer is seen telling Eslocker the sidewalk is owned by the hotel. Later, he is seen pushing Eslocker off the sidewalk into oncoming traffic, forcing him to the other side of the street.

It was two hours later when Denver police arrived to place Eslocker under arrest, apparently based on a complaint from the Brown Palace Hotel, a central location for Democratic officials.

During the arrest, one of the officers can be heard saying to Eslocker, 'You're lucky I didn't knock the f..k out of you.'"

The report ends by alerting readers that "Eslocker and his ABC News colleagues are spending the week investigating the role of corporate lobbyists and wealthy donors at the convention for a series of Money Trail reports on ABC's World News with Charles Gibson." That makes me really want to know who signed that complaint--and why.

In any case, this is a clear suppression of the freedom of the press as enumerated in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. And it doesn't stop there: political protesters have also had their rights to assembly and free speech suppressed. At times, violently.

This has a chilling effect, in my opinion, on the political process. I believe our founding fathers would be ashamed of us.

I'll be watching to see if similar things to come out of the Republican convention next week. I hope they don't. Once is too often for crap like this to happen.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Maybe the damn horse isn't dead after all.

Once again, the White House has verbally castigated Russia as being "short sighted," this time, on the decision to recognize Ossetia and the other region. Verbal scolding is all fine and good, but, at this point, the Russians are starting to call our bluff: sending more missile boats to a second port in Georgia, not leaving the territories that they'd already taken, and ignoring NATO threats.

Our forces were notified by Georgian officials that Poti's harbor might be mined. We intended to move into Poti with aid, until we were notified that the harbor was mined. Granted, the ships we sent that were carrying the aid were warships (and Russia called us evil for using the best protected transportation for the humanitarian aid we've sent--that they've necessitated). Granted, that likely raised tensions, but Russia had no reason to send more missile boats to a non-disputed region. The only reason they're there is because we are.

Here's hoping that Russia doesn't see the West's Ukraine position as a "double-dog-dare-you" type situation.

Orwellian Terms: Single Payer Health Care

Britain has it. Canada does, too. So does most of Europe. We're sliding towards it day by day. What is it? "Single payer health care:" a double Orwellian term if I ever saw one. Let's start with "Single payer."

Britain, Canada, and Europe have what is doublespeak termed "single payer health care." What this really means is that the government is the entity that makes sure that each and every citizen is insured, and claims that each and every citizen has equal access to health care. (We'll get to that in a minute.)

The government doesn't have money of its own. It can't go out and get a job. It can't create more money. So how does it pay for its "single payer health care?"

Simple. Each and every citizen that does have a job pays for it. In other words, each citizen who holds a job pays for his or her government health insurance, as well as a portion of the health insurance for each citizen who does not have a job. Until the country reaches a tipping point, as Britain did recently, where the ratio of workers to non-workers falls below 3 to 1. Britain's ratio has fallen below 1 to 1, meaning that each worker entering the workforce will have to be taxed an amount to cover his or own, and all of someone else's, care.

The other term for this is "socialized medicine." "Nationalized health care" works to name the phenomenon just as well.

Now, let's talk about the other part of the double doublespeak: calling the results of this type of system "health care." I could share personal anecdotes galore about the problems endemic in socialized medicine. I was raised on Welfare, child support, food stamps, and Medicaid. I could also, instead, provide links: our lovely government health care system--and here's where I say we're slipping into it, since our health care system is already 52% socialized--has released documents that reveal a whopping amount of fraud, and an accompanying cover up. has several different parts to it's website, including testimonials (both from patients and policymakers), horror stories, and facts. Check out all their links to get to why I think this is a bad idea--and Orwellian doublespeak.

I will grant that there are arguments for this type of health care for certain segments of the population--namely, those who are already covered: children, the elderly, and the disabled. I do not believe that this would be a good solution for each and every person.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Orwell's definition of Free Speech

First off, let me say that I'm not accusing necessarily one party over the other on this issue. I'm pretty sure that either would try to stifle news and speech that showed them in a bad light. I do not have a high opinion of politicians in general, with a very few, individual, exceptions. Granted, many, if not most, of the links that I've found refer to Leftist suppression of speech. I'm not going to comment on the whys and wherefores of that. I don't care.

What I do care about is that it seems like we're drifting from the intentions that the founding fathers set up in the first amendment more towards an Orwellian doublespeak interpretation of "free speech."

Let's start with education. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (The FIRE) was created to protect the rights of students and professors to free speech on college campuses. They don't care if the opinions and speech being suppressed is Leftist, or Rightist. They only care that it is being suppressed, and provide legal services to get it restored. The scary part is that they have so very much work to do, thanks to college and university speech codes. These speech codes, which exist on most campuses to a greater or lesser extent, set up minuscule "free speech zones," and punish any speech or opinion that makes anyone feel uncomfortable, harassed, or "unsafe" in any way. Don't believe me that people can be so sensitive? Take a look at what happens to those who put on Affirmative Action Bake Sales.

I'm glad that organizations like The FIRE exist. I am, however, saddened and horrified that they need to. Most of the universities that The FIRE prosecutes are public, government run institutions. That means that they are constitutionally restricted from preventing speech that the majority doesn't agree with, or that the administration feels is "wrong."

The restriction of political speech is worse. I've found several examples of this type of restriction for your reading, um, pleasure.

We have the Fairness Doctrine that, on the surface, seems to do nothing more than make sure both sides have an equal voice in public media outlets. However, as applied, it would more likely silence talk radio (which is for profit, meaning that the public chooses what to listen to. So far, the far Left has not been able to compete with the Rightist radio hosts commercially). I don't know if it would affect the television news media at all, and if so, to what extent, since most of that leans at the least a little left, and at most a lot left.

We have action groups that seek to intimidate donors and supporters. We have a current political candidate attempting to silence ads that show that he has connections to a '60's radical.

Once again, I'm not saying that the Right doesn't do this, as well. If so, I don't know whether it is as well documented or not. I don't care. I don't like this happening on either side of the aisle. I don't want to see the world slipping toward the one Orwell envisioned in 1984.

Update: *snicker*

Russia, the ventriloquist

I wish these little states would begin to realize the downside of being a ventriloquist's dummy: you always have somebody's hand up your @$$.

North Korea is re-starting its nuclear program--if it ever stopped--because we haven't removed them from the terrorist sponsor watch list yet. News flash, little country: we haven't removed you from the list because you've drug your feet and drug your feet about getting rid of the tiny little nuclear bomb you've built, and not building any more. I begin to wonder at the timing of this statement, though; it's after the Olympics, so Kim Jong Il the Pill isn't taking the spotlight away from China, but it comes at about the same time Russia makes another move in the explosive chess game/staring match with us. Are they trying to distract the American people? If so, it's likely because they've decided they'd rather be one of Russia's ventriloquist's dummies than step into the 21st century and become a free nation.

Iran has partnered with Russia for its nuclear ambitions since the beginning. Israel took out Iraq's sole reactor in 1981, and more than likely has plans (though I doubt they have much, if any, resemblance to what's been reported) to take out anything that Iran and Russia would build, in partnership, that could threaten it, Europe, and Western interests. (Incidentally, we've openly refused to sell newer jets to Israel that have that kind of reach. I hope we're doing it secretly, since it is in our best interests to.)

Syria did some shopping, this weekend, in Russia. Syria's tin god is in negotiations with Russia's to buy missiles. They're saying that this would offset the missile defense system that Poland and the Ukraine have agreed to host. This falls right in line with Israel's fears of a cold war in the Middle East. Once again, I believe it's more likely to become just another hot proxy war between the superpowers of the West and Russia, only this time, with a real ally caught in the middle.

Russia has decided to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent from its former satellite of Georgia, despite Western displeasure with the move--the territories are, after all, part of Georgia. Putin's puppet president says that Russia doesn't want another cold war, but are ready for one. Yeah, pull the other one. If Russia didn't want another cold war, they wouldn't have initiated bomber patrols off Alaska six months ago, threatened Western allies over missile shields to protect Europe from rogue Middle-Eastern states with nuclear weapons, or invaded Georgian territory over a specious, questionably legal excuse like "We're only protecting Russian citizens."

Stratfor says that Russia's actions are nothing more than cyclic--they take territory, get too big, lose it, regain power, and try to take it again--and that Georgia and the problems Kosovo faced in the 90s are related to this cycle, and offer a lot of useful background evidence to support that assertion.

Here's hoping that the UN doesn't get involved like they did there, or in other places they tried to "help."

Monday, August 25, 2008

I was afraid of this.

And it seems, as I do more research, that it simply hadn't been reported on. Mexico has been crossing our border fairly regularly--for years. Not the illegal immigrant problem that the politicians debate about, but military incursions onto US soil that are either not reported on at all, or explained away as "just a misunderstanding."

The most recent? Maybe not military--yet--but that could change. Mexican drug cartels have given their hitters the okay to take out targets on US soil. "The cartels, battling one another and the Mexican government for supremacy and control of lucrative drug and human smuggling routes, have become brazen in their attacks in recent months." Juarez is an example of the violence that has broken out down there, and is now spilling across the border. What is our government doing? Issuing alerts to "stay vigilant."

Just before the warnings were issued, we had another "incursion" into our soverign territory: on 6 August 2008, about 85 miles southwest of Tuscon, Arizona, four Mexican army troops crossed the border, and caught and held a US border patrol agent--at gunpoint--for several minutes. The media (and our government) has said that it was a "simple misunderstanding," that the Mexican troops did not know they weren't in Mexico.

Bullshit. It was fenced with barbed wire. The Mexican troops had to have crossed the fence somehow. Worse? "Bonner said there have been at least a half-dozen situations in recent years in which Mexican soldiers have entered U.S. territory and shot at Border Patrol agents." Worse yet? If our agents fire back in self defense, they go away for a while.

By the way, it's probable that many of the, ahem, incursions across our borders are likely related to the drug cartels. Did you notice in the quote above that they're fighting the government for surpremacy? Oh, and this nice little tidbit is what takes that speculation out of the realm of paranoia into probability. Isn't it nice that the Mexican military hires out to kill targets in the United States, and does so with such overkill? Here is access to the police reports. Oh, and by the way. The date on that story? June of this year.

The Minutemen post videos. Judicial Watch posts Homeland Security's incursion reports for the past several years. 226 incursions between 1996 and 2005. More since.

We haven't done anything about it yet. We probably won't do anything about it for the foreseeable future. The local media is afraid to cover it. The national media simply won't. It's not politically correct.

I'll be watching this as closely as I am Russia.

The sky may not be falling, but I don't know what to call it.

Last Friday, Ben Bernake, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, said that the "US economic storm 'has not yet subsided.'" To tell the truth, I hadn't noticed much of a "storm" going on, until I started looking out of the window of my own life.

True, I've read a lot about auto sales slowing, and some plants closing. Yesterday, my other half e-mailed me a couple of stories about the big three auto makers--GM, Ford, & Chrysler--asking for some pretty big bailouts: $25 billion initially, and an extra $25 billion in installments over the next several years to develop more gas-efficient, "green" vehicles. This comes after a $24.1 billion loss over the past year, as people haven't been able to afford gas for the ginormous SUVs they bought, and are selling them, or opting for voluntary repossession. The companies have, for the first time, started taking losses on leases, leading them to get rid of that program. Many families have opted to downsize to one car, while others are buying used Toyotas and Hondas with far better reliability and gas mileage.

I also know that the mortgage mess is still, well, a mess, with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac still deeply in debt; however, Freddie Mac claims to be turning it around. Freddie's board said that they sold about $2 billion in their debt (I have no idea how that works--can individuals sell their debt, too?). The board also said that it and "Fannie Mae can fund operations without a government takeover."

Government takeover?!? Not just (as if that's not bad enough) bailout? Gah! Who are we, Russia?

I've also heard that there've been a lot of bank closures and buyouts. We had Bear Sterns earlier in the year. I heard that JP Morgan and USB are having trouble. Friday, a Kansas-based bank, Columbian Bank and Trust, closed its doors on FDIC orders. According to the FDIC's website, they've closed nine banks this year alone. The FDIC is getting ready for even more, coming up. Well, today, the market tanked on banking fears.

Criminals are dumping the dollar as their currency of choice. Current currency relative strengths discussed here.

We're not in a recession now, according to the textbook definition, as well as some researchers. However, we may be heading that way, if things don't start turning up.

Whether we actually have one or not is not up to the Federal Reserve. It's not up to any government bureau. It's up to the consumers and the market. Since the consumers are influenced by the media, which have been wrongly calling the current turbulence a recession (possibly for ratings impact, possibly for political impact), it's likely to become one soon. In my opinion, Chairman Bernake (and the media) simply needs to get out of the way and let the market work.

Update: The FDIC has released a story that they have 117 banks on their troubled list, up to 13% of which could go splat soon, according to statistics.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Just Biden his time...

Veep candidate chosen

Well, it looks like my friend from Kill The Cat was right when he guessed that Joe Biden would be Obama's pick for veep candidate. And it looks like Biden, who I earlier cited as stating that he wasn't the guy, wasn't Obama's pick, has just proved himself nothing more than another politician.

This is borne out by some of the interesting things that he's said in the past, both about Obama and McCain. The National Review's Jim Geraghty reminds us of "'Just Words' that Joe Biden Would Like to Forget," like the now-infamous "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." And Obama's been accusing McCain and his supporters of racism!

And in the speech announcing who the running mate would be, Obama gave America a good idea of what he thinks his chances for survival through his first term were: "So let me introduce to you the next president - the next vice president of the US of America, Joe Biden" (emphasis: ABC News). Sad, that. I suppose I could put Obama in the hero or idiot category on this blog. And, I do have my opinions.

In other political news:


It looks like New Orleans is acting out my favorite definition of crazy: doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results. Because people trust their government, they're trusting that the higher, rebuilt leeves and floodwalls will protect them from floods wiping them out again--and are rebuilding in the floodplains right where they were despite the warnings that there's a very good chance large portions of New Orleans could get wiped out by flooding. Again.

Global Warming?

Since when did global warming include frost in August--in any part of the country?

The National Weather Service has forecasted patchy frost in areas of northeast Minnesota, and northwest Wisconsin. A little early for that, though not unheard of, according to the NWS. They explain it all nicely--all except how that fits in with models predicting catestrophic global warming.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

...and I think I heard a whinny...

Russia is still refusing to pull out of Georgia. Oh, of course they say they're going to, but once again, their actions are speaking louder than their words. Not to mention that what they say they're going to do in no way matches up to the treaty they signed: they say they're going to pull out of everywhere but disputed areas and security zones, but the treaty said that they'd be pulling out of all of Georgian territory, and back to where they were before the whole...incident.

We're not helping, either. The National Review's Charles Krauthammer calls NATO on it's weak response of dancing verbally around actually accusing Russia of doing anything wrong, and cancelling the next NATO-Russia meeting. Victor Davis Hanson, who writes for both the National Review and Townhall, discusses not NATO's response, but ours, criticizing our lack of unity in our responses.

There are times I want to have us go over there, take away all the toys, and tell the combatants to go sit in the corner. They can come out when they can behave, and get their toys back when they can play nice.

Update: Here's one of the reasons our lack of response to Russia's invasion of Georgia scares me just a little:

Religion of peace?!?

A couple of stories showed up on the news over the past couple of days that caught my attention. They have one thing in common: Islamic violence.

Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that in Jakarta, Indonesia, most of a college campus has been living in tents for a month, after their campus was attacked by "a mob of angry Muslim neighbors...wielding bamboo spears and...Molotov cocktails."

The college attacked? Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology, a private religious college with some 1,400 students that offers seminary classes, and teacher education, among other majors. The small school had been in place for 20 years, and had had peaceful relations with their Muslim neighbors--at least, they had had peaceful relations with their neighbors until 2003.

On July 25, "around midnight, when students woke to the crash of stones falling on their dormitory roof as a voice over a loudspeaker at a nearby mosque cried 'Allah Akbar,' or 'God is great' in Arabic." At least 18 students were injured, though there are no reports of deaths, in the attacks.

The school is still homeless, though the government has offered them an old office building across town to hold classes in, despite the attackers' insistence that the school be closed and dissolved. However, hundreds of students who'd lived in the dorms are still living in tents.

Also yesterday, the Associated Press reported that the government in the Philippines has "started arming civilians to protect against Muslim rebel attacks." While Indonesia is about half and half Muslim/Christian, the Philippines is a mostly Christian nation, with a minority of radical Muslim fundamentalists insisting on self-rule.

(Just one illustration of why the 2nd ammendment of the US constitution is a good idea. We, the citizens of the United States, don't need the government to arm us--we can arm ourselves.)

Just as Orwell's Ministry of Peace was responsible in 1984 for keeping the nation-state (and the whole world) in a constant state of war, I believe the actions of the Religion of Peace speak for themselves, and show it for the Orwellian travesty that it is.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Distugsting and Wrong

I'd say I couldn't believe that legislation had to be passed to protect jobs endangered by personal religious views, but I work in academia. Still, this is disgusting and wrong. And it has only been proposed, not passed.

Doctors' jobs are in danger. They're in danger when they refuse to provide abortions to women who asked for them, because abortion on demand goes against the doctors' religious convictions, and their own conscience.

Our first amendment to our constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." If a doctor has a moral objection to performing an abortion, and refuses, and his/her job is threatened because of such, that is an infringement upon the free exercise of religion. Especially since the law proposed, and supported by the current administration, only covers doctors that work at public institutions and hospitals. In other words, the doctors covered by the proposed legislation work for the government. Which, constitutionally, is barred from firing the doctors in the first place.

One of the sad things is that most of these doctors, while they might have an issue of conscience performing abortions on demand themselves, are willing to refer their patients to other doctors that do not have the same moral objections.

Of course, the abortion lobby is screaming that, if this law is passed, it paves the way for doctors to be allowed to refuse to prescribe contraceptives. NEWS FLASH, PEOPLE: abortion on demand is not the same as contraceptive. The abortion procedure ends a pregnancy that has already begun, and is progressing normally and healthily in almost all cases. A contraceptive prevents conception, and is something that most doctors have no objection to. And if a doctor does have an objection?

Well. This is America. Women have the freedom to vote with their feet, and take their business to doctors that don't have objections, either to aborting fetuses, or to prescribing contraceptives.

It's disgusting that this legislation has been proposed as necessary, and even moreso, that doctors' jobs are endangered by their consciences in the first place.

Immigration and Unity

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
--Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus”

In case my readers can’t tell, I am pro-immigration. This entire nation was built by the labor of immigrant groups: Germans, English, Irish, Italian, Chinese—name the nation, and we’ve likely had former citizens of that nation who had a hand in creating this one.

Note I said former citizens.

I am pro-immigration, but it has to be legal. They have to become at least legal residents, if not United States citizens. Citizenship is the better option.


Simple. Unity. Our country isn’t united anymore. It’s partially the fault of illegal immigration, and partially the fault of identity politics. Whoever takes the blame, it’s true: most people think of themselves as something else first, and Americans last, if at all. Let’s start with immigrants.

Fifty years or so ago, we didn’t have the same issues as we’re facing today. We did have a few people crossing the Rio Grande every year, but they went home when the seasonal jobs went out of season, or if they were caught after the seasonal work was over, they were sent back where they came from, immediately, and with prejudice.

Thus started the problem we have today. We started to tolerate illegal immigrants on a temporary basis to do work that didn’t turn a profit with American workers that demanded higher pay. It was a short step from there to tolerating illegal immigrants year round, working at seasonal farming jobs in the summer, and cleaning houses, hotels, restaurants, and other places that preferred to pay minimum wage for work that Americans were told that didn’t pay enough for the work done. We have millions of people in this country who consider themselves some other nationality, first, last, and only. They send money, and a lot of it, home—home—to their relatives in the country they come from.

And when the illegal immigrants choose to stay, have families, and try to integrate into United States culture, we punish them. Granted, while we should not reward the initial criminal behavior, it’s still tragic when they’re rightfully deported. Often, the children were born in the United States, and are, arguably, citizens of the United States.

And it makes headlines. And it increases public sympathy for all illegals. And we have people who identify as a different nationality beginning to think that they have a right to be in a country where they have no citizenship. And these non-citizens get upset when those who are citizens don’t allow an importation of a new culture, or when citizens get upset about the government allowing those who are not citizens to have the same rights without the responsibility of paying for the privileges and services that are the citizen’s right.

Unity is broken. Illegal immigration is part of what broke it. How do we solve it? There are ideas out there, but politicians either aren’t listening because they (wrongly) think that there are more important issues to deal with, or simply don’t care that we’ve lost our national unity.

The other threat to the national unity idealized by our founders and by the author of “The New Colossus” is identity politics. Even those who immigrate legally are beginning to see themselves as something else first, and American last. Many groups refuse to assimilate, to become American first, because they don’t want to lose the native culture they abandoned for a better life here. Many groups who had assimilated have separated themselves again.

Nor are we seeing divisions only along lines of nationality. Our national unity is being broken along other lines: sexual preference, religious preference, or political preference—rather, arguments between the identity groups—have fractured national unity. People identify themselves with what amounts to a political lobby group rather than the greater nation that they’re a part of, with political leaders rather than next door neighbors. Everyone sees it. No one wants to address it, for fear of being labeled racist, homophobic, or intolerant of others in this fractured, politically correct world.

How do we change this? Can we change this? I don’t know the answers. The only thing I can think of is find a way to remind everyone that we are all Americans. We are all family. How we do that is beyond me.

Whatever the case, our country is fractured, and fractured badly, just as we need to be unified in the face of a new, possible, second front on the war we’re already fighting.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

And this is why I blog anonymously.

Like I said in my initial blog entry, I teach Freshman Composition at a small, Midwestern university. I'm not tenured, nor will I be tenured in the near (or, indeed, foreseeable) future. I'm a part-time instructor, employed "at will," by semester, by contract. My university has a speech code: a rule in a handbook that says that no one may use hateful, discriminatory speech, nor any other type of speech that creates a hostile environment for work or learning. There is a free speech zone--a small area on campus where anything may be said without repercussions. I tell my students that my class is also a free speech zone, but I am fully aware that if someone complains, I will face repercussions.

Like Donald Hindley at Brandeis University. However, unlike Dr. Hindley, I'm not tenured. I can be told that there's no need for my services, and let go. Especially since my colleagues have decided that I'm not what they thought I would be (spineless and able to be molded into their own images), and my political views are photo-negatives of theirs. Until I come up with a good handle, my signature on my blog will remain absent.

Global warming?

I recently posted on a Mexican scientist's prediction that we were heading for a short ice age. Said scientist said that the models that most of the climatologists were working from were flawed, and didn't take into account solar activity, natural activity like volcanic eruptions, or anything else but mathematically generated temperature graphs.

Apparently, the Farmer's Almanac (which predicts a very cold winter, rather than the unseasonably warm weather that climatologists predict) agrees that the usual science is flawed--they say that, when they create their claimed 80-85% accurate forecast, up to two years out, they use the same models that the Mexican scientist used: models which included solar activity, rather than just a computer generated, mathematical progression, statistical model.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) agrees, up to a point. They say that this year has been the coolest of the past five, though they're quick to cover themselves by reminding us that it's still warmer than the historical (hysterical?) record. They say "Global temperatures vary annually according to natural cycles. For example, they are driven by shifting ocean currents," though they once again backpedal quickly to remind us that it doesn't mean anything against man-made global warming, that dips are normal variations in the hell we're building for ourselves in their settled, statistical, scientific opinion.

Well, as one of Heinlein's characters says in one of my favorite books, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics(I believe she's quoting Twain). And I think that if our climatologists ignore everything but their hockey-stick graph and human intervention, they've gone far past the lies and damned lies stage. Especially when the climatologists insist that the science is settled.

Apparently, New Jersey feels that it isn't, as its department of science "URGES STATE TO HOLD OFF ON DAMAGING NEW REGULATIONS AS CLIMATE CHANGE THEORIES CLASH." New Jersey's lawmakers are pondering legislation to curb carbon dioxide emissions created by manufacturing. The levels named would cripple New Jersey's economy, as plants failed the stringent controls and left the state.

Don't get me wrong: I don't see a problem with legislation to curb carbon dioxide emissions so long as such legislation is aimed at politicians. I'd be willing to bet that one congressional session (not quite a year) emits far more carbon dioxide than the manufacturing plants do in ten years.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Yeah, right.

I very strongly, sincerely doubt that there will be a cold war in the Middle East. I don't think Syria has the brains, funds, or patience to carry on a cold war with Israel. Most of the Islamic countries have periodically started hot wars with Israel, but I sincerely doubt that a cold one will happen.

If a cold war does develop, the world can be certain that Putin is holding the puppet strings there just as he seems to be with Medavev in Russia. Even then, it's more likely to be just another shooting, proxy war between the US and Russia, with Israel and Syria as the on the ground players, rather than the government and rebel forces in, say, El Salvador, in the '80s.

...and twitching...

When the bear doesn't get its way, it growls.

Today, Condoleeza Rice signed the missile shield deal with Poland. This thing is designed to protect Europe from rogue states in the Middle East (*cough* Iran *cough*) firing a nuclear tipped missile at them. Russia's reaction was to say that this could open up Poland to a nuclear attack. Rice replied '"When you threaten Poland, you perhaps forget that it is not 1988. ...'It's 2008 and the United States has a ... firm treaty guarantee to defend Poland's territory as if it was the territory of the United States. So it's probably not wise to throw these threats around.'"

Of course, the bear growled again: as of today, Russia sent a message to Oslo, Norway, that it had suspended joint action with NATO. Although, if I remember my history correctly, NATO was designed to keep Russia contained. It seems to me that Russia is simply giving the organization its purpose back.

Granted, NATO had threatened to suspend activities and communication with Russia, if they refused to pull out of Georgia. They hadn't, though, not yet. I wonder if this is an admission that they don't intend to leave the territories that we've said they can't keep, or if this is a response to what we have told them they can't do.

I'm really wishing, at this point, that Russia would sit down, shut up, and behave. I don't, however, think there's going to be any chance of that unless they get spanked.

How does a university president get credit for not having underage drinking on campus?

By campaigning to get the legal drinking age changed, of course.

About a buck's worth of the better-known university presidents have decided to begin campaigning to get the drinking age lowered to 18. They claim that they only want to teach their students how to drink responsibly by offering the social situations that would allow it. They claim that they want to lower the instances of alcohol poisoning and binge drinking that occur among their students. They claim that they see it as a discriminatory policy, considering that these kids are old enough to vote, and to enlist, and to die, but are legally barred from drinking.

It's likely far from that altruistic.

Imagine being the university president, during whose tenure, underage drinking vanished on your campus. That's a pretty big feather in your cap, isn't it?

There are, of course, opponents. There are always opponents. Their side is mentioned in the news link above. I'll leave it up to you to decide which side you agree with.

Update: Here's someone's really amusing take on the situation.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Veepstakes and other political news


Mateo made a prediction about the veepstakes: that Biden was going to be Obama's running mate. Biden said, today, that he's not.

I don't pay enough attention to national politics to have a prediction. My only hope is that McCain names a true conservative as his running mate. For much the reasons Mateo mentions: Obama could drop dead of old age at any time. I'd like to see a good president, for once.


A large publishing house had contracted with an author to sell a book. The book, a historical romance, speculated on the life of Mohammed's child bride. Random House pulled the book, which was due to be released today, because of fears of violence. The author, Shirley Jones, said "'By saying that Muslims will be violent, that they can't intelligently discuss this book, it's disrespectful to Muslims,'...'it feels racist for them to say that someone will try to attack them, that someone will try to go after me.'"

I have to say, I agree. With the author, not the publisher. Whether there are threats of violence or not (the author says not), there comes a point at which we, as a society, must stand up and say "This will not be acceded to or tolerated." Now, whether or not we, as a society, have the testicular fortitude to stand up for our rights to think and speak...well, only history will be able to make that judgement. I'm not sure whether we do, but I'm also not sure that we don't.

Global Warming

A Mexican scientist said, Saturday, that we're not looking at global warming, but global cooling: that we're going toward an 60-80 year "mini ice age." Looking back at the weather in the Midwest this past spring and early summer, as well as other interesting weather patterns, I'd have to say he may have a point. (Damn you, John Ringo!)

I hate beating a dead horse...

...but the damn thing's still twitching.

Russia still hasn't left Georgia. In fact, in the news today is a story that Russian troops took Georgian troops prisoner, blindfolded them, held them at gunpoint, "and commandeered American Humvees awaiting shipment back to the United States."

Even as "a small column of Russian tanks and armored vehicles left the strategic Georgian city of Gori in the first sign of a Russian pullback of troops from Georgia after a cease-fire intended to end fighting that reignited Cold War tensions" and "... also exchanged prisoners captured during their brief war," Russian troops in the oil port of Poti destroyed Georgian naval vessels, radar, and protective emplacements (and, likely, civilian infrastructure).

Monday, August 18, 2008

How does Russia define a troop withdrawal?

By moving short range missiles in, of course. They may say differently, but actions speak louder than words.

"Russia's deputy chief of staff Col.-Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn told a briefing in Moscow that 'today, according to the peace plan, the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers and reinforcements has begun' and said forces were leaving Gori."

According to Mike Eckel of the Associated Press, "... around Gori, the only movement seen by Associated Press reporters was in the opposite direction from Russia and South Ossetia—toward the Georgian capital Tbilisi, 55 miles to the east."

Honestly. This kind of double-speak worked, back in the 80s, before the USSR collapsed under its own weight. However, with today's media, it just doesn't work anymore. One resident of Georgia's capital of Tbilisi, Givi Sikharulidze, says that "Russia has lost its credibility in the eyes of the world.'" Maybe that would be true in a sane world. Unfortunately, I doubt Russia's credibility has been damaged in the eyes of many Americans. Or French. Or other Western Europeans. This world isn't sane.

Condoleeza Rice "warned that NATO would not allow Moscow to win in Georgia, destabilize Europe or draw a new Iron Curtain through it. " Hate to tell you this, but it's too late for that. No one who had the actual power to do anything saw it coming. President Bush saw a good man when he looked into Putin's eyes--such a delusion probably explains how he's been able to work with some of the Democrats he's had to work with--and no one, not one person with the power to do anything, saw, in time, what Russia'd been building up to. Not one person with the power to do anything about it saw the intelligence reports (assuming they existed), or noticed just how irritated Russia was and is with the current status quo. They want their power back.

"'We are determined to deny them their strategic objective,' Rice told reporters aboard her plane, adding that any attempt to recreate the Cold War by drawing a 'new line' through Europe and intimidating former Soviet republics and ex-satellite states into submission would fail." A nice thought, but I don't think the United States government has the political will to back it up. Once the Olympics are past, the country might, might, notice what's going on, but I doubt it.

The Drive-By Media, as Rush Limbaugh terms them, have (for the most part) already tired of the story. Rather, they're burying it. They don't want people to notice, once they start paying attention to more than just who's medalling in Beijing, that Russia has resumed "Cold War-era strategic bomber patrols off the coast of Alaska," six months ago!!! Why wasn't this reported on!?!

Rice also

"...suggested that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who signed an E.U.-backed cease-fire brokered by the French, may be unable to exert power behind the scenes against his powerful predecessor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, or the Russian military.

She said she thought the French would be seeking 'an explanation from the Russians for why the Russian president either won't or can't keep his word.'"

I think there's two possible explanations for this: either Medevev is an unknowing puppet, one who doesn't realize that Putin still has all the power, or that he's a knowing, calculating, accessory and front man. Given that he recently threatened a crushing blow to anyone who threatened Russian citizens, inside or outside of the current scope of the Soviet Union, I'd say the latter. Especially after he added, “Russia has the capabilities - economic, political and military. Nobody has any illusions left about that.”

Yeah, Russia. Way to withdraw.

Update: Neil Cavuto of Fox News has a funny take on Putin's behavior, comparing it to a Saturday Night Live skit with John Belushi, the one where Belushi wouldn't leave, despite his hosts pleading with him to just get out. "It'd be like you and me hosting that party saying, if you don't go, we're going to throw a bucket of water on your head and give you the plug to our toaster as we're doing so.

Vlad won't move."


This Rome Shall Not Fall!

Damn you, John Ringo! You did it to us again! You created another unique, totally believable character with a presence so strong that even you described writing the book as taking dictation. The Last Centurion is definitely going on my recommended reading list. It's really a good book, but very unique in plot and structure.

Call it the blog from the future.

Bandit Six (or Bandit) is an army officer who decides to write his memoirs in a sort-of blog format. There’s no direct dialogue in this novel, only compressed and rendered in its gist. There’s little to no setting description, character description, or really much description of any kind. It’s a story, told simply by the man who lived it and led his soldiers through it. Told complete with “wife edits” whenever the character’s wife has something in particular to add. Usually explaining something the narrator leaves out (either through modesty, which doesn’t seem likely, or through Bandit Six not thinking what he’s left out is important), but sometimes commenting on an event or something in the narrative (“Wife edit: So that’s where that Ming vase came from!”).

The story itself is one that I think fits Ringo in with Heinlein as a visionary. Many of the things that happen in this book—from natural disasters to human caused—could easily happen.

First among the natural disasters, we have a mutated, human-to-human transmissible bird flu creating a pandemic. Starts (where else) in China. Spreads extremely quickly. Has a very high fatality rate, but not in the typical demographics that usually die from the flu. Bandit Six describes India as losing population equal to the entire pre-pandemic population of the United States among its very rich and very poor alone. Worldwide, he estimates something between a one-third and two-thirds fatality rate, depending on region, medical treatment available, and cultural causes that have more to do with responses to the disease than the disease itself.

Second, we have global climate shift (cooling). We have, at one point in the novel, snow falling in the deserts in Iran and Iraq. Imagine what that does in the United States.

Now, on to the man-made disasters: first, we have a liberal president FUBARing an emergency response plan with requiring the vaccines to fight the pandemic only go to socialized medicine centers (a.k.a., county health departments). Many counties follow orders to the letter, and next to nobody gets the vaccine. Lots of people die. Others, like (surprisingly) New York City, distribute vaccines to all hospitals, and get all city/county employees involved in giving vaccines. People still die, but not nearly as many.

Second, we have said president nationalizing companies that collapse because of a 30-60% fatality rate from the flu (depending on the area). Many of the companies are starting to re-organize, and raise their prices according to the cost of doing business. Many aren’t able to afford goods. So, said liberal president nationalizes businesses that a) have lost their owners/ board of directors/etc., to the pandemic, or b) the president thinks that the company is trying to “price gouge” the survivors.

Then, we have said president “nationalize” farms, to make sure that there would be enough food. Some of the farms, yes, lost their owners to the pandemic, but some were selling for what the market would pay—price gouging. Said president handed the farms over to people who’d never farmed, and were “specialists” in organic farming, a method which wouldn’t feed even the reduced population.

This is all related by Bandit Six, who also relates his own unit’s version of Xenophon’s 10,000’s march home from Persia. His small unit is left in Iran, guarding a base that the rest of the larger base is rotated home to deal with the disasters in the United States. He helps stabilize the region by taking out the area bad guys with a booby-trapped ammo dump, and an all-afternoon and all-night battle, turns over the base and food to some of the refugees that live nearby, and march out of Iran, through Iraq, on their way to Turkey to be airlifted home.

The story, as I said, was very compelling, and felt real. Ringo deals with all sorts of issues, like epidemiology, global climate shift, capitalism vs. socialism, and what happens when the system breaks, either through gross incompetence of higher ups or social collapse from disaster.

Honestly, he strikes me as a visionary. Look up the topics I mention from the novel. Just Google them. You'll find them. You'll find professional journal articles beginning to be written about most of these topics, and suggesting the same things that Ringo's novel suggests as a possible future.

Update: Ringo's nuts! A visionary, but certifiably insane! Not only does Bandit Six have a website, but a myspace page!

Sunday, August 17, 2008


U.S. worries Russia returning to its past
Bush administration struggles for right response to Russia's aggression

Hmm...really? Why are they struggling? Russia's not. In fact, they're returning to their old, conditioned, Cold War responses, like loading nukes in their Baltic fleet. I think we should be thinking along the same lines. I also think we had the right response to begin with, in the Cold War, Part I: containment, MAD, and proxy wars.

Actually, I will admit that the situation has changed, for both better and worse. Let's start with worse. That started with the military draw down under the Clintons in the 90s. (Thank God the USSR had already collapsed under the weight of its own economy trying to keep up with US military spending.) From WWII until the Clintons, our policy was to keep enough infrastructure and troops to be capable of fighting on more than one front. We may no longer have that capacity. And before someone starts bleating about the draft coming back, that won't work anymore--the army doesn't need untrained, unthinking, uneducated apes toting rifles anymore. Today's infantryman needs the computer and maths skills that many of today's high school graduates lack, which means training times have increased somewhat.

So, no, the army doesn't want the draft back. Rather, they want volunteers. Volunteers with a minimum IQ a good way above room temperature. And they're getting them, too.

Now for the good news: the army is easily meeting its recruitment guidelines. The USSR has lost a good portion of its provinces, who have declared their independence, and allied with us, like Georgia (and we really need to do more to help them), Poland, Chechoslovakia, and the Ukrane.

Recently, after all the hoo-rah, Poland decided to help host the missile defence shield. Now, the Ukrane wants in. Even better, they're giving us a Soviet-built satellite facility to house the part of the umbrella they've offered to house. A nice slap in the face to the new guys in charge of Russia, who are nothing more than the old guys wearing different suits.