Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sounds like a great idea to me

Borepatch has been posting that he is visiting ASM826 to shoot off 50 caliber automatic weapons. And that his baby boy has already run out of steel jacketed rounds. On New Years Eve. Borepatch. Automatic weapons. New Years Eve. Deep in the heart of bourbon country. Yeah, what could possibly go wrong with that?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Cue the funeral dirge

For the Euro, that is, as is evidenced by this article in the Financial Times:
Almost $6.3tn was erased from global stock markets this year as the eurozone financial crisis reverberated across the world in the latter half of 2011, calling into question the future of the world’s largest currency bloc.
Global stock market capitalisation dropped 12.1 per cent to $45.7tn according to Bloomberg data, while the euro ended the year as the worst performing major currency after finally starting to succumb to the continent’s financial and economic woes in December.
"Worst performing currency.". OK then. That about sums it up.

Stephen Hawking just post an employment want ad

Stephen Hawking

As I read this article about how Stephen Hawking was posting an ad for a new assistant to maintain his complex electronic system to allow him to "talk", I thought back to the time when I was in the midst of reading "A Brief History of Time" for the sixth or seventh time.  I sadly but readily admit to my intellectual limitations.  And I am reminded of how low my mind is on the human scale every time I read that Hawking book.  But it really sunk through to me the time I read it (again) when my son was about three or maybe four years old.  He was old enough to grasp complex thoughts and to sort of articulate the obvious questions (why is the sky blue?), but it was very challenging to articulate a meaningful, but pedagogical answer.  I would have to go through several iterations in my mind where I abstracted complex thoughts to very, very simple ones so my young son would get the most basic abstract of the complex answer.  As I read, and then repeatedly re-read, each paragraph of Hawkings' book until the core concepts seeped bit into my muddled mind, it dawned on me: he had regressively iterated the very complex concepts in a similar manner as I did with my young son so the far lesser intellect could, with great thought and mental effort, grasp the simplest essences of the vast and incredibly complex universe that he saw intuitively.

Yes Big Sis, I am a hockey fan

A (defending Stanly Cup Champion) Bruins fan, to be exact.  So I guess I am grateful that you have turned your ever vigilant, watchful and pa(ma?)ternal eye towards the ice sheet.  I can rest easier now that I know you are on the job.  Big Sister just released an announcement which said in part:
"Every citizen plays a critical role in identifying and reporting suspicious activities and threats," said Secretary Napolitano. "By expanding the 'If You See Something, Say Something™' campaign to the NHL, we are working together to ensure the safety and security of employees, players, and fans."
As part of the Department's "If You See Something, Say Something™" partnership with the NHL, a Public Service Announcement will be read before and during games, and campaign graphics will appear on the videoboard and on ribbon boards. Safety messaging will also be printed on the back of NHL Winter Classic credentials for staff, players, and volunteers. In addition, the Department has partnered with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and City of Philadelphia to place "If You See Something, Say Something™" advertisements throughout Philadelphia at airports and gas stations, and on buses, trains and billboards.
I think this is a great idea.  Hmmm, where do I begin?  OK, I'll give it a shot:

1. Matt Cooke on the Capitals is an a$$hole thug who oughta be taken ought and shot or at least thrown in to Guantanamo.

2. The Sedins on Vancouver are diving, Euro-wussies who should be given skirts and told to sit in the corner while real men play a real man's game.

3. And don't get me started on every freaking Montreal Canadian who ever took a breath . . .

Who is Mohammed Fazl?

Mohammed Fazl is a high risk Guantanamo detainee.  Fortunately, for the sake of world safety and justice, Mr. Fazl has been in American custody since 2002.  (It is tempting to flash back to candidate Obama who insisted he would close Guantanamo, restore rights of habeas corpus to the non-citizen detainees and try them in American courts, but I will resit the urge to digress down that path.)  Reuters describes Fazl as follows:
As a senior commander of the Taliban army, Fazl is alleged to be responsible for the killing of thousands of Afghanistan's minority Shi'ite Muslims between 1998 and 2001.
According to U.S. military documents made public by WikiLeaks, he was also on the scene of a November 2001 prison riot that killed CIA operative Johnny Micheal Spann, the first American who died in combat in the Afghan war.
So assuming we have wrung out whatever useful information we can from the man, I personally would urge being very humanitarian in his treatment.  Give him what he wants and forthwith dispatch him to his seventy virgins.  However, that is not what President Obama wants to do.  He thinks it would be just ducky to give him back to the Taliban to curry some good will and then negotiate a "peace" with them.  Read my lips: you do not negotiate anything with terrorists (to say nothing of perpetrators of horrible war and humanitarian crimes).  You kill them.  All.

Sorry, I actually took today off

Or at least I did not go into my office today.  And no, the lack of blogging is (unfortunately) not indicative of the fact that I started my New Years celebration early.  Though not in the office, I have been working flat out.  Posts to come.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Assume for the moment that you really believed in AGW

If you did, then wouldn't you support an experiment to demonstrate a way that could relatively cheaply and easily counteract all those nasty warming effects caused by evil man-kind spewing up tons of carbon every second?  A bunch of good hearted but misguided egg heads in England certainly thought so.  They noticed that after the large volcanic eruption of Pinatubo in 1991, the planet cooled by as much as .7 degrees Fahrenheit for the next two years.  The cause is explained nicely in this article by
While the larger particles of ash fell out of the sky fairly quickly, the sulfur dioxide became fine droplets, or aerosols, of sulfuric acid. These prevented inbound solar energy from reaching the planet's surface, which caused global cooling. The cloud of aerosols created by Pinatubo created spread around the globe in about three weeks and ultimately caused a dramatic decrease in the amount of solar energy reaching the planet, according to the researchers.
So our intrepid do-gooder eggheads came up with the bright idea that they could easily create a few artificial pseudo volcanoes to do the same thing as Pinatubo.  And it could be done for less than pennies on the dollar, to say nothing of having no adverse social or geo-economic impacts, as compared with the impossible task of reducing the world's carbon emission.  They called it Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering or "SPICE" for short.  You can read the details in the paper they presented to the Royal Society, but the idea is fairly simple.  They propose tethering a helium balloon with a flexible but strong tube about 25k up in the atmosphere.  Water would be pumped up to form droplets that would be coated with sulphur.  Voila! Instant and cheap artificial volcanic emissions.

Obviously, they were welcomed by all of the global warming alarmists as conquering heros for coming up with a solution that cost only a tiny fraction of the carbon reducing scenarios and none of the associated economic and social disruption, right?  WRONG!  They have been opposed by the very thermagedden establishment whose lopsided alarmism caused the scientists to try to find a workable solution, from the Obama Administration's National Weather Service to the British Natural Environment Research Council.  Why, one would ask, would these institutions be against tests to devise a simple and cheap way to counteract the evil forces of man made air borne carbon?  Simple.  They don't really believe in carbon based global warming, either.  They believe in making money, getting funded, social engineering and going on annual vacations at our expense in Durban, Copenhagen, Bern and other wonderful destinations.

The United Nations has officially lost it

The United States taxpayers pay 25% of the United Nations budget. By far, that is the most of any one of the 191 member states. It is bad enough that my tax dollars have been the driving force behind the twenty year run that the global warming alarmists had. And forget about lunacies like having Khaddafi chair the panel on human rights. Or even the oil for food scandal (and many others). But yesterday they flew their freaking flags at half mast for Kim Jong Il. He was universally recognized as the worst despot in a world full of bad ones. The United Nations sanctioned his regime more that it has any other since the inception of the organization. Well, that's it. The straw just broke this camel's back. I am out. First politician that pledges to at least cut off our disproportionate funding, if not outright withdraw, has my vote.

Rasmussen survey has Romney up 45% to 39% -- over Obama

Romney is going to be the Republican nominee (sorry Borepatch).  He hasn't really even started to run yet.  He has a war chest like no other and more importantly, he can go get a lot more.  Maybe even more than Obama.  He is an experienced campaigner and politician.  He will not "oops" himself out of the Whitehouse.  He knows the "anybody but Obama" candidate will win as long as he doesn't piss too many people off.  Even still, the latest Rasmussen poll surprised me:
The latest national telephone survey finds that 45% of Likely U.S. Voters favor the former Massachusetts governor, while 39% prefer the president. Ten percent (10%) like some other candidate in the race, and six percent (6%) are undecided.
Read that again.  Not just the lead one of more than a half dozen primary candidates had over the sitting President, but the fact the 10% liked another candidate in the race.  Obama is unopposed.  So that 10% likes another Republican.  I do not know the statistics, but I cannot believe any but a fraction of those people are likely to jump to the other party's candidate if Romney gets the nomination.  So give Obama every one of the undecided voters and he still loses by a ten point landslide. Heck, even Jimmy Carter did a little better than that.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Iran and the US trade verbal volleys

Iran, who has been engaging in war games around the Strait of Hormuz where a great deal of the world's oil is shipped through, lobbed the first verbal shot:
"Closing the Strait of Hormuz for Iran's armed forces is really easy ... or as Iranians say it will be easier than drinking a glass of water," Iran's navy chief Habibollah Sayyari told Iran's English language Press TV.
I'll translate: I will ignore established International Law to destabilize the region and prove my relevance.

Then the US responded:
"The free flow of goods and services through the Strait of Hormuz is vital to regional and global prosperity," a spokesperson for the Bahrain-based [US Fifth] fleet said in a written response to queries from Reuters about the possibility of Iran trying to close the waterway.
"Anyone who threatens to disrupt freedom of navigation in an international strait is clearly outside the community of nations; any disruption will not be tolerated."
Asked whether it was taking specific measures in response to the threat to close the Strait, the fleet said it "maintains a robust presence in the region to deter or counter destabilizing activities," without providing further detail.
I'll translate again:  Go ahead, make my day.

The world's first hacker

Nevil Maskelyne – doing it for the lulz? <i>(Image: RI)</i>

I suppose the proposition of who was the world's first hacker may vary depending of the definition you ascribe to "hacking".  Nonetheless, I am going with Nevil Maskelyne and the date was 1903.  Better still, he hacked the world's then Steve Jobs: the Italian radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi.  Marconi had set up a big public unveil of his new "secure" wireless transmission system at the Royal Institution's prestigious London lecture hall.  Maskelyne, pissed because Marconi's broad patents blocked his advance of similar ideas, hacked into the demonstration just before Marconi's wireless signal was to arrive and wow the collected crowd.  So instead of a triumphant presentation of Marconi's new technology, those present in the hall heard a Morse code string of epithets followed by funny poem accusing the Italian scientist of "diddling the public."  The New Scientist has a great article about the event:

Yet before the demonstration could begin, the apparatus in the lecture theatre began to tap out a message. At first, it spelled out just one word repeated over and over. Then it changed into a facetious poem accusing Marconi of "diddling the public". Their demonstration had been hacked - and this was more than 100 years before the mischief playing out on the internet today. Who was the Royal Institution hacker? How did the cheeky messages get there? And why?
It had all started in 1887 when Heinrich Hertz proved the existence of the electromagnetic waves predicted by James Clerk Maxwell in 1865. Discharging a capacitor into two separated electrodes, Hertz ionised the air in the gap between them, creating a spark. Miraculously, another spark zipped between two electrodes a few metres away: an electromagnetic wave from the first spark had induced a current between the second electrode pair. It meant long and short bursts of energy - "Hertzian waves" - could be broadcast to represent the dots and dashes of Morse code. Wireless telegraphy was born, and Marconi and his company were at the vanguard. Marconi claimed that his wireless messages could be sent privately over great distances. "I can tune my instruments so that no other instrument that is not similarly tuned can tap my messages," Marconi boasted to London's St James Gazette in February 1903.
That things would not go smoothly for Marconi and Fleming at the Royal Institution that day in June was soon apparent. Minutes before Fleming was due to receive Marconi's Morse messages from Cornwall, the hush was broken by a rhythmic ticking noise sputtering from the theatre's brass projection lantern, used to display the lecturer's slides. To the untrained ear, it sounded like a projector on the blink. But Arthur Blok, Fleming's assistant, quickly recognised the tippity-tap of a human hand keying a message in Morse. Someone, Blok reasoned, was beaming powerful wireless pulses into the theatre and they were strong enough to interfere with the projector's electric arc discharge lamp.
Mentally decoding the missive, Blok realised it was spelling one facetious word, over and over: "Rats". A glance at the output of the nearby Morse printer confirmed this. The incoming Morse then got more personal, mocking Marconi: "There was a young fellow of Italy, who diddled the public quite prettily," it trilled. Further rude epithets - apposite lines from Shakespeare - followed.
The stream of invective ceased moments before Marconi's signals from Poldhu arrived. The demo continued, but the damage was done: if somebody could intrude on the wireless frequency in such a way, it was clearly nowhere near as secure as Marconi claimed. And it was likely that they could eavesdrop on supposedly private messages too.
Marconi would have been peeved, to say the least, but he did not respond directly to the insults in public. He had no truck with sceptics and naysayers: "I will not demonstrate to any man who throws doubt upon the system," he said at the time. Fleming, however, fired off a fuming letter to The Times of London. He dubbed the hack "scientific hooliganism", and "an outrage against the traditions of the Royal Institution". He asked the newspaper's readers to help him find the culprit.
He didn't have to wait long. Four days later a gleeful letter confessing to the hack was printed by The Times. The writer justified his actions on the grounds of the security holes it revealed for the public good. Its author was Nevil Maskelyne, a mustachioed 39-year-old British music hall magician. Maskelyne came from an inventive family - his father came up with the coin-activated "spend-a-penny" locks in pay toilets. Maskelyne, however, was more interested in wireless technology, so taught himself the principles. He would use Morse code in "mind-reading" magic tricks to secretly communicate with a stooge. He worked out how to use a spark-gap transmitter to remotely ignite gunpowder. And in 1900, Maskelyne sent wireless messages between a ground station and a balloon 10 miles away. But, as author Sungook Hong relates in the book Wireless, his ambitions were frustrated by Marconi's broad patents, leaving him embittered towards the Italian. Maskelyne would soon find a way to vent his spleen.
One of the big losers from Marconi's technology looked likely to be the wired telegraphy industry. Telegraphy companies owned expensive land and sea cable networks, and operated flotillas of ships with expert crews to lay and service their submarine cables. Marconi presented a wireless threat to their wired hegemony, and they were in no mood to roll over.
The Eastern Telegraph Company ran the communications hub of the British Empire from the seaside hamlet of Porthcurno, west Cornwall, where its submarine cables led to Indonesia, India, Africa, South America and Australia. Following Marconi's feat of transatlantic wireless messaging on 12 December 1901, ETC hired Maskelyne to undertake extended spying operations.
Maskelyne built a 50-metre radio mast (the remnants of which still exist) on the cliffs west of Porthcurno to see if he could eavesdrop on messages the Marconi Company was beaming to vessels as part of its highly successful ship-to-shore messaging business. Writing in the journal The Electrician on 7 November 1902, Maskelyne gleefully revealed the lack of security. "I received Marconi messages with a 25-foot collecting circuit [aerial] raised on a scaffold pole. When eventually the mast was erected the problem was not interception but how to deal with the enormous excess of energy."
It wasn't supposed to be this easy. Marconi had patented a technology for tuning a wireless transmitter to broadcast on a precise wavelength. This tuning, Marconi claimed, meant confidential channels could be set up. Anyone who tunes in to a radio station will know that's not true, but it wasn't nearly so obvious back then. Maskelyne showed that by using an untuned broadband receiver he could listen in.
Having established interception was possible, Maskelyne wanted to draw more attention to the technology's flaws, as well as showing interference could happen. So he staged his Royal Institution hack by setting up a simple transmitter and Morse key at his father's nearby West End music hall.
The facetious messages he sent could easily have been jumbled with those Marconi himself sent from Cornwall, ruining both had they arrived simultaneously. Instead, they drew attention to a legitimate flaw in the technology - and the only damage done was to the egos of Marconi and Fleming.
Fleming continued to bluster for weeks in the newspapers about Maskelyne's assault being an insult to science. Maskelyne countered that Fleming should focus on the facts. "I would remind Professor Fleming that abuse is no argument," he replied.
In the present day, many hackers end up highlighting flawed technologies and security lapses just like Maskelyne. A little mischief has always had its virtues

Speaking of mowing the lawn

One way to avoid a charging alligator while doing lawn maintenance, would be to use this bad boy and out run him:


Craftsman has introduced its new CTX line of garden tractors which have everything from cup holders to power streering.  They have a top end of 8 mph (OK, maybe not fast enough to out run a charging gator, but still fast for a mower).  In fact, Craftsman is introducing the new line at this years Detroit Auto Show.  Of course, some of the purists are objecting:
"It's an automobile show, stupid, not motorcycles or garden implements," former General Motors Co product czar Bob Lutz said. "What's next? Plumbing and bathroom fixtures? A Toto-toilet stand? An Art Van furniture stand?"
Come on!  That bad boy can do eight miles per hour.  Personally, my concern is a bit different about having Craftsman, a division of Sears, enter the Detroit Auto Show.  In light of the announced closures of many Sears stores, does this move foreshadow the federal government spending more of my money to prop up Sears as it did Chrysler and GM?

Sadly, I must report the passing at the ripe old age of 80 of one of the great movie stars from Hollywood's golden era

File photo shows Johnny Weissmuller, right, as Tarzan, Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane, and Cheetah the chimpanzee, in a scene from the 1932 movie Tarzan the Ape Man. (AP/ho, File)

That's right, Cheetah the chimp, who co-starred with Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan in such classics as "Tarzan the Ape Man" (1932) and "Tarzan and His Mate" (1934), has left us.  They say one of his favorite pastimes was to watch football.  Yet another reason to mourn his passing.  Rest in peace, Cheetah.

Yet another excuse not to mow the lawn

Let's face it guys, we spend a lifetime stacking up those great excuses for mowing the lawn another day.  Well a reptile keeper in Australia has the best one I've heard to date.  Elvis ate his mower.  And Elvis is a 16 foot alligator.

Visitors watch as Elvis, a giant saltwater crocodile swims next to a lawnmower in his pool at the Australian Reptile Park at Gosford, Australia, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011. The 16-foot (5-meter), 1,100-pound (500-kilogram) crocodile lunged out of its lagoon at a park worker tending to the lawn before stealing his lawn mower. (AP Photo/Libby Bain) EDITORIAL USE ONLY 

It seems that the 1,100 pound reptile didn't like the noise of the mower disturbing him, or maybe he didn't think they were doing a good enough job.  Either way, Elvis came out after the keeper, who wisely put the mower between himself and the charging gator.  So Elvis grabbed the mower, raised it up off the ground and took it back in the water with him.  Then again, maybe Elvis just had some water lilies that had overgrown.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The TSA isn't just for airports anymore.

Imagine this, you just got out of a football game in Charlotte and are racing to catch the train back home to Atlanta. Only you get stopped by three men with automatic weapons and a trained police dog. Then you are grilled about who you are and where you are going.  Or maybe you are about to board a subway home after work.  Or on the gang plank to the cruise ship for your vacation.  Or going into a NASCAR race.  Or even taking a ferry to tht Outer Banks.  Or just about any place else nowadays.  What's more, the TSA admits there is no evidence that any of these activities ever stopped a terrorist act.  Nor did putting portable metal detectors up and testing for explosive residue to "screen" passengers luggage at a greyhound bus terminal. I think that the two reasons why the TSA is engaging in these futile exercises can be found in an article in today's LA Times. First, the TSA just submitted a budget requesting an almost 25% increase in non-aviation personnel. The good Director has seen an opportunity to expand her fiefdom at you expense. The second reason is a little more subtle:
But critics say that without a clear threat, the TSA checkpoints are merely political theater. Privacy advocates worry that the agency is stretching legal limits on the government's right to search U.S. citizens without probable cause — and with no proof that the scattershot checkpoints help prevent attacks.

"It's a great way to make the public think you are doing something," said Fred H. Cate, a professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, who writes on privacy and security. "It's a little like saying, 'If we start throwing things up in the air, will they hit terrorists?' ''

After admitting that the intrusions had never stopped anything, one TSA official gave as an alternative justification that it helped boost public confidence. Let me translate that for you: it's great for Obama's re-election because the public, at our expense, is reminded of what a great job his administration is doing to protect us while at the same time scaring them which has historically boosted re-election chances.

Excuse me, could you just advance me a little more--say $1.2 Trillion

That is what Obama is going to ask Congress this week.  The current debt limit is around $15 Trillion and Obama wants to raise it by almost 10%.  In one year.  When we can't pay for the debt we have.  And it is crushing our economy's efforts to recover.  Plus our poor kids will have to pay it off instead of enjoying the fruits of their own hard work.  Someone has to stop this guy in November.  I don't care who, just someone.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House plans to ask Congress for an increase in the debt limit before the end of the week, according to a senior Treasury Department official.
The debt limit is projected to fall within $100 billion of the current cap by December 30. President Barack Obama is expected to ask for additional borrowing authority to increase the limit by $1.2 trillion.
Under the new budget, Congress can only vote to block the debt-ceiling extension with a disapproval resolution. Lawmakers have 15 days within receiving the request to vote down the debt limit increase.
The debt limit currently stands at $15.194 trillion and would increase to $16.394 trillion with the request.

He's no Sean Connery

Or even Roger Moore, but Daniel Craig is growing on me. Not because of his portrayal of James Bond, but oddly, because of his astute characterization of all polititions:
“Politicians are sh*theads,” he said in an interview that appears in the January edition of the [Men's Journal] magazine, which is on newsstands now. “That’s how they become politicians, even the good ones. We’re actors, we’re artists, we’re very nice to each other. They’ll turn around and stab you in the f**cking back.”

Monday, December 26, 2011

If weather is evidence of global warming . . .

. . . then does a white Christmas in Texas mean that we now have to worry about global cooling? 
By mid-afternoon on Sunday, at least 4 inches of snow had fallen in Amarillo, making it the second snowiest Christmas in that city's history, National Weather Service forecaster Stephen Bilodeau said.
And with winter weather advisories in effect until 6 a.m. on Monday, there was a chance that Amarillo's record for snow accumulation might be broken before midnight.
Bilodeau said he would have preferred that the snow quit early and left the afternoon safer for Christmas Day travel.
"It's a little bit too much," he said. "The white Christmas through the beginning of the day was good, but now these poor people are getting out into this stuff. There have been a few accidents, and it's ruining a few people's day today."
Not so for native Texan and conservationist Don Alexander, 55, who was spending the holiday with his wife's family in Midland, and enjoying his very first white Christmas.
"The snow is a nifty bonus," Alexander said, as his college-aged daughter posted snow pictures on her Facebook page. "The snow will certainly make this particular Christmas memorable. Winter isn't very scenic in West Texas, so the layer of snow is a nice effect. The bad part is having to wipe down the dog's paws every time he goes outside and then back in."

Just wondering.

I changed my mind--I now think newspapers may NOT be doomed

I think I have been well within the conventional wisdom when it came to newspapers lately.  All seem to be hurting, and many long time banners have gone belly up, such as the Rocky Mountain News in Denver.  The statistics are pretty grim.  Ninety Two percent have lost circulation.  Over 10,000 newspaper jobs have been lost.  Print ad revenue went down by 30%--in 2009 alone.  And I do not see the tide turning on the sea change.  More people are more connected to instant news for free.  So why am I rethinking my position?  Simple.  Warren Buffet thinks that the newspaper business has a future.  Granted, his comment when asked about the shakiness of the current newspaper industry was not a ringing endorsement: "I wouldn't do this if I thought this was doomed to some sort of extinction."   But he put his money out to invest, and that's good enough for me.

Suck it up Washington before a crisis out of your control defines our fiscal policy

Robert Samuelson at Newsweek makes a couple of good points in his article entitled A Country in Denial About Its Fiscal Future.  During the past half century, the percentage of the federal budget paid out to individuals (e.g. Medicare) has more than doubled from 26% to 66%.  At the same time, Military spending has been cut more than in half from 52% to 20%, so it is easy to see where the shifted resources came from.  Amazingly, as a percentage of GDP, the federal tax burden has remained about the same (17.8% in 1960 and 18.5% today).  The problem is that we cannot cut the non-individual services much more at all.  So something has got to give if the boys in Washington keep on the same trajectory.  Samuelson puts it well:
We are shifting from "give away politics" to "take away politics." Since World War II, presidents and Congresses have been in the enviable position of distributing more benefits to more people without requiring ever-steeper taxes. Now, this governing formula no longer works, and politicians face the opposite: taking away -- reducing benefits or raising taxes significantly -- to prevent government deficits from destabilizing the economy. It is not clear that either Democrats or Republicans can navigate the change.
So what happens if they cannot navigate the change?  It will be imposed upon them and that is not likely to result in a lot of great alternatives.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Boston Globe ranked the top 40 Christmas movies of all time

1. 'It's a Wonderful Life' (1946) No surprises here. Frank Capra's classic, starring Thomas Mitchell (left) and Jimmy Stewart (third from left), is a true holiday heartwarmer about a despondent, suicidal man (Stewart) whose zest for life is rekindled after being shown what life would have been like without him.

And like many other things, the Globe got a lot of the list wrong, in my opinion.  I know we all have our own opinions, but Elf ahead of National Lampoons Christmas Vacation?  Or Rudolph below the Jim Carrey version of The Grinch!?  Seriously?

It just wouldn't be Christmas without Dogs Barking Jingle Bells

What happens when you over regulate and over tax businesses?

They leave.  In California's case, they leave big time.  Even if they are making money.  Take, for example, Waste Connections, a $3.6-billion company formerly located in the Sacremento area, but relocating to Houston.  Waste Connections is part of a clear trend.  According to a Fox News survey, 2,500 employers, accounting for 109,000 jobs, have left California in the past four years.  And many of them were making money.  Why did they leave, then?  To make more money, particularly in the long term.  It is costly to up and move, but businesses will make the outlay if it ensures long term profitabily.  As the Orange County Register points out in an Op Ed, "[t]he California Democratic Party's attitude long has been that businesses are basically trying to rip off the public, and the source of all wealth and advancement can be found in the public sector."   The response to the news by the Senate President upon hearing of the exit of Waste Connections, one of the State's larger employers, says it all:
State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, gave these clueless and snarky remarks in response to the news: "In this instance you have a company that is, in fact, profitable, making significant revenue gains in 2011 and 2010. That doesn't speak to a bad business climate here in California when a good company is able to thrive in that way. So whatever Mr. Middelstaedt's (company CEO) reasons are to leave the great state of California, I know I'm pushing back."

If you do not realize you have a problem, let alone that you are the problem, it is tough to fix the problem.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

by Clement Clarke Moore
or Henry Livingston

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

I've been blogging a lot about Santa lately

But I really have to pass on this article by David Ignatious in the Washington Post. And if I haven't said it lately, thanks to all you guys and gals serving us abroad:

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan

It’s a few days before Christmas, and Staff Sgt. Andre Vappie is showing pictures of himself dressed in a red suit for the “Santa Claus 5K Run” that took place a few weeks ago at the U.S. military base here. As he scrolls through the photos, you can see at least 50 other guys in Santa suits celebrating the holiday season in this muscular way, far from home.
The big U.S. garrison here is not exactly the North Pole. It’s dry and dusty, and it has been getting rocket fire recently from Taliban fighters outside the wire. But nothing can stop the holiday spirit, even in a place where General Order No. 1 bans the consumption of alcohol and loved ones are thousands of miles away.sitor couldn’t help noticing the Christmas trees and twinkling lights across the war zones last week. You might imagine that it’s just a show to maintain morale, until you hear Sgt. 1st Class Deidra Hammonds talk about how she’s going to fill the stockings lined up on the wall at the headquarters of a combat aviation brigade. On Christmas Day, she plans to be “Secret Santa” for her friends, giving them gifts she has ordered via the Internet. The big U.S. garrison here is not exactly the North Pole. It’s dry and dusty, and it has been getting rocket fire recently from Taliban fighters outside the wire. But nothing can stop the holiday spirit, even in a place where General Order No. 1 bans the consumption of alcohol and loved ones are thousands of miles away.

A visitor couldn’t help noticing the Christmas trees and twinkling lights across the war zones last week. You might imagine that it’s just a show to maintain morale, until you hear Sgt. 1st Class Deidra Hammonds talk about how she’s going to fill the stockings lined up on the wall at the headquarters of a combat aviation brigade. On Christmas Day, she plans to be “Secret Santa” for her friends, giving them gifts she has ordered via the Internet.

There’s even a string of Christmas lights entwined around the somber “Chain of Command” photos on the wall, giving a faint glow to the formal portraits of President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, on down the line.

Maj. Gen. Jim Huggins, the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division and the top officer here, says that he plans to spend Christmas Day helicoptering to eight forward operating bases under his command. “Our goal is to give everybody a Christmas meal that doesn’t come in a brown bag,” he says, referring to the notoriously un-delicious “MREs,” or “Meals Ready to Eat,” that are sometimes the fare at remote bases.

Huggins has missed six Christmases with his family since 2002. He knows that the holidays can be a time of depression for soldiers. When he visits his troops on Christmas Day, “I’ll talk more about their families than about them,” he says.

It’s poignant to visit wounded soldiers at the holidays. At the combat hospital at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul, Lt. Casey Wolfe is recovering from a wound suffered a week before Christmas, when an explosion broke five bones in his foot. He hopes, with luck, to make it home to Kansas for Christmas.

Bagram Hospital treats Afghans, too, and in one of the beds in the intensive care unit lies a bandaged woman in a head scarf who was brought there from Zormat, in the east, after a grenade wound. Her bearded husband, a white turban on his head, sits with mute dignity as the American nurses dart past him.

I saw holiday decorations festooning three military bases in Kuwait, too, which has been the exit ramp for soldiers coming home from Iraq. Christmas stockings line the stairway up to the control tower at Udairi Air Base at Camp Buehring, just south of the Iraq border. Jamal Solomon, who helps supervise the flight controllers directing the dozens of helicopters lined up on the runway below, says she plans to leave a $25 iTunes certificate in each stocking, along with air freshener, “which is something that everyone needs.”

The last big flight of about 350 soldiers who’ve left Iraq was scheduled to depart Kuwait on Friday night, bound for Fort Hood, Tex. One man expecting to be on that plane is Sgt. Stephen Fogelberg, who just finished his fourth tour in Iraq.

Talking with Fogelberg on Thursday at Camp Virginia in northern Kuwait was like hearing a compressed history of the war. On his first tour in 2003 in western Baghdad, “we shot anything that moved.” By his second tour, in 2006 in Balad, “we had to have a positive ID, then we could shoot.” His last two tours, in 2008 and this year, were much calmer. “I was in the initial push, and then I got to close it down, and yes, I’m very proud.”

At 35, he’s already a grandfather, with his 19-year-old daughter having married a soldier, like her dad. Back home, there will be a Christmas tree, decorated in Dallas Cowboys colors, blue and silver, and his parents down from Syracuse, and his wife, who has spent so many Christmases alone. “Each deployment has made her stronger,” says Fogelberg.

But he’s unmistakably glad that this will be the last one for a while.

Thanks again for your service.

More evidence that Santa exists AND that he belongs in school

I think little Bethany Arnold has a bright future as a lawyer some day. Bethany is a second grader in the Tar River Elementary School near Raleigh, N.C. CBS news correspondent Steve Hartman did a piece on the holiday spirit while visiting Bethany's class. As a part of the segment, each of the second graders wrote letters to Santa. When Hartman showed up, each child except Bethany got what they had asked for. Bethany hadn't asked for a new toy like her classmates. She asked Santa to bring her Daddy home from Iraq. She told Hartman that she knew he was helping people over there, but she really missed him. Hartman asked her if she thought that her request was a little tough on the big guy. She responded was flawless and irrefutable logic. Postulate 1: Santa exists. Postulate 2: He can obviously accomplish miracles since he travels all the way around the world visiting children in every country in only 24 hours. Ergo: Santa could bring her dad home. And he did. In fact, when Santa's beard came down, it turned out to be Bethany's father. Ancillary to her proof that Santa exists, it seems to me she also showed why he should be allowed in schools. I'm guessing it will be 'Bethany Arnold, Harvard Law Class of 2031.

You'll be happy to know the TSA is doing its job

Since I have been blogging about bake goods, I suppose I should post this article from the Boston Globe:

Mass. woman says TSA confiscated frosted cupcake

Dec 24, 2011 05:29 AM
A woman who just flew back home from Las Vegas says an airport security officer confiscated her frosted cupcake because he thought the icing on it could be a security risk.

Rebecca Hains said the Transportation Security Administration agent at McCarran International Airport took her cupcake Wednesday, telling her its frosting was enough like a gel to violate TSA restrictions on allowing liquids and gels onto flights to prevent them from being used as explosives.

“I just thought this was terrible logic,’’ Hains said Friday.

Hains, who lives in Peabody, just north of Boston, said the agent didn’t seem concerned that the cupcake could actually be explosive, just that it fit some bureaucratic definition about what was prohibited. She said he even offered to let her eat it away from the airport security area.

Hains, a 35-year-old communications professor at Salem State University, said she told the agent she had passed through security at Boston’s Logan International Airport earlier in the week with two cupcakes packaged in jars, gifts from a student. But she said the agent told her that just meant TSA in Boston didn’t do its job.

The TSA, which is entrusted with protecting the nation’s transportation system, was reviewing the incident, agency spokesman Nico Melendez said. Passengers are allowed to take cakes and cupcakes through checkpoints, he said.

Hains ultimately surrendered the cupcake. But she said the encounter highlighted a lack of common sense by the agent and the ludicrousness of TSA policies.

“It’s not really about the cupcake; I can get another cupcake,’’ she said. “It’s about an encroachment on civil liberties. We’re just building up a resistance and tolerance to all these things they’re doing in the name of security, when it’s really theater. It is not keeping us safe.’’

TSA: keeping the world safe from pastry since 2002.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The oldest Christmas cake in America . . .

Are These the Oldest Christmas Cakes in the U.S.?

. . . is 100 years old.  That's right, you read it correctly, 100 years old.  Instead of having cake at a birthday party, Pierre Girard, the cake's owner, just threw a birthday party for the cake:

Girard said the cake was a gag gift in 1994 from a friend who was a retired antique dealer. An attorney handling an estate sale for an elderly woman who had passed away gave it to the dealer.
"They wrapped it up and gave it to me and I brought it home from that dinner and put it on my dining room table," Girard said. "When I put Christmas things away, I just couldn't put it away."
When Girard took a closer look at the cake's box, he saw that it said, "Xmas cake baked in Dec. 1911? from the Rose Garden Florist in Detroit. On the bottom of the box, it said, "Xmas cake baked in year 1911 by my mother's brother Alex, died Dec. 27. Was operated on Xmas Day."
Girard did some research and believes that the cake was an English-inspired Victorian cake.
"They used to have a Christmas cake that they would eat and then let it dry out and put it away until the following year when they would soak it in brandy or rum and rebuild the cake adding back on to the layers," he said.
Girard believes that after the death in the family that used to re-build the cake yearly, they chose to keep it and preserve it. He thinks soaking it in alcohol is what preserved the cake and its smell.
"You can smell a spice smell to it. It doesn't smell bad," Girard said. "It's hard as a rock, with a cinnamon clove type smell."

Hmmm.  Alcohol and cake making.  Reminds me of baking Borepatch's own special orange cake with Grand Marnier chocolate frosting back in the '70s.  As I recall, the recipe called for a splash of the liqueur in the frosting and the rest of the bottle in Borepatch . . .

Google maps has Mordor covered

Google Maps Advises Against Walking from Shire to Mordor

Those guys at Google sure are good.  They have even taken care of intrepid would be travellers to Mordor.  The Telegraph reports that the good people of Google have expand to middle earth:

Asking Google Maps for walking directions from the Shire, where the Hobbits live in J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy novels, to Mordor, home of the evil Sauron, brings back the warning: "Use caution - One does not simply walk into Mordor."

Santa (and the people) stare down the USPS

Some say the hearts of US Postal Service supervisors in Bellevue, Wash., grew three sizes that day.

Yes!!!  Santa Wins!  Technically,  letter carrier Bob McLean wins, but in reality, we all do.  You may recall my earlier post about a mail carrier in Bellevue, Washington who has worn a Santa suit while making his deliveries for the past ten years.  Everyone enjoyed the tradition.  Except this year, a co-worker complained and, of course, the USPS ordered Bob to stop wearing the Santa suit and go back to the regulation uniform.  Well, our intrepid hero, Bob, decided to "go rogue."  He told the USPS to stuff it and continued to wear the Yule outfit.  He acknowledged to the LA Times that he may well be fired, but he decided some things were worth making a stand for, and Santa was one of them.  Fortunately, the press got ahold of it and the USPS started to get inundated with complaints from as far away as Great Britain.  So I am glad to report, the Postal Service backed down in the face of a popular uprising and has agreed to allow Bob to continue with the Santa suit.  God speed, Bob.

Sorry for the lack of blogging

Feel like death warmed over plus I am dragging myself out to finish shopping. Bah, humbug. I'll try to post later.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Empirical proof that Santa exists

The 100-year-old letter to Santa found in the chimney of a Dublin house.

OK, this should put to rest any argument about allowing Postal Carriers, schools and servicemen and women to celebrate the season with Santa.  I have done extensive research and am now prepared to reveal proof that Santa in fact exists.  (Extrinsic proof--I can already demonstrate the existence of Santa by the fact that I have never woken up on Christmas morning and not found a present under the tree with a card indicating it was 'from Santa'--just sayin'.)  Above is a picture of a 100 year old letter from two children in Dublin written to Santa.  In it, they tell him, "I want a baby doll and a waterproof with a hood and a pair of gloves and a toffee apple and a gold penny and a silver sixpence and a long toffee."  According to the Irish Times, the slightly scorched letter was found in what used to be a shelf in an old fireplace that the owner discovered while installing central heating.  Ergo, ipso facto, res ipsa loquitor, and all the other fancy Latin expressions I learned in law school for "duh!", Santa obviously dropped it going up or coming down the chimney.  The fact that no mere mortal person discovered it for the better part of a century incontrovertibly proves the existence of Mr. Claus, for only he would have the means, ability and motive for gaining access to the chimney where the letter was found.  I rest my case.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hey US Postal Service, how about worrying about delivering my mail and not going bankrupt instead of getting "Santa" off the streets!?

I guess I can understand how the United States Air Force has more stones to stare down militant political correctness gone awry than the United States Postal Service.  But for the record, a grade school in Alabama and even a freaking school in Massachusetts apparently have bigger ones, too.  Above is a picture of carrier Bob McLean, delivering mail in his Santa uniform in Bellevue, Washington (for the record, his beard is real) as he has done for the past decade.  By all accounts, the children along his route, and I suspect more than one adult, enjoy his holiday attire.  But a co-worker complained and Bob was told he was out of the regulation uniform, so he had to lose the Santa suit.  Come on USPS, shouldn't you be busy figuring out how to run efficiently enough to stay alive instead of cow-towing to a ridiculous complaint laid at the alter of progressive thought?  Maybe if you grew a pear, you'd at least get the support of your customers who like and appreciate the extra effort guys like Bob put in.  Just remember, that support may come in handy when you come for your next handout from Congress.

Parallel tracks--Global warming and the Eurozone

What could AGW and the Euro possibly have in common?  A lot, it turns out, all of which are driven by the immutable laws of economics.  Steven Hayward at RealClearMarkets blogs about just how similar the two ill-conceived and ill-fated concepts are:

What do the endlessly repeating cycle of futile Eurozone rescue talks and the endlessly repeating cycle of futile annual UN climate summits have in common? Put more plainly, what accounts for the unreality of both efforts, such that "breakthrough" agreements are soon recognized to be ineffective, if not fraudulent?
It is probably not a coincidence that the Euro currency was launched at about the same moment as the Kyoto Protocol in the late 1990s, and that both are hitting the rocks at about the same time, and for the same reason: both flew in the face of economic reality. But as the inexorable economics of a common currency used across uncommon economies, and fossil fuel suppression in an energy-hungry world, have become more evident, the European and UN diplomatic corps (often the same people) have simply doubled down, holding bigger meetings, giving longer speeches, and crafting more paper agreements to find a process to develop a framework to come up with commitments to adopt meaningful measures and policies that will . . . do something. In the future. The proverbial can has been dented so hard and kicked so far down the road that it's no longer fit for the recycling bin.
It is tempting to chalk up the farcical solutions to simple ignorance of economics. In the case of the Eurozone crisis, the constituent nations of the European Union are resisting the implications the debt crisis poses, namely, the unsustainability of the lavish welfare states built increasingly on borrowed money and the asymmetries between northern and southern European economies. The hope is that another declaration of "we're-all-in-this-together" along with a new fillip of a bailout package that is a tiny fraction of the unpayable debt of the Euro's laggard nations will soothe the markets and extend the illusion that the political class has got things in hand. It worked the first few times, but the financial markets have stopped buying the inevitable sequels.  In the case of the climate change circus, the unreality of steep near-term emission cuts and the asymmetry between rich and "developing" nations like China and India turned the entire scheme of climate change diplomacy into the biggest farce since the Kellogg-Briand Pact promised to eliminate war in 1928. And so in recent years we've gone from the Bali Roadmap to the Copenhagen Accord to the most recent "Durban Platform," all of which promise to craft a legally binding treaty for real emissions cuts by everyone . . . a decade from now. In future years I expect we can look forward to the Frankfurt Farce, the Rio Reneg, the Tokyo Two-Step, the Melbourne Mumble, and the Marrakesh One-Two.

There is more.  And it is a good read.  I will try to summarize the way that my simple mind can understand it: Both are stupid ideas that are dead men walking and were since their inception.  I must also give Hayward credit for concluding his piece by quoting the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher (who presciently predicted that a single European currency was bound to fail): "During my lifetime most of the problems the world has faced have come, in one fashion or other, from mainland Europe, and the solutions from outside it."

Butterfly wings are beating faster

A while back I blogged about the popular "revolt" against the corrupt and heavy handed party officials in the little Chinese fishing village of Wukan.  An inside land deal by the local party boss, the suspected beating to death of a villager in police custody and other similar incidents had finally pushed the villagers to rise up and put their collective feet down.  The amazing thing was that nothing happened.  China-philes speculated that a conflict was raging behind the scenes between Yang Wang and Bo Xilai, who represented the liberal and hard line factions of the up and comers in the Communist Party.  Yang and the liberals may be winning.  The BBC is reporting that progress is being made, and by that I do not mean the extermination of the village of Wukan.  The land deal is being unwound, currently detained village leaders are going to be released and the body of the prisoner who died of a "sudden illness" while in police custody is being given to his family.  No hurricane yet, but I may feel a slight breeze.

I think Congress just passed a law that would make the rendition of a US citizen to a foreign country perfectly legal

A basic tenet of our legal system is that an American citizen enjoys certain inalienable rights under the Constitution that cannot be abridged.  Well I think the new Defense budget just did some serious "abridging".  The National Defense Authorization Act (i.e. the Defense funding bill), empowers the President to "transfer" any person "suspected" of being "associated" with Al Queda, the Taliban or "associated" groups "to the custody or control of the person's country of origin, any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity."  Say what!?  Note that there is no carve out for US citizens.  And good luck getting the good people of Uzbekistan (or the Sudan, or Yemen, or anywhere else outside of the US, to recognize your Constitutional rights).  So be careful.  If the President "suspects" you are "associated" with a group "associated" with the Taliban, he could order your immediate rendition to a nice Pakistani jail.  I gotta believe that, if ever challenged, the Courts would either throw that out or read it to apply to non-citizens because it is blatantly unconstitutional otherwise.  Still, that language will be signed into law this week.

Deja vu--the Pentagon Papers and Climategate II

Climategate II has taken a very chilling turn.  One that to my mind raises far greater issues than the idiocy of AGW and the great hoodwink.  The Obama administration's criminal division of the Justice Department sought and executed search warrants against Wordpress, the blogging software company that hosts several of the blogs where the anonymous "FOIA" posted a link to the zipfile that contained the second batch of incriminating emails from Mann and the boys.  Worse, it participated in a physical raid and seizure at home of the blogger who goes by Jeff Id at, where all of his computers and his router were taken.  His was the first blog to upload the link, probably because he lives in a time zone five hours ahead of the others.  He was assured that he was not a suspect, but they nonetheless had armed agents serve the warrant and seize the instruments of his blogging.  Others whose files were ordered frozen at Wordpress were Steve McIntyre at and Tallbloke’s Talkshop at

Now let's go back 40 years.  Then Secretary of Defense Robert Macnamara, ordered a specially constituted commission to basically do a full review of the Viet Nam War.  One person who had worked on the report was Daniel Ellsberg in his position as an assisstant to Undersecretary (and long time Macnamara buddy) John McNaughton.  Ellsberg came to oppose the war, left the Department of Defense and went to work at a think tank called RAND.  The report was classified "Top Secret-Sensitive".  Since there was no "Sensitive" classification, everybody knew that to mean it was politically emabarrassing.  Everyone knows the story from there, Ellsberg first tried to interest Henry Kissinger in the report (which had information such as the expansion of the "secret war" into Cambodia and Laos), and then Senators Fullbright and McGovern.  None would do anything, however, so he brought it to the NY Times.  And they started to publish it.  The Justice Department sought and got an order from a Federal court to cease and desist further publication of the Pentagon Papers, by anyone.  The Supreme Court threw that order out as a Constitutionally impermissive prospective prohibition on free speech.  The Justice Department rushed back and got a narrower order against just the NY Times.  So the NY Times gave the papers to the Washington Post, who continued to publish them until Justice got an order against them, too.  So they forwarded the papers to the LA Times, and so on.  Eventually, Senator Mike Gravel from Alaska read them into the record on the floor of the Senate because Article I, Section 6 of the United States Constitution provides that "for any Speech or Debate in either House, [a Senator or Representative] shall not be questioned in any other Place", thus the Senator could not be prosecuted for anything said on the Senate floor, and, by extension, for anything entered to the Congressional Record, allowing the Papers to be publicly read without threat of a treason trial and conviction.

Ellsberg was arrested and tried under the Espionage Act of 1917 and other charges including theft and conspiracy, carrying a total maximum sentence of 115 years.  Upon surrendering to the US Attorney in Boston, he released the following statement:

I felt that as an American citizen, as a responsible citizen, I could no longer cooperate in concealing this information from the American public. I did this clearly at my own jeopardy and I am prepared to answer to all the consequences of this decision.
He was ultimately freed due to gross prosecutrial misconduct.

The Justice Department knew what it was doing then, as it knows what it is doing now.  It serverd, serached and sued all of the 17 newspapers that published the papers, even though it knew and freely admitted that the papers had done nothing illegal.  It brought the full force and power of the executive branch of the United States governement against Ellsberg and tried to lock him up forever.  The Obama admistration is doing the exact same thing now.  They are serving, searching, seizing and scaring the blogs that posted the link to the Climategate II emails, even though they freely admit that posting the link was legal and in fact protected free speech.  And they are hunting FOIA for all they are worth, hoping to charge him or her with offenses that carry sentences  in excess of one's life expectency.  And the use of the immense power entrusted by us to those public officials to crush free thought and discussions, about any topic, is an evil that cannot be tolerated in any amount.

I do not claim to be great friends with any one US Senator, but I know several of them.  I also love a good court fight.  So Mr. or Ms. FOIA, if you are looking for another place to post some more emails, feel free to send them to me.  And I suspect there are probably a few million others you would have to chose from, too.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Obama is trying to beat the war drums of class warfare to get elected, but the electorate is too smart.

Graph of US quarterly data (not annualized) from 1947 through 2002 estimates a form of the difference version of Okun's law: %Change GNP = .856 - 1.827*(Change Unemployment Rate). R^2 of .504. Differences from other results are partly due to the use of quarterly data.

Charles Lane's Op Ed in the Washington Post entitled "Obama's simplistic view of income inequality" very much soft pedalled the issue.  It is patently obvious to me that Obama knows his only hope for re-election is to fan the flames of class warfare: it's unfair for someone to have more than you do.  He fired the opening salvo in Osawatomie, Kansas on December 6.  His logic is simple.  If the majority of the electorate is below the median income line, then promise that you will take away from the (fewer) people above the median income line.  Easy math shows that he is trying to buy the votes of the greater number at the expense of the lesser number.  Lane kind of skirts that issue, but he correctly postulates that the Majority of Americans are Okunites and  cites recent polling by Gallup that showed the majority of the people don't care how well the upper echelons of the income brackets do as long as they prosper too:

Maybe Americans are Okunites — as in Arthur Okun, the late Yale economist and author of the 1975 book, “Equality and Efficiency: The Big Tradeoff.”
Okun saw free markets as a source of unparalleled human progress — and of big gaps between rich and poor. Indeed, he argued, markets are efficient partly because they distribute economic rewards unevenly. Government should try to smooth out income stratification, but such efforts risk undermining incentives to work and invest.
Hence the “big trade-off”: channeling income from rich to poor, Okun wrote, was like trying to carry water in a leaky bucket. He wanted to move money from rich to poor without “leaking” so much economic growth that the whole process became self-defeating.
The American public intuitively shares Okun’s concerns. Consider the responses to another question in the Gallup poll. Asked to rate the importance of alternative federal policies, the public saw both economic growth and redistribution as worthy objectives — but put the former well ahead of the latter. Some 82 percent said growth was either “extremely” or “very” important; only 46 percent said “reduc[ing] the income and wealth gap between rich and poor” was “extremely” or “very” important.
In short, the public wants fairness but retains a healthy skepticism about the federal government’s ability to achieve it.

I'll put it another way.  I don't care if the top 1% pay no taxes if my real net income goes up along the way.  Apparently, most Americans agree with me.

Obama claims to be the 4th best Preisident of all time--but don't worry, his buddies at CBS edited that part out before the 60 Minutes interview was aired

Funny things happen when you do not have your teleprompter handy.  The blogosphere is lambasting both the Prez for making the claim and CBS for covering it up for him by cutting it out of the brodcast.  Jim Hoft at brings it:

You have got to be kidding…
After destroying the American economy, tripling the national deficit, blowing a trillion dollars on a failed stimulus plan and nearly doubling the unemployment rate, Barack Obama told “60 Minutes” last week that he considered himself the 4th best president in US history.

Ouch.  That's gonna leave a mark.

Perhaps the tide of political correctness is turning--Santa goes back to school

As I have mentioned before, whackos are on their annual rant to try to ruin the Christmas spirit, whether in an Alabama grade school or a USAF airbase.  So I am on my annual rant to let common sense and genuine expressions of peace and good tidings be freely, proudly and frequently displayed.  Political correctness cannot be allowed to win over plain old common sense.  Well, I found a glimmer of hope in the Boston Globe this morning:

SAUGUS, Mass.—Santa Claus will be visiting Saugus schools after all.
The town's superintendent on Monday announced that he was ending a nearly 50-year-old tradition of off-duty firefighters visiting elementary schools to hand out coloring books and crayons to children because he said Santa is a religious figure.
He reversed his decision later in the day after an outcry from firefighters and citizens who say Santa is a secular symbol.
Fire Chief James Blanchard tells The Daily Item of Lynn that he was "taken aback" by the original decision, but is glad it was reversed.
School Committee member Arthur Grabowski says the superintendent didn't consult the board before making the original decision he said was "political correctness gone awry."

And this is a Town just north of Boston.  In Massachusetts.  Now that is a Christmas miracle.

Archeologists find evidence of a 4,000 year old beer tab

Being a lawyer and a life long amateur historian, I was vaguely aware of the law code of Ur-Nammu. He was a Mesopotamian king about 4 millennia ago. His laws pre-dated the more famous Hamurabi's Code by three centuries. Well, recent discoveries have shown just how advanced that civilization was. They had a statute to deal with paying your bar tab:

[T]he fact that this is the earliest known edition [of the law code of Ur-Nammu] allows researchers to compare it with later copies and see how it evolved. For instance, the copy sheds light on one of the oddest rules governing what you should pay a "female tavern-keeper" who gives you a jar of beer.

Apparently, if you have the female keeper put the beer on your tab during the summer, she will have the right to extract a tax from you, of unknown amount, in winter.

"If a female tavern-keeper gives [in] summer one beer-jar to someone on credit its nigdiri-tax will be [...] in win[ter]..." (Translation by Miguel Civil)

No word yet if Borepatch's beer tab in ancient Mesopotamia was as much as he used to run up at Pat's Tap Room in college.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Are you an ex-pat Brit in Spain?

If so, then you should take great solace from the fact that your Foreign Minister is on the ball and has foresight.  But that is about all you can take much solace in.  An article in the Mirror outlines deep concerns about what will happen to you if the Euro collapses.  It seems as though the Foreign Office has begun drawing up plans for at best illiquid and at worst destitute citizens who have their entire life savings frozen (if not wiped out) when the inevitable run on the Spanish banks starts with the currency collapse:

The drastic proposals emerged as a former Security Minister warned expats could be left stranded and destitute by the break-up of the single currency.
Brits who invested their savings in their adopted countries may not be able to withdraw cash and could even lose their homes if banks call in loans, worried ministers are warning.
The Foreign Office is preparing to bring them back from Spain and Portugal if the two countries are forced out of the euro, triggering a banking collapse

Since there are about a million ex-pat Brits in Spain (and another million total in the other Eurozone countries), the government is right to worry.  They may need to deal with all of the suddenly penniless people sleeping in airports or elsewhere with no access to money and no way to get home.  Planes, boats and quick cash loans are all being bandied about.  By the way, 10 Spanish banks were downgraded last week amid fears that the crisis had already spiralled out of control.

Christmas spirit response to Borepatch

In response to a question thrown out there by Borepatch, I raise my own question about which version is better:

This one . . .

or perhaps this version.

A butterfly is flapping its wings, but will a hurricane follow

History is proving that Communism is doomed to fail.  The only real questions are when and how.  Is China's time for political evolution, if not revolution, upon us?  Perhaps we are seeing just that.  Rahul Jacob has a great read in the Financial Times about a real life David and Goliath story.  The little fishing village of Wukan at the far southern tip of the country is defying the party bosses in Beijing.  The story started familiarly enough.  A corrupt party official sold some communally owned land to a well connected buddy in a sweetheart deal.  The villagers protested.  And nothing bad happened to them.  So first they kept it up, and then they ramped it up.  Just last week a bunch of high school aged kids marched on the now abandoned police headquarters.  Only now the protests are no longer about a duplicitous land sale, they want free elections.  Nationwide.  And so far the response hasn't been muted.  It has been silent.  Keep an eye on this, because behind the scenes two of the power players in the next generation of leaders are fighting it out.  Yang Wang is a provincial party chief who is viewed as liberal because he has sided with labor and entrepreneurs when it comes to deregulating and freeing up private businesses.  His rival is Bo Xilai, who thinks any protest against the party is a capital crime.  One has to wonder if even Wang will side with the protesters, though.  This time it is not a business principle at stake, it is a civil liberty.  So keep watching to see if little Wukan is the butterfly whose wings started the hurricane of change, or if Bo Xilai and the hardliners step on it like a fragile insect that they do not even bother to scrape off their boot.

Tragedy! Kim Jong Il has died!

Who will Team America satirize in the sequel!?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Manufacturing jobs are making a come back in America

For once I may have been ahead of the curve. With prosperity wages rise. And that has happened (and continues to happen) in China. Great for the up and coming Chinese workers, but with the higher labor costs it is increasingly less competitive to buy imported goods than to produce them domestically. On top of the increasingly anti-competitive Chinese manufacturing sector, other countries, such as Germany, Brazil and Japan, that traditionally have strong capabilities to produce goods, are battling numerous headwinds of their own. On top of all that, the big jump in petroleum prices has driven a huge boom in domestic energy production, largely through tapping our gas fields. The net effect is that U.S. manufacturing has been growing to the point of almost being in a boom. Walter Russell Mead puts it very concisely:

There are still obstacles to overcome: Growth in manufacturing is largely attributable to new discoveries of and better methods of extracting natural gas and oil. These are not the Solyndra style subsidized and government planned “green jobs” our social and cultural betters somehow assumed would drive the return of American manufacturing, but they are jobs nonetheless.
Another problem is that it is becoming increasingly difficult for American manufacturers to recruit skilled labor. Manufacturing has grown increasingly technical but the supply of people with the ability and energy to operate heavy machinery hasn’t increased. We’ve got to get better at helping young people who don’t much care for academics to get the training they need to cash in on the brown jobs boom.  For a lot of the millennial generation, these brown jobs are their best path to a middle class life; we need a pro-brown jobs government that sees these jobs as a blessing not an eyesore.

I think maybe the Republican candidate who first realizes, and then embraces, the new era of American manufacturing will win and in the end we will prosper. The best way out from under the crushing debt that the current administration has buried us under is to grow the economy to support and ultimately satisfy those obligations.

Hope you're not traveling early in the southwest for Christmas

'Cuz you're hitting some global warming square in the face.

Yet another attack on common sense and the Christmas spirit

The Airman's creed:

I am an American Airman.
I am a Warrior.
I have answered my Nation’s call.
I am an American Airman.
My mission is to Fly, Fight, and Win.
I am faithful to a Proud Heritage,
A Tradition of Honor,
And a Legacy of Valor.
I am an American Airman.
Guardian of Freedom and Justice,
My Nation’s Sword and Shield,
Its Sentry and Avenger.
I defend my Country with my Life.
I am an American Airman.
Wingman, Leader, Warrior.
I will never leave an Airman behind,
I will never falter,
And I will not fail.
The word "tradition" is a core part of the United States Air Force creed and philosophy.  And it is certainly traditional to have Nativities and Menorahs this time of year.  Both have been set up on a street corner on Travis Air Force Base.  So of course, another whack job pseudo-organization feels compelled to object.  This time it is the ' Military Religious Freedom Foundation.'  Whoever the heck they are.  But my boys in the USAF Judge Advocate General Corp aren't buying what they're selling and they sure aren't backing down from a fight:

“While we appreciate the concerns raised by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, the Office of the Air Force Judge Advocate General, upon review, concluded the inclusion of a Wing Chaplain sponsored Nativity Scene and Menorah as part of a broader, secular holiday seasonal display does not violate the establishment clause of the United States Constitution.”

So maybe you militant politically correct thought police types should go back to picking on little grammar schools in Alabama.  'Cuz my brothers and sisters at the bar in the Air Force JAG office are professional fighters.  Keep up the good work and thank you USAF.

Vaclav Havel died and why I think I would enjoy visiting what used to be Czechoslovakia


A dissident playwright led a "velvet revolution" to peacefully bring down four decades of communist rule.  Not a general.  Not a politician.  Not a commanding presence.  Not a handsome, eloquent figure that the camera loved.  But a small, bookish playwright.  That is who the people of Czechoslovakia chose to lead them to freedom.  And that is why I think I would enjoy Czechoslovakians.  I hope to get there someday.

France is about to be downgraded

Which could explain why Sarkozy was so mad at Cameron. And why the French were lobbing bombs about how the Brits were in bad shape. When you have something you don't want people to look to closely at, point at the other guy and start yelling.  So now the cost of France's borrowing to fund the maintenance of the Eurozone is going up.  Along with cost of toting its own debt.  My question is this: how long will the marriage last if the cost of the bailout to Germany is appreciably less than the new cost to France?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Fast forward 30 years and once again allied forces faced the Germans in Belgium on Christmas Eve

Image Detail

December 24, 1944.  Only this time I have a bit of personal connection.  My father was a WWII vet.  He never talked about the war when I was growing up, but in later years he opened up a bit about his experiences.  I sensed he did not want people to forget.  He told me that twice during the war he was convinced he would not live through an upcoming battle.  Being a good son, both times he wrote letters to his mother to be delivered if he did not make it and gave those letters to the chaplain.  The first time was June 5, 1944.  The day before D-Day.  Thankfully, he lived through the landing and fought his way to the edge of Germany.  Every one thought the war was all but over.  Berlin by Christmas and home for New Years.  The troops that had done all the heavy lifting from the first landing on the Continent were told to pull back as they were replaced with newer forces.  My Dad gave up his gun, ammo and even outer wear to the replacements.  He was told to go back to Calais and wait his turn to go back to England and presumably home thereafter.  Then word came down that the Germans had broken through the line.  He was given a rifle that barely worked along with literally just a couple of rounds and was sent right back to the front.  No winter gear and very few rations.  The Battle of the Bulge had ruined any thoughts of a quick trip home.  On his way to the front, he wrote the second good bye letter to my grandmother.  He got there just in time for an unofficial truce on Christmas Eve.  When he recounted the story, his eyes were shining with a little admiration for how well the German soldiers across the line sang the Christmas Carols acapella.  The line held and Germans literally ran out of fuel.  And, obviously, my Dad eventually made it home.  Time Life has some great photos of the battle.  Makes me thankful and a little proud.

Christmas and the origin of "No Man's Land"

British and German soldiers meeting in No Man's Land during the Christmas Truce of 1914.

If you look closely at the above picture, you will see both German and British troops posing together.  You would be forgiven if you thought it was an archival photo of former combatants on Armistice Day, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  But the photo was taken on Christmas Day in 1914.  The Christmas Truce.

World War One had to have been one of the most horrific to have fought in.  Modern weaponry met left over Napoleonic tactics of lining up and marching toward the enemy.  And those horrors were not even the most dangerous problems that faced the front line soldiers: a flu pandemic and freezing, waterlogged trenches.  Germany knew at the War's outset that it would soon face two fronts: the allied forces to the west and the Tsar to the east.  So before the Russian forces could be mobilized, the German's launched the Schlieffen Plan.  They drove hard and fast into France.  However, the French, British and Belgian forces rallied, and held the line, but were not able to push the enemy back.  Both sides dug in and horrible trench warfare was born.  Those trenches were only a few hundred feet apart and the area in between became known as "No Man's Land." 

As the warfare stagnated, the two sides started to communicate.  In many ways the fighters were more similar then they were different.  Young men, little more than boys, facing the same miserable elements and illnesses.  They would yell funny insults during the lulls in battle to see who could get the biggest rise out of the unseen opposing soldiers just a few yards away.  In some cases, it turned out they knew each other, such as the German tailor whose clients in his pre-war London shop ended up in the unit across the way.  Then in Ypres, Belgium, a strange thing started to happen.  Perhaps, with all that the opposing soldiers had in common, it should not have been that surprising, but as Christmas Eve approached, a detente evolved.  As dark fell, the Brits saw lights starting to glow from the German lines.  Lights at night in the trenches were deadly because it gave the other side a great silhouette to put an Enfield round through.  But the British did not shoot.  They were intrigued, though at first they thought it was a trick.  Until they realized that the Germans were setting up a myriad of Christmas Trees.  Soon the Allied forces reciprocated and one side alternated serenading the other with carols. 

The Christmas miracle, of sorts, grew on Christmas Day itself.  A few Allied soldiers asked the German's if it would be OK for them to venture out into No Man's Land to bury the bodies of long dead French soldiers who had sat there unattended because foregoing the cover of the trenches was akin to certain death.  Not only did the German's agree, they got out of their own trenches to help.  Imagine, British and German soldiers burying French dead together on Christmas Day.  From there, they shared a meal and then stories from the home front.  A member of the Bedfordshire Regiment produced a soccer ball and a game raged with the Germans until the ball was punctured by barbed wire.  The leaders of both sides knew just how dangerous this whole thing was.

Maybe the poor guys across the way weren't the embodiment of evil that the propaganda said they were.  Worse still, both sides started to tell everyone back home what had happened.  It is tough to get your populace to support the extraordinary effort required to wage war.  The price in lost sons and lost production is immeasurable.  So those in power clamped down.  Hard.  Allied officers who witnessed, let alone engaged in, the Christmas Truce, were reassigned and demoted.  The Germans issued an order that anyone who engaged in such fraternization in the future were to be summarily shot.  With some grumbles, the soldiers on both sides fell back into their pre-truce routines. 

So here I sit some 97 years later and wonder at the miracle that was the Christmas Truce of 1914.  Unsanctioned and certainly unofficial, the truce that grew organically out of shared adversity was a phenomena we should never forget.  Purveyors of hatred who undoubtedly cared more about their own personal power ended up winning the day.  On that day, but maybe not forever.  I cannot but think (hope?) that the internet is our own new found No Man's Land where it is easy to lob rounds at anonymous and unseen enemies on the other side, yet messages and humor waft back across to let us know we may be more alike than we thought.  If we communicate a little more and fight a little less, maybe we will discover we have more in common than we do not.  Perhaps peace will once again organically break out.