A Rerun from the 1970’s: Inflation

Written by lilmike on April 26, 2011 – 9:51 pm -

There was a tiny little news article I noticed about two weeks ago.   No other coverage of it, so it must have been a tiny little story right?  I guess mainstream media editors have quite a different idea of what a big story is than I do.

The CNBC website carried a story with this eye-popping headline:  US Inflation Rate Near 10% Using Old Measure.

Inflation, using the reporting methodologies in place before 1980, hit an annual rate of 9.6 percent in February, according to the Shadow Government Statistics newsletter.

Since 1980, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has changed the way it calculates the CPI in order to account for the substitution of products, improvements in quality (i.e. iPad 2 costing the same as original iPad) and other things. Backing out more methods implemented in 1990 by the BLS still puts inflation at a 5.5 percent rate and getting worse, according to the calculations by the newsletter’s web site, Shadowstats.com.

“Given ongoing inflation problems with food and the spreading impact of higher oil-related costs in the broad economy, reporting risk is to the upside of consensus expectation,” said Williams, citing a 10 percent jump in gasoline prices in March, in the note.

Not exactly a shocker for someone who buys the family groceries.    In fact, this had come up as an issue a few months ago through the auspices of whom else, Sarah Palin.  Palin got into a Facebook tussle with a Wall Street Journal writer over his article on grocery stores feeling inflationary pressures on pricing and getting pushback from price conscious shoppers.  Palin used it as source to claim inflation was increasing due to the FED’s quantitative easing program.   However if Palin says something is black, than obviously it must be white, causing the WSJ writer to humorously contradict what he actually wrote in his own article.  That’ll show her!

But in spite of the fact that Palin said inflation was increasing, I was already noticing that… inflation was increasing.  I first noticed with the price of bacon.  As a baconophile, I’m very sensitive to both the price and deals on God’s Most Perfect Meat.  And when Wal-Mart is forced to raise prices, you know something is up.

Gas prices too have been shooting up since last November; long before the current multiple Middle East crises’s starting bouncing the price of oil off the charts.  Much as we would love to blame rising oil prices on Ghaddafi, Mubarak, and Exxon, the real problem is the falling dollar.

And that’s the problem with the way the government now measures inflation.

What changed when the government abandoned its old measurement standards was that it decided count the improvement of products.  A 32 inch HDTV is much better than an old 32 inch tube television, so even if it costs more, the improvements are factored in.

It also dropped two major commodities, food and fuel, from its count of price increases.  That’s how food and fuel prices can shoot up, but the government doesn’t provide a cost of living increase for social security recipients.   According to the government, the inflation rate is around 2% so nothing for grandma and grandpa, even though they’re paying more for everything.

Now there is some logic to the government change.  Commodity prices, food in particular, can swing wildly for reasons that have nothing to do with an increase in the money supply.  Floods, and droughts can alter supply within days, and extra demand, like the type we put on our grain to support our current ethanol fetish, can boost prices worldwide.

Oil is a trickier matter though.  It’s unique in that worldwide it is priced, bought, and sold in US dollars.  So although oil as a commodity can face the same sort of wild swings as food due to supply and demand, plus the general tinderbox craziness of the Middle East, even if all things remain equal, oil prices track pretty closely to the value of the dollar.  As the value of the dollar drops, relative to other currencies, the price in dollars goes up.

And since the price of energy pretty much effects the price of everything, presto, inflation!

Of course, inflation is the logical result of the mad increase in the money supply that the FED has been generating since the fall of 2008.  But as long as the government releases statistics that underreport the actual inflation rate, we can pretend it’s not really happening, no matter how much more we are paying at the pump or how much more we are paying at the grocery store each week.

During the 1970’s, our last bout of inflation, cost of living increases were wired into government and private industry  wage increases every year because everyone knew that the value of their dollar dropped each year.  Now, nobody is aware that the value of their dollar is dropping because the government is refusing to acknowledge it.  So no one is getting cost of living increases.  Why should they?   The government says there is no inflation.

Eventually people are going to figure out they are getting poorer and poorer, but in the meantime, I’m kicking myself for not buying gold when Glen Beck told me to!


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War Number Three

Written by lilmike on March 27, 2011 – 10:18 am -

For those of you keeping count, the President has recently committed us to another war in the Middle East.  It’s not been called that of course, and I’m sure the President didn’t intend it, but the contradictions between policy and actual military operations are forcing us in that direction.  How many liberals who voted for Obama in 2008 expected this?

It’s quite a stunning transformation into Barrack Obama: Neo-Con.  Now he’s assuming powers Candidate Obama thought unconstitutional just a few years ago as he revealed in this Q & Q with the Boston Globe in 2007:

In what circumstances, if any, would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress? (Specifically, what about the strategic bombing of suspected nuclear sites — a situation that does not involve stopping an IMMINENT threat?)

“The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.”

Of course that was then, when Obama couldn’t imagine what sort of dummy could get the US from what was supposed to a quick military action into a long term commitment.

On the constitutional aspects, I think Obama was wrong then and right now.  Although he doesn’t need Congressional approval, it would have helped solidify support if he at least briefed top House and Senate leaders before he went charging off to war.  Although “charging” doesn’t actually describe what happened does it?  More like “followed.”

There are many parallels with our Bosnia/Kosovo mission. 

  1. There is no US national interest involved.
  2. The mission is characterized as humanitarian.
  3. The European allies dragged us in.

Although it’s still early in the game, I will probably be able to add, “Lasts longer than planned.” 

Yes, we are still in Kosovo.

But why do I think this will end up being a war, and not the quick humanitarian mission it’s being sold as?  Now that Obama has stated our goal is that “Gaddafi must go” even though we have no operation to do that, now…  Gaddafi really must go.   Secretary of Defense Bob Gates pointed out that contradiction on Meet the Press this morning. One suspects Gates is a bit of a skeptic on our Libyan adventure.

 Gaddafi has already threatened the western nations participating in the no fly zone, and if he stays in power, he actually has the ability, funded by his petro-dollars to kick start his old international terrorist network. He has the potential to cause no end of mischief. So ironically for Doc Brown, time traveling from the 80’s to the present will provide no escape from Libyan terrorists.

Look for Libyan terrorists to once again scour the world in their VW vans, looking for radioactive materials.

So, now we are forced to prosecute this war to the fullest in order to get rid of Gaddafi.  If we don’t, Gaddafi has shown you can successfully punk the United States, and worse, shown the other dictator hangers on in the region (think Syria and Iran)  that they can ignore US and UN threats and do whatever they want to stay in power.  And “whatever” can include a lot of civilian casualties. 

.And if we do get rid of  Gaddafi, that’s just the beginning.  We will have to make sure the new government isn’t run by Islamic radicals who would like  Gaddafi’s terrorist network for their own purposes. That will require a lot of US assistance and guidance if we want to make sure any new Libyan government is run along roughly democratic principles rather than Islamic or some general’s coup that is a repeat of Gaddafi’s rule.

So if Obama is as bright enough as everyone on MSNBC swears he is, he’s committed us to an intervention lasting years and possibly costing hundreds of billions of dollars in Libya. If he’s as dumb as a typical community organizer, he’ll lose interest quickly, declare victory whether Gaddafi is still in power or not, and we will have yet another terrorist threat to deal with for years to come.

And it was a terrorist problem that we had already solved.

But the President could get lucky.  Gaddafi could fall, and a secular humanist democratic coalition could take power, ushering in a new age of freedom and democracy in Libya.  But I really don’t like basing our policy on luck.


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Madison: The End of the Public Sector Union?

Written by lilmike on February 27, 2011 – 9:00 pm -

We do want more, and when it becomes more, we shall still want more. And we shall never cease to demand more until we have received the results of our labor.

-Samuel Gompers

As far as private sector unionism goes, I’m pretty much a union agnostic.  I don’t really have strong feelings about it one way or the other since in theory it’s basically a private contract between two private parties.  Who am I to interfere?  Of course that’s only in theory.  In practice, various state laws make private sector unionism more or less likely to happen.

But public sector unions are another matter.  I’ve never gotten the logic of there being a purpose for a union for government workers.  I can’t really apply the usual arguments for unionism can I?  Although I can see private employees wanting leverage to negotiate with their employers, do I really want government employees applying leverage to my elected representatives?  That’s what I’m for!    I suppose as both a taxpayer and voter, government workers should be working for me.   The idea that that state and local governments deduct union dues to give to unions, who then use the money to give to politicians and candidates who support increasing wages and benefits for those same government workers… it strikes me as one of those things that isn’t illegal, but should be.

 I’m not alone in thinking this.  According to a recent poll, 64% don’t think government workers should be represented by a union.  Although I expect that number to swing wildly in the next few weeks, depending on who gets the high ground in the battle between Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker and Wisconsin’s public sector unions.  Also, I think this is a question that most people have not thought about before and are discovering that they need to form an opinion:  Do we really need public sector unions?

It may be hard to believe now, but at one time, the left was divided on the issue.  No less a liberal icon than FDR noted on the subject:

“The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service…  A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government.”

Certainly the irony of so many of the same people bemoaning the possibility of a federal  government shutdown celebrating the marching of teachers in downtown Madison, that shut down several school districts in the process, has not gone unnoticed.

The former Socialist Mayor of Milwaukee, Frank Zeigler, also not a public employee union fan said,

“This sharing of powers in wage determination and conditions of employment through the negotiation process has in turn diminished public officials’ authority in other areas of policy involving organized employees.

The net effect has been to create what amounts to a two-chamber local government. One chamber is made up of elected representatives and chief executives—aldermen, councilmen, county board or commission members, mayors or other chief executives—the traditional decision-making body for local government. The other chamber comprises the organized public employees who have gained official recognition to negotiate. The public business on wages and conditions of work, and therefore indirectly on policy, cannot be carried on without mutual agreement between these two Chambers. . . .

The implications of this new method of reaching decisions in local government put an entirely different aspect on the sovereignty of councils and executives and elected officials as well. The challenge of organized public employees can mean considerable loss of control over the budget, and hence over tax rates and over government programs and projects.”

But another liberal public union skeptic, Time’s Joe Klein, really boiled the issue down to it’s essence:

“Public employees unions are an interesting hybrid. Industrial unions are organized against the might and greed of ownership. Public employees unions are organized against the might and greed…of the public?”

And that’s pretty much the issue in a nutshell.  Public sector unions are trying to extract from a democratically elected government benefits in opposition to the voters and taxpayers.  It’s not as if there are not already enough forces beyond the electorate out to influence the political process without the political process creating and funding another one to work against the electorate.  Don’t we have enough special interest influence without creating one with the specific purpose of being a special interest?

And we already know how this could end.  It ends in Greece, rioting over wages and pension benefits that they never could afford in the first place.  Of course, we are different.  We’re Americans.  We should be able to stop ourselves from getting that far.  And in fact there are hopeful signs.  Republican Governors like Chris Christie and Scott Walker, and Democratic Governors like Jerry Brown and Andrew Cuomo, are taking tough stands against the excesses of public sector unions.

As for Wisconsin, no matter who wins the battle, the question about public sector unions has been raised for the first time in a generation.  It will become a more pointed question as public debt climbs higher and higher.


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Obama a Muslim? Phuleeze!

Written by lilmike on February 19, 2011 – 9:15 pm -

Constantly reoccurring polls that show that many Americans and a large minority (getting close to half) of Republicans believe that President Obama is a Muslim.  This story was brought up recently by a Fox News focus group of likely Iowa Republican voters, broadcast on the Sean Hannity Show conducted by Republican pollster Frank Luntz:

When Luntz asked the rest of the group how many believed Obama is Muslim, about a dozen, or nearly half, raised their hands.

‘Now do you understand the implications of what you’re saying here?’ Mr Luntz asked. ‘What the media’s going to say about this group and about the Iowa Caucus voters in the future. Do you realise what you’re opening up here?’

Even Luntz couldn’t believe it, and he clearly realized the embarrassing political implications of showing a large group of Iowa Republicans raising their hands to affirm their suspicions that the President was a closet Muslim.

For the media, this was like a sugar cube for a horse.  Naturally every Republican politician would now be required to state a position on Obama’s religious status.  But that’s the media.  They didn’t feel a similar need to question Democratic politicians during the Bush years when polls showed 35% of Democratic voters believed Bush knew ahead of time about the 9/11 attacks.

So the very next Sunday House Majority Leader John Boehner got the expected question on Meet The Press:  “The President says he’s a Christian, that’s good enough for me.”  No wonder the media loves asking that.  I cringed at Boehner’s answer.  As I was thinking to myself “why couldn’t he have just said of course he’s a Christian?”  I realized as I thought that, an answer began to present itself.

 I didn’t really think Obama was a Christian.

Not only was it an uncharitable thought, it was counter factual.  The President had spoken of his faith many times and had openly spoken of how is faith had guided him in coming to many of his policy decisions.  He had over a twenty year church membership…

Oh.  Well there you go.  The Trinity United Church of Christ that Obama attended in Chicago preached a strain of Christianity that most American Christians don’t recognize.  It’s Christianity of conspiracy theory, anti Semitism and anti Americanism.   I think when many Americans hear Obama say he’s a Christian, they are picturing Trinty United.

Of course, not believing Obama is a Christian when he insists otherwise is one thing, but making the leap that he’s a Muslim is another.  Why would so many people think Obama is something that he has not claimed to be?

That’s a question I would like to pose to HBO’s Bill Maher, who stated on his show Real Time that as far as being a Christian goes, “I just don’t believe it.”  What does Maher think the President is?  Why a secular humanist of course!  That seems to be a common idea on the left, even on our very own webboard.   So many people on the right don’t think he’s a Christian, and neither do many on the left.

And sometimes the two come together as when commentator Anne Coulter defended the President from charges of being a Muslim:

“The nonsense about President Obama being a Muslim has got to stop… I rise to defend him from this absurd accusation by pointing out that he is obviously an atheist.”

President Obama hasn’t helped his own case, as Law Professor Ann Althouse points out:

Does Obama’s past association with Trinity Church prove that he was (and is) a Christian? My source is “Dreams from My Father,” chapter 14. While working as a community organizer, Obama was told that it would “help [his] mission if [he] had a church home” and that Jeremiah Wright “might be worth talking to” because “his message seemed to appeal to young people like [him].” Obama wrote that “not all of what these people [who went to Trinity] sought was strictly religious… it wasn’t just Jesus they were coming home to.” He was told that “if you joined the church you could help us start a community program,” and he didn’t want to “confess that [he] could no longer distinguish between faith and mere folly.” He was, he writes, “a reluctant skeptic.” Thereafter, he attends a church service and hears Wright give a sermon titled “The Audacity of Hope” (which would, of course, be the title of Obama’s second book). He describes how moved he was by the service, but what moves him is the others around him as they respond to a sermon about black culture and history. He never says he felt the presence of God or accepted Jesus as his savior or anything that suggests he let go of his skepticism. Obama’s own book makes him look like an agnostic (or an atheist). He respects religion because he responds to the people who believe, and he seems oriented toward leveraging the religious beliefs of the people for worldly, political ends.

It’s interesting that both left and right seem to be comfortable with the idea that the President is lying about his core beliefs.  From the right, it’s to mask a sinister Muslim agenda, from the left, it’s because a non believer could never get elected, so of course he has to nod to the local superstitions.  

But on the other hand, the secret to Obama’s political success has been his ability to mirror our hopes and fears and reflect them back to us.  In so far as we recognize that, Obama is whatever we hope or fear he is.  To the far left, he’s a far left guy who has to hide his true self (hope), but to the far right, he is also a far left guy who is hiding his far left agenda (fear).  Both the Republican and Democratic centrists who supported him in 2008 saw him as … a centrist, merely winking to the left but really well within the mainstream of American political thought.

If you are agnostic or atheist, you feel the President is as well (hope) but if you are a devout Christian, you think his name is more reflective of his religion than his actual statements (fear).

So what does that tell us about Obama?  Nothing, but it tells us a great deal about ourselves.  That being said…

This may be the only time I’ll be able to cram these words into one sentence, but here goes.  I’m with Bill Maher and Anne Coulter.


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Political Opponents in the Crosshairs

Written by lilmike on January 9, 2011 – 9:16 pm -

With the Tucson shooting of Arizona Representative Gabrielle  Giffords, the mainstream media  and the leftie blogosphere wasted no time in drawing conclusions and blame for the shooting:  The Tea Party, Sarah Palin (of course!) and the climate of heated political rhetoric.  Of course, any examples used are borrowed strictly from the right.  Although I heard comparisons to Timothy McVeigh, for a bombing that occurred in 1995, I’ve yet to hear mention of the Discovery channel gunman, who actually credited a left political agenda to his rampage; when that occurred only last September.

But… that’s the nature of our biased news environment.  It’s so ubiquitous that most viewers wouldn’t even question that Tea Party inspired heated political rhetoric is at root of this shooting.  Why should they?  Every Sunday morning news show I watched today asked that same question.  Any soul searching required will be requested of the right, not the left.  Their overheated political rhetoric is just fine.  Of course the new media and the internet make that more difficult to pull off.   Now, there are multiple voices.  People aren’t limited to what the big three networks think are the right questions, and what they think of as newsworthy. 

And the Democrats have been fairly explicit on where they want to put the blame for this shooting:

One veteran Democratic operative, who blames overheated rhetoric for the shooting, said President Barack Obama should carefully but forcefully do what his predecessor did.

 “They need to deftly pin this on the tea partiers,” said the Democrat. “Just like the Clinton White House deftly pinned the Oklahoma City bombing on the militia and anti-government people.”

No subtly there.

Of course, no issue that heats up the left can be without Sarah Palin.  Particularly Palin’s famous crosshairs map.

 sarapac

 

No politician, before or since, has every used something so incendiary.   Oh wait though, what about the Democratic Leadership Committee?

 DLC-Targeting-map

Seems as threatening as Palin’s crosshairs.  And yikes!  Orlando is dead center on the bulls eye!

And of course let’s not forget the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee:

 DCCC-target-map

 

Of course, the Democrats prefer bull’s-eyes.   Maybe that’s the difference, although Democrats have been known to take aim at a Republican opponent through a gun site a time or two.  But am I merely saying that crosshairs are no big deal because bulls eyes are used by Democrats, so both sides are equally guilty?

 

No, actually what I’m saying is that both sides are equally innocent.  It’s absurd to think a map icon would inspire violence, even in a crazy person.  And it’s extremely unlikely that any potentially crazy person has even seen any of these maps.   It’s merely a contemptible meme put out by people seeking to exploit a tragedy for political gain.  It’s the type of tactic that could only have a chance working with a MSM willing to play along.  But even they won’t go any further then their denunciations of a climate of heated political rhetoric.  After all, as of this writing there isn’t a shred of evidence that the suspect, Jared Lee Loughner, was involved with the Tea party, conservative politics, or frankly any politics at all; at least any politics that we would understand; regardless of what the left seems to believe.  At this moment, we have only a few clues as to where his political sympathies lie.

“As I knew him he was left wing, quite liberal. & oddly obsessed with the 2012 prophecy,” the former classmate, Caitie Parker, wrote in a series of Twitter feeds Saturday. “I haven’t seen him since ’07 though. He became very reclusive.”

“He was a political radical & met Giffords once before in ’07, asked her a question & he told me she was ‘stupid & unintelligent,’ ” she wrote.

 

But here’s the deal:  Regardless of what his party affiliation or leanings were; his ranting on YouTube and the internet seem to identify him as just plain crazy.  Unlike the left, I’m not attempting smugly put his politics at the steps of the other guys (although there is more than enough evidence to do that).  I think he belongs in the party of nutjobs, with no coherent political agenda that would be recognizable without a Physician’s Desk Reference of psychiatric disorders.

I’m content to leave it at that until we actually have some sort of proof, one way or another, that Loughner was really politically inspired, instead of merely crazy inspired.  I just wish people on the left could do the same.  Maybe then we wouldn’t have to worry about such a climate of heated political rhetoric.


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Snagging My Last Bond

Written by lilmike on December 27, 2010 – 10:16 pm -

Bond.  James Bond.  I’ve been a Bond fan since childhood.  The first Bond film I saw in the theater was Live and Let Die.  So I’m of the age where growing up”my” Bond wasn’t Sean Connery, but Roger Moore.  Some people have definite favorites, Connery vs Moore, or more recently, Connery vs Dalton, Brosnan, and Craig.  When Roger Moore aged out of the franchise I really wanted Remington Steele’s Pierce Brosnan to get the role.  He seemed to be the most Bond-like actor to me to carry on the franchise.  Unfortunately, he couldn’t get out of his TV show contract and Brosnan had to wait some years for the Timothy Dalton period to run it’s course.  Then, when Pierce Brosnan finally got the role, I could only say, “Meh, he’s OK in it.”  I guess he had waited too long.

But I missed one, by hook or by crook, and that was George Lazenby’s portrayal of James Bond in the 1969 On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  It remained a tantalizing mystery to me.  All I knew about it was that it was the one Bond film in which James Bond actually married.  So it was on my wish list of moves to see.  That turned into a comedy of errors.  In the mid-80’s, while stationed in Germany, I found the video in the local Post video store.  Arranging a viewing with other like minded Bond fans turned into a disaster.  The video was scratchy and unwatchable.  Even after turning it back in to the video store they merely put it back on the shelves again.

Secret Service went on the back burner of my movie thoughts, and I didn’t think about it much again although I did regularly check Blockbusters and other video establishments.  No luck.  How could a James Bond film not be carried by even a medium to small sized video store?   It wasn’t until I started seeing it listed on cable TV; always at some god-awful time when I couldn’t watch it; that I thought I was near the end of my quest.   By this time, I had a DVR and figured I could snag it and view at my leisure, finally.   However that turned into a disappointment as well.  My DVR always cut off the last 20 minutes or so of the movie.  I saved myself the frustration by fast wording to the end to make sure the whole movie was captured.  Realizing that the movie probably didn’t end in the middle of a car chase, with no credits, made me sure that this wasn’t just a film to sit down and enjoy, it had to be fought for.

 

Finally, after many years, the Syfy channel showed the Bond series over the holiday season.  Why?  I don’t know.  I don’t consider Bond in any sense science fiction, although the Bond series is a favorite of many fans of the Sci Fi genre.  Of course I dont’ consider wrestling science fiction either.  This time, the DVR caught the whole thing (yep, I checked the credits!). 

 So after a search of over 20 years, what do I think of this missing piece of the Bond legend?  George Lazenby was a pretty good Bond.  The actor was a former Australian Special Forces soldier and has a black belt, so the physicality of the role fit him to a tee.  Telly Savalas was not a particularly good Blofeld however.  The accent would go in and out at odd times, making it difficult for me to buy that he was a European count.  I kept expecting him to stick a lollipop in his mouth instead f a cigarette (who loves ya baby?).  Good action, chase scenes and so on, but otherwise, although I found it a perfectly servicable Bond, ultimately it was just OK. 

Now let me check my list of other fims I’ve been waiting to see.  Hmm… I hear tell this Godfather movie isn’t bad…


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Wiki-Leak Piss Shivers

Written by lilmike on November 29, 2010 – 10:07 pm -

Once again, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is spraying the inside of the bowl of the US’s national security apparatus.  The last big “dump” of documents released thousands of military documents with the self admitted purpose of damaging the US and NATO war effort in Afghanistan.  This time, Assange is aiming for the State Department.  What, exactly does that have to do with his stated anti-war mission?  Nothing of course.  Assange is anti US.  The Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts were just a tool of Assange’s anti-Americanism.  Releasing the State Department cables is just part of embarrassing and damaging US Foreign relations.

The releases are of varying interest.  And, one would assume, varying damage.  Surprisingly though, there were not a lot of real surprises.  The Chinese are involved in worldwide hacking, and have targeted US government computer networks?  Shocker!    Iran and North Korea in missile cahoots?  Who could have foreseen that?  Saudi Arabia trying to stoke the US into attacking Iran?  That was actually in the papers a few months ago.  Some things that are secret, are sometimes not so secret.

Some were just funny, such as the Obama administration’s absurd attempts to get rid of it’s Gitmo prisoners.  Hey Slovenia, want to meet with President Obama?  We got this prisoner right here that we’re trying to unload…  Now that the secret is out, maybe the administration ought to put the rest of the Gitmo prisoners on e-bay, and see if they can auction nights at the White House for prisoners.  It makes their whole civilian trial vs. military commissions dilemma seem pointless if you are trying to auction them off before they ever see the inside of a courtroom.

But my main beef and source of heartburn goes to the suspect and source of this treasure trove of documents, PFC Bradley Manning, an Intelligence Analyst assigned to Iraq when he committed this almost unbelievably paper heavy espionage under the noses of his co-workers.  The sheer volume of documents that he downloaded, copied, and removed to his work area is staggering.

On Morning Joe today, Joe Scarborough was asking the question, how could a PFC have access to so many sensitive State Department Diplomatic cables?  I tried shouting the answer back to him through the TV; a method that didn’t work this time any better than the previous thousand or so times I’ve yelled at the TV.

The SIPRNET.

SIPRNET is a classified, Secret level computer network, sort of a government internet for secret information.  You see, years ago the military wanted to figure out a way to get the most current intelligence information quickly to the people who needed it, which in Army terms, that meant down to the brigade level, so that commanders who are actually in the thick of it would be able to access the intelligence information that they needed, as quickly as it became available to the intelligence community.  Bringing that level of support down to the brigade level seemed like a good idea.  I mean, what could go wrong?

The problem is that a secure network is only as secure as its weakest link.  Apparently, the weakest link was Manning.  Manning didn’t just have information that he “needed to know” to do his job, he had access to everything that was on the network. 

I can only speculate, but I assume that Manning didn’t have much of a job to do if he could spend all of those hours copying those documents.  And why didn’t anyone notice what he was doing?  Again, I can only speculate, but I think there are at least two issues to this.  People who work in classified and secured areas tend to accept the trustworthiness of their co-workers.  I mean, they’ve been cleared right?  If you can’t trust your own people that have already been cleared and vetted to work than there is no end to the paranoia.  Facilities that handle classified information have rules, and everyone is expected to follow them. 

And supervisors are expected to enforce them.  So that brings me to the other issue, where were Manning’s supervisors?  I mean, what the fuck?  There should have always been a supervisor on shift, one who was responsible for Manning’s work product, whatever that was, and who should have known Manning’s workload.  If he was busy tapping along on his keyboard for hours, and the only report he was responsible for was finished hours before, someone should have had a look-see at what Manning was doing.  The idea that Manning was allowed to bring in blank CD’s into a classified work area, copy them (CD recording wasn’t disabled on computers handling classified information?) and exit, day after day after day, is mindboggling.

So, one piss ant PFC has totally upended the international order and caused a foreign policy crisis for the Obama administration.  On the plus side, at least Manning didn’t have access to the Top Secret network.


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Post Election, My Free Advice to the Democrats

Written by lilmike on November 6, 2010 – 2:30 pm -

I’m sure there is plenty of mourning in liberal town, and hey, I had to do some of that mourning myself in 2008.  But to my liberal friends who are comparing their fellow Americans to hormonal teenagers, allow me to offer a few helpful tips to prepare for 2012.

 

Tip #1:  Don’t be afraid to go racist.  If that past two years have taught me anything, it’s that no policy argument is so persuasive that it can’t be diffused and won by calling your opponents racists.  Let some Tea Party crackpot try to tell you that Keynesian multipliers are a myth, just reply, “You’re a racist.”  That tri-cornered hat wearing Tea Partier will instantly slink away, and better still, will change his vote in order to try to retrieve his nonracist bona fides.

Tip#2:  Stay angry.  Let’s face it, that’s pretty easy.  You stayed angry all during the Bush years and still stayed angry during the Obama administration because after all, there were still Republicans inexplicably running around.  Now that the Republicans have the House, why stop now?  Immediately start blaming everything that is wrong with the country on the new Republican House majority.  In fact, don’t even wait for them to be sworn in.  Get started right away!

Tip #3:  Everyone who disagrees with you is stupid.  It’s a lesson as old as smugness and arrogance.  People who voted differently than you are dumb.  Don’t be afraid to tell them that.  They are probably so dumb, they have no idea you are insulting them.  Since the media and establishment directly tie intelligence to degrees from the Ivy League (unless it’s a Bush who has one), remember that a BA in Women’s Studies from Brown trumps a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech anytime.  And if the person just has a trade, like plumbing?  How could they possibly know more about the real world than a Washington Post commentator?

Tip # 4:  Messaging.  In spite of hundreds of speeches and thousands of hours of cumulative cable news airtime, people still didn’t understand what was going on with health care or any of the other programs the President favored.  Clearly the White House kept a lid on their wonderful accomplishments.  It’s OK to criticize the administration on this.  Next time, they need to have the President give a few hundred more speeches on health care.  That’s just what we need!

Tip #5:  Go further left.  Half way measures just don’t cut it. People were not upset that the government is taking over health care; they are upset that the government didn’t totally take over health care!  For 2012, double down on health care reform; promising Medicaid or Medicare for all.  It doesn’t really matter which, as long as “Medi” is in there somewhere.  If any Red State opponent tries to give you some lip about a price tag, just refer to tips 1 and 3.  It’s the same deal with the stimulus; the stimulus was not just too small, it was too small on orders of magnitude.  We need a 2 or 3 trillion dollar stimulus.  With that kind of scratch, you can really reward friends!  Start cutting checks to households (starting with Blue States of course) and people will know which side they are supposed to vote for.  You could call the program, Lotto for All!

Tip #6:  Blame Bush, stir, repeat.

And the most important tip of all…

Tip #7:  Sit back, relax, fix a cold drink and wait for the Republicans to fuck up again.

And let me add this bit of encouragement:  No matter which party has been in power, the long term trend has been more government, more statism, and less liberty.

So cheer up!


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Posted in Always Right, MucheDumbre | 2 Comments »

Why are Atheists Such Pricks?

Written by lilmike on October 18, 2010 – 9:54 pm -

Professing to be wise, they became fools.  – Romans 1:22

A thread on this site’s web board diverted into  (as internet threads tend to do)  a discussion of God versus no God, and belief versus non belief.   The thread ostensibly was about the story from a few weeks ago of a carpenter who foiled an attempted child abduction.  It was a story about dumb luck and being in the right place at the right time, but what got the web argument ball rolling,  was this:

Police, officials and the parents of the girl praised Perez and other good Samaritans and citizens who aided the search and took action to find the girl.

“This is a remarkable accomplishment for an entire community,” Mayor Ashley Swearengin said.

Perez said the incident was beginning to sink in Tuesday night. “I probably saved a little girl’s life.”

The question arises: What would have happened if Perez had gone to work this day?

He quoted a relative who said divine providence might have stepped in.

“God works in mysterious ways,” Perez said.

 

Oh yeah?

Apparently the hint of divine intervention strikes some people like accidently swallowing a chicken bone, with choking and histrionics.  Now I’m not such a fool as to think I should expect good manners and respect for others in an internet argument, or that a clear winner or loser will be declared, hands will be shaken, and then, a casual retirement to the study for brandy and dirty jokes.  The point is this is how some atheists act in real life.

First, a full disclosure moment:  I’m agnostic myself and didn’t really consider myself as having a dog in the fight between God and … Dawkins or Darwin; whoever.  I had my no-God epiphany over 20 years ago and have not looked back.  But I have not had a reason to hold any sort of God-grudge against those who have religious faith either.  Religious faith of one sort or another is the natural state of mankind.  It’s the absence of it that’s the oddity, and that absence is often the result of some sort of traumatic event, rather than intellectual introspection.  If you’ve seen the movie, Altered States, William Hurt’s character, a University professor, came to his unbelief this way.

“I stopped believing.  It was very dramatic.  My father died a protracted and painful death from cancer.  I was sixteen years old and very fond of my father.I used to race to the hospital every day after school and sit in his room doing homework.  He was very heavily sedated.  The last few weeks he was in a coma. One day I thought I heard him say something, I looked up.  His lips were moving but no sound came out.  There was his yellow-waxen face on the white pillow, and his lips were moving.  A little bubble formed on his lips.  I got up and leaned over him, my ear an inch away from his lips.  “Did you say something, Pop?”   Then I heard the word he was desperately trying to say.  A soft hiss of a word.  He was saying “Terrible-terrible!”  So the end was terrible, even for good people like my father.  So the purpose of all our suffering is just more suffering.  By dinner time, I had dispensed with God altogether.”

 

I’ve seen that played out countless times.  One occasion was while I was in the military.  Coming back to the barracks after a late night, one particularly drunk individual was twirling around in the hallway shouting to the walls while at the same time amusing his buddies.  “Fuck God!  I want to rip his head off and shit down his goddamn neck!”  I almost thought about questioning him about that but better sense prevailed so I asked one of his grinning buddies, “Hey isn’t he an atheist?  I thought it didn’t believe in necks?”  “Yeah pretty funny huh?” was all he could reply, while he waited for his friend to pass out so he could drag him to his room.   

To me, this is no atheist; he hated God too much for that.  This was someone who didn’t get his prayers answered as a child and wanted to make God pay.  No one could be that mad at God and not believe he existed.

That’s one type of atheist.  Another is the “too smart for the room” atheist.  This is the Sam Harris “I represent reason” type of atheist, who’s book The End of Faith presented the thesis that we are past the point of being respectful of each other’s beliefs if those beliefs are irrational (i.e. religious).

Another member of the new atheist movement is Christopher Hitchens, whose book, God Is Not Great, credited religion with being the source of racism, bigotry, and just about every ill that befalls mankind.  So the world would be a… paradise if it were absent religion?  That requires a great deal of faith.  A faith that Hitchens will not have as a comfort while he is suffers from esophageal cancer, a type that has a very low survival rate.

Harris and Hitchens, the new atheists, regard religion as at best a dangerous delusion and at worst a symptom of mental illness.  The God hating atheists; well they are not truly atheists.  They just hate him and want his attention.

Naturally, like everyone else in the debate, I regard my position as the correct one, so in a way, that makes me no different than anyone else.  I can’t know if there is a God or not, and I’m unable to either have the faith that there is one, or have the surety that there definitely isn’t one.  I have a hard time wrapping my head around a universe that created itself out of nothing, but if you accept that there is no God, that’s what you have to believe.  More than that, you have to have faith in it.  And in fact, that is one of the goals of physics, since most physicists can’t wrap their head around a universe that didn’t come about through purely natural means.  Squaring that circle is a major goal of science and there are some intriguing theories in that area, but ultimately our knowledge of the universe is not nearly as encompassing as we try to pretend it is.  Already the Big Bang Theory has a competitor in The Big Bounce.

So until all the secrets of the universe are revealed, please atheists, stop being such dickheads.  It just makes you look like one more fanatic defending his faith.


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Return of the Sitcom

Written by lilmike on September 12, 2010 – 4:02 pm -

For an avid TV watcher such as me, the fall season is almost like a little holiday, sort of a Halloween stretched out over several weeks.  The anticipation, the new shows, and eating large amounts of snacks are all part and parcel of the welcoming of old favorites and the hope that this season the new offerings wouldn’t suck, a hope that has been dashed time and time again.

But every season will have a gem or two stashed in the pile of manure that’s dumped in our living room every fall.  With the slow decline of the sitcom, that has usually meant hour long dramas.  Generally they provide not originality but a safe and familiar environment.  Perhaps my grandchildren will be watching, Law & Order: Low Earth Orbit, or CSI: Luna City in the decades to come.  But the shows that I hold out the greatest hope for are the sitcoms.  As I said, sitcoms are on a long slow decline.  The audience usually has the expectation that these shows will be funny.  Make me laugh clowns!  That’s hard to do.  I’ve spent more sitcom watching time staring uncomprehendingly while the laugh track goes crazy than actually getting real chuckles from most shows billed as “comedies.”

But there are a few gems.  Sometimes I’m not even aware at first how much I enjoy the shows until later.  I’m not a TV critic, constantly analyzing and over analyzing shows, I’m just a viewer, looking for a few yucks.  But I have noticed a sure fire way to tell me if I like a show or not:  will I watch the reruns?  With so much content and so little time, I seldom make time for a rerun of an episode that I’ve already seen, but there are a few exceptions.

One of these is The Big Bang Theory.  This quirky little comedy (yes I said quirky) is a fan boy fantasy.  Super bright and highly educated roommate PhD’s hang out with equally nerdy friends.  Well, it’s much better than it sounds.  What can I say?  It’s hard to make this premise sound good, but it’s a great (and funny) show.   Particularly the Asperger-like behavior of Sheldon Cooper, the most eccentric character in a show filled with eccentrics.  As a card carrying nerd, one of the genuine treats of the show is the dead on nerd-speak and pop culture references.  I suspect the show’s writers have nerd technical advisors, to supply the character’s treatises on various science fiction shows.  They even came up with a plausible reason why the Terminator TV show didn’t have liquid metal cyborgs.

Too much nerd babble?  OK, but I love the show!

One show I didn’t expect to love, or even to last a full season, is Community.  I do like Joel McHale and thought he could be a funny actor in a sitcom, but I didn’t see the premise of the show, about a Spanish class study group at a Community College, being able to come up with ideas to plausibly explain the durability of this study group.  My own memories of college study groups were that they were nasty, brutish, and short.

But this, surprisingly, works.  I gave the show a try because of Joel McHale, but the great casting and clever writing of the show won me over.  A show where ostensibly the biggest star, Chevy Chase, plays the least interesting character shows that the producers hit the jackpot with the casting.  The show’s constant mimicry and mockery of pop culture, exemplified by one of my favorite episodes of last season, Modern Warfare, which parodied action movies, shows how this study group could last a lot longer than a two year AA degree.

So what am I looking forward to?  I admit I’m intrigued by Outsourced.  But I’ve no idea how this will go.  It could be another Community, or turn out to be a racist version of The Office. 

Another show I’ll be watching is Mike & Molly.  How funny this show is depends on how bold the network will be in making fun of fat people.  Fat is funny, there is no doubt about that, but you can overdo that, to the point where you feel bad for the actors.  A show filled with fat actors can’t pretend that the fat is not part of the show premise.  On the other hand, you don’t want to turn the show into a blubbery minstrel show, so that you feel bad for the actors being forced to constantly berate themselves, not just their characters.  The fat isn’t just a special effect.  The actors are heavy.

I’ll be watching the show in any case.  The star of the show, Billy Gardell, is a funny guy, and is a local guy to boot.  He lived in the Orlando area for a few years and attended Winter Park High.  But Billy Gardell is my girl scout cookie.  Full Disclosure, my wife works with Billy’s mother.  Some people in the office that you work with, you have to buy their kid’s crappy fundraising junk.  In our case, we watch their kid’s TV shows.  Hopefully it will be funny and not just an obligation.


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