Thursday, November 21, 2013
If this airborne abomination comes to pass, your correspondent plans to travel with a roll of duct tape. Those within earshot who commit the annoyance of speaking loudly at their telephones, will shortly find a five inch piece of duct tape slapped over their mouths.
Duct tape, being cheap, will be distributed to all who would like to silence their neighbors too!
To be serious, your correspondent suspects that he will be one of many who becomes a former customer of any airline that is foolish enough to go along with this stupidity.
Friday, August 30, 2013
Regardless of Assad's action, an attack by the United States raises serious issues. The first is the purpose of any such attack. Clausewitz, writing in 'On War' stated that war is the continuance of policy by other means. Both President Obama and Secretary Kerry have said that the purpose of any attack is not regime change.
No senior member of the United States government has provided a strategic objective that might be achieved by an attack and it is hard to see how the United States might be in imminent danger of an attack by Syria. This leaves your corespondent to think that the only reason for launching cruise missiles and bombers (troops on the ground are ruled out) is to prevent President Obama, who recklessly drew a red line in the sand concerning chemical weapons, from looking weak.
Perhaps, if an attack does take place, it might appropriately be named the Third War of Middle East Aggression (Iraq, Libya and perhaps Syria).
Then there are the legal and constitutional issues. Although the President of the United States is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Article 1 Section 8 of the United States Constitution gives Congress the power 'To declare war, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal...' and the War Powers Act of 1973 restricts the President's authority to send troops into combat without Congressional approval. If, as spoken by Abraham Lincoln, 'Government of the People, By the People and for the People' is still a reality, then the People's Representatives in the Senate and House of Representatives must be permitted to express their views with a formal vote to approve or disapprove any Syrian adventure.
Or is our situation akin to the last days of the Roman Empire - a dysfunctional Senate and a Executive that has seized almost all power?
The British House of Commons seems to have reached the right decision although, perhaps, for the wrong reasons. More significantly, Prime Minister David Cameron has agreed to abide by the decision even though the vote was non-binding. Before President Obama proceeds further he might want to ponder the words of John Quincy Adams: " Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy." Then he should listen to the people!
Let the Syrian opposition destroy the Assad regime if they have the will and ability. Since none of the rebels are friends of ours, the United States will gain little, if anything, from another Middle East war and has all too much to lose in terms of lives and treasure.
Mind your own business is not a bad policy!
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein once wrote that an armed society is a polite society. That statement, however, rests on the twin assumptions that the vast majority of people are actually armed while out in public and that they are emotionally stable.
There are also a number of other issues to consider.
First, there is no deterrent value to a concealed weapon. Second, handguns are almost as hard to use as, for example, are violins: training and frequent practice are necessities. Too many of those who carry weapons in the public space have less training than they should and practice only infrequently.
Even worse, a significant fraction of armed citizens are emotionally unstable, if not actually mentally ill, and some of them are just plain nasty, bullies or criminals. Some, too, are drunk - which brings to mind the fact that saloons in the old West required customers to check their guns at the door.
The Supreme Court has ruled that being armed in public is subject to State law and most, if not all, States permit such behavior. From your correspondent's perspective, it is desirable to know when another person is armed. When armed citizens begin to behave in strange ways, including showing signs of aggression, that knowledge provides a cue to vanish into the woodwork at a significant fraction of the speed of light.
Given that being armed in public is generally legal, open carry is just about tolerable to your correspondent. Concealed carry, however, is an abomination.
For those armed citizens who think that it is clever to carry a weapon without a safety or with the safety not engaged, I hope that you trip and fall, and, as you hit the ground, that your weapon discharges and you shoot yourself in your most personal parts. That way, at least, you will have the rest of your life, as a non-participant in the gene pool, to contemplate your stupidity while looking ruefully at your Darwin Award.
Sunday, July 14, 2013
Among those for whom power and inappropriate sex are mixed, we can include politicians (President Clinton, Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina), businessmen (Mark Hurd formerly Chief Executive Officer of Hewlett Packard and Harry Stonecipher formerly Chief Executive Officer of Boeing) and high ranking members of the military (including former Director of Central Intelligence General David Petraeus)
That powerful people have been exposed with their zippers down - when they should be up - is nothing new. That all too many of them, after a brief period of seclusion, can attempt to return - sometimes successfully - to public life is an indictment of us as citizens.
Governor, now Representative, Sanford is a prime example. Less than four years after word leaked out of his adulterous affair with an Argentine woman (including the use of State funds for personal expenditures), the citizens of the 1st Congressional District of South Carolina overwhelming voted to return him to Washington DC.
Meanwhile, in New York City, two notorious zipper artists are running for office: Eliot Spitzer (Client-9 of a notorious high end prostitution ring) wants to be New York City Comptroller and Anthony Weiner (texter of pictures of his crotch to single women) wants to be Mayor.
In her column this week (click to read), Peggy Noonan discusses the life of former British Minister of War John Profumo who resigned from the House of Commons in 1963 following a sex scandal about which he lied to Parliament. Rather than attempting a political comeback by sleazily claiming personal redemption as a result of his travails, he simply spent the next forty years quietly doing his best to make the world a slightly better place. Most importantly, he sought no publicity and until 2003 never spoke publicly of his disgrace.
What a contrast to current American practice!
Were the voters of New York City and the nation to refuse to accept that the return to office of disgraced politicians, your correspondent might be less inclined to refer to New York City and Washington DC, respectively, as Sodom On The Hudson and Gomorrah On The Potomac.
Thursday, June 27, 2013
He's mostly right on the idea of reducing carbon emissions but the idea of restricting emissions from existing generating plants does not make sense - at least not now. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is not yet technically feasible, mostly because the storage problem has not yet been solved, and it will not be economically feasible for some time. To shut down coal fired plants - even gas fired plants - that still have significant remaining life has an economic cost that is not necessarily justified by the scale of the problem. Certainly, the citizens of the USA (and the world) have not yet accepted the need for measures as radical, and costs as great, as implied by the President.
So, start with a modest carbon tax, increase it every year by a respectable amount for the next ten years or so. After that, increase it by a very large amount. The market, given a reasonable amount of time, will then solve the problem by encouraging conservation and the use of renewable electricity generation. Tax what is clearly bad (i.e. CO2 emissions) rather than subsidize what the government thinks might be good. Taxpayer funded research and development is good: a government that pretends to have the skills of a venture capitalist is an expensive bad joke.
The worst thing, however, is that we have a President who seems to have decided that the democratic process in the USA is broken, which is true, and irrelevant which it is not. His solution seems, therefore, to be to govern by decree like the tinpot dictator of a banana republic. That is the really scary part and, to old fashioned conservatives like your correspondent who also have green streaks, it is a matter for deep concern as well as bringing to mind the words spoken by Benjamin Franklin: "A republic, Madam. if you can keep it."
Mr. Obama would be better served by considering one of President Eisenhower's thoughts: "Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it."
Sunday, November 18, 2012
All of the incompetents currently practicing are, I believe, paid $1,000 per hour for their work which, having memorized the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), they claim to deserve. None of them, however, has ever met a disabled person. The result, in far too many places - including all of the three hotels in which your correspondent has stayed this week, is that the so-called accessible rooms and bathrooms are really hard to get around in.
One example (two of the three hotels) relates to the roll in showers where the seat is at one end of the enclosure and the shower head and faucet (taps) are five feet away at the other end. Is it not obvious that such a separation of guest and shower head is well beyond the reach of any normal person who needs to sit while taking a shower? Then there are shower curtains which fail to prevent massive floods in the rest of the bathroom, bedside lights that cannot be reached by a person sitting in a wheelchair and a myriad of other minor, and not so minor, nuisances.
Every hotel General Manager should immediately telephone the local chapter of the Disabled American Veterans and say this: "if you send me three of your members - one a wheelchair user, one with balance issues who uses a walker, and the other one a leg amputee - I will buy them lunch at the best restaurant in town. In exchange, I would like them to inspect all of our wheelchair accessible rooms and bathrooms and tell us how to make them as easy to use as possible and not just ADA compliant."
That will be the cheapest and most effective consulting any hotel will ever receive. It will likely make the world a significantly better place and, with luck, we will see some of the $1,000 an hour consultants standing in the unemployment line where they belong.
Monday, November 12, 2012
Thursday, November 8, 2012
Here are a few thoughts now that the dust has settled a bit.
President Obama's performance over the past nearly four years was such that he should have been fired for incompetence and gross lack of leadership skills. A contest that any sensible and competent Republican should have won, in a canter, was lost.The only merit in President Obama's re-election is that we can be sure that he will be gone in four years.
It would also have been useful if Governor Romney had refrained from idiotic right wing(nut) remarks that merely demonstrated the ability of an American Upper Class Twit and Poor Little Rich Kid to look down his nose at the lower orders.
Your correspondent considered several of them to be personal insults and does not believe that he is alone in holding an opinion.
Notwithstanding that his wife has a seriously disabling disease (and let us all hope that it will not progress or will progress only very slowly) Governor Romney's condescending attitude towards people with disabilities was appalling. To speak of a quadriplegic as a successful entrepreneur BEFORE he became disabled misses the point. Your correspondent knows many quadriplegics who became, or continued to be, successful after their injuries: a former VP at Goldman Sachs and now sailing entrepreneur, a radiologist, a Professor of English and award winning screenwriter being only three examples.
Then there was the infamous 47% video. In 2011, your correspondent missed being a member of that group by a trivial sum but still paid thousands in payroll taxes. Further, as an International Judge for sailboat racing, your correspondent is on the same rung of the sports officiating ladder as, for example, a Major League Baseball Umpire: qualified to work a World Championship or even the Olympics. The main difference is that they get paid - a lot - and sailing judges do not even though value is surely added. Had your correspondent been paid for the forty four full days and twenty seven half days devoted to that task in 2011 - even at a tenth of the rate paid to baseball umpires - his tax bill would have been quite significant.
There are many people in this country who work hard and add value but do not get paid: many of them are just called volunteers, others are homemakers. Republicans need to understand that not all problems can, or should, be solved by the application of cash.
Then there was the Republican attack on immigrants in which Governor Romney joined enthusiastically. Your correspondent is an immigrant (now a citizen) and proud of it. The corruption of language among Republicans is such that the term 'illegal' is now automatically implied - which is grossly insulting - when the word 'immigrant' is spoken. Where is the Republican Party's understanding of our heritage as a nation of immigrants?
Then there was his lack of trust in the American people. Admittedly the Democrats would have attacked him viciously for the content of the tax returns that he refused to release but the slow drip, drip, drip of distrust that this secrecy engendered can not have helped his campaign. Finally, to say "I have a plan to create jobs, fix the economy etc. etc." without specifics or even a decent road map is tantamount to the mantra of a con man. 'Trust me, trust me. trust me' only arouses suspicion in those of us who are paying attention.
Your correspondent is suffering from nostalgia for the 'Big Tent' Republican Party and Barry Goldwater (who likely could not win the Republican Party nomination in this day and age) whose fundamental philosophy was fiscal conservatism, strong defense and social tolerance.
Of course, nostalgia is one thing but there is no going back. Our memories are unreliable and honesty demands that we admit that things never actually were the way we think they used to be. Your correspondent merely hopes that the leaders of the Republican Party will think deeply about the good of the country rather than the blind pursuit of political power.
Are you listening Senator McConnell and Representative Boehner?
Friday, November 2, 2012
What, then, to make of the long lines to buy currently scarce gasoline in New York and New Jersey?
The United States prides itself on being a market economy but as soon as there is a shortage, then the shouts of 'profiteering' and 'price gouging', sometimes supported by state and local laws, become overwhelming. The result is the same as in a socialist economy: long lines and miserably poor allocation of scarce resources.
Should not the market not be permitted to work? Those who really need - not just want - gasoline might consider $10.00 (or more) to be a reasonable price for a gallon and would find it easily available while those who merely want gasoline, or consider such a price to be too high, can wait until the buying panic is over.
But what about the poor people? Since, at least in this situation, they could have planned ahead and bought gasoline (at its more or less normal price) before the storm, your correspondent has little sympathy for them.
There is such a thing as individual responsibility. Socialism, however, with all of its ugly consequences, seems to be the regrettable solution for those to whom such a virtue is little known.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Being well stocked with candles, batteries, flashlights and bottled water as well as having previously cooked all of the perishable food that could plausibly be eaten cold, this was no great hardship.
Once the power returned, however, resetting all of the electric clocks (stove, microwave, many clock radios etc.) was a tiresome chore. As a result, here is a resolution for the future.
When I become Dictator of the World, there will be a single absolute standard for the number, purpose and location of the buttons used to set the time (and the alarms) on all appliances and radios. There will also be a standard for automobiles since, twice a year, the clocks must be reset to account for daylight savings time.
The punishment for industrial designers who decide to be "creative" will be the intense boredom generated by being forced to judge - and write a four hundred word critique of each of - one hundred watercolors painted by a randomly selected group of six year old children.
The world will be a slightly better place.
Thursday, October 25, 2012
To be in a position to solve a really critical problem - and then to take no action, demonstrates such a lack of leadership skills that that person is unfit to hold the office of President of the United States of America.
On March 16, 2006, then freshman Senator Barack Obama, addressed the United States Senate on the topic of the debt ceiling. The first and penultimate paragraphs show his understanding of the situation, his final sentence expressing opposition to raising the debt ceiling (see also Tea Party and default) indicates that his understanding of the solution is woefully lacking:
"The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government cannot pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies...
... Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that, "the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.
I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America's debt limit."
[Note: unlike many of these quotes that circulate in conservative circles, this one is validated by Snopes. Your correspondent did not have the time to wade through the Congressional Record but you can read the Snopes piece here including Senator Obama's entire statement]
Governor Romney's actions and words have insulted many, including your correspondent, but he does at least have a record of leadership. He built a significant business, Bain Capital, beginning when he was only 37 years old and he averted a significant disaster in the making, the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, whose failure would have greatly reduced our standing in the world.
On the other hand, Romney's lack of trust in the American people with regard to releasing his tax returns, his refusal to spell out the spending cuts he would propose and his tiresome refrain 'I know how to...' without further explanation make him a person whom it is hard to trust in return.
On November 6th, your correspondent will hold his nose (not too hard because pain is not part of the program) while he votes for leadership (even though he is not quite sure where Mr. Romney is going) and the retirement of President Obama.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
There are some who claim that anything can be fixed by hitting it with a hammer. That is largely true but knowing where, and how hard, to hit takes great skill and training. It is also worth noting that, if you can't fix it with a hammer, you have an electrical problem.
For the rest of us, with limited mechanical ability, there are only two tools: duct tape and WD40. If it moves, and it’s not supposed to, use the duct tape. If it doesn't move, and it should, use the WD40.
Saturday, October 20, 2012
Jet Skis will not be taxed but will be confiscated and given to the military for use as targets for automatic weapons training.
The world will be a slightly better place!
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
I live in a very Democratic part of the Independent Peoples Republic of Northern Virginia and I expected you to be annoying me constantly. The Republican National Committee calls me twice a day - at least - and really makes me feel wanted. (Well, actually, annoyed but never mind.)
That's OK because I really don't want to talk to you or to listen to one of your robot messages. I know that you will only try to get me to vote to re-elect a President who could not lead a tribe of starving Somalis to a free all-you-can-eat buffet dinner. If you are not pitching for Mr. Obama, then you will want to persuade me to vote for a man who was a barely adequate Governor of Virginia and for Congressman Moron (sorry Moran) who is a wife beater, kid slapper, anti-Semite, and taker of loans from lobbyists with business before his Congressional committee.
Don't ask me for money either. I never contribute to politicians (it only encourages them) and I am not planning to start now.
But I will be voting on November 6th and the topmost thought in my mind is 'throw the bastards out - all of them'.
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
For the last two weeks, I have received from the RNC at least two, sometimes more, telephone calls every day. I don't want to get any more robo-calls from you and I am not very interested in talking to a live person.
I get the message! You want me to vote for Mitt "The Twit" Romney, 'Poor Little Rich Kid' Ryan, George 'Macaca' Allen and the clown who is running against Congressman Moran (Moron?).
Not only do I not want to hear from you anymore, please be advise that the likelihood of my voting for any of your candidates declines with every telephone call. In fact, there is a lot to be said for renting a cottage at an isolated lake, with no radio or television, from November 3 - 10 and just spending the week immersed in some of the books that are stacked up on my desk waiting to be read.
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Her response was delightfully simple: "why resist?"
So, after more than a year of hibernation, I have returned to comment on public affairs, to skewer the pompous, and to challenge those who, to steal from Winston Churchill, engage in excessive flights of terminological inexactitude.
Watch this space!
Monday, August 1, 2011
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Friday, July 15, 2011
Monday, July 4, 2011
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Saturday, June 4, 2011
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Saturday, April 30, 2011
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Saturday, April 23, 2011
"I am well satisfied that all of the results that have attended the labors of my life are attributable to the simple rule which I early adopted, to mind my own business…
Nor can I suggest one more appropriate for the regulation and conduct of the foreign policy of the American people."
Were our leaders to learn from the wise words of the Commodore, the question 'where next?' could, mercifully, be put to sleep - at least for a while.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
"Nowhere was the wisdom of annual competition better demonstrated than in the establishment of an alternative engine for the Air Force F-15 and F-16 fighters. Despite strong opposition from his own bureaucracy, Air Force Secretary Verne Orr, fed up with constant cost growth and repeated grounding of all fighters due to flaws in the sole-source engine, forced through the qualification of an alternative engine and contractor, and had the two compete every year thereafter.
The benefits from this annual competition came swiftly, were many and have endured. There was steady improvement in reliability, performance and fuel economy and a dramatic drop in engine-caused accidents. By the second year of full competition, the cost per engine had dropped 20 percent. The Navy soon followed suit in choosing an alternative engine for the F-14 with similar benefits."