Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Media Responsibility

I've commented on this many times.  The simple truth is that the media in our country are not doing their jobs.  They are so enamored by the spotlight, that they seek sensational news and even embellish stories to make sensational news.  They do this for one thing.  To make a name for themselves.  So that they achieve celebrity status.  And then they become the news.  It's getting old.  I try and look at many, many news sources to get information.  But it's getting harder and harder to find the truth.


Inequality

There has been a lot in the media recently about income inequality.  In any system there are winners and losers.  But in a Capitalistic system, there is opportunity.  There are countless rags to riches stories in our country.  But you don't get there by wishing for it or expecting someone to give it to you.  It takes work.  Blood, sweat and tears.

I saw this the other day and it sorta resonated.  Those screaming the loudest never seem to begrudge the celebrities and the darlings of the media their wealth.  It's always the no good, conniving, slimy corporate tycoons.  But you know what?  Those in business are the ones driving our economy to new heights.  So the next time you hear about the plight of those being exploited by corporations, think about what those corporations mean to our economy.  Because as President Calvin Coolidge said, "the business of America is business".


Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday Funnies


Inevitable II

So the news of the day is the SCOTUS decision on gay marriage.  I've blogged about this previously. You can read it here.  I don't think my thoughts have changed much.  There are huge issues facing us so I'm happy that it's now behind us.  And I'm happy for all the folks that it will effect.  Good for them.  I've personally evolved to the point where this issue is, for me, really a non-issue.

I will say that from a Constitutional perspective, I don't really agree that the Federal govt has a say in this.  But I get the social imperative.  I get squinting real hard and using the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment as justification.  As I said...no worries from me.  I just wish there could be more honesty.

UPDATE:  Frank Bruni's column in today's NYT says it all.  When you get to the personal level, there is really no choice.  You can read it here.

Credit Where Credit is Due

If you've read this blog at all you know I have huge problems with President Obama.  He has not, in my view, been a very good President.  He has made huge mistakes.  He has repeatedly done things to divide us.  He has done considerable damage to the economy, caused poverty to widen, and led so many to dependence on the government.  His work in foreign policy has been a disaster that will take years to recover from.

Having said that, I was moved to tears by his eulogy this afternoon of Reverend Clement Pinckney was eloquent.  He got a bit political because he can't help himself, but he struck all the right chords.  It is exactly the kind of message I would expect a President to deliver.  And it is exactly the right kind of message to send to the black community in this country.  Uplifting.  Optimistic.  Promising.   Put aside what you're doing for 30 minutes and watch.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Cool Pic


Dogs Are Cool


Climate Change

If you've been reading at all and have seen the wide variety of issues that I've commented on, you're probably not surprised that I finally have gotten around to climate change.  When the Pope came out with his encyclical last week, the media and the alarmists were all abuzz.  So I figured I might as well start in on dissecting the issue.

First, I'm not a climate change denier.  I'm also not a climate change zealot.  I guess I'm sort of a skeptic.  I've lived long enough to be skeptical about a lot of things.  And I've seen to many charlatans and snake-oil salesman types embrace this issue to believe all that is being somewhat hysterically predicted.  When I peel the onion on a lot of these folks, it usually comes down to money.  In some way, what they are advocating stands to make them rich.  Or richer.  So when someone says we must do this or that and if we don't we'll suffer dire consequences, I've come to the point that the first thing I do is investigate who stands to benefit if we do this or that.  And it is usually the advocate.

I also think there are an incredible number of differing opinions regarding this issue.  It's sort of like Economists.  Put 5 Economists in a room and you'll get 5 economic theories and predictions.  Same with the climate change crowd.  They are all over the map.  For every advocate based on scientific "evidence" there is a reasonable and rationale scientist saying...well...BS.  So who to believe?  I bet there is a bit of truth in all of them, but most are so blinded by their brilliance that they can't see any alternatives.

I came across this very simple analysis at Bloomberg Business.  You can check it out here.  Essentially it points out that greenhouse gas emissions are having an impact.  In simple terms, mankind has an impact on the environment.  We are responsible for some amount of climate change.  To me this is not a dramatic revelation.  Rather it is more a blinding statement of the obvious.  There are 7 billion people on the planet.  So it sorta stands to reason we will impact the environment.

It's interesting that the documented change is 1.4 degrees from 1880 to 2015.  Is that a big deal?  I don't know.  Again, some will wring their hands and flop down on the floor wailing.  Some will shrug their shoulders.  I think I'm in the latter camp.

I do think there are things we can do and should be doing.  And I think the United States and the enlightened world are doing a ton of things to mitigate the impacts.  But the key isn't the damage being done by places that are making a pretty dramatic effort to put programs in place to help.  The key is getting places like China, Brazil, Russia, India, etc to step up to the table.  And it until that happens,  we can do all that we are doing and more and it won't make much difference.

So I think what we do is continue to do what we're doing to focus on improving the environment, do not support con-men (are you listening Al Gore?) who stand to benefit from others naivety, encourage other countries and societies to step up to supporting rationale environmental programs, and continue to support credible research into the problem.

But having said all that, it's pretty difficult to get too excited about 1.4 degrees in 135 years.  And if it's not going to have any measurable impact until my grandchildren's, grandchildren's, grandchildren are born, well then I'm not losing a lot of sleep.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Confederacy

I've been a student of the Civil War since attending National War College in 1996-97.  Attending was a wonderful experience and the education I received was unbelievable.  I will be forever grateful for the Navy sending me there.  One of the side benefits was that the school had several great classes that students could take for interest and enlightenment.  By far the best one I took was a class on the Civil War.  Up until then I hadn't thought too much about that period in our history.  After all, I was from Southern California.  The relevance just didn't ever seem very real.  But a funny thing happened.  The more I studied, the more battlefields I visited, the more museums and memorials I spent hours in, the more information and understanding I wanted.  It was a craving.  I read almost everything I could get my hands on.  The book that was used to teach the course was "The Battle Cry of Freedom" by James McCormack.  If there is one book to read about the Civil War, that is it.  It is comprehensive and very readable.  That course, that book, that opportunity to immerse myself in that period in our history caused me to continue to seek more information, more insight, and most importantly, more understanding.

The truth is that the Civil War was the single most important event in our history.  It brought to a head the differences between the industrial North and the agricultural South.  And not just differences, but resentments, recriminations.  It shined a spotlight on the issue of State's rights.  That is an issue that continues today.  What falls to the State, what is the responsibility of the Federal government?   It brought the issue of slavery to the forefront of our national life.  The scourge of slavery was finally at the forefront of our consciousness and we had to do something about it.  At least that is what many in the North thought.  It caused neighbor to fight neighbor, relative to fight relative, and resulted in more deaths than imaginable.  We did this to each other.  Willingly.  To look back on it through the lens of history it is almost unimaginable.  But that is the case with many historical events, isn't it.  We sit here with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight and ask...how could they do that?  But they did.

I say that the Civil War was the single most important event in our history because of one man.  Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln was easily the greatest President in our history.  Put simply, he saved the Union.  He never gave up.  He continued fighting to save the Union when all appeared lost.  He emancipated the slaves when no one thought it could be done.  If you doubt his greatness I only need to refer you to two simple speeches.  Go check out The Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address.  They are masterpieces.  They stand the test of time.  They inspire us.  For my money this sentence contains the most inspiring words in our history and formed the basis for the country moving forward up to this day..."With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

When looking objectively at both sides, there were heroic figures beyond measure.  The names on both sides that are carved on monuments, enshrined in museums, and revered by some who venerate this history are numerous.  Yes the heroes were on both sides.  If you look back with our hindsight, you could easily say that the Confederates were traitors.  That they deserve to be cast out.  To be shunned and obliterated.  But it's not as easy as that.  They were our countrymen.  And in a country that was barely 85 years old the loyalties that we experience today were not as deep as they are today.  So I don't think that we can look back and take down or obliterate a monument to a man or battle based on no liking or agreeing with it.  There is a bit of hysteria gripping many people and communities after what happened last week in Charleston to remove monuments and statues that commemorate Confederate soldiers and battles.  But I don't think we can casually dismiss the sentiments and dedication of so many of our countrymen, even though they followed their hearts to flight for the Confederacy.  Every situation was tortured.  I say leave the statues and memorials alone.   They serve to remind us of what terrible things can happen.

Which brings me to the Confederate Battle Flag.  That flag was a symbol for heroes.  It was a symbol for honor.  It was a symbol really for a way of life.  The key word is was.  Unfortunately that flag was compromised decades ago.  It now symbolizes hate for many.  The massacre in Charleston last week has raised the issue to a new level.  And it has caused many to examine their feelings.  I'm happy to see that the prevailing opinion seems to be to get rid of it.  It is also used for nefarious political purposes.  Quite simply, it has to go.  Put it in a museum.  Realize what it meant at one time.  But it has to go.  Take it down from government buildings.  Get it off license plates.  Just be done with it.  It is 2015.  The flag was yesterday.  We have to move to tomorrow.

UPDATE:  In this morning's WSJ, Peggy Noonan knocks it out of the park.  Her writing always resonates with me and today particularly so.  You can read it here.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Cool Pic


Wonder of Nature



Mother Nature...



Finally

If you've watched some of the usual news sources today you've heard about Obama using the "N" word on a podcast today.  He used it deliberately, forcefully, and thoughtfully.  If you've been reading for a while you'll know I'm not a big fan.  I think he's been a major disappointment in so many ways, but especially when it comes to using his office, the bully pulpit if you will, to improve race relations in the country and lift up the black community, especially boys and men.  But I have to give credit where credit is due.  I think the podcast that he did today got people's attention.  It is making them think.  Oh, not jus the use of the "N" word, but him saying we have a ways to go.  That we still have problems and they won't be fixed overnight.  But that we have gone down the path and need to go farther.  Maybe it's not a lot, but it's something.  And I applaud him for it.


And then Nikki Haley, Governor of South Carolina, and a whole slew of leaders and politicians from both sides of the aisle called for taking down the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the South Carolina state capital.  Good for them.  It's the right thing to do.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Great Advice



Oops

Don't you just hate it when this happens?


Flexibility

Another great example!


Dogs Are Cool

And they like to sit and gaze at the view!


Cool Pic



Hillary

Another day, another flip flop.  Seems Hillary is against the latest free trade proposals.  But wait...she was a proponent for the last several years.  Not only was she a proponent, she was a proponent in 45 documented instances.  You can read about it here.    I've said it before...you just can't make this stuff up.

Gun Control

Gun control is a subject that get's a lot of play after a tragedy like what happened in Charleston this week.  I've posted about it before and if you've been reading you know I don't really see a solution.  But I do have an opinion.  And they are largely reflected pretty humorously in this.  Hat tip to BH over on FB...


Cool Pic


Two Days Later

My initial shock at the events prompted me put up this post.  But now, the dead have been identified.  The killer has been caught and returned to face justice.  And the grieving has started.  Soon they will be laid to rest and life will move on.  For most of us.  But for the families of the victims, they will never be the same.  And of course, the family of the killer will never be the same.  It is all just so sad, so maddening, so in need of answers or justification or...something!

I caught some of the news about the the families offering forgiveness to the killer during the arraignment.  Wow!   Could you do that?  Not sure I could.  Peggy Noonan captures it beautifully in her blog today. You can read it here.  She calls it "A Bow to Charleston".  Here is her conclusion.
"As I watched I felt I was witnessing something miraculous. I think I did. It was people looking into the eyes of evil, into the eyes of the sick and ignorant shooter who’d blasted a hole in their families, and explaining to him with the utmost forbearance that there is a better way."
That way is through the love of Jesus Christ.  They all said they forgive him and implored him to seek forgiveness through Jesus.   Like I said...Wow.  That is strength.  That is love.  That is living truly as a Christian.

And now (too soon) the analysis, the recriminations, the blame, the questioning, the solutions, etc start.  I have so many thoughts about this latest episode that has shocked our national conscious that I can't really organize them very well to provide any coherent writing.  Every time I start to think of composing something, my thoughts are a jumble of emotions.  So here is a stream of consciousness.  Maybe it won't make sense.  Maybe some will be wrong.  But it will make me feel better.

First, there is the expected cry for gun control.  We've seen it every time something like this happens. Sandy Hook, Aurora, Columbine, Pennsylvania, Charleston.  The hue and cry is that we have to do something.  Ban assault rifles.  Ban hand guns.  Modify ammunition.  Ban large magazines.  Register everything remotely appearing to be a gun.  And on and on and on.  In his speech yesterday, Obama clearly stated he would do something if he could.  But he can't.  He has tried.  No one can.  It is politically impossible.  We have come to the point in our politics that our decision makers are either owned by a lobby (in this case the gun lobby) or on one end of the political spectrum or the other and won't compromise.  There have been a lot of ideas offered.  Nothing gets traction.  Now don't get me wrong.  I'm a strong believer in the Second Amendment.  I'm a Constitutionalist.  But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that the right to bear arms that our founding Fathers wrote into the Constitution bears little resemblance to the gun culture we have today.  There are so many guns in our society that it would be impossible to realistically control them.  So I don't have an answer.  I consider myself a moderate.  I would be open to laws that would place limits on the types of guns people could own.  But I guarantee that it couldn't get traction in today's polarized environment.  I think it will have to wait until someday when we hopefully have an Executive and a Congress that respect each other and can work together. Until then, nothing will happen.  And BTW, Obama said other countries don't have these kinds of events.  Well that's just BS.  Everyone has seen them.

The media and others are now trotting out the issue of racism.   This deranged, sick, hateful individual killed 9 black people.  So naturally racism is rampant in America.  Add that to some of the episodes in the last year or so, and hysteria prevails.  Now once again, don't get me wrong.  We have racism in America.  We are a country of 320 million people spanning thousands of square miles in 50 diverse states containing communities of all descriptions with widely varying histories.  We also have a shameful part of our history that includes slavery.  We have racism in America.  But not everywhere.  And not pervasive.  And we have come a very, very long way in a relatively short time.  Some will point to the large population of black men in prison.  They will cite statistics of murders in the black community.  They deplore the poverty, the despair, the hopelessness.  But like most things, it's never as simple as a few statistics.  There is massive black on black violence in America.  There are cultural issues that deprive children of structure, of education, of family influence.  I've written about this a few times previously.  You can read them here and here.   We have a big cultural problem.  But there are solutions.   We've seen them.  There is a strong and rising black middle class in many parts of the country.  There are charter schools that are experiencing wonderful success despite teacher union pushback.  We see black men steping up to responsibility which is fundamental to repair the damage done to the family structure.  Now I don't for a minute want to minimize the problem, but personal responsibility, increased opportunities, and increased education are the keys.  And those of us who are more fortunate than our fellow citizens living in despair have to step up.  We have to find ways to help.  The maddening thing is that when something like Charleston or Ferguson or Baltimore or others happens, the first thing that the pundits and the rabble rousers jump to is racism.  How about looking all all sides?  How about assessing what is real and what are fabrications?  How about looking at every event on it's own merits?  The number one thing that contributes to the thought that racism is pervasive is the stereotyping of groups of people.  Whether it's blacks, whites, cops, whatever...stereotyping makes it easy to come up with a generic solution.  The reality is that we have to start looking at people and situations individually and hold them accountable for their actions.

Through all of these episodes, there is a very large issue that is consistently ignored.  That is the state of our mental health structure and treatment in this country.  The main thing that every episode has in common is that the perpetrators are mentally ill.  They have significant and dangerous mental health issues.  And they haven't been treated, other than given some drugs that seems to make them worse, or they haven't been confined.  They've all committed their crimes with guns, but some were given guns, some stole them, some got them legitimately.  But it's not the guns, it's the people.  These guys are sick.  And yet they continue to walk the streets until they explode.  For my money, if we're able to attack anything, that would be it.  I don't think there would be much pushback if there were laws enacted, research funded, and facilities constructed to help these people.  The state of mental health treatment in the Untied States is shameful.  But it could be improved.  All it takes is will.

So that brings me back to the beginning.  Forgiveness.  How did the people in Charleston find the strength to forgive?  I'm in awe of them.  I'm also in awe of the coming together of the people of Charleston...black and white...to pray together, to cry together, and to forgive together.  I just hope and pray it can continue.  I hope that external forces won't derail their journey to a place of peace by persuading them to hate the sinner.  By telling them that the problem is a gun, not a sick mind.  By persuading them that some can never achieve their dreams because others are still holding them back.













Thursday, June 18, 2015

Friday Funnies

After the events of yesterday in Charleston, I'm not feeling very funny.  Let's just leave it at that this week....

Senseless

What else can you call it?  The shooting last night in the AME Church in Charleston, SC that took the lives of 9 black Americans was the epitome of senseless.  One, lone crazy gunman with a deranged mind shot them dead.  Horrible.  I really have no other words.  So I'll let MLK speak.  This piece is very good.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Hillary

Here's an interesting and current analysis I'm stealing from a friend over on FB.  Just the latest.  But it never seems to end...

A critique of Hillary's (Big RED Arrow, pointing RIGHT) big speech reannouncing that she's running for president.
In her announcement speech, Hillary laid out a progressive agenda, but she glossed over some important facts that deserve consideration -- especially how her programs would be paid for:
1. She said, "Let's staff our primary and secondary schools with teachers second to none who receive the pay they deserve."
But -- after supporting teacher tenure reform in Arkansas, she is now opposed to competency tests for current teachers, merit pay for teachers, and an end to tenure, assuring that we will not have teachers who are "second to none."
2. She said, "Our country won't be competitive or fair if we don't help families give their kids the best possible start in life."
But -- she opposes school choice which would allow parents to send their students to private schools (like she did with Chelsea) or church schools.
3. She said she "wanted to make college affordable without crushing student loan debt."
But -- she opposes legislation sponsored by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) to let states decide what colleges are eligible for student loans, allowing online course offerings and entire college curricula which would lower dramatically the cost of higher education.
4. She said she wanted to "make health care affordable without breaking the bank."
But -- after doubling many health insurance premiums, insurers are set to force additional hikes of up to 50% in many states since ObamaCare enrollment has not reach desired levels among the young and healthy.
5. She accused Republicans of wanting to "strip 16 million Americans of health insurance."
But -- the King v. Burwell case puts only 6 million, NOT 16 MILLION, at risk, 80% of whom had affordable insurance before ObamaCare stripped them of it. She also ignores the fact that most Republicans agree that, if the Court strips away subsidies, federal tax credits should be available to states to take their place.
6. She called for paid sick leave and flexible scheduling of work hours to permit education and child care. She also called for increases in the minimum wage.
But -- she is not suggesting any government funding to pay for these programs. By making business come up with the money, she will be encouraging outsourcing and automation as employers work to cut the costs she has imposed.
7. She criticized the Citizens United decision and called for a Constitutional amendment allowing restrictions on giving to political campaigns.
But -- she did not say that such an amendment would effectively limit the free speech provisions of the First Amendment, with potentially catastrophic implications. She also didn't mention the need for restrictions on high paid speeches for candidates and their spouses.
8. Finally, she demanded a stop "to the flow of secret unaccountable money corrupting our political process."
But -- she made no mention of the secret donations to the Clinton Foundation that, even today, she refuses fully to disclose.
The new Hillary has a lot in common with the old Hillary. Lots of spending, not much detail, no suggestions about how to pay for her plans, and nothing at all that would change anything for her, her husband, and her Foundation.
--Dick Morris.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Futile Effort

My drive downtown this morning to work as a Docent on Midway (which is a great gig by the way) happened to coincide with Donald Trump's announcement that he is running for President.  I was almost mesmorized by the arrogance.  I mean, this guy is beyond belief.  I think in another setting he could be mistaken for a political comedian.  Here's a bit of the video.


If you take the time to watch this you'll know what I mean.  He is obviously a supremely arrogant individual.  But you have to hand it to him, he is very successful.  And that has led to extreme wealth.  He makes the statement that he is really rich.  No kidding.  Net worth of $8 billion!  So he could finance his campaign with no help.  But why?  It seems his main platform is that he is good businessman and therefore could be a good negotiator for the U.S. against the Chinese and others.  Okay.  But that's not all the Presidency is.  He also says he'll rebuild the military.  Of course, the scary thing is that he rebuilds it and uses it willy nilly with no strategy.   And then there is immigration.  His solution is to build a huge fence.  Huh?  Been there, done that.  We need comprehensive immigration reform!  Period.  Not an executive order.  Not amnesty.  Not an open door.  But a strategy for the future.  He's not the guy to do it.  But here's what he is.  He is popular.  He immediately vaulted over some who have been in the race.  A lot of people like his audacity.  They like the whole self-made man thing.  They like that he is willing to take on the establishment.  So it will be interesting.  I don't think he is going anywhere, but he's in the race.  He will certainly make it more interesting.

Another thing he has is a beautiful family.  I've got to hand it to him.  They are a good looking crew.  But I'm not sure that is a necessary quality,

So here we are in 2015, heading to 2016 with over 10 Republican candidates.  It's a crowded field and the next weeks and months will see more getting in.  If you saw my post last week on Kasich you know he's my guy.  Maybe a long shot.  But I like him.  But if not him there are others I will support. Jeb would be good.  Rubio would be good.  I even sorta like and respect Florina.  Walker or Jindal I can live with.  The rest are a little bit too Tea Party-ish or, IMHO, not electable.  But they are all better than her highness.  So it should be interesting.

UPDATE:  Saw this article on Trump by P.J. O'Rourke tonight.  Classic.  P.J. has a way with words!  

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Motivation Monday


Dogs Are Cool

And Chaser is particularly cool.  Saw this on 60 Minutes tonight.  Although a repeat, I hadn't seen the original.  And like I said, Chaser is particularly cool!


Hillary

So she finally takes a stand.  On her first stump speech in Iowa she comes out on the side of Unions, Pelosi, and all the other isolationists and protectionists.   It's sad really.  The whole issue isn't about a particular deal.  It's giving whoever is President authority to negotiate.  She would benefit from an approval.  But we know how much she kowtows to the unions.

She bemoans the fact that Wall Street hedge fund managers and "fat cat CEO's" are making too much money and contributing to inequality.  All this while raking in hundreds of millions in speeches and from her slush fund...er...Foundation.

Now she wants the American worker to stagnate in the same old jobs doing the same old things moving farther and farther behind the rest of the world.  You'd think as SecState she would realize that we aren't the only country in the world that has capability.  Here's the bottom line.  Free trade is good for the country.  It's also tough.  Jobs will be lost...in the short term.  But it opens markets, it creates new job opportunities, and it ultimately promotes economic growth.  But according to Hillary, if the union thugs are against it, so is she.  As a head in the sand Democrat, that is an understandable position.  But as a former SecState and a potential President of all of us, it's shameful.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Courage

I guess it was inevitable.  I watch many sources of news and keep up with what is happening in the world.  If you've read this blog at all you know how disappointed I am with today's media.  The simple truth is that they no longer report the news...they shape the news.  And nothing is more evident than the non-story that has blown up into a huge story about Bruce, er, Caitlyn Jenner.  I thought that the whole Kardashian thing has been rather nauseating over the last few years (although I will admit to never having watched one thing about them).  I mean, what have they done?  They are making millions for nothing.  Nothing.  They are a media creation.

Now we have the spectacle of a heroic Olympic decathlon winner decided in his 60's that he wants to become a woman.  Huh?  I'm a pretty live and let live kind of guy and if someone wants to do something like that, I guess it's okay.  But don't make it a national story.  Don't inflict this emotionally crippled person on the rest of us.  Don't make us listen to what the impact has been on his family and kids.  And how much "courage" he has.  And you can't escape it.  I mean...it's everywhere.


And here's another thing.  He's not really becoming a woman.  Women are created from little girls who grow to womanhood.  Maybe he's becoming a female, but he's not becoming a woman.  And I happened to see a story where he's not having surgery to, ahem, remove certain body parts.  Sounds to me like he's adding stuff that's pretty easy but not subtracting stuff that would be essential to subtract if he's really...you know...changing.  So....I'm not buying it.

And now we hear that he is being awarded an ESPY Arthur Ashe Courage Award.  I think Bob Costas sums up my thinking pretty well.


So that got me thinking about courage.  I will admit to being a big admirer of Chris Kyle.  You know...American Sniper.  If you don't know, well then you've been living under a rock.  This guy was a genuine American hero.  And I think he epitomized the word courage.  But there are some who don't.  There are some who denigrate his service and don't believe he exhibited any courage in his four tours in Iraq.  Okay.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion.  But this sort of epitomizes mine...







You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Every week there are a lot of strange stories in the press.  This week I think this takes the prize.  A white woman in Spokane not only pretends to be black, she is the NAACP President.  When asked if she is black, she says she doesn't understand the question.  Nuts!


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Friday Funnies

The Problem is:

After 35 years of marriage, a husband and wife went for counseling.​​ When asked what the problem was, the wife went into a tirade listing every problem they had ever had in the years they had been married.  On and on and on: neglect, lack of  intimacy, emptiness, loneliness, feeling unloved and unlovable, an entire laundry list of unmet needs she had endured.

Finally, after a sufficient length of time, the therapist got up, walked around the desk and after asking the wife to stand. He embraced and kissed her long and passionately as her husband watched - with a raised eyebrow. The woman shut up and quietly sat down in a daze.  The therapist turned to the husband and said, "This is what your wife needs at least 3 times a week. Can you do this?"

"Well, I can drop her off here on Mondays and Wednesdays,
 But on Fridays, I play golf."

Grit

This Ted Talk is well worth your time.  This seems to me to be about as relevant and true to the key to success as any I've heard.



One of my favorite quotes is along these lines and it's from Calvin Coolidge, of all people

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not:  nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not:  the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Thought So...


IF Dogs Are Cool

Cats are sneaky, conniving, untrustworthy beasts (with apologies to my friends who are cat lovers!).




Hillary

I'm not a shill for Carly Florin, but this is a great video.  Makes you think doesn't it.  Or it makes thinking people think.  It probably doesn't make Hillary supporters think.  Because they seem to be blindly following her to her coronation.  Hmmm...maybe not so fast.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Caption Contest

I'll start...

"Barrack, please tell me how you can say whatever the hell you want, no matter how big the lie, and get away with it every time!"

"Barrack, please tell Hillary I don't want to see her anytime soon.  And tell Bill to stay home too."

"Barrack, Iran is important to the German economy.  Just let them do what they want."

"Barrack, you're going to charge how much for speaking fees after you leave office?  Are you shitting me?"

"Angela, you ignorant slut!"


Dogs Are Cool

But sometimes sorta gross!


Maddening!



Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Middle East Complexity

We saw yesterday the Obama stated that he still didn't have a strategy for defeating ISIS.  Of course this comes 10 months after he told us previously that we didn't have a strategy for defeating ISIS.  Immediately afterwards we heard anonymous reports from the Pentagon saying essentially...that's BS, we've given him lots of alternatives.

But as the report below indicates, it's not just about defeating ISIS.  I've argued here before that from a larger perspective, we don't seem to have a strategy for engaging with and dealing with the Middle East.  And it's not just about the military.  It needs to encompass the political, diplomatic, humanitarian, military, social, etc aspects of the area.  NOT JUST THE MILITARY!  But we don't have that.

I am copying George Friedman's latest article below in case any reading this are interested in a very straightforward assessment of the region.  It's a bit heavy and convoluted, that is because the region is that way.  Not everyone will be interested.  But at some point in the future we are going to have to engage the region and we'd better understand what we're doing.  It's not just about shooting missiles from UAVs and F-18's on a regular basis.  We need a holistic engagement strategy that includes all the players in the region.  And we need to recognize that a new strategy might include new alliances and new approaches.

This is not going to happen until we get rid of the current administration.  Today they are just focused on the political benefits that accrue from a deal with Iran.  Never mind the details.  Get the deal signed.  And if Hillary is elected it won't happen for another 8 years (or 4 if she screws things up like I think she will).  That is a long time to let the caliphate grow, terrorize, kill, and spread.  But today we don't have the will to do anything because our leaders are not explaining what needs to be done and don't have the courage to lead.  Simple as that.

A Net Assessment of the Middle East 
 
 
The term "Middle East" has become enormously elastic. The name originated with the British Foreign Office in the 19th century. The British divided the region into the Near East, the area closest to the United Kingdom and most of North Africa; the Far East, which was east of British India; and the Middle East, which was between British India and the Near East. It was a useful model for organizing the British Foreign Office and important for the region as well, since the British — and to a lesser extent the French — defined not only the names of the region but also the states that emerged in the Near and Far East.
Today, the term Middle East, to the extent that it means anything, refers to the Muslim-dominated countries west of Afghanistan and along the North African shore. With the exception of Turkey and Iran, the region is predominantly Arab and predominantly Muslim. Within this region, the British created political entities that were modeled on European nation-states. The British shaped the Arabian Peninsula, which had been inhabited by tribes forming complex coalitions, into Saudi Arabia, a state based on one of these tribes, the Sauds. The British also created Iraq and crafted Egypt into a united monarchy. Quite independent of the British, Turkey and Iran shaped themselves into secular nation-states.
This defined the two fault lines of the Middle East. The first was between European secularism and Islam. The Cold War, when the Soviets involved themselves deeply in the region, accelerated the formation of this fault line. One part of the region was secular, socialist and built around the military. Another part, particularly focused on the Arabian Peninsula, was Islamist, traditionalist and royalist. The latter was pro-Western in general, and the former — particularly the Arab parts — was pro-Soviet. It was more complex than this, of course, but this distinction gives us a reasonable framework.
The second fault line was between the states that had been created and the underlying reality of the region. The states in Europe generally conformed to the definition of nations in the 20th century. The states created by the Europeans in the Middle East did not. There was something at a lower level and at a higher level. At the lower level were the tribes, clans and ethnic groups that not only made up the invented states but also were divided by the borders. The higher level was broad religious loyalties to Islam and to the major movements of Islam, Shiism and Suniism that laid a transnational claim on loyalty. Add to this the pan-Arab movement initiated by former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who argued that the Arab states should be united into a single Arab nation.
Any understanding of the Middle East must therefore begin with the creation of a new political geography after World War I that was superimposed on very different social and political realities and was an attempt to limit the authority of broader regional and ethnic groups. The solution that many states followed was to embrace secularism or traditionalism and use them as tools to manage both the subnational groupings and the claims of the broader religiosity. One unifying point was Israel, which all opposed. But even here it was more illusion than reality. The secular socialist states, such as Egypt and Syria, actively opposed Israel. The traditional royalist states, which were threatened by the secular socialists, saw an ally in Israel.

Aftershocks From the Soviet Collapse

Following the fall of the Soviet Union and the resulting collapse of support for the secular socialist states, the power of the traditional royalties surged. This was not simply a question of money, although these states did have money. It was also a question of values. The socialist secularist movement lost its backing and its credibility. Movements such as Fatah, based on socialist secularism — and Soviet support — lost power relative to emerging groups that embraced the only ideology left: Islam. There were tremendous cross currents in this process, but one of the things to remember was that many of the socialist secular states that had begun with great promise continued to survive, albeit without the power of a promise of a new world. Rulers like Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, Syria's Bashar al Assad and Iraq's Saddam Hussein remained in place. Where the movement had once held promise even if its leaders were corrupt, after the Soviet Union fell, the movement was simply corrupt.
The collapse of the Soviet Union energized Islam, both because the mujahideen defeated the Soviets in Afghanistan and because the alternative to Islam was left in tatters. Moreover, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait took place in parallel with the last days of the Soviet Union. Both countries are remnants of British diplomacy. The United States, having inherited the British role in the region, intervened to protect another British invention — Saudi Arabia — and to liberate Kuwait from Iraq. From the Western standpoint, this was necessary to stabilize the region. If a regional hegemon emerged and went unchallenged, the consequences could pyramid. Desert Storm appeared to be a simple and logical operation combining the anti-Soviet coalition with Arab countries.
The experience of defeating the Soviets in Afghanistan and the secular regimes' loss of legitimacy opened the door to two processes. In one, the subnational groupings in the region came to see the existing regimes as powerful but illegitimate. In the other, the events in Afghanistan brought the idea of a pan-Islamic resurrection back to the fore. And in the Sunni world, which won the war in Afghanistan, the dynamism of Shiite Iran — which had usurped the position of politico-military spokesman for radical Islam — made the impetus for action clear.
There were three problems. First, the radicals needed to cast pan-Islamism in a historical context. The context was the transnational caliphate, a single political entity that would abolish existing states and align political reality with Islam. The radicals reached back to the Christian Crusades for historical context, and the United States — seen as the major Christian power after its crusade in Kuwait — became the target. Second, the pan-Islamists needed to demonstrate that the United States was both vulnerable and the enemy of Islam. Third, they had to use the subnational groups in various countries to build coalitions to overthrow what were seen as corrupt Muslim regimes, in both the secular and the traditionalist worlds.
The result was al Qaeda and its campaign to force the United States to launch a crusade in the Islamic world. Al Qaeda wanted to do this by carrying out actions that demonstrated American vulnerability and compelled U.S. action. If the United States did not act, it would enhance the image of American weakness; if it did act, it would demonstrate it was a crusader hostile to Islam. U.S. action would, in turn, spark uprisings against corrupt and hypocritical Muslim states, sweep aside European-imposed borders and set the stage for uprisings. The key was to demonstrate the weakness of the regimes and their complicity with the Americans.
This led to 9/11. In the short run, it appeared that the operation had failed. The United States reacted massively to the attacks, but no uprising occurred in the region, no regimes were toppled, and many Muslim regimes collaborated with the Americans. During this time, the Americans were able to wage an aggressive war against al Qaeda and its Taliban allies. In this first phase, the United States succeeded. But in the second phase, the United States, in its desire to reshape Iraq and Afghanistan — and other countries — internally, became caught up in the subnational conflicts. The Americans got involved in creating tactical solutions rather than confronting the strategic problem, which was that waging the war was causing national institutions in the region to collapse.
In destroying al Qaeda, the Americans created a bigger problem in three parts: First, they unleashed the subnational groups. Second, where they fought they created a vacuum that they couldn't fill. Finally, in weakening the governments and empowering the subnational groups, they made a compelling argument for the caliphate as the only institution that could govern the Muslim world effectively and the only basis for resisting the United States and its allies. In other words, where al Qaeda failed to trigger a rising against corrupt governments, the United States managed to destroy or compromise a range of the same governments, opening the door to transnational Islam.
The Arab Spring was mistaken for a liberal democratic rising like 1989 in Eastern Europe. More than anything else, it was a rising by a pan-Islamic movement that largely failed to topple regimes and embroiled one, Syria, in a prolonged civil war. That conflict has a subnational component — various factions divided against each other that give the al Qaeda-derived Islamic State room to maneuver. It also provided a second impetus to the ideal of a caliphate. Not only were the pan-Islamists struggling against the American crusader, but they were fighting Shiite heretics — in service of the Sunni caliphate — as well. The Islamic State put into place the outcome that al Qaeda wanted in 2001, nearly 15 years later and, in addition to Syria and Iraq, with movements capable of sustained combat in other Islamic countries.

A New U.S. Strategy and Its Repercussions

Around this time, the United States was forced to change strategy. The Americans were capable of disrupting al Qaeda and destroying the Iraqi army. But the U.S. ability to occupy and pacify Iraq or Afghanistan was limited. The very factionalism that made it possible to achieve the first two goals made pacification impossible. Working with one group alienated another in an ongoing balancing act that left U.S. forces vulnerable to some faction motivated to wage war because of U.S. support for another. In Syria, where the secular government was confronting a range of secular and religious but not extremist forces, along with an emerging Islamic State, the Americans were unable to meld the factionalized non-Islamic State forces into a strategically effective force. Moreover, the United States could not make its peace with the al Assad government because of its repressive policies, and it was unable to confront the Islamic State with the forces available.
In a way, the center of the Middle East had been hollowed out and turned into a whirlpool of competing forces. Between the Lebanese and Iranian borders, the region had uncovered two things: First, it showed that the subnational forces were the actual reality of the region. Second, in obliterating the Syria-Iraq border, these forces and particularly the Islamic State had created a core element of the caliphate — a transnational power or, more precisely, one that transcended borders.
The American strategy became an infinitely more complex variation of President Ronald Reagan's policy in the 1980s: Allow the warring forces to war. The Islamic State turned the fight into a war on Shiite heresy and on established nation states. The region is surrounded by four major powers: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey. Each has approached the situation differently. Each of these nations has internal factions, but each state has been able to act in spite of that. Put differently, three of them are non-Arab powers, and the one Arab power, Saudi Arabia, is perhaps the most concerned about internal threats.
For Iran, the danger of the Islamic State is that it would recreate an effective government in Baghdad that could threaten Iran again. Thus, Tehran has maintained support for the Iraqi Shiites and for the al Assad government, while trying to limit al Assad's power.
For Saudi Arabia, which has aligned with Sunni radical forces in the past, the Islamic State represents an existential threat. Its call for a transnational Islamic movement has the potential to resonate with Saudis from the Wahhabi tradition. The Saudis, along with some other Gulf Cooperation Council members and Jordan, are afraid of Islamic State transnationalism but also of Shiite power in Iraq and Syria. Riyadh needs to contain the Islamic State without conceding the ground to the Shiites.
For the Israelis, the situation has been simultaneously outstanding and terrifying. It has been outstanding because it has pitted Israel's enemies against each other. Al Assad's government has in the past supported Hezbollah against Israel. The Islamic State represents a long-term threat to Israel. So long as they fought, Israel's security would be enhanced. The problem is that in the end someone will win in Syria, and that force might be more dangerous than anything before it, particularly if the Islamic State ideology spreads to Palestine. Ultimately, al Assad is less dangerous than the Islamic State, which shows how bad the Israeli choice is in the long run.
It is the Turks — or at least the Turkish government that suffered a setback in the recently concluded parliamentary elections — who are the most difficult to understand. They are hostile to the al Assad government — so much so that they see the Islamic State as less of a threat. There are two ways to explain their view: One is that they expect the Islamic State to be defeated by the United States in the end and that involvement in Syria would stress the Turkish political system. The other is that they might be less averse than others in the region to the Islamic State's winning. While the Turkish government has vigorously denied such charges, rumors of support to at least some factions of the Islamic State have persisted, suspicions in Western capitals linger, and alleged shipments of weaponry to unknown parties in Syria by the Turkish intelligence organization were a dominant theme in Turkey's elections. This is incomprehensible, unless the Turks see the Islamic State as a movement that they can control in the end and that is paving the way for Turkish power in the region — or unless the Turks believe that a direct confrontation would lead to a backlash from the Islamic State in Turkey itself.

The Islamic State's Role in the Region

The Islamic State represents a logical continuation of al Qaeda, which triggered both a sense of Islamic power and shaped the United States into a threat to Islam. The Islamic State created a military and political framework to exploit the situation al Qaeda created. Its military operations have been impressive, ranging from the seizure of Mosul to the taking of Ramadi and Palmyra. Islamic State fighters' flexibility on the battlefield and ability to supply large numbers of forces in combat raises the question of where they got the resources and the training.
However, the bulk of Islamic State fighters are still trapped within their cauldron, surrounded by three hostile powers and an enigma. The hostile powers collaborate, but they also compete. The Israelis and the Saudis are talking. This is not new, but for both sides there is an urgency that wasn't there in the past. The Iranian nuclear program is less important to the Americans than collaboration with Iran against the Islamic State. And the Saudis and other Gulf countries have forged an air capability used in Yemen that might be used elsewhere if needed.
It is likely that the cauldron will hold, so long as the Saudis are able to sustain their internal political stability. But the Islamic State has already spread beyond the cauldron — operating in Libya, for example. Many assume that these forces are Islamic State in name only — franchises, if you will. But the Islamic State does not behave like al Qaeda. It explicitly wants to create a caliphate, and that wish should not be dismissed. At the very least, it is operating with the kind of centralized command and control, on the strategic level, that makes it far more effective than other non-state forces we have seen.
Secularism in the Muslim world appears to be in terminal retreat. The two levels of struggle within that world are, at the top, Sunni versus Shiite, and at the base, complex and interacting factions. The Western world accepted domination of the region from the Ottomans and exercised it for almost a century. Now, the leading Western power lacks the force to pacify the Islamic world. Pacifying a billion people is beyond anyone's capability. The Islamic State has taken al Qaeda's ideology and is attempting to institutionalize it. The surrounding nations have limited options and a limited desire to collaborate. The global power lacks the resources to both defeat the Islamic State and control the insurgency that would follow. Other nations, such as Russia, are alarmed by the Islamic State's spread among their own Muslim populations.
It is interesting to note that the fall of the Soviet Union set in motion the events we are seeing here. It is also interesting to note that the apparent defeat of al Qaeda opened the door for its logical successor, the Islamic State. The question at hand, then, is whether the four regional powers can and want to control the Islamic State. And at the heart of that question is the mystery of what Turkey has in mind, particularly as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's power appears to be declining. 
"A Net Assessment of the Middle East is republished with permission of Stratfor."

Monday, June 8, 2015

Very Cool Pic

A friend posted this over on FB.  The iconic Hotel Del Coronado.  



Dogs Are Cool


My Number One Wish!

I think if I could have one wish that today's media and entertainment industry would accomplish, this would be it.  But I fear this is impossible...



Sometime in the Future...

Now this is pretty weird to think about...


Cool Pic



Good Try

Well...maybe not really a good try.  But he should get a few points for creativity!


Dogs Are Cool!


Motivation Monday

Not sure if this is so much motivating as it is amazing.  Really shows an interesting evolution.  And I guess that it is sorta motivating.


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Hillary

I've said in this space that I plan to link some the best stories about Hillary as we go through the next several months.  There are so many that it's sometimes difficult to choose, but Frank Bruni's column in today's NYT is a cut above.  You can read it here.

The title is "Hillary the Tormentor".  How appropriate.  Here's a good quote:
"And it’s different from politics as usual. It’s politics as a peculiar form of psychological torture, because the Clintons have a way — it’s their trademark — of being the best, most exciting vessel for people’s hopes even as they make those people feel icky about their investment in the couple."
He doesn't talk just about Hillary of course.  Because it's a package deal.  Hillary, Bill, Chelsea, and the Foundation.  Tie them up with a bow.  And the Foundation has done some good stuff.  Frank describes it pretty well.  But then he says what anyone knows who's been paying attention:
"Until you peek inside and behold a convoluted braid of public service and personal aggrandizement, a queasy-making brew of altruism and vanity, a mechanism for employing loyalists and rewarding friends, a bazaar for favor trading. Straightforward admiration is no longer possible." 
So we have a long time to go to the election and more will emerge.  And there are a ton of people who will hold their noses and vote for her because she's a democrat and a woman.  If you're in that category you're probably not reading.  But if you have a brain and possess reason, keep watching her campaign unfold.   It will stink more and more.  It will make you cringe.  Deep down you know that the country doesn't need another Clinton Presidency.  It will only draw us farther apart than Obama has already done.  And if you cringe and vote for her...well then you deserve what you get.

Cool Pic


Sparring Partner

I'm not a boxer, but maybe I should explore the sport.  I'd need a sparring partner...


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Before His Time

This week brought news of the death of Beau Biden, Vice President Joe Biden's son, of brain cancer at the age of 46.  By all accounts Beau was a wonderful human being, a dedicated husband and father, a patriot, and a proud and loving son.  In case you haven't seen a tribute, here's one of the better ones.



Of course, this story has no politics.  You couldn't know Joe Biden's story or see the love between the father and son and not feel the excruciating pain suffered by him and his family.  This was a good man whose life was cut short by that son of a bitch, cancer.

The other obvious thing about this story is the reality of the father presiding at the son's funeral.  That's not how it's supposed to be.  That's not the natural order of things.  But sometimes things happen that are not understandable.  But through all the excruciating stories of pain and heartbreak, you could see the love between the father and the son.  The mutual admiration.

To many people, there is nothing more important than family.  That's obviously the case with the Biden's.  I like to think that's true with me.  I cannot even imagine being in Joe's shoes.  Like I said, it's not the natural order of things.  And when something like this happens it makes you want to hug your loved ones a little tighter.  Fathers and sons sometimes have a special bond.  Not always.  Sometimes there's estrangement, jealously, alienation, etc.  Sometimes families drift apart.  I, I'm sure like Joe, feel extremely fortunate to have a wonderful and loving relationship with both my kids.  And I have a special and unique bond with both of them.  I can so relate to Joe's words about feeling like a success because my kids have done better than me.  When I look at my son, I only have pride and love.  He has become a wonderful man, husband, father and continues to be a loving son.  The tragedy of Beau Biden's death, as unspeakably sad as it is, at least has stimulated in me the feelings of love and pride that I hope my son knows are within me, but we sometimes don't articulate it very well.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Hillary

Man...you just can't make this stuff up.  Another day, another slimy revelation.  Seems the Clinton Foundation has been found to have accepted a large donation (not sure how much but could have been as much as $10M) from an African chruch who likened gay people to the devil.  Oops!  Sorta not in keeping with the image Hillary is trying to project.  But hey, a donation is a donation.  Right?

You can read all about it here.  One interesting thing was that when I first heard about it, I tried to search for it on the net.  Surprise, surprise.  I could find plenty of posts by right-wing blogs.  But nothing on the main stream media.  Nada.  Zip.  Zilch!  But wait...I forgot they are all down at the bar telling each how smart they are and waiting for the coronation.  What was I thinking?

Hllary

So yesterday I put up a post about how outrageous it is that Hillary's goons wouldn't let there be any questions during her visit to Texas Southern University saying "her speech is her interview".  What BS.  I wonder how long she can continue to hide.

Today we hear what the speech was all about.  Here's a snippet of the the meat of the speech.  In a nutshell, it's all about those no good, low-down, minority hating, rich Republicans trying to suppress the vote by thinking that someone ought to have an ID to vote.  I guess she wants to just open the polls and let anyone walk in the door and vote.  I guess that is one way to do it.

You'll hear that she rails on and on in, might I say a very shrill and unattractive manner, about how folks on my side are just trying to suppress the vote of minorities because they will vote Democratic. How about maybe, just maybe, we think the citizenry should take some responsibility if they want to vote.  The argument is that ID's cost too much for poor minorities so voter ID laws are really a poll tax.  That's BS.  All states offer free ID's.  And if someone's schedule is so, so busy that they can't take the time to get one, then people without ID's can cast provisional votes.  And they are given extra time to get the ID.  But beyond that, what is wrong with wanting people to at least take to step to identify themselves if they are going to have the privilege of voting?  I guess the next thing is that the airlines are discriminating against people because we have to produce an ID to get on an airplane.  

It seems to me that the Democrats fundamentally are using this issue to divide us against each other.  And that's a classic Obama tactic.  I guess Hillary believes that's a winning strategy so she's embracing it.  Nice.