Friday, July 31, 2009

Cash for Clunkers is a bureaucratic nightmare

By Donald Sensing

A former car salesman peels the onion on the "cash for clunkers" program and explains why it has basically collapsed under its own weight. The full story is here, my summary is below.

  1. The application per car is 20 pages! Because the information needed requires multiple sourcing, it can take dealers a few days to complete. Meanwhile, they've already credited the customer with the $3,500-$4,500 rebate, which comes out of the dealer's cash flow. Unless there is rapid turnaround by the feds to send the dealers the money, dealer rapidly are running out of cash reserves to float the balances. Basically, the dealers are loaning the government thousands of dollars per transaction.

  2. Dealers have to permanently disable the drive train of the trade-in by pouring a specified solution of sodium silicate into the crankcase. This must be done before the junker can give his required signature. But this solution is in short supply and many dealers have run out.

  3. Applications are completed on the CARS program's web site, but it repeatedly crashes because it can't handle the volume.

  4. Many applications are denied by the feds, but the trade-in "clunker" has to be junked before the application can be submitted. That leaves dealers holding the bag - an empty one. They are asking customers to pay the amount of the refused rebate or turn the car back in - but the customers can't get their trade-in back because it's already been junked. Denial of rebates happens for a wide range of reasons, including a single field on the 20-page application left blank.

But don't worry - Obamacare will be a model of clarity and efficiency. So will cap and trade, you betcha.

See also Prof. Mark Perry's piece, "Cash for Clunkers: 136 Pages of Rules and Regs; How Many Pages for Government Health Care?"

Today the US House approved another $2B for the program. Which does nothing to address the structural, inherent flaws of the program. But that's Congress - any problem can be solved by throwing our money at it. When, oh, when will the government ever learn that it has no money of its own?

HT: Jaxson

Cash for sharpies

By Donald Sensing

Plus, "Honk if I'm paying your car loan"

I posted this morning the confusion surrounding the current status of the "cash for clunkers" program. Through links at Michelle Malkin's site, here are two interesting points about the "Car Allowance Rebate System."

1. Want to buy a new SUV using the program? Here's how: take your eligible trade-in to a car dealer and make a valid deal with the dealer on the cheapest car you can find that qualifies. Say you buy a small Kia for about $12,000, which is what they're being advertised for around my neck of the woods. Your cost is $7,500 ($12K-$4.5K CARS rebate, which the dealer credits to you and then gets reimbursed by the feds).

You have now bought a $12,000 car for $7,500. Immediately sell it privately for $11,000 (one assumes to someone who doesn't have an eligible trade-in to qualify for CARS). You just netted $3,500. Take the $11,000 and make a down payment on the SUV. The taxpayers have just funded your SUV in the amount of $3,500.

2. Yes, there are fraudsters out there making calls, emails and web sites telling you that you must "pre-register" with CARS before going to a dealer, so just call this 800 number or click here to do that, sucker.

But the Dakota Voice site says that the biggest fraud related to the CARS program is, well, the CARS program itself.

Cash for Clunkers fraud didn’t begin with the aforementioned websites; Cash for Clunkers is itself massive fraud perpetrated on the American taxpayer. Their hard-earned tax dollars are being confiscated by the federal government and given to other people to help them buy new cars, all in the name of fixing a problem that doesn’t even exist.

If that’s not fraud, I don’t know what is
The problem that he says doesn't even exist is anthropogenic global warming, for which replacing old, gas-guzzling, high-polluting cars with new, fuel-sipping, low-emissions cars is purportedly part of the answer.

I won't even go that far. I'll just stick with the basic premise: My personal wealth is being coercively taken from me by the government and given to others else so they can buy a new car. What's next, Vegas or Disney World vacations? Preposterous, you say? Why?

Honk if I'm paying your car loan.

Meanwhile, both my wife's and my cars are only five years old and too fuel efficient to qualify for the CARS program (except maybe for the Jetta TDI, which is already sold out), so I can't even participate in order to get my own money back.

The Settlement of all Settlements

By Daniel Jackson

Hey; it's the day after Tisha B'Av; time to get to work. So, as long as the current administration is intent to reset everything back to square one, perhaps it's time to put the biggest "settlement" on the table--the two buildings that are sitting on top of the Temple Mount. You know, the building that Solomon built, rebuilt by Ezra and the Men of the Great Assembly, and expanded by King Herod. The same building that has been the center piece of Jewish liturgy from the time of Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakkai's gathering of the Sages at Yavne in 70 CE.

Am Yisrael wants the Temple rebuilt!( A survey conducted by the Panels Institute revealed that 64 percent of the Israeli public, and half of secular Israelis, want the Temple rebuilt. Ninety-seven percent of respondents knew that the Temple was destroyed on Tisha B'Av (Ninth of Av).

The survey's second question queried the public’s desire to rebuild the Temple. Sixty-four percent responded favorably and 36 percent said no. Analysis of the answers revealed that not hareidi-religious and other religious Jews want to rebuild the Temple, (100 percent and 97 percent respectively), but also the traditional public (91 percent) and many secular Jews (47 percent) do as well.

So, yesterday, during the fast of Tisha B'Av, members of the Temple Institute gathered to begin rebuilding the Mizbe'ach for the Next Temple.

( The Temple Institute began work on the sacrificial altar Thursday, Tisha B’av, the day the Second Temple was destroyed almost 2,000 years ago.

The Temple Institute has already built several of the Temple vessels such as the Ark and the menorah, and has now embarked on an ambitious project to build the altar, which will ultimately measure 3 meters wide by 3 meters long and 2 meters tall.

During Thursday’s ceremony, which took place in Mitzpe Yericho just east of Jerusalem, the Temple Institute laid the cornerstone for the altar and demonstrated how tar will be used to cement the stones together. The Institute plans on bringing the altar to its proper place on the Temple Mount when the Temple is rebuilt.

“Today, Tisha B’av, is not just a time to mourn the destruction of the Temple,” said Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, the head of the Temple Institute. “It is also a time to build.”

So, as long as we're talking final settlements for a lasting peace, let's put rebuilding the Temple against destroying Israel--one open agenda to the other.

Cash for Clunkers a ball of confusion

By Donald Sensing

Has the "Cash for Clunkers" program been suspended? Cancelled? Is it already out of money, or just backlogged so much that the feds don't know how much money they have to send out, or to whom?

Or all of the above?

First, the feds announced that the CARS program ("Car Allowance rebate System," how cute) was out of money. Or at least that was what the media understood because almost all the ledes on Google News about the program say that the programs burned through $1 billion in less than a week. One billion dollars was the Congressional authorization for the program.

But wait - the program's official web site,, says (as of 7.30 a.m. CDT today) that there are still "$779M Estimated funds remaining for all vehicles except for CAT3 Trucks. $75M Estimated funds remaining for CAT3 Trucks."

But that does not tell us whether the program has actually paid out $146 million or whether that is the amount applied for with some still due out. This morning the government is saying that the program has not been suspended.

The NYT, however, indicates that CARS is molasses slow in sending the checks to the dealers, who have already rebated the $3,500-$4,500 to buyers. The dealers send in the paperwork to CARS, which validates the validity of the tradein before sending the money to the dealers.
“I’m waiting for the government to reimburse me for over $80,000,” Barry Magnus, general manager of DCH Paramus Honda, in Paramus, N.J., told us. He has completed deals on about two dozen cars, advancing his customers the rebates of between $3,500 and $4,500 each while he waits for the government to repay him.
So has the program been suspended or has it been ended due to exhaustion of funds? No one knows, even the people running the program. Says the Times writer,
In an unexpected move, the government halted the program, saying it proved so popular with the public that it ran out of money in just four days of official operation. The White House later told us and others on background that the program had not been suspended, but hastened to add that all deals in the hopper before midnight Thursday would be honored — making it sound as if it had been suspended.
My take:
  • the CARS agency was unprepared for the number of applications it would receive.
  • It was neither staffed, equipped nor trained to handle the workload.
  • While CARS probably knows how much money it has actually mailed out ("probably" know, I said) it has no idea how much money is tied up in unprocessed applications
Maybe today they'll figure out how to proceed. And maybe not.

And remember - this is the Congress and administration that wants to handle your health-insurance budget and payments all the time, not just one time. Yeah, that makes me feel good.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Global warming religion

By Donald Sensing

Australian geologist Ian Plimer says that global warming is the new religion of First World urban elites.

It is, of course, not new to have a highly qualified scientist saying that global warming is an entirely natural phenomenon with many precedents in history. ...

But most of these scientific and academic voices have fallen silent in the face of environmental Jacobinism. Purging humankind of its supposed sins of environmental degradation has become a religion with a fanatical and often intolerant priesthood, especially among the First World urban elites. ...

Plimer presents the proposition that anthropogenic global warming is little more than a con trick on the public perpetrated by fundamentalist environmentalists and callously adopted by politicians and government officials who love nothing more than an issue that causes public anxiety.

While environmentalists for the most part draw their conclusions based on climate information gathered in the last few hundred years, geologists, Plimer says, have a time frame stretching back many thousands of millions of years.

The dynamic and changing character of the Earth's climate has always been known by geologists. These changes are cyclical and random, he says. They are not caused or significantly affected by human behaviour.
Plimer is not the first to observe that environmentalism is a religion rather than a science, nor even the first scientist to say so. No less a physicist than Freeman Dyson says so, too.
There is a worldwide secular religion which we may call environmentalism, holding that we are stewards of the earth, that despoiling the planet with waste products of our luxurious living is a sin, and that the path of righteousness is to live as frugally as possible. [from, "The Question of Global Warming."]
Although, if you read the article, Dyson somewhat approves of the religiosity of environmentalism. Plimer's other point, that "global warming" conveniently provides governments with an "issue that causes public anxiety" is also well taken. As I wrote in March ("Crisis is the health of the state") and July ("Emergency driven central planning"), the most common feature of Western governments today, especially that of the United States, is the invention of crises or the exploitation of real ones to solidify government's control and regimentation of the lives of the people.

This is what is really behind religious environmentalism. H.L. Mencken observed, "The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule it." And that is the true foundation of environmentalism today: the desire of its gurus to regulate the way others live. British editorialist
George Monbiot wrote:
We can deal with climate change only with the help of governments, restraining the exertions of our natural liberties.
Dyson wrote that, "Environmentalism has replaced socialism as the leading secular religion." I demur. Environmentalism has not replaced socialism at all. Instead, the old-line socialists, faced with decades of the failure of political socialism, have jumped on the environmentalist bandwagon to keep socialism alive. Environmentalism has become a much better vehicle to achieve a rigid regulation of people's lives than political socialism ever was. After all, the fate of the entire planet is at stake! Environmentalism has already led some British members of Parliament to propose that the government regulate almost every aspect of buying and selling by private individuals. If this is not socialism, it is a distinction without a difference.

So there you are. At bottom, modern environmentalism has discarded scientific rigor to embrace something not much different than Leninism, the desire to control the major components of the way individuals live. From there it is a short step for environmentalism to Leninism's successor: Stalinism, the desire to control
every aspect of the way we live. That's our future, minus the gulags. We hope.

This seems an apt time to quote the old liberals' bumper sticker: "If you're not outraged, you are not paying attention."

Update: Don Blankenship writes, "... 'global warming' is neither a reality nor a religion. It is instead a "superstition." ... A "superstition" is a fear founded on irrational feelings and marked by credulity -- i.e. a willingness to believe in the improbable or the marvelous. "

Also, see, "British Judge Sees Belief in Global Warming as Religion."

Obama imitates Bush

By Donald Sensing

This administration's rehabilitation of George W. Bush continues. Don Surber posts a transcript of a 2004 interview with then Senator-elect Barack Obama complaining that the Patriot Act was rushed through the Congress without being read.

BARACK OBAMA: …When you rush these budgets that are a foot high and nobody has any idea what’s in them and nobody has read them.

RANDI RHODES: 14 pounds it was!

BARACK OBAMA: Yeah. And it gets rushed through without any clear deliberation or debate then these kinds of things happen. And I think that this is in some ways what happened to the Patriot Act. I mean you remember that there was no real debate about that. It was so quick after 9/11 that it was introduced that people felt very intimidated by the administration.
"Well, well, well," says Surber. "Actually he was for careful deliberation until he opposed it."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Say WHAT???

By Donald Sensing

National Journal reports,

Face-lifts, tummy tucks and hair transplants could be hit with a new tax to help finance the trillion-dollar healthcare overhaul plan, according to sources familiar with the Senate talks.

The Senate Finance Committee has discussed imposing a 10 percent excise tax on cosmetic surgery deemed unnecessary for medical purposes. The idea was broached in a meeting with OMB Director Orszag in mid-July, after which Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus told reporters he had heard some "interesting," "creative," and "kind of fun" ideas.
When informed of the plan, Nancy Pelosi was speechless:

If they pass this tax, expect a booming business by practitioners of the mental health professions who will certify the medical necessity of these procedures - for "self esteem" reasons and the like.

Alternatively, Americans will at last have a reason to go to Canada for treatment rather than the other way round.

Update: Don Surber explains that even if the tax is instituted, there's no money in it.

The depths of human depravity

By Donald Sensing

Gerard Van der Leun:

Every time I think I've seen or heard of the depths of human depravity, something like this disabuses me. It is beyond my capacity to imagine a punishment suitable for men who do this, and traffic in it.
What is it that so evokes such a reaction? This.

Sensing receives high honor

By Donald Sensing

From (click for full-size image): "Thomas Sensing Earns ACC Sportsmanship Award"

Not to belabor the obvious, but Thomas is my son. The text is below:

Rising senior selected as top male in the ACC

July 26, 2009

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Rising senior Thomas Sensing earned the 2008-09 ACC Male Sportsmanship Award, which is presented to the student-athlete who best exemplifies sportsmanship.

Sensing, along with Maggie Bernard of Clemson and the North Carolina fencing team, were selected from a group of institutional nominees, which were submitted by Student-Athlete Advisory Committees (SAACs) and their advisors at ACC schools. Winners were determined by a review of the overall ACC SAAC. Each campus has recognized its individual and team nominees.

To be considered, nominees must have demonstrated consistently good sportsmanship and ethical behavior in his/her daily participation in intercollegiate athletics. The student-athlete must have also demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting and be of good academic standing.

Sensing had a tremendous outdoor season, earning a trip to his first NCAA Championships. He also set the school-record in the javelin with a toss of 222-10 en route to a second-place finish at the ACC Championships.

He qualified for his first NCAA Regionals in the javelin, discus and shot put and with his fifth-place finish in the javelin, he qualified for the NCAA Championships.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Up? Down? Who knows?

By Donald Sensing

Dueling news leads on Google News:

For Verizon Wireless, No IPhone Needed To Stay Competitive
Wall Street Journal - Roger Cheng - ‎53 minutes ago‎
NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--It looks like Verizon Wireless doesn't need an iPhone-killer. The carrier did just fine without a true marquee device in the second quarter, withstanding the launch of a new Apple Inc. (AAPL) ...

Verizon 2Q profit falls, tops view, plans job cuts The Associated Press
Buy or sell? "Ya pays yer nickel and takes yer chances."

For the record, it was not I

By Donald Sensing

Glenn Reynolds posts about a "man of the cloth" asking Glenn, "can’t we have something on porn, or at least prostitution? :-)"

Just so you know, I am not the person indicated.

Alas, She Sits In Solitude

By Daniel Jackson

For some time now, Israelis have bided their time with Obama. There has been concern to be sure with his Fractured Fairy Tales version of the history of the Middle East, let alone his free-wheeling style with Syria and Iran. Generally, Israelis have been holding back their assessment of the rookie president until they have more nuanced information about what he is really about.

In the last two weeks, most Israelis have decided there is enough information to make that assessment.

In the Jewish world, this is the period of the Three Weeks. Although there are substantial denominational differences in how this period is observed, the teaching and symbolism of the period is critical. More so in Israel than elsewhere in the Jewish world, everyone in Israel is aware of the meaning of the Three Weeks and the culminating fast of Tisha B'Av, the day of mourning for the destruction of the First and Second Temples (both destroyed on the same day several hundred years apart).

Secular and religious Israeli alike know that on the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, the Roman legions under Titus breached the walls of the Temple to crush the Zealot resistance. In the ensuing hand to hand fighting, fire broke out and the Temple was destroyed. Tradition says the fire burned for several days.

Over the last two millenia, Tisha B'Av has become associated with many collective disasters, pograms, massacres, and exiles of Jews throughout the Diaspora. Each year, varying by denomination and location, Jews gather to read Lamentations, fast, and remember the countless souls who perished keeping alive the promise of return to the Land and the rededication of the Temple in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. They remember how when fury of destruction descended on their communities, friends and secular authorities were no where to be found.

So, in the last several weeks, while Israelis are reminding themselves of how the same allies who helped Judah Maccabbee and family fight and defeat the Selucids later destroyed the Temple to put an end to civil strife in Judea, three events have occured that remind Israelis that it is "the same as it ever was".

First, Hillary proposed to include the US's Middle Eastern allies (oh, yes, Israel, too) under their nuclear umbrella--the missle shield. Ooooooo. Peace will reign forever, SELA!

Second, Mitchell and company, fresh from the Syrian King's court arrives two days before Tisha B'Av to demand that resettling the Land (one of those Biblical directives, don't you know).

Third, Obama, in a knee jerk reaction, called a police officer "stupid" for following correct proceedure.

Now, you must remember that virtually everyone serves, directly or indirectly, in the military here and those connections into the military continue throughout their lives. So, the Israeli take on the missle defense shield pretty much converges on what military experts would say--time to hand out fly swatters with the gas masks. Moreover, Israelis remember all too well how effective the missle shield was in 1991 against the SCUDS. One of my friends asked if this was some form of sick Monica Lewinsky joke.

With the increasing pressure on the current Israeli regime from the US to uproot 300,000 people from suburbia, it is not surprising that the pressure is building up on the other side to be just like Nancy Reagan and "just say no". In the nine days leading up to the fast of Tisha B'Av, religious leaders of most denominations exhort their congregations to feel as if the Temple was being destroyed at this very moment. Here comes Mitchell and Team Obama in their very best Imperial Strut to inform Israel that it MUST lay down its arms, accept a terrorist state next door, and authorize a pogram or two to expunge Jews from the Land. No wonder the head of the Sephardic world community, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is calling on Israelis to re-evaluate their connections with the US.

But, it is the last slip of the tongue that is most revealing for Israelis. Israelis know what it means to keep your cool in the heat of the moment. They know real politicians keep their true partisanship close to the chest. Dumping on a police officer for doing his duty as "stupid" just won't work. With that comment, Israelis sat up and took note. Obama was elected on the assumption that racial distinctions did not matter--a black president would defend the laws of the land like any other person. Race, religion, party affiliation, country of origin simply no longer mattered; from now on, it would only be process.

In that unguarded moment, and Israelis had a chilling look at the young emperor--racial types do matter--all cops hate blacks and act stupidly regardless of their professionalism or training or the situation. In the heat of the moment, Obama showed he is not above the racial divide. Whatever he may have said during the campaign, those words were simply part of the emperor's clothes.

As Israelis reflect on the meaning and lessons of Tisha B'Av, it does not take much in the way of Talmudic reasoning to apply these three benchmarks to what lies ahead. Assurances of longstanding US commitments to Israel become hollow campaign babble covering up how difficult "you Jews" are and "you people" must change. Israelis don't believe such cant; but, during the Three Weeks, these three things assume a timeless Biblical prophetic tale of destruction.

Alas--she sits in solitude! The city that was great with people has become like a widow. The greatest among nations, the princess among provinces, has become a tributary.

She weeps bitterly in the night and her tear is on her cheek. She has no comforter from all her paramours; all her friends have betrayed her, they have become her enemies. (Lamentations 1:1-2)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ah, it takes me back

By Donald Sensing

These are Canadian gunners firing their M777s in Afghanistan. The howitzers fire 155mm projectiles (diameter). Each weighs about 95 pounds.

Right - me in 1977 at a direct-fire exercise in Korea. Not a good view of the 105mm howitzers behind me. The crews loved direct firing because it was always done with maximum propellant charges and it was the only time they got to see the projectile explode. And it was loud.

The recoil of the guns was terrific. Even though they were spiked into the ground at center of mass, they would displace upward and back a great deal. I thought one was going to flip over backwards on one shot. That the ground was soft from recent rains didn't help matters.

I served in only one towed-artillery unit, 1st Battalion, 38th Field Artillery in 2d US Infantry Division in Korea (pic). It was then equipped with M102A1 towed guns, 105mm. Those are no longer in service and the battalion is now equipped with Multiple Launch Rocket Systems. I served as operations officer of a MLRS battalion, 3/27 FA, a unit of XVIII Airborne Corps Artillery, in the late 1980s. Other than that, all my artillery time was spent in self-propelled units, both 155mm and 8-inch. Of them all, only the 155mm gun and the MLRS still are in active service.

As you can tell from the photo above, the Army of 1977 resembled Eisenhower's Army more than Petraeus's force. We had crappy radios. GPS didn't exist, so we navigated solely by map, compass and terrain association (and got really darn good at it, too). We calculated ballistic firing data manually (the "stubby pencil" drill) using slide rules ("GFTs" in the parlance). Our field uniforms were designed to look good starched with spit-shined boots, not for convenience and utilitarianism as they are now. We still wore helmets dating to early World War II. In fact, we were still firing ammunition made during that war.

Yes, we had it tough! But if you try to tell the young troops of today that, they don't believe you.

Record temps around the world

By Donald Sensing

But they are record lows - whether south or north of the equator, whether in summer or winter.

Let's start with here in the States: "Record low temperatures in 31 states. New records: 183 + Tied: 73 = Total: 256"

We had two record lows here in Clarksville, Tenn., last week, as well as a record high - record lowest high, that is.

In Peru, winter temps historically have arrived in June, but this year came in March. And almost 250 children younger than five froze to death.

In New Zealand there was just the coldest May on record and the second coldest June.

In May it snowed southwest of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

New Arctic ice this season is twice as thick as normal.

Record lows were recorded across Australia in April.

This and more world weather news from The Next Ice Age Now.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What is equality?

By Donald Sensing

George Will nails it: equality in the minds of statists is "understood as a more equal dependence of almost everyone on government for almost everything."

Makes me recall Churchill's definition of socialism, "the equal sharing of miseries."

Wanna see something really scary?

By Donald Sensing

This may be the most frightening page on the whole internet. Read it at your own risk.

Taking Leave of Their Senses

By Daniel Jackson

The Kingdom of Jordan has taken leave of whatever sense it has. The Jerusalem Post today is reporting that the Kingdom has figured out how to deal with Jordan's Palestinian problem.

Jordanian authorities have started revoking the citizenship of thousands of Palestinians living in Jordan to avoid a situation in which they would be "resettled" permanently in the kingdom, Jordanian and Palestinian officials revealed on Monday.

This is the Alfred E. Newman school of domestic affairs. Palestinian problem? Palestinians? We don't got no Palestinians.

It's an elegant solution--simply change the administrative headings, revoke some citizenships--okay, up to 70%--and viola. No more Palestinians here. It is an interesting conclusion to the saga of Transjordan that culminated in 1988 when the previous King of Jordan washed his hands of what is now the west bank of the Jordan river--before that they were one national entity (before that, they were a poor province of the Ottoman Empire).

Several Jordanian government officials, they said, are convinced that Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman are secretly working toward turning Jordan into a Palestinian state.

As a preemptive measure, the Jordanian authorities recently began revoking the citizenship of thousands of Palestinians, leaving many of them in a state of panic and uncertainty regarding the future.

The Jordanians have justified the latest measure by arguing that it's aimed at avoiding a situation in which the Palestinians would ever be prevented from returning to their original homes inside Israel.

Since 1988, when the late King Hussein cut off his country's administrative and legal ties with the West Bank, the Jordanian authorities have been working toward "disengaging" from the Palestinians under the pretext of preserving their national identity.

That decision, said Jordan's Interior Minister Nayef al-Kadi, was taken at the request of the PLO and the Arab world to consolidate the status of the PLO as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

"Our goal is to prevent Israel from emptying the Palestinian territories of their original inhabitants," the minister explained, confirming that the kingdom had begun revoking the citizenship of Palestinians.

"We should be thanked for taking this measure," he said. "We are fulfilling our national duty because Israel wants to expel the Palestinians from their homeland."

Kadi said that, despite the new policy, Palestinians would be permitted to retain their status as residents of the kingdom by holding "yellow ID cards" that are issued to those who have families and homes in the West Bank.

He said that Palestinians working for the Palestinian Authority or the PLO were among those who have had their Jordanian passports taken from them, in addition to anyone who did not serve in the Jordanian army.

The Jordanian minister said that the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank had been notified of the decision to revoke the Jordanian citizenship of Palestinians.

So, in effect, Kadi is simply following in the tradition of the best of Byzantine politicians. Blame the Jews (Israelis) for thinking up a devious scheme (they ARE devils, don't you know) and, then, respond in kind by flooding the Palestinian Authority with exiles from Jordan! This is politics of the Levant at its best--sort of up there with Ferdinand's decision to exile the entire economic and scientific sector of Catholic Spain in one move.

"We should be thanked." Now this is chutzpah, indeed.

Asked by the London-based Al-Hayat daily where the Palestinians should go after they lose their Jordanian passports, the minister replied: "We're not expelling anyone, nor are we revoking the citizenship of Jordanian nationals. We are only correcting the mistake that was created after Jordan's disengagement from the West Bank [in 1988]. We want to highlight the true identity and nationality of every person."

Kadi claimed that the kingdom was seeking, through the new measure, to thwart an Israeli "plot" to transfer more Palestinians to Jordan with the hope of replacing it with a Palestinian state.

"We insist that Jordan is not Palestine, just as Palestine is not Jordan," he stressed. "We will continue to help the Palestinians hold on to their Palestinian identity by pursuing the implementation of the 1988 disengagement plan from the West Bank."

Sort of like saying the Rheinland is for Germans with just a minor correction to prior errors in the Treaty of Versailles. Now, as then, the process begins with a simple redefinition of a person's identity--simply define them out of existence.

Let's hope that this is as far as it goes.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sleep soundly - Clinton's on the job!

By Donald Sensing

Hey, Kim! I'm just going to ignore you from now on!

This just takes your breath away: "Clinton likens North Korea to unruly children."

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said North Korea should not receive the attention it is seeking through behavior like missile launches and likened Pyongyang's behavior to that of unruly children.

North Korea tested a nuclear device in May and fired seven ballistic missiles earlier this month in defiance of a U.N. resolution.

"What we've seen is this constant demand for attention," Clinton, who is in India, said in an interview that aired on Monday on ABC's "Good Morning America."

"And maybe it's the mother in me or the experience that I've had with small children and unruly teenagers and people who are demanding attention -- don't give it to them, they don't deserve it, they are acting out," she said.
Where on earth to begin? This is a shockingly unserious statement. It forms practically a dismissal of the nuclear threat North Korea poses. Shivering chills must have run down the backs of the leaders of South Korea, Japan and China, too.

Oh, that nuclear blast? That's just those darn teenagers acting out again. Ignore them and maybe they won't flatten another city.

Meanwhile, they're clapping their hands with glee in Pyongyang.

Sure, Hill, the Norks are just like - how did you put it? - "unruly teenagers and people who are demanding attention." Yeah, the ones who run around the house with baseball bats, smashing the dishes and lamps, spray painting the walls and setting the furniture afire. Then they steal your car and cut doughnuts on your lawn, your neighbors' lawns and your church's before heading over to the local school to heave rocks through the windows.

Just ignore 'em and they'll come home, since obviously all they want is "attention."

But it gets worse.
Clinton also downplayed the threat that North Korea poses to the United States, saying: "They don't pose a threat to us. We know that our allies, Japan and South Korea, are very concerned."
Hey Japan? South Korea? You're on your own. The strategic blindness of this woman beggars belief. First, the threat the DPRK poses to South Korea and Japan is a threat to us. They are the two most powerful free nations in the western Pacific. Japan has the world's second-largest economy. It is a major maritime world power, carrying out important sea-security missions in the Pacific and Indian oceans, including counter-piracy missions off the Gulf of Aden. Clinton, who made these comments while still in India, seems unaware that India and Japan signed a security pact in October of last year. So I imagine that India's government is dumbfounded at the silliness of these remarks, but maybe not all that much since they already told Hillary to get stuffed when she begged India to wreck its economy by signing on to Obamanomics.

Japan's merchant fleet is the largest in the world, accounting for 12 percent of the world's shipping tonnage. South Korea's shipping fleet is the world's sixth-largest, two spots (the US fleet is eighth largest). While North Korea poses, at present, little direct threat to these very large fleets, the SecState would do well to consider that only three percent of America's imported consumer goods arrive in US-flagged ships. Japan's and S. Korea's commercial fleets are critical to America's economy.

Can the secretary of state possibly imagine that North Korean military moves against either Japan or South Korea could leave America watching from the sidelines? We have significant military and naval forces stationed in the two countries. It would be impossible for military action against either country not to involve US forces. So just how does Clinton think that N. Korea does not pose a threat to us?

But according to Mrs. Clinton, raising Chelsea was just like dealing with a tyrannical, insular, just plain whacko North Korean regime. Who knew Chelsea was so tough a kid? "Hey, no problem with these Norks! I was a mom! I know how to handle them! I'll take away their car keys until they behave."

Try to imagine, please, just for a moment, that McCain-Palin had won last November and it was Sarah Palin who had uttered such lunacy. Then try to imagine (this won't be hard) the brutality of the attacks that would be hurled her way. But Hill will get a pass.

Yes, indeed, "the country's in the very best of hands."

Update: The UK Telegraph shows why this, Hillary's latest beclownment, is just part of a continuing trend.
Her flagship speech last week at the Council on Foreign Relations was not only exceedingly dull, but devoid of any clear foreign policy strategy that actually advances the US national interest. Meaningless catchphrases like “multi-partner world”, “new architecture of global cooperation” and “creative partnerships for development” sound like the kind of pointless drivel printed off the presses in Brussels on a daily basis, and are not the hallmark of the most powerful nation on the face of the earth.
... the former first lady rarely makes headlines on policy questions. She has gone from fiery senator and presidential contender to increasingly marginalized run of the mill bureaucrat.

Apollo 11's UFO encounter

By Donald Sensing

Did Apollo 11's crew encounter a UFO en route to the moon?

Aldrin, however, says that the video was heavily and very selectively edited. What really happened was this: the crew saw the object outside their spacecraft and asked Houston the location of the Supplemental Rocket Booster, SRB, a small rocket used to help the spacecraft achieve escape velocity. It was then ejected from the assembly and fell away. Houston answered that the SRB was several thousand miles away, having tracked it by radar.

The Examiner recounts the rest of the story as recounted by NASA senior scientist David Morrison.

In an interview on the Science Channel..., Aldrin stated that he, Neil Armstrong, and Mike Collins saw unidentified objects that appeared to follow their Apollo spacecraft.

To get the story straight, I called Buzz Aldrin, who was happy to explain what happened. He said that his remarks were taken out of context to reverse his meaning. It is true that the Apollo 11 crew spotted an unidentified object moving with the spacecraft as they approached the Moon. After they verified that this mystery object was not Apollo 11’s large rocket upper stage, which was about 6,000 miles away by then, they concluded that they were seeing one of the small panels that had linked the spacecraft to the upper stage (any part of the spacecraft’s rocket upper stage will continue to move alongside the spacecraft, as both are floating in free-fall).

These panels were too small to track from Earth and were relatively close to the Apollo spacecraft. Aldrin told me that they chose not to discuss this on the open communications channel since they were concerned that their comments might be misinterpreted. His entire explanation about identifying the panels was cut from the broadcast interview, giving the impression that the Apollo 11 crew had seen a UFO. Aldrin told me that he was angry about the deceptive editing and asked the Science Channel to correct the intentional twisting of his remarks, but they refused. Later, Aldrin explained what happened on CNN’s Larry King Live (left, bottom) but was nearly cut off by the host before he could finish.
That being put to bed, I personally would like a learned explanation of what the white dot is in this clip of an Apollo command module orbiting the moon (not the Apollo 11 mission, I think it is of Apollo 10). The clip is only seven seconds; look immediately to the left of the CM at the very beginning. A white dot moves upward and off the screen.

Piece of space junk? Probably. But weird, whaever it is.

Health care bill is defining the future

By Donald Sensing

The president's future, that is. The Anchoress' posts, "No, you can’t see the numbers; the King is a Fink."

So, the White House is not going to give us taxpayers a timely updateon the nation’s money and employment situation.

They’re just gonna “hold that information back” until Congress goes into recess.

They’re just gonna keep everyone in the dark until they muscle through his unpopular Healthcare legislation – that 1,000-page, unread, undebated document – that will push our deficit into unbearable territory, give the government unprecedented control over our lives and will quickly render healthcare in America unrecognizable, for must of us, although the politicians will do alright.

I think that Obama and his inner circle realize that if they can't get this package, or something very close to it, passed then they will be faced with the fact that Obama, barely more than a half-year into his first term, will basically be a lame duck.

It's dawning on a lot of Dems in Congress that there is little public support for this bill, and what there is, is shrinking rapidly, according to polls.

At bottom, no one in Congress is going to risk his seat on this bill.

We may get a bill of some kind, but if so it will be a greatly watered down version of the Obama plan. That won't make it better, of course, but it won't be Obama's, either. After that, he'll have not much truck with Dems in Congress, who will enjoy the freedom of running away from the White House, even to the point that in some tossup seats next year, we'll see some Dems running against Obama as much as their Republican opponents.

"Emergency driven central planning"

By Donald Sensing

I posted last March that "Crisis is the health of the state," a trend of American government started by FDR and embraced by presidents of both parties right to this very day.

We are now living in a permanent state of emergency, according to our Washington overlords. They are not going to waste this crisis, and rest assured there will be many more to come that they won't waste, either. And the only solution we'll be offered will one that regulates our lives at an ever-increasing rate, growing the power of government at our monetary and political expense.

Once again: I am left with nauseating near-conviction that I am a member of the last generation in the history of the world that is minimally truly free.
Continuing this line of thought, I observed later that "Washington does not do crisis management. It does management by crisis."

Come now Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie, writing in the WaPo of the crumbling disarray of President Obama's signature programs.
Barely six months into his presidency, Barack Obama seems to be driving south into that political speed trap known as Carter Country: a sad-sack landscape in which every major initiative meets not just with failure but with scorn from political allies and foes alike.
The president's approval rating stands at 57 percent, down 11 points from April. And exactly the same percentage of Americans think that the country is on the wrong track.

Rasmussen's daily tracking poll reveals that while 30 percent of Americans strongly approve of the president's job performance, a whopping seven percent more strongly disapprove.
Voters see cost, not universal coverage, as the biggest health care concern. ... Half (50%) now oppose creation of a public insurance company to compete with private insurers. Seventy-eight percent (78%) believe that health care reform is likely to lead to middle class tax hikes.
Welch and Gillespie continue,
From a lousy cap-and-trade bill awaiting death in the Senate to a health-care reform agenda already weak in the knees to the failure of the stimulus to deliver promised jobs and economic activity, what once looked like a hope-tastic juggernaut is showing all the horsepower of a Chevy Cobalt. ...
Obama seems determined to reprise the worst traits of both Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush (rare is the politician who can manage that!) while ignoring the best traits of Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan in economic policy. And for that matter, ignoring JFK, too. (In fact, I actually started a post category called Bush Rehab to show the ways that the new boss is the same as the old boss, but gave up after only four posts. I couldn't keep up. Glenn Reynolds, however, has here and here.)
The key to understanding Obama's predicament is to realize that while he ran convincingly as a repudiation of Bush, he is in fact doubling down on his predecessor's big-government policies and perpetual crisis-mongering. From the indefinite detention of alleged terrorists to gays in the military to bailing out industries large and small, Obama has been little more than the keeper of the Bush flame. Indeed, it took the two of them to create the disaster that is the 2009 budget, racking up a deficit that has already crossed the historic $1 trillion mark with almost three months left in the fiscal year. ...

What the new president has not quite grasped is that the American people understand both irony and cognitive dissonance. Instead, Obama has mistaken his personal popularity for a national predilection toward emergency-driven central planning. He doesn't get that Americans prefer the slower process of building political consensus based on reality, and at least a semblance of rational deliberation rather than one sky-is-falling legislative session after another.

On this last point, Obama is a perfect extension of Bush's worst trait as president. In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Bush administration pushed through the Patriot Act, a massive, transformative piece of legislation that plainly went unread even as Congress overwhelmingly voted aye. Bush whipped up an atmosphere of crisis every time he sensed a restive Congress or a dissatisfied electorate. And at the end of his tenure, he rammed through the TARP bailout at warp speed, arguing that the United States yet again faced catastrophe at the hands of an existential threat.
I predicted as much the very day after Obama took office:
Big government is itself apolitical. It cares not whose party is in power. It simply continues to grow. Its nourishment is the people’s money. Its excrement is more and more regulations and laws. Like the Terminator, "that’s what it does, that’s all it does." Roosevelt, Bush, Obama: we're a day into Terminator 3 now, and you know how that movie ends.
The fact that there is no threat actually existing, no crisis actually imperiling America to justify the robbery of sovereignty from the American people that this administration is committing is not slowing the thievery in the slightest. As the WaPo piece points out:
But contrary to the dreams of dystopians and paranoiacs everywhere, there simply is no outside threat to the American way of life. No country can challenge us militarily; no economic system stands to dislodge capitalism; no terrorist group can do anything more than land the occasional (if horrendous) blow. And as history has shown, the U.S. economy is resilient enough to overcome the worst-laid plans from the White House.

Bush learned the hard way that running government as a perpetual crisis machine leads to bad policy and public fatigue. Obama's insistence on taking advantage of a crisis to push through every item on the progressive checklist right now is threatening to complete that cycle within his first year.
We've been had for so long by so many that we have come to think it is the norm. Whether we will - or can - wake up in time to save what's left of the American ideal is still an open question.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

India to Obama: no sale

By Donald Sensing

Hillary Clinton went to India to persuade the government there to sign on to the Obama administration's drastic and economically crushing agenda to stop "global warming" (or "climate change" or whatever they're calling it now).

India's response? Get stuffed.

July 20 (Bloomberg) -- India won’t bend to demands from the Obama administration or threats from the U.S. Congress to adopt legally binding caps on its carbon emissions, the country’s environment minister told visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday.

“There is simply no case for the pressure” the U.S. is exerting, considering India produces among the lowest per capita emissions in the world, Minister Jairam Ramesh told Clinton during an unexpected discussion of climate negotiations during an event intended to showcase U.S.-Indian cooperation on clean energy at a “green” office building outside New Delhi.

“As if this pressure was not enough, we also face the threat of carbon tariffs on our exports to countries such as yours,” Ramesh said, referring to a climate-change bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on June 26 that imposes tariffs on exports from countries that refuse to adopt greenhouse gas controls by 2020.
Gaius at BCB writes the obvious epitaph:
This was a very clear slap at Obama and at the US House of Representatives and their crap and tax bill. It is also a very clear signal about how the rest of the world sees Obama.

He is not “resetting” anything. He is perceived as a weakling. Otherwise, India would never have blindsided the US secretary of state this way.
Hard to argue that. But I thought everyone would love us now! And this despite that fact that Hillary started off by crawling on her belly like a cold reptile apologizing for the way America has ruined the world until now.

Let there be

By Donald Sensing

The Daily Mail (UK, not Don Surber's outfit):

Andrew Parker is a leading scientist in his field: a research fellow at Oxford University, research leader at the Natural History Museum, and as if that weren't enough, a professor at Shanghai's Jiao Tong university.

As a scientist he never paid much heed to the Book of Genesis, assuming, like most of his colleagues, that such primitive mythology - which is believed to have been compiled from several sources between 950 and 500 BC - has long since been 'disproved' by hard scientific fact.

But after his Sistine Chapel moment, he went back to look at Genesis in more detail. And what he read astonished him. It was even, he says, 'slightly scary'.

Somehow - God alone knew how - the writer or writers of that ancient text had described how the evolution of life on earth took place in precise detail and perfect order.
Just a coincidence? Perhaps. But as they say, a coincidence is when God works a miracle anonymously.

"If America socializes medicine . . .

By Donald Sensing

... where will Canadians go?"

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Please bring back global warming!

By Donald Sensing

A Minneapolis blogger, commenting on the abnormally cool weather there, pleads for global warming to return.

Today, walking down the street in downtown Minneapolis at 5:30, en route from my office to my parking ramp, I saw something I've never seen before: a man wearing a winter coat in July. Well, maybe not quite a winter coat, but definitely a fall/winter semi-parka with an unzipped, faux-fur lined hood. He was carrying a briefcase and looked like a businessman who was tired of being cold every time he went outdoors. In the summer.

I personally don't think that we (all of humankind, let alone we Americans) can control the weather, but for those who do think we possess that Godlike power, here's a request: can we turn the thermostat up a little?
Here in Tennessee, the low last night was about 54 where I live; we slept with the windows open and the AC off. NO AC today, either, since the high is forecast for only 75. It has a long way to go as I type this at 11:15 a.m. - and this is July, heretofore an insufferably hot, humid month.

But we can still blame it on global warming, right? Well, no, since that hasn't been happening since 1998. So let's blame it on climate change - yeah, that's it, climate change!

McNair killer bought gun from convicted murderer

By Donald Sensing

Adrian Gilliam, Jr., 33, convicted of second-degree murder in Florida in 1993, sold Saleh Kazemi the pistol she used to shoot Steve McNair four times before firing a fifth shot into her own head on July 4.

Gilliam was released in 2002. He bought the gun from a friend about two years ago, then sold it to Kazemi on July 2 in the parking lot of the mall where she worked.

Because of his prior convictions, Gilliam is facing 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines for possession of the pistol. Private sale of a firearm is not illegal in Tennessee, but because Kazemi was only 20, Gilliam may be charged with selling a gun to person not yet 21.

Gilliam has had no brushes with the law since being released from prison. The Tennessean has more.

The Jennings brand does not fare well in comments on this firearms forum. Sadly, the one that Kazemi bought managed to work well enough to complete her deadly plan.

What happened to the quagmire?

By Donald Sensing

Well, good question:

Notice how there was no “antiwar” movement during the ‘90’s, even though we were at war the entire time in Iraq, Haiti, Kosovo, a dab here and there in Afghanistan and Sudan. Then, after 9/11, it was the “Next Vietnam” with a passionate “antiwar” movement with the NYT’s full treasonous participation, just like the good old days. And now, even though the daily death count has matched the highest daily rate we ever saw in Iraq, there is no “antiwar” movement or daily casualty count in all the newspapers. It’s like the “antiwar” movement can be turned off and on like a switch, depending on which party is in the White House.

What’s the “exit strategy” for Afghanistan? Having been there, I must ask: what’s the strategy for Afghanistan, period?
Update - link fixed.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Choice controls

By Donald Sensing

The Center for Medicine in the Public Interest:

That healthcare reform bill just released by Democratic House leaders calls for a public insurance option which would negotiate rates directly with providers, including drug firms.

It's in Subtitle B Section 224, which says: "The Secretary also has authority to negotiate prescription drug prices for the public option."

Direct negotiations? For some things to consider, see today’s edition of the the Washington Examiner .

"Direct negotiations" means price controls. And price controls = choice control

We're still a wealthy country

By Donald Sensing

When there's money to fund this academic study, we can't be as bad off as people think: "Rating attractiveness: study finds consensus among men, not women."

Hot or not? Men agree on the answer. Women don’t.

There is much more consensus among men about whom they find attractive than there is among women, according to a new study by Wake Forest University psychologist Dustin Wood.

The study, co-authored by Claudia Brumbaugh of Queens College, appears in the June issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

“Men agree a lot more about who they find attractive and unattractive than women agree about who they find attractive and unattractive,” says Wood, assistant professor of psychology. “This study shows we can quantify the extent to which men agree about which women are attractive and vice versa.”

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Stupid iPhone tricks

By Donald Sensing

Here's a list and explanation of possibly the dumbest, most pointless iPhone apps ever conceived. Like this one:

1. iNap@Work

Developer: SilentLogic Studios
Price: $0.99

This app promises to generate random office sounds -- mouse clicks, keyboard taps, pencil sharpeners, coughs, and rustling paper -- to give power-nappers some cover. Little sliders are supposed to control your "productivity" level and the frequency of each sound.

In our tests, however, the noises were a little too random to sound convincing. Besides, which is worse: to get caught napping, or to get caught using a lame iPhone app to pretend that you aren't?
Oh, yeah, that'll work.

But this one is on my must-have list:

This is the BulletFlight app. "It can determine the effects of windage, distance, air pressure, humidity and temperature, which makes dialing in the position of the scope’s crosshairs far easier. Think different, and then take the perfect shot." Just what every plinker needs.

Gee, yuh think?

By Donald Sensing

Steve Chapman on the administration's plans to take over health care:

Some statements are inherently unbelievable. Such as: "I am an official of the government of Nigeria, and I would like to deposit $60 million in your bank account." Or: "I'm Barry Bonds, and I thought it was flaxseed oil." And this new one: "I'm Barack Obama, and I favor more competition in health insurance." ...

There are reasons, though, to think that the president's real enthusiasm is not for competition but for government expansion.
That's what we call a BGOO - a Blinging Glimpse Of the Obvious.

Somehow, Steve concludes, no matter the problem, "the administration proposes the same solution: more federal spending and a bigger federal role."

When all you have is a hammer, etc.

"What is not forbidden is required"

By Donald Sensing

That was how someone once described life in the old Soviet Union, a few decades ago. The state tells you what you may not do on the one hand, and what you must do on the other. Personal freedom? Fugeddaboudit.

So it should be with some trepidation that we digest the first paragraph of this AP story: "House bill would make health care a right."
WASHINGTON (AP) - House Democratic leaders, pledging to meet the president's goal of health care legislation before their August break, are offering a $1.5 trillion plan that for the first time would make health care a right and a responsibility for all Americans.
Italics added. Note well that the Democrat party is clear that the government should take over the administration of health care for every American. This they have plainly stated. Now they want to make it a right. What that means is that you will get only the health care that they decide to give you. That is, your right will be not to health care per se, not to health care in itself, but only the health care that the government deems affordable, necessary and proper for you. What does this mean for certain kinds of people? Well, the elderly will find themselves getting shut out (as they already are in Britain).

And don't forget that they say health care is also a responsibility. Whose responsibility? Why yours, of course. So to receive government-funded and -controlled health care, there will be certain standards we will have to meet. For example, will we have the "right" to health care only as long as we take "responsibility" to merit it? That would mean, oh, let's see: exercising in government-approved ways and standards, maintaining a government-approved weight, no smoking, limited alcohol intake, limited intake of certain foods, such as fast foods. (Driving fast food restaurants out of business is not exactly a hidden agenda of the health Left.) And more - what about refraining from risky activities such as motorcycling, skydiving, or certain kinds of boating?

Because health care is such a huge chunk of the American economy - closing in on 20 percent of all spending - the duality of us having a right to health care only as long as we prove we are responsible enough to receive it is a despot's dream formula for controlling almost every aspect of our lives.

No wonder that psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Szasz wrote, "Universal Health Care Isn't Worth Our Freedom."
The idea that every life is infinitely precious and therefore everyone deserves the same kind of optimal medical care is a fine religious sentiment and moral ideal. As political and economic policy, it is vainglorious delusion. Rich and educated people not only receive better goods and services in all areas of life than do poor and uneducated people, they also tend to take better care of themselves and their possessions, which in turn leads to better health. The first requirement for better health care for all is not equal health care for everyone but educational and economic advancement for everyone ...

If we persevere in our quixotic quest for a fetishized medical equality we will sacrifice personal freedom as its price. We will become the voluntary slaves of a "compassionate" government that will provide the same low quality health care to everyone.

Henry David Thoreau famously remarked, "If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life." Thoreau feared a single, unarmed man approaching him with such a passion in his heart. Too many people now embrace the coercive apparatus of the modern state professing the same design.
If he can quote Thoreau, I can quote de Tocqueville:
The sovereign extends its arms about the society as a whole; it covers its surface with a network of petty regulations—complicated, minute, and uniform—through which even the most original minds and the most vigorous souls know not how to make their way… it does not break wills; it softens them, bends them, and directs them; rarely does it force one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting on one’s own … it does not tyrannize, it gets in the way: it curtails, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupefies, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.
I wrote last February in, "How Democracies Perish," that if you know how to use free corn to capture a herd of wild pigs, then you know how to confiscate freedom from the American people. And this administration is printing money and passing legislation to give away all the free corn it wants to. The question is, will we decide to be hungry occasionally but roam free or will we surrender our freedom to get government freebies?

The tragedy is that we are, as a nation, willingly surrendering an enormous level of our freedom to gain a little level of health care. We should remember, as Ben Franklin warned in 1775, if we give up liberty to obtain security, we will find ourselves with neither.

Because one day the free corn will run out. But we'll still be trapped.

Update: In fact, the administration's plan is to push private health insurors out of business altogether, leaving everyone dependent upon the government. Surely you are not surprised.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Michael Jackson murdered?

By Donald Sensing

CBS News has this headline: "Report: Cops Think Jackson Homicide Victim."

(CBS) Los Angeles police are treating Michael Jackson's death as a homicide, and the pop icon's cardiologist is the focus of their probe, according to celebrity Web site, which cites what it calls "multiple law enforcement sources."
Right there you know that the cops have not determined whether Jackson's death is a homicide or not.

Once again: when police come to the scene of an unattended death (meaning a death outside a hospital or hospice, basically), they follow protocols of scene processing and investigation that are intended to preserve evidence and points of potential avenues of investigation.

There is no such thing as "treating the death as a homicide." They are treating the death as "unexplained" and are following strict procedures to give them the best chance of making a determination of the cause of death and the manner of death.

Cause of death: the physiological event that ended the life. Manner of death: the pathologist's determination of whether the death resulted from illness or injury or cannot be determined. Injury can be self-inflicted, either by accident or intention, or inflicted by another, also either by accident or intention.

CBS continues:
The official autopsy results aren't due out until at least next week, "Early Show" national correspondent Hattie Kauffman pointed out Wednesday, but TMZ says, "The evidence points to the anesthesia Propofol as the primary cause of Jackson's death. As we first reported, vials of Propofol were found in Jackson's home after he died. Jackson's home after he died."

"Law enforcement sources say there is already 'plenty of powerful evidence' linking Dr. Murray as the person who administered the drug to Jackson," TMZ continued, including "various items found in Jackson's house, including the Propofol, an IV stand and oxygen tank."
With the autopsy results not finished, no determination can yet be made as to the cause of death. Without that, no determination can be made as to the manner of death.

Now, the cops may suspect Jackson was killed by another, either intentionally or not. But every cop is taught over and over that suspicion is not evidence. That certain things about the case "don't add up" simply offers a new avenue of investigation, but without finding actual evidence, that avenue of suspicion goes nowhere.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

North Korea: What we have got and they have not

By Donald Sensing

The top US general in Korea says that US and South Korean forces can handle "anything North Korea can throw at us."

In December 2002 I posted an analysis of the military situation on the Korean peninsula. I served there with the 2d US Infantry Division from 1977-1978. That division is now a mechanized division, considerably heavier and more powerful than the "straight leg" division it was when I was there.

Below is my copy and paste of that 2002 essay. It's still the case today, I think. Links were valid at the time of original posting. I called it, "What we have got that they have not."

What has the Battle on Omdurman in Sudan, 1898, got to do with a potential new war in Korea? Bear with me. In Sept. 1898, British troops under Sir Herbert Kitchener destroyed the Islamic Dervish army in Sudan in the Battle of Omdurman. The battle was exceedingly one-sided. The weapons and tactics of the Dervishes could not compete with British supply, weapons and tactics. (The Dervishes were the successor to the army under the Islamic Mahdi, which had driven the British out of Sudan 14 years earlier.) Winston Churchill, who fought in the battle, wrote that after the fighting, Sir Kitchener concluded the Dervishes had been given "a good dusting," so he ordered the British troops to break off the engagement.

Meanwhile the great Dervish army, which had advanced at sunrise in hope and courage, fled in utter rout, pursued by the Egyptian cavalry, harried by the 21st Lancers, and leaving more than 9,000 warriors dead and even greater numbers wounded behind them. Thus ended the Battle of Omdurman - the most signal triumph ever gained by the arms of science over barbarians.

Within the space of five hours the strongest and best-armed savage army yet arrayed against a modern European Power had been destroyed and dispersed, with hardly any difficulty, comparatively small risk, and insignificant loss to the victors.[Editor's Note: The Dervish Army, approximately 52,000 strong, suffered losses of 20,000 dead, 22,000 wounded, and some 5,000 taken prisoner--an unbelievable 90% casualty rate! By contrast, the Anglo-Egyptian Army, some 23,000 strong, suffered losses of 48 dead, and 382 wounded - an equally unbelievable 2% casualty rate, thus showing the superiority of modern firepower!]

British poet Hilaire Belloc famously summed it up,

"Whatever happens we have got
the Maxim gun and they have not."

Sir Edward Arnold observed that heretofore, it had been the dash, skill and bravery of the officers and troops that had carried the day, but the Battle of Omdurman was won by quiet, scientific gentlemen living in Kent.It is worth noting that the Dervishes had destroyed a British army under General Charles Gordon 14 years before at Khartoum. In fact, they had even beheaded Gordon and placed his head on display. (Gordon had been ordered by the Prime Minister to withdraw, but he refused, saying that he was honor-bound to the Sudanese people, whom he had promised to preserve from slavery under the Islamic Mahdi.)

England finally sent a relief column, but it arrived two days too late. It then reversed march and left, leaving Sudan bereft of British presence. In the 14 years between Khartoum and Omdurman, the Royal Army made a technological quantum leap, not least of which was the adoption of the Maxim gun, the invention of American Hiram Maxim. Maxim's first model, 1885, had a cyclic rate of fire of 500 rounds per minute. An improved version was adopted by the Royal Army in 1889. The Brits also made improvements in artillery that would both outrange Dervish guns and make rubble of Dervish forts. In short, the British Army spent 14 years improving its technology, weapons, tactics, training, communications and supply. The Dervish army (successors to the army led by the Mahdi, who had died a few years after Khartoum) had not.

Whatever happens we have got
MLRS and they have not.

In all the hue and cry over North Korea's increasing bluster and threats, I have detected in my web readings near-panicky assertions that the North has overwhelming superiority over the South and the American forces stationed in the South. Some commentators have claimed that the 2d Division there is nothing more than a speed bump and that if the US has significant forces engaged against Iraq, the South is as good as lost.

To which I say, "No." In fact, I have already said that North Korea is a paper tiger - in conventional arms, let me be specific. When it attains a nuke or two, the paper teeth will have some bite, unfortunately. But in conventional arms, the South and the US are quantitatively superior to the North.

I served in the 2d US Infantry Division (2ID) in Korea from 1977-1978, in 1st Battalion, 38th Field Artillery. The battalion was then equipped with 18 105mm towed howitzers, M102A1. Today it is equipped with 27 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) vehicles, an exceptionally powerful rocket artillery system. 2ID then resembled a World War II division more than it did its present configuration and even then we did not then consider ourselves a "speed bump." The technological advances since 1978 have increased the division's combat power exponentially.

I do not claim that 2ID can defeat an invading North all by itself. I certainly do claim that those who write the division off, saying that it would be destroyed, are just wrong. In the 50-odd years since the Korean War, the US Army has been well funded most years, has fought in several wars large and small, and has been the direct beneficiary, and sometimes the engine, of the revolution in computerization. The Army's history since 1953 has been dynamic. Capabilities in conventional munitions have been so improved that tactical atomic weapons are no longer necessary to achieve massively destructive effects against enemy soldiers or installations. In fact, a single MLRS launcher is more destructive than a 155mm atomic projectile, and at longer range.

There have been enormous improvements in training and the systems and equipment used for training. Intensive combat simulations ("war games" being a hopelessly inadequate term) are now used that integrate vehicles, simulators, communications, computers, aerospace assets and ground/naval units in ways never before possible, linked worldwide. In contrast, the North Korean army has done none of this. In particular, they have not been required to stretch their doctrine because they have not fought a war since 1953. They have read and studied, of course, but they have had no chance to test whether their theoretical doctrine is any good. Their millions of soldiers are far from uniformly effective. (Of the five million men under arms the North is said to have, about three-fourths are reserves with little regular training.)

None of their services have the combined arms operations skills that US and Southern forces have. They rarely conduct large-scale maneuvers, and when they do, the maneuvers are scripted. Free-play exercises are not done. Their air force does not fly near the hours that US and ROK air forces do, and with nothing like the training intensity. They do not have stealth aircraft. Their most numerous fighter plane, the MIG-19, dates from not long after the Korean War.

That NK troops could cross the Military Demarcation Line can't be denied; doing so has been the main focus of their military for, lo, five decades. (When I served on the DMZ, US and ROK engineers were blowing up tunnels that the North had dug under the DMZ; at least one could handle trucks. There are certainly tunnels we have not discovered.) But it is highly likely that they have no real imagination for doing anything much more than making the initial assault, except for taking Seoul, only 30 miles from the DMZ. In short, their whole operational model has been their previous invasion of 1950, when they drove all the way to Pusan. But in 1950 they did not face a well-prepared defense in depth, manned with well-trained troops. Nor had Northern troops and their families suffered from decades of communist oppression and literal starvation. Neither had the inherent corruption of the communist system yet destroyed the integrity of their officer high command. If the North invades again, from the beginning Allied forces will enjoy --

  • communications dominance,
  • position advantage,
  • clear firepower superiority,
  • better weapons and equipment,
  • better trained units, staffs and procedures,
  • better combined arms integration,
  • air superiority, then air supremacy,
  • better tactical and strategic intelligence,
  • better round-the-clock combat capability.

What the North does have is troops - lots and lots of troops. But "hording" as a combat tactic will result in the Allies enjoying something close to Omdurman-type victory. 2ID is armored and mechanized. The US Abrams tank outshoots and outruns anything the North has. The North has perhaps 3,500 main battle tanks, but how many of them run is another matter. And how many crews are trained is yet another. The vast preponderance of Norther troops are foot soldiers who would perish in untold numbers to American artillery and Air Force weapons.

By no means would such an invasion be easily resisted. Casualties would be high on both sides, but much higher for the North. Probably more South Korean civilians would die than ROK troops. NK special ops forces would be of serious concern and would spearhead an invasion, operating well south of the DMZ. They would commit sabotage, assassination and special attacks. The North almost certainly has fairly modern UAVs that would be used as a "poor man's cruise missile." Some analysts think that the North would launch nonpersistent chemical agents at Seoul, intending to kill as many Southern government workers as possible; that many ordinary Seoulians would die also is of no consequence. Steven Den Beste has said that civilian refugees fleeing the battle would constitute major mobility problems for Allied forces, and he's probably right.

While the North's army slugged its way south, American air power would be devastating North Korea's lines of communication, ports, installations and infrastructure. The North's air force would pretty quickly be dispatched. Military and government buildings in Pyongyang would be leveled. I think US commanders would show much less restraint against North Korea than they did against Iraq in 1991 or 2003.

In short, the North can invade the South, but it cannot win. The ensuing war would be disastrous for the South in terms of human loss, also for the North unless the war ended with the South's suzerainty over the North. But even so, the North Korean people would suffer very greatly until then.

The problem, though, is not that the North could win such a war. It is that its isolated, self-justifying oligarchy might think it can win. And with its impending development of atomic weapons, it may think that all the more.