Quick Hits

Government grows under Democrats and Republicans…it even grew under Ronald Reagan!

All each politician wants is power, and power is gained by increasing size, then distributing the increased size benefits (contracts or political plums) to friends or fellow politicians. Only when government has fewer benefits to distribute will things improve, but I don’t know any politicians willing to do that!

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Sweden has reached an agreement with four right-of center political parties (Alliance) to put off a “Snap” election until 2022. — to avoid an election that will rally the current left-of-center government around the center, but it thwarts the Right. The agreement gives the Alliance the budget, but the agreement does not address the elephant in the room.

Immigration.

European governments are under pressure to accept Muslim cultural practices, such as providing multiple subsidized dwelling units to the multiple wives and children of Muslim men — under the guise of “Diversity.”

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A cave in France found 20 years ago has disclosed some of the oldest art — art that makes the pyramids seem as if completed this morning.

The French cave has produced 442 paintings of animals seldom seen by modern man (and only by very early “man”), and were likely done by a species of humans that also do not any longer exist, but inhabited France about 40,000 years ago, Neanderthals, possibly, and their blood lines are still within us as shown by DNA. It is difficult to say, because 40,000 years ago is a time when Neanderthal and modern man overlapped. Carved figurines from a German cave of about the same period demonstrate the wide-spread ability of artistic development.

Of course, if one describes “art” in geometric terms rather than in recognizable animal or human form, beads have been found that are 100,000 years old, and the first human “art” was found etched on seashells dated to 460,000 to 540,000 years ago, but that may or not be “art” to your mind. At any rate, human-kind has a very long history.

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It should come as no surprise that I am an “info-maniac” — I crave knowledge. My search days consist of perusing a number of apps, Drudge report and it’s newer challengers AP, Smart News and FOX; CNet; and my favorites, POLITICO, and Flipboard.

Flipboard is an oldie but goodie, and it is far and away the most complete news source because the others concentrate on daily news or technology, while Flipboard can be personalized to cover all subjects from Archeology to Zoology.

In Flipboard I am constantly thinking,”I didn’t know that!”
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The Feds are going to “Rate” colleges, no doubt spending taxpayer money to employ more academics.

U. S. News and World Reports does it annually for FREE. We don’t need government for this — it is just “make work” for Ph.Ds,

As we have seen from the case of Jonathan Gruber, the MIT professor who thinks voters are stupid (true, but impolitic), who has gathered more than $5 million in various government pay, this administration is rife with academics, and anxious to employ more!

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The Year of the Liberal Rout

The midterm elections demonstrated voter dissatisfaction with Democrat candidates. Current polls indicate that major large-city liberal players and liberal national leaders are in deep trouble.

The Chicago Tribune reported just three months ago that Rahm Emanuel has a popularity rating of 35% among voters for an early reelection bid next year. A smaller – and more humorous – poll found that Rahm was less popular than rush-hour traffic on the Eisenhower freeway!

President Obama has never been particularly popular among the military, but his current 15% popularity rating has fallen from 35% just a few months ago. The Military Times has done an annual poll on presidential popularity for the past nine years, and this late December plunge is unprecedented – generally attributed to the Obama presidency’s failure to negotiate a presence in Iraq, necessitating the need to return and eventually regain geography once held, and lost.

While there are no polls about Mayor De Blassio of New York as of this writing, there is little question that he no longer holds the 70% popularity he once had. It cannot be questioned that De Blassio has lost the support of the New York Police Union membership, a police force which historically has high public support.

In short, liberal leadership appears to be in retreat almost everywhere, and while the midterm elections presaged the crumbling of liberal leadership, remaining liberals in power appear not to have received the appropriate message.

In fact, the “lame duck” President is doubling down with Executive Actions and threats of more, disregarding any damage he may do to future presidencies as he rushes to get done that which he threatened before his first election, to “transform America.

While President Obama rushes headlong to establish a foothold for a European Social Democracy nation (Socialist-Light), Europe itself is having severe indigestion with its loose immigration policies. Policies that Obama is emulating. Any hope the President had for massive tax increases were blunted by Republicans holding the House until the midterm elections brought the Cavalry. Even the general public recognizes the incompetence demonstrated by a Secret Service more experienced with prostitution than deterring people from invading the White House, and problems with the IRS, and the VA, and …

(Meanwhile, in Europe, France’s Socialist-elected president, Hollande, witnessed his prized 75% tax on high-income earners quietly expire during Christmas week. Reuters in November reported Hollande’s popularity at 13% – he would envy Obama’s military popularity at 15%!)

While Obama offers a life vest to a crumbling Socialist Cuba, just when Cuba’s economy is further threatened by loss of both Russia’s and Venezuela’s support, no longer to be fueled by crashing oil prices, that life vest cannot be inflated by a Congress that is likely to slow-walk any embargo change.

(In Venezuela, Socialist President Maduro has 24% support)

In short, liberalism has run up against failing international Socialism, against support for police/military, and against a general knowledge that modern transportation permits people and corporations to escape punishing taxes. I would argue that modern transportation is the greatest boon to humanity because it facilitates competition and permits escape from tyranny. Only highly repressive regimes, like Cuba and North Korea, can continue to control their populations.

And now, in the New Year, the Republicans commeth…

 

 

 

Quick Hits, and Merry Christmas

The French Banker who remarked that the 75% tax that French Socialist President Hollande punished with would turn France into “Cuba, without the sun” is now Hollande’s Finance Minister, and France has quietly abandoned the 75% tax. While it hurt France, many managers simply awaited the inevitable change, and everyone now is taking a huge breath. It will take a while for France to recover.

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The biggest tech announcement of the year was generally overlooked — the e-Mailing of a wrench to the Space Station. Previously delivered 3-D printer was sent the instructions by e-Mail and the wrench was “printed.” 3-D printing is pretty routine in medicine and many other areas, and it is predicted to be “the” thing for consumers this next year. The next year will feature the advent of many 3-D printers into homes — even to “print” individualized meals for seniors. robotics in general will fill homes this year, from Smartphone -controlled thermostats and door locks, to soil sensor activated irrigation.

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Another technology generally overlooked was the $30 million competition Google sponsored to have a private concern launch a “Rover” to the Moon which can land, move at least 500 yards and send High-Definition back to earth. There are several worthy competitors, one of which just won a $750,000 interim prize for their “Rover,” which attained the movement and video goals.

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Recent studies have shown that “prayer” is actually beneficial in the healing process.

Of course it’s not “prayer” (per se) — it is belief that your body can heal, or be healed, so the “prayer” can be to any one of many Deities…or none. Note that the study did not differentiate between “prayer” to any particular “God” (and there are more than a few) — people  who comment on-line just assume it is a Christian “God.”

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There is a growing belief among technologists that perhaps the threat against Sony was not from North Korea, but another agency and affiliated with someone on the inside. Certainly North Korea had the capability and the incentive, but that may not have been the incentive and that may not have been the source. Hackers (I can remember when that was a prized term and I was one of those) have many sleight-of-hand tricks. That which is obvious in Hacking is not necessarily true.

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The quote from the Navy Coach after the Navy Football team beat San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl was classic. He said, “I don’t know how we won that game.”

Neither do I! Navy had held a much larger, faster SD State to three field goals, but with .20 seconds remaining on the clock, and Navy leading by a single point, San Diego State was poised to kick a fourth and game winning field goal from Navy’s 17 yard line — and they missed! Just plain missed!

A “W” is a “W” — but that was just an unexpected miss from a kicker who was 9 of his last 10, and from much further out than the 17 yard line. I’ll bet he doesn’t understand it either!

US Calls on China For Help! (Mommy! Kim is picking on me!)

I see that North Korea internet is down, but that could have been done by some guy in his San Antonio basement (O.K. the homes in San Antonio don’t have basements) — but you get the idea. That internet has teetered for some time, and there are only 1,025 IP addresses assigned to North Korea. (The US has BILLIONS.) Yes, it could also be Autonomous, or the US doing a Distributed Denial of Service attack…but it was just a light tap, not a hammer!

I note that the NY Times has reported that the U.S. is asking China to get North Korea to rein in the NK hacking machine.

There was a time when the US could fight its own battles.

Obama reminds me of Guidobaldo I of Urbano, (1482- 1508), Italy, during the Renaissance. Back then each city was a City State and Urbano was blessed with a Duke and powerful military leader (Federico III da Montefeltro) who was so strong that he could warn anyone against attacking Urbano, and he could rent out his army in the service of other cities. (In fact, other cities paid him NOT to attack!)

Unfortunately, he sired a son (Guidobaldo I), who was sickly and impotent, who could command nothing, and Urbano…even with his great army, but under no leadership, fell to Cesare Borgia.

I note that Military Times is reporting that Obama’s popularity among the Armed Forces has dropped to 15%. Leadership is not assigned. It does NOT come with the office! It is something that must be grabbed, and we suffer from a lack of leadership on so many fronts, as Mayor de Blassio has so ably demonstrated.

Swings and Misses All Around

The president was non-committal today as to how he will handle the North Korean Attack on Sony, but he missed a great opportunity to deter the problem had he simply underwritten the risk concerned with releasing the film on its due date.

Had he removed the risk concerned, which he could do by assuring Sony that they had no insurance risk, and the public that they had no physical danger because he would bring up appropriate National Guard in each state to protect each theater.

He could have, but he didn’t.

That leaves the president with retaliation against a fairly impervious target. North Korea has no economy to speak of, no trade to speak of, and they are the Hermit Kingdom in more than name. I suppose that we could take down the electrical system in Pyongyang for a day and let the Dictator shiver in the Korean winter.

Sony lost about $100 million — and a lot of future relationships with a ton of important actors, directors, distributors…and nothing being considered can make them whole.

The president’s job is to react in such a manner as to dissuade further attacks by not just the North Koreans but other potential enemies and competitors — without triggering a stupid, crazy reaction by stupid and crazy people.

Swings and misses all around.

Thinking About Cuba

On Cuba, I am extremely conflicted.

I have told the story before of sitting in a dark hotel bar in the basement of a hotel in Samarkand, Uzbekistan with Ray Cline, who was the Number Two at the CIA for decades, and asking him, “Who killed JFK?”

He said, “I don’t know, but if you had asked everyone on the plane carrying the president’s body back to Washington, everyone would have agreed that it was Fidel Castro.”

Unfortunately, the actions taken by US administrations against Cuba have punished its citizens, not the Castro brothers. The citizens have accepted, even supported the regime despite their physical deprivations, which is blamed on the US embargo despite the fact that just about every other advance nation trades with Cuba, including Canada.

No, the Cuban people suffer because of their government, but they are too proud (and too cowed) to demand a change. Perhaps, what I call the Helsinki Effect — the access that the Russians in St. Petersburg had to western TV, and the impact that had on all of Russia — can have a similar impact on Cuba.

Many people alive today do not carry the enmity toward Castro that some of us do. The Castro brothers still rule a police state, complete with political prisoners, and Cuba has become seriously weakened from its abject state by the crashing price of oil which is given to Cuba by an equally crashing Venezuela.

Perhaps a strong bargain can now be driven — except that the Obama administration has not historically been a good negotiator.

 

Extreme Interrogation Was Legal, But Was It Moral?

In spite of the Democrat report on extreme interrogation, an NBC poll shows that only 28% of the people think the interrogators “went too far.”

War is gruesome business in all of its forms. Questions of law and morals abound, and in this case the Holder Justice department concluded that no laws were broken.

“If you knew that there was a nuclear time bomb hidden somewhere in New York City — set to go off today — and you had a captured terrorist who knew where and when, would you not do anything to make him tell you where and when? Would you pause to look up the definition of “torture”? Would you even care what the definition of “torture” was, when the alternative was seeing millions of innocent people murdered?”

Thomas Sowell in the National Review

The question of morals remains, and I can tell you having been in battle that morals are left to each man, or in the case of naval warfare, each ship — although that also is the moral decision of one man, the Commanding Officer.

Let me posit a moral question that was debated in every wardroom of a Fast Attack Submarine on which I served: you are the CO of an Attack Submarine, on patrol in an assigned patrol area. You get a message, A high-priority heavy will transit the NE corner of your area at 02000 on the 28th of the month. SINK IT WITHOUT FAIL!” (These last words mean that the target is so special that even if it means the loss of your submarine and all of the crew, this target MUST be sunk!

You maneuver into position, and make all torpedo tubes ready, listening to a large ship approaching. You flood all tubes forward, and open all bow doors of all six tubes. You use SONAR to establish a target course and speed but as you are ready to commence shooting you raise your periscope for a final range and angle on the bow — and promptly lower the scope.

The ship has a huge Red Cross on its side!

What do you do? Quickly! You have perhaps 15 seconds to decide.

There is no right answer. Every CO might have a different answer, and there is no right one. I have been in heated conversations with Officers on both sides…with Commanding Officers on both sides.

(My answer, and I was Qualified for Command of Submarines, was “Tube 1, Set, Shoot, Fire 1, Make Ready Tube 2, Set, Shoot, Tube 2…)

I know that the Japanese used Red Cross ships in WWII to transport troops, transfer Americans to prison camps, and to transport ammunition.

If my Commanders think that ship has such high priority that it is worth the lives of my crew, I’ll take that shot!