Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Disarming the Warriors - Bill Whittle

Another great Afterburner video from a very pissed-off ( and rightfully so) Bill Whittle. Watch.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thai Turmoil: Some Observations and Thoughts from Michael Yon

Michael Yon has been on the ground and talking to the protesters, including the leadership, and doing research since December. He’s been posting brief thoughts and updates to Facebook all along. He has just completed his first of what will probably be 10 major dispatches at his website.  It’s worth the time to read the whole thing. Nobody else from the Western media (if they’re even paying attention still) is doing this.

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Sunday, February 09, 2014

Turmoil in Thailand–My View of the Situation.

I have been following the political crisis in Thailand very closely. My interest in the situation is due to the fact that I am married to a Thai and have both family and friends in the country. They are on both sides of the issue, some support the government, others the protesters. I can speak a little of the language. Let's call my fluency level; enough to make the in-laws careful about what they say around me because they aren't entirely sure what I do or don't understand, and I tend to surprise them once in a while.

I have been alarmed (but not really surprised) to see the Western press and punditocracy trotting out the very simple and simplistic narrative that what is happening is that a bunch of anti-government mobs (a very loaded word) are trying to overthrow a democratically elected government and that it's the Bangkok "elites" versus the rural poor. It's an easy narrative and also a very lazy one. Reality is, as usual, a lot more complicated than that. Very few of the people, if any, in the Western media opining on the situation are actually on the ground in Thailand and talking to the parties and that being the case they are getting the story entirely wrong.

One person who is on the ground and talking to the protesters and their leadership is writer and war correspondent Michael Yon. He is posting throughout the day at his Facebook page and if you want to know what is really happening, in near real-time, that is the place to go.

The main body of the protesters are represented by the People's Democratic Reform Council or PDRC. The Western press has been portraying the protesters as "violent mobs," most likely because they are being fed that line by the government and are too lazy to question that narrative. In reality the protest sites have more of the atmosphere of a series of block parties, complete with food stalls, live music and speeches, than a bunch of unruly mobs. These are the kind of people the Thai government claims are terrorists. Quite a bit different than the press accounts would lead us to believe, no?

There has been some violence. So far 9 protesters have died and a little more than another 600 have been wounded, 3 just this evening in an M79 grendade atttack ( as I write this on my Satrurday morning, 14 hours behind the events) at the Chaeng Watthana protest venue. All of these attacks have been by "Red Shirts" who are on the side of the government, or "Black Shirts," also on the side of the government (and widely thought to be former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatara's private enforcers), on the protesters who are armed with nothing more than whistles. So violence all goes almost all one way. The Red/Black Shirts have been employing hit-and-run tactics, firing guns and grenades into crowds of unarmed people, exactly like tonight's grenade attack. PDRC is allied with another group, Kor Por Tor or KPT (People and Student Network for the Reform of Thailand) who have been serving as guards at the protest sites. They will fight, but only if provoked, and they have taken casualties. The PDRC protesters have done nothing violent to bring violence upon themselves.

One Red Shirt leader, quoted in this Daily Telegraph article, is Ko Tee:
"If anyone doubted the abyss into which Thailand could be heading, Ko Tee - who has been accused of orchestrating grenade attacks on anti-government marches in the Thai capital - is the living proof.
"I want there to be lots of violence to put an end to all this," he said. "I'm bored by speeches. It's time to clean the country, to get rid of the elite, all of them."

To me Ko Tee sounds like he wants to be the second coming of Pol Pot (and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that he has more than one Che Guevara T-shirt in his drawer). He is a very dangerous man.
So, how did things come to this pass in Thailand? In a word, corruption. There will have to be a part two to this post but I wanted to paint the scene as I see it now.
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In the Interests of Public Safety, Ban Everything!

 Do it for The Children TM

Truly weapons-grade satire here.

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Saturday, February 01, 2014

Bill Whittle - Boiling Frogs

I have been so busy with other things I didn't realize I haven't posted anything in nearly two months. I'll try to do better. Here's a new Bill Whittle Afterburner video to start with.

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Thursday, December 05, 2013

Shards. Bill Whittle Returns to the Long-Form Essay

Before Bill Whittle started producing the Afterburner and Firewall videos he wrote a number of long-form essays that were eventually published as a book, “Silent America.” You can still find those essays at his old website, Eject! Eject! Eject!. They are all well worth your time to read but today Bill just posted a new essay, “Shards,” that is as good as any of the essays that precede it. A sample: 

There’s not a person reading these words who, raised with an understanding that Freedom is not the default state of man but rather a force field against tyranny that must be maintained every day through effort and hard work – there’s not one among you that does not look out into the free land that was handed to us by our ancestors with dismay, and the same sense of unfocused dread that a thousand generations felt as the sun dipped ever lower, day by day – because this time, perhaps, it will not climb again.

The history of mankind has been to rule and to be ruled. For reasons that you and I will never understand, there exists in some people an insatiable desire to tell other people what to do; to bend others to their will. I suspect that every single one of those hearts is filled with a dread, a genuine horror, at the wasteland of their own emptiness, and so the bombast and the narcissism and the arrogance; the legions of fainting faithful and the roar of the applause; the reflections, the logos, the insertion of themselves into every event in history; the mind-numbing obsession with power – all of these, I think, are just shovels full of coal being pitched into the bottomless furnace of their own self-hatred.

Read the whole thing.

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

When Politics Collides With Reality…..

….The results are rarely pretty.

They have a saying in the world of Engineering; Sure you can have it better, faster, cheaper. Pick any two.

This was the undoing of Obamacare, why it blew up on the launch pad so to speak. Politicians (the Democrat variety, that is) tried to will into existence a whole new way of delivering heath care without having any understanding of the complexity of what they were asking for. Clay Shirky has a great article about this phenomenon over at his blog. It’s a read-the-whole-thing kind of post but this part is worth highlighting:

If I had to design a litmus test for whether our political class grasps the internet, I would look for just one signal: Can anyone with authority over a new project articulate the tradeoff between features, quality, and time?

When a project cannot meet all three goals—a situation Healthcare.gov was clearly in by March—something will give. If you want certain features at a certain level of quality, you’d better be able to move the deadline. If you want overall quality by a certain deadline, you’d better be able to simplify, delay, or drop features. And if you have a fixed feature list and deadline, quality will suffer.

Intoning “Failure is not an option” will be at best useless, and at worst harmful. There is no “Suddenly Go Faster” button, no way you can throw in money or additional developers as a late-stage accelerant; money is not directly tradable for either quality or speed, and adding more programmers to a late project makes it later. You can slip deadlines, reduce features, or, as a last resort, just launch and see what breaks.

Denying this tradeoff doesn’t prevent it from happening. If no one with authority over the project understands that, the tradeoff is likely to mean sacrificing quality by default. That just happened to this administration’s signature policy goal. It will happen again, as long politicians can be allowed to imagine that if you just plan hard enough, you can ignore reality. It will happen again, as long as department heads imagine that complex technology can be procured like pencils. It will happen again as long as management regards listening to the people who understand the technology as a distasteful act.

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Saturday, November 09, 2013

Thanksgiving Is Almost Here and That Means It’s Chestnut Soup Time

I have made this soup recipe every Thanksgiving (and usually Christmas too) for as long as I can remember. It is really, really good.

If you don’t want to go through the work of roasting and shelling chestnuts (an it can be pretty tedious) Williams-Sonoma (for one place) sells them in jars pre-peeled. I just bought two today for $15 each on sale.

Did I mention how good this soup is?

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Sunday, November 03, 2013

And the Winner Is (and always will be): Arithmetic

Charlie Martin over at PJ Media has a great post on Obamacare vs. Arithmetic that explains why the promises of Obamacare can’t be kept and never could have been. You should go and read the whole thing of course but this part on Gammon’s Theory of Bureaucratic Displacement is worth excerpting:

What does change the relationship is that we start to run into something Milton Friedman called “Gammon’s Law,” which originated with a study of Britain’s National Health Service done by Dr. Max Gammon. Friedman called it the Theory of Bureaucratic Displacement:

In a bureaucratic system, increases in expenditure are paralleled by a corresponding decrease in production.

Translated from the economist-ese, that means in a bureaucratic system, the more you spend on something, the less you get of it.

Gammon’s original work in which he identified this found the correlation was very nearly perfect: as the number of pounds spent on the National Health System increased, the number of hospital beds declined. The correlation was    -0.99.

Aside: for those of you who don’t eat and breathe statistics. Imagine you have a loaf of sliced bread. You weigh the bread, then take out a slice, then weigh it again; keep taking out slices of bread and re-weighing.

The correlation between the number of slices taken out, and the weight of the remaining bread, will be around -0.99.

Why does this happen? There are at least a couple of reasons. As more money goes into the bureaucracy, there’s more pressure to make sure it’s being spent well, which means more forms, more auditors, more independent review boards. All of that takes time and money, and that time and money are being taken away from what used to be the goal.

The second reason is that as administration develops, it becomes its own constituency. Administrators are more important that the people doing the work — they must be, right? I mean, they’re the managers. Administrators get paid more, and in a bureaucracy, administration is the route to higher pay, better offices, and more perks. What’s more, the people doing the work have to do more work to support the administrators. Doctors are seeing that now — new record-keeping requirements, from HIPAA to electronic record systems.

The upshot, though, is that once a system becomes bureaucratic, adding money makes it worse.

And that’s the arithmetic of Obamacare. You start off with something that makes some sense — it’s perfectly reasonable to want insurance against the chance you’ll be hurt in a car accident or develop cancer. Then, because of weird tax incentives, you start doing something that makes less sense: asking insurance companies to pay for things instead of giving you the money to pay for them yourself. Then we start mandating coverage too — so I have to pay for maternity and OB/GYN coverage, even though I’m a 58-year-old single man with no obvious prospect of impending pregnancy.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Maybe This Is Appropriate for a Website That Was DOA

Is it just me or does  lower part of the circular graphic on the left of the Healthcare.gov busy screen below look like a pair of toe tags?


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Monday, October 21, 2013

Dear Liberal, Here’s Why I’m So Hostile

I just discovered a blog I’ve never run across before; Sufficient Reason. Proprietor Jeremy Choate has an awe-inspiring rant against the “Liberal” creed. A sample:

The fact is, you can rail against my conservatism all you wish.  You can make fun of my Tea Party gatherings, and you can ridicule patriots in tri-corner hats until you wet yourself from mirth, but one thing is for certain: my political philosophy will NEVER be a threat to your freedom.  If you feel a burning responsibility to the poor, conservatism will never prevent you from working 80 hours per week and donating all of your income to charity.  If you feel a strong sense of pity for a family who cannot afford health insurance, my political philosophy will never prevent you from purchasing health insurance for this family or raising money to do so, if you cannot afford it, personally.  If you are moved with compassion for a family who is homeless, a conservative will never use the police power of government to prevent you from taking that family in to your own home or mobilizing your community to build one for them.

However, you cannot say the same for liberalism.  If I choose not to give to the poor for whatever reason, you won’t simply try to persuade me on the merits of the idea — you will seek to use the government as an instrument of plunder to force me to give to the poor.  If we are walking down the street together and we spot a homeless person, using this logic, you would not simply be content with giving him $20 from your own pocket — you would hold a gun to my head and force me to give him $20, as well.

Read it all.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Don’t Allow the Shutdown to Hurt. Make It Hurt – Bill Whittle

Bill Whittle’s latest Afterburner video, “Essential,” is up. He has a few things to say about the now ended government shutdown. No further comment is needed from me.
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Conrad Black on the Disaster That Is Obamacare

Over at National Review Online Conrad Black is positively scathing (and dead right) about the state of our legal and political systems and how it lead to the utter disaster that is Obamacare being foisted on us.

The Affordable Care Act was passed in a dubious manner. The 60-vote level in the Senate was obtained by the subornation of Arlen Specter in that tainted window between his rejection by his own party and his defeat by the Pennsylvania voters, and by Al Franken’s questionable win in the Senate election in Minnesota, where partisan, county-by-county recounts overturned the people’s choice. Also, most egregiously, Republican senator Ted Stevens of Alaska had been narrowly defeated in 2008 after being convicted of taking a bribe — a conviction that was subsequently thrown out because of the prosecutor’s completely improper suppression of exculpatory evidence. (At least this was not a partisan act, as this was one of the more flamboyant initiatives of the George W. Bush Justice Department.)

The Affordable Care Act, then, owes its existence to political treachery, electoral hijinks, and extreme prosecutorial misconduct, and it ill behooves the Democrats and their incessant hallelujah chorus among both the hacks and the incurably gullible in the media to incant with woeful faces and in mournful inflection any misuse of due legislative process. The fact that the chief justice had to transform himself into an acrobat and claim that Obamacare was constitutional, under the federal government’s right to tax, does not excuse everybody else from seeing this ill-conceived monstrosity of a law for what it is and what its provenance is.

That isn’t all he has to say by any means. You should absolutely click through and read the whole thing.

One observation that I would add is that everything he has described correlates with the increasing concentration of power at the top, with the federal government. This is what the Founding Fathers feared might happen and, alas, it appears that these fears may be coming true.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The GOP House of Representatives Has Offered Eleven Separate Bills to Try and End the Budget Stalemate…….

…… And eleven times, the Democrat Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, has refused to even allow these bills to be voted on in the Senate. President Stompy Foot Obama has promised to veto them anyway. So this is the fault of the Republican House? No. The Republicans are the reasonable adults here. The Democrats typical form of “negotiation” is reaching an extreme. “Give us everything we demand (i.e., give up all your bargaining leverage and we’ll call it “compromise”) and then we will “negotiate.”“ This is not negotiation. It is dictation of terms. Meanwhile the maladministration seeks to inflict maximum pain on the American people by cutting off access to open plazas grinding hiring to a halt, needlessly preventing businesses from operating, and just generally making it very well known how unhappy the Man Who Would Be King is. From the first link:

1. Roll Call 478 on H.J. Res. 59 (September 20, 2013)

Earlier in September, House Republicans voted to fund the government at current spending levels while strengthening our economy and protecting millions of American families by defunding ObamaCare.

Senate Democrats killed the bill, and President Obama threatened to veto it.

2. Roll Call 497/498 on H.J. Res 59 (September 28, 2013)

With hours left until the government ran out of funding, House Republicans voted to keep the government open at current spending levels while protecting our economy by delayingthe glitch-filled ObamaCare for one year and repealing the tax on medical devices like pacemakers and children’s hearing aides.

Senate Democrats killed the bill, and President Obama threatened to veto it, causing the government shutdown.

3. Roll Call 504 on H.J. Res 59 (September 30, 2013)On September 30, the House GOP again voted to fund the government at current spending levels, while ensuring that Congress doesn’t receive special treatment under ObamaCare, and delaying ObamaCare’s individual mandate.

Again, Senate Democrats killed the measure in the Senate, and President Obama threatened to veto.

4. Roll Call 505 on H.J. Res 59 (September 30, 2013)

That same night, Republicans in the House voted to request a formal House-Senate conference, so Democrats and Republicans could sit down at the table and negotiate to resolve their differences.

Senate Democrats defeated that resolution, and President Obama threatened to veto it.

5. Voice Vote on Provide Local Funding for the District of Columbia Act (October 2, 2013)To help reopen parts of the government while Democrats refused to negotiate, House Republicans passed H.J. Res. 71 by voice vote, which would have restored funding for the government of the District of Columbia.

Senate Democrats blocked the bill, and President Obama threatened to veto it.

6. Roll Call 513 on Open Our Nation’s Parks and Museums Act (October 2, 2013)

To help reopen parts of the government while Democrats refused to come to the table and work out differences, the House GOP voted to restore funding for the nation’s parks and museums – including the World War Two Memorial in Washington that has been closed to visiting veterans.

Senate Democrats killed the bill, and President Obama threatened to veto it.

7. Roll Call 514 on Research for Lifesaving Cures Act (October 2, 2013)To help restore funding for vital cancer research and other lifesaving innovations, the House GOP voted to reopen the National Institute of Health.

Senate Democrats blocked the bill (see Harry Reid ask a reporter “why would we want to do that?” when asked if he would vote to resume funding for children’s cancer treatment), and President Obama threatened to veto it.

8. Roll Call 516 on Pay Our Guard and Reserve Act (October 3, 2013)

In order to make sure that the government shutdown doesn’t get in the way of paying our National Guard and Reserve, the House GOP voted for the Pay Our Guard and Reserve Act.

Senate Democrats blocked the bill, and President Obama threatened to veto it.

ise to America’s Veterans Act (October 3, 2013)The House GOP voted to provide immediate funding for vital veterans benefits and services during the government shutdown.

Senate Democrats blocked the bill, and President Obama threatened to veto it.

10. Roll Call 522 on National Emergency and Disaster Recovery Act (October 4, 2013)The House GOP voted to provide immediate funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to ensure Americans have access to emergency responders in the case of a disaster.

Senate Democrats blocked the bill, and President Obama threatened to veto it.

11. Roll Call 524 on Nutrition Assistance for Low-Income Women and Children Act (October 4, 2013) The House GOP voted to provide immediate funding for nutritional assistance for nearly 9 low-income million mothers and children.

Senate Democrats blocked the bill, and President Obama threatened to veto it.

So who are the obstructionist here, the people who make very reasonable requests, or those who say it’s my way or no other? 

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

John McCain Should Do the Honorable Thing…..

….and resign, then run for his seat again in a special election if he wants to keep it. He has been one of my senators for almost 10 years and I have voted for him, reluctantly, and not usually as my first choice. He only represents Arizona’s interests for one year out of every six, the year leading up to his next reelection. For the other five years he seems to relish his role as “the Maverick,” and does what he damned well pleases, despite what the people of the State of Arizona tell him they want. He always knows better and seems to be more concerned wth Senate “comity” than doing what is right. He’s exhibit number one as to why the 17th amendment was a bad idea. 

Today, after Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who is acutely aware that he answers to the people of Texas, not the Senate Majority Leader ( who happens to be with the other party, BTW) spoke for 21 hours against funding Obamacare (actually 21 hours starting yesterday), Senator McCain delivered what might as well have been the Democrat response. Mike Walsh at PJ Media has the basics. Here is the main point:
  • his disgraceful attacks on Cruz, including his reach-across-the-aisle, dog-in-the-manger response today, this should be the end of Senator John McCain as a voice of influence in the Republican party. Ditto his mini-me, Senator Lindsey Graham. Indeed, the entire Old Guard of business-as-usual “comity” fans passeth. When you care more about what the other side thinks, it’s probably time either to switch teams or step down.
  • There is new leadership in the GOP, whether the party wants to admit it or not: Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Jeff Sessions, and the others who stepped into the breach to spell the senator from Texas.
  • The Cruz faction in the Senate, and its allies in the House (whose leadership is now up for grabs) must now press their advantage. The louder the Democrats squawk, the more they are wounded; the one thing they’ve long feared is a direct assault on their core beliefs as translated into actions, and the deleterious effects of Obamacare, just now being felt by the population, are the most vivid proof of the failure of Progressivism that conservatives could wish for.
  • Win or lose, the battle is now joined: First the struggle for the GOP and then the battle for control of Congress and the presidency. Cruz just struck at the kings he could reach — the Republican “leadership” — and has most likely dealt them a fatal blow. Now the Tea Party hordes must back him up by eliminating his opponents (who tend to be geriatrics, and thus “leaders” by longevity rather than talent or commitment) through the primary process wherever possible. If he can carry off this coup, he and Senator Paul will very quickly find themselves elevated from back-benchers to commanders.
Finally, this:
  • Any party that cannot successfully sell freedom and personal liberty doesn’t deserve power. The trick will be to explain — by word and deed — that the Democrats’ Manichean choice (Big Brother or the orphanage) is a false one, that less can be more, and that the restoration of a Republic of self-reliant citizens will benefit all Americans — not simply the government class and its clients.
The last bullet point is absolutely correct. If the Republican party can’t recognize that, sell it, articulate it and convince us all that they BELIEVE in it, it’s all over.
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