Saturday, December 8, 2012

All the Way to Timbuktu

On the November night in 2008 when the United States elected Barack Obama President, I listened to the coverage on a transistor radio on a rooftop in Timbuktu. (Read more about Timbuktu in National Geographic magazine.)
I sat with a local teacher named Issaka and a businessman named Mohammed atop the small guesthouse Mohammed owned on the outskirts of the city, just a stone's throw from the rolling dunes that mark the southern edge of the Sahara.
Deep into the night we huddled against the desert chill wrapped in quilts, listening to the reports on French radio, discussing politics, and drinking glasses of steaming mint tea dutifully served by Mohammed's ten-year-old nephew Akbar.
To my great surprise, I found Timbuktu, the ancient city in northern Mali whose name is synonymous with the back of beyond, gripped with Obama fever. As I walked through the markets and visited local mosques, several men stopped me to ask if I was American and then gave a thumbs-up and an enthusiastic "Obama!"
Yes...YES...the chosen one was elected in 2008, and that was great news for Bali's Timbuktu.  There was hope.  There was joy.  There was...ummm...misrepresentation.  Four years later, Obama said that al-Qaeda was "decimated."   There were a lot of problems with such a statement, not the least of which is that the word, itself, since it only meant one in ten items no longer exists.  But, it was used by the President in Wisconsin to suggest that al-Qaeda was on its heels.

Unfortunately, Timbuktu tells a different story.  It's now owned by al-Qaeda.  So, one wonders what Issaka thinks of Obama now.

Last month, on Election Day in the U.S., I called Issaka, who himself had relocated to Bamako. He described how the capital, swollen with refugees from the north, remains tense with uncertainty and rife with rumors.
I reminded him of how Obama's election had stirred jubilance among Timbuktu residents four years before. He laughed. "That was a long time ago." But then in a wistful voice added, "We need Obama now more than ever."

Friday, December 7, 2012

James Bond is Not the Same Guy

Yikes...Bill O'Reilly and I are on the same page.
However, the biggest difference between Connery and Craig is that the former seemed to be having fun racing around the world doing the bidding of the British government. Craig does not seem to be having a lot of laughs.
In fact, Craig is a major brooder, and so is his boss, played by Judi Dench. Watching these two have a conversation is like watching Dr. Phil yell at some guy who just abandoned his family.
Never a fan of political correctness, I even am more annoyed when this "disease" overtakes a fictional character.   James Bond may always win against the bad guy, but he didn't even put of a fight against the real enemy.  He broods.  He emotes.  He looks like he would be happier serving as greeter to the local Wal-Mart.

AP By-line Always Contradicts the Facts

The U.S. economy added 146,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent, the lowest since December 2008. The government said Superstorm Sandy had only a minimal effect on the figures.
And the unemployment rate fell to a four-year low in November from 7.9 percent in October mostly because more people stopped looking for work and weren't counted as unemployed.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I Knew It, and I Still Feel Like Crap

I wrote this back on October 9th, when it became apparent that the State Department was lying.

Here’s a thought. What if the military knows that the weapons used to gain access to, and kill the American’s in Benghazi were provided to the Libyan rebels by the Presidential Finding decision that circumvented Congress back in March 2011. Therefore, the White House (under the advice of the State Department) armed the rebels, who turned out to be terrorists. Essentially, the White House and State Department provided the means and opportunity for terrorists to attack our Embassy and now they are focusing everyone on the opportunity to turn everyone away from the means (weapons).
That was far fetched.  That would never happen with this Administration.  Right?

 WASHINGTON — The Obama administration secretly gave its blessing to arms shipments to Libyan rebels from Qatar last year, but American officials later grew alarmed as evidence grew that Qatar was turning some of the weapons over to Islamic militants, according to United States officials and foreign diplomats.
There you go.  Our president used a loophole to go around Congressional approval, handed weapons to a non-vetted group, and those weapons were likely used to kill our Ambassador, and three other fellow Americans.  That is why the White House, State Department and Intelligence agencies answering to the president were obligated to lie with impunity despite the facts right out in front of us all.  It was to distract from the real incompetence of our president who was campaigning for re-election.

Lincoln to be Screened in the Senate

From: Deadline
EXCLUSIVE: I’ve just learned that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has invited Steven Spielberg to screen Lincoln on December 19th 12th. But what’s different about this invitation is that Reid is offering to provide the U.S. Senate to Spielberg as the theatre. Reid’s invite only recently went out — and I’m told Spielberg will accept for his movie to play in the historic setting.
What I find amusing about this is the fact that Speilberg did not re-write history for the movie "Lincoln."  The Democrats are shown in their full colors as they fight tooth and nail to avoid the passing of the 13th Amendment.  The representatives of the Confederate Government (Democrat as well) take the same stance.

In short, you have a film that actually highlights that the Republicans (both party and Radical) support the abolition of slavery, while Democrats do not.  It's a shame that Robert Byrd will not be there to see it. 

Costas: Words Matter

Bob Costas last Sunday:

Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it.
Bob Costas today:

 "Domestic violence is part of it. Drugs and alcohol could be part of it," Costas said. "And I didn't say anything specifically about gun-control legislation or the Second Amendment. I don't want to repeal the Second Amendment. I think we should have responsible gun control, but that wouldn't prohibit somebody from carrying a gun."
You would think that someone who spends his career talking would take the time to understand the words that come out of his own mouth.  The whole basis of the "gun-control" lobby labors far and wide to suggest that guns only kill, and never protect.  His comments played right into their argument.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I Think They're Doing it Wrong...

I'm going to tell you a secret.

Wait...but, if you tell me the secret.  It won't be a secret any more.


The Pentagon has announced plans to assemble an espionage network large enough to rival the CIA in size, according to reports.
As part of the project, US military officials would send hundreds of additional spies overseas, the Washington Post reported.
It would also see the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) overhauled, away from a primary focus on activities related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
When the expansion is completed, the DIA could have as many as 1,600 intelligence "collectors" around the world - far more than its current overseas presence which numbers in the hundreds.
That total would include military attaches and others who will not work undercover, the newspaper wrote.
But US officials said the plans also include deployment of a new generation of clandestine operatives to be trained by the CIA.

Big Oil v. Big Government

Just last week I called Bill Shuster a jackass.  He's the chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.  He was hinting at the necessity to raise the federal gasoline tax up from 18.4 cents per gallon.  I was angry about that for a number of reasons, not the least of which is how politicians of every ilk always cry foul when an energy company shows a profit even though they only make a profit of about 2 to 3 cents on every gallon.  Energy companies actually take the risk, pay for the research and development, finance the exploratory projects etc.  The federal government just collects six times the profit of the energy companies while doing absolutely nothing, and then suggest that the tax isn't high enough.

Well, that's the federal story.

Now, the individual states are getting into the extortion act. 
Gov. Corbett said last week that he is mulling an increase in one component of Pennsylvania's gas tax. In New Jersey, transit advocates are urging Gov. Christie to relent on his no-gas-tax-hike vow as a way to help pay for repairs to a transportation network ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.
And in Congress, the new chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Rep. Bill Shuster (R., Pa.), said last week that "we need to explore" all funding options, including a higher gas tax.
Revenue from gas taxes has been sliding as people drive fewer miles and more efficient vehicles. And inflation has whittled away at the value of the taxes, some of which have not been raised in decades.
The federal gas tax, last increased in 1993, is 18.4 cents a gallon.
The Pennsylvania tax is 31.2 cents a gallon (32.3 cents if you count the 1.1 cent-per-gallon underground storage tank fee, which the state Revenue Department doesn't but the American Petroleum Institute does). It last went up in 1997.
Heh...let's see.  The average driver uses 729 gallons of gasoline per year.  If you live in Pennsylvania, you pay 18.4 cents per gallon federal tax and 31.2 state tax per gallon.  Add in the ground tank storage fee, and it averages off to 50 cents per gallon tax paid during every fill-up.   You're paying about $365 in taxes annually if you drive a car. 

So, while Exxon-Mobile pulls in about $15 per year profit from your purchases annually, the Federal and State Government are pulling in about twenty-four (24) times that amount with absolutely no costs or risks of running a business.  The Federal and State governments want more money from your fuel purchases.

Anyone remember how this strategy worked with cigarette taxes?  They taxed the hell out of cigarettes.  Less people smoked, and they were at a loss as to how the taxes (already spent) were dwindling.  So as the federal (and state governments-California) force fuel mandates in the form of mileage per gallon increases on us, they will wonder why the taxes (they already spent) are going down. 

Clown car politicians.  Next, they will switch to taxing what you actually buy (gasoline) and apply the tax to your actual mileage.  By that time we will all be riding bicycles on the freeways or some such nonsense.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Droning On from the So-called Experts

But when it comes to more sophisticated foes such as Iran, which has Russian-made anti-aircraft missile systems, the drone is vulnerable to attack. Last year the Iranians shot down a sophisticated U.S. stealth drone, the bat-winged RQ-170 Sentinel, and now the Revolutionary Guards say they have captured a ScanEagle version, which is launched from sea. Clearly the golden age of the drones, when they ruled supreme in the skies, is drawing to a close.
 Con Coughlin of the London Telegraph thinks the golden age of Drone warfare is already behind us.  Con Coughlin is mistaken.  The RQ-170 was not shot down.  It was, likely, a system failure.  So, the stealth aspect was intact.  Also, while the Revolutionary Gurards can say what they like, the Navy hasn't lost a ScanEagle. 

The next generation of drones is already beyond the pipeline.  The new Boeing Phantom Ray has a cruising speed of well over 600 MPH at an altitude of over 65,000 feet.   That puts everyone else's toys to shame, and the shape suggests stealth as well.  Add a liquid hydrogen mixture fuel source, and you have a drone that can stay on station for days at a time without refueling.

As I said, Con Coughlin is mistaken.  The golden age of Drones can't even be seen from this distance.  But, it's coming.

Fatalism on Display

Trevor Paglen’s The Last Pictures is a project that marks one of these spacecraft with a visual record of our contemporary historical moment. Paglen spent five years interviewing scientists, artists, anthropologists, and philosophers to consider what such a cultural mark should be. Working with materials scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Paglen developed an artifact designed to last billions of years—an ultra-archival disc, micro-etched with one hundred photographs and encased in a gold-plated shell. In Fall 2012, the communications satellite EchoStar XVI will launch into geostationary orbit with the disc mounted to its anti-earth deck. While the satellite’s broadcast images are as fleeting as the light-speed radio waves they travel on, The Last Pictures will remain in outer space slowly circling the Earth until the Earth itself is no more.
There's a video explaining the project at the link above.  I watched it...and it made me laugh.  What could be so funny about a fatalistic project to reach fruition only after humanity fails to exist any longer? about the fatalism as a whole.  I don't know about these clowns calling our demise, but I'm thinking that by the time the Earth succumbs to our Sun turning into a Red Giant, humanity will have colonized elsewhere.  But, even that isn't the funny part...really.  The funny part is that the video includes some of the images they plan to use including one of a mountain glacier that by using two separate images suggests the glacier is being destroyed by humanity. 

Yes, my friends...if it's at all possible these people want to get their message of anthropomorphic global warming out to the aliens billions of years from now.  After all, you have to control the narrative.

Personally, I think we should be including images of Paris Hilton,  Lindsay Lohan and the entire State of California so that when the aliens catch up to humanity on some distant planet, they underestimate us.

It's as Simple as That (Bob Costas and Gun Control)

Look, I'm a politics fanatic and a sports fanatic -- and I don't want to see stark political commentary become a regular halftime feature. But every once in while, there is something that that, in Savio's words, makes you so sick at heart that exercising your right to free speech -- in a place and at a time that will shock some people, to wake them out of their slumber -- isn't just brave, but it is absolutely necessary.
Bob Costas threw himself on the gears last night, even as the me-too machine of "popular" opinion chewed him up. It was absolutely the right thing to do.
Hey's another Leftist enlightening us about the great application of the First Amendment at the expense of the 2nd Amendment while doing a dance of hypocrisy.  He fails to understand that the First Amendment is a two way street.  Yes, you get to say what you want...when you want.  But, there are repercussions if others don't agree.  You can say it, but you have to live with what you said.   It sure is a bitch when your career depends on popularity.  Then again, Bob Costas chose his career.  It didn't choose him.

Obviously,  a good deal of viewers to the football game on Sunday night didn't think Bob Costas was correct when he said, "Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it."  As a result, a signficant number of people took him to task by exercising their own First Amendment rights.

Apparently, in Leftistland, such repercussions are frowned upon when the opinion is contrary to their own.  In fact, it's so frowned upon that journalists defend the opinion they agree with by denigrating those contrary to theirs and selectively use free speech to make their point. 

I wonder if Will Bunch thinks it's okay for me to disagree with his opinion on the matter.  Judging by the faulty reasoning he applies to those who disagreed with Bob Costas' timing and words, I guess he assumes that he is protected by that same "selective" First Amendment.  Repercussions are for those that are wrong in their opinion....right?  Will Bunch and Bob Costas decide who's wrong.  It's as simple as that.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Occupy Nonsense

INSIDE A bare-bones office in the corner of an Old City union warehouse, members of the local Occupy movement are sitting in a circle beneath fluorescent lights, plotting their next move.
It's not quite the same vibe, though, as last year, when hundreds of Occupiers staked a claim on Dilworth Plaza for 56 days. No one here has a bullhorn. No one's disguising himself with a bandanna or a Guy Fawkes mask, or planning to go march against something corporate.
These seven or so people are sharing bagels and clementines, taking notes together, and earnestly discussing how to help those who lost everything in Superstorm Sandy. Later in the day, organizer Nathan Kleinman will head to Wildwood to visit people living in hotels, their homes up north destroyed by floodwaters.
"Mostly, what they need out there is volunteers. The main function of this space, in my view, should be as a volunteer hub," Kleinman, 30, tells the group gathered around him. "We shouldn't be stressing out over the stuff. We'll develop a plan to use all that stuff."
Apparently, everyone is smarter than I am.  I can't seem to understand how the Philadelphia Inquirer heard about an impromtu meeting of seven people sitting around eating bagels and clementines in an abandoned warehouse.  That's some mighty good investigative reporting.  Someone really knows their beat.  What luck that the seven people were on their best behavior and not taking a dump on a police car or anything to that effect when Philly's largest media outlet gave these seven people eating bagels front page coverage.

Besides, it's really hard to eat a clementine while wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. 

"One of the next things we'll look at is jobs, how to find jobs for all the people who lost them because of the storm," he says, touring the hall before he heads off to Wildwood.
I have a question.  These kids who are going to look for jobs for the people that lost them due to the is it that they have the free time available to do that?  Don't they have jobs?  How do they support themselves?  Oh...right...we support them.  Gosh I love publicity stunt do-gooder crap. 

I'm a Heathen

6:48PM EST December 2. 2012 - FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — An Army private charged with sending U.S secrets to the website WikiLeaks had a history of suicidal thoughts and aloof behavior that outweighed a psychiatrist's opinion that he was no risk to himself, two former counselors testified Sunday.
Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Jordan and Marine Master Sgt. Craig Blenis testified on the sixth day of a pretrial hearing for Pfc. Bradley Manning at Fort Meade, near Baltimore. The hearing is to determine whether Manning's nine months in pretrial confinement at the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va., were so punishing that the judge should dismiss all charges. The 24-year-old intelligence analyst is accused of sending hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the secret-spilling website in 2009 and 2010 when he was stationed in Baghdad.
I must be a heathen.  It has always occurred to me that we should load up a prisoner's cell with sharp implements and ropes on the outside chance that said inmate would take care of business if they so desired.  I'm not sure where the attitude of protecting the inmate came from...especially if they don't wish to be taken care of.  Granted, there are those who are mentally ill beyond any thoughts of self-preservation.  But, this doesn't seem to be the case here. 

I say, put a long rope in Manning's cell and a reference book on historical high seas knot tying.  The choice, then, is his and not some half-ass defense strategy trying to make someone who allegedly released hundreds of thousands of classified documents to some creepy Australian guy appear to be the victim.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

His Re-election Reward

For the life of me, I couldn't figure out why President Obama took such a short jaunt into the Far East after the election.  It seemed like an expedited diplomacy trip on the surface, but that wasn't what it was at all.

It was a himself. 

Anyone who takes the time to understand the man in the US Presidency will come to one solid conclusion.  He is an absolute opponent to any type of historical colonial rule.  The Brits in India...horrendous.  The Brits in Burma...those bastards.  The United States in the could we?  You get the idea.  So, I suppose this wasn't a surprise:

Amid the flash, the centerpiece of Obama’s journey was his address at the University of Yangon. In the audience in the small but packed auditorium was Aung San Suu Kyi, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for advocating democracy and opposing the military dictators who controlled Burma.
Obama hit a critical note immediately, saying: “I came here because of my respect for this university. It was here at this school where opposition to colonial rule first took hold.”

He spoke to the legacy of anti-colonialism that courses through most of Asia today, including Burma, once ruled by Britain. Before World War II, Western powers ruled every country in Asia except Japan, Thailand and Nepal. That colonialism ended in 1999 when Portugal handed Macau back to China.
He wasn't shoring up support or hardlining China by his visits to various nations in a two day period.  He was doing himself a solid by rewarding himself with a visit to an anti-colonialism school in Yangon. 

I Like Grape Soda

A Republican lawmaker from rural central Pennsylvania who describes himself as a conservative Christian has made history as the first openly gay member of the state legislature.
Rep. Mike Fleck, 39, of Huntingdon, disclosed that he is gay in an interview with the Huntingdon Daily News published Saturday.
Fleck, who recently separated from his wife of almost a decade, told the newspaper he had struggled with his sexuality for years and hoped his openness would help others better understand the journey people have to take to live an authentic life.
"Coming out is hard enough, but doing it in the public eye is definitely something I never anticipated," he said.
That's right...I like grape soda and I don't care what anyone thinks about that.  I've long debated making this public knowledge, and it was a hard decision.  However, it's important that you know. 

I figured as long as it seems important to people what other people enjoy sexually, you might want to know what kind of soft drinks I enjoy.  It has the same relevance as far as I'm concerned.  The only difference is that my "community" (grape soda drinkers, inc.) doesn't stand up and shout it from the roof tops while claiming to want to be treated the same as everyone else.