Wednesday, November 25, 2015

I got nothin today

Let's see.. today in history - wait.. scratch that, today in present history we have folks rioting in Chicago over a knife wielding 17 year old kid on PCP being shot by police last year. Not a whole lot new there..

A Russian jet being shot down in or near Turkey and the various saber rattling that ensued from that.. Nope.. nothing there either..

<sigh> I guess I really just don't have much inspiration this morning.. here's some shopping storm troopers:

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

You Can't Fix Stupid

Venerable Alfred E. Newman - Mad via Wikipedia
I thought I'd not have much to write here today. After all, I am into my third day of Thanksgiving idleness and starting to plan for cooking for family and friends. Yes I do anticipate a putting on a pretty good feed this year, but more on that later. Let's talk about truth.

I'll start out by saying I give most people the benefit of the doubt when discussing facts. Facts are very tricky things, especially when we are trying to remember not big trendy things, like say two buildings falling down in New York after getting hit by planes hijacked by Muslims. No, those are fairly easy to nail down. It's details that can be ethereal and difficult to grasp and hold them still.

With that in mind, I read with some bemusement the thread on Instapundit about the Washington Post's effort to play the gotcha game with Trump's statements about Muslims cheering when the towers fell. After all, it's not like they haven't gotten away with this before. Consider how successfully they managed to tank George Allen's campaign over the 'macaca' statement. In that case Allen used what he thought was a made up word, then the media looked it up and 'shazam!' it was an arcane curse. It was kind of like when you are playing scrabble with a 12 year old and they just make up a word because they are tired of playing. You invoke the dictionary rule, look it up and you are both surprised that it is there. The 12 year old struts away with the win while you are looking at a tray full of useless X's, Y's, and F's.

I thought that Powerline had pretty much nailed down that Trump was correct about Muslim's cheering when the towers fell and the Post would crawl back in their hole and let that one go. But no, as the title of this post notes, you can't fix stupid. Today they decided to go ahead and double down on that. This time a different writer, Chris Cilliza, took the stupid ball and ran with it, writing about "Donald Trump's Increasingly Fact Free Campaign"

First off, let's go with the premise that at some point, the Donald spoke only the truth, and now he mostly isn't. That would require a diligent reporter to cite examples of when he spoke the truth and where exactly he deviated from that. Did any of that happen in this post? Er, no.

So let's look at where exactly Trump was supposed to deviate from the truth. First let look at exactly what Trump said:

Note how he tees it up. He wants the Post to jump on this like they have. The throw off is he doesn't really care about the 'thousands and thousands' part. That is just hyperbole. When asked about specifics in the Stephanopoulos interview, he drops into factual territory and talks about what he saw on TV. Here is exactly the kind of thing that he is talking about:

There are home grown terrorist that need to be monitored. They are advocating attacks on the US. This is undeniable. What's wrong with saying that these people need to be monitored?

Cilliza goes on to make this astounding statement:
If there is no agreed-upon neutral arbiter, there are no facts. 
Naturally, the Post should be the arbiter. But of course Trump is ignoring them, and, in a hat trick, they continue to whine about it, giving him more press and keeping his polling numbers high.

The writer wraps up the post by claiming that this tweet by Trump quotes 'inaccurate' facts about black on black crimes:

The Trump ad people are great! What are the two facts that catch your eye in this graphic?

  • about 1% of blacks that are killed are killed by the police
  • about 97% of blacks that are killed are killed by other blacks
Empirically sampling the police blotter from say Chicago on any given weekend, I'd say that is just about right. On the other hand, the Post wants you to look at the 81% of whites are killed by blacks. I didn't even see that in there until they pointed it out, did you?

That's the brilliance of the Trump campaign. They knew someone in the media would pick up on that 'fact' and blow up the internet with it. Like the loyal lapdogs they are, the Post didn't disappoint. This of course effectively gets that graphic moved from just a throwaway post into the a national spotlight. The net effect is that more people see that Trump is highlighting the fact that matters - the problem in the black community is black on black violence, not cop on black killings, something seemingly lost in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Chris is right in one sense. The media's apparent inability to fairly fact check all candidates leaves the average reader to assume that any fact check is just another hatchet job. What the Trump campaign has done is the take that hatchet away from the erstwhile political reporter who risks getting hoisted by their own petard when they try to pull the old 'gotcha' trick out of the playbook.

Good for you Trump, Good for you.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Y'all Come Back Now, Ya Hear?

From Wikipedia
As I may have mentioned elsewhere, even though I current live in Virginia, I grew up in the real south - Memphis. As I was perusing the news this morning and thinking about what to write here this morning, I came across this story about Hillary making a whistle stop visit to my home town and affecting a southern accent for the home crowd, her being a former first lady and all from neighboring Arkansas.

I have no idea how things are in Memphis now, but her touting her Arkansas first lady credentials really doesn't hold much appeal for me. When I was growing up there, Arkansas was a pretty foreign land to us. The Mississippi river was both a cultural and physical barrier. When I think back on growing up in Memphis, there really wasn't much on that side of the river but miles and miles of flatland and mud flats. The only industry there was the dog track. Even back then it was a despised institution which managed to irk both the southern baptist with it's sinful gambling and the animal lovers with it's exploitation of man's best friend. Thus, the state government that would allow such a thing was in my mind always a little backward and pitiful.

But what exactly did Hillary say and do in her brief sashay through Memphis? Well first she made her stop at LeMoyne-Owen College, a historically black college, located just a few blocks from Beale Street. I must admit I have never been there as that part of town was not someplace I had any reason to go to. Of course I have never been to Graceland either, so I don't have any feelings about it either way.

Her visit there was of course to burnish her reputation with the black voters as the wife of the first black American president. I do however wonder what black voters think about her adopting a southern accent every time she is confronted with a room full of black faces. Probably the more interesting question is "Why does she do this?" In attempting to relate to them is she taking on the persona of the white slave owners that subjugated their forefathers? There are some rather interesting things going on there that warrants further study, but frankly I am just not motivated to look into it.

There was one other thing she did there that should be noted. She talked to the family of Darius Stewart, offering them her condolences. Who is Darius Stewart? Another unarmed black child killed by a white cop, that's who! Well, that of course isn't the whole story. It turns out he was a 19 year old who had outstanding warrants for being a child molester. This is how the shooting went down. The police did a traffic stop and issued a ticket to the driver. At the same time, they looked up the ID of the passenger and found he had an outstanding warrant for arrest. They put him in the back of their cruiser while they took care of the driver and sent him on his way. When the officer went to get him out to put the cuffs on him,  he tore into the cop. The cop was loosing the fight when he pulled his weapon and shot Darius, once in the arm and shoulder, and the second time in the chest.

My theory is this was effectively suicide by cop. Anyone who knows the prison system knows that child molesters generally get the worst treatment by their fellow inmates. This fact was not lost on Darius, and when he knew that he was going to be faced with a humiliating trial followed by years of the hardest type of time, he made a decision right then and there to try to escape at all cost. With nothing to lose, trying to fight his way through one cop in order to secure his freedom seemed like a reasonable alternative.

It's a pretty sad situation all around. I can't imagine what Hillary though she could accomplish by inserting herself into it. I guess it was a crass effort to align herself with the "Black Lives Matter" crowd. She certainly did that, then neatly side stepped that issue today by tweeting today:

 What about Darius's victims? Don't their black lives matter too?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Just A Guy Named Jose, Or Jesus, But Probably Not Mohammad (as far as we know)

from Wikipedia

I have done a little thinking about immigration today. Like most Americans, I have my own experiences with immigrants and the immigration process. I offer these two examples and then will go on from there.

The first is while I was growing up. My grandfather had a large farm in Texas. Since my dad and his brother left the farm, and my grandfather's hard life was beginning to catch up with him, he hired temporary labors the help him out. As a frame of reference, this was in the late 60's or early 70's. I recall that my grandfather referred to them as 'wetbacks'. This wasn't a derogatory term for him. It was a practical statement of fact. These guys came to Texas to get work without the sanction of anyone's government. In fact, it was common in that section of Texas. In exchange for housing and a wage, they would do whatever needed doing around the farm. Much of that work was very hard. I can confirm that because I spent a summer working for my grandfather. While there was always something fun to do there, there was also some of the hottest, hardest, work I have ever done.

My grandfather told a story about how his workers came to burn down a house that he had on the property. It seems that while my grandfather had provided a livable house for them, he did not provide them with cut firewood to heat it. It was up to the workers to chop the firewood from the surrounding deadwood. This particular group of guys were not inclined to do any more work than was necessary, so rather than cutting the wood so it would fit in the fireplace, they came up with the rather brilliant idea to light one end of a log, then feed it into the fireplace as it burned. The inevitable happened and they fell asleep and the lit log resulted in the conflagration of the house.  They all escaped, but were fired and wondered off to another farm to work.

On another side of the coin, my mother in law immigrated from Spain. She and my wife's father corresponded and she came to America to marry my wife's father. She is steadfastly an American and, while she values her Catalan heritage, she also prizes her American citizenship.

So, with those two examples in mind, let's turn to what seems to be the theme for this week: the problem of the Syrian refugees. By some reports there are something like 4 million Syrians fleeing their war torn country. According to Uncle Joe, these are mostly women and orphans, but will be increased from 2000 this year to 10000 in the coming year, and will be subject some really stringent screening.

I got curious about how they would do this. After all, the Greeks are saying it's nearly impossible to tell the bad jihadist from the good Muslim. In an admittedly brief perusal of the INS site, I stumbled on the USCIS site, and the form (I-589) that is used to determine if a potential refugee is going to be granted asylum. First, you have to say that the form is detailed, and somewhat like a form you would fill out for a job application and background check, but a bit more personal. For example, it ask right up front what religion you, your spouse, and children are. As for why you are fleeing, it ask (among other things) these questions:

  • Have you, your family, or close friends experienced harm or mistreatment or threats in the past by anyone? Give specific details
  • Do you fear harm or mistreatment if you return to your home country?
  • Have you or your family members ever been arrested, interrogated, (etc) in any country other than the United States
  • Are you afraid of being tortured in your home country
The problem is not with the details, but with verification of the details, given the current state of Syria. It's not like we can call up the Syrian government and ask "Hey, did you rip the fingernails out of this guy?". Nope, this is a classic problem of using interrogation techniques to weed out bad actors from legitimate refugees and it's damn hard to do. The only basis that you have for verifying that what is on the paper is the truth is the refugee's own internal consistency. A really well prepared jihadist will be hard to detect. Hopefully, there aren't that many well prepared jihadist and the interrogators / interviewers are really, really good. This is complicated by the interviewee's due process rights. What if an interviewer thinks but can't prove that the person they are talking to is a jihadist? Do they have to pass them through anyway? I suspect they might.

Given the sheer number of applicants, I can see where is will be hard to have a large enough cadre of skilled interviewers to adequately vet all applications, and therein lies the problem. Consider a similar problem the government faces with vetting security clearances. The task is somewhat similar in that the a small cadre of investigators must, using electronic and other bio-metric data, determine that a person is who they say they are, and have no skeletons in their closets. Even in the best of circumstances, this process mostly relies on the skills of the interviewer to determine the veracity of the applicant,  and takes an average of 65 days to complete an investigation when the investigators have broad access to everything about an individual. The investigation of an asylum seeker has got to be many times more difficult than that!

So, for those people saying that Republicans are hard hearted by saying let's just back up a minute before opening the flood gates to these Syrians, i'd say their position doesn't look so crazy, given the above considerations. The federal government's first and most important job is to defend the people from harm. If you can do that and let these people in, by all means go ahead. But I think you need to prove that you can and be completely transparent in the process before allowing a single one of these people in. This administration has been anything but transparent about this. Anything else is just empty promises.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Some Post-Veteran's Day Thoughts


If you read through the "Who Is This Guy" tab on the right, you will discover that I am a veteran. It's not something that I make a big deal about. I went into the Army straight out of high school and stayed in for only one enlistment period. I learned a lot about life in that time, and am grateful to all the seasoned leadership (good and bad) that I learned from. I matured there in a way I never would have if I had chose a different path. In turn, I gave back to my country. It was a win-win.

So I approached this veterans day like many of my brothers in arms, respectful of those that gave more service and somewhat sheepish about making a big deal about it. One of the grocery chains in my area has special parking year around for veterans. Most times I won't park there, figuring there are others more deserving of that honor. But sometimes I will. After all, I did honorable service and am fully entitled to this minor perk. As far as all the free meals and discounts offered by merchants on Veteran's Day, I have never taken any of those; not because I purposefully eschewed them, but mostly because I just don't need them. 

That gives you some context for what I am about to write next. I had an odd encounter this Veterans Day. As part of my daily ritual, I dropped by a different grocery store on my way home from work. This particular store is one that I frequent every other day, so they kind of know me there. The people that work there seem like nice people and are generally hard workers, doing an honest business. After the clerk rings up my purchase, he ask "Are you retired or active duty military?"

The question kind of threw me. I knew it was Veteran's Day, and this question was asked because they probably were going to add some discount if I answered yes. However, I stumbled a bit before I stammered out a "No". In retrospect, the question, and the distinction behind it ended up bothering me a bit. I wasn't active duty, and no, I didn't put in 20 years service that would entitle me the label of military retired. But this was Veteran's Day! I was an honorably discharged veteran, and this grocery chain was, in a small way, deciding to make that distinction. That kind of bothered me a little.

I did a little research on this to look at the numbers. There are 1.4 million active duty personnel in the US and 1.4 million retired military  (page 7) drawing retirement pay. On the other hand there are  19.3 million veterans alive and kicking in the US. Doing the math on that:

(1.4m active duty + 1.4m retired)/(19.3m total veterans + 1.4 active duty) = 13.5 %

So this particular chain made the reasonable distinction that they would honor those who have served or were serving, but only 13.5% of them. I understand they had to limit their loss, while seeming to do the right thing from a PR viewpoint. However, let's look a little closer at those numbers. The total population of the US over 18 years old is around 209 million. So if you look at the relative percentage of the persons who have served or am currently serving:

(19.3m total veterans + 1.4m active duty)/209m =  discounts for 9.9% of consumers


(1.4m active duty + 1.4m retired)/209m = discounts for 1.3% of consumers

I guess it makes some economic sense. But for many veterans, it kind of leaves a bad taste in our mouths. Make no mistake, I served under some of those old dogs, and they truly deserve every honor and break that they get. On the other hand, Veteran's Day is a day for all of us, not just the soldiers who have made the military their life. It rings somewhat hollow when you do that. I am not going to change where I shop because of this, nor should any one else. 

I just ask the retailers to pause and think about that feeling they are about to give the 92% of the veterans that will walk through their door on Veteran's Day, and ask themselves: Is this really a good idea? I really could care less about the money. If that same clerk had asked me if I was a veteran and thanked me for my service it would have made my day. If he gave me a small discount on my purchase, all the better. What I ending up feeling walking away from the store was something all together different. Those feelings are probably not something you ant a consumer to have upon exiting your store. So next Veteran's Day I ask you to think this through just a little more, ok?

Note: This is part one of my 9 days of Thanksgiving Break. I intend to write a little every day of the break. I hope it is entertaining, but I admit that most times it may not be... enjoy and let me know what you think either via email or in the comments. Thank you for reading and linking!

Friday, September 11, 2015

It was a day like today

Originally wrote this back in mid-August 2013 - bumping to today

I had a memory triggered by not a place or person but by the very air itself today. The odd August day where the air was shockingly clear, the cool temperature bringing to mind a hint of the coming fall leaves, and the overall sense of peace - that did it for me today. It brought me back to a time in the not too distant past.

I was contracting at Lockheed Martin at the time at a facility about a mile from my house in Manassas VA. We were designing an autopilot system for the Navy’s Osprey class minehunter ships. I was spending a lot of time in the lab back then. Due to security restrictions, there were no radios and no internet in the lab, thus I was pretty much cut off from the world. I was ok with that, as most of the time when I’m really working hard, I cut the world off anyway.

That day I came out of the lab, sat down at my cubicle and went to look up some technical specs. As I started once again to sink into a technical stupor, I noticed my network access slowing. “Great”, I thought, “the denizens at Lockmart must be up to something”. I heard over the cubicle someone say, “hey, a plane just flew into a building in New York”. I must admit, I kind of tuned it out. My immediate thought was that some hotdog pilot had messed up. It was a crisis, but of incidental impact for me.

The network continued to slow and became unusable. People began to gather and talk as no one could get any work done. I tried to open up a web page to a news site and got nothing. Someone said they had heard it was a passenger plane. There was no internet or TV, so I joined the people going outside to listen to car radios.

I was shocked by what I heard. A plane had hit the World Trade Center. There were stories about a coordinated terrorist attack against all major cities. Planes all over the country had been grounded. I looked at the sky. Normally Manassas is in the flight path for Reagan and Dulles, and there are always planes in sight overhead. Now there was nothing, only clouds and blue sky. I think at that moment it came home to me that the world had changed. Then I watched as a passenger plane, lower than usual, crossed the sky heading east. I don’t know if it was one of the planes, the ones that ended up at the Pentagon or a field in Pennsylvania, but it could have been. My thought at the time was, “I bet he is hurrying to get someplace safe”.

I tried to call my wife on my cell to see if she knew what was going on. The call didn't go through as the cell networks were overloaded and fried. People had already started to leave, and I could see there wasn't much point in staying there. I did the short drive home, and joined my wife, along with all the rest of America, in watching the horror on TV. It is then that I learned that a plane had hit the Pentagon, though I remember there was a lot of confusion about that initially. Some reports had a plane hitting the Newseum in Rosslyn or one of the office buildings in Crystal City.

Then the first tower fell. Pictures of dust covered people, walking out of NY – ferries overloaded. Then the second tower fell. Stories of a plane crashed in Pennsylvania – a minor thing at first, given all the other death and destruction. Pictures of fire and a big black hole in the Pentagon. It all seemed so surreal with the sun shining down and the blue sky above. Death and destruction are only supposed to come on dark and stormy nights, when God pours his wrath out with wind and lightening. There was no 'god' or higher power here. Later, much later, the anger came when we understood what had been done to us by the same savages that are decimating Egypt today. More importantly, Bush’s resolve to never let this happen again resonated across all Americans. Like most times of crisis, it was our finest hour.

A couple of other things stand out for me from that time. A few weeks after, I went with my daughter to the Virginia State 4H Horse Show in Lexington VA. There was some talk, given all the uncertainty of another attack, about cancelling it. With some courage they didn't – and for that I’m glad. My wife didn't want us to go, but even then our feelings were that if we cowered in our homes, the troglodytes would have won (something to think about next time your being groped at the airport). After we settled the horses in at the stables, we went over to the main arena for the opening ceremony. It was sort of a grouping the way people gathered at that time. Even in the unusually packed and overly large arena, there was a comfort in huddling together – though no one came out and said that.

As with most of these things, this one was to start out with a mounted color guard, all 4H teenagers, at the center of the ring. The plan was when the National Anthem started; they would circle the ring while it played. I guess the guy working the sound was nervous and turned the volume up a little too much, so the opening bars boomed out just a little too loud. Predictably, this had a negative effect on the color guard horses. The horse on the end, the one with the American flag, jumped and bolted a little. The girl on the horse did what she was trained to do – get control of the horse first, and then deal with the other stuff. Unfortunately, this meant dropping the flag.

They cut the music right away, but there was the flag in the dust of the arena. The metaphor wasn't lost on anyone there. As I remember it, one of the grizzled old hands that you always see at these things hoped over the end gate, strolled out to the center, and picked up the flag. When he handed it to the girl, you could have heard a pin drop. Then the cheering started, followed by the national anthem. That metaphor was definitely not lost on anyone there. I don’t know when the cheering stopped, but I’m not ashamed to say a tear or two rolled down my face – and I was not alone.

The other memory that I got was from a year or so later. Our 4H group had a tradition of putting on a Halloween family day for autistic kids and their families at a farm in Culpepper. The people hosting the event were members of our group, and the father was retired military. He had bought the farm as a place to settle down after a long military career. He liked to say he bought it due to its history. It seems that after the civil war, the fellow who owned the farm, upon returning from the war, stuck his sword into a tree there, declaring that he was done fighting. That tree is still there, and has grown and swallowed the sword completely.

Before we got started, the father took the mike and explained what was going on with the opening ceremony. First he noted that the flag that they were using was one of the ones that were flying over the Pentagon that day, loaned to one of the parents who was in the Pentagon (but thankfully unhurt) that day. He then choked up a little as he noted that the boy carrying the flag, his son, a freckled faced, hard working kid we all knew, had signed up to enter the Army and would be leaving soon to defend the US against the savages. Oh – and they played this song as he circled:

In my mind's eye I still see Chris, circling that small ring at a slow canter, flag whipping in the wind, his father off to the side, not a dry eye anywhere. Listen to that song for just a bit and let it take you back...

(If you don’t have a tear in your eye right now check your pulse, you might be dead) 

As far as I know, Chris made it out ok, though I think he returned to Iraq working for Blackwater after his tour was up. We kinda lost touch after a few years.

Anyway, that’s the memory that came back to me today. Thanks for reading and sharing this with me.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

When No Means Yes

Lately have been pretty busy with work and other pursuits, and disinclined to follow politics too closely. But sometimes I really can't help myself. I'll admit, at first the Iran deal was kind of a ho-hum thing for me. I mean really, what difference does it make? <I am coming to like that phrase just a little too much>. I came to the conclusion that I think most people did. It was an awful deal negotiated by mostly incompetent people, and there was no way a Republican controlled Senate would let it stand. No Worries.

Then I heard the middle of this week that the Democrats in the Senate had garnered 34 votes and it was going to pass. Huh? Lets see.. what does the constitution say about that:
(Article 2, Section 2) He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur
 Let's do the math on that, because these things all have to be all exact and stuff since this is lawyer business (Congress being in the business of making laws and such). First of all, how many Senators are there in the Senate? Probably like hundreds.. Back to the Constitution:
(XVII Amendment) The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State
So that's two per state, (checking Google to make sure Texas is still a state and Puerto Rico isn't.. yep!) 50 states:
2 X 50 = 100
100 Senators. Whew! Now we are ready to do real math. Let's assume for a minute that all those Senators are on the job, not off playing golf, getting mani-pedi's, or their dogs tails trimmed. Being a Senator is an important business, and voting on stuff is what they are paid the big bucks for, especially something as important as a rogue nation being allowed to get civilization destroying weapons. So lets say they are all there to vote. For a treaty to stand, how many senators must vote to ratify it?
 100 X 2/3 = 66.6666666666(etc.)
 So unless a Jihadi sneaks into the Senate chamber, chops off the head and one arm of a Senator and throws it up in the air during a vote, assuming a non-corpulent senator where a head and an arm would comprise 66.6666666(etc.)% or more of a Senator (swelled heads being common in the Senate), that means that 67 out of 100 Senators need to say Yes to a treaty before it is agreed to. So lets do the math on that:
34 = 67
Nope! I may not be the best engineer in the world, but I am pretty sure that's not right. If you are like me, you are scratching your head right now, trying to figure out how this treaty got approved.

I did a little more reading on the subject. It turns out that the the thing they voted on wasn't a resolution to approve the treaty, but one to disapprove the treaty. Now here's where the logic of this thing gets really twisted. It seems that since they passed a disapproval, the President can veto their disapproval. If the Senate and the House can't override the veto, then their resolution to disapprove is disapproved, and the treaty is approved. Wait WHAT?

Yeah, it took me a few readings of that too to understand it and I just wrote it. Let's try it in a big bold font and see if it makes more sense:
If the Senate and the House can't override the veto, then their resolution to disapprove is disapproved, and the treaty is approved
Nope.  Still not making sense. Perhaps I missed something. Wait, what does it take to override a veto? Maybe that's it. Back to the Constitution:
(Section 7) Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States: If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it.  If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law
So, borrowing from the above math, the Senate needs 67 Senators to disapprove the disapproval of the disapproval or the treaty will be ratified (or something). If just 34 (more than 1/3 of the Senate) Senators vote to disapprove the disapproval of the disapproval of the disapproval, the treaty will be ratified, as plainly stated in the Constitution (or something like it somewhere).

That leads me to two little thought experiments. The first is this. As crazy as this sounds, what would have happened if the Senate had done nothing with the treaty? Would that be approving it? It's not like that has every been done, right? Actually it has. This State Department listing has like 38 treaties that the Senate has let sit idle, the oldest wasting away since 1949. Important stuff like a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and Avoidance of Double Taxation With the Duchy of Luxembourg. So is:

(a failed disapproval of a treaty) ==  (non-action on a treaty) == (failed approval of a treaty) 

The result is the same right? Approval has not been done, regardless of how you got to that state. The inner programmer in me who lives and dies every day with the iron rules of logic is jumping up and down, throwing banana peals, violently shaking the the bars of his cage, spitting, and generally wrecking havoc on my frontal lobe, screaming "OF COURSE YOU IDIOT!!!" <I'm going to have to drink some Black Label soon to calm him down.>

The second thought experiment is what if, despite the protestations of crazed monkey programmer trapped my head, a failed disapproval is the same as an approval? In that crazy upside down world (which apparently we are currently living in), there is an upside. Because what is a veto if not a disapproval of a Senate action? What this means is that if the Senate wanted to, they could draft a resolution approving any Presidential veto. If that fails, then the buck stops in the Senate. The President can't veto legislation that never passed! The Senate would have disapproved the approval of the disapproval of the disapproval without having to directly address the veto disapproving stuff. Equal branches of government and all, the underlying legislation would pass on the above created "No Means Yes" principle. The Presidential veto would become meaningless. Champagne glasses clinking all around!

Or there is an even crazier idea. We could just ask the Senators to do their job according to the plain text of the Constitution. Crazier things have been tried and worked. What do you say Senators, why not give it a try? What's the worst that could happen?

Welcome Moon-Nukers, and thanks Harvey for the link! You'll note that I have been lax in my posting here, but I am attempting to correct that. I welcome your comments and suggestions. So by all means, take a few minutes to wonder around, kick the tires, and read my ramblings. If you like what you see, then drop back by. I will be posting at least once a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. Thanks for dropping by!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Trump Card

Like many Americans, I didn't watch the first Republican candidate presidential debate. To paraphrase a certain notable Democrat, “at this point in time, what difference could it make?”. Seriously, for those paying attention, we know who we like and who we don't. For the undecided, I doubted there was much they could say that would make a difference.

Besides, I reside in Virginia, a pivotal state for the actual election. Even with that, the way the primary game is played, the people of Virginia will have virtually no say in who will eventually be on the Republican ticket. By the time we have our primary election, the die will be cast. How do I know that? Not a single candidate has deigned to visit our great state to campaign. In fact, I’d venture to say they have not even set up campaign offices in our state. After all, why spend money where it doesn't matter – at least not for now. Is my bitterness over this showing through – damn right!

That being said something notable happened in that debate. I though, 'hey, as long as I am going to start writing again, I might as well write about that.' So I am. At this point everyone knows the notable thing that happened. Forest of virtual trees have been harvested and beaten into bits so the Internets pundits could pontificate on the happening. So I’ll rake over it one more time to freshen your memory.

Apparently the candidates were asked to raise their hands to indicate that if they did not win the nomination, they would not run as an independent. Now first lets consider the question a little. Raise your hand? Seriously? What are they, six year olds squirming in their seats desperately trying to get the moderator's attention so they could get to the bathroom before their abject failure at bladder control is pasted on their pant fronts for the swarmy second graders to point at and make fun of? Is this what the potential new leaders of the free world are to be reduced to? Pissy first graders?

Next let's consider the why of the question. Was there anyone on the stage besides Trump who would even be considered a potential for an independent run? Ok – maybe Rand Paul, but he is not his dad. He has been active in the Senate, working within the Republican organization to try to make a difference. He is not just going to throw all that away for an independent run. So yes, the only one there they were asking was Trump. So why bring that up? I see no spontaneity in that question. If I had to guess, i'd say Trump asked them to pose that question himself.

Why would he do that? I'd say that this campaign is not a chess match for Trump – it's a game of high stakes poker. What he wanted to do is to send a message to the party – ditch me at your own peril. That forces them to let him play as long as he wanted unless they can think of some other way to steal his underpants. The down side for him is they are incredibly inept at the game and his campaign has succeeded to the point that he remains a distinctive lead candidate. I'd say that no one is more surprised by that than him. A true accidental candidate – I really believe he was just trying to get some leverage to build some buildings and sell some books. Ooops! If we are lucky, the coming months will be notably different than what has come before. If we are really fortunate, we'll get what we need in the oval office – an change we deserve. Not because whomever that it is planned to be that, but because that is what is compelled by history.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Hero Of The Week 2-21-15

(H/T WeaselZippers) This week's hero of the week goes out to a Virginia Capitol Police officer that helped a returning soldier. This guy and his war dog were inseparable in Afghanistan. The dog, Spike, served him and his buddies by going in to harms way, again and again to sniff out danger and protect them from some of the sneaky crap they had to deal with.

When Jared Heine returned back home, like many veterans, he suffered from PTSD. One of the things he talked about most was missing his work dog Scout. Jared's mother went to work to try to find out what happened to Scout. It turned out that he was still working, and now with the Virginia Capitol Police. When she got in contact with our hero, Officer Laura Taylor, the officer faced a hard decision. For her, it was the right thing to give Spike to Jared, and help him try to close the loop on his time in service. So here's to you Officer Laura Taylor (and Spike), our Hero(s) of the week:

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Hero of the Week 2-7-15

This week's hero of the week was pretty much a no-brainer. I don't usually give out the Hero award to royalty, but this week was different. The ISIS cowards decided to make public the video of how they had burned to death a pilot they had captured after negotiating for weeks with the Jordanian government. The enraged head of state did what any leader would do in such a circumstance. First he executed the ISIS troglodytes that were being negotiated for, and then he led airstrikes on ISIS targets: not another coddled royal twerp, this guy. So here's the hero of the week award to King Abdullah II of Jordan. Fly it until the last piece stops moving.

I see that, I though of this..

(Via Instapundit) I saw this story about a study of the microbes of in the New York subway system. It notes:
"Almost half of the DNA found on the system’s surfaces did not match any known organism and just 0.2 percent matched the human genome.”
 My thoughts immediately went to Jeff of MIB:

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Afghanistan - a different view

A worthy read from Jerry Pournelle on the situation in Afghanistan here (at the bottom of that entry). It confirms everything I know about the arms that our military is using good and bad.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Um, still not the best

I noted this article about a British sniper with 171 kills that has surpassed America's top sniper Chris Kyle in kills (160) and the Sun is touting as the top sniper ever. Um, no.. that's just wrong. The top ever would have to be Vasily Zaytsev. As Wikopedia notes:
a Soviet sniper and a Hero of the Soviet Union during World War II. Between 10 November and 17 December 1942, during the Battle of Stalingrad, he killed 225 soldiers and officers of the Wehrmacht and other Axis armies, including 11 enemy snipers
 Note that for most of his 400 kills he used a standard issue Mosin-Nagant. The Mosin is an awesome rifle, amazingly accurate, even with open sights. But still, it takes a God given talent to be that accurate at those distances consistently. Regardless,  you have to admire all these men who, under the conditions and horror of war, have the courage to employ their talents to protect their fellow soldiers and their country.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Heroes of the Week 1/31/15

It is what makes us human that we don't want to die unremarked and unknown. It is even more remarkable that these troopers would honor with dignity the passing of a woman they never met. By providing such honor, they remind us that life, human life is a prescious thing, to be celebrated and remebered. So here's to you Sgt. Jeff Whitemarsh, the Delaware Trooper Honor Guard, and those who marked the passing of Mrs. Valeria Mayer with a donation of a plot and a casket. You are the Heroes of the Week!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Let's check the weather...

Let's see...

Snow, clouds, rain.. and a chance of the end of life as we know it:

Once again a once in a lifetime celestial event, and clouds are blocking it.. this one I really rather NOT see up close anyway..

Hero(s) of the Week 1/24/15

This week's Hero(s) of the week goes out to a not so small group of people that have been doing the same thing, year after year, mostly without recognition or credit since 1974. They come from all over the country, at mostly their own expense. They gather, cheerfully walk down the same street, to the same building, maybe listen to the same speeches, maybe not. Maybe go in and talk to the the same guys who pretend to listen to them, maybe not. Most of them will just kneel and say a prayer. Once they are done, they pick up their litter and go home.

They are all types: Catholics, Baptist, Methodist, Pagan, Democrats (just a few) and Republicans, gays, straights, blacks, whites, Native Americans, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, goths, businessmen, students, housewives, and toddlers. In a word, Americans.

Even though for the past 10 years their numbers have reached over 200,000 every year (500,000 this year), they are mostly a non-event to the media, and the local news usually fails to note that they are even there. Yet they come anyway. You can disagree with their cause, but you can't fault their dedication, faith, and positive spirit. Those are hero traits and why all the men, women, boys, girls, and yes, unborn children of the 2015 March For Life are this week's Hero(s) of the Year.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Heroes of the Week (1/10/15)

With the troglodytes doing their worst in France and the Republicans playing roll over in their new positions as Senate Leaders, there wasn't too much to look up to this week. That is until I saw this story about three Marines doing what they do best. It seems that a couple of thugs decided that outside a recruiting office was a good place to rob an old lady: a poor tactical choice to say the least. Staff Sgt. Ben Shoemaker, Sgt Ricardo Schebasta, and Staff Sgt Bryson Twigg responded to her cries for help. While one of the assailants had beat the scene by the time the lady started screaming, the other one was still in sight. As Sgt Shoemaker put it:
That kid was never going to outrun me. Marines run towards the sound of chaos.
 To quote the veritable old cripple "BWAHAHAHAHA!". They corralled the one miscreant and held him until the authorities showed up. A Big "OooRah" out to Sgt Shoemaker and has buddies, our Heroes of the Week.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Just saying...


For a fairly honest assessment, I think Forbes has a pretty good discussion of this. The Dems are going nuts about it - all the mainstream media and social networks are blowing up. The truth is the social security disability program is freaking nuts. I personally know of people who are on it that really should not be, and people who can't get on it that should. Unfortunately, the establishment Republicans are sure to back down and do nothing about it... same old same old..

What's really stupid? That as a party the Republicans made this a thing. I mean, if you are going to go after insane Dem positions, really go after them. Don't make a bold stand by doing some arcane rule change that ultimately means nothing. Be Bold! Announce on DAY ONE that you are going starting impeachment hearings, Abolishing ATF and the Department of Ed! 

Nope - not going to happen. Ever. The next few years will be interesting.

Meanwhile The Bamster announces a proposal for another give away - free college for all. Something that really means nothing and went nowhere even when the Dems were in control of congress. Meaningless governance all around. I guess we should be glad they are all actually doing nothing. That's a good thing.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Small Case of Identity Theft

<Ring, Ring>
“Federal Bureau of Investigation, how may I direct your call?”

“I need to turn myself in. It seems I have used my credit to rack up huge debt”

“Hold please”

<elevator music for 10 minutes, then>
<ring, ring>

“Consumer Crime Division, Agent Skulduggery speaking. How can I help you?”

“Well, I was calling to turn myself in.”

“What crime do you think you have committed, sir?”

“Well, you see.. I was minding my own business, doing my own thing, paying the mortgage, electric bills, that sort of thing. Right?”

“Yes sir, go on..”

“Well I never really used my credit cards much, you know. Fortunately I have managed to keep my job, even in this lousy economy. We always pay off our credit cards, and somehow have avoided debt.”

“Good for you sir. I am not seeing any crime here, though. So if you have nothing else..”

“No, Wait! I’m not finished.”

“Ok sir, go ahead.”

“Well, things are going ok right? I mean, we are being responsible. I even put off getting some dental work done because we knew we couldn’t afford any additional medical expenses with the Obamacare thing kicking in.”

“That sounds very responsible sir.”

“Right! Anyway, I read this article about how the national debt has been going up and up since Obama took office. I mean it now up something like 7.5 million, million! My share of that is like $84,000! I am so sorry! I didn’t mean to make all that debt. Hell, I didn’t even know it was happening. There is no way I can pay all that back, like ever!”

“Sir, did you personally incur this debt, or was it a result of someone using your identity incurring these charges?”

“Well, I would like to say this is a case of identity theft, but I just don’t think so. I mean, the politicians that kept spending and spending were elected by me right? Does their action make me a criminal?”

“Well sir, while under the constitution, you are assumed innocent until proven guilty, in this case by continuing to elect idiots to positions of trust you are indeed culpable. Unfortunately, since every individual in the country is similarly guilty, we do not have the jail space to put all the guilty parties away for their crimes.

Because of that, we have instituted the Guilty Voter Act. While normally such acts come from Congress, with our new mandate to get things done without a functional legislative branch, we have taken these matters into our own hands. All callers who self-identify as the electorate will be placed on immediate house arrest without the bother and expense of a messy trial. In this way we can avoid adding additional cost to your already absurd financial debt. There will momentarily be agents outside your domicile to place monitoring bracelets on yourself, your spouse, children, and pets. Once we are satisfied that you are being properly monitored, a HHS representative will follow up with you to make sure you are enrolled to receive EBT and other necessary public assistance.”

“But wait a minute. I have a job! I don’t need assistance!”

“I’m sorry sir, but given your new status, you must resign your job and go immediately on public assistance. The more people on public assistance the better the economy will be. With a better economy, your debt will decrease”

“What? That doesn't make any sense! The more money the government gives away, the less I will owe? Are you crazy?”

“No sir. We are the government, and we are here to help.”

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Hero Of The Week - 1/3/15

There are no rules here for Hero Of The Week. The Hero can be a man, woman, animal, or in this week's case, a thing. So, without further adieu, here is this week's Hero of the week:

from Amazon

I know what you are thinking.. exercise equipment, new year, right.. Well, kind reader you are wrong. These bands, or something like them, were responsible for giving Dingy Harry a long over due beat down. Apparently one of them snapped, smacked him in the head, causing him to fall and break a couple of ribs. Now, while I feel bad for the guy, I do have to think that if it were caught on tape, it would have been hilarious. I imagine he was doing something like this:
Again, from Amazon
For the record, I wish the man no ill will or harm and hope for a speedy recover for him. That being said, given how he has been a primary actor in using his position as senate leader to dismantle the American Democratic process, i'd be lying if I didn't say I am in awe of how karma continues to exact it's own kind of justice, time and again.

So here's to you Elastic Exercise Band - Our Hero of the Week!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year - but you knew that...

Happy New Year! Or as one friend put it, "Goodbye 2014, and good riddance!" It was a rough year for a lot of people, me included. However, here it is the new year and I am employed, stronger and lighter than I was this time last year, and just a little smarter. I've made some good new friends and somehow managed to hold onto some old ones. So, 2015, let's see how good we can be, eh?