31 August 2009

Great Britain Goes to the Bums

If you would've said 100 years ago that the country responsible for most of the modern world's ideas on everything from democracy to military tradition to the world's international language would be some second-tier socialist backwater, it would've been bullocks. But it seems the once great nation is having some very serious problems apart from their Prime Minister getting caught up in a "Blood for Oil" scandal. Newsweek pinned the decline of Great Britain on the economic crisis, but the Sunday Times notes a dangerous entitlement mentality that is dragging down the country from within:

Those cautionary words haunt us now as we discover that 5m adults have not worked since Labour came to power 12 years ago. Even excluding those who are in education or have only recently completed it, and discounting those who have left the labour market through age or ill health, 2.5m have been jobless since 1997 at least. There are now 3.3m households — one in six — with no one over the age of 16 in employment and 1.9m children living in families without a parent in work.

While the recession is increasing the numbers, it clearly did not cause the problem. Those millions remained idle during 10 years of boom when the economy created many jobs that immigrants happily filled. The workless have been immune to programmes of training and mentoring. No reform in our education system has dented their numbers and repeated efforts to tighten the criteria for invalidity benefits or “sharpen” claimants’ contact with the labour market have failed.
Why would you work if you could sit around playing Xbox all day and collecting paychecks from the government? Sure, society should do something to help the poor, but at what point does it become a dangerous cycle of dependence? These are questions I don't think politicians think about as they buy votes by sending their respective country's deeper into debt.

28 August 2009

Federal Bureaucrats Livin' High on the Hog

It's bad enough that Washington DC is riding out the recession quite well and sucking up a high proportion of stimulus dollars, but do federal workers have to continue giving themselves massive pay raises? At least they know what their priorities are. A CATO analyst found that federal wages have risen at a significantly higher percentage than civilian wages over the last 8 years, and IBD has more:

Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute, touched quite a nerve earlier this week when he relayed the latest wage data, categorized by industry, from the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis. "The new data show that average federal compensation is now more than double the average in the private sector," Edwards noted.

He added: "In 2008, the average wage for 1.9 million federal civilian workers was $79,197, which compared to an average $49,935 for the nation's 108 million private sector workers. The federal advantage is even more pronounced when worker benefits are included. In 2008, federal worker compensation averaged a remarkable $119,982, which was more than double the private sector average of $59,909."
Not that I have anything against public servants...hell, I was one for close to 7 years. But, I question how much taxpayers dollars have to be spent towards the salaries and benefits packages of people who figure out what color beer cans Americans should be allowed to drink.

25 August 2009

WTF: That's Not How We Used to Do It

Way back in the "Surge" days (2007-2008), we used to do this type of "media assessment" of news coverage of Iraq, but it was mostly for situational awareness for the brass and PAO types, and wasn't meant to ban embeds. From Stars & Stripes:

Rendon examines individual reporters’ recent work and determines whether the coverage was “positive,” “negative” or “neutral” compared to mission objectives, according to Rendon officials. It conducts similar analysis of general reporting trends about the war for the military and has been contracted for such work since 2005, according to the company.

“We have not denied access to anyone because of what may or may not come out of their biography,” said Air Force Capt. Elizabeth Mathias, a public affairs officer with U.S. Forces Afghanistan in Kabul. “It’s so we know with whom we’re working.”

U.S. Army officials in Iraq engaged in a similar vetting practice two months ago, when they barred a Stars and Stripes reporter from embedding with a unit of the 1st Cavalry Division because the reporter “refused to highlight” good news that military commanders wanted to emphasize.
While senior leadership in the military want the press to write great stories about how everything is going swell, the same leaders generally understand there's something called the first amendment, and the military is obligated as a public organization to provide truthful information. If this type of vetting had anything to do with Michael Yon getting his embed canceled, someone's really fucking up. Maybe J is onto something?

Hulkamania Coming to a Town Hall Near You

David Weigel pokes fun, but I say that whenever a celebrity wants to get behind any type of conservative cause, they should be embraced. How many conservative celebrities are there? Ted Nugent, the other not-so-famous Baldwin brother, uh...that dude from Robot Jox, not many! From Guaranteed Lower Property Tax:

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The Hulkster may have a slew of personal problems, but as long as he's not a 9-11 Truther douchebag like Jesse Ventura, I'm onboard.

24 August 2009

Admiral Optimism Calls Afghanistan "Deteriorating"

pic from NYT

This certainly isn't what you want to hear from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, but Admiral Mullen is not known to have a penchant for bullshit. From NYT:
The assessments come as the top American commander in the country, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, has been working to complete a major war strategy review, and as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, described a worsening situation in Afghanistan despite the recent addition of 17,000 American troops ordered by the Obama administration and the extra security efforts surrounding the presidential election.

“I think it is serious and it is deteriorating,” Admiral Mullen said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “The Taliban insurgency has gotten better, more sophisticated, in their tactics.” He added that General McChrystal was still completing his review and had not yet requested additional troops on top of the those added by Mr. Obama.
With logistics problems due to the country still being stuck in the 8th century, as well as a government that is barely functional outside of Kabul, we might be asking a bit much from our military to completely rebuild a society that was never much in the first place. Admiral Mullen's statements might be a prelude to throwing in the towel...

23 August 2009

Robbing Peter to Pay Goldman Sachs, Big Government is Back

Awesomely Awesome Graphic From Rapture Ready Radio

So, I was sent to this luncheon for work hosted by the UN and the speaker was talking about sustainable agricultural practices and how to improve the environment in rural areas of developing countries. He stated that the development sector needed to stop acting on a "Soviet Union-type central planning" model and start thinking more about markets (i.e. making environmentally-friendly ag practices beneficial to consumers and what not). If the motherfuckin' United Nations recognizes that central planning might not always be the way to go, why is the United States reverting to a cross between the WPA and Mao's Great Leap Forward? Matt Welch has an article in the NY Post about the new era of big gummint started with Bush's TARP fiasco:
This isn't about liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. A majority oppose Obama's policies because they fly in the face of this country's bedrock values of personal liberty and limited government. Robbing Peter to pay Goldman Sachs does violence to that fundamentally American ethos.

And increasingly, Obama administration policy does violence to European values, as well. The continent has for the last two decades been systematically disengaging national governments from domestic industries. Top officials from Sweden, of all places, complained about Washington's auto bailout, tersely announcing that "The Swedish state is not prepared to own car factories."
It's complete arrogance that any politician can manipulate the economy as efficiently and productively of the free market. John Stossel makes the point with health care that the free market is a representation of the wills, needs, and capacities of billions of people around the world, and what centrally-planned bureaucracy is going to be able to do that more efficiently? Certainly, I would argue that there needs to be government-run, central-planning models for institutions like the military (because of its unique purpose), but this whole concept that governments need to intervene in failing markets has proved a colossal dud these last 10 months.

21 August 2009

GOP Status Downgraded From Racist Hicks to Nihilists

The GOP has been called so many "-ists" in the last month, it's becoming increasingly difficult to track. Skippy tries to shed some light on what Joe Klein means when he applies the "nihilist" label, but all I can think of is German guys trying to cut off my johnson. From Time:

This is a difficult situation for the President. Cynicism about government is always easy, even if it now seems apparent that it was government action — by both Obama and, yes, George W. Bush — that prevented a reprise of the Great Depression. I watched Obama as he traveled the Rocky Mountain West, holding health-care forums, trying to lance the boil by eliciting questions from the irrational minority that had pulverized the public forums held by lesser pols. He would search the crowds for a first-class nutter who might challenge him on "death panels," but he was constantly disappointed. In Colorado, he locked in on an angry-looking fellow in a teal T shirt — but the guy's fury was directed at the right-wing disinformation campaign. Obama seemed to sag. He had to bring up the "death panels" himself.
Klein seems upset that is incumbent upon the majority party to explain to the public, which allows government to exist, of why a fundamental restructure of the health care industry is necessary. Klein is completely unable to fathom why every other American isn't completely in love with the President like he is and why the bumpkins in Walmart land aren't worshiping the ground Obama walks on. So when they can't back up White House talking points with concise rational arguments, they resort to this lame name-calling.

17 August 2009

The Foreign Policy Expertise of the New Ambassador to France

The New York Times discusses the newly appointed ambassador to France, Charles Rivkin, whose experience with all things diplomatic consists of being an executive producer of a Nick Jr. show about one-eyed blingwads and hanging out with muppets. Of course the President wouldn't appoint any old yahoo to such an important position, just yahoos who were able to raise a lot of campaign cash. From NY Times (by way of Yglesias):

As it stands, Mr. Obama could not now come close. Thirty-eight of his first 65 ambassadorial appointments were political. Even if every political envoy remaining were replaced by a career officer, the percentage would fall only to 26 percent. The lowest among recent presidents was 24 percent, under President Jimmy Carter.
For the Prez to appoint some rich guy from the civilian world to the position of General or Admiral would be criminally insane. Why is doing so with the Foreign Service a standard political practice?

16 August 2009

The Problem With Freedom of Speech

pic from WaPo

Seeing how it's a day ending in Y this month, intellectual elites with unresolved emotional issues stemming from getting wedgied by the football team in high school are taking to the dead tree media to chastise the NASCAR-loving rubes in flyover country for not supporting Obamacare. Rick Perlstein is the latest person to call folks concerned about adding a trillion bucks to the deficit crazy birther/rednecks who bear more resemblance to Ed Gein than hard-working Americans. From WaPo:
It used to be different. You never heard the late Walter Cronkite taking time on the evening news to "debunk" claims that a proposed mental health clinic in Alaska is actually a dumping ground for right-wing critics of the president's program, or giving the people who made those claims time to explain themselves on the air. The media didn't adjudicate the ever-present underbrush of American paranoia as a set of "conservative claims" to weigh, horse-race-style, against liberal claims. Back then, a more confident media unequivocally labeled the civic outrage represented by such discourse as "extremist" -- out of bounds.
Yes, it's such a shame for the powerful elite that us little people have things like blogs and cable news alternatives instead of 3 crummy TV stations to voice our opinion. Perlstein also attacks right-wing paranoia of communism in America's past and certainly there is some legitimacy to that claim. But, if there's anything that the tragedies of the 20th century taught us (the Cultural Revolution, Gulags, Pol Pot, etc.), it's that the grand experiment of Marxism led to a very high number of stiffs. Maybe it wasn't completely irrational to be concerned about the spread of communism.

The more I see the progressives in charge of the country, the more I believe that it's being led by power-hungry politicians who to seek to continuously win elections by coercing constituents to be dependent on government charity. If they are so true to their "power to the people" principles, then why is there so much opposition to average people speaking their mind?

Update: Forgot to mention that there has been no increase in security threats for the President during all this town hall hoopla.

Lizette Alvarez Redeems Herself

pic from BlackFive

I've been known to label NY Times military columnist Lizette Alvarez a moran in the past for her slanted coverage, but she has a pretty decent article in the NY Times about women in today's military. The article states that the military acknowledges that women serve an important role in combat, but that the general American populous has yet to recognize this reality (h/t GI Kate's Twitter). It's similar to the case of SPC Brown who received a Silver Star in Afghanistan but got pulled off combat duty once the press made the public aware of what she was doing.

15 August 2009

From My Side

Reading a Doc Zero column on a lazy Saturday morning is kind of like sex or a Denzel Washington movie: it's never really bad. He tends to write in the first-person plural when referring to this side of the great partisan rift, which a tad presumptuous, but effective. This particular column refers to how the GOP can get its act together:

Republican candidates must recognize the Obama disaster as a unique opportunity to explain the fundamental flaws in the statist model our nation has pursued for generations. Obama was not a transformational figure. He merely jumped liberalism ahead by a few election cycles, and demonstrated the final, fatal absurdity of its philosophy. Republicans should take this unique opportunity to attack the horrendously mistaken, supposedly invulnerable assumptions which have guided the devolution of our federal government since the New Deal. Obama was the inevitable product of machinery that has been groaning and clanking in the American basement for decades. We don’t want Republicans to tell us how they could deliver the nanny state for a bit less money than Obama wanted to spend. We don’t want to hear the 2008 Democrats portrayed as well-meaning reformers who just over-reached a little bit, or handled the marketing effort for their programs badly. We need leaders with the courage to head down into the basement with sledgehammers, and start knocking Roosevelt and Johnson’s nightmare machine to pieces. It’s not enough to just roll the current madness back a little, then let the whole tragedy play itself out again, with our children as the captive audience.
The steady drumbeat of Democrats demonizing their opponents and even the President deciding who and who isn't an "American" is the sound of their backs hitting the wall, and there will need to be room for alternatives in 2010. But I'm a bit less optimistic on the Republicans than Dr. Zero, because like all politicians, they make false promises about "fixing the economy" with "tax cuts for small businesses" at the expense of our national security as our debt piles up. I'm waiting for the politician to tell the American people that the recession happened because America is consuming more than it is producing and the recession is a result of market-forces correcting this discrepancy. But then again I hear Peter Schiff is running for Senate in Connecticut.

11 August 2009

Greeting From an Un-American

So, I've been in upcountry Thailand for awhile and didn't have the world's fastest internet connection. But imagine my surprise to find out I wasn't really an American because I dared criticize The Obama deficit-ridden health care thingy. Rather than whine about how mean the Democrats are bullies, I'd rather just use this opportunity to morph into a caricature that has no national boundaries, like Captain Planet (but not as gay) or Lord Humungus or something. Who's with me?

06 August 2009

Part of the Astroturfing Terrorist Masses

There's been a ridiculous push by the left to categorize anyone who disagrees with the President's healthcare agenda as part of some corporate/GOP-funded pod people. Have these people seen the state of the Republican Party lately? I'd be surprised if they could even have the competence to hire someone to answer the phone at RNC headquarters. But, this isn't just your standard bottom-feeders in blogoland either, the DNC has made a video calling protesters an angry mob. The gentleman in unpleated Dockers hanging an effigy of some other guy in unpleated Dockers seems to have ignited that convenient outrage amongst Obama supporters where you can demonize your opponents as boorish rubes. TPM is shocked that one Democratic congressman received a death threat:

"The call to the D.C. office was, 'Miller could lose his life over this,'" said Canipe. "Our staffer took it so seriously, he confirmed what the guy was saying. He said, 'Sir is that a threat?' and at that time our staffer was getting the phone number off caller ID and turning it over to the Capitol Police."
It's a sad reality, but in America if you are a public figure you're probably going to get death threats and you're probably going to have a creepy stalker. The secret service fields 3,000 threats a year against the President. There are always going to be crazies in America, and I don't know why they should define a broad section of the American people unless you're looking for low-hanging fruit to criticize your political opponents. This attempt to equate anyone who disagrees with Obamacare as some sort of lowlife thug seems to be the only strategy the Democrats have at the moment as support for this federally-subsidized monstrosity goes down the tubes. As ABC's Jake Tapper notes, the non-support for Obamacare seems to be genuine.

05 August 2009

Surprise: Concealed Weapons Permits Through the Roof

Having the Democrats in power again has certainly provided some much needed economic stimulus for one industry: firearms. And it didn't even require a billion dollar program that went broke after 5 days. From USA Today:

Interest groups on both sides agree that demand for permits is up because of economic uncertainty and concerns about a new president and a Democrat-controlled Congress.

"People pay attention to politics. … They're afraid of another effort" to try to enact more gun control, says Andrew Arulanandam, spokesman for the National Rifle Association. "Part of the concern is spurred by the economic downturn and fear that crime will go up."
Since violent crime has been dropping despite the economy going kaputz, I'd say that it has more to do with the traditional fears that the Democrats are coming for your guns (a characterization that lives on from the Clinton years). Even though the 2nd Amendment has not come under fire (yet), you can never be too safe these days.

03 August 2009

Blogosphere Moran Contradicts Himself in a One Page Post

Apparently being a university professor doesn't excuse someone from being an embarrassing imbecile. Just like he did during the 2008 campaign, Juan Cole, the self-professed Middle East expert who was horrendously wrong about his Iraq predictions, continues his lame schtick of comparing Sarah Palin to Islamic fundamentalist groups. This time it's Ahmadinejad and how using right-wing populism is a trait shared with Palin or something. From Salon:

Right-wing populism, rooted in the religion, culture and aspirations of the lower middle class, is often caricatured as insane by its critics. That judgment is unfair. But it is true that such movements often encourage a political style of exhibitionism, disregard for the facts as understood by the mainstream media, and exaltation of the values of people who feel themselves marginalized by the political system. Not all forms of protest, however, are healthy, even if the protesters have legitimate grievances. Right-wing populism is centered on a theory of media conspiracy, a "my country right or wrong" chauvinism, a fascination with an armed citizenry, an intolerance of dissent and a willingness to declare political opponents mere terrorists. It is cavalier in its disregard of elementary facts and arrogant about the self-evident rightness of its religious and political doctrines.
So comparing political enemies to terrorists (like Juan Cole's recently published article!) is a political tactic only used by us schlubs who don't have a PhD. Maybe Professor Cole should ask himself why so many Americans are increasingly pissed off at the dangerous cronyism in the Wall Street/DC corridor while the rest of the country goes down the toilet. I'm much more likely to trust this guy working the nightshift at 7-11 in Texarkana than some Ivy League pizzaface in the Obummer administration.

Nothing But Bombs

Interesting chart over at Boing Boing which shows that military production has cranked up, but civilian production in the US is down in the crapper.

01 August 2009

PC Weenies in the Big Mango

Clip from the classic film PCU

Just when you thought you escaped the eggheaded busybodies in your home country that are quickly sending America down the tubes, you read about some non-Thai guy getting offended because he was called...a foreigner! I sure hope the ACLU has a chapter out here in Bangkok.

The Thai word "farang (ฝรั่ง)" means "Non-Asian Foreigner" and, being a white guy in an Asian country and not speaking the language well, that would be a pretty accurate description for me. But a gentleman on a Bangkok Post seems to take deep offense when someone states the obvious:
This and various other objectionable uses of the f word are endured by Westerners every day in the LOS. I loath and despise this word and know that many others feel the same way.

However I also know that Thailand is a developing country, and relatively speaking, is not very multi cultural. I should be patient someone may tell me. However is it too much to expect the English language press, the expatriate community, and the educated Thai classes to have an understanding of why most of the uses of this word are objectionable, so that when I explain to my partner why I don't want my daughter learning it, I can point to the fact that I am not alone?
Thailand's not "multi-cultural" enough? When Hillary was out here last week, he should've asked her to deploy a team of sensitivity czars to correct this problem.