Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Nanny State Is Alive And Well

Talk about your Nanny State - here's the latest from the People's Republic of Austin.
Children's book author Kari Anne Roy was recently visited by the Austin police and Child Protective Services for allowing her son Isaac, age 6, to do the unthinkable: Play outside, up her street, unsupervised.

He'd been out there for about 10 minutes when Roy's doorbell rang. She opened it to find her son —and a woman she didn't know ... the mystery woman asked: "Is this your son?" (full story here - excerpts below)
I nodded, still trying to figure out what was happening.

"He said this was his house. I brought him home." She was wearing dark glasses. I couldn't see her eyes, couldn't gauge her expression.

"You brought..."

"Yes. He was all the way down there, with no adult." She motioned to a park bench about 150 yards from my house. A bench that is visible from my front porch. A bench where he had been playing with my 8-year-old daughter, and where he decided to stay and play when she brought our dog home from the walk they'd gone on.

"You brought him home... from playing outside?" I continued to be baffled.

And then the woman smiled condescendingly, explained that he was OUTSIDE. And he was ALONE. And she was RETURNING HIM SAFELY. To stay INSIDE. With an ADULT. I thanked her for her concern, quickly shut the door and tried to figure out what just happened.
What happened? The usual. A busybody saw that rarest of sights—a child playing outside without a security detail—and wanted to teach his parents a lesson. Roy might not have given the incident a whole lot more thought except that shortly afterward, her doorbell rang again.

This time it was a policewoman. "She wanted to know if my son had been lost and how long he'd been gone," Roy told me by phone. She also took Roy's I.D. and the names of her kids.

That night Isaac cried when he went to bed and couldn't immediately fall asleep. "He thought someone was going to call the police because it was past bedtime and he was still awake."

As it turns out, he was almost right. About a week later, an investigator from Child Protective Services came to the house and interrogated each of Roy's three children separately, without their parents, about their upbringing.

"She asked my 12 year old if he had ever done drugs or alcohol. She asked my 8-year-old daughter if she had ever seen movies with people's private parts, so my daughter, who didn't know that things like that exist, does now," says Roy. "Thank you, CPS."

It was only last week, about a month after it all began, that the case was officially closed. That's when Roy felt safe enough to write about it. But safe is a relative term. In her last conversation with the CPS investigator, who actually seemed to be on her side, Roy asked, "What do I do now?"

Replied the investigator, "You just don't let them play outside."
Words fail me. Since when is letting a kid play outside grounds for a police and Child Protective Services investigation? Granted, evil exists in the world, and terrible things can happen out there. But I don't think the solution is to bundle up kids in bubble wrap and lock them inside.

If that was my kid I would reinforce the rule about going anywhere with strangers. Then I'd give him a can of mace and send him outside, hoping that busybody tries to drag him back home again.

Spray, baby, spray...!

Monday, September 15, 2014

FOD 2014.09.15

Lost in all the ISIS-related news stories has been some disturbing news on the domestic front related to our economy.

Obama’s Spin Can’t Keep Up With America’s Economic Reality
At a Labor Day rally in Milwaukee, President Obama turned the limelight on himself, approvingly and inaccurately.

“By almost every measure,” he declared, “the American economy and the American workers are better off than when I took office.”

In contrast to Mr. Obama’s self-congratulatory assertion, the Census Bureau reports that median household income in the United States, adjusted for inflation, is down by more than $2,000 since Obama’s first inauguration in January 2009.

Additionally, as an indicator of the economic downturn, a sixth of the U.S. population is currently receiving food stamps, an increase in the participation rate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program of 61 percent since 2008.
There are several reasons for this dismal performance, but The Federal Reserve has pinpointed one underlying cause - obamacare.
Specifically related to the cause of the economy’s poor levels of job creation and household income growth, an August 25 report in Forbes by economist John Goodman documented via Federal Reserve surveys that Obamacare is a key reason for the nation’s persevering joblessness and declining levels of inflation-adjusted household income ... “The new health law is discouraging a significant number of firms from hiring and is also pushing workers into part-time rather than full-time jobs.”

Bottom line? After more than five years of Obama’s economy — the ill-designed “growth” programs that drained job-creating money out of the private sector, the “shovel ready” boondoggles that weren’t ready, the bailouts for political cronies that transferred capital from the productive to the non-productive, the boom in welfare spending that weakened incentives for productivity at both the top and bottom, and hundreds of billions in “stimulus” spending that ended up to be more about spending than stimulating — all the ill-fitting pieces came together to produce a record-breaking $7 trillion in additional federal debt and a public that’s increasingly opposed to President Obama’s prescription for economic recovery.
In an ironic twist, the people hurt the most by tough economic times are that same ones who put barry in office.
The demographic groups that voted most heavily for Barack Obama in 2012 have suffered the most from this president’s economic policies...

... let’s look at who the Obama voters were in 2012 — and the numbers weren’t a whole lot different in the “hope and change” election of 2008. The demographic groups that were crucial to his victory were: young voters 60 percent (for Mr. Obama), single women 67 percent, Hispanics 71 percent and blacks more than 90 percent.

Here’s how these groups have fared economically since Mr. Obama became president ...  single women with and without children present saw their incomes fall by roughly 5 percent. Those age 25-34 experienced an income decline of 4.4 percent. Black heads of households saw their income tumble by 7.7 percent, while the income of Hispanic heads of households fell 5.6 percent. In other words, many of these groups experienced double the income fall than the average voter.

In dollar terms, between the time the Obama recovery began in June 2009 and June of this year, median black household income fell by nearly $3,000, Hispanic households lost nearly $2,500, and female-headed households lost roughly $1,500.

The jobless numbers show pretty much the same pattern. July’s Bureau of Labor Statistics data (the most recent available) show a national unemployment rate of 6.2 percent. The highest jobless rates by far are for key components of the Obama voter bloc: blacks (11.4 percent), Hispanics (7.8 percent), those with less than a high-school diploma (9.6 percent). For teens, it’s 20.2 percent.

In the 1980s and 1990s, it was blacks and women who had the largest percentage income gains. Now that progress in reducing racial and gender income gaps has reversed course under Mr. Obama. The income gains under Mr. Obama have been concentrated in those in the top 20 percent of income. (emphasis added)
So much for income inequality.
One reason incomes haven’t risen for most groups is the steady decline in labor-force participation. That number has dropped to 62.9 percent from 65.5 percent five years ago. This means a 6.4 million drop in workers earning paychecks.
barry has the reverse Midas touch. Everything he touches turns to crap...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday Funnies 2014.09.14

The first cool front of the year blew through last night. Temperatures dropped 30 degrees, from the high 90s to the high 60s, and we got a couple of inches of blessed, blessed rain.

Autumn is almost here.

Autumn is a season for big decisions -- like whether or not it's too late to start spring cleaning.

Autumn -- time to drag out your winter clothes and see how much they've shrunk during the summer.

Autumn - when all the leaves turn brown to match the grass.

Autumn lawn and garden tip - if you haven't found the hedge trimmer yet, forget it. It's time now to lose the leaf rake.

A couple goes to an art gallery. They find a picture of a naked women with her privates covered with leaves. The wife doesn't like it and moves on but the husband keeps looking.

The wife asks, "What are you waiting for?"

The husband replies, "Autumn."

Saturday, September 13, 2014

If Scotland Can Do It, So Can We

There is an upcoming vote in Scotland that will determine whether or not that nation remains as part of the United Kingdom.

Sidebar - For those of you who, like me, were a little unclear on the concept, the UK is officially titled as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It consists of four countries; England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

It gets even more confusing. Ireland is a single island divided into two countries - the Republic of Ireland, which is an independent sovereign state, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK.

Now back to our story.

On September 18th Scots will vote on the question  "Should Scotland be an independent country?" The most recent polls have the election rated just about even.

The election is being driven by the Scottish National Party, which claims that the 300-year-old UK is no longer viable. The party also believes that Scotland could become a rich oil state a la Saudi Arabia, thanks to the North Sea oil reserves.

Historical and cultural ties aside, there are serious economic ramifications for an independent Scotland.

Currency confusion - Scotland would no longer have the British pound as its currency. The European Union has made it plain that Scotland would not be allowed to join it, so the Euro is out as well. A new Scottish currency "would be so volatile and problematic that it would dissuade investors, reduce trade with the rest of the world and threaten to turn Scotland into an economic backwater."

Delusions of oil grandeur - North Sea oil and gas revenues have been declining, from around $15 billion in 2012 to roughly $11 billion in 2013. Predictions for 2015 are approximately $5 billion. That may sound like a lot of money, but it's not enough to finance a country. Furthermore, "many of the North Sea rigs are at the end of their life and production levels are falling."

Financial mismanagement
- Scotland’s banks have become a byword for chaos and catastrophic losses, after the hubris of the 1990s turned into the near-collapse of the mid-2000s with massive rescue packages needed for Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds (both of them based in Edinburgh).

Loss of credibility
- The UK has sunk an awful long way since the height of empire in the 19th century, but it remains the world’s sixth-largest economy and the second-largest in Europe behind Germany.  This confers all kinds of useful benefits, including low interest rates, a permanent seat at the UN Security Council, leadership in NATO, a major role at G20 conferences and in the WTO, among many others.

An independent Scotland would have none of those perks. And as previously mentioned, Scotland would not be allowed into the EU, making it problematic for its citizens to travel, work, and live in the rest of the UK.

Lack of natural resource
s - Once the North Sea oil dries up, all Scotland has left is whiskey. Granted, that's a wonderful resource, but it doesn't generate much revenue ($4.8 billion annually). Major employers and manufacturers would have little reason to move there, for the reasons outlined above. In fact, existing firms have already threatened to leave the country if it votes for independence.

"The insurer Standard Life has already warned that it could relocate its headquarters in the event of a Yes vote for independence, endangering 5,000 Scottish jobs.  Many more companies are doubtless thinking along the same lines."

All these arguments for remaining in the UK are ignored by Scottish nationalists, who see the vote as an opportunity to pay back the English for centuries of domination and exploitation, either real or perceived.

So what does all this have to do with the price of eggs? Well, since I live in Texas, and since there is always talk down here of seceding from the union, I was curious about parallels between Scotland and Texas. Then I stumbled across this article.

If Scotland can secede, so can Texas
If any state is fed up with the rest of America, it’s Texas. Republican Gov. Rick Perry floated the idea of seceding from the United States in 2009... A petition for Texas to “withdraw" from the United States, lodged on the White House’s “We the People” Web page, gathered 125,000 signatures before voting closed in 2013. A group called the Texas Nationalist Movement has nearly 190,000 likes on Facebook.

Even as a state, Texas has strong anti-federal leanings. It’s a hotbed of Tea Party activity and has declined, so far, to participate in the Affordable Care Act. Perry has called Social Security, the cherished American retirement program, a Ponzi scheme. Freshman Sen. Ted Cruz, also a Republican, wants to abolish the IRS. In lieu of a strong federal overlord, secessionists want to form — or rather, recreate — the Republic of Texas, which was an independent nation for a decade before Texas joined the union in 1845.

The case for Texas existing as an independent nation is considerably stronger than it is for Scotland. Here are some of the reasons Texas might thrive as an independent nation:

It’s big. With a population of nearly 27 million and GDP of $1.6 trillion, an independent Texas would be the 13th biggest economy in the world, between Australia and Spain. That’s plenty of heft to play in the big leagues. Scotland, by comparison, is puny, with 5.1 million people and GDP equivalent to about $210 billion--which would rank around 50th.

Texas could lure companies from America. The corporate tax rate in Texas is 0, which would instantly make Texas the most tax-friendly country in the developed world if it became a country. Instead of fleeing to Canada or Ireland, U.S. firms seeking a better deal than the federal government’s 35% corporate rate could just head to Dallas or Houston. Scotland, by contrast, would have no particular tax advantages as a nation, since its tax rate — 21% for big firms — is the same as in the U.K. overall.

Texas has a healthy, diverse economy
. It has energy galore, along with Big Ag, a tech hub centered on Austin and a few corporate giants such as Exxon Mobil (XOM), AT&T (T) and American Airlines (AAL). Scotland also enjoys oil wealth due to long-established wells in the North Sea, but oil extraction is declining and Scotland has little of the oil infrastructure or home-grown energy firms Texas does.

Adios, Federal Reserve. Splitting from the United States would allow Texas to wriggle free of the Fed’s loose-money policies, which have rankled Perry and other prominent Texans. If Texas adopted a new currency, meanwhile, it could make it as weak (good for exports) or as strong (good for egos) as Texans wanted. Scotland will have to wean itself off the Bank of England if it becomes independent, which is more problematic since the financial sector is a bigger part of the economy in Scotland than in Texas, and Scottish financial firms could suffer without the BOE’s implicit backing.

Independence would produce a few disadvantages for Texas, too. Here are the cons:

No more federal funds. Texas gets a good deal from Washington, receiving about 43% more from the federal government than its citizens pay in federal taxes. If it were to become independent and lose highway funding, U.S. military establishments and other types of federal spending, it might have to impose corporate taxes after all. Scotland is in a similar position, since it accounts for more public spending per person than in other parts of the U.K. and would suffer a net loss if it became sovereign.

The Texas Dept. of Defense. Texas would have to establish its own national security force to deal with problems such as illegal immigration, coastal defense, terrorist threats and of course any territorial incursions from New Mexico, Oklahoma or Louisiana. The good news is Texas has a well-armed citizenry it can tap to form local militias. (Scotland doesn’t.)

Political opposition. Texas has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1980. Losing the state’s 38 electoral votes would severely impair Republican chances of retaking the White House in future elections, which could make the kind of small-government Republicans who run Texas intent on keeping the state in the union. In the U.K., leading politicians want Scotland to stay, too. Threatening to secede is one way to find out who really cares about you.
One more reason to support an independent Texas - no more barack obama. I'm not a big Rick Perry fan, but he's exponentially better than obama.

From where I stand, the pros for Texas secession outnumber the cons...

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Follies Happy Hour 2014.09.12

"I got a little game that I play.
I call it "Try to beat the morning paper home."

I used to play that game many, many years ago. It was fun back then.

Now, not so much...

The Stupid, It Hurts

All I can say is Unfuckingbelievable.

Unreal: Michelle And Barack Remember 9/11 In The Most Shockingly Inappropriate Way
It’s hard to imagine that Michelle Obama and her White House advisors could possibly have picked a more bizarre way to let her social media fans know how FLOTUS was remembering 9/11 and supposedly paying her respects to the thousands of Americans killed by radical Muslim terrorists.

Yes, that banner says "KaBoom."
Seriously? Michelle and Barack Obama are happy to be seen stuffing colorful KaBOOM! backpacks with goodies for poor kids as a remembrance of that dark day when hijacked planes flew into buildings and exploded in deadly fireballs in New York and Washington?
Are they so stupid that they just don't get it, or is it that they just don't care?

Probably a combination of the two.

Here's my favorite response to the obama's lunacy.


Polish Joke

I'm Polish, so I consider myself able to tell Polish jokes with impunity. In this story, however, the joke is on the U.S. Army.

Lost US Army helicopters ‘drop in’ on unsuspecting Polish town of Gruta for tourist maps
Polish villagers got a surprise when six US military helicopters emerged from heavy fog to make an emergency landing in a nearby rapeseed field.

Onlookers responded “first with worry and bewilderment, then curiosity,” Stanislaw Raginiak from the office of the rural town of Gruta said yesterday.

Then several baffled-looking pilots walked into the town, asking for directions.
Seriously? They got lost? I can understand GPS failure, but didn't they at least have a map of the area? Things like this happened when I was in the Army thirty-something years ago, but I was hoping things had improved since then.

Q:  What's the most dangerous weapon in the Army?
A:  A second lieutenant with a map. 
The five Black Hawk helicopters and one Chinook heavy transport helicopter touched down while taking part in ongoing NATO military exercises in Poland and the Baltic States.

Local media said the emergency landing caused the helicopters to go off the radar, setting off the alert systems of emergency services and military police.

Residents, worried at first about the appearance of military helicopters, were relieved to learn it was just a bunch of lost Americans.
Search teams grappled to locate the missing choppers, initially scouring an area 20 kilometres away.

“Once they stepped off the aircraft, the crews explained they were forced to make the emergency landing because of bad weather,” Raginiak told AFP.

Around 40 villagers, including local officials, greeted the surprise visitors, who turned out to be friends not foes.

“They invited us to tour their aircraft, which were really impressive. I got the chance to sit in the pilot’s seat,” said county office intern Daniel Zurawski.

Residents of the village of Gruta, in northern Poland, pose for a photo with lost US troops and their Chinook helicopter in the middle of the village’s fields where six U.S. Army helicopters made an unplanned landing in poor visibility. Source: AP
In return, the local visitors feted the lost soldiers with cakes and coffee.

... the pilots were then issued with local tourist leaflets — printed in English — to help them re-establish their bearings ... the helicopters, which were part of the US Army’s 12th Combat Aviation Brigate, took off two hours later, kicking up clouds of dust.
No word on whether or not they loaded up with good Polish beer, kielbasa, and pierogies.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Deconstructing obama's Speech

Thursday night barack obama gave a major speech outlining his strategy for dealing with the terrorist group ISIS. True to his out-of-touch-with-reality nature, he insisted on calling it ISIL. But that's a minor quibble. The rest of his speech was full of much bigger foolishness.

First, he seems to believe that air power alone can defeat an opponent. While there is no doubt that air strikes can inflict severe harm on the enemy, to thoroughly defeat them requires a physical 'in your face' presence - the much-ballyhooed boots on the ground. That critical component is missing from his plan. (I understand the reasons for not committing American ground forces. Very few Americans are game for another Gulf War. But I don't see how ISIS can be "degraded and destroyed" with someone getting their hands - or in this case boots - dirty.)

obama seems to think that a combination of the Iraqi military, Syrian rebels, and Kurdish militia will do the trick. The problem is that (1) ISIS has already kicked the Iraqi's butts, and (2) arming insurgents has not worked out very well in the past.
Past decisions by the U.S. to arm insurgencies in Libya, Angola, Central America and Afghanistan helped sustain brutal conflicts in those regions for decades. In the case of Afghanistan, arming the mujahideen in the 1980s created the instability that emboldened extreme militant groups and gave rise to the Taliban, which ultimately created an environment for al Qaeda to thrive.
In fact, ISIS is now armed to a certain extent with weapons the U.S. gave to Syrian rebels in 2013.
Islamic State fighters appear to be using captured US military issue arms and weapons supplied to moderate rebels in Syria...
So it appears that obama's plan to substitute 'sandals on the ground' for professional military forces is doomed to failure.

Complicating obama's plan to employ air power is uncertainty over the political repercussions of air strikes inside Syria. The Assad regime has said that such strikes would be considered an act of war. Not that a war with Syria worries me over much, but it would further muddy the waters.

More worrisome is the likelihood that air strikes within Syria could actually strengthen ISIS.
The prospect of the first American attacks on Syrian soil during three years of brutal civil war captivated Syrians on Thursday, prompting intense debate over whether airstrikes on the extremist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria would help or harm President Bashar al-Assad, his armed Syrian opponents and war-weary civilians.

Many warned that if weakening ISIS strengthened Mr. Assad and was not accompanied by political enfranchisement of the Sunni majority in Syria, the strikes could backfire, driving more Sunnis to support or tolerate ISIS.
obama cited the examples of Somalia and Yemen as instances where air strikes have made a difference. The last time I looked, neither place was a model of political stability or a stronghold of individual liberties. In fact, airstrikes in those two countries have done little to stop terrorists.
The US launched its first airstrike in Yemen in 2002...

(In 2009 the US became) actively involved in Yemen, with a series of drone and other missile strikes that targeted AQAP (al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula ) and its leadership cadre. In addition, the US has provided intelligence, logistics, weapons, ammunition, and other support to the Yemeni military and security services.

By 2011, AQAP seized control of much of southern Yemen, and held it for more than a year despite an intensive US-led drone campaign. Yemeni troops (emphasis added) prevented AQAP from openly controlling the provinces of Abyan and Shabwa by mid-2012, but the jihadist group shifted its fighters to other provinces and still controls large areas of central, southern, and eastern Yemen.
Note that it took "Yemeni troops" to stop AQAP - NOT air strikes.
The situation has hardly improved throughout 2014. AQAP has openly challenged the state for control of the eastern province of Hadramout even as the US has continued counterterrorism operations.
As for Somalia:
In Somalia, the US has been supporting African forces in their fight against Shabaab and its predecessor since 2006. Shabaab took control of much of southern and central Somalia by 2009, but was forced out of most major cities in an offensive that began in 2011. Shabaab still controls much of the countryside in southern Somalia to this day. And it has successfully expanded the scope of its terrorist operations throughout the region, executing attacks in Djibouti, Kenya, and Uganda.

In July 2013, the UN's Monitoring Group for Eritrea and Somalia issued its assessment of the situation. The UN found that Shabaab has "suffered conventional military setbacks, particularly in urban centres, including the loss of Kismaayo, as the forces of AMISOM and the Somali National Army expanded their areas of territorial control."

The UN observed, however, that, Shabaab "continues to control most of southern and central Somalia and has shifted its strategic posture to asymmetrical warfare in both urban centres and the countryside." Unfortunately, Shabaab's "military strength ... remains arguably intact in terms of operational readiness, chain of command, discipline and communication capabilities." By shifting its tactics and "avoiding direct military confrontation, it has preserved the core of its fighting force and resources."
So our failed president wants to employ a failed strategy in a feeble and futile attempt to deal with a tough, smart, and determined enemy. Good luck with that. I just hope and pray that there is little or no loss of American life resulting from this ill-conceived and doomed to failure 'strategy.'

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, below is a concise summary of obama's speech - not just last night's speech, but anytime he opens his ... mouth...

Thoughts On This 9/11 Anniversary

Not only is today the anniversary of the original 9/11 attacks, it is also the two year anniversary of the attacks on our Benghazi consulate, the murders of four Americans there, and the subsequent cover-up.

Looking back on that day, I can only weep as I ponder the current and (God forbid) future CinC...

Of course, today it's 13 years later, not 12, but the point remains as valid as ever.

How can this traitorous lying hag be considered a viable candidate for the presidency?

On a more inspirational note, last Sunday Parade magazine had this story about  Heather "Lucky" Penny, former F-16 pilot.
In September 2001, Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney was a 26-year-old rookie with the 121st Fighter Squadron of the D.C. Air National Guard, at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. For the daughter of a combat ­pilot who’d served in Vietnam, it was a dream come true. But in one of the lesser-known stories of the 9/11 attacks, Penney found herself called upon that day to do something she had never anticipated: Stop a hijacked commercial airliner with 40 passengers and crew onboard. Now a mother of two and an executive at Lockheed Martin, Maj. Penney, 39, spoke with Parade about her experience.

PARADE: Tell us about the morning of 9/11.
We had a skeleton crew that Tuesday. It was very quiet. We were in the middle of a meeting when Dave “Chunks” Callaghan, who ran the operations desk, stuck his head in and told us, “Somebody just flew into the World Trade Center.” We looked outside; it was a crystal blue day. We wondered how anyone could mess up their instrument approach that badly. It wasn’t until he opened the door again and said a second plane had crashed into the second tower that we knew it was on purpose.

What happened next?
After the Pentagon was hit, the Secret Service called and ordered us to get airborne. We had an idea there was another aircraft coming toward Washington. [Editor’s note: The fourth hijacked plane, Flight 93, was believed to be headed to the White House or the Capitol.] Because we’d just returned from a training mission in Nevada, there weren’t any missiles or bombs or high-explosive bullets on the airplanes, and it was going to be a while before the weapons people could get the missiles built up. My commander, Col. Marc “Sass” Sasseville, looked at me and said, “Lucky, you’re with me.”

What went through your mind as you took off?
I was thinking this was the one thing in my life that I had to get right. I had already given myself up, knowing what my duty was.

What was the plan?
Sass said, “I’ll take the cockpit”—meaning he would ram the airliner. I knew I’d take the tail. If you take the tail off an airplane, it can’t fly.

Did you ever get a direct order to bring down the plane?
Our duty was clear—to protect and defend. I don’t remember ­being told, “Go take down that airliner.” All I remember is ­knowing for sure that’s what we had to do. It wasn’t until later that day that we received “free-fire” orders, meaning we could fire upon [anything] that we considered a threat.

Of course, as it turned out, you never intercepted Flight 93.
We couldn’t find the plane, so we went back to D.C. to make sure it hadn’t snuck around us. Then we helped set up a protective cover over D.C. We were airborne for about four and a half hours, ­landed, and took off again in ­aircraft configured with missiles. It was a long time before we learned that the passengers had taken control of the aircraft from the terrorists. [Editor’s note: Flight 93 crashed near Shanksville, Pa., at 10:03 a.m., killing ­everyone ­onboard.]

What was your reaction when you heard what the passengers had done?
They were true heroes. Because of what they did, we didn’t have to. They averted further tragedy, confusion, and chaos and thwarted those who would do our nation harm. These were average, everyday Americans who gave their lives to save countless more. That selflessness reminds us that we are part of something greater than ourselves, that there are things in this world more important than ourselves.

Do you think back often on the events of 9/11?
At first I was disgusted by the sensationalism and fear-­mongering that the media stoked in the wake of 9/11. It utterly desecrated our nation’s experience, and I wanted nothing to do with it. But when I reflect back now, I think about the many moments of heroism and bravery from everyone whose lives intertwined with the events of that day. And I am proud and heartened to know that there truly is nothing unique about what Sass and I did. All over the country, active duty [service members] and reservists responded on 9/11. If I hadn’t been there, ­another airman would have been, and just as honorably done their duty. We were not the first and we are not the last.
We are a very fortunate country to have people like her and her compatriots among us. God Bless.

I've always thought that the tale of Flight 93 has been under-reported and under-appreciated. Much has been made of the two planes flying into the WTC, no doubt because of the spectacular nature of the attack, the horrific loss of life, and the vivid video tapes. But IMO the story of Flight 93 and the heroic actions of the passengers deserves equal billing. One book that tells that story is Among the Heroes, a narrative of United Flight 93 and the people who fought back against the evil attacking our country on that terrible day.

When I look back on that day 13 years ago, and then look around today, I am saddened by how much we seem to have forgotten about the nature of the people savages who planned and carried out that attack. I am equally saddened by how divided our country has become. It reminds me so much of the social unrest during the Vietnam war. I can only hope and pray that there is a another Ronald Reagan out there somewhere who will unite a fragmented country.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Schadenfreude With A Capital S

President Obama Rejected From Top NY Golf Courses Over Labor Day Weekend
President Obama was turned down at several top golf courses in Westchester while he was visiting the area over Labor Day weekend...

The Trump National Golf Club, the Winged Foot and Willow Ridge were among some of the elite courses that rebuffed the president's request to tee off there...

Club managers apparently did not want to inconvenience their high-powered and high-paying members over Labor Day weekend by shutting down their courses to accommodate the president.
Hell, I'd be upset if my local muni closed down on a holiday weekend just to accommodate some egocentric empty suit.
The president was in town Aug. 29, a Friday, for fundraising events in New York and Rhode Island. He had been scheduled to stay overnight in Westchester County in order to attend the Saturday evening wedding of MSNBC host Alex Wagner and White House chef Sam Kass at Blue Hill Farm.

The sources said the White House advance team was giving the clubs just a day or two notice to fill the president’s open Saturday morning in New York....
Let's see. It's Labor Day weekend. Tee times have been booked well in advance, and this pompous asshole thinks he can just waltz in and blow away everyone's plans? Take a hike, barry.
Labor Day weekend is one of the busiest times of year for golf courses, and with membership at some area clubs exceeding $100,000, many courses may not have wanted to displace its members on a weekend when they would have wanted to play.
If my members were paying $100K I'd be more worried about keeping them happy than that SCOAMF.
On Aug. 28, White House officials announced the president was changing his plans and that he would return to Washington Friday night instead of staying over in New York.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained the change that Friday as a last-minute decision by Obama to "make the late evening flight back here home to the White House."

Changes to the schedule resulted in the cancellation of some hotel rooms and a re-routing of police security details. The President returned to Westchester Saturday afternoon with a round-trip flight on Air Force One from Washington to New York, the second in as many days.
Oh, great. Because barry couldn't weasel his way onto a course we the taxpayers get stuck with paying for an extra round trip Air Force One flight - not to mention all the ancillary expenses. What a douchebag.
The White House declined to comment Tuesday.
There's not a hell of a lot they could say.

Battle For The Net

Today is "Internet Slowdown" day. The Internet won't actually slow down, but many Web-based companies and advocacy grouops will protest the FCC's proposed rules to allow firms to charge consumers more for special (that is, faster) access.
On Wednesday, some of the Web's biggest properties are staging a day of Internet protest to draw attention to net neutrality — the idea that broadband providers shouldn't speed up, slow down, block or otherwise manipulate the traffic that you request online. The demonstration will involve the likes of Netflix, Mozilla, Kickstarter, Etsy and WordPress, just to name a few. These sites will all show their visitors a "loading" icon representing how looser restrictions on Internet service providers (ISPs) could result in slower Web services for some. (Protest organizers are making clear that the icon won't actually slow down the Web, but simply act as a symbol.)
Net neutrality advocates argue that the proposed rules could lead to a two-tiered system with 'fast lanes' for companies that pay broadband providers for quicker delivery of content, as opposed to 'slow lanes' for firms that don't pony up the extra cash. This two-tiered system would favor large firms that have the means to pay, to the detriment of small or start-up firms with limited budgets.
"Consumers, not broadband , should pick the winners and losers on the Internet," a Netflix spokesman said. "Strong net neutrality rules are needed to stop Internet service providers from demanding extra fees or slowing delivery of content to consumers who already have paid for Internet access."
All you need to know about the proposed rules is that cable companies like TimeWarner support them.
The FCC proposed rules will allow cable giants like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon to create a two-tiered internet, with “slow lanes” for most internet companies, and “fast lanes” for corporations that are willing to pay extra for a faster service.
... and leading web companies oppose them.
Some of the world’s largest internet companies, including Etsy, Kickstarter, Mozilla, Reddit, imgur, Foursquare, Vimeo, and Wordpress announced on Thursday they will join more than 35 advocacy organizations and hundreds of thousands of activists on September 10 to show how the internet might look if the FCC’s proposed rules go into effect.
In fact, even some of the most popular sites on the Internet oppose the new rules.
... a Pornhub representative announced that Pornhub, Redtube, and Youporn will all be taking part in the Internet Slowdown on Sept. 10. The sites won’t be intentionally slowing down your favorite porn videos, but they will be posting a “big in-your-face message that users will need to close” before they can watch their desired videos. Combined, the three popular porn sites hope to reach upward of 50 million people to educate them about the need for net neutrality.
I don't know what it says about our society when three porn sites reach more than 50 million people, but I suspect it's not good...

You can join the fight at Battle for the Net.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Futuristic Supermarket

Recently our local supermarket was remodeled. One of the changes is a futuristic approach to marketing - sort of a subliminal suggestion technique.

The produce department has an automatic water mister to keep the produce fresh. Just before it goes on, you hear the sound of distant thunder and the smell of fresh rain.

When you pass the milk cases, you hear cows mooing and there is the scent of freshly mown hay.

In the meat department there is the aroma of charcoal grilled steaks with onions.

When you approach the egg case, you hear hens clucking and cackling, and the air is filled with the pleasing aroma of bacon and eggs frying.

The bread department features the tantalizing smell of fresh baked bread and cookies.

I don't buy toilet paper there anymore...

Thoughts On The Ice Bucket Challenge

By now I'm sure you've all heard about the Ice Bucket Challenge. For those of you who've been living without social media for the last 6 weeks or so, the Ice Bucket Challenge "is an activity involving dumping a bucket of ice water on someone's head to promote awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and encourage donations to research."

It's been phenomenally successful.
More than 3 million people have donated to the ALS Association, with its Ice Bucket Challenge raking in more than $100 million to help fight Lou Gehrig's disease.

During the same period last year, July 29 to Aug. 29 2013, the ALS Association raised just $2.8 million. In the fiscal year 2014, it made about $26.3 million total — and has now approximately quadrupled that annual amount in a matter of months.
But have you ever wondered why it has achieved such success? After all, there have been plenty of other deserving campaigns that didn't reach equal heights.
Well, it looks like it is finally calming down. Patios are being cleaned off. Ice buckets are being put away.  But only after the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge generated more than $100 million in donations in a single month, a staggering amount considering the organization took in only $2.5 million for all of 2013.  How in the world did this happen?

Why is it that some ideas take flight and spread like wildfire, while others, seemingly equally worthy, fall mostly on deaf ears?  Why did the Ice Bucket Challenge go viral, raising millions without spending a penny on marketing, while other non-profits can never seem to lift their message above the noise?

Just as some species share traits that make them more likely to spread through evolution—enjoyable orgasms being one example—so do some ideas have traits that put them at a distinct advantage to captivate and spread. Big ideas get noticed; Selfless ideas inspire action; Simple ideas write us into the story. Understand how to make your ideas big, selfless and simple and you will be able to control growth.

Big.  The fact is, we don’t succeed by paying attention to everything. We succeed for the most part by doing precisely the opposite—by letting go; by not paying conscious attention to the vast bulk of the data, sensations, and other impressions that come our way. In a world of snap judgments, big ideas are easier to notice, and their very bigness gives them an immediacy that smaller ideas lack.  The Ice Bucket Challenge was instantaneously ubiquitous. Like the Super Bowl, there was the feeling that everyone was watching this happen together, in real time. There were celebrities. There was humor. There was press at every turn. All of these qualities made it impossible to ignore.

Selfless.  Selfless ideas evoke empathy, and empathy creates a direct physiological urge to act. Watch someone perform a selfless act, and you are stirred to action. Know that people are watching you (via social media), and you experience what neuro-scientists refer to as the audience effect; a significant increase in the willingness to donate caused by the presence of observers. Without knowing it, simply observing others participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge dramatically increased the odds that you would accept the challenge when asked. Certainly, the challenge was focused around a noble cause. But it was the format of participation that supercharged it: put yourself in an unpleasant situation, make yourself vulnerable, even mildly humiliated, and then share it with everyone. By stirring us to action and increasing our willingness to engage, the Challenge tipped the scales in favor of it spreading from the very first splash.

Simple. Ideas that are big and selfless spread.  But ideas that are also simple spread quickly. Simple ideas are easy to grasp and translate into action, increasing the odds that people actually will respond. There were many people who complained that the rules of the Challenge were too vague. But that was the point! It is this level of simplicity that allows action to be very easily and personally translated, which almost exponentially increases the chances of participation. Why? Because you’re not asking people to fill a particular niche in a complicated response strategy. You are asking only that they take part. The absence of specific direction allows them to shape their response in accord with their own means, talents, and interests. In effect, participants were able to take possession of their own contribution to the cause. Just do something. Donate if you want to. Get creative. Whatever the amount or its form, the participation was an easily accomplished response to a worthy cause.

In concert, big, selfless, and simple ideas attract, inspire, and involve others, and create a multiplier effect that can result in broad achievement beyond what any person could hope to accomplish alone. Rather than depend on the precious few for validation, big, selfless, and simple ideas come with their own broadly based chorus of champions.

This is how you get heard when everyone around you is shouting.
The above covers the basics, but I think there's a little more to it that that. For example, the Kilted to Kick Cancer campaign meets those criteria, but hasn't achieved the same success as the ALS challenge, even with the Ice Bucket Challenge-inspired Dunk Your Junk challenge.So I'm still a little unsure as to why some catch fire and succeed beyond anyone's wildest imagination, and why some garner much more modest results.

In any event, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has also inspired a slew of snarky responses. Some of my favorites are below.

Those of you with teenaged sons will like this one.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Playing The Race Card

Dedicated to barack obama, eric holder, jesse jackson, al sharpton, and the all the rest of the racists out there.

That Was The Summer That Was

Now that Labor Day is behind us and the kids are back in school, it's time to look back at barack obama's summer of 2014.
Terrorists announced a new caliphate in Syria and Iran, as Vlad the Shirtless warned of possible nuclear exchanges in Europe.

All-out war erupted between Israel and Hamas, and the entire Middle East seemed to fall apart faster than an Obamacare promise.

Rioting broke out in the Midwest. (For a while it was hard to tell if the video footage was from the Middle East or the Middle West.)

An Ebola outbreak killed thousands in Africa.

The U.S. economy continued to stumble...

... news outlets were concerned about Obama's admission that he didn't have a strategy to deal with ISIL. Obama didn't have a strategy? This is news?

Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants swarmed across the country's southern border. Republicans called it a crisis; Democrats called it voter registration.

During the height of the controversy, Obama went to Texas. Not to view the crisis first-hand as he had been urged to do, but to attend a fund-raiser...

In a brief return to Washington between swanky fund-raisers, Obama excoriated Congress for going off on vacation while there was work to be done. And, then, promptly … went off on vacation.
 obama's response to all these crises?
...Obama played more rounds of golf this summer than Tiger Woods.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunday Funnies 2014.09.07

Football season is in full swing this weekend. Now if the temperature down here would just drop below 95...

Football Rules from Various Political Structures
SOCIALIST FOOTBALL: After you score, the state takes half your points and redistributes them to the opposing team.

COMMUNIST FOOTBALL: After you score, the state takes away all your points and gives you back what the Central Bureau of Points designates as appropriate (according to your needs).

FASCIST FOOTBALL: After you score, the state takes away all your points and sells them back to you.

NAZI FOOTBALL: After you score, the state takes away all your points and shoots your team.

BUREAUCRATIC FOOTBALL: After you score, a tax of 80% will be imposed on the points. 10% of your points will be given to the scoring disadvantaged, 10% of the points will be given to the opposing team as an incentive "not to score," while 60% of the points will be used by the state for administration.

CAPITALIST FOOTBALL: The Super Bowl -- Winner Take All

Three fans were talking about the sad state of their local team.

The first fan said, "I blame the general manager; if we could sign better players, we'd have a great team."

The second fan said, "I blame the players; if they made more effort, I'm sure we would score more touchdowns."

The third fan said, "I blame my parents; if I had been born in a different town, I'd be rootng for a decent team."

Hours after the end of the world, a border dispute emerged between heaven and hell. God invited the devil for a conversation to find a way to resolve this dispute quickly. Satan, the devil, proposed a soccer game between heaven and hell.

God, always fair, told the devil, "The heat must be affecting your brain, the game would be so one sided, don't you know all the 'good' players go to heaven?"

The devil, smiling, responded "Yeah, but we've got all the refs'..."

Snow White was returning from town to the cottage in the forest where she lived with the seven dwarfs.  In the distance she could see smoke, then as she got nearer she realized that their cottage had burnt down.

Frantically, Snow White searched the forest for the dwarfs. She finally heard a lone voice crying out, "The Dallas Cowboys will win teh Super Bowl this year."

On hearing this, Snow White gave a little sigh of relief as she knew that at least Dopey was safe.