Are they really going to string us out until the election season next year? Admittedly, we do have short memories. And if we get the money too soon, we'll forget who all our benefactors were when we go to mark our ballots. Ahh, the stratagems of vote buying - neither simple nor cheap.
Recall the four-legged pack mule robot (here) that clambered up the hillside and could recover from strong shoves. Well, technology continues to accelerate and Boston Dynamics has now developed its two legged cousin Petman whose walk is eerily human. (Control and estimation theory rules!)
This is a hard post to write. I have been agonizing since leaving the Board of Supervisors meeting at the Rood Center a little after mid-day. This was the day when Nevada County’s CFO Joe Christoffel gave his scheduled quarterly report on the county’s fiscal health to a full chamber. Everyone had come to find out about the county’s significant unfunded pension liabilities. As announced in these pages (here), Michael McDaniel of SESF gave a short and workmanlike presentation on the pension liabilities which was then followed by Mr. Christoffel’s main event wherein he would cover the county’s position on these liabilities. This was followed by some Q&A, and we all walked out for the noon recess. By then my head was spinning.
To frame these remarks, let me begin by saying that our county’s leadership and staff are about the best that any citizen, at least of my political leanings and ideology, could expect to have working for them. Oh, I could pick nits with some of the supes, but as a group they are head and shoulders above damn near any set of politicos you could vote into office these days. And our staff under CEO Rick Haffey is a first class team. So what set my head spinning as I scribbled many pages of notes?
The news about getting swine flu (H1N1) vaccine into your neighborhood has been all over the place lately – the bottom line is that most of us can’t get vaccinated for the next several weeks, if then. If you read carefully, you’ll notice that the reports talk of the vaccine being imported from some mysterious places not mentioned. And you correctly conclude that we’re not making much of it anymore in the U.S.
A couple of years ago or so we were all worried about avian flu (H1N5) because it had a very high mortality rate (60 – 90%). I represented SESF on our county’s bird flu task force charged with coming up with various community response mechanisms if and when the flu reached a pandemic level in the country. A factor that kept affecting all of our planning was that avian flu vaccines would not be available until about six to nine months after the pandemic’s onset.
There were the same technical reasons for the delay as there are today – what strain? length of manufacturing sequence, antiquated processes, distribution problems, etc. But the big factor that emerged was that the U.S. no longer had the capability to manufacture massive amounts of vaccines. Drug companies had exported those manufactories overseas, or abandoned vaccine manufacturing altogether.
Further digging revealed that this was due to the legal liabilities to which American vaccine manufacturers were exposed. When coupled with the low profit margins and other regulatory hurdles in place to increase risk for low return, it was reasonable for most American companies to exit this market.
Europe and Asia now are the main sources of flu vaccines. And as we were reminded during the H1N5 days, during a worldwide pandemic no country will allow the export of vaccine until its own needs are satisfied.
Isn’t it interesting that we don’t hear of people in Europe or Asia concerned about delays in getting their swine flu shots? It’s only pictures of long lines and people being turned away in America that are making the news. And none of the news outlets are talking about the out-migration of vaccine manufacturers. Does that mean that the long arm of the ABA is longer than we thought? Here’s a list of flu vaccine manufacturers from the World Health Organization.
Nevada County’s unfunded liabilities to its Calpers pension commitments total over $80 million. By now most people know that Calpers is the world’s biggest public employee pension fund management agency. It currently invests over $200 billion of contributions from the various California taxing jurisdictions (counties, cities, towns, agencies, and, of course, the state). Other lesser known pension and healthcare fund management organizations in the state, whose unfunded liabilities (UL) added to Calpers’, bring the California total UL to over $130 billion.
This column’s readers know how Calpers pension liabilities are calculated, and how local electeds commit their jurisdictions to pay for their promises. Unfortunately, not all the electeds here and across the state are so informed. As a result, many have continued to burden their jurisdictions with liabilities they neither realize nor can resolve.
Next Tuesday 10am October 27th at the Rood Center, the regularly scheduled Board of Supervisors meeting will feature a presentation on county finances by Joe Christoffel, the county’s Deputy CEO and Chief Financial Officer. Mr. Christoffel told me that he also plans to include the county’s UL situation in this quarterly review.
Michael McDaniel, Executive Director of the Sierra Environmental Studies Foundation, will then give an overview of the county’s unfunded pension liabilities. Mr. McDaniel will be speaking at the invitation of the Nevada County Tea Party Patriots who requested extended BoS coverage of this issue. He will also present recommendations that may help get us out of the financial holes in which the county and its cities find themselves. Mr. McDaniel is the lead author of ‘Unfunded Liabilities – Our Community’s Fiscal Time Bombs’ published by SESF in December 2007 and available at sesfoundation.org.
The county’s hidden UL problem did not just grow out of the recent financial crises, but has been building over many years. Two years ago, before the current recession when SESF raised the issue locally, the county’s pension UL was just under $50 million, and Grass Valley and Nevada City had undisclosed debts of about $4 million and $700,000 respectively. Then Calpers’ well-documented investment disaster last year reduced the monies available, but not the obligated amounts to be paid out.
The jurisdictions in which the retired public sector employees worked are still responsible for all retirement payments. The markets’ downturn, along with TBD BoS in/actions over the last two years, have increased the county’s UL to the over $80 million number. The county has neither highlighted nor disclosed any plan to make up these UL. Well, that’s not entirely true.
Some local bloggers and folks in the Rood Center seem to think that the entire problem is really not ours, and can be laid at Sacramento’s feet. This longstanding ignorance is unfortunate. When the SESF report was presented to the BoS and the local media, it was essentially ignored. In the interval some of us, who have continued to point out the coming train wreck, have been accused of “demagoguery” for bringing the problem to public attention. A day late and a dollar short, the country’s UL have become national news with daily articles outlining the fiscal calamity facing communities across the land and especially in California. (For more, please visit pensiontsunami.com. See also The Union’sonline edition and Rebane’s Ruminations)
Politicos and their staffs across the country are pointing fingers at state capitols and Washington to place blame and expect solutions. In California the ignorance and/or inattention (I’ll leave out perfidy) of local elected officials created our problems. These same officials hired and fired, and determined the retirement benefits for their public-sector employees. And if they saw their actions creating an unsustainable fiscal future for their jurisdictions, why did they remain silent?
These same worthies now expect that someone else up there will pull our fat out of the fire. But the remaining ‘solutions’, as some of us have outlined elsewhere, are few and stark –
• Adopt a two-tiered system treating new employees differently (give them less) than existing employees and the retirees. • Hyper-inflate (i.e. destroy) the dollar so that all contracted liabilities can be paid off in cheap/worthless dollars. • Declare Chapter 9 bankruptcy (like Vallejo) and abrogate all unfunded liabilities. • Pass a state law that stiffs the retirees and current employees by cutting their pension benefits to a fraction of what was contracted. • Hope that retirees will start dying early and at a high rate (i.e. that the actuarial tables will quit working). • Hope that the people in Ohio will chip in to pay California’s debts. • Hope that a miracle happens and the security markets will return over 15% annually so that the Calpers investments will make good all unfunded liabilities. • Ignore the whole thing and hope that your term is up before things get nasty. This tactic has worked well in the past, and may still have some legs.
Yes, some of these alternatives do require higher intervention, but only cynically can they be called solutions. The remarkable thing is that the public employees continue to ignore all of this and remain quiet. When you come next Tuesday, find out what Nevada County’s solution will be. If you don’t hear one, or hear one that makes sense, step up to the mike and ask.
An article in the 15oct09 Wall Street Journal warned that “The cost of shoring up Calpers, the troubled $200 billion pension fund for California public employees, will ultimately fall on the state's 38 million residents, who are already dealing with tax increases and reduced public services.”
Cities and counties will have to cut (more) visible and important services in order to meet their legal obligations to retired workers. Unattended, the various UL time bombs in Nevada County will go off, and any prayers for a bailout from someplace unknown will not be answered. Next Tuesday people should ask - Where are we now? How did we get here? How are we going to work out of this UL mess?
For those not interested or with hopeful faces still turned toward Sacramento, please open page 142 of your hymnal and join in the singing of ‘All is Well’.
George Rebane is a retired systems scientist and entrepreneur in Nevada County who regularly expands these and other themes on Rebane’s Ruminations (www.georgerebane.com).
- Soft-soaping the dollar. - The Sierra Bravos lose one (and then gain one).
Ever since I can remember, at our house we always stuck the worn thin piece of soap to the new bar so that none of it would be wasted. I guess all depression era families and European refugees learned that little trick to save pennies. When Jo Ann and I started our family, sticking soap together also became part of our routine. For decades our favorite brand of shower soap has been Dial (‘… don’t you wish everyone did?’), and in recent years we’ve noticed some hanky-panky going on – they started carving out curves and reshaping the product which was supposed to better fit your hand and contours as you lathered up that powerful body.
Well, the new shape (technically a hyperbolic paraboloid, or simply a saddle) also made it harder to stick the old piece on to the new bar. And at the same time they could deliver less soap in a package that still required its familiar outward packaging so’s you wouldn’t notice. I like to think that all of this has been the idea of some junior birdman with an MBA who became product manager for Dial some years back. But as a twofer, it is clever merchandizing – it disguises the shrinking dollar while encouraging a higher consumption rate. As I’ve mused before – the good thing about capitalism is that it always seeks to game the system, and the bad thing about capitalism is that it always seeks to game the system. Michael Moore, you hypocritical commie, call your office.
[PG-13, reader caution advised, some strong language - Martha, send the children from the room]
That’s actually a quote from Charles Krauthammer describing the MSM in their sad attempts at journalism, at least when it comes to reporting on the Obama administration. This set me thinking about the state of journalism today in light of the White House’s recent admissions about how they have controlled the news media since Obama’s campaign over a year ago.
Rahm Emmanuel, Anita Dunn, and David Axelrod are regularly interviewed on their lackey networks as they explain in a workmanlike manner how they “managed” and “controlled” the media. They did it by releasing Obama and spokesperson videos and audios without giving the journalist an opportunity to engage them in any spontaneous give and take where embarrassing questions could be asked. As a news producer, all you could then do was to run segments of it and go on with other topics, which for the MSM has been to surround the placed pieces with puff-ball analysis.
It became clear early in this administration that if you wanted White House access, you played ball according to the rules set down by the designated propaganda czars. The result has been the ‘wall to wall adulation’ that the MSM has been spewing much to their discredit and loss of viewership.
Fox News, by presenting a complete spectrum of important news topics and balanced analysis (always with prominent liberal pundits like Juan Williams and Mara Liasson of NPR participating) not available on other channels, has now made the ratings game an embarrassment to the leftwing media. Fox’s viewership alone totals more than all the others – CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, … - put together. No wonder Pelosi, Reid, and the other socialists in Congress are starting to work on the next version of their ‘media fairness doctrine’. Totalitarians have always mentored nascent tyrannies to grab the mass communications channels if they nurture any hope of taking control of a people.
This question has been asked by hundreds of millions of people of autocratic regimes over the last hundred years. And sooner or later they all answered it for themselves. Big hat tip to a loyal RR reader in SoCal.
It looks like the much bally-hooed American Redistribution and Re-election Act of 2009 is, like the song says, a sometime thing. Wonder if we have to apply for some more again? Smart money is riding on the major releases to come next year as the mid-term elections get closer.
Congress is now debating the next level of big brother laws in legislation designed to tax away our taste for soda pop and other drinks laced with sugar. As a wordsmith, I dislike ‘nanny state’ to describe such encroachment of liberties, because nanny connotes someone who cares for you and has your best interests at heart. Imposing new taxes on soda pop is a simple grab for more money by a profligate and intrusive government that doesn’t give a rat’s taillight for your welfare. One more for them, one less for us, because this is a zero-sum game.
But such opinions as mine are now in the distinct minority. The different worldviews of the free-market conservatives and the would-be socialists can easily make one conclude that the debate is over – we are now just quoting slogans at each other. An example of this divide is the pair of recent articles by some of our loudest voices, WSJ’s Peggy Noonan (‘A ‘Necessary’ War?’) and NYT’s Maureen Dowd (‘Daisy Chain of Cheneys’). They are worth a read.
Our RINO governator just signed AB962, greatly restricting ammunition sales in California to law-abiding citizens who will now have to leave their thumbprint and register their purchase. No criminals will be affected by this nonsense. The new restriction of liberties was justified by another big lie that joins the huge pile of government lies which no one notices any longer. To wit –
Although I have previously vetoed legislation similar to this measure, local governments have demonstrated that requiring ammunition vendors to keep records on ammunition sales improves public safety. These records have allowed law enforcement to arrest and prosecute persons who have no business possessing firearms and ammunition: gang members, violent parolees, second and third strikers, and even people previously serving time in state prison for murder.
The real reason is that this rights ratcheting law will take us one step closer to the blanket confiscation of all guns from the law abiding civilian population. Most gun owners have legacy firearms that they received before the gun control crowd went rabid. These firearms are not on any database. But if you happen to own a .303 British Enfield that the state does not know about, it will get strong evidence of that the next time you buy a box of .303 cartridges. So besides adding another taxing step into what was a free and unmonitored act, big brother gets to put you under a new cross-hairs.
Those who seek to destroy this country have at their beck and call an army of soft heads and/or soft hearts who can be marshaled to do all the dirty work on their fellow citizens. And these fellow citizens are so busy making a living and following the circus of the day, that they don’t even notice. The autocracy autobahn is a smooth road indeed.
ObamaCare’s progress through Congress illustrates the utter contempt Democrats have for the intelligence of the folks who voted them into office. Their straight-faced ‘explanations’ of how health (or any other kind of) insurance works strains the credulity of anyone with more than two brain cells to bang together.
As I listened yet again to another left-wing politician explain that the health insurance component of ObamaCare will provide the same coverage, at lower premiums, to people signing on at will with pre-existing conditions, and at the same time reducing deficits, it was time to reach for the barf bucket. And this prevarication is always done with all sincerity. What do they know about their voters that the rest of us don’t? From a distance Obama supporters look and act nice enough, and things go well when we talk to them about other topics. Yet something doesn’t tie when it comes to basic economics.
The Senate Finance Committee today approved their version, and lying with a straight face told the nation that last week’s CBO analysis of the former “conceptual language” version resulted in temporary deficit reductions of about $87 billion a year. The CBO was hesitant to issue its analysis as I reported here, and now that ‘conceptual’ $87 billion number is trumpeted as the CBO’s considered verdict on a bill with language that the CBO has yet to study. A sleazy shell game indeed to start the momentum on ObamaCare, momentum that will become a bum’s rush to the White House as the various Senate and House versions are merged.
Resiliency has joined sustainability as desirable attributes that are getting a lot of attention these days. It’s always been hard to pin people down on what sustainability means when we talk about conservation and communities, and I don’t think the job will be easier with resiliency joining the jargon jar.
Why is a commonly understood definition of these terms important? Well, I think it’s because both will be important watchwords in tracking today's flood of government monies and the attendant abbreviation of liberties that will inevitably follow. The land is layered with government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and even for profit corporations all sidling up for the next politically directed wad of cash from Washington.
Odd as it may seem to you, getting a good handle on these terms is probably not in anyone’s favor in the money and control game except, of course, for the thinking taxpayer who will foot the bill. And a good part of the game is to keep the taxpayer bamboozled as long as possible, especially if the taxpayer is also a voter. So let’s do a little semantic shoveling.
Engineers and scientists like what are called operational definitions for the terms they use to describe and communicate their work. Operational definitions let you design a bridge that will not collapse, an airplane that will fly, and an MRI that will pick out your tumor in time. An operational definition requires you to do something specific and get a measurable result that then defines the term. Feel-good, fuzzy, circular, and/or BS definitions that are much in use today don’t pass muster. For example, an operational definition of height may be the number that you get when the vertical dimension of an object is measured with a certain kind measurement device, e.g. yardstick.
Let me fess up right from the start, so you know from where I come. We are fans of Glenn Beck on Fox News, and enjoy his hyperventilated tirades and graphically illustrated exposés of the considerable hanky-panky in Washington that passes for government. But you probably knew that.
Glenn’s obviously conservative and libertarian screeds have been directed lately at what he identifies as “corruption” at all levels of government starting with Congress and the Administration. Now, ferreting out corruption in government is a noble yet pretty vanilla undertaking on the American scene. Nobody will much yell at you for taking that tack, except, of course, those at whom you point your pesky flashlight and catch up to their armpits in the cookie jar.
But for some reason, Beck doesn’t always draw the stark and obvious conclusions from his investigations, he doesn’t always speak with the courage with which he exhorts us to speak out. In the arena where he plays every afternoon, accusations of ‘corruption’ are usually assigned to the puff-ball corner. To me it seems that Beck, more often than not, confuses implementation of a clearly declared and radical socio-political ideology with something that can be lifted from the police blotter of any big city. And then he gives you a hint that his latest revelation may be bigger than that, but quickly backs off and leaves you to connect the remaining dots.
In covering the proudly adopted and openly acknowledged Marxist redistribution and control policies of this Administration and Congress, he often short-circuits himself by concluding that all this is due to ‘corruption’. Well yes; what the Rangles, Dodds, Stevens, and their ilk do to feather their personal nests is good old fashioned American corruption. But what ACORN, Apollo Group, SEIU, and Obama’s hand-picked czars are doing today should not be viewed as corruption commonly understood.
A “surprised and deeply humbled” President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009. In his response he stated that he does not "view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments," going on to say, "I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many transformative figures that have been honored by this prize," We can do naught but share his feelings, and join in his clear and accurate assessment of the award. From his mouth to God’s ear.
[10oct09 update] I was awakened this morning by an NPR piece on Obama's award that reviewed the many other accomplished winners of this prize. It ended with Obama intoning the above quote, and then concluded with words almost identical to mine. There is a lot of controversy over this prize - but from NPR, whoda thought?
- ObamaCare’s deficits go “conceptual” - Pelosi shows how VAT is not a tax on consumers - Locals still confused about unfunded pension liabilities
The Washington Lies Factory is working overtime in the attempt to deliver something passable that can be labeled ObamaCare. The Dems, led by Finance Committee Chairman Senator Baucus, have been pressuring the Congressional Budget Office to revise the damning estimates of their various bills’ deficit impacts over the next decade. With some success they’ve gotten the CBO to go from $1 trillion to $597 billion to $245 billion in added deficits for the Senate versions of ObamaCare. Now in a last big push, Baucus cajoled the CBO into looking at the latest “conceptual language” version of the Senate Finance Committee bill and issue a “score” for it.
With obvious heel marks on the floor, the CBO was reluctantly dragged into doing a “preliminary analysis” of the “conceptual” bill, and guess what? It turns out that this version of ObamCare could reduce deficits by a conceptual $81 billion. The CBO’s accompanying letter qualified this scoring by stating –
CBO and JCT’s (Joint Committee on Taxation) analysis is preliminary in large part because the (Finance Committee Bill), as amended, has not yet been embodied in legislative language.
For those who track these things, Harry Reid now has to merge the Finance Committee bill with the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP, love that acronym) Committee bill, which then must be merged with the House version to create the final monstrosity that Obama will sign. During this long process you will be told by the Dems and their MSM to keep your eye on that $81 billion deficit reduction number, no matter how conceptually preliminary its publication has been.
As longtime supporters of the Salvation Army, Jo Ann and I got an invitation this morning to set up a meeting with Captains Don and Martha Sheppard who are the new heads of our local Nevada County unit. The Union ran an article yesterday on the progress of a $1.6M government grant that the local SA received “to address homelessness”. The money is planned to run out in 18 months at which time other proposals for more money will be in the mill “to keep the program going.”
All good and fine, but it got us thinking again on how these short-term, ad hoc government-sponsored programs are run. Sustainability is the big idea these days, yet the declared use of funds like this does nothing to sustainably reduce homelessness – it is a temporary band-aid that must be replaced while the problem remains.
Seems to me there are two kinds of homeless – those who are there temporarily and should be helped/encouraged to get back on their feet, and those who are there more or less for the long term. For the latter case an appropriate long-term housing program should be sought and funded. If we have decided that government should be the source of funding for one or both (which is another story), then let’s screen the folks and issue them the proper long and short-term Public Tit Cards (PTCs) the presentation of which gets them into the right program without further fuss. (For those whose eyebrows get raised at the notion of a public tit card, consider that most of us already carry them. For example I have two PTCs - my Social Security and Medicare cards. And, of course, there are many more kinds floating around out there issued by this or that government agency.)
Our President’s series of foreign policy embarrassments have now come to a critical stand-off with Iran. How Obama responds to Iran’s next betrayal of trust will determine to a great extent the future of the Middle East and the Levant (Near East). Pajamas TV has a very interesting, accessible, and short presentation (here) of the problem facing the US that applies to and informs all international relations.
Nations ultimately act in their self-interest. Those actions are explained clearly through the application of one of the systems sciences called game theory. The video dishes out just enough of the science so that an educated viewer will begin to see why always acting altruistically does not provide the best international and/or social orders. In fact, such behavior is absent in nature. For a more revealing and stimulating account of the whole affair of conducting relationships, read Robert Axelrod’s classic The Evolution of Cooperation (also referenced in the video).
(For the careful reader. In the video the described tactic ‘Tit for Tat’ is incomplete as introduced, and is implicitly corrected later. TfT is the hands down winning tactic in the co-operation game known as the Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma. The complete rule set for TfT is –
1. Never defect first; 2. When opponent defects, retaliate immediately; 3. In next round if opponent co-operates, forgive and co-operate.
Omitting immediate retaliation puts one into the ‘food chain’ of the defector, reinforcing future/continued defections in it and others who observe the exchange.)
Obama can’t be blamed for starting the destruction of the dollar, but he will get a lot of credit for hastening its downfall. Major world powers have recently begun secret meetings to move oil (and other energy commodities) off the dollar bandwagon. Why? Because, as RR readers have been aware for some time, the US government has no choice but to inflate our fiat money out of existence. We are broke and owe our creditors debts and our citizens huge entitlements denominated in dollars. There is simply no other way to pay off the putative amounts - more than $120 trillion and counting - than to print or 'monetarily ease' the dollar into oblivion.
In the most profound financial change in recent Middle East history, Gulf Arabs are planning – along with China, Russia, Japan and France – to end dollar dealings for oil, moving instead to a basket of currencies including the Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency planned for nations in the Gulf Co-operation Council, including Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar.
Secret meetings have already been held by finance ministers and central bank governors in Russia, China, Japan and Brazil to work on the scheme, which will mean that oil will no longer be priced in dollars.
The target date for the transition is reported to be 2018. Stand by for the vehement denials that will confirm the report.
- EPA’s new approach to regulating the economy - ‘Network Neutrality’ will not be wallet-neutral - Waiting jobs, unqualified workforce
- [update] Nevada County is stimulated! (see here)
In the While We Slept Department – Last Wednesday the EPA invoked “endangerment finding” rules on CO2, confirming that it is a “dangerous pollutant”. This gas, that we and all critters exhale in each others’ faces, has now become the global bogeyman of the catastrophic warming that is slated to doom us all unless, of course, we do it to ourselves sooner. In what passes for wisdom, EPA has invoked a 1970s law, intended for other things, to give it control of all emitters of more than 250 tons annually. However, this amount is so small as to require it to monitor over 41K establishments and over 6 million new construction permits per year – by its own words an “absurd result”. So for starters, the EPA will arbitrarily up the 250 to 25,000 annual tons, and use the law anyway. And no one makes a peep that this heavy handed and unelected bureaucracy can rummage around in the old laws drawer, pick out any that it likes, and modify the particulars so it can claim a basis for the next round of economy strangling regulations.
Net Neutrality is a term most people have never heard, and probably don’t want to hear. But if you use the Internet, and you do since you’re reading this, you might want to make your voice heard on it. PC Magazine has a good definition –
Network Neutrality “refers to the absence of restrictions or priorities placed on the type of content carried over the Internet by the carriers and ISPs that run the major backbones. It states that all traffic be treated equally; that packets are delivered on a first-come, first-served basis regardless from where they originated or to where they are destined.”
We recall that packets are bundles of bits (0s and 1s) into which your content – text, music, video, photo, … - is packaged. These packets are routed from source to destination via a labyrinth of telecom links through what we view as the Internet ‘cloud’. But here’s the rub, some content contains realtime files (like audio or video) and other content is made up of non-realtime files like text (simple emails or Word files). For good quality of service in a busy cloud, you would want the packets of a realtime file to get through so as not to cause dropouts or interruptions during playback at the destination. This suggests that different types of packets may have to be treated differently (i.e. prioritized) in some fashion – yielding a ‘non-neutral’ network.
Government is about to take the next thing that has worked beautifully so far, and have its way with it. The proposed Net Neutrality (the name should raise an eyebrow) regulations would restrict who could charge how much for what kinds of packets they transmit over the Internet at what speeds. Most technicians correctly argue that Internet related technologies are evolving so quickly in unpredictable directions, that the proposed regulations would stifle this critical communication medium - like granting the old Ma Bell a telephone monopoly stifled the American phone system in its later decades. Regulations always have unintended consequences. But it’s your wallet, and it should be your call to your electeds. Right now the FCC is slated to quietly manufacture a “crossroads” for the Internet, and then direct which way we should all go.
There are waiting jobs, but no one to fill them. Today jobs for accountants, electronic engineers, and physical therapists go begging. And tomorrow people will be working jobs that have yet to be invented. Only one thing is certain – no one but the government is inventing jobs for the unskilled, inept, and uneducated (more here). RR readers know that I believe the greatest social tsunami headed our way is the growing unemployable component of the country’s workforce (here). Most of the 15 to 20 million unemployed today will never again find a job in the private sector that will maintain their expected quality of life. And these unemployed will be joined by newly unemployed – both educated and un-educated - as the ‘jobless recovery’ proceeds. This will become the dominant social reality of these pre-Singularity years. Yet few understand what’s happening, and fewer want to talk about it. Systemic unemployment growth has become the latest 'Unmentionable' in our land, joining the established and acknowledged Unmentionables - unfunded entitlement and pension liabilities, dysfunctional public education, and the destruction of the dollar.
Meanwhile, the federal and state governments are doing all they can to insert friction at every conceivable joint and transit in the machinery of commerce. In addition to the major economy killers now working their way through Congress, consider that the latest minimum wage ratchet left behind another 300,000 workers comprised of mostly the young (UC Irvine study).
‘Blown away’ is an appropriate description of my reaction to the twenty-five minutes the President spent with General McChrystal in Copenhagen aboard Air Force One. Here the Community Organizer in Chief is in Copenhagen as part of the Three Egos for Chicago presentation, and the General has flown thousands of miles out of theater to meet with Admiral Mike Mullen in Europe to discuss Afghanistan - it makes all the sense in the world for the President and his hand-picked general to meet and discuss what Obama has always called the “important” and “critical” war to secure America against Islamic terrorists.
So McChrystal flies to Copenhagen to touch base with the Commander-in-Chief, deliver his critical message about new Afghanistan strategy and troop levels required, and answer any questions that his boss would have. And they spend only twenty-five minutes together.
To me this was extraordinarily revealing. It turns out the junior birdman from Chicago and the career military man had nothing to talk about. Obama has never been in the military or in any activity remotely connected with the military. His knowledge of history, national projection of power, and war is book learning, if that. He does not know of family separations, of partings that may be final. His experience is totally local and political, and it ends where the pavement ends.
Obama most likely had a few politically important ‘Afghanistan questions’ shoved in his shorts by his handlers. He met the general on AF-1, asked his questions, to which the general gave the appropriate clear, concise, and complete answers - and the interview was over.
A real President would have taken the opportunity of the first meeting with his war theater commander to do more than the bare formalities. Hell, the ‘opening prayer’ for two guys like that, intent on serving the country, would have taken more than 25 minutes. That time would have served to get to know a little bit about each other over a freshly opened bottle of Maker’s Mark. Then they would have spent and hour or two talking about the mid-east, about Iran and Pakistan that border Afghanistan, about the good and the bad of Iraq. The general is plumb full of good information and assessments of what has worked, and, more importantly, what hasn’t in that region of historical disasters for western nations. Twenty-five goddam minutes!!
As President, Obama could have come back fully briefed on the situation in the mid-east instead of getting succinct answers to some quick canned questions. I mean, the damned interview was carried on as if they were in the Red Carpet Room of United Airlines and someone was rushing to catch a flight. The last I looked, AF-1 was not a scheduled carrier. That airplane takes off and flies at the pleasure of the President of the United States of America.
This supposed fresh start in Geneva only gives them new legitimacy, and new hope that they can have their bomb and enhanced global standing too. ('Springtime for Mullahs' 2oct09 WSJ)
Hot off the press – subsequent to President Obama’s flight to Copenhagen and personal appeal to the IOC on behalf of Chicago, that city was the first eliminated from the running for the 2016 Olympics.
After eight months in office this man has now shown himself to be ignorant, incompetent, indecisive, and apologetic for all things American. In his behalf, I can confidently conclude that he has attempted to do everything that he promised while campaigning, and we have every reason to believe that neither his energies nor direction will be diverted during the remainder of his term.
The latest significant poke in the eye, unnoticed by the MSM (aka Mostly Sleeping Media), was by the Iranian mullahs and Ahmedinejad in the multi-national Geneva talks yesterday. Obama’s delineation of his celebrated “line in the sand” did not even include the word ‘sanctions’ for non-compliance to past agreements and current demands about the recently revealed nuclear facility in Qom. As pointed out by the pre-eminent commercial intelligence analysis outfit Stratfor –
According to European foreign policy chief Javier Solana, the meeting’s host, Iran will allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to its heretofore secret enrichment site near Qom within two weeks. This is not much of a concession. As a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran is treaty-bound to allow such inspections (just as all other signatories, including the United States and Russia, are).
In exchange, the P-5+1 powers agreed to allow Iran to transfer small amounts of low-enriched uranium — typically enriched to 3-5 percent so that it can be used in a nuclear power reactor — to a third country for additional enrichment to the approximately 20 percent fissile mix required for the creation of medical isotopes. That additionally enriched uranium would then be imported back to Iran for medical use (Enrichment of 90 percent or more is required for the creation of a nuclear weapon.) Although on paper this seems like a small concession, it implicitly gives Iran the right to enrich uranium. This is guaranteed legally by the NPT, but only in exchange for full cooperation in inspections. Iran’s unwillingness to cooperate is the root of what has brought us to this point, so the P-5+1’s willingness to take Iran at its word is no small step.
So Iran took another page out of North Korea’s playbook and ropa-doped us by agreeing again to do something that they had already agreed to do years ago - not that they will do it, or that the IAEA will confirm any of these promises. (We recall that the IAEA are the UN clowns whose incompetence shielded Iran’s first nuclear weapons program for over a decade until it was revealed by an Iranian dissident group.) Ahmedinejad will no doubt be the recipient of this year’s coveted Kim Il Jong Prize for bamboozling the west. And for his part, Obama will be looking forward to a nice thank you note from Rio de Janeiro for his efforts in Copenhagen.
Meanwhile, he will have the next two weeks to find some more space in the sandbox in which to draw another line without getting his finger smelly.
[5oct09 update] Sumbich, it worked! We are on our way to some serious stimulation (Martha, take the children out of the room.). All it took was a bit more wiggling. Them bureycrats in Washington don't take no note of sums such as impress us hill folks. We needed to up the anty, and up the anty we did - yee haa! Hat tip to Supe John for this timely update.