Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lino Lakes "English-only" ordinance explained

I figured out why Lino Lakes passed its "English-only" ordinance.  It has no sister city.  I went to its web site, http://www.ci.lino-lakes.mn.us, and searched for "sister city" and "sister cities".  No find.

If they had a sister city or two, they probably wouldn't improve their language skills any more than a few have in Duluth (with Växjö, Sweden; Petrozavodsk, Russia; Ohara-Isumi City, Japan; and Thunder Bay, Ontario).  But at least they might have increased their tolerance for people speaking other languages.

"A Grand Unified Theory of the Jobless Recovery"

The Atlantic Monthly published an article with the above title by Derek Thompson on 2010-07-26.

He gave some explanations that I was only vaguely aware of.  One of course was high executive salaries, fewer employees, more money for the honchos.  Thompson added that the pay in stock options increases the executive incentive to keep the price of the stock high, the less money going out to employees the happier stock traders will be (my spin about stock traders).

Quite a discussion follows.

One point was that "Reaganomics fostered the entrepreneurial activity that made the technology revolutions of the PC, cell phone, and internet happen."  Let's see, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak established Apple Computer on 1976-04-01 before Jimmy Carter was even elected.  A whole bunch of other computer manufacturers sprung up about the same time.  The IBM PC was introduced on 1981-08-12, about seven months after Ronald Reagan was inaugurated.  That probably means that the plan to create and sell the IBM PC was well underway before Reagan was elected.  Maybe we should credit Jimmy Carter with the IBM PC:)

What people who credit a president with the success or lack of success of the economy fail to recognize is that many creative people are going to go ahead with their ideas regardless of who is president and what the "economy" is like.  Look at the success of the iPad and iPhone in this "slow economy".

A putdown of an unsolicited political phone call

A few minutes ago I received a phone call in which there was a pause after I said, "Hello."  I wasn't fast enough to hang up before somebody said, "Is this Melvyn?"  I answered, "yes".  The person proceeded with something like, "This is so and so, and I'm calling for the Matt Entenza campaign."  I replied, "We are not interested in someone who spends so much money."  Then I hung up.

For readers not familiar with Minnesota politics, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) race for governor has two non-endorsed candidates, Matt Entenza and Mark Dayton, who are spending a spouse's or their own fortunes on the primary campaign.  The endorsed candidate, Margaret Anderson Kelliher, has spent far less, but still over a million dollars.  I was disappointed that one-fifth of her contributions come from lobbyists and PACs (Star Tribune, 2010-07-26).

I think about leaving the governor race blank on the ballot.  The Republican candidate, Tom Emmer, has serious foot-in-mouth disease.  I like the idea of the Independence Party attempting to be a viable party, but its website's message doesn't resonate with me.

The only candidate that I have any enthusiasm for is Kelliher's running mate, John Gunyou.  He was the Finance Commissioner for the last good Republican governor of Minnesota, Arne Carlson, and he is the city manager of Minnetonka.  Every few months he has submitted an op-ed article on good governance.  I have emailed him from time to time and he has responded graciously.  I once wrote him that I was looking for the Governance Party instead of the Groveling Party and the Grumbling Party.

The heavens have opened up, build your ark!

Finally, finally, we have gotten one of the oft-promised thunderstorms.  It has been raining hard off and on for at least the last two hours.

Except for some erosion on newly seeded slopes, I think this is great.  We have had very little rain for a few years.  Our cabin well is dry as dry as can be, paths that have had puddles in the past have been dry, and the berries have been very small. 

The downside is on the downside of our front lawn in Duluth.  We had more dirt put in the trench where we had sewer work done, and my wife has planted grass seed there.  The grass looks like a buzz cut on a sparse head of hair and won't be holding the water back very well.

Oh, well, there are good things and bad things to almost every natural event.  Oh, no!  The mosquito will be hatching in the millions!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Afganistan - When will they ever learn?

Corruption in a client government!
Hubris in an imperial government!
Wikileaks of a bleak situation!
Reading "The limits of power" by Andrew J. Bacevich
History of the French Resistance
American colonial history
English only in the Lino Lakes government
Cutting foreign languages in schools

It all really ties together, sadly.

Let's start with American colonial history.  The colonists did not like being occupied by a foreign army.  They started fighting back.  They didn't follow the rules of engagement and fought from concealment. George the Third had many derogatory things to say about those rebels.  Many Afghanis (and Iraqis) don't like being occupied by a foreign army.  They started fighting back.  They don't follow the rules of engagement and fight from concealment. George the Bush had many derogatory things to say about those insurgents.

Many French did not like the German occupation.  They fought back, often from concealment.  Instead of roadside bombs, they threw train switches the wrong way.  Some Germans took bribes to look the other way.  Some Vichy police were very hard on the resistance.  Other Vichy police called resistance leaders to warn them of a planned raid.  See "Occupation déja vu".  Oh, yes!  The Germans in France had an advantage that the Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan don't have; a large number of them spoke the local language.

We are running up huge deficits to fight these wars and don't have money for education in our own country.  In fact, we are cutting back on the teaching of foreign languages.  If our soldiers and diplomats are not linguistically proficient, can we expect them to communicate with people who speak other languages with little or no proficiency in English?

Many states and localities want to put into law English-only for government business, the latest being Lino Lakes, Minnesota (Star Tribune 2010-07-26).  What if other countries did the same, including at immigration and customs control at the airport?  If the U.S. is English only, shouldn't Japan be Japanese only?  If so, they should remove the Romaji from all the train station signs and leave only the Kanji and Hiragana.  Ah, so!  You didn't get off at せんだい?  So sorry, you missed Sendai.

Which gets us back to imperial hubris.  If we think we know what's best for other countries, how can we even know what's best for them if we don't speak their language, much less understand many of their customs?  Insurgency will surely follow.  Knowing the culture, the language, and the landscape better than any foreigners, the insurgents have an immense tactical and strategic advantage.

When will they ever learn?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A good workman never blames his tools. Oh?

This old saw probably comes from someone blaming the saw for a crooked cut.  A good workman should be able to cut straight no matter how crooked the saw.

Oh, yeah!

What is often not considered is that a good workman has all the tools needed to do any job he expects to do.  He won't use a flat blade screwdriver on a Philips screw or a hexagonal wrench on a square nut.

I had another lesson on having the right tools for the job at hand.  We bought a humongous DR chipper with the slogan on the cover, "Professional power for the homeowner".

Sorry, but to do routine maintenance on this chipper requires tools many homeowners don't usually have.  My socket wrenches do not reach the nuts holding the blade in place and my L-shaped Allen wrenches do not reach the screw heads.  Well, they do reach but the angle does not permit either a good purchase or sufficient swing room.

So, I went to the hardware store to buy "non-standard" accessories for my tools.  I bought three-inch extenders for my half-inch and three-eighths-inch socket wrenches.  I do have a six-inch extender for the latter, but that length gives less purchase on really tight nuts.  I also bought a 7/32-inch Allen insert for a socket wrench.  Unfortunately, the hardware store only had this size inserts for quarter-inch wrenches.  So, I had to buy an adapter also.

All homeowners who have all these tools in their toolboxes please raise their hands.  I thought so.  Of the twenty or so people who read this blog I don't see any hands raised.

The good news is that I have changed blades on the chipper.  It did take a few grimacing pushes on the wrenches to get the nuts loose, but I did within a few minutes.  The last time the blade needed changing, I had to tow the chipper back to the equipment store, a 40+ mile drive at 45 mph.

The next thing to do is to check the wear plate against the sharper blade.  It looks like it will be fun doing so.  The bolts holding the plate have slotted heads and are in a position that there is no way to get any purchase with a standard six-inch screwdriver.

Well, I did check the wear plate and it took me the rest of the afternoon.

First, the bolt heads are not slotted at all.  They are carriage bolts with a square shaft just below the head to fit into the square holes in the wear plate.

I loosened all three bolts so that I could wiggle them, which meant that I should be able to wiggle the wear plate.  No such luck.  It was glued to the throat of the chipper by dried sap and so forth.  I had to stick wood between the flywheel and the wear plate.  I had to use a tack puller for leverage.  I did this and that for a very long time.

Then when the wear plate was finally loose, it was too loose.  Using the template for judging the gap, I would get one side at the right gap and the other side would be too tight.  Back and forth.  Tighten the nuts to make the plate slide a bit more slowly.  One side would be proper; the other side would stop the blade.

On and on.  Finally I had the plate so it didn't hit the blade.  But the gap was a bit too big.  Oh, well!  It didn't look as wide as when I started.

I won't bore you with all the details of getting the chipper back together, but back together it is.  I also cranked it up and chipped a small pile.  For the most part, it just sucked stuff in.  Definitely better than when I started.

The big question is are we better off with this high volume chipper with its high maintenance than we were with a low volume chipper that jammed frequently and sometimes didn't even start.  I would say yes, but I will keep wondering every time I have to loosen all those bolts for some simple maintenance.

Monday, July 19, 2010

To support the troops, don't support the wars

The Duluth News Tribune, 2010-07-18, had two somewhat opposing views about "Support the Troops".

David McGrath wrote "Empty gestures often equal hollow support".  He is concerned that "Support our troops" is sending a contradictory message to young people "between embracing soldiers and embracing wars."

The Duluth News Tribune disagrees in "Support the troops? Absolutely".  Children can tell the difference between "paying tribute to military members… isn't the same as endorsing war."  But, the writer then qualifies that with "as long as parents and other adults take the time to explain."

Unfortunately, too many adults aren't making the distinction, or at least aren't making it clear, in their own behavior.  When they use phrases such as "defending our freedom" and "serving our country" to describe military members, they shut off any discussion of how our freedom is being defended and what service is really being done for our country.  And this is the discussion that a democracy really needs.

We too often, as citizens and as writers, do not strongly question our leaders' motivations in waging war.  We take without qualification their definition of "the enemy" and "protecting our country".  One of the greatest smoke screens was to rename the Department of War as the Department of Defense.  Have any of the wars waged since World War II really been against an enemy that had any serious chance of invading the United States?  Or have these wars been grand geopolitical games played by "leaders" who really didn't know much about the countries and the people involved?

Coincidently, before I read these articles I had borrowed from the library "The Limits of Power, The End of American Exceptionalism" by Andrew J. Bacevich.  I had only gotten through the first chapter Saturday night, but almost every page had insightful and powerful statements about the American follies and hubris in its recent wars.  After a description of Reinhold Niebuhr's prescience about the current world situation, Bacevich writes, "Realism in this sense implies an obligation to see the world as it actually is, not as we might like it to be.  The enemy of realism is hubris, which in Niebuhr's day, and in our own, finds expression in an outsized confidence in the efficacy of American power as an instrument to reshape the global order." (p. 7)

Before you jump to the conclusion that this is another "liberal rant", the jacket describes Bacevich as a "conservative historian and former military officer".  See Wikipedia for more details.  He also writes for The American Conservative, his latest article being "Will Iraq be forgotten as well?"

I am with McGrath that we should provide veterans with "a good job…, tuition for college, financial credit…, and the very best health care for veterans."

Friday, July 16, 2010

Putting science over corporate interest

Here's a refreshing bit of news.  Omega Protein Corp. declined to participate in a panel on the status of menhaden in Chesapeake Bay.  Menhaden is an oily fish that is used for pet food and for omega-3 fish oil supplements.  Omega Protein catches 109,020 metric tons of menhaden from Chesapeake Bay.

"A spokesman for Omega said the company was concerned that science would be pushed aside by members who have 'preconceived notions about this fishery and the health of menhaden.'" - "Menhaden fish panel meets in Va. for the first time", Yahoo Finance, 2010-07-16.

Too many companies try to override scientific decisions for their short-term interest.  I think here Omega Protein knows that scientific management of the fish stock is in its long-term interest.

Disclosure: we own shares in Omega Protein.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A must-read on counter-terrorism

I've been toying with ideas about using non-lethal means to counter terrorism, including bombing insurgent hideouts with honey, out-Koraning the jihadists, and making the whole movement foolish in the eyes of its potential supporters.

The last idea is already well underway.  See "Countering Terrorism With Mockery", Robert Mackey, New York Times, 2010-07-15.

It includes some clips from two movies that show wannabe jihadists as incompetent.

But one does have to be careful, those who feel insecure can lash out at those who reinforce their insecurity.  Pakistan has banned "Tere Bin Laden", a mock interview with a Bin Laden impersonator, because of concerns of a revenge attack.

If the Minnesota GOP wants reduced taxes…

Why are they calling on county attorneys to check their charges about felons voting?  Won't that cost money, money that has to come from taxes?  Won't that take resources from prosecuting current felons?

Ah!  If county attorneys have fewer resources to prosecute current felons, then the GOP can accuse them of being soft on crime.  Since more county attorneys are Democrats rather than Republicans…

So-called costs can be investments

Too many people look at many expenditures as costs as if reducing costs was always a good thing.  On the other hand, many expenditures are really investments that lead to greater income in the future.

A case in point is the reduced rent that the owner of Local D'Lish, a unique grocery store in Minneapolis, receives from her landlord*.  Rather than charge her for the total benefit that she receives from her space, he looks on reduced rent as an enhancement for his property.  He receives the benefit of an attraction for his other tenants, an attraction that will keep his building more occupied and probably even give him an ability to charge higher rent to them.

But too many employers, especially governments, look upon employees as a cost and not an investment.  If an organization cuts employees, then there is less buying power in the community.  Less buying power means less sales.  Less sales means less jobs.  Less jobs means less taxes.  Less taxes means less government employees.  Where it ends nobody knows.

When Grover Norquist drowns government in his bathtub, will he have enough water to put out the fire in his kitchen?

* "Grocer specializes in stocking small-town flavor in the big city", Dick Youngblood, Star Tribune, 2010-07-15

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Big bills cost more

That is, the longer and more complex a Congressional bill is, the more it will cost in proportion to the benefit it will give.

Michael Lind wrote an article for the Washington Post, "Comprehensive reform is overrated.  For real change, Washington must think small", 2010-07-11 and reprinted in the Star Tribune as "Not every problem calls for a sledgehammer", 2010-07-14.

He argues that large bills try to solve too many things at once and gives too many lobbyists too many openings to make it even more complex.  And I would say counterproductive.  Some bills have gotten so large that few in Congress read them in their entirety.  Somebody challenged Senators to read the complete, original Patriot Act before voting.  One Senator did and he voted against it.  Michele Bachmann couldn't have read the energy bill that she claims bans incandescent bulbs; it only sets energy standards.

One could say that large bills are cases of too many cooks spoiling the broth and too many fingers in the pie.

My own notion is that no bill before Congress should be larger than the original U.S. Constitution.  Maybe we should even have a Constitutional amendment on that.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Quote of the day: On Flexibility

"Those who stay flexible and realize the world is dynamic are better judges than those who pretend it's built on certainties."
- Morgan Housel, The Motley Fool, "How to Know When a Talking Head is Full of Hot Air"

Although Housel is writing in the context of those making stock market predictions, it can apply to many other situations.  Just think of all those who think tax-cuts will solve all of our problems and of all those who think that more stimulus will solve all of our problems.  The real fix is probably some combination of the two applied in the proper areas and at the proper time.

He recommends "Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It?  How Can We Know?" by Philip Tetlock.  Read Housel's article for a quick summary of Tetlock's reasoning.

Neither the Duluth Public Library nor the UMD Library have this book, but the UMD Library has three political psychology books of which Tetlock is a contributor or an editor.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Gun rights vs. community rights

The Coffee Party web site has an interesting blog "Personal Rights vs. Community Rights".

One of the interesting statements is "I do not carry a loaded weapon in a crowded area because of what that gun could do to innocent lives if it were accidentally to go off."

Have those who exercise their "right" to bear arms by carrying a loaded pistol in stores, churches, and other public places considered the number of police officers who have been killed with their own guns?  Police officers receive extensive fire arms training and practice.  If a crazy can grab a gun from a well-trained police officer, cannot a crazy grab a gun from a less well-trained person?  Especially in a public place where people are in close proximity to each other.  Shane had the benefit of wide open spaces and carefully choosing where he sat.  Other gun-carriers are not living in the Old West, but in crowded cities.

Don't knock government workers

A favorite stereotype of cartoonists and anti-government types is the city worker leaning on a shovel doing nothing.

As I type this, two men are in our neighbors' yard "doing nothing", sitting in or leaning against an idle backhoe.  They work for a private contractor who is installing new sewer pipe.  Why are they doing nothing?  They have just filled a dump truck with dirt and it has gone off to put it someplace else and probably bring back gravel for the bottom of the trench.  Meanwhile there is nothing to do for them but wait.

Should they get paid while waiting?  Would you like to be required to be somewhere with nothing to do and not get paid for your time?  I bet not.

Next time you see city workers doing nothing, carefully observe the situation.  They may be waiting because they are waiting for more equipment or material.  They may be waiting for advice on how to get around a problem.  They may be waiting for supervisors to make a decision.  I bet in most cases they would be working if they had all they needed to do the job.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Have good-paying jobs really been exported?

The mantra of "good-paying manufacturing jobs going overseas" never seems to be questioned.  But I wonder if this "common wisdom" is really true.

There's no question that many hire-and-train jobs are now done in other countries.  Simple assembly, clothes manufacture, operation of simple automatic machines, and on and on.  But have all the jobs of skilled machinists gone overseas, have all the jobs of process designers gone overseas.

I think not.  What has happened is that the skills required for these jobs have become more demanding and the productivity of people performing these jobs has skyrocketed.  Higher productivity leads to a lot fewer people needed to produce the same number of goods.

My father's grandfather was a machinist and my mother's uncle was a machinist.  I doubt that either could get a machinist job now with the skills they had then.  It takes a good eye and a steady hand to produce parts exact to the thousandths of an inch.  But now manufacturers have numerically-controlled tools that can do the same thing time after time.  The operator sets the job up and may be free to work on something else.

Once upon a time a teen-ager with a tool box could be an auto mechanic.  Now auto mechanics use a wide array of electronic gadgets to check and adjust many systems in a car.

My father was a dental prosthetic technician with his own business specializing in crowns.  He could afford a lot of big boy toys, bowling, golfing, and betting on the ponies.  I have a folder full of testimonials from dentists praising the skill and timeliness of his work.  Now dentists design a crown while you watch, push a button, chat with you for a few minutes, go downstairs to pick up the crown, and put it in your mouth with a nearly perfect fit.

And even if these old style jobs were still available, would anybody hire a kid off the street, train him in the basics, give him some simple jobs, and guide him in the development of a higher skill level.  I doubt it.  Many companies want new employees with experience.  And often quite specific experience.  If you know all about the model 21 machine, but a company has model 22 machines, fuhgedaboudit!

If any state or national government wants to solve the "jobs" problem, they should stop trying to create the unneeded jobs and start training people for the needed jobs.  And even if they do that, will the needed jobs of today become the unneeded jobs of tomorrow?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

A tip for Tom Emmer on wait staff pay

Tom Emmer, Republican candidate for Minnesota Governor, wants the minimum wage lowered for service workers who get lots of tips.  See "Emmer: Lower wages for tipped workers", Jackie Crosby, Star Tribune, 2010-07-06.  He says that the extra wages are taking money from customers.  Is he also calling for CEOs with large bonuses to get a lower base pay?  After all, these CEOs are also taking money from customers.

His arguments are also weak on other points.

He uses as an example the Eagle Street Grill in downtown St. Paul where "three servers take home over $100,000 a year, including tips."

Do each of the servers take home $100,000 a year or do three servers take home $100,000 a year among them.  In the latter case, $33,000 may be a good income for many servers, but many others would like to get that much.  If a server receives lots of tips, doesn't that mean they are providing good service to their customers.  If they are providing good service to their customers, aren't many of these repeat customers and probably even buying a lot of food and drink.  If the customers are buying a lot, the restaurant owners should be very happy to have highly-paid servers.

How many times have you gone into a restaurant where the server has not asked if you want drinks before dinner, has not asked if you want wine with dinner, and has given you a bill without even asking if you want coffee or dessert?  Even if the answer will be no, a good server always asks these questions.  The server who does will generate more revenue for the restaurant and will get a bigger tip.   Oh, but that is taking money from the customers.

If you want to see more realistic figures, see "Tom Emmer goes after food server wages", Rachel Hutton, City Pages, 2010-07-06.  She blows lots of the "facts" that Emmer states out of the water.  An even better analysis is "Servers, wait staff unlikely to make $100,000", Annie Baxter, Minnesota Public Radio, 2010-07-06, 2010-07-06.

I could go on and on picking apart the arguments of the likes of Tom Emmer, but I'll end with just two.

One was mentioned in Baxter's argument comparing wait staff during slow times to that of sales persons.  Many sales persons still get a base pay for getting out there and trying.  Do CEOs get a lower base salary when sales are low?

Remember Circuit City.  It laid off its highest paid sales staff and went downhill from there.  It was the highest paid sales staff that people went to for answers.  If they got good answers, they bought.  The lower paid staff didn't always have the answers and so fewer people bought stuff from Circuit City.  The high-paid servers are generating a lot of sales for their restaurants.  Don't knock them!

Other references:

"Circuit City cost cutting madness", Andrew Weir

"How the Mighty Fall", Jim Collins.  It is ironic that he mentioned Circuit City in his previous book, "Good to Great".  Is there a lesson for Minnesota here?

Monday, July 05, 2010

2904 miles and I can't stop driving

Yesterday we returned from a 12-day trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake ON, West Chester PA, and Silver Spring MD with overnight stops at Sault Ste. Marie MI, Richmond IN, and Madison WI.  That's almost like driving coast-to-coast.  The purpose was a reunion of my wife's sisters and cousins to celebrate our 50th anniversary and that of one of her cousins.

We drank and talked and ate and talked and we walked and we went on a jet boat ride and drank and talked and ate and talked.  We took many pictures and movies and we gave impromptu speeches.  As part of my speech I sang some song fragments with two duets with my wife.  The best part was when my wife's youngest sister, who had had opera training, complimented me on my singing.

We stopped in West Chester to visit a high school and Scout friend and his wife.  Although we took a walk in town and went out to a restaurant, we mostly sat in their gazebo, talked, read, and watched TV.  It was also a bit of a nostalgia trip in that we haven't been in the area since we lived there in 1974-1977.  It is something to drive twisty roads where the trees are right next to the road.

We stopped in Silver Spring to visit a possible third cousin of mine.  Her ancestors were from Baltimore and my great-grandfather gave his father's birthplace as Maryland.  Since John C. Magree was a ship's master born in Baltimore and dismissed from the U.S. Navy in 1862, I suspect he is our common ancestor.  Now to find the right records.  For him they are very sparse: I have found only one transcribed record of his bringing a ship of immigrants from Liverpool to New York.  That was in December 1851.  Since my great-grandfather was born in Brooklyn in December 1850, could John C. Magree have had two families, one in each U.S. port?

It was something to go from the hills of Appalachia to the Great Plains.  In the morning we were going up and down and around and in the afternoon we were driving into the horizon.  I took a picture of one gap and the valley behind us, but I never noted what the rest stop was.  I suppose I could figure it out with the camera time stamp and a map.  As we drove through West Virginia, we certainly understood the feeling of the song, "Country Roads".

I also understood the psychology of "keeping up with traffic".  I've divided drivers into lone wolves, the wolf pack, and law-abiding individuals.

The lone wolves are the drivers who drive fifteen or more miles-per-hour over the speed limit.  They are also the drivers who will weave in and out of traffic to get to an exit one minute before other drivers.  They also arrive in the left lane at about the time another driver is ready to pass a vehicle in the right lane.  That driver has the choice of being tailgated by the lone wolf or slowing down to avoid a collision with the slower vehicle in the right lane.

The wolf pack consists of those who drive five to ten miles over the limit.  It is amusing to watch them drive.  They are in a group of five to ten cars in both lanes.  As they come to a slower vehicle they merge into the left lane, getting closer and closer to each other, sometimes less than a car length apart.  When they get through the "choke point", the first driver will pull right in front of the lead car in the right lane, often at a distance closer than the following car was in the left lane.  Then the second car pulls in front of the first, the third in front of the second, and so on, with a lone wolf bringing up the rear.

The law-abiding drivers are driving within five miles per hour of the posted limit.  They rarely see each other because they are spaced some distance apart.  This gives them the illusion that they are all alone in driving at the speed limit.

When one of these drivers passes a similar driver, the lone wolves and the wolf packs accuse them of holding up traffic.  Isn't it the other way around?  The lone wolves and the wolf packs are pushing traffic.

I think I've had enough of driving for a while.  The one hour to our cabin is enough, and we may be passed only twice, if at all.

Besides, we have to pay all our credit card bills.  Other than all the good visits, the next best thing was that our 2002 Prius got 48.0 miles per gallon in that 2904 miles.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Afghanistan - Doing too much for too little?

Fareed Zakaria thinks that the fight against the Taliban is overreach with little result.  He likens it to fighting Italy after Germany has been defeated.  See "Fareed Zakaria Criticizes 'Disproportionate' Afghanistan War on CNN".

We should also look at the reverse situation.  How many Americans would fight a foreign invader?  Suppose there was an Anti-China League that started hitting Chinese targets.  The Chinese, tired of the "American" terrorism, would invade the U.S. with overwhelming force.  Many Americans would resist, even if they did not like the Anti-China League.

For what many call a "Christian" nation, we seem incapable of following the second greatest commandment - do unto others what you would have them do unto you.

Also, why does the Afghan army need so much training when the Taliban has such minimal training?  If the U.S. can't beat the Taliban with all of its sophisticated training and weapons, will an Afghan army beat the Taliban with the same sophisticated training and weapons?  Either a sufficient number of Afghans are opposed to the Taliban to fight the Taliban on similar terms or too few Afghans are willing to risk their lives against the Taliban.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Make up your mind: Is the government incompetent or not?

There are many who think no government can do anything right, from building roads to managing health care.  They say, "Private enterprise can do things cheaper and better than government can."

However, some of these same people think the government is always right when it comes to war or crime.  "The president knows more than we do about …"  The people who warned the president that wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would be difficult and nearly intractable seemed to have known more than the president.

"Everybody knows they are guilty."  Many authors have made a bundle on novels about falsely accused suspects.  At least one organization has freed prisoners falsely accused of capital crimes.  Now we have the government as being very competent to know who a terrorist is.  Worse yet, many accused of terrorism or being suspected of being a likely terrorist are having difficulty defending themselves.  See "Too Scary to Fly, Not Scary Enough to Arrest", David Kravets, Wired, 2010-06-30.

Some of these same people who think government is incompetent think the Constitution should be "strictly interpreted."  If so, then isn't putting someone on a no-fly list depriving that person of liberty "without due process of law"? (Amendment V of the U.S. Constitution)