Archive for the ‘Government Waste & Inefficiency’ Category

Irish Stew #58…

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

[Double billing today…don’t get used to it, but 2017 is starting out with a lot of news to comment on. Don’t be shy. Your comments are always welcome, even rants. Just keep them clean!]

International

Russia and Syria declare ceasefire. How nice of them! Who’s speaking for the rebels? We have an international refugee crisis in the area; Aleppo, Palmyra, and other cities are completely destroyed and their populations dead; and Assad and Putin are patting each other on the back and chortling about how many rebels they’ve killed. Maybe ISIS will regroup and refocus and go after Assad—he deserves it!

Team Assad/Putin are closing in on Stalin’s record for murders, and Papa Joe had a lot more years under his belt. If there’s a Devil, he has some good assistants who work despotic hand in skeletal hand with the Grim Reaper. So little time…so many people to kill!

Say goodbye to the two-state solution. Netanyahu doesn’t want it, Trump doesn’t want it, and the Arabs don’t want it because it works against their campaign to destroy Israel. The main problem in the Middle East? Everyone wants a scapegoat. Secondary problem? Saudi Arabia! Even with low oil prices, the Saudi royalty are still living the rich life. When their people reach the level of the long-suffering Palestinians, maybe something will change. By then Netanyahu might be begging for his life!

National

Media and public senility. Loss of short term memory, they say, is one indication of senility. Whether senility or just plain stupidity, the American media and public have become so focused on the Russian hackers that the big issue has been forgotten. Did Russian hackers help Donald Trump or hurt HRC? There’s a difference, folks, and not recognizing it is part of that senility or stupidity too!

Not to minimize cyberwarfare crimes perpetrated by pimp Putin’s hacker-whores, let’s deal with reality: there were sleazy crimes committed by HRC and her followers once Mr. Sanders entered the primaries, and they continued all the way through them, the convention, and the 2016 election. Here’s a Bishop Berkeley-like question: if illegalities are committed by a candidate, campaign, and political party, does it matter who exposed them?

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Food for thought…

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

There’s a lot of non-productive whining and misdirected finger pointing by defeated Dems still going on, considering that an arrogant HRC campaign simply dropped the ball, as well as non-justified chest thumping by certain knuckle-dragging GOP members, considering Trump had almost 3 million fewer votes than HRC. Both sides were ready to use the Electoral College to their advantage. Now one side abhors it and the other lauds the wisdom of the Founding Fathers for creating it. Those old colonists weren’t stupid, but many fixtures of U.S. representative democracy, like representative democracy everywhere, are flawed or out-of-date or just plain wrong.

That said, I thought I’d have fun reminding readers of this blog about a famous sci-fi master’s take on “democratic institutions.” Unlike John Galt’s overbearing and over-verbose multipage oration in Atlas Shrugged (parodied in The Midas Bomb), the old revolutionary Bernardo de la Paz’s speech in Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress mixes a lot of keen observation about human nature and plain common sense to express in a few pages some interesting ideas. Heinlein, like a few sci-fi writers (but not yours truly), has been considered a Libertarian (Hogan, Niven, and Pournelle are others). The ideas expressed in these pages would never be in that third party’s platform, though.

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Irish Stew #56…

Monday, December 12th, 2016

[It’s been awhile. I use this potpourri of news when I want to make a lot of mini-op-eds about current affairs—hence the name. Or, if you like, my Irish temper blows, and then I stew. Because I already had a political op-ed set for tomorrow about the healthcare crisis, I decided to pair this with “Monday Words of Wisdom” and clear my writing to-do list a wee bit. Let’s go to it…]

International

More Saudi duplicity. I’ve often railed against the duplicitous Saudis in this blog. Sometimes I feel like a voice crying in the wilderness. Here’s yet another example of their duplicity: while we’ve been fighting the Taliban, among others, in Afghanistan for years, the Saudis have been playing both sides, but more in support of the Taliban! To quote a recent Times article: “Saudi Arabia is critical [in Afghanistan] because of its unique position in the Afghan conflict: It is on both sides.” Was Machiavelli a Saudi? They represent the primary source for destabilization in the Middle East and are indirectly (if not directly) responsible for countless tortures and murders of innocents. They are NOT our friends.

Taiwan calling. This is one case where government intervention was required—lots of it! During the election, Trump bloviated a lot about his loathing of the People’s Republic of China (like many communist naming inventions, it’s not a republic and certainly doesn’t belong to the people). He took a congratulatory call from the Taiwanese president. Big deal! Irony?  Obama can call a brutal and murdering dictator in Cuba and Trump is criticized for accepting a call from a democratically elected leader?

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Abdullah bin al-Hussein…

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

He’s King of Jordan and not a terrorist.  (I almost chose that name for a terrorist in one of my books.  What a mistake that would have been!)  I’m not into monarchs and dynasties, not even political ones, but he and his country represent the one shining star of sanity in a very troubled region.  Sixty Minutes, that venerable CBS news program, started its new season with him, and justifiably so.  In the interview he spoke candidly.  I came to admire this man whom I now consider a hero for not only his country but all the sane Muslims of the world (they’re in the majority) who want nothing to do with the torturers and murderers who call themselves jihadists.  It’s a wonder he’s still alive.  The region has a bad rep for killing anyone who speaks out sanely against terrorism and those who practice it.

I feel he’s a brother who understands the same things I do about how the West’s counterterrorism policies are ill-conceived at best and downright stupid most of the time—we’re riding a train into a dark tunnel with destruction waiting at the other end.  Radical Islam is NOT a geopolitical problem involving a few countries here and there.  We can’t chip at it here and there and hope to ever win.  As an example, the King pointed out that ISIS was (and is) losing ground in Syria and Iraq, so they moved into Libya and began exporting terrorists to Europe.  Everywhere a local economy in the Muslim world is failing (including Jordan’s because it’s receiving and/or taking care of thousands of refugees while besieged on all sides), angry, desperate young men take up arms against their scapegoat, the West, stirred up by psychotic leaders who don’t give a rat’s ass about those young men’s lives or anyone else’s.  ISIS and al Qaeda know these men are open to indoctrination and training and go about doing it.  At the same time, they do their best to create the economic conditions where hatred and intolerance can flourish.

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Common sense in a nonsensical world…

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

If your perception about U.S. policies is that they don’t make sense, you are correct—most of the time they don’t. Not necessarily in order of importance, here’s why: First, the courts are stuck in the 19th century because the laws are. Second, American foreign policy is still based on the credo that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Third, the people running everything, the super-rich, don’t give a rat’s ass whether things are done right, as long as they get richer. I could go on, but you get the idea. Sure, problems in the 21st century are complex, but incompetent people and institutional resistance to change for the better make them more so.  My definition of conservative: someone who’s so satisfied with what they have that they don’t want any change. There’s a place for that attitude, but not in the three points I mentioned.

I’ve suffered in my life with both types of judicial systems, English and Roman. In the first, precedents are given weight so that there’s continuity to “justice” (the meaning given to that word could be a fourth problem–just ask the innocent victims of gun violence or those who think Hillary Clinton should be in jail). In the second, the system inherited from the Romans and popular in Latin countries, you can do anything the law doesn’t specifically prohibit (that’s why those countries’ constitutions, if they have one, are so long).  Both are unwieldy. The first practically precludes adapting to changing times, a conservative’s delight. For example, the internet was invented in 1983 (ARPANET) and only assumed something resembling today’s chaos in 1990—let’s give it thirty years. Adding to that the fact that most justices and juries (formed from users, not techies) have no tech background at all, you can see that the justice system can’t possibly make informed decisions about scientific and technical issues most of the time.

Roman justice has a similar problem. Its laws tend to be more “written in stone,” so new science and technologies occur without any control whatsoever. It’s impossible to prohibit something when it hasn’t even been invented yet, and when it is, it might be too late to prohibit it. Progress occurs so fast nowadays that neither judicial system can keep up. Unscrupulous people will take advantage of that, human nature being what it is. Common sense tells me that technical regulatory boards are called for to keep pace with the progresses in science and technology—groups of high-tech “philosopher kings” in the sense of Plato, incorruptible individuals serving limited terms. Again, given human nature, that word “incorruptible” is key. Do such individuals exist? But there’s no doubt the current system is broken and must be fixed.

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Nuclear hypocrisy…

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

Does anyone else see the hypocrisy in Mr. Obama’s trip to Hiroshima? Or, at least the irony? OK, as a guy who wordsmiths full-time now, what the president said is both ironic and hypocritical. His basic message was that everyone has to work toward a nuke-free world. No apology for dropping the bomb (more on this later), but that message was clear. It was hypocritical because the U.S. isn’t doing that, and it’s ironic if Mr. Obama really knows he’s being hypocritical.

The nuclear powers of the world—and they include Israel—don’t want others to join that exclusive club. Their nukes allow them to strut and posture instead of walking softly, and to wave a very big stick to the rest of the world. If you assume that their arrogance is accompanied by restraint, that’s OK, but that’s quite an assumption. The Cold War avoided nuclear Armageddon only because the sticks of the two parties guaranteed a no-win situation—both the U.S. and U.S.S.R. would have been destroyed.

That was a precarious situation, as the Cuban Missile Crisis showed. While that balancing act still continues with a shriveled Russia taking the place of the U.S.S.R., there are other states who can shake the stick—Israel, in spite of denials, has nukes, and that psychotic despot in North Korea is starving his people so he can shake that stick too. Iran was going down that road. It’s not clear that a détente between two theocracies in the Middle East, Iran and Israel, would be a good thing—Israel has shown some restraint, but Iran is unpredictable.

The Iran/Israel case also reflects U.S. hypocrisy. Jump on Iran for the good of peace in the Middle East? What about jumping on Israel? They’re both theocracies, and the current leaders of Israel often seem just as conservative as the Ayatollahs. There’s probably a guilt trip lurking in the background here. The predominantly Christian West, sitting between Judaism and Islam historically for the most part, would just toss a coin—again from the religious point of view—if it weren’t for guilt about the Holocaust.

Of course, I’m even wrong treating the Jewish Holocaust as unique. The Armenian Holocaust occurred earlier (World War One era, not World War Two–Germany just incurred the wrath of the Turks by calling it a holocaust) and others have occurred too—Cambodia and Yugoslavia, to name a few. Even the U.S. interned presumed enemies, Japanese-Americans during World War Two. All this was terrible; none of it is unique because human beings do terrible things to other human beings en masse on a regular basis.

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Irish Stew #53…

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

[Regular readers of this blog know the stew is a collection of mini-op-eds expressing my opinions about current news items.  Don’t like the opinions?  Say so in a comment…or write your own blog!  The more the merrier.]

International.  So Barack Obama’s all sentimental about his relationship with Angela Merkel?  You’d think she’d have enough of sentimental U.S. presidents.  Germany, the juggernaut of the E.U., is having problems.  Merkel’s good intentions in receiving refugees from the Middle East has generated a lot of blowback and encouraged the fascist right-wingers (why do Germans have this tendency?).  She just fired her head security man.  So, maybe Obama is just doing a gentleman’s good deed by helping the old lady safely get across the protest parades on Ku’Damm.

I’ve always had a problem with Germany in particular and Europe in general.  Whatever economic success they’ve enjoyed, it got a head start with the Marshall Plan (lose a war to the U.S. to build an economic powerhouse is the plot of The Mouse That Roared, and it’s so a propos—both Germany and Japan benefitted greatly by losing World War Two).  That’s fine—we all feel good performing charitable acts, especially if they help friends get on their feet.

But much of Europe’s economic growth was also helped along by not having to pay much for its own defense during the Soviet years.  The U.S. provide that defense for the most part.  It’s time they started carrying more of the load.  That’s what Obama should have been saying to Merkel.  Of course, that would just add to her problems, poor thing.  And why aren’t these issues in the U.S. presidential election campaigns?

National

Apple losses.  After 13 years of reporting gains, Apple is finally reporting some losses.  I have no problem with that, except that the stock market reacts to Apple whatever like they do with oil whatever.  The fruity company deserves to go under—it’s arrogant, its products never play well with other products, and its support of worldwide terrorism is unconscionable.  Supposedly the losses are due to consumers’ reactions to the “new” iPhone that should have been called deja vu, not new.  They just did a tweak and called it new because Samsung was coming out with a truly new smart phone.  I’m hoping that at least part of the losses are due to the three points I mentioned.

Apple suffered another loss of a different sort.  Remember their refusal to break into the San Bernardino terrorist’s cell phone?  The FBI found hackers who did just that.  Apple wanted to know how.  The FBI opted not to tell the company.  Payback is sweet sometimes—call it the wave of the middle finger at a company that puts profits above keeping innocents safe from terrorist attacks.  Apple execs should all be in jail—I’m sure Gitmo has some room now.

Uber is stupid.  Yeah, there was a niche to fill, and present taxi service, at least in NYC, is a scam controlled by politicos and the buyers of the medallions who turn around and exploit the drivers.  But is Uber any better?  Not the way things are going.  Free pizzas aside, they’ve decided to charge more for passengers who make their drivers wait.  Before there was a five-minute grace period; they cut it to two, and will start charging about $10 if the passenger goes beyond that.

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Contrary opinions…

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

[I have many of them.  Some people are afraid of having them.  Political correctness often trumps logic and reason (will “trump” become a politically incorrect word?).  I always follow Vonnegut’s curmudgeonly style in my op-ed posts—I say what I think.  You might not like it.  You have a few options: call me out in a comment—no foul language please—or go somewhere else, and/or write your own blog!]

Where’s the big picture?  Einstein supposedly said that only two things are possibly infinite, the Universe and human stupidity, and he wasn’t certain about the Universe.  His statement isn’t as generally applicable as Sturgeon’s Law, though.  The modern formulation of Theodore’s statistical observation for the here-and-now (the future might be worse) is that 90% of everything is crap.  Seems to apply well to human beings and subgroups of the same species (the NRA’s percentage is even higher).  Small minds focus on one or two issues.  Pro-life v. pro-choice, guns (or not guns), black lives matter, Wall Street is bad (or good), immigrants are bad (or good), privacy trumps public safety (or vice versa), Putin is a danger, GMOs are bad (or vice versa)—pick any issue and you will find millions focused on that one issue.  What about the big picture?  I’ll consider all that were just named.  They fit in my big picture.  Do you have one?

Reproductive rights.  I can’t see why it isn’t a general principle that people can’t decide what to do with their bodies.  Certainly no man should be able to tell a woman what to do with hers.  Yet old SOBs get off on controlling women’s reproductive decisions.  The scriptures say the woman should be the faithful servant to the man, don’t you know?  The scriptures say life is a sacred gift from God, don’t you know?  Never mind that the scriptures were written by old men in the days when women were just considered property like cows and sheep.  Never mind that those same old men would wage war on other old men and then victoriously kill off all their enemies’ women and children or enslave them like warring tribes of chimps.  Anyone who uses scriptures or God to back up their argument is highly suspect.
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The climate crisis…

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

Environmental concerns are often on my mind.  Beyond the usual ones that might come to your mind, I also include the problems of changing and disappearing habitats and extinction of species.  The general trend that started with the Industrial Revolution has accelerated.  Human beings are destroying the planet in many ways.  More people realize this now, the rhetoric has heated up, but little has really been done.  And it seems that politicians are just giving a wink and a nod to environmental groups as they continue to ignore the moral imperative to save our planet by playing to corporate interests, lobbyists, and other special interests.

The new climate pact is an example of political blathering.  Do you have a good feeling that so many nations signed on to it?  You shouldn’t.  It’s only rhetoric turned into written words.  The pact is non-binding—there’s no teeth to it at all.  It’s a feel-good moment the politicos of these countries offer up in the hope it will distract and appease all the environmentalists of the world—a fanfare that will soon be drowned out by a funeral dirge as the planet dies.

A recent NY Times editorial, “We have a climate pact.  Now we need laws.” by David Gelles, points to half the problem.  More than a pact of written promises, we do need laws, good, solid international laws across the board.  But laws are just so much BS unless they have teeth—they must be enforced!  Many countries have laws, the U.S. among them, but they aren’t enforced.  And there’s no uniformity either in the laws or the enforcement.  Environmental problems are worldwide.  A week or so ago, that same NY Times showed pics of people in Beijing with gas and surgical masks.  China is one of the worst culprits, of course, but the environmental immorality of U.S. leaders, especially the GOP-dominated Congress and Supreme Court, is also unconscionable.  We have a world to save, you idiots!  Don’t listen to your corporate world who only want to rape Gaia!

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Tax reform?

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

It seems every GOP presidential candidate now has a tax reform plan.  Guess who it favors?  Their reforms are all various schemes for shell games designed to redistribute wealth from the middle class to the wealthy, of course.  No one wants to tax the poor because even the GOP knows you can’t squeeze blood from a stone (of course, they still won’t raise the minimum wage either).  But at least the GOP is up front about enriching the elites and robbing the middle class.  The Dems just might be worse because they blather double-speak about helping the middle class out but are beholding to the rich and their special interest groups and lobbyists.  Only Bernie Sanders has eschewed the largesse of the rich elites.  I wonder how long he’ll last.

Wealth redistribution via taxes is insidious.  First, there’s the infamous payroll tax.  If you’re receiving wages from a company or the government, you’re taxed.  But many members of the rich elites pay less tax than you do because of loopholes and other ways accessible to them because they are NOT on a payroll.  Even a poor fast food worker receives a paycheck that has state and local and often city taxes deducted.  S/he might get it all back at the end of the year, but meanwhile s/he’s giving a zero-interest loan to the U.S. government.  And none of this discussion considers percentages.  They’re completely skewed to favor those payroll workers making lots of money, like in high tech.  And don’t forget FICA.  There’s a cutoff for that.  Eliminate it, and Social Security and Medicare would never have any problems keeping up with retirees!

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