Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
That just might be the case with these cheeky Obamaites. They're just getting used to the idea that they have the power, so they're bound to misuse it from time to time. It's healthy that at least some Americans have some capacity for outrage.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I talked to Matt Harrison, who has also founded the Prometheus Institute to help refine and promote these and similar ideas. It's funded at six figures. Seems like a long-term constructive development in the midst of plenty of short-term bad news.
I suspect Thoreau might not have shrunk from the inference that this means there will never be a free and enlightened state.
I have finished reading Afghan Gen.-in-charge Stanley McChrystal’s “assessment” on the Afghan war and am somewhat blown away by how thoroughly nation-building it is. I probably shouldn’t be surprised. McChrystal was chosen because he’s supposed to be an expert on counterinsurgency, and this assessment basically consists of plugging what can be garnered from the facts on the ground into classic counterinsurgency doctrine. The trouble is that while the doctrine is well-established among military intellectuals (if that isn’t an oxymoron) it has hardly ever worked in the real world. Basically, it involves winning the “hearts and minds” of the populace first by protecting them and offering economic development (roads, infrastructure projects, etc.) and effective, credible governance, thus neutralizing the appeal of the insurgents — as opposed to seeking out and killing the insurgents. The traditional doctrine, however, dictates force levels that would transfer to something like 500,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan (there are 68,000 now) and at least 10 years of patient nation-building.
Herewith a few key excerpts:
“To execute the strategy we must grow and improve the effectiveness of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and elevate the importance of governance.”
“Our strategy cannot be focused on seizing terrain or destroying ninsurgent forces; our objective must be the population.” [an admission that neither the government nor the coalition forces "have" the population now]
“the objective is the will of the people, our conventional warfare culture is part of the problem”
“resources will not win this war, but under-resourcing could lose it.”
“the international community must provide substantial assistance to Afghanistan until the ASfghan people make the decision to support their government and are capable of providing for their own security.”
“The second threat [the first is the existence of the insurgency] … is the crisi8s of popular confidence that springs from the weakness of GIRoA [Afghan govt.] institutions, the unpunished abuse of power by corrupt officials and power brokers, a widespread sense of political disenfranchisement, and a longstanding lack of economic opportunity.” In McChrystal’s view, the US must fix all this — good luck — for success to be achieved.
“There are no clear lines separating insurgent groups, criminal networks (including the narcotics networks) and corrupt GIRoA officials. Malign actors within GIRoA support insurgent groups directly, support criminal networks that are linked to insurgents, and support corruption that helps feed the insurgency.”“Hard-earned credibility and face-to-face relationships, rather than close combat, will achieve success. This requires enabling Afghan counterparts to meet the needs of the people at the community level thrugh dynamic partnership, engaged leadership, de-centralized decisin-making, and a fundamental shift in priorities.
“Success will be achieved when GIRoA has earned the support of the powerful Aghan people and effectively controls its own territory. This will not come easily or quickly. It is realistic to expect that Afghan and coalition casualties will increase until GIRoA and ISAF [international forces] regain the initiative.”
“GIRoA cannot fund its operations because of its inability to raise revenue, a situation made worse by the illicit economy. Poorly paid officials may resort to petty corruption, contributing to the peoples’ crisis in confidence. The international community [us taxpayers] must appropriately supplerment revenues until these problems are addressed.” The fact that foreign aid usually increases corruption rather than reduces it isn’t addressed.
And so on. It’s a heck of commitment. No wonder Obama is trying to buy time before he makes a decision. I’m guessing it will be a commitment to 2-3 years to make Obama appear serious before starting to withdrawal. If McChrystal is right, that’s just a half-hearted commitment enough to guarantee failure, with serious loss of U.S. lives and treasure.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Thus I don't know exactly what to make of the fact that the Royal Opera in London presenting the first "Twitter opera." The libretto was composed through Twitter feeds (140 characters) from 900 people. And "Twitterdamerung: The Twitter Opera," surprised some critics who found themselves rather liking it.
I'd have to hear it. But efforts to get more people involved with and interested in opera are always welcome. Most such efforts fail, of course, but you have to keep trying.
Even though the U.S. and China are remarkably intertwined economically and have no reason to upset one another in potentially harmful ways, this could set of a trade war. Perhaps more significant, as this Register editorial notes, it sends a message to the other G-20 countries, meeting in Pittsburgh this weekend, that a few little tariffs here and there are just fine with the U.S. I think most countries understand the benefits of trade, but a bit of proetctionism here and there always seems to play well with the rubes, always the majority in any country.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
As I noted in this post (written when I though he had died), Jack Herer taught me a lot about the potentially beneficial uses of hemp, the world's strongest natural fiber. I'm praying for a full recovery, but if it was a stroke (again) recovery could take a while. I visited him shortly after his first stroke, and whiule his brain seemed to functioning quite actively, it was a struggle to get his mouth to say anything other than the most simple phrases, somewhat distorted.
I am praying hard for his recovery.
Friday, September 18, 2009
In California, 13 years after the passage of Prop. 215, there are still cities openly (and perhaps illegally, given the cities are legally subdivisions of the state and obligated to follow state law) seeking ways to subvert the establishment of legal sources where patients can acquire the cannabis to which they are legally entitled. I'm ashamed to say that in Orange County, the Register's circulation area, where we have published more reliable information on medical marijuana, I daresay, than in any other newspaper circulation area, city governments, far from having absorbed the information, are using incredibly dishonest and unreliable information to close medical cannabis facilities or to prevent them from opening.
Dana Point, which at least has some existing facilities, is investigating them in response to a request from a would-be entrant to change zoning laws to cement the legality of its status. Laguna Beach, which has a reputation for being liberal and is decidely one of the most gay-friendly towns in the country, has just banned dispensary facilities in response to a school principal peddling the usual stuff about "sending the wrong message" (discredited in 1999 by the Institute of Medicine report) and fearing that children would have unlimited access to marijuana -- as if they can't get it more easily than tobacco now.
Laguna Woods, formerly Leisure World, is trying to close the 15 facilities it has now. And Fresno's city paternalists are scrambling depsperately to get a law banning medical cannbis facilities validated.
"These definitions coincide with the terms which, since Greek antiquity, have been use to define the forms of government as the rule of man over man -- of one or the few in monarchy and oligarchy, of the best or the many in aristocracy or democracy, to which today we ought to add the latest and perhaps most formidable form of such dominion, bureaucracy, or the rule by an intricate system of bureaux in which no men, neither one not the best, neither the few nor the many, can be held responsible, and which could be properly called the rule by Nobody. Indeed,, if we identify tyranny as the government that is not held to give account of itself, rule by Nobody is clearly the most tyrannical of all, since there is no one left who could be asked to answer for what is being done. It is this state of affairs which isd among the most potent causes for the current world-wide rebellious arrest." -- Hannah Arendt
Or have we just become so numbed that we don't have the heart or the will or even any faint hope of success in holding government accountable?
Do I really have to wait until 7:15 pm tomorrow to watch it? Guess that gives me plenty of time for yardwork and cleaning the pool and filter.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The importance of reformn at the federal level is highlighted by the case of a man in Niles, Mich. living in public housing. Now that Michigan has a medical marijuana law, his decision to grow for his personal medical use is legal under state law. But the feds oversee his public housing project and have a zero tolerance policy, so the authorities have moved to evict him. The legal brouhaha has finally led him to decide to move out. The continuing DEA participation in raids on medical cannabis facilities in California, despite federal promises to stop them, not only suggests Obama didn't take his promise very seriously, but that he has shown to date no intention to push for reform. It would certainly be more popular than his health insurance efforts.
Rich Lee has already raised the money to gather signatures so he appears to be ahead of the game. Whether the presence of other efforts will create an inevitability effect or create confusion is just too difficult to tell just now.
Monday, September 14, 2009
The thought is prompted by a couple of blog posts I did for the Register's Orange Punch blog last week. First I quoted a letter by George Mason U economist Don Boudreaux about whether the office of the presidency inherently deserves respect. Then I did my own piece suggesting that institutionally speaking, politicians are a parasite class. Lots of reaction, most of it negative.
It would be nice if UCLA could rent USC third-stringer Mitch Mustain, who started as a freshman in Arkansas but is unlikely to play more than a few meaningless series, for a few weeks. I suspect he's better than any of UCLA's options. Ah well, Kansas State is next and UCLA is favored. Hope we live up to it. Could be that the setback will serve to unify the team.
Friday, September 11, 2009
To be sure, SD law enforcement people say none of the 15 or so facilities busted was operating legally under the state AG guidelines. I doubt that, but maybe. Don't know yet if arrests have led to charges so maybe a court can decide, or whether the raids were sheer harassment.
I don't know the acreage yet, but it seems to have been a relatively small one and out quickly. Still, and the height the flames were incredibly high. I remember about 15 years ago I was home when a fire came bursting over the crest of the hill and down over the upper stretch of road. It was impressive and hot and more than a little frightening. That was closer -- they sprayed retardant all over everybody's yard and remnants were around for months, but we didn't mind. All the neighbors were out wetting foliage (fortunately we have tile roofs) and we had then car loaded and ready to flee, but we didn't have to then either.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
When I was younger self-styled liberals were not quite so tightly wedded to government and all its works (but of course those works included the Vietnam war). Few bowed mindlessly before the great god of government. Some even cherished civil liberties and dissent, had respect for independent thinkers and had a soft spot for troublemakers. But now faith in government is just about all they have, and it's fascinating to see it so consistently displayed. Sure, it's not quite as intense when there's a Republican in the White House, but even then it doesn't go away. Dozens of liberals said the only good thing to come from 9/11 was renewed faith in government, and they lamented copiously when it didn't last long. How sad to be so wedded to an institution whose only tool is the use of force.
I know, I know, lots of young players, first-game jitters, they have a game under their belts now, they understand Tennessee will be gunning for them. But I think they'll have to play well -- not necessarily dominant but close to it -- from the outset to beat Tennessee.
To be sure, the protocol is a bit arcane and more than a bit hypocritical. After all, Obama had used the word "lie" in his prepared text. But Joe Wilson blurting out like that was a stupid thing to do.
Even that doesn't change the fact that Obama's main problem -- besides wanting to impose tight rules on a process (improving health care) that should be open-ended and experimental, with all parties encourage to try different things, see what works, and all concerned try to copy or emulate what works with local/institutional variations -- is not with the Republicans but the Democrats. There are 70 Democrats from districts that McCain won in 2008 or Bush won in 2004, and most of them have heard from constituents that they don't want much to do with ObamaCare and they surely don't want a government-run "public option."
The Dems may still be able to get a majority in the House, but in the Senate 60 votes is out of the question and even 51 might not be doable with the government option in there. Obama may have jollied the Blue Dogs along, but it's far from too early for them -- especially the first-termers -- to be thinking about reelection prospects. When I worked in the House reelection was pretty much all the congressional staffs thought about, and though it was actually illegal, almost every staff worked on the next campaign a good deal of the time. I'll be amazed if this speech, even if the initial impression is positive and it's followed by a draft bill and intense White House lobbying, does much.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
I blogged about it here and Steve broke some news here, and Steve wrote the editorial for tomorrow's paper.
Obama gave his speech today, of course. My assignment was to stay late and live-blog the speech for the Register's Orange Punch blog, then write an editorial for tomorrow. He started talking about 5:15, finished a few minutes after 6:00 and I had until 6:30 to get the editorial done lest I miss my train. It was a chore, but I did it, and I'm not sure the adrenaline has stopped pumping yet.
Anyway, the blog items are here, here and here, done while he was speaking. I think it's a nice combination of summary and commentary, but you be the judge. Editorial tomorrow, when they post it.
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
To complicate matters for The One, various government entities keep coming up with quasi-realistic cost estimates that give the lie to the preposterous notion that more government will mean less cost. As this Register editorial explains, the Congressional Budget Office determined that electromic record-keeping, while not necessarily a bad idea, wouldn't save an appreciable amount of money. And now a group studying preventive care for diabetics has determined that while (again) it's not a bad idea at all, it will cost more money over 10 years, and the only patients for whom a lifetime saving can be predicted are those diagnosed between ages 24-30, and only after about 25 years.
The core problem is third-party payment, which means consumers have no incentive to look for better, lower-cost care or procedures. I know it goes against the grain, but the best approach is to re-establish the tie between paying for medical services and the consumer of services.
Jen came up with the idea and we implemented it together -- putting curtains (made of canvas dropcloth) -- on the outside of windows that get the morning sun. It's made a big difference as to the coolness of the house, and we figure it will help to insulate better come winter as well. And it actually looks rather nice. We'll probably put some up on the afternoon-sun side also.
Kevin Prince at quarterback sometimes looked polished and sometimes looked like a redshirt Freshman who hadn't been in a live game in a couple of years. But he did enough. 33-14 -- right on the point spread, so somebody somewhere must have known something -- was quite satisfying.
Saturday, September 05, 2009
Friday, September 04, 2009
From "The Anatomy of Bibliomania" by Holbrook Jackson (1874-1948):
"Some have been afflicted by bibliomania through idleness, and for them there is small hope of cure; others, I count myself among them, from excess of affairs. Many, like asses that wear out their time for provender, are so buried in the minor and immediate tasks of earning a living as to get confounded promptly and permanently with the victims of commercial ambition, whence it comes to pass that, slily and insensibly perverted, nerves frayed and brains dulled, they take to books as sick souls take to drugs. They hoard at first against a time of leisure when they may perchance read, and end by hoarding for the sake of hoarding, thus allying themselves with those dizzards who wallow among possessions which they cannot use, and who die before they have lived."
Thanks to the WSJ for digging this one up, which cuts a little close to the bone for me.
What kind of profit? According the the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, in 2004 a kilogram of heroin no. 4 in Pakistan sold for $4,027, and in Afghanistan for $4,000. In the U.S. in 2004 the price for a kilo of No. 4 was about $66,250.
But check these stories from the NYT and the WaPo on the same office's recent report on opium in Afghanistan. One headline writer (WaPo) tried a positive spin, and it's true the report said opium production fell 10% and the amount of land used to cultivate it fell 22%. No discussion of the fact that this means cultivation has become more efficient. And deeper in the story is the news that the Taliban has enough to supply the world demand for two years hidden away. Why not reduce the value of the stockpile to next to nothing?
Thursday, September 03, 2009
Having heard on the news, however, that the Station fire, now apparently the largest wildfire in L.A. history, was deliberately set, I want that arsonist, if he (almost always a he) is ever caught, to be drawn and quartered after having his fingernails removed with a pair of rusty pliers. Can you think of anything else brutal? I'll go for it. To me, an arsonist in a Southern California tinderbox is one of the worst of creatures on the planet. The scum who do this can never repay the millions it costs to fight the fire -- let alone the agony of people who have lost their homes. In this fire, of course, two firemen lost their lives, so if caught the perp could be subject to the death penalty -- although California hardly ever actually executes people. That's too kind.
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Will's column may be, I hope, a harbinger that we just might have a serious debate about Afghanistan, perhaps even before Obama commits a lot more troops there. The polls show more Americans believing the war is not worth fighting than believing it is -- and 70 percent of Democrats ready to wind down the war. Obama may have taken office without owing much to the the Democratic establishment, but a president whose own party opposes his signature foreign-policy promise and initiative at such a level is in a ticklish position. We may see, as Congress returns, discover whether that rank-and-file opposition gets translated into a willingness among congresscritters to ask pertinent and impertinent questions.
Presidents can act almost unilaterally and without much oversight in foreign affairs, as Bush did so often, but while I can't imagine a serious threat to cut off funds, which Congress could do constitutionally if it wanted, I can imagine hearings, sharp questions to guys like Gates McChrystal and perhaps even Petraeus. After a period of dormancy the antiwar left is stirring a bit. Escalating the war could create a serious rift in the Democratic party, and it's tough to imagine, after 8 years already, that many Americans will approve of another 10 years, what McChrystal reportedly estimates it would take for Afghanistan to have a "proper" set of thugs and enforcers -- er, police and army security forces at our expense, in a country that has never had a strong central government and doesn't seem to want one.
There really ought to be a debate before another escalation, a debate that includes the serious option of ending military activity on the ground in Afghanistan. Al-Qaida isn't in Afghanistan now. Let's declare victory and get out.
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
When marijuana is legal -- I'm about ready to start peddling my book outline -- it will be amazingly cheap, although certain strains will no doubt still be high-end. It will be interesting to see how much of a market there is for high-end items when the forbiddenfruit allure is gone. I suspect it will still be popular for a long time to come.
Just got back from a company meeting with Terry Horne, our publisher. He emphasized that it is a pre-agreed bankruptcy plan (after tough negotiations with the banks) and it should take 120-180 days to work through the formalities, at which point Chase, Union Bank and some bank in Atlanta will own us. Terry thinks the only way the banks get their money back is to wait until there is a history of improved revenue and profitability and a market develops for newspapers and other media companies -- a possibility if the recession turns around. At this point nobody wants to buy newspapers, so they'll just have to ride out the storm with us. At least the Register is still profitable and never did lose money, though the profits are precipitously below what they were in the salad days.
So no substantive changes for at least 6 months, and then probably nothing that will affect me or the libertarian nature of the Register editorial pages. But it's a long way from being fun.
People used to laugh at the old man, R.C. Hoiles, for his refusal to take on any debt, but to grow the company through revenues and buy new properties only when we could pay cash. If his offspring had followed that philosophy the company would not be in this position.