Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Quiz Answer Sheet

Polar bear question:
c. Both a. and b. are inconvenient trues if you are Al Gore

The rest of the quiz
1. d. The United States produces approximately 27% of world GDP

2. d. The total GDP of the next 5 largest - Japan, China, Germany, UK, and France – roughly equals the GDP of the United States.

3 c. The European Union has 27 member states.

4. a. United States

5. c. Unemployment in China is about 23%, or roughly the 300 million population of the United States, according to The Rand Corporation

6. a. United States (2007)
US 4.9% Germany 8.4% UK 5.4% France 8%

7. d. Only these three – 1. Luxembourg, $87,400 2. Ireland, $47,169 3. Norway, $47,098 4. United States, $44,765 (International Monetary Fund rankings)

8. d. 93 years: “The clearance of grassland releases 93 times the amount of greenhouse gas that would be saved by the fuel made annually on that land…”

9. d. All the above

10. c. Global cooling

11. d. All the above.

12. c. A team of Harvard and Smithsonian researchers

13. a. Changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide: In all preceding periods of climate change, such as the Medieval Warm Period researched by Harvard-Smithsonian scientists, increases in atmospheric CO2, whether natural or man-made, did not precede warming.

14. a. 1934

15. c. 6

16. d. Two feet: Average sea level rise per century of about two feet. It’s just simple math. Since the end of the last Ice Age about 18,000 years ago, sea levels have risen approximately 410 feet. Dividing 410 feet by 180 centuries equals about 2’ 3” rise per century.

17. d. 1850

18. d. AD 1850

19. c. About 1850 when graduated thermometers came into use

20. e. All the statements are true

21. d. b and c are correct

22. c. Both statements are true

23. d. Both statements are false

24. d. All the above

25. d. All the above

26. c. Al Gore has proof that global warming is caused by increased levels of atmospheric CO2.

27. d. All the above

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Bill Clinton’s Still a Stranger to the Truth

Here is Bill Clinton being himself, in this case alleging voter intimidation in Nevada:

Today when my daughter and I were wandering through the hotel, and all these culinary workers were mobbing us telling us they didn’t care what the union told them to do, they were gonna caucus for Hillary.

There was a representative of the organization following along behind us going up to everybody who said that, saying 'if you’re not gonna vote for our guy we’re gonna give you a schedule tomorrow so you can’t be there.' So, is this the new politics? I haven’t seen anything like that in America in 35 years. So I will say it again – they think they're better than you..

Of course there is no way any of this could be true, and if Bill Clinton heard it, it was his duty as a citizen, not his option, to file a formal complaint as a witness to illegal activity.

However, there were notices posted in the casinos that employees could go directly to their managers to request time off to participate in the caucus if they thought the union organizers would prevent them.

Same old Bill

Friday, January 18, 2008

Taking the Long Way to Turkey in 1964

I enlisted in the Air Force in 1962, and after Basic Training at Lackland AFB, San Antonio, I went to Russian language school at Indiana University, then to radio intercept schools at Goodfellow AFB, San Angelo, Texas, and the National Security Agency, Fort Meade, Maryland. By the time I finished all the schools and had orders to report to Karamursel Air Station, Turkey, I was less than two months from completing two years of service.

Marilynn and I bought a used 1958 Rambler station wagon for the commute from our apartment in Laurel to NSA, and when I graduated we decided to drive it to California where I would complete my thirty-day leave from the Air Force, leave Marilynn and eight-month old Bruce with her parents in Vallejo, and then go on to Turkey alone.

We decided we would go from Maryland by way of Long Island, New York, to visit Marilynn’s Aunt Helen and Uncle Jul in Levittown and take in the New York World’s Fair before departing for California.

Of course the roads and routes have changed a lot since late spring 1964, but I remember that getting out of New York and through New Jersey onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike wasn’t bad. The Pennsylvania Turnpike would have been great too, except we had to stop overnight in Carlisle to repair a small hole in the radiator.

Looking back, I can’t believe the old clunkers I used to buy and drive because we couldn’t afford better, and the innocent faith we had that we could load our family and all our worldly possessions into one, and take off on a one-week, three thousand mile trip across country with $200 cash in our pockets, about the same in our checking account, and a Chevron credit card.

What adventures we had, by just being young and foolish!

I’d do it all again, only this time I’d take more pictures.

Cross country travel was more fun and interesting then. Once the more populous eastern states were behind, the roads were almost all two-lane and went down all the Main Streets along the way. However, before you knew it you were across the Mississippi, and towns became fewer and farther between, and so did motels and gas pumps.

We stopped in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to visit my mother’s youngest brother, Uncle Richard Stonemetz, and his wife, Aunt Shirley. From Cheyenne heading west you would see a sign about every fifty miles or so giving you the miles left before you got to Little America, an “oasis for the traveler” located somewhere out in the middle of nowhere, almost three hundred miles from Cheyenne and another 150 miles to Salt Lake City.

I can still remember the relief I felt approaching Little America. The sun was down, and I could see the lights far ahead. Soon we pulled in and parked next to a gas pump. Fortunately Little America took every gas company credit card, because I only had the one from Chevron. All around us were trucks, most of them with their engines idling.

We drove a short distance to a parking space at the café, and I carried sound-asleep Bruce in while Marilynn prepared a bottle for him. Then we sat down to our burgers, fries, and cokes, all for about three dollars.

Then it was time for me to get us a room. I had already determined that there were many vacancies that evening, indicated by a lot of empty parking spaces, and the waitress had told me that there were a couple of motels within ten miles heading west. Armed with this information, I entered into negotiations with the motel desk clerk, and got a reduced rate for the night.

For the next six years, as the need arose, I would look for vacancies and negotiate for lower prices rather than reserve rooms in advance.

It wasn’t until we got to England in 1970, and I realized my pay as an officer was now enough to bump us up into the middle class, that I finally started making advance reservations and quit negotiating room rates.

However, in the late spring of 1964, those days were a long way ahead and I wasn’t really sure that our life would ever be significantly more prosperous.

Anyway, after Little America we still had almost 900 miles of driving and two or three nights in motels before we would arrive at Marilynn’s parents’ house in Vallejo.

Most of the traveling west of Omaha was through “almost no radio” country, although as the sun went down and we searched for signs of gas stations, cafes, and cheap motels, the radio dial became flooded with signals from powerful stations all over America.

Of all those stations, I have a special place in my heart for KMOX, St. Louis, a place I apparently shared with most of Middle America at that time. After driving west for two days and almost a thousand miles from St. Louis, I was still in St. Louis Cardinals country.

I doubt there has ever been, or will be again, a force that unified and united a culture to the extent that KMOX did for the Mid-West for a half-century after its start-up in 1925. I still prefer to get my news and sports delivered with a flat Midwestern accent; it just sounds more interesting and believable that way.

The rest of our trip took us through Salt Lake City, then into Nevada through Wendover, Elko, Winnemucca, and Reno (where we were married almost two years before, in November 1962), then down through Sacramento to Vallejo, with a fun dinner stop at The Nut Tree in Vacaville, our only “extravagance” since leaving the World’s Fair in New York.

We stayed with Marilynn’s parents for only two days, then drove to Point Arena to stay with my parents while I worked for almost a month at the Bojock Lumber Company. Pop was the Bojock millwright, had worked for its owner, Chub Ohleyer, for many years and had arranged a job for me while I was on leave from the Air Force.

Working in the sawmill was hard, enjoyable, and paid well, but all too soon I was saying goodbye to Marilynn and Bruce, to Mom and Pop, and was in San Francisco boarding a Pan American 707 on my way to Turkey.

The sadness I felt at leaving didn’t stand a chance against the joy I felt for the anticipated adventures ahead.

I boarded the Pan Am 707 wearing civilian clothes and a big smile.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The New Budget Officer, RAF Bentwaters, 1970

In my previous post we arrived at my new base in the UK and we spent the first six weeks living in the Coach and Horses, Melton, while I worked constantly, then searched long and despairingly for a house for us.

I arrived at RAF Bentwaters, Suffolk, UK, in early January, 1970, a 27-year old 2nd Lieutenant with wife, Marilynn, and three sons ages 6, 3, and 1. I had just completed an MBA at Michigan State, and the Budget Officer job at Bentwaters would be my first Air Force duty as an officer. Since I had spent my six enlisted years as a Russian linguist radio intercept analyst, clerk typist, and/or college student, I knew absolutely nothing about Air Force accounting or budgeting.

Apparently the Air Force wasn’t concerned, because no mention was ever made of sending me to any school to train me for my new job.

When I reported for duty as the Budget Officer, 81st Combat Support Group, 81st Tactical Fighter Wing, I found that my predecessor, Mr. Byce Pierce, had transferred from RAF Bentwaters to an accounting and finance job on RAF Lakenheath nine months before my arrival. During that long vacant period, the Budget Office had operated with only two people, TSgt Phillip Ashcraft and UK civilian clerk Art Sharman. Their happiness at my arrival was tempered with the immediate recognition that I didn’t know the slightest thing about the Air Force’s accounting and budgeting system.

Another thing that happened the week I arrived that tempered their joy was the simultaneous arrival of the “call” to begin preparation of the Fiscal Year 1971 Wing Operations Operating Budget and Family Housing Budget. The preparation of each of these hundreds of pages documents is a harrowing and challenging activity at the best of times. With a new untrained and inexperienced leader, and a just installed new tape and hard drive computer (Burroughs 3500) to replace the old punched card one, a Burroughs B-263, the budget preparation tasks looked impossibly difficult.

Looks weren’t deceiving.

For the next six weeks each of the three of us worked forty or more hours of overtime each week, but even though each of us worked the same long hours, this arduous workload was not evenly distributed.

At 27, I was the youngest, but my position as Budget Officer and my total lack of accounting knowledge gave me few duties I was either required or capable of performing. Fortunately, writing the budget narrative (borrowing heavily from the previous years’ budgets) and proofreading the typed printing masters were important jobs that I could do well without grasping the underlying details and concepts.

TSgt Ashcraft was the Noncommissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of Budget, and was ten years older than me, and very calm and affable. He was able to get a lot of information from a wide variety of activities and individuals, and incorporate it into the Byzantine budget formats. I didn’t realize until much later that Air Force budgeting was in a period of transition and upheaval when I arrived. My ignorance of what preceded the new system led me to believe that I was entering an established one, when actually it was in complete disarray and groping its way in the dark from being a tightly centrally managed one to responsibilities being distributed throughout all levels of Air Force management. TSgt Ashcraft was struggling to make the transition, and for the most part I was unaware of it.

Arthur Sharman, the UK civilian budget clerk, was twenty years older than me, and I owe him a lot for my eventually successful career in budgeting. Art handled the most precisely demanding elements of our budget, the pay of civilian employees and the contracts and services provided through the British Ministry of Defense and Department of Environment (DOE), which performed the functions performed at stateside bases by Air Force Civil Engineering. He also ably liaised with the financial officer of the DOE, Mrs. Iris Fletcher, a very able and slightly built but imposing woman in her fifties who Art nicknamed the Dragon Lady. Between the two of them they wielded a surprising amount of power over most of the physical plant of the two air bases which were operated by the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing, Royal Air Force Bases Bentwaters and Woodbridge.

The problem we all faced was that the newly responsible financial managers had no training or experience in their duties under the new program. Being an overseas base compounded the problems, because both military and civilian managers and personnel were normally rotated back to a stateside base after three years, and there were very few with any knowledge or experience in financial management.

I thought I was stepping into an existing system and that I had to find out what everyone was doing so I could learn and get up to speed, and they thought I was there to lead them.

It could have been a classic example of the blind leading the blind, except I didn’t know they were blind and waiting for me to show them the way.

Somehow we got the budgets finished on time, although Phil Ashcraft was visibly exhausted, and Art Sharman suffered a minor stroke and was off work for about six weeks to recover. Although the budgets were in, we continued working many hours of overtime each week, even after Arthur came back to work.

Not long after Arthur came back, Phil Ashcraft finished his tour of duty and went back stateside. Arthur and I anxiously awaited his replacement, another TSgt named Robert Clough, coming to us from a Defense Contracting Agency job in Paramus, New Jersey, and prior to that, a year at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Vietnam.

As we awaited TSgt Clough’s arrival, we continued to burn many overtime hours on tasks such as loading budget targets in the Base Accounting system on the B-3500 computer, and corresponding supply and equipment targets in the Base Supply system on the Univac 1050-II computer system.

Working with Base Supply was particularly difficult, since they operated in accordance with their own sacrosanct regulations and procedures which seemed to be in competition or opposition to the overall budget process. We were in a constant fear that Base Supply would not issue a critical maintenance part because of a shortage of funds in a unit account, thereby resulting in delayed repairs to an aircraft delaying mission accomplishment, and the blame placed on us.

The Supply system seemed to be run by its cranky computer. When there were problems, and there were endless problems, the usual explanation for not fixing them immediately was that “the computer won’t let us.”

We had very little information about TSgt Clough, but information in some of his records we received before his arrival showed he had experience working with Base Supply.

The fateful day finally arrived, and I made the short walk from Accounting across the highway to the parking lot in front of the Base Reception Center to meet the bus carrying Sergeant Clough and his family from the UK arrival base, RAF Mildenhall. The bus pulled in, and Sergeant Clough and his wife Lorna, plus two sons and a daughter, got off. As I gave Sergeant Clough a warm welcome I noticed he was overweight and his uniform more unkempt looking than expected even considering the long flight and bus ride.

He introduced me to his family, then announced that he was “on the Road program.”

“What’s the ‘Road’ program?” I asked.

“Retired On Active Duty,” he replied.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Media Lies - What's A Blogger To Do?

The New York Times, CBS News, the Associated Press, and The New Republic. What do they have in common?

They publish lies dressed up as news.

Bloggers obviously don’t have the resources of the major news media. We don’t have employees educated and trained as investigative reporters, supported by voluminous files and archives, overseen by seasoned editors. You name just about anything the main stream media has, we bloggers don’t have it.

However, when you compare the knowledge and experience of the blogosphere on specific issues compared to what the main stream media can apply to them, bloggers have an overwhelming advantage.

The most dramatic illustration of this point was the blogosphere vs. 60 Minutes and the forged Texas Air National Guard papers. Bloggers were able to marshal vast expertise examining the forged documents that 60 Minutes had neither the means nor the will to access.

Recently I’ve found myself engaged in unequal combat with elements of the main stream media, and I must modestly admit that they were “no contests,” and that I emerged victorious without breaking a sweat – or spending a buck.

I also humbly admit that very few know of my victories, including the main stream media I so thoroughly trounced. My satisfaction is that of putting a fly in their ointment. I’ve noticed that when the subjects I posted on are Googled, my article pops up along with the offending one.

For example, when the title of a November CBS News article entitled “Suicide Epidemic among Veterans” is Googled, my post totally debunking their article by proving the veteran suicide rate is lower than the rate for average citizens, and for nations such as France and Japan, appears as the fourth item on the search page following their tale.

Similarly, when “New York Times veteran murder rates” is Googled, my post disproving the New York Time’s article, in which I demonstrate that the veteran’s murder rate ranges from one-half to one-fifth of many American cities, and is even lower when you take women, children, and old men out of the comparison, appears as the third item on the Google search page.

My recent post exposing the Associated Press for fraudulently reporting that the Heritage Foundation ranked Europe as the economically freest region of the world hasn’t had a chance yet to attain first page Google search ranking because the AP release is still showing up as a fresh “news” item in many newspapers. It’s a shame, since it is so patently wrong and misleading, but the AP is not subjected to intense review by the main stream media that disseminate their releases.

Bloggers have to do it for them.

Not long ago a swarm of bloggers including me jumped all over The New Republic for publishing lurid and defamatory stories written by Private Scott Beauchamp supposedly based on his ongoing experiences in Iraq entitled “Baghdad Diarist.” Since many experienced Army veterans meticulously exposed gaping flaws in Beauchamp’s stories, I decided that since I’m an Air Force veteran with little or no knowledge of Army equipment and practices, I would concentrate on things that could be fact checked on the Internet without ever leaving Gualala, Northern California.

It was easy to decide that stories about joy riding in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle and using it to kill stray dogs were ones that any editor, regardless of military experience or lack thereof, should have easily been able to determine were untrue. All that was needed was to Google “Bradley Fighting Vehicle,” and compare its picture to the descriptions of killing the dogs.

Even a great fool would have noticed that the 21-inch wide treads of this thirty-ton vehicle were incapable of neatly slicing a dog in two, as described by Private Beauchamp. Looking at the picture, the great fool would also notice that the driver, sitting low at the left front, couldn’t possibly see a dog at the right rear, let alone make precise changes of speed and direction to do the impossible and ensnare the dog in its tracks.

Although reported otherwise by the editor of The New Republic, a spokesman for the manufacturer of the Bradley concurred it was extremely unlikely to impossible for a Bradley driver to do the things Private Beauchamp described.

Faced with this deluge of untruths and half-truths from the main stream media, what’s a blogger to do?

So much BS, so little time.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Associated Press Lies About "Freest" Economies Study

“Asia is home to the world's freest _ and most repressed _ economies, but Europe ranked highest as a region in terms of economic freedom, an annual report released Tuesday by the Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal said.”

So began an Associated Press news report of the Heritage Foundation report just released.

Naturally I was intrigued, particularly since the conclusions in the AP report ran counter to what I have studied and observed this past half-century. I wondered, as Ross Perot may have mused, whether there was a Devil in the details, so I went to the Heritage Report.

There I found, in a strict reading of the Heritage Report, that Asia is indeed home to the world’s freest – and most repressed – economies. The two freest in the world are the city/states of Hong Kong and Singapore, but then you have to drop down all the way to 17th to pick up the next free Asian economy, Japan, and China comes in at 126th.

Europe being ranked highest as a region in terms of economic freedom also requires very strict reading of the Heritage Report. According to the AP, their rationale for ranking Europe first as a region was that: “European countries accounted for half of the top 20 economies considered free or mostly free, with Ireland at No. 3, Switzerland at No. 9 and Britain at No. 10.”

Rounding out the top 20 freest European economies: Denmark at No. 11, Estonia at No. 12, Netherlands at No. 13, Iceland at No. 14, Luxembourg at No. 15, Finland at No. 16, and Belgium at No. 20.

All told, these ten freest European countries make up 32 percent of the total European Union (EU) Gross Domestic Product (GDP), although the UK GDP is larger than the total of the other nine ranked with it in the top 20. The percentage of EU GDP that belong to EU countries ranked in the top ten freest is only 20 percent.

One obvious conclusion from looking at the numbers so far is that 68 percent of the EU GDP is produced by members not ranked in the top 20 freest: Germany at No. 23, Spain at No. 31, France at No. 48, and Italy at No. 64. In fact, these four lower ranked EU members produce 57 percent of the EU GDP, or almost double the total of the “freer” EU countries.

Apparently it suits the political point-of-view of the AP to not mention anything about the position of North Americans in terms of freest economies. Again, using a strict reading of the Heritage Report, the AP is correct in stating that only two of the top twenty freest economies are in North America: the United States at No. 5, and Canada at No. 7 (the AP erroneously listed Canada at No. 6). However, the combined US and Canadian GDP is 30 percent of the gross world product, virtually identical to the European Union GDP.

According to the Heritage Report: “America could do better in its scores for fiscal freedom and government size, which are 7 and 8 points below average, respectively. Total government spending equals more than a third of GDP. Corporate and personal taxes are moderately high and are getting relatively higher as other advanced economies reform with lower tax rates.”

In other words, American economic freedom suffers because of high government spending and taxation.

To put it another way, American economic freedom suffers because of high government spending and taxation.

It bears repeating that American economic freedom suffers because of high government spending and taxation.

In conclusion, America could have the world’s freest economy if not for high government spending and taxation.

Another way to compare is to look at how much of the world’s population live in the freest economies. Obviously a Frenchman living in the 48th freest economy can’t claim to enjoy the economic freedoms of an Irishman at No. 3, even though both are European.

While a total of 111 million Europeans (23 percent of the EU population) live in the top twenty freest nations economically (and 77 percent don’t), 334 million North Americans (100 percent of Americans and Canadians, and triple the number of Europeans) live in the top twenty – make that the top ten - freest.

In fact, 89 percent of the residents of the nations having the top five freest economies are Americans.

From these facts, obvious conclusions can be drawn about which region of world has the freest economies, unless you’re an AP editor.

Post Script:

The surest path towards having the freest economy becomes obvious from the Heritage Report – have an English heritage.

Look at the top ten of the entire list:

1. Hong Kong
2. Singapore
3. Ireland
4. Australia
5. United States
6. New Zealand
7. Canada
8. Chile
9. Switzerland
10. United Kingdom

Monday, January 14, 2008

California 2008 Primary Election - My Vote is In

I completed my absentee ballot and mailed it today. I voted for John McCain, and against all seven of the ballot propositions.

Although even the organizations who placed Proposition 91 on the ballot recommended voting against it because it was no longer needed, it was even easier to vote “No!” on several other propositions than on 91.

Propositions 94, 95, 96, and 97 (allowing four southern California tribes to greatly increase their slot machines in exchange for tax revenue contributions totaling less than one percent of our state budget) were the easiest to vote against on many grounds. Primarily, they would expand gambling, which I wish was still confined to Nevada (including getting rid of state lotteries). Gambling promotes wasteful and irresponsible behavior, and the gambling businesses are guaranteed profits while the gambling public is guaranteed losses. Indian gambling has been and will be a constant source of problems for the Indians and for society. While some tribes have become extremely wealthy, most tribes haven’t, but the dream of casino riches has stifled efforts of many “poor” tribes and individuals to improve because they are waiting for their casino “ship” to come in.

Our local Pomo tribe on the Garcia River is one of many whose casino ship will never dock, but many lives are being wasted while waiting.

It was also a pleasure to vote against Proposition 92, which foolishly cuts junior college student fees while creating another bloated state agency. It also commits what I consider the cardinal sin of budgeting by instituting a funding mechanism that removes control from elected government officials. This creates another sacred budget cow, one that doesn’t even need to ask to be fed according to its formula, regardless of the condition of other government programs and funding considerations.

Proposition 93 was the toughest for me to put the “No” to because I’m not a believer in term limits. I think the historic election of 1994, when the Republican tsunami powered by Hillarycare swept the arrogant Democrats out after forty years in power, or the milder rebuke of Republicans in 2006 to remind them of the consequences of acting like the Democrats prior to 1994, demonstrated that we already have term limits - it's called a ballot box. I voted "no" because Proposition 93 struck me as a dishonest attempt to fool Californians into thinking they were supporting term limits, when they would really be extending the terms of many powerful Democrats.

I voted for John McCain even though I've disagreed with him on many issues.

McCain-Feingold for starters. Man-caused global warming and the need for governments to get involved, for another.

But of all the candidates of either party, he's the most genuine and honest by far. He never told us that he was once for something before he was against it, or that he voted for something because the President or someone else fooled him.

When all the other candidates forgot they knew and said that Saddam had WMD while Bill Clinton was president, John McCain has stood by his guns. The current trend in Iraq bears out the wisdom of his position, and rewards him for standing up and being counted the whole time.

Finally, I look up to John McCain for spending 5 and a half years in a North Vietnamese prisoner of war camp, enduring treatment and conditions that violated the Geneva Convention every day, and coming out strong and ready to continue serving his country. The worst day John Kerry experienced in his four months of duty in the rivers of South Vietnam was infinitely better than the best day John McCain spent in North Vietnam.

The Democrats went for John Kerry as a war hero, and denigrated the proud and demanding service of George W. Bush flying dangerous fighter jets. Previously Democrats backed a draft dodger over two genuine heroes of World War II, George H. W. Bush and Bob Dole.

I hope that they get another chance to cast a vote to honor a brave American, John McCain, and that this time they do it. I've just done my own small part. I look forward to doing much more later.

I don't have to agree with every thing John McCain does to know he's still the best person for the job.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

New York Times Blows Military Murders Report

A New York Times report, disputed by the military, indicates that 121 recent Iraq and Afghanistan service veterans and active duty military, from a population of about 300,000, committed a killing or were charged with one in the six-year period beginning with the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

This is a rate of about 8 murders per 100,000 people per year.

According to the New York Times:

Few of the 121 veterans received more than cursory mental health screening at the end of their deployments, the veterans, their lawyers, relatives and prosecutors said. While many showed signs of combat trauma, they were not evaluated for or diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder until after the homicides, according to the interviews.

The report noted that some of the killings did not seem to have any connection to service in Iraq or Afghanistan, and at least 25 were the result of fatal car crashes.

Disputing the New York Times report, Army spokesman Paul Boyce said that Army statistics "show little or no increases in positive drug use, driving under the influence crimes or domestic abuse in the past years among the more than 300,000 soldiers who have deployed in this war."

Wanting to put this exposé in context, I thought I should see if there are comparable statistics available. For comparison, I thought I would pick a California city, for instance, Oakland. Its population is almost 400,000, of which less than 200,000 are males, and of the population of males, many are children or elderly.

So what about killings in Oakland, committed by a population of adolescent through middle-aged males which probably is less than half of the 300,000 that have seen service in Iraq and Afghanistan?

The most recent information I found was that there were 145 murders in Oakland in 2006 alone, which didn’t include fatalities from auto accidents. The Oakland murder rate for 2006 was 36.4 per 100,000, or 4.5 times higher than the military rate.

If females, children, and the elderly are factored out to make it more of an “apples to apples” comparison, the murder rate actually is over 80 per 100,000 per year, or ten times the subject military rate.

How about another California city, such as Richmond, with a population of just over 100,000? From 2001 through 2006 Richmond had 202 murders, or a murder rate of about 33 per 100,000 per year, or over 70 for murder-prone males.

How about the peace-loving Liberal paradise of the world, San Francisco, where about 300,000 adolescent through middle-aged males live?

In just 2005 through 2006, San Francisco had 182 murders. Even if you use the entire population of San Francisco of about 750,000, that still leaves a murder rate for San Francisco of over 12 per 100,000 per year, or over 25 for murder-aged males.

The New York Times found few of the military killers received more than a cursory mental health screening after deployment. Therefore, I suppose the New York Times study is supposed to lead its readers to conclude that the military should and could reduce the murder rate by giving detailed mental health screening at the end of Iraq and Afghanistan deployments.

I wonder if the New York Times would extend that to New York males, whose murder rate per 100,000 New York males per year was over 15, almost double the subject military rate?

Apparently they don’t receive even cursory mental health screening, despite their much higher need for some form of screening or treatment, as evidenced by their high murder rate.

Actually, if I were just comparing murder rates for military veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan deployments with the rates for American cities, I would conclude that the way to dramatically reduce the murder rate for cities is to enlist and deploy their males to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Whatever our cities are doing now obviously is not as effective as the military's program.

Friday, January 11, 2008

California - Under Taxed or Over Spent?

California hit the budget wall a long time ago, but it has taken a long time for the sound of the crash to penetrate the isolation wards of state government. As the California budget hemorrhaged tanks of red ink, state politicians labored long and hard to devise new, incredibly expensive plans to spend money that was already earmarked to go towards previous over commitments.

The problem was not that Californians weren’t being taxed enough. In fact, much of the recent rosy budget picture was due to a relatively low rate of taxation applied to an enormous base of rapidly increasing economic activity, spurred on by low taxes.

Unfortunately, parading a healthy budget in front of politicians is like running through a pack of wolves wearing pork chop underwear.

To the politicians of California, when they looked upon the vast waves of tax revenues splashing over Sacramento, what they saw was the answers to each of their pleading constituent’s wants, and the means of buying their vote and eternal gratitude – at least until they come with their next whining need.

So the California legislature spent and spent – and the governor, a Republican in name only (RINO), signed and signed those spending bills.

Republican legislators, on the other hand, used their meager power to obstruct the passage of spending bills. When they were successful, instead of earning praise for their fiscal responsibility, they were roundly condemned for being tight fisted and mean spirited. In the Age of Oprah, that’s about the nastiest thing you can call a politician. The only way you can win the hearts of Oprah’s Acolytes is to cry while you pass a bill to succor the teller of every sad tale.

The loudest teller of sad tales is the education empire. It consumes forty percent of the state budget, is very powerful politically because of their sheer numbers and the way they allocate union dues to political campaigns, and supports an ever growing administrative overhead that sucks resources from the classrooms. Wherever in California public schools are faced with challenges – children from low-income families, high percentages of non-English speaking students, uninvolved parents – those schools almost always fail the challenges.

However, that doesn’t stop the heavily unionized public school system from opposing reforms and resisting measurement of their results.

Of course, every state spending program has its supporters and promoters, and each is adamant that, rather than cutting spending, the funding for their program should be increased. Each is fully prepared to demonstrate how spending more for their program will produce future benefits far in excess of additional expenses.

Unfortunately, much is promised, little is produced.

This morning I paid particular attention to the comments by San Francisco Chronicle readers concerning Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposals. Distilled to their essence, they were: we don’t need cuts, we need increases; we don’t need less state services, we need more; wealthy taxpayers and businesses should pay more taxes; and that everyone, except those that actually need the services, should pay more taxes.

Or “don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax the fellow behind the tree.”

As usual, the Chronicle readers drew on vast stores of ignorance to take their positions. Their first assumption is that, in a global economy, the wealthy and businesses will act like the world outside California doesn’t exist, and will continue to participate in having their wealth confiscated and redistributed to the “more deserving.”

The second ignorance based assumption is that businesses pay taxes, instead of just serving as a distribution point to pass them through to ultimate consumers in their cost of goods sold or services provided. The only times businesses are concerned about taxes are when competitive or economic pressures prevent passing them fully on to consumers.

For a San Francisco example, their increased mandatory contributions to health care costs will force restaurants to increase their menu prices, and they will make fewer sales. If no employees are cut, total expenses will increase. The higher prices may result in more or less revenue, depending on how far sales drop as prices go up. As employees are cut and profits shrink, fewer taxes will be paid into a system based on the assumption that tax revenues will be increasing substantially to meet the higher benefit levels, both for employees and the homeless and unemployed.

In a competitive economic environment, increased business taxes create a competitive disadvantage for businesses being taxed, since they can’t pass on the increases without raising prices.

Of course, business tax increases always hurt consumers, the ones cheering for taxes to soak big business, since they are the ones who actually pay the taxes when they buy the product.

Whenever I hear someone calling for more taxes on businesses because “they aren’t paying their fair share,” I mentally picture them with an “Ignoramus” sticker on their foreheads.

Right next to their “Democrat” badge.

Global Warming is Unequivocal

The U.N. Climate Panel said last year that global warming was "unequivocal." It said temperatures rose by 0.74 degrees Celsius (1.3 Fahrenheit) in the 20th century and could rise by a "best guess" of another 1.8 to 4.0C (3.2 to 7.2F) by 2100. (Reuters, World warming despite cool Pacific and Baghdad snow, Fri Jan 11, 2008)

And they are at it again.

Even though global warming has stalled out for almost ten years, and 2008 began with cooling in many areas.

I agree with the U. N. Climate Panel's first sentence: global warming is unequivocal. And it is entirely natural.

Unlike Al Gore and the U. N. Climate Panel, who have to deny the undeniably warmer Medieval Warm Period, and totally ignore the even warmer Holocene Optimum in order to further their messianic belief that global warming is man made, we skeptics of man-caused global warming trumpet the fact that there is global warming, that it is expected, and that it is natural.

In support of our position we have hundreds of thousands of years of records of prior dramatic climate changes. We can point to voluminous records that show warming periods are soon followed by increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, again what would be expected since oceans are the primary depository for carbon dioxide, and lose carbon dioxide to the atmosphere as they warm.

However, at the moment the religion of man-caused global warming has hit a dog leg in their dogma. Since 1998 global temperatures have not been rising. In fact, in may locales there has been some cooling.

Computer models don’t show this scenario, where atmospheric CO2 is increasing steadily, and temperature is not.

Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the U.N. Panel that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, said he would look into the apparent temperature plateau so far this century.

While Mr. Pachauri is doing that, he should also look at the climate record since 1900. By doing that he would notice that most of the increase in global temperatures since 1900 occurred in the first half of the century, and that six of the ten warmest years in the United States occurred over fifty years ago.

Over fifty years ago was before atmospheric CO2 caused by mankind’s industrial activities increased significantly.

Mr. Pachauri would also notice that, during the first thirty years of greatly increased atmospheric CO2 (1945-1975), the Earth experienced global cooling.

Although the twin anomalies of a greater increase in global warming in the first half of the 20th Century and global cooling for most of the second half don’t fit the man-caused global warming constructs, these anomalies do fit very well with fluctuations in solar activity.

Not surprisingly, the Medieval Warm Period, Little Ice Age, Holocene Optimum, Roman Warm Period, and Dark Ages Cool Period all track precisely with solar variation.

For Al Gore and the U. N. Climate Panel, inconvenient truths indeed.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The New Republic Publishes Barracks BS as True

The New Republic published barracks BS as true stories of American military atrocities in Iraq when they got their over-eager hands on Private Scott Beauchamp’s “Baghdad Diarist” tales.

During my over 21 years in the Air Force, I heard young enlisted personnel slinging fanciful BS, and some of it was accepted as fact after a while. When I arrived at RAF Bentwaters, England, in 1970, I soon heard stories that young airmen had fitted an old Air Force truck with ATO (assisted take-off) bottles and raced it down the runway at high speed for fun. They supposedly got away with it, and although the date could not be established accurately, it sounded like it happened just a few years before my arrival.

On a visit to England a couple of years ago, Alice and I were on a train going to the cruise ship terminal at Harwich, not far from my now closed old base. I started to chat with an older passenger and his wife, and found he had been stationed at Bentwaters in the early 1950s, many years before me. He mentioned that when the base had upgraded to Republic F-84F Thunderstreak jets, he helped install the arresting cables and net to stop this bigger, heavier fighter-bomber from accidently running off the end of the runway when aborting a high speed takeoff. His comments reminded me of the story about the high-speed truck run, and I asked him if he had heard of it.

He not only had heard of it, he had participated!

But it wasn’t like the story of fun and games. Soon after installation of the arresting barrier, it didn’t properly stop an F-84 on a take-off emergency, and the F-84 was damaged beyond repair.

Since no live tests could be run using the extremely valuable and expensive F-84s, an old General Motors truck was rigged with the landing gear of the destroyed jet fighter, ATO bottles were added to get its speed up to an estimated 140 miles per hour – probably the fastest a GM truck has ever been driven! – and two barrier tests were run in 1954. The first test showed why the barrier hadn’t worked, and the second run showed that modifications made after the first test worked the second time.

The story as told by Derrick Booth, who had worked as an engineering assistant on the project, is very rich, interesting, and humorous (don’t miss how its driver was selected), and may be read in its entirety by clicking here (scroll about half way down the page to the beginning).

Needless to say, if an anti-military rag like The New Republic had heard the barracks BS about this, they would have published it under the pseudonym of an anonymous “Bentwaters Diarist” as an example of military negligence and incompetence, not as one of thoughtful and painstaking testing and problem solving.

When a bunch of guys (and gals) sit around with a few beers and lay on the BS, they are just doing what troops have done ever since the beginning of organized military units. But when The New Republic publishes barracks BS as truth, they steal the integrity and honor of all those who serve and have served courageously and honorably.

I’ll Miss Hillary

I hate to see Hillary beaten for the Democrat nomination. I already knew Democrats in this area were unenthusiastic about her – “Any Democrat but Hillary” pretty much sums up Democrats’ desires in Northern California – but I was happy to believe what the mainstream media were telling us, that Hillary’s nomination was inevitable and the primaries just formalities.

Hillary was all I hoped for in a Democrat candidate, and as her husband Bill said – “she can’t be taller, younger, male…” – she lacked many qualities that could have made her a viable candidate.

I’ll miss Bill, too, egotistically and constantly reminding everyone that Hillary wasn’t him, and never could be.

I’ll miss indulging my guilty pleasure, the Hillary Scandals Reruns. While Bill was president, whiling away his time and energies diddling each delightful Democrat demoiselle he encountered, Hillary was giving new life to the anti-socialist medicine movement while masterminding palace intrigues like rifling FBI files of prominent Republicans, firing the White House Travel Office employees to make way for her cronies, and sequestering her Rose Law Firm billing records in her library to duck subpoenas.

Without the Janet Reno Justice Department giving cover, maybe this time around she would have had to explain her fabulous success in trading cattle futures.

What I’m looking forward to is everyone going “Obama bananas” until they realize that everything Hillary and John Edwards are saying about him is true.

Obama’s current support appears to be more “dynasty fatigue” than fervent belief in his principles and programs. Obama is trying to cast himself as the “man with Hope,” but I think another Democrat owns the “Hope” logo.

Once everyone learned that the White House with Hillary running the show wouldn’t be a continuation of the “Bill Clinton Vanities,” they dumped Hillary faster than Bill Clinton could find willing female companionship.

However, lest I regret too much the loss of Democrat dramatic possibilities, methinks I hear the whoosh of hot air, and a gargantuan shadow filling the room.

“Is it a Pepsi Cola Slice Blimp? A hot-air balloon? A gargantuan gas bag?”

“It’s all those, and more, it’s Al Gore!”

“We’re saved!”

At this point I know my wish came true.

I was poised to ask the Democrats to send it the clowns.

Don’t bother, they’re here.

Monday, January 07, 2008

No Quibbling About Global Warming

A year ago 2007 was predicted to become the hottest year on record, surpassing 1998. One could quibble about 1998, since in the United States, land of the most thorough, modern, and intensive climate study and monitoring systems, 1998 was second to 1934, and six of the warmest years in the past 100 years occurred over 50 years ago.

You might quibble that worldwide temperature measurement has been highly suspect since the demise of the Soviet Union resulted in closure of thousands of weather stations in a massive, relatively cool part of the world.

You could also quibble about “hottest year on record,” since that actually may only be for the period since 1978, when weather satellite observations began, or perhaps since the end of the Little Ice Age circa 1850, when graduated and standardized thermometers came into widespread usage.

But who’s quibbling?

The bottom line on 2007 is in now, and if you lived in the Southern Hemisphere, you would have experienced bitter cold in many areas. Not to quibble, but global warming really loses some of the luster of its “global” label if half the planet goes the opposite way.

As Jeff Jacoby of the far-left leaning Boston Globe points out, Br-r-r! Where did global warming go?, January 6, 2008, “2007's global temperature was essentially the same as that in 2006 - and 2005, and 2004, and every year back to 2001. The record set in 1998 has not been surpassed.”

Before Al Gore and the rest of the true believers trot out their forecasts for 2008, I would like to make my own. On the evidence of the first week of 2008, global warming is not doing its job in northern California. It has been cold, windy, heavy snowfall in the Sierras, some flooding in the San Francisco Bay area, and not at all what I expected given that so many “experts” say it would be otherwise.

Frankly, I feel cheated.

A bit of warmer weather would be welcome.

Fortuitously, I bought a 12.5 kilowatt generator with automatic start and power transfer switch a couple of months ago, and its installation was finally completed at 2 pm this past Thursday. About eight hours later we lost power for a day and a half, and the generator performed flawlessly.

When I chide Liberal friends about the miserable weather, they tell me it is proof of global warming. In fact, they tell me that global warming will cause it to be wetter, drier, hotter, colder, stormier, calmer, more flooding, more droughts – anything and everything that happens, no matter what, is and will be proof of global warming.

When Alice mentioned that many parts of the southern hemisphere were experiencing unusual cold, a daughter told her that cooling in the Tropics was also part of global warming.

Not to quibble, but cooling in the Tropics will also, I’m sure, be part of global cooling.

Interestingly, a prominent Russian scientist predicts global cooling will begin in 2012.

"Stock up on fur coats and felt boots!" advises Oleg Sorokhtin, a fellow of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences and senior scientist at Moscow's Shirshov Institute of Oceanography. "The latest data . . . say that earth has passed the peak of its warmer period, and a fairly cold spell will set in quite soon, by 2012."


That’s not what I wanted to hear.

(Please click on one of the labels below to be magically transported to much of my recent commentary on the fallacies of claiming mankind is causing global warming. I'll be glad you did)