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Monday, March 31, 2014

It Was Bound to Happen

Something happened today that I knew would probably occur eventually, but now that it is here, I find it hard to accept.  Here's the short version:  I agree with Paul Krugman of the New York Times.  I always accepted this possibility in theory, but now it is a fact and I find my hands shaking as I write this.  Let me explain:

In today's paper, Krugman points out the commonly accepted view that American workers are not employed because they do not have the skills needed for the open positions is actually bogus.  If there truly were certain types of jobs where there was a dearth of skilled people to hire, we would see salaries for the people with those skills soaring while salaries for other jobs stayed stagnant.  It just is not happening.  Krugman correctly points out that this "lack of skilled workers" idea is a zombie story, a view that will not die no matter what the facts.

The truth is that Krugman is correct.  I know the old saying that even a broken clock is correct twice a day.  It is, however, no consolation.  I mean, this is Paul Krugman about whom we are talking.  This is the man whose views on nearly every political and economic issue is best described as pure nonsense, and I am agreeing with him. 

Of course, Krugman and I part company on how best to proceed once we accept that the so called skills gap is not real.  My view is that we ought to get rid of some of the needless government "training" programs that are supposed to create more trained workers but which actually do nothing of the sort.  Why should we spend tens of billions of dollars each year to train people when the skills involved are not needed?  Why should we have 104 federal training programs, each with its own overhead, when two or three such programs would suffice?  Why not get rid of the training programs and use the money for something worthwhile?  (Not surprisingly, Krugman want to increase spending and taxes, something that is his prescription for everything.)


Snow Way

Sitting here in Connecticut watching the snow fall on the first day of the baseball season, I was struck by the bizarre nature of the 2600 page report issued by the IPCC on global warming (excuse me, climate change).  The UN agency has once again sounded the alarm bell for man made global warming which will affect all of humanity unless something is quickly done to stop it.  It's pretty amazing.  The report goes on for 2600 pages; it is even longer than the bill that passed Obamacare.  Even so, in all that verbiage, the IPCC never explains how it is possible that atmospheric temperatures have stayed steady for the last 15 years despite the computer models that all predict rising temperatures due to increasing greenhouse gases.  This is not a minor point that the panel forgot to address.  The computer models which have failed to work are the same computer models on which the entire prediction of global warming is based.

Let me put it in the simplest terms:  the basic scientific evidence shows no relationship between the level of so called greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the world temperature.  The computer models are all projections based upon the theory that higher carbon dioxide levels result in higher temperatures, but that theoretical relationship has not appeared in actual data.  That means that the computer models are wrong, flawed, and failing.

Remember, we just ended the coldest winter in the USA since 1899.  That is 115 years.  While we certainly could see cold in the USA and heat elsewhere, that has not been the case.  Oh there are areas of the globe that have been warmer than normal during the last three months, but that is always the case.  What we have not seen is widespread global warming for 15 years now.

Because global warming became a political issue rather than a scientific one, the federal government is still acting as a cheerleader to promote huge taxes and regulatory burdens to stop the discharge of carbon dioxide.  Left unchecked, the feds would impose major burdens on our economy which would guarantee decades of slow or no growth.  The last five years should have made clear the consequences of that sort of economy.  If there were actually scientific proof to support global warming theory, then considering the various remedies might make sense.  Absent scientific proof, indeed with proof to the contrary staring us in the face, the idea that America should hobble its economy to satisfy a quasi-religious political view of global warming enthusiasts (can you say Al Gore) is pure nonsense.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Death Penalty

Last year there were 39 executions in the USA.  All of the executions were for murder, some for multiple murders.  Nearly all of the executions were in the South.  Now tell me what portion of those who were executed were Hispanic, black, white? 

If you have listened to the debates about the death penalty over the years, you probably guessed that the majority of those executed were black with Hispanics not too far behind.  After all, we have been told for years that the death penalty is racist, that it is not applied equally, and that as a result it must be abolished.  Of course, none of that is true.  Roughly two thirds of those executed were white.  According to the last census, whites (other than those who are Hispanic) make up roughly 63% of the American population.  That means that in 2013, the death penalty was applied to whites in a slightly higher percentage than it was to Hispanics and blacks as a group.

I looked into these numbers because earlier today I read yet another column (this one on Slate) telling me that the death penalty was racist and support for it was racist.  Instead of just accepting the story being peddled by the latest leftist to write on the subject, I decided to check the actual facts.

Look, there may have been a time when the death penalty was applied unfairly in parts of this country.  Those days, however, are long over.  The death penalty may or may not be a good idea.  We ought to consider that as a nation.  At the same time, however, we ought to make the decision about the death penalty based upon an honest appraisal of the true facts.  The left has got to stop shouting racism at everything they don't like.  They have succeeding in making charges of racism a joke.  It is truly a sad thing to watch.


Important News That is getting NO Coverage

This morning we learned that Russian troops are not only massing along the borders of Ukraine, but that Putin is building up his forces in a major way in South Ossetia.  Okay, I know, the most common response to that news is "Where is South Ossetia?"  The answer may surprise you.  South Ossetia is part of the nation of Georgia.  It is just south of Russia, and it is not far from Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan.  South Ossetia is one of the two provinces of Georgia that Russian forces overran in 2008, the last time before the current Crimean adventure that Russian troops invaded a neighbor.

Keep in mind that this new troop build up is not something that pertains to Ukraine.  Russia is putting thousands of extra soldiers into a region that supposedly is totally at peace.  The only question that matters now is why are the Russians doing this.  Are we about to witness a further Russian incursion into Georgia?  Is Putin planning on sending troops in Armenia and Azerbaijan which were part of the USSR?  Are these troops stationed in South Ossetia just to overawe the governments of that region into backing the Russian takeover of Crimea?  There is as of yet no clear answer.

We also heard further confirmation today that Russia is also putting intelligence agents into eastern and southern Ukraine to stir up unrest.  The plan sounds like it would go something like this:  first the Russian agents stir up unrest among the ethnic Russians living in the area.  Then there are counter demonstrations by Ukrainians supporting the government.  Then the Russian agents foment complaints of mistreatment by ethnic Russians which provides the excuse for a further invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops to "protect" the ethnic Russian population. 

Both of these developments are ominous, to say the least.  The fools in Washington seem actually to think that their negotiations with Putin are having an effect on Russia.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Putin is doing exactly what he wants to do.  The sooner that president Obama and his half-wit advisors realized this, the better.  Sadly, however, they all still seem to be in fantasy land.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Russia vs. the non-Winston

The news reports this morning are starting to make clear Russia's strategy for dealing with Ukraine now that Crimea has been annexed by Moscow.  The Russian foreign minister "pledged" that Russia has no intention to invade Ukraine.  While he did not use these words, Sergei Lavrov in effect said "Pay no attention to the 100,000 troops that we have moved within 40 miles of the border."  It probably would have been more to the point if Lavrov had sent a message to the acting president of Ukraine that said "If you like Ukraine, you can keep Ukraine, period!"

The Russians have massed troops and are clearly threatening an invasion, no matter what they say.  Now, though, they are announcing their "goals" for the resolution of the confrontation.  Russia wants Ukraine to reformulate into a federation.  In that way, the eastern half of the country could be controlled by Russian speaking people while the national government (controlled by Ukrainians) would be much reduced in importance.  Further, Russia wants a commitment from Ukraine that it would never join NATO.  In other words, Russia wants Ukraine to agree that it will take no steps that will allow Ukraine to resist any future threats from Moscow.

There has been no response from the Ukrainian government as of yet.  The West, and in particular, the USA, however, have been quick to respond.  America's secretary of state John Kerry was on his way home to Washington and actually had his plane change course so that he could go to have yet another meeting with his Russian counterpart.  Russia offers a way out and Kerry jumps to take it.  Without a doubt, that decision was made by president Obama and not just John Kerry.  One can almost hear the sighs of relief coming from Obama as he sees a way to appease Putin by throwing the Ukrainians under the bus.

Think about it.  Russia is demanding the partial dismemberment and effective disarmament of Ukraine as a condition for not invading its sovereign neighbor.  To use Obama's favorite phrase, those are 19th century actions.  (Okay, maybe 20th century.)

The rush to abandon Ukraine into the clutches of Russia is not only unseemly, but it also is greatly undermining the value of friendship with America.  Does Poland think that Obama's America would actually defend it were Russia to attack?  Does Estonia?  For what it is worth, I don't think that Obama would do anything if the Russians arranged an "uprising" by "oppressed ethnic Russians in Estonia followed by the entrance of a Russian "peace keeping force" in Tallinn.  The slightest lack of clarity would be Obama's excuse for inaction.

We would all do well to remember that Obama's first act upon entering the Oval Office was to have the bust of Winston Churchill removed.  If there ever was any doubt why that happened, there is no such doubt now.


It Seems Lawyers Can't Spell

This past week, Iowa Democrat Bruce Braley who is running for the senate got into hot water by demeaning farmers, not a particularly good strategy in Iowa.  Braley was caught on video telling a group of trial lawyers at a Texas fundraiser that he had fought for many years against tort reform and warned his audience that if they did not give generously they could end up with "an Iowa farmer who did not go to law school" (senator Grassley) as head of the senate judiciary committee.  In one short statement, Braley belittled farmers, attacked a popular Iowa politician, and put himself on the side of lawyers in the battle over tort reform.  The release of the video was followed quickly by a number of ads on Iowa TV and radio attacking Braley for what he had said.

In response to the uproar, Braley released a statement from his campaign attempting to show that he too was an Iowa farmer.  The problem, however, was that the statement said he grew up on an Iowa farm "detassling corn and bailing hay".  The problem, of course, is that real farmers would be "detasseling corn and baling hay".  Now this may just have been two typographical errors by the Braley campaign, but they certainly look like Braley did not know enough about farming to recognize the correct terms to use.  Braley may fight against tort reform, but he does not seem to have the time to learn to spell.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Foreign Policy on the Fly

News reports this afternoon say that president Obama may allow the shipment of anti-aircraft weapons to the Syrian rebels fighting the Assad regime.  The only reasonable response to that news is this:  "Is Obama Kidding?  Has he lost his mind?"

Three years ago, when the protests began in Syria against Assad, the people in the streets were Syrians, just Syrians.  When the fighting began, the rebel forces were comprised of Syrians and led by Syrians.  They were, for the most part, moderates by Middle Eastern standards.  There were some Islamist influences on the rebels, but they were extremely minor.  At that time, had Obama agreed to send weapons to the rebels, those weapons would have been used against the brutal dictator Assad and his Iranian allies.  The position of the more moderate factions among the rebels would have been strengthened.  The ultimate outcome in Syria might have been a more moderate Arab state in the mold of Jordan. 

Instead, Obama decided to stay away from helping the rebels.  As a result, the moderate faction was weakened while the Islamists were strengthened.  Groups like al Qaeda saw the civil war as a way to infiltrate Syria and take over swaths of territory.  The terrorist backed groups got arms from their sponsors and easily overran the poorly armed moderates who got no help from anyone (like the USA).  Today, the al Qaeda backed forces are in near total control of the rebel alliance.'

Were Obama to send anti aircraft missiles to Syria now, those weapons would surely end up in the hands of al Qaeda and Hezbollah to be used primarily against American and other Western targets.  Do we really want to see the news reports when civilian airliners are shot down using our own American missiles?

Right now, Obama looks weak on the world stage.  He looks weak because he is weak.  Putin has done everything but pee on Obama's leg.  The world sees this and the world understands even if Obama and his advisors do not.  Now, Obama is on his way to Saudi Arabia and he wants to make a gesture to the Saudis to show support for the Sunni Moslems who are fighting the Shiite Assad in Syria.  We understand the desire to show solidarity with the Saudis (who are already extremely angry with Obama's foreign policy.)  But to give anti-aircraft missiles to al Qaeda affiliated groups now is maniacal at best.  Obama seems to have lost his mind.

Let me say it again.  The only proper response to today's news is for someone to ask the president of the United States of America, "Are you kidding?"