29 November 2008

Cosmoline and the common man

Cosmoline is a grease best known for the use and preservation of firearms by the military, but also serves in many other industries including the automotive and aircraft industries.  It was swabbed in as a lubricant to the big guns of battleships and was a grease that tended to just get everywhere as a little bit of sunlight would slowly soften it and a hot deck would melt it.  Thus it has a melting point like paraffin wax, but has a much slicker consistency due to other, smaller, hydrocarbon chains.  When on metal (and metal coatings) it preserves them, when put on wood it penetrates it to the point you will never get the last of cosmoline out of the wood until you expire... and yet the wood has a lovely preservative that will, on hot days, slowly leech out.  Today it is being phased out in favor of thin film coatings that you can apply by air sprayers, but its lubrication and preservation qualities will mean it will be around with our civilization for some time to come.

I have encountered it before as a roughly applied undercoating to vehicles in Buffalo as a final 'winterizing' coat put on during frosty days of December.  Particularly in those places that will not heat up, like wheel wells, it can last until the January thaw, that day or two of warm temps that will start to put it through a phase change.  Normally it was the cheap auto shops that did that, and they would recommend a different under-coating for the areas that warmed up near the engine and exhaust systems.  Getting up close and personal didn't happen until recently, when I purchased a firearm that, while new production, can be modified to fit older equipment, primarily cartridge magazines that were manufactured in truly huge numbers during World War II.  So when one can say that they are picking up three magazines from World War II, it does not, automatically, mean that they are picking up printed paper items...

An early warning: if you have never done this before and don't trust some of the cleaners/solvents/methods then try them on a small part *first* and see the results.  Wood is its own problem and needs some idea of what you are doing based on what the end product is you are aiming for, as some methods can remove old lacquers and finishes... and some pieces you may want to have refinished and may *want* to get rid of the older ones.  Generally the older metal oxide finishes can take a lot more abuse, but if unsure do a small test first and examine the before/after results.

Coming from a background of growing up in semi-rural New York, and having a father who was an electrical engineer and yet had done much else in his life, I knew of some ready cures for things like tar encrustation in engines, oil that had picked up enough junk to look like sludge and other such fun things.  And the two methods of getting rid of cosmoline has this under a major heading: Better Living Through Chemistry.  The methods my father used are just the same and recommended for well ventilated areas or garages, only: kerosene, turpentine, paint thinner, and gasoline.  That and a container for such, normally being a plastic tub that, no matter what it started life as, turned into a grimy black open air pan.  That and some hefty toothbrushes that will never be used for anything else and rags, plus maybe a drying rack that may have started life in an oven and now would exist solely for the air drying of metal parts coming from such lovely procedures.  Strip down a small engine, drop all the parts into the pan, cover with any of those fluids, and a day later (or even a few hours) you have a pan full of black fluid hiding parts that can now be toothbrushed off and rag dried and put on a rack for air drying, usually in the sunlight.

Works, too!

After trolling through various car and military surplus sites, that way is still a common one for dealing with cosmoline.

For smaller and more delicate parts my father would use such things as WD-40 or a spray on brake cleaning solvent.  Those are also popular methods for dealing with cosmoline and require the well ventilated areas, etc. plus rags to help out.  Really, if the military surplus stuff was just dunked in a vat of liquid cosmoline for a few minutes or hours, so that it could penetrate everywhere, then you have no idea of if the thing was cleaned before that.  Your more aggressive degreasers you will just add toothbrush, rag, elbow grease and rack! Normally you would never, ever let this stuff near a modern firearm, what with all the lovely alloys used, plastics and other things that just might be considered 'junk' by the aggressive cleaners.  Stuff from pre-1960 didn't worry about that so much, and most of the common ways of cleaning things in the field would include all sorts of lovely, improvised and often highly toxic and flammable solutions.  Beyond those, the other thing to consider is the standard, modern firearms cleaners used to get oil and grease from same which include spray-on oven degreasers, stuff like 'Goof Off' (a personal favorite used to remove sticker residue) and similar items.

Once cleaned you will want to get a nice coating of a modern lubricant/grease on the items (depending on what parts you have), so as to protect them for more regular use.  I use KG-3, and it is non-ammonia based and was developed to pour down modern artillery pieces and yet be relatively safe to the user and the environment.  I use most of the rest of the cleaning line to support the company, although my pleasure use of firearms is limited when I do use them I want something that is relatively easy to use.

So that is the Better Living Through Chemistry section on cosmoline removal.

Of course, once clean and dry you will want to reapply a modern lubricant and grease to protect the stuff for more normal use.  I use Militec lubricant and grease, which I've decanted into smaller containers and applicator syringes for my own use as I've described in other entries.

As cosmoline has a heat based phase change from grease to actual fluid that is the same as paraffin wax, the next method is that of Heat.

If you have taken something apart that has cosmoline on it, put it on a rack over a pan and pour boiling hot water over it.  That is, actually, damned simple for small parts, and just requires, like the pure chemical methods, having a pan and rack that you will never, ever use for anything else.  Really, if it was just paraffin you could be sure of getting the last of it off by letting it set up, but since it is a grease at normal temps you will instead find that it has spread out over every nook and cranny of the rack and tub and will resist all but the harsh, chemical methods above.  Clean, safe, non-toxic and still requires a rag and brush for final cleaning, but you knew that at the start with all of these.  Of course since it is a firearm, the last thing you want is water to stay anywhere on the equipment, and so you will soon find yourself putting a lubricant of your choice on the parts.

Next up on the heat area is the EZ Bake Rifle Oven as described in the Surplus Rifle site, in exquisite detail, it is, in essence the equivalent of an EZ Bake Oven, save that you will scale up the concept by using a trashcan.  It is simplicity itself to make a low power oven that will heat up to just 140 degrees Fahrenheit with said trash can, lid, light bulb receptacle, racks, drip pans and thermometer.  Hell you could probably add a thermocouple and kill switch so that it would automatically turn off when that hot and turn on at, say, 125 degrees.  Improvements to it have been suggested, like making it an IR lamp, not a normal light, and so on and on.

Take that idea and scale it down and you get a couple of coffee cans, paint them black, put lids on them and out in the sun, preferably in an enclosed space.  For larger pieces, like said entire rifle, you wrap it in rags, cloths, etc. and double wrap it in black, plastic garbage bags and put it in a car for a couple of days when it is all bright and sunny out.  Also seen are sheds, attics, racks over wood stoves, cans/containers on top of the furnace in the winter... really an endless array of ways to let passive heating do the job.  And if the color of the stuff is generally black, then letting the items sit on a shelf by a window for a few days with rags under them will also do it.

My method started with the coffee container idea, but then went to the other method for dealing with paraffin that my sister showed me: the double boiler.  This is, basically, one large outer pot with lots of water heated up until it reaches the melting point of whatever is in the inner pot.  I put a second coffee can over the top, used duct tape and floated a small glass with encrusted paraffin in it to find the right temp, and then set it on low.  Inside the lower can was my rag of choice at the bottom and I just let hot air do the rest.  Necessary for this was a rack on the bottom of the double boiler to keep steam from getting trapped under the can and tipping it over.

A great method described is the use of a hand steam cleaner and a bucket: put rifle over bucket (or other parts) and use the hand steamer on them.  For larger pieces you start at the top and work down.  You get nice, clean equipment, and still have a hand steamer to get wrinkles out of good clothes!

Also described is kitty litter, black bag or box and sunlight, although I would make sure the kitty litter is clean, unused and then consider the clay residue it can leave... but you will be giving the equipment a good final toothbrush and rag cleaning session, so that might point out spots you missed.  Again, Your Mileage May Vary.

No matter what, you will want modern grease/oil/preservative applied to the material, save for wood in case you are going to try and refinish it, then you are on your own, but great articles on that abound.

Finally there is Chemistry and Heat which includes lye soap in hot water, which is sort of the best of both worlds if you don't mind working with lye.  Standard degreasers for household use in hot water also have recommendations behind them.  I wouldn't want to use the automatic dishwasher method as the cosmoline tends to penetrate when it isn't getting dissolved and really, wouldn't want the taste or smell of that for a few years when doing dishes... if I had an *old* machine used for nothing else set up, maybe.

In theory you should be able to get it cold enough to cake and then just flake off... considering the types of material used in the past, that is probably not recommended.  It is the sort of climate like Alaska that plays havoc with this stuff - cold enough to flake off in winter, hot enough to make it run in an enclosed space in the summer.

General rules are:

1) Anything that will be in contact with cosmoline or chemicals will thereafter not serve for any other purpose.  A turkey roasting pan will never be used for a turkey or any other roasting thereafter.  Rags are for use until thrown away.  So empty, used coffee cans are good for cleaning parts, but you won't be storing any consumables for humans in them afterwards.

2) Clean-up of the equipment is still necessary.  Who knows where that stuff has been *before* it got dunked and *after*?  You don't, that's for sure, unless you are in an old warehouse and find a crate of old WWII surplus equipment or stuff never shipped overseas and forgotten next to the Lost Ark of the Covenant... and there have been some very unhappy surprises of small amounts of moisture trapped by cosmoline and parts rusted out on the inside.  Hate to have that happen with other chemicals around industrial and military facilities.

3) Clean-up of you is necessary.  Good soap and water, but for some methods a hand cleaner that works on grease and oil, like DL Permatex Blue Label, is necessary.  Or gloves... you did make sure that none of the cosmoline or other chemicals spattered or dripped on good clothes, though.... that stuff really does get everywhere when not watched or contained.

4) Ventilation is necessary.  Unless you like the smell of cosmoline and cleaners, that is.  WD-40 gives me a headache, and really, use of that should be done outdoors.  Even the stuff I do use, personally, needs ventilation so it is a positive requirement.

5)  Modern lubricants or older ones if no modern equivalent exists.  Put on rag, wipe rag over cleaned equipment, use dry rag to wipe afterwards.  Use grease sparingly, unless it is recommended by the manufacturer or you can see that it will get some hard use and you won't get back to it very often... then you want one that resists carbon and other deposits and still use it sparingly.  My syringes put out so little that the grease often turns into a liquid on contact with metal, because the amount is coming out of a near needle fine opening and metals are a great conductor of heat.  Remember to examine for spots you missed, or old worn spots on equipment that may need some greater attention or just recognition that they are worn.  Consider lubricants to be a gunk magnet, so they are necessary but used only as needed in as little as needed.  Booted CV joints in a car need a lot, your trigger mechanism in a rifle needs extremely little.  If you can see it, you probably have too much on unless otherwise specified for the equipment.


Hopefully I will never have to deal with larger equipment... and if you have time, then passive removal of 90% is easy to achieve with patience added in.  For me the double boiler and coffee can method worked fine and got rid of the stuff in some very tight places.  I used dust-off to get air through those and then a quick hit of KG-3 after.  Although those were not active spaces, they weren't ones I wanted drops of cosmoline coming from for the next few years... but I did get some nice special effects on the outside of the can as a few drops of coffee came out from the small space I left uncovered by duct tape.  Cosmoline vapors were trapped, coffee sweated out by the drop or three.  For that work I got some cheap equipment and a piece of history... and that is without any easy price on it.

My thanks to the soldiers of yesteryear!

That equipment is safe and ready for use, again...

27 November 2008

Private War the scourge we call terrorism and piracy

This is a topic I have written on multiple times, looking at the definition of terrorism being from the same root that piracy comes from:  one seeks pure power via war means the other seeks cash.  Terrorists attack at sea using the means of private war: they have attacked French tankers, Egyptian freighters and warships of the United States and Israel.  The groups doing that go by names like al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas.  The use boats to raid beach resorts, they board ships to take hostages and they see no reason not to use the weapons of war against civilians.  The currency of pirates is money, the currency of terrorists is power to intimidate, to threaten, to destroy that which they don't like... one is paid in gold the other in blood.  If the first is bad the second is horrific and far worse than mere piracy as those doing such actions place themselves against society and Nations to rule as they will outside of any law.  Both are outlaws in the truest sense: placing themselves outside all frameworks of civilized law and reclaiming the negative liberty of warfare to themselves.

When society and civilization starts to crumble, the opportunist predators appear.  If you laugh at them when they do not have the means, you are terrified and bleed when they do.  Yet their credo is ancient, going back to the roots of what it means to be civilized and no matter what their names, nationalities, ethnicity, 'causes', or beliefs, they come down to the same tactics described since the days before there were Nations, and yet there were still States.  We forget that Captain Morgan was viewed as a pirate by Spain even when his most notable attack was on LAND.  He had writ, justification and no knowledge that a peace treaty had been signed, so those at home first viewed him as a pirate for a land based attack on Spanish towns and fortifications.  Yes a person waging private war with his confederates is waging piracy on land, there is no difference between sea and land in the view of Nations, even though we have done much damage to ourselves to tell ourselves that piracy is only by sea.  It was not that way after the Fall of Troy, was not that way up to the early 20th century and is not that way to this very day.  The United States once had a leader who clearly told the troops what to do with those who waged terrorism and why, and he is revered by all parts of the political spectrum and yet we cannot learn the wisdom he signed off on for the troops:

Art. 82.

Men, or squads of men, who commit hostilities, whether by fighting, or inroads for destruction or plunder, or by raids of any kind, without commission, without being part and portion of the organized hostile army, and without sharing continuously in the war, but who do so with intermitting returns to their homes and avocations, or with the occasional assumption of the semblance of peaceful pursuits, divesting themselves of the character or appearance of soldiers - such men, or squads of men, are not public enemies, and, therefore, if captured, are not entitled to the privileges of prisoners of war, but shall be treated summarily as highway robbers or pirates.

That is a rule for the US Army that was kept for 30 years and infringes on no treaty, no convention and no other view of civilization amongst Nations as it *is* the civilized view *of* Nations what these individuals are.  That President in that era committed the US forces to treat these individuals as described with summary treatment from the battlefield without recourse, review or other appeal.  That was not injustice, but battlefield justice and it was in General Order 100:


Prepared by Francis Lieber, promulgated as General Orders No. 100 by President Lincoln, 24 April 1863.

The Great Emancipator, the President who Saved the Union, the man who so many point to as wise and honest, forthright in his term and stature was the one who sent the troops with that as a General Order, on land and sea, and it was kept into the 1890's.  Yet it contravenes neither the Hague nor Geneva conventions as those only cover civilians and uniformed military.  It is for Nations and citizens to respect and cross at their peril, and those who are neither, who take up war on their own, have little recourse to civil law in the battlefield or when picked up by those fighting in war.  This was recognized by President Jefferson as a necessary duty and function of the President: to protect the Nation by those who would wage war but be part of no Nation and have no commission or reason to wage war outside of the Nation State framework.  President Jackson sent the first US vessel around the world... it was a warship, the USS Potomac, and it was sent to the Malays to deal with those who were pirates and terrorists.  President Theodore Roosevelt ordered the Moro Insurrection to be put down as they were under no aegis of any Nation to fight as they did.

Each of these Presidents knew what their duty was and knew how to deal with those who had backing of no Nation to seek war on their own against the United States.  These are not wilting flower Presidents:  Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt.  They made no excuses for those that were uncivilized and practiced war to their own ends against not only the US but against all Nations.  That was their duty abroad - to use their Commander in Chief and Head of State powers to confront those who would tear at the fabric of international law and civilized intercourse amongst Nations to their own benefit no matter what their goals were.  While many decry ill-war amongst Nations, they raise no voice of action against those threatening the very international security they espouse.  These people who wish to confront no one, at any time, at any place and seek to excuse any action taken against civilization are seeking to submit themselves and their fellow citizens to rule by terror, rule by force, rule by war.  In decrying war they invite it by showing they have no standards to actually stand for: they seek to lie down with the lion and be the sacrificial lamb that the lion will see as his fair share for the taking.  There are no 'moderates' amongst those that take back to the Law of Nature: they are immoderate in the extreme and acting in an uncivilized way.

We see this amongst leaders who talk of 'humanitarian grounds' for those who commit ruthless acts of violence using the weapons of war (Source: Independent UK), even in the face of the families who were hurt by such groups coming to ask for justice and law to exist to keep such terrorists from facing no day of reckoning for their crimes.  Another terrorist convicted of killing 9 and attempting to kill 11 more, is now to be on 'parole' for his actions against society and his Nation (Source: Irish Times).  It does not matter if they are Red Brigades or Red Army Faction: they sought to undermine Nations with their attacks and had no backing to take up the weapons of war against anyone.  There is no difference in kind between these groups and their people and those of the Islamic world or those still tearing at Nations to this day.

Now we are faced with expansion of terror networks abroad due to one Nation that has fostered it in their own borders, often through negligence and many times through willing cooperation.  Pakistan has a long history of this, terrorism is an outgrowth of their older cultures that seek to place personal war amongst tribal leaders to meet their own ends.  Today those groups that started out with a single 'cause' now have a grievance list miles long, and it comes down to one, single thing: they will kill to terrorize society, tear it down and seek to gain power as society crumbles.  This is a codified view of one of those groups, named al Qaeda, that has its view put forward in that those that disagree with it, who are to be beaten down into submission are 'savages' to them.  Others take up that exact, same methodology when they seek private war on land or at sea, and have no good in store for citizens of any Nation.

Today the attacks in India and Afghanistan demonstrate that the hotbed of terror is no longer *just* in the Middle East, but has many tendrils and many organizations and many heads to it.  If FARC goes down in Colombia, others already exist in South America to take their place and continue their ways, even if not as lucratively it will be done.  These terror attacks in India are sourced to these networks that are international and transnational, even when they have 'nationalist' heads to them.  The attacks based upon religion is something that Western Europe gave up after the 30 Years War with Westphalia, and yet others do not see that as 'civilized' and use religion as an excuse to kill the innocent.  And yet, when you confront them, there are those that seek not to and to excuse killing and justify it.  They are more than cowards: they hate society and civilization and will not say any word against those taking up private arms to kill without commission, without warrant, without any authority over them to seek a just end to such violence as a Nation would do.

Further these same people, those seeking a more 'humanitarian' way forward have crippled the recourse to keep international systems accountable: they weaken the legal system and seek to excuse any action so as to blame society for the ills of the individual.  Even when it is the individual exploiting those ills to their own ends and seeking to be held unaccountable.  That is the hard part of this: tearing apart the criminal and terrorist networks that have cross-integrated, cross-trained and support each other fully now.

Yet we used to have a clear and concise understanding of what to do with these types of people and organizations.  Even when they struck from shadows, and hid in civilian guise to exploit Nations, they could be found and retribution handed out.  That way of war those that are 'humanitarian' want no part of: the simple deployment of civilians under National commission to go after these groups on the foundation our ancestors put in place.  It was simple and well understood at the founding and Congress given those powers, which had been understood for generations if not thousands of years previously.  Hugo Grotius would write on those things and come up with the necessary limits of civilian law and yet the need for society to know that harm done to it had been returned in kind on a one-for-one basis as seen in On The Laws of War and Peace

That work and others by Grotius would join with pre-existing works to form new ones that would define what the Law of Nations was and how Nations, like England, had a common law in agreement to it.  It was from there that the foundation of the United States came:  from old Roman Law given international distribution, through a man caught up in the 30 Years War seeking to know what the causes of war and peace were along with the laws of the sea, and then later members of the Enlightenment finally putting these things down so that all would know, in any Nation, what Nations were and how they all conform to that same outlook.  If you haven't been taught these things, if you haven't read them then you are ignorant of them, and are uninformed as to how our world worked to give us what we have today.  They can be lengthy works, even in translation, yet their reading level is not high and none are beyond what can be taught in a week.

How can anything relating to those willing to tear down societies and Nations be regarded as 'humanitarian'?  Simply, it can't, as these are individuals who have returned to the state of nature on their own and are seeking uncivilized means to gain their way, be it for profit or power.  Those that serve them, help them, excuse them are complicit in this work.  It is not 'civilized' to be 'humanitarian' towards vicious and brutal outlaws seeking to destroy the system of Nation States.  That is complicity in barbarism.  When civil justice is applied to those waging war on their own, it lacks the power and depth to address the horror of their activities.  They take up the weapons of war and only, only if they put them down and hold themselves accountable TO the law can they be said to be seeking a civil end of their barbaric ways.  They accept the judgment of civil law by doing that.  Captured fighting they are not 'prisoners of war' but brutal savages willing to kill and due summary judgment on the battlefield without recourse to higher power: they are known for their deeds and actions, thus they are defined by them and not their words, not their 'reasons' and not their 'grievances'.  They have civil means to get these things addressed and WILL NOT TAKE THEM.

These are the opportunistic predators showing up on weak society and weakened civilization.  Being civil requires recourse and that recourse is via civil means to address such individuals and groups.  When their actions go warlike, they are willingly taking to war against Nations and all lawful citizens, no matter where they live.  We have means as a civilization to address them not *just* by civil means, although that is necessary, but by the means of war both Public and Private given sanction by civil means.  That is the strength of civilization: recognizing when it is being threatened and using the accountable means to address these barbarians.  Those we confront as a totality of civilization will follow no rules, no law and seek to evade justice.  We know that by their actions.  There is no nobility in being 'humanitarian' to such for they see it as weakness to exploit.

As I see the blood and flames in India, Afghanistan and from many points around the world, I see a deep and lax civilization dying and the parasites already proliferating to eat on this once proud thing we held in common.  It once protected us and we deemed it good and restrained by civil means, a bulwark to keep us alive and the intercourse between Nations civil.  When we give it other things to do, strap it down with all sorts of 'good' things that distract it from that ability to protect us, we are then shocked that our protection goes down and that the killers roam many lands and seas without recourse.  In festooning the Nation State with so much power, it becomes immobile at powerless as it cannot do all things at all times well.  Soon it begins to lose the ability to protect, to enforce laws and ensure that the lawless are addressed.

That is the time we are now in.

Give more to the Nation State at your peril.

For the next thing you give it will be the able to restrict good and imprison those that disagree with it.

That is when all those 'good things' become ill and the protector turns into the punisher unbound by civil restraints.

Look at Mumbai, today, and see the outcome of generations of being 'nice' and 'humanitarian' and of Nations unwilling to keep governments to doing only a few, vital things to protect society.

We had a choice of confrontation and calling barbarism for what it is.

We haven't as a society, a Nation and as humanity.

Now we pay.

In blood.

20 November 2008

The G20 or how President Bush decided on global socialism

I hate it when I agree with Dick Morris. The guy is amiable, slick, insightful, more than a bit disingenuous and is able to hold a vendetta that blinds him to its outcomes, as it did with the Clintons. I rarely like his analyses, for all that I can see how he comes to the conclusions he does. Perhaps he realized what he had done in the years leading up to 2008, helping President-elect Obama's Kenyan godfather Raila Odinga to start taking control of that country, was having more of an impact than *just* keeping Hillary from the White House. That said his analysis of things going on in which he has had no say in, no power to influence, has been disturbingly dead-on. I discounted his blather on the election, by and large, but when he talks further afield I get a very queasy feeling. I distrust him as much as I admire him, and he has only one partisanship and that is to himself. It is when he talks about those things that will get to *him* or that he can't do anything about that I will listen as, for all of his two-sidedness with regards to his personal views, he also knows which side the bread is buttered on.

Yeah, you needed to hear that, first.

Also, I am not a conspiracy theorist, the world is way too out of control for conspiracies... all that it takes is well meaning fools to do what they think is right, at the moment, for things to go very, very wrong. We have way too many of those in the world in leadership positions.

I don't like what follows.

Do you remember the old saying that 'Only Nixon could go to China?'

Well the one to remember is that 'Only Republicans can set the stage for socialism'. The case in point... well, I won't start with Teddy Roosevelt and his expansive views of the Constitution and Progressivism, but I will point to the latest 'Big Government Conservative' who used 'Compassionate Conservatism' as his credo to get to the Presidency, namely Bush (43) and the G20 summit. Dick Morris wrote about European Socialism being the legacy of President Bush and it is hard to fault his analysis. At its core 'Compassionate Conservatism' is trying to use the tools of government to 'conservative' ends by encouraging private industry to provide things via governmental encouragement. It is a deeply regulatory form of governance, that depends upon regulations, mandates and social pressure on private companies and individuals to conform to the views of those in power. 'Compassionate Conservatism', by utilizing the tools and power of government and expanding it, does not put into place the Classical Liberal view of human rights and freedoms to be free from government. In this way 'Compassionate Conservatism' is no different than modern Big Government Liberalism or Radicalism, both of which seek to invest more power in government to control the individual towards ideological ends.

If you are getting the idea that this is like the tumult amongst socialists in the period of WWI to the end of WWII, you are correct. The two sides of socialism were the Internationalist strain, or Communist form, and the Nationalist/Populist strain, or Fascist/Nazi form. The highest ideal of those looking to put government into power over individuals and society is the ever adaptable concept of 'Pragmatism'. Whenever we hear about 'pragmatism' in foreign or domestic affairs, it is usually attached to a large government project or international concern that cannot be easily defined or explained in any way save to 'let the leaders do it'. Wanting to give 'health care to all Americans' is pragmatic: it has a lofty goal and disastrous means and yet is sold as a great boon, not a great eater of wealth and health. Similarly regulating the monetary system is 'pragmatic': government is given power to intercede in markets, even if it has no clear idea what it is doing. The goal of Big Government backers, Left and Right, is the manufacturing of problems or 'crises' so as to put 'pragmatic' solutions into place that tread upon the liberties and freedoms heretofore reserved for the individual or smaller governing units (the States in a Federalist system).

Even better is when intractable problems that cannot be solved at the highest level of government are put before it. 'Failing educational institutions' has been a credo of the Left and Right since 1958, when poor Johnny couldn't read, and yet for the hundreds of billions poured in from the federal level, that reading rate has been rock-solid steady. In having a 'war on poverty' society is told to ignore the fact that in a system of free individuals that succeed or fail based upon their own abilities, there will always be a 'bottom 10%'. The USSR eliminated that and made everyone equally poor, save for the ruling elite. In such a system 'health care' will be unequally distributed, but the charitable interests of individuals will seek to remedy that by putting money, time and effort into seeking a better culture to address these things at the lowest level. Big Government, by putting them at the highest and most regulated, squanders funds, time and effort at a prodigious rate compared to any private concern, and adding government backing in via 'Compassionate Conservatism' then layers that inefficiency ON TOP of private inefficiency and actually causes more and deeper inefficiency and lack of addressing the problems that individuals were doing previously.

Find a crisis and you will find a Big Government backer pushing for more regulation, even if all previous regulation meant to solve the problem that happened didn't work. The ideal that government that makes the people become representative of it will be a great boon and social balm ignores that to get to that point all other forms of government and social ideals will have to be modified or suppressed to that of government. No matter how 'good' the outcomes of 'pragmatic' decisions, the actual long-term outcome is destructive to individual freedom, individual expression and individual liberty.

Keeping that in mind, that manufactured crises lead to pragmatic decisions to infringe upon the rights of the individual and attempt to change society, I read Dick Morris:

The results of the G-20 economic summit amount to nothing less than the seamless integration of the United States into the European economy. In one month of legislation and one diplomatic meeting, the United States has unilaterally abdicated all the gains for the concept of free markets won by the Reagan administration and surrendered, in toto, to the Western European model of socialism, stagnation and excessive government regulation. Sovereignty is out the window. Without a vote, we are suddenly members of the European Union. Given the dismal record of those nations at creating jobs and sustaining growth, merger with the Europeans is like a partnership with death.

At the G-20 meeting, Bush agreed to subject the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and our other regulatory agencies to the supervision of a global entity that would critique its regulatory standards and demand changes if it felt they were necessary. Bush agreed to create a College of Supervisors.

Only a Republican could do this, and it is a deeply shocking thing to read that a 'conservative' would step away from our founding understandings of what Nation States are and why they matter in the course of human affairs. Note that you will hear praise from many quarters on this 'pragmatic' approach to world governance of the financial markets via an un-elected governing body. Even Dick Morris cannot escape the siren song of the *idea* of this, just that it should be run as a series of cooperative agreements amongst Nations and not as a top-down control system imposed by un-elected individuals across the G20. The wind-up, however, is hard hitting:

All kinds of political agendas are advancing under the cover of response to the global financial crisis. Where Franklin Roosevelt saved capitalism by regulating it, Bush, to say nothing of Obama, has given the government control over our major financial and insurance institutions. And it isn't even our government! The power has now been transferred to the international community, led by the socialists in the European Union.

Will Obama govern from the left? He doesn't have to. George W. Bush has done all the heavy lifting for him. It was under Bush that the government basically took over as the chief stockholder of our financial institutions and under Bush that we ceded our financial controls to the European Union. In doing so, he has done nothing to preserve what differentiates the vibrant American economy from those dying economies in Europe. Why have 80 percent of the jobs that have been created since 1980 in the industrialized world been created in the United States? How has America managed to retain its leading 24 percent share of global manufacturing even in the face of the Chinese surge? How has the U.S. GDP risen so high that it essentially equals that of the European Union, which has 50 percent more population? It has done so by an absence of stifling regulation, a liberation of capital to flow to innovative businesses, low taxes, and by a low level of unionization that has given business the flexibility to grow and prosper. Europe, stagnated by taxation and regulation, has grown by a pittance while we have roared ahead. But now Bush -- not Obama -- Bush has given that all up and caved in to European socialists.

The Bush legacy? European socialism. Who needs enemies with friends like Bush?

I applaud President Bush in Iraq and disdain him on finances, regulation, his ability to actually understand that 'compassionate conservatism' is just as authoritarian as the Left/Radical form of ideal to 'spread the wealth around', save that most of the wealth will be put into the sticky fingers of government which, itself, is a vast tar pit of inefficient regulation.

At BusinessWeek Shankar Singham has this article of 13 NOV 2008 looking at how we got here, looking at the US side of the debacle and 'crisis':

These government distortions began 30 years ago when the U.S. government started to tell banks which people they should lend money to, so that all could share in the American dream of home ownership. The two government-sponsored enterprises, Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE), readily built up vast portfolios of bad mortgages, and the much maligned greedy investment bankers merely took those assets and securitized them. To the extent that these parties were at fault, they were at fault for not understanding that the implicit government guarantee that Fannie and Freddie would not be allowed to fail was itself an enormous distortion, undercutting the value they ascribed to the assets in the first place.

Without the creation of the entire asset class in the first place, a minor problem would not have morphed into a huge problem. Whenever private companies are asked to perform public functions for some social good whose benefit is not clearly defined, alarm bells should ring. Many of the greatest problems that have plagued humanity have not been caused by bad people actively seeking to do harm (with the exception, of course, of dictators like Hitler), but rather by well-meaning people seeking to do good. Karl Marx, after all, had the best of intentions. When we add the activities of ratings agencies and changes in accounting rules halfway through the game, we see yet more government distortions that played a pivotal role in the crisis.

This is government trying to mandate good outcomes, not administer a fair process: it is biased towards the outcome and will skew the process to get to the desired outcome. That is Pragmatism writ large in the 'ends justify the means' sort of philosophy. Indeed, I would be remiss to not let Mr. Singham have his view on this present:

To all those busily writing the epithet to the era of Reagan and Thatcher, these events merely reinforce the notion that government's role in the economy should be limited to the protection of property rights. Certainly when parties are destroying property, or value, government has an obligation to step in, and this does mean some regulation. Even the most ideologically pure free marketer doesn't argue for absolutely no regulation; after all, we need competition laws, for instance, to ensure that the market is truly free and competitive. And we need governments to protect both tangible and intangible property rights.

That is the key to what regulation should be: It should always strive to be the most pro-competitive and welfare-enhancing possible, where potential costs are carefully weighed against the alleged benefits as regulation is crafted. After the Enron debacle, the costs of Sarbanes-Oxley regulation were not carefully weighed against the alleged benefits. We are now reaping some of the consequences of Sarbanes-Oxley, notably the mark-to-market accounting system, but also in a chilling of innovation whose effects haven't yet been entirely felt.

The true danger to the world is not the excesses of a few bankers who foolishly gorged themselves on a carcass that was already rotten. The true danger is the anticompetitive public-sector restraints that poisoned the economic system to start with. This danger manifests itself today in many guises—protectionism, industrial policy, and national champions to name a few. It occurs when government thinks it knows better than the independent economic actions of billions of individuals.

I am also not a 'free trader' in conception: trade is good but the Nation State must ensure that the entire Nation is not put at risk due to trade. Even Adam Smith cites this as necessary and thinks that such limits should be prudent, well enunciated and understood so as to not impoverish a Nation to benefit the few, and only the barest few to ensure that the Nation is protected in vital areas and does not shield inefficient leeches on the economy. There must be some regulation to secure the Nation so that trade does not weaken key areas of it: that is why we have governments at the Nation State level. Thus 'free trade' cannot be truly 'free': it must have provisions and understandings that Nations are to look after the interests of their citizens as those governments see fit. You cannot impose perfection from above or from non-elected bodies, as that is lethal to liberty and freedom to put power into the hands of an unaccountable few over the vast majority of the population.

Even worse is that this President Bush had received good and prudent information on what to do during a recession. This from an interview at the Hoover Institution of Milton Friedman by Peter Robinson on 13 DEC 2000:

Peter Robinson: You just s--said that the old notion of a Keynesian fiscal stimulus, cutting taxes to stimulate the economy, boosting government spending to stimulate the economy, won't work. Well, we have George W. Bush getting comfortable in the Oval Office, but he has a problem, which is that the economy is softening and everybody's turning to him. What should he do?

Milton Friedman: Sit there.

Peter Robinson: Don't just do something, sit there.

Milton Friedman: Let me give you a comparable case. In 1980-81, just prior to that, we were in a situation where inflation was running ten, twelve...

Peter Robinson: Double digits.

Milton Friedman: Double digits. And the fed--after the election, because before the election, in the five months before the election, the fed was very stimulative. It was pumping money in like mad. A more rapid increase in the quantity of money in that five month period than any other comparable five months period since the end of World War II.

Peter Robinson: Was Paul Volcker, the Chairman of the Fed at the time, culpable? Was that a direct effort to reelect Jimmy Carter?

Milton Friedman: In my opinion it was. At any rate, the month after the election, the money growth slowed down and went down very sharply. And the economy went into a recession. What did Ronald Reagan do? In my opinion, no other president in the post war period would have stood by and sat there, but Ronald Reagan sat there and supported Paul Volcker in his measures. It brought an end to the inflation, it started us on our path of lower and lower inflation, of disinflation, and the recession lasted for a year and a half, it was a fairly deep recession, but it turned around in 1982, early '83...

Peter Robinson: August of '82 is when the stock market starts to recover.

Milton Friedman: Yeah, and from then on, that's the beginning of this incredible period of good economic growth and of booming stock markets that we've had since. Now the advice that everybody was giving to Reagan at that time was that he should step in and stop that recessing from growing.

The incredible period of growth from a bad recession coupled with inflation and stagnation (Carter's Stagflation) was ended when minimal intervention was taken in the financial markets to end inflation. There was a 'crisis' that was pushed to get Carter re-elected, beyond the ongoing one in Iran dragging his Presidency down, and this second crisis was that if he would only do *more* to end stagflation, that things would get better. And yet they only got much better when very little was done and only to inflation. Friedman is correct that the great move by President Reagan was to do NOTHING and let the recession end its course and let the Fed bring inflation into check. Even the Internet Bubble ending in 1999-2000 plus the terror attacks in 2001 did NOT move the US economy into negative growth. That financial gain started in 1982 ran through four Presidents (Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush) and is only now in serious problems when President Bush wants to DO SOMETHING and not just SIT THERE.

My guess is that President-elect Obama will, if he has an ounce of economic smarts, just SIT THERE and be derided by his own party for a couple of years, probably lose the majority in the House if not the Senate and be hailed as a 'great achievement for the economy' when it recovers so as to push all his social agenda forward after getting some credit for 'ending the financial crisis' by doing what he is good at: Nothing.

Mind you he will still have all the lovely socialist interference and oversight of the economy once it does turn around, and may decide, like FDR did, to start increasing taxes to 'push money into the economy' and thus lengthen the recession and see if it can't get into a depression mode. If he doesn't do a thing to those controls, he will *retain them* for later use to Nationalize more of the economy. But if he tries to use them, as his Democratic colleagues have and as Sen. McCain and a number of other 'centerist' Republicans and President Bush have, then things will get nasty very, very quickly. And the man to put such power in the office isn't Barack Obama.

It will have been President Bush trying to be a 'compassionate conservative' and give more power to government to get to 'good ends'.

Just don't mind the means... unless you like your liberty and freedom.

Because this is where the Transnationalist Right meets the Transnationalist Left, as John Fonte describes it.

17 November 2008

How many troops can we support in Afghanistan isn't the right question

How many troops can we support in Afghanistan?  That is asked by Instapundit, and is a major question on winning in Afghanistan.

That is the question that Glenn Reynolds and others are pondering and boils down to a few salient points:  geography, TRANSCOM capacity, and troop type.

USTRANSCOM is the US Transportation Command that is the one in charge of getting things where they need to go.  In the 1990's they were one of the most innovative of the Commands as they revamped the entire concept of logistics supply lines to take in the best of the modern transportation giants FedEx and UPS.  Integrating in ground, air and sea capacity, TRANSCOM is the go-to for figuring out how to get things where they need to go.  Anything going to Afghanistan arrives at CENTCOM and the ability to get delivery uses the ground air and naval resources of CENTCOM plus any other resources from the other Commands (particularly PACOM and EUCOM at this point in time).  EUCOM has been going through a quiet draw down period, and is becoming a set of supply and specialty services bases, not really a fighting force command.  PACOM has responsibilities for the entire Pacific Rim, including South Korea and Taiwan, but also for the South American coast in places like Colombia where it works things out with SOCOM.  Roughly 1/3 of PACOM is 'forward deployed' into bases and ready positions, plus support to places like the Philippines in their COIN work.  TRANSCOM must not only work with those Commands but keep them supplied, as well, so the amount of transport available to Afghanistan will start to determine just what can be sustained there.

The prime component for getting material there is by sea via the Military Sea Lift Command in TRANSCOM: sea lift is cheap, efficient and easy to run.  All the major heavy lifting for equipment that can't be done by air, will be done by sea, plus the majority of supplies will need to come by sea.  The Captain's Journal gives a breakout of how this generally goes, bolding mine:

We also described the strategy of interdiction of NATO supplies into Afghanistan many months before it began to occur.  Afghanistan is land-locked, and transportation of supplies and ordnance to U.S. and NATO troops occurs basically in three waysTen percent comes into Afghanistan via air supply.  The other ninety percent comes in through the port city of Karachi, of which the vast majority goes to the Torkham Crossing (and then to Kabul) via the Khyber pass, with some minor portion going to Kandahar through Chaman.

Karachi, then, is the 9:1 supplier of our troops in Afghanistan, so that out of every 10 tons delivered, 9 comes via sea and then ground transport and 1 comes via air (most likely after sea transport to a friendly base).  Essentially there is a thin trickle of direct air supply for Afghanistan and the lion's share (perhaps upwards of 97%) is done by sea. When going to the ship inventory page for the MSC we find this little bit of news:

Military Sealift Command's Sealift Program provides high-quality, efficient and cost-effective ocean transportation for the Department of Defense and other federal agencies during peacetime and war. More than 90 percent of U.S. war fighters' equipment and supplies travels by sea. The program manages a mix of government-owned and long-term-chartered dry cargo ships and tankers, as well as additional short-term or voyage-chartered ships. By DOD policy, MSC must first look to the U.S - flagged market to meet its sealift requirements. Government-owned ships are used only when suitable U.S.-flagged commercial ships are unavailable.

We are depending upon commercial sea lift capacity to supply the troops in a declared war in Afghanistan.  Thus even though that is not infinite, it can be considered to be so when taking Karachi into consideration.  It is a city of approximately 12 million with a generally warm and moderate climate, and a monsoon season in JUL and AUG.  It is also a destination of choice for those fleeing conflicts over the past few decades, so has a heavily diverse population.  It has two ports, Karachi and Qasim and their containerized capability for cargo is 650,000 and ~17,000 TEUs (Twenty thousand foot Equivalent Units) in shipping containers, with a lot of bulk cargo going through Qasim for the steel mills and natural gas/petroleum processing (Note that Qasim lists tonnage for TEUs, so the 21,600 kg per TEU must be factored in).  Both ports have been undergoing rapid expansion and have for a decade, so US capacity to move supplies through there should not overhaul expansion.  And as US work is commercial in nature, it does become part of the commercial processing for shipping equipment.  Just so you get an idea of the scale of things, here are the ports seen together, note the scale at the bottom left:

Karachi Qasim ports

And as most comes though Karachi, lets take a look there:

Port of Karachi

Those center two slips of land are the port of Karachi.  You are looking at the place where at least 80% of the material for the US Armed Forces arrives to be off-loaded.  Part of that is the Naval Drydocks of Pakistan (in the northern part of the northern slip) part is the repair yard (the northern part of the southern slip), a timber pond (the inner portion of the southern slip), a submarine construction base (southern part of the northern slip) and a salvage yard (in the far north of the northern slip).  That inner area is a mangrove swamp, so best not to think of it as part of a 'port'.  Do you see those two islands?  Here, lets take a look:

Port of Karachi 2 Islands

Do you see all those small dots swarming around them?  Those are container ships and smaller transport vessels.  Are you now getting the picture of why it will be difficult to surge, say, support for 40,000 troops into Afghanistan? And as the Kyber Pass is mentioned lets see what the town of Kotai, on the border just before it, looks like, here with 2x terrain exaggeration so you can get a feel for it:

Kotai near Khyber pass

Do you see that little black curving line going through town?  That is highway 5, two lanes.  What does this not have?  A rail line.  Believe me, Chaman isn't any better.  We put about 300 to 400 trucks through there per day (via AP at WTOP news so they might get that right).  That does not include NATO trucking and is a tenuous supply line, at best, given present circumstances (and an equivalent of, say, 30 trucks through Chaman and the equivalent amount by air per day also goes into Afghanistan).  This is one of those deals where 'surging' troops isn't the problem: keeping them supplied *is*.  In Iraq we had shipping via Kuwait, KSA and some through Turkey, so we had at least four total ports, counting Iraq, to go through and multiple supply points.

Are there any other ways to keep our troops supplied in Afghanistan?  Lets start to the west and look at the countries:

-Iran?  Heh.  No.

-Pakistan... these are the folks that we are maximizing our shipments through.

-India?  No road there, really, except stuff that makes Kotai look like a superhighway.  No.

-China? Same problem as India plus likely to be problematical and shut things down on whimsy.  No.

-Tajikistan? Landlocked, so you would be looking at Khazakhstan and then Russia.  Probably not, plus you would be shipping via  some part of the trans-siberian railroad.

-Uzbekistan?  Same problem as Tajikistan.

-Turkmenistan?  Well it has access to the Caspian Sea and if you want to use that you need to go through Azerbaijan and Georgia to get to the Black Sea and then you have shipping from Europe you can think about.  Then you get one additional overland road with supplies coming in through Herat.

This is one of those strange times when you begin to feel that Russia may have had an ulterior motive beyond the obvious in Georgia: if the US could swing a major transport deal to Georgia and Azerbaijan and then shipping across the Caspian to Turkmenistan, that would open another very limited supply corridor into Afghanistan.  It would be one of those deals that what you ship from Europe today doesn't arrive in Afghanistan for a month, but that it *would* arrive is something you should be able to depend on *if* you keep good relations with the three intervening Nations.  Looking at Karachi and the supply lines north of it, I am very wary about saying the US could double that corridor in Pakistan without it becoming a major terrorist target... or at least a larger one than it is, which is already pretty large.

If you want Michael Yon's 50,000 more troops, you need to either open up a new supply corridor equal in size to what we have now via Karachi or use troops with a low supply chain need.  Because adding 300 or so more trucks through the Khyber per day is *not* something I feel particularly good about and we do not have the air lift capacity to equal that without having to pull in the commercial freight haulers on war contingency clauses in contracts.  Plus staging that much air traffic, about 10 times what it is now, is expensive as all hell.  There are reasons a 'surge' of troops in Iraq could be done with only some minor logistical ramping up - it had multiple supply points.

That leaves us with three good vectors to consider:

1)  Ramping up security and forces along the Karachi to Khyber route.  That means getting the help of Pakistan in a *huge* way, which we haven't had up till now.  That is part of The Captain's Journal article, that such a ramping up would bolster Pakistani confidence and participation.  What is missed is the deep inroads of the radical Islamic groups into the ISI and other parts of the Pakistani government.  Unless someone is proposing a large private security force to help out, one with local blessing and yet is foreign and foreign controlled, I don't see how the amount of traffic will help to get rid of the roadblocks in the government structure.  Now if a deal to close down the ISI or at least start a major sweep through its upper and middle echelons could be arranged, that would be to the good, but a larger supply line through Pakistan isn't necessarily coincident with that.  It might be done, yes, but the diplomatic and economic laying of the groundwork needed to start about a year ago, because the terminal traffic will be going up significantly.  Plus the cargo terminals now become an even larger target with far more traffic and more people wandering around it.  A single point of supply is *not* what we want.  So possible but dicey, and a major terror attack at the terminals would slowly through Pakistan into finally deciding who's side they are on.  Better than nothing, but sub-optimal.

2)  A new supply corridor.  Now just how handy is it to have US advisors and a major Naval component in the Black Sea these days?  Why if you could just start talking about a nice dredging operation and see if we can swing a supply carrier in the Caspian... and do some palm greasing in Turkmenistan...

Unfortunately I doubt the diplomatic corps of the US is up to this task.

Shame, that.  It would be nice to do the impossible once in awhile and this would be considered impossible by every other Nation and group on the planet.  It is 'doable' but not only if the US worked hard at it for a year or more.  Plus it would give a great impetus to pull Ukraine and Georgia into some sort of Western sphere by just shipping so much through them.  Yeah.  As if.  Dream on.

3)  Deploy the right troops and lower the supply chain per person.  This is the difficult option, but becoming available as the half of the US 10MD in Iraq will now be available for full deployment in Afghanistan.  This is their 'home turf' being Mountain Warfare.  I go over this in a full article on Mountain Warfare and what it takes, and this is the great surprise: these are light infantry but extremely effective in the climate and elevation due to training.  Here the idea is not to surge a lot, but to surge the *right* troops, and this would be every MW and Alpine Warfare group in NATO (including Poland, Romania, etc.) as these types of troops given an active set of Rules of Engagement, can hit far outside their normal throw weight, often 3-5 : 1 as compared to normal troops.  Really the US needs a second Mountain Division, but that would take 18 months to stand up.  So taking a generous 2:1, what that means is 25,000 Mountain Warfare soldiers from all our allies, including Iraq (the Kurds).  Every, single blessed one of them for 18 months and then backfill with flatland troops (US only) to give those we pull out of Iraq a breather plus time to acclimate to the climate.  This would require that Afghanistan turn into a US commanded venture, now, with the right troops in the right place at the right time.  This will still increase the pressure on the supply route, but in a doable fashion.  Plus these troops know how to live off the land and still harry the enemy.  I am not sanguine about 40,000 flatland troops going to Afghanistan as a 'surge'.  I am for the best troops for this fight at the 25,000 strength level put under a unitary command and given the go-ahead for 'hot pursuit' of the enemy.  Make it a winter campaign, like the Canadians did last year, and that could turn the tables in Afghanistan and Pakistan: a full out, all weather, hot-pursuit winter campaign when even the Pashtuns don't do that and the Pakistani Army is leery of it.

Change the parameters of this fight and fight harder in ways that can't be countered.

More of the same is *not* a winning prescription here.

Doing the unexpected and reaching down to fight in a different way that is known and can't be countered *is* a winner.  The Canadians showed the way to do this.  Now lets follow their lead in spades.

Because I've seen the logistics route, and if you have to fight the Mountain War, then send in those that damned well know how to fight in the Mountains.

Blogging software

...or why I like some things better than others.

I found out one thing by using a web browser as a blogging/writing platform: it sucks for medium to long posts.  As most of my posts are medium to long to full length novel and beyond, that is a critical factor in software use for me.  After Blogger lost my Xth long post in work, I did go over to using Open Office for my writing (although it used to do a hatchet job on HTML that I don't care to describe), and it is *still* my preferred writing platform for longer posts that don't need scads of hyperlinking or blockquoting of text.  If anyone ever makes a plug-in for it (or the next version supports posting natively) then it will be my platform of choice, hands-down, for long entries and will need a test or two on HTML compatibility with blogger (and the rest of the known universe).

Until then I have been looking at the offerings from a few places, with MicroSoft being the prime one with Windows Live Writer.  It has some big pluses: able to work on multiple blogging platforms, has a relatively easy to use interface, will download your template so you can see how things look immediately, a handy-dandy spell checker and supports the native picture system for uploading pictures (and other non-text media).  The downsides are a few:  does not lend itself to some blogging platform native ways of doing things (like going for a smaller text font size in blogger), does not let you set when it should do incremental saves on work, and while swift for small and medium posts, it is slow as sludge on long posts.  Those formatting annoyances and slowness for my more typical post length size keep it from winning out... those formatting issues are in my template and yet WLW does *not* pick them up.  Dealing with longer posts is something of a heartache for everything but a full-up word processor, it appears.  Also WLW does *not* save to a platform neutral format file, and for portability of work that is a huge minus.

That said, this post is being written on WLW.

The other choice I have been looking at is Zoundry Raven, which is a platform where you can join in to 'making money with this software' by opting in to post links to advertisers, or *not*.  I am not doing so and am looking at it for its one very useful feature: it can be run off of a memory stick of usb microdrive.  That is becoming a bit of an issue as of late as I have had to split time between multiple machines.

Zoundry Raven isn't bad, really, but suffers from some sluggishness as it is compiled to have a number of python scripts in it, which allows for greater cross-compatibility of code, but slower execution of same.  I haven't really put it through its paces for text formatting as of yet, either, although it is doing a good job of that so far.  Like WLW you can use it to see how a post looks 'in-situ' which is a help.  Its pros, so far on a partial test: has a downloadable spell checker (perhaps not as good as WLW), uses a template for immediate checking of post, and is portable.  The cons are numerous:  slow with medium posts, tends to save out frequently to a stick drive (which is not good), does not upload to platform specific multi-media areas (that I'm aware of) preferring a third party like ImageShack, and is mindnumbingly slow on saves for longer pieces.

Portability is a trump card, but, yea and verily, it has some negatives to it.

Basically the best of all worlds would be having Open Office Writer upload to blogging systems directly, and let me take files around on a memory stick and then auto-synch with local hard drives as I move from system to system... or store it on the external drive when I'm not on a home system.

I am about half-way or so on the Pico-ITX system which will be a local file server, and then things will change, yet again.  At the moment I am drilling out a motherboard holder for it and once that is done it is only finding a way to get external connectors for everything.

16 November 2008

The fighter has counter-punched

Picture a great fighter with a trainer poisoning his water and his opponent giving him more and more body blows that the fighter has been absorbing. Suddenly those body blows slack off and the fighter shifts away from his opponent so that an upper-cut whiffs by his nose. Then the fighter lands a jab straight smack-dab in the face of his opponent. The bell for the round rings, the fighter staggers back to his corner gaining strength and his trainer hand him more poison to take plus starts to apply leeches to his body.

The fighter? The US economy.

Its foe? Recession hoping to become Depression by knocking the economy out.

The trainer? The US Congress, Federal Reserve and Treasury Board.

The body blows? Oil prices taking a bite out of each family's budget.

The poison? The various noxious potions put in with the Community Re-investment Act, pushing and through lax lending laws to Fannie and Freddie, and then complaining when regulators try to stop the trainer from putting more poison in the fighter's water.

The leeches? All the hanger-ons that have been pushing for the poison to be put into the fighter so they can be applied to sap its strength... folks like ACORN and La Raza's housing groups, those other lenders that actually did *not* practice fiscally sound lending at the behest of Congress, and, of course, all the lobbying groups benefiting from this.

The additional poison? Bailouts for those already poisoning the economy plus a fully different form of it from the Federal Reserve looking to intrude on transactions with non-banking institutions like those making auto loans, student loans, and private credit card organizations, plus auto companies and the UAW.

The jab? Well that is interesting as all the high-rollers are bemoaning a loss of wealth, it is the folks with the most to lose, the ones at the bottom end of things, who are out spending money at Target and Wal-Mart this last month (source: CS Monitor 15 NOV 2008). Yup, that is a counter-punch.

Remember all those body blows being handed out at the start? All that stuff hitting the day-to-day expenses due to incredibly high oil prices? That hits first and hardest at the lowest end of the working household spectrum, as it directly shifts cash out from other things into transportation. Say you get 20 gal. of gas twice a month, or 40 gallons per month. The cost of that at $4/gal. is $160/month. At $2/gal. it is $80/month or a net monthly change of +$80 now floating around per month. When I had a short commute in my old car years ago, it was about just that in fuel used. I can see a family of four going for at least 2.5x that amount due to a second adult using a car plus all the things needed to be done for 2 children. Using 2 cars that average that usage would cost $400/month at $4/gal gas and $200/month at $2/gal gas, or a net +$200 to now use elsewhere in the budget.

Do these folks normally shop at Best Buy, go to Starbucks or hit Macy's for their shopping needs? No, they don't, and some 'big ticket' items like washers, dryers, refrigerators and stoves may have been put off for 8 month or so due to higher gas prices. Suddenly there is leeway back in the everyday budget of the average family (2.56 people per family) and multiply that by the number of families (116,000 in thousands, or 116,000,000) in the US (source: US Census 2007 estimate) and you get the idea of what is going on. So ratchet the amount down per family from 4 to 2.56 (and my guess is that 2x doesn't cover that so I will stick with 2.5 which covers family members) and you get: $23.2 billion/month now going back into the economy. Yeah, that $200/month/family makes a huge difference when you put in the number of families. Not new home level, no, but making up for things not done, yes.

That is *without* Congress doing a damned thing to put the government into debt - it is a natural happening outside of the housing market where Congress has been interfering.

Were car sales sluggish over the last few months before the steep oil price drops? Yup. And will Americans learn their lesson on gas guzzling cars? Maybe, this time it was a hurt that got a minority into deep trouble after already taking loans they couldn't afford for housing. Still those families have very little invested *in* housing, due to the types of loans, and walking away from *those* to buy gasoline makes a ton of sense. It is that sector of generally poor Americans living on a tight budget that had these impossible loans pushed at them, and they couldn't afford them: the oil shock just brought that home much, much faster.

Now, of course, Congress wants to hand out more of your tax money to companies and organizations that have *not* adjusted as well to the changing technology and driving habits of Americans. Plus those that offered Politically Correct, Economically Insane loans to NINJA (No Income, No Job or Assets) borrowers. This is known as a 'political payoff'.

Also it is corrupt to have public officials not pushing for good stewardship of the economy so that their political favorites can benefit from it.

The MSM has been going down with this ship as it has not adjusted to new technology, either, and has not covered, purposefully, political corruption on the part of political candidates and officials from the Democratic Party up to, and including, the President-elect. If you look at the people surrounding the position of that top job, you see the same old Politically Corrupt PC politicians, lobbyists and 'activist groups' that *caused* this mess in the first place. Now they want to cover their tracks as the first fight ends and an encroaching mob of bullies, thugs, killers and loan sharks come cruising by the fighter's locker room asking for their part of the prize money. And all the trainers, brown-nosers, and those cheering in the fighter's corner look at the goodies of the prize money that he won... which is his... that they will take from him for their own benefit.

I am doing my bit by supporting firearms and ammo sales... because the gloves are coming off and we are far from the ring... and I don't like the look of the new thugs coming up.

This is not 1928 but 2008... and in those 80 years there have been lessons about abuse of the State for fascistic motives to support big business and suppress the common man. Apparently those in the Elite of the political parties haven't learned that lesson and are trying to repeat it.

Americans have one answer, and one answer only to No Taxation Without Representation.

Want to bail out the auto companies? Gimme a piece of the action and a share stake in each of them - I can exercise that better than any Congresscritter or regulator or grand poobah ever put into power. The UAW can damn well open its books, stop pushing to end the secret ballot and stop acting like thugs... plus be accountable to a share stake held by each citizen in IT. Ditto AIG. Ditto the other large banks and lending institutions and whoever else they want to bail out.

I don't trust ANY Congress, ANY President, ANY Bureaucrat with that sort of economic power as we did not give them that power to hold.

You want to tax me for this?

A piece of the action.


And make these bastards answerable to the American People DIRECTLY.

Government need not apply.

12 November 2008

Why don't young conservatives trust Nobel prize economists?

This is a quickie.


Spurred on by Ramesh Ponnuru at NRO, talking about generalities in Mark Lilla's recent column on conservatism:

The rest of Lilla's column abounds with gross generalizations—"younger conservative intellectuals" apparently all, without exception, "mock the advice of Nobel Prize-winning economists and praise the financial acumen of plumbers and builders." This from a guy complaining about a lack of intellectual rigor. Physician heal thyself.

Ok, I will give it a shot.

Both from UCLA: Harold L. Cole, not a Nobel Prize Winner; Lee E. Ohanian, not a Nobel Prize Winner.

Their work, just published, demonstrates that FDR's policies prolonged the Great Depression by 7 years.

And all the grand and glorious Nobel Prize winning economists haven't bothered to do this work.  It is simple, basic, work.

If they can't get *this* right, and have had the data for over 60 years, then why should they be trusted on *any* other topic?

Remember, if Nobel Prize Winning Economists can't figure out that FDR's policies LENGTHENED the Great Depression, then why should they be trusted on something like, say, Free Trade?

Doing work, demonstrating basic understanding of the world, and then analyzing the outcomes... those are 'conservative' ideals, no?

That grand lot of Nobel Price Winning Economists haven't done the most basic work on Progressivist/Liberal Economic theory to show their effects.

I have an extreme problem with that.

But then I do believe in doing the work, showing the numbers and understanding the subject.  And that doesn't require a Nobel Prize to understand.

Yeah, I got a dose of healing to hand out... just gimme the cluebat.

08 November 2008

As they come to power...

There is a phrase that has stuck with me from a PoliSci class looking at radicalism and leftism in the modern world, which apparently has a few derivations on it. But the gist of it is:

As they come to power, so shall they rule.

This is not the statement of the obvious, the simple 'hey they won the election/overthrew the government/undermined the society to destroy it and now get to rule' sort of thing. No the meaning here is that whatever the form and method used to get to power is reflected directly in how that individual or group then rules. And, yes, this is *ruling* not *governing* as this usually applies to non-democratic systems or ones sliding from democratic to non-democratic ways. If you take a look at how that individual or group ascended above everyone else, you would then have a very, very good idea of what was in store for you.

As the current President-elect had some salient features of his campaign show up while on the trail for over a year, we can start to examine just what the form of methodology will be during his term in office. It is true that the office shapes the man more than the other way around, because to shape the office you have to have some idea of what it is supposed to do, even if you disagree with it.

If you look at President Bush (43) you would see his quaint ideas for Big Government Conservatism (Compassionate Conservatism) led to ineffective legislation like 'No Child Left Behind', the expenditure of great wads of federal cash to corrupt institutions (why the government enabled them, so they must be 'good') and a stark unwillingness to understand that the money of the People does not discriminate via religion. He was very lucky to have his plans short-circuited by al Qaeda and be forced to the more basic role of trying to figure out how to protect the Nation. Outside events limited his ability to 'do-gooderism' and required a multi-year redirection of federal attention to 'stopping the worst people from gaining the worst weapons'.

President Clinton came in with his own version of 'hope & change' but a thin record of delivering on such, and a strong record of 'triangulating' his politics and, of course, 'Bimbo Eruptions'. His few attempts to get things like a change of status for gays in the military or for National Health Care both fall absolutely flat, while anything he started to 'triangulate' with on no fixed idea of what he wanted would tend to succeed. Then there are the 'Bimbo Eruptions', blue stained dress and perjury under oath about same. His ideas of 'hope & change' got the US attacked in McLean, VA, New York City, Somalia, Kenya, and saw a piratical attack on a US warship by the end of his term. 'Good will' gestures in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Haiti, plus airstrikes in Sudan and a cruise missile attack in Afghanistan, along with 'Operation Desert Fox' all demonstrated a non-serious view towards America's role in the world.

More famous examples do come to mind, like FDR, but people tend to forget his impact due to WWII, until you take a look back and see Progressive economic policies lengthening the Great Depression from a short, hard bout with financial instability to one that was drawn out over more than seven years. As the decline started in 1928 and recovery to the old line of growth didn't happen until 1937, it is interesting to speculate about the mismanagement of government during that era against the great hopes that it would do so well.

On the radical front, the Communists came to power in a bloody, factional revolution in OCT 1917 in Russia, and then proceeded to rule by factions and blood all the way up to Stalin who's deathtoll to the USSR before WWII still has not been properly calculated. The NSDAP came to power under a strong plurality in Germany by killing and intimidating their way to power and liquidating their opponents, then the outcome of gas chambers for 'undesirables' should not have been a major shock to anyone. Fascists coming to power in Italy before that likewise had a civil war and then the use of a set of secret police set upon destroying any opposition political organization or dissenters. The lines of how to get to power and what is done afterwards are far more clear on the Left/Radical side of things, because they are willing to 'break a few eggs to make an omelette' than traditionalists and conservatives (here meant in the supporters of the old regime). The ascendancy of mob rule in France was predicated on some elevation of Man to rule over everything, particularly his fellow-man, and the killing wouldn't stop until an enterprising young Corporal stood up to take power with more than 'a whiff of grapeshot'.

So, when looking at the campaign of President-Elect Obama, what did we see on the campaign trail?

1) Depending on a subservient press not to look into his background and attack his opponents for him. And here we are with Chris Matthews over at Dan Cleary's Political Insomniac site (h/t: Insty):

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Yeah, well, you know what? I want to do everything I can to make this thing work, this new presidency work, and I think that --

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Is that your job? You just talked about being a journalist!

MATTHEWS: Yeah, it is my job. My job is to help this country.

SCARBOROUGH: Your job is the make this presidency work?

MATTHEWS: To make this work successfully. This country needs a successful presidency.

And just how many will be willing to overlook things to make this new presidency thingy work? Only time will tell, of course, but Chris Matthews now leads the way on brown-nosing press sycophants who see their job as cheerleaders and not reporters or even journalists. Instead just think of them as 'fellow travelers' in this great cause of supporting the new order. Mind you that now makes Chris Matthews an expert on just how a President should wave his hand and will now criticize the 'windshield wiper' wave (H/t: Hot Air). I am so sure that is 'racist' that I really shouldn't have to comment on that... if anyone made that during the campaign, that charge from the MSM would have been out in minutes. Luckily if you are 'on the winning side' you can now be as 'racist' as you want.

2) Gaffes. It was at least a gaffe every other day with the selection of Sen. Biden, but Sen. Obama made no few of his own on the trail. Be it 57 states (the United States of Heinz Ketchup!) or clearly going against position held just months, sometimes weeks, earlier on foreign policy or taxation, the Obama Campaign was riddled with gaffes, 'misunderstandings' and 'clarifications' that did not clarify anything. Gaffes are the great 'unforced errors' of politics, and while some politicians make them, very few have made them as frequently as Sen. Biden and now Sen. Obama appears to have picked up that trait and has tried to excuse it as: 'inartful eloquence', 'mis-spoken' and the ever popular 'you didn't hear what I said' when someone has obviously listened to what he just said. Thus we have the apology to Nancy Reagan over 'seances' in the White House (H/t: Insty), which was an unwarranted slighting of a former First Lady who also had to deal with her husband going through Alzheimer's. Yes an 'unforced error'.

3) Orwellian airbrushing. Did anyone note that all the negative references to Gen. Colin Powell were removed from the Obama Campaign web site *before* Powell endorsed Obama? How about the airbrushing of Sen. Obama's criticisms of 'the surge' in Iraq? Add the MSM and you get them also airbrushing Obama's statements so as to remove contradictory statements. And the church he attended airbrushing its mission statement to be less radical. Or the throwing under the bus of Rev. Wright? Or Martin Klonsky? Or the MSM covering up for ties between ACORN and Obama?

So with this is it any wonder that there is now serious airbrushing of President-elect Obama's proposal for a mandatory volunteer service system (H/t: Insty)?

I'm going to jag here just a bit: what part of 'mandatory' goes with 'volunteer'? If those on the Left got all up in arms about having to serve government via the Selective Service System because it was undemocratic, then *why* is a 'mandatory volunteer' system a good idea? And just why is the idea of the federal government stepping in to MANDATE what parents allow their children to do in the way of 'volunteer' service a 'good idea'? Can't get enough of the way the USSR and NSDAP ran Germany with various 'youth corps'? What part of individual freedom goes with being told to work for government? Because being forced or coerced (via 'incentives') to 'mandatory service' smacks of involuntary servitude. That was outlawed under the US Constitution in case folks on the Left have forgotten. That was the prime attack against the SSS: it was involuntary service to government. And now there are bright ideas to do this from the Left? Do they not remember the demonstrations AGAINST registering for the Draft in college? Or are the boomer parents who did that self-same protesting now wanting to sign off their rights over their children TO government... the very one they didn't trust back in the '60s? Do they not understand 'abuse of power'? Or is it that they think, just like Teddy Roosevelt, that the power will accumulate to the MAN and NOT THE OFFICE?

Yeah, its kind of hard to airbrush authoritarianism when it is being called to account within a day or so of issuing its views on compulsory goodness. The amount of airbrushing of the past of President-elect Obama has been staggering, and yet no matter how much this is recognized, those behind it continue to pursue cleaning up their history and hoping that we will not remember the change.

4) Paying off cronies. Back when he was Sen. Obama, he was one of the grandest of porkmeisters on the Hill. Much of that was political support for those that had supported him early in his career, and that was, by and large, the local PACs, Unions and other political organizations that made up the largest contributors to those campaigns. Now that the 'bailout' to Fannie and Freddie, plus the federal purchasing of parts of five major banks 'isn't enough', the line-up begins behind President-elect Obama of those with their hands out for MORE federal money. Yes, why not appoint a Chief of Staff who was part of the book cooking at Freddie and Fannie? It is just a 'minor' payoff, after all, and its not like he has a vested interest in doing any obfuscation of his activities... Over at the Hit & Run column at reason, Matt Welch looks at a Big Business with its hand out: the auto companies. This is direct political support of Michigan which has had some of the worst Democratic administration by its Governor that has put it on a downwards spiral because of high taxation. Apparently telling a Governor that she should really clean economic house BEFORE asking for federal help is beyond President-elect Obama. Or the UAW wanting a $25 billion bailout AND an end to the secret ballot so they can coerce workers to unionize? Yes, lets make the automakers unaccountable, their workforce overpriced and underproductive and, generally, take control of the auto companies from the federal governments. And the AFL-CIO is pressing for the bailout of *all* American workers that have faced any economic hardships. Hardships caused by those seeking to lessen responsibility and financial accountability in Congress via government legislation and lack of oversight. And the AFL-CIO does seem to be a bit more interested in helping its own bosses than actual labor, at least according to the Progressive Labor site. Maybe the States will start to line up for their mismanagement of unemployment trust funds and pensions.

So its AIG, Freddie, Fannie, GM, Ford, Chrysler, UAW, ACORN's home mortgage group, La Raza's home mortgage group... bailouts for them, not for you. So on top of the $700 billion in the hole, just how much will trying to bailout large sectors of the industrial economy cost? Another trillion dollars, maybe? Let's triple the size of the federal debt, support inefficient businesses and inefficient labor practices and become a lovely socialist republic where everyone owns everything and nobody is responsible for a damned thing. In no time at all I am sure we will see the Yugo as a shining example of product efficiency.

Any bets on investigations of Charlie Rangel (D-NY) going to prosecution? How about prosecutions in the Countrywide VIP loans to Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.)? You know, the 'Friends of Angelo' loans?

5) 'Racism'. All that was supposed to go away now, right? Don't tell that to the supporters of Proposition 8 in California, they, apparently, are not only going against religious minorities... but blacks, too. Say, how about some of that hopenchangehealing there? Because the one to bring up race in the Presidential election was Sen. Obama, warning about how he didn't look like the 'other faces on the dollar bill' and that he was, indeed, 'black'. Sen. Clinton may have brought that up against him, but Sen. McCain did *not* and attacked those that attempted to do so... now can we see some of that open-mindedness from the 'healing' President-elect? So far, no word, no promise of an 'intervention' to bring 'dialogue' and 'calm fears'.

Probably doesn't have time for that as engineering another Great Depression is hard work.

That is how the 'rule of thumb' on those coming to power works: as they come to power, so shall they rule.

It is, actually, a very good rule as it is the rare leader that can actually change his views and methodology enough to moderate them and gain wider acceptance over time.

And when I take a look at the way this past campaign has been run, that means some very, very bad times ahead for the Nation. Bad enough to have one candidate that doesn't 'understand the economy', far worse to elect one that doesn't understand that, the culture of America or even the simple differences between socialism and capitalism. And as soon as you begin to mandate doing 'good things' you change from one culture and one system, to one that is far worse, far more impoverished and less capable of dealing with a complex world. The simplistic nostrums are always lethal, and the simple ones always the most complex... and what this President-elect has always done is head for simplistic views, not simple ones.

Now we will learn that lesson about why we shouldn't go that way.


Maybe we will be lucky and this will be farce.