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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Friday, September 28, 2012

BUYCOTT, NOT BOYCOTT

"When you’ve lost Jay Leno, what does it mean?"
Something odd to me about modern news coverage is that story after story of career-making events and Pulitzer prize-winning opportunities keep coming up but the press just doesn't want to bite.  They've gone from being guys hungry for the scoop and ravenous in their drive to write that story first to being largely disinterested in news that doesn't help their political cause.
Fast & Furious, for example, is a once-in-a-career type story for the right investigative reporter, but they just want nothing to do with it.  And the news has gotten very selective about what they'll cover or even question.  We first saw it when the Obama team told the press "the Jeremiah Wright story is over, lets not bring that up any more" and they complied.  NBC refused to even touch a piece showing Obama talking about how great redistributing wealth would be, claiming they couldn't "verify" it.  
And most recently the press heard Obama say some of his campaign ads were wrong and misleading, but not only did they not bother airing that portion, they didn't bother asking him which ads and how they were misleading.
Now, horrible economic news is coming out indicating we are probably already seeing economic contraction and that the previous growth numbers were off by 25% (1.7 downgraded to 1.3).  ABC mentioned it very briefly, CBS did a short report, and NBC totally ignored the story.
Ace at his HQ has had enough.  He wants a boycott:
NBC is in a precarious position as far as exposure to a boycott: Their shows are awful, they're cancelling half the shows they once had high hopes for, one of their semi-draws, The Office, is ending this season (after four bad seasons and creative exhaustion), and they are the most obnoxiously liberal network on TV.
They long have been. They long ago decided their demographic would be the "Smart Urban Set," by which they mean "liberals."
Someone has to pay. Let's make it NBC.
Now, while I am not necessarily opposed to blowing off NBC and its advertisers, I think this is a mistake.  Not because the concept is entirely flawed, but because of who the right is and what we do.
First off, ask yourself: what's the last NBC show you watched?  Sunday Night Football?  I ran down their list of programs and I saw 3 shows of their entire lineup that people might care about: Football, Jimmy Fallon, and 30 Rock.
Now I don't watch anything that NBC puts out, not a show.  But I've seen some old 30 Rock episodes and they were kind of fun.  I hear its lousy these days, just over the hill, and I can't stand Tina Fay, so I don't care if I miss that.  Jimmy Fallon is on way too late at night, and I never watch football anyway.  I think that, other than football, I'm hardly unusual.  I doubt many people are watching much on NBC today.
The truth is, I doubt even one of my readers even watches NBC Nightly News. People who read blogs and follow politics don't tend to get their news from TV; they probably don't even watch much TV to begin with, and if they do, its not the alphabet networks.
The people watching nightly network news are old, they grew up with those as trustworthy reliable sources, they grew up reading newspapers, and they get their news from those places still.  They don't give that up easily because it requires rethinking and learning and the older you get the more resistant and stubborn you are about it.  I'm annoyed Windows had to come out with something after XP; it worked fine.  Those people are the ones who'd have to boycott NBC, and they won't, do not read Ace of Spades, and won't even hear about it.
The thing about the right is that we're not very good at boycotts.  Sure, we make noises about it but for the most part we're already boycotting what annoys us.  We don't get the New York Times.  We don't watch CNN for news.  We don't watch nightly sitcoms very much.  People on the right tend to be more independent and skeptical of movements and activist bandwagons.  We tend to be defensive about business and trust the market to handle things.
What we are good at is "buycotts."  Remember the Chick-Fil-A kerfluffle?  We on the right wouldn't do much about CFA if we didn't care for it, but we will show up in huge hordes to support them with our money and patronage.
So if you really want to make a difference, the trick is not to boycott NBC, you're probably doing so effectively already.  Patronize their competition.  Buy what their advertisers are competing against.  If they have Burger King ads, buy McDonalds.  If they have Chevron ads, buy Texaco.  If they have Pizza Hut ads, buy Domino's.  And let their advertisers know how annoyed you are.  Pour it on, because advertisers definitely listen to that kind of pressure.
But the truth is, these guys are already wiping themselves out with lousy content and crappy news coverage.  Jay Leno recently did a joke about the economy and slammed President Obama in his opening monologue on the Tonight Show:
A new survey out today shows how much time we waste every day in our lives. For example, we waste seven minutes in line every time we go to get coffee, 28 minutes getting through airport security, four years waiting for Obama to do something about the economy. Every year, we waste a lot. We wasted a lot of time.
Leno didn't do that because he is some crazed right winger, he's a lefty.  He didn't do it to raise awareness, he did it because he knew it would resonate with listeners.  That kind of setting and joke isn't cutting edge, its confirmative; it is the setting where you say what people already know, make jokes about things people are already talking about.  And as Rand Simberg points out at Transterrestrial Musings, people know about this because they aren't relying on NBC to tell them about the news.
As the nightly news shows die out in ratings and the alphabet networks starve, they're already being boycotted.  Not by organized groups but by consumers shutting off the TV or changing channels.  Sometimes the market really does work.

GULLIBILITY IN THE PRESS

Snark and mockery are what the immature and mean of intellect, the uneducated and the crass offer in the place of satire and wit.

Two events in the news recently made me wonder something about the left and the internet.  The first is the report that a 5,000 arena that wasn't full somehow held 18,000 Obama fans when the president visited Wisconsin recently.  No one has been able to find those missing 13,000 people, and the story seems to be traced back to Democrat mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee.  Well, less than 5k doesn't sound very promising or hopeful for the president in a long time Democrat city, so maybe he thought that would help with the president's image.
The other story is Roger Simon at Politico who attempted a humorous article poking fun at Mitt Romney by claiming Paul Ryan has been forever tainted by the "stench" of Romney in the campaign and then went off on this riff:
Coming from a resident of Iowa, a state where people are polite even to soybeans, this was a powerful condemnation of the Republican nominee.
Though Ryan had already decided to distance himself from the floundering Romney campaign, he now feels totally uninhibited. Reportedly, he has been marching around his campaign bus, saying things like, “If Stench calls, take a message” and “Tell Stench I’m having finger sandwiches with Peggy Noonan and will text him later.”
It was meant to be satire, but it didn't really work.  People took it seriously, so much so that Paul Krugman a the New York Times, Tommy Christopher at Mediaite, Lawrence O'Donnell at MSNBC, Joe Gandelman at Moderate Voice, leftist radio personality Taylor Marsh, Daily Kos, Comedy Central, and on and on all ran with it as if it was real news.  As Ace writes at his HQ:
Yet the geniuses that would run our lives for us failed to pick up on even that, and rather than take the one minute to contact Simon (or Ryan) to find out if any of this was even remotely true, they just ran with it on television and internet "news" operations.
Is this a conspiracy, then?
Of course not. Never ascribe to conspiracy what can be easily explained by a combination of stupidity, incompetence, malice, and more stupidity, and also a lack of any sense of humor whatsoever, further compounded by a Dunning-Kruger-esque belief that one does in fact have a functioning sense of humor.
What strikes me in this, and several previous stories in recent memory of the press willing to believe nonsense and rumor as fact because they read it online, is this seems to betray a pattern and understanding of life.
What I mean is this: we on the right are very used to having to weigh everything we read, particularly from the legacy media, with a sizable block of salt. We know that what we're gold often is mistaken, misleading, misquoted, parsed out in small pieces, and incomplete.  It doesn't even matter what the topic is, generally speaking you're not getting the whole story from the press.  They are often lazy, incompetent, and credulous even when there's no deliberate or unintentional bias.
We have developed a natural suspicion and doubt when we see a report on anything.  Part of it is just seeing over and over again how the press slants stories, part of it is learning as we grow up that a lot of what we've been told is utter nonsense or greatly misleading (thus the Common Knowledge series I do), and that even at their best, the press are trying to sell a product more than they are trying to report facts.
The left seems less inclined or trained to respond this way.  It seems like they're much more willing to trust and believe what they're told by the press.  That they aren't as skilled or inclined to parse, study, question, and backcheck what they hear or read.  Sure, they'll instantly discount and even ignore something a conservative says, presuming evil and malice in it, even if its something they'd usually agree with.
But when the legacy media or a trusted source says something, they tend to just nod and go along.  And its getting them in trouble lately, particularly on the internet where its so easy and fast to check that people pile on with glee and mockery when they get it wrong.
It really would serve these guys better to be more skeptical of what they read and hear, but to do that, they'd have to develop a distrust of these sources, recognize their slant and lack of professionalism, to question, check, and doubt.  And that's not as easy and comfortable as just agreeing.
Don't get me wrong, the right does it too, quite often - Rush Limbaugh said it, it must be true!  I read it on Michelle Malkin!  They wouldn't lie, be sloppy, or get taken in!
Its just that we on the right have had to learn to be more skeptical, and its something the left really needs to learn to avoid this kind of humiliation.

WORD AROUND THE NET

"You Mormons need to get with the program."

Like to dress nice for special occasions, but think the clothes aren't manly enough?  Know a guy and want to get him something truly masculine but classy to wear?  Try a chainmail necktie.  Available in various colors and metals, these chain link ties are hand-made and sure to make your guy smile, especially if he's a history of role playing buff.
Previously on WATN I've written about the way lawyers and judges will tend to be on the same side no matter what the legal issue.  After all, judges are just lawyers with a black robe on, and lawyers know they have to deal with judges and will tend to avoid getting on their bad side.  A particularly troubling example of this is a recent case in which a lawyer's DUI was dismissed by a judge.  The lawyer was driving without his lights on at night and was pulled over by a cop.  The lawyer claimed his light switch was broken and besides driving lights are legally sufficient, but the lights turned on when he tried the switch.  The cop asked him if he'd been drinking, and the lawyer said no and refused a breathalyzer test.  The lawyer said the cop didn't have probable cause to pull over the car and threw the case out.
John Hawkins has collected what he thinks are 40 headlines the press would be running if Romney and Obama's party identification were reversed.  Among the choices:
  • Experts Say Obama's Bizarre, Disconnected Behavior May Have Been Caused By His Strange Upbringing
  • More Deaths in Afghanistan; New Grim Milestone Reached
  • Obama Golfs While Soldiers Die
  • Obama's Libyan war: Would We Be There if There Were No Oil?
  • Oil Industry Still Hasn’t Recovered From Obama’s Mishandling of the BP Oil Spill
  • Barack Obama's Deficit Spending: Does It Mean the End of the American Dream?
Its easy to imagine how the press would act.  What isn't easy to imagine is what it would be like to have a truly neutral, objective legacy media.
Although the facts were clear, the left has for over a decade claimed that Al Gore actually won the 2000 presidential election and Bush stole it with the Supreme Court.  However, hard-left radical network MSNBC recently ran a report entitled "What if Gore won the 2000 election?"  Naturally everything is better in their fantasy of a Democrat in power, but that was an admission that Al Gore lost the election.
What is Reynolds' Law?  Philo at The View from Alexandria defines it this way:
Subsidizing the markers of status doesn’t produce the character traits that result in that status; it undermines them.
That's based on comments from Instapundit Glenn Reynolds about how subsidizing the results of behavior gives people not reason to have those behaviors.  If you're going to get the benefits without the work, will people do the work?
Redistribution, the leftist concept of taking from the wealthy and giving it to others in the name of "justice" is an old idea mostly created by jealousy and envy.  While President Obama has obliquely stated he wants to work for just that in the past, he was very clear in a more overt statement of redistribution in 1998.  The New York Times tried to spin that as not really being about socialism, but as Patterico points out... it was.
More Americans were added to the food stamp program (SNAP) than new jobs created from April to June of this year.  The way things are going, this quarter won't be any better.
Officially the Fast & Furious scandal has had a report by the Inspector General of the Justice Department, but like the Congressional investigation, there was a lot of foot dragging and stonewalling.  According to Mary Chastain at Breitbart, the White House refused to cooperate (as required by law) with the Inspector General, denying paperwork and interviews.  Both Congress and the White House seem very reluctant to look into this murderous scandal, possibly because it would embarrass both parties (the GOP with Operation Divide and Conquer, and the White House with Gunrunner).
Chocolate strikes again.  Now it seems to make snails smarter, according to a recent study.  Scientists have discovered that a chemical in chocolate and green tea seems to help with memory, and tested it on snails, discovering that it works for them, too.
Polling is a hot topic right now, with more people coming around to my (and others) side of the issue -- you can't trust em.  John McLaughlin at The NRO Corner discussed the topic, and in of particular interest was this bit on the 2000 presidential election and how polls and the legacy media was used to attempt to manipulate the outcome:
In a close race, the operatives are trying to manipulate the turnout through their paid and earned media. The earned media includes lobbying and trying to skew the public polls. Historically the most egregious case was the 2000 Gore campaign’s lobbying the networks’ exit pollsters for an early, and wrong, call in Florida. This suppressed the Florida Panhandle and Western state turnout.” (Polls close at different times in different parts of the state, because the state stretches into two time zones.) “In our post-election Florida poll, we found that thousands of Panhandle Floridians heard the call and although their polls were still open for an hour in a close national race decided not to vote. Panhandle voters went two-to-one for Bush. The CBS early wrong call nearly triggered a national crisis.
Related is this image, depicting how polling is strangely inaccurate always in the favor of Democrats:
Mark Steyn is always a good read, but sometimes he's incredible, and this recent column is a golden example.  Here are some excerpts about the slaughter of the Libyan Consulate:
The official line — that the slaughter of American officials was some sort of improvised movie review that got a little out of hand — is now in the process of modification to something bearing a less patently absurd relationship to what actually happened. That should not make any more forgivable the grotesque damage that the administration has done to the bedrock principle of civilized society: freedom of speech.
...
What other entertainments have senior U.S. officials reviewed lately? Last year Hillary Clinton went to see the Broadway musical Book of Mormon. “We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others”? The Book of Mormon’s big showstopper is “Hasa Diga Eebowai” which apparently translates as “F*** you, God.” The U.S. secretary of state stood and cheered.
Why does Secretary Clinton regard “F*** you, God” as a fun toe-tapper for all the family but “F*** you, Allah” as “disgusting and reprehensible”? The obvious answer is that, if you sing the latter, you’ll find a far more motivated crowd waiting for you at the stage door.
...
The assistant attorney general of the United States has said he does not rule out a law against blasphemy, so that’s good news, isn’t it? Once we’ve got government commissars regulating movies, and cartoons, and teddy bears and children’s piggy-banks and Burger King ice-cream tubs and inflatable sex-shop dolls and non-sharia-compliant mustaches (just to round up a few of the innumerable grievances of Islam), all the bad stuff will go away, right?
Read it all.  I'm serious, stop what you're doing and read it all, you can open a tab, I'll wait.
Something that came up this week is an email exchange between a Buzzfeed reporter and a US State Department spokesman.  The exchange gets ugly in a hurry and neither side comes across very well but several things came up when you read it over.
  1. Why did CNN take a private diary of a slain ambassador and publicly report on bits of it without even notifying the government or his family?
  2. Why did CNN have access to freely get materials out of the ruined embassy, where was the US government to secure papers and data there?

  3. Is it CNN's responsibility to secure and protect a crime scene for the US Government?
  4. Either there was no intel there and the state department and CIA were failing utterly in their jobs, or there was intel and these agencies failed horribly in protecting and recovering it.
  5. Why won't the Obama administration give answers on this story that aren't bull***t for a change?
And through the entire exchange, which gets more childish and stupid as it goes on, none of these questions are answered.  Its like two people speaking entirely different languages, and while that happens a lot on the internet, I'd hope that a professional journalist and a State Department spokesman would be more mature and capable.  Apparently in vain.  Hat tip Ace for this bit.
Said consulate was running with lower than minimum required security standards while plans were underway for a more secure, complete structure.  In fact, nearly everything we've learned about the place smacks of poor planning and naivete, at best.  Smart diplomacy?  More like Clinton and Obama incompetence, again.
Nearly everything the Obama administration said about the attack on the consulate was a lie, and if you want to see how the statements "developed" as they had to keep rolling back the statements and tell more of the truth over the following days, here's a video that gives the timeline.
Everyone knows the Greek government is in terrible shape economically, that the nation is bankrupt and collapsing, despite repeated bailouts.  What we didn't know is that things are even worse than we've been led to believe.  More than 100% off, in fact, with Greece being in the hole by $26 billion.  No doubt the discrepancy slipped the minds of the Greek officials, a minor carrying error in their math.  But another bailout will fix it, I'm sure.  Just forgive some of their debt, they'll do better next time, honest.
Adventures in Twitter.  First, Microsoft "accidentally" sent out a tweet attacking Ann Coulter in support of Robert Reich's vapid nonsense.  300,000 people got that one.  You'd think after being attacked and raked over the coals by the Clinton administration Microsoft would be less friendly with the guys who did it.  Then there is the Washington DC Board of elections ethics, which posted a link to a hard left blog's attack on Scott Brown in a tweet.  They're claiming a former employee posted it using old account access.  Twitter is like employment Darwinism: if you cannot show discernment and restraint with something this little and easy, you're probably not much use to an employer otherwise.
Expect the dollar to go up again.  This time its not some world event or speculator bidding wars, it was one drunk idiot.  Steven Perkins got plastered and made an order for 7 million barrels of oil in the middle of the night for an exorbitant price, driving prices up by more than $1.50 a barrel worldwide.  The problem isn't some guy getting drunk and doing something dumb, its that we're all held hostage by someone like that.
Former president Bill Clinton has jumped on the "bash Bush" bandwagon, blaming him for palestinian violence, which is an outright, absolute lie on his part.  Not the "oops I forgot that" or "I misstated" sort of lie, but one of those "I'm going to look you right in the eye and tell you something both of us know damn well isn't true" kind Clinton is infamous for.  The man has absolutely no shame; he's pathologically lacking it.
Hope things get better soon?  A lot of people are.  The American household median income declined over 1% in August alone.  Since President Obama took office, it has dropped almost 9%.  But he wants a mulligan, he wants to get 4 more years to do the same things.
Google runs Youtube after a massive buy a few years ago.  Apparently Youtube makes money on advertising, because stupid companies think they'll earn more than they spend on the site.  Well a mayoral challenger for Campo Grande, Brazil has posted a video on Youtube all about the mayor's paternity suit problems.  The mayor ran and found a helpful judge who has ordered the videos removed.  Youtube ignored the order, so the judge has now ordered the arrest of Google's president.  Good luck with that.
Just in case you were thinking things are turning around or you've bought into the "recovery is here" line the left and President Obama keep pushing, take a look at this chart:
This chart shows how global growth and manufacturing has collapsed and is on the way down, again.  Not just in some places, but worldwide. Whoever becomes president in 2013 is inheriting a pretty big mess.
Wikipedia is of dubious research use except for as a database of links on most topics.  Any controversial topic seem heavily edited by left-leaning people and in fact, some are definitely being edited for political purposes.  Two Wikipedia big wigs, a trustee and an in residence scholar, have been busted manipulating entries for hire.
Although for a while health care costs had slowed increase due to the economy and insecurity about the impact and application of "Obamacare" they are rising rapidly again in the US.  Megan McArdle mistakenly thinks this is related to a mythical recovery, but its more likely the realization that the Supreme Court of the US isn't going to save the country from this monstrosity so insurance companies are gearing up to the increased cost and burden it will force on them.
Last week I posted in the WATN roundup about low-cost home 3D printers, and here's an application I'd like to get for them: printable dungeons.  Called Pocket Dungeons, it is a simple little game using existing Pocket-Tactics rules to create dungeons and monsters to build a map with.  The possibilities of this technology are mind boggling.
Incidentally, if you watched the news or got your information from the legacy media, you'd think that the 9/11 protests and murderous rape and attack on the Libyan consulate were isolated events.  They aren't, and the violence and Muslim unrest has been going on for weeks now.  They're still going on, as Jim Gehraty reports at National Review Online.
Having trouble paying your taxes?  Putting it off?  Well don't feel bad, you are not alone.  The federal government is doing it too.  According to the Treasury Department's Inspector General (courtesy the Tax Prof Blog), eight-eight federal agencies are behind on paying taxes for their employees.  You know, those payroll taxes that employers match for people who work for them?  But unlike you, there won't be any fines, jail time, garnisheeing of wages or other consequences for these agencies or their executives.  I guess when the Secretary of the Treasury was delinquent on taxes, that sends a message.
Coma ran on TV as a miniseries recently on A&E but it wasn't a very big seller.  Either it wasn't very well publicized or people just didn't care to see a remake.  Given how weak a job the team did on their last effort (Andromeda Strain) I can see why.  But a lawsuit in New York City suggests that doctors did somewhat the same thing: declaring patients brain dead so their organs could be harvested.
Even when you're part of the badass heavy metal band Slayer, your teen daughter finds you embarrassing to be around:
And that's the Word Around the Net for September 28, 2012

PICTURE OF THE DAY


A Trailer Park.

Quotes of the Day

"When we say God is good, we tend to mean that God is 'nice' — that he would never do anything to cause us pain or suffering." 
-Dr Bob

"'If there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than me or else just silly.'
'Then he isn't safe?' asked Lucy.
'Safe?' said Mr. Beaver. 'Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.'" 
-C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Thursday, September 27, 2012

WHY ARE WE PAYING THESE CLOWNS A DIME?

"Many of the richest people in this country are in fact liberals"

Its expensive being the president. The White House is basically the world's most lush, high tech, and well-protected mansion, and while it's built on swamp land, Washington DC is very high rent, high-value land.  The president has an entire specially built high tech luxury 747 and fleet of other vehicles such as helicopters, boats and limousines.  He has a huge security detail that is made up of some of the finest on earth.  He has to attend incredibly expensive events around the world and travel a lot.
In total, last year alone the presidency cost about $1,400,000,000 (as opposed to, say, the Queen of England, who cost Brits around $60,000,000 to literally live like a queen).  Most of that is travel expenses and security, plus the food and so on for staff.
Now, this isn't a bash on the Obama family, although they certainly do like to live in style.  I can't help thinking they're like a white trailer park family that won the lottery, buying gold plated cars and the entire Dale Earnhart Franklin Mint plate collection.  But the truth is, every president is very, very expensive and that's not going to stop any time soon.
I just can't work out why these guys get paid a salary.  The president of the United States gets paid $400,000.  In addition to this salary, presidents also get a $150,000 expense account, a $100,000 nontaxable travel account and approximately $19,000 for entertainment each year.
Every president now walks away richer than when they took office and never have to work another day in their lives.  President Obama is worth an estimated $11 million (as of 2010), and earns more than $1 million a year from the book Dreams of my Father.  In 2007 Barack Obama was worth just over $1 million.  That doesn't include his wife's money, either.
He doesn't need a salary.  he doesn't need an expense account, or a travel account, or money for entertainment.  Mitt Romney, should he win, needs the money even less.  George W Bush didn't need the money.  Why is the president paid?  He has no expenses, anything he wants he gets.  Room and board is absolutely free.  The White House decorations are out of the budget, not their pocket.  They have no travel costs.  And these people are wealthy enough to pay for whatever they want on their own to begin with, you cannot be a serious presidential candidate and be poor.
And before you say "things have gotten worth" if you adjust their monetary worth and holdings for inflation, every single presidential candidate has been wealthy.  George Washington's net worth?  Over $500 million in today's money. Only a handful (such as Lincoln) were worth less than a million bucks. 
When Mitt Romney became governor in Massachusetts he refused to take pay.  He probably will do the same thing - if possible - should he be elected president, and while that's a pretty small detail, it is the right step to take.  Until at least a budget is passed, congress shouldn't be paid either.  Since you walk away from congress much wealthier than going in and can only run for office if wealthy, congressmen probably ought not be paid either.
Until the federal government cuts back the debt at least in half nobody in the three main branches ought to be paid a dime.  Combined, the President and both branches of congress plus the Supreme Court earn about $100,000,000 a year which in terms of federal budgeting is infinitesimal but it still makes a statement.  Each year, congress can choose to reject its COLA (Cost of living adjustment) but it rarely if ever does.  And yet they demand more money from you the taxpayer and spend it so poorly the US goes into debt more than a trillion dollars each year.
Why are these guys getting paid at all?  I'd love to see a constitutional amendment that utterly bans pay for congress the supreme court, and president if the debt goes over a certain percentage of the GDP.  Certainly they should voluntarily waive their pay until they can get their act together.
And the first politician to stand up and say "I'm not taking a dime until we do what's right" would be pretty popular for it.  Even if the law requires pay, he can simply donate its entirely to something worthy, like a charity or donate it to the national debt's interest payments.
President Herbert Hoover donated his entire presidential salary to charity.  Certainly at least some of the others can afford that.

A DRONING SOUND

"drones are always on my mind. It makes it difficult to sleep. They are like a mosquito. Even when you don't see them, you can hear them, you know they are there."

Imagine you're having a barbecue at your home and that annoying neighbor who keeps yelling about people dying in the name of God drops by. You give him a burger off the grill and hear a strange sound, a buzzing sort of like a plane. Then the explosion erupts around you, as a missile from the drone piles into your back yard and blows your family to chunks. As you lie dying you wonder why and how this could have happened to you?
I think most people are in favor of the idea of stopping terrorism and even killing brutal terrorists.  Although it was basically illegal, the attack on Bin Laden's compound as described by the Obama administration was shrugged at by most Americans.  If that got rid of such an evil man, they were willing to put up with it.  But the drone thing, I think, makes a lot of people uncomfortable.
Yes, it means dealing with problems without having soldiers present.  Yes it means killing bad guys without needing men on the ground who can get shot and killed.  But at the same time, it means killing other people, too.
Its extremely difficult to get accurate numbers, because the US government for obvious reasons is very reluctant to help find out, the drone strike locations are quite remote, and the people are hostile to the US and more than willing to exaggerate and even lie outright.  That said, a study at New York University and Stanford University relays a bit of information:
The best currently available public aggregate data on drone strikes are provided by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), an independent journalist organization. TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562-3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474-881 were civilians, including 176 children. TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228-1,362 individuals.
How accurate is this?  More accurate than the Obama administration which claims "single digits" of innocent civilians have died.  Remember that scene in Iron Man where he targets all the hostage takers in the little village and gets them, leaving the hostages behind?  When you fire a Hellfire missile into a wedding, that's not how it works. Everyone gets blown up.  And not everyone at a wedding is a ululating jihadi.  These aren't "surgical" unless using a hand grenade on cancer is considered surgical.  They aren't using a laser to vaporize a target or a single sniper shot.  This kind of attack levels homes.
In fact maybe none of them are.  The decision process for who to target with drones is based on intelligence, but since we have few if any people actually on the ground in Pakistan gathering that intel, we're largely dependent on local information - and informers - as to who is a target and who is not.  Now, I'd like to believe that the CIA and military intelligence has gotten suddenly a lot smarter after the Bush administration but where's the evidence of that?  If anything every agency and bureau in the federal government has gotten worse over the years, not better.  These people aren't fielding the best and the brightest, they're fielding the most political, the union-protected, and the entrenched long-term bureaucrat with virtually no accountability.
And since the focus under the Obama administration has been on killing terrorists and not capturing them,we're not getting more intel from them.  Guantanamo Bay has had no new terrorist suspects added to its numbers and many have been released (to go and commit more terrorism, in many cases - almost 50 since Obama took office, including the recent Consulate murders in Libya).  So our information is sketchy.
I actually don't have a problem with using drones to attack bad guys and blow up terrorist meetings.  I like how we can strike terrorists where they are, without endangering soldiers.  I like the ability to reach out and pound bad guys in Pakistan without a real military presence there.
But the use of drones has skyrocketed under Obama, to the point people are saying he's changed the face of warfare, and while the selection process of who gets hit (allegedly President Obama personally hand picks each one to make sure its a good target) might be good, what about the rest of the people in the area?  
The US Government declares every military age man with a target an enemy unless specific evidence proves otherwise - guilty until proven innocent, as it were.  That may be true, its unlikely someone just happened to be hanging out with a bunch of al`Qaeda guys in a truck on the way to a weapon buy, for instance.  But its not certainly true.  And its true that a conventional war would probably kill a lot more civilians, particularly when fighting cowardly, honorless scum who hide in homes and dress like civilians.
Perhaps this is the best way to deal with al`Qaeda hiding in Pakistan, perhaps this keeps the terrorists on the run and disrupts their activities.  But what does it do to the rest of the people living in an area?  They don't really understand what these things are for and who they are after.  All they know is these aircraft fly around their villages and in certain areas and sometimes blow up something.
Wartime casualties are the worst nightmare of Democrats, apparently, as they do everything they can to keep soldiers out of it. From bombing the former Yugoslav republics from air to drone strikes, Democrat presidents try to keep their hands clean by not putting anyone into the danger zone and potentially seeing casualties.  The problem is, you cannot really control an area and deal with a problem by remote control.  You have to have people on the ground doing the job; as the left kept yelling at the beginning of the invasion of Iraq, this isn't a video game.
And while drones are creating terror in our enemies (and innocent people on the ground) what are they ultimately accomplishing?  Is it enough to frighten and disrupt terrorists and murderous radicals?  I believe that the US will pull out of Afghanistan in the next presidential term and that will likely mean the end of the drone hits.  Then what?  Will the memory of the attacks, the destruction, the drones, and the American military's overwhelming power cling to these people?
Or will they only remember random explosions and terror, hating America, and how the US gave up and went away after a while because it got too hard to keep fighting?
Will President Obama's use of drones across the world (Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, etc) create a worldwide combat zone, a doctrine that everywhere is fair game to fire missiles into, as long as the president figures the target is valid?  After all, President Obama declared the war on terror over a few months ago, yet keeps hitting terrorists and suspects around the world.
One thing is sure: President Obama's rhetoric of 2008 certainly doesn't match his actions of 2012.

PICTURE OF THE DAY

Another photo by my brother Jonathan, on the trail in the Oregon Cascade Mountains, near the Jefferson and Three Sisters wilderness areas.

Quote of the Day

"We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission."
-Ayn Rand

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

SPARKY CARS

"Any type of new industry is going to encounter some successes and some failures."

One of the first bits I wrote for the Washington Examiner was about the electric car.  Back then the Volt and Leaf were just about to come out and the press was buzzing with the news, all excited.  Surely this would launch a new wave of electric cars, a change in the market!  That would be kind of cool from my perspective, since I like the idea of the electric car, if it could be done right.
As I pointed out at the time, however, it was a massive waste of money for most people.  The big selling point of the cars was "ooh, gas is expensive, you can fill your "tank" for pennies!"  The problem is, with the base price of the car so high, it would take far beyond the typical ownership of a car to become cost effective, and that's not even counting replacement batteries - every 5 years or so, according to estimates.
Still, if you have a lot of money and just need a second town car, an electric car isn't too awful a choice.  You have to have a lot of money to make a $30,000 sedan worth buying for limited use, but its an option at least.
President Obama had a plan to get one million electric cars on the road in America by 2015, and spent $2.4 billion in federal dollars to make it so.  Now, at the current rate of sales, CBS News projects that 300,000 may be on the road by 2016.  And that assumes no slowdowns.
Already Karma Fisker is cutting back its production as the sleek, beautiful sports car continues to have problems (most infamously running out of power on Top Gear after a few laps).  And there are serious monetary problems with these cars.
Like all new technology, electric cars are very expensive to produce.  Each Volt sold earns about $40,000 less than it took to develop and build, according to recent reports.  In other words, even at $40,000 a model, GM is taking a bath on the car.  The theory was, like with the Prius, to get the car out there at a loss to establish the market then make money later, but the Prius sold fairly well and the Volt isn't.  So far, just over 21,000 of the cars have sold, many to federal motor pools.  The Nissan Leaf has sold even fewer in the US: 14,000.
It isn't just that there's no real market for electric cars, its that they're a lousy deal unless you want to be the first kid on the block or use your wallet to subsidize new technology.  You get a $7500 tax write off for buying an electric car, but according to the Congressional Budget Office, that write off would have to be more like $12,000 to make it cost effective compared to an ordinary gas-powered car (and that assumes today's gas prices and does not include the $10-15,000 battery replacement cost).
And in terms of environmental benefit, overall it is extremely questionable.  CAFE standards require a certain minimum overall gas mileage for an auto maker's line.  You have to get x MPG on average for all your similar models (non trucks, for example) or you get fined by the federal government.  Yes, you will search the US Constitution in vain for that particular power, but lets set that aside for today.
By putting out an electric car, you produce a car with zero MPG which greatly reduces the average mileage of the entire product line.  Almost nobody is actually buying the sparky car, but it counts for the CAFE standards.  That means the mileage (and "emissions") of the standard cars doesn't have to change much, if at all, to satisfy the EPA.
And since electric cars require strange and potentially deadly metals and substances to create the sophisticated batteries, their environmental benefits are a bit offset.  You wreck an ordinary car and the Biohazard team is out there to clean up various chemicals and glass.  But if you wreck a Prius, you are dumping chemicals in the environment from those batteries rarely found on earth and never in that concentration.
So the environmental benefits are questionable, the cost is excessive, the demand is much lower than advocates hoped, and overall the entire experiment is one more scenario of ignorant well-meaning gone wrong from the left.
So its small wonder auto manufacturers like Toyota are moving away from the electric car.  The subsidies aren't making it worthwhile, and the sales aren't there like promised.  Maybe some day this 19th century technology (yes they had electric cars in the late 1800s) will take off, but for now, its just not ready yet.  I'm sorry Al Gore.  Its not evil petrochemical companies killing the electric car.  Its customers and the limits of technology.
There is no electric car "revolution." There never was one. All we saw was a government using taxpayer money to try to help one sector of the economy survive in the delusion that all it was lacking was sufficient tax dollars to prosper.

BUGS IN YOUR GUT

"There are no such things as applied sciences, only applications of science."
-Louis Pasteur

It wasn't all that terribly long ago that Louis Pasteur was put in an insane asylum, partly for claiming that the world swarms with tiny creatures that cause disease rather than imbalances in basic bodily "humors."  In time his policy of sterilization to prevent disease and the science of bacteria has become standard and the old school of surgeons who'd bleed people to save them has died out.
But there's another side to these little critters.  Bacteria were thought of only as a pathogen, a tiny danger that we had to fight against.  Scientists began to realize that they are beneficial as well, that some bacteria help us survive.
You read the articles every once in a while, trying to gross people out.  You're covered with microbes!  Tiny things swarm all over your body!  Eww!  But these itty creatures and plants are actually good for us, and shouldn't be wiped out.
The first I ever heard about this was in regard to milk, where people who lacked a certain bacteria in their gut would be unable to properly digest milk products.  Acidophilus was next, a bacteria naturally occurring in yogurt, which aids in digestion.  Its not just a matter of acid and cells in our intestine getting nutrition, we have little buddies inside us helping break down and digest food, too.
And now, scientists are finally studying more closely what those bacteria are, what they do, and most importantly how our life and diet affect them.  Jörg Blech writes in Spiegel about a project to collect bacteria samples from stone age indigenous peoples:
The search for microbes aims to shed light on the nature of mankind's original bacterial flora. These indigenous test subjects have had almost no contact with outside civilization... Microorganisms help digest food, supply the body with vitamins, train the immune system and ward off harmful pathogens. 
But how do these tiny benefactors fair when their host is exposed to a Western lifestyle? To answer this question, researchers not only took swabs from the traditional people living in the rainforest, but also from people in more highly developed locations in the Amazon basin, in larger settlements, in the Peruvian provincial capital Iquitos, and in Manaus, a Brazilian city with a population of nearly 2 million.
The work is still underway, comparing the two sample groups to see if there are any differences.  Similar efforts are underway elsewhere around the world as well.  I have a personal theory about this all, of course.Have you noticed that suddenly everyone seems allergic to everything?  That lactose intolerance is so common nobody is surprised any more?  That peanut allergies are so common schools are banning peanut butter sandwiches at lunch?  That foods have gluten warnings on the packages that you never even heard of 20 years ago?
Part of the reason for this is probably modern medicine: people who had these problems in the past would get sick and die quite young, probably without the parents even understanding why.  She was always a sickly child, and she finally passed on.  Now, these people survive, have babies, and pass on the genes instead.  So its more prevelant.
But I have another theory.  Almost all food we get today has preservatives in it, chemicals designed to reduce spoilage, slow rot, enhance storage time and kill bacteria.  Now, consider a moment, isn't it at least possible that constantly eating this stuff eventually will tend to harm the natural, helpful bacteria in our systems?  That eating food tainted with chemicals designed to kill bacteria might actually, you know, kill bacteria.
There are other factors as well.  Mr Blech continues:
When a newborn slides through the birth canal, it is automatically inoculated with lactobacilli from the mother's vagina -- precisely the bacteria that the infant requires to digest the mother's milk.
But during a C-section, this natural colonization can no longer take place. The baby is colonized at random, often by airborne bacteria from surfaces within the delivery room.
The microbiota of C-section children differ from their naturally born peers even a full seven years after birth. "The disappearance of microbes that play physiological roles early in life is particularly worrisome," says Blaser. "Perhaps they are missing in certain phases of the child's development."
What's more, a study of 1,255 mother-child pairs in Massachusetts indicated an increase in body weight. Of the children who were born in a natural manner, 7.5 percent were obese at the age of three -- compared to 16 percent of the C-section children.
Now, the obesity thing could simply be a lifestyle issue - are women who get a C-Section more likely to feed their kids poorly or expect less exercise?  But the bacterial thing is pretty important, and a problem for children.  This is another very likely source of dietary problems, given how popular C-Section births have been for a while now. 
And to complicate matters, scientists have found a coincidence at least between certain diseases and a lack of bacteria in the bodies of sufferers.
People affected by such microbial imbalances are often prone to allergic disorders, chronic inflammation of the small intestine, intestinal cancer, Type 2 diabetes and pathological obesity. Recent studies indicate that an impoverished flora could even be a contributing factor for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis and autism.
In other words, lacking these critters might be causing us to lose our ability to fight off some diseases or even lead to an increase in their prevalence in the population.  And our lifestyle and diet might be causing these critical bacteria to die out in our bodies.
In other words, we're probably better off eating natural foods, unpreserved.  We're better off living a more simple, natural life, as people have been saying for about a hundred years now.  Sure, food without preservatives don't last as long and there's an increased risk of food poisoning unless you're careful, but the long term effects may be much worse. 

REPLACEMENT POST

"The American people are tired of liars and people who pretend to be something they're not."
-Hillary Clinton

Big national elections are tough on me as a blogger.  There are topics I might write about, but there's so much saturation that people probably don't care to read it.  One more post on the presidential election seems redundant; what could I say that 900 other people haven't already?
I try to deliberately find non-political topics to write on during a heavy election cycle of this kind, especially this close to November, just to have something different out there.  Like me, I suspect most readers are pretty weary of the political junk by now, and want something else to think about.  But as I tend to get my content by looking around the internet at other blogs, news sites, and information sources, the main topic of the day is the presidential election in America.
Its not that nothing else is going on, its that I find it challenging to find other things going on.  I have a few oddball sources I check, but sometimes it can be tough.  I have little bit ideas like how I think The Replacements is the best football movie ever made, and how its nice to have a cat in the house again, but nothing adding up to a real post.
So content has been a little light for a while, and hopefully I can build up more to read again in the future.  For now I'll just post what I can, and wish everyone out there the best.
Incidentally, Mists of Pandaria is out, and its better than people anticipated.  The panda thing never bothered me, I mean you can play a cow already in the game, and there's an element of childish silliness in all fantasy (elves?  Magic?  are you serious?) so adding Kung Fu Pandas isn't really that outrageous.  The Pokemon-style pet battles are pretty fun, although they are kind of slow.  And the new lands are very, very pretty.
City of Heroes is struggling to stay open, but I confess without a future to work toward, my interest in the characters there has significantly waned.  I was working to get my main character built up to max level but its so slow and painful I just can't generate the interest to keep grinding.
I read another Harry Dresden novel, and it was pretty good but seemed... lacking, somehow.  The name is Ghost Story and it felt kind of like filler, like it was setting up something later rather than a full story in its self.  Sometimes I get the impression that Jim Butcher is making it up as he goes along rather than having a real plot laid out before he starts writing.  That can work well but sometimes it is sort of obvious.
And finally, I have reached the age where teenage girls look like cute kids to me instead of hotties.  Yeah, they can be hot, but my first reaction is "silly girl" rather than "potential date."  Took me long enough. Although in days long passed, the old, rich, powerful guys tended to get the young pretty girls because they represented safety and power while the younger guys were trying to make their way, so maybe it isn't so odd.

PICTURE OF THE DAY

reusme comparison

Quote of the Day

"We cannot ensure success, but we can deserve it."
-John Adams

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

THE UNGREENING

"People are evaluating them more and being more critical."

The global warming hysteria bubble popped in 2009.  That was the year the climaquiddick emails came out and people realized that it wasn't actually getting warmer, and hadn't been for about a decade.  Before that the momentum had built and built, with ideas previously considered absurd being seriously considered by government officials.
So corn ethanol subsidies were passed and cap & trade was debated in the US congress.  Al Gore won an oscar and a nobel peace prize.  Things were looking up for the green types.
And its all fallen apart.  The lies, deception, distortion, and deliberately fraudulent work done by climatologists combined with the hypocrisy and blatant snake oil con man behavior of global warming hysterics has worn out their welcome.
Although "green" advertising mostly annoys customers and has not been very successful in terms of sales, products that were considered environmentally friendly had been.  Lately?  Not so much.  Advertising Age put out this info graphic to help illustrate a recent study:
 
Why is this taking place now?  Well one obvious reason is the economy.  As I wrote about a few years back, people can coast a while on their previous wealth, using up resources and stored supplies in order to not change their lifestyle.  You can keep getting those Starbucks' coffees and your top end cell phone plan for a year or two after losing your job, but once your savings is eaten up and the stuff in your cupboards runs out, you have to start cutting back to afford basic necessities.
So after four years of depression, people cannot keep up spending like they did.  That means you buy ordinary carrots instead of organic, you drop the PGE plan to spend a bit more for electricity from "renewable" resources, and you stop buying energy efficient stuff because it costs more.
Another problem is that the bombardment of "we're all going to die" has tapered off as interest and belief in some climate doom has faded.  So people feel less guilt for not buying biodegradable plastic and energy efficient light bulbs.  Without that societal pressure and the shame for not doing it, consumers will tend not to.  Plus, the novelty of buying "green" has worn off, so you don't get the positive social reinforcement for bragging about it that once was possible.
Advertising Age has some additional analysis:
Much of the fault for the consumer pushback lies with marketers for over-hyping green products and making overly aggressive claims. "You have this kind of heightened distrust," said Diane Crispell, consulting director at GfK. "Consumers have become hypercritical. You see it with green and health claims."
It is hard not to feel as if you're being ripped off for paying extra money for the same product, with the promise that its "greener."  And certainly the idea of being green has been falsely used in the past.
British Petroleum, for example, made a major shift in the last decade to seem more "Green" with ads showing blooming flowers and the sun shining down to provide energy, even changing the BP logo to be like a green flower.  The company was no different, it just wanted to seem different; ultimately it was responsible for a horrendous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico a few years back which tarnished its image somewhat.
I'm all for people taking care of their environment, and its up to individual people how they spend their money in a free market but the whole "buy our product because we donate to Al Gore" movement seems to be on its death bed, and that's a good thing.  It was never about saving the environment, it was all about selling more products.
And efforts like power companies offering customers "green" energy for a higher fee were just ludicrious to begin with.  They didn't have a separate tap that reaches your house with green neon glowing energy that came only from windmills and solar panels.  Its all the same electricity on the same wires.  What you were doing was subsidizing them building these generators which are unable to provide sufficient power for the needs of modern civilization.  The energy is no "greener" from your outlet on the wall.  They don't have a tank of "renewable" energy they store separately, it all goes in the same batteries and along the same wires, like mixing gasoline and water into your gas tank.  It all ends up together and into your engine.
People should approach this whole "green" movement with a heavy level of skepticism.  Most of it is about manipulating society and politics, much of it is about getting rich off your gullibility and a cultural movement, and very little is actually about stated goals of 'saving the planet.'

JPOP IN AMERICA

So he balanced the ashtray as he picked up the phone
And said, send me a songwriter who's drifted far from home
And make sure that he's hungry, make sure he's alone
Send me a cheeseburger and a new rolling stone -Neil Young, Crime In The City
There is a phenomenon in Japan that is huge but hasn't taken off in America, and I can't figure out why not.  The USA has boy bands and studio-created bands and carefully packaged entertainment figures, but nothing like Japan has created.  This idea is in Korea as well, and does quite well.  Here's a sample:
That band is called AKB48, and it consists of 68 girls (I think it originally had 48, thus the name).  If you think that's a pretty huge group, you're right, but they have it down to a system.  The manager and creator Yasushi Akimoto set the band up as an ensemble, with more of a theater in effect than a girl group.  He's also created similar groups in Taiwan, Indonesia, and China.
The group is divided into three subgroups: Team A, presently with 22 members; Team K, with 23 members; and Team B, also with 23 members.  The girls are trained to sing together and dance, and even do little story videos, and they select who'll perform or record a song by either a vote of fans or by a rock/paper/scissors tournament between members.
The girls are all cute and wear a variety of traditional or odd costumes, usually very colorful and often skimpy, and they play up their beauty in ads and appearances.  The songs are bubblegum junk, but are very popular and catchy.  There are a lot of these groups, although not as big, and most are called J-Pop or K-Pop (for Korea or Japan) and they all consist of pretty girls in their mid teens to early twenties.
What I can't figure out is why nobody (Simon Cowell for instance) has come up with this for America or England.  Its not like the studios wouldn't love the concept - movies, advertising, music, videos, etc; kaching! - and if you tried to set up a group of singing and dancing girls, you'd get lines around the entire city of girls auditioning.  The only hard part would be keeping the girls under control, but the choreographing and costuming is no big deal, and the songs are easy enough to do - you could even do covers of J-Pop songs.
By the way, another phenomenon is dance instruction videos.  One such studio is from Korea, called Waveya, which does videos showing various dance moves.  Because they wear huge high heels they don't have a lot of footwork, but they have nice moves.  Here's one of them doing the bizarrely popular song "Gangnam Style"
It just seems like a missed opportunity for some producer or manager somewhere.  Really pretty girls singing goofy songs and dancing, how can it go wrong?

PICTURE OF THE DAY


This is a picture taken by my brother Jonathan, near Jorn Lake in the Oregon Cascades.  There was a fire in the area a few years back but things are coming back.

Quote of the Day

"It is not enough for the insecure left to deem a position wrong; if it's merely wrong, it needs to be argued about, and it can't survive that. It must instead be morally aborrent, so that the zealot reacts to the toxin of questioning much like a jogger coming across a decomposing body on the side of the road."
-Ace

Monday, September 24, 2012

THE AFGHANISTAN TRAGEDY

"So the news is upbeat, and there are no connections being made."

I've been one of very few voices left calling for the US to stay the course and finish the rebuilding in Afghanistan. The primary reason has nothing to do with the Afghani people, who I'm told are wonderful folks and at least some want freedom and to have the Taliban out of their nation, but it has to do with our soldiers.
I was quite young when the Vietnam war took place, but I've studied it very extensively and the fact is, we betrayed our soldiers there and left them to die for nothing because it became too uncomfortable and took too long and was too haarrrd to keep them in place fighting.
And they got into that situation after an initial series of stunning successes by rules of engagement that steadily handcuffed them into incompetence.  The US army never lost a battle in Vietnam.  Every single fight they utterly obliterated their enemies.  Even when outnumbered, the US won.  The Tet Offensive was a huge push that ended in horrendous slaughter, a massive setback for the North Vietnamese forces.
But troops were told they couldn't pursue enemies into certain areas because they were plantations for rich and powerful agricultural concerns.  They couldn't hold any areas they took, because that would make the US an occupying force, so they left and hoped the ARVN forces would take over, which they rarely even attempted and never succeeded at.
In Time, it was a massive failure, not because of military might and will, but because of political backstabbing and leftist treason against the United States for communist allies in Southeast Asia.  Knowing they could never, ever beat the US military, the North Vietnamese instead worked in the US with newspapers, college campuses, and activists.  After a while the rot destroyed the ability to fight, the will of the people to continue, and the political power to sustain the battle.
And our boys came home in defeat, unsure why they even went over there, spat on and showered with hatred by the public, and treated as borderline psychopathic pariahs for a decade.  It was a contemptible, ghastly time that fills me with frustration and anger every time I think about it.
And the same thing is happening with Afghanistan.  The "good war" that the left pretended to support, Afghanistan was about destroying the forces that harbored and assisted the terrorists that struck on 9/11.  It was about obliterating the Taliban, a horrific government of radical Muslims considered uniformly evil until 2003.  Then the left started to back away, became quiet about the horrors the Taliban had committed, the oppression of women, minorities, and homosexuals, and started to use Afghanistan as a lever against President Bush.  They weren't so much for the fight in Afghanistan as against Iraq, and they'd use Afghanistan as the weapon: you're taking focus away from the good war, we should be focused on Afghanistan!
At that time, of course, things were going pretty well in Afghanistan.  Schools and hospitals were being opened, businesses were thriving, Western journalists visited the country and marveled at the turnaround.  And it all fell apart, mostly because the treacherous left in the west emboldened and reinvigorated a demoralized, terrified radical Muslim world.  I've written about this in the past, so I won't get into it in detail again, but the same thing happened as did in Vietnam: the left in America and elsewhere undercut the military and more soldiers and Afghanis started to suffer and die as a result.
So I argued we had to stay and finish the job, or our soldiers will be coming home in defeat, confusion, and pain, having left behind friends and family -- for what?  Over a decade of misery and failure, ending in us tucking tail and running away, abandoning people we promised we'd help, surrendering to an enemy that knows all they have to do is hold out until the American people give up.  As I wrote last year:
With the right support, tools, and time, Afghanistan can be rebuilt and sustained the same way Iraq has been. There will be troubles there - its inevitable in that part of the world - but the battle can be won to stop the terrorists, if we let them do their job and give them what they need.

All the same arguments used for staying in Iraq until its done apply in Afghanistan, and abandoning it now simply proves America doesn't have the stomach to finish a job if it gets too tough. And that's just too demonstrative of the modern American who'd have given up ten miles into the Oregon Trail.
The problem is... its too late now.  We gave it our best shot, but with 4 years of Obama in office, who never wanted to continue the fight to begin with and undermined it continually, its all fallen apart.  Yes, with the right tactics and enough troops, Afghanistan could have been saved.  Yes, without the treason of the left to inspire and give heart to our enemies, we could have done it.
But we didn't get that.  We got rules of engagement that made matters steadily worse, and we got soldiers in fire camps to go out in patrols which has proven time and time again to be utterly worthless against an insurgency style of opponent.  Its gotten so bad that formerly trustworthy and powerful allies in Afghanistan have been so infiltrated with the enemy that they kill their allied American troops while out on patrol.
The "Afghani Surge" which was a fraction of the absolute minimum of what the generals knew they needed to do the job, is over, its been pulled out.  And its been an utter, predictable failure, and as Walter Russel Mead points out, the failure has been hidden away from the American people:
We should all be very glad that we have a Democratic president right now; otherwise the news would be terrible. We would be seeing a rash of horrible and depressing stories in the newspapers about strategic failure, with unremitting second guessing and belittling of a  president who agonized for months before the surge and then saw his plan fail. We’d be hearing non-stop reports in the media about the incompetent and klutzy leader who torpedoed his own policy by announcing a withdrawal date; the man who tried to please everybody and do everything—and failed at all he tried.

The press would be jumping on this narrative. There would be continuous coverage of the disarray in Afghanistan: the soldier’s we’re training are shooting us, the corruption is intensifying, and the opium trade spreading. There would be story after story about how Afghanistan seems little changed after the surge, and how peace is still not at hand. These stories wouldn’t be on the back pages; they’d be perceived as major news with profound implications for America’s global position and the Sunday shows and nightly TV news round ups would be full of talking heads endlessly analyzing each wrinkle of the failure.

There would be bitter, wounding comparisons between the president and LBJ in Vietnam. If we had a conservative Republican president right now, we’d be hearing him compared to the noble Duke of York, who marched 10,000 men to the top of the hill only to march them down again.

And we’d be hearing all kinds of damning stories about the failure of the U.S. government to deal with the chaos in Pakistan.

We’d also be reading stories linking the apparent U.S. failure in Afghanistan to the empowerment of anti-American movements throughout the Middle East. The recent riots would be used as a stick to beat the president with—his weakness, indecision and strategic inconsequentialism in Afghanistan would be endangering our interests all over the region. Instead of concentrating on the real terror threat, the press would tell us, this hypothetical clueless Republican president wasted time, treasure and attention on a failed strategy in Afghanistan. The press would try to hang the corpse of the U.S. ambassador in Libya around the neck of a Republican president, if we had one right now.
So, lesson learned, world.  That's how you want it, that's how you get it.  From now on, American shouldn't try to rebuild anything.  If you make the American people so enraged they start a war, you rebuild yourself from the rubble.  Next time, we come in force, obliterate the enemy forces, bomb the area until the rubble bounces, then say "we'll be back, and next time we'll be really mad." We have nukes, we just don't like to use them, but if you keep poking the dragon eventually you're going to make it mad enough to breathe fire.
You can rebuild yourselves.  You can create your own government out of the chaos.  Its not our problem.  We dealt with you and you brought it on your own heads.  If you don't like that don't start anything.
God forgive us for what we've done to our soldiers.  God forgive us for lying about supporting the troops and being behind them.  God forgive America for betraying another generation of men fighting for our liberty and to protect us from the evil that lurks at the edges of every civilization.
Great job, leftists. You win. I'm sure you feel proud.
And for the troops, you have my undying gratitude, honor, and thanks. What you did wasn't meaningless, because you showed our enemies we'll destroy them for hurting America. You showed them how fierce and deadly America can be even with your arms tied behind your back. You showed the dedication and resolve I sometimes fear is gone in the modern west, and when you come home you'll be leaders and the hope of our future with personal character forged in the crucible of combat.

RIOTOUS

"it turned out that America’s cities didn’t need rescuing. They just needed mayors who were not actively making things worse."

Maybe I'm just cynical but whatever the outcome of the presidential election in November, I expect there to be riots.  However the vote turns out, I predict that there will be smoke over cities in America.  Either Romney wins and there will be riots over how racist white people threw a black man out of office( and probably cheated to do it), or Obama wins and there will be 'celebratory' riots like when a sports team wins.
The problem with these riots is that they never really accomplish anything except destroying people's homes.  Nobody leaves their neighborhood to riot except Black Block idiots, and that's more organized vandalism than a riot.  People don't say "I am not taking any more!!" then go down to the capitol or a rich part of town.  They walk outside and start breaking things in their neighborhood.
Consider the story of Jessica Elvers who was shot in the 1992 Los Angeles riots.  She was still a baby in her mother's womb then (get this - abortion supporting "its just a fetus" MSNBC's headline for this tales is "Unborn baby shot in Los Angeles riots: 'I'm still here'" -- its a baby when the discussion isn't about abortion) and her mother Elvira was shot in her pregnant stomach by a stray bullet.  Elvria is 20 now and doing fine, with a scar on her elbow.
But the riots have left a scar on the city, too.  South Central LA has changed a lot since 1992, with the area more Latino and less impoverished, but there's still a swath of the area that has virtually no businesses except for fast food joints where once there were merchants of all sorts.  That area is like a burn scar on a mountainside, where new plants are growing but the former  big trees are just skeletons on the ground.
And the good that has taken place is no thanks to the riots or the people who tried to help.  Tim Cavanaugh at Reason writes:
Few regions in California, possibly few regions in the whole country, have received more "help" from apparatchiks, community organizers, holy rollers, union goons, neighborhood activists, public-trough developers, political appointees, and city planners than has South L.A. Virtually none of this attention has done the area any good, because the tensions of 1992 were never about economics. They were about crime and police behavior, two areas in which the City of Angels really has gotten better.
Various community activists, race hucksters, leftist groups, even President Bush the Elder got involved to pump money and their ideas into the city.  They didn't help at all.  What made the difference was a change in attitude in the police, a shift away from giveaways and leftist "social justice" schemes, and a focus on letting business build its self.  The bailouts and special development funds have been phased out as useless, and the police has shifted away from terrorizing locals to solving local crimes.
The failure of community activism is on vivid display throughout South L.A., where neighborhoods thrive in almost exactly inverse proportion to the attention they get from activists. Thanks to Gov. Jerry Brown’s wise decision to abolish California’s redevelopment agencies, South L.A. has lost what was probably its biggest destroyer of value: the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles, whose history of crushing productive businesses, creating urban prairie, and dragging out decades-long development processes only to have them end in failure I have been documenting for many years. When the CRA/LA went down, its death was cheered by locals. Even the unimpressive Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa declined to rescue the corrupt agency.
But the riots are always waiting to happen again anyway.  Because what drives people to riot isn't based on reason or logic, but emotion and manipulation.  People are pushed to it by racial cries or religious complaints from some prominent leaders who get media attention, and act out their frustrations and fears in an orgy of destruction on their own homes and businesses.
Deliberately misleading pollsters, continual slanderous cries of racism, and the inevitable complaints of racial intimidation, disenfranchisement and cheating will push people over the edge, I fear, with an Obama loss.  And again, the cities will burn, not because of injustice but because it was politically expedient and made the right people the right sort of attention and money to push people to the brink.
And the riots do not, cannot, fix anything.  All they do is deeply harm a community, kill people, and destroy business.  What changes communities is hard work, a shift away from hedonism and selfish focus, and a desire to accomplish more than what is comfortable or makes me happy right now.
Which in a twisted, slight way is a reflection of the 2012 presidential election.  While Romney doesn't exactly represent the conservative ideals of small government, personal responsibility, and local focus, Obama represents the opposite: communal control, big government, reliance on government, and entitlement.  Which will America choose?

For a particularly vivid personal account of the riots, check out this story by Chuk Devore who was in the national guard at the time.