Monday, December 29, 2014

The Accumulation of Public Debt

For a bit of drive-by blogging, this is an interesting illustration of the federal spending hemorrhage:

And true to the perverse notion of finally taking some (any!) sort of responsibility for this fiscal Frankenstein's monster, the 112th Congress, when Harry Reid's Senate refused to even come up with a budget and all of Congress voted almost unanimously to reject Obama's budget proposals, came up with the Sequester in the Budget Control Act of 2011, touted as an even split of drastic cuts with half coming from domestic spending and the other half from defense. 

That might make sense if you ignore (as does the press) the fact that defense constitutes only 18 percent of the federal budget.  Thus we are placing the proportional lion's share on the backs of our military, at a time when the jihadi threat continues to escalate.

Obama, though, has taken a few moments yesterday from his golf game in Hawaii to declare that the Afghan War is over.  So shall it be written; so shall it be done.  We needn't bother with wars henceforth according to his light, though he and his journalist lotus eaters forget that fundamental idea that it doesn't take two sides to fight a war - only one, and no one has thought to include the opinion of the Taliban.

But the accumulation of this massive overall debt continues, and the press parrots the administration when they spread the good news that the pace has slowed somewhat, but always compared to the beginning of Obama as president.  One should always wonder why the historical analysts start at a certain point in time, as opposed to any other, and take note that Obama is on track before the end of his reign to add more debt to this nation than all other presidents combined.

We must hope that the incoming 114th Congress, now with the Republicans in charge, will do better.

And we should always heed the words of 17th-century English historian and pastor Thomas Fuller: "Debt is the worst poverty."

Thursday, December 25, 2014

WSJ: In Hoc Anno Domini

The Wall Street Journal has restricted its pages almost exclusively to subscription only, in an attempt to maximize its income no doubt, but this leaves the vast lot of us closed to its insightful articles.

Every year at Christmastime, though, it re-publishes the great editorial of Vermont Royster of 1949, which I copy here as a public service to spread his message, irrespective of its original source, which I trust is now safely in the public domain.  One simply doesn't see such elegant prose in the newspapers of today.

His words, like those he quotes, still have particular sway over current events.

The Conversion of St Paul on the Road to Damascus, 1865
When Saul of Tarsus set out on his journey to Damascus the whole of the known world lay in bondage. There was one state, and it was Rome. There was one master for it all, and he was Tiberius Caesar.
Everywhere there was civil order, for the arm of the Roman law was long. Everywhere there was stability, in government and in society, for the centurions saw that it was so.
But everywhere there was something else, too. There was oppression—for those who were not the friends of Tiberius Caesar. There was the tax gatherer to take the grain from the fields and the flax from the spindle to feed the legions or to fill the hungry treasury from which divine Caesar gave largess to the people. There was the impressor to find recruits for the circuses. There were executioners to quiet those whom the Emperor proscribed. What was a man for but to serve Caesar?
There was the persecution of men who dared think differently, who heard strange voices or read strange manuscripts. There was enslavement of men whose tribes came not from Rome, disdain for those who did not have the familiar visage. And most of all, there was everywhere a contempt for human life. What, to the strong, was one man more or less in a crowded world?
Then, of a sudden, there was a light in the world, and a man from Galilee saying, Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.
And the voice from Galilee, which would defy Caesar, offered a new Kingdom in which each man could walk upright and bow to none but his God. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. And he sent this gospel of the Kingdom of Man into the uttermost ends of the earth.
So the light came into the world and the men who lived in darkness were afraid, and they tried to lower a curtain so that man would still believe salvation lay with the leaders.
But it came to pass for a while in divers places that the truth did set man free, although the men of darkness were offended and they tried to put out the light. The voice said, Haste ye. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come upon you, for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.
Along the road to Damascus the light shone brightly. But afterward Paul of Tarsus, too, was sore afraid. He feared that other Caesars, other prophets, might one day persuade men that man was nothing save a servant unto them, that men might yield up their birthright from God for pottage and walk no more in freedom.
Then might it come to pass that darkness would settle again over the lands and there would be a burning of books and men would think only of what they should eat and what they should wear, and would give heed only to new Caesars and to false prophets. Then might it come to pass that men would not look upward to see even a winter’s star in the East, and once more, there would be no light at all in the darkness.
And so Paul, the apostle of the Son of Man, spoke to his brethren, the Galatians, the words he would have us remember afterward in each of the years of his Lord:
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Christmas: Es ist ein Ros entsprungen

There is a division among Christians, notably within the United States (where one would expect a division to be, what with its distinct Christian history and development) on the manner of religious music.  I belong to the old school, with the emphasis on liturgical music that reflects a scriptural basis.  By way of explanation, I submit a fine example for this Christmas season.

Dresden Kreuzkirche, the Church of the Holy Cross in Dresden

The following piece is of the old German hymn Es ist ein Ros entsprungen, sung by the Dresdner Kreuzchor, one of the oldest boys' choirs in the world, established in the 13th century and associated with the construction of a basilica that eventually became the Kreuzkirche.  [The development of the church structure was ironically aided by a series of fires that struck the site over the ensuing centuries, as well as its partial destruction by an artillery barrage during the Seven Years War (contemporaneous with the American French and Indian War), and most significantly by the devastating bombing campaign of the USAAF and RAF during World War II, which effectively destroyed practically the entire city by the beginning of 1945.  The church was rebuilt around the only remaining portion of the structure - the wall surrounding its entrance - in the 1950s, and suffered still by the fact that the project was undertaken during the Soviet-controlled German Democratic Republic.]

It is a fitting place, then, for a hymn dedicated to the idea that the birth of Christ is likened to the flowering of a tender rose, in a place so battered and besieged, physically and spiritually, yet which still can bring forth such ethereal harmony to praise the Christ arisen.

The hymn can be traced back at least to the late 16th century, and the harmony was set by the German composer Michael Praetorius in 1609.  The lyrics were translated by Theodore Baker in 1894 into Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming, and the music was also used for the hymn A Great and Mighty Wonder.

Es ist ein Ros entsprungen,
aus einer Wurzel zart,
wie uns die Alten sungen,
von Jesse war die Art
Und hat ein Blümlein bracht
mitten im kalten Winter,
wohl zu der halben Nacht.
Das Röslein, das ich meine,
davon Jesaia sagt,
ist Maria die reine
die uns das Blümlein bracht.
Aus Gottes ew'gem Rat
hat sie ein Kind geboren
Welches uns selig macht.

Lo, how a rose e'er blooming,
From tender stem hath sprung.
Of Jesse's lineage coming,
As men of old have sung;
It came, a flow'ret bright,
Amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.
Isaiah 'twas foretold it,
The Rose I have in mind,
With Mary we behold it,
The virgin mother kind;
To show God's love aright,
She bore to men a Savior,
Who makes us blessed.

Though hardly an authority, I nevertheless consider music of this sort, classic in the true sense of the term, to be the well-spring of liturgical music, not to be confused with other music heard in present churches, or the radio.  American Gospel, both black and white (separate but equal, as it were) is a musical category unto itself, and many can enjoy it without ever considering its message.  Don't get me wrong, I am among its fans, though my consideration of its lyrics as religious or nostalgically entertaining depends on my mood.

There are many in what can be categorized as the charismatic movement and its ripples that have diverged into a New Age mesmerizing chant, which can be summarized with the example of "You are the light of the world" (repeat 27 times, affettuoso accentato).

For those who receive spiritual nourishment from such music, all the better, but I do not believe that it rises to the intent of such hymnodists as, say, Charles Wesley or Martin Luther.  This is clearly an unresolvable discussion, but the appeal of this German hymn is ever enchanting.

Friday, December 12, 2014

An Example of the Success of Capitalism

Everything in this photo has been reduced to a device that can fit into your pocket, and it is capitalism that has enabled it:

It's a good start and puts its point across, but it still lacks a few items.  The telephone receiver affixed to his right shoulder suffers because the color blends in – the original black would be better – but it is the fundamental basis for our smart phones (hence the inadequate name for a device that does so much more). 

A stack of maps should be prominent.  The mapping, location and direction function of the GPS program is worth the price of the device alone.

The Library of Congress would be difficult to portray in so small a space, or a symbolic instrument which would include all current newspapers, magazines, journals and the like.

Likewise, a weather station would have the same problem of presentation.

Easier fixes would include a calendar, an address book, a photo album, a flashlight, a Canon or Nikon camera, a gaming console, an alarm clock, a stopwatch, a timer, and a Dictaphone.

A government, and certainly its communist or socialist form, has not provided such a system that is embodied in a smart phone, nor has it provided all the precursors that are pictured.

The current regime here, however, is attempting to shortstop the process by handing out Obama phones.

(H/T to Gerard van der Leun)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Foundation of Religious Freedom to a Free Society

An insightful message, from the perspective of one able to look at our culture from outside and thus unhindered by the white noise of our pop culture, from a Chinese Marxist scholar as told to Clayton Christensen, the Kim B Clark Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School:

Christensen is a pre-eminent intellect on the subject of innovation.  Besides his soothing brilliance, he looks to me to be a 6'8" version of a brother of Ronald Reagan.
"That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun."   --Ecclesiastes 1:9

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

An Addition to Bubba Gump's List of the Universality of Shrimp Preparation

Don't worry about the translation - the Japanese just adds to the charm.

Instructions were thoughtfully included:
Today's theme is fried shrimp to cook in 3 seconds.  Heck, how Will finish in 3 seconds to.  Please pay attention to wonders of the cooking speed.  Order to represent the characteristics of the full-LTE called "two bands LTE only", developed/manufactured all cooking apparatus such as shrimp pop out two lanes for the current imaging was.... and speed shrimp pops out, wheat flour, the timing of egg, bread crumbs, flame, each out wipe is all a careful calculation, has been programmed by verification.  Also, cooking the landscape without using the CG, gave a shot in live action.  Come in this video, please experience the speed of full LTE!  After the end of the ingredients that were used photography, staff gave delicious.
That should clarify matters.

Beyond a mere hat tip, this was shamelessly ripped off from Gerard van der Leun in his recurring "Japanese: nuked too much or not enough?" series in his American Digest.

Don't try this at home ... but you know you want to.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

"Darmstadt, the Philae has landed"; and Thoughts on Matters Cosmic and Petty (Update: More Photos)

On schedule, the Rosetta spacecraft of the European Space Agency arrived on station at the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (as I reported earlier) and launched the lander Philae, the first attempt at a soft landing on a comet.  Philae, about the size of a washing machine on a low tripod, was successful – mostly – in accomplishing its first and foremost mission of landing intact and functional.

The plan to deploy harpoons on the legs of the tripod apparently didn't work, but thrusters to help it bear down in the diaphanous gravity allowed it to come to a sliding stop, though up against a cliff face.  Initial signals from the lander came through but quickly attenuated to the point that Philae has gone into hibernation due to its solar panels not receiving an adequate amount of sunlight, blocked due to Philae's final position. 

First photo from the surface, showing the wall against which Philae stopped and one of its feet

It is expected that as 67P/C-G comes closer to the sun, the change in attitude of the comet and the increase in solar radiation will revive the lander. 
Sequence of Philae's descent, bounce, and final resting place, taken from Rosetta
Great excitement is being generated by the press in general with the news that the Rosetta and Philae system has detected "organic molecules" on the comet, which could add to the data that supports the theory that the building blocks of life on Earth could have come from comets crashing into the planet eons ago. 

A sub-text to this news is the argument that has been enjoined for a few centuries, since at least the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment if not earlier, of the question of whether life was created by God – or at least an Intelligent Design as it is now referred to in circles where such a discussion is allowed – or whether it arose as a result of a fortuitous comingling of elements that somehow led to living creatures, a phenomenon that can be reproduced elsewhere in the universe under ideal conditions, given enough time. 

I won't begin to engage in the debate here, but a strong undercurrent of the debate is a thrust to demonstrate that life could have been created by explainable scientific principles without having to rely on a belief in God.

An entire hypothesis has been formulated primarily through the efforts of British astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle (d 2001), a dedicated atheist who relented on his insistence that life had developed through natural means on Earth once it was demonstrated to him that such an event, given the time it would have taken, would have been (literally) astronomically impossible.  His concession of the point was to a fallback position that the elements of life were introduced to Earth through outside means, primarily through comets.  (This hypothesis would seem to spring from his earlier theory of nucleosynthesis, now widely accepted, that elements heavier than helium have been formed in the progressive life cycle of stars.)  The idea of 'panspermia' has gained some acceptance within the scientific community (including Stephen Hawking), yet whether or not it eventually has any realistic validity, it doesn't address the metaphysical question of the origin of life: if God did not create life spontaneously on Earth, then where did the life components of the comets (or wherever) come from, and did the metaphorical hand of God direct them to this very finely tuned cosmic petri dish that would allow life to flourish, certainly beyond the basic viral or bacteriological level of regenerated extremophiles?

But as to those organic molecules, lest the reading public become too enthusiastic with the news, one must remember that the term basically means that some form of carbon has been detected.  That could include such common compounds as methane and methanol, hardly conducive to life as we know it.  By that 'grubered' light, one could say that Jupiter could be teeming with life.

Yet I am also perplexed by the determination by some, particularly within the religious community, that we must somehow be alone in the universe, that God has somehow reserved the Earth exclusively within the impossibly imponderable vastness of the heavens to be the home of His children.  There is nothing in the Bible whatsoever that would indicate that God has not created other Gardens of Eden as distinct geneses.

And from the sublime to the ridiculous, a view of the other competitive news surrounding this seminal event perpetuates the lowly state of public attention to matters that should have real meaning.  One of the major news events at the time of the landing was the breathless and repetitive commentary on the bare derrière of the notable media prostitute Kim Kardashian, in a photo that had all the appearance of being a collaboration between Larry Flynt and Theodore Seuss.  (No, I won't post it here too.  Don't tell me you haven't already seen it – somewhere, everywhere.)

But a related story with an actual tie to the Philae landing involves the aftermath of an on-air interview with one of the key leaders of the effort, British physicist Matt Taylor.  It wasn't the interview itself that garnered the story, considering what should have been a spellbinding event, but rather the outcry about the (shall we say) eccentric Hawaiian-style shirt he wore, which included within the design a selection of cartoon pin-up girls sporting firearms, a gift from a female friend.  By all accounts, Dr Taylor is as brilliant as he is eccentrically insouciant, but the immediate backlash from the PC crowd, always on the lookout for an opportunity to be offended, reduced him to a tearful apology.  (Land on a comet?  Who cares; what about his shirt?!)

If only he had worn a burqa, these feminist harridans would have kept silent.

It's good to see that we have our priorities in order.

And speaking of order, a delightful twist is that the shirt in question almost immediately sold out.  Maybe the site will be able to fire up production on another series, but it will take at least eight weeks to catch up with the overwhelming number of orders.

It would be a good shirt for concealed carry too.

Update: Now we have a color photo of the comet:

... as well as a sense of scale, a representation of the comet resting on Los Angeles:
In contrast, 67P/C-G's long-axis diameter of 2.5 miles can be used to help visualize the Chicxulub meteor that impacted near present-day Yucutan, which caused the extinction-level event that wiped out the dinosaurs at the abrupt end of the Cretaceous period some 66 million years ago.  That meteor was estimated to have a diameter of at least 6 miles.

Considering some of the cultural detritus that LA represents, the above photo can be an almost appealing fantasy.

Ronald Reagan on Thanksgiving

"As we celebrate Thanksgiving ... we should ask what we can do as individuals to demonstrate our gratitude to God for all He has done.  Such reflection can only add to the significance of this precious day of remembrance.  Let us recommit ourselves to that devotion to God and family that has played such an important role in making this a great Nation, and which will be needed as a source of strength if we are to remain a great people." --Ronald Reagan, 1981

Thursday, November 20, 2014

CNN Blows Reporting of Synagogue Attack

In a stunning case of ‘burying the lede’, CNN single-handedly makes the case for media bias with its initial reportage of a deadly attack in Jerusalem, as reported by C W Swanson:

To fill in some gaps in the story – chasms, actually – the reason that the police shot dead the two Palestinians is that the Arabs were already engaged in an attack on a synagogue (not a mosque), with “hand guns, axes, and meat cleavers”, which resulted in five dead (including a Briton and three Americans), and eight wounded.

A snippet of the scene at the site of the attack

Is it possible to get this story more wrong, in an area that is already highly inflammatory?  One would think that CNN would want to be especially careful, considering its history with former Chief News Executive Eason Jordan, who admitted to being a shill for Saddam Hussein and who then accused US troops of deliberately targeting journalists.

This is after an AP story earlier which concerned a Palestinian who drove his car into a crowd near a train station, wounding 17 and killing a five-year-old girl.  The headline was "Israeli police shoot a man in East Jerusalem".

[Dick Stanley of Texas Scribbler reports that CNN has now apologized for the headline, saying that their "coverage did not immediately reflect the fact that the two Palestinians killed were the attackers."  CNN at least made the effort to correct that portion of the story.]

The story failed to note the standard Palestinian celebration of dancing in the streets and passing out candy and pastries.  President Obama rightly condemned the "horrific" attack but predictably called on "both Palestinians and Israelis to try to work together to lower tensions and reject violence."  There is precious little chance of that happening, certainly in the case of the jubilant Palestinians.
Palestinians celebrate the two dead attackers pictured in the background

John Kerry for his part provided some more realistic comments:
To have this kind of act, which is a pure result of incitement, of calls for "days of rage," of irresponsibility is unacceptable. 

The Palestinian leadership must condemn this and they must begin to take serious steps to restrain any kind of incitement that comes from their language, from other people's language, and exhibit the kind of leadership that is necessary to put this region on a different path.
Now if only that same sentiment could be conveyed by the administration to the waiting 'activists' in Ferguson, Missouri.

Monday, November 10, 2014

United States Marine Corps, 239 years

Happy Birthday, Marines, and Semper Fidelis.

The preferred uniform of the day

Established by an act of the Second Continental Congress on 10 November 1775 (seventeen days before the US Navy), we trace our spiritual beginning to the first recruitment at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia.
Go ye and commemorate this day likewise.

1 November 1921

From:  Major General John A. Lejeune, USMC,
  Commandant of the Marine Corps

Title:  Marine Corps Birthday Message

Category:    Marine Corps Order No. 47 (Series 1921)

The following will be read to the command on the 10th of November, 1921, and hereafter on the 10th of November of every year.  Should the order not be received by the 10th of November, 1921, it will be read upon receipt.

(1) On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of Continental Congress.  Since that date many thousand men have borne the name "Marine".  In memory of them it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the birthday of our corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.

(2) The record of our corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world's history.  During 90 of the 146 years of its existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation's foes.  From the Battle of Trenton to the Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war, and is the long eras of tranquility at home, generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres and in every corner of the seven seas, that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

(3) In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term "Marine" has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

(4) This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the corps.  With it we have also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age.  So long as that spirit continues to flourish Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as "Soldiers of the Sea" since the founding of the Corps.

John A. Lejeune,
Major General Commandant

Friday, November 7, 2014

Thoughts on the 2014 Election Results

The dust has settled sufficiently and I have a few moments to jot down some thoughts on the aftermath of the drubbing that the Democrats suffered in the mid-term elections.

First of all, a self-critique in that my predictions, written in haste due to time and computer constraints.  I too was off by a matter of some degrees, though like the others mine didn't suffer as much as the national posse of pundits in the 2012 vote with the shocking re-election of Obama.  It will take some time to determine whether this year's overall victory was primarily the result of good Republican get-out-the-vote effort or whether it was a conservative uprising which drew along the votes of the independents who hoped for change.

As for pollsters, the Real Clear Politics combination of the most popular polls only accentuated the error of the predictions of close-run races and the Democrats holding on to prevail.  This modern fad of meta-analysis – taking a number of studies or polls and combining them to arrive at a greater number of data points (n), which then supposedly arrives at a more accurate guess – is again born out to be a more massive version of "garbage in, garbage out".  This collection of polls is heavily influenced by the appeal of "sexing up" the conclusions (in what seems to be a new British term of art as it relates to political science) or cheerleading for the guy who brought you to the dance.  (Academics suffer this same discrepancy in areas where there are abundant numbers of studies in whatever happens to be stylish or PC at the moment.  The Global Warmists are an incandescent example of this fallacy.)

In case anyone cares to notice (and I haven't seen much evidence of it at the moment) Nate Silver, the wunderkind of the 538 poll that nailed the 2012 presidential result for Obama, was one of those out in the wilderness this year.  Rasmussen, on the other hand, did much to restore its tarnished reputation, and thus over the long haul remains the victor in a group that has no real champions.

Polling continues to degrade as a predictive tool.  It still primarily relies on telephone calls to accumulate its data, and those from home telephones.  This is becoming increasingly inaccurate as a random data base due to the fact that the people at home who actually answer the phone (how many of us still have a home phone number that is used exclusively as a means to obtain internet access?) are not a representative sample of the voting public, such as stay-at-home moms and the unemployed or self-employed.  It also relies on people who are politically aware and involved to the extent that they would want to spend the time answering the droning questions of the pollsters.

Some have delved into the area of social media, tracking the number of times that a subject (like a candidate or party) is mentioned, but the ability to discern the positives from the negatives doesn't exist, nor does it take into account the seemingly endless supply of trolls who apparently live to track these subjects online and make never-ending snipes.  These people truly lack the ability to understand the command "Get a life."  We have also seen how some have taken advantage of the technology to create large waves of supporters out of thin air.

Another admonition of poll taking weighs against the man in the street interview (i.e., people who are motivated to talk to you as opposed to the far greater number who refuse), but again, few commentators seem to notice that exit polls are exactly that.  Exit polls are further attenuated by not taking into account the number of absentee voters or mail-in ballots.

Finally, no poll can take into account the actual turn-out.  People may say early on that they will definitely vote, or will declare that they aren't particularly interested, or fall into the 'pox on both your houses' category, but nothing can take into account who actually shows up at the polls or mails in their ballot.

So this election showed up these discrepancies in spades.

Supposedly safe elections for the Democrats turned into squeakers, like the down the wire loss of Scott Brown in New Hampshire and the shocking near-upset of John Warner in Virginia by Ed Gillespie, who just minutes ago conceded the election, less than 17,000 votes shy of victory among over 2.1 million cast.  Both Governor Brownback and Senator Roberts in Kansas were due for a drubbing but both Republicans won handily.  Democrat Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado was buoyed enough by the time-honored tradition of last-minute votes flooding in from urban bastions of Denver and Boulder to overcome his challenger (NB: Hickenlooper relied exclusively on positive campaigning), but Senator Mark Udall was soundly defeated by Republican Cody Gardner.

David Perdue blasted past Michelle Nunn in Georgia in what was supposed to be a tight race, to retain the seat for the Republicans, and to such an extent that it eliminated the need for a state law-imposed run-off. 

The only US Senate seats left to decide is Louisiana, where another required run-off pits beleaguered Democrat dynast Mary Landrieu against the combined conservative vote for her Republican challenger Bill Cassidy on 6 December, and the electoral black hole of Alaska where incumbent Democrat Mark Begich is trailing Dan Sullivan by some 3.6 points.  Votes trickling in by snowmobile and dogsled aren't expected to be finally tallied until 11 November.  As for Louisiana, news has trickled out that the DSCC is pulling funding for Landrieu's run-off campaign.  It appears likely that the Republicans will ultimately gain nine Senate seats when it's all over.

Republicans were elected governor in such deep indigo states as Illinois, Massachusetts and Maryland with vote totals beyond the margin of error and, more importantly, beyond the margin of fraud.  Scott Walker was elected or re-elected governor of Wisconsin for the third time in four years, draining huge resources from government bureaucrat unions such as SEIU in their literally desperate attempts to unseat him.

As for the House of Representatives, time and space constrain me from listing detailed results, but the Republicans at the moment have picked up twelve seats for a current total of 245 versus 181 for the Democrats, with 9 races still undecided.

More importantly for the future, though, is looking at the more local campaigns for the states.  Republicans now have 31 governorships against the Democrats' 19, and of the 98 state legislative bodies, Republicans now control 69 of them, or 70%.  (Nebraska doesn't count in the tally since it has a unique unicameral legislature that is officially non-partisan, but conservatives dominate in that body.)  For those states where one party controls both the governorship and both state legislative bodies, Republicans have 24 against the Democrats with six.

The press is not acting favorably to Obama's press conference, where he refused to pony up to the fact that the Democrats have taken another "shellacking", as he phrased the previous mid-terms in 2010.  The best he could do was to admit that "the Republicans had a good night", but his voice rose perceptibly in speaking of how he heard the "two-thirds of voters who chose not to participate in the process yesterday."  How the Great One can divinely discern their thoughts is left unexplained, but let me offer this observation: to refuse to decide is to decide.  Voter participation in America has typically been well below the totals in other Western countries in Europe (or Australia, where people are compelled to vote by law, odd in a democracy).  Even in presidential election years, voter turn-out usually is no better than 60%.  But those who refuse to vote either are satisfied with the expected outcome (and despite how much the polls were off, the Republicans were expected to win anyway, just not to this degree) or simply don't want to vote.  I'd say leave them alone – attempts to compel them to vote against their will are pernicious. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Election Night Projections

God save me, because I just can’t help myself.  Prognosticating election night results is a tradition of political masochism but we are drawn to it like a moth to the flame.

Within my academic background, I have been thrice thrust into the area of political statistics (the only real claim that Political Science can make for being a science, but even then it is hardly better than casting bones), and I have taken and retained enough training to be able to discern the numbers better than the typical man on the street, and I thus retain that healthy sense of skepticism that must keep technicians of that craft sane.

What follows will be a shortened rendering of what I expect to see tonight for the Senate races, partly from a sense of gentility for the time involved to read, bereft of numbers and such imponderables as Yule’s Q and Tau-B, but also from the stark realisation, driven home so deeply from the cold reversals of the 2012 ‘expert’ predictions (and that would include me) and from the fact that now I lurk in the forest shadows of the discipline, unable in my later and intervening years to bask in the reflected glory of actual experts like Michael Barone and Nate Silver.

Early results, which should come soon after the polls close in Georgia at 7:00 PM local, will be an indicator about how the important Senate race will be between Democrat Sam Nunn’s daughter Michelle and Republican businessman David Perdue (no relation to the chicken magnate).  This has a distinct possibility of extending into early January because of Georgia’s election laws which call for a run-off in case a candidate doesn’t pull in more than 50% of the vote on election night.  The latest polls put Perdue slightly ahead, but an even more important factor is that one major poll has him at 49.8% – solidifying this race early could be a major bellwether for how the rest of the evening goes.  As it currently stands, Perdue would likely win a run-off but nothing is guaranteed in politics.

In Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader (and future Majority Leader if all goes right) Mitch McConnell has been pulling away from Alison Lundergan Grimes, partly due to gaining Republican votes from the previously safe Democrat bastion of eastern coal country, decimated by Obama’s energy policies (or rather lack thereof, other than to make the cost of coal “skyrocket”).  This should be a fairly easy win for McConnell.

Democrat Mark Warner will probably win re-election in Virginia, but it will be interesting to see if his lead against shrinks to contestable margins – another sign of things to come.

North Carolina is still one race to watch – too close to call, but the Democrats are pouring money into the race as a Must Win, and are relying on the 30% black population of the state to pull them through, about the only time that Democrats actually pay attention to the black community.  Incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan is still expected to win over Republican Thom Tillis, tarred by being Speaker of the House in a state where the legislature is held in some degree of well-deserved contempt.  If it drifts the other way, this will be big news early on.

West Virginia will surely elect Republican Shelly Moore Capito, the first Republican senator in that state since 1956, replacing the seeming senator-for-life David Rockefeller, the very epitome of the rich limousine liberal Democrat.  This is one more step in the steady progression of turning the Mountain State red.

New Hampshire is still too close to call and promises to be one of the most watched results.  Incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen has a very narrow lead that is buried in the margin of error, against former Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown, who was at least born in New Hampshire.  A lot has been intimated about Brown being a carpetbagger, but this is from the same party that is perfectly fine with New York carpetbaggers such as Robert Kennedy and Hillary Clinton.

In Arkansas, Republican Tom Cotton has a comfortable lead over incumbent Mark Pryor, so another gain for the GOP.

Colorado will also be a pick-up for the Republicans with Cory Gardner taking the seat from Mark of the Udall dynasty.  Colorado Republican voters were incensed at the heavy-handed tactics of the gun control efforts of the Democrats, and two Democrat state senators were recalled with a third being forced to resign in lieu of another recall, all so that the Democrat Governor John Hickenlooper could replace her with another Democrat and thus retain control of that body.  This election is a continuation of that counter-attack, and Hickenlooper himself is in danger of losing his seat.

Kansas is still too close to call, and lackluster Republican Senator Pat Roberts could be collateral damage to the likely defeat of Republican Governor Sam Brownback.  Independent Greg Orman, up until now a Democrat but taking advantage of a political maneuver, promises to caucus with the majority party, in a transparent demonstration of political prostitution.  It is still too close to call, but advantage Democrat at the moment.

South Dakota will surely be picked up by Republican Mike Rounds, another gain for the GOP.

Lousiana is paired with Georgia in its run-off system, so incumbent Mary Landrieu, also a dynastic successor and who was bought in the most recent Louisiana Purchase in order to secure her vote for ObamaCare, will probably move into another election where her Republican challenger Bill Cassidy will pick up the needed majority in December.  Mary, you may recall, has the tendency to describe her constituents as racists and sexists, much like the late but not lamented Representative John Murtha of Pennsylvania.

Joni Ernst will win easily in Iowa for several reasons, running against Bruce Braley, who once expressed disdain for Senator Chuck Grassley as a "corn farmer who never went to law school."

Republican Steve Daines will take Montana.

Alaska will be hard to call simply for the fact that it is Alaska, a perennial enigma for many reasons mostly to do with geography.  Results will be late due in no small part for the fact that some votes have to be brought in from the North Slope area and elsewhere by snowmobile.  I predict that Republican Dan Sullivan will defeat incumbent Mark Begich.

For a final tally, my estimate is that the Republicans will likely pick up seven seats in the Senate.  For the sake of time, Republicans will pick up 9 to 11 seats in the House.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Comet Gazing, Up Close

When I was a little boy, I marveled at the hazy photos of Mars taken from the new 200-inch Hale telescope at Mount Palomar in California, an observatory that retained its pre-eminence until well into my adulthood.  (Construction of larger telescopes waited until a rash of them were built in the 1990s and 2000s, other than a Soviet model built in 1976, at 236 inches, which was unavailable to the West during the Cold War.) 

Mars, state of the art, 1952 (Fröschlin)
Astronomical observations have been supplemented by spacecraft in the interim, from satellites such as Hubble to space probes such as Voyager and rovers such as Opportunity and Curiosity.  In my lifetime, then, the gold standard of extraterrestrial observation went from those cloudy photos of Mars, distorted by the atmospheric conditions of Earth, which led people to speculate about whether canals actually existed on the Red Planet or whether they were an illusion, to an ability to examine a pebble on the Martian surface.  A giant leap indeed. 

67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, upon approach by Rosetta

The same can now be said of exploration of comets.  Space probes have recently allowed us to see a few comets for the first time, looking upon surfaces that have been masked by distance and glowing comas, but the most fascinating photos have just arrived.

The Rosetta spacecraft was launched on 2 March 2004 by the European Space Agency, with the mission to track, acquire and investigate the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, discovered by Soviet astronomers in 1969.  Rosetta took a meandering journey about the inner solar system, taking advantage of the gravitational sling-shot effect of pass-bys of Earth and Mars, and examined several asteroids enroute to its rendezvous with 67P/C-G on 6 August.  It has since closed to an orbit within 29 km of the comet revealing an irregular shaped body, 2.8 miles (4.5 km) at its longest.  The photos of the last several days are spell-binding, for example:


The next major accomplishment will occur on 12 November with the detachment of the Philae lander, which will attach itself to the comet some seven hours later, another historical first.

And as for other comets, on 19 October the comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring passed close by to the surface of Mars.  University Today has an article describing the event, and avail yourself of the video that shows the rendition of the appearance of the comet from the Martian surface.  If you ever wanted to be a Martian, that would be the best occasion.  I look forward to see if the Mars Rover or the like was able to obtain photos of the spectacle.

(H/T: daily timewaster)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

White House Computer System Hacked By Russians

Last week, a confidential source within the White House disclosed to Scott Johnson of Power Line that the network within the Executive Office of the President had been down at that point “for close to a week” and that a security breach was suspected.  Staff were told to keep quiet about the situation while the correction was worked out.  At that point, “no information has been forthcoming, either to those inside the EOP or to the public.”

Johnson immediately sent an inquiry to the White House press office, including a deadline for an answer, as the office told him to do.  After the deadline passed with no response, he ascertained that the office had indeed received his request.  Several more attempts were made, also with no response, other than his request had been forwarded to the appropriate “spokespeople”. 

This falls into the realm of a Really Big Deal.  If there were no problem, one would logically expect that the press office would quickly confirm so, but instead its silence has only accentuated the problem. 

Johnson’s Power Line colleague John Hinderaker has also raised the question about why the White House press corps of Professional Journalists™ had been oddly uncurious, other than to speculate that with the upcoming elections, wherein the electoral chickens are expected to come home to roost (to quote Obama’s longtime pastor and mentor) on the ash heap of quite a few Democrat politicians, the mainstream press is circling the proverbial wagons around the Obama administration which has already been buried with an unceasing avalanche of evidence of its incompetence.  [That constitutes my entry into the Metaphor Prize of the Week Award.] 

But in an effort to forestall the greater story, the administration has released the news that an “outage” has affected “some EOP users”, so says Reuters.  Hinderaker appropriately points out that the key word is “some”, which could fall somewhere between the National Security Staff and the Office of the First Lady.  Are there a few targets, or many?

A follow-on release allowed that “there were no indications at this time that classified networks had been affected.”  Note that “at this time” can fall into the same category of dissembling as “some”.

Then, a second source steps up – the Washington Post – and discloses that the outage was in fact caused by hackers, “thought to be working for the Russian government”.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, the story tosses in this tidbit halfway through the article:
US officials were alerted to the breach by an ally, sources said.
So, it’s not bad enough that the White House security system is breached – we also weren’t capable of detecting it on our own.  What has historically been the most vaunted electronic intelligence gathering system in the world had to be told by some other country’s intelligence service.  I expect that some will be relieved that at least we weren’t tapping someone’s phone.

If we are to learn anything of substance about this story, it will have to wait until well after the election, or even after Obama finally leaves office.  But there is enough confirmation that the Russian government (not just Russians, but the government) has successfully tapped into the computer system of the White House.  We just don’t know quite yet what that degree of success constitutes.

“Reset.”  Indeed.
Update:  I notice that now John Hinderaker has also picked up on the "alerted by an ally" angle.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Scotland Remains: The Kingdom Stays United

The results are in and the decision is unequivocal: the much-anticipated referendum on the independence of Scotland from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which had been publicized as a neck-and-neck race between independence and status quo, ended up being anything but – more than 55% of the massive turnout of voters – some 85%, phenomenal by British and certainly American standards  – has voted to remain as before.

The 'nays' have it

Scotland has been united with England (and thereby Wales and [now Northern] Ireland) by the Treaty of Union of 1707, which recognized the fact that the two nations had had the same monarch since James VI of Scotland ascended the English throne as James I (the same James who authorized the famous Bible translation) upon the death of Elizabeth I in 1603 (he being her double first cousin twice removed, royal relationships being so complex almost by definition).  The tepid bond between the two peoples riven by Hadrian's Wall had been more than acrimonious, with the Scots driven to open warfare and oppressive subjugation by the English, but the Scots over time have been proudly British while still staunchly Caledonian.

My family on my father's side is Scottish (not Scotch – that's a libation), and my mother's otherwise German ancestry has a significant portion of Scottish ancestors as well (along with a dollop of Spanish).  The main family derives from the area of Jedburgh, and is thus classified as Border Scots, with a string of veterans of the great battles against the English – Sterling, Falkirk, Bannockburn and the rest, and our tartan is of the Jacobites.  My approach to the question of independence for Scotland is divided: emotionally, the idea of a freed Scotland has appeal from a bowed-but-not-broken sense of resistance (my people were all Confederates as well, many of whom owed an earlier allegiance to the Republic of Texas).  But that appeal is to an earlier Scottish sense of pride in its culture of hard work, frugality, and personal responsibility.  That sense, quite unfortunately, has been debased and subsumed beneath a Leftist philosophy of 'eat the rich', increasing dependence on the dole which is subsidized by London to the tune of some £1300 per capita more than the welfare payout elsewhere in England.  The SNP Leftist dogma is swimming against the slowly turning movement in larger England, seen clearly in the steadily increasing approval of Nigel Farage's UKIP party, and in the movement of the national center toward the right in even the Labour Party.

The general idea of killing such a generous British goose is found in the frankly incoherent policies of the now-resigned Scottish National Party's Alex Salmond, who tossed together the idea that the Scottish national income will absorb the whole of the North Sea oil revenues for a Saudi-like economy of living off the found wealth of their natural resources without having to apply any real application of actual work, an idea that would have Adam Smith, himself a Scot, turning in his grave.  The rest of his plan, including such necessities as a new national monetary system and defense policy, taxation, membership in NATO and the EU (to name but a few), was bound up in a wait-and-see attitude.  The idea was run on sheer emotion, with really nothing to tie it to reality, and Salmond was never able to explain how to get to the bottom line.

The election is over, but the issue remains.  There is a parallel in my mind to the Canadian referendum in 1995 on the question of independence for Quebec, in which the decision to remain united won by a slim margin of 51%.  If the decision had been otherwise, it wouldn't necessarily have stopped with a sovereign Quebec.  Newfoundland, previously a separate dominion from Canada, would have explored independence as well, having been split geographically from the remaining rump state.  There was a developing movement in British Columbia and Alberta to explore splitting off from Ottawa and seeking statehood with the United States.  This nightmare for Canada became more real when, after the dust had settled, it was discovered that the Francophone voters had voted for independence by a significant margin; it was the English-speaking citizens of Quebec that managed to keep the province from splitting off.  The only reason that the independence issue hasn't resurfaced is the political division within the Québécois.  But expect to see a ripple effect, if not the direct result of the referendum then a reflection of a rising tide of ethnic nationalism in Europe, such as the Catalanes in Spain demanding a referendum of their own.

The issue in Scotland is not likely to fade so soon though, with the 'Yes' voters being the more passionate and committed on the subject, and younger, with the age limit for voting having been lowered to 16 during the run-up to the vote.  They are a younger base, with more staying power.  And the question was given further life with a hasty concession by London, by the leaders of the three top parties (Conservatives, Labour, and Social Democrats), of greater autonomy within the future United Kingdom should it remain so.  Reform has a way of creating greater appetite for more change, and the maxim that the most dangerous time for a dictatorship is when it tries to reform itself actually applies to any government.  The promise of what "more autonomy" will look like has yet to be worked out, and the likely massive detail of whatever that plan will be undoubtedly will cover a legion of devils.  One such item to be resolved is the disconnect between the possible ability of Scottish MPs being able to vote on legislation affecting England, but English MPs being unable to vote on bills affecting Scotland.

This issue is far from settled, but we must keep in mind that a strong and united Britain is in the best interests of us all.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Helicopter Rescue from Mount Sinjar

This footage from CNN gives one a sense of the desperation on Mount Sinjar, as a helicopter of the Iraqi Air Force (from the interior it's likely an Mi-17) swoops in to pick up some twenty or so Yazidis before lifting off again quickly, an old man pushed aside as it lifts.  (Two days ago, another Iraqi helo crashed with all aboard killed, apparently overloaded with refugees.  I'm sure that the IqAF is clinically dispassionate about who it takes aboard and leaves behind for what is hoped to be a next flight.)

This interview with Mark Phillips shows at least some sense of cobbled order.  You can see the crew jettisoning supplies on final approach - I'm not sure of the efficacy of launching cases of plastic bottles of water from that height onto the rocks below, and for the uninitiated, the crescent symbol on the boxes has nothing to do with Islam, but is instead the international symbol for rations hailing from the days of Napoleon (apparently signifying croissants). 

The line of civilians that runs up to the helicopter is led by a young man who doesn't seem to board, lending the idea that there is some sense of control on the ground in order to prevent the tragic crash of a few days ago.  That isn't completely effective as there are at least two others left behind, likely attributed to the fear of the situation in a land that has no concept of queues.

I'm not particularly enamored of the vast body of war correspondents, but kudos to Mark Phillips (and the always unsung cameraman) for having the nerve to film this footage.  

Milton Speaks to the Current Tragedy

The Waldensians were a very early (12th century) attempt at religious reform of the firmly established Roman Catholic theocracy, a movement begun by Peter Valdes, otherwise known as Waldo, a rich merchant of Lyon suddenly converted to the cause of living life in accordance with the precepts of the early church as discerned by his reading of the New Testament. Preceding Jan Hus and John Wycliffe by centuries, his reforms anticipated the Protestant Reformation that finally took hold under Martin Luther some 400 years hence.

Initially widespread, sharp persecution soon confined the members to a secret movement concentrated in the Alps in the border region of France/Italy/Switzerland.

The movement continued to survive and persisted despite frequent persecutions and attacks, eventually allying itself to the early Calvinists of Geneva in the 16th century. That did not save it from the one of the greatest tragedies to befall it, the massacre of the Piedmont Easter of 1655 as commemorated by John Milton's poem that condemns the forces of the tripled-crowned Pope whose historic church corruption was frequently compared to Babylon.

Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones
  Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold,
  Even them who kept thy truth so pure of old,
When all our fathers worshiped stocks and stones;
Forget not: in thy book record their groans
  Who were thy sheep and in their ancient fold
  Slain by the bloody Piedmontese that rolled
Mother with infant down the rocks.  Their moans
The vales redoubled to the hills, and they
  To Heaven.  Their martyred blood and ashes sow
O'er all th' Italian fields where still doth sway
  The triple tyrant; that from these may grow
  A hundredfold, who having learnt thy way
  Early may fly the Babylonian woe.

So, what knowledge has Milton imparted for us?  What parallels, what rhymes as Twain would say, do we derive?  The religious divide of the two camps for this massacre, Catholic and Protestant (and later, perhaps even worse, Protestant against Protestant), at that point over 150 years into the Reformation, were even still a lethal driving force considering that what was at stake was nothing less than the salvation or damnation of one's soul unto eternity, the idea that God Himself would turn His countenance upon us or turn forever away.

"Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints..."

Yet while paramount to some, there were many then as now to whom that rationale is only a thin veneer for more base, mercenary considerations.  (What?  Do you believe that the simmering struggle between the two factions on the island of Ireland is strictly a religious battle between Catholics and Protestants?)

The current cliché is that we find ourselves in a modern Clash of Civilizations, but primarily the attack of radical Islamic Supremacists upon the West, or more accurately against anyone, even their own co-religionists, who do not adhere to their ascetic, draconian, metastasized creed, praying to their particular Allah that is neither merciful, compassionate nor gracious.

The pop Commentariat can decry the cultural domination of the West, but one rarely hears of the enormous persecution of Christianity, in lands that saw the very beginnings of the church.  From Algeria and Nigeria through to Iran and beyond, untold thousands of survivors flee who can, or suffer at the very least the tax that allows them to live in hopefully hidden security, or worst to see themselves and their families kidnapped, raped or killed.  Who avenges or even seeks to protect these saints?   Obama vacations after his spokesman extolls how his policies have made the world more tranquil, but Defense Secretary Hagel tells a collection of Marines of how the world is exploding.

Move along.  We're not likely to see an answer from this quarter.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Situational Ethics 2014

Some people can't tell a call for genocide from a liberation struggle without a program:

The quip just goes to show that simply because a comment is cynical doesn't mean it isn't true.

(Marc Lynch is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University.)

(H/T to Never Yet Melted)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Duke of Wellington Addresses a Perpetual Problem

The Peninsular War raged in Spain (the Iberian Peninsula) from 1807 to 1814, between the occupying army of France under Napoleon and his brother Joseph (who Napoleon had placed on the Spanish throne), and the forces of the United Kingdom, Portugal, and Spanish insurrectionists (and source of the Spanish term guerillas).

It is this conflict that saw the rise to fame of Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley, who had already gathered a vital military education and experience with campaigns in the Netherlands and Denmark and, most importantly, in India.  Though his career was attended by a great degree of good fortune (the first element of a successful commander, otherwise known as survival) and connections, it was his native intelligence and innate sense of leadership that established him as a superb general, and he remarked early on that "At least I learned what not to do, and that is always a valuable lesson."

Sir Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington

Of course, it was Wellesley who went on to establish himself as perhaps the most eminent of British military commanders as the one who defeated Napoleon once and for all at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, doing so as a field marshal under his more recognizable title of the Duke of Wellington that he earned in Spain. (A slight and delightful aside: some years later Wellington attended a reception in Vienna, and some French officers turned their backs to him as he entered.  A lady took it upon herself to apologize for the rude behavior, and Wellington replied "It is of no matter, Madam.  I have seen their backs before.")

A veteran of some sixty battles, he quickly learned of the vital importance of logistics to the ultimate success of a campaign, and he was one who would not suffer the least interference in his affairs, particularly from a general staff in London, far removed from the immediacy of the battlefield, that would dare question any element of his command.

There are some who may regard bureaucratic excess as a particularly military odium, but having dwelt in both worlds I can assure you that civilian political structures have that malady several magnitudes above that of the military.  (I have said before that I will never revert to being a civilian; that is only one of the reasons why and I do not bear that specific burden lightly.)  Thus I treasure, and unfortunately have reason to often recall, Wellington's dispatch of his answer to an irksome inquiry:
Gentlemen: Whilst marching to Portugal to a position which commands the approach to Madrid and the French forces, my officers have been diligently complying with your request, which has been sent to HM ship from London to Lisbon and then by dispatch rider to our headquarters.  We have enumerated our saddles, bridles, tents and tent poles, and all manner of sundry items for which His Majesty's government holds me accountable.  I have dispatched reports on the character, wit, spleen of every officer.  Each item and every farthing has been accounted for, with two regrettable exceptions for which I beg your indulgence.
Unfortunately, the sum of one shilling and ninepence remains unaccounted for in one infantry battalion's petty cash, and there has been a hideous confusion as to the number of jars of raspberry jam issued to one cavalry regiment during a sandstorm in western Spain.  This reprehensive carelessness may be related to the pressure of circumstances since we are at war with France, a fact which may have come as a bit of a surprise to you gentlemen in Whitehall.

This brings me to my present purpose, which is to request elucidation of my instructions from His Majesty's Government, so that I may better understand why I am dragging an army over these barren plains.  I construe that perforce it must be one of two alternative duties, as given below.  I shall pursue one with the best of my ability, but I cannot do both.
1. To train an army of uniformed British clerks in Spain for the benefit of the accountants and copy-boys in London, or perchance

2. To see to it that the forces of Napoleon are driven out of Spain.
Your most obedient servant, Wellington.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Ignorant Omniscience of Obama

The common defense of the Obama administration to unfolding scandals, led by the serial bewilderment of Obama himself when asked about developments, is that he was unaware of the (fill-in-the-blank) event until he was informed of it through the news media (even though, despite his declared ignorance, he labels them all as "phony").  Administration spokesmen even go so far as to remain ignorant of details by their knee-jerk response of referring reporters to the appropriate federal agency or department because they haven't the time or interest to actually be informed themselves.

Yet Obama took a moment from his perpetual fundraising tour last night at the first of his two dinners of the evening (the second for $25,000 a plate), at an "Italianate mansion" that overlooks Lake Washington and the Seattle skyline, to respond to a question about media contribution to what Obama called an impending sense of cynicism in the upcoming election.   
Whatever they're reporting about, usually I know. 

Where do I start?  Professed ignorance about the IRS targeting of conservative groups and the subsequent slow-roll cover-up, NSA's massive collection and use of communications of Americans and foreign leaders, the failure of the launch of his signal accomplishment – ObamaCare, the Veterans Administration scandal (despite having made it a campaign issue), the crisis in the Ukraine, the rise of ISIS and steady collapse of the Iraqi government, Fast and Furious, and so on – he hadn't a clue until told so by the press?  Or he already knew?  Which is it?

After all, we mustn't be cynical.

Lead From the Front: Col Alian Returns to the Fight

A soldier in any army would do well to emulate the attitude and personality of Colonel Ghassan Alian, the commander of the Israeli Golani Brigade, one of the more kick-ass units of the Israeli Army.

Alian, of the Arabic-speaking Druze community in northern Israel, must exercise the art of leadership in an increasingly artful way, not only to confront and destroy the fanatic enemies of Israel but to maintain a high sense of fighting morale in a brigade known for its 'Dirty Dozen' history.

This, for example, is a window on what such a leader looks like:

"We killed many terrorists, and that is what needs to be done."

Wounded by shrapnel while leading his troops in the fighting in Gaza, he was medevacked to Be'er Sheva but insisted on returning to his troops still engaged with the enemy.  Doctors were concerned about a wound to his eye but finally ruled that his eyesight was "not permanently damaged".  He left the hospital and returned to the front.
And the injured that I visited in the hospital, may they recover soon.  They are lions.