Saturday, January 5, 2019

The TSA is unnecessary.

The partial shutdown has revealed a giant secret: the TSA is mostly unnecessary and unneeded.

From the San Francisco Airport web page: "Covenant Aviation Security, a private company under contract with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), provides passenger and baggage screening at SFO."

SF uses a private company to perform security screening. They operate independently, but according to DHS rules.

Maybe it's time to return airport security to the people most capable of doing it: the local airports themselves. And maybe the airlines should take more responsibility for passenger screening.

We keep hearing about TSA "screeners" and how they either fail to do their jobs or use "random checks" to verify whether that is a colostomy bag or a liquid explosive (really!), or doing a full body search on an infant traveling to Orlando with family (really!). Those are the least of the offenses. And because those TSA "inspectors" are government employees, they can neither be sued nor disciplined for their offenses.

Putting security in the hands of private companies would force more sensible security handling. Why? The private employees would be held to a "don't screw up because we'll fire you" standard.

And the private security company will have the freedom to experiment with more advanced and efficient screening measures such as "passenger profiling", something the government can't do because a federal judge will (and has in the past) prevent it.

Lastly, it would mean a reduction in the federal workforce accompanied by a reduction in expenditures at DHS. That's a win-win in anyone's book.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

We're leaving Syria.  GOOD.  We're leaving Afghanistan.  GOOD.  The questions remain: what are US interests in either country?  We don't have any strategic need to be in either country.  Not any more.

And if the reason was "oil", that reason no longer exists.  The US is now a net exporter of oil (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-12-06/u-s-becomes-a-net-oil-exporter-for-the-first-time-in-75-years).  Unlike Europe, the US is no longer dependent on the Middle East for our petroleum products. We don't need to keep troops in the Middle East to "keep our oil flowing" over there.

If Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, and the rest of western Europe want to keep their oil coming, then it's time that they make the deals with the local governments in the Middle East.  If they don't want Russia to be able to turn off its spigot and run Europe dry, then they need to send their troops to keep the oil flow coming.  It's really simple: the US should militarily defend its interests without feeling obligated to militarily defend the interests of other countries.

That's "America First".  We don't "stand alone" - but it's long past time for other countries to stand up and defend their own interests.

Mattis talked about the need for positive engagement with other countries, and he's right.  Yes - the US should be a willing partner in mutual defense treaties.  But those treaties should only relate to military attack.  They shouldn't relate to economic issues.  Yes, oil is a strategic asset - but each country should be responsible for independently obtaining its own strategic assets.  The US shouldn't be solely responsible (or responsible in huge part) for defending access to other country's strategic assets.

But Mattis is a general, and a general wants an army.  Trump's decision to bring troops home from Syria and Afghanistan was the opposite of what Mattis wanted to do and what his advisers (and too many hawkish neocons) wanted to do: keep the war machine going.  It's too much like Vietnam: we can't really define the mission, but we know we need to keep fighting.

That's why I completely agree with and fully support Trump's decisions to reduce our troops in both Syria and Afghanistan, and possibly end our involvement in Syria.  There will always be Islamic terrorism in the Middle East.  It goes back centuries and won't end until Islamic leaders decide to end it.  ISIS may be defeated, but some other group will crop up.  Maybe a resurgent Al Qaeda.  The Taliban.  Whatever.

The mission in Afghanistan - capture or kill OBL - is over.  Bring the troops home instead of leaving them there as targets.  Enough have been killed already.

There was never a clearly-defined mission in Syria, other than to keep Assad from gassing his own people again and from invading Israel (again).  Pull our troops out and bring them home.  Leave Russia with the job of providing refuge to Syrian non-combatants who have been displaced by its (Russia's) actions.  Israel is more than capable of standing off an attack from Syrian forces, and Russia won't attack Israel on Syria's behalf (it would put the US and Russia into direct conflict).

Bring the boys back home.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Constitutional text must always supersede ideology

From "The Hill":

Kagan said at a conference for women at Princeton University that over the past three decades, starting with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and continuing with Justice Anthony Kennedy, that there was a figure on the bench "who found the center or people couldn't predict in that sort of way."

“It’s not so clear, that I think going forward, that sort of middle position — it's not so clear whether we’ll have it," Kagan said.


Let's analyze Kagan's words for a moment.

By stating that she thinks a Justice in the "middle position" might not exist on a future Supreme Court, she - Kagan herself - has admitted that she is incapable of being a justice in a "middle position".  This should, at the very least, disqualify her from service on the SCOTUS.  She has admitted that she cannot be impartial.  She has admitted that her bias will always color her decisions.  She has admitted that we cannot trust her judgement.

This is dangerous for the SCOTUS and for the US.

The job of a Supreme Court Justice is not to decide a case based on an ideology of any kind.  The job is to examine the brief presented by both sides and:

  • To determine whether the case in question has a basis in law;
  • To determine whether that law is in conformance with the Constitution - not some arbitrary definition of "Constitutional principles" determined by one's ideology, but the actual text of the Constitution; and
  • To determine whether that law was correctly applied.

Here's why an adherence to the actual text of the Constitution is vitally important: if ideology is used to stretch "the meaning" of the Constitution to find new "rights", then the Constitution has been subordinated to that ideology -- and lower courts must now adhere to an ideology that is not defined in the law.

To put it simply: either the Constitution is the law... or it isn't.

This is not about Kavanaugh per se, but it is about whether Supreme Court precedent can be trusted to be Constitutionally valid.  Bad decisions result when ideology is a primary guiding principle.  And bad decisions are tearing this country apart.

A perfect example of the impropriety of ideology in SCOTUS decisions can be found in Justice O'Connor's comments on Roe.  In 1983 and again in 1986, O'Connor criticized the Roe decision.  In later years, when asked whether she would reaffirm Roe, she said she would.  The Constitution did not change.  The text remained exactly the same.  Nothing in the text of the Constitution speaks on any medical procedures or the validity of taking an unborn's life without due process.  The Constitution leaves those decisions to the States (the 10th Amendment).  Yet Justice O'Connor's personal ideology changed, and thus her opinion on Roe changed as well.

The question of Roe as "bad law" has been discussed for decades, but it was the Roe decision that inflated passions on both sides of the debate.  The reason?  Ideology guided a decision, not the text of the Constitution.  The Supreme Court should have decided that Roe was a state-level decision, and that it - the Supreme Court - does not exist to overturn 10th Amendment State-level decisions except when they violate the actual text of the Constitution.

Clearly, the actual text of the Constitution should be the guiding principle for cases that come to the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court should not be making new law in its decisions.  It should not co-opt the job of the legislatures, whether State or Federal.

It is often said that "the laboratory of the States" shows the genius of The Founders: those who had despised the monarchical control over the Colonies and designed a Constitution to prevent those abuses.  By designing independent States that operated under a common Federal code (the Constitution) that prevented those States from abusing each other's citizens, they designed a wondrous multi-layered system of government that encouraged freedom while simultaneously permitting State-level controls.

Our Republic requires that each State adhere to the Constitution, but that each State may decide - for itself and for its citizens - other laws and statutes that its citizens desire for themselves.  And when a State implements a law that violates the actual text of the Constitution, the Supreme Court's job is to strike down that law (e.g. Brown and, more recently, Janus).

We do not need a Supreme Court made up of conservatives, liberals, men, women or "smart Latinas".  We need a Supreme Court that examines each brief strictly according to the text of the Constitution, makes decisions solely based on the text of the Constitution, requires that States also adhere to the text of the Constitution, and will send a non-Constitutional case back to the State from where it originated.

One can only hope that a "conservative-leaning Supreme Court" will return to deciding cases on their merit according to the actual text of the Constitution, rather than becoming an engine that coerces all of the States to comply with a non-textual ideology.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Ideologies aren't inherently "evil".

There's an Internet meme that "liberalism is a mental illness". Another that says that "conservatives are evil."

No. Wrong. Stop it. You're not helping anything.

Liberalism is a political ideology, nothing more. Those who believe in progressivism/liberalism are not evil. Those who believe in conservatism aren't evil either.

The problem is that some - on both sides - find it easier to re-quote "talking points" than to spend time actually analyzing a specific policy in a rational manner. This isn't easy: it requires a deep understanding of historical and current affairs, examination of the full set of consequences of that policy (including "unintended" consequences), and measuring the policy's impact against human nature.

Human nature rules everything.

Not human nature as we would like it, but human nature as it has been throughout recorded history. Not geopolitical human nature, but individual human nature. The understanding of what makes people "tick": the various desires, foibles, and stubbornness that are all part of the human condition. The fact that, as we grow from children into adults, everything about us changes. That we form some behaviors as children that follow us into adulthood. That some "learned behaviors" stay with us, and others fall away over time. That it ALWAYS takes a deep trauma to force us to change - and sometimes even that isn't enough.

The "stubbornness" part of human nature means that, when faced with examples or evidence to the contrary, we very often "dig in our heels" and refuse to accept that evidence as valid. We dismiss that evidence immediately, or find some way to ignore the evidence. We don't want to admit to ourselves that we may not be perfect. That we may not have been absolutely correct.

That we may have been wrong.

It's hard to mentally admit - to yourself - that you were wrong. It takes courage to admit to others that you were wrong. Sometimes it takes more courage than some people have. Sometimes, rather than admit error, some people will lash out at those who have presented evidence that they are wrong.

Sometimes we attack the messenger because we don't like the message. Or because the message holds truths that we don't want to acknowledge.

Some find it easier to re-quote political "talking points" that they have "heard everyone say" than to stop and think about the true meaning behind those "talking points". And to question where those "talking points" are coming from. And who has been saying them. And what those people have to gain from saying them. Yes: some folks will twist the meaning of words to gain sympathy from those who don't pay full attention to what is really being said.

It isn't easy to spend the time to analyze all of the political ideological crap making its way to us through various forms of media. But it's important to think about it rather than making a knee-jerk reaction. If you think the message is wrong, make your case against the ideology you oppose. Explain why you think it is misguided, and present evidence.

But to dismiss an opposing viewpoint by calling it "evil" is disingenuous... and somewhat childish.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Is America Great... or Not?

The greatness of America is not defined by the multiple wars, both here and abroad, that it has survived in over 300 years.

Nor is it defined by the number of racial, religious, or political incidents, both good and bad, that have both improved or plagued it over that time.

Nor is it defined by its economic or financial prowess.  Nor by its military strength.  Nor by its willingness to assist others when asked - and sometimes when not asked.

The greatness of America is defined by its ability to recover from disasters both natural and man-made, recognize and reward those who have improved the American condition while ostracizing and punishing those who have reveled in hate, always working toward Constitutionally-based justice no matter the opposition, opposing those who would taint the American electoral process by attempts at falsifying votes, and by providing a legal basis for the core rights defined in the Declaration of Independence:

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

America is great when it provides the most amount of freedom to the greatest number of The People, where "freedom" is defined as "being allowed to do what you want to do as long as it does not directly interfere with what others want to do".

The greatness of America is its self-corrective nature: situations that cause inequality are always eliminated, even though it may take time to identify both the situation and the remedial action necessary.

The greatness of America is in its justice system, especially when the system acts only according to Constitutionally-defined "rules of the road" and not when any of the three branches exercises powers that are not in its provenance.

The greatness of America is in its use of time-limited democratically-elected representatives to the central government, and the ability of The People to either re-elect those representatives or elect different representatives as they so choose.

The greatness of America is that it allows anyone to achieve anything they wish to achieve on their own merit.  The only limits on your success in the American capitalist system are those limits you place on yourself.

The greatness of America is that it has and will continue to withstand attacks on its political system by those who would try to destroy that system and replace it with another by using the freedoms that America provides in an attempt to undermine those same freedoms... and who may not realize that they are attacking a system that allows such attacks *without revenge*.

America has been hurt in the past by those whose personal agendas did not overlap with American values as defined in both the Declaration of Independence, which delineates those values, and in the Constitution of the United States, which provides a legislative basis for those values.

America will survive as long as The People continue to refer back to the Founder's reasons for designing the only truly democratic form of government that has survived in the Modern Age.

The Founders gave us a Republic.  Our job, as defined by Ben Franklin, is to "keep it".

Thursday, August 16, 2018

What wins in the "style vs substance" debate?

If you listen closely, there's a meme forming: "I really don't like Trump the person, but I like a lot of what he's doing."

The Left loved Obama because he (seemingly) had style.  A smooth operator.  His oral delivery made everything sound like the truth.  Was thin and well-dressed.  Stayed on teleprompter and rarely went off-speech (when he did, he was a bit... lost).  Seemed sooooo sincere because he was sooooo smoooooooooth.  A polished politician, to be sure.

Trump, OTOH, is gruff and unkempt and a somewhat overweight.  He eats McDonalds.  He doesn't have "smooth moves": he jerks around and constantly uses a lot of hand gestures.  He tweets way too often, and his tweets are sometimes quite rude (and insulting).  He almost always wanders off-teleprompter and off-script, and sometimes blurts things out in a speech that would have been better left unsaid.  The least "polished" politician we've had since... well, since I've been alive anyway.

Style.

But as far as substance, Obama managed to do very little in office other than tread water.  I'll skip over the multiple foreign policy faux pas that occurred under his watch (Iraq, Iran, NORK, Russia, Benghazi, et al), the multiple political scandals and missteps (IRS, Fast and Furious, etc), his use of "czars" in an effort to rework the American ideal, and his "phone and pen" pseudo-royalty commands (some of which were denied by the SCOTUS - at least one unanimously).  Here at home, he supported the PPACA and drove millions off their health care plans while forcing them, and the rest of America, to pay for lavish plans for millions of others (many of whom were willingly unemployed).  He attacked the 1st and 2nd Amendments and implemented oppressive and impossibly complicated financial rules that constricted bank and corporation operations.  He supported an increase in taxes while also increasing the food stamp rolls and welfare payouts (aka "wealth redistribution").  Unemployment rose, manufacturers temporarily or permanently shuttered, and economic growth was stagnant.

Then, after steering the country in the wrong direction because he had no effective understanding of economics, he claimed that the economic doldrums he presided over were the "new normal".

Trump has managed, in just under 2 years, to do what Obama said was undoable: improve the economy, decrease unemployment, reduce regulations, and pass a tax cut/reform bill.  Unemployment is dropping, manufacturers are moving money back onshore (something the revered Thomas Friedman said wouldn't happen) and using it to build new facilities and hire American workers, and regulation reform is allowing construction to move forward at speeds not seen in decades.  By opening ANWR and the two pipelines, he has made the US a net exporter of oil - something that the "experts" said could not happen (remember "peak oil"?)  He hasn't been able to repeal the PPACA but he has changed its regulations ("The Secretary shall determine") to permit new plans to be put in place, some of which will allow health insurance purchase across state lines.

This might be because Trump is a graduate of the Wharton School of Business, so he has a deep understanding of business economics (“The chief business of the American people is business.” - Coolidge).  And because Trump understands how deal making is done (he wrote the book on it), he's using those same techniques to show other countries that "doing business with the US is better than doing business against the US".

The left believes that Friedman, a columnist for the NYT, is wiser than Trump when it comes to economics.  But it was Friedman who claimed that Trump's election would almost immediately "tank" the market and drive the economy into the dirt.  He still writes that it's "about to happen".  Any. Day. Now.

Yes, the economy will eventually cool off again.  Economies are cyclical.  But it was Friedman who agreed with Obama about the "new normal".  It seems that he was wrong - for now.

The fact that Trump has managed to disprove Obama's "new normal" is at the heart of Trump Derangement Syndrome.

Obama was style over substance.

Trump is substance over style (heck, Trump has very little style at all).

And it's making the left crazy.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

A Proposal for Reduction of Sinusoidal Depleneration

The Turboencabulator

Bernard Salwen

For a number of years now, work has been proceeding to bring perfection to the crudely conceived idea of a machine that would not only supply inverse reactive current for use in unilateral phase detractors, but would also be capable of automatically synchronizing cardinal grammeters. Such a machine is the "Turboencabulator."

Basically, the only new principle involved is that instead of power being generated by the relative motion of conductors and fluxes, it is produced by the medial interaction of magneto-reluctance and capacitive directance.

The original machine had a base plate of prefabulated amulite, surmounted by a malleable logarithmic casing.

That way the 2 spurving bearings were in direct line with the pentametric fan. The latter consisted simply of 6 hydrocoptic marzel vanes, so fitted to the ambifacient lunar waneshaft that side fumbling was effectively prevented. The main winding was of the normal lotus-0-delta type, placed in panendermic semiboloid slots in the stator, every 7th conductor being connected by a non-reversible tremie pipe to the differential gridle-spring on the "up" end of the grammeters.

41 manestically spaced grouting brushes were arranged to feed into the rotor slipstream a mixture of high S-value phenyl-hydro-benzamine and 5% remanative tetryl-iodo-hexamine.

Both of these liquids have specific pericosities given by P = 2.5Cn6.7, where n is the diathetical evolute of retrograde temperature phase disposition, and C is Cholmondeley's annular grillage coefficient.

Initially, n was measured with the aid of a metapolar refractive pilfrometer, but up to the present, nothing has been found to equal the transcendental hopper dadoscope.

Electrical engineers will appreciate the difficulty of nubing together a regurgitative purwell and a supramitive wennel-sprock. Indeed, this proved to be a stumbling block until it was found that the use of anhydrous nangling pins enabled a kryptonastic boiling shim to be tankered.

The early attempts to construct a sufficiently robust spiral decommutator failed, largely because of a lack of appreciation of the large quasipiestic stresses in the gremlin studs.

The latter were specially designed to hold the roffit bars to the spam-shaft.

When, however, it was discovered that wending could be prevented by a simple addition to the living sockets, almost perfect running was secured.

The operating point is maintained as near as possible to the HF rem peak by constantly fromaging the bitumogenous spandrels.

This is a distinct advance on the standard nivel-sheave.

No dramcock oil is required after the phase detractors have been remissed.

Undoubtedly, the Turboencabulator has now reached a very high level of technical development.

It has been successfully used for operating nofer trunnions. In addition, whenever a barescent skor motion is required, it may be employed in conjunction with a drawn reciprocating dingle arm to reduce sinusoidal depleneration.

Reprinted from:
©The Journal of Irreproducible Results, v9 #2 p20, December 1960