Thursday, September 25, 2014

Your trash is Seattle's cash

What's that rotten smell in the police evidence room?

Parents used to encourage their kids to eat all the food on their plate by guilt-tripping: "Dear, think of all the starving people in China who'd be glad to have that food you're wasting." That was then. This is now: "Hey, guy, suck it up. You want to get me fined?"

Seattle's city council has passed, by a 9 to 0 vote, a new law/regulation/threat/whatever the bloody hell that establishes monetary penalties for anyone who bins "food waste and compostable paper."
After receiving two warnings, residents and businesses will be fined $50 for dumpsters and a more modest $1 for waste at single-family homes. Previously, the utilities commission left residents and businesses a note that asked them to compost. If they did not comply, the city refused to collect the garbage.
And, no doubt, after refusing to collect the garbage the citizen had paid taxes for, they charged the malefactor with creating a public nuisance. 

How will the city enforce this bid to Save the Planet? I have a mental picture of two uniforms in a police cruiser. "At your nine o'clock, that mook next to the wheelie bin! Light him up, sergeant!"

Squeal of tires. Sound of doors opening and slamming. The cops stand in the approved position for dealing with perps, one in front of him and one behind.

"Hands on your head, mister, move away from the trash container slowly. Now down on your knees."

The sergeant takes photographs of the crime scene, then reaches into the cruiser's trunk for a 32-gallon plastic evidence bag.

I'm something of a recycling denier, because I think it's mainly just a feel-good gesture that bypasses having to deal with the basic cause of environmental tooth decay, namely, population growth. But for the purpose of discussion, let's say that the Green Giant to whom we now pray smiles benignly on the noble effort to stamp out surplus waste.

Earlier generations who appealed to their children's consciences in aid of convincing them to clean their plates may have sounded like prigs, but at least their kids might have learned something about being thinking, feeling beings. Doing right was supposed to be internalized, a matter of free will and choice.

Elected officials and the legions of bureaucrats nourished on the public fisc can't be bothered with appeals to individual goodwill these days. You got a problem? Pass a law.

Even in Seattle, many, perhaps most of the planet saving hive dwellers will ignore the diktat. They come home from the Boeing factory at 9 p.m., pour themselves a beer, and relax by filling in a compost heap? So it's a law that common sense tells you will be unequally applied: some will get away with it, some will be lighter by a dollar or $50 per offense. One more sign that our municipal overseers look on their constituents as no more than chickens to be plucked.

It would be hard to find a better example of what the late Sam Francis called "anarcho-tyranny." Meaning, the more the protected classes (sacred races, immigrants, sexual specialists, etc.) are free to act out, the more the authorities turn to clamping down on people who respect the law.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The funny side of invasion

This post has nothing to do with current world turmoil, except perhaps it says something about human nature. It takes us back to 1940.

Peter Fleming tells the story of the anticipated invasion of Britain with solid research, style and, where appropriate, wit in Operation Sea Lion, first published in 1957 and still available in various editions. Fleming (1907-1971), a widely traveled adventurer and writer, saw the war from the sharp end in Norway, Greece, and Burma. He was the brother of James Bond's creator Ian Fleming and was married to the actress Celia Johnson, best remembered for her role in Brief Encounter.

As Fleming tells it, Adolf Hitler dithered over whether to order an invasion of the U.K. With the German army having rolled up all northern Europe, including recently France, Hitler couldn't understand why the British government didn't just accept German victory as a fait accompli and acknowledge it in return for signing a peace treaty. (This was before the German military forces smashing through the Russian frontier showed what Hitler's peace treaties were worth.)

The invasion plans were originally drawn up in a document called Directive no. 16. Much of it was ill-considered. Fleming says:
Paragraph 1 postulated "a surprise crossing on a broad front extending approximately from Ramsgate to a point west of the Isle of Wight." Long before the Sea Lion plans reached their final version all hopes of surprise (save in the pettiest sense of the word) had been abandoned, and a narrow front had perforce been substituted for a broad one.

This paragraph also required each of the fighting services to "consider the advantages ... of preliminary operations such as the occupation of the Isle of Wight or the Duchy of Cornwall before the full-scale invasion". No more was heard of this project which, if adopted, would hardly have improved the prospects for a "surprise crossing".
The OKW (German General Staff) estimated the invasion plan would require 15 to 40 divisions.
In the event, ... this figure was reduced to 13. Obligatory though it was, this huge reduction lends an air of whimsy to the whole project; you cannot decide on the size of an army by the empirical methods with which you guess the weight of a cheese at a fair. During August and September the Germans over-estimated the strength of British forces in the United Kingdom by roughly 8 divisions, and they realised that their equipment and training were improving every day. It is impossible to see realism, logic or even common sense in the two incompatible theses that (a) 40 divisions were needed to conquer the island in mid-August and (b) 13 would suffice to do the trick a month later. This is strategy only in the sense that Procrustes was a surgeon.
Across the Channel, Britain had its own oddball preparations for the invasion. Most of the population, while following orders that would supposedly supplement the country's defense, had a hard time taking the idea aboard. The island had not been successfully invaded militarily since 1066, and there was a sort of unconscious expectation that 30 miles of water would see off anyone foolish enough to try.

But of course the technology of war, especially air power, had developed vastly in recent years -- a fact that was widely recognized in a nightmare of Germans dropping in for tea via parachutes. Paratroopers had been used earlier in the war in Norway, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France. But they are effective only as advance units closely followed by land forces. Unless an actual coastal attack was under way, it would have made no sense for the Germans to undertake an air drop of soldiers.

That did not stop the idea from turning into a near-panic in the U.K. about things that go bump in the night.
The Times had published a selection from "a large number" of letters to the Editor urging the nation-wide enrolment and arming of volunteers to deal with airborne incursions; and that evening (14 May) the mustering of the Local Defence Volunteers was announced in a War Office statement and a broadcast by Anthony Eden. On 16 May a general warning against parachutists was included in the BBC's news bulletins, and on the following day guards were posted outside Broadcasting House and most of the Ministries in Whitehall.
The Air Ministry sent an urgent message to the Admiralty, War Office and Ministry of Home Security: "Information from Norway shows that German parachute troops, when descending, hold their arms above their heads as if surrendering. The parachutist, however, holds a grenade in each hand. These are thrown at anyone attempting to obstruct the landing."

Fleming comments:
That this message was, not to put too fine a point on it, nonsense would have been instantly apparent to anybody with a rudimentary knowledge of airborne operations. While in the air parachutists always "hold their hands above their heads as if surrendering", since they have to cling to the cords of their parachute in order to preserve equilibrium and a measure of control. When they land, they hit the ground with considerable violence and normally roll over several times before coming to rest. Even the most fanatical Fallschirmjäger would hardly carry in one, let alone in both of his hands a live grenade on the chance that he might find somebody waiting to "obstruct" his landing; if he did there would be no point in obstructing it.
A second Great Fear was of a so-called Fifth Column, a kind of invisible army of traitors masquerading as ordinary Britons. As one Labour politician put it, "There are [today] tendencies, conspiracies and movements totally unknown in the case of previous encounters between countries."
On 22 May a measure known as the Treachery Bill was rushed through Parliament. It superseded the Treason Acts, which since the fourteenth century had been found adequate to deal with this danger to the community. Besides blocking a legal loophole affecting non-resident aliens, the new Act curtailed and simplified the elaborate and ceremonious procedure prescribed for the trial of a suspected traitor. ...

The phrase "the Fifth Column" sanction a new and more pervasive concept of the dangers to be feared from the traitor or the secret agent. It directed vigilance not to suspicious characters, but to those not outwardly suspicious.
It was true, Fleming says, that many thousands of refugees from Nazi-conquered countries had been arriving in Britain and given asylum, and it was not impossible that some represented a German Trojan Horse. But there was no way to check their bona fides in most cases.

The mind-set the situation created led to a peculiar state of conflicting values. The British traditionally had a high regard for privacy and considerable tolerance for eccentricity. So to be on guard against a Fifth Column went against the grain. Fleming says, "When they start looking at their neighbours with curious or suspicious eyes they are apt to find much that is unaccountable in their habits and behaviour. A chance remark, an unexplained absence, a visitor arriving after dark, an unusual hobby, the wearing of dark glasses or a beard -- for a brief period clues such as these led many well-intentioned folk down many blind alleys."

While it seems nuts for an enemy secret agent to arouse suspicion by, for instance, wearing dark glasses in Britain's gray and rainy climate or a beard, the notion of disguise both by troops and Fifth Columnists spread.
A completely baseless legend that in Holland German parachute troops had descended from the skies tricked out as nuns had caught the world's fancy and in Britain was proving a godsend to humorists and comedians; it was supplemented by stories of Germans dressed as French staff officers misdirecting British troops. ...

"Most of you", an official pamphlet told the populace in mid-June, "know your policemen and your ARP [Air Raid Precautions] wardens by sight. If you keep your heads you can also tell whether a military officer is really British or is only pretending to be so." Wisely, though perhaps not deliberately, the pamphlet ignored the presence in the United Kingdom of considerable numbers of Polish, French, Norwegian, Dutch, Belgian, Danish and Czechoslovakian officers, all by this time wearing British uniforms; there were enough of these, as someone mildly pointed out in a letter to The Times, "to confuse people considerably". 

To make it hard for parachutist invaders to figure out where they were, street name and direction signs were removed. This often also left true British subjects lost when out of their familiar surroundings. 
What should a citizen do if a motorist asked him the way? The short answer was that the motorist should be requested to produce his identity card. But since everyone had been warned never, in any circumstances, to show his identity card to persons not authorised to see it, this solution got neither the benighted traveller nor the would-be Good Samaritan out of their dilemma.
War is hell and no laughing matter, but sometimes offers glimpses of the human comedy. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sixteen tons

"America's poor have never been deeper in debt," says Zero Hedge's anonymous avatar Tyler Durden, based on a story from Bloomberg.
Ever since the Lehman bankruptcy, one of the main reasons given by the perpetual apologists about why i) the so-called "recovery" has been the worst in US history and ii) the Fed has been "forced" to conduct 6 years of wealth transferring policies, boosting the stock market to all time highs and creating a record wealth split in US society between the super rich and everyone else (one that surpasses even that seen during the roaring 20s) is that the US consumer, scarred by the economic crash, has been rushing to deleverage and dump as much debt as possible.
Wrong, says the Zero Hedge writer. This is confusing deleveraging, that is, paying off debt, with throwing in the sponge and escaping debt through default or bankruptcy -- adding yet more trouble to the lives of society's worst-off, since they will henceforth be denied credit. And, incidentally, shanking the U.S. economy still further by reducing the population sector that can buy big-ticket goods, such as cars and houses, that most people need to finance through loans.

Bloomberg is quoted:
The improved finances, along with more recent signs that consumers are feeling comfortable about borrowing again, has given some economists cause for optimism: The more progress households make in getting out from under their debts, the logic goes, the greater the chances that renewed spending will boost growth. ...
There are various possible explanations for the poorest families' financial predicament. Incomes have declined, making debt burdens look worse. Some previously wealthier people probably migrated into the group as the value of their homes fell below what they owed on mortgages. More ominous is a steady increase in installment debt, a category that includes both student and auto loans -- areas that have recently seen a lot of questionable lending to lower-income borrowers.
While Pseudo-Durden has a point that the Fed and economists are out of touch with the reality so many un-elites are living in -- not deleveraging but piling up more debt against the day it will bury them or access will be barred -- he seems to ignore the larger point.

A healthy economy has a place for debt, but it does not use debt as fuel. In general people should be buying things with money they earn, not borrow. Which in turn means decently paying jobs and a wide-open field for companies and individuals to innovate.

Our current from-the-top-down, quasi-Marxist economy can't create such conditions. Over-regulation keeps business waiting to see what the government will do next instead of hiring and expanding. Fresh ideas are snuffed out in the cradle. There are areas where government can and should limit corporate actions (not because government is more moral, but just so that it supplies a balance of power). But an economy is so complex, so dependent on the knowledge and creativity of individuals at the sharp end, that no national super-power can manage it effectively.

The current state of play, as Bloomberg says, includes "a group of the poorest families, numbering roughly 14 million, whose precarious finances make them vulnerable to shocks and limit their ability to contribute to future growth. That's hardly a strong foundation for a healthy recovery."

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt

-- Tennessee Ernie Ford

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Emperor Obama's hesitation blues

Woke up this morning lookin' for my shoes
Looked behind the trunk,  felt the hesitation blues
Lordy, tell me how long will I have to wait?
Can I get to you now? Must I hesitate?

-- "Hesitation Blues" (traditional)
Dave Van Ronk version

I will not write another political blog post. I will not. I will not. Oh, all right.

Media stories about His Worship's trials and tribulations -- if only they did include a trial, say in the Senate? -- are almost meaningless. He's gonna do what he's gonna do. I can't stop him. You can't stop him. He's going to put the last brick in the wall.

Timing has been giving him a shot of the blues lately, though. Specifically, when he will pick up his phone and his pen and declare amnesty for illegals and the completion of his Population Replacement Diktat of 2014. Not whether, but how long he must hesitate.
This is a political crisis -- as it relates to the timing of a decision -- that is entirely Obama's own creation.  Back on June 30 in a statement delivered in the Rose Garden at the White House, he uttered these words:
I have also directed Secretary Johnson and Attorney General Holder to identify additional actions my administration can take on our own, within my existing legal authorities, to do what Congress refuses to do and fix as much of our immigration system as we can.  If Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours.  I expect their recommendations before the end of summer and I intend to adopt those recommendations without further delay.
As I have noted before, the Emperor gets drunk on the phrase "I have directed ... ." He can't officially direct Congress, but if it doesn't fall in line (which it usually does after ritual grumbling by the Republican wing of the I've Got Mine Club) then they are "not doing their job." 

"They haven't been fulfilling their duty lately! Well, screw this Constellation business -- huh, Valerie? Oh, sorry, Constitution. That teleprompter's been hard to read lately. I'll direct somebody to fix it."

The mainstream media talk about the situation simply as political gamesmanship. They sound like they're analyzing the odds in a prize fight. Above all, any discussion of principle is out of bounds. 

By and large the Left isn't too pleased with their Emperor.
“When candidate Obama asked our community for support in 2008 and 2012, he urged us all to vote based on our hopes, not our fears,” said Janet Murgu√≠a, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza. “Today, President Obama gave in to the fears of Democratic political operatives, crushing the hopes of millions of hard-working people living under the constant threat of deportation and family separation.”

“Slow-walking justice for millions will not prevent Republicans from using nativist animosity to get their base to the polls and does even less to inspire Democrats’ grassroots progressive base at a critical political moment,” said Democracy for American executive director Charles Chamberlain.
The "fears of Democratic political operatives" are that if he unilaterally signs the Declaration of Amnesty before this year's election it will cost the Dems congressional seats. Already his own party's candidates have been cuddling up to the Emperor as if he carries the Ebola virus.

To put it another way: Everyone understands that a majority of the not-quite-defeated-yet American people don't want amnesty, even with token efforts to make it orderly. They do not want to be irrelevant to the political process. So the Emperor has reluctantly agreed to a brief delay on behalf of damage control.

That's not good enough for his "base" of lawbreakers and Marxist apparatchiks. Rock. Hard place. Why doesn't he just direct everybody to bow and obey?

Monday, September 01, 2014

What do you mean, no strategy yet?

“Families should assemble a disaster supplies kit well in advance and have a plan to reconnect after a tragedy,” the president said.
Sure. Let's all reconnect at his next fundraiser, if Las Vegas is still above ground level, or at a Hollywood celebrity's home.

The commentariat has gone near-bonkers with news and speculation (in this case, amounting to the same thing) about Islamic State attacks in the U.S. and elsewhere in the Terrorism Season, i.e., the next 365 days et seq. Far be it from me to scoff at the possibility; it's more likely than not sooner or later.

Before we head for the hills, though, let's try to keep some perspective. Mark you, I have no connection with the espionage industry and no personal experience with it. But I can hold my own in speculation with the rest of the jokers.

Security agencies by their nature inhabit a world of secrecy. With rare exceptions any leaks to the media are deliberate, meaning they are disinformation.

So when you read about a crescendo of "chatter" in the electronic communications of terrorist flash-bang artists, the information is from the other side of the looking-glass. It may be designed to convince the Kill an Infidel Club that we're on to everything they are doing, planning, thinking, or dreaming. It might be our spooks are taking out an insurance policy, designed to show they were on the ball even if worst comes to worst. 

One of the few things I feel sure of: this administration, by encouraging uncontrolled immigration, is rolling out the red carpet for those who would do us grievous harm.