Sunday Funnies; Free Like Flynn

Well, we have something other than Chines Bat Flu (although that’s still here) to talk about.

 

Why is my favorite convenience store hiding the Tobacco?

And, of course

The Middle of What?

Victor Davis Hanson has a question, “What Is the Middle East In the Middle Of Anymore?” As usual, it’s a good one. Let’s see what he has to say.

Since World War II, the United States has been involved in a series of crises and wars in the Middle East on the premise of protecting U.S., Western, or global interests, or purportedly all three combined. Since antiquity, the Middle East has been the hub of three continents, and of three great religions, and the maritime intersection between East and West.

In modern times American strategic concerns in no particular order were usually the following:

1) Guaranteeing reliable oil supplies for the U.S. economy.

2) Ensuring that no hostile power—most notably the Soviet Union between 1946-1989 and local Arab or Iranian strongmen thereafter—gained control of the Middle East and used its wealth and oil power to disrupt the economies and security of the Western world, Europe in particular.

3) Preventing radical Islamic terrorists from carving out sanctuaries and bases of operations to attack the United States or its close allies.

4) Aiding Israel to survive in a hostile neighborhood.

5) Keeping shipping lanes in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, and the Persian Gulf open and accessible to world commerce at the historical nexus of three continents.

6) To the extent we could articulate our interests, U.S. policy was reductionist and simply deterred any other major power for any reason from dominating the quite distant region.

7) Occasionally the United States sought to limit or stop the endemic bloodletting of the region.

Those various reasons explain why we tended to intervene in nasty places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, and Syria. Yet despite the sometimes humanitarian pretenses about our inventions in the Middle East, we should remember that we most certainly did not go commensurately into central Africa or South America to prevent mass killings, genocides, or gruesome civil wars.

But two questions now arise in the 21st century: to what degree do strategic reasons remain for a strong U.S. ground presence in the Middle East and, in terms of cost-benefit analyses, how much material, human, and psychic U.S. investment is necessary to protect our interests to the extent they still matter in the region?

One of the basic things that have changed is that we (and Russia, for that matter) do not need middle eastern oil. Europe does, and China does, but both depend on the United States to make sure they get it, just as Europe depends on Russia for natural gas.

Maybe it remains in our interest for middle eastern oil to flow at reasonable prices, but maybe we should look at that again.

VDH comments that no one has ever done well trying to control the middle east. He’s right. We’ve done OK, better than most, but do we really care anymore, or is it time to let it fall back to the 11th century, with somewhat better weaponry?

Israel still matters to us, but it can (especially with its local allies) pretty much take care of itself, and we can, of course, continue our commerce and alliance with her.

Commerce is shifting to the Indian and Pacific ocean areas, and that too includes Israel who (for the first time) last year participated in a Pacific Fleet exercise. China, and India, are the future, and I doubt either are going to make too many Arab friends.

And VDH touches on war-weariness in the US (probably the UK as well). It’s real enough but is it really war weariness or simply being weary of never winning, and then get a bunch of gimmiegrants who exploit the system for our trouble.

VDH’s final words will do for me as well.

In other words, the United States is trying to square a circle, remaining strong and deterring our dangerous elements, but to do so for U.S. interests—interests that increasingly seem to be fewer and fewer in the Middle East.

Or in simpler terms, what exactly is the Middle East in the middle of anymore?

Read it all at the link above.

Swamp Vegetation: The Red Tape Monster

Have you ever wondered why America since about the fact of the internet has essentially put up the closed sign and just sat around bitching? Well, I’ve done my share, both here, and in real life. But I know, and you know, it’s not really complicated. Edward Ring at American Greatness explains.

Between 2008 and 2019, China opened up 33 high-speed rail routes, connecting 39 major cities along four north-south and four east-west main lines. The 18,000-mile network runs trains at an average speed of around 200 miles per hour. By 2030, the Chinese expect to double the mileage of their high-speed rail network by expanding to eight north-south and eight east-west main lines. In less than 20 years, the Chinese have completely transformed their rail transportation network.

This is typical for the Chinese. China is also building three new airports—offshoreDalian along the north coast opposite the Korean Peninsula, Xiang’an on the central coast facing Taiwan, and Sanya off the coast of Hainan Island in the strategic South China Sea. All three airports are to be built to the highest international levels, with 12,000-foot runways able to accommodate the Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger airliner. All three are built on “reclaimed land”—the Chinese intend to bulldoze a few mountains into the ocean and flatten them into runways. And all three, from start to finish, will be built in under 10 years.

China’s ability to construct major infrastructure quickly is beyond debate. The Three Gorges Project, the largest dam in the world, created a deep-water reservoir an astonishing 1,400 miles long. Its hydroelectric capacity of 22.5 gigawatts is the largest in the world. This massive construction project was done, from start to finish, in 12 years.

While China Builds, America Litigates

To argue that Americans don’t need high-speed rail, or massive new airports on ocean landfill, or yet another massive hydroelectric dam, is beside the point. Americans can’t do any big projects.

A perfect example is the Keystone Pipeline, which, if it’s ever completed, will be capable of transporting 830,000 barrels of oil per day south from the tar sands of Alberta to existing pipelines in Nebraska. This pipeline has been tied up in permitting delays and litigation since 2008. Eleven years later, not one mile of pipeline has been built.

Even with aggressive support from the Trump Administration, will Keystone ever get built? Not if an army of environmentalist plaintiff attorneys have their way. According to a recent report by PBS, as soon as a judge dismissed the most recent lawsuit against Keystone, another lawsuit was filed. Another construction season has been lost, another year of delay. “Representatives of a half-dozen other environmental groups vowed to keep fighting in court and predicted the pipeline will never be built,” PBS reports.

While Americans are divided over whether they support construction of the Keystone Pipeline, everyone supported quickly constructing towers to replace the World Trade Center towers lost in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. One may assume that in the aftermath of 9/11, designs, bids and permitting were fast-tracked, yet it took more than five years before construction began. Freedom Tower, the dazzling replacement to the Twin Towers, didn’t open until 2014, just over 13 years after the towers fell.

By contrast, the Empire State Building was built in 14 months.

Yeah, and if you’ll remember, the atomic bomb was developed from theory to delivery (by a plane that didn’t exist when they started) in less than 4 years. Imagine that, from a crackpot theory to a world-beating weapon in 40 odd months. We can’t get a can opener to market that quickly now.

That’s the macro scale and I agree with everything he says in his column, so read it for yourself.

But it’s not just the macro, it’s the local individual level that really grinds, the Adaptive Curmudgeon explains that part.

Regulation, in my life, has usually been a ratchet. A mandate might be tightened, a tax might be raised, another “green technology” can be forced… but I’ve almost never seen the opposite.

I’ve never seen taxes go down. I’ve never seen an EPA regulation lighten up. I’ve never seen a new car with fewer mandatory safety features and alarms. I’ve made personal choices that gave me more freedom (vote with your feet!) but I’ve rarely seen the noose loosen generally.

Which brings me to lightbulbs. I like efficient lighting where it makes sense. Where it makes sense, I’d already gone fluorescent. Why wouldn’t I? I’m all about efficiency and living cheap.

But centralized bureaucracy cannot abide “where it makes sense”. Rules are applied everywhere, all at once, with a sledge, by people who haven’t got a fucking clue. Examples abound: A dude in a swamp in Michigan has a low flow toilet because water is rare in Phoenix. My truck’s seat belt alarm goes off, when I’m driving firewood across my lawn. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Incandescent bulbs are theoretically inefficient. You know what their waste product is? Heat! You know what the temperature was this February? -42 Fahrenheit.

Keep reading.

He’s damned well right. On dad’s place, the water pump was in a pit under the floor of an outbuilding, and all winter there was a droplight in it. Why? So the pump wouldn’t freeze, it cost less to buy (even with a Teflon coated rough service bulb and McGill drop light) and run, and was more dependable that heat tape Yes, heat tape has improved somewhat but it’s still not as good as an incandescent bulb running at 90% of its rated voltage.

So where do these two stories meet? Lawyers, regulators, and special interest groups. As always Cui bono. These are the parasites of a productive society, and we are badly infested.

If you are interested why I’m retired, even though I love electrical work, and the more complicated the better, it’s simple. I got tired of the bullshit, from the government, all those alphabet agencies, none of whose employees has never done an honest days work in their life, and engineers that have never been out of their nice warm office.  They don’t know a screwdriver from a pair of Klein’s, but these geniuses think they are qualified to not only tell me what to do, but where and how to do it, using what tool. Oh, and when I walk in the room, I assume responsibility for what the joker in 1909 did, unless I fix it, out of my own pocket.

It just wasn’t worth it, I’d rather sit here at my desk, and watch the world go by. Thing is, others like AC, and damned near every other guy and girl who knows how to do anything is gonna get to that point one day, an then the parasites are gonna freeze in the dark, while they starve.

Well, we made their world, if they can’t maintain it, it ain’t my fricken problem. Call someone who gives a damn about your sorry ass, cause I got over that years ago.

Sunday Funnies; The Easter Monday Edition

Adam Schiff’s bedroom

 

The greatest of The Avengers. Yeah, Those Were the Days!

And with that, after about 1100 days straight of posting, I’m going to take a  few days to a couple weeks off, unless something really catches my eye. I want/need to do something else, preferably outside for a bit. But I’ll be around some to answer comments, and if all else fails, there are some 4000 articles here.

See ya soon.

A Big Steaming Pile of Covfefe?

Brian C. Joondeph writes at American Thinker about a theory of his that has to do with the Mueller investigation/witch hunt. I have no clue if this theory is right, and he claims he doesn’t know either. That said, it covers what we know about the players pretty well. If he’s right – Oh my, what a reminder to be careful what you wish for. Let him tell it.

In their [Democrats and the media, BIRM] minds, the 400-page report contains all manner of evidence of collusion and obstruction, despite the summary written by Barr and Rosenstein that says otherwise. Note that Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein was easily confirmed by the Senate and has been defended by Democrats since he appointed Robert Mueller to be special counsel, and yet now they apparently believe he is lying.

If Rosenstein and Barr were misrepresenting the report in their summary letter, one would think Mueller and his partisan team of attorneys would be outraged and speaking out to correct the record. Yet they are silent. This is the same gang that had no problem evidently leaking advance notice of Roger Stone’s commando-style arrest to CNN so they could be on site filming everything. If Barr and Rosenstein weren’t truthful in their summary, why isn’t CNN reporting on “unnamed officials” who dispute the summary?

Perhaps all is not what it seems. There is much debate over who is wearing a black hat, or a white hat, meaning bad guy versus good guy, from the President Trump perspective. Is Mueller a white hat or a black hat? Despite much speculation, no one knows for sure, other than Mueller himself, Rosenstein, and Barr and a small circle around them.

Suppose he is a gray hat, somewhere in between, and is laying a grand trap for the Democrats to waltz into, a big steaming pile of MAGA?

What a concept that is. Is it even plausible? Maybe. Remember this.

Donald Trump may have been an FBI informant in the early 1980s when the Feds went after the Five Families. US Attorney Rudy Giuliani led the charge, followed by Robert Mueller and Rod Rosenstein, under then AG William Barr. What a coincidence! Perhaps these men all know each other from decades ago and they believe Trump is a patriot. Despite all of Trump’s supposed ties to the mob, he was never indicted, which would make sense if he had been working with the FBI.

If one assumes Mueller is a patriot too, as befitting a former Marine, would he not be disgusted with the coup attempt he found himself in the middle of? How can he save face with his deep state pals with whom he socializes and attends church, while still doing what a patriot must do? By not totally exonerating Trump in his report, he can save some face, while baiting the corrupt Democrats, who might disgust him at this point, those who initiated the coup attempt. Mueller could have it both ways according to my gray hat theory.

What about those FISA warrants? Those can work both ways. The first was issued against Carter Page in October 2016, allowing two-hop spying, meaning surveillance against Page, anyone he communicated with and anyone they communicated with, two hops beyond the original target. This would cover most of Washington, DC considering Page likely communicated with Jeff Sessions, making the entire US Congress the second hop. Or if he communicated with Mike Flynn, making most of the intel community the second hop.

The FISA warrant was renewed on January 19, 2017, the last day of the Obama presidency. But then again, in April and July 2017, when Trump was president. Rosenstein was already nominated by Trump for deputy AG and confirmed when the last two FISA warrants were renewed.

Remember FISA goes both ways. Two hops from Carter Page covered most of the deep state, and media they might have been leaking to. Suppose the Trump FBI were now using FISA surveillance against the deep state tricksters and their media comrades?

Plausible? I just don’t know enough to say and doubt that anybody but the players do, and that means the people at the table, not the hacks working for Mueller or anybody else. Nothing much has leaked, and the guys he’s talking about do know how to keep a secret.

But the thing is, it is possible. Mueller had/has a good rep as an FBI guy and as a Marine. He may have been personally as frustrated at the politicization of DOJ as anyone else. Or not. We’ll just have to see.

But there is this. Trump for all his Tweeting about the witch hunt, never took any steps to impede or curtail it, which he could have done, and the base would have supported him doing so. He has said nice things about Rosenstein, which from what has been published are far from warranted.

And there is this, Trump has barely put a foot wrong since he came down the escalator to run for and win the presidency. Since his inauguration, this has looked to be the main thrust against him, and he has mostly ignored it, other than some verbal sniping, which kept the Democrats fired up.

True or not, this theory proves we live in interesting times.

Syria: Should We Stay or Should We Go?

I haven’t picked up on this before because it requires some thinking, so not a bad time for a discussion of it on New Year’s Eve, when we are thinking about the future anyway.

Around 18 months ago, Sean Davis had some thoughts on the matter, which remain relevant.

There’s a pattern here, this is what we did in (and are doing) in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Syria, arguably even in Vietnam. We started something that for whatever reason we are not willing to finish.

Everybody, even Islamists, respects people who are willing to see the job through, but not those who come in rattle around for a while and hunker down, taking casualties for no purpose whatsoever, except perhaps the self-glory of politicians, military and civilian.

I think the most apt analogy may well be the British in India. It took them about 300 years to turn most of India from a feudal country into a semi-democratic democracy, note that time frame, 300 years, and they were only semi-successful. Afghanistan was part of the Raj, as well. We’ve been in Germany for 70 years, but we started there with a country that was not dissimilar from ours, and I don’t think the job is done there either.

Who succeeded in what is now Afghanistan? Not Alexander the Great, not the British, not the Russians. Who succeeded was Ghengis Kahn, and he did it by killing a large proportion of the population.

I wrote a series on Afghanistan back in 2012, you can find it here, here, and here. Nothing whatever has changed, except we’re doing the same thing in Syria, the applicable quote from the series comes from Mark Steyn:

In the last couple of months, two prominent politicians of different nations visiting their troops on the ground have used the same image to me for Western military bases: crusader forts. Behind the fortifications, a mini-West has been built in a cheerless land: There are Coke machines and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Safely back within the gates, a man can climb out of the full RoboCop and stop pretending he enjoys three cups of tea with the duplicitous warlords, drug barons, and pederasts who pass for Afghanistan’s ruling class. The visiting Western dignitary is cautiously shuttled through outer and inner perimeters, and reminded that even here there are areas he would be ill-advised to venture unaccompanied, and tries to banish memories of his first tour all those years ago when aides still twittered optimistically about the possibility of a photo op at a girls’ schoolroom in Jalalabad or an Internet start-up in Kabul.

The last crusader fort I visited was Kerak Castle in Jordan a few years ago. It was built in the 1140s, and still impresses today. I doubt there will be any remains of our latter-day fortresses a millennium hence. Six weeks after the last NATO soldier leaves Afghanistan, it will be as if we were never there. Before the election in 2010, the New York Post carried a picture of women registering to vote in Herat, all in identical top-to-toe bright blue burkas, just as they would have looked on September 10, 2001. We came, we saw, we left no trace. America’s longest war will leave nothing behind.

That’s what I saw then, and its what I see now. I’m not sure who exactly benefits from wasting these brave young Americans (and Britons and Aussies too) but I have my suspicions and suspect you do as well, and they probably match well.

Later that year I wrote another piece on the way General Sheridan pacified the Shenandoah, under General Grant’s orders, remember this was a war by Americans on Americans. We knew how to win once upon a time.

[…] so Grant gave Sheridan some famous orders, amongst other things he told him to take the valley apart so thoroughly that “a crow flying across it will have to carry rations” which Sheridan did, even as Sherman was about to do to Georgia. He also dealt quite sternly with partisans, what we call guerrillas today.

So eventually the war ended and in 1870 Sheridan was in Europe observing the Franco-Prussian war. For some reason he and Otto von Bismarck struck up a friendship and von Bismarck asked Sheridan how to deal with the French guerrillas behind German lines. This was Sheridan’s answer:

 “The people must be left nothing but their eyes to weep with after the war.” He advised that the insurgents be hanged, their villages burned and their lands laid waste until they begged for peace.

We simply are not going to win hearts and minds, either in Afghanistan or Syria, so it comes down to win or lose, and losing includes bleeding casualties for ‘a forever war’ that there is no profit (material or otherwise) in winning.

“In war, there is no substitute for victory.” There wasn’t when MacArthur said it, there wasn’t when his father won the Medal of Honor fighting for the Union, there isn’t now, and there never will be. Sadly, endless war can be profitable for some people, and those people put their profit ahead of America’s best interests.

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