Monday, August 25, 2014

Thinking Outside the Hole

The moribund dead-tree Washington Post delivers the conventional un-wisdom for today:
Will journalist James Foley’s beheading be enough to bring President Obama and Congress together on a bipartisan program to deal with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria?

Although the Constitution allows the commander in chief to order the use of force to meet immediate national security threats, both history and political common sense argue that the president needs public backing and thus congressional support to deal with dangers posed by the rapid growth of the Islamic State.
There's more, of course; lots more, ad nauseam.  There's even a sly suggestion at the end that the Congress had better back off its feckless token efforts to reign in the NSA's countless imperial surveillance programs, since the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria, and Iowa (ISILI, or maybe it's ISISI or some other foolish initialism with a lot of I's in it) will certainly stop the sale of beer in Dubuque unless we all sign up for NSA videocams in our bedrooms.  Which is probably what our smartphones already are, unless we hide 'em in the sock drawer overnight.

But you will scan Mr. Pincus's nonsense in vain for any acknowledgement that ISISI / ISILI / whatever-it's-called-this-week is, like al-Qaeda before it, entirely a creation of good bipartisan US foreign policy.  I wonder what name will be given to the new unintended (?) consequence that will spring forth when we all unite behind our Imperator again?

Folks, we're at the bottom of a fairly deep hole already.  We should be thinking in terms of ladders, ropes, chimneying our way up, etc.  Another spasm of energetic, united digging won't solve the problem.  Toss the shovel up out of the hole, and let's do something we haven't been doing almost continuously for the last three or four decades, shall we?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Training Ride

This morning I took a local training ride.  A short one: 24 miles, in a little under 90 minutes.  Nothing unusual, except that my usual training-ride partner skipped this one, and I went by myself.  As a result, I felt free to stop now and then and grab a cell phone camera picture.  Come along with me!

We start and end at Carroll High School.  Here's the route.
I've ridden this one lots of times.  Go early, and there's very little traffic.  Nice.
When I got there, it was still a little dark to be riding.  I waited until about 6:40 am.

A very humid morning, but not too warm.
Northbound on Bethel Road, a photo stop.

The corn's height is a little short of "elephant's eye."  Unless it's just a little elephant.
Westbound on Hathaway, we encounter a tiny bit of traffic, oncoming.

"Car up!", as we cyclists say.  Actually, a pickup truck.
Turn north again on Hand Road.  Let's document the agriculture.

It isn't just corn in Indiana.  We also have soybeans.  Plenty of soybeans.
So we ride on for a while, turning northeast on Shoaff Road, then north again on Old Lima, then west on North County Line Road.  Let's pause momentarily at Critter Haven Farm and greet the inhabitants.

This llama is large and in charge.  We'd best mind our manners.
Reaching the town of Ari, which appears to be population about 25 or so, we turn south on Wappes Road.  We soon encounter a few fairly steep "rollers."  If you put your mind (and quadriceps) to it, you can hit close to 35 mph at the bottoms of these.

This is steeper than it looks.  The short focal length of the cell phone camera has a flattening effect.
When we reach Hathaway again, we turn briefly east, then turn south on Johnson Road until we get to Dupont Road.  Here, Dupont has little traffic.

Those who live around here might say, "That's Dupont Road?"  You know, the Nile probably looks kind of small, close to its source.
Later on, approaching Lima, Dupont's a little less pleasant and more traveled.

We appreciate the motorists' concern for our safety.  The ones who just went by, though, didn't really have to move over that far.

Turning north on Lima (State Road 3, a real divided highway), we come to my church.  I hope you don't mind if I stop for a minute ... I need to check my mailbox.

Doing the sign is one of my jobs.

After turning west again on Carroll Road, we return to the high school, and our loop is done.

Not so dark now.  And it didn't even rain!

Thanks for coming along.  You're more than welcome, any time!

Friday, August 08, 2014

Even More Enduring Freedom

In the fourth term of the Dubya Administration, Avatar Obama unleashes New & Improved Iraqi Freedom 2.1:
Two U.S. fighter jets bombed Sunni militant forces in northern Iraq on Friday morning, launching the first major U.S. military action in the country since combat troops left three years ago.
In a statement issued Friday morning, the Pentagon said two F/A-18 Hornets dropped laser-guided bombs on artillery that had fired on Kurdish forces near Irbil, the Kurdish regional capital. Militants of the Islamic State, a breakaway Al Qaeda group, have been advancing toward the city in recent days. 
The fighter jets dropped 500-pound bombs on a "mobile artillery piece," being used by the militants, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman.
The attack occurred only hours after President Obama announced he had authorized airstrikes to protect about 100 U.S. military advisors in Irbil and to halt the advance of the Islamist militants.
The Islamic State "was using this artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Irbil, where U.S. personnel are located," Kirby said.
"As the president made clear, the United States military will continue to take direct action against ISIL when they threaten our personnel and facilities," Kirby said, referring to the militant group by an acronym for another of its names, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
He did not say if the artillery had been destroyed.
How much more hopey-changey can we get than that?

An aside from the Department of Delicious Irony: we're currently launching feckless air actions against an allegedly Sunni organization. Iran's a Shia state.  So, America's Finest Mercenaries are serving the horrible, hideous, unspeakable Iranians.  This should not, however, make those Iranians smile.  After all, that just makes them the next target.  The only consistent winners are the balance sheets at Lockheed-Martin, General Dynamics, General Electric, and so on.  Oh boy.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

The Services of Our Supervisors

From the non-bicycling news:

In a decree signed Wednesday, Putin banned food and agricultural imports from countries that have imposed sanctions against his country.
The retaliatory move comes more than a week after the United States and European Union increased economic sanctions on Moscow for supporting pro-Russian separatists fighting Ukraine government forces in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, along the border with Russia.
A list of specific products and food bans is still being worked out by the Russian government, according to the decree, which describes the order as a special economic measure "aimed at ensuring the security of the Russian Federation."

Russia is Europe's largest importer in value of animals, meat, dairy products, fruits and vegetables, according to the European Union.
Remember high school economics?  The benefits of specialization?  The plumber plumbs, the doctor doctors, the farmer farms, the teacher teaches.  They trade freely and voluntarily with each other, and everyone's better off than if the doctor's installing her own faucets, skinning her knuckles and getting it wrong, and the plumber's squinting at WebMD and trying to guess why his kid's forehead feels hot.

The trouble with these free-and-voluntary arrangements is that there's no demand for the services of the "defense" contractors or the costumed mass murderers.  These folks might have to learn to weld, and get their brows all sweaty and their hands grubby.  They might have to know something useful, that someone would be willing to pay them to teach.  They might have to learn to cook, quickly and well, and keep fifteen breakfast orders accurately in their heads at one time -- some of the hardest work there is, that last.  And that would never do.  So we get these crises.  Obviously, the little people can't be allowed to trade freely with each other.  Especially across international borders (defined as lines drawn by thug gangs to separate one gang's turf from another gang's).  So ... sanctions.  Ideally, these are the prelude to shooting wars.  Not, of course, any sort of all-out wars.  Since there still exist strategic nuclear weapons, the wrong people could be endangered by wars of that kind.  But maybe our supervisors ... the people who make nothing, and do nothing, that anyone will pay for ... can arrange more of those agreeable, limited wars.  The kind that chew up the domestic underclass, and that add handsomely to the corporate bottom lines in the "defense industry."

By the way, I do not mean to suggest that there is complete moral symmetry between our noble supervisors and The Wicked Putin.  Both are playing the do-not-trade game now.  But The Wicked Putin didn't start this round; our boys did.