Black Shards Press – Electronic Gumbo is Our Specialty

Nation of Uncaring Retards

28.11.2008 (6:38 pm) – Filed under: Stupidity ::

Saudi Arabia?  Pakistan?  Iran?  France?  No, I’m talking about the good ol’ U.S.A.  What else can you say about a country in which discount-crazed New York shoppers actually trample a store employee to death in their haste to save $20?

Claudia:

A man has died today, not because of a stampede to get much needed foodstuffs, or to get sorely needed blankets, but simply to get things. Things for their own sake, just because you can. It was worth breaking into a store, it was worth knocking over a man, it was even worth trampling him to death.

“People,” a friend’s father once said, “are the armpit of this country.”  Except he didn’t say “armpit” exactly – he meant a place further south.  A police officer, my friend’s dad shot himself to death while still in the prime of his life.  I guess that’s one way of saying that he meant exactly what he said.

The Wal-Mart trampling is an isolated incident, you say?  Not so.  A continent away, two more people died after a gun fight outside a Toys ‘r Us in California.  Allegedly the dispute was over a toy.

What could be more ridiculous?  If anything or anyone can, it’s Mark Silva.  Rather than simply state the obvious, that some people are a waste of oxygen and their priorities are a joke, Silva blames the government and the media for today’s inanity.

Lay a little blame at the feet of the government, for exhorting Americans to spend more money and shake off that recession gripping the nation.  Lay some blame on the media, for stoking the hype surrounding one day of retailing

Let’s blame everyone and everything except the individuals involved.  You know, the ones who made the decision to push through the doors at Wal-Mart and to pull out their pieces at a toy store.

Earth to Mr. Silva:  It’s individuals who have to take responsibility – and the blame – for their own actions.  Ever hear of accountability?  It would be a good lesson for all of us to learn.  Evidently that’s especially true if we’re going to go to the mall.

5 Hostages Killed in Mumbai Jewish Center

28.11.2008 (10:56 am) – Filed under: Islam,Terrorism,World ::

In the aftermath of a raid by Indian commandos, CNN reports that 5 hostages have been found dead in the Mumbai Jewish center that had been attacked and held by terrorists.  No word was released as to the hostages’ identities or whether they were killed in conjunction with the commando raid.  The total death toll resulting from the terrorist attack is now at approximately 125.

As suggested in Stratfor’s analysis of the attack’s consequences, India may be lurching toward casting the blame on neighboring Pakistan. 

Welt Online:

As anger mounted, India blamed “elements“ from Pakistan for the coordinated assault on its financial capital, which seemed designed to scare off foreign executives and tourists. Pakistan said the two countries faced a common enemy.

Fox is now reporting the terrorists has having heretofore suspected but unstated connections to militant Islam and possibly to Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi:

“Do not bring politics into this issue. This is a collective issue. We are facing a common enemy and we should join hands to defeat the enemy.”

Pakistan and India do share a common enemy – rogue, animalistic terrorists with no decency or morality and no nationalistic allegiance – and joining forces to eliminate this threat to world security would be an excellent idea.  How realistic that goal is given Pakistan’s seeming inability to police its own territory is questionable at best.

Personally I think that Stratfor’s report is overly pessimistic.  The Mumbai attacks are a shock to India, but they undoubtedly understands that controlling militant terrorists is difficult under the best of circumstances and that the circumstances in Pakistan’s tribal regions are far from that.  Politics may enter into the mix once the dust settles, but it seems to me unlikely that Pakistan’s government will have been involved and that India will, despite the required saber rattling, recognize that.

What these attacks signify is that Islamic terrorism is far from defeated despite being largely rooted out of Iraq.  They are well-armed, trained, and funded and can strike, at least in small numbers, if not wherever they want, in unexpected places and do major damage to innocent people and civilian infrastructure.

Furthermore, it’s worth remembering that there are no lengths to which these murderers will not go in their attempt to cow the rest of the world into submitting to their unholy vision of what the world should be like.  Events in Mumbai should serve to refresh that fact in our memories.

Iraq Thankful for American Troops

27.11.2008 (10:03 pm) – Filed under: Afghanistan,Iraq,Military ::

Perhaps thankful is too strong of a word.  Or perhaps not.  80% of Iraq’s parliament voted for a security pact that will keep American troops in that country for three more years – sounds like they’re glad to have us there.

After the madness that’s been happening in Mumbai over the last 2 days and the massive, brutal Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence of 2 years ago, it’s not hard to understand why Iraq’s leaders want to keep the the troops responsible for the progress of the last year plus in country.

It’s also clear that the U.S. has an obligation to keep our troops in Iraq until that country is ready to stand on its own.  Despite the recent successes, that time may be beyond the 2012 timeframe specified in this latest agreement.  Regardless, the moral imperative of “we broke it, we bought it” can’t be ignored. 

That’s true even for Barack Obama who, while elected on the promise of change and troop withdrawals, will find his ability to keep his allies on the far left happy constrained by the realities of his new responsibilities.

Hopefully the U.S. will continue to be able to draw down troop numbers in Iraq and shift the theater of war back to Afghanistan where our focus is needed.  And hopefully our former allies in Europe will re-commit themselves to the pacification of that country, work with us to secure its border with Pakistan, and help create an economy based on something other than opium.  And hopefully the U.S. will be able to establish long-term working relationships with the governments in both Iraq and Afghanistan and build military bases in those countries similar to those in Japan, South Korea, and other allied nations.

True, that’s a lot of hoping.  But our successes in Iraq have created the opportunity to hope for more favorable outcomes.  That’s something to be thankful for.

Barack Obama’s Priorities

27.11.2008 (1:02 pm) – Filed under: Energy,Environment,Terrorism ::

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama recently participated in an anti-global warming rally in California during which he said that few of the nation’s problems were more urgent than global warming.  To his credit, Obama tossed in a throwaway bit about dependence on foreign oil, too.  But if that particular speech can be taken at face value, the soon-to-be-inaugurated president’s priorities are wrong. 

Perhaps Mr. Obama didn’t heard about the whales trapped in the fast-moving arctic ice north of Baffin Island.  Meanwhile the siege in Mumbai continues with over 100 now known to have been killed.  Is the debate over global warming really that important?

Regarding Mumbai, CNN had Deepak Chopra on the air yesterday and while I’m loathe to put much stock in the Love Guru’s arch-rival, he did raise important, oft-asked and oft-ignored questions [emphasis mine]:

…who is financing this? Where is the money coming from? We have to ask very serious, honest questions. What role do we have in this? Are our petrodollars funding both sides of this war on terrorism? Why are we not asking the Saudis where that money is going that we give them? Is it going through this supply chain to Pakistan?

It’s pretty obvious that the answer is yes.  It has to be, even if only through the trickle-down effect of the Saudis’ oil money distributions.

That’s where the national priority ought to be, squarely on developing domestic energy sources.  Doing so would have the beneficial effects of deflating the artificial importance that oil-producing countries have in the world while ensuring a stable energy market at home on which business decisions can be made.

With respect to Michael’s opinion that oil-producing countries deserve special consideration vis-a-vis the economic shock that a move away from petroleum might create, I don’t think that’s true.  It would do the much-beset-upon youth of Saudi Arabia, et al, good to lose their cash cow so that they must learn to compete in a world in which the value of their ideas earns them their livelihoods rather than geological happenstance.  In the end, it’s up to oil-producing countries to pursue a political and economic course that maximizes and safeguards their long-term position, not their consumers. 

That same long-term perspective must be applied to the problem of man-made C02 emissions.  President-elect Obama should realize that, given that the U.S.’s natural resources point to coal and nuclear, it may be the case that the country’s pollution problems – and investment in nuclear energy – actually need to increase over the next few decades while research into efficient, sustainable clean energy sources continues.

Mumbai Under Terrorist Attack; 80 Dead

27.11.2008 (12:22 am) – Filed under: Terrorism,World ::

A previously unknown terrorist organization called the Deccan Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for multiple brutal, synchronized attacks in Mumbai, India.  The Times of India reports least 80 people have died so far, with perhaps 200 more people held hostage

A later report indicates that the Indian Army stormed the Hotel Taj and the Oberoi Trident, capturing 9 terrorists alive.  Reports on Twitter indicate that at least 1 terrorist was killed, while the Times reports 2 of them are dead.

New Zealand’s One News speculates that Deccan Mujahideen name is meaningless and perhaps a simple alias for Al Qaeda.  That’s unclear at this point, as are the motivations behind the well-planned and vicious attacks, and I wonder if it’s important.

What is clear is that the world is a dangerous place and it’s still filled with murderous misanthropes like those that killed hundreds in Bali and thousands in New York City. 

There are two ways to respond to attacks on civilization by such savages:  capitulation or confrontation.  The effects of the former are clear – Sharia, anyone? – which is why the policy of confrontation pursued by the Bush administration is, if not a marvel of success, at least an attempt to deal with terrorists on a proactive basis. 

The fact that he’s largely gone it alone – particularly since John Howard was defeated in Australia last year – is quite simply a disgrace free countries everywhere.  Thus emboldened, this latest batch of terrorists have left Mumbai feeling the effects of an appeasement that should never have happened.

Detroit’s Problems and the Left

26.11.2008 (11:30 am) – Filed under: Business,Finance,Unions ::

Perhaps the fundamental problem of our time is that no one wants to tell – or hear – the truth anymore.  This has certainly been true in Detroit, et al, where the United Auto Workers has fought off wage and benefit cuts for decades.  Now GM is poised at the brink of bankruptcy as a result. 

Loaning GM money would be viable if labor costs were reduced as part of the agreement.  But like others on the left, whose support for unions blinds them to reality, Eric Hoehlert still denies that there’s a fundamental problem with the cost of GM’s work force.

In fact Hoehlert says that the NY Times, Newsweek and other media outlets that reported GM’s labor costs were nearly 50% higher than Toyota’s were not only wrong but either incompetent or malicious:

…what’s obvious to me is that it’s harmful to public discourse when the press, on such a central issue facing our country, fails to clearly state the facts and instead perpetuates misinformation with sloppy reporting…

Mark Perry doesn’t see it that way.  In fact, he says that GM and the UAW misled Congress last week when they said that a new labor agreement will make GM competitive on wages.  Perry’s chart says it all:

image

Hoehlert’s assertion that the media is biased against blue-collar workers and against auto unions doesn’t make sense to me.  Nor does his superficial claim that UAW workers don’t make the hourly rate that the Times, et al, reported.

What that $70 figure (or $73) actually represents is what it costs GM in total labor expenses, on an hourly basis, to manufacture autos.

Do you see that there’s a big distinction? General Motors doles out $70 an hour in overall labor costs to manufacture cars. But individual employees don’t get paid $70 an hour to make cars. (The discrepancy between costs and wages is explained by additional benefits, pension fees, and health-care costs GM pays out to current and retired employees.)

The unpleasant truth that Hoehlert buries in parentheses at the end of his thesis is no mere footnote, it’s the entire point and problem with Detroit, one that can be summed up in a single phrase – total compensation. 

For GM, the problem isn’t so much the current wage of an assembly line worker, it’s the current and historical obligations the company has in addition to base salaries. 

Like an anchor dragging bottom, the obligations demanded by auto unions are a dead weight that has killed GM’s momentum and threaten to drag the entire company down.  The thinking that led workers and union leaders to make unrealistic demands – demands backed by threats of strikes and violence against non-unionized workers – are the primary cause for automakers’ financial crisis.

It’s easy and popular to blame GM’s management for what has happened to the company.  But does anyone truly believe that GM would be teetering on the edge right now if their employees’ total compensation was in line with Toyota’s?

The truth that Hoehlert and others can’t bear to admit is that the leftist policies of unionization and wage and job entitlement have inevitably brought Detroit to this moment in history. 

Faced with nimbler, more efficient competitors, sluggish, sloppy union shops simply cannot compete.  It has always been so and always will be.  Should Congress now bail out companies brought to destruction by these policies?

Actually, yes.  We need a domestic source of cars and trucks.  But taxpayer money should only be loaned to Detroit with the attached string of rectifying the fundamental problem of unionization.

Medicine in the Era of Big Government

24.11.2008 (7:28 am) – Filed under: Health,Medicine ::

My wife is having surgery today.  She’s chosen her doctors as best she can with the limited information available regarding their abilities, which is to say word-of-mouth, and we’ll soon be off to the relatively new facility in Bryan, Texas for her operation.

It’s a relatively minor procedure, but I have to admit to being a little afraid for her.  There’s nothing like putting your life – or that of a loved one – in the hands of a stranger to make you appreciate a country in which one can choose who the man or woman holding the scalpel will be.  That freedom is essential.  But will it still exist if a national health care plan is implemented?

more »

The Republican Base’s Candidates

22.11.2008 (9:47 pm) – Filed under: Conservatism,Politics ::

Barack Obama hasn’t even taken office yet, so It’s ridiculous to consider the 2012 presidential race.  But Gallup’s new poll identifies the right’s current candidates of choice for the nomination and the results are interesting because they fail to support Kathleen Parker’s recent assertion that social conservatives are on the way out. 

So who do right of center voters want to have in the 2012 race? 

Per Gallup, the three leading Republican candidates are Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee, all of whom openly confess having strong religious faith.  In fact, so strong is the preference for socially conservative candidates that no other candidate was desired by more than 50% of those polled.

Sounds like Ms. Parker is the one out of step with real Republican voters, not the social conservatives she mocks for their age, traditions, and Christian faith.

Sued, eHarmony Must Couple Gays

20.11.2008 (5:58 pm) – Filed under: Business,Gay Rights,Technology ::

In 2005, eHarmony, a leading on-line matchmaking service, began to fight a discrimination lawsuit filed by a gay man in New Jersey.  In 2007, the state’s attorney general found probable cause that eHarmony had violated N.J.’s Law Against Discrimination.  Today the company gave in to legal pressure and agreed to pair homosexual couples. 

By strong-arming eHarmony into complying with the state’s view of morality, New Jersey eliminated one more small opponent of homosexuality and opened the door to an untold variety of similar nuisance suits in coming years.

Incidentally, this is the exact pattern that social conservatives want to avoid in the gay marriage fight – big government bullying its way into the matter and imposing a solution that’s not what people want.

This is a setback for free markets and image-conscious companies like eHarmony that would prefer to cater to clients of their own choosing. 

Melissa Clouthier says:

These kind of suits make my blood boil. Ditto for women who want access to certain sorts of men’s clubs. People should be able to form groups based on any diverse characteristic they want. It’s called FREEDOM. It may not be politically correct. It may be a stupid group. But that’s what freedom is all about–you’re as free to be an idiot as you are to be smart. It’s up to you. Well, it should be.

Contrary to what’s popular opinion in some circles, there is no Constitutional or moral guarantee that any of us are going to be happy with our lives, live them out in an offense-free bubble, and have our way on every little issue that comes up.

What about the rights of eHarmony’s owners?  What about the rights of heterosexual eHarmony users, many of whom will find the new look and feel of the site distasteful?

What about the government’s ability to discipline itself not to act when it’s not needed? 

Re-Counting Votes

20.11.2008 (12:51 pm) – Filed under: Politics ::

Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman’s race with the sharp-tongued Al Franken has gone into extra innings.  Now the question becomes how recounting votes should be done and, perhaps more importantly, who will decide voters’ intent on bungled ballots.

To help with the former, Minnesota Public Radio has an excellent interactive sample of what recount officials will have to wade through in the process of determining what in effect has turned out to be a major turning point in how the U.S. Senate will be run for the next 6 years.  That’s a lot of pressure. 

Here’s some of their samples.  Look at MPR’s site and see if your opinions are reflected by Minnesota state law.  Also observe some of the twisted logic that campaign officials are using to try to get their guy more votes.  It’s obvious that election judges need to have a good head on their shoulders, be able to resist campaign pressuring, and be fair-minded, obviously.

        

  

In my neck of the woods in Texas a local bond issue passed by a narrow margin and was immediately challenged.  A recount will be taking place tonight, as a matter of fact.  One of the recount judges is a personal friend of mind and I know her character to be above reproach.  As for the other three, I can only hope.

As important as that election seems to the local school district, the Minnesota Senate race make it pale by comparison.  Who is recounting the votes there and what are their credentials?  The answers to those questions may determine the fate of the entire nation by providing or denying the Democrats the crucial 60th seat in the U.S. Senate.

The good news is that, at least in MPR’s sample, the right decisions should be made – if state law is followed.