sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Monday, February 29, 2016

For Your Consideration

A Well-Written Book

Long Ago, In a Far-Away Galaxy

...for those of you who wonder what happens behind the scenes of Star Wars...

Tumblr user mamalaz has been creating these amazing scenes for a series called "The Modern Adventures of Han And Ben" and it's so great.

If you didn't see the latest Star Wars film, you won't get it...and if you've never raised a teenage child, you won't get it either.

Handicapping Super Tuesday

It's always difficult to handicap something on the order of the presidential primary to be held March 1st. But it doesn't mean that I won't do it.

Donald Trump tapped into the anger in America at the establishment politicians. So did Sanders. Trump has a solid shot at winning the Republican Party's nomination. Sanders doesn't. I don't think Clinton does either and she'll be forced out and replaced by Kerry. Back to Trump. He played a much smarter game than his opposition and the mainstream GOP is not at all happy about it. There is talk here and there on the blogs of not supporting the Republican nominee if it's Trump. Not voting in the hopes of throwing an election to the Democrats. That's what they said when Romney was running and he lost the general election, sticking us with Barack for four more years. Trump is loud and he's a bit of a bully but he has connected in a way that nobody else has. Whether he will be nominated or not is still up for grabs, but it's his to lose.

John Kasich is hoping for a vice presidential slot. It could have belonged to Rubio but he was seduced by the mainstream GOP. I don't know what Carson is doing but he'll stay in it for the next couple of weeks if his statements are to be believed.

Marco Rubio, a little man in a big hurry, now has as much money as he can possibly spend to attack Donald Trump. Will his allegations that one of Trump's subcontractors hired Polish workers thirty-five years ago sway voters? It remains to be seen. He shifted from being robotic, repeating his slug lines to leering at Trump and jumping up and down, throwing stuff (largely bullshit) out in the hopes that some of it will stick. Trump counter-punches. At present I predict that Rubio will take Alaska and possibly Utah, (not a Super Tuesday state) where he polls well. This will give Rubio his first and second win and a possible 7 delegates.

Ted Cruz, had an awkward moment on Fox News Sunday today when he wouldn't answer Chris Wallace's questions about his dirty campaigning, and in turn attacked Wallace. Cruz didn't score points there that matter. Cruz is now alleging that Trump is running with the Russian mafia. The only thing that Cruz has not said is that Trump is a space alien...the illegal alien thing wouldn't sound right because of Cruz's status as potentially not being a natural born American (courts need to decide that one). Cruz will win Texas by a decent majority and he'll have his first legitimate win. Iowa was tainted by dirty tricks and who knows how many people that they swayed?

~and the prediction drama continues~

Texas - Cruz+11 (Trump second)

Arkansas - Trump +2 (Cruz second)

Tennessee - Trump +15 (Cruz second)

Georgia - Trump +5 (Rubio/Cruz tie for second)

Virginia - Trump +15 (Rubio second)

Massachusetts - Trump +25 (Kasich second)

Alabama - Trump +8 (Cruz second)

Alaska - Rubio +2 (The boy king is likely to win) (Cruz/Trump tie for second)

Vermont - Trump +18 (Kasich second)

Minnesota - Trump +10 (Kasich second)

Oklahoma - Trump +5 (Cruz second)

A Brief Rant: The American educational system produces a form of  cultural amnesia, a wholesale lack of curiosity, a near complete ignorance of history and historical precedence in the context in which it took place.

The Nation's educational goals are composed of contentless processes and unexamined buzz-words like “critical thinking,” “diversity,” “ways of knowing,” “social justice,” and “cultural competence.” Our students are the achievement of a systemic commitment to producing individuals without a past for whom the future is a foreign country, cultureless ciphers who can live anywhere and perform any kind of work without inquiring about its purposes or ends, perfected tools for an economic system that prizes “flexibility” (geographic, interpersonal, ethical). 

In such a world, one who owns a culture, a history, an inheritance, a commitment to a place and particular people, specific forms of gratitude and indebtedness (rather than a generalized and deracinated commitment to “social justice) is viewed as suspect. Best destroy the cancer that they represent. 

A strong set of ethical and moral norms that assert definite limits to what one ought and ought not to do (aside from being “judgmental”) are hindrances and handicaps in this brave new world, which is why our best and brightest do not run for public office. The narcissists, the power hungry, the Machiavellians, and the fools rise. The society values basketball players, actors and Kardashians. We don't see the Lincolns or the Jeffersons in public office.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Prosecuting Hillary

HR Clinton
The investigation into Hillary Clinton's conduct while Secretary of State is broken down into different components: (1) Gross negligence in handling classified material (the e-mail scandal); (2) Corruption in office as it pertains to her relationship with the Clinton Foundation and fundraising from foreign countries in exchange for favorable treatment (quid pro quo).

The FBI/US Attorney Task Force working on the Clinton case is moving forward. Based on sources available to this blog, the investigation is being conducted without regard to person. The FBI has over a hundred special agents assigned to various aspects of this case and the Department of Justice had a number of prosecutors reviewing evidence as it pertains to law. I do not think that they are being rushed or hindered by the election process as it moves forward, but there is a natural inclination to bring things to a conclusion sooner than later in the election cycle. My sense is that there will be legal action against former SECSTATE Clinton either at the end of March or in April. A lot of the timing has to do with the conclusion of the State Department's e-mail dump by tomorrow, February 29.

Hillary Clinton has been at the center of a lot of missing documents in the past. Let's review prior consistent behavior:
Missing: Hillary Clinton S&L Records. In 1988, according to congressional investigators, Hillary Clinton “ordered the destruction of records relating to her [legal] representation of [Jim] McDougal’s Madison S&L” when federal regulators were investigating the insolvency of the Arkansas savings and loan. Bill Clinton was Arkansas governor at the time. 
The Clintons and McDougal were business partners in the failed Whitewater real estate venture. McDougal later was convicted of fraud for attempting to use S&L funds to cover Whitewater losses. His wife, Susan, served prison time for refusing to answer grand jury questions about whether Bill Clinton lied in his testimony during her Whitewater trial.
Missing: Clinton Counsel’s Foster Records. In 1993, according to a Secret Service official, first lady Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, Maggie Williams, removed records from the office of White House Deputy Counsel Vincent Foster the night of his suicide. 
Other Clinton officials, including White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum, later testified that they conducted an improper search of Foster’s office. At least one file was marked “Whitewater” and another was marked “taxes.” 
Another White House counsel, Bob Barnett, later picked up a box of Foster’s documents. Associate counsel Clifford Sloan’s contemporaneous notes cite the Clintons’ initials: “get Maggie—go through office—get HRC, WJC stuff.”
Missing: Clinton Counsel’s Foster Suicide Note. Also in 1993, the White House released an official statement incorrectly saying that no Foster suicide note had been found. However, more than 24 hours after a note had been found, White House counsel Nussbaum turned it over to Attorney General Janet Reno. 
Missing: Hillary Clinton Law Firm Records. In 1996, after nearly two years of searches and subpoenas, the White House reported it found copies of missing documents from Hillary Rodham Clinton’s law firm that described her work for Madison S&L in the 1980s. The White House previously said it did not have the records. The originals have not turned up.
Missing: Clinton Terrorism Documents. In 2003, former Clinton national security adviser Sandy Berger smuggled classified documents related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks from the National Archives. Berger said he removed handwritten notes by hiding them in his jacket, pants and socks, and also inadvertently took copies of classified documents.
Withheld: Obama Administration ‘Fast and Furious’ Documents. In 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder withheld emails regarding the “Fast and Furious “scandal. President Obama invoked executive privilege to prevent some emails from being turned over to Congress under subpoena. It is unclear what role, if any, Secretary Clinton had in this activity. Some insiders speculate with good cause that she had helped with the overall strategic planning that led to the scandal.
Missing: Obama State Department Records. This year, it was revealed that the State Department may have lost some $6 billion because of incomplete or missing contract records over six years, mainly during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.
Missing?: Hillary Clinton Benghazi Documents. Also this year, former Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell said he witnessed a Benghazi document-sorting session in October 2012 in the State Department basement. He said then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, and her deputy, Jake Sullivan, were present.
One might also speculate that the reason she set up a separate e-mail server was so that information could go "missing" at the appropriate place and time. Call me a cynic, but there is a general pattern of behavior where the Clintons are concerned.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Anti-Trump Rhetoric

I hear a lot of anti-Trump noise on the Internet ratcheting up as the anyone-but-Trump crowd howl because he's doing very well and should his run continue as forecast, he'll be poised to be the Republican nominee within about two weeks.

To those among you who are haters, I need to suggest that he's a far more likely win than any of the Republican contenders no matter what the polls say. Polls search for high propensity voters and the Trump popularity stretches to legions of so-called new voters who are concerned about our failing economy.

It's all about the economy and jobs this time. Yes, I'm sure that Trump will pick appropriately conservative Supreme Court justices to nominate because the advisors who help him select will be conservative. Trump is not an ideologue, and while I tend to be, interest rates are at 0% and the economy is still growing at just about 0%. Am I the only one alarmed by that? By the fact that China and even Mexico walk all over us? America has changed and Trump is the only one who has tapped into that. It's why he's ahead.

He's willing to take on the Pope, of all people, and America needs that instead of the metrosexual mulatto that has occupied the White House for the past eight years.

I reject the cult of personality argument. It's about anger and the desire to upset the applecart in the hopes of a new way of dealing with both the size of government as well as our economy. Unless we do something, we'll circle the drain - and the mainstream Republicans have not tapped into a way to make that happen.

Maybe it will work, maybe not, but it's worth a shot. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Silicon Chips with Copper Plasmonic Components

There are scientific breakthroughs every day, almost all of which simply pass us by because our world is complex and nobody can absorb the movement of science and its implications on what we do every day. One of my ventures, which involves the use of superfine copper powder in the semi-conductor industry, just became a lot more interesting. 

Yes, I do involve myself in some esoteric things from time to time and while the introduction of copper photonics in integrated circuits may not interest you, you will be using these in the near future. Is it a "better mousetrap"? I hope so.
Journal Reference:Dmitry Yu. Fedyanin, Dmitry I. Yakubovsky, Roman V. Kirtaev, Valentyn S. Volkov. Ultralow-Loss CMOS Copper Plasmonic Waveguides. Nano Letters, 2016; 16 (1): 362 DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.5b03942
And before you flash NERD ALERT and move on to a discussion of Hillary's cankles or something equally as interesting, consider that the next big thing in integrated circuits involves using light/photons to transmit information within the chip instead (nanophotonics) of electrons. These chips are used in increasingly small devices that are part of almost everything we touch.

The discovery made by researchers from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) will be used to replace existing components in data processing devices with more modern components by using photons instead of electrons. 

Discussion of Plasmonics

While the main component in modern electronics, the transistor, can be scaled down in size to a few nanometres, the diffraction of light limits the minimum dimensions of photonic components to the size of about the light wavelength (~1 micrometre). Despite the fundamental nature of this so-called diffraction limit, one can overcome it by using metal-dielectric structures to create truly nanoscale photonic components. Most metals show a negative permittivity at optical frequencies, and light cannot propagate through them, penetrating to a depth of only 25 nanometres. Light may be converted into surface plasmon polaritons, surface waves propagating along the surface of a metal. This makes it possible to switch from conventional 3D photonics to 2D surface plasmon photonics, which is known as plasmonics. This gives a possibility to control light at the scale of the order of 100 nanometres, i.e. far beyond the diffraction limit.

It was previously believed that only two metals -- gold and silver -- could be used to build efficient nanophotonic metal-dielectric nanostructures and it was also thought that all other metals could not be an alternative to these two materials, since they exhibit strong absorption. However, in practice, creating components using gold and silver is not possible because both metals, as they are noble, do not enter into chemical reactions and therefore it is extremely difficult, expensive and in many cases simply impossible to use them to create nanostructures -- the basis of modern photonics.

Unlike gold, copper can be easily structured using wet or dry etching. This gives a possibility to make nanoscale components that are easily integrated into silicon photonic or electronic integrated circuits. They succeeded in fabricating copper chips with optical properties that are not inferior to gold-based chips in a fabrication process compatible with the CMOS technology, which is the basis for all modern integrated circuits, including microprocessors.

These studies provide a foundation for the practical use of copper nanophotonic and plasmonic components, which in the very near future will be used to create LEDs, nanolasers, highly sensitive sensors and transducers for mobile devices, and high performance optoelectronic processors with several tens of thousand cores for graphics cards, personal computers, and supercomputers.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Message Traffic Review


A source reported that Chinese authorities ordered a stop to all shipments of coal to North Korea starting 1 March. The source said the move could be a Chinese measure to sanction the North for its nuclear test and rocket launch. 

Dear Leader Kim Jong Un, never did a lick of work in his life.
Entitled to be dictator of the DPRK.
The reported stoppage order has not been carried in other open source materials that I read as part of my daily 'message traffic' consumption. I have seen China stop coal shipments on several occasions in the past because North Korea often failed to return the rail cars and used them in place of its own decrepit rolling stock. China stopped shipping coal until the cars, sometimes hundreds of them, were returned.

That is a sounder explanation for a coal shipment stoppage than sanctions. North Korea also never pays on time for the coal it receives from China. And the Chinese will continue to behave as Chinese - because they really don't like to give any more charity to the DPRK than they have to.

From time to time China also reduced the supply of crude oil piped to North Korea when it has failed to pay the bills. Sometimes stoppages have coincided with strained diplomatic or party relations, but most of the time energy stoppages proved to have been business decisions.

While the DPRK is like a red-headed stepchild to the Chinese, it's THEIR red-headed stepchild. They're used to blood thirsty, fat little dictators (like Mao) and have a warm place in their heart for people like that.


Several news services reported that on 21 February the terrorist group Ahrar al-Sham claimed that one of its car bombs killed a number of Russian generals at a gathering on a military base near Latakia City. They posted video imagery of the attack.

I don't think that she brushes her teeth.
The Russian media has not commented on those reports. The number and the identity of people killed, if any, was not detailed in the report. If the Ahrar al-Sham version of the incident is accurate, the Russians suffered a severe security breach which led to a major blow to Russian military leadership. The bombers had to have had inside help. The Ahrar al-Sham statement said the announcement of the attack was delayed a few days so the bombers could escape---another indication of a well-prepared operation with inside help.

If confirmed, this would be the most serious Russian loss since the arrival of the Russian expeditionary forces. It will reinforce Russian determination to continue its air campaign against those whom it considers to be terrorists, even if they are hiding among people who are not. Welcome to the Middle East, Vladimir.


And the American Mainstream Media doesn't carry much about anything except the pundit's desire to see Donald Trump stopped in his march to the White House. They seem to be poised to watch The Donald throw puppies into a wood-chipper or something so that the public will turn on him. So far, the public supports Sanders and Trump because they hate the Washington establishment so much. It reminds me of the City of Brass
They chose themselves prophets and priests of minute understanding,
Men swift to see done, and outrun, their extremest commanding –
Of the tribe which describe with a jibe the perversions of Justice –
Panders avowed to the crowd whatsoever its lust is.
And nobody typifies the Washington insiders more completely than John (Swiftboat) Kerry, the rising star in the Democratic Party's firmament (yes, once again).

Kerry reliably told a number of worried Democratic elite that he's looking forward to "tearing Trump a new one" on the debate stage. I say, "Bring it!" Reality television at its finest. It's much better than "The Apprentice" and I'm looking forward to Donald telling Kerry, "you're fired."


Mandarins in the Democratic Party are bracing for an indictment of their favorite daughter, the  repellant, old, reptilian, Hillary Clinton. As Fox News reports below, the legal review process is ongoing.  As suggested above, there will be a rule change within the DNC selection process that will replace former SECSTATE Hillary with the current SECSTATE (and former presidential contender), John Kerry, husband of billionairess Theresa Hinds Kerry, who could bankroll his run for office, yet again.
(Fox News) "If the FBI makes the case that Hillary Clinton mishandled classified information and put America's security at risk, will you prosecute the case?” Republican Congressman John Carter asked Lynch during a budget hearing. 
"Do you know of any efforts underway to undermine the FBI's investigation? And please look the American people in the eye and tell us what your position is as you are the chief prosecutor of the United States," Carter pressed. 
Lynch replied, "...that matter is being handled by career independent law enforcement agents, FBI agents as well as the career independent attorneys in the Department of Justice. They follow the evidence, they look at the law and they'll make a recommendation to me when the time is appropriate,"

She confirmed that the FBI criminal investigation is ongoing, and no recommendation or referral on possible charges had been made to her.

Barack made closing the US Military Prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba a cornerstone of his legacy. He would love to return the facility and all US Territory on the Island of Cuba to the Castro Brothers. In order to do that, he needs Congress to effect a law that would allow all of the terrorists in the prison to be transferred to a new, billion dollar (yet to be built) in the USA.

Congress, which enjoys a warm and loving relationship with Barack has said, "No". Which leaves Barack with a cell phone and a pen to make things happen. It remains to be seen what he is able to manage, but nobody really cares about him anymore. Not even his own people, who are out scrambling to figure out what they're going to do next, when he rides off into the Hawaiian sunset to become a malignant hector, totally irrelevant and ignored, in much the same way as Jimmy Carter did.

Lone Star State Predictions

(Emerson College Polling Info) Donald Trump is closing in on Sen. Ted Cruz in his home state of Texas – coming within 1 percentage point in a poll released less than a week before Super Tuesday voting. The Emerson College survey finds Cruz with 29 percent support and Trump with 28 percent – well within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percent.

Here's the breakdown:

Cruz: 29 percent
Trump: 28 percent
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio: 25 percent
Ohio Gov. John Kasich: 9 percent
Retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson: 4 percent

Since Texas delegates are awarded proportionally to a win, it shows a tie between Cruz and Trump, which, if correct, predicts a loss for Cruz. If Cruz were to walk away with 60 or 70 percent of the vote in Texas, that would be different and could shift momentum in his favor. A Tie with Trump and a near tie with Rubio don't do much for him.

There are other polls that show Cruz leading Trump by up to 10+% in Texas, not a landslide, but those are older polls than the Emerson College Poll that has just been Released.

Other March 1 Polling: Based on the Real Clear Politics Polling, Cruz is also leading in Arkansas. With the exception of Arkansas and Texas, polling favors Trump.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Future of Social Security

Demographic change in the United States and elsewhere in the world presents enormous challenges. In much of the world, the combination of increased life expectancy and a reduced birth rate has created a situation in which median age is rising rapidly. As a result, government transfer programs (used to be called a ponzie scheme), such as Social Security, that rely on taxes born by those currently working to fund benefits for those who are out of the labor force will come under increasing strain.

Policy makers will face difficult decisions because fiscal balance can be restored in such programs only by reducing promised benefits, raising taxes or through some combination of the two. Two of the more palatable and often discussed options are the removal of incentives that encourage early retirement and a gradual increase in the age of eligibility for retirement benefits to reflect increased life expectancy. Whether such reforms will be sufficient will depend, of course, on how quickly they are implemented and how far they go.

Republican front runner, Donald Trump, has vowed to save Social Security and Medicare through creating a vibrant economy, which will in turn increase the amount of money that the government takes in as a result of growth. Maybe that will work, but I doubt that it's a viable long term problem because the boom and bust cycles of market economies dictate that sustainable growth (over a long period of time) is an elusive goal.

Success in America requires that a combination of things happen and they've never happened for long enough. If you could have cloned Ronald Reagan and kept him in office indefinitely, maybe it would have been a reality, but that's not how it has worked in practice. There's always a Jimmy Carter or a Barack Obama waiting in the wings to appeal to people's greed or lust. President Johnson liquidated the Social Security Trust Fund to pay for the Vietnam war. Somebody will always there be there to steal it from the people paying into it.

I hear people's impassioned cries that it's "their money". As New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said in his inimitable way, "You've been jobbed. Your money was stolen."

Social Security was never intended to be a retirement plan. Medicare is emblematic of all government programs that grow to be absolute entitlements and economies grow up around them. And both of those ponzie schemes will end. The only question is how much they destroy on the way out.

The nation needs a safety net for the poorest, weakest and the generally f-ed up among us, but it can't be a debt that accounts for 71% of the federal budget (entitlements). I understand that not all of the entitlements are social security and medicare, but they count for the bulk at roughly two and a half trillion dollars.

In order for Social Security and Medicare to be sustained at their present level, my sense is that they need to be reduced by 50%. To put it in crude terms, it's a shit sandwich and we all need to take a bite.

Overhead Red?

ELECTION: I still think that the upcoming election will be a Trump/Rubio vs Kerry/Warren. Nothing in the past 24 hours has done anything but reinforce that opinion.

Pres. Barack H. Obama jr.
STATUS QUO: The Obama Administration has been working with Russia secretly to allow Russian reconnaissance aircraft to overfly the US. This is the first time that the matter reached the public, so I thought that it might rise to the level of interest here for you all.
(CBS News) Russia will ask permission on Monday to start flying surveillance planes equipped with high-powered digital cameras amid warnings from US intelligence and military officials that such overflights help Moscow collect intelligence on the United States. 
Russia and the United States are signatories to the Open Skies Treaty, which allows unarmed observation flights over the entire territory of all 34 member nations to foster transparency about military activity and help monitor arms control and other agreements. Senior intelligence and military officials, however, worry that Russia is taking advantage of technological advances to violate the spirit of the treaty
Russia will formally ask the Open Skies Consultative Commission, based in Vienna, to be allowed to fly an aircraft equipped with high-tech sensors over the United States, according to a senior congressional staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the staff member wasn't authorized to discuss the issue publicly. 
The request will put the Obama administration in the position of having to decide whether to let Russia use the high-powered equipment on its surveillance planes at a time when Moscow, according to the latest State Department compliance report, is failing to meet all its obligations under the treaty. And it comes at one of the most tension-filled times in US-Russia relations since the end of the Cold War, with the two countries at odds over Russian activity in Ukraine and Syria.
The results of conversations between the US and Russia will no doubt be SECRET, and kept from the public even though the Obama Administration promised to be, "the most transparent in history." Therefore, it may be appropriate for you to raise the middle finger of either or both hands (if you're from the US - different gesture in the UK and elsewhere) toward the heavens when you leave your home. 

There are some who might feel that such a display of vulgarity is inappropriate when you consider that the president's closest advisors came from communist families (Jarrett and Axelrod) as did he. {Father, mother and maternal grandparents who raised him as well as the honorary "Frank Davis  (Uncle Frank) Marshall"}

I'm not suggesting the Russia today is communist, but I'm sure a lot of the old, warm and tender feelings between Barack and Putin remain:

A lot of how you interpret all of this has much to do with your personal level of trust in this administration to do the right thing. Some of you may quote the former SECSTATE and she who would be queen, "What difference does it make?" 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Pope Blessed My Lunch

This is Vito's Italian restaurant. It's not the original location. Joe Vito, owner of Vito's Italian restaurant felt as if he needed to move back to his ancestral home of Bari, Puglia Region, Italy because he had been ill.  He sold the old place.
No, Adrianne, you will note that I wasn't able to incorporate anything to do with Hitler or his parts but, since you are a practicing Italian and master chef, I am dedicating lunch to you today.
Vito's small sausage sandwich with extra pepperocini.

He recovered his health and returned to the US after a seven year absence and opened a new restaurant. The meal made for me today (above) by his wife met the gold standard for great Italian cooking: Crusty, delicious, bread, fresh from the oven there on premises; home made sausage; home made marinara and cheeses imported from Italy.  I ordered the small 16" sandwich because the 20" sandwich (man sized) was simply too much for me to down all by myself irrespective of the ardent desire to eat more. (I'd have had to barf first to accomplish that.) Mama was a little hurt that I passed on the antipasto salad to start. Again, unless you eat more than you can lift (literally), mama and papa feel that you didn't eat enough.

When Pope John Paul II (Karol Józef Wojtyła) visited Los Angeles in 1987, he had a very busy schedule but visited Joe Vito's humble restaurant to bless both Joe, the food and the building.  A photo of that blessed event still hangs in the current restaurant as a moment of a great moment that has now passed.  The question before me as I ate my sandwich today, was whether the current pontiff (Francis, an Argentine collectivist) would bless the restaurant today the way Pope John Paul II, a hero of freedom, capitalism and western values did.

When you consider that Vitos has always been a place where the police have congregated for great food and to share company with great people, I doubt that Pope Francis would show. And it would be Francis' loss, because the hole-in-the-wall family Italian joints seem to put out the very best food, worthy of a pope's blessing.

Telling Tuesday

Frank v Don

I never thought that the Pope would work as hard as he did to boost Donald Trump's political future. Well done, Francis.

And from the What's for Lunch file: 

Nevada Republican Caucus

I've heard that the Rubio people are hopeful that he'll win NV today, but the i-Ching has other things in mind.  He's polling third but I think that he stands a chance of coming in second. Trump is projected to win. I think that Nevada is an easy state for him because he's Trump. Maybe Cruz's firing of his communications director will clean up his filthy campaign. I would like to think so. I hate to think poorly of Ted, what with all of the 'praising Jesus' that he's doing to pull in votes...Yes, I think that Ted Cruz is being insincere.

More on China and the Spratly Islands

The Washington Post and other news services reported on 22 February that commercial imagery shows that the Chinese have added probable radar systems, communications towers and lighthouses or beacons on four of their reclaimed islets in the Spratlys,


The Chinese continue to make improvements on the seven islands/islets that they control and have reclaimed. The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative reported last summer that several of the reclaimed islets already contained radars and naval guns or anti-aircraft guns. 

The recently imaged equipment appears more advanced, but still is “dual use” in that it has commercial and military applications. The equipment should provide surveillance advantages in a remote part of the South China Sea and should improve the safety of navigation, at least for Chinese ships and craft. 

The Chinese will contend that the electronics equipment is benign and does not signify militarization, but rather ownership -- they are just monitoring their sea borders and the neighbors.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi might make those points during his trip to the US from 23 to 25 February. The Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on 22 February that China’s limited defensive improvements, including basing air defense missiles in the Paracels, was no different than the US defending Hawaii. She said Chinese actions in the South China Sea should not be an issue in the Foreign Minister’s talks in the US. I have no idea what Pres. Obama will have to discuss with China, because I thought that he gave away the store, but apparently there is more to give up.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The New Dawn

The days don't dawn happy for conservative pundit George Will (once of ABC News, now working for Fox and writing articles)
(Washington Post) George Will writes: ...Many South Carolina evangelicals, like those in Iowa, showed, shall we say, Christian forgiveness toward Trump, who boasts of his sexual athleticism, embraces torture and promises to kill terrorists’ families. Or perhaps these remarkable evangelicals think his myriad conversions-of-convenience (his serial adjustments of his “convictions” in time for this campaign) constitute being “born again.” This is an interesting interpretation of John 3:7
As the Republican Party contemplates putting forward this florid face, the Democratic Party, clinging to Hillary Clinton like a shipwrecked sailor clinging to a spar, celebrates her Nevada achievement. ‘Twas a famous victory.

Trailing clouds of seediness sufficient already to have convinced 56 percent of Americans that she is neither honest nor trustworthy, Clinton won only 53 percent against an opponent who says that, after seven years of a Democratic presidency, America is a fetid swamp of rising inequality and multiplying injustices. Criticizing Bernie Sanders for criticizing Obama, Clinton promises continuity with an administration that (according to a Gallup poll this month) has convinced 71 percent of likely general election voters that America is on the wrong track...
Fredd writes: ...The closest thing the establishment GOP has in the race now with any shot at the GOP nod is Marco Rubio. Recall, however, that only 5 short years ago, Marco Rubio won his senate seat DESPITE the establishment poobahs such as Karl Rove and his superpac backing the RINO Charlie Crist, Rubio's primary opponent, over someone they considered of distasteful Tea Party ilk such as Rubio...

But George Will, who used to excoriate Rubio did not disparage him even though he has roots in the Tea Party, because he's the old GOP's last hope. Don't get me wrong, Rubio isn't an establishment candidate the way that the now defunct Jeb! was. However the (old) Grand Old Party hopes that with enough money and left owing enough favors, Rubio can be bent into a mainstream machine politician. They may be right. 

Ted Cruz has shown himself to be a very dirty campaigner, and for that reason more than any other, he will not get my vote unless it's between Ted and John Kerry/Joe Biden (post Hillary general election). Cruz didn't have to dip so low so soon, but he chose to

George Will, repellent and angry, is bitter at seeing that country club Republican class fade into antiquity. Watching Jeb! crumble must have been as agonizing as supporting Rubio for president must be.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Last Man Standing

John (Swiftboat) Kerry is pushing hard to take Hillary Clinton's slot when she's indicted. This is genuine scoop and you can take it to the bank. Sure, he's run for president before and lost. The photo (right) suggests that he may try a win by hypnosis this time. Some people suggest that he needs to try something new to 'energize the base'.

So it might not be Biden vs Sanders when Hillary stumbles.  The party needs to pick somebody and based on good inside information, that person will be Kerry. Biden is senile and they don't have confidence that he won't gaff himself to an early loss. Sanders is not a bought man and the Democratic Party only runs people that they own body and soul (literally).

The Clinton win by 5% over Sanders in Nevada yesterday signaled to the Dems that she's a weak candidate and only served to reinforce her lack of standing with voters should she be the nominee.

Allegations of irregularities during the caucus by Hillary's operatives have surfaced and nobody should be surprised. The only thing that should surprise us is that Bernie Sanders is still alive.

Sanders leads in polls in many battleground states though he is expected to lose in South Carolina to Clinton next weekend.

Trump won South Carolina as predicted, by double digits. Rubio and Cruz tied for second. Jeb! dropped out after outspending all of the other candidates combined and finishing with dismal numbers. The verdict is that America didn't want him.
(Fox News) Regarding the South Carolina Republican Primary: “If the race is a three way race, then it really is a toss-up, who of the top three will get it,” Krauthammer said. “If it remains a six man race [or] a five man race that means that Trump will romp all the way to the nomination, because he will dominate if the so-called establishment vote is split."
Carson and Kasich are not dropping out of the race...

Trump's victory in South Carolina shows the inherent weakness in the Cruz campaign. Ted should have won SC easily if he dominated the evangelical ranks the way that he claimed to have and the way that the political class said that he did.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Sábado (Saturday) Taqueria

two tacos al pastor and a carne asada burrito
I like Mexican food -- I just do. No, Mexican food does not stress bacon, but there are other pork products such as al pastor style pork that feature different and delightful flavors. The tortillas should be made while you watch. A tortilla that is more than two minutes old is -- stale. (not really, but I like them fresh)

The carne asada burrito (right) is a close rival of Karen's brisket burrito (Itasca, TX). I'm a three-day drive from Itasca so I'm forced to make do in California.

It's ok to wrap up half of a burrito and take it home for a snack later...or if you're a hog, you can order another one to-go.

There are a lot of types of taco. These street tacos, served with the grilled scallions on the side are one kind of wonderful.

When I make tacos at home, I add tomatoes, cheese and olives (because I love olives almost as much as bacon).  I also use larger tortillas.

The question of which sauce is best to put on a taco is as old as time itself. I favor tomatillo salsa (above left) and wha't not to love about guacamole (right) - the proper use of an avocado.  There are also at least a dozen styles of guacamole - all of which are good.

Support your local taco stand. 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Author, J. K. Rowling teamed up with two other writers to create Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the eighth book in the Harry Potter series.  It will be available on July 31, so you have time to save your pennies. 
Overview: It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children. 
While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.
J. K. Rowling has done more in my opinion to encourage young adults toward the joy of reading than an any modern author. The Harry Potter series has made her fabulously rich (richer than one of those goblins at the bank). I like to see authors strike it rich. In this day and age, it's nearly impossible to sell enough books to support yourself unless you're Rowling or perhaps Stephen King, or that new up-and-commer, Jim Curtis.
From John C. Wright: "...This is true even of tales that treat the matter of ancient epics and ballads lightly, as when a young orphan discovers he is not of our world but a wizard from the land of magic hidden from human eyes. Harry Potter somewhat cheekily, and with tongue in cheek, puts all the tropes of once-upon-a-time into modern garb, so that broom-riding witches play rugby in midair, and the sorcerer’s apprentice goes to boarding school straight out of Tom Brown’s School Days to face bullies as bad as Flashman. 
"But even a lighthearted treatment of the eternal things will brush up against eternal themes: Harry must face a Dark Lord who is a dark reflection of his own soul, and he bears the wound of his mother’s love, which saved him as a babe, upon his brow. Harry Potter is the most successful book of all time next to Pilgrim’s Progress and the Sears Catalogue
"And so, naturally, there is a certain cult, known in his world as Deatheaters, and in our world as Political Correctness, that seeks repulsively to claim that success as their own...These books teach the most solid and conservative of messages imaginable. And, no, I do not mean that they teach that intolerance is good and torture is even better. I mean these books show clear and edifying examples of core conservative values in action. Let us list a few:
  • The families in Potter consist of mothers and fathers, not various partners of various genders engaged in various acts of free love. Ron’s family is a shining example of a loving family, with a father who works and a mother who is willing to face mad witches if need be for her large and well-loved brood. Harry Potter himself is saved by his mother’s love and protected from the evil spells of her murderer.
  • The government in Harry Potter’s world, as in ours, in inept, corrupt, and regarded as an obstacle rather than the source of salvation. Each boy relies on his own wit and courage and friendships to save himself and to save the world.
  • The press in Harry Potter’s world, as in ours, is inept, corrupt, and a source of outrageous falsehoods. The main reporter-witch can assume the form of a mosquito.
  • The moral universe in Harry’s world rejects any form of relativism. There are no shades of gray here, or examples of a thing being right for one group and wrong for another. The ends do not justify the means here either: knowing that Voldemort is also an orphan raised in poverty does not automatically make him one of the oppressed and therefore excused in anything he does, as it would in the left-wing world.
  • Dumbledore is gay! And the one example in the book of Dumbledore’s love is an evil man who manipulated him. Aside from that, as best the text can show, Dumbledore lives chastely.
  • Do I even need to say anything about the alleged occultism in Potter? We Christians invented the medieval romance from which the modern novel takes its form, and modern fantasies slavishly copy, including this one. Romance is as Roman as Rome. If you think Sir Orfeo or Orlando Furioso or Le Morte D’Arthur is occult, go find the nearest exorcist: you’re possessed by the imp of stupid.
  • They keep score in Quidditch. I just thought I would throw that in.
  • There is no cult of victimology here. Anyone who gets ahead, even the Chosen One, is because he works hard. The Twins open a joke shop when they graduate; they do not go on the dole.
  • “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” Harry conquers death by submitting to it at Voldemort’s hand, and destroys the Dark Lord by being reborn. He sees the Dark Lord’s soul as the shriveled and pathetic thing it is, not glorious.
  • Salvation requires sacrifice.
  • Rules are made to be broken. 
"A word on this last point. One might think that we conservatives, who are law-and-order types, would object to a book in which the hero defies a government order and trains in secret with his fellow students against a day of war. However, conservatism, if it is anything, is the belief in limited government. We like rebels when the authority oversteps it role and turns corrupt, as it does in Harry Potter, with the various fussy bureaucrats, traitors, and cowards occupying the Ministry of Magic. 
'Leftism by its nature is totalitarian, since it extends its reach to every element and aspect of life. For leftists, life is politics and politics is life. For them, everything is a political issue, from the weather in the Arctic to the size of your bank account to the volume of your toilet tank to the chemicals in a hairspray bottle to the pronouns you use when the antecedent is unknown to whether a Catholic can refuse to bake a wedding cake for a ceremony that desecrates a sacrament. 
'In other words, leftists applaud revolution only when it is directed to the overthrow of whatever stands in the way of their socialist utopia. No leftist of which I am aware has ever expressed sympathy and solidarity for Lech Walesa, for the Hungarian Uprising of 1956, for the protesters of Tiananmen Square, for the protest novels of Solzhenitsyn. They applaud Malcolm X and Saul Alinsky. Leftism is statism; whenever the state is growing, leftists frown on rebels. It is only small and healthy states they want rebels to overthrow. 
'The first thing I ever heard about Harry Potter, back before I had read it, and the thing that most strongly recommended it to me, was that liberals thought it was a bad example to give kids because the young hero defied authority.
'Had I known that the book also offered up rather clear examples of Christ-like self sacrifice, self-reliance, and moral clarity, not to mention a pro-family hence antipress and antiauthoritarian message, I would have rushed out even quicker to buy it."

Thursday, February 18, 2016

I-Phone Controversy


There is a lot of splash in the news about Apple Computers, Inc. refusing to surrender the keys to its encryption protocol to the i-Phone to the FBI. Please note that once they give it to the US Court System, the encryption becomes useless. 
This week a federal magistrate ordered Apple to help the FBI break into the iPhone belonging to Syed Farook by finding a way to bypass that annoying passcode — that, didn’t exist until 2014. 
Apple CEO Tim Cook yesterday issued a statement saying the company would fight the federal order. Cook called the ruling government overreach and said “this moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.” He insisted the order “has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.” He said that “while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.” 
A British proposal being considered in December to provide a way for that government to access iPhone information in matters of national security elicited a similar response from Apple, thus far unresolved. 
FBI Director James Comey earlier told Congress — unrelated to this case — that the failure of Apple and other companies to provide de-encryption data put the bureau at risk of “going dark” in its efforts to stymie attacks or find the culprits responsible for one already committed.

Of course the National Security Agency can crack the encryption on the i-Phone but they won't confirm or deny that capacity, and they don't talk to the FBI very often. This is the fallacy of the whole argument about Apple and what the government wants. The US and British Governments no doubt already have it. 


If the USA really wants to pressure Apple, CEO Tim Cook can always move to say, Mexico or Bolivia. Apple's annual revenue exceeds the gross national product of Bolivia. I'm sure that the Bolivarian dictatorship would welcome the bump in income and could give a rat's ass about encryption. That's the same sort of problem that Bernie Sanders would encounter should he be able to enact that 90% tax rate for the most successful. Unless the US would want to put up an "iron curtain", wealth would leave.

Of course the controversy will have people buying Apple products. I wish I'd bought Apple stock before this goat rope started.

Political Trivia

Hillary, before they trowel on the make-up
and prepare her to meet her public.
Anyone who studies the Democratic Party's nomination process understands that it's rigged heavily in favor of their favorite - in this case, Hillary Clinton. Super delegates make it difficult for anyone else, Sanders in this case, to win even if he wins each state primary in the Union. 

With Nevada in a dead tie, there is no indication that Clinton will be able to run the table post New Hampshire.

Word from within the Clinton campaign (you heard it here first) is that she is ramping up another re-set. Something like her eighth, to show people that.
1. She's not a liar
2. She's not a self-serving, hypocritical, career insider (which conflicts with number one, but she'll roll with it).
3. She will promise every bit as much free stuff as Bernie Sanders since it's not her money that's being spent. (neither is it Bernie's)
4. She will guarantee another four years of Obama (groan)

Additionally the e-mail dumps by the US State Department will end by the conclusion of this month, leaving the FBI to decide what they're going to do with her. Hillary says that she's not worried about being indicted by DOJ. 

And this is more the point, is Obama content that she would be the nominee of his party, or will the old communist beat her. Barack is not anti-communist by any means. However Sanders has no love for Barack or his cronies, and that is a problem.  Barack would be much more content with Old Joe Biden trying to fit into Hillary's comfortable shoes. So the indictment could get a green light.

On the Republican side of things, the Rubio campaign is livid that Obama lashed out at Trump from the podium, saying that Trump will NOT be the next president. Rubio demanded equal lashing because it generates more votes.

Trump's lead appears to be solid nationally and if he's elected president, the British won't let him visit their island(s). The Bush family might not show up at the inauguration as they'd put Jeb! on suicide watch. Cruz is unlikely to be the vice presidential nominee.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Parcel Islands


Various news outlets including Fox News have put out reports featuring satellite imagery showing two batteries of a mobile air defense missile system on a beach at Woody Island in the Parcel Islands, in the South China Sea. According to the imagery readout, a beach on the island was empty on 3 February, but the missiles were visible by 14 February. An unidentified US official said the system appears to be the HQ-9 air defense system, which has a range of 125 miles (200 km).

Over the weekend, The Diplomat magazine reported that China also is building a helicopter base at Duncan Island in the Parcels. Vietnam also claims the Paracel Islands. I can only guess that you didn't know that in 1974, the Republic of Vietnam’s naval forces were defeated by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy in a sea battle not far from Duncan Island, ending Vietnam’s presence in the Paracels. After that battle, China controlled the Paracel Islands. 
There is a price to not reading history - you don't grasp the fullness of the present because the context that we see now is obscured by a lack of information. America doesn't teach young men and women to study history, and they often fail to grasp even the simplest events with an eye toward context and precedence. (sorry for the lapse into a sermonette)
The presence of the HQ-9 launchers on the beach is a strong sign that China wants the US and other states with imaging satellites to be aware of China’s air defense capability. In that context, China’s exposure of the equipment carries a latent threat. Deploying air defense systems on the islands that it occupies is a prudent defensive precaution. On Woody Island, it is a military requirement because it contains China’s first military base in the South China Sea. Combat and patrol aircraft have deployed there in the past and will be deployed there again in the future. 

Other military defensive measures will be detected on all the islands and islets on which China has made improvements in the Paracel and the Spratly Island chains. With multiple claimants to the islands and to their sea and seabed resources plus periodic US freedom of navigation naval missions, militarization of the islands has been inevitable. The Chinese are serious about defending their claims to ownership of the Sea and its islands and resources.

I mention this on my blog so that you readers will have the proper context and will understand the serious nature of Chinese claims.

America's absence from the national stage during the era of ObamaNation led to our abandonment of traditional allies in the area and encouraged Chinese expansion and hegemony. Once done, it's exceptionally difficult to see undone. Elections have consequences and China's expansion in the face of a weak United States is inevitable. 

I reflect on the expansionist dreams of the Empire of Japan in their invasion of Manchuria in 1931. I do not suggest that history is repeating here, only that there is danger when we see national expansion and annexing vast territory -- and building the means to defend it.

Vikings (Season 4)

I'm a fan of the History Channel's TV series, Vikings. Since season four begins tomorrow, February 18th, so it's a worthy topic for a blog. 

(Official Series Overview) The series is inspired by the tales of the raiding, trading, and exploring Norsemen of early medieval Scandinavia. It follows the exploits of the legendary Viking chieftain Ragnar Lothbrok and his crew and family, as notably laid down in the 13th-century sagas Ragnars saga Loðbrókar and Ragnarssona þáttr, as well as in Saxo Grammaticus' 12th-century work Gesta Danorum. Norse legendary sagas were partially fictional tales based in Norse oral tradition, written down about 200 to 400 years after the events they describe. Further inspiration is taken from historical sources of the period, such as records of the Viking raid on Lindisfarne depicted in the second episode, or Ahmad ibn Fadlan's 10th-century account of the Volga Vikings. The series is set at the beginning of the Viking Age, marked by the Lindisfarne raid in 793.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Syrian Proxy War Update

There is a great deal going on in Syria. Normally nobody would care but because a lot of non-Syrian actors have entered the area, each with a separate agenda, it demands some level of attention and interest.

Last week the Russians clarified their position on a Syrian ceasefire. 
A Foreign Ministry official said that Russia will continue its air strikes around Aleppo even if a ceasefire agreement is reached. The Russians also made clear that they would continue attacks against al-Qaida affiliates, such as the al Nusra Front, and against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). 
The Russians want to support Assad and in order to do that, Aleppo must fall and they must mop up opposition. That's precisely what Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the US in tow, don't want to happen. Russians have defined enemies of the Baathist government in Damascus as terrorists. That would include the US/Turkish/Saudi backed al-Qaida affiliates.
Am I the only one that finds it strange that the USA would now be backing al-Qaida?
The Turks have entered the civil war in Syria over the last few days.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Kurdish backed Syria Democratic Forces succeeded in taking control of around 70 percent of Tal Rifaat, a town between Aleppo city and Azaz near the Turkish border.

This is the latest success in the Syrian and allied offensive against rebels along the border. Tal Rifaat is within 24 kms (15 miles) from the Turkish border. More importantly, it is 14 kms (8.4 miles) from Azaz. The Democratic Forces include Arabs and Assyrian Christians.

In response to Kurdish progress, Turkish forces began shelling Kurdish fighters in Syria and supposedly sent a contingent of Turkish army soldiers to Azaz. Monday, the 15th, was the third day of shelling. Some news sources reported that the Turks shelled Syrian army units as well.
Also on the 15th, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the press, “We will not let Azaz fall. The People’s Protection Units (YPG - a Syrian Kurdish militia) will not be able to cross to the west of the Euphrates (River).” 
Speaking to reporters on an aircraft en route to Ukraine, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said that the YPG militia would have taken control of all Azaz and Tal Rifaat had it not been for Turkish shelling over the weekend. “The YPG elements were forced away from near Azaz. If they get closer again, they will see the harshest reaction. We will not allow Azaz to fall.” Davutoglu also threatened that Turkey would make the Menagh/Minakh air base near Azaz “unusable” if the YPG did not withdraw from it.
The website World Airport Codes lists Menagh base as located in Azaz. Other open source reports claim Turkey ordered the Syrian Kurds to vacate the base and restore the opposition group that the Kurds had routed.
Turkish officials provided no details about the number and military specialties of the Turkish soldiers sent to Azaz. Unconfirmed press sources said about 100 soldiers were sent. That number suggests either a core group of advisors and special forces or an advance team for a larger contingent, or both.

Davutoglu also accused Russia of acting as a “terrorist organization” in Syria. “If Russia continues behaving like a terrorist organization and forcing civilians to flee, we will deliver an extremely decisive response,” Davutoglu said. The Turks are now in the Syrian civil war, although they do not yet use that language to describe their actions. They are gambling that the Russians will not challenge a NATO country acting to protect is national interests. Turkey may be expected to deny that it sent any Turkish army soldiers to Azaz.

Turkish politicians are misreading the mood in Moscow. Moscow has a grudge to settle with Turkey. Any Turkish forces in Syria would be legitimate targets for Russian airstrikes. The Syrians and Iraqis have had to endure Turkish military operations against the Kurds inside their borders for decades. As long as the Turks targeted the Kurds, the governments in Damascus and Baghdad tolerated the Turks. That situation has now changed.

Turkish support for ISIL has converted tolerance into hostility for the Turks. The Turks do not seem to have caught up. 

Saudi Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asiri, the spokesman for the Saudi-led Coalition in Yemen, told Al Arabiya television that the Kingdom sent combat aircraft to Incirlik Air Force Base in Turkey. He restated Saudi Arabia’s commitment to stepping up the fight against ISIL and said that the deployment was part of those efforts. Since the Saudis Air Force will be operating with the Turkish Air Force, they will likely strike the Kurds, who are US Allies. 

The pending Saudi deployment represents another expansion of the war. They are attempting a shift of assets to the opposition to try to offset the imbalance created by the weight and effectiveness of the Russia expeditionary forces and other allies of the Syrian government. 

The Turks and Saudis are reinforcing the defeat of their proxies in northern Syria. That tactic usually fails. The moves look belated and desperate. They increase the risk of misadventures in the air, unless the Saudis coordinate with the Russians and the Syrians in addition to the US and other NATO countries.

All of this begs the questions:

  • Who are our friends?
  • Who are our enemies?
  • Is this civil war one where we should align ourselves with Saudi Arabia (and al Qaida)?
  • Is this civil war worth one single drop of American blood or treasure?

I hear politicians chattering on the stump about Syria and ISIL but I don't hear any of them discussing these options, which are critical to developing a strategy. Barack is said to have a strategy, but his strategy is not having one.