White House Boosts Deficit Projections – WSJ.com

White House Boosts Deficit Projections – WSJ.com.

The budget deficit was predicted (by the administration) to be $1.752 trillion for the current fiscal year. How much money is that? It’s $1,752,000,000,000. That’s too large a number to really understand. If you took $1 bills and laid them end to end around the earth, you would wrap around the earth 6,477,130,690 times! That’s about 6.5 billion times. That’s still too large a number to really understand. Using the same end-to-end laying of $1 bills, you could travel to the sun and back 865,700.554 times! What that means is that using $1 bills, we could travel 1,731,401.11 AU (astronomical units). That’s 27.38 light years! These are astronomical amounts.

Of course, my use of the length of the U.S. $1 bill was arbitrary, I could have made any number of other comparisons but the point remains the same; that is a lot of money. And that’s just the projected 1 year budget deficit! Of course, that deficit includes additional bailout money Congress might not approve but even so, we’ll have at least a $1.5 trillion budget deficit with another large one next year (and so on for the forseeable future). I’m not even going to broach the subject of the actual national debt.

I appreciate that Pres. Obama and Congress are trying to address the weak economy and the budget shortfalls but right now Pres. Obama seems too much like Pres. Lyndon Johnson trying to escalate the Vietnam War while pushing for his Great Society; it was more than he could handle so he wasn’t particularly successful at either. I’m not saying all of the Great Society programs were bad – many were good – but he was not able to focus on both social and military programs at the same time. He should have done one or the other, not both. Pres. Obama, like LBJ, is trying to do everything. I think he’s more capable than LBJ was but Pres. Obama is not only trying to “fix” the economy, he is trying to create his own Great Society while fighting the War on Terrorism (including two ongoing campaigns – Iraq and Afghanistan). I recognize that Pres. Obama was thrown some flaming torches and asked to juggle them but instead of letting some fall and go out, he decided to keep juggling them all while asking for more.

I applaude that Pres. Obama did not implement his original plan to start taking troops out of Iraq immediately, at least he listened to his military leaders and implemented what is essentially Pres. Bush’s withdrawal plan (although Pres. Bush did not like that word). I think some bailouts were probably necessary, although they should have been much smaller than were approved, but much of Pres. Obama’s “stimulus” or other budgetary monies are going towards social programs at a time when we cannot afford them. Increaing Pell Grants is a nice idea (I know many other conservatives disagree) and as a researcher, I always appreciate having more money available for reserach grants, but this money is borrowed money. It’s not real; we are borrowing against the future for things we cannot afford now. Fix the budget first, then try to work on social programs. We need to cut spending, not increase it.

Obama’s Budget “Cuts”

Today Pres. Obama proposed a $17 billion budget cut today. According to CNN.com, some of the cuts are as follows:

  • Recruiting and retention adjustments: $6.24 billion
  • Future combat systems of manned ground vehicles: $2.98 billion
  • F-22 raptor fighter aircraft: $2.9 billion
  • Transformational satellite: $768 million
  • Joint strike fighter alternate engine: $465 million

That is $13.35 billion cut from defense spending alone (other estimates put the defense department cuts at $9.4 billion; my guess is that the numbers in the CNN article are off, or at least counted differently). However, are these really cuts? No, the $17 billion is going to go towards previously unfunded health care, education, and energy initiatives! There is no budget cutting occurring, there is just budget shifting. That’s pretty disingenuous for an administration who talks so much of reducing spending and cutting the deficit. Of course, these proposals have to muster support in Congress in order to pass; Congress has the real power over the budget so all of these “cuts” are moot at the moment.

I applaud the Obama administration for taking serious looks at the budget and trying to find ways to reduce spending, no matter how small, but if they plan on cutting spending they should really cut spending rather than shift spending onto other priorities. I’m not even opposed to reduced defense spending if the reductions really are unnecessary programs (i.e., inefficient/outdated ones that are being replaced with more efficient and modern programs). After all, one of the major reasons for the federal government is to help defend the nation, so defense spending is important and Constitutionally mandated.

All politics, all the time – Romney, Cantor say market turmoil mostly to blame for 2008 loss « – from CNN.com

CNN Political Ticker: All politics, all the time Blog Archive – Romney, Cantor say market turmoil mostly to blame for 2008 loss « – Blogs from CNN.com.

Whenever I feel like punishing myself I read comments on CNN.com political stories. They are seriously that bad. I don’t mind intelligent commentary from liberals or conservatives or whomever but there are so few logical, balanced, and intelligent comments that it is painful for me to read, which is why I rarely do. On this particular story, not more than 10% of the comments are from conservative posters. That is the norm for CNN.com stories. Why are only about 10% of comments from conservatives?

I posted a comment a number of hours ago, well before some of the most recent comments. Is my comment on the site? Nope. Hmm, maybe I didn’t submit it correctly. Maybe my 15 year experience with the world wide web does not give me enough skills to successfully interact with websites and successfully submit my comments. That’s probably why my comment went missing.

Or, maybe my comment was too inflammatory. I guess when I set up a straw man and ad hominem attack like the following it is to be expected that my comment would not be posted: “Isn’t it funny that so many liberals comment so frequently on CNN.com stories. Maybe it’s because they are all living off welfare and aren’t doing anything more useful than comment on online news stories while conservatives are out working or at church (since it is Sunday) or otherwise being productive.” Okay, I really did not post that. I didn’t even think of it until just now as I was trying to come up with some completely off-the-wall, ridiculous, and stupid comment for my somewhat sarcastic post.

So what terrible comment did I really post? I replied to the many people who said things like, “This just goes to show that this Dying Old Party has not got a clue” or ” It was because of the Bush Economics [sic] that the economy fell apart”. Mainly I replied to the people who posted scathing, hateful comments that insulted Mitt Romney (and Republicans in general) as well as who said that he was just trying to deny any Republican responsibility (e.g., “The arrogance of this party [Republicans] is revolting. Still not willing to own up to any thing, truly pathetic [sic]”).

This is roughly what I said (I’m expanding on my comment here on my blog). Romney was not denying Republican responsibility. He said, “Republicans and Democrats have been playing this game, passing the hot the [sic] potato, spending money like there was no tomorrow.” All he did was include Democrats in his criticism yet so many people think he’s trying to push the blame onto anybody but Republicans or Pres. Bush (“speaking” of Pres. Bush, here’s a wonderful, hateful ad hominem comment on the story: “The Republicans still don’t get it…They picked a drunk sot, hooker chasing, coke sniffing, moron, loud mouth, scum bag, out of Texas in 2000…”; I guess it could have been worse!).

Romney was simply criticizing the constant fiscal irresponsibility of Washington. Democrats are to blame as well as Republicans. Democrats have had control of Congress since 2006. Congress have the authority to actually pass budgets; they have to work with the executive branch but Congress “pays the bills” (technically, we pay the bills, or actually the Chinese and the rest of the world who loan us the money, but that’s beside the point).

Further, the causes of the economic crisis started in the 1990s (actually, they started a long time ago when we as a people started individually being more fiscally irresponsible, which I believe started en masse some time after WWII). Some people decry the Republicans for not providing enough oversight of Wall Street (hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it? Not that more regulations are the best idea.) while forgetting that many Republicans (including Pres. Bush) pushed for oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2004 and Democrats refused to vote for that oversight (to be fair – so did some Republicans). Further, in general, Democrats weren’t exactly clamoring for any sort of financial markets oversight. In fact, it was mainly Democrats (including Clinton) in the 90s who pushed (successfully) to force lenders to carry more risky debt by offering mortgages to historically unqualified borrowers (again, Republicans are partially to blame for this too). If you want a cause of the financial crisis, that’s certainly a big part of it.

Romney did criticize Republicans but he also criticized Democrats. He criticized all wasteful spending, regardless of who authorized it. Pres. Bush was a big spender (actually, Congress was the big spender, Pres. Bush just asked them to spend a lot of money; however, Pres. Bush’s spending is “small potatoes” to Pres. Obama’s spending). Unlike what many people believe, Pres. Obama is not spending money (again, it’s really Congress spending the money) to clean up Pres. Bush’s mess – that’s a naive and ludicrous argument; it’s like saying Pres. Bush physically caused Hurricane Katrina (there are people who believe that!) and Pres. Obama has to clean up New Orleans because of Pres. Bush’s hurricane. Republicans in general did not even cause the financial crisis. We (citizens of the United States) all did – all of us who were irresponsible with our money, from the top down and the bottom up! We speculated on speculations of real estate or oil or whatever else we could. We let the government’s size grow out of control and few even tried to stop it; certainly most Democrats didn’t.

That’s basically what I posted (it was much briefer on CNN.com). Yet, my comment did not make it through moderation; however, hateful anti-Mormon comments (e.g., “Romney still does not get it! No one will vote for him a cult member aka MORMON.” [note: that is a direct quote]) and otherwise inane or bigoted comments did. Like I said, I only read CNN.com political comments when I want to punish myself.

Iraqi leader: U.S. raid that killed 2 breached accord – CNN.com

Iraqi leader: U.S. raid that killed 2 breached accord – CNN.com.

Let me get this straight. The Iraqi government accuses the U.S. military of participating in a raid without authorization, which resulted in the deaths of 2 people: “Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is accusing U.S. troops of violating the security agreement between the two countries after a raid in Wasit province Sunday that left two people dead.”

However, the U.S. states the raid was “fully coordinated and approved by the Iraqi government.” So whom do we believe, especially since “Al-Maliki has asked Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, to release the suspects detained in the raid, and to hand over ‘those who committed the crime’ — or U.S. troops — to the Iraqi judiciary, state television reported.”?

Here’s the answer: “Iraqi State TV reported that Iraq’s defense ministry ordered the arrest of two Iraqi commanders in Kut who apparently allowed the U.S. military to carry out the raid.”

So if the U.S. conducted an unauthorized raid, why did Iraq arrest two of its own commanders for providing authorization to the U.S. for the raid?

This kind of behavior reminds me of the former Iraqi Information Minister Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf who is famous for such gems as: “There are no American infidels in Baghdad. Never!”

Abu Ghraib head finds vindication in newly released memos – CNN.com

Abu Ghraib head finds vindication in newly released memos – CNN.com.

I think Col. Karpinski – no offense intended – is exhibiting a flaw in her logic. She might just have been a scapegoat, I’m not denying that possibility, but she states that the newly released memos “vindicate” her.

Col. Karpinski stated, “That is what we have been saying from the very beginning, that, wait a minute, why are you inside pointing the finger at me, why are you pointing the fingers at the soldiers here? There’s a bigger story here.”

What is the “bigger story”?

“The Senate Armed Forces Committee released a report Tuesday, five days after the memos were released, stating that senior Bush administration officials authorized aggressive interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists, despite concerns from military psychologists and attorneys.

“The report points to then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s approval of such techniques — including stress positions, removal of clothing, use of phobias (such as fear of dogs), and deprivation of light and auditory stimuli — in December 2002 for detainees at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. His OK prompted interrogators in Afghanistan and Iraq to adopt the aggressive techniques.”

These so-called aggressive interrogation techniques (which some people call torture but others do not. There is no consensus that they are torture.) that were “approved” included keeping prisoners temporarily naked, or sensory deprived, or made to think that an object of a phobia is present (which may or may not be true). What was not “authorized” in the memos written by Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee and other people was what occurred at Abu Ghraib.

This is where Col. Karpinski’s logic breaks down. How does allowing prisoners to be kept temporarily naked suddenly equal “stacking” naked prisoners on top of each other and taking photos of them? Those are completely different things. In any case, calling what was done “torture” begs the question. Was it really torture? Some people think it was, others do not. Col. Karpinski says it was torture.

“I think it was torture, absolutely. You know, I was never inside an interrogation room where they were conducting interrogations, but I read the memorandums many times over,” she said. “Waterboarding is torture.”

Again, that’s begging the question. In any case, the parts of the memos I’ve read in no way authorized what occured at Abu Ghraib. Maybe what was authorized and some of what occured only differ by degrees but those degrees make a large difference. In no way am I defending what occurred at Abu Ghraib, I think it was despicable. However, saying these memos vindicate her is an awfully large and faulty leap in logic by Col. Karpinski. She might have been unfairly punished but that’s not a judgment I can make.

House Republicans roll out alternative budget – CNN.com

House Republicans roll out alternative budget – CNN.com.

I’ll comment more on this later but here’s one gem from the article: “Democrats were quick to criticize the GOP proposal as little more than a way to help the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the rest of the country.”

Let me get this straight. Democrats criticize the Republicans for spending far less ($3.6 trillion less borrowed over 10 years) than the Democrat proposal by saying that the Republicans only want to help the wealthy. And what exactly is all of the deficit spending of the Democrats doing for anyone? Who’s going to pay for the all the spending? Just the wealthy? Not a chance; all Americans will be paying in some form or another. Democrats asked for an alternative plan (the Republicans, unlike the Democrats, actually took some time to craft their budget proposal. They took time to read it over and talk about it, unlike the Democrats who rushed their bill through so quickly no one had time to actually read the whole thing.) and their first reaction when a plan is presented is the stale, incorrect, and whiny “It only benefits the rich.”

Further, the result of the G20 summit is that the U.S. will spend an additional $400 billion or so to help shore up the international economy. We are spending money we don’t have. We need to stop this wasteful spending. While some may be necessary in order to help stabilize the economy, we need to take some time and figure out better ways to stabilize instead of just throwing as much money as we can at companies.

The Gay “Marriage” Slippery Slope

One common logical fallacy is that of the slippery slope. It goes something like this, “If we allow X, then Y, which is much worse, is soon to follow. This will be followed by Z, which is even worse.” While this is a logical fallacy (in part because you assume a worst-case scenario in predicting the future), on occasion it does represent the actual order of events in real life.

Here’s an example of a slippery slope. In 2000 the Vermont legislature approved civil unions for same-sex couples. While some were content with the law, others kept hoping it led to a new definition of marriage. They wanted to be fully “married” and not just “unionized.” They were honest about the slippery slope – they never denied it exists, although many downplay the significance of redefining marriage (civil unions are just a small step away).

In one news article back in 2000, we read: “‘All of the horrible things that opponents say will happen are not going to happen,’ adds David Smith, a spokesman for The Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay rights group in America. ‘Hopefully, by example, many parts of the country and many people will become more comfortable with the idea.'” This reminds me of Alexander Pope’s immortal quote: “Vice is a monster of so frightful mein, as, to be hated needs but to be seen; Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace.” That’s what same-sex “marriage” advocates want. They want the public to be familiar with the idea of gay “marriage” then we will eventually embrace it fully.

Here’s a similar quote in a New York Times article: “Gay rights advocates say they are eager to show that the sky will not fall. ‘Same-sex couples will be forming civil unions and the state’s not going to fall apart,” said Beth Robinson, a lead lawyer in the case that prompted the civil unions law. ”It’s just going to be better, and that’s going to be the most helpful part of this dialogue. Because the longer we go with the law in effect, the more incredible the claims of our opponents will be exposed as being.” Yet, proponents of same-sex “marriage” have no problem trying to force acceptance of their immorality on society as a whole.

Now the Vermont senate just approved gay “marriage”; it is expected that the bill will pass through the house without a hitch. The governor may veto the bill though – he supports traditional marriage. However, it is likely that the legislative branch could override the veto. This case of the legislative branch trying to redefine marriage is different from what has been done in other states – the legislative branch, for once, is actually making the law; it’s not a court ruling legislating from the bench.

However, a caption from the CNN.com article about the issue is a little misleading though: “Vermont could become the first state to legalize same-sex marriage without prompting from courts.” Even though the courts were not involved directly, they were in the 2000 legalization of same-sex civil unions. Back then the state supreme court forced the legislature to pass something on the matter; instead of gay “marriage” they allowed civil unions. So, it really was court action that lead to the recent passed bill allowing same-sex “marriages”.

We just need to hope that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) stands so other states (and the federal government) are not forced to recognize same-sex “marriages” (or even civil unions). We also need to deliberate very carefully about same-sex civil unions because a slippery slope really does exist in this case. As a nation, we’ve slid from view marriages as sacred institutions for raising children, to viewing them as little more than legal arrangements then to not really valuing them other than as self-serving ways to enhance personal satisfaction (hence all the divorces when people feel justly or unjustly victimized), then to inconveniences (and we certainly can’t have any inconviencing children!), and lastly to any relationship between any two (or more, in some cases) people, regardless of gender. The majority of people in the U.S. still believe that marriage should be just between a man and a woman but the times, they are a’changin’, as Bob Dylan sings. This change is not progress; it’s immoral.

There Is No Such Thing as Nuclear Waste – WSJ.com

There Is No Such Thing as Nuclear Waste – WSJ.com.

This Op-Ed article in the Wall Street Journal clearly explains why we should build new nuclear power plants and allow the reprocessing of nuclear fuel. Pres. Obama at best said that he’s open to nuclear energy but he’s not very keen about it. That’s unfortunate. He has the opportunity to completely pull the United States away from dependence on foreign oil by embracing and pushing for more nuclear energy. We could build more nuclear plants and allow the reprocessing of fuel and have more energy than we know what to do with. If Pres. Obama pushed for electric cars (more importantly, if consumers and manufacturers pushed for them), we could in effect have nuclear-powered automobiles.

Nuclear plants are safe. They are much safer than just about any other power plant. In my opinion, radical environmentalists of the 1960s and 1970s (even continuing on to today) did far more damage to the global environment than any other group. Because of radical environmentalists’ scare-mongering and lies (or at least gross misrepresentations), Pres. Ford and Pres. Carter effectually killed off nuclear energy. The last new nuclear power plant went online in 1996 (although there have been a few new ones approved recently). It was designed using nuclear technology from the 1970s. Nuclear power technology has advance considerably since then. Because our use of nuclear energy stagnated in the 1970s, we’ve had large increases of reliance on coal and oil for energy. As a result, we’ve had years of fossil fuels and carbon-dioxide emissions that otherwise could have been reduced by allowing more nuclear power and the reprocessing of spent fuel rods. Additionally, coal plants dump many tons of radioactive material into the atmosphere every year as well.

Nuclear power was never the problem; the hatred of nuclear power and the very successful but untrue propaganda campaign of the radical environmentalists is the problem. The environmentalists even convinced the general public that the nuclear meltdown at 3 Mile Island was a major catastrophe (it didn’t help to have The China Syndrome come out shortly before the partial meltdown). Many of us are exposed to higher levels of radiation every day than were leaked at 3 Mile Island. It’s time for the U.S. to stop believing the lies of the radical environmentalists and start building more nuclear power plants. At the very least, they provide a very clean and reliable short and long-term source of energy until other technologies such as wind and solar become more economically feasible and able to provide a majority of our energy needs (which isn’t likely for many years). The problem is that it takes many thousands (6-7 thousand at least) of wind generators to produce the same amount of energy 1 modern nuclear can produce. Wind generators also have variable rates of production. The same is true with solar generators. While I think wind and solar generators are wonderful ways to convert energy to electricity, they just are not as feasible as nuclear generators.

Pres. Obama and Congress are missing a major opportunity to push for nuclear energy and electric cars (and hydrogen fuel cells as well). Many Democrats (and Republicans too) are blinded by the craftiness of radical environmentalists. We as citizens generally are likewise blinded. Nuclear power is not something to be feared; it’s powerful and it can be dangerous but so are all other forms of energy. Nuclear energy is about as green as energy can be. We could build many nuclear plants within a short time-frame and have more than enough cheap energy. We have the technology now; it’s good and safe technology too. We need to stop being afraid of nuclear energy.

If you want to see how safe nuclear power plants are from terrorist or military attacks, watch this video of a jet crashing into a concrete wall (much like ones built to encase nuclear reactors).

6 years later, progress and doubts are legacy of Iraq war – CNN.com

6 years later, progress and doubts are legacy of Iraq war – CNN.com.

The war in Iraq started 6 years ago. As is noted in the CNN article, it is one of America’s longest wars. However, it is one of the least deadly wars we’ve fought. There have been 4,261 American fatalities in just under 2200 days. That’s less than 2 deaths a day (of Americans – there have been many more Iraqis killed). Any death is too much but we have to face the truth that as far as America is concerned, this has been a very “safe” war. It cost us a lot of money but can you put a price tag on freedom and democracy? I have to add that I don’t think we should have started the war in Iraq but we did so the point is moot.

If the troops had been home instead, quite a few of them would have died in car accidents or other accidents, statistically speaking. 18-30 year old men are naturally quite accident-prone so it’s a statistical given that there would be many accident-related and natural deaths in that group. There are about 42,000,000 people between the ages of 15 and 25 in the United States. While that include people a little younger (and not quite as old as some of the soldiers in Iraq, it will serve as a decent estimate for this post). Roughly 162 per 100,000 people between 15 and 25 die each year in the United States (Source). According to one NewsWeek source, by December 2007 there had been 1.5 million troops deployed to Iraq. This number is higher than another one I found (500,000 by July 2006); it doesn’t seem likely that there were 1,000,000 different troops deployed in the subsequent 16 months.

For my analysis, I’ll make an estimate and say there have been 1,100,000 deployments since the start of the war. That means that at those numbers, if the soldiers were all home from Iraq (and not deployed elsewhere) we would expect approximately 1,800 deaths. That’s possibly high because the number of deployments does not equal number of people. I’ll be a little more conservative and say there have been 900,000 different people from the U.S. deployed. That means there would have been about 1450 deaths over the same time period if all the troops were home.

My numbers could be off because I haven’t found a good definitive source for the number of individuals deployed in the past 6 years in Iraq. The number could be anywhere between 700,000 and 1,700,000, which is not very precise. My numbers are also off because the demographic data I used to calculate my numbers was a combination of 15-19 and 20-24 age groups. The military tends to be 18-25 with a significant number on into their 30s. Most are in their 20s though. The numbers should be accurate enough for this informal analysis.

In any case, this means that of the 4,261 deaths in Iraq, the number of deaths above and beyond a national baserate of death for that age group is about 2,700. That’s still a lot of people but overall it’s been a fairly “safe” war. [Note: I know there have been many physical and psychological injuries caused by the war; my post was focused strictly on deaths].

Just Say No! (To Primates)

In a brilliant move of solidarity with the victim of the recent chimpanzee attack, the U.S. House of Representatives, rather than focusing on important issues, passed a bill that would make it illegal for private persons to own primates – not just apes but all primates (e.g., lemers and monkeys). I believe the bill technically only forbids selling primates across state lines, but that would in practicality ban all private primate ownership. Such dangerous creatures as pygmy marmosets would be outlawed (this particular one might be outlawed already if it is an endangered creature but my point remains the same). Just look at that thing – it probably has laser beams that shoot from its eyes; it’s just deceptively cute – it might kill you with cuteness overload.

This whole bill is ludicrous. Now, I don’t think most people should own primates – they require a lot of care and space and money (but so do kids) but if someone can afford it and provide good care, why shouldn’t they be able to own one?

Our government just keeps finding new ways to regulate us to death. Pretty soon our houses will be built exclusively from red tape. We’ll have Frosted Red Tape Flakes for breakfast, and red tape for toilet paper. Our government is becoming oppressive (some would argue that they have been for a long time but compared to most other governments around the world, the U.S. government is not very oppressive).

How many primate attacks are there every year in the U.S.? How big of a problem is this? Our legislators are spending our tax dollars and their time trying to protect us from the dangers of primates? The next thing that will happen is outlawing cars because they can be so dangerous. Then they’ll outlaw the sun because it gives people cancer. We can ride this slippery slope all the way down. We might as well outlaw all people because people can hurt others. Maybe robots should rule the earth and keep a few humans in carefully controlled cages for observation.

I don’t deny that primates can be dangerous. They are strong and can carry diseases but if someone wants to own one and can care for it – let him own a primate (even a gorilla if they have the space and money for it). The legislation is silly. Then again, maybe the ban is good. It might just prevent something like this from occuring many years in the future.planet_of_the_apes