Saturday, January 7, 2017

Are You Being Hacked?

Are you caught up in all the hoopla about Russia hacking the election?  Are you pissed off at those interferin' Russkies?  Are you additionally pissed that the proper candidate wasn't elected President?

It seems clear to me that the time has come for a reality check.  Let's get started.

First, does anyone believe that CIA/NSA knows so much more than Russia about back-tracing an IP chain that revealing what we do and how we do it would seriously compromise our national security?  No?  Good, because we have to get past that before going further.  Russian hackers are no better and no worse than American hackers.  Showing them exactly how we discovered their fingerprints all over our election (if, in fact, they were) will have zero effect on national security.  Zero.

Further, in order to change the outcome of a U.S. election, one would have to crack nearly 4,000 separate county Supervisors of Elections databases, many of which are not online.  Surely somewhere out there some clerk would say "Hey, that's the wrong number!  I recall thinking that the total was my sister's birhday: '71463', and that Trump lost this county.  Hey, what's going on?"  As far as we know, no precinct captain, no county supervisor, no state coordinator for any party has uttered a single word suggesting there was anything untoward going on as far as 'vote totals' were concerned.  The 'hacking' that was done (if 'hacking' is the proper word) was exposing corruption evident in emails swirling around the Democratic National Committee — emails concerning sabotaging the Sanders campaign and rigging polls to guarantee Hillary Clinton would be the nominee.

So, why is there a 'classified' version of the report and an 'unclassified' version?  It's not like we can't afford to lay all our cards on the table for all the world to see.  In fact, I have a grand-nephew who can probably tell you — sight unseen — what's in the classified version.  What is NSA/CIA trying to hide, and from whom?  They're not going to lose anything by being open and above-board, are they?

Realize that our 'intelligence community' works hand-in-glove with the military.  The military has a vested interest in seeing wars, cold or hot, multiply and expand.  Division and contraction are not on their wish-lists.  It is in the best interests of the military-intelligence community to be in conflict with other political entities.  Russia is an easy target;  they have a foreign policy which runs counter to ours, and most Americans are, after the last 70 years or so, inclined to think negatively about the former Soviet Union.

Now, Vladimir Putin may have preferred Trump to Clinton.  Trump is an idiot;  he'll be easy to work with and around.  Clinton is a hard-ball player and unpredictable like Trump wishes he were.  Clinton spells trouble for Putin and Russia.  If Putin needed a reason to muddy our electoral waters, that would have been adequate, but would it have been worth the risk?  Surely Putin would have known that there would be blowback!  If a reason were needed for a 'hands off' policy, that would have been adequate.

But the real issue is that the 'report' comes in a classified version and an unclassified version.  There's something in the classified version that NSA/CIA doesn't want loose in public.  What? 

Perhaps — I'm speculating — revealing the proof of Russia's complicity will also reveal how deeply NSA/CIA tracks everything you and I do on a daily basis.  Perhaps NSA/CIA doesn't want everyone to know that they're under a microscope from the time their alarm goes off until they shut out the lights for the night — and maybe still then.  Perhaps NSA/CIA would prefer you be kept in the dark about just how thoroughly and closely you are watched in their all-seeing Surveillance Society.

You are being manipulated.

Sweet dreams.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Why Term Limits Won't Solve Anything

There's a lot of agitation around the issue of 'term limits for Congress'.  It sounds like a good idea — what we used to call 'LGOP':  Looks Good On Paper — but it misses the point, and won't solve the problem of Congressfolk getting filthy rich during their tenure.  What it will do is spread the wealth a little more evenly because Congress won't have as much time to amass wealth, and their successors will get their chance sooner.  The actual total amount won't change.

How does a Congressman (includes 'Congresswoman' in its generic form) become a millionaire?  They run for re-election.  Aided by 'name recognition', an incumbent has a huge advantage over any challenger absent a scandal.  It's axiomatic that unless the candidate is caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy, re-election is almost guaranteed.  An incumbent will gather lots of campaign contributions from those who wish to be seen as 'friends', yet be able to run the campaign relatively cheaply thanks to that name recognition.  What's left in the campaign chest the day after election day belongs to the candidate, and it could be substantial.  Add to this that campaign contributions can dribble in over the full course of a Congressman's term, and we're talking lots of money.

Beyond that, Congressmen pay for nothing or close to it.  Lunch in the Congressional dining room is cheaper than your cafeteria at work because it's subsidized by taxes.  Basically, you're buying lunch for Congress.  They get, in addition to a lush salary, an allowance for office expenses including their staff.  When it's time to vacation in Aruba, some constituent can always be found to offer a ride on a corporate jet because the Congressman needs to see how our foreign aid dollars are being spent, etc.  If you were banking $160,000 each year, you'd be a millionaire before your first term in the House was up.  Now you're an incumbent.

None of this would change with term limits.  Senators would run for a House seat; Representatives would seek Senate office.  When term limits kick in, there's always 'lobbying'.

Money will always flow toward Congress regardless of term limits.  There will always be bribes and graft.  The reason is simple:  Congress has the power to micro-manage the economy.  They get to decide if this company or that one lives or dies.  Naturally, if you're the owner or CEO of a company, you want to make sure that Congress decides 'lives' rather than 'dies'.  You will make sure your Congressman (all of them, actually) know your name and how much of their campaign war chest you've contributed.  If you support term limits for Congress because you want to get money out of politics, you're barking up the wrong tree.  To get money out of politics, get power out of politics first.

The key to Congress' power over business and the economy is the 'Interstate Commerce Clause':  Article I section 8 grants Congress the power "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;".  Originally this was intended to empower Congress to prevent states colluding with each other in ways that would enrich them at the expense of other states.  Imagine Pennsylvania and New York charging tariffs or 'inspection fees' for tobacco shipments originating in Virginia and destined for Vermont.  We are supposed to be living in The Free-Trade Zone of the Americas and the Interstate Commerce clause was supposed to make it happen.  Instead, during the FDR administration when the President needed Constitutional authority for doing all manner of things, the I/C clause was re-interpreted to provide that authority and the Supreme Court, under FDR's threat to 'pack' it, buckled under.  The result is what you see today:  Congress can do anything with impunity.  Anything.  That's not what the I/C clause was supposed to empower.

How do we know that?  Article I section 8 reads "Congress shall have power to" and goes on to list 17 things Congress shall have power to do.  As the I/C clause is currently interpreted, Art.I sect.8 says "Congress can do these 16 things and whatever the Hell else it feels like doing."  In fact, most of Art.I sect.8 is now redundant because the I/C clause is all that's needed.  Could that have been what the Constitution's writers intended?  How ridiculous!

So what happens when we re-establish a proper understanding of the I/C clause or, better, simply abolish Congress' power over interstate commerce?  The Drug War goes away.  The FBI goes away.  The FDA goes away.  The FAA goes away.  A horde of three-letter agencies evaporate: DHS, TSA, CIA, HHS, SEC, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, and the list goes on and on.  None of them are included within Congess' powers granted in I(8). 

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) occupies forty (40) feet of shelf space when printed, filled with regulations promulgated by nameless and unaccountable agencies, all of which you are responsible for following under penalty of the law.

What would your tax bill look like if it didn't include the budget for the thousands of bureaus and agencies Congress never had the authority to create?  More importantly, how important would term limits for Congress be without them?

Friday, December 16, 2016

Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This

I didn't vote for Donald Trump and I have a fairly low opinion of those who did.  I have a fairly low opinion of those who voted for Clinton also, but that's neither here nor there.

That said, there's something very wrong with people, primarily Democrats, who are calling for the Electoral College to be either (a) abolished altogether or failing that (b) subverted by subborning the electors to vote for someone other than to whom they are pledged.  If you look at the map of electoral districts won by the major candidates (nobody else, not even Gary Johnson, won any) you'll see that Trump won "flyover country" and Clinton won the major metropolitan areas and almost nothing else for either.  If each elector voted for the candidate that won the elector's district rather than the elector's state, it wouldn't have been 278-to-257.  It would have been 460-to-75.  Clinton's political career would have been over.  If you're a Democrat and you hate the Electoral College, I think that might be why.

People are asserting that the purpose of the Electoral College is to prevent a demagogue taking over.  No, the purpose of the Electoral College is to prevent cities taking over.  It's working.

Let's talk about "Russian hacking" and its effect on the election.  First, there's a difference between 'hacking' and 'leaking'.  Hacking implies gaining illicit entry to a computer and damaging it or stealing information.  If this happened, we don't know for sure who did it.  Leaking implies giving information to someone who isn't otherwise privy to it.  That did happen, no argument from anybody.  Do we have evidence that the Russians stole data from DNC computers and leaked it via WikiLeaks?  I haven't seen any, and if the FBI or CIA or NSA has such information, the President of the United States (to whom they all report) would have ordered them to make it public.  He hasn't.  What does that suggest to you?  It suggests to me that such 'evidence' does not exist.  Russia did not hack anybody's computer; Russia did not leak the DNC emails.  If they did, it would already have found its way to the International Criminal Court — and it hasn't.

Well, somebody did.  Who?  Who had motive and opportunity?  NSA certainly has and had all those emails.  That's what they do for a living: collect data.  CIA almost certainly has and had copies.  It's NSA's job to supply CIA with information they need — and information they just want.  Maybe CIA is as pissed off as the American Right at Secretary Clinton abandoning some of their 'assets' in Benghazi.  It makes more sense that CIA is the leak than that Russia is the leak, but please continue to blame Putin.  He's convenient if nothing else.

The thing that worries me the most, however, is the insistence by some that the electors should be 'briefed' on what the current administration 'believes' even if such belief has no basis in reality.  If that happens and enough electors decide Hillary Clinton reallyreally deserves to be the next President regardless of the fact that the vast majority of electoral districts chose someone else, there's going to be a backlash from the group that is most able to lash back.  Of the hundred million gun owners in this country, all but a tiny sliver live in red districts.  Of the 350 million (est.) guns they own, almost none of them are in blue districts.  Of the 800,000 police/sheriffs in this country, what percentage do you suppose would agree that Clinton should be chosen by the Electoral College on the basis of her winning all the big cities?

We could be looking down the barrel of the next civil war.

Sweet dreams, children.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Climate-Change Debate (sic)

We are in the Holocene ('entirely new') epoch of the Quaternary period of the Cenozoic ('recent life') era.  The Holocene began about 10,000 years ago when the last ice age ended.  We have been warming since then.  That is, we are currently living in an interglacial period, a warmer period that is sandwiched between two ice ages.  Global warming is thus not a recent development.  It is, in fact, the primary influence that has allowed our civilization to develop.

The current debate about 'global warming' stems from the theory that it is the result of human activity ('antropogenic global warming', AGW), that it constitutes a bad thing, and that it can be 'corrected' by human activity.  None of those positions seems entirely credible, and the science surrounding those claims is often highly speculative and emotion-driven.

James Lovelock in his book "The Gaia Hypothesis" suggests that the Earth (Gaia) is more than capable of seeing to her own defenses, does so regularly, and will correct imbalances although perhaps not in a way we would approve.  It is the fear that Gaia will correct us out of existence that drives the AGW hysteria.

Organisms either adapt or go extinct when faced with changes to their environments.  What we know from our experience is that our species adapts supremely well, in fact sometimes changing the environment to suit our present adaptation.  We have colonized the planet from pole to pole, almost literally.  We have been, briefly, to the deepest depths of the oceans and we are now venturing into space.  We travel farther and faster than any other terrestrial species.  We are at the top of the food chain, but all of that could change in unpredictable and possibly unpleasant ways, we are told by AGW alarmists, if we do not change our sinful ways.  Prime among our sins:  using fossil fuels that produce 'greenhouse gases' such as carbon dioxide and water vapor. 

Note that water vapor precipitates out of the atmosphere as rain, does so regularly, and has been doing so since the Earth first cooled from its pre-life Late Heavy Bombardment (LHB), 3.8 billion (with a 'b') years ago, forming Earth's oceans, and setting the stage for the development of planetary life.  If water vapor is a problem, it's news to Gaia.

Note further that carbon dioxide is the primary food for all earthly plant life, supplemented by water.  When carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere increase, two things (among others) happen:  plants thrive and the oceans absorb additional carbon dioxide allowing organisms like coral to flourish.  At the same time environmentalists are complaining that corals are declining in the oceans, they are trying to starve them into extinction.

Plants, by the way, shit oxygen, and we are very happy that they do.  The molecules they retain are stored as carbohydrates, some of which are very pretty, while others are quite tasty.  It's hard to interpret these facts negatively, at least for me.

Now, it's true that dealing with eons and dealing with epochs are two entirely different matters, and that we mustn't confuse the two, but physical processes don't change with the passage of time.  Boyle's Law worked long before there was a species that produced Boyle and will work long after the human species goes extinct, if such be our fate.  It's also likely undeniable that eventually this planet will slip back into another ice age — that's why we're said to be in an interglacial period — and we'll really really wish we could provoke a little global warming... or a lot.

In fact, if GW is actually anthropogenic and if we can keep up the good work, perhaps we need never worry about glaciers advancing south and covering New York a mile deep in ice.  Again.

On the other hand, there could be worse things than New York covered by a mile of ice.  'New York not covered in ice' springs to mind.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Alea jacta est.

Well, it's happened again:  I've been unfriended on Facebook by a cousin over a difference of opinion.  She thinks there are "good cops", the best of them being her husband who was killed — adventitiously — on his way to work;  I hold that if there are any good cops they are overwhelmingly outnumbered.  I think the thing that pushed her over the edge was me suggesting that — if things keep going the way they're going — 'cop' is finally going to break into the Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs

We have crossed a Rubicon-of-sorts with the recent spate of execution-style slayings and attacks on what seem to be random police officers.  These were (we think) just ordinary cops going about their ordinary days when they were set upon by some disaffected someone and killed for wearing their gang colors — blue, usually.  Almost everyone seems genuinely surprised.  Why would anyone kill a cop 'just because'?  Just because that broken taillight just cost you $145 and a mark on your license?  Just because it's the end of the month and Corporal Smith needs to write four more tickets or he'll get a letter of reprimand in his personnel jacket?  Just because you're black or Hispanic?  Just because the window tinting that's legal where your car is registered happens to be illegal in this county, mister?  Just because the family dog is now dead because the cop investigating the burglary down the street feared for his life?

The justification for this, of course, is that these officers don't make the laws;  they just enforce them.  That's their job.  They're LEOs, law enforcement officers, and they're just following orders.  Besides, if they don't do it, somebody else will, see?  And you wouldn't be complaining about any of this if you just followed the law in the first place.  If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.  It's that simple.

They say.

So, when officers are ordered to disperse the crowds of unruly DAPL protesters, they trot out their water cannons and douse those protesters with water in sub-freezing weather.  That'll send them scurrying to find warmth and dry clothing!  No protesters equals no protest.  Let's finish this project and go home!  First amendment?  What first amendment?

You and I have a hard time imagining being soaked-to-the-skin in 26 degree cold, but I think there is probably no one who thinks it would be classified as 'humane treatment'.  If the police are going to treat the people inhumanely, why would they expect better treatment and more respect in return?  Does the Golden Rule have an exception for police?

That's the Rubicon.  Police expect to get away with inhumane treatment — racial profiling, excessive use of force, automatic forgiveness when they make an error like SWATting the wrong house at 2:15am and making the whole family stand outside in the snow in their pajamas while search teams ransack the house looking for drugs that aren't there — and they expect that everyone else will still tip their hat and wish them "Have a nice day, officer".  That's the Rubicon they have now crossed.  Alea jacta est.  The die is cast.  The bell has rung, and it cannot be unrung.

We have to come up with a solution or we're facing a very unhappy future.  By 'we', I mean we the people and we the police.  Both communities have to buy in to whatever the solution turns out to be.  The alternative?  Well, there are something like a half million police in this country, and a hundred million armed Americans who are not police.  Do the numbers.  If, as I believe, the bad cops seriously outnumber the good cops, those good cops won't be able to do anything except resign and retreat.  Not doing so will be extremely hazardous, since in extremis the assumption will be that anyone in uniform is automatically 'bad'.  This is such a bad scenario that I can't imagine any cop wanting to even contemplate it.  No, the solution has to be something else.

One possible solution is to disarm the police — don't laugh.  Citizens will then be expected to come to the aid of a police officer when asked.  Interactions between police and public will thereafter be voluntary.  If you are stopped on the street by an officer, you will not have to fear being shot, but you may be arrested if the officer can make a good enough case to those citizens assisting.  If the officer cannot make a good case, you continue about your business because the officer can't hold you at gunpoint.  This is actually the America our Founding Fathers envisioned.  They lived in a world without police — at all.  There were constables, but they were no better armed than anyone they would encounter in the normal course of a day, and their duties were strictly peace-keeping, not law-enforcing.  The difference, of course, is that peace-keeping benefits the community, and law-enforcing benefits the State.

If we seek a peaceful future, our police must lead us there.  If they can't or won't, then we will need to be our own police or we will need to get ready for war.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Why are there only two major parties?

Did you ever wonder why "third parties" never seem to gain much traction?  When so many Americans self-identify as "libertarian", why does the LP not qualify as a "major party"?

Well, in case you've wondered, wonder no more.  I'm about to lay some truthiness on ya', and I'll start with an anecdote in the first person.

Some years back — 1990 or thereabouts — an event mandated by the Florida Constitution woke me up.  Every so often, Florida requires that a Constitution Revision Committee be... umm... constituted and its members charged with surveying the people of the state to find out what's wrong that needs to be fixed, and to thereafter propose constitutional amendments to do such fixing.  At the time of that 1990 CRC, the LPF (Libertarian Party of Florida) had a goal — to fix Florida's outrageous ballot access law.  "Outrageous"; that's a pretty strong word.  Why would anyone think such a thing?

At the time, Florida's ballot access law read approximately (I'm not going to copy all that legal gobbledeygook verbatim, dammit) "for Republicans and Democrats, ballot access can be attained by ..." and listed a few fairly-easy-to-accomplish tasks in a choose-one-of-the-above format; "...for all others, ballot access can be attained by ..." and listed a series of relatively difficult processes in a do-all-of-these-or-else format (yes, it actually named the Republican and Democratic parties).  That is, if you were already a R or D, getting on the ballot was pretty simple and straightforward, but if you weren't, you had to start collecting petition signatures not earlier than date-A and ending not later than date-B and submit them to the Department of State by date-C with a nice fat check to cover all the verification that had to be done to make sure you weren't trying to pull a fast one.  The Rs and Ds could get on the ballot as "petition candidates" by collecting a handful of signatures or just paying a nominal fee, or — the really easy way — they could just be nominated by their county committee.  Everybody else had to collect mountains of signatures and empty their treasury to pay the filing fee.

Unfair?  Yes, but also "outrageous".  As a result of this... ahem... disparity, Florida had not seen a third party candidate on their ballot since 1928 when, coincidentally, that new ballot access law was passed — by the Republicans and Democrats.  In 1990, a Tampa maverick named Jack Gargan stoked a political firestorm called THRO (Throw the Hypocritical Rascals Out) and managed to actually get on the ballot — the first time since 1928 anyone had done it.  The LPF saw that as an opportunity to level the playing field.  They pulled out all the stops and managed to get the law thrown out on Constitutional grounds.  Now in Florida the rules are the same for everybody.

So, what happens in other places with similarly discriminatory ballot access rules such as pre-1990 Florida?  Well, for a year or so a party collects dues and contributions from its members and when election time comes around, those members hit the bricks with clipboards and nominating petitions asking random passers-by for their endorsement.  It's a frantic effort almost always time-limited and heavily volunteer-dependent and labor-intensive, and it often fails.  If it appears that the signature deadline can be met, the party almost always writes a check that effectively bankrupts it.  They're on the ballot, but they don't have any money to actually run a campaign.  Even high-profile parties like the LP and the Greens run into this problem — a problem the major parties never even have to think about.

So, do you think these discriminatory rules are put in place to make sure the Rs and Ds never have any serious competition?  Do you think they're not?

Unequal ballot access requirements are the main — perhaps the only — reason you rarely see any significant campaigns for third party candidates.  Even after those rules are evened-out, it takes decades, generations even, for a smaller party to grow into a threat.  The Florida LP has had a quarter-century to catch up and still hasn't gotten substantial traction against the monstrous war chests that can be deployed by the major parties.  As a result — or perhaps it's a cause — third-party votes are still seen by many as "wasted votes".

Until the people get over their "wasted vote" delusion and start voting for parties that actually represent their views, the effect is nearly identical to discriminatory ballot access rules — which still exist in many states.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

What Happened To The Soviet Union?

From the Russian Revolution in 1917 to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, communism had one of the largest, most robust bases-of-operation imaginable.  For 45 years after the end of WW-II, 'the West' (primarily The United States) engaged in a Cold War — mostly political maneuvering, espionage, sabotage, and outright bribery — in an effort to contain the growth of the other.  The most newsworthy incident of the time involved the Soviet gambit to install missiles in Cuba.

During the 80s, Ronald Reagan proposed, and the US spent time, effort, and money developing a futuristic anti-missile defense (dubbed "Star Wars" for its planned use of directed-energy weaponry).  Although it never actually materialized, the Soviets had to counter the impending threat (the inventive Americanskis, after all, might actually have pulled that rabbit out of their hat) and the colossal cost of doing so bankrupted, for all intents and purposes, the entire Soviet operation.  Within a few years, the Soviet Union collapsed, having run out of money.  It is said in retrospect that Reagan raised the stakes so high the Soviets couldn't call the bet.  It's probably an accurate description of what happened, but it raises additional questions about how the whole Cold War was waged.

—==+++==—

The most intriguing question, I think, is 'what would have happened had we not moved to block each and every communist gambit?'

What we know with near-certainty is that socialism/communism is at the top of its game when used as a philosophical ideal.  As an economic system, it's a losing bet.  You can run an economy socialistically only for so long before the internal stresses and frictions make it grind to a halt.  Like physical systems, entropy will eventually catch up to it.  ('Entropy' for economic systems is the resistance of individuals to the central planning inherent in all socialist economies.  It takes several forms which may be described as "I should move to somewhere I'm more appreciated" or "They're not paying me enough to do this job well" or "I made my quota for the week already".  Each means the economy is not running at 100%.)

If a government is very careful, the game can be played for a much longer time.  Sweden and Norway are examples of this although Sweden is currently seeing cracks form in its medical delivery system stressed as it is by a huge influx of immigrants from the Middle East drawn by the promise of free stuff.  If the game is played less carefully, economic entropy gets you sooner rather than later.  How long?  The economic resources you start with play a big part in that, to be sure.  Norway has North Sea oil reserves that will allow the game to go on for quite a long time.  Sweden has only those reverves built up over a long period when it was a much different sort of country, economically speaking.

When the West pushed back against communist 'aggression' here, there, and elsewhere in the world, China and Russia slowed their advances and this probably made them better able to continue.  What if we had just let them run rampant?  Yes, they would have gobbled up lots of territory and those conquered people would suffer under increasingly repressive central planners, but that suffering is the entropy that attacks socialist systems.  Might the Soviet Union have collapsed in 1981 or even 1971 had we simply let them expand unchecked?

'But an expanding Soviet Union would be a threat to world peace,' someone objects.  How?  It was never a possibility that the USSR would nuke the US; never.  In most years, it was the output of Kansas and Nebraska that kept the people of the USSR fed through the winter.  To entertain the thought that the USSR was led by people stupid enough to destroy their own food shows an alarming inability to grasp reality.

When Eisenhower left office in 1960, he left a message for us in his farewell address.  In it, he warned of "the military-industrial complex' and its ability to take over our economy and our government.  We didn't listen.  Since then, the Pentagon's budget has grown steadily, year after year, fueled by war after war such that today if the Pentagon were its own country it would be the seventh-largest economy in the world.  Just the Pentagon.  A military budget bigger than France's.  Not 'bigger than France's military budget'; bigger than France's budget.

There are abroad in our country people who will earnestly assert that we need a military that large to properly defend ourselves.  It's fair to ask, I think, why Great Britain doesn't need a military budget of a comparable size and why France doesn't and why Germany doesn't and why Spain doesn't and (most tellingly) why China and Russia don't.  The answer, of course, is that we taxpayers of the United States foot the bill for defending not only ourselves, but dozens of other countries who spend little or nothing on their own defense.  Why should they if Uncle Sugar is picking up the tab?  Then, too, we regularly engage in offensive military operations, primarily in the Middle East, ostensibly to combat 'terrorism' and that doesn't come cheap.  Our fighting men (and women) deserve the best of the best when it comes to armaments, and don't forget our allies.  They need to be comparably equipped and we need to make that happen.

There's a vast difference in the cost of fighting a war here against an invading army as opposed to the cost of fighting a war there as an invading army.  Note carefully what is happening:  we are expanding the way the Soviet Union expanded and there is no one around to stop us.  We will expand until, just like the Soviet Union, we go bankrupt.

Who will be "the last man standing" when that happens, I wonder?