Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Perish The Thought, Huntsville City Council Being Short Sighted

Mayor Battle of Huntsville presented his budget to the City Council. As part of his plan he would like to recommend eliminating step and COLA raises for a couple of years for city employees. The Council does not like the idea. They want to continue them. Heck, the Federal Government intends to not give COLA's to Social Security recipients for the next two years.

While raises are nice the other option is layoffs. This has happened in other parts of the U.S. due to the recession. Counties and states have recommended furloughs or not increasing pay and the unions have run to courts to not allow these. Then there are layoffs. Mayor Battle's proposal seems fairly reasonable. At least it could be done for one year. Maybe next year the economy will recover and raises could happen?

The other interesting thing about the article is that I thought the City bought the Rescue Mission to tear it down to build a new road. Now they are saying city offices are moving into it. Maybe the road won't take up the whole thing?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

FDA Didn't Know Menthol Makes The Smoke Better

Effective today the Food & Drug Administration has banned clove and sweet flavored cigarettes. Due to industry pressure they did not do so with menthol flavored ones. Interestingly the article in USA Today quoted a researcher as stating "We all thought until quite recently that menthol was just a neutral flavor."

I guess they didn't do much research. Menthol to me was always minty and made smoking a cigarette much easier. They have also only been around for several dozens of years. I guess this is what passes for science now.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Libertarians and the Confederate States

I did not know that there was a group within Libertarianism that holds the Confederate States of America (CSA) up as a good example of limited government in North America. This is not necessarily considered a good or correct interpretation as Doug Mataconis explains at his blog, Below the Beltway.

One issue the CSA faced as it organized was a lack of cooperation among the states which made it harder to get armies set up. This led to the U.S.'s ability to seize important areas and resources. So it contributed somewhat to its defeat.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Who Knew Obama Controls All Funding For Liberal Groups?

Via Riehl World View we come to understand that Firedoglake the angry liberal site is claiming that President Obama is stabbing the left in the back.

The anger is caused by the Van Jones resignation. Some on the left are claiming that Obama should have supported Jones through thick-and-thin. Now Firedoglake is saying that if you do not support Obama you lose all of your "institutional funding". I am not sure what that is but assume it is Democratic party or non-profits that fund liberal groups.

Anyway I did not know that the President was so powerful that he could cut funding to a blog or group overnight. If only the Republicans could get so organized.

Banal Soviet Bureaucrats Mask Terror Of Soviet Communism

The Yale University Press has been publishing a series of books on Soviet Communist rule in Russia utilizing primary documents from archives that have come available since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

They have started to put some of their recent works actual documents on the internet. One of them is files from the KGB on Andrei Sakharov. This noted Soviet atomic scientist became a leading dissident in the late Sixties and Seventies causing no end of problems for the Brezhnev regime.

Many of the source documents are reports on Sakharov's activities sent under Yuri Andropov's signature to the Central Committee. Andropov was the head of the KGB and ended up being the last leader of Soviet Russia before Gorbachov.

Some of the highlights include reports like this: "Sakharov continues to produce and disseminate slanderous letters concerning Soviet reality. In conversations with his confederates, Sakharov assesses policies of the Party and government from a negative standpoint, and he also associates himself with demagogic assertions of nationalistically inclined individuals about the situation of Jews in the USSR."

Another work is about Stalin's persecution of the COMINTERN and the elimination of foriegn Communists. One particularly interesting document is a statement of Irena Kun the sister of Hungarian Communist Bela Kun. Bela Kun was able to establish a Communist regime in Hungary for a few years after World War I. In the Thirties many of the leaders fled to the Soviet Union and were eventually punished by Stalin. Irena Kun is trying to protect herself by claiming that Georg Benedek another Hungarian in Moscow made up stories about her being a Trotskyist and traitor.

Kun blames a bad recommendation from her brother for his denouncing her. "I have known Benedek for 3 years, we live in the same building. He studied at the VKU where I was working. I always knew that he was mentally unsound. But I would never have suspected him of being so mean until, according to his own words, c. Bela Kun refused to give him a recommendation to the KUNMZ graduate school in June-August 1935. After that, he started telling me and c. E. Nagy[iv] things that aroused my suspicions that Benedek was either crazy or an agent provocateur."

The documents illustrate the paranoia among the intellectuals of a movement where they spent decades eating each other and protecting themselves. They could trust no one or anyone. They also showed the dutiful bureaucrats of the KGB and Party routinely reporting on each other to higher ups explaining faults and problems by blaming poor commitment to the Soviet cause or foreign provocateurs.

In all it shows that large numbers of people spent all their time running around reporting on each other in lengthy memorandum. Certainly these people contributed little of meaning to society or the economy. It might explain all the problems the Soviet economy might have had.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Contractors Good For Something -- Being A Force Mulitplier In Afghanistan

For the last eight years one of the biggest complaints from the American left was that George Bush was in the sway of big government contractors. They did too much of the housekeeping services in Iraq and Afghanistan. Companies like KBR lined their pockets at the expense of the troops and taxpayers. They were doing jobs that green suiters or civil servants should be doing.

Unfortunately due to the small size of the military they had to use contractors for those jobs. This has been a trend going back thirty years. Use contractors to wash clothes, cook food and clean latrines. Then there would be more soldiers freed up to do the fighting. Despite a consistent philosophy on the use of support contractors Bush received holy hell about it. True the scale in Iraq was much larger then it ever had been before and the contracts were in some case let quickly and didn't have enough oversight but people were trying to get things done.

Now the word is that Obama wants to increase the number of foot soldiers in Afghanistan but without increasing the number of U.S. troops deployed to that country. One way to do this is to reduce the number of soldiers assigned to logistic support units, command headquarters, maintenance and so one and do a one-for-one swap with "trigger pullers". How do you do this and still provide the enormous tail that U.S. forces need? Use contractors.

It might be possible to assign U.S. civil servants to do this but there have been many issues in the past with getting them to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is too dangerous or not career enhancing. Certainly there is a number of people assigned or who volunteer for these positions but to get the kind of capability that is needed it will have to be contractors. Contractors like KBR or other such companies experienced in logistics and maintenance.

This will not be an easy or quick switch. The ground troops will have to be designated from either those in Iraq or in the U.S. recovering from a recent deployment. Then they will have to be trained and equipped up. A plan will be figured out how to deploy a 1000 support troops and replace them with a battalion of infantry. The support infrastructure will probably have to switch first. Contractors taking over for the rear echelon folks.

Another challenge will be writing and awarding the contracts for this. Unless they plan on expanding existing contracts there will be a several month period of writing the RFP, putting it out and evaluating the proposals. Awards may be protested which could add to the delays. Once awarded the contractors will have to hire their people and get them into place. Expect the almost constant sniping from Congress and the Media about this. See the LOGCAP contract from Iraq for example.

The Obama administration really cannot do anything else. They have reached the fish-or-cut-bait point. Either abandon Afghanistan or pour resources in. At the same time he does not want to "surge" troops there as that will make him and many Democrats look like idiots for opposing the same in Iraq. So he does the next best thing: surge contractors to maximize his troop availability. Good luck to them and the soldiers.

Cross posted at Defense Procurement News