Bought a used 2010 Honda CR-V recently. New ones came with two master keys and a valet key, but in this case, the valet key had gone missing. Thought we ought to have a third key in reserve, just in case. Problem: these keys have a chip in it, so your neighborhood key cutter cannot reproduce it.

Took my troubles to Hall Honda (Virginia Beach). Started at the express service desk, got sent to the cashier, who told me a new valet key costs $36.42 and sent me to the service desk to make an appointment (to make a key).

Sigh. Came back at the appointed time, was told I have to pull the car into the service bay before they can make a valet key. Went out, got the car, drove into the service bay, checked in. Was floored by a bill for $108.56, the labor for programming a valet key being $69.95. Finally had the thing an hour later, was glad to leave.

Crazy; and all because of the “progress” of having the chip implanted in the key. Just to make sure the world was still sane, went to my neighborhood key cutter and had a spare key made for my 2000 Dodge Dakota. Total bill: $2.96, and the key fits neatly into my wallet.

Imagine what other “advances” in automotive electronics can do for us (and how much it will cost).


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A fledgling on our lawn, demanding parental attention.




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This is actually very simple.

The people most affected by the system should run the system.

Imagine this:

  • Each Veterans Administration location is assigned a strike force of veteran volunteers (VETSTRIKEFOR) who are answerable to no one in the bureaucracy.  The size of the VETSTRIKEFOR contingent varies based on the size of the VA location.
  • VETSTRIKEFOR monitors all incoming calls and follow-on actions by the VA.  Each time a call comes in, the clock starts ticking.  If the caller does not get full satisfaction that he/she would have gotten from a competent private physician within the timeframe that the caller’s condition demands, each and every VA bureaucrat, from the appointment taker all the way up to the facility head honcho, gets docked $100.  All VA personnel above the facility director, all the way up to the VA Secretary, get docked $500.
  • Any member of the VA behemoth who attempts to evade or subvert VETSTRIKEFOR supervision, by any means whatsoever (including false accusations of racism, sexism, insensitivity, microaggression, whatever) is subject to an immediate $10,000 fine, for the first offense.  The same applies to everyone in this person’s chain of command, all the way up to the VA Secretary.  A second attempt results in (1) immediate termination with loss of all benefits, (2) being put on a blacklist so that she/he can never be rehired by any governmental agency, and (3) becoming the target of a class action suit by all affected veterans and veteran organizations.
  • VETSTRIKEFOR will collect the funds thus generated, and will hold them in escrow for support of veterans who need services outside the VA system.

Once this system is implemented, the following will occur:

  • About $12 billion per year will flow into the VETSTRIKEFOR escrow fund during the first three years.
  • About 75% of VA personnel will be fired and replaced with competent people, primarily veterans.  To make things fair, the fired bureaucrats will be offered fulfilling manual work on shovel-ready projects.
  • Within three years, the system will have magically fixed itself.  Appointments will be kept, professional services will be provided, prompt referrals outside the system will be made any time the VA system does not have sufficient resources or capacity.

saluting vetI can see tens of thousands of volunteers flooding in to answer their country’s call.

I’d go too, in a heartbeat.


If Obama wants to use his pen and his phone, here is his chance.


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Interesting article about new car glut, at Zero Hedge.  Apparently, millions of new cars are being produced, but because (1) few people are buying and (2) there is an estimated ten billion serviceable cars in the world (yes, that’s 1.4 cars per person), these shiny new vehicles are just parked and left to die.

Which any car will do, after sitting for a while.  Just try starting one after a few months in storage, especially if it sits in the open!

I have to wonder if the Cash for Clunkers program (aka Obamacare for Cars) had been designed with this in mind.  First you make people get rid of older but perfectly serviceable models by offering them cash incentives, which certain other people, also known as taxpayers, have to pay for.  Then you destroy these perfectly serviceable older cars instead of recycling them.  This creates an ecological nightmare and yet another fiscal sinkhole, and drives up the cost of used cars.  Then people will really have little choice but to buy a nice, shiny, overpriced new car with all kinds of expensive features that no one needs.  Except that, after several hundred years of the national socialist Obama economy (okay, okay, it’s not several hundred years, but it feels like it), few people have that kind of money.  So the cars are parked, and they die.

Oh, hey, here’s an idea!  Why not, instead of giving people a few bucks to get rid of their old cars, you simply give them one of these new ones?

Perish the thought…

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photo 1 - scout photo 1

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The Rialto Unified School District of California has given 8th grade students an assignment to “consider whether the systematic killing by the Nazis of some 6 million Jews and millions of others — was not an ‘actual event’ but instead a ‘propaganda tool that was used for political and monetary gain.’”

This was first reported by the San Bernardino Sun and KTLA TV News. (h/t Weasel Zippers)

Per KTLA TV: “The English/Language Arts assignment…asked students to write an argumentative essay about the Holocaust describing ‘whether or not you believe this was an actual event in history, or merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain wealth.’

“The 18-page assignment instructions included three sources that students were told to use, including one that stated gassings in concentration camps were a ‘hoax’ and that no evidence has shown Jews died in gas chambers.

“’With all this money at stake for Israel, it is easy to comprehend why this Holocaust hoax is so secretly guarded,’ states [a] source, which is a attributed to a webpage on ‘In whatever way you can, please help shatter this profitable myth. It is time we stop sacrificing America’s welfare for the sake of Israel and spend our hard-earned dollars on Americans.'”

Per district spokesperson Syeda Jafri, the project was designed by district teachers and assigned during the eighth grade’s “Diary of Anne Frank” unit, and intended to enhance critical thinking skills under the aegis of the Common Core state standards.  School board member Joe Martinez chimed in in a Friday e-mail: “One of the most important responsibilities for educators is to develop critical thinking skills in students.  This will allow a person to come to their own conclusion.  Current events are part of the basis for measuring IQ.  The Middle East, Israel, Palestine and the Holocaust are on newscasts discussing current events.  Teaching how to come to your own conclusion based on the facts, test your position, be able to articulate that position, then defend your belief with a lucid argument is essential to good citizenship.  This thought process creates the foundation for a good education.  The progression is within district board policy and also supports the district’s student inspired motto: ‘Today’s Scholars, Tomorrow’s Leaders.’”

Ms. Jafri also stated that the school district had received no complaints about the assignment from teachers, administrators, or parents.  The kerfuffle only started when The Sun had gotten a copy off the assignment and publicized it.  Then, and only then, did the Rialto school system apparatchiki admit that there was a problem with giving such an assignment to 8th-graders.  Ms. Jafri hurriedly e-mailed that “there is no doubt the Holocaust was one of the most horrific, traumatic time-pieces in our history,”  adding that the Interim Superintendent, Muhammad Z. Islam, “was set to talk with administrators to ‘assure that any references to the holocaust ‘not occurring’ will be stricken on any current or future Argumentative Research assignments…'”

[Wondering, at this point, what a time-piece in history is, but okay...]

Interim Superintendent Mohammad Z. Islam was set to talk with administrators to “assure that any references to the holocaust ‘not occurring’ will be stricken on any current or future Argumentative Research assignments,

What can one say except: there is critical thinking, and then there is “critical thinking.”

Critical thinking, the real thing that is, is something to be lauded.  It is the ability to reason accurately on the basis of evidence, using induction and deduction when appropriate, and questioning even the evidence itself. This presupposes a certain degree of foundational knowledge (and yes, there is such a thing as knowledge) as well as knowledge about knowledge and the nature of evidence, and even knowledge about our capacity to know. When this foundational knowledge is lacking, as is the case with children, it must be imparted. This, presumably, is the task of the teaching establishment; and for this, teachers must have critical thinking skills themselves.  Thus equipped, teachers would give age-appropriate assignments given to their students, always bearing in mind the fact that children are easily swayed; that few children have the knowledge to break out of the box and state that an assignment is nonsense; and even if they did have the knowledge, they would likely fear the consequences of not conforming.

But when you have children teaching children, as seems to be the case in the Rialto School District, what you get is “critical thinking:” a mockery of the real thing which features the ability to reason, but in a vacuum, without the requisite foundational knowledge.  That’s indoctrination, not education, made worse by Common Core State Standards which ask students to make arguments and defend their answers “based on texts they have read.”

Such power infantile educators now have!  A small group of them, the proverbial CORE committee, gets to choose the texts, thereby shaping – and twisting – young minds.

The Common Core State Standards, adopted by most U.S. states including California, include writing standards that seek to have students make arguments and defend their answers based on texts they have read, among other goals.

Over to the Near East….

The Palestinian Media Watch reports that a Hamas-produced weekly children’s show Tomorrow’s Pioneers implores young children to shoot all the Jews. (h/t Weasel Zippers)  Killing Jews and Holocaust denial are integral parts of a steady diet fed to children in Muslim countries.

Today’s Scholars, Tomorrow’s Leaders, indeed.


the Nazis of some 6 million Jews and millions of others — was not an “actual event” but instead a “propaganda tool that was used for political and monetary gain.”

The Rialto school district planned to revise an eighth-grade assignment that raised red flags by asking students to consider arguments about whether the Holocaust — the systematic killing by the Nazis of some 6 million Jews and millions of others — was not an “actual event” but instead a “propaganda tool that was used for political and monetary gain.”

The Rialto school district planned to revise an eighth-grade assignment that raised red flags by asking students to consider arguments about whether the Holocaust — the systematic killing by the Nazis of some 6 million Jews and millions of others — was not an “actual event” but instead a “propaganda tool that was used for political and monetary gain.”

The Rialto school district planned to revise an eighth-grade assignment that raised red flags by asking students to consider arguments about whether the Holocaust — the systematic killing by the Nazis of some 6 million Jews and millions of others — was not an “actual event” but instead a “propaganda tool that was used for political and monetary gain.”

The Rialto school district planned to revise an eighth-grade assignment that raised red flags by asking students to consider arguments about whether the Holocaust — the systematic killing by the Nazis of some 6 million Jews and millions of others — was not an “actual event” but instead a “propaganda tool that was used for political and monetary gain.”

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The Czech news site iDNES reported yesterday that Vladimir Putin just signed a decree that will streamline and fast-track the process whereby members of Russian minorities who now find themselves outside Russia proper can gain Russian citizenship.  The decree is aimed at large concentrations of Russians in former Soviet republics who now hold Ukrainian, Estonian, Kazakh or other citizenship, or who may even be stateless.  The law was proposed by the Duma last month in the wake of the Russian annexation of the Crimea as part of a “normalization effort” among the two million-strong population of the peninsula.  It is also particularly relevant to the seventeen per cent of Ukraine’s citizens who claim Russian ethnicity.



At the same time, Putin signed a decree rehabilitating the Crimean Tatar, Armenian, German and Greek minorities, all of whom had been suspected of being perennial “enemies of the state” and who had suffered greatly under the Soviet regime. In particular, the Tatars had been expelled from the Crimea during World War Two and only allowed to return starting in the 1980s.  The decree rules that the Soviet-era deportations were illegal, and guarantees autonomous rights for Crimea’s minorities.

Moscow’s decrees notwithstanding, reality in Russian Crimea may be a little different. For instance, the Globe and Mail reports that

A leading figure in the Crimean Tatar minority has been barred by Russia from returning to the peninsula following its annexation by Moscow, the Tatar community’s assembly said on Tuesday.

In an online statement, the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People said Mustafa Dzhemilev, a member of the Ukrainian parliament and the former chairman of the Mejlis, had been handed a notice banning him from Russia for five years as he crossed back to mainland Ukraine after a weekend in Crimea.

The Mejlis statement said the current deputy chairman, Aslan Omer Kyrymly, was also handed a similar banning notice.

Decapitation (in the sense of neutralizing leadership) is, of course, one of the most efficient ways to “pacify” a restive population, something Putin the former KGB lieutenant colonel understands extremely well.  In any case, these bans bode ill not just for the 300,000-strong Crimean Tatar community but for all other minorities under Russian suzerainty.  The fact that Putin had also just announced that he will authorize an extensive gambling district in the Crimea to help the local economy is sure to be of no help to the much-abused and long-suffering (non-Russian) minorities of the Crimea.

One awaits, with bated breath, further developments.


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Some interesting news from Russia, courtesy of the Czech news organizations iDNES and ČTK.

Apparently, Putin is searching for a legal basis for his move against the Ukraine and, very likely, for future aggressions. So it seems to me, anyway. And he may have chanced upon something any sea lawyer would love.

Per Czech news, the Russian press agency ITAR-TASS reported on April 10, 2014 that a group of Russian Duma members is demanding that Yuri Chaikov, Russia’s general procurator, open an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the collapse of the USSR. The ultimate goal is apparently prosecution of the responsible parties, possibly even Mikhail Gorbachev. These politicians claim that the breakup was actually illegal since (1) 76% of those who had voted in a referendum had been for retaining the union, (2) Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia, Moldavia and Armenia had not taken part in the referendum, and (3) Soviet representatives had taken a number of illegal steps during the negotiations that ultimately resulted in the breakup of the USSR. The Duma members further note that the Soviet procurator’s office actually wanted to take legal action against Gorbachev in 1991 but was dissuaded by the Kremlin. Finally, they accuse Gorbachev of having created a top governmental organ after the August 1991 coup, for which there was no basis in the Soviet Constitution, noting further that it was this very organ which illegally recognized the independence of the Baltic republics.

I keep thinking of Putin’s statement that the breakup of the USSR was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century.”  If that was a serious statement, and I think it was, then this legal stratagem might be used to justify moves not just against the Ukraine but against any of the former Soviet republics.

Speaking of the Ukraine: the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) has recently published a briefing paper on the Ukraine’s – and Russia’s – military dispositions following the Russian takeover of the Crimea. The paper offers four possible military scenarios available to Russia.  It also reviews the geopolitical and economic realities in the region. Excellent and informative, if ominous, read.

Looking at the map and thinking about the general situation…

If I were Putin, I would now wait patiently and start making friendly noises, possibly even pay reparations to the Ukraine, until the Crimea becomes old news, like Benghazi.  This would let Obama declare victory and continue reducing U.S. military capabilities in peace (figuratively speaking).  And if I waited until after the 2016 elections, I might see another Obama type (like, for instance, Clinton) elected.  If so, I’d roll into the Ukraine just after the results of the U.S. elections were announced and not stop until I reached the Dnieper.

On the other hand, if I were an Eastern European Slav, I might start thinking really hard about a defensive federation of the Poles, Czechs, Slovaks and Ukrainians, over and above NATO.  That would create a 100 million-strong block of Slavic peoples who, by virtue of their location and their very long historical memories, would create a powerful stabilizing force that could face down threats from east – or west.  If I felt very generous, I might in time invite the Hungarians and the Romanians to join, but that darn long memory of mine would not let me sleep well.

Nice thought; but I can’t see that happening, not now, certainly not with EU overlordship…


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