Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Sensitive, New Age Guy

So many things are pissing me off right now, I'm proabably going to unleash a flurry of posts as soon as I get more than a half an hour to jot my thoughts down. Just a head's up.

But what can I relate my frustration with in just 30 minutes and simultaeously poke the proverbial beehive? Well, something that in general has bothered me over the years is what I perceive as the feminization of modern man. I hadn't thought about it much lately, until I read this interview with Harvey Mansfield.

Have a look at it. I think it's interesting, because then you read stories about how Gonzaga's Adam Morrison cry when they lose basketball games (not the silent, private crying, but full-blown lying on the floor and bawling, from what I hear - I don't watch basketball), and a guy has to ask himself, is this a manly reaction?
Mr. Mansfield's contention that women and men are not the same is now widely supported by social scientists. The core of his definition of manliness--"confidence in a risky situation"--is not so far from that of biologists and sociologists, who find men to be more abstract in their thinking and aggressive in their behavior than women, who are more contextual in their thinking and conciliatory in their behavior
I don't know what that has to do with crying in sports necessarily, but I'm going to likely bring this up again soon as it pertains to politics. Politics may be a game, but what it comes down to is choosing a leader. Do you want a leader with a clear, principle-based vision, or someone who just tells you what he thinks you want to hear to get elected and later finds he doesn't have the 'nads to handle the situation?

So rather than go on and on about it at length as usual, let me put the question to you: Do you think men have become less manly? Is it good or bad? Any amusing anecdotes would be appreciated.

I think that the feminist movement and modern liberalism in general have resulted in effete indecisive beta males who gang up upon males who are more manly than they are. I think misandry, like misogyny, goes both ways. I also think that most women, even ones who would never admit it, prefer men to be... manly.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Environmental Hysteria: Alarm!

Grr. Can't blog. Studying. Big Tactical Action Officer exam on Thursday, another "pre-test" for Prospective Engineering Officer school on Tuesday. Flying to Florida over the weekend to find a place for my family to live in June. Anyway, if you wonder about these long absences from the Blogosphere, let it be known, I still enjoy reading your blogs, but have significatly reduced time to do it.

Nontheless, rather than let yet another current event become less current before I say something, I thought I'd take a quick break to let you know that the Inuit are alarmed by signs of global warming. I had originally linked to the article on MSNBC, when it was leading the headlines on the 22nd, but MSNBC seems to have depublished the article. I was naturally able to find it on hysterical end-of-the-world foretelling website Peak Oil.

They are the indigenous people of this bountiful land, I suppose they'd know if something's wrong with it, wouldn't they? I mean, they're all connected to mother earth and sprits and such - just like Hollywood's been telling me all my life. If the Inuit are alarmed, I guess we all ought to be, eh?

Thirty miles from the Arctic Circle, hunter Noah Metuq feels the Arctic changing. Its frozen grip is loosening; the people and animals who depend on its icy reign are experiencing a historic reshaping of their world.
Of course, this article was published in the Spring, but let's give them the benefit of the doubt. So, perhaps this was an exceptionally warm winter. Is it indicative of larger trend? Perhaps. Is there any science to back that up? Meh, not really. If the climate is actually changing and not just the weather, is there any evidence that humans are responsible? No, not really. It's like when the defense on Law and Order tries to use experimental, non-tested theories to explain away its client's actions and the prosecution just shuts 'em down by asking if there's actually any evidence to support the theory. It gets repetitive, but it works every time.

I would like to have the time to really deluge you with links showing that there is still no solid science to back up these claims. But trying to pull the reader's heartstrings by protraying the Inuit as the stereotypical Noble Savage whose life has been irrovocably altered by the horrors wrought upon him by the evil White Devils doesn't prove anything.

Speaking of the end of the world, I put a countdown in the sidebar for John Kerry's prediction that New York City and Boston would be underwater in 30 years. A commenter called me out on this and pointed me toward the transcript of Kerry's discussion with Don Imus and told me that nowhere had he mentioned global warming:
KERRY: “ What I'm saying is that in a lot of choices you have to make in public life, you make them on a basis on a sort of cautionary principal. I mean, that's true, for instance, of global warming. I can't say to a certainty exactly what's going to happen, and the models differ about what's going to happen. But I can say to an absolute certainty, and I just got a NASA briefing on this the other day, that if things stay exactly as they are today, absent some unpredictable change in what's going on, within the next 30 years, the Arctic ice sheet is gone, not maybe, not if, the Arctic ice sheet is gone. And already you have the Greenland ice sheet beginning to melt. The Greenland ice sheet, unlike the Arctic ice sheet, is on rock. It's out of the water. If that melts, you have a level of sea increase that wipes out Boston Harbor and New York Harbor. I mean, It's just stunning what we're looking at. And yet, there's no -- Europe, other countries are responding. The United States remains oblivious. Or at least the administration remains oblivious.“
So if the models differ, and nobody's certain, and he can't say to a certainty what's going to happen, then why is he so damn certain? I'd like to get a hold of this NASA thing, but if they don't want us to use the stupid things they say to point out how stupid they are, then they should stop saying stupid things.

Previous:
Environmental Hysteria: Ocean-front Property in Worcester

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Sweet Love Down by the Fire

I fell asleep before Chef's final episode on South Park came on eariler this week, but I got lucky and got to hear Stan's eulogy on the radio on the way to work the next morning:
"A lot of us don't agree with the choices the Chef has made in the last few days," one of the children eulogizes him at a funeral. "Some of us feel hurt and confused that he seemed to turn his back on us. But we can't let the events of the past few weeks take away the memories of how Chef made us smile."

"We shouldn't be mad at Chef for leaving us," the eulogy concludes. "We should be mad at that fruity little club for scrambling his brains."
...

BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!! I laughed so hard I cried.

You can see the banned episode "Trapped in the Closet" here. Also, Patrick has a terrific post about Scientology; if you don't know anything about it, DON'T ASK A SCIENTOLOGIST. Personally, I think anyone deciding to devote themselves to any belief system better read the fine print. Patrick is one guy who seems to have picked a little bit of everything from the buffet.

Me? I'll skip the buffet and get a plate of eggs benedict at my favorite diner. I'm a bit of loner that way.

Previous:
What is Religion For?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Failure

From today's Daniel Henninger column in OpinionJournal (emphasis mine):
The tendentious editorial decision to paint the high-traffic front pages red with blood and demote the hard slog of political progress in Iraq to the unread inside has an effect. Any normal person would be depressed by constant face-time with stories of barbaric slaughter. If what amounts to a kind of contemporary brain-washing of both the American public and Washington elites causes them to falter and Iraq to "fail," no future president of either party is again likely to deploy U.S. military resources in any sustained, significant way. You can't imagine what "lose" will mean then.
There's a remarkable bit of insight. It's not news that the front pages scream "Failure!" daily, but Henninger starts off discussing how the President was his old self again on Wednesday in West Virginia.

"Holding a hand microphone, Mr. Bush walked around a stage before a few thousand people giving a largely extemporaneous talk on Iraq and his presidency. It was mesmerizing," Henninger writes. And of course, nothing good that happened made the news. If it bleeds, it leads; I went to Journalism school, I know how it works. The President doing well at getting his point across rates page A10 in the bottom right-hand corner, but the President sounding like a fool, or broad misinterpretations about his policies, or setbacks the administration faces... why, that's A1 with a screaming misleading headline.

I thought Henninger's comment about military was interesting, though. As a member of the Armed Forces, I'm prepared to go into harm's way to defend the interests of the United States, be that her citizens or keeping sea lines of communication open. Could this constant drone about misuse of military force prevent Commanders in Chief from using it in the future? I think if there was a man of lesser will in the White House, that could be the case. There is still the danger, and there always has been, of that being the case; this goes as far back as John Adams paying tribute to the Barbary States and Thomas Jefferson's initial unwillingness to do anything about captured American merchantmen.

Whatever the outcome of the Global War on Terror (in which I include Iraq), and I believe it will be positive, the President must not be hamstrung in his duty to defend America. Changing paradigms will always meet resistance, but I'm of the opinion that changing the world from a place in which terrorist acts are accepted as a fact of life and support of terrorism deemed acceptible foreign policy, to one where they are not, is a worthwhile endeavor.

But that's me.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Marvelous Mad Mister Dean

I thought I'd fill you in with the latest from the Democrat party, since none of you are likely on the mailing list.

Dear Matthew,

Never before has our party been more organized in advance of an election. With new staff hitting the ground everywhere from Alaska to Arkansas, we are going to fight for every vote in every corner of every state in 2006.
Of course, trying to make liberals of non-liberals is kind of irking your party and draining your coffers. I guess if you call frittering away millions of dollars in donations and having absolutely no message beside "We hate Bush" organization, the Republicans won't have much trouble in November. -Robo

Right now we're preparing for the next big step in our ("your" - Robo) 50-state strategy. On April 29th, thousands of volunteers will recruit hundreds of thousands (give or take -Robo) more Americans committed to changing the status quo this year.

We're going to do it by making personal contact with our neighbors. April 29th will be the Democratic Party's first-ever National Neighbor-to-Neighbor Organizing Day. We're going to test our organization and build new relationships among volunteers with door-knocking events in communities across America.
"Hello, sir or ma'am! I'm a raving moonbat. Did you know Republicans put puppies in blenders? I read it somewhere! Want to be friends?" -Robo

We estimate (They're very good at estimating. Just ask Ohio.) that we need to print 500,000 pieces of literature to cover these events. With the cost of printing, plus the cost of shipping, staff time and logistics to make these events happen, we need an investment of $107,000 by Monday (You could try a karaoke contest. Just trying to help.) in order to kick-start this program. (And you know that will be money well spent trying to get seals to vote in Alaska or zombies to vote in Washington. Good luck with that. -Robo)

Can you contribute something right now to help make this unprecedented program a reality? (What would you know about reality, Mr. Dean?) Click here to see the literature up close and make your donation:

All the signs point to this being a big election year for Democrats. (You know how losing elections excites them... -Robo) But if we want to win in November, we've got to fight now to reach every community and build a solid operation before Election Day. (But that organization you mentioned before... is that part of the solid operation? -Robo)

Volunteers knocking on doors on April 29th will carry a simple piece of literature. It summarizes the Democratic vision (This can be done? I need to see this literature! -Robo) and offers an opportunity to make a connection and be a part of the movement for change.
Change to what? The first change to make would be to stop running against George Bush. The second would to actually figure out how to accomplish some of this "agenda" in a realistic way. Good luck with that. -Robo

Whether people receive the literature in person or on their doorknob, they will be able to plug into their local volunteer network, which will be crucial to building our organization now and turning out the vote in November. (Crap, this isn't a new Chinese restaurant menu! -Robo.)

On one day in April we can deliver a clear Democratic vision (I've been waiting for seven years. Some people have been waiting even longer. -Robo) and offer people an opportunity to help make it a reality. Will you donate to help pull it off?

http://www.democrats.org/doorhanger

Next week you'll learn more about how to make the national Neighbor-to-Neighbor Organizing Day a reality on the ground in your community.

Headquarters staff and state parties are working around the clock to provide staging areas in key neighborhoods (In Alaska and Arkansas? I'd believe New York and Los Angeles. -Robo) and the basic (They'd have to be... oh, that's mean spirited! Sorry! -Robo) training materials to make the canvass as effective as possible.

It's up to you to execute this ambitious and historic operation. (I can't take theis kind of pressure! -Robo)

It will only take 2,200 people donating $50 to fund this program. Please contribute whatever you can to help get this literature printed and distributed to the states:

http://www.democrats.org/doorhanger

Two-thirds of Americans reject this president and the Republican leadership (Yeah, if you believe everything you read in the newspaper. -Robo) -- and they are waiting to hear from us. (And waiting... and waiting... -Robo)

We have a big task (I'll say. -Robo) in November. We will only win if every one of (the Republicans loses?) us takes responsibility for the outcome of the election now -- while there is still time to build our operation. (Oh.) We are all members of one American community and it's up to us to make sure that our country has a government as good as its people.

Thank you for being a part of this unprecedented organizing drive. (Organization would be unprecedented. -Robo)

Governor Howard Dean, M.D.

To be fair, whoever writes Mr. Dean's emails doesn't sound half as crazy as Dean himself. Most of the emails I get from democrats.org are begging for funds (most of RNC emails are, too) and the rest are in the vein of "OMGWTFBBQ! Chimpy McBushitler is a doodyhead!"

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling much more confident in to DNC's chances in November.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Tuesday Trivia

Hi there! Not much time today, but I thought you'd like to know that we can no longer sustain this level of interest in current events.

Meanwhile, the answers to last week's Tuesday Trivia, and two more Tuesday Trivia questions!

Q1: In what country is Communist Peak located?
A1: Tadzhikistan

Q2: List the original Planet of the Apes movies in the order they happened in the movie chronology (NOT order of release).
A2:

  1. Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)
  2. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)
  3. Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)
  4. Planet of the Apes (1968)
  5. Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

This week's questions!
Q: Where was Thomas Edison's laboratory?
Q: What is the area of a hockey rink between the blue lines and the goal lines called?

Good stuff coming up as soon as I get a minute to crank it out!

What is Religion For?

So, I was perusing the news today and I foung Trey Park and Matt Stone's statement about their recent battle with Scientology:
"So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun!" the "South Park" creators said in a statement Friday in Daily Variety. "Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies... You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail!"
I love it! They've just gone and told Scientologists that they don't take them as seriously as they take themselves while pointing out how ludicrous their cult is. Funny how the press calls this a raging battle. I suppose the sparks are flying in Hollywood. At best it sounds like some goofy new-age thing, but Scientologists are so desperate to be considered a legitimate religion, they refuse to publicly discuss their core beliefs. My guess is that it's because it would make them sound crazy.

I think what's really funny was that Issac Hayes quit over the Scientology episode, citing Parker and Stone's religious intolerance, but it was just fine when they were making fun of Jews, Christians, Muslims and not his religion. When folks of one religion disparage other people for their beliefs, I always think of people in glass houses throwing stones at one another.

Personally, I think South Park is pretty funny, but has jumped the shark. I haven't watched it in a long time, but I like how they handle issues that are considered "sensitive" in the most insensitive possible way, and yet can get an open-minded person to see their point.

So, to go the long way around, I know there are a few religious folks who stop by here once in a while, and I'd like to know what you (or anyone else) thinks religion is for? What constitutes a "real" religion? I'm not trying to be inflammatory, I'm genuinely curious to hear what people think. Does it serve a purpose other than to tell us who to be mad at?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Group Hug

Thanks to Crazy P for gettinging me all riled up this morning. I was content to sit here and drink my morning pot of coffee out of my Tigger mug (Boing!), but no, he has to go point out this Washington Post opinion piece by a fellow named Coleman McCarthy, who sounds like Part of the Problem to me.

Coleman McCarthyIt's men like McCarthy that make me dread the day six years from now when I send my son to kindergarten and commence my all-out war against a flacid, permissive, impotent public education system. Sure, there are alternatives; homeschooling, private schooling, but it was good enough for me and my wife and I desperately want it to be good enough for my son. Wish in one hand...

We'll try public education first, anyway, and see how it goes.

Y'know, up here at the Surface Warfare Officers School, some admiral's kid went through our Division Officer Course a few years ago and told his dad it was a waste of time; apparently, he didn't think that six months of exercising his liver and learning about the Navy was good use of his time before going to his first ship. I think those of us who are not admiral's sons might have disagreed

Therefore, Dad ordered DOC to restructure. It was changed from a rigorous six-month crash course in everything an ensign needs to do his job into a three week touchy-feely group-hug-fest with no tests that the division officers sit through after they've been thrown to the wolves on their ship for a year or so directly out of college. Because of our lack of ability to hold them accountable for anything, they got very little out of what little time we had. The only feedback we had on whether the restructuring was a success was course critiques that the students filled out after the three weeks was over, causing us to change the course every three weeks.

So in the year I taught it, we had to redo the structure of the course every month based on what the students thought about it, rather than on whether they were actually learning anything. It is now something I don't even recognize, three years later, though I'm told that now that said admiral is no longer in control, testing has commenced.

McCarthy says:
"Standardized tests measure braininess and memory skills. American society has plenty of people who were academic whizzes in high school but were so driven by the lure of a high grade-point average that their spiritual lives remained stunted. I worry about students who make too many A's. What parts of their inner lives are they sacrificing to conform to someone else's notion that doing well in tests means doing well in life? Is any time left over from mastering theoretical knowledge for gaining the kind of experiential knowledge found in community service or volunteering in programs such as Special Olympics or DC Reads?"
He worries about students who get too many A's? Now, I'd be the first one to tell you that school standards and personal standards are not one in the same. However, he actually worries about kids who are driven to achieve! Imagine, telling a kid that they're being too successful. Oh, wait, I forgot, success and achievement is looked down up by the more enlightened liberal elites. We're finding new ways to celebrate mediocrity.

Additionally, a test is a teaching tool. A feedback device to measure the teacher's success at imparting requisite knowledge to the student. It's stupid to have a tool and not use it.

McCarthy's ablility to be the waste of skin that he is comes from his formal education. No time for the Special Olympics? What a load of crap! First, why should a child be obligated to perform community service? Second, I agree with you, Crazy P, there's plenty of time for a kid to do things outside of school. I was a Boy Scout for 12 years (and did plenty of community service, because I wanted to), fenced, played soccer, took Tae Kwon Do, worked stage crew and acted in several plays, produced a TV show and wrote a novel. My daughter is in Girl Scouts, plays basketball and soccer, goes to dance is disturbingly active in her church and reads everything. This guy hasn't the foggiest idea what he's talking about.

As far as teaching to the test, it's synonymous with testing the material you teach, in my opinion. Why quiz the student on things he doesn't need to know?

Children need discipline and structure and preparation for adulthood, not to be felt sorry for. They want to be challenged, not pandered to; at least until we get them thinking they should be pandered to. McCarthy claims to have a lot of evidence to back up his philosophy, and I'd be interested in seeing what he considers to be evidence and what exactly it is evidence of. It sounds to me like he's just trying to create a lot of self-sacrificial automatons with no basic skills doomed to a life of dependence upon others. Desire-based learning may be great when students want to learn something, but what about when they don't? I guess someone else who had a decent education and is sufficiently motivated and focused upon his own achievement will pick up the slack for them.

He's not demanding anything from these kids. He writes that,
"To compensate for my no-testing policy, I assign tons of homework. The assignments? Tell someone you love him or her. Do a favor for someone who won't know you did it. Say a kind word to the workers at the school: the people who clean the toilets, cook the food, drive the buses and heat the buildings. And a warning: If you don't do the homework, you'll fail. You'll fail your better self, you'll fail to make the world better, you'll fail at being a peacemaker."
Adults who do not understand that these people must do what they are doing because they choose to do so, or that violence has a necessary place and purpose, terrible though it may be, turn into people like this McCarthy fellow. They may be on the news performing mindless acts of stupidity every night, but they are not successful people.

Anecdotally speaking, I get this from my daughter everytime she visits. She is unchallenged in school and hungers for knowledge - so we talk about everything. I visit historic places with her and teach her about the world. I quiz her on multiplication tables. No one else seems willing to do it. She's nine years old and doesn't know anything about the American Revolution or the Civil War. At all. How can you know you want to learn about something if no one ever tells you happened? What if you think it's too hard to understand and decide you don't want to learn about it? She's over-empathetic, can't handle fictional violence or suspense (she has nightmares when Augustus Gloomp is sucked up the pipe in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).

To blame all this on public education or this backwards, achievement-killing hippie would be preposterous. He's simply part of the larger problem that will take as long or longer to fix as it has to cause it.

EDIT: Betsy Newmark, who has apparently gotten her blog back, has a terrific link to this WaPo article from a few weeks ago: Students Call for Banning of Peace Studies Class. But I sure this is just one or two unruly brainwashed kids trying to stir the pot.

/sarcasm

More:
Penraker: Why Peace Studies People Are Mental
Crazy Politico's Rantings: Teaching To The Test?
Riehl World View: Le Moyne College’s Center for Peace and Global Studies: Agenda Politics Or Polls?

Run For Your Life!

I've never watched Doctor Who, which is interesting, because I've been told more than once that it's exactly the sort of thing I'd enjoy. I guess last year, the BBC restarted the series, but you won't see that kind of programming in the U.S. until long after the British have gotten sick of it. Look at Red Dwarf and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I'd love to see Red Dwarf on SciFi.

But I digress. I was about to turn off the TV last night after Red had fallen asleep and I had become so thoroughly distract I couldn't concentrate on my book, when I noticed the SciFi was showing the series premiere of the new Doctor Who. Starring, of all people, Christopher Eccleston (who I've seen in exactly three movies, one of which I didn't know it was him and two of which I enjoyed*) and British pop star Billie Piper, one of whose albums I bought in Hong Kong because I liked her cover of "The Tide is High" by Blondie.

Ahem.

So Eccleston was only signed to play the good (9th) Doctor for the first season and the second season has had the 10th Doctor played by David Tennant.

I think it's safe to say that I crave more; I think I'll be heading to the Netflix queue presently. Just what I needed, another TV show to get addicted to. I don't watch much TV, one reason is because once I start finding things I like, that is all I'll ever do. I think I can deal with watching Doctor Who on SciFi on Fridays as well as Lost on Wednesdays. I've managed to kick the Smallville, Medium and Las Vegas habits (thanks goodness those shows all began to suck, or sucked from the start and it took me a while to notice). Firefly, Buffy and Angel have been cancelled... It's probably a good thing all the good shows get cancelled, of I'd never do anything else except for watch them!

Idiot box, indeed.

*Gone in 60 Seconds was pretty lame.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Hot Air

There's a couple of interesting opinion pieces over at TownHall.com today. Sen Feingold's censure/impeachment talk doesn't seem to be gaining any traction, which is great for Kos Kidz and the like, who consider it a victory to make wild accusations and lose elections. Feingold will likely not not run again for Senator so he can throw his hat in the ring for the 2008 Presidential nominataion, anyway; which is convenient, because he then can't lose his seat in an election. (Although that might build his liberal cred.)

I have a musing about this, though. I know both Democrats and Republicans are concerned with strategy and being able to communicate to people what they are all about so they can decide to vote for them. But it seems to me like the Democrat agenda is all about tricking people into voting for them, while the Republicans espouse principles. Generally speaking, I think they stick to it, though individually there are exceptions to each. Republicans do lose their way and Democrats occassionally believe in something.

Anyway, James said, "The play is this: accountability and oversight. They could use this a national call to Congressional oversight and calling congress and the administration to be accountable for security, the budget, the war, domestic issues, an energy policy and a host of others. Use it a means to say Republicans control every branch of government and look at the mess we have. And why is that - because there is no checks and balance in government."

I'm really glad James has been frequenting PCIF lately, he's been offering some great insight into the minds of people that I have difficulty getting into. But, dude, it's a play, a scheme, a slimy sales pitch. The Boston Globe has some analysis today which in three pages, essentially says as much. As long as the Democrat Party says what the moonbats like, they'll vote for them. With Republicans, it seems voters can disagree on points and still agree on the overall principles by which the elected representatives govern.

"Look," say the Democrats. "They suck much worse than we suck." Didn't they try that, "We're the lesser of two evils!" approach in 2004? You're talking about how they can spin it. If they could develop some steadfast, unwavering principles and some leadership maybe they'd have something people can latch on to. Dean Barnett at the Daily Standard has an interesting look at Markos "Screw 'em" Moulitsas and Jerome Armstrong's new book, an attempt to provide some guidance to a rudderless party.

"Crashing the Gate is a candid (indeed, shockingly candid) look into the morally vacant motivations of the movement that Moulitsas and Armstrong represent. In spite of confessing that the Democratic party stands for very little, Armstrong and Moulitsas fight for it passionately."
This analysis is nothing new, but I think the fact that it comes from the moonbat base of the Democrat Party, it's somewhat meaningful.
"The authors conclude that the Democrats' big tent is crammed with special interest groups is because the party has no unifying principles or goals. Moulitsas and Armstrong declare, "It is difficult to overstate the need for the Democratic Party to develop its own ideas, not just argue against the Republican ones."
Of course, there's nothing more exhilirating than pointing out the shortcomings of others, but it's another thing altogether to come up with a solution. If these two schmucks want to give their party some direction, they ought to think about that.

Even if they would just stand back and let the GOP loose, they'd probably pick up a couple seats, maybe a majority somewhere. As it stands, I think that most folks just feel manipulated by this crop of Dems and I'd be surprised if Feingold's attempts to out-crazy Howard Dean go anywhere. But I also think James is right, the Silly Season will be interesting.

Given the choice between a slick marketing campaign and principle-based leadership, I'll go with principles.

More:
Opinion Journal's Naomi Schaefer Riley: The Conspiracy - A view from the inside.

Previous:
Bizarro World

Thursday, March 16, 2006

44

I'd like to invite you to read George Will's column about our next President, Virgina Senator George Allen. If I have anythign to say about it, that is.

Hey, wait a second, I do!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Robbed at Gunpoint

Ah. Tax season. Tired of being taken advantage of by tax preparation companies, I've convinced Red that we should go it alone this year. Our taxes aren't particulary complicated, but since I began working a salaried job and investing, I didn't make much of an attempt to understand the new tax forms I had to fill out. We're both rather impatient and would prefer not to deal with it - just the sort of customers those ne'er-do-wells are looking for.

I bought TurboTax this year, to help out with the finer points, and because if you think Federal income tax is needlessly complex, you haven't seen Rhode Island income tax forms. Red and I are Florida residents, but since she worked in Rhode Island at a private company, she's had to pay state tax for the last three years. Luckily, the greedy little armpit of suck (Rhode Island) can't touch the majority of our income. So I mailed 'em off today - good riddance.

Personally, my idea of Income Tax reform is the repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment. If you don't believe in slippery slopes, do a little reading on taxation in the United States some time. World wide opinion around the turn of the century was that tariffs and sales taxes allowed the wealthy to avoid their "fair share" of the tax burden (world-wide opinion is still worth what you pay for it, it seems). Ludicrous, I know, that anyone could possibly think that anyone's share of the tax burden is fair.

The first attempt to pass an income tax law was struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional, so Congress got enough support together for the Sixteenth Amendment, finally ratified by the States in 1913. Income tax was the beginning of American socialism, in my opinion; it was followed up by Social Security and by 1945 the maximum marginal tax rate had ballooned from 7% to 94%.

I found this great quote by Representative Cordell Hull of Tennessee, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee in a Los Angeles Times article published on the eve of the ratification of the Constitutional Amendment that would legally allow direct taxes to be leveed on American citizens.
“One of the important results of an income tax,” said Representative Hull, “will be the curbing of unnecessary Federal expenditures. When a great part of the government's income is derived by a direct tax upon the citizens of the nation, they will scrutinize more carefully the appropriations made by Congress.”
All together now: HA HA HA HA! It's funny because it's so incredibly misguided. Government produces nothing and survives only on what it can force from you. When you give it money, it always wants more, there's so much it can do. There is no curbing the appetite of Congress for funds. "Scrutinize", now that's funny.

Not for nothing, he was also a Democrat in a Democrat controlled congress with a Democrat President-Elect (Wilson). Times were different back then, however. Corporations taking advantage of people was a reality and a genuine problem, working-class resentment of wealthy people was increasingly volatile. Redistribution of wealth sounded like a really good idea back then.

To every state except Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, interestingly.

And look where it's gotten us. We pay taxes we don't even know about. The money's taken from us before we even see it and pissed away by a bloated government that is likely to implode and become a black hole due to its gi-normous mass. I exaggerated the black hole part, but you understand what I mean.

More insanity (TFHT: Atlas Shrugs) Kofi Annan wants a slice of the American pie. Not content with kickbacks, bribery and support of slavery, he thinks the UN should be able to levee international taxes. Over my dead body, you son of a bitch.

Notice the lack of media coverage of this particular gesticulation and you'll understand a little more about the rest of the world and why being more like them isn't in your best interest.

Bizarro World

EDIT: Hi there, Washington Post readers! Share and enjoy!

Y'know, my initial reaction to this is, "Russ Feingold, you can't be serious."

One of today's Wall Street Journal editorials, "The Impeachment Agenda", says Wisconsin Democrat Feingold has done America a favor by tipping the DNC's hand.

Republicans are denouncing Senator Russ Feingold's proposal to "censure" President Bush for his warrantless wiretaps on al Qaeda, but we'd like to congratulate the Wisconsin Democrat on his candor. He's had the courage to put on the table what Democrats are all but certain to do if they win either the House or Senate in November.
Huh. I haven't been following this, but I can make the leap of logic that the Democrats might try to start impeachment proceedings whether they win the House or not in November - inconceivable though it may sound.

Who wins in something like this? Nobody. Everybody is going to come out of this looking like a schmuck if it happens. So far most of famous Democrats are silent on the topic, at least when ambushed by the press. Except Howard Dean, or an email with Howard Dean's name on it. (Yes, I'm on the DNC mailing list so you don't have to be.) Feingold is a bit peeved at his fellow Democrats. Given the opportunity to put up or shut up, they leave Feingold twisting, to mix a metaphor.

I guess we'll have to see how serious the "harumphs" are in the Judiciary Committee. Either way it's going to be frustrating and the height of lunatic, chest-pounding rhetoric. As usual. And that's just swell.

I also thought I agreed with John Kerry for minute, but now I'm not so sure. Sounds like it's just more opportunism; he's desperately trying to build his cred.

Oh well, what goes on in Bizarro World stays in Bizarro World.

More
Bloviating Zeppelin: Dems & DEM: What Sticks, Parts I and II
Crazy Politico's Rantings: Agenda Issues
Granddaddy Long Legs: Democrat Demagoguery & Media Malfeasance

They Don't Come With Instructions

A little burned out on politics recently, folks, just FYI. I'm also trying to get into my "Dad" role and become the best darn Chief Engineer my ship has ever had. So, life, as always, creeps up on you.

I'm about to discuss a topic that for some reason unfathomable to me makes some people uncomfortable, so I just wanted to warn you in advance. I'll probably do this again in relation to the impending birth of my son, so consider this your heads up.

Last night I went to breastfeeding class. Oh, yeah, I know, breastfeeding class. The hospital schedules several classes at night for new parents to learn about how to care for their babies. You can muddle through it all right on your own, but it's nice to have discussions with experts. What it all comes down to is that it's the best food you could possibly give a baby, it builds immunities and helps with development. There's a lot of other benefits you can read about if you like.

I learned a couple interesting things. For example, not everyone nurses their baby. That's a completely foreign concept to me; my mom nursed all of us kids, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me for parents to spend tons of money on formula that's only a pale imitation of mother's milk. You're right there and fully equipped, just feed the kid!

The first thing was an offhand remark about breastfeeding laws. I said, "You would think the Rhode Island legislature would have more productive ways to use its time." It turns out the laws are to protect mothers, so they say. Rhode Island breastfeeding laws require employers to accomodate breast feeding mothers, and exclude breastfeeding mothers from disorderly conduct laws. You can get a list of national breastfeeding laws here. Is there something offensive about nursing that I am not aware of?

The UN, through UNICEF and WHO, has even gotten involved by starting the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. All this might seem like a little much to you if you're living in the United States, but it's a big deal in third-world countries to help prevent disease and foster growth and development. Mothers in poorer nations will also nurse longer due to... well, the ample supply of food for the child. Last night we learned that no matter how long you nurse, you should introduce a bottle every couple of days starting at four weeks, otherwise you might have a difficult time weaning later. I think these parents that nurse for two to six years are nuts, but it also helps with family spacing, since if you are nursing, you are not fertile. But if I can have a conversation with the kid, I think it's time for macaroni and cheese.

Even though it's a natural thing, not everyone knows how to do it right. The baby knows how to do it right, but he needs a little help from Mom at first, until his neck can support the weight of his head, anyway. We got a little demonstration last night... hey, get your mind out of the gutter! Sandi the Lactation Consultant (they have conventions and everything) demonstrated how to hold the baby and showed us a picture of proper "latching". Babies can't just chew on a nipple and get fed, they have to get it all the way in the back of their mouth.

I even got a nice little pamphlet with helpful hints on how I, "Dad", can support Mom with the breastfeeding. Some of it is touchy-feely hippie nonsense that I'd never admit to doing, but things like bringing the baby to Red when it time to feed and changing his diaper before of after, burping him, rousing him in the middle of the night, getting her something to drink, looking after him or doing the grocery shopping so Red can rest... that's all stuff I would do anyway. You know, if I wasn't leaving for deployment when he's a few weeks old. He'll be six months old by the time I get back. Talking about this stuff got Red and I both a bit choked up last night, knowing I wasn't going to be there to help. I had to leave the room once. But I didn't cry; I punched myself in the face, wrestled a bear and got right back in there and talked about breast pumps.

But I was also the only man in the room with five pregnant women. The others had said that their husbands had gone to other classes, but decided the breastfeeding class was something their wives could handle without them. I told them I didn't come to make their husbands look bad, and they said, "Oh, but you did make them look bad!" I just want to be involved as much as I can; I'm not happy about missing the first six months, even though all he's going to do is eat, sleep and poop.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Tuesday Trivia

Ding dong, Slobodan Milosevic's dead. Just thought you'd like to know. Good riddance I suppose. I thought you'd also like to know that there are still American soldiers in the Balkans, a productive use of your tax dollars since 1992.

Ah, but I've been grouchy lately, so it's time for Tuesday Trivia once again. Speaking of the collapse of the Communist Bloc:
Q1: In what country is Communist Peak located?

Q2: List the original Planet of the Apes movies in the order they happened in the movie chronology (NOT order of release).

As always, search engines are cheating, but you're on your honor and I don't care too much.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Terrorists Have Won

This round, anyway.

UAE to US: You're Not Worth The Effort

Congratulations, America, you've struck a blow against free trade and weakened those international relationships that everybody though were really important during the 2004 election.

Fear and irrational reactionary politics has won the day, demonstrating to those who would do us harm that, if they can just land one good blow, eventually we'll cave. If they scare enough of us, they can shape American policy. As far as I'm concerned this brands us a nation of ignorant cowards and I'm ashamed for the first time in a long time to be an American.

I'll get over it.

Well done. At this rate we'll be joining the rest of the world in happy-go-lucky socialism in no time.

EDIT: Why an American company didn't buy the terminals in the first place:
NYT: A Ship Already Sailed

More:
Crazy Politico's Rantings: Score One For The Xenophobes
Atlas Shrugs: Dubai: The first casualty of political conquest is the truth
Mike's America: Dubai Ports Deal Dead: OFFICIALLY!
Michelle Malkin: Breaking News: Dubai Yields
Peace On That: Bush's Lame Duck Status Now Secure
Atlas Blogged: Make the Issue Go Away

Previous:
People Covered in Fish: OK, Inter-webs, You Win

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Words Mean Things

Am I the only one who wearies of hearing inflammatory comments bandied about as rational discourse? Dictonaries are cheap and easy to use. There even a few free ones online. So how hard is it really to find what you mean to say before you say it instead trying to redefine what words mean?

I was recently vexed while dicussing the Dubai Ports World kerfuffle (I refuse to use made-up words that end in "-gate", that's the media trying to relive its glory days) with James and he accused George Bush of corporatism. From the MSN Encarta dictionary:
cor·po·rat·ism running of state by large organizations: a system of running a state using the power of organizations such as businesses and labor unions that act, or claim to act, for large numbers of people
which is more along the lines of what's happening in Russia, for example. I thought what he meant was that Bush had business friendly policies, but he elaborated:
I use this term to mean that corporations are writing legislation to benefit them and at times to the detriment of the American people. There is a reason the lobby industry is so big. It's not like they are looking out for our interest and a lot of times what is good for business is not necessarily good for the average joe. Why do you think there are 12,500 corporations sharing an address to a Caymon Island building? And why do you think they support the laws that allow them to avoid taxes and safety laws while at the same time getting tax breaks? That's not for our sake and it is not good for the American worker.
He's entitled to his opinion on the administration's policies, of course, and the point was argued, but my focus is above and beyond that right now. Am I being pedantic here? That is still not what corporatism is, but when someoone trying to make a point, it seems they nice easy nutshell sort of word to describe what it is they are thinking of. This insinuation would be much more believable if, say, we were talking about nationalized corporations.

When I first started this blog, I wrote a post about progressivism and how Democrats want to use it as a happy synonym for "liberalism". But the two are completely different. Although they have some things in common (support of election and labor reform, and redistribution of wealth), progressives supported a strong foreign policy abroad. They also supported eugenics (though with liberals' support of abortion, an argument could be made that they support eugenics as well - but that would be inflammatory), and the amendments to the Constitution to implement federal income tax and Prohibition (resulting in the rise of organized crime).

Additionally, it seems politicians and pundits think they're clever and amusing when they use similes like "Bush is like Hitler". The one that really riled me up today was that Rhode Island governor Don Carceri was compared to former Enron CEO Ken Lay, by Democrat gubernatorial candidate and current Lieutenant Governor Charles Fogarty said that if Carceri wanted to run Rhode Island like a business, then it's being run like Enron. Somehow it has not made it into the news (where I can link it, anyway) yet, even though local talk radio is all over it. Oh, he he said he mean that the state was poorly run, not that Carceri is a felon and belongs in jail. His campaign is hastily backpedaling.

Somewhat similar to Hillary Clinton's "plantation" comments, which she refuses to back down from. Now there's a presidential lady, eh? That's pretty clever, Mizz Clinton. How that working out for you?

"What's that, Robo?" asks Mizz Clinton.

Being clever.

"Oh, great, thanks!"

Well, keep it up, then.

So what do I want? Just for people to say what they mean, that's all. Why be inflammatory when all you need is a simple statement of fact to make your point? I'm much more willing to listen to people who can articulate their thoughts coherently without upshifting into full moonbat auto-special.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

R.I.P., Kirby Puckett

I just heard on the news this morning that Kirby Puckett died of the stroke he had yesterday.

Damn. He wasn't very old, but was already kind of sick. I don't know what to say.

I have fond memories of watching him play for the Minnesota Twins when I was a kid. In 1987, we strung extension cords from the house all the way to the fire pit in the backyard and set up the TV so we could watch Game 3 of the world series in the backyard during our annual bonfire.

My sister met him recently and got him to autograph something for my grandmother, the biggest Twins fan on earth. I gave her a call to make sure she's doing OK; she's a little down, but hearing from me really cheered her up.

Then it gets me wondering how much the baseball cards I've been carrying around all these years are worth. I'm sure glad I don't get rid of things when Red tells me to.

A better epitaph.

Ten Things I've Done You Probably Haven't

1. Written a letter to my girlfriend while sitting on top of a nuclear reactor.
2. Made lefse from scratch.
3. Passed out drunk in a parking lot in Japan. (Two-for-one kamikazes!)
4. Had Joan Jett sign my pants.
5. Had the deck while firing a missile. Three times.
6. Traversed the Panama Canal six times.
7. Walked under a ship in drydock.
8. Said, "Jesus has a hard on." In church. Out loud.
9. Rode my bike from Minneapolis to Chicago.
10. Sang "Sweet Transvestite" from the Rocky Horror Picture Show at a redneck bar karaoke night in front of all my friends, hip shaking and everything, and lived to tell the tale.

Bonus: I sort of invaded Cuba once.

It's a meme, gank and participate if you like!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Is it just me...

... or is the message of the Oscars more or less Hollywood begging us to pay $10 a ticket to sit in a theater and watch the garbage they're cranking out? That's literally what they're doing, asserting their relavance, while rewarding mediocrity. I don't know if it's stuipid or gutsy. Probably the former.

Seriously. The only movies I even remember watching this year are Serenity, The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy and Aeon Flux, all of which I enjoyed and were completely ignored by the Academy. I think that pretty much says it all.

Still, I enjoyed Jon Stewart more or less, even the painful political jokes; was embarrassed for Lauren Bacall; and didn't see a single movie that was nominated for anything, except Corpse Bride (which I saw today). Right up until The L Word came on. I'll read about the rest sometime tomorrow; my interest has waned.

EDIT: Bonus - Ann Coulter's Oscar predictions. Also, I remember now, I saw Crash. I've been trying hard to forget that I want that 113 minutes of my life back. At least it didn't rain frogs.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Rassa-frassin' Varmint!

Visitor #2987: What the heck? This is pretty wacky!

OK, Inter-webs, You Win

I know, I know. I said I wasn't going to do it. It's the fashionable thing to do and therefore I am very much opposed to doing it. It didn't vex me, so it really had no place on People Covered In Fish, but that hasn't stopped me before. But now I find myself needing to get it off my chest, having added lengthy contributions to other people's blogs on the subject. You all are most likely sick to death of hearing about it, since it's a SOTW - already the media has grown weary; it's dropped off of Drudge and the front page of Wall Street Journal.

Since the shrillness of those debating the topic seems to have waned (which I probably think because I have been avoiding reading anything about the story until now), I think it's time to add my two cents to the debate over the Dubai Ports World (DPW) purchase of British company Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O) .

Ann Coulter, acerbic as always (and sometimes I like that), says the Bush administration is spending too much time trying to befriend muslims and not enough time killing them, or something like that. Then her column breaks down into incoherent ranting and raving about the cartoons and "9/11 was caused by muslims, therefore all muslims are evil" rhetoric. Yes, the radicals are bloodthirsty savages. But not everybody in America is Fred Phelps or Ward Churchill, and neither is every Arab working for Osama Bin Laden or supporting a worldwide caliphate. Most of us, and the people in the rest of the world are just people trying to go about their business without getting blown up.

So I find myself at odds with lots of people I normally tend to agree with, but I think I've figured out why: Nobody understands anything about what's going on. It's the same with the NSA wiretapping program; people know so little about it that they are jumping to all kinds of conclusions. You know, the less one makes declarative statements, the less one is apt to look like a fool in retrospect. (Sometimes I think I should follow my own advice.)

The first fundamental misunderstanding of this whole kerfuffle is that most Americans haven't the slightest idea of how port operations work or what is actually being purchased. DPW is purchasing terminals. They move and track cargo throughout the world. Most major ports' terminals are run by one of several multinational corporations based overseas. What people are opposing is a supply chain manager; to whom, incidentally, we are not selling Baltimore. Port of Baltimore and five other terminals have been owned by P&O (a foreign company!) for years. For an overview of how cargo is moved from place to place, click the graphic to the right (TFHT: Intellectual Insurgent).

Bloviating Zepplin brings up some excellent points:
-- Everything comes through United States ports.
-- We search a fraction of the materials shipped in containers, the primary form of transport
-- A management company would have choice over who works for management, who works for the company, who vets the internal hiring process and more importantly:
-- Who has access to what information about the things that routinely and uniquely come and go through various ports and when, where and how long they are stored on site, and
-- Who has access to these containers unquestioned.
Look, I'm not going to be able to do anything to assuage your paranoia here. Here's a couple things to chew on. First, the fact of the matter is that only about five percent of cargo moved through U.S. ports is monitored in any way, and 46 percent of all cargo that enters the U.S. arrives by ocean-going cargo container. Six million containers entered U.S. ports annually as of 2002. The Department of Homeland Security has dramatically increased its examination of all cargo information but only inspects cargo they identify to be high risk. Kind of like old ladies at the airport. That's without any specific intelligence that something dangerous or contraband is coming through. The overall impact of P&O changing hands on this situation will, I'm just guessing here, be minimal if there's any at all.

Second, sure, it's possible that al Qaeda could infiltrate DPW, maybe even more likely than another company. And maybe they could then smuggle weapons and people into the country undetected, if that was something they wanted to do. It would probably be easier for them to do it with their own ships, though, wouldn't it? The links between crime, organized or otherwise, and terrorism are well established, to include the drug trade, piracy and smuggling. Where's that outrage?

The second fundamental misunderstanding is the expectation that the Bush Administration should have been doing something about it and that the President should've known about the transaction. I don't think I'd be too far off in saying that this particular item was not (and still isn't) the most important thing on the President's plate these days. Furthermore, the Department of the Treasury's Committee on Foriegn Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has been on top of the transaction since DPW outbids PSA International for P&O in October. Even the President can't possibly know what goes on in the day-to-day activities of every obscure government agency or every transaction between foreign entities.

Additionally, it turns out the Pentagon used to have a foreign takeover review office that was responsible for security investigations into exactly this sort of thing, until the Clinton Administration dismantled it after it objected to Loral Corp.'s sale of rocket technology to China. But that doesn't matter because the world was full of puppies and rainbows in the 90's, not terrorists.

But it doesn't matter, since the White House and DPW had a secret agreement...

... to cooperate in future security investigations. See what I did there? This is typical of the "information" that's been floating around out there. You actually have to dig for the piece and assemble for yourself

Sandy wrote on Mahndisa's blog: "After all, the Flight school instrutors didn't get excited when a few men from some muslim countries wanted to learn how to fly a big commercial jet. They weren't interested in landing, just flying. RED FLAG anyone." That's an excellent point, it's a different world these days. Things that are seemingly benign can turn out to be extremely dangerous. Thing is, how nefarious could this extremely public transaction be? The Arabs are so evil that they requested a more thorough 45-day review to put you at ease. Are they hiding in plain sight? Is Karl Rove really Bin laden? Is George Bush an alien pod person?! Give me a break, DPW doesn't want to kill you, they want to make money.

Many of you have a problem with foreign investment, period. Well, I've got to tell you that you have a long fight ahead of you, Sisyphus. It's fine to be against globalization, but quite another to do something about it. Me, I'm going to go tilt at a windmill or two. The ability to adapt to a changing world is what makes a nation succeed or fail; trade is the lifeblood of the world. When you cut off the flow of blood to a body part, it dies. Isolationism and protectionism is a sure-fire way to guarantee that America becomes a nation in decline, with growing economic interdependence throughout the world. International trade has driven economies for thousands of years, and those that close their borders stagnate. Look at North Korea, the USSR, East Germany, and China. America will never go back to a pre-WWII isolationism without causing the economy to go into a tail spin.

The third misunderstanding is no one knows anything about the United Arab Emirates. Start with this. The CIA World Factbook is chock full of great data about every country in the world. The UAE has also been a force for moderation in the politically turbulent Middle East, cooperating closely with the United States and its allies to defeat aggression by Iraq in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. In 1993, along with the other Persian Gulf Arab states, the UAE supported the Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. Politically, the country has been stable for decades, with Abu Dhabi emir Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan leading the country from its inception until his death in late 2004. His eldest son, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, succeeded his father as ruler of Abu Dhabi and became the new president of the UAE.

Kip Esquire says that human rights abuses and totalitarianism are more than enough reason not to allow DPW to purchase P&O. Yet, you don't hear this kind of outrage when China buys American companies. To be fair, Kip's position on China is consistent with his position on the issue at hand, unlike more famous and opportunistic people we know. Playing the human rights card is awfully convenient when it benefits you but conspicuous when you don't mention it if it doesn't benefit you.

Now we can talk about national security. I am distraught to find that I agree with Jimmy Carter. But I think that's more because he doesn't believe that there is a terrorist threat at all, than he thinks that this particular thing isn't threatening. Although the U.A.E. was used as a financial base for Al Qaeda and the government was sympathetic with the Taliban, things have changed in five short years. The U.A.E wants to be a global financial and trade center and it can't do that and maintain ties to extremism.

Mahndisa said I addressed the economics involved very well, but I should address the security issues. My dirty little secret is that in addressing the economic issues, I was addressing the security issues.
"Whether it succeeds matters beyond the emirate. If Dubai works as a hub where oil wealth can be recycled into long-term Middle East investments, it could help integrate into the global economy a region that has been left behind in recent years. Dubai's historic links to places such as Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and East Africa - while raising concerns for some about terrorism or money laundering - could help seed opportunities in lands soon to be swamped by waves of young peopleentering moribund job markets. Without such opportunities, the new generation could be prime recruiting ground for extremists." (WSJ)
Economic power, more than military power, will be the driving force for long-term change. Not many people see this, but I like Atlas Shrugs' take on it. Good, interdependent economies make good neighbors. (EDIT: Read this one, too. Pam found some good stuff from Tommy Franks.)

From a post I wrote on Mahndisa's blog:

"I think this whole thing is purely the media and politicians' preying upon post-9/11 xeno/arabophobia. I do understand the DPW is a government-owned company, and deserves some scrutiny, but nothing like what has been touched off here. And this is basically why I didn't want to get into it on my blog, because of the emotional knee-jerk reaction that just about all the sensible people I know have had to it. As the ignorance subsides, so will the fear."

From the beginning I have been disgusted with the MSM and politicians in Washington taking advantage of this relaitively minor thing for political gain. Chuck Schumer AND Norm Coleman (I never liked him anyway, that's why I voted for Jesse Ventura for governor) and other senators are trying to kill the deal, because they can use their constituents' fears to control them and gain more votes come election time. This opportunism seems to goad the White House into what I think of as the "Katrina Effect". Being "burned" by the media and ranted at by people on both sides of the aisle, they go overboard and make sure everybody knows everything that CFIUS has on its agenda, just like they wanted to be extra prepared for Hurricane Wilma due to Katrina criticism.

Daniel Ikenson, a trade-policy analyst at the Cato Institute, agrees with me:
"The chilling questions have more to do with the proclivity of certain politicians to exploit understandable American anxieties about security for their own political purposes. Do members of Congress have legitimate reasons to question the administration's efforts at protecting the homeland? Do they really believe the administration would subordinate national security concerns to other considerations? Have they no faith in an oversight process they themselves authored?"
... and adds:
"Encouraging moderate Arab states to remain moderate and to embrace capitalism and other western institutions is the quiet success of the administration's Middle East policy.

It is also threatened by reflexive political opportunism that is driving the furor over the port deal.

Maybe a debate about CFIUS, its processes, and the possibility of involving key members of Congress in decision-making is warranted. Maybe Arab investment should be held to a higher security standard than that of other would-be acquisitions. Maybe it already is."
So what I'm trying to say, before I lose my whole post again (AGAIN!), is that fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. When ignorance and fear rule our decision-making processes, we get nothing but chaos. So from now on, can we please take a deep breath and try to learn a a bit before we rant and rave?

Addtional analysis:
Atlas Blogged: Calling Out Kip (TFHT: Mahndisa)
The Chatterbox Chronicles: The Port Deal
Mike's America: UAE: With US, Not the Terrorists

Day of the Dead

As if you didn't know, the Patriot Act was quietly renewed 89-10 on Thursday.

Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Barbara Boxer, and Harry Reid voted for it.

Heh. National security is good politics come election time, isn't it? Too bad the jokers in Washington can't be convinced of doing the right thing in the off years.

I'm trying to find the revised text, since I know some folks are upset about living in a facist dictatorship and all. I just figured I'd see if that was still the case. From the Kansas City Star:
The bill adds new protections to the 2001 anti-terror law in three areas. It would:

■ Give recipients of court-approved subpoenas for information in terrorist investigations the right to challenge a requirement that they refrain from telling anyone.

■ Eliminate a requirement that an individual provide the FBI with the name of a lawyer consulted about a National Security Letter, which is a demand for records issued by investigators.

■ Clarify that most libraries are not subject to demands in those letters for information about suspected terrorists.
Is that what all the fuss was about? Golly, I had no idea my fundamental Constitutional rights were in such perilous peril.

Priceless

So it turns out that I almost have the entire day off today. A friend of mine is having a retirement ceremony later and then an intelligence brief this afternoon (always interesting, you can imagine) and my entire morning free to read my paper, drink my coffee and catch up on blogging a bit. Of course, I should be studying for that big test next week. Retakes are the pits.

I love Jon Stewart. In a purely platonic, admiration kind of way; he's too short, not my type. I might even watch the Oscars this year if he's hosting. Oh, I know his politics are super liberal, but everybody is the butt of his jokes. I just read this excerpt from an interview he did on the Larry King show in Daniel Henninger's Wonderland column in the Wall Street Journal:
Larry King suggested to Jon Stewart that the current low ebb of the Democrats and Republicans was good for Mr. Stewart's business.

King: So, in a sense you're happy over this.

Stewart: No.

King: This gives you fodder.

Mr. Stewart replied that if government "began to solve problems in a rational way rather than just a way that involved political dividends, we would be the happiest people in the world to turn our attention to idiots like, you know, media people, no offense."

King: So, you don't want it to be bad?

Stewart: Did you really just ask me if I want it to be bad?

King: Yes because you--

Stewart: What are you--I have kids. What do you think? I want things to corrode to the point where we're all living in huts?

King: You don't want Medicare to fail?

Stewart: Are you insane?

I'm with him. Every thing he does an interview with an MSM-type, he completely blows them out of the water. Ka-pow, Tucker Carlson!

The rest of the Henninger column is worth a read. Go on, you know you want to!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Hypocracy

Let me tell you something. Few things make me madder than propagandizing children. But my idea of this seems to different from most of the intelligent people I know. I believe in teaching children to be inquisitive and skeptical and not take everything at face value. By virtue of being an adult, you can convince a child of practically anything.

So, the lovely and brilliant Dr. Helen (Instawife) calls "Why Mommy is a Democrat" propaganda and I agree, because how could it not be with pages like these?

On the other hand, intelligent conservatives lauded the childrens' book "Help Mom! There are Liberals Under My Bed!". Now, although I do agree with the ideas presented in that particular book, I wouldn't buy it. I was inundated with the typical "Democrats help poor people and Republicans help rich people" crap in the 80s and 90s when I was a kid. I won't be a party to indoctrinating my children into a political party. I don't belong to one, because I will not follow blindly or "pull the lever" for a party because I agree with their position on a single issue.

Yesterday, Rush Limbaugh said independents are moderates and closet liberals; people incapable of deciding one way or another on an issue. Boy did that piss me off. Not one position I take on any issue is a "moderate" position. If I feel anything more than indifferent about an issue, I can tell you exactly what I believe. There is no halfway, I either have an opinion or I don't.

So, yeah, I swing conservative most of the time, liberal pretty much never and against both major parties a good deal of the time. I'm for free thought and rational objectivism, against ignorance and suspicious of government. Trying to suck kids into a political faction while they're young is the kind of thing Hamas does, not the America I want to live in.

Disgusting. It's a good thing there are teachers in the world like Becky who teach kids the critical thinking skills they are going to need in order to keep from becoming a mindless automaton.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

When Selling Vodka is Illegal, Only Criminals Will Sell Vodka

Economics is one of my favorite topics, since it is so poorly understood by pretty much everybody and this lack of understanding occassionally results in unbridled stupidity which usually vexes me to no end; so I thought this was terrific case study. The story is about three weeks old, but I thought it served as a shining example of the oppressive nature of taxation and socialism. From the Wall Street Journal (Feb 10, 2006):
"There was an eerie silence last week at ZAO Veda's vodka distillery, one of Russia's biggest. For the first time in its 10-year history, the plant stopped production. Bored workers kept busy by scrubbing down machinery with Ajax.

It was the same picture in towns and cities across Russia. The country's entire vodka industry ground to a halt, thanks to a Siberia- size bureaucratic snafu over a new tax on alcohol."
This is pretty much the worst case scenario of government interference in business. Governments justify excessive taxes on alcohol, tobacco, gasoline, sex and similar products as "sin taxes". The reasoning behind these taxes is usually that either the taxes themselves will discourage the behavior (read: decrease demand by raising the price) that lawmakers (knowing exactly what is good for us and having a keen sense of right and wrong) dislike, and/or the proceeds of said taxes will go toward programs that discourage the subject behavior. Typically neither happens; the State just makes money off anti-social behavior and therefore has no real incentive to discourage it.

But I digress. Supposedly this tax was to curtail illegal vodka production (Russia already tried banning Vodka in the 80s). Since the industry is already heavily regulated, the black market for vodka is quite lucrative and illegal producers don't focus much on quality. As far as Russia is concerned, the tax was a doubly good idea; in addition to magically curtailing the sales of illegal vodka, the Russian government knows that a 40% vodka tax will exponentially increase revenue and give sorely needed cash injection to a failing government. But they hit a snag and the laws of supply and demand bit them right in the arse.

They couldn't get the tax stamp to the Vodka factories in time. Since it would be illegal after the law went into effect for the vodka manufacturers to ship any vodka without the stamp, the factories stopped production and loose millions of rubles, or whatever it is they spend these days.

So guess who cleans up?
"Though the law was part of a crackdown on fake vodka, it is the illegal producers who have benefited most from the crisis. Bootleg vodka with fake stamps now is filling the void left by legal distillers. That could spell trouble for Russia's public health system: According to official statistics, around 40,000 people die in Russia every year from poor-quality counterfeit vodka." (WSJ)
Yes, the irony is sweet. Illegal vodka sales are through the roof and the criminals make a killing (pun intended, sorry).

The manufacturers have since gotten their stamps so they can pay their homage to the Russian government, but not before giving us a valuable real-life demonstration of socialism is a foolhardy system of running a country.

Not as Evil as I Thought I Was

You Are 56% Evil

You are evil, but you haven't yet mastered the dark side.
Fear not though - you are on your way to world domination.

Hard Not to Kill

My training continues to be occassionally intense (mentally, anyway) and consistently fills most of the hours in my day. I'm doing my best to learn naval tactics, techniques and procedures so I don't look like a complete fool when I get to my ship in June. We're in the intermediate phase of training right now, where we learn to combine warfare areas (air, surface, subsurface, expeditionary, etc.), and today I learned that one of the hardest thing to do as a member of the armed forces is not to kill everything that looks like a threat.

Conflict is psychological, we try to figure out what the adversary is doing without giving away what we are doing; trying to figure out who the enemy is and determine hostile intent and avoid being goaded into shooting when what they really want is an international incident with which to embarrass the U.S. More often than not we are not shooting everything that moves. Trying to make them make the first move without being forced to take the first hit ourselves is extremely complex. I just did it for a couple hours and I'm wiped out. Of course, I also have a cold and I think I just drank a moldy protein drink. Mm-mmm!

But it got me thinking. In two-hundred years, that's always been the hardest part of our mission. Engaging other nations on the high seas, or in their ports, or wherever, involves talking more than it involves shooting. I get the impression that many people think that all we do is kill people and break things. Though we do some diplomacy with violence, the majority of our operations these days are called (aptly) "Military Operations Other Than War" (MOOTW). (Link goes to .pdf copy of the Joint Pub 3-07, interesting reading if you have the time or inclination). So I thought I'd tell you a little bit about it in an effort to foster understanding of military employment.

MOOTW focus on deterring war, resolving conflict, promoting peace, and supporting civil authorities in response to domestic crises. As Figure I-1 indicates, MOOTW may involve elements of both combat and noncombat operations in peacetime, conflict, and war situations. MOOTW involving combat, such as peace enforcement, may have many of the same characteristics of war, including active combat operations and employment of most combat capabilities.
For example, we conducted Maritime Intediction Operations (MIO) for 15 years in support of the UN sanctions on Iraq, we've conducted Counter Drug Interdiction in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific for nigh on 25 years (I think), tsunami and earthquake relief efforts in southwest Asia, the mudslide in the Philipines and any other major natural disaster (inside the U.S. as well) and we've done Noncombatant Evacuation Operations in Saigon and Berlin (there may be more recent examples). This is what the military now does most of the time, for better or for worse.

MOOTW covers all the conflicts and murkily define operations we've done since the second World War and leads me to wonder which cam first; the U.S. being the world's policeman or the concept of us being the world's policeman? I doesn't matter much, because as much as I dislike having to handle the rest of the world's problems, to loosely quote Colin Powell, when someone needs a cop, who do they call?

By the definition above, however, it occurs to me that when George Bush landed on the aircraft carrier and declared an end to major combat operations... he was right. By our own standards, the "war" in Iraq is and has been over for quite some time, because an end to major combat operations does not mean that there isn't any more combat. You'll see in the Joint Doctrine that MOOTW are usually intended for short duration, but may last for years where destabilizing conditions persist and long-term commitment is required to meet objectives. The primary objective of MOOTW is political, as it is in Iraq, and because of wide and varied amorphous nature of these operations it is often diffcult to understand why the military is doing them.

My reponse: who else is going to do it?

People want to know when U.S. involvement in Iraq will end and I will tell you now that these conditions must be met before MOOTW operations in Iraq end:
  • Transition to civil authorities: Check.
  • Marking and clearing minefields: Check (we never laid mines)
  • Closing Financial Obligations.
  • Pre-redeployment activities.
  • Redeploying forces.
That's all well and good, you're saying to yourself, but why don't we just get on with it? I think that practically the single-most important concept in the Joint Doctrine is this: "The manner in which US forces terminate their involvement may influence the perception of the legitimacy of the entire operation" This is one reason why we have failed at such operations in the past (like Somalia and Vietnam). When I hear calls for bringing the troops home, it indicates to me people's ignorance of world affairs and the conduct of such operations. Is it any wonder when they are spoon-fed their awareness of the world through their television sets, resulting in wildly disparate claims of what is actually taking place?

So I thought this information might be useful to some of you in understanding what is going on and what has to happen for a successful conclusion in this particular battle in the Global War on Terror. I certainly hope it will spark some discussion of the concepts, at any rate.