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31 January 2006

Citizens, start your engines...

Tonight will be our nations chance to begin anew.  At the close of the State of the Union address, we will be faced with the grim task of assessing the realities of the world and our role in it.  This includes the tasks set before our nation domestically.  We face many challenges.  I would label them as follows;
 
1) Global Security - this covers energy issues and hostile regimes / ideologies
2) Healthcare Costs - at home and abroad (malaria, HIV, etc.)
3) Revising the roster of entitlement programs - Social Security, Medicare, etc.
4) Economic growth - Free trade, the environment, worker rights
 
Wrapped around all of these elements is something I like to call freedom.  It is not the freedom of some lame country and western song, but it is the freedom which has been slowly illuminating societies across our planet for hundreds of years.  This freedom, in my definition, is one in which people are unfettered by religious persecution (see Islamofascists, ultra orthodox Judaism, Evangelical Christianity, nutville Buddhism or whacked out Wicca), governmental interference (from North Korean oppression to City of Atlanta property moratoriums).  It is a freedom in which transparency of action is the norm, rather than the exception.  It is a freedom in which information and facts flow freely and debate centers around issues vice innuendo.
 
I do believe that the United States has a preeminent role to play in the world.  I also believe that if more societies had our model, the world would be a better place.  I also acknowledge that the model is not perfect and some places have a better handle on where we need to improve. 
 
Finally, I am strongly committed to the use of debate, diplomacy and discourse to achieve a better world.  But I am not so naive to imagine that force of arms should not be considered as well. 
 

29 January 2006

You know you're too self indulgent when...





James Lileks has a great post on the perils of blogging. Or the internet use in general. I sympathize. As an example, the State of the Union address this Tuesday will be fodder for each side to rocket to new heights of hyperbole.

So buckle your seatbelts, everyone and cinch up your drawstring pajamas, it's going to be a bumpy week!

27 January 2006

Free markets only work when they're free...

There is a great review of an important economic change from 1968 until now over on TCS Daily. Arnold Kling takes a stab at representing some underlying issues within the current bi-polar policy debate in this nation.

I am a free marketer. I fully support the ownership and use of capital for a person's own needs. I also believe that this leads to a better society in general. Hernando de Soto in his work The Mystery of Capital, outlines the basis for success in the free markets and failure everywhere else.

Markets ignore their own customers at their peril. We are now in the midst of a radical change in the media market. Absent government controls and interference, the virtual media world is overtaking the old "brick and mortar" media world. In Canada, the CBC is in a literal tail spin as the external pressure from non-aligned media has overturned their government.

Why should this matter? It matters because markets will continually shape society and it is the households of the world which make up markets.

What else might benefit from a unlimbering of restrictions and impediments?

Healthcare?

Education?

Why not...

25 January 2006

Everyone is funnier than me...


Or so my beloved spouse tells me, and actually she is usually right. But for heaven's sake, don't tell her! My thin veneer of masculine invulnerability will peel right off like George Galloway's leotard!

Lileks is, however, certainly funnier than me and offers a great peer insight into the Joel Stein nonsense.

Honestly, I simply think Joel is a clueless hack. I don't think he has any real experience, except for thirty-four years of gathering angst. He's like Larry David, only less funny.

I'm a Lamborghini Murcielago! Huh?


You're not subtle, but you don't want to be. Fast, loud, and dramatic, you want people to notice you, and then get out of the way. In a world full of sheep, you're a raging bull.

Only $279,900! Tax, tag and dealer prep not included.

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.



Okay, just a fun little item. I suspect you can really get a look into yourself with all of the internet quizzes. I think a combined Brokeback Mountain and Which NEOCON are you quiz would be revealing...

24 January 2006

54 days...


I started blogging a scant 54 days ago. I wanted to present a balanced, thoughtful and rational series of posts designed to engage in discourse with all types, even Sunsara Taylor.

But alas, my ire was tweaked to the boiling. Mr. Joel Stein has penned a piece for the LA Times which is reprehensible on its face. It reflects the very worst of our nation's leftist attitude and, for me, coalesces all that is wrong with that portion of the debate.

To oppose the war is one thing. To denigrate your fellow citizens who have taken an oath to lay down their lives for you is another. Mr. Stein has the vast experience of a well heeled young man who basked in the academic glow of Stanford and Princeton, while also enjoying the culinary delights of Martha Stewart.

Mr. Stein is supposed to be humorous. I find no humor in his article. he obviously fails to understand the relationship between our volunteer forces and some fantasized, underprivileged goon squad.

Despite your political position, the conflict in Iraq is legal. Additionally, it is largely over, aside from the trying task of restoring civil control, and it is essential to our nation that we succed (not to mention the Iraqis).

As one of the soldiers who has seen duty in that AOR, I can assure Mr. Stein that the armed forces of the United States of America are of the highest moral caliber. They are restrained and well supported by a number of very capable and intelligent soldiers and leaders. Our actions are discussed, vetted and reviewed not only by combat commanders but by military attorneys, civilian personnel and ultimately, and this is the important part, our own citizens.

"I know this is all easy to say for a guy who grew up with money, did well in school and hasn't so much as served on jury duty for his country". Poor Mr. Stein, were you too busy to conduct even the most basic civic duty while jetting from one coast to another? Have you ever voted?

This demonstration of ignorance in a global newspaper is disappointing. It reflects each and every one of the worst aspects of the left, which has become shrill and irrational to the point of comedic farce. What is even more disappointing is the inevitable posting by Barbra Streisand on her site in support of Mr. Stein's views.

PS - By the way Mr. Stein, you won't get beat up, but you're welcome to spend some time with the men and women of my unit.

You would be amazed...

Broadcast...


A recent post on Instapundit linked to a good article on the fall of Pacifica radio. Pacifica is an old standard network of stations who represent some cutting edge content providers.

They are falling apart. As I read the article, and having been in radio myself for a brief period (I quit my job when I found out I was working for Nazis). But Pacifica's woes are now typical of the present state of ALL media.

It matters not if you are in print, radio, TV, movies or any other "brick and mortar" media outlet. The rise of broadband distribution (internet, cable and satellite) have cracked the market irrevocably.

A consumer now has a nearly limitless range of choices. It is a known fact that when consumer choices exceed a certain numberfor an item, the consumer actually suffers a disutility of choice.

So what?

Well, as WiFi becomes more ubiquitous and satellite delivered services become more portable (think GPS, XM, Sirius) traditional "hard located" services will fall by the wayside. We will, I think, see print as you go kiosks for newspapers and periodicals.

Because, after all a PDA without a battery is a rock.

20 January 2006

Boys to Men...


Okay, now I am ticked. A recent article on the education of boys reveals a startling surprise, boys are now lagging substantially in educational achievement! The posts at Ann Althouse’s site reflect a striking reality. The educational process is slanted to favor success based upon verbal skills, a decidedly female trait.

I had the good fortune to attend an all male high school. It was religious, disciplined and perfect. Students from that school had their pick of colleges and careers. I am now convinced that the secure environment of that school allowed me to grow and develop in a way a mixed educational style would not have. We interacted with our sister school on social and philanthropic issues, but remained separate in academic pursuits. My example of how successful this was could be seen in the inter school debate competitions. Our all male school typically produced capable and very competitive speakers. It came from a group of dedicated teachers and a selection of students who would later go on to become well regarded professors, lawyers and authors.

There have been a host of books on the subject of educating males in our society. A good essay on the challenges of boys is detailed here. I worry about my own sons. They are in a premiere (for Georgia) public elementary school. But the school is almost 100% staffed by women. It clearly values the sort of socialized approach to learning. They do have recess and a superb physical education program. I am pleased that there is a high degree of parental involvement and that fathers are present in some numbers to provide a complementary view.

There is, I believe, a real issue with the abandonment of the male side of our collective psyche. I think that blacks in the United States have already borne out the problems of a single gender society. While we struggle to reconnect a race with all their disparate members, we risk further splintering the remainder of our population.

As my father would say, all things in moderation.

19 January 2006

Tick tock...

Ah, the sound of a lone voice echoing through the wilderness. I added a personal vanity / humility button the other day. It was a clever bit of economic programming which attempts to value your blog based upon visits and links to certain centralized blogs.

What I really wanted I found today. The ultimate in humbling tech engines. A site meter. How many of the internet's glitterati will descend into my humble abode of thought and vision?

A million?

A hundred thousand?

Seven?

How about zero.

Oh well, at least I don't have to put on clean pajamas.

18 January 2006

Competition is a good thing...

Well I recieved several excited e-mails from my friend and fellow blogger, Scoot indicating that people are discovering his site!

Hooray!

As I mentioned at the outset of this little experiment in shouting into the wilderness, this is a spot to vent and rant. Although my audience consists of one, (even I don't read my old stuff!) I have been pleased to expose the ether to my own brand of self serving madness.

Scoot's blog was spawned in some response to the genesis of mine. Let's be blunt, it is better written and much funnier. He has some striking insights (some of them are even correct!).

One thing I would hope for from blogging is to reach out and reestablish some connectedness in this world of increasing isolation. In my neighborhood (packed with homogeneous, right-wing crazies - as some might view it), there is an invite your neighbor to dinner initiative. The goal is simple, get to know your freakin' neighbors!

While we are not quite at the Kitty Genovese stage in most of the world, we do live in ignorance of those around us.

This is true all over the planet.

A little more understanding and humility.

It's not too much to ask?

13 January 2006

Capitalism...

Added this fun $ection. I ran this on google and recieved a value of $99MM. I think the range is probably a little skewed, think if it as a logarithmic measure.

Nonetheless, to my one faithful reader, rest assured that I will post some comments on the whole BBM (Brokeback Mountain) phenomenon (which I would contend is an anamoly only in that it seems a good movie actually came out of Hollywood).

I also would suggest that the Senate confirmation hearings were pathetic, both in their scope and execution. A Republican love fest is no more useful than a Democratic witch hunt.

At least, it's over.

12 January 2006

But I digress...


There are a lot of things going on in the world right now. There is uncertainly in Palestine, the Iranians are desperately trying to build a bomb, Japan is under 4-5 meters of snow, a Surpeme Court candidate is undergoing committee hearings, Angelina Jolie really is pregnant, the US economy is blistering, the Iraq project slogs onwards and Hollywood has made a few good movies, for a change.

But that’s not what interests me at this point.

I am a computer game junkie. I love a well crafted game. I am not a console fiend (PS2, Xbox, etc). I like a game with a thick instruction manual, a lot of options and preferably a compelling storyline.

There are a lot of games which fit this bill. Some are infamous and some are unknown. Doom, Warcraft, Syberia, Thief and Phantasmagoria were all ground breaking, compelling and well done games. They easily equaled any movie experience that Hollywood has to offer. In fact, the recent trend in “bonus material” DVDs would support the fact that the public wants a deep and rich entertainment experience. Anyone who has bought a DVD of their favorite movie is usually treated to tens of hours of additional footage, deleted scenes, interviews, games and a litany of extra goodies.

The movie industry is suffering a rapid decline in box office receipts as many folks simply opt out of the movie going experience in order to enjoy alternative entertainment experiences. Many home entertainment systems are theater quality. More people have high speed internet access and use their computers as much for entertainment as for work. The gaming industry has already surpassed the movie industry in total revenues.

But I digress.

My present obsession is a game. It is an extension of EA Game’s great series Battlefield 1942. It is called Battlefield 2. Now, for the sole reader of this blog, aside from myself, you may say big deal?

And yet I would say that the gaming industry has taken a radical step forward with the development of this game. For starters it looks unbelievably real. The game has a superb cinematic quality. Secondly, it is smart. The developers spent a lot of time engineering the AI (artificial intelligence) of the game. Your computer opponents will act VERY intelligently, resulting in the player losing more often than not. Finally, it is accurate. The game portrays a world in which three powerful factions battle over land and resources. They are equipped with current hardware and weaponry. The factions, in my opinion, represent the three cultural forces of the present world (China, the United States and the Middle East Coalition – loosely interpreted as radical Islam).

There are flaws. It tends to sanitize combat. There are no civilians to get in the way, the fact that a player resurrects (respawns) infinitely defeats the lesson of war as a terrible, final option, and the lack of the serious environmental effects (rain, clouds, weapon failure) underplays these roles in battle.

Nonetheless, the game has many realistic aspects. The game is so realistic that I would not recommend it to young children for play at all. It can quickly transport a player into this created realm of conflict and mayhem, without the attendant sucking chest wound.

I believe Battlefield 2 has changed the playing field for gamers as it uses both the processing power of graphics cards and CPUs to evoke a compelling realistic environment for the player. I predict we will see more products featuring this robust aspect of “world immersion”. Consumers will be able to purchase games which allow them to interact, in a cinematic and realistic, fashion with their favorite stories.

There are already many online sites and games which provide some of these attractions. However, they lack the stark realism conjured up by EA’s latest offering. Get ready folks, the appeal of the construct is increasing the strength of its siren call.
Frighteningly, the world of the virtual may truly eclipse the world of the real.

09 January 2006

It's Transparency, dummy...


Forget reform. McCain-Feingold was a valiant attempt that was almost instantly corrupted like a Turkish chicken. The entire problem with campaign financing is transparency. It will not be legislation but visibility which imbues a candidate with legitimacy.

This is an attribute that American politics (or any politics) has lacked since time out of mind. We are approaching an age in which a person’s views can be accurately captured and portrayed for all the world to see. We are nearing a time when a true participative democracy is possible. This is significant for many reasons, first it removes the obscuring veil of emotion from politics. It is emotion which clouds any reasonable debate over our present course of foreign policy.

Personally, I don’t care to have the government acting to interfere with social issues (abortion, same-gender marriage, drugs) except where it constitutes a real threat to the safety of our citizens. Drugs are produced in unregulated forms and as such contain too many hazards to list, thus their illegality is justified. Minors are subject to predatory behavior by adults and also should be protected. Adult individuals should largely be left alone to manage their own lives.

What the scandal involving Abramoff and countless others (remember ABSCAM? – senators and congressmen were arrested!) preceding it and others to follow have in common is concealment. In each case the motives of the funder were meant to be concealed from public view. This enabled the fundee (henceforth referred to as scumbag) to deceive those from whom they derived their power (the citizens).

As soon as we are serious about changing the face of politics, we will develop a system to provide complete visibility into the actions and background of our candidates. Would there still be spin and BS cast about? Certainly, but at least the electorate could look to the source material to make their own decisions, even if it makes our world seem a little scarier.

After all, what have we to fear?

05 January 2006

DoD Disclaimer - It's required you know...

Just for official notification sake, this blog is in compliance with DoDD 5230.9, "Clearance of DoD Information for Public Release" and other related DoD policies regarding blogs.
 
Thank you for your cooperation.

04 January 2006

Fleeting...


I can only imagine the range of furious emotions boiling through the town of Tallmansville, West Virginia. I sat at my breakfast table and rejoiced with them as I read the front page headline in the Atlanta Journal Constitution (the seventh worst paper in the world). And now, as I sit at the helm of one of the many, mighty ships of capitalism, I am dismayed and very sad.

Mining is primal work. It is wresting the bounty from out mother earth for use by we fleeting citizens. It is dangerous and it is dirty. But it is, at its heart, noble and crucial work. Nothing we have in our modern society would exist without miners and their harvest. In the past 25 years mine fatalities in the United States (without question the greatest nation in the world) have decreased dramatically. In the 20th century, more than 104,000 people lost their lives in coal mining related accidents alone. That is a stunning number. What is more stunning, is the precipitous drop in miners employed in the United States (TGNITW) after World War II.

Globally, the picture is not so good. China lost more miners in the first six months of 2002 than in any year in the United States since 1900. It is simplistic for some to point to “the evils of capitalism” as the source of this human misery. But that would be wrong. China has more than sufficient technology and capability to equip mines with simple safety devices. Even if it operated as the USA did in 1930, it would still cut its fatalities in half.

The problem with China, and many developing nations, is a lack of strength in the rule of law (ROL). There are no trade unions, no government agency to oversee operations and no ability of the press to uncover the widespread abuses. A quick indicator of a nations’ responsiveness to its people can be found in their national safety statistics. What happens is a few individuals take advantage of a people and a system desperate for jobs and fuel. Their mismanagement is not based upon some overriding desire to support the mother country, but rather a quest for lucre which they spread about in sufficient barriers to keep even the notoriously laissez-faire Chinese government at bay.

And now we return to our lost brothers in West Virginia. Reports indicate that they may have survived the initial explosion and took valiant efforts to protect themselves. Their families’ lives will be overturned for a long period. Let us hope that they find some comfort in each other and our own thoughts.

03 January 2006

Happy New Year!

I am a firm believer in the “odd is out” approach to chronology.  2005 was an okay year, good personally, but fraught with tension and other angst.  Let’s hope 2006 brings in a more congenial and productive spirit! 

 

Happy New Year!