Day by Day



28 February 2006

Rationality...


I just had the pleasure of attending a luncheon featuring the new Ambassador from Saudi Arabia. During his remarks, Prince Turki Al-Faisal, covered some of the most current events in the world from the respective center of Islamic thought and the birthplace of everyone's favorite bogeyman, Usama Bin Laden. I found the Ambassador to be forthright and reasonable. He acknowledged the necessity for continuing reforms in his nation and the sorrow felt by Saudi's to have had fifteen of their countrymen involved in the September 11th attacks.

This is a man who is the youngest son of the former king and was educated from high school through undergrad in the united states (specifically New Jersey and Georgetown). The audience was then permitted to submit questions, many were quite direct. He did not shy away from answering them. To the contrary, he took on some tough issues (including Iran) and revealed much about what I think Saudi Arabia would like to become.

I want to believe him. I do believe he speaks for his country's government. I also believe he recognizes the great obstacles which much of the developing world faces. Perhaps his most telling comment came as he noted the United States own struggle with personal liberties and freedoms. These did not spring in whole form from the Bill of Rights, rather they have evolved through struggle and debate. We have fought a civil war over these freedoms and continue to struggle in skirmishes every day. We are far from perfect, but my understanding of his remarks left me with no doubt that the United States still represents the model for freedom and liberty.



23 February 2006

Miserable Donuts: Scoring cheap points off a friendly nation

I like this analysis on the UAE port deal. Solid and rational.

Miserable Donuts: Scoring cheap points off a friendly nation

Dynamic Duo...


Bennet and Dershowitz, Dershowitz and Bennet. Two more diametrically opposed figures are hard to find. And yet today they have an OP-ED piece in the Washington Post which, in my mind, cuts to the heart of our present conflict between the fourth estate and the governments of the West.

I am very concerned that our media and information outlets are operating in a realm where their information goes out unchecked and unbalanced. In the most recent and seemingly bening situation, the recent Olympic victory of Shani Davis was hailed as the first African-American gold medal at the olympics. This was later changed to black American and then modified again to reflect the fact that Vonetta Flowers achieved that distinction in Salt Lake City in 2002.

These are simple facts. They are easily checked, but due to the 24/7 news cycle and the pressure (my assumptions) to make sure the story is "saleable", facts often fall by the wayside in the quest for eyeballs. Matt Drudge is guilty of hyping stories which ultimately bear no fruit.

This problem is further exacerbated by the public's lack of deep review of these issues. Why read below the fold when I am sure the headline meets my expectations and I can pontificate endlessly about a topic for which I know nothing.

Some time ago, my father-in-law dropped a folded St. Petersburg Times on my lap. Look at this! He cried. It was a letter to the editor about the Fenholloway River in Florida. The letter, from a local enviro-activist, pointed out that a plan for a paper mill to dump waste directly into the river was moving through the system.

Shocking!

Scandalous!

Salacious!

And yet, with a few deft keystrokes, what was revealed was far from the picture painted by the writer. The plant in quesiton was working desperately to comply with Florida law after being ambushed by enviro-activists who use a technical trick to have the Fenholloway River artificially upgraded in quality. It's a long story, but descriptive of the posture of much of the press today.

And so we return to Dershowitz and Bennet.

What can we do?

Continue to challenge false claims, dig deep into stories and demand truthful and factual representations of controversial topics (like the Danish cartoons).

22 February 2006

Bad Science...

A Canadian university has banned the use of WiFi.  From

The Register;

 
"Fred Gilbert, president of Canada's Lakehead University, made the order on the basis of possible health risk from the technology, especially to young people. Inconclusive studies into possible links between radio transmissions and leukemia and brain tumors from, among others, scientists for the California Public Utilities Commission, led Gilbert to make the "precautionary ban"
Holy smoking donuts!  At first I thought this was a joke.  Much like the infamous Seattle Bans Coffeehouse

WiFi

article making the rounds last April Fools, but alas, it is not.  This is yet another example of bad science, hyperactive media, a litigious western society and nanny state mentality run amok. 
 
We have had scares on Alar, high tension power lines, cholesterol, eggs, salt, fat, wheat, fish, acid rain, and a host of other scientific bogey-persons.  Some of these concerns were raised by intelligent, well meaning people.  However, the chicken little folks grabbed hold of them and ran down the road.  Here's my viewpoint, everything is suspect until well proven otherwise.  And by proven, I don't mean a front cover article in Reader's Digest. 
 
We take for granted a lot of information.  But as our society continually reveals itself to be extremely complex, it is incumbent upon us to dig for the facts and not take anyone's claims at face value.  This runs the risk of creating a society in which no one can be trusted (maybe not a bad idea).  There is a point at which we will need to place the decision to believe upon our best judgment. 
 
Given all the facts at hand, we do this everyday.  It's how we fall in love, so far about the best example of trusting our gut.

21 February 2006

Who is this guy...


Your results:
You are Green Lantern
Green Lantern
80%
Spider-Man
75%
The Flash
75%
Superman
70%
Iron Man
70%
Supergirl
52%
Wonder Woman
52%
Hulk
50%
Robin
47%
Batman
45%
Catwoman
35%
Hot-headed. You have strong
will power and a good imagination.

If you can't beat em...


I attended a meeting this past Sunday of the Naval Reserve Assocaition. It is, at its heart, a lobbying group. It focuses on veteran and service member issues and matters of policy. It allows reserve military members to express their political will (a rare option which our brethern in the active side do not enjoy.)

It also suffers from something that ails many volunteer organizations throughout the nation, a lack of active members. I am as guilty as the next person. Although I volunteer in some areas, I am not connected to a dedicated organization. I've done a lot of little things, but do not reflect the lifestyle of my father, a lifelong Rotarian and active member of his community.

One reason for this decline is the rise of electronic entertainment (specifically TV). In some studies the amount of time spent interacting within communities has been supplanted by television watching. If the average American spends four hours per day watching television, then there is little time left for activism, volunteering or any social engagement.

TV is not the only culprit. Video and computer games (my personal bane) and the internet all conspire to siphon time away from us.

I wrote about this earlier in my blog. People are drifting apart. A meaningful connection among us can not be sustained with discussions over the last episode of Lost.

There is a real risk to our society in our disconnectedness. It leaves many decisions to fewer and fewer folks who are still engaged.

Ironically, the best way to reconnect may be to disconnect.

20 February 2006

Thin ice...

















(AP Photos)

In a weekend absolutely packed with Sportsitainment, the Olympics tried to provoke their audiences. In Turin, which is Italian for "it never snows here", the ice dancing competitors slipped, stumbled and sprawled their way into our delayed broadcast living rooms.

One of the complaints about attendance and US interest in the Olympics has been the impact of the internet. Scores and results, sometimes even video, of the events is instantly available. Now the competition no longer resembles a papal election (with dribs and drabs of stories leaking out at the end of each day) but a day on the New York Stock Exchange trading floor. Results fly out instantly from a host of sources. Endless speculation turns a once singular event into just another blip in the constant noise stream of the modern world.

Unless you are a strict Islamic adherent, in which case you will be stocking up on vodka bottles to hurl at the nearest western embassy in deifance of the publishing of yet another abominable Cathy cartoon.

When will she learn her place as servant and chattel to her husband!

Allah akbar!

Sorry, I was channeling my own inner lunatic there for a moment. Stand by for tomorrow's episode when I become Pat Robertson and declare that it was the homoeroticism inherent in NASCAR as evidence by Jeff Green's quote;

"Dale Jarrett hooked me in the right rear. You can blame a lot of things on rookies but he isn't a rookie. I don't understand what happened there."


Which is to blame for the crash laden Daytona 500.

16 February 2006

Demographics, the new crystal ball..


Much has been made of the shifting cultural sands of the planet. Many people have an opinion on the subject. Mark Steyn has an article which also encapsulates many of my own thoughts.

Everything can be boiled down to evolution. As I and Citizen Prime (the spouse) were watching her favorite show (Travel Channel's Most Haunted), I remarked how men's earrings were no longer worthy of mention. At one point they were a defining statement for sexuality, criminal alignment or a host of other subcultural identifiers. Now they are simply there. Most are worn by the young and trendy (not my demographic). But in the space of less than two decades, their presence has become de riguer.

I contend that the present trend in population also will predict the future state of the world. A former boss of mine, CAPT Tim Scheib (USN), stated that the way to shape a culture is simple. Control the press, control the police and control the schools.

But by far the best impact is the schools.

15 February 2006

Al Gore, bridesmaid...


Al Gore has spent some time in Jeddah speaking through his hat. He purports to know of Arab / Muslim Americans who are being routinely rounded up and treated poorly in the United States.

I wonder if he has called the ACLU?

And the winner is...


Predictions, anyone can make them but few are ever correct. Jay Cost has a great set of predictions for this year's elections. It is interesting in that it relies upon some strong social science theory. Read the whole article for more data.

What is portrays is a rather pragmatic picture of mid-term elections. Congress is elected locally, by populations whose views do not seem to be subject to significant change. The electroates are more driven by economic factors than the performance of their elected officials or external ideology.

And the big question is, so what? There are only a few possible elements which may cause significant swings in the present political landscape, almost none of which are within either party's control.

One, Iran gets hot and military action is required. Look for this to be a benefit to the incumbents all around. No one wants to swap leaders in the middle of a war. For reference, see 2004. Two, the gentleman shot by VP Cheney dies, unlikely. This would (in my opinion) cause the VP to resign. You can not have an elected official in office (except for Ted Kennedy) who is responsible (while in office) for the death of a citizen. Even an accidental death. Three, the economy tanks. This would be the result of a devastating storm season, more problems in the Middle East or something dire in Latin America.

All of these items are possible, some more probable than others. But nothing from our friends on the right or left will influence the mid-term elections one way or another. For all the wionging on the left about wiretaps, Abramoff and the Valerie Plame affair, none of these circumstances rises to any level of seriousness in the eyes of the electorate.

As has been said by many in the past, all politics is local.

14 February 2006

Love me, love my car...


It is now official, I am in a one sided relationship. I broke down after more than a decade and bought a new car.

It is the highly rated and superbly engineered Acura TL.

Yoiks, I am not worthy. The damn car talks to you, and you can talk back. You can choose between the sultry female voice or the agressive male tone to keep your attention on the road from its GPS linked NAV system.

My beloved 1995 Taurus SHO, the White Star, has been retired. I can only hope to hear about it as a converted street racer in SoCal.



Oh well, happy valentine's day to me.

12 February 2006

It bears repeating...

(AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)

According to the AP caption: "An unidentified Kenyan woman demonstrates in Nairobi, Kenya Friday Feb. 10, 2006."

Courtesy of AP and seen on Volokh and Moon Battery. The disconnect between the West and Islamofascists has never been more clearly demonstrated.

*** UPDATE ***

A good link to the cartoons in question.

08 February 2006

More nuts please...


Jimmy Carter is out of touch. His repeated forays back into politics have revealed him to be a thin, fluttery image of a man with no hold on any ideals whatsoever.

Aside from swinging a hammer in the cause of Habitat for Humanity, the ex-President from Georgia has continually provided fodder for the conservative right and a pitchman, albeit a hollow one, for the radical left.

His latest debacle occurred at the funeral of Coretta Scott King. This is a woman who died from serious health issues in an experimental clinic in Mexico. During the eulogies, of which there were lgion, Carter dove into a personal political diatribe on the current state of affairs.

Most distasteful. The event should have been a celebration of the life of a noble woman and not a grandstand for faded political figures.

Carter is a buffoon. If he had acted with any resolve during his administration, we may not be in this mess today. But the same may be said for many leaders stretching all the way back to the end of the 19th century.

Tsk tsk.

07 February 2006

Thank you sir, may I have another...


So, you are the President. Your job is a constant barrage of meetings, split decisions and no win press events.

Wahoo.

A noted civil rights figure dies. You attend her funeral and are subjected to harangues from one of your predecessors (who ranks among the most mediocre) and inflammatory idealogues masquerading as pious men of the cloth.

Fun in the sun, yessir.

03 February 2006

In and out...



It's a fact, what goes up must come down, aside from my hairline. The flows of petroleum through the United States and Canada are staggering. The United States alone consumes (uses up) 19.66 million barrels per DAY! This is a whopping 1 billion gallons every day.

The lion's share of this insatiable appetite is found in our transportation sector. More than 2/3 of our oil is used for gasoline.

Holy cow.

Forget the arguments for reinstating nuclear power (although I think it a valid pursuit), the resultant reduction in oil usage would be a pittance. Converting dense population areas to all electric powered transit, supplied by nuke plants would have a huge impact!



But that's not all of the problem, we source our oil from all over the world, a substantial amount from the mideast, but not all. Could we function as an economy without the mideast input?

Yes, but not very well.

Remember the oil embargo of the 70s? We were consuming a third of the oil at the time, but still in the same ratios from various geographies.

So what?

So, the left's mantra about no blood for oil is actually true. Our reliance on Iraq for oil is negligible. Thus we have actually shed no blood for oil. Oil moves regionally and Iraq is much more closely tied to Europe and Africa.

Now blood to prevent zealots from killing us...I will shed for that.

So what should we do? Change our dependence upon petroleum for transportation. This means technology and automakers who understand that the product they sell must meet the needs of the consumer. While oil is still plentiful, and it is, no one is going to give up their gasoline car for a limping electric powered coupe which costs twice as much and maybe three times as much to maintain.

Where to start? Start with fleets. Any freight or centrally managed fleet can be converted to alternate fuels and not become crippled by a lack of refueling infrastructure. Many city bus systems have a large natural gas fleet, and yet this is at its heart still part of the petroleum chain.

The United States is the most innovative nation on the planet. If we can design a palm sized device which can recieve videos from anywhere in the globe, we can build a non-petroleum fueled automobile.

02 February 2006

Just the Facts M'am...


I foolishly skipped over to AmericaBlog to view the controversy surrounding the Joint Chiefs of Staff's letter to the Washington Post regarding Toles cartoon in that paper. Personally, I agree with the position of the JCS. The WaPo is distributed in the heart of the area in which many amputees are recovering. Using the graphic image of a missing limbed soldier is in poor taste. But that's just me.

Remember the Doonesbury flap about BD losing his leg? It has been a good storyline, I 've always liked Trudeau's characters, even if I am at odds with his politics.

So to the facts, how is the security situation in Iraq? What is going on with the economy? I will not argue the merits of these pieces. There is a mix of opinion and fact in each. However, I particularly like these lines in the Times piece.

"But now comes the paradox. While America has been run by one of the most doltishly ineffectual governments in history, it has forged ever further ahead of Europe in terms of wealth, science, technology, artistic creativity and cultural dominance.
Why does America’s prosperity and self-confidence seem to bear so little relationship to the competence of its government? The obvious answer is that America, founded on a libertarian theory of minimal government, has always had low expectations of politicians"


I would submit that our foreign policy is actually driven by responding properly to world events, rather than the dictums of any administration.

01 February 2006

Now what...


The State of the Union is over. I did not watch it, preferring to read it after the fact and avoid the emotional impact of live TV. There is a good link (via Instapundit) on the Blogosphere's view of the SOTU. It includes left and right views as well as some on the Democratic response.

I liked Governor Kaine's response in that it was delivered by a governor, and not a senator. However, comparisons between Virginia's success and the national arena is a false analogy. Endlessly harping on the "lack of body armor" is not a strategy.

I know there are areas for improvement in the execution of our foreign and domestic policy. I would like to see MORE decisive action and greater transparency. This new state of affairs in the world demands genuine discussion of ideas and options!

Let us not forget that we can not sit still during this period. Events in our world are moving quickly and the result of these new freedoms in some areas may produce even larger challenges. The old adage of "be careful what you wich for" applies.

The government of the United States is embarked on a number of policies. You may not agree with them, but it is our system which requires (and allows) debate and decision, not radical revolution.

I am, admittedly, very frustrated by those who would quickly cast rhetoric and insults over reason and ideas. This applies to the right and left. The polarization of our society into a tribal arrangement is very concerning. Bill Whittle published a nice summary of his feelings, which match pretty closely with mine.

I guess I'd just like to say, let's talk...