Friday, April 28, 2006

Gas Prices

The silly season seems to be here on gas prices again, and I've linked a couple of great columns. In Supply and Demand, Krauthammer pretty much sticks to the facts of supply and demand and touches on one apparently major fact on the supply side that has received precious little MSM coverage. Last years energy bill demanded ethanol content in the gas and we have a shortage as a result. We can't import it since due to the presidential politics of Iowa primaries, we have a big nasty tariff on ethanol. Now there is one you won't see covered in the MSM. Headline, high gas prices due to political pandering and measures supposed to cut our demand on foreign oil, while holding us hostage to Midwest ethanol production.

Good old Ann is more cogent than biting this week in It's Hard out there for Pump. She focuses on how Democrats and the MSM are constantly saying that gas costs TOO LITTLE as long as it isn't at a peak, and trying to find a drilling restriction, environmental restriction, or new gas tax that they can use to raise the price, reduce driving, and "save the planet". When the price is high, it is naturally not their fault, it is the fault of George Bush, the oil companies, and the evil Republicans. Their world is a simple one.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Indefensible

I was forwarded a link to this screed entitled
"Fearless Leaders"
and asked to comment on it, and I thought it was a good subject for a blog entry.

My first thought is that if most Americans could get as excited about fighting terrorists as they are about fighting CEOs, we could likely look like a united nation to they world and our chances of success in the WOT would be greatly increased. The MSM and many on the left can find excuses for everything from suicide bombers to child molesters, but their hatred of guys that head up companies shows no bounds.

When one deals in numbers, it is very important to have perspective on what the numbers are being related to. The guy that hates CEOs wants to use the salary of the "average worker". How about comparing CEO salaries to other highly paid Americans? I mean, the guy that heads up a 300K person company can't really be considered "average" can he?

On Forbes 2005 list, George Lucas of Star Wars fame was #1 at $295 million, Oprah #2 at $225 million, Mel Gibson $185 M for 3, Bill Clinton was 89th, pulling down $6M for speaking, Dan Brown of DaViinci code made $76 Million, Kate Moss made $5 million for being beautiful and having her picture taken. Tiger Woods made $87 Million, and was #4. Nobody is writing nasty articles about these people and they certainly aren't creating nearly the returns, real products, or jobs that the companies that have high paid CEOs are. I don't mean to denigrate what any of them make. The market pays them too. If the market values pretty pictures of women as much as they value a CEO giving up their entire life for a number of years to head up a major corporation, that is OK with me. I don't claim to be as smart as the millions of customers and stockholders that end up deciding what CEOs should make. Who is it that we would pick that WOULD be as smart to set the "proper" limits?

Why is it though that so many people have a visceral self-righteous indignation over CEO salaries, but they are unbothered by a former president that walked the halls of power with his pants around his knees pulling down $6M a year for giving some speeches? I believe there are three basic reasons. The first is "spiritual". They see Slick Willie as "gifted". He is "special". Same thing for sports stars, authors, film makers. Those are "special gifts", and somehow "worthy". They can understand that Kate Moss is beautiful, Star Wars is creative, and it is very hard to put a white ball in a small hole, so the folks that are the best at it may as well get "huge money". They DON'T understand running a large corporation. They see it as "going to work". They go to work, the CEO goes to work, they can't understand what is different about his work to make it so highly paid. I'd think it may dawn on them that running a company that makes billions of dollars and employs 10's or 100s of K of people is harder than their job, but apparently not. It has become popular in this country to be clueless and outraged, and one of the things it is popular to be that on is CEO salaries.

The second reason is because they don't have emotional intelligence on economics. They believe in the "pie at the table" model of the economy, and figure if the CEO makes more they make less. Oddly, they don't seem to think of Tiger or Kate Moss eating their pie, apparently they see the "gifted" as dining on some other sort of pie. This lack of at least emotional understanding of economics goes back to childhood. We all are raised in some sort of a family. The head(s) of that family appear to be way rich and god-like to us as small children. They COULD get us all the toys we want when we are little, but don't. Worse, if there are siblings, we sometimes see that they allocate money "unfairly", ie. "they didn't give it all to us". We don't understand a lot, but we see "the pie" as of a fixed size and allocated under the control of powerful people. The author of this article, most of the MSM, and the majority of Americans operate with the economic emotions of a young child. Not surprising since the untruth has been drilled into them during all their schooling and continues to be reinforced in the media constantly. Their is a bitter joy in returning to childhood and feeling the outrage that someone else has gotten an unfair slice of YOUR pie, and you will have to do with less.

In reality, neither the world or US economy are fixed in size. In yr 2000 dollars, the US GDP per capita has grown from $22,716 in 1980 to $37,523 today. Just because someone else makes more doesn't mean that you or anyone else makes less. In fact, with growth, it often means that everyone else makes more. Japan, one of the countries pointed out as being better for lower CEO to worker pay multiple had only $29,400 of GDP per capita in 2005 by the same measure. Apparently, CEO pay is not hurting us or helping Japan if it is real results rather than feeling outraged that is important.

This GDP is also not allocated by "powerful people" like "Mom and Dad", it is allocated by a market. Were it allocated by powerful people with connections as was attempted to be driven into my brain as a kid, I'd likely be doing something with turkeys in Barron WI for $10 an hour and complaining bitterly about the "unfairness of the system". Most all of us would overvalue our "fair pay", and undervalue it for others, especially those that make more than us. We all work hard, and are certainly worthy of more, while those that make more than us ought to be satisfied with a lot less than what they make, and just "love their jobs".

40% of the planet lives on something less than $1 a day, so a person making $109,500 is already making 300x that and by comparison is a "greedy CEO". There are millions of "greedy CEOS" in the US relative to 40% of the population of the planet. Is it true that the success of the US is taking money from those people? Hardly, in fact it does the reverse. The success of the US economy and system has created globalization, and it is provably the best "aid to poor nations" ever created in the history of the world, and while it works, it makes many Americans richer as well.

The third reason that people feel resentment about CEO jobs is because they don't understand that getting to the CEO position is a lottery. We understand a lottery where everyone puts in a small amount of money for a very small chance to win a large sum of money. Getting to CEO is a lottery where a fairly large number of people have to work very hard for a very long time to have a very small chance of getting a special job. The payout for that very special job needs to be large enough to keep a significant number of people motivated over a long time in order to come up with the quality level of person needed to accomplish the task. Over time, the market for CEOs has factored that into CEO salary.

There are many reasons that folks with a left tilt hate that analysis. It asserts that the market works, competition works, some people are better suited to positions than others, even high pay can be rational, and a host of other "bad" things if your brain tells you that "everything should be level, we are all equal". Equal for opportunity, but not equal in gifts or outcomes I'm afraid. Those that can't stand the kind of diversity that matters, diversity of competence and outcome, are always going to find a reason to hate those that rise to the top.

We all hate seeing retirement at a young age go away. We hate losing our hair, losing our memory, and waking up stiff too, but we need to get used to all of them.
I've blogged on that at Retiring Models
Part of leadership is also letting people know about reality. CEOs work up to take a very specialized job, and their retirement is going to be different from that of an average worker, just like Tiger, Bill Clinton, or George Lucas. In our system, there isn't anything stopping you from being a CEO if you feel it is a "cushy job for high wages". I don't agree with you, but the great thing about a free country is that anyone can go out and go for the brass ring.

I don't want a CEO job at the salary they make even if it was offered to me. Corporations have to find CEOs from people that make much more than I do, and they have to compete for the best at least significantly on the basis of dollars. On the day that stockholders decide that lower CEO pay is an indicator of better stock performance, CEO pay will start to go down. Until that day, CEOs are going to get the same kind of money as great models, and ex-presidents speaking.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

I Really Ought to be Working ... But




I suppose I'm being cursed by those with slow internet connections at this point. The shots are off my back deck this beautiful Sunday afternoon, this is what spring looks like at this point in Minnesota. Canon Powershot S2 IS, 2592x1944 pixels, 14-bit color depth. 2.5MB each, which is what the slow connect folks will hate.

I'd got WAY too much work work to do, and have been doing some, but I keep getting distracted, so thought I would take a break and write a blog from the deck. IBM Thinkpad T-40 with 1400-1050 resolution LCD, the brightness just isn't really there for comfortably working outside. Shaded, but it is still marginal, worth the hassle for an hour or so on a beautiful spring day, but not the way to maximum productivity.

The elbow keeps improving and the anesthetic is leaving my system. In general I feel fine, but I slept over 9 hours last night and yesterday PM I was only able to a 20 min workout at the health club rather than 40, but that is pretty good for a couple days after surgery I guess.

I finished up "Mighty Fitz", by Michael Schumacher. She went down in Nov of '75, and at that time of my life Lake Superior was one of the few natural wonders that I had ever seen, and ore boats were one of the few man-made wonders that I had been able to see on a couple family trips to Duluth and Superior. Sophomore year of college, and it didn't seem possible that something that big could be taken down by a storm on Lake Superior. The Gordon Lightfoot song, being from the upper Midwest, the stage of life, an interest in technology, are all factors that make me a bit of a sucker for most things Fitzgerald. They call it "The Titanic of the Great Lakes", and to me it is more than that since the Titanic was a bit before my time.

The basic answer to "how could a storm on Superior do that" is of course "it didn't". The two prime theories are that she grounded on 6-mile shoal and was wounded. Slowly took on water, and when the freeboard got low enough, nose-dived when a big wave hit her. Since she was over 700' long and the water depth is 550', most likely her bow hit the bottom while the stern was still on the surface. The violence of the impact tore the ship in two and virtually "vaporized" (small pieces) about 200' of ship. The stern is sticking straight up out of the bottom of the lake.

Two other theories involve a similar slow loss of freeboard due to improper latching or other problems with hatch covers, or a catastrophic hull failure caused by a keel problem that some have asserted that she had. As anyone with a passing interest in the Fiz knows, the Arthur Anderson was shadowing her that day and in constant radar and radio contact. Something went wrong with the Fitz in the vicinity of 6-mile shoal North of Caribou island. The Anderson thought the radar track of the Fitz was too close to the shoal, and shortly after they went through the area the Fitz radioed that they had a fence rail down, some damaged vents, a list, and had lost their radar. The Anderson captain always felt that they must have hit bottom to cause that damage, and even though it didn't instantly take them down, this is the most likely reason that they eventually sank.

Not the greatest of books, but a subject that I have an interest in, and little things like finding out that one of the guys on the Fitz was from Iron River WI where I've snowmobiled, and he went down and visited his family for a few hours as the ship loaded connect it to places of familiarity even more. The museum at Whitefish point MI is now on my list of places that I'd like to see.

I continue to read along a bit in John McCain's book, "Character is Destiny". As Hugh Hewitt says, John is "a great American, and poor Senator, and a rotten Republican" ... BUT, to good Republicans, the great American has to continue to cut a lot more mustard than the other two, or we would be Democrats. I'm struck by a section of a guy that he sees as a hero of the Rawanda massacre. McCain takes personal blame, assigns blame to the US government and Democrats and Republicans alike for the cowardice of letting 800,000 to over a million people be brutally massacred, when a very small number of troops could have prevented it, but he NEVER mentions Bill Clinton. I wonder if a Rwanda happened on the watch of Bush if the response would be the same? Maybe, Darfur in the Sudan has seen a lot of death, but we are also a bit more pre-occupied than we were in the '90s.

It is an interesting question in my mind. In some respects, the MSM willingness to blame Bush for everything is really a compliment, they hate him, but they must think that at least some folks will see him as "potentially responsible". I'm not sure anyone really expected anything from Slick Willie but chasing women with big hair, and when that is just what he did, they didn't really see it as a disappointment. If a million people happened to die while he was busy with "personal matters", that was fine with the MSM. That the people were black, well, Clinton was a Democrat, so he can't be racist, they are certain it wouldn't have bothered him to let some white folks die while he took care of his "needs" either, and that is the kind of President that they can strongly support. It isn't like Bush and New Orleans. He was talking to some veterans in San Diego for part of that, and everyone KNOWS that he is racist, so he is clearly responsible for the worst combination of overt racism and incompetence that can be imagined.

By any technical measure, the Katrina response is the fastest and best hurricane response ever. The standards are just a little different in some reason. Howie Dean-scream was down there this weekend still blathering about the lack of hurricane response. From a city that 7 months ago was supposed to be taken back to the 3rd world, and may never recover. It gets more and more difficult to see how one makes the claim that NO is back, come on down ... and "nothing has been done", all at the same time.

Friday, April 21, 2006

EC +1

Went into Mayo at 6 AM yesterday AM, up to surgery at about 8. Mental lights out shortly after, and woke up in recovery about 10:30 and back to the room at 11. I suspect that how long they have you under makes a big difference in how bad you feel, and also how much drilling and hacking they are doing while you are there may be a factor as well. I felt far better than the last time. Dr came up, said "go ahead and see if you can bring your palm up". Big difference right away, that titanium screw locking the radius and ulna together being gone is a big help!

Made it home by 2, was on a telecon for work for an hour at 3, and generally had a fairly productive evening until I crashed at about 9PM.

Today I've got a decent amount of throat discomfort and some general stiffness. It seems like the drugs, the tubes, and the general violence of being cut into takes some level of toll even it it is relatively minor surgery. Was able to do a pretty normal day at work although got pretty tired in the PM. Be nice to have a weekend to recover a bit more.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Elbow EC

In the computing business, a fix to the hardware is an Engineering Change, or "EC". Tomorrow I go in for an EC on my elbow. I wonder if it would have ever been attempted without a CAT scan, since it really just looked "suspicious" on the x-rays, but on the CAT scan it was obvious. The view that the Dr showed me was a series of "slices" looking straight on at the bones in the forearm. As the plate came into view, it was very visible at the bottom, the bones are crystal clear, and the marrow and hard outside of the bone are just like you were inside the arm looking at them.

As each screw came into view, I learned that all the screws go all the way through the bone because the bone is structurally hollow (the center is soft), they want to get all the anchor force and stability that they can, so they go all the way through. They intended to go all the way through, but the last screw is either too long, mispositioned, or both ... it goes all the way through and right into the radius bone (the ulna was the one I broke). Apparently, having a large titanium screw linking the two bones in your forearm really reduces their ability to move independently, and thus the palm will no longer rotate up.

So, I call Mayo tonight and will get the specifics on arrival time for the AM, but it sounds like 6:30 AM is likely. They intend to pull out all 7 screws and the plate, and put in a single screw to insure that it holds together. In theory it is supposed to be a "one day down", and other than some slight care of the incision, I ought to be "pretty much OK and able to work" on Friday they say.

Close followers of the blog will no doubt know how correct that is by how fast I am able to return to action on the web.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Generals

I've been watching the number of media stories on "retired generals that want Rumsfeld out" in the last week or so. Normally our media is pretty much anti-military and generally even more against any hints of the military questioning their civilian control. During the Clinton years it was more than an open secret that many in the military didn't think much of old Slick, but any mention of that was quickly quashed as "inappropriate". The respect for the "Swift Boat Veterans" seemed pretty minimal, even though there were a couple Admirals on that list. I wonder what could account for the difference in thought? We know there is no bias, so it can't be that.

The Generals and the media seem to be in agreement these days that "more troops" would have been, and in some cases even currently would be a better idea. Of course, they really thought and think now that "no troops" is a better answer, but these days press pretty much salivates to get anything that is anti-Bush or anti-Bush administration as far up in the headlines as possible. Tommy Franks, the guy that actually presided over the planning for both Afghanistan and Iraq has been a strong supporter of both Bush and Rumsfeld, and wrote a book on the subject. That is the kind of thing that gets no play in the MSM.

One of the odd parts of this is that Rumsfeld IS in fact disliked by a lot of folks at the Pentagon, but it has very little to do with the war in Iraq. The Pentagon pretty much focuses on fighting the NEXT war, and the war they would like to fight is with China. They see China as the USSR replacement that allows all the same armed services to keep all the troops and get all the nice hardware that they have in their plans. The hardware that the guys in the General seats have spent their whole careers planning and budgeting and procuring. The closest thing to "the military-industrial complex" that most of the left always rail against. Basically, "organizational intertia", a common feature of all large organizations.

Rumsfeld came in and started restructuring the military right away, even before 2001 to be more focused on special forces, smaller groups with higher technology and more autonomy, focused at dealing with situations like Afghanistan, and to a lesser degree Iraq. Like most large organizations, the Pentagon doesn't like change very much, and so they didn't, and still don't like Rumsfeld. Yet many of the observers of the military that look at the threats we face in the future believe that he was and is exactly correct in the changes that need to be made.

Much like with John McCain, the MSM finds him to be a "great guy" as long as he is on their side of the story. The moment he "strays" and acts like an actual Republican, he "loses his way". So with military generals. As long as a few are willing to say what the MSM wants them to say, then they "should be taken seriously" from their POV. Deciding to only report the side of the story that agrees with your POV is just propaganda. Deciding that the military should talk back to civilian leadership shows that they believe in strict control of the military only so long as the civilian leadership agrees with the MSM. I suppose a military coup is just fine if it takes down Bush and Rumsfeld as well, but maybe there should be just a little bit more thought on that before we follow this path too far.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Riding Rockets

For a bookworm, there are few joys to exceed finding a book that is so interesting that it keeps you up late at night and you want to get into it at the first opportunity the next day. "Riding Rockets" by Mike Mullane was such a find for me. Mullane is a 3-time shuttle mission specialist, and the fact that he is "unknown" lets us know that he space program has changed a lot since the days of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo.

He was one of the first round of shuttle astronauts selected in '78. A West Point graduate that switched to the Air Force trying to get to space, but whose eyesight wasn't good enough to be a pilot, so he settled for flying over 100 missions in Vietnam as a "back-seater" on a Phantom. He picked up a masters in flight engineering after the war, and although he gave it at least his all, he was surprised to actually be picked to be an astronaut.

The book is loaded with a lot of ribald humor and practical jokes, as well as a lot of detail of how it "feels", sometimes in the physical sense of discomfort and pain even, to be an astronaut. He probably captures the end of one type of military culture, the "pre-women in everything" era, and of course takes part in a major part of the transition himself as one of the first astronauts to deal with women in that role and part of the missions to space.

It is hard to imagine someone being as open about his personal life and the lives of his loved ones, even telling about his wife's experience as an unwed mother as a young woman. There are plenty of parts of this book that some will say "that is more detail than I wanted to hear", and there are many things that it would seem could have been left out without detracting. However, this is clearly his book, and has the feel of "authenticity", it doesn't seem like any of the "sex and violence" is really gratuitous, this is just how he is, how he sees the world, and apparently part of how a fairly significant number of the astronauts of that period saw it.

Other than the "ethos", and 10's of great little stories about flights in T-38's, his 3 flights, training, the astronaut beach house, and many other details, the information about the Challenger was the most disturbing to me. It sounds like it is pretty clear that at least most of them were alive all the way down. A number of switches that would be related to trying to restore power and oxygen to the cockpit had been toggled in ways that made it clear that human hands had done it, and a set of auxiliary air source packs had been turned to the "on position". One of those packs was intact enough that it still contained air, but a little over 2 and 1/2 minutes of air was gone, the amount of time that it would take to fall from the point of the explosion to the water.

The point that he makes over and over is that these are a group of people that are so dedicated to spaceflight that the risks are really meaningless to them. Something like the explorers that sailed out on the unknown in small wooden boats, they are willing to take those risks to open the next frontier. At least many of them do know fear, although not all, his first shuttle commander was sleeping in the cockpit for a good nap during a pre-launch hold, so some are indeed cut from different cloth.

If you have a significant interest in the space program, this is an excellent book.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Charts of Perspective


Ran into the above out at CBO 125 Year Picture

The web is so full of information like this is too bad that MSM reporters don't care much about facts. The chart shows spending as related to GDP, a rational approach. We commonly hear about "the largest deficit", "largest budget" or some other version of runaway spending in raw, non-inflation or percentage related numbers. Simply hearing that should be a red-flag that the source is trying to mislead you.

Most everything in the number department really only makes sense in context and relationship. If someone lost 10lbs during a workout, it would certainly be life threatening for a 100lb woman, but a fairly normal thing for an NFL lineman. Looking at numbers as a % of GDP is nice in that the inflation effect and the relationship to the size of the overall country are pretty much factored out, and one is comparing apples to apples over history.

The purpose of the web page is to show that there is no way that the the country can continue to spend on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid at the rates that we are now as the baby boom retires. It is a pretty sad commentary that very few Americans understand the chart at the end of this blog. Believing in the Easter Bunny is more rational than believing that we are going to continue on as we currently are with the named programs.

The chart at the start of the blog though shows pretty clearly that GIVEN SOLID ECONOMIC GROWTH, we can do a ton of things with very little effect on the overall economy ... war in Vietnam, War on Poverty, screw up 4 years with truly the worst President in at last a century, Jimmuh, end the USSR, and a host of other things all with something between 17 and 23% of GDP. The chart shows the "lie of defense" that the left likes to blame for everything ... going from 9% to 3% over the period. It shows the seeds of the disaster that awaits us with SS and the Medical entitlements going from 2.5 to 7.9% of an ever larger GDP. Starting in '75 and not beginning to drop off until '85 we see the mini-disaster of the slow growth of the '70s to early 80's. Had that not been turned around, our situation would actually be grim today, rather than just looking grim in the future.

Why the CBO seems to think that crisis isn't going to ensue post 2010, I have no idea. It seems very unlikely to me that all other spending is going to drop from 13-15% to a static 7.1%, and I doubt that interest will become a net revenue GAIN for a significant period. What it DOES show pretty clearly is that the entitlements eat the budget at a rate that is TRULY "unprecedented in history". The Democrats and MSM are very proud that they were able to stop Bush from doing anything about this problem, more proof that nothing makes them happier than what they know will damage the "unfair country" ... America.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Sarcasm the most Truthful

The following off Powerline is pretty hard to beat for truth. They did miss it a bit though. For most Americans the "leak" of the jobs and the recruitment numbers will be just as secret as what was in the "leaked" NIE ... Can't have the public confused by getting more than the MSM approved side of the story!

BTW, on the deck, over 70 degrees and beautiful in MN. People that live in decent climates don't really understand the joy of weather that they would just find "passable". I really ought to bang my head on the wall for a few minutes and stop a bit more often to feel super!


Warning: Sarcasm Ahead

Last Friday, the Bush administration released a Labor Department report that showed that employers added 211,000 jobs in March, and the nation's unemployment rate has fallen still further, to 4.7%. Harry Reid responded by demanding an investigation:

The administration's leak of the Labor Department report was clearly intended to make the Democrats' complaints about the economy look stupid. We're consulting with our lawyers to determine whether the leak of this report is an impeachable offense.

[Fake quote; humor intended.] This morning, it was reported that the Army has exceeded its reenlistment goal for the first six months of the 2006 fiscal year by 15%. Nancy Pelosi was outraged:

How dare the administration leak this highly sensitive report? Once again, the administration has leaked information that can only be designed to show that the Democrats' effort to demoralize our troops has failed. We are calling for an investigation to get to the bottom of President Bush's role in authorizing this leak.

[Fake quote; humor intended.] I don't know why the Democrats keep going back to 2003. There's a new leak "scandal" nearly every day!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Screw Length

I went to Mayo Friday, and it seems that their screw selection for my elbow may have been off. They have me scheduled for a CT scan tomorrow to decide if I need two screws replaced because they are interfering with motion. In general it is pretty usable, but the biggest problem is that I can't roll the palm up close to flat.

While I'm certainly not glad, it is interesting the different sentiments that I encounter as I talk to people. In general, the less training, education or responsibility the person has, the more the attitude is "you should sue", or some level of anger at Mayo, or Doctors in general. My personal view is that I don't do elbow surgery at all, so I have very little understanding of what is involved. The set of things that I manage to do "mistake free" is exceedingly small, no matter how much I might desire perfection. I have a strong suspicion that Mayo starts with basic humans to make into doctors, and I have very little understanding of the degree of difficulty in deciding just what screw goes where in adding hardware to a person's body.

The Masters is on the 50" HDTV in front of me, a beautiful sight to behold, about the only golf of the year I watch, but what a super use of HD and a larger screen. The best in the world seem to make mistakes there as well ... At least it didn't look like Freddy Couples wanted to put the ball on the edge of Ray's creek. His recovery was great though, should they need to replace the screws, I trust that Mayo's will be as well. If their recovery isn't great? Well, I suppose if I had to pick who was going to win the Masters last Wednesday, I would have picked Tiger. Even a couple of times today I might have picked him. I would have been wrong, Phil was the best. How would I pick my surgeon? Certainly not wisely.

As we enter Holy Week, that might be a core difference between Christians and the world. Christians believe there was but a single perfect human, and his sacrifice is our only hope. The world still believes that humans are perfectible, and "someone else" really ought to be perfect in just about every situation.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Fiction as Fact

As I watched the MSM feeding frenzy at the end of the week on the idea that the President was "the leaker in chief", the thought occurred to me that there apparently is no limit to the MSM creation of their own world, and then dealing with that world as if it were real. At one time Reagan was considered to have trouble with the difference between movies and reality, but I suppose since we have gone through "what IS is", "fake but true", and many of the fictionalizations of Katrina, there is simply no mooring left.

First of all, if the President authorizes the release of information, it isn't a "leak", it is an authorized release of information. The President and likely the VP are completely able to de-classify information, and the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that included the justification made by all the existing US security services for WMD and the War in Iraq was declassified in July of '03. Somehow the MSM seems to think that they are able to fabricate any information they see fit, but it is somehow "wrong" for the President to release the information under which actions were actually taken. The content of that now declassified assessment is public knowledge, but is completely uninteresting to the press, even though it was the basis that every Senator except those from the outer planets (Finegold, Harken, Boxer, etc) decided that Saddam had WMD, along with the leaders of every country including France and Germany, and the UN as well. Obviously the MSM feels that information should in no way be "leaked", because it might put the administration in a good light, something that they would like to defend against more than the risk of a major US city being blown up by a nuke.

For people that read below the headlines and paragraph one or two, the above would probably be somewhat obvious, but what is amazing is the apparently conscious attempt to juxtapose "Plame Investigation", "leak", and "President Bush" in an attempt to allow people to come to the conclusion that Bush leaked the name for which the special prosecutor investigation was launched. While it has never been shown that linking her name with the CIA was any sort of a "leak" at all, and in fact the prosecutor gave up on that. Fitzgerald is only attempting to get Libby for "perjury", and we all know that were Libby a Democrat like Clinton, that isn't even a crime. In fact in "defense of your office", perjury ought to get one hero status. The media is well aware that most of the sheep can't keep up with the details very well, and it seems like what they are going for here is a "basic slime" ... Give the appearance of impropriety, and the Republican base will be less excited about voting.

I have to give them credit for technique. At one level it is certainly a "weakness" of the right to actually have principles, morals, and the desire to apply them consistently. Once it was obvious that Nixon lied in the cover up, his own base abandoned him with as much fervor as those on the left. As we saw with Clinton, the left has no such inclination. They are willing to defend anything in order to keep their hands on the tiller of power.

The small problem with this situation is that people on the right are left to deal with a media and political opposition that hold nothing sacred in any form. Not God, not Country, not truth, not family, not even any sense of what would normally be called "self interest". They are willing to do anything, and to countenance anything being done for the sole purpose of raw political power, even in wartime, with in many cases the knowledge that what they are doing may increase the chances of a terrorist attack that would kill Americans. If it is bad for Bush, it is OK with them.

One is left with the immortal question of Luke to Yoda; "Is the dark side stronger"? As we embark upon Holy Week, that is a pretty good question to ponder. My answer would be that yes, the dark side is definitely stronger in the physical earthly terms, but something seems to prevent it from the victory that one would assume it would achieve. This would be a great week to reflect on what that might be.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

1776 and Mixed

One of the books that I'm currently reading is "1776" by David McCullough. If one depended on "the odds" for America to happen, it wouldn't have. In those days, they believed in "providence" and "the hand of God", and for some reason, both seemed to often come to the rescue of the US. The US declared Independence in 1776, the Constitution was ratified in 1789, and we fought a REAL civil war in 1860. Can Iraq get everything done in 3-4 years? It seems that with the modern media and a good half the population, it is never too early to declare failure. "Cut and run", the motto of much of current America.

Speaking of running, the French continue to show the wages of socialist give-away governments. Maturity, taking responsibility, delaying gratification, entering the arena to compete and being willing to try, fail, and try again, and valuing striving for personal independence no matter the outcome. Those are characteristics that have to be worked at every day. never come easy, and can always slip away. Learning to believe that one is entitled ... to a job, a home, a lifestyle, that others are responsible, that we are victims, that things are "unfair". Those lessons are easily learned and take no effort, and are VERY hard to unlearn. The French appear to have learned them well.

I heard a bit of old Kevin Phillips blathering about the evils of the current Republican party on NPR at noon today. He is an old "country club Republican" ... the sort that can't believe that the party is now full of a bunch of middle and lower-middle class "evangelicals". The way he says "evangelical" reminds one of how you might say "child molester". The problems of the world are pretty much all caused by people that say they believe in God according to Kevin. Of course, none really do believe, some are just playing at it to lead others, and many are just too foolish to realize that they are being taken. In the old country club days, rich Republicans were willing to sit down and be the lapdogs of the Democrats, and only occasionally complain about a deficit or something. It was so much more civilized, and nobody got crazy about religion. Oh, for the good old days.

What is wrong with the world today? Pretty much all the same things that have always been wrong ... and right. Technology lets us see a little farther and have a lot more, but life is still pretty short, and most of it is spent doing "less than the best". Like a lot of things, "wrong" depends on expectations. A view that life is a gift, grace is a gift, and we have the freedom to make our own success, that is one outlook. That everything is going to pot, today is worse than yesterday, and tomorrow is worse yet, and especially, that somebody, somewhere is taking advantage in an unfair way, that is another perspective.

Which kind of people created America in 1776? What kind are in Iraq? What kind are in France? and in the US, is it still 50/50, or are the polls right and we are headed toward acting like the French? BTW, I don't know about the Iraqis ... they may not succeed, but I don't really expect them to be WAY better than our founding fathers.

A lot of the future is very hard to predict, but there are a lot of signs that it will be a competitive future, and that competition will be impossible to hide from and maintain anything like the level of lifestyle that Americans have become accustomed to. "Entitlement" isn't a word that the global economy seems to care about much.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

5 Months of Lower Casualties


If the MSM is reporting this at all, it is very hard to find. I wonder why that is? Does anyone suppose that if US casualties had been INCREASING for the past five months they would have reported that? Only as the top story everywhere every month! Most anyone understands that lowered casualites for US troops in Iraq is good news for the prospects that the Iraqi's can take over the battle and form their own stable government. Why are Iraqi casualites up? Because they are taking over more of the work.

Good news for the US, good news for Iraq, but bad news for the MSM and Democrats.

Last Helicopter

The WSJ last Wednesday had an article called The Last Helicopter that puts the Mideast view of the US in a bit more context. Essentially they see Bush as an abberition that is willing to work hard for progress in the Mideast, and they are going to wait him out. The authors have an opinion of the country that is shared by Hugh Hewitt that post 9-11, the people of the US aren't going to throw in the towel on Iraq. I hope the authors and Hugh are right, but in any case, the track record presented by US behaviour in the Mideast from Carter forward are interesting.

Painting the Map Red

Picked up Hugh Hewitt's new book up in the twin cities Thursday and finished it up in pretty short order. It was a must read for anyone that considers themselves anything less than a far lefty. It would bee good for them to read it as well, but folks on the far left can't possibly read anything that disagrees with them, or there is no way they would stay there.

He kicks off with; "It's break the glass and pull the alarm time" for the republican party. Bush isn't ever going to be more than a 50/50 President no matter how good he does, and it is time for Republicans to realize that they need overarching goals. A 60 seat majority in the Senate is the big goal what Hugh says needs to be focused on. He believes that Republicans can easily stay the majority party and potentially even do in the Democrat party so they needed to form a new party. Indeed, he would say that Republicans BETTER figure out how to do this for the future of western civilization.

The Global War on Terror (GWOT) isn't going to go away anytime soon, and if it isn't well fought (and maybe even if it is), there is going to be a 9-11 with WMD at some point that is going to radically change life going forward. The best way to keep that from happening is to keep Republicans in control, but that isn't going to be easy ... Because of the standard reasons; MSM, the rich guys like Soros and the Hollywood types, but maybe mostly because the nature of Republicans. Pretty easily disenchanted and perfectionistic ideologues that love nothing better than leaving the tent on "principal" even if the tent collapses because of it. I was there with Bush Sr and his breaking of "No New Taxes" ... so I did my part to usher in Bill Clinton, Monica, Internet bubbles, and the security conditions that created 9-11.

For Republicans to be a majority party, they have to be a very big tent, but it has to be tent ... he argues that Olympia Snow, John McCain, and Arlen Specter all make it in that tent ... Lincoln Chafee does not and needs to be defeated, even at the cost of Republicans voting for a Democrat. The seasoned political logic of the hows and whys of that alone are worth the price of admission. Hugh is a solid pragmatist, something that can never have to much exposure to Republicans.

He is convinced that the Democrat Presidential ticket in '08 is going to be Hillary/ Obama, and it is going to be VERY hard to beat. He doesn't think the Democrats have a great chance of taking either house this year, but it could come very close unless Republicans have a solid national goal, which he argues ought to be a 60 seat Senate. His main messages are all on the "going negative on the Democrats", arguing they are certainly doing, have and will be doing that with the help of the MSM, and they have given the Republicans better negatives to go after them with:

1). The Democrat left and the MSM have declared ware on the military
2). The Democrat left has declared war on religion
3). The Democrats have declared war on the Judiciary
4). The Democrats want to radically re-define marriage on the way to radically redefining the culture.
5). The Democrats are addicted to venom, and that venom is destroying the political process ... and people would like to see it stopped, which mostly means stopping Democrats.

He makes and interesting argument that the technology of the internet has made it impossible for the MSM to continue to put lipstick on the pig of the hard lefts screaming, bile, and "chip on the shoulder" attitude, where it has allowed thousands of generally reasonable, Christian, family oriented right-center blogs to spring up and be read. While the left blogs are loaded with "Hitler", the F word, and rambling rants against everything from Christians to the military to America itself, the right-center blogs that predominate tend to be just the opposite. Just like "guns don't kill people, people do", the internet is just a tool, it allows more direct contact with fewer filters. In general, for the center-right that has provided a picture that is much more flattering than the one usually painted by the MSM, where the left has exposed itself in all it's screeching, anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-family and generally "anti" picture, and that picture has been far from flattering.