Friday, December 31, 2004
I'm pretty set in my ways, personally, but I try not to be an hypocrite. Since I am male, heterosexual, white, American, a Christian and consider the Bible to be correct and true, I start from a pretty defined perspective, and in the course of my life I have always tried to balance my own experience with valid alternatives, emphasis on both 'valid' and 'alternatives'.
On the one hand, Homosexuality is conduct, and so cannot really be considered in the same light as race, gender, or ethnicity. Also, the Bible is pretty clearly set againt the Homosexuals portrayed in its pages. On the other hand, I am struck by the consistency of Homosexual representation, demographically, throughout the world. Even where the culture considers Homosexuality to be a crime deserving death, still there are those who practice it, compelling evidence that it is more than a casual decision. Also, when I read through the Bible more closely, I am struck by two very important facts. First, Jesus Christ had nothing to say about Homosexuals, strange behavior if they were all that repulsive to God. Also, in the various verses where Homosexuals are mentioned in the Bible, what I see are connections to idolatry or lust, so that the condemnation refers mostly to the spirit; when Paul refers to "unnatural" desires, he can just as easily be addressing heterosexual lust as homosexual lust. And the Ten Commandmants are pretty interesting on that point. If I drift off into the Scriptural connotations, I will not finish the though today, so for here I want to consider the matter from a point of logic. It seems to me that there are three levels on which I may consider the morality of what I call Sexual Civics.
First, the easy part. The United States of America is essentially a nation founded on freedom, and for most of us, it's not a hard definition - you can do whatever you want, right up to the point where you affect someone else's freedom. So, you can't choose violence or theft or defamation, but the 4th Amendment gives a reasonable expectation of privacy. No one can come into your home without your consent, unless you have violated the law, and by the law, I mean that line between your rights and someone else's. If you are beating your wife, you have no right to privacy, but if two people want to have and neither is married to someone else, that's their business and no one else's. Like it or not, it's not my right to compel my neighbor to follow my idea of morality.
The second level comes down to your faith. Yep, here comes God. Now, like the first part, it's just common sense that even if I believe someone else's faith is sheer lunacy, I have no right to step in and tell him what he must believe in. Further, I happen to believe that even if you can compel someone to go to your church and pray as you do, all that will do is drive some further away in their hearts. Love and adoration for the holy cannot be forced. But, if you choose to join a church or congregation, whatever the faith is, you cannot be part of their group and demand they agree to your terms. You're either in or out, and if you're in, you have to agree that you will believe as the group does, or else you cannot be part of that group. There is usually room in faith groups for some differences, but on the vital and basic issues, you can't split hairs.
Now, the tricky part. I don't happen to like anything about Homosexuality, from what I know about it. The practice seems unnatural biologically, and there is a strong risk of disease in some of the practices, but then, I didn't much hold with the guys I knew in school who thought sleeping around with a dozen women was cool, either. The thing is, though, I also know enough to know that people are built differently, and just as one person really craves sex while another has no real appetite, there are wide variances in what attracts people, biologically as well as physiologically or psychologically. I still know a couple people who think sex with someone not your own skin color is somehow wrong. So, the issue comes down to a basic morality, after which a working system may be developed.
Sex is not evil. It's pretty obvious that it can be a very good thing. The restrictions to it, I think, come from the fact that Adultery and Divorce and STD's are horribly destructive, and should be avoided like the plagues they are. Also, I rather like the section of Proverbs, where Solomon warns his son to stay away from prostitutes, because that cheapens people, making a person no more than a loaf of bread, something to be used. Lust is wrong, because it calls attention down to the lowest level, and avoids any of the commitments and responsibilities that come with many sexual relationships. Therefore, marriage is much, much better than sex alone can ever be, because it comes with a clear price, but also later shows the rewards amd maturity that can only be had with commitment and a disciplined heart.
It follows then, that if a person is Homosexual, they should be allowed, even encouraged, to marry (or at least commit to civil unions). That is, provided that marriage or civil union would carry the same weight and responsibility as a heterosexual marriage does, and that society might return to the day when cheating on your spouse was shameful and rare, not the sidelight of a network sit-com.
I am a little tired, so doubtless I am missing something along the way in this road of reason, but that's what the 'Comments' section is for.
Happy New Year.
Thursday, December 30, 2004
Now, to anyone under the age of 30 reading this post, be very, very careful about anyone promising you that you can get wealthy fast. Wealth has always been difficult to build, and for valid reasons. First off, it's a basic rule of Life, that it's much easier to spend money than to make money. Next, money always attracts attention, from the Tax man to friends you never knew you had; holding wealth is just as hard as making it. Third, if you do not know how you make your money, even a hot streak will end meaning nothing, because you have to know how to get hot again. Fortunately, there is a pretty good way to become financially successful, and it comes down to four rules:
1. Do your homework. Plan, review, analyze, repeat.
2. NEVER lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.
3. Never forget your people, or take them for granted.
4. Stay humble.
I. First off, when you decide to get serious about making money, you're going to have to decide what you want to do, what you're willing to commit to make it happen, and where your heart is. Every financially succesful person who has made their fortune, has done it through a lot of hard work and persistence. You don't do that unless you are committed to what you're doing, and you can't make that commitment unless your heart is in what you do. You also have to be serious enough to realize, no one gets paid to play around; even professional atheletes and musicians and artists put a lot of work into their effort. So, you need to think about who you are, what you're about, because that's your foundation. You follow it up with putting together a Business Plan. Why? First off, unless you're already wealthy, you need a bank loan or something like it to make the business start, and for that you need a Business Plan. But also, you want a chance, and while some people may realize that 80% of all new businesses fail within a year, over 95% of businesses which survive that first year had a Business Plan, and over 98% which last more than three years had a Business Plan. No Business Plan, no chance.
A Business Plan is pretty simple in concept, but you really need to sweat the details. You need to come up with a realistic idea of how many customers you'll have, how much you'll make from those customers, how much you'll need to spend to run that business, and so on. And you need to be able to defend those numbers, with evidence. It's kind of like a really tough Term Paper, but an intensely personal one, too.
One benefit to drawing up the BP, is that once you start to get into it, you'll already be moving ahead. Getting that first loan is like passing a gallstone, but banks like loans and sooner or later, a serious BP will get a loan, at which time you will discover two feelings: the sheer panic of owing a huge debt, and the realization that you are going to do it. Because of the BP, you will already know where you will put the business, what it will cost and how long to get the supplies and equipment and hire/train your own employees. You will need to be inspected by various city and county departments, which has the additional effect of driving many new business owners to the conservative side of politics. But eventually, you'll be on your way.
II. Sooner or later, you will wonder if you might pull a trick or two to get ahead. DON'T! There are only a few reasons why customers will give a new business a chance; convenience (which will only be true for a few people), lower prices (which your competition will match, or quality. For some reason, businesses sooner or later often fall into lowering the quality, cheating a little on their promises, or some other little bit of shadiness. That makes the honest ones stand out. If you want to be around ten years later with a good reputation, NEVER let your standards or ethics slip.
III. No matter what you will be doing for your business, you'll depend on people, especially three groups: Your customers, your employees, and your suppliers. Always be courteous, always reward extra effort, and always treat them the way you'd want to be treated, if you were in their place. Because you either were once, or you will be, and in any case, networking includes making sure everyone who knows you, knows you at your best.
IV. Nobody like arrogance, but it's more than that. When everyone knows you don't have a big head, your success makes your business like a family, and your network of contacts like a community. You'll sleep better, and you'll never have second thoughts about your decisions.
OK, simple rules, but awfully hard to put into practice. What was that window, though, that I was talking about? INFORMATION. Once upon a time, if you had a job, you were pretty much stuck in your routine, no time or chance to find out what else you could do. Now, part-time work is a real possibility, and more than a few people have been able to start their own business by researching the web and building their Business Plan in their spare time. Right up to the point of commitment, you can recon your options and decide your course.
It's worth thinking about.
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
Not personally. I don't know him personally, and as a person, he seems to have enough decent qualities, that I might like him. But he's pushing a lot of people further down the road of class warfare and financial ignorance. He's doing that by filing Bankruptcy - again.
I actually have no idea how many times 'The Donald' has filed for the big eggshell. I could find out if I wanted, but it really doesn't matter. The problem is, even though Trump is filing for Bankruptcy, he still owns - shoot, he's cultivating it - an air of solvency and financial power. That's a trick, but a dirty one. It's mixing the idea that Trump is a business leader we should emulate, with the fact that he has no intention of paying legitimate debts he's incurred. He is basically telling America that cheating is not only acceptable, it's the smart thing to do. He's the star of "The Apprentice", a show about business acumen and ethics and metods, and he's living a life of a well-heeled scam artist. It says something, something rather offensive, about NBC, that Trump is still connected to the show in any, except as an object lesson on Fraud.
But Trump's little courtroom tactics are part of the fabric of American Business, wheer people are sold the illusion in place of the real virtues, where the quick trick is prized above earning and keeping trust. It's why Dan Rather believed he could slip forged documents past the nation on prime-time Television, it's why John Kerry thought he could get elected without a single serious explanation of his Senate record, it's why Americans could be told that freeing millions of people was evil, and why Americans are told that our very economic success is wrong and must stop. Many Americans, believe it or not, do not understand Money or any of the basic forces of Economics. And that lesson comes hard.
First, Employment. Thousands of Bush haters took to protests in 2004, blaming President Bush for the "poor" job market. Leave aside for a moment the limitations on what, precisely, any President can do to create jobs, and also leave aside the fact that Unemployment numbers in 2004 were almost exactly the same numbers that the press praised Bill Clinto for in 1996, and leave aside the fact that average wages continued to rise all year long; the sheer notion that anyone "owed" someone a job, illustrates an appalling lack of common sense and work ethic. Demographics show that prior to 1850, most Americans owned their own businesses, farms for the most part. The good news to owning your own business, is that you take your own profits - a hired man was considered to be on the low end of things, because he could only earn what his boss agreed to pay him. The bad news to owning your own business, was that you took on all the risks of having your own business. If you hit a really bad stretch, you could lose everything ("Lose the Farm" was well-understood when folks had real family farms on the line).
After 1850, and especially after the Civil War, things changed, with many Americans working in factories and for employers. Once the paycheck became the normal way of things, people started planning by that regular pay, relatively small but relatively steady. But even back in the "good old days", people understood that a job might not last forever. College was important, because it allowed a person to take a job with better pay, better security (less "projects" and more likely to be hired as part of a permanent team), and better chances for advancement. Unfortunately, there came a flood of college degrees, some quite accomplished, others frankly useless, and in any case the work environment has shifted again, to the point that people are finally coming back around to the basic question they should have addressed at the start; what is a good employer-employee match?
I have seen a great many job-search sites spring up, and precious few people get anything they would call a "good" job from them. Employers are even less enthused, since these sites flood them with applications from unqualified people, and even with sorting software, it remains just as hard to find that one truly-qualified employee, as it ever was. The problem, to be blunt, is the nature of jobs and workers. People want great positions, but if a job pays well, is fulfilling, and has a great future, the people in those positions are not going to want to elave those jobs. As a result, most jobs available pay less, are less secure, less rewarding, and/or are more difficult and demanding. Not that employers have a great time. These days, even after you screen for drugs and criminal histories, you could easily get someone who looks good on paper and interviews well, but who is lazy, or rude, or uncooperative, or any other combination of production-killing attributes. Most managers have antacids close at hand for very good reasons.
For some reason, people have forgotten to remind kids of one very important reason to do their homework: They'll need to use those homework study and research skills all the rest of their life, from finding the right job, to how they invest, to how they plan their major life events. Living your lifeunplanned can be exciting, true - but so can driving your car with your eyes closed, but the end results are likely to be messy in either case.
The simple fact is, people should be careful to think ahead, about what skills their "dream job" will need, and what they will need to do, to get that chance. And if they plan to work for someone else, they will have to decide when and if they want to set out on their own, or else accept the trade-off of a comfort zone for the chance to excel.
Monday, December 27, 2004
I read too fast. This was an immediate problem from the start; the children’s library told me I was a troublemaker, because I was the only kid who wasn’t happy with only 5 books a week. By the time I hit Junior High, I had read every book my parents owned, more than a thousand books. And, being gabby, I had opinions to share on everything I read. So, by definition I was a blogger 30 years before I owned my first computer. And I learned to appreciate a book good enough that I could go back and read it again, and pick up new stuff. Milton is that good, so is Zelazny, and so is Hewitt. As in Hugh Hewitt, whose new book “Blog” may be fairly described as a must-have.
OK, so it’s no shock that bloggers will like “Blog”. But this book not only reads well, it’s a primer on planning your future online. Hewitt covers a brief history of blogging, noting that in five years, blogs have grown from the first few to over four million now. Along the way, we’ve seen the development of blogs which read like diaries or magazines, to blogs about specifics in the latest news, technical details, and insightful commentary to rival (or simply thump) anything the networks can offer.
When you get your copy of “Blog” (you will be very happy, I promise), among the things you’ll find is a list of some of the best blogs currently out there. Basically, if you come across a site you haven’t checked out, give it a few minutes. There are lists all through the book, from the Preface through the appendices. And Hewitt puts the whole thing in perspective right from the start. In the Introduction for example, Hewitt notes “The blogosphere is about trust ... None of us have time to understand everything, so we have to trust surrogates.” This is important, because that used to be the case with the TV networks and newspaper syndicates; when they betrayed that trust, the blogs were able to fill the void, because there is immediate feedback and consequence. If a blog tries to snow you, you will figure it out and move on to one of the many others. You’ll only stay with a blog when it eans your respect. Informational Darwinism at work.
Hewitt is very good at maintaining balance, noting accomplishments by Wonkette and Andrew Sullivan on one hand, but also Little Green Footballs and Captain’s Quarters on the other. The interplay between the Old Media and the New, often turning into an effective rout by the blogs, is covered, from the Jason Blair scandal, through the Swift Boat Vets, and of course Rathergate. The history Hewitt is writing will be taught at colleges by next year. Hewitt writes about the Information Reformation, comparing it to Luther’s Reformation of the Church, and provides some key insights in the historical trends present, in the 16th Century and now.
Of course, Hewitt made mistakes, calling the TV networks and newspapers by the already passe’ “MainStream Media (MSM)”, while many blogs are already taking up the clearer Old Media/New Media delineation. And when he covered Rathergate, Hewitt failed to give proper credit to Lorie from Texas for the name. Hewitt also leans just a bit too much in favor of the blogs already out there, forgetting the lightning-strike rise that so many blogs make in their creation. But overall, “Blog” is a first-class work, especially where Hewitt identifies key opportunities and trends for industries and entrepreneurs to grab, before someone else does. It’s more than a little like someone telling you in 1975 to keep an eye on that Gates kid.
Maybe the best Chapter in the book is Chapter 13, which gives pointers on how to start your own blog, with vital do’s and don’t’s for the just-starting blogger.
Buy the book.
Read it again, with paper and pen for notes.
Pay special attention to the Appendices.
And if you’re like me, you’ll be glad to find out it’s just as good the third time through.
Sunday, December 26, 2004
But it's true.
An earthquake, 8.9 on the Richter scale (literally one-hundred-thirty times the force of the last "big" San Francisco quake
Over seven thousand dead.
Over a million people homeless.
Tsunamis in Indonesia, Maylasia, Thailand.
Please pray for the victims and the survivors, and do what you are willing to do.
What really is scary, are two additional factors:
First, that part of the world is ready and perpared for rain and floods. They have no reason to expect earthquakes or twelve-foot walls of water.
Second, an earthquake this big is going to be followed by killer aftershocks. The rescue teams are mostly going to be held back until the aftershocks, likely to be in the 6.5 range, are done. In other words, that means hundreds more dead, maybe thousands.
May God have mercy.
UPDATE, December 27:
The death toll is up past 22,000 now. Please contact the Indonesian Consulate inyour town to help.
UPDATE, December 29:
The death toll is projected at anywhere between 50,000 and 100,000 fatalities, with at least twice that number injured, and millions homeless. Vital and immediate needs include drinkable water, medicine, emergency shelters, clothing, and evacuation. If you have not already done so, please contact any of the following organizations about helping:
The International Red Cross
Rescue Task Force
Indonesia Disaster Fund
Saturday, December 25, 2004
* I forgot to buy "C" size batteries for the Lite Brite;
* Gregoire has apparently stolen the Governor's election in the State of Washington;
* Two parents here in Houston died yesterday, because their gas heater leaked Carbon Monoxide;
* Baytown Firefighter Nito Guajardo was laid to rest on Christmas Eve, having died fighting a fire on Monday;
* Sheila Jackson Lee still has a job in Congress.
* Jagan was a perfect little lady today, including when she visited her grandparents;
* George W. Bush continues to lead our nation, and Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited the troops in Iraq, receiving well-deserved support;
* Jagan surprised her grandparents by showing she knows the whole alphabet, can count up to 100, and she knows the names of the 7 continents, as well as all the words to seven Christmas carols;
* 2500 people showed up for Firefighter Guajardo's funeral, including fellow firefighters from dozens of surrounding cities;
* Jagan told my parents that today is Jesus' birthday;
* It SNOWED in Houston, for the first time on Christmas Eve in my memory;
* I have the love and attention of my wife and daughter.
Hope your Christmas was merry and bright!
Thursday, December 23, 2004
That out of the way, I have noticed the annual siege by the Left and Secularists against Christmas and all things religious. Now, I certainly understand the fear they have of Christianity; once upon a time, the Church was very, very powerful in the world, so the Church's enemies have a reasonable concern that they must prevent the restoration of that influence and power. Then again, it seems a mite peculiar to work so hard to prevent the celebration of the birth of a poor baby, whose work when he grew up was focused on the need for each of us to love each other.
It's been a number of years since Secularists enjoyed the abolition of Nativity scenes from public places, very often even on private land. The ACLU takes cases to protect the right to have porn at your desk, but not a cross. But the battle has moved into the surreal world of hysteria on the Left. A New Jersey School District bans Christmas Carols, even instrumental versions. Bach is made outlaw. Other School Districts ban any Christmas references in plays and pageants, on the claim that they must repel religious references, even as they allow, even praise, Hannukah and Ramadan observances. That baby, it seems, represents a grave threat, at least to the worldview of the no-God-here crowd.
But the move has gone further. Christmas trees are banned from some businesses, on the claim that they represent a bias in favor of the Christians. References to Santa Claus has also become unacceptable in many circles, on the argument that the fat man in the red suit somehow forces one to incline their beliefs towards the Lord. Partly, it's the basic insecurity the Left has, towards anything that doesn't work to support their own mythology and political NewSpeak. But there's more, and I finally tripped to it.
The Santa Claus myth, the tree, the decorations, and many carols have nothing at all to do, directly with Christianity. There is no Bible verse directing believers to put a tree in their house, or lights on the roof, or any reference to overweight gift-laden strangers. But Christmas is the time for children, more than any other season, and about renewal, and most of all, Hope. And there we see a great many parallels with the Gospel. Jesus brought Hope to the world in many different ways, and Jesus was always very kind and gentle to children. It occurs to me, that this comparison is something that anyne would pick up on at some level, and so the Left fears the possibility, however remote, that folks might find good in Christianity through the observance of Christmas.
That's a losing plan. As long as parents and children share the joy of the season, no matter how the Left tries to hide it, that message of Hope and renewal will find its way to our hearts. And that's just more good news for this Christmas season.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Americans killed in the Nazi Argonne Offensive, 1944: 16,000
Americans killed in WW1 Meuse-Argonne, 1918: 17,000
German Sovereignty restored: April 1949, following almost four years of occupation, which continued in some fashion through 1952.
Iraqi Sovereignty restored: June 2004, to be followed by free elections in January 2005.
We're doing it faster and better. That is all.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
A Christmas Poem for All Americans
The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree, I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.
The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't to near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
"What are you doing?" I asked without fear,
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!"
"Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts,
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light,
Then he sighed and he said, "It's really all right,
I'm out here by choice. ~I'm here every night."
"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of 'Nam,
And now it's my turn and so, here I am.
I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile."
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white and blue. . . an American flag.
"I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home,
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother
who stand at the front against any and all,
to ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.
So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."
"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all to little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone.
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled
is payment enough, and with that we will trust.
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."
Monday, December 20, 2004
Enter blogs. It's hard to imagine how they could make it any easier to make an online journal. Obviously, this lends itself to the creation and life of many, many bad blogs. Fortunately, it also allows some truly great minds to display their wisdom for us all to enjoy. Which brings me to La Shawn Barber.
I first read La Shawn over at Baldilocks, which brings up another great feature of blogging; links are like little samples of all sorts of writers. Well, to get to the point, La Shawn has been very successful as a blogger, and a recent post led to writing an article for NRO.
In the old days, a successful writer had to slowly build up an audience, but today growth can be explosive and sudden. When the writer is up to the challenge, that's good for everyone.
Congratulations, La Shawn!
UPDATE: I am a moron. Where I said La Shawn was "linked" by NRO, I should have written that she was contracted to write an article, which meant a signed contract, lawyers, and all of that. I have corrected the information, but need to admit my error in writing in too much of a hurry. In addition to Spell-check, writers like me need Logic-check as well!
Sunday, December 19, 2004
My office is rather quarrelsome just now, with different groups vying for limited resources and credit for the company's successes. There are also the arguments over directing next year's strategies; as a Risk Analyst, I am viewed as something of a Grinch, for having to be the one to explain why this plan or that is unfeasible, risky, or, though I won't be so blunt when I address it, stupid.
There are sports contests, with coaches and players arguing calls. There are stores advertising their wares, arguing that their prices are the lowest and their quality is the highest. The message is reinforced that anyone who truly cares about their family will purchase from the "right" store. And of course, there are court cases, with arguments about money, about responsibilities, about custody and guilt and liability. I recall that this is the time of the year where summons servers are likely to carry gift-wrapped boxes, in order to gain access to their targeted recipients. And then there's family squabbles, which often show up this time of year.
Being a blogger, I know all about arguments, and I work up a lot of them. I am, in fact, arguing right now, though you will be the judge as to whether or not my writing is persuasive. But after the last week, with some very serious issues tossed about as if I was the President, Pope, or some other entity with the influence and position to make things right, if I could just be made to see the light. It's fascinating, in a way, to see Atheists and Fundamentalists argue with equal fervor about their beliefs, to hear Republicans and Democrats match each other's energy almost exactly when in dispute, to read positions from every sort of advocate, even if 90% of them would not work as envisioned.
Anyway, it occurs to me that as much as I enjoy discussing all sorts of issues with people, there is only a small chance that anything substantive will change. I enjoy hearing perspectives, and I always like information, but it occurs to me that this is also a time when people are likely to be a bit tired of arguments, and exasperated at having to defend their opinion, even if they bring it up themselves. So, while I am quite satisfied with my own opinions and conclusions on all of the standard issues, since my readers at the moment are unlikely to include anyone who did not already know about me from other sites where I write, and so I am likely to have exchnaged opinions with you on one issue at least, I would like to extend, sans dispute, my sincere thanks for your attendance here, and for your contributions of opinion and thought.
May you all find joy in the coming week, and may it brighten your life and the world you bring to life each day.
Saturday, December 18, 2004
Thinking this through, I recalled how many of my high school and college acquaintances held no interest in retaining their education. They wanted to know enough to pass the class, get the degree, get the job, but they held no desire to expand on that knowledge, to develop a first-class mind or exercise a healthy curiosity. A startlingly high number of people simply have no desire to learn. I have a strong suspicion that the majority of directors in charge of the Old Media networks fall into this category. That class of people, however, has found their nemesis; an unnamed class of thinkers, now resolved to action and empowered by the coalescence of their numbers into discrete groups and identities. Bloggers are just a spin-off of that new demographic, the deliberate thinker.
Education also comes into question when I think about careers. In an earlier post, I noted that companies are beginning to rethink the intellectual requirements of their positions, especially supervisory posts. After all, it should occur to any competent businessman, that an experienced and accomplished employee with years of solid work and the respect of his peers, even without a college degree, may a better choice for a responsible position than someone straight out of school, no matter the degree or grades. Of course, should companies continue to insist on that piece of paper, the rise of online education plans and business-centered universities is making it possible for the degree to be had later, if not sooner. This also opens the possibility that when someone discovers their original education is not going to advance their career, they can keep working and claim the credentials they need.
This brings us around to the need for defining the strategy for this century's educational system. There are reasonable debates about how to teach kids to read and write, but there can be no serious doubt that the system in place is inadequate to direct young citizens towards excellence. Maybe we can demand a disclaimer be posted on the walls of schools, especially high schools:
Warning - The education presented by this school and district may not be sufficient to prepare the individual for the Real World, and is unlikely to prepare the individual for satisfactory employment, advancement, or successive endeavors.
Now, I'm not trashing the whole system. But I sure want to find a way to encourage that sense of curiosity so common in children, yet so dead among many adults. I want teachers to share a sense of responsibility to police their own ranks, to screen out political correctness and theoretical speculation that misleads students to count revisionism as superior to established success. In other words, teachers need to be conscious of their students' futures when they leave school, a factor too long ignored in many districts.
In my title, I suggested that the educational system needs to be retooled or replaced. That dire-sounding recommendation is actually in progress right now. The fight over school vouchers may become a minor front in the war. That's because of the increasing enrollments in private schools, the families who move to school districts with higher standards ... and home schooling. Home schooling is a real phenomenon. While it's true that computers and online associations make the task easier and more of a group effort, it's amazing to see the explosion in home schooling programs, with impressive results overall. I'd say the NEA is on notice. I can't help wondering if they have bothered to read it.
Friday, December 17, 2004
So, who's in charge?
Thursday, December 16, 2004
They say all good things must come to an end, and in my case that includes my initial enthusiasm for author Kyle Mills. I really enjoyed Smoke Screen, and was looking forward to see if his other work was as good. In short, no it is not. I’m plugging my way through Sphere of Influence, but the thick and clumsy stereotypes he throws out, show me that he simply did not do his homework, and the results are disappointing at best.
Mills made three glaring errors early in the book, and they are serious enough that the sense of verisimilitude is lost, frankly blown to pieces. On the one hand, Mils immediately begins by making the CIA bad guys, soulless mercenaries out for money and personal power at all cost. They are also cast as stupid thugs who enjoy violence and do not think through the implications of their actions, morally or pragmatically. Also, Mills casts his hero as a man with a degree in History, yet has done no apparent work to endow his character with even a rudimentary understanding of the major historical events and cultural imperatives of the nations involved in his story. And finally, Mills relies on a decades-obsolete image of Organized Crime dominated by the Sicilian/Italian Mafia, displaying an incredible (literally unbelievable) series of actions and events which would never occur in a real-world 21st-Century environment. All in all, the book is the work which reminds me of a high school ‘D’ student, hoping no one will pay attention to his lack of scholarship and slipshod characterization. I almost feel like re-writing his book myself, so I can read the plot without cringing at so many amateurish errors.
The book prompted me, however, to consider the real nature of crime we know today. Things are both better and worse, as we all know from experience. Violent crime in America is diminishing, and a better feeling of security is present in most people’s lives, for a number of reasons. But looking deeper, I still see a grave threat to our nation, and in many First-World countries, driven by a local menace: Organized Crime, specifically gangs.
In Mill’s laughably simplistic book, the Mafia remains the biggest threat to the citizens of the United States, so far as crime is concerned. And to Mills, ‘Mafia’ means a fat Italian in a silk suit, “The Godfather” without any depth of character. The Sicilian/Italian “Cosa Nostra” remains alive, true, but hardly what it used to be, for three main reasons. First, the FBI has made it a major goal to slice and dice LCN whenever and wherever they can, and all the prosecutions are taking their toll. Second, many LCN bosses began to drive their money into “legitimate” businesses when they could, so that a generation later, the crime going on is less blue-collar (such as hijacking trucks, robbery, drugs, etc.) and more white-collar, especially graft in connection with political officials. And third, rivals have turned on LCN to seize turf and plum opportunities for themselves, and these rivals have grabbed my attention.
Essentially, Organized Crime (OC) in the US has evolved into 4 variant types:
1. “Classic” OC, involving drugs, prostitution, gambling, the usual vices
2. “New Age” OC, including copyright and patent theft, technology robbery and Internet fraud
3. Tiered OC operations, with particular crimes contracted to other OC gangs to hinder investigation and prosecution, leading to highly specialized groups not easily connected to their patrons
4. Youth recruiting movements in 1st-World nations
Major OC gangs and organizations have learned from FBI prosecutions to hide their character and details even from their own memberships, and are made up of major organizations of a variety of sub-groups, including Italian Organized Crime, Eurasian Organized Crime , Asian/African Organized Crime, Central American Gangs, the Russian 'Mafiya', Japanese Yakuza, Jamaican 'Kingfish', Chinese Triads (also here) , Motorcycle Gangs, and American “Street” Gangs.
The good news is, we are winning the war on drugs, prostitution, gambling, and illegal alien smuggling, albeit slowly. The bad news is, the enemy is growing smarter and more diversified, and has targeted new prey.
The US government has not been idle, however. A number of community initiatives are underway (here, here, here, and here, for example), and a number of agencies work hard to provide resources to cross-reference international criminal activity (for example, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), keyed to the types of activity known to be performed by OC or of likely interest to OC. The threat, however, is real and enduring.
Some focus only an Al Qaeda and similar groups, but the war against Terrorism includes the War on Organized Crime.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Mahlenbrock was a fan of Country musician Toby Keith, and wanted Keith’s song, "American Soldier" played at his funeral. A nationwide effort is underway to have that song played simultaneously at 1 PM EST today by every station willing to participate. Soldier’s Angels, a non-profit group which works to support U.S. military personnel, asked Toby Keith to personally sing the song when Mahlenbrock is laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
Toby Keith fumbled the ball, to put it bluntly. His manager released a terse statement, saying that Keith "has set aside this time to spend with his family." Black Five confirms that Keith has no intention of showing up at the funeral. Seems that he doesn’t feel obliged to meet Mahlenbrock’s 19-year-old widow or 11-month-old daughter. Apparently, there’s no royalties to be had, by showing up to honor a fallen warrior.
Smash and Blackfive say Keith has "offered to cut a new CD of his song, dedicated to Specialist Mahlenbrock’s memory."
We’ll see. Toby Keith has not bothered to mention this promise on his website, and in my opinion, Toby has shown his true color: GREEN. Toby had no trouble playing up his love for the troops, when he could get a good song, a nice video, and sell out concerts, but when it comes down to meeting a debt of honor, ol’ Toby is just not cut out to meet the same standards as the men he pretends to support.
I’d say Toby has dropped to the level of the Dixie Chicks, but at least they were honest about their loyalties. Toby Keith is a mercenary loser, putting his personal comfort over a soldier’s family. For Christmas, somebody ought to get Keith a dictionary, and highlight the page with the word "honor".
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
and twenty-three predictors landed within one percent of the actual results,
but only one walked away with the [mythical] trophy; Robear, or in real life, Robert Kornegay.
Robert has his own blog, called Mission Mind , which Robert sub-titles "The Conservative Nexus of Faith and Reason". I have linked to it from Stolen Thunder, and recommend it for at least a courtesy visit, and more if you like reading up on religion and politics.
Robert tells me an ancestor of his was the youngest singer of the Declaration of Independence (once again affirming the link between bloggers and revolutionary change), and further, Robert tells us “I am as old as Israel (the current version, that is)”.
Robert describes himself as a “political junkie whose first vote was for Nixon in 1968”. Robert is married, a father, and a grandfather, who has also served as a Christian missionary to Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Robert was a General Contractor “who built his last home first (and we still own it)”, and is presently working on his Masters in Christian Apologetics at Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, NC. In what remaining spare time he has, Robert loves sailing, and also restores sailboats.
Robert credits his political acumen to excellent political analysis, and for some reason believes our site and articles help in that education. I strongly recommend a visit, soon, to Robert's site.
Congratulations, Robear, and to all the winners of this year’s contest!
Monday, December 13, 2004
I notice my color turning a Grinch-like green as I react to the incessant demands for money, money, money. This is the season where the hard-sell for all things impractical, whether obscenely pricey jewelry, designer clothing which serves no effective purpose but to highlight the inadequacies of any normal person, while deepening the pockets of french designers, or over-priced toys my little one will delight in for a few days, while I take months to pay the bills.
I have begun to hate the television, as well. Try explaining to a 4-year-old about the Victoria's Secret
I also notice this is when the volume on charity demands gets cranked up. Groups I've never heard from except at Yuletide (if ever before), strongly imply that anyone who wants to consider themselves human, must fork over moolah in exelcious.
And then there's tipping, the peculiar art of paying additional fees and bonuses for something you have already paid for once. Newsweek put out a guide for this
The word flows unbidden to my lips, and escapes without restraint: "Humbug!"
Not that I am unfeeling to my fellow man. Far from that, actually. But the notion that I am somehow obliged to spend money I do not have, solely to please people I barely know, by which action I should deprive my family, strikes me as unacceptable in the extreme. With year-end deadlines, harassed shoppers making driving home a combat exercise, and no bonus (as usual), I could skip the season and find myself greatly relieved.
And there it is; the bonus. Some years back, it seems almost everyone got a Christmas/Holiday/Year-End Bonus, and the extra money made it possible to do some nice things for the family and friends. But enter the auditors. That is, I think I know what happened.
If a company gives out a Year-End bonus, they will necessarily do so before the 4th-Quarter and Annual numbers for a company are known, which adds a known but controllable cost to an unknown balance entering into the period. Someone began to sell companies on the notion of presenting the annual bonus at the end of the succeeding period, the 1st Quarter of the next year. This allowed a company to know how much of a bonus they could afford, but it added an additional advantage. As more and more companies deferred the bonus for 3 or 4 months, they gained the interest from holding the money that much longer. Also, any financial difficulty became a reason to reduce or deny bonuses, especially since the bonus was separated from the moral expectation that the company do the right thing. Legally, the company had never been required to give bonuses, and as more and more companies joined the deferment of bonuses, it became easier and easier to delay, reduce, or deny bonuses at all. In my own personal experience, in 24 years of working, I have only once received a Christmas Bonus, and only four times received any kind of bonus. This, in spite of regular promotions and recognitions for excellence. Companies simply do not reward excellence. The Ghosts of Christmases Past and Present have been sacked, to be replaced by the Spirit of the Bottom Line.
This year, like the last, has been a hard one for my family financially. So while we will buy a few gifts for my daughter and a few close friends, my wife and I have again agreed not to buy anything for each other, planning to save what we can. I find myself grateful for my family, my job, and for the ability to thumb my nose at Madison Avenue.
If you find yourself able to buy the gifts you know your family and friends will delight in, go for it. And if you are able to help others in need, may you receive just as much joy in return. But if you are like me, and find yourself just a mite tired of all of this mercenary exuberance, while working for a company that thinks a form-letter greeting counts as recognition, don't worry too much. You're not channeling Scrooge, it's the people who have forgotten why the old traditions mattered, who are in his sway.
Merry Christmas, no purchase necessary!
Sunday, December 12, 2004
Josh will be a junior at Arizona State University next fall, having transferred from the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. Josh is working on his first book, entitled Last of the Dreadnoughts: The Story of Battleship Texas. Josh is 32 years old.
Josh describes himself as a "recovering liberal. It’s been 12 years and 1 1/2 months since I voted for a democrat. Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell showed me the light."
Josh goes on to note "You and the other influential blogs need to work to draft Jeb in ‘08. I volunteered for Dubya, and although I would vote for Rudy over any Democrat, I could never put in the hours for him that I did for GW."
Next up, the profile for "Robear", our champ.
Congratulations Josh, and thanks for your hard work this election!
Saturday, December 11, 2004
The fifth place winner, Van Pham, and the fourth place winner, Charles Fulner, did not provide any additional information, so I will leave these men of mystery to their more subtle accolades.
Third place was taken by a reader named "Larry", whose e-mail name is "Hippy Leftist". If that tag is accurate, we need to acknowledge that Liberals are just as sharp in reading trends and political campaigns as Conservatives.
"Larry" is Larry Jones, who didn’t pass along much in the way of details, and he does not seem to have his own blog or website, but the first profile already provides a twist from what one might expect.
Profiles still to come, for runner-up "JB" and our champion, "Robear".
Again, Congratulations Larry!
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Fortunately for the nation, the President himself has a bolder vision, and one keenly focused on the American people. A number of analysts have remarked on the peculiar fact that Bush kept Dick Cheney on as VP, a man who never wanted to be President, and therefire will not run for office in 2008. Very few seem to have considered why Bush wanted it that way. On the one hand, yes, it clears the decks for Bush to pursue major goals for his Administration in his second term, some of which are breathtaking in their scope and audacity, but it's also claimed that this will allow the Democrats at least an equal footing to start off the 2008 Presidential Race, possibly even an early lead. President Bush, however, has larger goals and responsibilities in mind.
Writing for The Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes identified five aspects of the Bush Presidency; Activist, Outsider, Press-Basher, Surpriser, and Visionary. It strikes me that these same qualities describe my Lord, Jesus Christ. I am NOT saying that President Bush is just like Jesus Christ, but I am saying that Jesus' influence on Dubya is showing, right down to how he does his job. And it occurs to me, that the main reason folks re-elected Bush was because he is true to his faith.
No, not many people voted for Bush because he is a Christian. Some were out-and-out offended by his clear devotion to Christ. But as the decision came closer, it became obvious that Bush was honest and direct about his work and his mind and heart. Agree with him or not, Bush was the one man who demonstrated the competence and confidence needed for the job. The war is controversial, but only those who are completely unbalanced believe that Bush did not care about the troops or the innocents. When leadership, integrity, decisiveness and clarity were considered, Bush came out the winner in every poll.
Now that the election is over, those who thought this was just a political trick expect the religion to go back in the box, but that's not the case. Dubya is serious about his faith, and he lives by it. We can expect that faith to direct him in decisions waiting for his attention, from Tort Reform to Tax Reform, from Supreme Court Appointments to School Vouchers, from Energy Independence to Eliminating Global Terrorism.
The downside of all this, is that once it's apparent Dubya lives by his faith, we're gonna see all the wannabes show up, the fakes who put up the image, but don't live by it. Then again, that's been the facade for more than a century, so it will come down to walking the walk.
In the coming generation,the Republican and Democratic parties need to retool and refocus their energies, or they will be passed and left behind by some as-yet unformed response to the needs of the nation. It is my belief that the Lord has allowed America its power to act as a trustee, and we need worthy leaders to follow up on the responsibilities we have on our hands. I worried that with weak men, America would be in its decline, and within a century would be no more consequential to world affairs than, say, France is now. With the energy and bold vision of George W. Bush, I think we have been given a new lease.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Patrick Hynes, who started up the "Crush Kerry" site, has begun a sister site to promote American Values in movies and culture. the site is called "Passion for Fairness", and if it meets up to the "Crush Kerry" standard, should be both informative and entertaining.
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Many people like to look at the present War against Terrorism in the context of Vietnam, especially our invasion of Iraq. I see it much more like a World War, with the fate of many nations in the balance. Terrorism is at least as great a threat as Fascism was, and it's not hard to look at Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein, and see a counterpart to Marshal Tojo or Adolf Hitler. And frankly, the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese never managed to bomb New York, which the terrorists already did.
There are two ways, essentially, to view the WoT in the light of Pearl Harbor. One is to consider how tactically brilliant yet strategically wrong the Japanese were in the attack. The attack worked flawlessly, but instead of convincing America to accommodate Japan, the attack enraged the nation and convinced them to try to eradicate Japan. Some on the Left might want to argue that the decision to pre-emptively invade Iraq has united the militants against the U.S., and inflamed a hatred of America in the Muslim world. They may point to the continuing violence in Iraq as a sign that we are not considered liberators, to the missing bin Laden as a failure to accomplish a signal objective, to the lack of WMD stockpiles in Iraq as an indictment against the validity of the war. They may point to the resentment in many nations against perceived U.S. aggression, to the stubborn refusal by President Bush to admit significant mistakes as a sign of arrogance and myopia, and they may demand we return to the methods of Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. But they would be wrong.
The second way is to consider History. People were being killed in many places by terrorists, long before President Bush was elected in 2000. The Khobar Tower bombings, the Kenya Embassy bombing, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and many other attacks during the Clinton years, show that appeasement and indecision cost innocent lives, and only encourage the monsters. We know for a fact that the 9/11 attacks were planned long before President Bush even chose to run for President, and would have happened no matter who was in office. In fact, one of Ronald Reagan's few mistakes in office, would have to include leaving Lebanon after the Beirut bombings which killed so many Marines. Terrorists are only stopped by force and determination.
The claim that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11 is insultingly deceitful in its callous arrogance. That is, he was known to have sheltered, paid, supplied, and sponsored almost a dozen terrorist groups, right up to the invasion. Several of the worst terrorist leaders of the 20th Century were captured or killed by the Coalition in Iraq. Also, remember those warehouses of suicide vests found by Marines, or the torture houses cleared out just last week in Fallujah? Only the most cynical hypocrite could pretend that Hussein is not exactly the sort of terrorist supporter we need to remove. And as others have mentioned, when a rat bites your child, you don't want to just get that one rat, you want to wipe out ALL the rats. We are facing in Iraq the kind of thugs known to cut the heads off unarmed innocents, women as well as men. They are precisely the sort we need to hunt down and exterminate; they cannot be allowed to exist. If it is right to chase down Nazis for their atrocities, it is right to hunt down Islamo-fascists. And many people don't seem to understand where these thugs were bred. They blame the Americans, as if the humiliation of a few prisoners at a prison, however unlawful, would drive a person to become an inhuman monster. The fact is, anyone who has seen the mass graves, the laboratories where Bio-weapons were tested on prisoners, or prisons built specifically to torture children, should be able to understand that these thugs were bred by the policies of the Baathist regime of Hussein, and instructed in their cruel tortures by the sons of the beast, Uday and Qusay. To blame anyone else is obscenely dishonest.
Some have tried to claim that President Bush always wanted to invade Iraq, because there were plans made for the invasion before 9/11. Such claims amount to an admission of stupidity. At the time of Bush's inauguration, Iraq was known to have the largest standing army in the Middle East, Hussein was known to be in violation of his cease-fire provisions, including the disposition of known stockpiles of WMD, including Chemical and Bio-weapon stockpiles, and was known to be actively seeking fissionable materials. Hussein had already committed numerous clear acts of war, including firing on Coalition aircraft in the 'no-fly' zones, and at least one known attempt on the life of a U.S. President. Bush would have been justified in attacking Iraq on February 1, 2001, especially since the official U.S. policy on Iraq had been Regime Change since 1998. After the 9/11 attacks, Hussein's known contacts with terrorist groups, along with worries about the status of his WMD programs and materials, made tolerance of the regime unacceptable. Also, the U.S. was well aware that following the removal of the Taliban, Al Qaeda would seek to re-establish itself in another Middle Eastern country. The fact that AQ entered Iraq after the invasion, only confirms the knowledge that AQ intended to go there in any case. As for the WMD, if anyone wants to pretend that known stockpiles of BW and CW just went away, they are living in a dreamworld and in complete denial of the facts. Surveillance of smuggling operations across the border to Iran and Syria just before the invasion began show the likely new home of the weapons. Fortunately, the successful war is already making an impact, as Libya, Iran, and Syria have all modified their compliance with inspector to deal with the reality that the U.S. is able to enforce any necessary decision. And for those who want to suggest that the best response to our casualties is to give up and go home, I suggest that a few words with any Marine unit which has served in Iraq is in order. While a few individuals may be found who believe the war unworthy of their efforts, the heavy majority of U.S. troops are proud of their work, and serious about their mission. And not particularly interested in the sad-sack pessimism of the Left.
What next? In war, nothing goes completely according to plan, but plans can be made. The simple fact is, most Muslims are not fascists, and no more stomach for 'Jihad' than any other people, especially against innocents. There is reason to believe that Iran can be coaxed to a more moderate stance, especially with the help of China. While the Left likes to imply that President Bush is stubborn, unilateral, inflexible, and stupid, the reality is that he has a good grasp of the conditions in the countries involved, and his plans for the future will stabilize the region and all participants. Just as the Left falsely accused Bush of wanting to bring back the draft, they falsely believe he intends to invade more countries. It is not, to be blunt, likely that Bush will do that, but the Democratic Republic of Iraq will change the region and the world, and her neighbors will find themselves forced to adapt to that new reality, or be left behind.
The Empire of Japan is no more. There is still an Emporer in Japan, but the nation is ruled by a Constitution, one drawn up and implemented by the Americans when they liberated the country from the fascist regime. Japan does not see eye to eye with the U.S. in everything, but does remain one of our strongest allies, especially in that part of the world. Iraq may well follow the same course.
Monday, December 06, 2004
I write about whatever strikes my mood, but it is fascinating to me also, to see how many facets of life are presently coming together. For example, President Bush is the first truly Evangelical President, which may explain why so many secularists are anxious about him. This is not to say that Dubya pushes his beliefs on others; compared to Clinton or his father, George W. is not prone to make any more religious statements, and his public pronouncements are the epitome of tolerance and broad-minded acceptance of others. But the simple fact that when this President goes to church, he does so to praise God, rather than look good on the cameras, irks the anti-church crowd. The knowledge that President Bush prays before making important decisions strikes anger into the hearts of those who would rather he decided by committee. The reality that President Bush does what he honestly believes is right, rather than acting on the directives from Congress, creates panic in those who want a weaker President, someone less decisive, less likely to be direct and plain-speaking. Personally, I applaud the man. No, I don’t agree with him on everything, but in the main he has the right idea. Will future Presidents follow Bush’s lead? I don’t know, but considering that devotion to an absolute Justice, and a sense of total accountability for all his actions, have been the mark of great Presidents from Washington to Lincoln to FDR to yes, George W. Bush, it’s not a bad lead.
I wonder what we can expect from Congress. In the past, Congressmen and Senators had an easy out. Business was everyday stuff, except for those rare occasions when the public demanded action, and many politicos knew how to posture for the home crowd, while actually doing almost nothing to change the status quo, since they could always blame it on the other party’s obstruction. Now, however, there are clear lines. Democrats truly hate Republicans, and Republicans enjoy control of the White House and both Houses of Congress. They have an incredible opportunity to move the nation forward – if they are honest and bold enough to take the chance. I am truly encouraged by blogs in that respect; we need to keep their feet to the fire, not letting up just because they say they’re on our team.
Then there’s the Economy. We came out of the recession pretty well, but there’s a serious need to address the trade deficit, as well as the National Debt. It must not be a contradiction in terms any longer, to demand a lean Federal Budget.
As for the War on Terror, we must never forget that 9/11 was more than one evil planner, more than one group of murderers who hate America and all we stand for, that we are in a war for our very existence, and what happens in Fallujah is critical to what will be later in Houston, Washington, or New York. Every war has its point of decision, where will is tested, where determination runs against the cost, and the pessimists, cowards, and hidden enemies try to dissolve the effort. Now we run and throw away the hope of the world to come, or else we stand fast and remember the cost in the perspective of the deep reality of History, and hold precious the sacrifice of our fallen soldiers by not quitting the field, now or ever, until the war is completely won and the enemy utterly undone, by whatever means is needed. We must count this war as revolution against fascist ideologies, against a new and immoral enemy, against an evil subtle but feral, to establish not only a representative government for the people in the Middle East, but a model to instill hope and positive direction.
We can play at this, make it a fad, or we can start a trend, and change the world. Every issue, every vote, every decision now is critical to that work.
Friday, December 03, 2004
The scoring is simple. I looked for an exact hit on the Popular Vote percentages claimed by President Bush and Senator Kerry, and counted the Electoral Vote results for a tie-breaker, if needed.
In the end, President George W. Bush claimed 50.9% of the Popular Vote and 286 Electoral Votes, while Senator John Kerry claimed 48.0% of the Popular Vote and 252 Electoral Votes.
Nobody got the exact 50.9-48.0 pick, so my next step was to measure aggregate accuracy, then the EV pick, then the date and time of submission, and here I’m listing the winners, in order of their accuracy, for the voters who were within 0.5% of the actual results. It’s amazing how many people were in that x-ring!
SPECIAL MENTION: Tim McDonald was not able to get within 0.5% of the aggregate accuracy, but he was the only voter to accurately predict President Bush would claim 50.9% of the PV (Tim called it 50.9-46.5 Bush, with a 317-221 EV split). That earns an Honorable Mention.
0.5 range, places 22 and 23
23rd  Bush 50.8, Kerry 48.6 [B291-247] David M. McClory, 10.30.04, 11:29 PM
22nd  Bush 50.7, Kerry 48.3 [B276-249] William Winfield, 10.29.04, 1:51 PM
0.4 range, places 18 through 21
21st  Bush 50.5, Kerry 48 [B304-238] T Brewer, 10.14.04, 3:53 PM
20th  Bush 50.5, Kerry 48 [B302-236] Michael Fabiano, 10.14.04, 10:55 PM
19th  Bush 50.5, Kerry 48 [B300-238] Pete Gardiner, 10.31.04, 10:30 PM
18th  Bush 50.7, Kerry 48.2 [B300-238] George Tobin, 10.27.04, 3:34 PM
0.3 range, places 1 through 17
17th  Bush 51, Kerry 48 [EV unk] Jerryx, 10.31.04, 2:33 PM
16th  Bush 51, Kerry 48 [B312-226] Rich F, 10.15.04, 1:13 PM
15th  Bush 50.8, Kerry 47.8 [B307-231] Ben Maller, 10.31.04, 12:18 AM
14th  Bush 51, Kerry 48 [B306-232] Excelsior, 10.27.04, 11:19 PM
13th  Bush 50.8, Kerry 48.2 [B301-237] Doc Steve, 10.23.04, 9:39 PM
12th  Bush 51, Kerry 48 [B301-237] mike the analyst, 10.21.04, 11:27 AM
11th  Bush 51, Kerry 48 [B301-237] Dominick S., 10.12.04, 2:10 PM
AND THE TOP TEN:
10th  Bush 51, Kerry 48 [B298-240] Rachel DiCarlo, 10.29.04, 11:30 AM
9th  Bush 51, Kerry 48 [B297-241] Michael Call, 10.15.04, 6:20 PM
8th  Bush 51, Kerry 48 [B296-242] VACons, 10.26.04, 8:02 AM
7th  Bush 51, Kerry 48 [B296-242] Paul, 10.24.04, 10:19 AM
6th  Bush 51, Kerry 48 [B296-242] SGG, 10.12.04, 3:00 PM
AND THE FIVE BEST:
5th  Bush 51, Kerry 48 [B295-243] Van Pham, 10.12.04, 2:08 PM
4th  Bush 51.2, Kerry 48 [B279-259] Charles Fulner, 10.12.04 3:31 PM
3rd  Bush 51, Kerry 48 [B292-246] Larry, 10.15.04, 3:31 PM
2nd  Bush 51, Kerry 48 [B291-247] JB, 10.12.04, 3:05 PM
and our 1st Place CHAMPION is…
 Bush 51, Kerry 48 [B290-248] RoBear, 10.12.04, 3:18 PM
I will start looking up to see the homepages of the top 5 winners and will link to them here at Stolen Thunder, and will (if possible), write up profiles of the top 5 and their homepages for here and on Polipundit.
Also worth noting, are the people who got the EV pick exactly right:
Anthony Roberts posted at 8:46 PM on October 30, picking 286-252 for the EV mark. The 51-48.5 PV prediction was only 0.6 aggregate points off!
soccer4ever posted at 12:38 PM on October 25, also picking 286-252 for the EV mark. The 51-47 PV prediction was 1.7 aggregate points off.
Duncan Currie posted at 11:30 AM on October 29, also picking 286-252 for the EV mark. The 52-47 PV prediction was 1.9 aggregate points off.
Finally, Carl Richardson posted at 1:50 AM on October 31, also picking 286-252 for the EV mark. The 50.1-49.3 PV prediction was 2.3 aggregate points off.
Congratulations to our prediction sharpshooters!
Thursday, December 02, 2004
1. The decision by the empire that it had expanded as far as it could with the available forces at hand, to be extended or retracted as later conditions would determine. Examples of this would be the Roman and British empires;
2. The empire collapses from within, through corruption, insurrection, or the like. This may be seen in the fall of the Roman empire, or more recently in the collapse of Soviet Union;
3. An adversary successfully repels the invader, or else an opposing power makes aggression an undesirable risk. This may be illustrated by the uneasy border between France and Germany, and the Great Wall of China.
The rise of democratic republics in the last centuries of the second millennium changed all that. From men like Washington and Wellington, came the notion of armies which existed not for conquest principally, but to defeat foreign threats. Also at that time, alliances became firmer and more enduring, like the U.S.-U.K. alliance to eradicate international piracy in the 19th Century. This continued through the 20th Century, as two "World" wars were fought between opposing coalitions for a variety of reasons, including the survival of the regime. And it was in that environment that the United States rose to dominance in every major measure. By the end of the 20th Century, the USA was understood to be unmatched in military power, economic weight, and social influence. Not surprisingly, a number of nations began to fear American power, in terms of their own future.
Although the Soviet Union was no more, the Communist Party remained a force in the modern world. Also, Fascists left over from the German, Italian, and Japanese regimes of a half century ago had left their mark on a new generation. In addition to these, a new surge of religious violence by Islamic terrorists began to undermine stability in a number of Middle Eastern and Asian countries. As the 21st Century began, President-elect George W. Bush knew he had to plan to meet these threats.
The attacks on 9/11 irrevocably changed the world. Simply put, it is impossible to proceed under the old conditions. A loose confederacy of communists, fascists, and anti-American activists tried to stop the preparation for war, but in the end the Congress granted the needed authority and a U.S.-led coalition of nations invaded Afghanistan, then Iraq, putting pressure along the way on nearby regimes known to support or promote terrorist groups. Now, a year and a half after the fall of Baghdad, the United States is moving to its next stage in the operation.
Liberals often demand that the U.S. scale back operations, pointing to more than thirteen hundred U.S. military casualties, and many thousands of civilian losses. However, they do not understand the scope of the conflict, nor recognize that the civilian losses would have happened in other nations, had the U.S. not invaded Iraq. The distinction is that if the invasion had not happened, Saddam's terrorist-supporting regime would still exist, and with it, a dozen or so terrorist groups would still be based there, in all likelihood including Al Qaeda. As it is, while the loss of life is horrible, many terrorist leaders have been captured or killed, and the remaining organizations are disorganized and weakened. They can and will continue their 'Jihad' against the West, especially America, but the simple fact is, we are winning.
So, what next, assuming Iraq is stabilized in the next year or so? It's vital here, to understand the nature of the conflict.
It's no coincidence, that Anti-American sentiment is rising in many places. In the first place, Leftist groups are trying to work public mood against the American forces, just as the Communists did so well during the Vietnam War. This will be ongoing, but will not enjoy nearly the level of support and supply that happened when the Kremlin was around to sponsor them. Also, mainland European nations have agonized over the fact that where the United States was once a junior partner in their estimation, America now is self-sustaining in virtually every arena. While cooperation is necessary for everyone to profit as much as possible, the fact is that there are many proud nations forced to deal with the fact that they need the US' help, while America is truly and fully independent. This why so many French and German diplomats insist to anyone who will listen, that the U.S. is morally obligated to work with them; it is no longer conceivable to argue that the United States has a functional need of any nation's alliance.
This sounds arrogant, which is certainly the way that Europe and Africa and Asia have played it, but it's also important to understand the advantages to the American way of things. It is to everyone's benefit to eradicate international state-sponsored terrorism, and only the United States is ready and willing to take up that challenge. It is to everyone's benefit for new technologies to be developed to meet the future's energy needs, and only the United States has major corporations ready and willing to take up that challenge. It is to everyone's benefit for democratic republics to be the way of government in every major nation, and the United States is able and intent on pressing that advancement. Every nation in the world has people trying to match the U.S. success in commerce and technology; we allow more immigrants, by far, than any nation on the face of the earth. We send more charity food and materials to other nations, by far, than any other country. We allow every race and creed and culture to come here and become full citizens, something no other nation fully does. We are the only major nation on the face of the earth, which affirms that the government has no authority, except that the people grant it (the Communist governments claim to be the 'People's' republics, but do not allow grass-root political campaigns, or political debate, and brutally suppress dissent). We are the good guys, and the only nation both able and willing to do on a global scale, what we have been asked over and over to do on a national scale.
But for all the nobility of our ideals, we still face the limits I noted in the classical case. At some point the United States will either discover the limits to our powers and have to stop there, in which case some Middle East or Asian version of NATO will become vital to advancing our common goals (an enhanced SEATO, perhaps). Otherwise, we may fail because of indecision or weak willed command, or face some as-yet unforeseen enemy's rise to power.
This means that the next four years are critical. Fortunately, we seem to have a leader who understands that matter.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
It might be worthwhile, for all of that, to consider a little-known document, actually made public back on September 17, 2002. It's called "The National Security Strategy of the United States of America". It's well worth reading. Shoot, it ought to be mandatory text for modern Civics!
I have taken the liberty of pulling out selected portions of that document for this article. Just a quick review may explain a lot of what's been going on, and what we can expect for the immediate future.
"Terrorists are organized to penetrate open societies and to turn the power of modern technologies against us"
Right there on page one, President Bush explains why pre-emption is necessary. We don't have the luxury of waiting to see what these enemies will do, because technology makes their weapons available at hand. Once we know a group's existence and intent, it is immediately necessary to hit them at their home, or they will strike us in ours.
"The United States and coutries cooperating with us must not allow the terrorists to develop new home bases"
That, right there, is a valid and important reason for invading Iraq. Only the most naive or foolish would believe that once we destroyed the Taliban and drove Al Qaeda from their Afghan bases, they would not run to the next best friend they had: Iraq. Yes, the links between Al Qaeda and Saddam's regime are not so strong as Dan Rather would accept, but it is incontrovertable, that when President Bush wrote these words in 2002, Saddam's regime was home, supplier, trainer, or supporter to a dozen terrorist organizations. Let's not forget that after we brought down his regime, American forces caught terrorist leaders Carlos the Jackal, Abu Abbas, and Abu Nidal, each in their day the most evil man known to the world. And we found them all living and hiding in Iraq.
From page 4:
"The United States of America is fighting a war against terrorists of global reach. the enemy is not a single political regime or person or religion or ideology. The enemy is terrorism - premeditated, politically motivated violence against innocents."
The Taliban clearly fit that description. So did Al Qaeda. So did Saddam's regime. So do the men working under Al-Zarqawi and Sadr. These are NOT 'Minutemen', or 'Freedom Fighters', or people driven to that resort. They are thuggish animals, who chose their work and fate.
"While the United States will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community, we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of selfdefense by acting preemptively against such terrorists, to prevent them from doing harm against our people and our country"
We did strive, it was necessary, we are succeeding.
There's more, but the simple fact is, President Bush told the world exactly what he was going to do, why, and what to expect. And it's well worth reading to see the goals ahead.
Monday, November 29, 2004
The United States faced a secession crisis, as most people know, in the Civil War from 1861 to 1865. Eleven states announced their secession from the United States of America, on the argument that the states are bound to the nation only by their choice. Another device used for leverage is the United States' treaty annexing Texas, which appeared to grant Texas the right to secede. A right granted to one state must apply to all, was the reasoning.
That reasoning, however, was built on a false premise. Because of the strategic value Texas represented in American expansion to the Pacific Ocean, as well as military value locking off Mexico from the U.S., the treaty came in two parts, which did different things.
There was a U.S. Congressional Resolution making Texas a State, and granting it the right to split into as many as five states, created in 1845. That resolution, however, said nothing about the State having a right to leave the USA. That's because of a treaty from a year before, where Texas essentially dissolved its sovereignty to become part of the United States. In other words, the Republic of Texas became a territory of the United States, then a State. That means that the State of Texas, while it had (and still has) special privileges because of the treaty which made it a State, never had a right to become sovereign on its own again. Any such thought or claim is a mistake at best.
Now, you may wonder why this history lesson is relevant to the rants from Sore Loser Left. I mean, even if it were somehow legal for the 'Blue' States to quit the country and become 'New France West' or the like, surely they understand how the dissolution of the union would impact them, economically as well as politically. I guess most Liberals don't realize that in such a secession, the NYSE would simply close up shop in NYC, and reform as something like the Omaha Stock Exchange, but then perhaps it is necessary to recall how poorly the Left does in Economics; anyone who can read Marx without laughing out loud at his blunders, is quite capable of believing in Utopia. To this day, there are those who would insist Lenin and Castro were right, even if those who believe them and follow their advice always seem to end up insolvent.
It's also worth looking at the question of just how 'blue' those blue states are, anyway. In California, for example, of its 55 counties, Bush won in 36, Kerry in only 19. So, if Cali wants to secede, less than half the counties are going, and a look at the map basically shows the new 'People's Republic of California' would pretty much claim only the coast, which gives them the beaches, the celebrities, and the barrios; the parts of California which are low-crime and prosperous would stay with the rest of the country. The same thing happens in New York, where Bush took 40 of its 62 counties. The rest of Kerry's territory is the same, or worse. And frankly, if these 'blue' states were to take a vote on seceding, it doesn't look like the votes would be there for the move.
It only goes to prove, even the blue states don't agree, all in all, with the claims made by their leadership. So long as they continue to wallow in denial, reasonable voters will find only the Republicans responsive to their issues and priorities.