Friday, December 22, 2006

Man Your Stations!

Yesterday, I took George Will to task for not recognizing the many talents and strengths of the Blogosphere. Today, I am addressing the need, again, for bloggers to remember that – yes, we are still at war, and – this war includes you, and personally. Because in addition to the artillery, tanks, and material elements of the fight, we are also engaged in an Infowar, which is just as critical to the future of the United States. And at the moment, we are losing the Infowar, in some part because a number of bloggers do not seem to understand their duties in this conflict.

Infowar is in some ways a complex topic, but in general it means the part of a war which involves control of information – how it is produced, what is produced, and what is suppressed. Information in wartime has always been a critical part of the strategy; the reader may recall that Washington’s raid on Trenton (‘Washington Crossing the Delaware’, as it is famously known) began with townspeople misleading the Hessians to believe that Washington was not nearby. Propaganda and Disinformation have also been significant contributors to wars and their conduct. Again, the reader may recall that the disloyal priorities of the New York Times damaged the American effort in Vietnam during both the Johnson and Nixon Administrations. It is even more important now in the Middle East conflict.

From what I have read and heard, the greatest problem is that most Americans still do not understand why we went into Iraq in 2003. This means that people have had to either trust the President or oppose him. Since the invasion began, ironically in large measure because it was so successful, opposition to the war has grown in terms of publicity and rhetoric. The overwhelming majority of the military believes in the cause, and is astounded that so many Americans have not heard the good news from Iraq, and that so many Americans react with negative emotion, lacking in many cases even the most basic information about the major forces in the conflict, their motives, and the American objectives. That’s where we come in, and that call-up was years ago.

Since 2003, the Blogosphere has often answered the challenge of providing information on the Iraq War and marshalling the forces of Reason for debate. But the Right side of the Blogosphere has largely deserted the field of late, as if there was no need for us to continue defending the ramparts of Democracy, of defending America’s interests, and of explaining – ad nauseum, it must seem – why for all their faults, the Republican candidates and their party remain the only serious choice for governance of our nation. As a result, the public has fallen to a large degree for lies and errors regarding the most important issues of the day, and we find the government in the control of persons ill-equipped and perhaps even worse-minded for its health and integrity.

We are at war, and our enemies include perfidious and self-obsessed groups and persons, who would and do damage the nation for the sake of their pride and bank accounts. The military can address the threat of guns and bombs, but we must take up our arms and stand against the lies and calumnies of the Left, of the new Fascism, and of the Old Media.

To Arms!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Debating a Dinosaur

Why George Will Doesn't Understand the Blogosphere

Every now and then, I make the mistake of reading one of George Will's columns. This is because George has a knack for finding interesting topics, which gets me to read, but he constantly proves his own bias and error in his columns, which causes the regret. On this occasion, Will started by taking on TIME magazine, for its narcissist trick to sell covers by appealing to the readers well-fed egos (link Courtesy of Real Clear Politics).

So far, a good choice, especially since TIME magazine's predilection for how they discuss certain personages and their portrayal is more than slightly tilted to the Left. Unfortunately, before very long Will starts in bloggers. And in so doing, he displays the sort of ignorance and prejudice which he ostensibly finds poor practice in others. A good example is this section from the column, where Will writes:

"There are expected to be 100 million bloggers worldwide by the middle of 2007, which is why none will be like Franklin or Paine. Both were geniuses; genius is scarce. Both had a revolutionary civic purpose, which they accomplished by amazing exertions. Most bloggers have the private purpose of expressing themselves, for their own satisfaction."

Certainly it must be acknowledged that there is a good deal of dreck in blogging, and that many bloggers are in fact just as vain as Will suggests. However, Will throws out diamonds with the sewer water, and his comments not only assail a large number of very fine bloggers and astute minds, his column seems to imply that the old-school media is not even more arrogant and self-indulgent. I should like to ask you, Mister Will, who is more credible:

Kofi Annan or David Limbaugh?
Katie Couric or Little Green Footballs?
Rosie O'Donnell or Betsy Newmark?
Dan Rather or John Hinderaker?
Joy Behar or Lorie Byrd?
Mike Nifong or Hugh Hewitt?
Harry Reid or Bill Roggio?
Ray Nagin or La Shawn Barber?
Joel Stein or The Anchoress?
Mike Wallace or Bruce Kesler?

You get the idea. Between the old media and their chosen figureheads to adore, there is much to criticize and precious little to praise, especially compared to the Blogosphere in similar efforts. As the Rathergate scandal demonstrated, many bloggers are intelligent and skilled professionals, whose dedication to much higher standards than anything exhibited by the New York or Los Angeles Times is beyond question. Some write well, some are amazing at digging below the surface, and as Bill Roggio and Michael Yon have demonstrated, some back up their claims with action, going to the source even across the world, far beyond the self-imposed limits by the nominal media to verify claims and deliver true reporting. You owe them better than derision, Mister Will. You owe them respect they earned years ago. The fact that you are paid well as the MSM is, should not mean you side with them against bloggers, who pursue truth often for its own sake, rather like Tom Paine and Ben Franklin, though you have shown you are slow to admit that fact.

I should not be too hard on George Will, I guess. In some respects, he is simply showing loyalty to the media he knows; print and television. That does not make him right, however, and he really needs to discover what tens of millions of Americans already know - that the blogs supply entertainment, conversation, debate, information and education on a scale beyond anything the Mainstream Media can even dream of. Not that the MSM is going to become obsolete, but commentators who don't know what they are talking about may expect to lose their readers and viewers. And that includes self-important columnists, even George Will.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The King of Chaos

In his masterpiece of literature, the 'Chronicles of Amber', novelist Roger Zelazny described two absolute powers, and the sometimes paradoxical relationship between them. Examining one side then the other over the course of ten books, Zelazny observed the difficulties of managing the affairs of a major state, to the point that even an absolute monarch is often bound by events and circumstances beyond his control. In the hardscrabble world we know, such is even more the case. No action occurs in a vacuum, nor is any decision truly unilateral. Decision-makers sometimes forget this, but pundits often do, and critics of officials display a ubiquitous ignorance of the difficulties of having to actually choose the course.

As he enters the long stretch of his last two years of public service, President Bush is faced with a dizzying array of problems and opposition, as difficult as any President has had to face in half a century. Congress is now under the direction of a political party which has no clear idea what it wants to do, except that it detests George W. Bush personally, for no better reason than his identity and existence. So far as I can tell, such an obsession leads to no good end. The Republican Party is not showing any discernible leadership either, as their participation in the desperately negligent ‘Iraq Study Group’ report demonstrates. The nation’s future depends on either the diligence of unworthy men, or the redemption of villains.

To be President of the United States is much more than to accept the heaviest duties of your time. It is also to accept responsibility for keeping all the past efforts in good order. Presidents who have been described as failures, very often not only failed the issues which rose in their office, but also were less than able to prevent old issues from returning, as Presidents Hoover, Pierce, and Carter made painfully obvious. Presidents who have been described as successful, were often not so popular in their day, but Time and a better perspective vindicated them.

With this quality of character in mind, it seems to me appropriate to pray to God that our next President must possess such qualities as a slow temper, a long perspective, a sound understanding of History, and the humble knowledge of his or her limits. I must emphasize that the ability to be elected President is quite different from the ability to do the job properly, so it is apparent that there are some people who could win the office, but who cannot be said to be qualified for it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Imposition of Joy

I'm afraid that this post will come off a bit hum-buggish, but it's something I think needs to be said.

Not everyone is having a 'Merry Christmas'. It's not because they have anything against the season, please understand, or that they wish any poor sentiments against those who are enjoying the season and its joy. But they have reasons to feel a bit differently, and in some cases do not want to be told how they should be feeling or act.

In my case, I admit to a certain grimness at present. While I am generally an optimist, the past year has done my family some damage. My father passed away in April, which is weighing my mother down at present as she has to go through the first Christmas without him. She also had about a thousand dollars worth of plumbing repairs which had to be done. My brother, three years older than me, has a badly-paying, no-chance-of-promotion job and is showing some hand tremors which may - long story - be the warning signs of long-feared Parkinson's disease. One of my sisters had to undergo surgery on her thyroid, and as soon as she recovers from that she is schedule to have spine surgery as well. And of course, a few weeks ago I was diagnosed with cancer, a variant which has no known cure and while slow-growing, kills half of its victims within ten years of its first symptoms. I find myself distinctly less than bouyant this Christmas season.

I certainly am aware that other members here have their own trials and difficulties, and I do not mean, at all, for this to be a 'poor me' thread. But while I remain determined and hopeful in the main, and I still thank God for all the good things he has given me (I will never forget how lucky I am to have Mikki and Jagan in my life, nor my good friends) I am not in the mood - at all - to act as if I do not have a care in the world, or to perform on demand some pretense to jollity. When someone insists that I need to just 'be happy', I find myself inclined to find a shotgun and look for flying reindeer to shoot. Anyone resembling an elf would also do well to steer clear of me.

Enjoy your holidays as you please, and be as merry as you like, but please do not demand that people must act a certain way. Joy may not be imposed, and even now there are duties which may not be dismissed or put off, nor to my mind would it be seemly to forget them.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A Business To AVOID

Every so often, you encounter a business which renews your faith in Integrity, in Customer Service, and Professional standards. Roadrunner Hi-Speed Internet, however, is almost the exact opposite of those qualities, a company so inept, dishonest and hostile to customers that it is hard to imagine how they could be any worse and still stay in business. I will make this one short and to the point; if you are considering high-speed Internet service, avoid Roadrunner AT ALL COSTS.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Fall 2006 Grade Results

I promised to report on the results of my first semester at UH-Victoria, as I pursue my Masters of Business Administration. The short story is two A’s and one B, but the value I hope to offer lies in how those grades were earned. The grades were determined through seven different types of activity, and those are somewhat different from the brick-and-mortar method of education I knew in High School and at Baylor during my undergraduate years.

To understand how grades are awarded at UHV, instead of visualizing a 100-point system, imagine if you will a thousand points awarded over the year. Nine hundred or more earns an A, eight hundred to eight-ninety-nine gets a B, and so on. There are no plus or minus grades, which is both an advantage and a disadvantage, as we shall see. For the three courses this fall, that means three thousand points in grades were issued. I will list the seven categories in declining proportion of the total, and also note a running total and average for each class through them.

The largest portion belonged to major examinations; fifteen hundred out of three thousand points awarded came from Mid-Term and Final examinations, three hundred points each on five tests. This came around, because my Economics and Business classes each had both a Mid-Term and a Final examination, while my Accounting class had only the Mid-Term examination. I want to stop here and warn the reader that examinations in online classes may be very different from one another. My Economics and Business tests were a combination of multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, and short essay questions, but the Business class required a special browser which did not work the way Internet Explorer does, and this caused me trouble in the Mid-Term. The Accounting Mid-Term was actually a take-home test, but the test was definitely the most difficult test. In Economics, my Mid-Term exam graded 96% and my Final exam 86%. Dr. Adamchik cited statistical results about how students did on each question, as well as an overall average. Overall, the class found the Final examination tougher than the Mid-Term. Personally I liked the way the Economics tests were set up, as questions came directly from self-performed chapter quizzes, assigned homework and discussion board problems. If you did your classwork, you did well on the tests. For those two tests, 60% of my grade was earned with a 91% average, or 546 points out of a possible 600. In Business, I lost the connection to the secure browser during my Mid-Term, and was nervous and hasty when I regained access, which definitely impacted my ability to consider my answers on the Mid-Term. This showed up in my 80.5% grade. On the Final Exam, I studied hard on all the discussions and reading assignments, and earned a 91% on the Final Exam, for an 85.75% average between the two, or 514.5 points out of a possible 600. I was not completely happy with the method used in this class, as there was no formal review prior to the examinations, nor were we allowed to compare our answers and the test questions later. Professor Cloninger explained that this was a matter of security, but I still think that makes it a matter of denying students a proper review. In Accounting, I had great difficulty in the first question, which required assigned certain companies to a set of given financial data. I only earned 10 out of a possible 60 points, and from there could not accomplish the kind of results I planned. I earned a 72% grade, or 216 of a possible 300.

After examinations, here is how I stood:

ECONOMICS – 91% average [A], 546 for 600, F minimum, A maximum
BUSINESS – 85.75% average [B], 514.5 for 600, F minimum, A maximum
ACCOUNTING – 72% average [C], 216 for 300, F minimum, A maximum

The next largest portion was from Term Papers, 500 possible points awarded. In Economics, I prepared a term paper on Retail Bookstores, which was graded not only on its content and logic, but on a number of technical standards. The short version was that I did well on the content, but lost points because I was inconsistent in style and a little cluttered in places. 90% grade, for 135 out of a possible 150. In Business, the style was fine but I lost points largely because the professor expected me to better balance my argument regarding how a juice company handled an e coli outbreak. In retrospect, there were points I should have presented to better show the company missed opportunity to meet social responsibility, but I still feel that the professor expected me to make assumptions not in evidence, as we were clearly instructed to not use any sources besides the textbook. 86% grade, for 129 out of a possible 150. In Accounting, I participated in a group project which evaluated the condition and prospects of a major public firm, and to make strategic recommendations for it. We earned a 91.5% grade, or 183 out of a possible 200.

After the term papers, here is how I stood:

ECONOMICS – 90.8% average [A], 681 out of a possible 750, D minimum, A maximum
BUSINESS – 85.8% average [B], 643.5 out of a possible 750, D minimum, B maximum
ACCOUNTING – 79.8% average [C], 399 out of a possible 500, F minimum, B maximum

The next largest portion came from Participation. This is where the online experience radically departs from the face-to-face class. In my time as an undergrad, participation was expected but only earned a small part of the total grade. Online, participation can be and is tracked by actual participation in discussions, especially as to whether the student advances the discussion with substantive comments. I noticed during the last couple weeks, a few students try to make last-minute comments to earn some points, but seriously, if you want full credit here you had better plan on being active and involved all the way through. 430 possible points were distributed here, or over 14% of your final grade. I collected all 100 participation points in Economics, all 250 participation points in Business, and all 80 participation points in Accounting.

After adding the participation points, here is how I stood:

ECONOMICS – 91.9% average [A], 781 out of a possible 850, C minimum, A maximum
BUSINESS – 89.35% average [B], 893.5 out of a possible 1000, B minimum and maximum
ACCOUNTING – 82.6% average [B], 479 out of a possible 580, F minimum, B maximum

The next largest portion came from quizzes. In both Economics and Accounting, this part really came down to studying the material and doing your reading on time. In Economics, I took four quizzes and averaged a 95% grade, for 95 out of a possible 100. In Accounting, I took ten quizzes and averaged a 91% grade, for 182 out of a possible 200.

After adding the quiz points, here is how I stood:

ECONOMICS – 92.2% average [A], 876 out of a possible 950, B minimum, A maximum
BUSINESS – 89.35% average [B], 893.5 out of a possible 1000, B minimum and maximum
ACCOUNTING – 84.7% average [B], 661 out of a possible 780, D minimum, B maximum

The next largest portion (and the last formal one) came from Homework. In Economics, I earned a 100% grade, or 50 out of a possible 50 points. In Accounting, I earned a 98% grade, or 196 out of a possible 200 points.

After adding the homework points, here is how I stood:

ECONOMICS – 92.6% average [A], 926 out of a possible 1000, A minimum and maximum
BUSINESS – 89.35% average [B], 893.5 out of a possible 1000, B minimum and maximum
ACCOUNTING – 87.4% average [B], 857 out of a possible 980, B minimum and maximum

The next portion came from a little different tack in Accounting. I earned 10 of 10 for a class survey, and 9 of 10 from a peer review, for an additional 19 out of a possible 20 points.

After adding in the sundry points, here is how I stood:

ECONOMICS – 92.6% average [A], 926 out of a possible 1000, A minimum and maximum
BUSINESS – 89.35% average [B], 893.5 out of a possible 1000, B minimum and maximum
ACCOUNTING – 87.6% average [B], 876 out of a possible 1000, B minimum and maximum

The observant reader will have noted long ago that only one of my classes allowed for an A, yet I say I got two. That is because of the final section, the Bonus. This not always an automatic. My Accounting class’ professor, Dr. Lee, offered no curve and no opportunity to raise the final grade. My Economics professor however added a 4-point curve to the grade on both the Mid-Term and Final exams, adding 24 points to everyone’s final tally. And Dr. Cloninger offered an opportunity to submit a mini-term paper on a specific company’s code of ethics, for one point to be added to the final average. I took advantage of that offer, and received that point, which produced the following final results:

ECONOMICS – 95.0% average [A], 950 out of a possible 1000, A minimum and maximum
BUSINESS – 90.35% average [A], 903.5 out of a possible 1000, A minimum and maximum
ACCOUNTING – 87.6% average [B], 876 out of a possible 1000, B minimum and maximum

So there you are. Obviously, different students enjoyed different results, but for those few people who could find this useful or interesting, there you go. I have registered for Accounting, Quant, and Management for the Spring, so I will let you all know what I find out. Just a mention on pre-semester prep. I bought new books last time, thinking I would keep them neat and sell them back, but I read them a lot and they got used because I had to read and work them everywhere I could. So next semester I am making sure I get used books, so long as they are the right edition.