As a general proposition, when told by unanimous elites that a particular course of action is urgent and necessary to avoid disaster, there's a lot to be said for going fishing.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
My confusion stems from this: the panic from Wall Street and Washington doesn't seem to jibe with anything I can observe myself. In other words, from where I sit I don't see any reason why Wall Street and Washington are panicking. All the usual measurements of economic health are looking good: the unemployment rate is near historic lows, inflation is low, lending rates are high, GNP is growing, etc., etc. Nothing looks like a recession is imminent, much less a depression.
So what is all this talk about a meltdown on Wall Street based on? Lots of very credible people, with lots of expertise in the markets, are acting very much like the world is about to end. I certainly understand that a number of big financial institutions are sitting on a bunch of bad debt. I understand that this started with mandates from Congress for mortgages to be made to people who really wouldn't qualify under rational rules, and that the machinery set up to allow these mortgages encouraged more and more risky mortgages to be made. What I don't understand is why this all adds up to the end of the world. Companies succeeding and failing is what capitalism is all about; it's the core of what makes our system work.
My instinctive reaction to the bailout is that it's a really, really bad idea. Fundamentally the companies that are in trouble now are in trouble because they managed risk badly. They took investors' money and made bad choices with how they invested it. In the natural capitalistic scheme of things, these companies should fail, their managers should be weeded out, and companies who made better choices should be rewarded with more business. Rescuing these badly managed companies distorts this natural capitalistic process by allowing the failures to survive, and removing the reward from the successful companies. The distortion might even be worse – it might end up that the rescued companies end up making large profits after the bailout, which is exactly the opposite of what should happen.
As many others have observed, the bailout smacks of socialism. It's the kind of thing one expects to see happen in France, not in the United States. Hell, it's the kind of thing we once laughed at France for...
Sunday, September 28, 2008
- You let your 14-year-old daughter smoke at the dinner table in front of her kids.
- The Blue Book value of your truck goes up and down depending on how much gas is in it.
- You've been married three times and still have the same in-laws.
- You think a woman who is out of your league bowls on a different night.
- You wonder how service stations keep their rest-rooms so clean.
- Someone in your family died right after saying, 'Hey, guys, watch this.'
- You think Dom Perignon is a Mafia leader.
- Your wife's hairdo was once ruined by a ceiling fan.
- Your junior prom offered day care.
- You think the last words of the Star-Spangled Banner are 'Gentlemen, start your engines. '
- You lit a match in the bathroom and your house exploded right off its wheels.
- The Halloween pumpkin on your porch has more teeth than your spouse.
- You have to go outside to get something from the fridge.
- One of your kids was born on a pool table.
- You need one more hole punched in your card to get a freebie at the House of Tattoos.
- You can't get married to your sweetheart because there's a law against it.
- You think loading the dishwasher means getting your wife drunk.
Thanks for the belly-laughs, Simi!
Like most people with executive experience, I've got my own collection of “executive wisdom” and rules-of-thumb. For instance, I've often commented that one of the key skills for any executive is the simple willingness to make decisions in the face of insufficient or conflicting information. Most people are very uncomfortable making important decisions until they've had a chance to do all the research, to think about the pros and cons, consult with trusted advisors, and generally to have enough time to get comfortable with their decision. Executives often are forced to make decisions without any of these luxuries.
Another of my executive rules-of-thumb is “embrace chaos”, by which I mean that an executive should learn to relish the never-ending stream of surprises that the messy real world throws at you. Too often executives see these events as a stream of problems and annoyances, rather than as a stream of opportunities being presented (even if the only opportunity is to suffer less damage than your competitors!).
TigerHawk dissects another such executive skill, a better articulated version of my executive rule-of-thumb “Do something, even if it's wrong!”
And disappear they did, which was great. But the not-so-great part: I never went to sleep at all last night. I tossed and turned until 2 am, at which point I just gave up, and got up.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
It's as though you weighed yourself on the same scale every day of your life and kept meticulous records of that – but then your doctor didn't believe the results, and applied his own arbitrary set of adjustments to your data.
Your tax dollars, hard at work. But not for your benefit...
The intensity of the sun's million-mile-per-hour solar wind has dropped to its lowest levels since accurate records began half a century ago...The data they're talking about comes from the Ulysses spacecraft, which has long been in orbit around the sun.
There's much more to the story than just this carefully crafted statement from NASA, however. The solar wind they're referring to is “blown” outward from the sun by the pressure of the sun's radiation. The only reason why the solar wind would have diminished is because the sun's radiation output has diminished – which we already know from other measurments. So in that sense this new piece of data is completely unsurprising, but still useful as confirmation.
NASA gets a significant part of its funding as science grants, independently from the space program funding. The science grant gravy train has never been as magnificent as it has during these days of anthropomorphic global warming (AGW) fears. So NASA, for years now, has been very careful to craft its public presentations in such a way as to support AGW fears – they've got a lot of money riding on that. This week's press conference was a real problem for the message crafters, though, because you don't have to be particularly bright to figure out that if there's good evidence that the sun's radiation output is declining, then hey, that might just have something to do with the fact that the planet has been cooling for several years.
And if the planet is now cooling because the sun's radiation is lower, then perhaps the planet might have been warming earlier because the sun's radiation was increasing back then.
And maybe all this AGW talk is just a bunch of hooey.
But NASA doesn't like that answer very much, because then there's much less reason to fund all their AGW-related programs so lavishly.
His surgical incision is healing very quickly. It already looks like a relatively minor, albeit big, cut. His hair is growing back on the shaved spot, and it's easy to see that within a few weeks he'll be looking practically normal. For Mo'i, that is...
It was a beautiful morning here again – crisp and clear, with a nice waning moon low in the northeastern sky, just down from Castor and Pollux. Ursa Major has wheeled just a bit higher in the sky; in a couple of weeks it will all be visible again at 4 am...
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
First, her reaction to the news that the FBI is investigating several major Wall Street firms:
For what, I have no idea. Is stupidity a federal offense? And if so, when do they investigate congress?The lady has a way with words!
The second Megan quote needs a little background, in the form of a quote of Joe (“The Mouth”) Biden speaking yesterday:
"Part of what being a leader does is to instill confidence is to demonstrate what he or she knows what they are talking about and to communicating to people ... this is how we can fix this," Biden said. "When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the princes of greed. He said, 'look, here's what happened.'"Now there are a couple of things wrong with that statement by The Mouth. First there's the minor little detail that FDR wasn't yet President at the time of the 1929 crash. Then there's the other pesky detail that commercial television was still about 10 years in the future!
I certainly feel better knowing that come next November, I might have a savvy politician like Joe Biden explaining complex financial matters to me. And also, how the governor of New York managed to get his own financial show ten years before the first regularly scheduled television broadcast.Ouch! Zing!
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
This morning, as on nearly every morning out here in the chaparral, the skies were clear and bright with stars and the moon. The constellations wheel clockwise around Polaris (the north star) with the seasons, and this time of year brings Orion up high in the morning's eastern sky. Orion was the first constellation I learned to recognize, and it's usually how I start orienting myself with the sky. Now bright, bright Sirius is also well above the eastern horizon in the early morning. The moon this morning was near Castor and Pollux, up by Orion's right arm. The Pleiadies (the Seven Sisters) were nearly directly overhead. And Ursa Major (the Big Dipper) is peeking up over the northern horizon, below and to the right of Polaris. A very nice morning for a little stargazing...
Monday, September 22, 2008
It is so good to see Mo'i looking so well...
Sunday, September 21, 2008
For those who shout loudest about a necessary “wall” between church and state (which is not in keeping with the plain meaning of the Establishment Clause), there never seems to be any recognition that the actual problem (as opposed to hyperventilating concerns over “Christianists”) is that the new church of politicized science is actively intermingled with the business of the state, elevating political faith to the kind of religion that is infecting public policy to an unhealthy degree....and the anthropomorphic global warming phenomenon is perhaps the very best current example, and Al Gore is the high priest. Do read the whole thing, and the WSJ article he's commenting on; both pieces are great Sunday ponder-producers...
Yesterday, last night, and today our weather has been more typical of what we get in November – cool, dry days with very clear air and gorgeous blue skies, and then very cool (cold for us!) and humid nights. As you can see by the chart at right, last night we had several hours at 100% relative humidity – most definitely not normal for September. And the temperature dropped all the way to 47°F (8°C) – certainly not unheard of for us, even on a summer evening, but very welcome nonetheless. We haven't run our air conditioner for several days now – I can't remember that ever happening in September before!
If this is what global warming is, I'd like more of it!
Dr. Hsieh is not in the majority amongst doctors, if I believe what I read on the matter. Most doctors would like to see all patients have health insurance, and they really don't care very much how that's done – they'll support just about any proposal to provide universal health care insurance.
Two motivations behind this proposed law are (1) the mistaken notion that health care should be a guaranteed “right," and (2) the desire to force businesses (rather than government) to pay for this supposed obligation. But health care is a need, not a right. A right is a freedom of action in a social context, such as the freedom of speech.
It is not an automatic claim on a good or service that must be produced by someone else. There is no such thing as a “right” to a car or an appendectomy. Any attempt by the government to guarantee a false “right” to health care can only be done by violating the actual rights of someone — in this case, business owners.
I'd like to see a few simple, basic reforms to our current health care system:
- The removal of the special tax status that health insurance expenses now have for businesses, coupled with making health insurance costs tax-deductible for individuals. This would remove the artificial incentive for employers to provide health insurance, which is the only reason that employers are expected to provide health insurance today. At the same time, it would create an incentive for individuals to purchase health insurance, in exactly the same way that the mortgage deduction provides an incentive for people to purchase a home.
- The removal of all the current regulatory barriers to providing and purchasing intrastate health insurance. These regulations today primarily benefit the insurance companies, by limiting the competitive environment to individual states, and discouraging low-cost nationwide entrants. Many people aren't even aware of these regulations, because it is primarily the employers who must deal with them. Today a resident of (say) New York is not allowed to purchase a less-expensive health insurance policy from a company in (say) South Dakota. There's no good reason for this from the consumer's perspective, though it's wonderful from the insurance company's perspective (and the state legislators who benefit from the insurance companies' largesse).
I know I'm dreaming, but...I'm allowed to dream, aren't I?
We had a dog adventure of a totally different kind last night, by coincidence (or at least we think so!). Mo'i, for obvious reasons, couldn't sleep on our bed as he normally does. We had him in a crate in our bedroom. Around 2:30 am, he started whining – something he has done before when we've had him crated. The whining could mean he needs a walk, or (more likely) it just means he wants to get up on the bed.
Debbie got up and took him for a walk just in case, but when she crawled back into bed we noticed there was a wet spot on the bed. A big wet spot, as though someone had dumped a glass of water there. Of course our first thought was that one of our dogs had peed on the bed – something none of our dogs has done for years. But no, this wet spot had no odor, and seemed clean, like plain water. The only thing I've been able to imagine is dog saliva, as though one of the dogs slept with its mouth open and drooling.
Whatever it was, it wasn't something we cared to splash about in as we slept. So (at 2:30 am!) we got up, stripped the bed, threw the bed clothes in the washer, and “camped” in the living room. We made a bed on the floor by using cushions from several chairs and sofas and throwing some blankets over them. Not a very satisfactory bed, for sure – Debbie and I are a little stiff this morning...
Saturday, September 20, 2008
When we got back in the house, I took the opportunity to take a few photos. At right you see him looking almost normal. Only the shaved spot on his right front leg (where the catheter was) shows any evidence of his recent surgery. In the photos below, the surgery is a bit more evident.
The surgical wound is looking great. There is no evidence of infection, and only minor swelling. We're keeping an eye out for anything looking abnormal here, at the direction of the vet. Mo'i doesn't go back in for a checkup for two weeks.
As always, click on any of the photos to get a larger view...
Friday, September 19, 2008
So of course we did! Debbie and I drove down together, paid our bill (don't ask!), and waited for the technician to bring Mo'i down to us. He rounded the corner in the hallway well ahead of the technician, who was leaning backwards to counter-balance Mo'i's bulldozer-like pulling. That was one happy dog! Lots of happy grunting and whimpering, hugs, and a 200 mile-per-hour wagging tail. We lifted him carefully into the truck and took off for home.
And now Mo'i is resting very comfortably in his familiar crate. He is one very happy dog tonight. Adding to his pleasure is the fact that he has no dietary restrictions, so he's getting (and will be getting) a few more than the usual dog treats – and there's nothing that Mo'i likes more than dog treats!
He's got a rectangular shaved area on his back, with a roughly 8 inch long incision running right down his backbone. There are no sutures visible; the technician told us they were entirely under the skin. Mo'i acts almost completely normal, and his strength seems to be unreduced – certainly not what I was expecting after such a major surgery. Twice since we've had him home, he's yelped in pain; it seems to be associated with rotating motions on his back (as when he's shaking himself). Otherwise, we can't even sense any discomfort in him. We're going to keep him completely quiet for 2 weeks, and then after that we gradually ramp up the level of exercise. The vet tells us that he should back to normal in about 6 weeks.
Tomorrow I'll post some pictures of Mo'i. Tonight we're just happy to have our dog back, and healthy...
As the stock market plunged nearly 1,000 points in two days this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada was preoccupied with protecting billions of dollars worth of earmarks contained in a separate, unpublished committee report that got a one-sentence reference in a giant $612 billion defense bill. Reid engineered the 61-to-32 vote to limit debate on the bill, thus barring consideration of an amendment offered by Sen. Jim DeMint. The South Carolina Republican’s amendment would have deleted the reference to the committee report so that it would have to be considered separately. By leaving the language in the bill, the lawmakers were able to carry out one of their favorite maneuvers: Incorporating committee reports into omnibus bills so they can give billions of tax dollars to their cronies without recorded votes on specific spending measures. This is the same Harry Reid who with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised to “drain the swamp” of Republican corruption if voters would return the Democrats to the majority.
But Reid’s move was not just a slap at DeMint. Under pressure from a bipartisan coalition of fiscal watchdog groups, including Porkbusters, Club for Growth, Citizens Against Government Waste, National Taxpayers Union and Taxpayers for Common Sense, President George W. Bush signed an executive order last January that directed federal agencies to ignore earmarks that only appear in committee reports. If DeMint’s proposal had passed, the earmarks in the defense bill’s committee report would have been merely suggestions – not legally binding spending instructions. No wonder Reid made sure the South Carolinian’s amendment never made it to the Senate floor.A task force created by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., recommends that all earmarks and their congressional sponsors be included explicitly in spending bills, so they can be honestly debated and voted upon by the House and Senate, as the Constitution requires. This would give members of Congress sufficient leeway to direct public funds to worthy projects in their home districts, while making the lawmakers accountable to taxpayers. It is significant that Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., who opposed the DeMint amendment, admitted that it would have created “a huge shift in the power of the purse.” He’s right about that. But a shift from shady legislative maneuvers like Reid’s to full public disclosure and accountability is exactly the kind of change most needed on Capitol Hill. Voters are still waiting for that swamp to be drained.
“The DPRK (North Korea) neither wishes to be delisted as a 'state sponsor of terrorism' nor expects such a thing to happen.”The left claims to believe that any disagreements we might have with people like this can be negotiated away. Me, I think the only “negotiating” one can do with people like this is the kind of negotiating that involves aiming weapons of terrorist destruction (i.e., U.S. Marines, JDAMs, cruise missiles, etc.) directly at their heads.
California is right down in the mud along with other bastions of socialism like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. This is no surprise to those of us who live here. I, like many others I know, constantly ask myself the question: “Is it still worth it? Is the price of living in California too high? Should I leave now?” We're still here, but we're still asking the question. Each year, more people (both numerically and percentage-wise) vote with their feet and leave – California's emigration rate has been monotonically increasing for years.
On the other side, there's a geographical cluster in the top six positions. We own some property in one of those states (Idaho), and that beckons to us as a likely refuge from California. One could have an entertaining debate about why those states rank so much higher, but for me the most interesting part is the magnitude of the difference between those high-ranked states and the low-ranked states: nearly 2-to-1 on the index. There are days – such as any day I have to listen to a California Assemblyman or Senator – when that difference is mighty appealing...
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Best of all: the surgery confirmed that the problem was exactly what the vet thought it was – fragments of disc that were pinching a nerve the runs to his right rear leg. That means it was not a tumor or any other life-threatening issue.
The vet thought she saw a single fragment on the MRI yesterday, but it turns out that the actual situation was a bit messier. If I am correctly understanding her description, it appears that for whatever reason, this particular disc in Mo'i's back calcified, hardened, and then broke apart into multiple pieces. One of those pieces was pinching that nerve.
During the surgery she cleaned out all the little fragments, then put Mo'i back together. His back is currently being iced to reduce swelling, and he's on good pain medication. They don't want us to visit tonight, because they want him quiet and still. Dang. We'd sure like to see him right about now...
But the important stuff is that he's ok, and we're done with this problem. Even better, the vet says there's no reason to believe that his agility work contributed to this injury in any way, and he's perfectly ok to go back into competition.
We can hardly wait for Saturday morning, when we get to bring him home. And tomorrow afternoon, when we can visit with him.
A big thanks to all of you who sent kind words and thoughts – 'tis much appreciated by these worried “dog parents.”
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Mo'i is our agility champion field spaniel – just over 8 years old and in his prime. A few days ago Debbie noticed that he seemed to be reluctant to jump up on us (something he loves to do when he greets us), and he wouldn't do the “dog food dance” when she fed him. She figured he'd pulled a muscle or something, and was watching him closely.
Last night she noticed the symptoms suddenly got worse. Now he was favoring his right rear foot, and showing some evidence of pain. Debbie got on the phone with our wonderful vet (Dr. Christine Wilson), and then ran him right down for an exam. Shortly after that I got a call: Dr. Wilson suspected a slipped disc, or something like that, and wanted us to get Mo'i to a specialist immediately.
So I met Debbie at Dr. Wilson's place, and we headed to the Veterinary Specialty Hospital in Sorrento Valley (almost an hour from home). They examined him, and recommended an MRI to determine what was wrong. We left poor Mo'i there, in pain, and went home very worried.
This morning we got a call from the neurology vet, with some very hopeful news: after an evening on pain meds and muscle relaxants, Mo'i was looking much better. The vet even talked with us about the possibility of the injury being relatively minor, and of treating it with (basically) bed rest and quiet. But after some careful discussion with her, we decided to go ahead with the MRI to see what it would find. We want to know what's going on, and that we're giving him the best treatment – not just guess at it.
This afternoon they did the MRI, and the vet called us with the results. She's about 99% sure that there is a fragment of a disc that's pinching a nerve and causing the symptoms. She recommended surgery – but it's relatively straightforward surgery, going in through the top of the spine (bone, not muscle). Success isn't guaranteed, but it's very likely. Recovery should be fairly fast, about 5 to 7 weeks to a full recovery. And the surgery will remove all ambiguity about the cause of his problem – if it is a tumor, bony growth, or whatever, when they're done with the surgery, they'll know for sure.
This evening we went down to visit with Mo'i. Lordy, he was happy to see us! We spent some quality time with him, then remanded him to the care of the techs at the hospital. Tomorrow around midday he goes under the knife. We'll visit him again tomorrow night, and then on Friday, barring any complications, we can take him home.
We're thinking that all of this is good news. We're pretty sure now that we know what the problem is, and it's completely treatable with low-risk surgery. We went home feeling much better.
And then tonight there was one final happy event. On one of the agility newgroups (on Yahoo!), a woman that Debbie knows through agility wrote of her surprise when she discovered that Mo'i was checked into the hosptital where she works. What a coincidence! She wrote on the newsgroup of how she checked up on Mo'i several times during the day today, and will continue to do so. It is no small comfort to us to know that a friend of the family is there keeping an eye on Mo'i. And it put a smile on our face to read her reports of Mo'i's cheerful demeanor and constantly wagging tail...
We'll be a little distracted for the next few days, folks...
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Changing your Service Desk solution can be a large project with many challenges. The ideal is to improve customer service, while reducing costs and making the transition as painless as possible. Many companies also want to adopt ITIL processes into their Service Desk. For Orrick, the SaaS solution Service-Now.com was the choice.The Discovery product gets a nice little mention, and there's a video showing the Orrick facilities and several of the people that I worked with there. Orrick's service team is a finalist for a prestigous industry award, and they give our product credit as one of the things (certainly not the only thing!) that got them there...
But it also serves to point out, in a very clarifying way, Obama's staggering hypocrisy on the subject of education. He and his wife make good use of their wealth to get their kids out of our miserable public schools – but Obama adamantly opposes any such opportunity for ordinary parents. You know, those parents his party claims to represent.
The issue of education, perhaps more than any other, highlights the intrinsic conflict of interest between ordinary people and the Democratic Party. Ordinary parents (the kind who can't afford to spend $20K/year on their kids) desperately want to be able to control where their kids go to school. The Democratic Party (most definitely including Obama) opposes any and every kind of school choice.
The National Education Assocation (NEA) rates Obama's voting record on education as “perfect”. Their definition of perfect is very much self-interested, no matter how much they cloak it in “for the children” rhetoric.
The NEA and Obama are for more education funding, and against any financial reform. The implicit assumption in this is that public schools currently use their funding in a manner which could not be improved, and of course this is absurd. There are numerous examples of non-public school systems that spend less, have smaller bureaucracies, and that graduate kids with demonstrably superior knowledge and skills. The parochial school system is but one such example, but it's a good one.
The NEA and Obama are against any form of school choice, including (most famously) vouchers. While they don't like to say this directly, one cannot escape the conclusion that their objective is to force every parent to send their children to the school chosen for them by the education bureaucracy. No school choice for ordinary parents, only for the wealthy.
The NEA and Obama are against merit pay, are against firing substandard (but certified) teachers, and are against every other program that would rid our public schools of bad teachers and attract good teachers to them. They have many arguments for these positions, but they all boil down to this: they are putting the interests of the rank-and-file (mediocre by definition) union members ahead of the interests of the children. Oh, they won't say that, of course – but that is in fact what they are doing.
Obama's and the Democratic Party's position on education is inexplicable until you factor in this: the single biggest supporter of the Democratic Party is the NEA. Not just in cash, but also in contributions of grass-roots labor. For example, over half of all the delegates to the Democratic Party's convention are NEA members (and more than half the remaining delegates are members of other public-sector unions). The Democratic Party (and Obama) must support the NEA's positions, or they lose money and help they can't afford to lose.
In a very real way, the Democratic Party is an extension of public-sector unions, most especially the NEA. The interests of those unions (and by extension, of the Democratic Party) are clearly in conflict with those “ordinary Joe” voters the Democrats claim to support.
Obama: hypocrite on education. Here's a case where his actions speak far louder than his words. He and his wife have made a choice to take their kids out of public school. We all know why they're doing so – and I, for one, completely agree with him on that score. But Obama doesn't want you and I to have that same choice...
Monday, September 15, 2008
The dogs seemed to enjoy the moonlight, too – they were straining at their leashes for our entire morning walk...
Sunday, September 14, 2008
"Sarah Palin? Can't keep her solemn oath of devotion to her husband and had sex with his employee. Sarah Palin? Accidentally got pregnant at age 43 and the tax payers of Alaska have to pay for the care of her disabled child. Sarah Palin? Unable to teach her 16 year old daughter right from wrong and now another teenager is pregnant. Sarah Palin? Can you trust Sarah Palin and her values with America's future? John McCain? Divorced from his first wife one month and marries a billionaire influence peddler and convicted felon. John McCain, a record of rash and impulsive decisions. That’s not change that’s more of the same.”Seriously, this is what he's recommending. It's not a parody or a joke; he means it. It's as if the backfire on the Democrats from all the lies and dirt they've already spread about Palin was invisible. The Democrats are in worse shape than I thought, if this is the level they've descended to...
Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and Civilians of Multi-National Force-Iraq:In my own experience in the military, commanders like these were rare indeed. I hope that's no longer true – I hope we now have a passel of them tucked away to help us in the tough years ahead. But meanwhile, I'm very glad we've had General Petraeus...
It has been the greatest of privileges to have been your commander for the past 19 months. During that time,we and our civilian and Iraqi partners have been engaged in an exceedingly complex, difficult, and important task. And in the face of numerous challenges, we and our partners have helped bring new hope to a country that was besieged by extremists and engulfed in sectarian violence.
When I took command of Multi-National Force-Iraq in February 2007, I noted that the situation in Iraq was hard but not hopeless. You have proven that assessment to be correct. Indeed, your great work, sacrifice, courage, and skill have helped to reverse a downward spiral toward civil war and to wrest the initiative from the enemies of the new Iraq.
Together, Iraqi and Coalition Forces have faced determined, adaptable, and barbaric enemies. You and our Iraqi partners have taken the fight to them, and you have taken away their sanctuaries and safe havens. You have helped secure the Iraqi people and have enabled, and capitalized on, their rejection of extremism. You have also supported the Iraqi Security Forces as they have grown in number and capability and as they have increasingly shouldered more of the responsibility for security in their country.
You have not just secured the Iraqi people, you have served them, as well. By helping establish local governance, supporting reconstruction efforts, assisting with revitalization of local businesses, fostering local reconciliation, and conducting a host of othernon-kinetic activities, you have contributed significantly to the communities in which you have operated. Indeed, you have been builders and diplomats as well as guardians and warriors.
The progress achieved has been hard-earned. There have been many tough days along the way, and we have suffered tragic losses. Indeed, nothing in Iraq has been anything but hard. But you have been more than equal to every task.
Your accomplishments have, in fact, been the stuff of history. Each of you should be proud of what has been achieved and of the contributions you continue to make. Although our tasks in Iraq are far from complete and hard work and tough fights lie ahead, you have helped bring about remarkable improvements.
Your new commander is precisely the right man for the job. General Ray Odierno played a central role in the progress achieved during the surge. He brings tremendous skill, experience, and understanding as he returns to Iraq for a third tour and takes the helm of MNF-I just seven months after relinquishing command of MultiNational Corps-Iraq. I have total confidence in him, and I will do all that I can as the commander of Central Command to help him, MNF-I, and our Iraqi partners to achieve the important goals that we all share for the new Iraq.
Thank you for your magnificent work here in the "Land of the Two Rivers." And thank you for your sacrifices-and for those of your families--during this crucial phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I am honored to have soldiered with you in this critical endeavor.
With great respect and all best wishes
David H. Petraeus
General, United States Army
This is James David Manning, Ph. D., of the ATLAH World Missionary Church, in New York. I know nothing about him or his church. After watching this video (sent to me by my brother), my head is still spinning and I'm suffering from some combination of shocked sensibilities, stomach pains from laughing so hard, and hoarseness from cheering. I don't know whether to give this guy a little more exposure, or to soak my computer in some antibiotic solution.
So I put it up here for you to view. I look forward to your reactions...
Nicely said, Mr. Baker!
The essential problem coming to light is a profound disconnect between the Barack Obama of the candidate's speeches, and the Barack Obama who has actually been in politics for the past decade or so.
Speechmaker Obama has built his campaign on the promise of reform, the need to change the culture of American political life, to take on the special interests that undermine government's effectiveness and erode trust in the system itself,
Politician Obama rose through a Chicago machine that is notoriously the most corrupt in the country. As David Freddoso writes in a brilliantly cogent and measured book, The Case Against Barack Obama, the angel of deliverance from the old politics functioned like an old-time Democratic pol in Illinois. He refused repeatedly to side with those lonely voices that sought to challenge the old corrupt ways of the ruling party.
Speechmaker Obama talks about an era of bipartisanship, He speaks powerfully about the destructive politics of red and blue states.
Politician Obama has toed his party's line more reliably than almost any other Democrat in US politics. He has a near-perfect record of voting with his side. He has the most solidly left-wing voting history in the Senate. His one act of bipartisanship, a transparency bill co-sponsored with a Republican senator, was backed by everybody on both sides of the aisle. He has never challenged his party's line on any issue of substance.
Speechmaker Obama talks a lot about finding ways to move beyond the bloody battlegrounds of the “culture wars” in America; the urgent need to establish consensus on the emotive issue of abortion.
Politician Obama's support for abortion rights is the most extreme of any Democratic senator. In the Illinois legislature he refused to join Democrats and Republicans in supporting a Bill that would require doctors to provide medical care for babies who survived abortions. No one in the Senate - not the arch feminist Hillary Clinton nor the superliberal Edward Kennedy - opposed this same humane measure.
Here's the real problem with Mr Obama: the jarring gap between his promises of change and his status quo performance. There are just too many contradictions between the eloquent poetry of the man's stirring rhetoric and the dull, familiar prose of his political record.
It's been remarked that the biggest difference between Americans and Europeans is religion: ignorant Americans cling to faith; enlightened Europeans long ago embraced the liberating power of reason. Yet here's an odd thing about this election. Europeans are asking Americans to take a leap of faith, to break the chains of empiricism and embrace the possibility of the imagination.
The fact is that a vote for Mr Obama demands uncritical subservience to the irrational, anti-empirical proposition that the past holds no clues about the future, that promise is wholly detached from experience. The second-greatest story ever told, perhaps.
A commenter to an earlier post made a standard liberal talking point. If I remove all the boilerplate Team Obama rhetoric, the rants, the bile, the insults, etc., essentially the commenter said this: of course the Republicans donated more to charity – they (the Republicans) are the rich ones, while the Democrats are all poor.
It would be a good point if it were true. But for decades now, the majority of wealthy Americans have been liberals, and have overwhelmingly voted Democratic. Are you surprised? You shouldn't be – just think of the Kennedys, George Soros, Bill Gates, the Pelosis, Kerry/Heinz, nearly all of Hollywood, Oprah, and on and on.
The actual demographic data is actually quite interesting. There's a good article about it here. It's hard to characterize in a simple way, as there's a lot of variation from place to place within the U.S. But speaking very generally, it's safe to say that the majority of America's middle class is conservative or libertarian (leaning Republican), and the majority of both America's wealthy and America's poor are liberal (leaning Democrat). The two best correllates to self-identified liberals are (a) wealth, and (b) living in urban areas. The two best correllates to self-identified conservatives or libertarians are (a) living in suburban or rural areas, and (b) Christian faith.
So my commenter's assertion about why conservatives and libertarions give more to charity doesn't fit with the actual facts – like so many other liberal memes...
Today Sitemeter, after much fanfare, switched over to a brand-new site. It appears to have been rebuilt from the ground up. My first impressions are all negative. It's slow (though maybe this is partly because they just started up). It's way too complicated. I haven't yet figured out how to get all the information I used to get with a single click. The information I have figured out how to get takes more effort to get it. The old site used to leave me logged in, the new site requires me to re-login after some period of time.
It's just plain awful. I'd give it a failing grade: E. I know they never asked me about the new design, but I'm wondering if they asked anybody at all – the new site looks to me like someone's “brilliant” idea that they never bothered to check out with their customers.
So now I'm looking for an alternative vendor. Does anybody have any recommendations?
Update: The Sitemeter site is now displaying a message saying that they're rolling back to the former system. It doesn't say why, or whether this is a permanent rollback – but just in case they're paying attention: PLEASE! PLEASE MAKE THE ROLLBACK PERMANENT!!!
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Nancy Kallitechnis is a liberal writer whom I had never heard of until this morning, when reader Bill G. passed along a link to one of her posts on HillaryClintonForum.net. With some Googling all I could really discover is that she's a prolific poster on many liberal-oriented sites. It's clear from her posts that she's a very enthusiastic Hillary supporter, and has no love at all for The One. She posted a comparison of Gibson's interviews with Palin and Obama, and despite her agenda for Hillary, she makes some good points. Here's her conclusion:
There’s no doubt the Charles Gibson interviews showed extreme prejudice against Palin and extreme favoritism towards Obama. His manner towards Palin was much more negative. He asked her much more difficult questions and the questions were more adversarial. He constantly questioned her ability to lead but never questioned Obama’s ability to lead, all the more amazing considering that Palin was the only one with executive experience and the presidency is the highest level executive job in politics. The camera angles always focused on Obama’s face when he was talking making him the center of attention yet during Palin’s interview the angle often focused on her back apparently for the purpose of lessening the impact of her presence.Interesting stuff, especially considering the political inclinations of the author. What's even more interesting are the comments following the post...
The questions, camera angle, and manner of the interviewer were designed in a way that favored Obama. Because Palin is a historic woman candidate and has been attacked with sexism it is reasonable to believe that ABC News is trying to harm her candidacy due to sexism. Of particular note is that Gibson asked Obama four questions about breaking the AA political glass ceiling but asked Palin zero questions about her breaking the women’s political glass ceiling. ABC’s prejudice against Palin was wrong and is blocking women’s progress towards equality. Palin is brave and strong and she, along with her supporters, will battle sexism and other forms of harmful prejudice in order to improve our world. This is a wake up call for ABC and the sexist news media to help them achieve their potential to be fair to candidates because fairness in the media is essential to a democracy.
Now I don't think either of those numbers is “bad” in any sense of that word. By comparison, Debbie and I (in percentage terms) were somewhere between the two of them. I believe that giving to charity (and which charity one chooses to give to) are entirely personal matters, and the quantity of a candidate's charitable gifts has no weight at all in my decision about supporting them.
But this reminds me of a book I read some time ago, called Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism. The “surprising truth” in the book is this: measured in dollars or percentage, charitable giving by liberals is dwarfed by charitable giving by conservatives (and libertarians). This is consistent with my own (far less rigorous) observations and experiences in charity work.
McCain contributed 26% of his income last year to charities. Palin's tax returns have not yet been made public, so we don't know what their contributions were.
When I read that book, I came away with the thought that this aggregate difference in charitable giving carries a profound message of some sort. The closest I ever came to being able to articulate it was the notion that liberals in general expect government to do things for them; conservatives and libertarians are much more interested in having the government get out of the way so they can do things themselves. There's yet a deeper message there, I think...
By now you've probably heard about (and maybe you've seen it) Obama's ad criticizing McCain for being old-fashioned and out-of-touch. The ad specifically mentions his inability to send an email, as part of its general characterization of him. And if you're paying attention at all, you've probably already heard that Team Obama is looking pretty darned stupid on that account, as they apparently missed the reason why McCain can't send an email: his North Vietnamese torturers made sure that he'd never be able to do anything requiring dexterity in his hands again. The best sober discussion of this incident that I've seen is here.
Team Obama seems to be remarkably prone to this sort of stupidity. They've made gaffe after gaffe, and despite the best efforts of the in-the-tank-for-Obama lamestream media to suppress them, the word is getting out. I'm beginning to get the impression of a rock-star celebrity-based campaign run by amateurs who were getting away with it only because of The One's image and celebrity. But those are looking a little tarnished these days, and the light seems brighter over in the McCain/Palin camp – and only because of Palin.
I'd pay good money to be a fly on the wall of a Democratic strategy session right about now...
I hope the Republicans don't get too cocksure during this period. Must be mighty heady for them...
Friday, September 12, 2008
Luddy used a combination of young and experienced staffers claiming that a young mindset is required. More experienced developers can tend to be set in their ways which may have been good ideas in the past, but are not good ideas today. For example, Luddy asks "why would anyone write APIs" anymore? APIs made sense back in the client server days but is not the most efficient approach in an SOA. Luddy challenged his more experienced developers to go with what is relevant to the problems you are trying to solve today and "shed your baggage at the door." Luddy's best advice is "choose the simplest, most flexible technologies." His team did just that and selected a variety of open source and web 2.0 technologies to make the user presentation layer as user friendly and customizable as possible.It's exciting to see us getting more press attention, and interesting to see the things they pick to focus on. One thing I'm sure of: when the press talks with Fred, they aren't hearing the usual plate full of buzz words that high-tech CEOs seem to love so much, without really understanding them...
Thursday, September 11, 2008
The ultimate American individual, Palin wasn't ever committed to any collectivity but America itself. She was never "I am Woman, hear me roar." She was always, "I am Sarah, watch me act." Palin represents what would have happened to American women without a feminist revolution. For legal and social equity for women was bound to arise organically through political and cultural reform, as more and more women entered university and the work force, a process well underway before feminism became an organized movement.Interesting thought, and it rings true with me. Palin, the organic feminist!
Liberal Democrats – most especially female liberal Democrats – seem to be emerging from whatever crazy place they've been into the real world. And Palin is the common thread in all of these metamorphoses.
I'm a longtime Democrat. I worked for Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and supported Sen. Hillary Clinton in her presidential campaign. But I must face the uncomfortable truth that liberal elitism has been a weakness of the Democratic Party for more than half a century. In 1952 and 1956, for example, Adlai Stevenson emerged as the presidential candidate of the party's "new politics" wing. But while Stevenson's stylish, articulate, high-brow manner thrilled the nation's intellectuals, he could never connect with large numbers of working-class Democrats who found him aloof and aristocratic.
The "new politics" Democrats have found their new, improved Stevenson in Mr. Obama. In spite of his lofty liberal rhetoric, Mr. Obama is not connecting to millions of middle- and working-class voters, as well as women voters of all classes. Not only is his legislative record scant on issues that make a difference in their lives, but his current campaign is based mainly on an assumption of his transcendence.
Despite Mr. Obama's assertions that his campaign is about "you," much of his campaign is, in fact, all about him. In the months since the primaries ended, his creation and display of a mock presidential seal with his name on it, his speech at a mass rally at the Prussian Victory Column in Berlin, and his insistence on delivering his acceptance speech in front of fabricated Greek columns in a stadium holding 80,000 chanting supporters have crossed the thin line that separates galvanizing voters and plain old demagoguery.
In this context, it should come as no surprise that Sarah Palin, mother of five, hockey mom turned governor and maverick reformer, would instantly zero in on the inherent weakness in Mr. Obama's candidacy, and contrast it with her own compelling life story.
The Democratic strategists must be shrieking and wailing nonstop these days.
I love it!
Another photo from her tour of places Alaskan soldiers served, last year. The MilBlogs are, btw, chock-a-block full of stories from soldiers about meeting and talking with Palin. Usually the troops are quite reserved and respectful when talking about politicians. The posts about Palin stand out for the frank admiration expressed (and not just about her appearance!). In that way they are reminiscent of posts from the troops about President Bush...
“Never forget!” is the rallying cry on this day. But I fear too many Americans already have forgotten, in the sense that they no longer see the existential threat that Al Qaeda (and radical Islamic fundamentalism, more generally) present to this country. We have had seven years without another successfull attack on our homeland, and many Americans see this as evidence of Al Qaeda's weakness (or even non-existence!), as opposed to American strength. We now have many adult Americans who really don't even remember 9/11, as they were too young when it happened.
For me, these are all pieces of the only issue I am really worried about in the upcoming election. It boils down to this: when the next Al Qaeda attack comes (as I think is likely), would I rather have Obama or McCain as President? Or, for that matter, Biden or Palin? As best I can tell, the Democrats would instinctively react by withdrawing and retreating, by preemptive surrender, and they'd wrap those actions in flowery words of moral equivalence, America's sins, and multinational agreement. I cannot even imagine them reacting as I would want to: with an aggressive offense, stomping the perpetrators out of existence and making an example that would give the next jihadis some doubts about the wisdom of their actions. I cannot be sure that McCain (or Palin) would react that way, but it seems likely.
So McCain and Palin will get my vote. I will vote on this one issue alone; the rest are irrelevant by comparsion (to me).
Not that it actually matters how I vote here in California. We're a “winner takes all” state, and the Democratic lead is insurmountable (or so conventional wisdom says)...
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
The whole article is over at Salon, and well worth a few minutes of your time.
I had heard vaguely about Palin but had never heard her speak. I nearly fell out of my chair. It was like watching a boxing match or a quarter of hard-hitting football -- or one of the great light-saber duels in "Star Wars." (Here are the two Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn, going at it with Darth Maul in "The Phantom Menace.") This woman turned out to be a tough, scrappy fighter with a mischievous sense of humor.
Conservative though she may be, I felt that Palin represented an explosion of a brand new style of muscular American feminism. At her startling debut on that day, she was combining male and female qualities in ways that I have never seen before. And she was somehow able to seem simultaneously reassuringly traditional and gung-ho futurist. In terms of redefining the persona for female authority and leadership, Palin has made the biggest step forward in feminism since Madonna channeled the dominatrix persona of high-glam Marlene Dietrich and rammed pro-sex, pro-beauty feminism down the throats of the prissy, victim-mongering, philistine feminist establishment.
Palin is shaking things up more than I'd ever have expected...
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
One of Rush Limbaugh's callers told a poignant story about McCain and Palin taking time out, privately, to say hello to the caller's family – which includes a chlid with Down's syndrome. In the caller's own words:
So we accompanied them up the hill, we went right to the bus, where it was, and Governor Palin, Senator McCain, Cindy, Todd Palin, they're all standing there. We're in this inner circle with just us and them, and the Secret Service agent, and they came right up to us and thanked us for coming out, said they loved our sign, and Governor Palin immediately said, "May I hold your daughter?" and our daughter Chloe, who's five, went right to her, and I have some pictures I'd love to send you maybe when I'm done here, but Governor Palin was hugging Chloe, and then her little daughter brought their baby Trig who has Down syndrome from the bus, he was napping, and Chloe went right over and kissed him on the cheek, and my son Nolan who's nine, he thanked her.This sort of out-of-the-press, private, no-publicity-intended action speaks volumes about the true nature of an individual. It's like the old maxim that character is behaving well when nobody is watching. McCain and Palin didn't do this because it was advantageous to them – they wanted to do this. Though most people don't know it, George Bush does this same sort of thing all the time. For all three of them, knowing this has the same effect on me: it makes these politicians seem more real, more genuine, more human, more ordinary – and not at all like the disdainful elitist that Obama so typifies amongst the liberal's top tier.
More photos and dialog here.
"That's not change. You know, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig."He may or may not have meant that as an allusion to Sarah Palin's now-famous comment in her acceptance speech (“What's the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick!”), but his admirer's certainly thought he did. And that's not likely to go over well with the wavering Obama supporters.
It's more pleasurable than I thought it would be to see the Democrats on defensive for once...
Many included other words, as well – words that I'm not going to repeat. But I'll tell you this much: I spent six years in the Navy, before there were women on ships at sea, and (a) I'm embarrassed by some of these searches, and (b) some of them I had to look up the meaning of. There are some truly sick puppies out there...
We live in interesting times, and old stereotypes are being turned on their heads...
What does it take to rank among the top 50 companies on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing private companies in America? Among other things, these days it takes great information technology. Brian Morgan, director of IT at Interbank FX (IBFX) in Salt Lake City concurs.
IBFX is a leading provider of online foreign exchange trading services, serving clients from more than 140 countries. The company handles about $4 billion in transactions a day for its customers. Inc. magazine recently named IBFX as the 46th fastest growing private company in America, and the 5th fastest growing financial services company. Utah Business magazine gives IBFX the title of number one growth company in the state of Utah.
To reach and sustain that level of growth, the IT systems need to be able to grow and adapt rapidly to the company’s needs. This is one of the reasons Morgan and his IT team selected a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering from Service-now.com as the company’s IT service management (ITSM) platform. “Service-now.com helps us provide better uptime for our systems than we could do if we hosted an application ourselves,” says Morgan.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
That observation about Obama's few actual accomplishments versus Palin's many strikes to the heart of the matter.
Krauthammer thinks that by selecting Palin, McCain threw away his best argument, the fact that his own qualifications are so obviously superior to Obama's. That was my concern, too, when I first learned of the Palin pick. But it fails to give enough emphasis to the basic fact that Obama is running for President, not Vice President. It also fails to acknowledge that Obama and Palin, being middle-aged, do have track records, and those records are very different. Obama has never been a reformer. He has always been a careerist. Wherever he has gone, he has left an extraordinarily light footprint. He has had little or no impact.
The opposite is true of Palin. She entered politics as an outsider--in Alaska!--and as a reformer. Wherever she has gone, she has made a difference. In political terms, her record usefully shows up the fact that Obama is a poseur.
And isn't it interesting that so many are comparing the Republican Vice Presidential pick to the Democratic Presidential pick?
Mann was roundly criticized for this transgression, by both skeptics and advocates of AGW. So recently he published a reworked version of his original study, and this time he was more open about his data and methods. Warren Meyer, writing at Climate Skeptic, dubbed this new study “Lipstick on a Pig” – read his excellent article to see why. Meyer's post led me to Steve McIntyre's outstanding Climate Audit site and this article, where McIntyre did something very interesting that makes the root of his skepticism very accessible to people who don't know the math and are not climate experts. Spend a few minutes looking at the links below and you'll come away with a much better understanding of why I and many others are so skeptical of AGW.
First of all, here's the links (from Climate Audit): Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5. McIntyre broke this into five parts only because of limitations of the software he used to produce them.
The posts themselves delve into the technical reasons (though not too deeply) why so many scientists are concerned about Mann's study. But the graph animations linked above are simple enough for anyone to understand. McIntyre took all the temperature data that Mann started with, reformatted it so that he could display each source of data on an identical graph, and then flips through them one after the other. What anyone is immediately struck by is just how random the data is – there's no clear pattern in it at all. As a commenter observes, by cherry-picking and massaging this data, one could make a graph that has any shape you'd like it to have!
And cherry-picking and massaging is exactly what Mann has done with this data. What he most definitely did not do is simply average it all out – others have done this, however, and found no trend whatsoever. I'm not saying that a simple average is the right thing to do – but I am saying that if a simple average shows no trend at all, and Mann's manipulation shows the pronounced hockey stick, then we should be very skeptical indeed of Mann's results.
This kind of data manipulation hocus-pocus would be instantly condemned – and rejected – in just about every other field of science I'm familiar with. No reputable scientist would even consider relying on such a shaky foundation for public policy decisions that have trillions of dollars in economic impact.
Why are we allowing this to happen with AGW? Why do so many people listen to Al Gore rather than use their own common sense? I sure wish I knew the answer to that...
I see many who disagree with Obama, or who find him far more stylish than substantive...but bullied? Not unless that word has a far different meaning for Obama than it does for me. And I have to say that if Obama believes he's being bullied simply because there are some who disagree with him, or who don't find him admirable, then I find that alone a bit worrisome.
Seems a lot like whining. Like he needs his momma to come help him out with the meanies. Just sayin'...
Saturday, September 6, 2008
- Why has every major news organization sent teams of reporters to Arizona (to hunt down and interview Cindy McCain's disinherited older half-siblings from her father's first marriage) and to Alaska (to hunt down and interview any disgruntled divorced in-laws or baby daddy's relatives) but not to Kenya (to interview the Muslim co-parents, half-siblings and co-siblings from Obama's father's numerous polygamist marriages) or to Indonesia (to interview the Muslim family of Obama's stepfather and any Indonesian half-siblings and classmates)?
- Why is Obama's 18 year old birth mother (impregnated by an older African exchange student with several polygamist wives stashed away in Kenya) an example of all-American grit, courage and upward mobility, but Bristol Palin is a slut? (For bonus points - identify which one went on government assistance.)