30 December 2008

Evil, thy name is Che

There are some topics that get me all riled up. The deification of Che Guevara is one of those. I have long bristled at the ignorant (at best, stupid at worst) people who wear his image on shirts and hang it on walls, often with the barest understanding of his deeds.

In one of her best columns of the year, the WSJ's Mary Anastasia O'Grady lays to rest any notion of Che's heroism. A new film has been made about him, and it does us a disservice in its portrayal of a man who admonished the use of hatred in his struggle, a hatred meant to push "a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective and cold-blooded killing machine."

Don't believe the hype. Speak up when you see idiocy masquerading as fashion.

29 December 2008

Climate Change, Shmimate Change

This is an interesting column that explores the weakening "consensus" on Global Warming.

Ever shriller and more frantic has become the insistence of the warmists, cheered on by their army of media groupies such as the BBC, that the last 10 years have been the "hottest in history" and that the North Pole would soon be ice-free – as the poles remain defiantly icebound and those polar bears fail to drown. All those hysterical predictions that we are seeing more droughts and hurricanes than ever before have infuriatingly failed to materialise.
Even the more cautious scientific acolytes of the official orthodoxy now admit that, thanks to "natural factors" such as ocean currents, temperatures have failed to rise as predicted (although they plaintively assure us that this cooling effect is merely "masking the underlying warming trend", and that the temperature rise will resume worse than ever by the middle of the next decade).
Secondly, 2008 was the year when any pretence that there was a "scientific consensus" in favour of man-made global warming collapsed. At long last, as in the Manhattan Declaration last March, hundreds of proper scientists, including many of the world's most eminent climate experts, have been rallying to pour scorn on that "consensus" which was only a politically engineered artefact, based on ever more blatantly manipulated data and computer models programmed to produce no more than convenient fictions.
Thirdly, as banks collapsed and the global economy plunged into its worst recession for decades, harsh reality at last began to break in on those self-deluding dreams which have for so long possessed almost every politician in the western world. As we saw in this month's Poznan conference, when 10,000 politicians, officials and "environmentalists" gathered to plan next year's "son of Kyoto" treaty in Copenhagen, panicking politicians are waking up to the fact that the world can no longer afford all those quixotic schemes for "combating climate change" with which they were so happy to indulge themselves in more comfortable times.

It really comes down to the question of priorities. Where do we allocate our finite resources? It should be focused on the issues that we KNOW we can affect, such as child mortality due to unsafe water.

Dolphins Turn it Around

If you need further proof about the futility of sports prognostication here is one: One year after going 1-15, the Miami Dolphins are in the playoffs with an 11-5 record. They have a tough road, but considering, not just last season, but how long it has been since they've even made the playoff, this is great news.

27 December 2008

Awesome Video Saturday LXXI

A post-Christmas gift for my Twilight loving friends.

26 December 2008

SPOTD #146

I hope everyone has enjoyed the holidays. We've been visiting Lacy's family, and having a great time.

Today's phrase:
This is a great time to perform service for people less fortunate. From Dr. Martin Luther King

Si ayudaras a una sola persona a tener esperanza, no habrias vivido en vano.

Phonetic with emphasis on bold syllable:
See ah-yoo-dahs ah oo-nah so-lah pare-sewn-ah ah tain-air ace-pare-ahn-sah, no ahs vee-vee-do enn vah-no.

If you help only one person to have hope, you would not have lived in vain

Condi lays it down...
I've made a concerted effort lately to keep the SPOTD e-mails apolitical, but I wanted to share this article. It is drawn from a conversation between a Wall Street Journal writer, Kimberley Strassel, and Condoleeza Rice. Rice challenges the notion that the Bush Administration has left the U.S. in a worse situation in terms of international relations. She draws comparisons between the situation inherited by Bush versus the one being inherited by Obama. You may disagree with the policies of the Bush administration, but I think she makes some valid points.

The recent Heisman voting left last year's winner, Tim Tebow, in 3rd place. I am not really a Gator fan, giving my allegiance to BYU and Miami, but Tebow is an outstanding player and individual. This bit from the Wall Street Journal makes a case for why he may be the best player of all time.

Last Minute Shopping
Looking for a way to spend a Christmas gift? Popular Mechanics has a series where they look at various tv-sold products. I wrote about one, the Shamwow, at In Rare Form.

Failed Promise
I love movie trailers. They are so expertly made these days that many very mediocre films look like they're going to be much better. This site looks at some great trailers for mediocre 2008 films.

Link of the Day
This is incredible. In order to maintian New York City's aquifer, divers are living underground in a tank, breathing a mixture of mostly helium.
You must read this fascinating bit.

25 December 2008

¡Felíz Navidad!

Disney and Christmas just seem to go together. Enjoy this Christmas-themed clip.

Of course, these kinds of things are secondary to the real significance of the holiday, the birth of Jesus Christ.

20 December 2008

On Economic Leadership

I am concerned by the lack of economic leadership in our time. Neither Bush nor Obama has given the American people much to look forward to. Yesterday saw Obama talking about economic recovery, and how "It will take longer than any of us would like — years, not months. It will get worse before it gets better." Joe Biden said "There is no short run other than keeping the economy from absolutely tanking. That's the only short run." Indelicate words.

I don't mean to imply that the economy is healthy right now. It isn't, but we don't need leaders thst confirm the most negative assessments proferred by the media. We need leaders that acknowledge our problems while offering a clear understanding of America's unique advantages. Are we getting that from anyone right now? Obama was elected in part on his ability to inspire people. Though I failed to be moved by him I could understand the appeal. I'm not seeing a whole lot of inspiration right now.

Meanwhile, Congress failed to demonstrate leadership by allowing a scheduled pay increase to pass. Good work folks.

At least Illinois seems likely to provide a fascinating sideshow for a while.

Awesome Video Saturday LXX

I used to have this dream where I was Mario. I was in the game, jumping up and down, moving forward and backward but never side-to-side. It was kind of claustrophobic.

Anyway, I thought this video by some crazy French guy was cool.

18 December 2008

Global Warmism's Hubris

This post is not about whether there is global warming. Nor is it about whether climate change is manmade. It is about the foolishness of the many that presume that we can manipulate climate to our own ends. A CNN meteorologist agrees:

CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers had never bought into the notion that man can alter the climate and the Vegas snowstorm didn’t impact his opinion. Myers, an American Meteorological Society certified meteorologist , explained on CNN’s Dec. 18 “Lou Dobbs Tonight” that the whole idea is arrogant and mankind was in danger of dying from other natural events more so than global warming.
“You know, to think that we could affect weather all that much is pretty arrogant,” Myers said. “Mother Nature is so big, the world is so big, the oceans are so big – I think we’re going to die from a lack of fresh water or we’re going to die from ocean acidification before we die from global warming, for sure.”
People like Bjorn Lomborg have argued very effectively that there are many more worthy causes for our money and time. This is not to say that we shouldn't address environmental issues. We should address the things that can be controlled, and I just don't think that climate is one of those.

It you think I'm wrong, please let me know.

17 December 2008

NY No ♥ U

The State of New York has unveiled a devastating budget for 2009. It's full of budget cuts and tax increases. Get the rundown here.

Florida is having some tough times as well, but not quite like this. I'm sure the NY plan will only decrease incentives to stay in the state.

Principled Opposition

I love Atlas Shrugged. The book promotes a kind of ideological purity that I would find difficult to apply, but I still admire it. This statement from the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights examines the real reason why Republican opposition to an auto bailout should be offensive:

A principled opposition to the auto bailout would have denounced as immoral any attempt to use taxpayer money to prop up failing companies. It would have insisted that such attempts at central planning are destructive and un-American. It would have said that the government’s proper function is not to engineer the economy, but to protect individual rights and otherwise leave the economy free. That is not what the Republicans claimed.
“In his floor statement opposing the bill, leading Republican senator Mitch McConnell’s ‘stinging’ criticism consisted of finding that the bill ‘does not’ lay out ‘an effective strategy for securing the long-term viability of these companies,’ that it did not give the proposed ‘Car Czar’ enough power, and--the ultimate deal-killer for Republicans--the bill would have adjusted auto worker wage rates at ‘too slow’ a pace.
“The tragic fact is that Republicans do not regard central planning as objectionable--they merely disagree with the Democrats’ central plan.”
It is a damning but accurate critique, and Republicans will continue to fail among many of their former supporters if they don't wise up.

Kennedy Shmennedy

Isn't there anyone qualified for the New York senate seat that is not named Kennedy? Is New York that devoid of talent? Must the replacement come from the political establishment at all?

Claudia Rosett compares the New York situation to what we might find in some banana republic. It's pathetic.

15 December 2008

Saying Thanks

Say what you want about the guy, but you can tell from their reaction that a visit from the President was very meaningful for these soldiers. It is fitting that he would visit them once more before the end of his term.

14 December 2008

Death & the Failed State

As a follow-up to my previous post on the effect of inconsistent maritime law on piracy, here is a great article by Max Boot on the matter, as well as what can be done to improve things. He focuses on the impact of "failed states" like Somalia, and how the absence of a legitimate ruling power creates a vacuum that is all too attractive for pirates and their ilk.

Similarly, this post from a New York Times blog looks at how failed states harm their own citizens internally. In this case, it is the failure of the government of Zimbabwe to act decisively against a serious outbreak of cholera. The author poses some good questions, most of which I think are addressed in Boot's prescription:
The essential problem in both Somalia and Pakistan is a failure of governance. The question is: What if anything can outside powers do to bring the rule of law to these troubled lands? In the 19th century, the answer was simple: European imperialists would plant their flag and impose their laws at gunpoint. The territory that now comprises Pakistan was not entirely peaceful when it was under British rule. Nor was Somalia under Italian and British sovereignty. But they were considerably better off than they are today -- not only from the standpoint of Western countries but also from the standpoint of their own citizens.
You might think that such imperialism is simply unacceptable today. But you would be only partially right. There have been a number of instances in recent years of imperialism-in-all-but-name. Bosnia and Kosovo -- still wards of NATO and the European Union -- are prominent examples of how successful such interventions can be in the right circumstances.

Is this a Maslow thing? I think so, in the sense that security and the rule of law are essential if we want the niceties of government, such as disease prevention and democratic regimes. This is something that we will be dealing with for a long time.

13 December 2008

Awesome Video Saturday LXIX

In the end, this is really just a long commercial, but its a good one.

12 December 2008

Frigid Nights in Far-off Lands

I really encourage you to visit Michael Yon's site. He is an independent journalist providing some of the best war-reporting available. He's not an ideologue in the political sense, but is absolutely interested in seeing us win our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is frank about the challenges we face in Afghanistan, as he was about Iraq pre-Surge. Here is an excerpt of a recent post:

While Americans sleep tight in their beds, this time of year U.S. soldiers sit shivering through the frigid, crystal clear nights at remote outposts in places most of us have never heard of and will never see. Often they head out into the enveloping darkness, to hunt down and destroy terrorists, who continue to kill innocent Afghans, Americans, Aussies, Balinese, Brits, Indians, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Spanish….in short, anyone who opposes their violent tyranny.

All of this occurring a world away from our comfortable lives. Read more and remember.

11 December 2008

Missile Defense- Does it work?

Popular Mechanics takes a look at our missile defense technology. Some thoughts:

Ultimately, the question of whether the GBI is an effective defensive system or simply part of a well-orchestrated bluff could be irrelevant. This year Congress called for a study to determine whether ballistic-missile defense should exist as currently configured, with a review to be finished by 2010. And even if the MDA’s $9.3 billion annual budget survives congressional scrutiny, its direction and scope could change under a new presidential administration. For now, Fort Greely is adding more missiles. Stepping out of the silo, I notice the day feels colder. There are 20 silos in this missile field, and in the distance, a silo is hanging suspended from a crane—another missile field under construction. I ask Bond why the inventory keeps growing, when neither North Korea nor Iran has successfully tested an ICBM. “You cannot wait until an enemy has a knife at your throat to figure out how to parry the thrust,” he says. “If you do, your life or your wallet will be forfeit.”
It's a very interesting article, and it explains how ballistic missile defense systems are meant to operate. Pretty cool technology.

10 December 2008

How Dark the Knight

The Dark Knight was definitely my favorite film this year. I was had a desire to be a professional filmmaker. At some point in my very early 20's I realized that I lacked some of the determination, and perhaps innate skill, to make a successful go of it. I still love film, and I enjoy getting a filmmaker's perspective on the choices they make in the production process.

There is no question about Christopher Nolan's technical skill as a director. The Dark Knight was an extraordinary crescendo of action and feeling that left me thinking about it for days. I thought the themes in the movie, while dark, were well worth thinking about.

In this piece, from an L.A. Times blog post, Nolan revisits one scene from the film, his favorite, and if you enjoyed the movie you may like what he has to say. An excerpt:

Christian and I had talked a lot on "Batman Begins" about finding a moment in that film where you actually worry that Batman will go too far. A moment where his rage might spill over and he would break his rules. We never found that moment. It just wasn’t there in that story. There was a lot of strength and aggression in the way he played the part, but I don’t think the story provided that element of losing control. What the Joker provides in the second film is the fact that his entire motivation is to push people’s buttons and find their rules set and it turn it on itself. And Batman of course places such importance on his rules, his morals. It’s what distinguishes him, in his mind, from a common vigilante. The Joker is able to twist him around and make him question his own approach and his own actions.

08 December 2008

SPOTD #145

Its been a while, but here is the latest edition of the SPOTD. Enjoy.

Today's phrase:
The proximity of major holidays in November and December means many of us spend a lot of time with our family. Thomas Jefferson had the following to say:

Los mejores momentos de mi vida han sido aquellos que he disfrutado en mi hogar en el seno de mi familia.

Phonetic with emphasis on bold syllable:
Lows may-hore-ace mow-main-toes day me vee-dah ahn see-doe ah-kay-yos kay ay dees-froo-tah-doe enn me oh-gar enn ell say-no day me fah-meel-ya.

The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family.

Quantum of Solace: I thought Casino Royale was fantastic, so I've been eagerly anticipating this sequel. It wasn't as good, but I liked it. I'm sold on Daniel Craig
Speed Racer: This movie really is a live-action cartoon. I was always a fan of the source material. When I was little I would crawl into my parents bed in the morning to watch the cartoon. I enjoyed it. I don't think I would expect Lacy to watch it- definitely not her thing- but I thought it was cool.
The Road Home: This is a Chinese film, by the same director as Hero and House of Flying Daggers. This is not a martial arts epic, but a sweet, small love story. We both enjoyed it quite a bit.
Twilight: I didn't see it, but my wife did. She enjoyed it, mostly on the performance of Robert Pattinson. She said she'd see the sequel (certain to be made now) and hopes the enhanced budget can compensate for a mediocre effects effort.

Phasers On
My son would call these "zappers" (I call them that because it doesn't bother Lacy as much as saying "guns"), but this news about lasers being used in the military is great. The primary focus is to destroy weaponry and incoming artillery/missiles. Very cool.

Dear Santa
Who wouldn't like to have some Night Vision Goggles, and for less than $70!?!

Do-it-Yourself At Its Best
Some of you will be traveling over the next month. If you have ever tried to watch a movie on an iPod, you know holding it can get old. Behold! Your solution.

Link of the Day
Bought your Festivus Pole yet?

07 December 2008


Today is the 67th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. We should remember those who died in the attack, what their heroism taught us, and never forget.

For this group of veteran survivors the memories are fresh.

06 December 2008

Awesome Video Saturday LXVIII

I miss John Candy. The whole clip is good, but the end is money.

I almost didn't post this one because it is so painful, but I couldn't resist.

05 December 2008

Plaxico & the 2nd Amendment

You may have heard of the accidental self-shooting of New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress. He was foolish and careless in his behavior, but is the law that may send him to prison for a 3 1/2 years even consitutional?

In the Wall Street Journal Dave Kopel argues that it is not. Kopel points out that Burress is not being charged with discharging his firearm, shooting himself, or using a firearm while consuming alchohol. He is being charged with carrying an unlicensed firearm in New York:

In 40 states, including Connecticut, law-abiding adults are issued permits once they pass a fingerprint-based background check and a safety class. In New Jersey, carry permits are virtually never issued. In New York City, carry permits are issued, but to applicants with some form of political clout rather than on the basis of his or her need for protection.
The Second Amendment might not require New Jersey or New York City to issue as liberally as Connecticut does. But with a population of several million and only a few thousand (consisting mainly of politicians, retired police and celebrities) able to get permits, New York City's licensing process is almost certainly unconstitutional on a number of grounds, including sheer arbitrariness.
Some commentators contend that Plaxico Burress should have hired bodyguards, instead of carrying a gun himself. Mr. Burress might now agree. But people who aren't as wealthy as he is also deserve to be safe, and they don't have the money for bodyguards. New York City needs to regularize its carry permit system so that law-abiding people can protect themselves, especially if their circumstances (such as being a witness to a gang crime) place them at heightened risk.
Burress was licensed to carry a firearm in Florida, where he was a resident. Was he foolish for carrying in New York? Yes. Could he have seriously injured himself or others? Without question. Is the law of New York constitutional? Only time will tell, but in my opinion Kopel makes a good case.