31 January 2009

Awesome Video Saturday LXXV

A great spoof on the "Whopper Virgins" ad:

I've always loved Beaker:

Ode To Joy from Beaker on Vimeo.

29 January 2009

You've Got a Friend

The tremendous popularity of social networking has led to some questions about friendship. One of those is when and how to "unfriend."

This New York Times article looks at the politics friendship in the online age. I like this quote from Henry Blodget, interviewed in the piece:

Mr. Blodget asked Facebook to develop new friendship levels that would let users sort their acquaintances by degree of separation. He suggested categories like “ ‘personal friends’ or ‘work friends’ or ‘extra special friends’ or ‘BFFs’ or ‘friends you want to hear meaningless trivia about all day long,’ ” and implored, “Please give me the ability to put friends in these groups without telling them I have done so.”
It's a fun article.

28 January 2009

The Lost Generation

My parents are members of the baby boomer generation, and wonderful people. They are not alone in that regard. Despite many individuals who dignify this generation, as a whole I find Baby Boomers to be quite disappointing.

I'm not alone. Victor Davis Hanson has a condemning post on The Corner:

The reaction to the economic panic was sort of analogous to the call to 'charge it!' after 9/11 (cf. Ike's fights about the surtax to pay for Korea), or to the Iraq 2006 upsurge in violence, when suddenly our leaders declared the war lost, blamed the nebulous "they" for tricking them into voting for the war, and calling for immediate withdrawals and retreats. Ditto the Stalag-Gulag Guantanamo that, by January 19, had ruined the Constitution, shredded the Bill of Rights, and forever tarnished our reputation. Yet, on the 20th, it was suddenly complex and problematic, and required a "task force" to do a year-long inquiry into the bad and worse choices confronting us. At some point in all this serial hysteria, we are beginning to see the problem is not in the stars of the economy or of the war, but in ourselves—a weird generation that, when it finally came of age, proved to be just about what we could expect of it from what we saw in its youth.
Its not too late for this to change, but the continual love affair of Baby Boomers with the misbegotten social experiement that is 60's sure isn't helping.

24 January 2009

Fighting the ...?

This may surprise no one, but I've never had a problem with the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The great outcry against the facility is borne of luxury. By luxury I mean the tremendously good fortune we have enjoyed since 9/11 in the form of ZERO major terrorist incidents on American soil.

7 years ago we didn't have that luxury. We didn't have years to feel safe, to feel like so much of the Bush administration's response was overreach and overreaction. Now we look back, and despite government statements that attacks were planned and averted we find ourselves repudiating the actions of the previous administration. I hope we continue to know such luxury. The Israelis certainly don't know it. They live in a state that is perhaps more measured and controlled than what we could attain in similar circumstances.

As David Rivkin and Lee Casey point out in this Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, we should be concerned less with the actual closure of Gitmo and more on how the Obama administration plans to prosecute the war on terror (or whatever they choose to call it).

What Mr. Obama's national security team will quickly discover is that the civilian criminal-justice system is an inadequate tool to deal with terrorists. President Bush's policies -- particularly treating captured terrorists as unlawful enemy combatants and employing a military court system to try them -- were dictated by the very real need to defend American citizens, not by disdain for the rule of law.

The Bush administration chose the law-of-war paradigm because the international law of armed conflict gives the U.S. maximum flexibility to meet the jihadist threat, including the right to attack and destroy al Qaeda bases and fighters in foreign countries. The alternative legal framework, the civilian criminal-justice system, is unsuitable for several key reasons. Civilian criminal suspects quite obviously cannot be targeted for military attack. They can be subjected only to the minimum force necessary to effect an arrest. They cannot -- consistent with international law -- be pursued across national boundaries. And finally, they are entitled to a speedy trial in a public courtroom. These rules cannot be ignored or altered without constitutional amendment.
In addition, the type and quality of evidence necessary for convictions in civilian courts is simply unavailable for most captured terrorists. One federal district judge recently concluded that although the government's information on one detainee was sufficient for intelligence purposes -- that is, he presumably could have been targeted for deadly attack -- it was insufficient to hold him without trial.
So we are right to ask how the new administration will deal with captured terrorists. The news about Guantanamo's closure had brought with it various reports of released terrorists who are now more prominent in their organizations and very involved with ongoing terrorist efforts. Will this become a recurring theme? Will the only options our military have be to (A) Kill the target rather than allow him to be captured and then freed, or (B) Capture the target knowing that he may profit from the generosities of a civilian criminal court system that was never intended for him? The American people deserve better. As the authors enumerate our military deserves better.

Awesome Video Saturday LXXIV

23 January 2009

Ending Polio

It's possible that many of you have little knowledge of polio. By the time of my birth the polio vaccine had been eradicated in the United States. By the time of this writing it originates in only four nations: India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, & Nigeria.

We are very close to seeing this crippling and often deadly disease completely eradicated. Now, during the Rotary International Assembly comes this phenomenal news from the fight against Polio. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will add $255 million to a previous $100 million grant to end the disease. These grants will be matched by $200 million raised by Rotarians. Additionally the United Kingdom and Germany have pledged huge sums to help the cause. The video below is Bill Gates delivering his remarks just 2 days ago.

This link will take you to another video on the partnership to end Polio. This is good work.

22 January 2009

SPOTD #147

With the beginning of a new administration comes the completion of the SPOTD's 7th year.

I've been on a Popular Mechanics kick lately. Their website is fantastic, and very diverse in terms of what they write about. You can visit PM here.

Today's phrase:
The periodic change in presidential leadership is one of the strengths of our system. Even if the person in question is not your top choice, change in government is quite often a good thing.

El verdadero progreso consiste en renovarse.

Phonetic with emphasis on bold syllable:
Ell vair-dah-dare-oh pro-gray-so con-see-stay ain rain-oh-var-say.

True progress comes through renewal.

Bugatti Beauty
Want a really old car? Its only $4.3 million. I used to have this car in Matchbox form and it was one of my all-time faves. I recently found it in a box of old things I'd saved. I gave it to Joseph and it promptly disappeared. Así es la vida.

20,000 Leagues
I've written several times about advancements being made in the non-military personal submersibles market. PM has an article about how new technologies are making it easier for the personal submarine to become a reality. Pretty cool.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Written about at IRF.
King of Kong: I wrote a brief review here.

Prince Caspian: The followup to The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe was pretty good. I love the books, and neither movie has really matched the source material, but it was a fun movie. The characters were fairly thin, even the ones from the previous film.
Space Chimps: A fairly enjoyable computer-animated film. Clearly inferior animation than Pixar or Dreamworks, but Joseph III loved it, so other kids probably would as well.
In terms of upcoming movies, this is a link to some merchandise for Where the Wild Things Are. This is a classic book, one that I've enjoyed reading to Joseph. I hope it turns out to be a good film,

Common Cleaners
This is a great resource about common household items that can make excellent household cleaners, also from Popular Mechanics.

All Dressed Up...
In an interesting sign of the decline of automaker fortunes these are various photographs of vehicle stocks around the world. I'm not sure how typical some of these things are.

Link of the Day
This video is PHENOMENAL

20 January 2009

Ending an Era

So the Bush Presidency is over. I'm one of those people that thinks history will be kind to him. I'll share one reason: Iraq.

William McGurn writes in today's Wall Street Journal that the most infuriating thing George Bush could have done before leaving office was to turn Iraq into a success.

Here in the afterglow of the turnaround led by Gen. David Petraeus, it's easy to forget what the smart set was saying two years ago -- and how categorical they all were in their certainty. The president was a simpleton, it was agreed. Didn't he know that Iraq was a civil war, and the only answer was to get out as fast as we could?
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- the man who will be sworn in as vice president today -- didn't limit himself to his own opinion. Days before the president announced the surge, Joe Biden suggested to the Washington Post he knew the president's people had also concluded the war was lost. They were, he said, just trying to "keep it from totally collapsing" until they could "hand it off to the next guy."

The most important thing is that Iraq is headed on a good trajectory. I think it will continue down that path.

I'm ready for the Bush years to be over, but I am one who does not think them a failure, and I wanted to get on the record with that sentiment.

Whatever you think of Obama, Inaugurations are very impressive. Watch it below!

This is a great article on the significance of Obama's inauguration, from some less-considered historical perspectives.

Musical Chairs...

The Financial Times has this helpful interactive graphic that breaks down the Who's Who of the incoming Obama administration.

If you want to try and get those names in order, this is a good place to go.

19 January 2009

A Special Day

The imminent inauguration of Barack Obama adds a certain poignancy to the observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday. Dr. King was indisputably a visionary man, and he was able to share that vision with many who then adopted it as their own. Decades have demonstrated how important and influential he was.

I am frustrated by the need of some in our society to make hasty judgements about public figures and their "place in history." I would be happy for Mr. Obama to be regarded, 40+ years hence, as a King-like figure. It is obviously premature to make those kind of comparisons now, yet they are made.

I wish him every good thing, and hope the road is smoother than it was for his predecessor.

As a side note, the Volokh Conspiracy remembers the birthday of a great Abolitionist and Libertarian theorist, Lysander Spooner. He helped lay the groundwork for reformers like Martin Luther King, Jr. We should revere him as well.

17 January 2009

Awesome Video Saturday LXXIII

I've enjoyed the Apple products that I own, which includes several iPods and an iMac, but this is one product that I can't wait to own!

This is a cool video of Paul McCartney's song "222." It's pretty mesmerizing.

16 January 2009

Bush: Economic Legacy

I think this is a great editorial from the Wall Street Journal. It attempts to explain the real way that Bush's economic policies have contributed to what's happened in our economy over the last 8 years, the good and the bad.

12 January 2009

A Downward Spiral

I can understand people who are frustrated with the leadership of George W. Bush. While I disagree, I can understand people that think he is a bad person. What I do not understand, and have little patience for, are the people who allege that he his administration has led to a meaningful erosion of our rights. Those people have little understanding of history and what it means to live in a place that is not truly free.

I give Venezuela as an example. For some on the far left Hugo Chavez is a hero. For others, including Mary Anastasia O'Grady, he is a demogogue and a dictator:

...the art of dictatorship has been greatly refined since Stalin killed millions of his own people. Modern tyrants understand that there are many ways to manipulate their subjects and most do not require the use of force.
One measure that Mr. Chávez relies on heavily is control of the narrative. In government schools children are indoctrinated in Bolivarian thought. Meanwhile the state has stripped the media of its independence and now dominates all free television in the country. This allows the government to marinate the poor in Mr. Chávez's antimarket dogma. His captive audiences are told repeatedly that hardship of every sort -- including headline inflation of 31% last year -- is the result of profit makers, middlemen and consumerism.
More and more Venezuelans are recognizing that Chavez is not who he professes to be. The first question is whether enough of them will do something about it when it matters, at the same time. The second is whether Chavez will allow it to matter.

11 January 2009

From the Earth to the Moon

Currently the Ares rocket is the vehicle being designed to carry American astronauts back to the moon. This Popular Mechanics article looks at the Ares and one alternative, the Jupiter Direct. The picture below provides further information.

10 January 2009

Awesome Video Saturday LXXII

This pretty much defies easy explanation.

This is a fascinating music video- mesmerizing really.

09 January 2009

Great Literature

I love to read. One of the most influential books I've ever read is Atlas Shrugged. With very little idea of its intellectual and cultural significance I read it as a tenth grader, at the age of 15. It "made" me a capitalist. Subsequent rereading has entrenched in my mind the major messages of that long novel.

This mention of it from the Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore explains how today's leaders would benefit from Rand's cautionary tale:

Ultimately, "Atlas Shrugged" is a celebration of the entrepreneur, the risk taker and the cultivator of wealth through human intellect. Critics dismissed the novel as simple-minded, and even some of Rand's political admirers complained that she lacked compassion. Yet one pertinent warning resounds throughout the book: When profits and wealth and creativity are denigrated in society, they start to disappear -- leaving everyone the poorer.
One memorable moment in "Atlas" occurs near the very end, when the economy has been rendered comatose by all the great economic minds in Washington. Finally, and out of desperation, the politicians come to the heroic businessman John Galt (who has resisted their assault on capitalism) and beg him to help them get the economy back on track. The discussion sounds much like what would happen today:

Galt: "You want me to be Economic Dictator?"

Mr. Thompson: "Yes!"

"And you'll obey any order I give?"


"Then start by abolishing all income taxes."

"Oh no!" screamed Mr. Thompson, leaping to his feet. "We couldn't do that . . . How would we pay government employees?"

"Fire your government employees."

"Oh, no!"
Oh, yes.

08 January 2009

Risque Business

I've written on a delicate topic at In Rare Form.

How many Angry Men?

Though not a lawyer, I've always been interested in the law. I found this op-ed very interesting. It looks at the historical precedent for having a 12 person jury, and also the inadequacy of smaller panels in providing better legal outcomes.

I served on a jury for a felony court case in Florida. There were seven of us on the panel, 6 jurors and one alternate. We are among the states that do not require a higher number of jurors. Although the case we heard was fairly straightforward, I can see where a smaller group might fail to provide the robust discussion of a larger number.

Were I a defendant I would prefer twelve. It seems like the Founding Fathers felt that way also.

07 January 2009

Rules of Engagement

It's not new, but debates about international conflict often involve the legality of those conflicts. Krauthammer looks at the way Israel has waged its most recent conflict with Hamas, and how that differs from Hamas' modus operandi.

03 January 2009

Wrapping it Up

2008...what a year.

Wars, rumors of wars. Elections, resignations. Scandals, tributes. I don't know about you, but I'm tired.

I'm also optimistic. Challenging years are also rife with opportunities. From the chaos of 2008 will come a stronger America.

This is a conservative's idea of the top 7 political blunders of 2008.

This is a cautionary warning from a great scholar, Samuel Huntington, as told by Fouad Ajami. He looks at Huntington's main fear about America's future. I like to think we can address these.

Courage, friends, courage.

01 January 2009

50 Years of Fidel

2009 marks the 50th anniversary of the communist takeover of Cuba. It is a somber occasion for most Cubans, marked by contempt for the Castro regime and also lamentation for the loss and deterioration of their homeland.

I believe the time has come to end the embargo, but I can't say that it wasn't the right thing to do almost 50 years ago. That question has little bearing on what should now be done. There arew thorny legal issues involved in this question as well. For some U.S. firms, like Bacardi, to return to Cuba for business would likely open up the question of how their property, appropriated by the Cuban government in the takeover, should now be treated.

The human side of modern Cuba is illustrated in this story from the New York Times. Cuba remains a source of real personal pain, 50 years after the revolution.

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

Happy New Year!