June 30, 2006
I am a big fan of FoxNews' Neil Cavuto, especially his Common Sense editorials. Here's one I believe is worth checking out. To the right of the transcript is a link to the video of the segment. Check it out for Cavuto's take on America's standards vs. those of the enemy we face.Posted by Brian at 10:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
June 29, 2006
Wait a Minute...
So let me get this straight: if an activity occurs entirely in one State, it is an "interstate" act, and if it occurs spanning multiple nations it is "not of an international character"? I think that the Supreme Court justices need to go back and study Latin long enough to determine the meaning of the prefix "inter-"; they seem to have reversed the meaning somewhat.
Jawa Report Back Online
After a couple of weeks off the air due to a DDOS attack and server troubles, Jawa Report is back online. Welcome back, guys.
June 28, 2006
The One State Strategy
Third parties don't fare well in the US, because of the ruthless mathematics of our electoral system. In some ways, this is a good thing. It means that periods of tumult and discontent — particularly periods where there is no national consensus on the way forward — result in very hard feelings; but it also means that there is a way to resolve those feelings towards a consensus that does not involve armed gangs roaming the streets.
Nonetheless, there is also the huge downside that people are compelled to pick someone with whom they disagree on many things, or allow someone with whom they disagree on even more things to win. This in turn means that voting for third parties is always a losing game: your choice is so unlikely to get elected that there is simply no point in voting for him; better to vote for your preference among candidates likely to win. But how, then, does a group that by and large agrees with a particular party, but not on everything, ever gain the leverage to move a party? Are the Greens and the Libertarians doomed to howl in the wilderness forever? Probably, because they're loons, but there is a way that minor parties or cohesive interest groups could break out of the wilderness and actually become the kingmakers. The Democrats are trying a "50 state strategy", where they contest every election. A third party would need the opposite approach: contest one big election.
While third party candidates could conceivably win (have in fact won) House and maybe even Senate races from time to time, those positions are powerful largely by partisan alignment. A member of any party other than that holding the majority can only affect the body at large when there is essentially a tie in the rolls, as happened with Jim Jeffords' defection. Otherwise, their votes would be courted, but their views given no real power to shape the outcome of legislation (less power, even, than the power of the minority party, which at least has the numbers to force some changes in what is passed). But there is an election where this does not hold as true: the Presidential election.
The problem with the Presidential elections, besides the difficulty of getting on all the State ballots as a third-party candidate, is money. Without hundreds of millions of dollars, you have no hope of making an impact, and thus you will barely be mentioned in the press, and will certainly not be part of most debates, candidate questionnaires, and other such tools of influencing the process. If you cannot be heard, you will not be voted for. The one advantage of having Ross Perot run for President was that he had the money to be heard. If he wasn't going to be invited in, he could just buy 30 minutes of prime time TV to get his message out. This is not, to put it mildly, usually an option for third parties, and campaign financing rules make it essentially impossible for all except billionaires to even try.
But, and this is a huge but, that rule only applies if you are trying to win, and a third party doesn't have to do that. Instead, a third party could work to make itself the kingmaker, and this would take notably less assets. Consider the Greens in California or the Libertarians in Texas. By and large those states' populations are friendly to the message of those parties, and so there is a certain amount of resonance that their message would get. On top of that, winning in one state is much much cheaper than competing in all of them, or even in the ones needed for an electoral college majority, which means that enough money probably could be found to win one state, if the party's message was good enough.
So how does winning one state translate into becoming kingmaker? To be elected President, a person has to win the votes of 270 electors. California has 55 votes; Texas has 34. In both the 2000 and 2004 elections, Texas would have prevented George Bush from winning. California could have thrown the 1976 election to Ford. Consider this: had the Libertarians won Texas in 2000 or 2004, they could have essentially determined the outcome of the election, by instructing their delegation to vote for whichever candidate was going to offer them the most concessions. (In fact, any of several states could have fulfilled this role in either of those two elections.)
So it seems to me that if you want to be successful as a third party, your best bet would be to gain influence by trying to win just one state, and so to control the margin of victory. While this would be difficult, it's considerably less difficult than the traditional approach of trying to win the Presidency outright.
Supreme Court opinion reading can sometimes be interesting - especially the dissents. Today, the SCOTUS overthrew just a portion of Texas' redistricting plan. Most of it was fine, but a minority-district that went from Austin to Houston was deemed invalid by a 5-4 vote.
Chief Justice Roberts had this to say about the majority opinion. I like the "style points" comment:
The majority dismisses the District Court’s careful factfinding on the ground that the experienced judges did not properly consider whether District 25 was “compact” for purposes of §2. Ante, at 24. But the District Court opinion itself clearly demonstrates that the court carefully considered the compactness of the minority group in District 25, just as the majority says it should have. The District Court recognized the very features of District 25 highlighted by the majority and unambiguously concluded, under the totality of the circumstances, that the district was an effective Latino opportunity district, and that no violation of §2 in the area had been shown.
Unable to escape the District Court’s factfinding, the majority is left in the awkward position of maintaining that its theory about compactness is more important under §2 than the actual prospects of electoral success for Latino-preferred candidates under a State’s apportionment plan. And that theory is a novel one to boot. Never before has this or any other court struck down a State’s redistricting plan under §2, on the ground that the plan achieves the maximum number of possible majority-minority districts, but loses on style points, in that the minority voters in one of those districts are not as “compact” as the minority voters would be in another district were the lines drawn differently. Such a basis for liability pushes voting rights litigation into a whole new area—an area far removed from the concern of the Voting Rights Act to ensure minority voters an equal opportunity“ to elect representatives of their choice.” 42 U. S. C. §1973(b).
The full opinion is here.
June 27, 2006
Slam of the Day
From James Taranto:
Meanwhile, the editorialists at the New York Times, who prove each day that monkeys with typewriters cannot produce the works of Shakespeare, also disapprove
Posted by jeff at 5:32 PM | TrackBack
June 24, 2006
Murphy's Law and Texas Summers
When would you most expect your home's AC to go out? A nice, spring Monday morning? When it's not so bad finding a service tech to come out?
Nope, Friday evening in the summer with the temperature in the 90s. Still, it could have been worse. It could be August with temperatures in the triple digits.
The good news is that a little internet searching yields that some AC service centers really do answer their phones (and might even come out) 24 hours a day.
This morning at 6:30 am I called such a service. He was already at someone's home. Fortunately, we're next on the list. Hopefully, he'll be here and have us up and running before the mid-afternoon heat sets in.
I'm preparing myself for a nasty repair bill, though. Maybe it's not as bad as I think it's going to be.
But I doubt it.Posted by Nemo at 8:29 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack
JMS Trek Unveiled
Every writer who’s been asked to pitch for one of the Star Trek series or features knows that so many stories have been developed in the Star Trek universe that it has become increasingly difficult to move something through the system. The three most common responses are: it’s been done, it’s being done, or it would never be done.
Yep, that's about right. After that premise, though, his treatment turns up some amazingly familiar stuff for it to be something that hasn't been done before:
We will start with a two-hour pilot that tells the story no one has ever seen: the circumstances that lead Kirk and McCoy (friends before this) to meet Spock for the first time. It will involve their discovery of a lost city on an uncharted world, nearly a million years old, and their encounter with the race that built it, a race long sought after by every civilized world for the tremendous advantages they could provide.
Hmmmm, Shadows, anyone? No, that's been done before....
There will be a beginning, middle and end to this series. It will be exactly five seasons, with each season equaling one year of their five year mission. The crew of the Enterprise will leave in our pilot episode, and they will return five years later from their scientific and security mission.
Wow, once again I'm sensing something familiar here from another JMS series. But there's more. Some familiar overtones from Trek too:
One thing we will discover is that buried deep within the DNA of humans, Vulcans (even Klingons) and other intelligent bi-pedal races is a mathematical code, something buried so deep and of such complexity that it could not possibly have occurred by chance.
Well, let's see, I think there was a TNG episode called "The Chase...
Now, to be fair, there's a lot of missing pieces here. I don't think there's many other people who could pull of a revitalization of Star Trek besides JMS. However, I'd really worry if Spock turned out to be a woman in this series and then showed up in a cocoon some time. I like the overall concept, though. No more further expansion of the Trek universe, just start over with the characters people know. People have lived through multiple incarnations of James Bond and Superman. I think the world could survive without William Shatner as James T. Kirk.
What I would not want to see, though, is a "Battlestar Galactica"-like treatment that takes Trek so far from its origins that it becomes unrecognizable except for the names of the characters.
Paramount ultimately passed on JMS' proposal. AICN points out that since Enterprise was on the air at the time, it probably didn't get very far, which is unfortunate. I wonder what kind of hearing he would get now.
Right now (from the same AICN article), the focus is on a Trek movie that goes back to pre-TOS days. Matt Damon is being floated as Kirk. I have no problem with the casting, but I really wonder why Paramount is going the big-screen route. The last few movies have been disasters, and I really think it's because there's too much Trek readily available out there. After so many series all available on DVD and on so many cable networks each night, there's not a lot of reason to go shell out $10 to see a Trek movie. A TV mini-series would make more sense if they really want to re-launch a franchise.Posted by Nemo at 8:07 AM | TrackBack
June 23, 2006
A Better Way
Not exactly news, but yet another person had trouble canceling his AOL account. He, however, recorded it. Our technique was simpler: we changed banks, so AOL could no longer take money from our account. Months later, after several "last warning" snail mails, they cancelled the account.
I was going to write at some length about the latest attack by the New York Times on the American war effort, and thus on the people of the United States1, by disclosing yet another method the government uses to find terrorists. Fortunately, most of that ground was covered by Fran Porretto, so you can see much of the rest of what I would have written there.
But there is one thing that Fran didn't cover and that I would like to discuss: obligations. A member of a community — up to and including a citizen of a country — has obligations to that community. One of those obligations is to obey the constitutionally-valid laws duly passed to govern that community, and another is to not deliberately attack that community directly or by aiding those who attack the community. To do otherwise is to yourself be an enemy of that community. (If someone would like to propose a definition of "enemy" that doesn't include deliberate attempts to destroy or weaken an entity, I'd love to hear it.) For institutions that are part of a community, there is a double obligation: the obligation of the institution to support the system that governs and protects them, and the obligation of each and every member of that institution to do likewise. As such, the Times has multiple obligations to the US that should prevent the Times from deliberately attempting to weaken the US. "Serving the public interest" is not only the Times' duty, but that of every US citizen or institution — and most particularly of the government. The government has an absolute duty to protect the US from attack, and the Times' weakening of that ability is a moral and cultural failure.
The Times, though, has some other peculiar views about obligations that it seems to share with many other MSM outlets. For example, the Times seems to think that the government has an obligation to the Times (and other self-designated journalists with the proper accreditations, memberships and viewpoints) to grant access, disclose information and otherwise to assist the Times in its organizational (corporate, in this case) endeavors. The government has no such obligation. This lack of obligation on the government's part opens a road to dealing with the Times and its like-minded compatriots: banishment.
The President should immediately announce that the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times have, through their disclosure of this and other critically sensitive government programs, policies and procedures in the War passed beyond the point where they can be reasonably believed to be acting as responsible American journalists, particularly in refusing to withhold publication of sensitive information about vital government war measures. That, as a result, it is the policy of the government for one year from this date to hold those named institutions and their employees to be persona non grata in their role as journalists, with the following consequences: neither those organizations, nor any employee or associate of those organizations, nor any person whose material is published by those organizations during the year, will be granted press credentials at any government news conference or other event, including travel on Presidential and other government trips abroad; nor will any executive officer or employee grant interviews or otherwise disclose any information of any kind in their official capacity to those organizations or their employees, on pain of termination. The organizations' behavior over the sanction period would determine if the sanctions would continue in place past that year.
The MSM have for too long trampled over the people's true interests, and the people's representatives, in the MSM's own self-interest (while piously insisting they are merely our representatives, as if they were an elected, rather than self-appointed, agent of the public!). It is time for the government to reassert its own obligations to the citizens, by failing to cooperate with those who would harm our war efforts. True, there would be a firestorm over this. But then, what can the Times say that would be worse than what they've already said? What can they do that would be worse than what they've already done? It's time — it's past time — to reclaim government's role as our watchdog.
Certainly, there needs to be a free press covering the government, but there also need to be limits to how far that press goes. Exposing true malfeasance by government (yes, Abu Ghraib counts, though the coverage was one-sided and excessive) is one thing. A sustained attack on the country's ability to defend itself is quite another. And while censorship is not the answer, neither is ignoring the rot within.
Posted by jeff at 6:44 PM
| Comments (3)
1Yes, I realize that the Times would claim that they are "serving the public interest", or, in private, perhaps that they are attacking the Bush administration, but when you deliberately weaken a country's war effort, it is the people of that country who are put at risk. Do I question their patriotism? Unhesitatingly.
Build or Buy
One of the most common decisions that IT executives have to make is whether to build custom software to meet a business need, or to buy COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) software to meet that need. As you might suspect, COTS vendors tend to believe that a 100% buy solution is best for everyone, and large outsourcing vendors tend to believe that a 100% build solution is best for everyone. The fact that each is recommending the solution that happens to be most profitable to them is, of course, incidental: just look at the piles of arguments we've come up with, borrowed or paid for!
The major arguments of the 100% build side are that developing custom software is wasteful (inefficient and costly, and then you eventually discard the software anyway), risky (if you fail, who do you turn to for support?) and distracting (shouldn't you really be worried about your core business?). The major arguments of the 100% build side are that custom software meets your business needs exactly; custom software can give you a business advantage over your competitors; and if your business model changes, your custom software can evolve to meet your requirements, while COTS software often cannot, or at least not quickly. The dirty little secret of both is that both are entirely correct in their arguments, but neither really addresses the way that you can decide which type of solution best meets your needs. Please, allow me.
The first consideration is whether the business need being met is common across all companies. An example of this would be presentation tools, or word processors, or print queueing software. In those cases, there is zero controversy: buy a COTS tool.
The second consideration is whether the business need being met is unique to your company. If no other company in the world has a need for this tool, there is no COTS tool to address it, and thus no controversy: you have to build a tool or change your business.
Now things get more complicated, because those really are the only two bright-line rules that are available to an IT executive making these decisions. All other choices are balancing trade-offs. Before we get into how to make the decision, let's consider those factors being traded.
The biggest two factors in most managers' heads are schedule and budget, and they are closely linked. The longer it takes to develop or deploy something, the higher the cost because the people have to be paid for all the time. But reducing the schedule arbitrarily can increase costs beyond those that would be saved by employing people on the project for less time. Consider: if functionality has to be dropped, causing the business need to be met less well; or if milestones are constantly missed, causing the business to have to rework their plans for acceptance testing and deployment, the cost of reworking the business around the change is almost always higher than the labor cost estimated to be saved. Worse, the estimated savings don't materialize if the project misses deadlines, because the people are still there doing the work after your estimated budget for people costs has run dry. Also, look at TCO very closely. It can cost more to implement many COTS products (particularly very complex suites like PeopleSoft and SAP) than it would take to build your own software to meet your needs. (In the case of financial systems, though, unless you are a financial company, I would advise against it: the risks of missing or misinterpreting government regulations are quite high.)
The next most important factor is your IT department's ability to deliver on projects. Some IT managers can staff a project, gather detailed and testable requirements, monitor project managers and architects, know when to get involved, know when to stay out of the mud, and focus on the needs of the business; these are the managers who will consistently deliver their projects, usually on time and budget. Conversely, some IT managers are completely incapable of one or more of those management skills, and cannot deliver on time and on budget even if their project is to install MS Office in a department. Depending on the mix of skills and abilities among the managers, you might be able to deploy COTS or develop custom software, but not both. Recognizing this reality can help you to (a) correct it, or (b) make appropriate choices to increase the chance of successfully delivering a solution to the business.
There is an aside about management that is too critical not to mention here, even though it's a bit off-topic. You as an executive are a manager, too. If your department consistently cannot deliver projects, consider that you might be the problem. Either you've hired bad managers; or created or allowed procedures and policies that impede effective delivery; or forced your managers to respond to constantly changing requirements, schedules and budgets; or failed to understand what the business needs.
Back to the topic at hand. The next consideration is whether meeting 85% of the business need is enough, because that's about all you will usually get with COTS products. In many cases, that really is sufficient, and the gaps can be filled manually or with a process modification to better match the software. Typically, you can easily absorb this level of imperfect match of solution and requiremenst in areas that are not core to your business. A bank can accept, for example, COTS packages for HR, but might not be able to accept COTS packages for auditing accounts. In your core business area, unless everyone in your industry does things the same way, COTS packages are often not the best choice, because they force you to compromise your core methodologies, or work around the software, in order to be productive. A nearly 100% build policy in non-core, but still important, business areas can cost you, because a focus on meeting every need all the time in the systems can result in added acquisition and development costs that are not justified by the slight improvements in productivity that could be gained.
Your core business is the one place where you can hope to gain a competitive advantage through superior systems and the efficiencies they produce. If there are opportunities to save 10% of the time it takes to do the most common tasks required for your core business, and if you can realize those opportunities, you can beat your competition on price, quality or both. If you have adopted a 100% COTS policy, here is where you will fall behind your competitors. (Which is not to say that you definitely needs a custom solution here. Once you adopt a 100% buy or nearly 100% build mindset, you will simply miss many opportunities to do things better the other way. Agility is more effective and profitable than controllability in many cases.)
Finally, the legacy environment into which systems must be integrated has to be considered. The key factor in predicting schedules and budgets is comparison to similar tasks performed previously. If you know how long it takes to implement COTS package A, or develop service B, because you've done it before, you can predict your schedule and budget with some accuracy. One key reason why project management does not work as well with enterprise IT systems as it does with, say, building a bridge is that bridges don't have to deal with legacy systems. Often, even with a COTS package that has been implemented at a thousand companies, you will find that your environment has legacy systems that the new package has never before been integrated with. If you have an environment with many proprietary legacy systems, integration of new COTS systems is exponentially harder than in a relatively clean environment. By contrast, building a solution into an environment heavy with legacy systems often still results in inefficient systems (inevitable in having to do many stages of extract/transform/load (ETL) or writing interfaces for many different protocols), but at least you will be able to ensure that the system integrates well into the current environment. Sadly, in an environment with many legacy systems, it is often the case that adding a new COTS package worsens the problem for the next project, because there's one more proprietary package that your project teams have to figure out how to work with. Where you do buy COTS packages, try very, very hard to ensure that they use industry-standard protocols for inter-system communications, or you may eventually build an environment that cannot grow until many critical systems are ripped out and replaced at more or less the same time. This is not a career-enhancing move.
So when considing schedule and budget, management abilities, system criticality and how closely the system meets business requirements, competative advantage and legacy systems in the environment, how does one decide to weight each factor? Sadly, there is no easy rule for this, because each company is different. I will propose a few rules of thumb, though:
- If any of the five key trade-offs strongly suggests a solution be COTS or be custom, make everything else work around that.
- If one or more trade-offs strongly suggests COTS or custom, and one or more of the other trade-offs strongly suggests the opposite, you have a business conflict that has to be solved before you can provide a system to match. First fix the business problem, then reevaluate.
- The most critical success factor is management capability: you cannot do what you cannot do. You can fix this with hiring or policy changes, or simply accept that your current structure compels a build or a buy decision.
- After management capability, competative advantage is the key decision driver. If you cannot gain a competative advantage from a system, don't build it unless there is no COTS product that can meet your needs. It's sufficient in non-core areas to meet 85% of the needs, and in peripheral areas meeting 50% of the business' needs may be sufficient. In core areas, meeting 100% of the business needs can be vital. In fact, it's often the case that using IT architects to map the business process can result in process improvements even if no system is implemented, because the actual business process is rarely fully understood, even within the business. In core areas, rolling your own is often a good idea even when there is a promising COTS package, unless that package meets every business need completely.
- Next most important is what it's going to cost and how long it's going to take to implement a solution. Most of the time, this favors COTS products, but not always. Do your due diligence here on how long similar companies have taken to implement the COTS solution, and don't just trust the COTS vendor's word on that: call the customers.
- Finally, the environment is rarely dispositive — at least, not directly. Generally, the environment really acts as a driver by altering the cost and schedule to implement. In some cases (where you depend on a protocol that COTS products for that space don't support, for example), environment can become directly important. In any case, it's vitally important that your managers and vendors know the environment they are deploying into, or they will be likely to blow right through their schedules without slowing down. In heavily legacy-driven environments, COTS products are usually much more difficult to integrate than generally advertised or expected.
This discussion brings up more questions, like how to reduce project risk (more to the point, why most projects fail), whether to use open source products in your business, how to identify areas where IT can make a business more profitable, whether enterprise architecture methodologies are really worth the investment, whether and when to oursource and a host of others. Topics for another day, I'm afraid.
But if you're interested in knowing about any of those, let me know, and someday I'll tackle it.
Smells Like ... Victory
It looks like we may be on the verge of a fairly complete victory in Iraq. The Iraqi government seems to be prepared to offer amnesty to insurgents in Iraq. Since November of 2004, and the river war that followed it, broke the back of the insurgency (organized operations by the enemy above the squad level have since been essentially non-existent), it has been clear that the insurgents could not drive out the US or Iraqi government militarily. The elections that have followed have shown that the insurgents cannot defeat the Iraqi government politically. The failure of terrorism to spark civil war, and the increasingly-evident revenge attacks by Sunni and Kurd groups embedded in Iraq's Interior Ministry, have made abundantly clear lately that the Sunni insurgents (2 or 3 distinct types, actually, including criminals, ex-Ba'athists and so on) have to settle, leave or die. And now we are in the end game: wars end either in the annihilation of the enemy, or their surrender on terms. This amnesty, however spun, amounts to nothing more than a surrender of the major Sunni groups on terms.
Certainly, there are some tenets of the proposal, assuming the media reports to be correct, that are questionable as stated, and I hope our government officials are on top of these. For example, including a halting of coalition anti-terror raids in insurgent strongholds only makes sense if we can resume those raids if there is any terrorist or insurgent activity in those strongholds, and if the Iraqi military and police are able to take control of those areas as a condition of stopping coalition operations. I'm content to give the administration the benefit of the doubt on this, given how well they've done in handling the war to date both militarily and politically.
June 22, 2006
I'm Imagining the Customer Service Call
CUSTOMER, after an 18 minute hold: Yes, hello? I'd like to see if my laptop is under warranty, or maybe has a recall ...
I'm sorry? ...
Yes, it's an Inspiron1 B130, and it ...
Yes, I was running Windows XP, but I don't see ...
No, it doesn't boot. ...
No, the power switch doesn't turn it on at all, and it doesn't matter whether it's plugged into the wall, because...
No, the power's not out. Look, the laptop exploded! ...
No, not Vista: XP. ...
I should hope not!! What I really need is...
No, no. The point is, my laptop exploded and I need to know if it's under warranty, or if there's some recall that covers this. ...
Um, let me see. Where is the serial number tag? ...
Well, it's kind of charred, but the last character looks like Helen Thomas. ...
No, not Dylan Thomas: Helen Thomas. The reporter. ...
No, I don't have the box with me. I'm in Japan at a conference...
What do you mean it's not business hours in Japan?!?!
Posted by jeff at 10:56 PM
1 Yes, that's an actual Dell product line. Yes, marketing people do sometimes suck; why do you ask?
It's the Coverup, not the Crime, That Brings you Down
I have read DailyKOS fewer times in the last 4 years than I read InstaPundit or Eternity Road in any given week. And I really, really don't care much what the kossacks think about politics or much of anything else. But it is interesting and funny to watch them implode over doing exactly what they accuse their political opponents (they would doubtless say enemies) of doing. And now the self-destructive blame game commences. Clearly, it's time to grab a beer and a bowl of popcorn, sit back, and watch the fireworks.
Two notes: I am not accusing either Kos or Jerome Armstrong of a crime: the title is a fitting cliche. Also, yes, I am a having a bit of schadenfreude, since everything I know of the denizens of Kos' circle's political views, personal animus to anyone who doesn't share those views, and ethical and behavioral standards strikes me as elitist and arrogant. I despise the self-anointed elite, and the bombastic crap spewed by Kos and associates certainly marks them as such.
June 21, 2006
The Danger of Letting Your Fangs Grow too Long...
is that someone will come along and cut them off. The rabidly anti-war "Bush lied" types let their fangs grow too long, and a couple of Congressmen appear to have pulled out the fang clippers.
I know that the first thing out of the antis' mouths will be to question the timing, and the second will be to question the administrations motives. But frankly, I'm glad that the administration has not been releasing this kind of information (or focusing, for example, on the captured documents being translated and what they show), because I really want them worrying about today and tomorrow and next year, not three years ago. Frankly, the President can't be re-elected, so let other people fight these battles and let the administration do the work of keeping us safe from all threats, foreign and domestic.
June 20, 2006
Time Traveling Aliens
Most of the time, I look at politics as an entertaining spectator sport: cheaper than the movies (at least so long as you ignore what the politicians do with taxes) and so much longer-lasting. But from time to time I get really burned out on all of the insider crap that goes on around any political endeavor. (Usually, this is when I'm dealing with a lot of political crap at work, oddly enough.) But even when I'm a bit burned out about it, there are always a few total morons parading as self-proclaimed geniuses that keep things fun. Today's example: TruthOut, which still quite implausibly maintains that Karl Rove will be indicted any day now.
June 17, 2006
A Gentleman's Game
Today we went to see the Rochester Grangers, a vintage base ball team. In brief, vintage base ball is baseball played by the rules of some time in the past (the Grangers played the Bay City Independents using 1867 rules today). There are actually quite a few teams playing vintage base ball, and what I can't figure out is how I missed out on this for so long.
The most important difference between vintage base ball and today's baseball at any level is that the vintage sport is a gentleman's game. The players and fans cheer good play, rather than good play by their team. Players resolve disputes among themselves, though I must say that there was not a single dispute that I saw today: the players knew when they were out, or were most likely out, and simply abandoned the field. The umpire, besides calling foul balls, can only rule on a judgement call if asked, and only the team captains can approach the umpire. The rules are quite different: the players field bare-handed; the ball and bat are different sizes and, for the ball, of different composition; the fields are irregular (the Grangers' field prominently features a tree in left field); the pitcher's duty is to get the ball to the batter so that he can hit it (vintage base ball is a hitting and fielding game, rather than a pitching duel); fouls don't count as strikes, and balls are not called; and on foul balls (or any ball under slightly earlier rules), you can catch the ball on one bounce for an out. The purpose of the game is gentlemanly competition, exercise and entertainment, and the home team feeds the visiting team afterwards (after all, they've come a long way).
We ate lunch in the shade of some trees in deep right field, and I have not had so much fun at a baseball game since I was a child.
June 10, 2006
Focusing in on the Important Issues
When a key person in an enterprise passes from the scene — whether by moving on to other career paths, natural death, or being immolated by 1000 pounds of high explosive encased in steel moving at hundreds of miles per hour — the ripples and waves of that absence have long-term effects that are difficult to predict with any precision. Their absence, like their earlier presence, warps space around them, and in the case where the now-dead (for which I am grateful) is an enemy of one's country, the implications can be staggering. These implications require huge resources and much consideration to unravel and understand, so that we can maintain our focus on the desired end state of the war, and act with due consideration of how to achieve those aims in the changed circumstances.
Fortunately, the Western media brings such resources into the reach of the public. We are not constrained to listening to our leaders tell us the outcome of their reasoning process; we can reason for ourselves. Unfortunately, the media would often rather focus on the frame than the issues. In this case, I mean that literally: the WaPo's concern about Zarqawi's death is the literal frame in which his picture was displayed at the CENTCOM briefing. No, really!
Zarqawi Opens Up
(hat tip: Instapundit)Posted by Brian at 2:06 AM | TrackBack
June 8, 2006
Celebrating a Death
It's not often that I celebrate a death, but Abu Musa'ab al-Zarqawi needed killin'. And apparently finally got it. With the cascade of top Zarqawi aides and regional leaders being killed, I figured it was only a matter of time until we got him, so long as he was in-country. Seems he was.
Ding Dong, The Witch is Dead!
ABC, Fox, and CNN are all reporting the death of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. In fact, as I type, Fox News is reporting that the announcement is now official. Zarqawi apparently was killed in a US airstrike.
May he roast in hell with 72 pigs.Posted by Brian at 2:42 AM | TrackBack
June 7, 2006
After Making Love, We Hear Footsteps
This is an absolutely beautiful poem by Galway Kinnell. Clearly I have missed some great poetry, and need to catch up.
After Making Love, We Hear Footsteps
— by Galway Kinnell —
For I can snore like a bullhorn
or play loud music
or sit up talking with any reasonably sober Irishman
and Fergus will only sink deeper
into his dreamless sleep, which goes by all in one flash,
but let there be that heavy breathing
or a stifled come-cry anywhere in the house
and he will wrench himself awake
and make for it on the run - as now, we lie together,
after making love, quiet, touching along the length of our bodies,
familiar touch of the long-married,
and he appears - in his baseball pajamas, it happens,
the neck opening so small
he has to screw them on, which one day may make him wonder
about the mental capacity of baseball players -
and flops down between us and hugs us and snuggles himself to sleep,
his face gleaming with satisfaction at being this very child.
In the half darkness we look at each other
and touch arms across his little, startling muscled body -
this one whom habit of memory propels to the ground of his making,
sleeper only the mortal sounds can sing awake,
this blessing love gives again into our arms.
June 1, 2006
The Near Enemy; The Far Enemy
I've been contemplating lately how partisanship is utterly corrupting in our society. In particular, how it is that the Left sees the domestic enemy, the Right, as the near enemy, and the jihadis as, at best, the far enemy (much the same as the Left saw the Soviets, Chinese, Khmer Rouge, North Vietnamese, Ba'ath and so on and so forth); while the Right sees the foreign enemy (the Soviets, Chinese, and so on) as the near enemy, and the domestic enemy, the Left, as the far enemy. On the principle of engaging the near enemy first, the Republicans generally seem to feel that once the foreign enemy is defeated, they can win the culture war; meanwhile the Democrats generally seem to feel that once the domestic enemy is defeated, they can worry (or not) about the foreign enemy at their leisure.
Before I could put those thoughts into words, though, Glenn Reynolds interviewed Peter Beinart (of the Leftist "fight the Republicans first" school); Wretchard wrote , showing incidentally how The Nation uses the fight against the foreign enemy against the domestic enemy; Brian Tiemann addressed how you can determine the general political ideology of a state by noting which side has the crazies with the conspiracy theories; and most importantly, Marc Danziger wrote this.
So, really, there's no point in me doing more than writing a brief observation and linking to people with far more thoughtful posts. The blogosphere has an astounding amount of talent, moving together (if chaotically) towards something vastly lacking in our "official" political and media discourse: understanding and context. Good for all of us.
Greenpeace, foiled again...by itself.
Rantingprofs says reminds us that It's That Time of Year Again:
When they say you're supposed to have 72 hours worth of supplies at home, they mean you're supposed to have, you know, 72 hours worth of supplies at home.
I suppose the best advice in hurricane areas is to get the hell out, though.Posted by Nemo at 7:26 PM | TrackBack