Sunday, August 31, 2008

USC 52 UVA 7

Well, not a very good showing, was it. I was (mercifully) not able to go to the game or watch it on TV, but nothing sounds too compelling about it. USC is simply in a different class than UVA, and it showed.

Friends at the game said Pete Carroll really ran up the score, going on 4th down late, etc. In the old days, this was unsportsmanlike. Today, where margin of victory counts in the formulas determining championships, this has to be expected.

Next week is another home game against the Richmond Spiders. Richmond had a great team last year, and they are going to be a very tough team to beat.

On Returning to the Workforce

I have not worked for pay since mid-February, when I started 45 days of terminal leave en route an April 1 retirement from the Navy. I had originally intended a ninety day break, most of which would have been spent on the job hunt. Along the way, Catherine (my Kitten) asked me if I'd consider taking the whole summer off, putting off returning to work until after the kids go back to school.

When you define yourself by your work, taking three months off is pretty easy. Taking six and a half months off though, is a different story. I really wrestled with the decision. Most of my friends said I'd never make it. Catherine said I wouldn't regret it. They were wrong, she was right.

I spent a lot of time hanging around with Catherine and the girls, getting to know them a little better. My appearance in her life didn't always count as a big "plus" to the girls, so it was important to spend some time seeing if I couldn't count as something other than the guy who takes Mom's attention away. Not sure how well I did on that task, but we're definitely all a little closer.

Tuesday, I fly to California for some in-processing and meetings for my new job. I look forward to the challenge of having a full-time job, a family, and a blog to tend to. I'm pretty sure I'll pull it off, but be kind to me in the beginning as I get my act together.

I'm looking forward to seeing if there is a connection between my time/talent and compensation. I did not find this in 21 years in the Navy, and it was one of the primary reasons I left.

I'm looking forward to seeing how much of what I've learned in the past 21 years works in the civilian world, and I'm looking forward to learning how much I don't know.

Mostly though, I'm looking forward to interacting with a lot of smart people again. If there is a fountain of youth, hanging out with people smarter than yourself has got to be it.

On Joe Biden

I think Barack Obama made a great choice in Joe Biden. I continue to be impressed with the way Senator Obama has conducted this campaign, and the choice of Biden is another example of why he has proven to be a formidable candidate.

Biden is a big-mouth wise-ass, but then again, so am I can't hold that against him. He is just the kind of balancer Obama needed on his ticket, and I think they will make a good team on the stump.

That said, Biden will also have given the Republicans some great soundbites from the early debates about Senator Obama's candidacy....just like Hillary did.

This is going to be fun...all in all, Obama helped himself with this choice.

Back from the Dude Ranch

Just back from the trip to the dude ranch; lots to talk about after a very interesting week both in Wyoming and across the country.

I have definitely become a little addicted to the blogging gig, as I really missed the interaction with regular readers and the joy involved in plowing through mass media looking for interesting things to talk about.

Let's start with the dude ranch, otherwise known as the HF Bar Ranch in Saddlestring Wyoming.
What a wonderful six days it was. I highly recommend this style of vacation to those among you with an appreciation for the great outdoors and a simpler way of life. Let's be straight here...I'm no outdoorsman. I've spent by my reckoning, one complete night out of doors (courtesy of the USMC during a NROTC Summer experience) in my entire life. I'm a fan of the great indoors--museums, great cathedrals, art, castles....I'm kind of a Europe guy. But this ranch was superb. Far fromluxe , it provides you with a great rustic cabin to sleep in (ours was right on the creek) hearty meals three times a day and all the horses, fishing, skeet shooting and hiking you could possibly want. There's lots for the kiddies to do, and even if you're not a horseman (I'm not), they'll match you up with a horse who'll take great care of you.

I didn't give this vacation a lot of thought before we went. My Kitten bid on it at a school auction long before I was even a gleam in her eye, so I was really just the fourth to round up the foursome. That said, it was memorable, it was healthy, it was fun, and it was a great experience. Some random thoughts sprung up while I was there:

--This is a big country. You sometimes forget that, living most of your life along the eastern seaboard as I do. But man, we have a lot of room. Wyoming is a land of stark beauty; much of it looks like the surface of the moon, with rocky crags and miles of flat/rolling hills. Other parts of the state are mountainous, which describes the areal aroundSaddlestring . Nestled in the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains, one looks east at the moonscape and west at towering peaks. It was huge, and it was beautiful.

--This is not a homogeneous country. Think all you want about Hollywood, the Internet, Television...and how we think they homogenize us. Well, not out there. People in the west are just plain different than people in the east. They talk slower but no less eloquently. They do vastly different things (one of our wranglers had rodeo as a high school sport but not baseball). Many of the folks out there think nothing of working several different jobs a year, based on what season it is. I never once saw a wrangler wearing aniPod . There is a whole, huge, thriving subculture in the west that has no interest in being swallowed by the larger culture, and I think it is wonderful.

--I had not ridden a horse in nearly thirty years when I took to my mount (Ace). The bones of the lower body of a 43 year-old man are not made for infrequent forays into matters equine. I suffered after each ride, but only for about fifteen minutes. Then everything worked its way back into place and I was ready for the next one. I had not heard a full-throated horse winnie (sp?) in many years, and riding out through the grazing heard, I was treated to a symphony of them. What a beautiful sound.

--The proprietress of the ranch, Margi Shroth, is a big Obama supporter. The Dem convention was on the ranch TV each night...I will check next week to see if the Repubs get similar treatment. Due to a large number of college employees, there was also a fair smattering of Obama bumper stickers to be found. I don't think Republicans are as big on bumper stickers as Dems are. But I could be wrong.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Packing Up for the Trip West (back 8/31)

We're busy packing up here, getting ready to head out to Wyoming for nine days. Then the summer is over, the kids go to school, and my nearly seven months of retirement come to an end.

Please come back on the evening of the 31st or in September. I'll be raring to go, full of post convention/VP thoughts and commentary on the West, Dude Ranches and family travel.

In the meantime, please consider using this post as a place to tee up things you'd like to talk about once I return.

Take care, and go Hoos.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Blog Stats

Well, just as I'm about to go on vacation and leave the site unattended for nine-days, good news on readership arrives. Google analytics tells me that I've had over 800 "absolute unique visitors" to the website, resulting in almost 2300 separate visits (average visit lasts just over 3 minutes).

Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, West Virginia, Vermont and New Hampshire remain immune to the charms of the site, as I've had no hits from these benighted states.

Please keep the site in mind once I return from vacation at the end of August. And click those sponsors! I seem to be making headway on screening out the undesirable ones.

Free Speech at Mr. Jefferson's University? Not By a Long Shot

I am a season ticket holder for UVA Football and I love the University more than any institution with which I have been associated (once told a friend if I could be either a naval officer OR a UVA grad, I'd choose UVA).

But this is just crap. Utter crap. I'm glad the students are seeking an explanation. The Athletic Department should be ashamed of itself, and I hope they hear from the Alums....they'll certainly hear from me.

Death Penalty Stupidity

Many of you are aware of my aversion to the death penalty. I'm not squeamish on law and order, mind you, I just don't like irreversible penalties in imperfect systems. I'd love to see murderers rot in solitary with no weight rooms, TV's, or "recreation" while their minds simply decay.

So here we have the situation in which the state of Texas is getting ready to execute a guy who did not kill anyone (he was in the getaway car during a botched robbery). Putting aside for a moment the really bad rap Texas already has with respect to the death penalty, whatever state law it is that allows for the execution even of those who did not actually murder anyone seems a bit astray. According to the story, the Supremes have given conflicting guidance in cases like this one, so it seems destined to go to the Court.

Lower the Drinking Age?

A group of university presidents has come under a great deal of criticism recently for apparently advocating a re-think of the 21 year old drinking age. Obviously, their vested interest here is in limiting their exposure to liability. It seems their argument is a version of the "they don't do this in Europe (binge drink) because they have more moderate and healthy views of alcohol" based presumably on having begun to drink earlier.

I honestly don't know what to make of the argument. I don't know with any certainty that lowering the drinking age would have any of the benefit that the university presidents seek.

That said, I still want the drinking age lowered. That one can vote and die in combat three years before one can kick back a legal swig of beer is one of life's great inconsistencies. Talked to one of my brothers about this today, and his point was that the age should be 19, when most folks are out of high school. I'd probably be ok with this as a compromise.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Horror! Border Crossings to be Tracked.

Who are these "privacy" advocates anyway? You know, the folks who bristle at the possibility that the government...charged with keeping us safe and protecting our borders....might store and use that information in future investigations.

Did anyone crossing one of our borders since 9-11 really think that the swipe of a passport didn't create data for future use? Stories like this are what give libertarians a bad name.

Synchronized Swimming Baffles Me

There was a FRONT PAGE ARTICLE on synchronized swimming in this morning's WaPost. I am baffled. Why this is considered a sport worthy of Olympic grandeur is beyond me, but then again there are many of the 28 sports at the Summer Olympics worthy of reconsideration.

Yes, yes. I realize that these women are great athletes, that it takes incredible wind and body control to do what they do. Yes, yes, yes. It is difficult and I can't do it. But then again, I can't do "Cirque de Soleil" moves either, and you don't see trapeze artists in the Olympics. What I can or can't do should not be a determinant of Olympic worthiness.

What Olympic Events do you feel are worthy of reconsideration?

Textbooks Cost Too Much? No Worries, Congress is on the Job!

The cost of college textbooks has always been a pain in the butt. One of the great bennies of a Navy ROTC scholarship was that they paid for my books...I used to watch friends really complain about how much textbooks cost; it really seemed to get them upset. But a national priority?

This morning's newspaper brings news that this national nightmare will soon be over. It appears our Congress (with apparently little else to do), is considering methods of bringing the cost of textbooks down.

I am amazed at what the Congress thinks is important.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dispatch from Nantucket

This is my first visit to Nantucket, and it is truly a nice place (though we did pay $5.10 a gallon for gas today....). Lots of 19th century charm, beautiful beaches, really quite a spot.

But I haven't yet seen a traffic light on the island. Lots of three and four way stops, and that stalwart of the New England roadway...the rotary. Makes for a lot of unnecessary traffic pain.

Also, very little parking downtown. Lots to see and do, but a real pain to find somewhere to park.

I think I could grow to like this place quite a bit, but I am definitely having some withdrawal symptoms at not getting to the Outer Banks of North Carolina this year.

The Strategic Value of Georgia

Richard Cohen asks a few good questions in his column today. President Bush has been pushing hard for Georgia and the Ukraine's inclusion in an enlarged NATO. Had he succeeded, Russia's invasion would have triggered (or should have triggered) a massive military effort to defend Georgia by NATO forces, something we (and NATO for that matter) are unprepared to do. Some say that Russia never would have invaded; that the threat of NATO counterattack would have caused them to rethink this path. I am unconvinced. Russia's calculations are based on Russian national interests, and I imagine their view on the appetite of NATO nations to get involved in Georgia is not far from mine.

NATO enlargement has always been tricky. Our desire to embrace the nations formerly under the Soviet boot did not necessarily mean we should have entered into treaty arrangements with them. I have no regard for the Russian regime and its thuglike conduct, but I am just as sure that I don't want to be involved in fighting them because Georgia's President couldn't keep his mouth shut.

Musharraf's Exit

I have thought in the past few years that no world leader faced as many challenges as Pakistan's Musharraf. He recognized from the start that he would have to ally with the US, even though such a move was wildly unpopular in his own country. His intelligence services are riven with Islamists who have reportedly aided Bin Laden's forces in the "ungoverned" regions of Pakistan. The man was in a tough spot, and I think that on the balance, he was a good and reliable partner for us.

Pakistan after Musharraf will not be a better place. Any attempt to become more popular with the Pakistani electorate appears to include moving away from the US.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

New Feature: Polling

I've added a polling feature. Let me know what you think.

More on Wheelchairs and Airports

From a very learned friend:

"P.S. In economics as you likely know, they talk of the concept of adverse selection that focuses on the notion that when a subsidy or support is in place in a given organization for a given challenge, those with that challenge seem to overly populate that organization or entity. In the Navy, problem pregnancies and, more profoundly, families with exceptional health challenges are likely examples of this. In airports, the ready availability of wheelchairs and the services related likely lead to an uptick in those in need of a wheelchair. If you really want to see this in action as one of your commenters alluded to, go to Disney World where folks in wheelchairs are given accelerated access to rides with almost no limit on how many of their "family" they can take with them. Once again, I suspect many, many folks need this support and I am glad they get to enjoy the park but there is no doubt in my mind that there is a statistically significant increase in the use of wheelchairs when these "extra" benefits are in place."

Gender Differences in Investing

Fascinating read this morning on the differences in the way men and women invest their money. Surprise, surprise, men are less risk-averse (how often do you see women doing insanely risky things in everyday life? I mean, they are simply much smarter than we are). But in investing, risk equals reward, so there is a chance that women's conservatism leaves money on the table.

I found it interesting to see toward the end of the story, that mixed gender investment clubs actually did better than single gender. Wisdom of the crowd at work?

Three Cheers for Women's Volleyball!

My goodness, but those shorts are fetching!

Major Shortage in the Army

Interesting article this morning on the shortage of Majors in the US Army. Lots of folks leaving the Army after multiple pumps in "the suck" (Iraq, Afghanistan) is leaving headquarters staffs short of the people they need to plan and execute operations.

I head a bit of this first hand during my recent trip to Fort Sill. One of my friends (not the guy I went to see) is also a brigade commander (Colonel level command), and when I asked him his major challenge, he said without hesitation "people." When I asked him to elaborate, he began to count out the "gapped" billets on his staff, many of which would be filled (in a better resourced Army) with Majors.

This is a tough one to crack. The Army is tired. But nothing soothes the martial soul like victory, and our Army is winning the war it is fighting. Along the way, we are creating a generation of warriors with unmatched combat experience, folks who will serve the nation well for years to come. I think the Army will get past this point in a few years, once Iraq begins to truly become less of a concern. Lines in Airports?

I returned about an hour ago from a trip to Washington National Airport (much as I revere Ronald Reagan, I am not a fan of using the new name) to have my fingerprints and eye-scans taken as the last step in signing up for the service.

I saw this first at the San Francisco Airport. Next to the maze like arrangement used to squeeze the rabble through security was a straight line to a dedicated metal detector. Entrance to this Valhalla of airport security speed was restricted to those carrying a special ID, obtainable through the website above. I asked a few people who traveled quite a bit if they had heard of this new service, and the answers I got back were generally positive.

For about $10 a month, your fingerprints and a print of your retina (available at little kiosks at major airports), you can obtain this card that entitles you to this special line. As the job I've taken (to begin September 2) will require regular travel, and since I already have a longer than usual dance with security due to my Steve Austin hip, I figured I'd give this system a try. One thing that might rile the libertarians among you, is that you must agree to have your retina scan shared with some other government agencies. This was ok with me.

Do any of you have experience with it? Let me know

CW Strategic Pause

I'll be heading off to a dude ranch in Wyoming at the end of the week, so I'll be out of the blog business between the 22nd and the 30th of August. I will even miss the UVA home opener against Southern Cal (don't ask for my tickets, they've already been given away).

I thank all of you who regularly read, and I hope you'll put a little note in your personal calendar to return to the site on the 31st.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Michael Phelps Phenomenon

I was talking to my kitten earlier, who was also in an airport awaiting a flight, though hers was to somewhere else and she had the added benefit of dealing with her girls. In the course of our often interrupted discussion, we chatted a bit about Michael Phelps.

She's not a huge fan of this blog, I need to tell you. She's not as convinced that the world needs to hear my opinions as I am, and since she disagrees with so darn many of them, she believes I'm largely just exhibiting my stupidity. But I think that my creation of this blog has unlocked in her some long-time suppressed voice of commentary. Today she chose to unburden herself on Michael Phelps.

Her position? That while he's certainly a great athlete and a great Olympian, his feats are not anywhere near as worthy as they are being made out to be, largely because he really is doing the same thing over and over again, with some minor modifications. His dominance is manifest, she says, but the reason he is racking up so many medals is that there are so many medals available for doing essentially the same thing. She asks hypothetically about the great soccer player, who may play on two gold medal Olympic teams in a row, but who "only" has two gold medals to show for it.

I'm inclined to agree with her on this one. Phelps is clearly great, perhaps the greatest swimmer of all time. But let's not confuse medal counts with dominance.

Your thoughts?

Some Thoughts While Traveling

I'm sitting in the sterile comfort of the Admiral's Club in concourse D at Dallas Fort-Worth Airport. I always chuckle when I go to Admirals Clubs, remembering when I was a aide to a real live Admiral. We were in an airport somewhere (in uniform) and he said, "hey kid, follow me." And with that, we made off for the Admiral's Club. Granted, I knew all his frequent flier numbers and whatever other travel bonuses existed then, and I knew he wasn't a member. I said to him, "Sir, I wasn't aware that you were a member." He said, "I'm an Admiral, aren't I?" at which point he blew past the front desk minders and we made ourselves comfortable for several hours. I loved that man.

So here I am, waiting for a bit for a flight to Baltimore (Hon) amidst the well-heeled and travel savvy. People here simply LOOK better than the hoi-polloi running about the airport, and even the children sprinkled about are well-behaved. No one here is rushing. No one here seems the least bit concerned about anything.

Some thoughts on airports, flying, travel in general:

--Is there some connection between the ready availability of wheelchairs and the number of people who appear to need them? Let's say for the sake of argument that there are 15000 people in this airport right now...I'll wager that you couldn't find a 15000 person town in this country with as high a concentration of those needing wheelchairs as you will find in this airport. I'm just sayin'.

--Let's talk about cowboy hats. Why in God's name would a man wear one on an airplane? He invariably has to remove it, as its back rim must contact the headrest behind him. He certainly cannot be wearing it to hide bed head, as most cowboy hat wearing gentlemen have dressed themselves to the nine's in the garb of the west, with lots of Hai-Karate or other suitably inexpensive toilet water providing olfactory evidence of their presence even before the loud drawl is heard. I just don't get it. Baseball hats? Yep. Bed head. Pull down over your eyes on a bright flight. Socially acceptable just about anywhere. Cowboy hat? No, I just don't get it.

Conventional Weapons in Trident Submarines

Time to get a little Navy geeky on you. For the better part of the last 50 years, the US strategic nuclear force consisted of the famous "triad" of long-range bombers, land-based ICBM's in silos, and submarine launched ICBMS. The great thing about the sub-launched leg of the triad was its stealth and survivability; that were an enemy to launch a devastating counterforce strike on the US (against our missile silos and bombers), we'd have a response option. Our "boomer" (ballistic missile submarine) force is currently 14 Ohio Class boats, each with 24 Trident D-5 missile cells (with each missile capable of carrying a number of independently aimed warheads). But the boomers are getting old, and the submarine force is diligently working to replace them.

Currently, the boomer force does one thing and one thing only; it deploys boats out on patrol, where they silently wait for launch orders we hope will never come. It is an expensive but critical mission, and we must continue to invest in keeping this leg of the triad robust (though the triad itself has grown more unbalanced as the bomber force and land based forces have declined faster than the sub force).

It is time to think differently about this capability, and I see evidence that that thinking is well underway. The National Research Council has suggested that we arm our Boomer force with conventional as well as strategic nuclear weapons. Under these scenarios, the ability to have a quick strike option with the capability to target virtually anywhere in the world in under 1 hour gives us a much better ability to deal with what are known in the biz as "fleeting" targets. The big problem with such a capability is that when the boomers went to sea ONLY with nuke missiles in them, any launch detected by overhead assets would set off counterstrike alarm bells in the countries with such a capability...namely Russia and China. By placing conventional warheads on these ICBM's, we put China and Russia in the unenviable position of having to decide if they (or someone else) is being targeted with nukes or conventional weapons. Solving this notification problem is essential to fielding this world-wide quick-strike capability, and I'm glad we are moving down this path. I'd like to get to the point where we don't have anymore "the terrorist just left the compound" issues.

That said, those boomers can do even more than just launch nuclear and conventional ICBMs. We need to move forward with making these stealthy and survivable platforms into truly strategic assets. They must go to sea with a mix of nuclear and conventional weapons, in addition to being able to quickly re-seed satellites that may have been shot down AND to act as part of our missile defense shield by carrying the large missiles necessary for National Missile Defense.

The satellite re-seed capability is essential. We know the Chinese would seek to "punch our eyes out" in battle by targeting our overhead assets. Doing so though is incredibly complex and very, very expensive. Therefore, we should make the proposition dauntingly expensive for them. Put submarines to sea (and land base) with generic, software programmable satellites that can be quickly launched to cover gaps and outages caused by enemy ASAT weapons.

The re-creation of the Ohio Class follow-on as a truly strategic asset is not getting a lot of press today, but inside the Pentagon, strategists are beginning to realize the game-changing nature of this capability.

Phelps and the Olympics

Great race last night for Michael Phelps, and thank heaven for the automated timing system and slow -motion cameras, because I can't imagine the human eye being able to see his margin of victory.

I read where he eats about 10,000 calories a day. Putting aside for a second the fact that he burns virtually all of that out with his ridiculous work-out schedule, wouldn't it be interesting to just for one day, try to eat that many calories? I wonder what that's like. Maybe I'll try it soon.

Intelligent Design

No, I'm not here to talk about some Creationist vision of how to combat Darwinism; I'm here to talk about the ridiculously designed little personal coffee pots that adorn so much of what passes for hotel accommodations these days. You know the ones--top opens toward the back, industrial strength cord, never enough coffee supplied...

But what really gets me is how difficult it is to pour water (or coffee for that matter) without spilling. It is almost as if manufacturers have provided America with "dribble" pots in order to entertain themselves at sales meetings.

Am I the only one who notices this?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Are the Chinese Tougher?

David Brooks, the New York Times' token conservative (and a brilliant writer and speaker) had occasion recently to visit China's Sichaun Province, where just months ago, a devastating earthquake killed 70,000 people. Expecting to find trauma, grief, tears and kvetching, he found tough, optimistic people, thankful for the help they've gotten and generally positive about the future.

Where were the grief counselors? Where were the Chinese versions of the great American grief merchants? Where were the government provided debit cards? Brooks found none of this, and wonders aloud at the end of his article whether we aren't a nation of whiners. Uh, yes, we are.

I mean, can you imagine the miasma of grief that would accompany the deaths of 70,000 Americans? Hell, we lost less than 2000 in Katrina nearly three years ago, but we still listen to the victim industry complaining about how forgotten New Orleans has been (don't get me started on this one).

Army Magnanimity

I wonder if there is another army on earth as magnanimous to its opponents as the US Army. We have forts named after vanquished generals of the other side (Lee, Jackson, AP Hill to name a few--and yes, these were in fact enemies of the US Army), I drove on "Geronimo Avenue" on the base here, and the suite I'm staying in is the Quannah Parker Suite--the last warring Comanche Chief.

Dispatch from Fort Sill, OK

Fort Sill is, as virtually all Army bases are, remote but tidy. I am staying here to bear witness to the Brigade Colors Uncasing Ceremony of the 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade. This brigade was recently moved here from the home of the ADA at Fort Bliss, Texas, a move mandated by the Base Re-alignment and Closure Commission (BRAC). My good friend Colonel Dan Karbler presided over things and the whole event went swimmingly.

This was the first big military event I've been to since retiring. Therefore, it was the first time I've heard the complete national anthem played without rendering a salute, the first time that have heard honors rendered to a general officer in which I did not also salute, and the first time that as the national ensign passed in front of me, I did not salute its passage. It was the first time that I have been around a bunch of people in the military in which the great majority of them were forced by tradition and regulation to salute me, and I by tradition and regulation to return the salutes. It was a bit weird, sort of like what I imagine it must be like to visit the material world were one to be a ghost.

It was odd to see my friend Dan strut confidently out there to assume his spot in the center of the parade field, a man now in command of several thousand soldiers and billions of dollars of US Army equipment and ammunition. Heck, Dan and I once shared an office, once made daily runs to the bagel shop, made much of the proximity of our birthdays. He's just a regular guy for heaven's sake....but he's not just a regular guy. He is one of the greats, one of the people who has sacrificed an enormous amount of personal time and fortune to serve his country in war and peace. As I looked out at the soldiers assembled on that field today, I could not help but smile, knowing that I (and you) sleep confidently at night, knowing that these people and others like them are out there keeping us safe. They are only modestly compensated, they spend large chunks of their lives away from kith and kin, and they all volunteer to do so.

I am amazed at how similar the areas surrounding military bases are. Doesn't matter if you're talking the Navy in Virginia, the Army in Oklahoma, the Marines at Lejune or the Air Force in Illinois...lots of fast food, lots of auto sales, lots of tattoos, and a sprinkling of low-end service economy businesses that amaze me with their durability. Driving down Cache St. in Lawton OK today was no different than the thousands of times I've driven down Hampton Blvd in Norfolk. Eerie.

A few comments on the Army uniform. Today, they were in their digital cammies (green version). I like seeing the Army in cammies....I didn't like the old days at the Pentagon (old for me, that is) when they wore their more formal pants with shiny shoes. I want them looking like they are ready to kill someone. And the beret, the infamous black beret. A few years ago, the Chief of Staff of the Army (General Shinseki) shocked the whole Army by decreeing that the black beret (to that point, the purview of the vaunted Army Rangers) would be worn by the whole Army. Lots of reasons for it, but what I was interested in was that he would do something like that. Just say "I've thought about it, I'm the boss, here's the change". I LOVED that approach. My God, there was whining when he did it...the Rangers did manage to keep their own color berets, as did some other elite Army units, but they eventually all shut up and did what the Chief said. And they look great in them.

Army, I think there is a production facility somewhere that just spits 'em all out, one after another. The General at today's ceremony, a one-star, started his remarks by saying "Good mornin', Y'all". Love it. Navy Admirals don't talk like that (love that too, by the way), but Navy Admirals are different. Army Generals all sound and look like high school football coaches. Except General Shinseki, who looked and sounded like a Navy Admiral....

Children, Parents, Work, Guilt, Life....

I skate knowingly onto thin ice today in talking about marriage and children. Those who know me are already aware that I am childless, and that my only foray into matrimony was not a resounding success. I have though, watched the institutions of marriage and parenting from the sidelines for my adult life and have occasionally dipped my toes into the pool in relationships with women who already had children (including my engagement to the Kitten, who comes with two girls of her own). This article--and a conversation I had on the plane last night--have got me doing a lot of thinking about these great building blocks of the American way of life, and how they are under siege because of choices we are making every day.

Let's start with the conversation. As the plane filled with those joining up in Dallas (I was flying from BWI to Oklahoma City), one of the very last people to get on the plane was an attractive woman who looked to be not quite 30. Naturally, a cruel and ironic God chose to seat her next to me. I generally do not engage in conversation with strangers (see #8), but I tend to make exceptions in the case of attractive women. Actually, she apparently made an exception to her "no talking to lecherous looking older men rule", but I digress.

It turns out that this woman is a pharmaceutical rep who does a good bit of traveling throughout the innards of our great nation. (On a side note, I would wager that 5 of 10 attractive women you meet in airports and on planes are pharmaceutical reps. They seem to have cornered that market). She is the mother of two children, boys 1 and 3, and was married to a guy she deemed a "great father". During the course of our conversation, she began to tell me about how busy she and her husband were, each with jobs and parenting duties. She used the word "guilt" several times to describe the trades she has to make every day between time with her children, work, time with her husband and time for herself. She talked about how virtually every minute she is awake and not working is devoted to her children.

Again, I have observed the world she describes largely from without, much like the posture one takes while observing the big cat exhibition at the zoo. I respect their world, but I don't necessarily want to climb over the wall into the cage with them. In my time observing the phenomena she described, I have come to conclude two things: 1) that these harried, two working parent, shower attention and time on the Dauphins and Dauphines at night and weekends arrangements are bad for husbands and 2) that they are bad for children.

I have spent my entire adult life among adult work and in recreation. And if there is one refrain I have heard more than any other from the husbands/fathers with whom I've associated, it is that "...I've lost my wife. She's a great Mother, but I don't have a wife anymore." These are the guys at the water cooler, at the cookout, along the sideline at the game. They are everywhere. Perhaps they are you. So I took the opportunity to talk to my attractive seatmate about this, wondering aloud (since we were so chummy and all) if she had heard or seen anything of this among her friends and relations. She admitted to it, fully. But her answer contained more honesty than I was perhaps ready to hear. She said, "well, that's just the way it is. Husbands have to get over the fact that it's not all about them. Things change when you have children." She wasn't saying it wistfully or regretfully; she seemed to say it with pride.

I was dumbfounded. There it was, the other guy's (girl's) playbook, right out there in the open like an old Brady Bunch episode. I wondered to myself how many guys would really...and I mean really...go for the whole act of fatherhood if they knew that this was the path. Stay with me here folks...I'm not trying to infer that having kids shouldn't or doesn't change a marriage. What I'm saying is that I think men wish that it changed things less. The men I talk to want to be fathers, they want to go to the school events, the tae-kwon-do sessions, they want to ensure their children have rich, interesting lives...but they also want to have a wife and partner and friend.

What I'm getting at here is that the two-income family has taken a recessive gene in women and made it a dominant one. Whereas the beauty and wonders of motherhood in a 1950's home provided the room and space to be both wife and mother, the rise of the working mother and our economy's reliance on the liquidity and productivity it provides has squeezed out the space available on the female hard drive for those functions associated with being a "wife". "Mother" is a role that will not be squeezed, as its biological strength and magnetism are well understood. Men however, seem not to have bought fully into this. There doesn't seem to be a diminished appetite among men for marriage, partnership, and all that comes with it. Either their hard drives are bigger (shocking!) or, the father functions are not quite as all encompassing (more likely).

I know this all sounds very pop-psychology, but that's the only psychology I know. I remember a few years ago, when I was getting serious about a girl who had a son, I asked my father what it took to be a good Dad. His answer was short, perfect, and obvious---"Love your wife". Make her and the relationship with her the center of your personal life. The rest will follow. This is the essence of my thinking here (sorry to have rambled so long)--that today's parents have largely forgotten who is the center of their lives. They have shifted (mostly women) that part of their available energy that was at one time devoted to the marriage to the new central focus of the American family, the children. And it is this focus that I believe is ultimately not good for the independence and character of the children it produces.

In a recent article in the Weekly Standard, Joseph Epstein wrote about this phenomenon in what my brother Tom calls "the most important article" he has read in some time.

The concentrated, relentless attention showered upon the children raised within this new, two working parent paradigm has created an entire generation of dependent, entitled children (and a concomitant legion of frustrated Dads/Fathers). The article cited earlier from AOL, in which employers are increasingly having to deal with the parents of employees, reflects this paradigm. Also, though I am rarely one to support the whining of modern educators, parents of these children can be particularly annoying to teachers trying to educate these ADD-addled children. The "attention deficit" isn't an inability of the child to pay attention, so much as it is a child's reaction to having a deficit of attention paid to him!

Which brings us back to the cute pharma-rep sitting next to me. By the end of the flight, I had extracted from her a promise to schedule a quarterly date night with her husband. One date every 90 days. She really wrestled with this. They had never had a babysitter before (who wasn't a visiting grandparent). She wasn't convinced it was even a worthwhile goal. One lousy night.

I'm not saying we should go back to the 50's and women shouldn't work. I think work outside the home is all things considered, a benefit. What I am advocating is more balance...don't worry so much about making sure Junior has an unending palate of activities laid out for him on the weekend. Don't give in to the pressure to be like the other Moms and Dads. Maybe we can turn the corner on this generation of entitled kids and frazzled parents if we just let kids be kids.

But then again what do I know. I'm a childless divorced guy.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I Love TSA...ok, so I'm Lying

So I'm going through the security stuff at BWI today, and as usual, I (and my titanium right hip) set of the detector. As usual, I was ushered forward into the protective glass booth to await the "male assist". Usually, one is then ushered to another area for the inspection and pat-down, after the "male assist"-er picks up your carry on belongings from the conveyor. Here though, the inspection went down in the glass both where one usually just waits (it was a little roomier than the standard). The TSA official asked me to identify my bags on the conveyor, which I did.

He then proceeded to inspect me while bags from other passengers pushed mine further and further out of view, finally to the point where they reached the end of the table...and then went crashing 3.5 feet to the ground, as there was no one there to watch this and no raised lip on the table.

I was livid. I said to the inspector, "Why did that just happen? Why was no one watching? I am required to stay here in this booth and no one brought my luggage to me, so what measures to you have in place to see that this does not happen?" Just at this point another TSA agent came strolling by--large, female, spends too much time in the salon--and she instructed me that it was not their job to watch my stuff on the conveyor, it was mine. At which point I asked what would have happened if I up and bolted from my inspection to save my computer...would that not have caused an alarming security situation? She said it might, but that's not their job and you can talk to the supervisor about it.

Which I did. He was sympathetic, but clueless. The computer works, the system doesn't.

Off to Fly-over Country

I'm headed off to Fort Sill, OK today to witness the "unfurling" of the colors of my good friend (and shipmate!) Colonel Dan Karbler's Air Defense Artillery Brigade. The ceremony is tomorrow morning, and if my friends in the US Army remain consistent, it will be something to behold. America's Army is the best in the world, made in no small part that way by intelligent, tough and dedicated leaders like Dan Karbler.

Conservative Writers Take on the Obama Myth

This story from the Post this morning has me thinking on two levels about recent efforts to debunk the Obama myth.

On one level, I am uncomfortable with the concept of hit jobs on Obama based on his father's character, his mother's taste in men, or on some loony perception of his religion or how he practices it. The article focuses quite a bit on these kinds of attacks in Corsi's book, and to the extent that they are contained therein, it cheapens the work.

On the other hand, taking on the Obama bio is fair game, because Barack himself made it that way. When ALL you have to run on is your story and your voice, you've got to expect that investigative journalists will attempt to reconcile your version of your story with others. Obama's thin resume and unspectacular performance in the Illinois Legislature are fair game, and I know that David Freddoso's book is focusing on these aspects of the Senator in his book.

Laying Obama's scanty record on the table is not a hit job; insulting him because of his father is.

DC Teacher Pay

The courageous, china-breaking Chancellor of the DC School System Michelle Rhee continues to bedevil the old guard in the DC teacher's union. Her proposal to set up a new compensation system has ruffled a few feathers among the old bulls (and cows) in a union dedicated to the status quo and to less than mediocre student performance.

By agreeing to pass up tenure and submit to increased standards of student performance, teachers will be able to command up to $100,000 per year (whoops, per 3/4 of a year) at the 5 year mark. Of course, the union is against this idea, as the popularity of the proposal seems to be tied to teacher age and experience. Younger teachers see the risk as worthwhile, older teachers see it less so.

I applaud Chancellor Rhee (once again) for bringing market forces to bear on teacher performance and compensation. I would love to see how Senator Obama feels about this proposal, given his allegiance to the teachers unions in whose pockets he is so deeply tucked.

Delicious but Destructive: Solar Energy vs. Environmentalists

Great piece here on the battle between solar enthusiasts and environmentalists. Although I do sit back and smirk a bit at the irony here, solar energy is a viable and important part of a comprehensive energy strategy. Governor Schwarzenegger's comments at the end of the article (made at Yale, no less) are fantastic.

One thing at work here is the commoditization of solar; that is, when solar was all about VW bug driving hippies throwing some panels on their roofs to create their own little power was cool with the left. As the market begins to recognize the benefits of solar, the fact that business will be involved and that people will make money seems to turn off elements of the left. So what.

Why Can't the US Win in Men's Soccer?

Thirty-six years ago, I moved from one town in New Jersey to another. In the new town, a visionary man with a lot of energy was pushing a new sports league for kids...a soccer league. Pele was at that time nearing his stint with the NY Cosmos, and all around were the signs of an explosion of soccer in the US.

For the past 36 years, I watched as more and more kids play soccer, and I watched as the US has become dominant in women's soccer. Yet millions and millions of kids later, we are still terrible in men's soccer. I can't seem to figure it out.

Some friends say that it is the fact that our kids have so many other things that they can do. While this is true, it is also true that it is hard to find any kids these days who have at not played at least a few seasons of youth soccer. The game is ubiquitous here, it just isn't very good.

I'd like to open it up to the floor; why aren't we better at this sport? Yes, I fully expect a goodly share of anti-soccer comments....but for those who aren't opposed to this sport....what's going on here?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Let's Go Nationwide!

Looking at the Blog's stats today, we're up to 275 folks having checked us out (a total of over 1500 times), from 37 states.

How bout letting your friends in (Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, Hawaii, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, West Virginia, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire) know about the site.

Can't be sure though, that we haven't gotten visitors from some of these states....I sorta think Sally is from Wyoming, so for some reason that's not registering with Google.

Oh, and don't forget to click through to the Advertisements!

Parents Starve Child to Death; Sue City for Not Stopping Them

Brother Pat turned me onto this story from my old stomping grounds of the City of Brotherly Love. This lovely couple starved their 14 year-old cerebral palsy suffering child to death (well, that's not entirely true; the mother did, the father simply abandoned her) while the family was subject to the oversight of social services. Both the parents and members of the city's social services team have been charged with felonies, but the parents have brought civil suit (seeking financial damages) against the city for failing to save the child.

At first, the parents were party to the suit. After righteous indignation from the never reserved Philly community, the parents have removed their own names from the suit, hoping nevertheless to gain some financial benefit for little Danieal's siblings.

Unreal. I'm amazed that we have to register to vote, take tests to drive, get fingerprinted to buy a gun....but producing children has no qualifications.

China's Terror Problem

Let's meet the Uighurs, shall we. Nestled in western China, the Uighurs are Turkic peoples who have never been too comfortable under the yoke of Beijing. They also happen to be Islamic, and they have been committing acts of terror against their Chinese masters with increasing frequency.

When I was working on strategy for the Navy, we considered an alternative future in which the threat of Islamic terrorism brought the US, Russia, China, Europe and India closer together to fight a common foe. In this future, the Islamists overplay their hand and create this concert of power designed largely to dispatch this threat.

I don't think we're moving quite in this direction yet, but I continue to look for signs. I also look for some different methods of dealing from this problem from the Chinese, especially after the Olympics. One wonders if a Chinese judicial system would grant these terrorists the palate of rights that our Supreme Court has....

The Airlines: We Get What We Pay For

So JetBlue is going to charge for pillows and blankets now, and USAIR for water and soda. And so, the great democratization of the skies continues. Air travel was once for the elite, people dressed up to fly. Air travel was heavily regulated and fares were very high compared to where they are now.

But then came the days when people asked good questions, like why aren't the airlines competing with each other? Why is it that air travel only seems to be for the rich, while all taxpayers help to subsidize their operations? And so, de-regulation occurred, and it was good. Airlines had to compete for your business, and fares plummeted. Air travel was no longer something simply for the elite; it was for everyone.

You want pillows and drinks? Fly business class. Fly Singapore Air or Cathay Pacific. You want bare bones transportation at the lowest price possible? Fly domestic US carriers in coach. Ladies and gentlemen, we have gotten what we wanted, and we are getting what we pay for. The days of frills and extras are gone, and the days of bus travel in the sky are upon us.

Mad Cow Disease Threatens Designer Baby Industry

I don't know where to begin. This story lays out the utter desperation of one Julie Peterson of North Carolina and others presumably like her who are frustrated in their desire to create a new master race of Nordic Gods (note the gauzy glam portrait in the article). Because of our government's desire to protect our population from Mad Cow disease, certain, shall we say, effluents are no longer deemed safe for use in the creation of six-foot tall warrior queens. This has forced Ms. Peterson back to the Geheimstadt, whoops, homeland, to tap the keg of he who previously supplied the "essence" in the creation of her first "...beautiful Viking baby..." As luck would have it (or perhaps the biology of a 43 year old woman), her latest injection was unsuccessful.

Let's start with the obvious. Ms. Peterson's quest derives from two main influences...the first, to create yet another Viking baby. The second, is to ensure that her next child would have the same father as the first.

I'm generally in favor of efforts to bring babies to infertile couples. I realize I may deviate from some visions of conservatism here, but that's the way it is. I am however, very disturbed by the growing craze of women simply having babies on their own, deeming the presence of a father as unimportant. Let's face facts; we all know someone who has grown up without a father or with an uninvolved father, and many of them are healthy, well-adjusted people. That said, we tend to marvel at such people because of what they have overcome. All things being equal, children grow up healthier and better adjusted in two-parent families. Starting a child out from the get go with no father immediately stacks the deck against them. That such a decision is reached primarily due to the selfish desires of the mother (immortality through children!) reflects poorly upon these women. That such a child would be conceived according to some genetic plan for visual attractiveness bespeaks a shallowness in the mother matched only by her selfishness.

People in this world face real problems. Julie Peterson isn't one of them--though I imagine her daughter might someday be....

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Victory for Property Rights

Among the most despicable decisions by the Supreme Court in recent years was the Kelo decision, in which a 5-4 majority ruled that eminent domain could be interpreted to mean that the government could take private property from one party in order to transfer it to the private property of another long as there were a "public good" to be gained.

This story tells of a successful effort to fight such a "taking" by the City of Long Branch New Jersey.

Kelo simply made it legal for municipalities to do this; it did not mandate it. It will be up to the states to make laws that remove this power from themselves and municipalities.

Debunking Drilling Myths

Boffo editorial in the Post today taking on some of the scurrilous charges the environmental lobby throws at the concept of increased offshore drilling. In addition to the generally favorable tone (toward drilling), two things caught my eye.

The first is the slavish adherence to the "No Drilling in ANWR" line. For some reason, this one has been bought hook, line and sinker by even thoughtful observers.

The second is the Post's depiction of the downside of increased drilling. The argument goes something like, if we increase drilling and take pressure off supply, prices will stabilize and then the pressure of higher prices will be then no one will do anything important to wean ourselves off of dependence on oil. I am sympathetic to some extent to this argument, and that is why I want ANY relaxed drilling to be embedded in a COMPREHENSIVE energy strategy that speaks to solar, wind, nuclear, biofuels, battery technology, hydrogen, compressed get the picture. COMPREHENSIVE.

Excellent Navy Blog

Many of you wonder why I spend so little time blogging about that which occupied so much of my previous life....the US Navy. Mostly because I don't think too much about it, but also because there is another blogger covering that beat very well. Take a look at Information Dissemination if you are interested in keeping up with issues at the heart of our Navy and Marine Corps.

Galrahn (the blogger) is a smart person with a lot of background in the Navy. He or she wasn't terribly kind to the Maritime Strategy, but their criticisms were fair and well crafted. I highly recommend this blog (it is in my site list to the left) for those of you who want to keep up.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Capitalism Update

Well, I've had ads on my blog for five full days now, and according to Google, I've made $2.42. I'm pretty psyched to get some cash (no matter how meager) from this effort. But at about two hours a day devoted to hourly rate isn't too impressive!

Thanks for continuing to click my on my sponsors pages!

Obama: No Income Taxes on Seniors?

This guy is too much! His latest idea--to relieve seniors with less than $50,000 of income annually of ANY income tax burden--is pure political genius. Bad policy, good politics.

Our Seniors are already a very well looked after group in the tax code. Lobbing another entitlement at the AARP crowd (an unbelievably entitled group) just doesn't make sense, especially when we figure out who will pay for it. That's right, young people.

If you're a senior making less than $50 grand in EARNED income, you're probably not paying much income tax as it is. If your $50 G's is the income of your investments, you've got a pretty fine nest egg there spinning off income, so I have no problem with your being taxed.

But it SOUNDS good...the key to Obama's success thus far.

Sebastian Mallaby Wants to Raise Your Taxes AND Stimulate You!

Loony editorial today by Sebastian Mallaby, in which he advocates for another stimulus AND refers to the 2001 tax cut as "crazy".

Referring to our fiscal situation as "swimming in red ink", Mallaby conveniently forgets that this nation OFTEN fights wars from a deficit posture. Oh yeah, that's right, we're AT WAR. The tax cuts were and are an important way for Americans to keep more of their own money...once we were attacked and had to respond, of course we went into a deficit situation. The answer isn't to tax our way out, it is to GROW our way out (even as fewer resources come to be spent on the war).

I'm sure many of you will say that Iraq didn't attack us; and by that strict measure of whether or not to fight war, I suppose you're right. But our government was repeatedly criticized for "failing to connect the dots" in the run up to 9-11, and the possibility that a man with the desire to use WMD (Bin Laden) would join up with a man with the means to provide WMD (Saddam) is enough for me. Oh you say, but Saddam didn't have WMD. Well, we know that now. But EVERY single reputable intelligence service on the face of the earth believed that he did, and he said and did everything he could to make us think he did. Ancient Chinese saying goes, "Wave toy gun in the face of police man, get shot in the face."

It is time for us to do very little. This is actually one of the great things about being a conservative--doing nothing is often a great thing to do! The government has taken action to shore up financial markets and bring confidence to the system. The dollar is rising. The stock market has stabilized. Housing will solve itself when the correct balance among supply, demand and credit is reached. Will there be pain in the interim? Yes. But at least we don't do stupid and damaging things (like another stimulus, or letting the Bush tax cuts expire) while we wait to see what the impact of what we've ALREADY done is.

Utah Arch Falls; Is Global Warming to Blame?

Noted this story and was fascinated that the fallen arch was not somehow associated with global warming. Apparently two new and even more insidious culprits are to blame; gravity and erosion.

The Press and John Edwards

Howard Kurtz does his usual fine, balanced job as the WaPost media critic today, taking the press to task for how they (did not) cover the John Edwards story.

Where I do take issue with him is his glossing over of the comparison made by Republicans over what the press response would have been if the philanderer were Mitt Romney. By pointing to Governor Patterson and Bill Clinton, Kurtz attempts to show balance in reporting sex scandals about Dems. But let's face facts; Patterson came to office in the wake of an already burning sex scandal surrounding the office's previous occupant, and Bill Clinton was the President of the US. Kurtz's blithe dismissal of media bias to favor Edwards just doesn't add up. Romney would have been pilloried, just like David Vitter was.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Update to Honor Story

Below, I recount in the story of the UVA Honor system, a vignette from my time there. My English TA, Luis Gamez, brought me up on BS academic fraud charges.

Well, looky, looky what I found right here on Al Gore's internet. Seems old Luis wasn't quite as "honorable" a fellow as he made himself out to be. Karma, people. Karma.

The Russians are Thugs

This little Russian adventure into Georgia shows once again the depravity of the "democracy" in Russia (not that Georgia's is that much farther along). I honestly don't know what the issues are here, though it looks like ethnic politics are clearly at play, the kind that gave the Germans the right to salivate over the Sudetenland. Can anyone say "lebensraum"?

Energy: Good News and Bad News

Lots for Republicans to like in this story. Apparently, the "All of the Above" energy strategy of House Republicans is much closer to the wishes of the electorate than plans that pick and choose. I am concerned though about the low support for nuclear power.

I think the nuclear industry needs to spend some money on a spokesman and an ad campaign. Hire someone the American people trust. Pay him/her a lot of money. Produce commercials that speak head on to the fear Americans have about the safety of nuclear energy. Talk about the number of people killed in the generation of nuclear energy vs. the number of people killed in refineries, coal mines, and offshore oil platforms. Talk about the lack of carbon emissions. Tell a good story and raise support.

Am I Reading The Onion?

I have got to believe The Onion is jealous for not covering this story first.

An Education in Honor

A couple of young people have received a tough lesson in honor, courtesy of my beloved University of Virginia Honor Code ("On my honor (as a gentleman), I have neither given nor received aid on this (test, examination, paper, project)").

Apparently, UVA runs a little "Semester at Sea", giving students the opportunity to earn a few credits while generally enjoying a Mediterranean cruise. All are apparently informed of the UVA Honor Code and agree to be subject to it.

The two expel-ees in question were accused of cadging from Wikipedia (a source so dubious in the first place as to defy citation in a serious paper, I would argue) on a project; they were tried by an Honor Court (which does indeed have a set of rules and procedures) and convicted...and then sent home. One of the student's statements had me chuckling: "Routman said most students were not familiar with the University of Virginia's honor code. "We're all coming from completely different backgrounds," Routman said, "with completely different attitudes at our schools. To expect us to just pick up the honor code like that is ridiculous."

What does this say about the schools from which they were coming?

Most criticize UVA's system because it has only one sanction...expulsion. There have been movements through the years to create other sanctions, but I steadfastly remain wedded to the single sanction. In four years there, I can honestly say that I never once saw cheating occur. I'm not saying that it didn't, I'm saying that I didn't see it. The atmosphere there was one of trust, and I treasured it.

That said, I got caught up in the honor system while there. Here's the story. All First-year's at UVA (not freshmen, thank you) are required to take an English Writing course. I was breezing through with a strong "A" average, when toward the end of the semester, we were given a project that was designed to take us to the Universities libraries for some serious card catalog diving. The work was not "pledged"....that is, we were not required to write out and sign the pledge, as we were for every assignment in which professor wanted to ensure there was no group effort.

I and four other guys, all of them football players, met at Alderman Library one afternoon and I made the assignments. We each headed off for an hour or so, then returned, exchanged our information, and then turned in our work.

When I went by the teacher's (a TA, not a professor) office to pick up my grade, he was not there, but he had posted a large envelope containing individual envelopes with each student's name on it. When I casually opened mine, fully expecting the "A" that would counterbalance the C- in physics and the C in Ancient Chinese History, I was met with a letter saying something like the following:

"I have determined that you and four other students committed academic fraud in the assignment of 20 April 1984, in that all five of your inputs were exact duplicates of each other. Based on the rules of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, I am lowering your grade from an "A" to a "C-", the lowest passing grade for this course. Should you wish to appeal this decision, you must petition the Faculty of Arts and Sciences."

I was crushed. I really needed that "A", and I hadn't done anything wrong. I played by the rules. The assignment was not "pledged" work (unlike every single writing assignment that he had given us that semester), and we did not seek in any way to hide that we had done group work (group work being, by the way, the basis of virtually every MBA program in the country these days....).

I was very interested by the fact that he had resorted to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, rather than the Honor Code. As a graduate student, he was fully within his rights to take this to the Honor Committee, which could have resulted in my expulsion. When I did catch up with him finally, I confronted him with this. His answer is one of the reasons I love the Honor Code to this day. "I did" he said. "But they wouldn't even take up the case because it was un-pledged work." I was dumbfounded. I asked him why he didn't just drop the matter there and then, as it was clear I had done nothing wrong. He said that I had violated the "spirit" of the assignment, and rules of the College of Arts and Sciences gave him the latitude to do what he did. I thought then and there, "if I ever see you outside of this office by yourself, I will beat you to a living pulp." And then I walked out. Luis Gamez, you clog-wearing little pufter, you are lucky I am a man of restraint.

The Honor Code works. Because of the gravity of the sanction, much...and I mean much...deference is given to the student's situation. It is entirely student run, and students don't like kicking each other out. It is something to be protected, and it is something I wish more colleges and institutions replicated.

Reform in the Credit Card Industry

This story had me moving in one direction when I first read it and in another when I was finished. See if you feel the same.

Any time I see "regulation" billed as "reform", my libertarian alarms go off. What is our government meddling in now, I ask myself? Additionally, any time I see legislation associated with Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), I run for the hills, as I have very little time for this over-the-top-with-emotion Yenta whose claim to fame is to have had a husband tragically killed by that wingnut on the Long Island railroad a few years ago.

That said, two things about the credit card industry REALLY bother me, and Congressional action to regulate them seems appropriate. The first is raising interest rates on EXISTING balances. Of all the BS things these guys do, this takes the cake. How would all of you homeowners (the most privileged class of investors in this country) like it if your mortgage rate went up? Yes, yes, I know there are variable rate mortgages, but I'm talking about fixed rate.

The second things that gets me is raising interest rates because of other debts one may have (irrespective of one's payment profile to the credit card company).

I realize that both of these practices by the credit card companies are ways to mitigate financial risk, and I realize that it would be better if market forces prevailed and consumers simply walked away from cards that committed these pernicious practices. Maybe a little pressure from Uncle Sam could help these market forces gather.

Railroad Health

Interesting story here on the financial health of America's freight railways. Moving goods by train is an incredibly efficient proposition, and with rising fuel prices (and significantly better management) our railroads have found financial health. I am glad of it.

Would that our passenger railways were so healthy. I am a huge fan of the federal government doing as little as possible in our daily lives, as a rule. That said, interstate commerce is one of those enumerated powers (Article I, section 8, US Constitution) specifically reserved for the Congress, and the Congress should be ashamed of itself for this nation's passenger rail system. AMTRAK runs trains up and down the East Coast that cannot go anywhere near their max speed because of ancient infrastructure and aging right-of-ways, and the lack of rail-heads at our major airports is a huge contributor to highway gridlock. There are any number of things I want the government to stop doing, to stop spending money on. Roads, highways, airports and rail infrastructure are not among them.

WaPost Disses the Military

This morning's editorial casting faint praise on the verdicts in the Hamdan case reveals a snarky condescension toward the military. Examples of this attitude:

"The commission's decision was remarkable not because it was the first of its era but because it appeared to be measured, thoughtful and fair -- or as fair as a hopelessly flawed system could hope to produce." Hmmm.....they had a measured, thoughtful and fair proceeding? How can that be? It was administered by a bunch of knuckle-dragging right wingers (a.k.a military officers).

"The matter emerged as both vindication and defeat for the administration: vindication, in the sense that the commission in this case proved not to be the kangaroo court many critics once feared and predicted; defeat, in that even military jurors and a military judge in no way bought the administration's assertion that Mr. Hamdan was a hardened al-Qaeda operative deserving of life imprisonment." Even military jurors? Are we to expect that highly trained and remarkably well-educated military officers (among the six, I can guarantee at least as many masters degrees), who actually KNOW what the constitution says (as most usually take the time to discover what it is they swear allegiance to) would somehow be unable to reach just decisions?

The Post wanted to take shots at the way the Administration put these tribunals together...fair enough. There was no reason to take shots at the folks who carried them out.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

John Edwards, Breck Girl No More!

How bout that Playa! John Edwards has admitted his affair. I guess his "two Americas" riff was meant to include everyone having two love lives!

MoveOn.Org, Obama Ads

Never fear, CW readers, I haven't become a Quisling. The ad system is shaking out a bit; hope it is fixed now.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Light Weekend on the CW...

The Kitten and I are headed over to the other side of the Chesapeake (the Virginia side) to spend the weekend with some friends. I'll have the computer with me, but each time I take it out of the case, I will surely pay some heavy domestic the site may be a bit light for a few days...back with a vengeance on Sunday night at the latest!

Gone Commercial!

That's right, raging capitalist that I am, the blog now has ADVERTISING! Don't forget to click on the ads that have your interest, and patronize our good sponsors!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Some Straight Talk About Sweden

Johan Norberg, author of In Defense of Global Capitalism, sets the record straight on some of the myths about what many on the left see as a utopia afoot in Sweden. Really good stuff, and definitely nice to see an intellectual European NOT with one foot in Marx's grave....

Ahem....Mr. Maliki....It is Time to Start Paying Your Way....

Well, it appears our friends in Iraq have been fattening up on oil revenue while we paid the freight. I don't have a problem with them accumulating some cash, especially given some of the china we've broken there in the past two decades.

That said, it is time to get hot. The Iraqis must step forward and rebuild their country with their own money. We have borne quite a load to give them a new start, and our patience is wearing thin. Open the wallet, Maliki, and start to pay some bills.

Guantanamo Trial Ends, Mixed Results

Mr. Hamdan was found guilty of supporting terrorism, but not guilty of conspiracy to commit terrorism. The conspiracy charge was always going to be tough to prove, but the supporting terrorism charge did not appear to lack evidence.

I have no expertise in military justice, save in the kind I once got to dispense as the Captain of a ship (Captain's Mast we called it, and it was sometimes a HOOT!). I have often heard the saying about military justice that if you are guilty of a crime, it's better to be tried as a civilian; but if you are innocent, it is better to be tried in military courts. Don't know why, but this is what I've heard.

The Hamdan case is going to be a huge issue for civil libertarians and folks who have not yet awakened to the fact that the war on terror is NOT best fought as a law enforcement issue. This tribunal will in all likelihood be continuously scrutinized, and I would not be surprised to find its proceedings at some point before the Supreme Court.

But from what I can tell, this was a professionally administered dose of military justice. Hamdan's been in prison for years already, and I'd be surprised of the sentencing didn't take that into consideration. I subsequent tribunals are conducted in a similarly grave and professional manner, and I salute all who are involved in bringing justice to the Guantanamo detainees.

The Most Beautiful Automobile in the World

Too bad the photos were taken in an RV park.....enjoy the Bentley Continental GT Speed.

Anthrax Killer?

The feds are claiming that Bruce Ivins (recent suicide) was indeed the anthrax killer who had the nation on pins and needles in the weeks after 9-11. I would have preferred a jury trial conviction, especially in light of the botch job the feds did on Bruce Hatfill. That said, this Ivins fellow seems like a strange bird, and the Justice Department seems pretty convinced of their case. I hope they are right.

My Use of the Washington Post

Had lunch today with a good friend from high school, who also happens to be a frequent visitor to this site. During the course of our conversation, he pointed to my heavy use of the Washington Post, questioning whether I have any other sources of information. Good question.

Here's the deal. I spend a lot of time each day online, hitting about a dozen websites religiously. This blog though, does take some time. In order to mitigate the damage to my domestic life, I promised my dear sweet kitten that I would not increase my online time. To that end, I've got to be incredibly efficient. So, in order to make sure I'm dealing with timely and relevant issues, I read the Washington Post first thing, and pick out those stories worthy of comment. Usually I pick twice as many as I write about, but having the night's news right there in front of you to choose from really makes things efficient. I also take a look at National Review Online, generally finding one or two good things not found in the Post.

I promise that if someday, this blog becomes a full-time job, I will rely on many more sources of info than I do now. But while time is of the essence, I'll lean on my favorite newspaper.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Bush and China

Interesting article on the President and his approach to China in the past 8 years. Lo and behold, the policies this administration has pursued vis-a-vis China have been sophisticated, strategic and nuanced. The cartoonish version of the Bush foreign policy has always left me cold, and this article begins to offer some hints to what will someday be fairly widespread approval for the way this administration has managed the China account.

High Gas Prices vs. Suburban Sprawl

Good article here for my friend on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, who serves as my suburban sprawl expert. It seems that driving into and out of the District of Columbia from South Riding, Virginia (30 or so miles) is becoming a crimp on Guy Saffel. Guy, his wife and son struggle to get by in their 6000 square foot hovel, while he is conveyed hither and yon in his Yukon Denali. "We fell into the trap of our neighbors", says poor Guy.

Bullshit. You fell into the trap of your own greed. Enjoy the ride, Guy.

Modern Education: Summer Homework?

Interesting article in the Post this morning on Summer homework. Apparently it was all the rage once, but it is now declining in popularity. Well, not in my little corner of the world it isn't. My beloved's two kittens (aged 7 and 9) have a considerable summer's load assigned to them, something I simply do not remember being subjected to as a child.

Which brings me to a couple of other points. Isn't it time we went to year-round school? I mean, come on. Less than two percent of our population subsists around the planting and harvesting calendar...why should we continue to be wedded to this anachronism of a schedule. Perhaps if teachers worked a full year there would be less carping about teacher salaries. Nine months work for 12 months pay has always struck me as a good deal.

Next thing...the amount of homework. I'm shocked by how much homework today's little Dauphins and Dauphines come home with, and how early it begins. One wonders just what it is they were doing in school all day. Oh, right. Learning about manatees and global warming and famous Latin scientists and great Jewish sports legends. All that readin', writin' and cipherin's got to wait until they get home!

US Taped Terrorist Interviews? Good for Us!

A story this morning in the WaPost lays out the case that we may have "secretly" recorded interviews between Guantanamo enemy combatants and their representatives of their presumed governments. Putting aside for a second the question of how taping can be secret when the governments signed release agreements specifying that the sessions might be taped, I find myself perplexed at the possibility that anyone would be perplexed at the possibility that we were taping these interviews. We would have been guilty of dereliction of duty had we not been taping and analyzing these interviews for intelligence.

I Wonder Who Killed the Syrian General?

A Syrian General responsible for funneling arms shipments to Hizbollah in Lebanon has been assassinated. Good riddance. I'm quite sure we'll not hear the Israelis taking credit for the hit, but it isn't a stretch to think they did. Still another reason to love the Mosad. If you have a couple of hours, watch Spielberg's Munich to see the dedication with which the State of Israel pursues its enemies. Perhaps we could contract out to them to find Bin Laden.

Ralph Peters on Liberals and Free Speech

Ralph Peters knocks it out of the park with this article. We are coming to a greater understanding of the leftist roots of some forms of totalitarianism, with Jonah Goldberg's recent Liberal Fascism leading the way.

Liberals are all for free speech as long is it is speech they want to hear.

Have You Funded a Terrorist Today?

Great little site here with an entrance video reinforcing the link between importing oil and importing extremism. Hat tip to Billy Bayer...

Monday, August 4, 2008

Latest Stats on the Blog--209 Homies!

Checked "Google Analytics" this morning and we've cracked the 200 separate IP address level. For ease of tracking and for my growing blogger ego, I will consider this to mean that over 200 different people have looked at my blog a total of 1469 times.

The average length of a visit to my site is three minutes and 21 seconds, and visitors have logged in from 35 states.

Nuclear Power in Maryland? No Problem

Great news this morning about plans to build a new nuclear power reactor at Maryland's Calvert Cliff's facility. So far, little negative outcry has occurred. I'm sure there will be some hearty lefties who come out to push this, but I think the anit-nuke crowd may have been pushed to the fringe by rising energy costs and a growing consensus on the threats to the environment of carbon emissions.

One thing to think about as this debate goes forward. Virtually all of the nuclear plants in the US were surveyed for substantially greater numbers of operating reactors than were actually built. This built in expansion capacity serves generally to mitigate some of the ridiculous protests of the 70's about where the plants would be sited. Put new reactors where there are already operating power plants, and I think you'll see far less outcry.

UVA Football...Thoughts on 2008

I am freakishly addicted to UVA Football. I've been a season-ticket holder for some time now (aside my two favorite Dems/best friends) and I spend an inordinate amount of time during the season lurking on the premier UVA Football Sports site "The Sabre.Com".

A few things about my addiction.

1. I can't stand UVA's Coach, Al Groh. He ushered out jackets and ties, and he talks like Bill Parcels. I don't think you get to talk like Bill Parcels until you've WON like Bill Parcels.

2. UVA Football's off-field foibles in the past two years are directly related to the quest to field an ACC champion squad. We have lowered our standards and we are paying the price.

3. I can't stand the fact that Virginia Tech cleans our clock at in-state recruiting. Looks better at this point for 2009, but still not great.

4. No lead is safe with UVA.

5. The team will go no better than 6-6 this year.

Be on the lookout for weekly mentions of my beloved Wahoos.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Wind Energy Moves Forward

Most of you who've read this blog know that energy is a big issue for me. I'm passionate about not putting money in the pockets of Saudi Princes who pay others to blow us up instead of blowing them up.

Good article here about wind energy. Wind is a viable, renewable (we would all hope!), and cheap. It will be very difficult to scale up to being a huge contribution to the electrical grid, but it will be part of the eventual solution.

Great thing is to watch the environmentalists showing their colors. It is hard to fathom these folks...sometimes it feels like they are not at all interested in energy independence; just birds and plants.

A Shocking View of Global Warming

Shocking because it is critical of the new secular religion of Global Warming and because it appeared in the mainstream media. Joel Achenbach isn't generally a serious guy--but this is good work. I am amazed at the number of things I read about in which climate change is implicated.

Favre Saga Continues

Looks like he's back with the Pack. The Packers should allow him back and then not let him take any snaps. Any man stupid enough to walk away from $20M to not play should not be trusted with an offense

Goldberg on Capitalism

Jonah Goldberg of National Review is one of my favorite conservative thinkers, and a recent column of his ranks up there in his best work. Here's a bit worth thinking about...

"People ask, “Why is there poverty in the world?” It’s a silly question. Poverty is the default human condition. It is the factory preset of this mortal coil. As individuals and as a species, we are born naked and penniless, bereft of skills or possessions. Likewise, in his civilizational infancy man was poor, in every sense. He lived in ignorance, filth, hunger, and pain, and he died very young, either by violence or disease. The interesting question isn’t “Why is there poverty?” It’s “Why is there wealth?” Or: “Why is there prosperity here but not there?”

The answer is capitalism....and capitalism is something we should be incredibly proud of.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Federal Aid for Higher Education and Increased Tuition

An excellent paper on the relation of these two variables.

Unemployment at 5.7%; Breadlines Appear....

Breathless reports of rising unemployment reached me yesterday as I dodged growing breadlines in my tiny Maryland community. Everywhere there was talk of a new CCC or WPA, and folks were thinking we might need to exhume FDR to get us through this nightmare.

Not really. The current unemployment rate is low by historical standards, the stock market is high, and inflation is low. Yes, things are not what they were a year ago, but they are clearly not in crisis.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Cost of Higher Education

Ok class, let's talk economics. When consumers have more money to pursue a good, the demand of that good will increase. The shift of the demand curve to the right will result in.....a price increase (in ceteris paribus).

News today of the doubling of Pell Grants, among other goodies dispensed from Washington. If you want to look for one of the culprits in the rise of college costs, look no further than the fact that our government continues to pour money out to subsidize higher education.

Reservations About Reservations

I have reservations about reservations....Indian (or Native American) Reservations, that is. A story in this morning's paper about the potential loss of satellite-based internet service on the Navajo Nation's reservation has me thinking about these anachronisms.

I think the United States needs to figure out a way to move past these enshrinements of socialism. Yes, yes. We took their land (oops, not me, or my people...once again. Maybe another apology is in the offing....). But that is the story of the world...civilizations rise up in places where there previously was a different civilization. People are displaced. Sad, but true.

But it is now 2008. There is no real reason that the US government should spend so much money keeping so many people in what amounts to cantonments of socialism. Life on the reservation is one continuous handout after another from government, or in other cases, handouts from the proceeds of casinos and government. The incentive to leave the reservation, to strike out and join the society that encircles it, is deadened by the incessant drip of government largess into the veins of a population besotted with entitlement.

Reservations may have seemed like a good idea once, but they have outlived their purpose.
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