Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Pat Sajak has made an interesting point about the lack of Hollywood outrage over the murder of Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh. I think he is on to something and it is very sad. Basically, condemning terrorists puts Hollywood types too close to President Bush.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Amber Gnat has found this article by Victor Hanson, it is about the positive things that have happened in Afghanistan and Iraq. A very interesting read.
Marine sacrifices his life for others is the head line of a story at The Seattle Times. This is an incredible story of a GREAT AMERICAN. This story needs to be told by every news agency, but sadly most people will probably never hear about this hero. Thanks to the other bloggers out there who found this one.
Needless to say, I was blown away! This is a great movie (as I am sure most of you already know)! Of course the animation is beautiful but the characters are so perfect; it is like you know these people. When Mr. Incredible is sitting in his cube I could totally relate.
The underlining message - society holds back the exceptional people - is stark. When Mr Incredible tells his number one fan that everyone is special, he replies that that really means no one is special. Think about that for a monent. We really do try to limit people rather than encourage them to excell. If you do not believe me take a look at the public schools.
Lessons everyone should learn from this movie:
1. be the best you can be
2. never try to change the people you love, help them be their best
There are a lot more lessons in this one but I think these two are the most important. This is a must see movie.
UPDATE: Here is a good review of the movie that explains the Objectivist connection much better than I can.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
As many of you know I am not a fan of the American Left. I believe that they are snobs, elitists and completely out of touch with most of America. I know that people on the American Left think that I am an idiot. I just consider the source. One other thing about the left is that they are cowards – afraid to put their name on their hate. Just as I was feeling smug and very confident that I have figured it all out someone has to go and write an intelligent piece about our friends on the left. If more Democrats could, not only understand this point of view, but actually believe it, they might just have a chance.
On a lighter note, a Texas school district cancels their “cross dressing day.” Bummer!
Friday, November 12, 2004
The really sad thing about this is that the data contained in this “damning” report debunks the very conclusions of the report. This is an excellent story pointing out the flaws. The interesting point is that Polar Bear populations seem to be INCREASING not decreasing and temperatures seem to be functioning within a normal cycle.
Now I know that there are people out there who feel very strongly about issues such as Global Warming but this one is really over played. The problem is many people want to believe everything that “scientists” say. Scientists are human and subject to the same biases, prejudices and mistakes as anyone else. Issues as big and important as Global Warming need to be approached cautiously - careful study by science and government is required. We cannot blindly follow one side or the other.
UPDATE: I found this nice site that covers the issue of CO2 and Global Warming rather nicely. Take a look at Greening Earth Society. They have a nice commentary on the McCain/Leiberman bill to reduce CO2 emissions. I like both of these guys but I really hate the idea that this is a futher politicization of this issue.
There are several correlations between the market share battle between Coke and Pepsi and the constant battling between the Democrat and Republican parties. The most obvious is the color relationship – Pepsi is the blue product and Coke is the red. This fits nicely with Democrats being the blue party and Republicans the red. In colas and in politics blue is associated with a young, progressive base, red is more traditional and appeals to an older generation.
Ok, I know this seems a little weak but you get my point. If we look at the advertising for these products we can see that a common theme in the ads is a veiled attack against the competition and the implication that people who like the other guy are intellectually inferior, or at least, misguided. This approach, over time, has lead to an almost perfect market split between the two competing products. The taste-test ad campaign, and the resulting New Coke fiasco, demonstrated that the tradition associated with the product is MORE important than the product itself. Many people who chose Pepsi in a blind taste-test were loyal Coke drinkers and they had no intentions of changing products. There were, however, enough people to switch to make Coke take notice.
If we look at the ad campaigns for both political parties from the past election we will see the same marketing techniques in use, with one major exception – neither side attempted to veil their attacks. Both sides were very direct. Since these are political campaigns, and not actually products, we cannot look at sales as a matrix for the success of the advertising. Enter the polls – this is the major mechanism for determining the mood of the “market” in a political campaign. The problem with this is polls are not very accurate, especially when compared to actually market forces.
This accuracy issue has lead, particularly this election season, to some very strange poll results and to, what many people thought was, a surprise result to the election. I am not going to get into the problems with the polling in this year’s election, but suffice it to say that polls are less accurate than market indicators. This is because a poll measures what a person SAYS that they will due or has done – a market indicators measure what a person has ACTUALLY bought. In addition polls are more easily manipulated than are sales numbers. This is very important. If we use the same marketing strategies in campaigns as we do with products we should expect that the difference in data quality will affect the success or failure of the ad campaign.
One thing that both political parties need to be very careful with after this election is dealing with what the election results actually mean. Republicans are feeling as if the election has given them a mandate to pursue vigorously their agenda. The Democrats are torn between, on the one hand, becoming more radical (more to the left) in their approach or, on the other hand, becoming more centrist (more to the right). The danger is that one, or possibly both, parties are in danger of pulling a “New Coke” plan. Without strong market indicators it can be difficult for political parties to reinvent themselves, in favor of their perceived base, without destroying their actual base
This has led me to question the wisdom of treating political parties and candidates as merchandise. Modern mass marketing techniques are excellent for selling sugary beverages but it is lousy for selling politics. This treatment has helped to polarize the political climate while contributing to a lack of understanding of each party’s position on key policy issues. Sure, everyone knows that Democrats are for the poor and Republicans are for the rich. This is one area were advertising has succeeded – it reinforces stereotypes and promotes party talking points. It does not, however, promote real understanding of issues.
I believe that the next phase of political campaign reforms should address this imbalance between marketing and substance. I would love to see political campaigns move away from the slick marketing approach and begin to do ads that are simpler – ads that address the issues and not just point-out the flaws of the other guy.
There is one mass marketing technique that has worked well for colas and could work for politics – the blind taste-test. Line up each party’s ideas for solving each major problem and let the voters decide which answer they like the best. If the answers are not related to the party or the candidate then people will have to focus on the issues. Here is an example of this type of a “blind taste-test” for politics. In the end people may be surprised at their real political views.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
This lead me to the other problem with BE. As more and more people join my traffic has been decreasing anyway, even with surfing other blogs for several hours a day. It is the classic case of diminishing returns. When I surf I seem to hit the same pages over and over even though you are only supposed to see a page a max of once a day.
Then this past week we experienced the "Ratings Controversy." It seemed like every other blog I visited people were suddenly complaining about their ratings, and who rated them what. It was so childish and really detracted from what I like about reading other peoples blogs. I am begining to think that BE is burning me out on blogging...
With this in mind I have decided to stop surfing BE for a while and see how much traffic I get from BE as a baseline, with no action from me. In a few days I will make a decision as to wether or not I will leave BE. What do you BE users think about this? Have you seen any of the things I am talking about?
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
This is an amazing story about a nutty Lawyer. OK, I know that the description is really vague, just read the story.
Here is an interesting story about videos of beheadings being sold at a gas station in Tampa. Very strange…
I really should have something intelligent or clever to say about some of these stories but I don't. I'm speachless...
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
Wow! Shooting at schools is unacceptable! What a concept. I am sure glad everyone has reaffirmed this because I was beginning to think we had lost our moral compass.
Drudge also has a link to this satellite photo of the city. Maybe you should just go to the Drudge report and read what they have, before I link everything from here.
Here is the BBC’s take on the fighting in Fallujah. The Times Online has an excellent map of the battlefield with key points.
As a final note of the Fallujah battle, my buddy The Mad Tech, found this letter from a US Marine in Fallujah. It is such an important letter that I am linking it from here because everyone needs to read this.
On a different note, the French seem to be having some trouble in the Ivory Coast.
Monday, November 08, 2004
The future is Republican according to another Times Online article. I really like The Times. They are much more balanced than the BBC it seems.
I am a firm believer in ideals such as freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. One of the things that our fellow Americans on the left are very afraid of is an erosion of the separation of church and state. This article from CNN must really have them quaking. For the record, I am totally against teaching “creationism” in public schools. This should be reserved for religious schools.
Saturday, November 06, 2004
With the controversy swirling around the Iranian Nuclear program, the nation has, once again, become the focus of US attention. Unlike the Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1979, the current dispute with the Iranian government, over the potential development of nuclear weapons, has REAL security implications for the US and for other nations in the region. This is not a case of the pride of the US potentially being bruised, as was the case with the hostage crisis, there is real potential of armed conflict over this issue. The difference between the US in 1979 and 2004 is striking; we currently have an administration that is not adverse to taking military action to protect its security, we do not have Jimmy Carter as president, we currently have a strong military presence in the region.
These facts have not been lost on the Iranian government, which explains, I think, the Iranians “endorsement” of George Bush as President. Wait, you say, why does the fact that the current US administration’s willingness to possibly take military action against Iran actually causes them to prefer George Bush?
This one is a little complicated but try to follow me. I believe that the Iranian regime’s days are numbered, not from external force but from internal forces. They know this. In an effort to distract internal opposition and build patriotism, they have launched an expensive, dangerous nuclear program. In this endeavor it is important to have a US administration that will pay attention to Iran and serve as a rallying point for the population. George Bush is perfect for this situation because, with ongoing military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, he will be willing to negotiate a settlement that will not threaten the Iranian government. John Kerry would not have been a good US leader, in Iranian eyes, because he probably wouls have ended the Iraq mission early, leaving US forces free for an attack (not that they had much fear of that). More importantly, Kerry would have been much more willing to pursue economic sanctions through the UN, which could actually play against the Iranian government’s stability.
This logic would seem to indicate that the Iranian opposition should be more encouraged by a John Kerry presidency. Why, then, are they cheering George Bush’s re-election? The reality is neither the Iranian government nor the Iranian opposition believed that John Kerry would do anything, good or bad, in regards to Iran. The opposition believes that any conflict with the US, combined with Bush’s support for democracy in the region, is going to result in the collapse of the Iranian government. I think they are right.
So what does this all mean – what should we do about Iran? Iran is walking a very fine line – one slip and they are in big trouble. It will be very difficult to try and play the US while at the same time suppressing the opposition. The US must continue to support the democratic movement in Iran. We must continue to put pressure on the Iranian government to dismantle their nuclear programs. This pressure should be mostly military in nature but we should not be afraid to offer some economic incentives. We should do everything in our power to keep Israel from taking military action as this could actually strengthen the Iranian government. All of our actions with regard to Iran should server two purposed – eliminating the nuclear weapons threat and strengthening the democratic movement. In the end our success or failure in bringing democracy to Iraq may be the most important factor in dealing with Iran.
Friday, November 05, 2004
Some of the people who are upset by the election results are just plain stupid. See the Republicans do not have a monopoly on stupidity.
In another example of how stereotyping the nation’s political views is really dumb, read this story from Yahoo about the Democrat Hispanic Lesbian that was elected Sheriff in Dallas County. This is a heavily Republican county that voted strongly for Bush. I wonder why these homophobic, racist, sexist Republicans would allow this to happen? Maybe Republicans can consider the entire person when making a political choice. The only thing that would have made this story better is if she had been a Republican, but then again, nobody’s perfect.
Thursday, November 04, 2004
1. Finish the job in Iraq and Afghanistan - This is huge. Afghanistan is off to a good start but for the next few years we will need to keep a close eye to ensure the Taliban and Al-Qaida do not regain a foot-hold. Iraq is going to be a tougher job. I believe that once the last terrorist strongholds are destroyed the security issue will rapidly improve. I do not believe there will be problems with January elections in Iraq. Once the elections are out of the way the outlook for Iraq will greatly improve and it will be much easier to get more international support once the terrorists have been defeated. I believe both countries have a bright future but it will take some time.
2. Get bin Laden – I don’t believe that OBL really has much influence left to conduct terrorist operations but he is an important figurehead for the movement. Capturing him will help reinforce to the civilized world that the US is really focused on battling terrorism.
3. Overhaul the tax system – This could be the most important thing President Bush can accomplish in his second term. I would love to see the IRS dismantled and the income tax abolished. I think a VAT type system or a national sales tax is the way to go. The income tax system is open to abuse and influence peddling. It is an unfair system because the upper income people can afford to hire accountants to avoid paying their taxes. There are better ways to collect revenue that are fairer and involve less bureaucracy.
4. Cut the deficit by getting government spending under control – With the ongoing GWOT there will huge budget challenges for the next several years. This is the prime opportunity to get rid of some of the more wasteful and outdated government programs. We may need to rethink the Medicare drug program since it seems unpopular with seniors.
5. Fix Social Security – The time is now to correct this looming problem. I am not against the idea of allowing younger works alternatives to paying into the system but this must be carefully thought out. We cannot continue with a zero sum approach to SS. There must be some interest earning potential on the money that is collected. I don’t know the best way to fix this one but it must be a priority.
6. Immigration reform – We must find a way to allow people into the country who want to work or go to school but we have to secure our boarders. We can no longer stand by while hundreds of people die every year in the Arizona desert just to work. We need to make it easier for workers to enter the country so that only the criminals and terrorist will attempt to enter illegally. This will allow our security forces to concentrate on the “bad guys” and not on people who want to work. It will also reduce the cost associated with illegal immigration. We also need to punish companies that knowingly hire illegal aliens. If there is no market for illegal aliens AND it is easier to enter legally then there will be less illegal immigration. This means fewer people dieing to work and a savings to the taxpayers.
Here are a few things that I am concerned about and hope that the President DOES NOT put a huge amount of time into:
1. Gay marriage – This was a big issue during the election and many people feel very strongly about. I fear that this issue has the potential to be an unnecessarily divisive issue that can have very negative consequences for Republicans in the future. I do not support a constitutional amendment on this issue nor do I think there should be a federal law about this. I believe that states should be allowed to manage this issue as their constituents see fit. The real problem for me with this issue is not gay marriage but with the implications for other social issues such as polygamy. This has the potential to turn very ugly and now is not the time.
2. Abortion – This is a no-win issue for either party right now. I do support the ban on partial-birth abortions and this should be protected but the larger issue of abortions is a no-go.
3. The draft – There is NO indication that the President would ever consider this and that is the way it should stay. This issue would destroy the military and play into the hands of the President’s critics. Plan all military actions around an all volunteer force to ensure that the morale of the troops and the nation stays high.
These are some of my real dream issues that I have no hope of this administration, or any, of ever doing:
1. Abolish the Department of Education – Sorry all you teachers out there, but I do not see any compelling evidence that this is anything other than a huge waste of money. The only reason it is still around is because the teachers union is so powerful politically. I think that the Congress should set education standards and then award grants to states for the purpose of education. Each state should be able to determine the best way to achieve the education goals set by Congress.
2. Get the Department of Defense out of the nation building business – The DoD is totally unprepared for the job of peace-keeping or nation building and they should never be called on to do the job. The DoD should go back to being the Department of War and be concerned only with warfare. The job of nation building should belong to the State Department and they should be equipped to do this job. Forget the crazy idea of a Department of Peace that is the job of the State Department and it is time they have the tools to do the job.
3. Get out of the UN – This was an important tool of the Cold War but those days are gone. The UN is completely unwilling to take meaningful action when the need is obvious. They soak-up huge amounts of money and are filled with corruption. It is time for it to go and at the very least it is time for the US to get out. We can accomplish more good through direct negotiations and alliances than the UN could ever hope of doing.
There are so many more things that can be done or should be done; I cannot list them all and I doubt that anyone can. I addition each person will have a different list of priorities including completely different ideas. Certainly tort reform is a big deal that will get a lot of attention, as well as rebuilding relations with our allies. Judicial nominations will be huge over the next few years and I hope that the President can nominate judges that will protect the Constitution but are not so radical that they cannot be confirmed. We should consider lifting the ban on Canadian cattle. How should we deal with Iran and North Korean? The next 4 years will be very interesting and I hope that we can join together and deal with some of these and other important issues. Tell me what is important to you.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Cheer-up people, it is not the end of the world! See you all in 2008…
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Monday, November 01, 2004
Before I go too far with this I must state that I work for an outsourcer and have worked in the outsourced IT profession for about 10 years. I, for one, own my entire livelihood to outsourcing. I am not afraid of outsourcing but I am afraid of off-shoring. John Kerry has said that he will enact tax incentives to prevent American corporations from moving jobs over seas. I am not really against this idea in principle as long as it does not impact the over-all outsourcing industry. Millions of Americans work in outsourced jobs here at home. I make my living in this industry and I have vested interest in seeing it stay healthy and here.
The real question that I have on this issue is how do the Democrats reconcile this belief in protecting American jobs at home but then promote the importation of “cheaper” prescription drugs from over seas? It seems to me that importation of drugs would be diametrically opposed to the idea of preventing the outsourcing and off-shoring of American jobs. The US is one of the leading manufacturing centers for prescription medications. It is a large industry that employs thousands of people. These are the high paying jobs that John Kerry wants to keep here and yet he wants to put these people out of work by importing drugs from Canada.
It is hard to imagine a way in which importation of drugs would not inspire these companies to move their operations outside of the US. If they did not do this how could they continue to compete against the cheaper imports? We have seen this in other industries in the past so the idea that importation would damage American companies is not out of the question.
What is more important to the Democrats; cheap drugs or good jobs. They seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place on this issue. If they support drug importation they are supporting job outsourcing and off-shoring. If they go against drug importation they risk angering special interest groups who are strongly in favor of the idea. How can John Kerry have it both ways? A cynic might think that this is just another example of John Kerry wanting to be on both sides of an issue.