Chas' Compilation

A compilation of information and links regarding assorted subjects: politics, religion, science, computers, health, movies, music... essentially whatever I'm reading about, working on or experiencing in life.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

"Country First" is more than just a slogan

John McCain, with VP pick Sarah Palin, visit a hurricane
command center in Jackson, Mississippi, on Sunday.


Gustav prompts 'substantial' changes to RNC agenda
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney will not attend the GOP convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, because of Hurricane Gustav, White House press secretary Dana Perino said Sunday.

In addition, "substantial" changes to the Republican National Convention program will be announced Sunday because of the storm, two Republican officials said.

Sen. John McCain said Sunday it wouldn't be appropriate to hold a political celebration during the storm. He said there would be significant changes, but did not elaborate.

"We must redirect our efforts from the really celebratory event of the nomination of president and vice president of our party to acting as all Americans," said McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

McCain said it's likely the event would change into a "call to the nation for action."

"I pledge that tomorrow night, and if necessary, throughout our convention ... to act as Americans, not Republicans, because America needs us now no matter whether we are Republican or Democrat,'' he said.

[...]

The McCain campaign arranged a charter flight from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Jackson, Mississippi, on Sunday afternoon for delegates who wish to return to the Gulf Coast region ahead of Hurricane Gustav.

Louisiana Republican State Party Chair Roger Villere Jr. said some of his states' delegates have already departed, while others plan to leave.

The same plane will fly back to Minnesota if delegates have children or other family members they want to remove from the area.

A senior McCain source said Saturday that officials were considering turning the convention into a massive telethon to raise money for the Red Cross and other agencies to help with hurricane aid. [...]

I think the McCain campaign is handling this wisely. Not only is it not possible to party while a large disaster hits our country, but this affects delegates and convention speakers from the affected states, and other attendees who will be needed to help in the afflicted areas.

Some Democrats may gloat about the difficulties this has created for the Republicans and their convention, but I think how the Republicans and the McCain campaign are are dealing with it speaks volumes more. Let the crass Democrats snicker cynically, while the Republicans roll up their sleeves, deal with reality the way it is, and show the Dem's how it's done.

I've really been impressed with what a class act the McCain campaign has been so far. I have great hopes it will continue thus.
     

Labels: , , , ,

Cindy McCain strikes back

Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., boards his campaign plane in St. Louis, with his sons Jack, second from left, his wife Cindy and son Jimmy, right, en route to visit a hurricane command center in Jackson, Miss., Sunday morning, Aug. 31, 2008. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

Cindy McCain defends Palin pick, husband
WASHINGTON (AP) — Cindy McCain said Sunday that Republican vice presidential pick Sarah Palin understands what's at stake in national security issues in part because she is governor of Alaska, located some 300 miles from Russia.

The wife of soon-to-be GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain also said she's "offended" by Democrats calling her husband elitist because of the number of homes their family owns.

Asked about Palin's credential, Cindy McCain told ABC-TV's "This Week:" "The experience that she comes from is with what she's done in the government. And also, remember: Alaska is the closest part of our continent to Russia. So, it's not as if she doesn't understand what's at stake here."

[...]

It's unusual for the spouse of a presidential candidate to go on a Sunday talk show, but Cindy McCain used her 10 minutes to defend her husband from charges of elitism.

She also signaled she'd want to focus on humanitarian crises as first lady, talking about her meetings in Georgia last week with refugees of the recent Russian invasion. [...]

She goes on to talk about Supporting Georgia. She also addresses the Democrats criticism of her family, and also talks about her conversations with Palin about assuming the vice-presidency.
     

Labels: , , , ,

Governors, Senators, Qualifications & Reforms

Sarah Palin with husband Todd.

Judging from the reaction by the left, they think Palin's a very credible threat. They seem to be sharpening every knife in their drawer to use against her.

The main blade they are wielding presently is that she's not qualified enough. It's an odd complaint, coming from people who insist that Obama is qualified to run for President after his short time as US senator (225 days in session). Palin running as just a vice-president after almost two years as governor is deficient in comparison? I rather liked the comment from McCain aide Jill Hazelbaker:
It is pretty audacious for the Obama campaign to say that Governor Palin is not qualified to be Vice President. She has a record of accomplishment that Senator Obama simply cannot match. Governor Palin has spent her time in office shaking up government in Alaska and actually achieving results — whether it’s taking on corruption, passing ethics reform or stopping wasteful spending and the ‘bridge to nowhere.’ Senator Obama has spent his time in office running for president.

Palin's list of real accomplishments has shaken the Democrats up. Obama recently, in an interview with 60 Minutes, described Sarah Palin as an "up-and-coming public servant". Excuse me, could he possibly be more patronizing? She's not some inexperienced file clerk working in the local town hall basement. As governor of a state, Palin has both legislative and executive experience, and is in charge of the state's National Guard as well, in a state only 300 miles from the Russian border. Cheap slights by Obama and his campaign won't diminish her position, experience or achievements.

At best Obama can argue that HE isn't under-qualified, based on length of experience, if Palin isn't. But she's running for Veep, not President. But circumstances could thrust her into the presidency. It's debatable how likely that would be, but it IS possible. Are Palin and Obama somewhat equal, in terms of how long they have served in their current positions? And what experience is needed to become POTUS?

No one has to be a US Senator or a Governor to become President, but our Presidents generally have been one or the other. One can argue about the length of experience of either Obama or Palin, but in fact they both do have experience. Give them both credit for that. Governing a state is a lot different than working in the Senate, but both can offer valuable political experience.

One could argue endlessly over who has the most or best experience for the positions they are applying for. But rather, why not look at the candidates with whatever experience they do have, and try to understand how they might be expected to wield their executive power, based on their observable experiences, associations and past performance thus far?

I worked in San Francisco for 24 years, and got to observe some pretty powerful people up close, both in business and politics. I learned some things about powerful people who wield executive power.

No individual can know everything, or constantly be in control of everything. Effective executives know this, and act accordingly. They surround themselves with smart, capable people, and delegate power and authority. Their success often depends on picking a quality team to support them.

Palin would presumably have time to learn more on the job as Veep, barring the death of the President. If the presidency were to suddenly be thrust upon her, I expect Palin could rise to the occasion, with the help of a good team already in place.

Both Obama and Palin, in a Presidential position, would be surrounded by helpers and advisers. So the question is, what kind of judgment are they likely to exercise in their executive capacity, and who will be advising them?

Obama is known to have associated for many years with people like Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright. If that's been his taste in associates, one might conclude at best that he is not very discerning in his associations; at worst, it reflects his preferences, and he may likely make similar choices in the future.

Palin, as Veep, would have many people working with her via John McCain initially. As a President she would be able to make all her own choices, and would likely chose people with similar views to her own. I don't think she has any terrorists or hatemongers in her past associations, so I think she would likely choose more ordinary Americans like herself.

I don't know exactly what an Obama administration would look like in practice. If he wins, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, and hope for the best. Perhaps he really would be a flip-flopper, and not be as radical and leftist as many people believe. I'd rather not take the chance, but if he gets in, I won't have any choice but to pray for him, that he makes wise decisions and gets good advice. Biden, for all his buffoonery, does lend some weight to the ticket, experience-wise. But I don't necessarily respect what he's done with that experience.

I'm a Republican, and the Democrat's present world view is just too far left from mine; I'm much more enthusiastic about my own party. The addition of Palin to the ticket has really got the base fired up in a way I haven't seen in a long time. I don't expect this ticket to be everything I could want it to be, but I do expect it to be much closer to the kind of America I want, than anything the Democrats are offering.


I think a large part of the enthusiasm for Palin on the ticket has to do with her history of reform in Alaska. Many Republicans want reform in their own party; the general public is fed up with congress and wants reform in Washington. John McCain's reputation as a maverick who crosses party lines, combined with Sarah Palin's anti-corruption record, reform mindedness and willingness to reach across the aisle, makes the GOP ticket very appealing to a wide spectrum of folks in this election year. And I'm really, really glad for it.


Related Links:

Palin is a C in C already #2

Alaskan pols react to the Palin pick

Palin like "Mr Smith Goes to Washington?"

"Palin is the most manifestly ordinary person"
     

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, August 29, 2008

Wow! What a Great Choice!


I hadn't considered Palin much, because conventional "wisdom" on Veep matters had it that McCain had to pick his Veep from a key swing state. Leave it to John McCain to do something unconventional.

I saw her speak this morning, it was wonderful. The more I hear the more I like what I hear. I'm very enthusiastic about this ticket. Hooray for us!


Related Links:

It's Palin!

Fred Thompson on Palin

Palin for America: A true conservative: “She knows when to stand up and doesn’t let anyone tell her to sit down”
     

Labels: , , , , , ,

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Obama Thugs go after NRO Journalist

From Michelle Malkin:

Next, the Obama thugs came for Stanley Kurtz

First, they came for TV stations daring to air an independent ad about Barack Obama and unrepentant Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers.

Next, they came for GOP donors.

Now, they are shamelessly attacking National Review investigative journalist Stanley Kurtz — one of conservatism’s most thoughtful and penetrating writers on academic and educational affairs. Kurtz has been at the forefront probing Obama’s relationships with left-wing ideologues. It was his public information request and public call for help that led to the University of Illinois - Chicago finally releasing tons of files that shed light on the Obama/Ayers working relationship. The Obama camp is condemning Kurtz in harsher terms than it ever condemned the terrorist Ayers. Kurtz has been attacked now as a “right-wing hatchet man” and “slimy character assassin.”

Here are the Kurtz-smearing talking points the Obama campaign sent to its worshipers.

As I reported yesterday, Kurtz spent two hours on legendary radio talk show host Milt Rosenberg’s Chicago program on WGN last night detailing his initial findings. The Obama campaign went ballistic — and in typical Chicago mafia-style, smeared Kurtz and tried to shut down the show. [...]

NRO is a respectable conservative magazine. Over the years I've really appreciated it's in depth debate and discussion of political issues, and it's thorough, calm and rational examination of the facts pertaining to any situation.

Stanley Kurtz is simply looking through documents that should have been made available to the public anyhow, to see if what Obama has said about his association with Bill Ayers is true. If Obama has nothing to hide, then let him hide nothing. If he didn't lie, then what is he worried about? Does he need to be reminded that this isn't Venezuela?
     

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

When is Fascism not Fascism?

When Democrats do it:


From Tammy Bruce:

Obama's Fascist Heart: Tries to Censor Ayers Ad
[...] Barry, you see, doesn't like the American Issues Project ad reminding Americans of his documented and admitted-to relationship with unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers. And how does a leftist respond to painful truth? Calls for "criminal" investigations, mass email harassment, FCC threats to stations who dare to run the ad, and threats to sponsors and advertisers of stations that also do what they are legally, and constitutionally, allowed to do.

[...]

Just one more sign of just how Marxist the Obama campaign really is. If you're a Classical Liberal and a Dem, you should begin to look very carefully at this rather ominous sign. Time to wake up, folks, if you haven't done so already. [...]

Bold emphasis mine. Read the whole thing for some links and quotes. Our nation's political parties can and should have strong differences of opinion. Obama can explain his ties with terrorists and hatemongers in any way he wishes. But the American public doesn't have to put up with demonstrable lies about his associations, and aggressive attempts to cover those lies up. Are the Obamas just black Clintons? So much for "change".

More from Nealz Nuze:

AYERS AD BROUHAHA
[...] Now might be a good time to remind you how Obama won his first run for the Illinois State Senate. He didn't win by convincing the voters that he was the better candidate. He won by sending workers to the elections office to pour over petitions until he managed to get his opposition removed from the ballot. Now he's trying to use the U.S. legal system to keep people from running perfectly legitimate advertisements opposing his candidacy. There's really not much evidence that Obama is a fan of the electoral process. He would rather use a legal process to gain power.

Bold emphasis mine. Read the whole thing for details about the methods being used to achieve this. I guess that's what they call "Chicago Style" politics? It might work in Chicago, but I hope it doesn't in the national arena. We deserve better.

None of this will matter much to Obama's fans, who believe anything he does is ok. But this election will be decided by swing voters. Hopefully they aren't blinded by adoration.


Related Links:

Does Obama have fleas?

Obama's illegal campaign contributions

Barack Obama; the larger, complete picture

What has happened to the Democrat Party?
     

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Does Obama have fleas?

Not literally, of course. I'm thinking of the saying, "Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas". Both the Obamas have had associations with some pretty flea-infested dogs. And now the fleas are coming back to bite them. Consider this ad Obama is fighting to have suppressed:


URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m89m0pC_bpY

It's carefully worded, and I don't see that it says anything that isn't true. He claims it does. Yet his campaign's official response to it doesn't specifically refute anything it says. Is that because it can't?

This reminds me of John Kerry and the Swiftboaters. Kerry's campaign refused to talk about what the Swiftboaters said, and the MSM went along with that. I was appalled at how the Media simply refused to discuss the matter. If the accusations were not true, they could have easily explained to us how and why, but they didn't even try. Why? Because they couldn't.

Now Obama is supposedly taking a more aggressive stance than Kerry did, but it seems he also can't refute what is undeniably true. Is the best he can do is to silence his opponents by whatever means possible? That's what fascist thugs do when they know they can't win arguments because the facts don't support them; they try to forcibly silence the critics.

Unfortunately it's a tactic that's being increasingly used by the Democrats in this country whenever they are confronted with facts, and it is one of the reasons I have lost all respect for the Democrat party generally. Sadly, it seems to be the best they are capable of.

The hard left associations of the Obama's are well established, no matter how much they would like to white-wash it now. This stuff ought to have been vetted much earlier on by the press, but it wasn't. Maynard at the Tammy Bruce blog has this post this morning regarding Michelle Obama's speech last night:

Michelle Obama
[...] The problem with the Obamas is, in a word, their long history of close association with hatemongers. These are not casual connections; they go to the core of what they've done with their lives so far. And now, on the very eve of the election, this offensive history is to be erased and replaced with a manufactured image that will appeal to mainstream (that is, the sane and decent portion of) America. And they expect you to buy into this nonsense.

Who are you going to believe? The pretty speeches, or your eyes and your brain?

Exactly. The problem isn't false accusations, it's the fact that people have eyes, and brains too. Michelle's speech was an emotional appeal, which in itself isn't wrong, but facts need to ALSO be considered, because emotions can deceive if they are not grounded in understanding of the facts. Speaking of facts, see the rest of the post for some of Michelle's interesting connections.

Pretty speeches don't change the facts. The whole of Obama's campaign seems to depend on pretty speeches. Something more ought to be required.

The Obamas can explain away their hard core leftist/terrorist connections any way they'd like to. They have every right to explain and counter criticism aimed at them. They have even had some good explanations for some of their controversies, thus far. But to try to silence people for pointing out facts that they can't deny, is contemptible.


Related links:

Obama Responds On Ayers

Fighting back against Obama’s thugs

Obama, Ayers and Dohrn - birds of a feather

Obama Needs to Explain His Ties to William Ayers
     

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, August 24, 2008

War, Suicide, Japan & Europe; the Lessons

From Takuan Seiyo at the Brussel's Journal:

The Last Samurai and Europe's First Suicide

This is an interesting look at the History of modern warfare, starting with the Russo-Japanese war, the first "modern" war ever; and it's effects on World War I, World War II and it's Japanese suicide bombers, and the waning of Western European culture today. Believe it or not, it all ties together, in this fascinating and detailed article. I won't do excerpts here, because you need to follow the whole story for the context to make sense of it.

You'll enjoy it if you like history, and it ends up making an interesting case for why things are the way they are today.


Related Links:

Europe, Japan, and collective psychosis: what ails the West, and how it might be healed

More reasons for not visiting Portland, OR
     

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, August 23, 2008

How to use Multiple Virtual Desktops in Linux

Linux offers the user the ability to switch between multiple desktop spaces. If you are curious as to why anyone would want to do that, then read on. From Hamish Taylor at iTWire.com:

Using Virtual Desktops in Linux
[...] In a nutshell, think of multiple desktops as being the same as having a large office with a number of physical desks, all of which you can use. You are able to move documents between these desks by picking them up and walking them over to another desk. You can then sit at that desk, read the document and work as normal.

Virtual Desktops is the same concept for computers.

As always, I use Ubuntu, so I am referencing all of my commentary based on that distribution. Ubuntu comes with two Virtual Desktops enabled by default. They are represented on the graphical interface on the bottom right hand side, by brown-grey splodges just to the left of the Recycle Bin icon. The desktop that is being used by default is "Desk 1" and is the left-had of those two icons.

If you open an application, such as the Firefox web browser and expand it out to fill all of the desk space, you'll see that represented in the "Desk 1" icon on the bottom right-hand side of the screen. If you have multiple applications, such as Firefox and the Movie Player and change between them, the "Desk 1" icon also changes. If you have an application that isn't full screen and drag it around the screen a bit, you'll see it move around in the Desk 1 splodge too!

If you now click on the Desk 2 icon, the Firefox browser disappears and you will have a blank desktop. This is the same as walking to another one of those desks in that big office you have!

On Desk 2 you are able to start another application, such as OpenOffice Word processor and have that full screen too.

If you click on the Desk 1 and 2 icons, you can change between the two Virtual Desktops. Both Firefox and OpenOffice Writer will be available full screen. This is a little easier than maximising and minimising applications to see them and far easier than walking between two physical desks! [...]

The comments to this article are also worth reading too. They point out other uses for multiple virtual desktops, such as having a different desktop for each user in the household, without having to have multiple logins; all desktops are accessible from one login, making it fast and easy to switch around without rebooting. Also, many users like to dedicate different desktops to different tasks and functions. Read the whole thing, if you're new to Linux, you're bound to find some useful information.

Here is a good related article, by Dennis O'Reilly at CnetNews.com:

Get more out of Ubuntu's virtual desktops
[...] By default, the Gnome interface used by Ubuntu 7.10 allows only two virtual desktops at one time, though this number can be increased to as many as 36. To add more desktops, right-click the Workplace Switcher icon in the bottom-right corner of the Gnome desktop and choose Preferences. (If you don't see the Workplace Switcher icon, right-click the panel, choose Add to Panel, and click Workplace Switcher in the Desktop & Windows section. You may also want to add the Window Selector applet, which offers another option for switching between your open workspaces.) [...]

This article offers a helpful walk-through using the Gnome Desktop GUI on Ubuntu 7.10, with screenshots.


     

Labels: , , ,

"Hope and Change" thrown under the bus?

It must be getting pretty crowded under there. From Tammy Bruce:


For Barry, "Hope" and "Change" Do Not Spring Eternal
From the various coverage of Barry's choice of Joe for a running mate, The AP offers a startling frank assessment of the Biden pick, noting correctly that it illustrates a serious lack of confidence on Obama's part, but also reveals, albeit briefly, how the Messiah's campaign message was just temporary, now boring, sloganny rhetoric. [...]

After talking about change, he picks the "ultimate insider", and some of the stuff coming out of the Obama campaign now... well read the rest. It looks like he'll say or do anything to win. Do we really know what he stands for, beyond that?

The McCain campaign was ready, with this 32 second gem:



No doubt Biden will say he changed his mind, on all counts. I mean really, what else CAN he say?

Obama really could have made a better choice. In a way I'm glad he made a poor choice, but if they win, Yikes... double trouble. I'm really hoping the swing voters see it that way.
     

Labels: , , , , ,

Obama's Teleprompter Problem


When I first heard about Obama and his candidacy, I couldn't take him seriously, because of his lack of experience. 140 something days as a senator, and he thinks he's ready to be president? I didn't think anyone would take him seriously. But I was wrong. The MSM anointed him as the Chosen One, when they should have scrutinized him more. Now we are seeing all the things they failed to scrutinize. Lately, it's his ineptness as a public speaker when he's unscripted. From Neal Boortz:

THE MESSIAH IN TRAINING
Several Democrat political consultants say that Barack Obama spent part of his vacation in Hawaii working on weaning himself off his heavy dependence on teleprompters. Apparently, even at events that are considered "town hall" events, Obama's remarks are scripted or in bullet points that scroll on the teleprompter. One political consultant said, "He just locks down and can't get the words out ... For such a fine speaker, it's really quite remarkable that he's had issues."

I guess the homework didn't pay off as well as Democrats would like, considering the fallout from the Saddleback Forum.

Don't worry ... if he ever has to confront Putin or some mad mullahs we'll make sure a teleprompter is handy.

I've been amazed at how often I've heard clips of Obama speaking on the radio, where suddenly he stops in mid sentence, and I'm listening to dead air, wondering if the radio has gone off the air, until he eventually continues.

Most politicians think about what they are going to say before they start speaking. I can only wonder if he keeps pausing because he realizes he can't say what he really wants to say?

At best, he's not a very good public speaker when he's not scripted. I can sympathize, I'm not sure I'd be very good at it either, but then I'm not running for president.

Even if one were to believe that Obama's unscripted speaking skills aren't important, there are plenty of other things to be concerned about, such as his plans for taxation and the economy, versus McCain's:

We Can't Tax Our Way Out of the Entitlement Crisis

I remember the Jimmy Carter years, even if the young Obama supporters don't. Listening to Obama's plans gives me Carter flashback. Let's not go there.


Foot and Mouth Disease added to the Dem Ticket

So now Obama's picked Senator Joe "Foot-in-the-Mouth" Biden as his Veep? Great! No doubt there is going to be some great entertainment ahead for the next few months. Be sure and see Pat's post:

Biden: "Teleprompter? What teleprompter?"
     

Labels: , ,

Friday, August 22, 2008

iGoogle and it's WikiHow offerings

For quite some time now, the home page of my Firefox web browser has been iGoogle, which is a customizable start page, which gives you many options to add content you enjoy or find useful. I've configured mine thus:


One of my favorite features of this has been the links under "How to of the Day", which links to randomly selected How-To articles from wikiHow. I often see something interesting or useful, where I think "I've always wanted to know how to do that" or "I wonder if it has some tips on how to do it better?" I have often found entertaining and useful information there. Here is a sample, of today's links:

How to Power Nap
Have you ever noticed that a short nap can be refreshing, while a longer nap can leave you feeling even more tired? There is a reason for that:

[...] What you're doing during a power nap is capturing the benefits of the first two of the five stages in the sleep cycle. These first two stages take place in the first twenty minutes. In addition to making you feel more rested and alert, the electrical signals in your nervous system strengthen the connection between neurons involved in muscle memory, making your brain work faster and more accurately.

[...]

Sleeping for any longer than 20 minutes will be counterproductive. A half hour can lead to sleep inertia, making you feel sluggish and more tired than ever. [...]

The wikiHow instructions also offer tips for the topic, and often have footnotes at the end to follow up on if you want more information.

The other tip for today was about a difficult task cat owners sometimes have to face:

How to Give a Cat Medicine


"Expect a struggle"


While anyone who has ever tried to do this with a cat knows it won't be easy, there are ways to make it easier, and the wikiHow gives you relevant tips. It also helps by telling you what NOT to do as well:

[...] DO NOT squirt liquid medication into the cat's throat or tongue. Liquids are likely to go down a cat's windpipe, making the cat choke. For liquid medications, insert the dropper between the cat's cheek and teeth. [...]

Just getting through the experience without getting scratched or bit is worth taking the time to read the wiki. If you can get the medicine down successfully as well, so much the better.

These two examples from wikiHow may not seem terribly exciting, but keep in mind that the subjects chosen are random, so over time you end up with quite a selection of topics. Even topics that may seem stupid or irrelevant to you can be amusing to read. Sometimes you discover that a topic you thought was simple actually is a lot more complex than you thought, because of factors you had not considered or didn't know about.

All in all, it's been educational and fun. I'm definitely a wikiHow fan now.

     

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, August 21, 2008

"It's a dog's life" And it looks pretty good

Ever wonder what that saying means? I think it means this:



A nice doggie story, the video is 1 minute and 35 seconds.
     

Labels: ,

Saturday, August 16, 2008

NASA, Russia, and The Space Travel Dilemma

America's Orion Spacecraft; to launch in 2013 2014?

When the space shuttle fleet is retired in 2010, the Russian Soyuz spacecraft is supposed to be used instead, until the new American Orion ships are ready. But now that plan seems in jeopardy due to political concerns. Do we face having to expand our space program further... or even cutting it back?

Russia-Georgia conflict could affect NASA funding
WASHINGTON — Russia's military campaign in Georgia could have repercussions far beyond its borders, jeopardizing the U.S.-Russian partnership for manning the international space station over the next decade.

Lawmakers, including several from Texas, warned Friday that Moscow's air and tank attacks on its neighbor will likely prompt Congress to re-evaluate legislation allowing NASA to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for Russia to taxi astronauts to the space station.

The Soyuz spaceflights would span the five years between the shuttle's 2010 retirement and the launch of the new Orion spacecraft.

While some members predicted that Congress would eventually give NASA the go-ahead this year or next to work with Moscow's space program, others said they would rather see the retirement of the aging shuttle fleet put off a few years rather than rely on the Russians. [...]

Some people in Congress want to see our shuttle program extended, so we can avoid having to rely on the Russians for transport until our Orion spacecraft is ready (If it's completed on time, the latest estimate is September 2014. It's already been delayed one year).

The problem with extending the shuttle program would be that it's very costly, and would take money away from the building of the Orion spacecraft, causing even further delays. NASA would also like to stop using the shuttle, because of safety concerns inherent in it's design, and the age of the fleet. The Russian Soyuz spacecraft is known to be reliable, and seemed the ideal answer to the gap between the shuttle and the new Orion spacecraft. Too bad the Russian government isn't as reliable as the Soyuz.

Read the whole article for the details of the political debate. Some in congress are worried that opponents of the space program would use this as an excuse to de-fund it. Others are pushing for expanding NASA's budget to extend shuttle service AND keep the Orion spacecraft launch on schedule. I think that could be a tough sell in these budget-minded times. Yet at least the money spent wouldn't leave the country, but would be providing American's with jobs. And if the surge of the American dollar continues, that could also help economic concerns.

I think a lot is going to depend on the unfolding situation between Russia and Georgia in the coming weeks. But I don't doubt it's put a strain on NASA and their relationship with the Russian Space Agency. It's definitely dampened the enthusiasm of congress.


Orion spacecraft (right) docking at the ISS.



Related Links:

Surge for the dollar as global fears rise

Congress delays Orion Spacecraft launch date
     

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

The new Russia today: Is it just the old soviet KGB in charge, now unfettered by communism?

While it's great that Russia is no longer exporting a dangerous ideology, nor pointing nuclear missiles at us, things are far from jolly, and there are many reasons to be concerned.

I thought I read somewhere that Solzhenitsyn said about post-communist Russia, that the West mistakenly thinks of Russia as a "young democracy", when in fact it hasn't even become a democracy yet. That might go a long way in explaining what we are seeing there today. From Paul Jenkins, BBC News:

Russian journalism comes under fire

In April 2001, the previously independent Russian TV channel NTV was taken over by the giant Gazprom industrial conglomerate.

The protests by NTV's journalists and television employees against what they saw as the state clamping down on their freedom were dramatic and passionate.

Gazprom's replacement as chief of NTV, Boris Jordan (an American), has since been deposed, and all major television stations in Russia have been brought under state control.

TV news reports on Chechnya and President Vladimir Putin have to meet with the Kremlin's approval.
Journalism is further undermined by the fact that powerful businessmen routinely commission stories in the press for cash.

[...]

The Glasnost Defence Foundation, a Russian NGO representing journalists under threat, claims that 130 journalists have been murdered in Russia since 1991. But, as Ivanov's case illustrates, proving conclusively that each and every one of them was murdered for their journalism is nigh on impossible in Russia.

Russia has more than 22,000 newspapers, but almost all are owned by pro-government or powerful business interests that constrain their reporting.

[...]

Valery Ivanov, the first murdered editor of the Togliatti Observer, wrote about the sacrifice some Russian journalists make.

"In this struggle, journalists are dying. Using every possibilities to compel independent professionals to write according to their wishes, corrupted power uses assassination," he said.

"This is the tragic price that Russian society is paying for freedom of speech and a free press."

Russia's Number One citizen, President Vladimir Putin, has a different perspective:

"Russia has never had a free media, so I don't know what I am supposed to be impeding," he said on 26 September 2003.

(bold emphasis mine) Read the whole thing for examples and case histories of murderous suppression. Shocking. True journalism has become impossible.


Without a free press to hold government accountable, what kind of government do you get? Edward Lucas at the MailOnline provides us a detailed look in his lengthy article, published in January of this year. Some excerpts follow:

Putin: the brutal despot who is dragging the West into a new Cold War
[...] The extraordinary thing is that Vladimir Putin hardly seemed worth a footnote to Russian history when the ailing Boris Yeltsin named him Prime Minister in 1999.

Few realised that the taciturn bureaucrat with a taste for judo was the harbinger of a silent putsch that would put the old KGB in charge of the Kremlin, with chilling consequences not only for Russia, but for the world.

The "siloviki" (literally "men of power"), as the spooks are called, have transformed Russia.

They took over a pluralist country with a lively Press and strong pro-Western orientation, though still reeling from the Soviet economic collapse and the looting and corruption that followed it.

Many at home and abroad hoped that a few years of heavy-handed rule by sinister strongmen would be the price of freedom and security.

They were wrong. The costs of Putin's KGB putsch have been colossal. Russia today is the epitome of bullying and crookedness.

The independent media have shrivelled, with television in particular coming almost completely under the authorities' control.

Almost every channel for complaint and dissent is blocked. Judicial and bureaucratic harassment, as well as physical threats, deter all but the bravest from speaking out. The authorities increasingly use forcible incarceration in psychiatric hospitals, the most loathsome weapon in the Soviet arsenal of repression, against their critics.

No wonder most international rankings no longer count Russia as a "free country"; no wonder they now list it as one of the most corrupt in the industrialised world.

That is a shameful retreat from the hopes of the 1990s.

Yes, living standards in Russia have soared under Putin, and most Russians believe they are living in a golden age.

This is hardly surprising, given that the price of oil - a resource the country has had in abundance - has risen some five times since Putin came to power.

And in a country where the media has been annexed for pro-Putin propaganda, is it not understandable that his regime has popular support?

In truth, Russia is being run by a corrupt, incompetent and despotic regime, and the huge windfall of high oil prices is being squandered.

Now is the time to modernise Russia, using the vast influx of petro-roubles, but there is no sign this is happening.

The oil and gas will not last for ever - their production is flat or falling and Russia is suffering power shortages; public services are a disgrace and the infrastructure pitiful.

Grand plans are everywhere: Russia says it will spend a trillion dollars on public investment projects in the coming years.

But the evidence so far is that this money is at best stolen, and at worst simply wasted.

After eight years of Mr Putin's rule, there is little improvement in roads, railways, power stations and pipelines.

Abysmal standards of public health, dangerous workplaces, endemic alcoholism and dreadful road safety make male life expectancy only 58.6 years - worse than in Laos or Yemen.

The so-called golden age is as phoney as Russia's elections that put Mr Putin and his cronies in power time after time.

When his hand-picked successor Dmitri Medvedev "wins" the presidential election next month, the nameplates on the doors may change, but the political system Mr Putin and his fellow siloviki has created will stay: impenetrable to outsiders, impervious to criticism and lubricated with vast sums of money obtained corruptly.

Mr Putin is reckoned to be worth $40 billion.

One source of this cash - though denied by all concerned - is an extraordinarily profitable Swiss-based oil trading firm that seems to have the miraculous knack of gaining almost limitless supplies of cut-price Russian crude oil to sell on the world market. [...]

(bold emphasis mine) There is much more, it's a long article, but worth reading for those who want to know more about Russia today. The author talks about the many new ways in which Russia today is a threat. But if it's a new Cold War, it's a different kind of Cold War, and a different kind of Russia. It's worth reading the whole thing.

There are those who are insisting that Russia is the enemy, and that we should go to war to defend Georgia. At this point I tend to agree with Joshua Trevino, who has said about War in the Caucasus:

[...] If there is a rationale for American action, it lies in American self interest in showing that America’s friends may count upon it. Georgia fought alongside the US in Iraq, and there is some debt owed for that. In that vein, America might commit itselve to resupply – though not direct to forces in the field – and it might guarantee Georgian sovereignty, though not Georgian territorial integrity. Short of a threatened extermination of Georgia (which does not seem at issue), there is nothing at stake here to justify a US-Russia war. Those accustomed to invoking appeasement and Munich at moments of foreign crisis may recoil at this – but that historical parallel is barely applicable here. Russian Putinism, for all it rightly repels our moral sensibilities, is not an existential foe of the West like Nazism, Communism, or Islamism. Its advance is not intrinsically America’s loss. [...]

(bold emphasis mine) I am not saying we should ignore real threats created by Russia, but neither should we exaggerate them. Joshua recommends a policy of containment towards Russia. At this point it seems prudent. Some people might call that a New Cold War; some aspects of containment might be like that, but lets keep it in proportion. And we must remember that Russia is still in the process of change. While trying to contain it's harmful actions, lets also give it some incentives to change for the better.
     

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Friday, August 15, 2008

Georgia, Russia, USA and NATO; what's next?

What is America expected to do? What can it do, and why is it important? Joshua Trevino looks at these questions and more at the Brussels Journal:


Georgia’s Defeat and America’s Options

[...] The postwar settlement remains thoroughly opaque, even if, as the Russians report, the conditions of a ceasefire are agreed. The Russian war aim was never announced — or rather, it only announced itself on the ground — and its political end remains obscure. The formal disposition of the Russian-occupied secessionist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia must be decided; the mechanisms of reparation, if any, must be agreed upon; and, most troublingly, the Russians are making noises about extraditing Saakashvili to the Hague. Here, a definitive settlement is to everyone’s advantage — not least the Georgians, who are ill-advised to act as if they are anything but beaten. Absurdities like putting Saakashvili in the ICC dock should be rejected, but otherwise, it is almost certainly best to let the Russians dictate their terms — and let resistance to those terms emanate from sources able to make that resistance count, like Europe and the United States.

With this in mind, the first task of America’s postwar policy in the Caucasus is distasteful in the extreme: pushing the Georgians to understand and act like what they are, which is a defeated nation in no position to make demands. This does not square easily with American sentiment — nor my own — nor with the Vice President’s declaration that Russia’s aggression “must not go unanswered,” nor with John McCain’s declaration that “today we are all Georgians.” Russia’s aggression and consequent battlefield victory will stand, and as the last thing the volatile Caucasus needs is yet another revisionist, revanchist state, it befits a would-be member of the Western alliance to make its peace with that. However inflammatory the issue of “lost” Abkhazia and South Ossetia are in the Georgian public square, it is nothing that the Germans, the Finns, and the Greeks, to name a few, have not had to come to terms with in the course of their accessions to the first tier of Western nations. We should not demand less of Georgia.

The second, and more enduring, task of our policy must be the swift containment of Russia. I use the term deliberately: to invoke another Cold War-era phrase, we’re not going to “roll back” any of Russia’s recent territorial gains, nor should we attempt to reverse what prosperity it has achieved in the past decade. (That prosperity, being based mostly upon transitory prices for natural resources, will itself be transitory in time.) Russia’s leadership has declared that it seeks the reversal, de facto if not de jure, of the “catastrophe” of the USSR’s end. Though not marked by any formal decision in the vein of Versailles, this is nonetheless a strategic outcome that America has a direct interest in preserving. That interest has only gone up with the admission of former Soviet-bloc states — and former Soviet states — to NATO. Inasmuch as Russian revisionism threatens the alliance that has kept the peace in Europe for generations now, it must be confronted and deterred.

The obvious question is how this may be done with the tools America has at hand. It is a media commonplace over the past several days that the United States has no leverage over Russia. This is false. American policy can and does tremendously affect several things of tremendous importance to Moscow. A brief (though not comprehensive) list of available pressure points follows: [...]

(bold emphasis mine) Yes, we do have leverage, but it's a delicate dance we have to do. Do read the whole thing, it makes a lot of sense.

Russia may not be our friend, but it's not our enemy either, and we don't want to needlessly make it into one. We have mutual interests, and reasons to form alliances on many issues. What leverage we have, we need to use carefully.


Related Links:

Georgia on my mind

Georgia Map at WorldAtlas.com

Russia, Georgia, and the Western Alliance

Russia, Georgia, and the Russian Question

Russia is a bully but Georgia is not blameless
     

Labels: , , , , ,

Obama's illegal campaign contributions

Shocking, just shocking. The MSM is giving him a total pass on this. By Pamela Geller at the American Thinker:

Obama's Foreign Donors: The media averts its eyes
I have been researching, documenting and studying thousands upon thousands of Obama's campaign donations for the past month. Egregious abuse was immediately evident and I published the results of my ongoing investigation. Each subsequent post built a more damning case against Obama's illegal contribution activity.

The media took little notice of what I was substantiating. I went so far as to upload the documents so that anyone could do their own research. I asked readers to download the documents and a number of folks pitched in.

Despite dropping the groundbreaking bombshell story of "Palestinian" brothers from the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza who donated $33,000 to Obama's campaign, no big media picked up the story. Jihadis donating to Obama from Gaza? Could there be a bigger story? Foreign donations are illegal, but this story was all that and so much more. The "Palestinian" brothers were proud and vocal of their "love" for Obama. Their vocal support on behalf of "Palestinians" spoke volumes to Obama's campaign.

And yet still no media.

But Obama pricked up his ears. He smelled trouble and while no media asked, he answered anyway. Sen. Obama's campaign immediately scrambled and contended they had returned the $33,500 in illegal contributions from Palestinians in Hamas-controlled Gaza, despite the fact that records do not show that it was returned and the brothers said they have not received any money. Having gone through all of Obama's refunds redesignations etc, no refund was made to Osama, Hossam, or Edwan Monir in the Rafah refugee camp. And still no media. [...]

(bold emphasis mine) There are many other irregularities as well, but the media only focuses on McCain's finances, on things that are not even illegal. Read the whole thing for more details and embedded links.

Pamela Geller is Editor and Publisher of the blog Atlas Shrugs. She intends to keep digging the dirt on this story. I will be watching with great interest.
     

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, August 14, 2008

How my Battle with "Mothra" put me in the ER


Yesterday while I was unclogging an irrigation pipe down by our creek, an insect flew into my ear, and was unable to get back out. It moved forward against my eardrum and kept flapping around. While not exactly painful, the sensation and sound was uncomfortable and unnerving.

I was alone at home. I tried to suck it out with a vaccum cleaner, with no luck. I was contemplating pulling it out with tweezers, when Pat and Andy came home. They tried to flush it out with water. That didn't work, and only made it thrash about wildly. They eventually killed it with peroxide.

But the insect could not be flushed out, and now I couldn't hear out of that ear. So they took me to the ER. When the doctor looked inside with his scope, he said he could see what looked like the remains of a small moth. It had fallen apart from the peroxide. I asked him if I shouldn't have done that. He most people do drown the insect in such cases, just to keep it from thrashing around.

The doctor removed some fragments, but was unable to get the bulk of the body. They eventually used a saline solution to flush the carcass out. The moth itself looked something like this:



Now that's hardly "Mothra", I know, but imagine it doing a tap-dance on your eardrum. When Pat and Andy tried to flush it out while it was still alive, it was like "Mothra VS Niagra Falls". Mothra fought long and hard.

The ER nurse said they pull bugs out of people's ears about once a week on average. He also said he's never seen a bug come out of someones ear alive. I can see why.


Related Link:

When someone gets a "bug in their ear"
     

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Congress delays Orion Spacecraft launch date


The Orion Spacecraft, which is scheduled to replace the Space Shuttle as America's premier manned spaceflight transport vessel, was due to be launched in 2013. The date has now been moved to 2014.

NASA abandons plan to fly new spaceships by 2013
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla (Reuters) - NASA has abandoned plans to get its replacement for the retiring U.S. space shuttles into service by 2013 because of a lack of additional funds and technical issues, officials said on Monday.

[...]

"The window of opportunity for us to accelerate Orion has closed," program manager Jeff Hanley at NASA's Johnson Space Centre in Houston told reporters during a conference call.

The United States will be without a means to transport people to and from space after the shuttle fleet is retired in 2010 until the new ships are ready to fly. It intends to rely on Russia to ferry crews to the space station and on private companies to deliver cargo during the gap.

NASA had hoped to minimize the gap, but additional funding to do so has not been approved by the U.S. Congress. [...]

(bold emphasis mine) Our wonderful congress at work. I suspect many of them would like to scrap the manned space program, and use the money for pork programs to buy votes. But to be fair, there were also concerns about safety, that have lead to some people at NASA seeing the later launch date as a good thing. So hopefully the Orion will be ready to fly to the ISS by 2014, and on to the moon by 2020, if congress will stop obstructing and get with the program... the Constellation Program.


Related Links:

Asteroid mission concept unveiled
A Nasa scientist has proposed using the replacement to the space shuttle to visit a near-Earth asteroid.

The Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) is due to make its maiden flight in 2014, with the eventual aim of ferrying astronauts to and from the Moon.

Dr Paul Abell said such a mission could help efforts to protect against an asteroid on course to hit Earth.

Currently, the project is envisaged to include two or three crew members and last a total of 90-180 days.

Dr Abell presented an outline of his mission concept here at the Lunar and Planetary Science conference in Houston, Texas.

The plan would be to visit an asteroid in the sub-kilometre size range, perhaps about the size of asteroid Itokawa (535m) which was visited by Japan's Hayabusa spacecraft. [...]

Wow. This also sounds like it would be a good practice step towards a Mars Mission. Read the rest of this fascinating article for more details.

Below are two links to prior posts about the Orion spacecraft:

NASA goes Back to the Future

Re-entry Dilemmas; the Orion Capsule and SS2

     

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Internet's DNS Vulnerability; is it hype, or can the World Wide Web be destroyed?

Is the web that vulnerable? When it comes to networking type stuff, I find it hard to follow, I'm just not that geeky. But this sounds pretty serious:

Web Doomsday Averted: Kaminsky
Security researcher Dan Kaminsky argues that the recent DNS vulnerability wasn't just hype: it could have destroyed the Web.

LAS VEGAS -- The recent Domain Name System (define) caching flaw that had security experts scrambling to protect the Web wasn't just hype. The Internet as we know it was at risk, according to a security researcher Dan Kaminsky.

During a discussion on front of a packed hall at the Black Hat conference today, Kaminsky detailed flaws in the system that translates domain names into IP addresses, which he's been trying to hide for the last thirty days.

In a 70-minute session with over 50 slides, Kaminsky explained in excruciating detail the flaw in DNS and the myriad ways it could have been exploited to destroy the Internet as we know it.

Kaminsky was quick to point out that the patch for the DNS flaw has been widely deployed, protecting users from what otherwise could have been a nightmare scenario. [...]

Some will argue that it's hype. But do we have to wait for the web to fail before we take it seriously enough? A near disaster may have been averted for now, but apparently it's not over yet:

Updated: The patch for critical Internet flaw may be flawed itself
A Russian researcher has reported there are holes in the patch for the DNS flaw that threatened the foundations of the Internet.

Just a month ago, Dan Kaminsky told the world that the Internet’s Domain Name Server system for routing Internet users to the proper addresses for web sites could be compromised. He had organized a months-long effort to create a patch to fix the problem. But not it appears the patch doesn’t do the job, according to a story in the New York Times. It confirms Kaminsky’s own warning that the patch was a stopgap measure and that there were worse things coming out. [...]

I read somewhere that DNS is an inferior system that needs to be replaced with an alternative, however I can't find the article presently. I admit the technical aspects are over my head, so I can't comment on it extensively. But this story, as a security matter, does bear watching. So many businesses rely heavily on the internet now, and a major problem with it could affect world markets, and thus all of us.


Related Link:

Russia and Georgia continue attacks--online
     

Labels: , , ,

Guess who's comming to dinner?

Judging by this picture, you might think it's the Giraffes. But according to the article, it's South African cuisine, which is getting a growing reputation for being some of the best in the world.


My South African Feast
Stunningly beautiful landscapes, a blissful climate, peerless safari parks, a vibrant cultural scene… No wonder South Africa is the destination du jour for an increasing number of British holiday makers. But the best kept secret is the eclectic and delicious cuisine. Visitors are in for a gastronomical treat, from rich hearty curries, the freshest fish, tender game to Indian inspired delicacies – there’s something to satisfy every palette. [...]

This piece in the British Telegraph newspaper is focusing on the Hoxton Apprentice Restaurant and Bar in the UK, which trains people to work in the restaurant industry. They are sending trainees to South Africa to learn about the cuisine, service and culture. South Africa is an increasingly popular tourist destination for the British, and much of the rest of the world as well.

For several years Pat, Andy and myself owned and operated a restaurant specializing in South African cuisine, so it's appeal is well known and perfectly understandable to us. I'm glad to see it's taking off in a big way now.
     

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, August 11, 2008

"... it's my fault that Rielle Hunter had an affair with John Edwards."

Here is a hilarious article from the LA Times, by writter Sarah Miller, who was acquainted with Rielle Hunter:

Edwards' affair? My fault
How my energy fueled Rielle Hunter into a scandal.

[...] Let me explain. I, like every other New Yorker who valued their life, moved to Los Angeles in October 2001. Almost immediately, I rented a room in a house in Benedict Canyon, owned by a friend of a friend, and lived there for almost a year. When I moved out of that room -- and I don't mind telling you at this point that Harrison Ford did the built-ins in the den and possibly some of the kitchen cabinetry -- Rielle Hunter moved in.

The homeowner who had been a friend of a friend had, by virtue of my stay, become a close friend, so I was still over at the house a lot. Rielle padded in and out in Ugg boots and flared yoga pants, and in a voice that contained strange elements of surfer-ese and lockjaw, gave unasked-for information about her life's journey and personal health. She would tell us how she'd had an amazing yoga practice that day, or give an elaborate description of some braised root she'd eaten for lunch. I think I said to my friend once, "What a wack job," but that was the extent of my relationship with Rielle.

Then, one afternoon about five years ago, I arrived for a party at the house. For better or worse, I have a near-perfect recollection of what followed. [...]

If you've ever lived in California, you will appreciate the story even more. Consider it your Monday chuckle. If you think she sounds kooky, the fact that Edwards became involved with such a women says a lot more about him.

Hat tip to TammyBruce.com for the link.


Related Link:

A closer look at the John Edwards/Rielle Hunter webisodes
He hired her to make videos of him for Youtube.com. The narcissistic story of the way they hooked up.
     

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Russia, Georgia, and the Russian Question

Here are two articles, the first deals directly with the new Russia - Georgia conflict, and the second touches on it in a relevant way.

Josh Trevino at the Brussels Journal gives us his assessment of the Russian VS Georgia situation:

War in the Caucasus
The first thing to understand about the war between Russia and Georgia is that Georgia has lost.

[...]

The real question for Georgia, then, is not whether is will win or lose – it has already lost – but how bad its loss will be. The worst case scenario is a Russian occupation and annexation. Fortunately for the Georgians, that’s also the least likely. Less unlikely is some sort of Russian occupation coupled with a Russian-driven regime change that puts Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on the street – if he’s lucky. This might not be the tragedy for Georgia it seems, given Saakashvili’s rather astonishing incompetent gamble in leading the country into the present war. Most likely is that the Russians fully occupy South Ossetia, along with the other secessionist region of Georgia, Abkhazia; declare them both independent or somehow annexed; and thoroughly punish the Georgians with a countrywide air campaign targeting what meager infrastructure there is. Georgia at war’s end – which may well be mere days away – will be definitively dismembered, and smoldering in body and heart.

So much for the probable outcome. What remains is what, if anything, America should do. [...]

He doesn't see America getting involved in a war with Russsia over this, and neither do I. Georgia has been a coalition partner with the US in Iraq, so as an ally it can be argued that we owe them something, but it will probably be helping them to pick up the pieces when this is over. The Georgian President, I expect, will not endure much longer. I could be wrong, we shall see.


Another good article at the Brussels Journal that touches indirectly on this conflict, is by John Laughland, which looks at Western criticism of the recently deceased Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and finds it absurd.

Solzhenitsyn and the Russian Question

He maintains that Solzhenitzyn was always consistent and not irrational, unlike many of his Western critics. I leave you to read the article for those arguments, but I want to focus on one part, that I think relates strongly to the current Russia - Georgia conflict:
[...] After dealing with both the horrors of Communism, Solzhenitsyn of course turns his attention to the terrible chaos of the post-Communist period. Here again, his concern for the Russian people themselves remains consistent. He writes,
The trouble is not that the USSR broke up – that was inevitable. The real trouble, and a tangle for a long time to come, is that the breakup occurred along false Leninist borders, usurping from us entire Russian provinces. In several days, we lost 25 million ethnic Russians – 18 percent of our entire nation – and the government could not scrape up the courage even to take note of this dreadful event, a colossal historic defeat for Russia, and to declare its political disagreement with it.
Solzhenitsyn is right. One of the most lasting legacies of Leninism, which remains after everything else has been swept away or collapsed, was the decision to create bogus federal entities on the territory of what had been the unitary Russian state. These entities, called Soviet republics, contributed only to the creation of bogus nationalisms and of course to the dilution of Russian nationhood. They were bogus because the republics in question did not, in fact, correspond to ethnic reality: Kazakhs, for instance, are and remain a numerical minority in Kazakhstan, while “Ukraine” is in fact a collection of ancient Russian provinces (especially Kiev) and some Ukrainian ones. This bogus nationalism allowed the Soviet Union to present itself as an international federation of peoples, rather like the European Union today, but it was exploited by Russia’s enemies when the time came to destroy the geopolitical existence of the historic Russian state. This happened when the USSR was unilaterally dissolved by three Republic leaders in December 1991.

And this is the key to the West’s hostility to Solzhenitsyn. The man the West exploited to destroy Communism refused to bend the knee to the West’s continuing attempts (largely succesful) to destroy Russia herself. [...]

(bold emphasis mine) I believe this explains a lot about the current conflict we are seeing. Both the articles are worth reading, neither is very long, and both are very revealing and informative.

Labels: , , , ,

"We know some things but we can't talk,"

A report from the Boston Globe about the attacked Americans:

Victims ID'd in Beijing stabbing
BEIJING -- A Chinese man stabbed the in-laws of the US Olympic men's volleyball coach, killing one and injuring the other while they visited a Beijing tourist site near the main venue where Olympic competitions began today, officials said.

Beijing authorities say a Chinese man attacked two American tourists on the opening day of the Olympic Games, killing one of them before committing suicide.

The victims were Todd and Barbara Bachman, parents of former Olympian Elisabeth Bachman who is married to men's volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon. Bachman's father was killed, the Associated Press has learned.

The assailant also stabbed and injured a Chinese tour guide with the Americans.

Chinese officials identified the assailant as Tang Yongming, 47, who comes from the eastern city of Hangzhou, and authorities said the man jumped to his death from the second floor of the tower after the attack.

[...]

Yesterday afternoon outside the Drum Tower, a popular tourist attraction surrounded by traditional alley-style hutong dwellings, some residents and shopkeepers said they heard that the Chinese man may have gotten into an argument with the American before stabbing him and that he never jumped outside the tower. Others said they heard about a suicidal jump. Because the alleged attack took place inside the tower, none of the local residents or store owners said they witnessed anything that triggered the incident other than ambulances with sirens arriving around 12:30 p.m.

"When I arrived to work at noon, nothing had happened," said a cleaning lady at a linen store.

Many neighbors declined to discuss anything about what they know or saw, amid the swarm of international media that arrived at the scene within a couple of hours of the alleged incident.

"We know some things but we can't talk," said one resident. Throughout this site, police officers were stationed, as well as neighborhood security volunteers who seemed to be watching closely who was talking to reporters. [...]

(bold emphasis mine) "Security volunteers"? There are several things about this story that give me the creeps... and I have a feeling there will be more to come.
     

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Our local Garden Tour, 2008

I've taken some video of the tour this year, but it's going to be a while till I get around to editing the footage and posting it here. So until then, here are some photos (14) taken by our friend Sheri:


This year's tour was all gardens of suburban houses.



In the background here in the photo below, you can see some cranes in the distance, on the ocean side of the bay. It's a large and expensive project to remove a shipwreck.




A couple of the homes were high up on hillsides, overlooking the bay and ocean.










The blooms of these Tiger flowers (Tigridia) in the photo below only last for one day:



This house had a balcony view of the bay in front, and a waterfall running down next to the steps on the side of the house, which led "up" to the backyard. See Pat's photos via the link below, to see the waterfall.







This last garden had an asian theme, I'll show more pics (stills from the video) when I get the video ready to post on-line.



This is just a sampling of what we saw. Pat has posted more photos from the tour here: 2008 Garden Club Tour. One of the gardens we saw had beautiful English-style hedges, follow Pat's link to see photos of those and more.

here is a link to last year's garden tour.
     

Labels: , , ,

Monday, August 04, 2008

What is a "Windfall" profit, and how big should it be? And who should it belong to?

And how do the profits of "greedy" Oil companies compare to the profits of other businesses? This piece from the Wall Street Journal looks at those very questions:

What Is a 'Windfall' Profit?
[...] Take Exxon Mobil, which on Thursday reported the highest quarterly profit ever and is the main target of any "windfall" tax surcharge. Yet if its profits are at record highs, its tax bills are already at record highs too. Between 2003 and 2007, Exxon paid $64.7 billion in U.S. taxes, exceeding its after-tax U.S. earnings by more than $19 billion. That sounds like a government windfall to us, but perhaps we're missing some Obama-Durbin business subtlety.

Maybe they have in mind profit margins as a percentage of sales. Yet by that standard Exxon's profits don't seem so large. Exxon's profit margin stood at 10% for 2007, which is hardly out of line with the oil and gas industry average of 8.3%, or the 8.9% for U.S. manufacturing (excluding the sputtering auto makers).

If that's what constitutes windfall profits, most of corporate America would qualify. Take aerospace or machinery -- both 8.2% in 2007. Chemicals had an average margin of 12.7%. Computers: 13.7%. Electronics and appliances: 14.5%. Pharmaceuticals (18.4%) and beverages and tobacco (19.1%) round out the Census Bureau's industry rankings. The latter two double the returns of Big Oil, though of course government has already became a tacit shareholder in Big Tobacco through the various legal settlements that guarantee a revenue stream for years to come.

In a tax bill on oil earlier this summer, no fewer than 51 Senators voted to impose a 25% windfall tax on a U.S.-based oil company whose profits grew by more than 10% in a single year and wasn't investing enough in "renewable" energy. This suggests that a windfall is defined by profits growing too fast. No one knows where that 10% came from, besides political convenience. But if 10% is the new standard, the tech industry is going to have to rethink its growth arc. So will LG, the electronics company, which saw its profits grow by 505% in 2007. Abbott Laboratories hit 110%.

If Senator Obama is as exercised about "outrageous" profits as he says he is, he might also have to turn on a few liberal darlings. [...]

It goes on to give some examples of institutions that are regarded highly by liberals, that have greater profit margins than big oil. Why not seize their profits?

Because this is about politics, not economics. What Obama and the Democrats are proposing is the Venezuela solution. We don't need that kind of thuggery in our government.

How about a bi-partisian American Solution instead?

Who is benefiting from Oil company profits? Neal Boortz spells it out:

OBAMA HEADING BLUE COLLAR THIS WEEK
[...] Just who owns the profits these oil companies have earned? That would be the stockholders. And just who might these stockholders be? Well, about 1.5 percent of them are oil company executives. The rest are the rank and file Americans who own mutual funds and workers who will rely on pension plans for their retirements. Pension plans and mutual funds, you may not know, are major investors in oil company stocks. This means that the retirement incomes of school teachers, firemen, police officers, municipal workers, flight attendants, warehousemen, truck drivers, hotel employees and other service sector workers and others may rely in part on the financial health of the oil companies in which their pension funds hold stock. Obama the Magnificent wants these pension funds to cough up some of their earnings so that he can hand out checks to voters. Too bad the government-educated masses can't see through this, and too bad the media won't point it out to them.

Bold emphasis mine. It's more Democrat wealth redistribution. Are you folks living on pensions ready to have YOUR money confiscated?
     

Labels: , , , , , , ,