Archive for March, 2005

Mail Call II

March 27, 2005

In the comments for the “South Park” patch below, Mike Rentner writes,

As a Marine Officer currently in Iraq, I can say I’ve not seen this, but then I’m not in an Air Force base.

I appreciate the South Park humor, but I despise the sentiment that the words on the patch convey. It is arrogant, elitist and does nothing to further civil-military relations.

Rest assured that not all of us over here feel like we have a right to say such things.

Thanks for the note, Mike. Speaking as the owner and operator of one of the asses that’s being saved, I think you do have every right to say such things. At the very least, the patch slogan is an accurate description of what you and your collegues do for a living, and I’m certainly not offended by it.

Then again, I’m somewhat unusual in that while I’ve never served, I’ve been around military folks all my life. My dad is a USAF veteran, his father was an Army drill sergeant, I grew up in an Army town, my brother-in-law just started his third tour of SWA (Army), and I’ve spent my entire professional life working on Army and Air Force bases. Maybe I’m too close to the subject matter to be entirely objective.

What do the rest of y’all think?

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An Unabashed Plug

March 25, 2005

About ten weeks ago, I waxed enthusiastic here about the new “Battlestar Galactica” series that’s running on the Sci-Fi Channel. The first season of “BSG” is wrapping up with a two-parter, and Part I airs tonight.

If you’ve been watching the show all along, you probably don’t need me to tell you not to miss this one. I’ve already seen both episodes, and together they make up the best movie that I’ve seen in at least a year, give or take “The Incredibles.” Not the best TV show, mind you–although “BSG” is, in my opinion, the best thing on television–the best movie.

For those of you who haven’t been watching, you’re missing out on the most intelligent dramatic series that’s running today. If you want a comparison, “Battlestar Galactica” is for televised science fiction what “Hill Street Blues” was for cop shows. It redefines the entire genre for a grown-up audience. Even better, Sci-Fi is going way beyond the call of duty with additional content at their web site, including deleted scenes , making-of features, and even full-episode podcast audio commentaries from series creator Ronald Moore–the kind of stuff you’d normally have to wait for (and pay for) in a DVD set.

If you haven’t been tuning in, Sci-Fi will be re-running the entire first season starting on April 8th. If you’re sick of bad TV, but haven’t tuned in to “BSG” because you remember the ultra-cheesy 1979 series, do yourself a favor and warm up your TiVo/ReplayTV/VCR to catch the repeats.

Season Two premeires in July, and that won’t be a moment too soon–you’ll see why I say that after Part II of the season finale airs next Friday night.

Mail Call

March 25, 2005

One of my office-mates who’s in the Air Force Reserve got called up early this year to spend a little time in the big sandbox. He mailed me this patch last week, apparently it’s rather popular among the US troops:

patch001.jpg

Gracias

March 21, 2005

Just though I’d pop in to second Martini Boy’s “thank you” for the contributions of the New Kids last week. I’d promised Steve months ago to step up with a full week of blogging while he was out chasing mescal worms, but as fate would have it, I spent most of that time on airplanes and in meeting rooms instead. Fortunately, Steve had the pre-bender foresight to invite in a merry band of bloggers who more than managed to pick up the slack for both of us.

So again, thanks, folks.

Oh, and regarding that Goldstein fella… [hankhill] That boy ain’t right. [/hankhill]

Dry Spell

March 18, 2005

In a long and rambling New Yorker piece comparing Joe Biden to John Kerry, writer Jeffrey Goldberg says,

Most national-security Democrats believe that the Party’s problems on the issue go deeper than marketing. They agree that the Party should be more open to the idea of military action, and even preëmption; and although they did not agree about the timing of the Iraq war and the manner in which Bush launched it, they believe that the stated rationale—Saddam’s brutality and his flouting of United Nations resolutions—was ideologically and morally sound. They say that the absence of weapons of mass destruction was more a failure of intelligence than a matter of outright deception by the Administration; and although they do not share the neoconservatives’ enthusiastic belief in the transformative power of military force, they accept the possibility that the invasion of Iraq might lead to the establishment of democratic institutions there.

The problem for these “national security Democrats” is, of course, that they can’t really say any of those things in public. If they did, they’d lose the MooreOn Left, as illustrated in the article by many extremely stupid quotes from Barbara Boxer, Ted Kennedy, and MoveOn yahoo Eli Pariser.

That’s the Democratic Party dilemma. The office holders who are intellectually honest enough to view the terrorist and Islamofascist threat with some degree of objectivity (or even those who’d just like to look tougher for political reasons) can’t break away from the blame-America Left, even rhetorically. They’d lose too many dollars and too many votes–just ask Joe Lieberman, who’s also quoted in the New Yorker piece.

I don’t know how (or if) they can get out of that particular Catch-22, but using recent history as a comparison, I’m guessing the Democrats may have to wait for a general and widely-accepted peace to prevail before they’re trusted with Presidential power again. That worked for Clinton in the wake of the Cold War (I doubt that he would have been elected had the Soviets still been around), but as in the case of that long conflict, it may be a very long time before there’s another national concensus regarding war and peace.

What He Said

March 8, 2005

Jeff Jarvis:

I have come to believe that journalists’ refusal to acknowledge that they are human and are citizens and have opinions is a sort of lie by omission and we have to find better ways to deal with it than gagging them. Journalists are in the business of uncovering truths, not covering them; journalists demand to know what everyone else in the world thinks, yet they hide their own thoughts. Isn’t that a disservice to the public? For it does not allow the public to judge the messenger, as is their right.

I’ve been saying stuff like that for quite a while now. It’s still damn good to hear it from somebody as ‘inside’ the media world as Jarvis (and said well, to boot).

Bottom line: why should the public trust a press corps that refuses to hold itself to the same standards of honesty and transparency that it expects everybody else to live up to? Would any reporter accept from a politician a line like, “How dare you accuse me of having political motives for my actions–that’s an insult to my professional objectivity as a public servant!”

Of course not.

So why do reporters fly into a rage when somebody outside of the MSM guild wants to know who they’re voting for? And why aren’t they willing to be honest enough to answer that very simple question?

Faster, Please

March 6, 2005

I heard a bit of “Meet The Press” while running errands this afternoon (the audio is replayed on WSB 740AM in Atlanta). Tim Russert was quizzing–actually badgering–Mitch McConnell about the proposed personal savings accounts in Social Security. Russert’s question was (paraphrasing), ‘Okay, the president is proposing these accounts, but what do they have to do with the Social Security solvency problem?’

McConnell’s answer wasn’t very good. He basically repeated the well-known argument that you can make more money in the markets over time than you can relying on Social Security’s “return” (actually a government-set entitlement payment, not an actual return on an investment). As Rich Lowry notes, McConnell should have been more up-front about all the issues involved. Lowry’s suggested answer isn’t bad, but here’s what I would have said, if I’d been able to possess McConnell for a couple of mintues:

Look, Tim, Social Security is never going to be as good of a deal for today’s young people as it was for their grandparents, or even their parents. With people living longer, and fewer younger people having been born to pay into the system, the demographics just won’t allow it, and we’re coming up fast on a time when there simply won’t be enough money available to pay out like we’ve been paying out for the last several decades.

The time is going to come–and we can argue about when this will be, but it is going to happen one day–when we can’t keep the old promises any more without either cutting benefits, or having a huge tax increase, or realistically, doing both. That’s a pretty rotten thing to do to people who’re paying money out of their paychecks every day to support the current system, and reasonably enough think they ought to get a decent return on their money.

What private accounts can do, but the pay-as-you-go system can’t, is grow the pot of money available for people to retire on. The government can’t grow money, all we can do is tax or borrow, but the market can. With a private account that’ll grow for the next 35 years, a 30-year-old will have a cushion against the benefit cuts that will have to happen at some point in their lives–not tomorrow, not next year, but someday–to keep the government from going broke and their taxes from growing to Swedenesque levels.

We can’t tax ourselves out of this problem. There aren’t going to be enough people to tax. But we can use time and the market to give people a fair shake. We just have to start now, or the situation is only going to get worse.

I understand why McConnell (and Bush, for that matter) aren’t saying things like that: they think the Dems will jump on any reference to benefit cuts or tax increases to make 30-second ads and demagogue the issue. And what the hell, they’re probably right. But if they’re going to be serious about fixing this train wreck, they’re going to have to start talking seriously about the realities of the situation, and trust the people to understand what’s going on when the other side chooses to stick its fingers in its ears ignore those realities altogether, a la Kevin Bacon in Animal House.

All is not well. Making money in the markets takes time, and every day this situation doesn’t get fixed, we’re all getting worse off.

Flat Panel Flu

March 5, 2005

Like a whole lot of other gadget freaks (this one included), the Blogfaddah has come down with a serious case of Flat Panel Flu. He’s been shopping around for a medium-sized screen, and asks,

But my main sense is that this is a purchase where waiting a few months is probably likely to lead to big improvements on the price-performance curve. Or are we past that phase now? Any advice?

I’ve been following plasma and LCD screens since the first time I saw one (on sale for $15,000, if memory serves), and I think the answer to Glenn’s question is still, “If you can stand it, wait a while longer.” Cheapskate guru Clark Howard is on record predicting that large flat-panel television prices are going to drop by as much as 50% by the end of this year, and there are industry analysts who agree with him.

Personally, I’m still waiting it out. The price-for-screen-size I’m looking for isn’t here quite yet, but I think I’ll be taking the plunge before 2006. Ed Driscoll has written quite a bit about this technology profesionally, and anybody interested could do worse than checking out Ed’s archives.

Propaganda on the Front Page

March 3, 2005

Hugh Hewitt is off on a show-long rant over today’s risible LA Times front-pager about North Korea. The Times certainly deserves the abuse; the article, by Seoul bureau chief Barbara Demick, is comprised mostly of quoting a former North Korean “diplomat.” After a tiresome and unchallenged litany of Kim Jong Il’s propaganda, it lurches into the familiar lines of old “people are people” human-interest stories from the unlamented Soviet Union:

“There is love. There is hate. There is fighting. There is charity…. People marry. They divorce. They make children,” he said.

“People are just trying to live a normal life.”

Well, yes. Of course, that’s a bit more difficult when you’re living under a totalitarian state where you and three generations of your family can be sentenced to death for daring to question the “dear leader.” Funny how Demick didn’t mention that, or even question the validity of a guy who’d been a high-ranking member of the DPRK government–for one thing, you certainly aren’t allowed to leave that country if you don’t fit that description.

Of course, this story was hardly the first time the LA Times or the MSM in general has pulled a Duranty regarding North Korea. The Times itself employes nutbag columnist Robert Scheer, a longtime apologist for every Communist state that’s ever existed. Scheer personally signed on to a letter expounding on the wonders of Kim’s odious father Kim Il Sung after a visit in 1970.

It’s hardly fair to single out Scheer, who’s so far out there only the MooreOns still take him seriously, and even they are probably just being polite. There are plenty of examples of previous DPRK love from the MSM, from figures placed quite a bit higher than the Times’ pet Red fossil. Our old pal Eason Jordan was kowtowing to Kim on CNN’s behalf two years ago as part of his ongoing Dictator Suck-Up tours. Jordan said of Kim,

And I’ll say one other thing about him, from people who have met him, they say that he’s a fanatical CNN viewer, and of course we’re grateful for that.

ABC’s Peter Jennings gleefully ran with the DPRK propaganda just last month, accusing George W. Bush on the air of ‘inciting’ the North into buidling nukes (er, Peter, they’ve been working on them since before Bush was even managing a baseball team).

I could go on, but nobody is really surprised by this. Like the worst of the moonbat Left, much of the MSM seems to operate under the rubric, “Hey, they hate Bush. I hate Bush, too. So how bad could they be?”

Sadly, the answer is very, very bad indeed. Not that it matters when your own hate is the most important matter of all.