Friday, November 30, 2007

Evel Knievel R.I.P.


For every kid that thought he was Yaz at the plate there were dozens who imagined themselves as Evel riding their bikes with great dare over a piece of junk in the school yard. Few dared to taste agony of defeat beyond a pair of bloody knees. Knievel's son Kelly said his dad did in fact break every major bone in his body attempting the impossible. His antics might have been over the top (literally) but his spirit embodied something very American, the virtue that is called courage.

Peggy Noonan, inevitably good

A great column by Peggy Noonan.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

What the *&^%*!

No one in the mainstream media would ever dare call this the Bush Boom.
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- The U.S. economy expanded at the fastest pace in four years during the third quarter, growing at a real annual rate of 4.9%, the Commerce Department said Thursday in making its second estimate of growth for the three-month period.

The upward revision to gross domestic product, in line with Wall Street expectations, was due to larger inventory building and a better trade balance.
Of course even the White House is cautious.
WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House on Thursday lowered its forecast for economic growth for next year and said unemployment would rise as the housing slump and tight credit weigh on national economic activity.

Under the administration's new forecast, gross domestic product, or GDP, will grow by 2.7 percent next year. Its old projection called for a stronger, 3.1 percent increase. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, is projected to move up to 4.9 percent. That's up from a previous forecast of a 4.7 percent jobless rate. Inflation, however, should improve. The White House expects consumer prices to increase by 2.1 percent next year, a moderation from a previous forecast of a 2.5 percent rise.

"While the difficulties in housing and credit markets and the effects of high energy prices will extract a penalty from growth, the U.S. economy has many strengths, and I expect the expansion to continue," said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A list worth knowing

I didn't know about this bug which would have been catastrophic.
1. A faulty Soviet early warning system nearly caused World War III. In 1983, a software bug in the Soviet system reported that the U.S. launched five ballistic missiles.
Certainly not a feature! I venture to say that even today we place too much trust in software. Then there's this:
4. Two partners used different and incompatible versions of the same software to design and assemble the Airbus A380 jetliner in 2006. When Airbus tried to bring together two halves of the aircraft, the wiring on one did not match the wiring in the other. That caused at least a one-year and very costly delay to the project.
I bet someone at Airbus was really having a bad hair day!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Good news America is still number 1

David Brooks the optimist in America.
So it’s worth pointing out now more than ever that Dobbsianism is fundamentally wrong. It plays on legitimate anxieties, but it rests at heart on a more existential fear — the fear that America is under assault and is fundamentally fragile. It rests on fears that the America we once knew is bleeding away.

And that’s just not true. In the first place, despite the ups and downs of the business cycle, the United States still possesses the most potent economy on earth. Recently the World Economic Forum and the International Institute for Management Development produced global competitiveness indexes, and once again they both ranked the United States first in the world.

In the World Economic Forum survey, the U.S. comes in just ahead of Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and Germany (China is 34th). The U.S. gets poor marks for macroeconomic stability (the long-term federal debt), for its tax structure and for the low savings rate. But it leads the world in a range of categories: higher education and training, labor market flexibility, the ability to attract global talent, the availability of venture capital, the quality of corporate management and the capacity to innovate.

The WinTel Empire Strikes Back at One Laptop Per Child

Are the big boys ambushing Nicholas Negroponte's great idea?
The higher price also has made the laptop vulnerable to competition from sellers of more traditional, Windows-based machines. For many education ministries, "it's a no-brainer you go with Microsoft," says Mr. Davies.
Or maybe we're reading this wrong. One Laptop Per Child may have succeeded in bringing down the prices of both software and hardware.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I'm back with Jerry

As a former subscriber to the print version of BYTE magazine, I was always enthralled with the musings of the first original blogger, the science fiction writer Jerry Pournelle. I lost touch over the years, particularly after the demise of the magazine. But I'm now reconnected. The man is never boring.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Someone is having a bad day!

OUCH.

The Big Dig, Big Joke on Taxpayers is coming to an end

Remember it had little to do with transportation and much to do with beautifying downtown Boston. The project was a boondoogle and a reminder to the rest of the nation that big projects always cost more than their boosters contend.
The Big Dig - the massive public works project that brought Boston 16 years of detours, 161 new highway lanes, and endless leaks, lawsuits, and construction bills - is officially coming to a close.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Living past 1968

Whether you are a conservative who detested the 1960s or a liberal who remains inspired by that era, you must read this column.

A most useful list

We need to be reminded of the progress in the War on Terror because too many people don't take it seriously. It's more than a bumper sticker.
Few of the planned attacks were potentially as dev­astating in scope as the September 11, 2001, attacks on Washington and New York. In addition, the suc­cessful interdiction of these efforts offers no guaran­tee that future attacks will also be prevented.

Nevertheless, the government's success in pro­tecting the homeland argues that vigilant and proac­tive counterterrorism operations are an essential part of keeping America safe in the 21st century. Future efforts to mitigate the threat of transnational terrorism should follow the example set by post-9/11 operations by respecting both the rule of law and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and the necessity of conducting concerted efforts to seek out and frustrate terrorist conspiracies before they come to fruition.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Is Vista a flop?

The smarter they are the dumber they are, that's Microsoft. Moreover, the behemoth in Redmond, WA is flipped out about Google. Not a good business strategy for a mature company that needs to innovate, innovate and innovate.
I remember the old Bill Gates speeches of the mid-1980s when Microsoft, as he told it, "sold code." Selling code was what he did, and selling code is a terrific business once you are established. It’s even better if you can monopolize a market with your code. It’s easy money compared with most businesses. Halo 3 is code. It sold $175 million worth of code on its first day of release. Once code is fixed in place and burned onto a CD-ROM or DVD, it has a manufacturing cost of a buck or two and sells for anywhere from $30 to $1,000 or more.

But Microsoft sees a new kid on the block, Google. Google is a service combined with an advertising sales engine. It looks profitable, too. But is it as profitable as selling code? Apparently Microsoft thinks it might be. Besides, there is no $2 manufacturing cost.

Until now, Microsoft could sell code better than anyone, but it seems the company would rather sell services: software as a service, ads, search engine results—you name it. This is like the local storefront that opens as a knife-sharpening business and is soon selling junk jewelry, moose heads, toaster repair, and cheap chocolate. In the meantime, the knife-sharpening business goes by the wayside. This is what has happened to Microsoft, and Vista is the result.

I’m certainly not going to be a happy camper if I have to switch to a Mac or Linux system full-time, yet that is exactly where this scatterbrained company seems to be sending me.
Read the whole article.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Deval's bush league move

Whoever said "Fight organized crime, Government doesn't need competition" would very much appreciate Casino Deval's sneaky move to ban Internet gambling just as the state begins to solicit proposals for three casinos.
"The bill, if passed, would make online gambling punishable by up to 2 years in prison and $25k in fines. Ironically, the provision is buried deep within a bill to allow the construction of three new casinos in Massachusetts to bring more gambling revenue into the state. 'If you were cynical about it, you'd think that they're trying to set up a monopoly for the casinos,' said David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Democratic House representative Barney Frank, who earlier this year introduced federal legislation to legalize regulated online gambling, also criticized the move as 'giving opponents an argument against him.' Indeed, groups such as the Poker Player's Alliance, who were previously supportive of Patrick's plans to open the new casinos, have already announced opposition to the bill because of the online gambling clause."
Who needs competition anyway. We're the government and we're the only game in town.

Where's the outrage?

Are you kidding me?
NEW YORK --C.C. Sabathia won the AL Cy Young Award on Tuesday, beating out several worthy contenders by a comfortable margin and becoming the first Cleveland pitcher in 35 years to earn the honor.

The Indians ace received 19 of 28 first-place votes and finished with 119 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Boston's Josh Beckett was second with eight first-place votes and 86 points, while John Lackey of the Los Angeles Angels got the other first-place vote and came in third. Cleveland's Fausto Carmona was fourth.

"I was excited. My family and everybody were around," Sabathia said on a conference call from his home in California. "I was surprised. Beckett had a great year and an even better postseason."
Regardless of his stellar performance, Beckett was clearly the class of the pitching corps. What are the baseball writers thinking? Does it all come down to numbers?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Zogby plumbs the depths of red, blue and purple

Interesting. It comes down to Nascar versus the Museums.

UTICA, New York – Rush Limbaugh touts himself – mostly in jest – as having “talent on loan from God” and credits that talent for his huge listenership and dominant perch atop the world of talk radio in America, but an extensive five–month polling and research project by Zogby International and the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School shows his popularity may have more to do with pre–set beliefs in the minds of his listeners than with his presentation skills.

Actually, Limbaugh was ahead of the curve in recognizing the source of his ratings success. He often says it is because he is merely confirming what listeners already believed, not because of his powers of persuasion.

He also says he suspects there is a sizable chunk of his audience who are not conservative like him, but rather are from the other end of the political spectrum. On this point the Zogby/Lear Center Poll shows he is right, er, correct. The extensive interactive survey of deeply held beliefs and behavior patterns – conducted June 26–29, 2007, including 3,939 adults nationwide and carrying a margin of error of +/– 1.6 percentage points – shows that liberals were much more likely than conservatives to listen to commentary and entertainment with which they disagreed philosophically. This could be part of the reason Air America has faltered – there are simply fewer potential listeners.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

It's about time, don't you think?

While not crushing dissent in his own country, the little man who runs Venezuala often runs his mouth. When it comes to using the term "fascist" Little Castro protests a bit too much.
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) - The king of Spain told Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to "shut up" Saturday during a heated exchange at a summit of leaders from Latin America, Spain and Portugal.

Chavez, who called President Bush the "devil" on the floor of the United Nations last year, triggered the exchange by repeatedly referring to former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar as a "fascist."

Aznar, a conservative who was an ally of Bush as prime minister, "is a fascist," Chavez said in a speech at the Ibero-American summit in Santiago, Chile. "Fascists are not human. A snake is more human."

Spain's current socialist prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, responded during his own allotted time by urging Chavez to be more diplomatic in his words and respect other leaders despite political differences.

"Former President Aznar was democratically elected by the Spanish people and was a legitimate representative of the Spanish people," he said, eliciting applause from the gathered heads of state.

Chavez repeatedly tried to interrupt, but his microphone was off.

Spanish King Juan Carlos, seated next to Zapatero, angrily turned to Chavez and said, "Why don't you shut up?"
Amen!

For some Christians, an early Christmas

The right wing is happy to see gridlock in Hollywood. The know-it-all screen writers ought to be worrying a little bit more than money; they ought to worry about relevance in the New Media age.
The experts are telling us that the two sides in the dispute are so far apart that this strike could last a very long time.

But wait! There's even more good news. There are immediate benefits to the strike as well.

Late-night talk shows are going into reruns. These include "The Late Show with David Letterman," "The Daily Show with John Stewart" and "Saturday Night Live."

And other so-called "mainstream" shows like Ellen Degenerate and "Desperate Whorewives," uh ... Housewives, will also be affected, not to mention a host of other shows and made-for-TV movies.

But all of that is just the icing on the cake. The best news of all is the economic impact this strike could have.

The experts say the last time the writers walked out in 1988, Hollywood and related industries lost a half billion dollars in 22 weeks. The projection is that the economic impact of the strike this time could top a billion dollars, crippling the television industry and impacting more than 12,000 members of the Writers Guild of America.

And if that isn't enough of a Christmas gift, the Screen Actors and Directors Guilds are facing their own set of contract talks next summer.

Pamm Fair, the Screen Actors Guild's deputy national executive director, told a major Canadian news agency that the new media is a frontier that actors and directors can't afford to be left out of. Fair says they're "watching carefully and working very closely in a strategic alliance with the writers as they come forward trying to get these new technologies addressed, and try to find solutions so that their members can be paid fairly for their creative work on these many new formats."

In other words, this is just the first in what could be a protracted set of battles that could shut the entertainment industry down for a very long time. And management knows it'll have to remain resolute in this battle with the writers, because not doing so could set a very bad precedent when they start talks with the actors and directors next summer.

For those of us on the frontline of the culture war, what this means is that there might be a glimmer of hope that the Hollywood we have come to know could literally disappear.

An industry that's about to take a billion dollar hit, with potentially even more losses on the horizon, won't be in much of a position to be turning out any kind of product, including the trash for which Hollywood has become famous.

And that means it could be Christmas in June, too.
I think that Christians may take Hollywood a bit too seriously.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The era of small government is over

Should conservatives throw in the towel in the fight to slow down the growth of Big Government? Yes says this author. Meanwhile, we are tempted to ask: Where have you gone Barry Goldwater?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Browsing for a Sunday afternoon


Robert Mapplethorpe's Flowers in miniature is a splendid and meditative pocket-sized compendium of the artist's favorite subject. It's made all the more appealing by Patti Smith's forward. "He came, in time, to embrace the flower as the embodiment of all the contradictions reveling within. Their sleekness, their fullness. Humble narcissus. Passionate zen."