Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent Explained

The ever thoughtful and thought provoking Anchoress explains Advent don't miss the video.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Light or No Blogging Until Sunday

I'll be very busy tomorrow and won't have much time to blog. PS if you were wondering, my blog is set to GMT. No really good reason for it, or for that matter using local time instead.

Power, Vacuum, Piracy

Jdg 17:6 In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

1Pe 2:13-14 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; (14) Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.

A major function of government is the punishment of crime. One of the things that emerges from a careful study of history is the discovery that evildoers naturally gravitate to places where governments have difficulty employing their power. In the early 1700's one of the places where governments had trouble exercising power was the Caribbean. In that time the major European powers were not only involved in a series of wars including the War of the Spanish Succession. Fought to preserve the European status quo, by preventing the unification of France and Spain. One of the consequences was the increase in Piracy in the Caribbean.
Spain could only with difficulty provide any protection for its shipping, principally by convoy. The English authorized Privateers with Letters of Marque and Reprisal. The number of Privateers acted to provide cover for the outright pirates.

In our era, we have seen the dangers of regions with week or nonexistent governments. A short and incomplete list would include Lebanon, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Post Sadam Iraq. That doesn't include governments which for strategic and tactical reasons have supported, trained or encouraged terrorism as a means of furthering their goals. The history of Al Qaeda provides one example of how vacuums of power were exploited.

As we have seen in the news recently, there has been an increase in Piracy in East Africa. One of the nodes is Somalia which since the mid-1970's Somalia has been divided by civil wars and currently has a weak government with a very limited ability to suppress piracy. Meanwhile in the best tradition of piracy men who are seeking power influence and money are engaging in piracy. Peter Leeson of George Mason University has examined some of the economic elements of Piracy.(1)

The same vacuum of power that permits Piracy to flourish at the margins of governmental power, also provides a favorable climate for Terrorism.


Thursday, November 27, 2008


As I watched the lead in to this years NYC Thanksgiving Day Parade. I was struck by how much time television now spends telling us what we are going to see, maybe a little history of the event, and the obligatory "man on the street" interviews. Then when the parade starts watching it on TV is nothing like watching it in person. As the director sequences the 5 - 15 second shots.

I remember a TV game show that was great in its day, but seems not to fit in with our modern idea of good television. It was called Concentration and in its glory days it accomplished with simple tools and low tech ingenuity things that now require a room full of digital effects editors and a full staff of pyrotechnicians. The star of the show was not the host, nor even the contestants it was the game board. A 5 by 6 grid with the initial face of each block showing a number. The game was played simply by calling two numbers in hopes of matching a prize. When matches occurred then a piece of the puzzle was revealed.

I was talking with a coworker the other day about a recent trip that I had taken. Then we started talking about sports venues Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium, and a local one Harbor Park. The stories tended to focus on people who had been injured because they were not concentrating on the moment. One injury was a lady who was reading a book at a ball park in seats just off of the 3rd baseline. Another was the high number of balls that go into the stands in Norfolk and the danger posed to persons who are not paying attention to the game.

This problem carries over into other areas of our lives and other activities. We've all seen people doing weird things while driving (shaving, applying makeup, reading, making calls, or even texting) often just an annoyance sometimes these extra activities cross over into dangerous to self and or others.

The ability to concentrate ones attention on a task, is critical to success. Some jobs have a heavy penalty for lack of concentration. In my "day" job for example it is a very good idea to live by this simple rule one hand for the ship, one hand for yourself. If you don't follow this rule you may find yourself on the floor in pain because the ship took a roll that you didn't expect.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Double Standards in Advertising

Have you ever thought about how bent out of shape we get when we think that someone has used a bait and switch advertising technique on us. We don't like it and we have taken it to the point that there are laws prohibiting it in the marketplace. Nationally we have the Federal Trade Commission which regulates advertising and sales in the interstate commerce area. Most states and many municipalities also prohibit such behavior in the local market place.

Yet we willingly suspend our outrage in one arena of advertising. The most despised ads in the country are political ads. If a company is advertising a new formulation of soap for example - they don't trash their competitors product as a general rule. They build on the brand recognition of the old formula and highlight the improved capabilities of the new. In politics however we see most ads fall into one of two categories ad hominem attacks - literally an admission that we have no new ideas so we are attacking the person. And strawman attacks where the ads paint demonstrably false picture of the opponent and urges voters to kick the bum out because he voted against some program or because he voted for some other program.

In the recently concluded presidential campaign both candidates ran on a "change" platform. The principal reason for this is the overwhelmingly negative perception of the current President's policies and actions. Throughout the primary season the winning candidates for both parties ran on radical (for their party) change platforms. Now that the people have spoken, and the winner of this contest prepares to sit in one of the hottest hot seats in global politics, we see that much of the change that was promised seems to be evaporating. As yet however there has been little outrage from either side on the remarkable similarity to the status quo ante bellum.

I've said it before, not that it is original to me: "Insanity is doing the same thing the same way and expecting a different result." I'm not sure how or even if our current political process can be changed. I don't think we should let candidates for office get away with things that we won't let businesses get away with. The various "fact check" type programs, and web sites are a step in the right direction but most of the one's I saw this year were produced by biased sources.

The floor is open for discussion of practical methods of reclaiming political campaigns from the mud pit that they have become.


Reposting So You Don't Have to Hunt for My Position

It seems only fair that I let you know where I am coming from.
  1. Politics
    1. Conservative - I choose to look for the things worth retaining.
      1. In my experience change for the sake of change is usually a mistake.
      2. When change is required most of the time speed is a mistake.
      3. No plan is so perfect that it can not be improved by discussion.
    2. Finance - My position is that the United States should be run in the same way that individual citizens must. Our government at each level should be living within its means:
      1. Restricting its operations to core functions
        1. Public Safety
        2. Education Standards
      2. Maintaining the public infrastructure
        1. Roads
        2. Bridges
        3. Sanitation
    3. Constitution
      1. The founders wrote it so that the average man could read, understand and follow it.
      2. The founders were informed by history and understood that in the aggregate they were neither better nor worse than those who had come before them, and they had no expectation that their heirs would be any different.
  2. Religion
    1. Conservative
    2. Protestant - Methodist
    3. Evangelical -- Proclaiming the Good News

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Handle

Other folks have asked in the past why I picked my "handle." It is equal parts elementary school nickname, favorite Winnie the Pooh character, and general geographic locater (zip code). I came up with the handle when I first started commenting on a friend's blog. Much of the material there is related to local politics and other local issues. To the extent that I found some of the material resonating with my own local experience, I felt it necessary to indicate in some way that I was not a local, and that I didn't have a dog in the fight.

Because I distrust the relative anonymity of the web I have elected to keep a consistent persona in the blogosphere. The other thing that consistency in my handle does is make it easy for those who want to know what I really think to find my previous thoughts.

Hello World!

Well it has finally happened, I'm making the next transition in my blogosphere life.

I have gone from lurker to responder, and now it is time to make the jump to blogging.

I have numerous interests from coins and stamps to history and politics.

Upcoming posts will provide more details on some of my interests and thoughts. To begin with here are the ground rules for this ball park:

1) Playground Rules are in effect - Watch your mouth, play nice, take turns.
2) Comments are moderated - There is a 99.44% chance that your comment will be approved unedited. On the rare occasions where this does not happen, I will provide feedback on what I found unacceptable.
3) I will not be doing this full time. In addition my real life periodically leaves me without internet access for extended periods of time. I will try to let you all know in advance, but ..... life happens.