Memorial Day

A pause for those fallen to preserve the Nation.
Honoring the fallen.

I frequent political discussions on blogs and forums. A frequently asked questions, typically by Europeans, is "what is Patriotism?" My response:
Patriotism is a commitment to the nation-state of which you are a member of, to continue the works others have done to create and improve it. This sometimes means dying to preserve it. This sometime means criticizing it. There is an order of priority: firstly preservation, secondly improvement. As it entails both commitment and work toward a better state, it would be a wasted effort if you do not feel proud of your commitment and work. And as a corollary, be appreciative of the contribution by others toward the same goal.


Fair and Balanced

Roger L Simon of Pajama Media asks
So here I am blogging... in my pajamas, of course... at five-thirty on Friday morning before Memorial Day weekend when any sane person would be dead to the world. But Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt Therapy, once wrote to take insomnia or sleep loss as opportunity to get more done, so I'm going to take a whack at it.

And since I am in my (now proverbial) pajamas, I am going to open up a can of worms on here... [Careful, bud.-ed.]... about Pajamas Media. A commenter the other day asked if we were going to be "fair and balanced." At first I took umbrage. We've barely announced our existence, haven't officially begun, haven't even had a chance to have a full-fledged meeting of our editorial board that is spread out all the way from Knoxville to Sydney and some bozo's asking if we're "fair and balanced"?!

But in truth it's a great question and we've been wrestling with it ever since we conceived the idea of starting the company. And with nearly 400 blogs already signed up and thousands more (we hope) to come, we ought to have some answers, at least tentative ones. Trouble is - it's not so simple. Many established media companies across the political spectrum have asserted they were "fair and balanced" or something similar only to get pie in the face, figuratively and literally. And is "fair and balanced" even possible from a human endeavor?

Of course, in practice, we have been reaching out in all directions - in terms of ideology and blog subject - with some success. The effort is continuing. And, yes, the advertising and the news side of PJ will have different requirements. Still, the question remains with all its complex ramifications. Fortunately, I am only one of three Pajamas Media founders and an even smaller percentage of the editorial board and therefore not solely responsible for coming up with answers. In fact, the scope of this search goes well beyond our immediate management because Pajamas Media has three other, perhaps more important, constituencies to be considered - the bloggers, the advertisers and you, our readers.

Normally, as new companies evolve, they reach conclusions about matters like this through private discussion or closely-guarded focus groups. But the blogosphere in all its magnificent inter-activity is clearly different and a company that emerges from it should be too.

Toward that end I would like to start a conversation on the subject on here spread over several days. And I thank those in advance who would be kind enough to participate. Let's start with the "Big Kahuna"... What does "fair and balanced" mean anyway?

My response is:
Fair: Only truths should be published. But not all truths are of value. And value is what can make the original better than before. It is not about criticism but constructive criticism.
Balanced: A diversity of constructive criticism. And valid constructive criticism must contain the deconstruction of true contributing antecedent factors and likely possible consequences. What should be kept in mind is the goal to be better than before.
Keep in mind that the enemy of good is perfect.

Bang Bang

Coming to theatres this fall: XM8
The XM8 Future Combat Rifle is intended to replace existing M4 Carbines and select 5.56mm x45 weapons in the US Army arsenal beginning as early as the fourth quarter of FY05.

In October 2002 ATK (Alliant Techsystems) was awarded a $5 million contract modification from the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC), Picatinny, N.J., to develop the new XM8 Lightweight Assault Rifle. ATK Integrated Defense, Plymouth, Minn., and teammate Heckler and Koch, Oberndorf, Germany, will support the rapid development program, which will investigate the potential of the XM8 as the lightweight assault rifle for the Army's Objective Force.

The XM8 will be based on the kinetic energy weapon that is part of the XM29 next-generation infantry weapon system (formerly the Objective Individual Combat Weapon) currently under development by ATK Integrated Defense. The kinetic energy weapon, which fires 5.56mm ammunition, will provide maximum commonality in components and logistics with the XM29 system.


The XM8 is part of the Army's effort to perfect an over-and-under style weapon, known as the XM29, developed by Alliant Techsystems and H&K. It fires special air-bursting projectiles and standard 5.56mm ammunition. But the XM29 still is too heavy and unwieldy for Army requirements. Instead of scrapping the XM29, the Army decided to perfect each of XM29's components separately, so soldiers can take advantage of new technology sooner. The parts would be brought back together when lighter materials become available. The XM8 is one of those components.

Then there is this on the horizon the XM25
Advanced Airburst Weapon System is an entirely new class of weapon that takes the concept of a grenade launcher and adds some smarts, thereby increasing the probability of hit-to-kill performance by up to 500 percent over existing weapons. The advanced design allows the soldier to program the air bursting 25mm round so that it flies to the target and detonates at a precise point in the air. It does not require impact to detonate and is hence capable of defeating an enemy behind a wall, inside a building or in a foxhole.

What seems ideally suited for the urban battlefield is the Corner Shot
is a new weapon system designed for urban combat which enables the user to observe and engage a target from behind a corner without exposing any body parts. The highly technological system was officially unveiled in late December 2003 in Israel and is already being used by some of the world's elite Special Forces. Corner Shot attaches to most handguns currently used by Special Forces, for example the GLOCK, SIG SAUER, CZ or BERETTA. It includes a small, high-resolution camera and monitor, which can observe and view a target from various vantage points.

Nothing political but i thought these interesting, despite being a non-gun owner even.



Spain's economy slows:
Is the spanish miracle at an end? After 11 years of buoyant growth, Spain's standard of living has soared, unemployment has plunged, and the country's biggest companies, from BBVA to Telefónica, are playing an increasingly active role on the international stage. But cracks in the economy are showing. Although growth is expected to be around 3% this year, foreign direct investment is diving, the current account deficit is ballooning, inflation is on the rise, and productivity growth lags behind the rest of the core 15 members of the European Union. And from 2007 on, the billions of dollars in net aid Spain receives every year from the EU -- equivalent to 1% of annual gross domestic product -- will begin to dry up. That money will go instead to the new, poorer EU members from Eastern Europe. By 2013, Spain is expected to be a net contributor to EU aid funds. The country will then have to find other ways to finance investments in schools and infrastructure -- such as issuing debt or raising taxes -- or reduce spending.

Germany stops:
Looking back at the 1960s and 1970s, when I grew up in Germany, one of the most striking things was that everyone talked about work and money. The country was infuriatingly materialistic. The old West Germany felt more like an economy than a country. It used to have a proper currency, the Deutschmark, but it lacked a proper political capital. At a time when the British believed in incomes policies, capital controls and state ownership, Germany was as laissez-faire an economy as you could find anywhere in Europe. The Germans were the Americans of Europe, as a friend remarked at the time. Everyone was brimming with confidence and the superiority that comes with the belief that you are running the world’s most superior economy. The 1970s were the heyday of Germany’s social market economy, the economic equivalent of having your cake and eating it.

Unification was supposed to make Germany even stronger. The opposite happened. The country’s political leadership mismanaged unification through forcing monetary union too early, at the wrong exchange rate, and on the basis of West Germany’s high social costs and bureaucratic rules. When I returned to Germany in the 1990s, what surprised me most was not the poor performance of the economy — this I expected. I was most shocked by the extraordinary loss of self-confidence among the political and business elites, combined with a poisonous cocktail of the three big As: anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism and anti-capitalism.

EU awaits US bailout:
A hastily assembled special negotiation of the Kyoto Protocol begins this week in Bonn, Germany, to try and define a future for a climate-change treaty that runs for five years (2008?2012) but already appears dead. This comes on the heels of European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas coming to Washington with the message that Europe is leading on climate change and America could cheaply comply. The public deserves some candor about Kyoto's, and Europe's, actual failure and the radical changes necessary if Europe sincerely believes that American involvement is "critical" in any next steps. What we are witnessing instead is a growing European Union effort for a U.S. bailout from the political corner into which its leaders have painted themselves.


Tradition of Politics

It should be obvious that the Senate compromise to avert filibuster was not about politics, not about bipartisanship, but about the preservation of the way the Senate does business. By this maneuver these "moderates" have proposed that the filibuster is a legitimate Senate tool, but should be preserved for "special" circumstances. The real significance has little to do with the filibuster itself but that a group of senators acting not on political ideology have made a successful power brokerage. I'd much rather see politicians acting political to advance their political ideology rather than to leverage power without ideology, or worse, to preserve "business as usual".


Elections Tracking

We should not forget that the War on Terror isn't just about Democracy or the Middle East, it is also about the political will of the participants for the fight. Thus far there has been 4 major elections, with three victories and one defeat. The first was the defeat in Spain of Aznar. Then there were three successes with Australia's Howard, US' Bush, and UK's Blair. Are we about to witness another victory in Europe to balance the lost of Spain? Germany to hold early election.
Three years ago, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder cynically used opposition to liberating Iraq to play an anti-American card just before elections in which he trailed his Christian Democratic opponents. He barely won a second term. Yesterday, facing a likely loss in elections in Germany's largest state, North Rhine-Westphalia, his Social Democratic Party's union backers played another anti-American card, this time depicting U.S. investors as blood-sucking parasites. Social Democratic chairman Franz Muntefering compared hedge funds to "swarms of locusts." This time, the tactic failed. Mr. Schoeder's party went down to a stunning defeat, losing the largely working-class state, home to one out of five Germans, for the first time in nearly 40 years. Last night Mr. Schroeder announced he would hold national elections this fall, a year ahead of schedule.

North Rhine-Westphalia, centered on the industrial Ruhr region of northern Germany, is home to 18 million people and would be the sixth largest economy in the European Union if it were a separate nation. It is beset by many of the same problems that plague Germany as a whole. Since 1995, the German economy has been growing at a slower pace than any other European country except Moldova. Germany is increasingly losing jobs and investment to countries that do not have its crushingly high wages and social welfare overhead.

Many commentators will explain away the Social Democrats' overwhelming 45% to 37% defeat by claiming it represents discontent with Mr. Schroeder's tentative moves to curb welfare benefits and reform labor laws. But if that were the real issue, the government's left-wing partners, the Greens, would have gained votes. Instead they lost support, finishing with only 6%. The Christian Democrats' free-market partners, the Free Democrats, received the same proportion of the vote. Indeed, if yesterday's vote had primarily been a left-wing protest vote, a new party, the Election Alternative Work and Social Justice, formed by dissident members of Mr. Schroeder's party, would have won seats. Instead, they failed miserably.

In the wing is France? Beyond perhaps even India?

Minority Vote

I feel for the minority party of any political system. And i also believe they should have a say in the crafting of policies because the greatest danger of a free democracy is the oppression of the minority by the majority. But the democratic party in the US has misused the filibuster as a voice of dissent. Thus i am supportive of a simple vote to end filibuster for judicial nomination, which may become the case tomorrow when the Senate ends debate on Judge Owen's nomination from 4 years ago.
From Powerline is Frist's speech today.
Mr. President, over the last three days, for more than 25 hours, the Senate has debated a simple principle – whether qualified judicial nominees with the support of a majority of Senators deserve an up or down vote on the Senate floor. A thorough debate is an important step in the judicial nominations process. But debate should not be the final step. Debate should culminate with a decision. And the decision should be expressed through a fair up or down vote. The Constitution grants the Senate the power to confirm or reject the President’s judicial nominees. In exercising this duty, the Senate traditionally has followed a careful and deliberate process with three key components: 1) We investigate, 2) We debate, 3) We decide. We investigate by examining nominees in committee hearings and studying their background and qualifications. We debate by publicly discussing the nominees in committee and on the floor. And we decide through an up-or-down vote. Investigate, debate, decide. That is how the Senate and the judicial nominations process operated for 214 years.

If the Democrats are smart, they would hold back the filibuster until they really need it rather than risk losing it tomorrow.


UNreal Numbers

All I have to say is wow! The UN has some balls! I mean Oil for food is still under investigation and they are still pushing forward with a 1.2 billion dollars renovation project. Here's Donald Trump's take as quoted on the Senate Floor on April 6, 2005.
Let me share this story with you, which is pretty shocking to me. The $1.2 billion loan the United Nations wants is to renovate a building. Some member of the United Nations, a delegate, apparently, from Europe, had read in the newspaper in New York that Mr. Donald Trump, the premier real estate developer in New York, the largest in New York by far, who has his own television show now--had just completed the Trump World Tower--not a 30-story building like the United Nations, but a 90-story building, for a mere $350 million, less than one-third of that cost. So the European United Nations delegate was curious about the $1.2 billion they were spending on the United Nations. He knew he didn't know what the real estate costs are in New York. So, he called Mr. Trump and they discussed it. Mr. Trump told him that building he built for $350 million was the top of the line. It has the highest quality of anything you would need in it. They discussed the matter, and an arrangement was made for Mr. Trump to meet Kofi Annan, Secretary-General, to discuss the concerns. The European delegate was somewhat taken back at Trump's reaction because he just didn't know how much it would cost. He had originally thought Mr. Trump's figures that were printed in the paper were in error. So according to Mr. Trump, who I talked to personally this morning, they go meet with Mr. Annan, who had asked some staff member to be there, and Mr. Trump is very outraged about this staffer. When the European asked how these numbers could happen, Mr. Trump said the only way would be because of incompetence, or fraud. That is how strongly he felt about this price tag because he pointed out to me that renovation costs much less than building an entirely new building. So he has a meeting with Mr. Annan, and they have some discussion. And Mr. Trump says these figures can't be acceptable. He told me in my conversation this morning, he said: You can quote me. You can say what I am saying. It has already been reported in the newspapers. He said they don't know. The person who had been working on this project for 4 years couldn't answer basic questions about what was involved in renovating a major building. He was not capable nor competent to do the job. He was further concerned. He went and worked on it, and talked about it, and eventually made an offer. He said he would manage the refurbishment, the renovation, of the United Nations Building, and he would not charge personally for his fee in managing it. He would bring it in at $500 billion, less than half of what they were expecting to spend, and it would be better. He told me: I know something about refurbishment and renovations. I do a lot of that, also. I know how to do that. Yet he never received a response from the United Nations, which raised very serious concerns in his mind about what was going on there

HT Powerline


the Numbers

My thoughs on the numbers.
The federal debt is divided into two part, that held by the government and that held by the public. Government debt is an internal matter, as when the government takes money from unspent social security taxes to use for non social security functions. This debt only affect the future when it has to be paid. If social security intake exceeds that of intake, this repayment can be put off. As far as i know this debt to social security is not being repaid at the moment. The second part of the federal debt is referred to as public debt. This exists in the form of treasury bills primarily, in essence an IOU by the government to the holder of the bills.
As of 2004 the total deficit is 7.379 trillions, 3.072 of which is held by the government and 4.307 of which is held by the public. The feds have had a deficit since 1835.
Lets look at the concern regarding federal debt own by (not owed by) the public. By public it also includes banks, corporations, state and local governments, and the average citizen investors. The concern here is that instead of spending money on ways to stimulate the economy, the money is "locked" into the deficit. However, lets consider that many, individuals as well as financial investment companies, treat this as the preferred investment; the guaranteed of future return is thus very safe and reassuring. This money would not have gone into the general economy as it was not heading that way anyway. In addition about 20-25% of the "public" debt is held by foreign entities and they do so also because of reliability of a future return. Would they have invested in US companies instead? Why didn't they do so to begin with?

Certainly it would be better to opperate without a deficit. But as to its actual impact on the economy is still theoretical for the following reasons.
1. 180 years of deficit and we are still growing. As far as i know there has been little direct correlation between a high deficit and poor economic growth. Most periods of high deficits were during wars, the civil war, ww1, the depression, ww2, vietnam, WoT.
2. Would the public actually put money into the economy instead, rather than say precious metals or beneath the mattress? Theoretical at best.

It is interesting that by "privatizing" social security, even a portion of it, more money is directed to the economy and less is available for the government to "borrow/steal" from.



Pacifism is a lovely dream that whithers at dawn's first light.

A list of notable quotes on war from Fort Liberty.
my favorite is:
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. -- John Stuart Mill

Neo-Neocon has a great post on this topic today.