Thursday, April 30

What is my justice hangup?

What is my deal when it comes to perceived injustice? It makes me crazy.

Silly example: the characters in Harry Potter who do evil things and never get justice: Snape, Fudge and Umbridge (off the top of my head). Even Rita Skeeter. I want them to die. Seriously.

Silly example 2: I've been playing some Civilization again lately. The Aztecs attacked me out of nowhere last night and I basically couldn't stop until I'd made them capitulate to me.

Serious example: I'm finally reading 'Band of Brothers'. (I realize I'm probably the last person in America who is interested in this book buy hadn't read it yet ;-)

The injustices that Easy Company faces make me insane. It's just so unfair! Beginning with Lt. Sobel, their imperious commander in training, they face so many unjust circumstances.

A major situation where this shows up is the Battle of the Bulge. Easy Company holds the line in terrible circumstances while officers in nearby Bastogne have a turkey dinner for Christmas. Easy literally has cold white beans to eat in freezing temperatures without even adequate winter clothing. Furthermore, when they do eventually move back they see how the system works: Millions of items are shipped 'over there', but by the time everyone takes his cut, there aren't even enough necessities left for the front line soldiers.

What is wrong with me? Nine year olds say 'That's not fair!' Isn't this something we're supposed to grow out of? I feel it viscerally and I want justice!

The starkest example is the German people. Easy gets to Germany and finds nice living conditions in rural towns. These civilians did not suffer the hardships of war like French, Belgian, Dutch and British civilians. The soldiers of Easy Company really like the German civilians. They're hard-working, clean, middle class and nice.

And they're the people who allowed Nazi fascism and the Holocaust and concentration camps. Every human heart contains wickedness to oppress or to allow it.

So, I was glad to read about a little justice. Easy came across their first concentration camp near Buchloe, part of the Dachau complex. And it wasn't even an extermination camp. It was a forced work camp. General Taylor was so angry that he declared martial law and forced every able-bodied German between 14 and 80 to go to the camp to bury bodies and clean it up.

I say all this as someone who is reasonably well-read about WW2 and the Holocaust, including 'Night', 'Mila 18' and having personally visited Auschwitz.

Lord have mercy. Kyrie eleison.

Of course, my soul searching isn't done. The obvious question is: where do we allow and even abet gross injustice in our society? Probably some injustice is inevitable. Jesus said 'You'll always have the poor with you.' At what point do we need to object, to refuse to be complicit?

I'm not looking for easy answers. I used to be pretty anti-big business. Now I see that multinational corporations have created a lot of wealth and helped to raise 3 billion people out of poverty around the world. I used to be pro-government, but now I see some of the problems inherent in government, not least of all massive waste of taxpayer dollars.

Who should we boycott? Who should we demonstrate against? Everyone who does business with Sudan? Israel? China? Russia? Coca-Cola? ExxonMobil? GM? Disney? Think globally. Act locally. But it ain't simple or easy.

It's probably like Tom says: Get your own foreign policy. Invest in an issue you care about. Adopt a child. Give microloans through Kiva. Fight global warming (not my cup of tea, but engaged by some than they remain inactive). De-consumerize a little (you know, try to do without some nonessential). Serve in your church. Create. Enjoy. Learn. Love your family and friends.

(A small request: some of these pursuits appear mutually exclusive. Let's not demonize one another, ok?)

I hope this isn't becoming too 'Everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten'. I'm trying to be positive, but from a base of hard-nosed thinking (not just rosy do-goodism).

What do you think?

Tuesday, April 28

Draft thoughts

Hmm. Not much to say in the end. Here are three thoughts.

I watched the ESPN analysis.

+ The Shanahan era is truly over in Denver: picked a RB in the first round.

+ I'm pretty excited about the Vikes getting Percy Harvin. He's a Reggie Bush-like talent. Hopefully we'll use him better than the Saints used Bush. Should be a no-brainer, since we've already got a stud backfield. Wonder if he'll get a wildcat formation.

Of course, there are some character issues...

+ So, Michael Oher, who figured so prominently in Lewis' 'Blind Side', has made the NFL with the 23rd pick. And they're still saying he hasn't lived up to his potential. Interesting that he went to Baltimore, where Jonathan Ogden has been such a stud.

Saturday, April 25

Penn and Teller vids

Read the article about Teller (the magician teamed with Penn) in the latest Wired and decided to hunt up some of their videos. Showed two that really show how they do it to the twins and they liked them pretty well:

I also watched (less for kids):

Friday, April 24

Various links

+ Board game geeks and digital geeks must not overlap much because Wired magazine just got around to writing about Settlers of Catan. I found that highly amusing.

+ In other game geek news, Dave Arneson, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, died Tuesday.

+ I got the twins hooked on 'The Book Report' from 'You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown'. In fact, we watched the animated version, which I didn't even know existed.

+ Beautiful, sonorous word of the day: susurrus

+ Periodically I like to check out the YouTube most viewed list to see if there's anything I've missed. And when I was there, I noticed, if you combine the 3 top videos for Katy Perry's Hot N Cold you get about 75 million views. That's quite a lot.

YouTube Symphony

Did you watch the YouTube Symphony? I got interested in it last week and watched/listened to it over the course of a couple days. Some info:

15M hits later, YouTube Symphony makes live debut

YouTube Symphony Orchestra (Wikipedia)

USC percussionist to play Carnegie Hall (that's U of South Carolina; local kid played in the YSO)

Seems like they really came together nicely. Pretty brief, approachable stuff. I liked it.

To watch, you can go to the YouTube Symphony channel, but I don't like the interface, so here are the videos I'd recommend:

Meet the YSO:

"The Internet Symphony" Global Mash Up

YouTube Symphony Orchestra Highlights

Acts 1 and 2:

Thursday, April 9

Gates' proposed budget

I am losing my touch. I didn't even think of posting on this topic until Paul prompted me. I did take some notes for a potential Ares post, but I don't think that's going to happen.

Overall, I love this budget. Someone needs to try to change Defense procurement, and I think Gates has taken a great shot at it. I assume he's on the same page with Obama and this is a coordinated effort.

It would be easy to play armchair Secretary and cherry-pick programs I like and don't like, but I don't think I'm going to do that. There's an overall plan, there's an attempt at change, there's plenty of pain; good stuff.

Talking of Ares (above), we had a lot of good coverage over there, in my opinion. Let's walk through a few of those posts:

The Army gets more personnel but Future Combat Systems gets slashed.

Littoral Combat Ship might be the biggest question mark in Gates' commitments. My buddy Galrahn at Information Dissemination sure thinks it is. My favorite idea is one I saw on Tom's weblog (that he got from somewhere else): but some of these ships that have ballooned to insane prices, operate them for awhile and re-sell them to allies who could use small ships like them. That way we recoup some money.

The Air Force continues to get beaten down, as Gates has had to do for most of his tenure. We remain committed to the potentially dodgy F-35, but this is a political reality we can't escape. Cross your fingers that this ends up being a decent plane. There's no point in hoping it will come in near budget or that we'll ever buy the numbers in the initial plan.

The Marines didn't lose the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, yet, and they also gain from the commitment to more combat troops.

Boeing was the biggest corporate loser. More on that below.

Gates - The Secretary Strikes Back

C-17 is dead for now. I don't like this: we need more airlift.

Missile defense survived basically intact.

Now to the aftermath:

Sen. Inhofe Goes Full Guns

Inhofe was the first crazy congressman out of the gate, on a YouTube video from Afghanistan, no less. He said Obama is disarming America during a time of war, which is baloney. Not surprisingly, the Non-Line of Sight Cannon was slated to be built in Inhofe's home state, Oklahoma.

Incidentally, I sat next to the senator on a plane once. He's not totally crazy, but I can't agree with this stand.

Gates Nugget on Foreign Fifth-Gen

Gates says his intel places a Russian fifth-gen fighter at 2016 and China's at 2020.

Comparing fifth-generation fighters has often seemed to me like the missile gap with the USSR: we underplay our resources and vastly overestimate theirs.

Not to mention there's no reasonable scenario of great power war in the forseeable future with Russia or China. Miniscule possibilities, yes, but how much money do we hedge against them when we have soldiers dying now in Afghanistan and getting stop-lossed, totally overusing and abusing our fighting force?

Gates: No More 'Guerilla Warfare' Inside the DC Beltway

I hope rather than believe this is true: that Gates is pulling the Pentagon together and the services won't be going behind his back to Congress to get what they want.

Gates, Obama, the Defense Budget and the Veto

This is one of my favorite pieces of analysis from my friend Michael Bruno: the smart money says Congress will pork up this eventual proposal and that Obama will have to veto it. I think there is little to no chance this budget or anything like it will get through Congress without a big fight. The jobs programs and special interests are just too firmly entrenched.

Here is the entire text of Gates' speech

Here's a part toward the end that I really agree with:
it is important to remember that every defense dollar spent to over-insure against a remote or diminishing risk – or, in effect, to “run up the score” in a capability where the United States is already dominant – is a dollar not available to take care of our people, reset the force, win the wars we are in, and improve capabilities in areas where we are underinvested and potentially vulnerable. That is a risk I will not take.
There are three parts to the Iron Triangle of the Military Industrial Complex that Eisenhower warned us about: DoD, Congress and industry.

Industry's primary job is to return money to their shareholders. In this case, it means fighting what Gates has said is best for the military if it's not best for that company and its shareholders. The rhetoric will be couched patriotically, like Inhofe's above, but it will still be propaganda.

In the same way, Congress' main job is to help their constituents. In this case, it means fighting what Gates has said is best for the military

We've left the days of what is good for GM (or Boeing, or Lockheed Martin, or Bath Iron Works) is good for America.

Minority special interests often get their way (the squeaky wheel gets the grease) unless the majority unites against them.

I'll be amazed if anything like this budget eventually passes through Congress, but I hope it does.

That's about it for what I thought. How about you?