Thursday, January 31, 2008

McCain's Running Mate

A friend of mine asked me last night whom I thought John McCain would select as his running mate. Now, this presumes that McCain will be the Republican nominee. This is looking like a safer bet after McCain's win in Florida.

Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani are gone after running the most apathetic and strategically-flawed campaigns, respectively, in recent memory. Thompson never seemed to want the job. My own sense is that he wanted people to want him to have it more. I think his own level of enthusiasm mirrored the public's. Rudy just seemed to have taken a really bad idea, put all your eggs in one basket, Florida, and run with it all the way to an early and ignominious exit. I am sure when the campaign strategist responsible for this blunder gave his Power Point presentation for this campaign template, it must have seemed brilliant and revolutionary. The problem is, Rudy had already been seriously marginalized by the time he got to Florida. Surpassed by the likes of Mike Huckabee.

So, McCain is now the front-runner. And when my friend asked me who I thought McCain would select as his running-mate I immediately thought of one guy: Joseph Lieberman.

I think this selection is attractive and makes sense for a couple of reasons. First, by selecting a Democrat for his running mate, McCain can steal a bit of Obama's ground-breaking thunder. Second, Lieberman is a Democrat that many Republican-leaning independents would support. He is as conservative Democrat as you are likely to find, who has supported the War in Iraq. He is a bit of a pariah in his own party and I think he will be able to wear this as a badge of honor among Republican and independent circles.

Personally, Joe Lieberman is about the only Democrat for whom I have any respect. Like McCain, he is not perfect. I don't care for his attacks on Hollywood and the entertainment industry, and specifically the video game segment of the market. Of course, I have my problems with McCain, too. I hate McCain-Feingold. I didn't care for his initial stand on the illegal immigration amnesty proposed by the Bush administration. I don't care for his expansive definition of torture, nor his compromise on judicial nominees.

But in the 2008 election, all candidates must be viewed through a single prism: are they worse than Hillary Clinton?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Can I just say...

...that I hate those Vytorin ads that show pictures of food and then people dressed up to look like the food? They creep me out like those Anne Geddes photos where she dresses up babies to look like flowers.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Ad watch

I think I am one of the few people that watches TV ads critically, and I'd like to offer a quick comment about them.

When was the last time you saw a man portrayed as being intelligent? I have noticed a disturbing (at least to me) trend where men are portrayed as idiots, often with a condescending wife standing nearby to protect the poor sap from himself.

I guess that men, and usually white men, are fair game. What kind of message are we sending to the impressionable youngsters watching TV?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

How like a Demo-crite

Read the following excerpt from a John Kerry blog post at Puffington Host:

I hate the term "Swiftboating." I hate how the name of the boats we honored when we were in uniform in Vietnam has become a verb for the twisted politics of Karl Rove.

Isn't that just like a Dem? It couldn't be that Kerry's lies about his own record in Vietnam is what prompted some members of his erstwhile "Band of Brothers" - of course, Kerry has never bothered to explain why he left his "Band of Brothers" at the earliest possible opportunity, after just four short months, exercising a rarely-used loophole - to attack him.

And you DO know that Kerry wasn't discharged from the Navy until the Carter administration, some eight years after he left Vietnam, right? Or that, despite a campaign promise to do so, Kerry still has not signed the forms authorizing the release of his military record? Which just BEGS the question, if he is so proud of his record, why does he go to such great lengths to hide it?

No. It's all Karl Rove's (and by extension, George Bush's) fault. How about John Kerry's "twisted politics"?

Kerry is beneath contempt.

"I say it here,.... comes out there." That's one of Albert Brooks' line from "Broadcast News" and I use it pretty often to refer to my predictive powers.

A few nights ago I wrote in an email to a friend, "[S]o begins the canonization of Saint Heath."

Am I right or what? If you've even skimmed some of the articles about Ledger in the last couple of days maybe you noticed this trend towards hyperbole in the quotes from friends and coworkers. However, I think this quote from director Todd Haynes (I know, I know, consider the source) takes the cake:

Heath was a true artist, a deeply sensitive man, an explorer, gifted and wise beyond his years. There was no finer person on this earth. (emphasis added)

Really, Todd? There was NO finer person on Earth? Not one? Well, in that case, the rest of us should just kill ourselves since obviously human-ness has been done to perfection.

Pardon me while I wretch.

Latest Muslim Outrage

Do you need yet more proof that Islam is a "religion of peace"? Try this. Or this.

More proof of the emptiness of Obama

Here in Arizona an ad for Senator Barack Obama has been running for the last two weeks. It opens with some pictures of young Barack and his mother. There is a voice-over from the senator telling us how his mother died of cancer at age 53. Towards the end, says the senator, his mother was more worried about paying the bills than getting well.

Fine. I have no truck with that. Telling a personal anecdote in order to gain sympathy or empathy from your audience is an effective tactic.

However, in true Obama form, he goes on to tell us that he has a plan to "cover everyone". But does he tell us what that plan is? Of course not! This is Barack Obama we are talking about, after all. In effect he is saying - as he does with all his platitu - er, I mean policy pronouncements, "Trust me." In the ad he uses this hint of a plan as his segue to "In order to fix health care, first we have to fix Washington."

Uh, sorry, Obama. I think I'm going to need some more details on your plan to "cover everyone" before you get that next promotion.

I had forgotten... much I loathe James Carville! Luckily, since the end (thank God!) of the Clinton [I ?] administration I haven't had to listen to the blatant falsehoods that emanate from that forked tongue of his.

Unfortunately, I happened to tune into the "Today" show as I was getting ready for work this morning. Since this is campaign season, NBC appears to have retained the Louisiana snake-oil salesman as a "political" consultant. I didn't catch exactly what he and talking head Matt Lauer were discussing but I caught a bit of Carville's vitriol. He was saying something to the effect of how the Republican party only "comes in one color - white, and only one gender - male". (Presumably Carville means sex since gender is a grammatical construction)

Not only is this demonstrably false, it's divisive. What's obvious is that the likes of Carville know that the Democrats have no new ideas to compete against the Republicans, so they resort to name-calling (he's calling Republicans racists and chauvinists, in case Cueball is too subtle for you).

What's really a shame is that the media give him a pass on this kind of behavior. Remember the hue and cry that went up last year when Ann Coulter called John Edwards a "faggot"?

As Bob Dole once said, "Where's the outrage?"

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Quick Hitter

Think fast. Can you think of a more repellent political couple than the Clintons?

The only other couple that I think would challenge them for self-obsessedness (is that a word?) are Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Actually, come to think of it, that comparison is unfair - to the Bourbons.

I read this morning where Hillary Clinton is claiming that Sen. Obama is "frustrated". I watched parts of last night's debate. And, while I still feel that Obama is an empty suit - running on a platform of "change" (really, how empty can you get?) - he didn't strike me as frustrated.

The one who strikes me as frustrated is Hillary. I am sure by now she expected to have been anointed the nominee. I am sure she wakes up every morning and looks in the mirror and can't believe the injustice of it all; the unfairness of actually having to, you know, campaign and convince people to vote for her.

Then this morning I read online that Bill Clinton says that Obama is running against him. My God, is there no limit to his ego?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Call for an end to birthright citizenship

Currently I am on assignment working at the US Consulate in Nogales, Mexico. I believe that I would be remiss if I didn't bring up this topic.

"Birthright citizenship", or jus soli (Latin for "right of soil") is the legal principle that states that a person is a citizen of the country where he happens to be born. The United States is one of a dozen countries that still adheres to this principle.

I will be the first to admit that at one time this principle served us well. That time was during the Westward expansion and subsequent immigration booms. However, the frontier is settled now. We no longer need massive influxes of immigrants.

Worse, birthright citizenship is being abused in a systematic fashion. In Korea there is a whole industry geared towards assisting pregnant women to travel to the United States for the sole purpose of obtaining US citizenship for their children. The primary purpose of this is so that their children can attend US universities and avoid military service.

As I write this, there is a Mexican couple at the window that are here to collect a passport for their "US citizen" child. A few weeks ago my father forwarded me an email article about how Parkland Hospital in Dallas (originally famous as the hospital to which JFK was rushed after being shot) is now basically a halfway house for Mexican illegals to have their "US citizen" children.

I, for one, think this is a disgrace. I bristle at the idea that US citizenship is being treated like a fashion accessory, or as a means by which to secure goods and services for the extended families of the "anchor babies". In the past, I have written my Congress critters encouraging them to put an end to birthright citizenship.

I guess it's high time I wrote them again.

Is there no end to government intrusiveness?

Here's an excerpt from a economist and syndicated columnist Walter Williams. If this doesn't make your blood turn cold, then you deserve the government you get.

"The California Energy Commission has recently proposed amendments to its standards for energy efficiency. These standards include a requirement that any new or modified heating or air conditioning system must include a programmable communicating thermostat (PCT) whose settings can be remotely controlled by government authorities. A thermostat czar, sitting in Sacramento, would be empowered to remotely reduce the heating or cooling of your house during what he deems as an 'emergency event.'

"...There's no end to what the energy czar could do, particularly if he enlists the aid of California's Department of Health Services. Getting six to eight hours sleep each night is healthy; good health lowers health costs. So why not make it possible for the energy czar to turn the lights off at a certain hour?

"California's Department of Education knows children should do their homework after school rather than sit playing video games or watching television. The energy czar could improve education outcomes simply by turning off the television, or at least turning off all non-educational programs. Of course, there could be a generous provision whereby if an adult is present, he could use a password to operate the television."

Friday, January 11, 2008

How can you tell if a Clinton is lying?

His (or her) lips are moving!

I know. I know. It's an old joke, but it comes in so handy. And it's so useful, too. It's like the utility infielder of jokes.

Check out this quote from Senator Hillary Clinton's "loving" husband, Bill:

"The reason (Hillary Clinton) ought to be president, over and above her vision and her plans is that she has proven in every position she has ever had in life, whether it was in elected office or not, that she is a world-class genius in making positive changes in other people's lives."

I'm sorry, but is there anyone over the age of six that believes this drivel? It's like the quote that's been played up where Bill urged Hillary to dump him during law school because she had more talent for public service than anyone from her generation. Can you actually hear that or read that and not want to wretch? I can't.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't

Is it me, or does it seem like only those on the Left are capable of the mental contortions required in order to reach the same conclusions as the author of the excerpt below?

I think it's pretty easy to see what's going on here. It couldn't be that Israel, a liberal democracy, has fielded a professional military, characterized by restraint in an effort to minimize civilian casualties and property damage, could it? No, of course not. In general, academics don't believe in the efficacy of war as an instrument of policy. When your judgment is clouded by such conclusions, it's easy to find fault with the behavior of the military - no matter the circumstances.

"If you think American political correctness is twisted, wait till you get a load of the Israeli version. From the news site

A research paper that won a Hebrew University teachers' committee prize finds that the lack of [Israel Defense Forces] rapes of Palestinian women is designed to serve a political purpose.

The abstract of the paper, authored by doctoral candidate Tal Nitzan, notes that the paper shows that 'the lack of organized military rape is an alternate way of realizing [particular] political goals.'

The next sentence delineates the particular goals that are realized in this manner: 'In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it can be seen that the lack of military rape merely strengthens the ethnic boundaries and clarifies the inter-ethnic differences--just as organized military rape would have done.'

The paper further theorizes that Arab women in Judea and Samaria are not raped by IDF soldiers because the women are de-humanized in the soldiers' eyes.

ArutzSheva raises the obvious question: 'Can't it just be that Israeli soldiers come from a culture that very much condemns rape?' To which Zali Gurevitch, head of the professors' committee that recommended the publication of Nitzan's paper, replies that, as the news service puts it, 'Observers"

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Something from awhile back

I have this folder in my email called "Blog Topics". It's a handy repository where I tuck interesting tidbits and links to web pages that I send to myself that I try to return to and post something from.

This is one such item. It's about nine months old but worth noting nonetheless. Check out this story from the Washington Times. I would have to file this one under "Too Suspicious to be Coincidence".

The federal agency that tracked pork-barrel spending during the 12 years of the Republican congressional majority has discontinued the practice since Democrats took power, riling lawmakers suspicious of the timing and concerned about the pace of fat being added to bills.

"To me, something doesn't smell right," said Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican. "I just hope no one is pressuring" the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

While not blaming the Democratic leadership, Mr. DeMint added: "I guess if you're looking for a motive, you'd have to look in that direction."

CRS, a nonpartisan agency of the Library of Congress created to conduct research for members of Congress on legislative issues, changed its policy in February -- a month after Democrats took control of the Congress and vowed to curb the number of special-interest projects inserted into spending bills or even reports! that don't require a vote.

CRS Director Daniel P. Mulhollan developed the policy after consulting with "internal CRS appropriations experts" and deciding the service was redundant with what other agencies do, CRS spokeswoman Janine D'Addario said.

"His decision was strictly an internal decision," said Miss D'Addario, whose agency began providing Congress members with information on earmarks in 1994, when Mr. Mulhollan took over as director.

CRS said the Office of Management and Budget recently has been taking on a greater role in monitoring earmarks. And with both chambers of Congress this year establishing new guidelines and clearer definitions of earmarks, the agency said its role as a scorekeeper of earmarks is obsolete.

Several lawmakers, particularly those who had come to rely on the agency to identify the dollar value of earmarks in appropriations and other laws, were caught off guard by the change.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

What a Cop-Out!

This is so like a newspaper. Check out who the Dallas Morning News named their "Texan" of the Year? Just take your blood pressure medicine first.

How expansive! How progressive of the DMN to recognize the interconnected relationship between Texas and Mexico. Very astute. That kind of pithy analysis must get lots of earnest head nods at the wine and cheese gatherings of the Dallas intellegentsia. I say, bravo!

Never mind the fact that it completely misses the point (i.e. Mexicans are not Texans).

Friday, January 04, 2008

A quick word about the Iowa caucuses

Haven't we learned our lessons about the governors of southern states as President? I mean, really? Carter. Clinton. Heck, Bush 43, if you are so inclined!

Mike Huckabee? Come on, Iowans!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Just what have I been up to?

Ok. I have a confession to make. I've been keeping another blog on the side. Relax. It's nothing serious. I bet I haven't even posted there 10 times yet.

Anyway, I thought I would re-print here, something I posted there last night.


I just finished "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare". It is the first game I have been motivated enough to finish all the way to the end for quite a while. I enjoyed it immensely even though military FPSes aren't my number one genre.


As I said, the game is a military FPS. You play through the game as two different characters. The first mission is played as Pvt. 'Soap' MacTavish, 22nd Special Air Service Regiment, Royal Army, along with your squadmates, Gaz, Griggs, and Captain Price, in Central Asia (Khazakhstan, perhaps?) where you are trying to rescue one of your assets from unfriendly hands all the way through pursuit and extraction.

I noticed that my squadmates took up intelligent stacking and defensive positions. However, early on, often they would be waiting for me and I would have missed Capt. Price's order. So, either listen carefully for Price, or check your objectives often. For some reason, I found myself forgetting to use my compass and waypoint indicators. I think it's because they weren't in their accustomed "rear view mirror" position. Minor interface quibble.

Next, you play a series of missions as Sgt. Paul Jackson, 1st Marine Force Recon. The setting is an unspecified (or fictitious) Middle Eastern setting. Your first mission is to try and capture a terrorist leader. He eludes your grasp. Next, you assist a stranded Abrams tank to safety.

I believe there are 18 full-on missions, although each mission will have several component goals. With a couple of notable excpetions, you switch back and forth between MacTavish and Jackson, pursuing parallel and complementary story lines. The Jackson story is pretty generic - to a point. You are pursuing a terrorist warlord who is trying to get his hands on nukes. As MacTavish and the Brits, you are pursuing a Russian, ultranationalist whacko who sold the nukes to the Middle Eastern nutjob. In my opinion, the British missions are more entertaining as they feature the stronger storyline and the better voice acting.

The real standout missions played from the Jackson side are the AC-130 Specter gunship support mission (that was fun!) and the nuke mission. As Jackson, you get a ringside seat to a nuclear bomb exploding. Unfortunately, it kills you. You "play" a one or two minute movie-mission where you witness the nuclear holocaust before keeling over and dying.

(Note: Throughout the course of the game, you run across bits of bonus intelligence. I only found something like 3/30 pieces of intelligence. Who knows? It may be possible to prevent the nuclear holocaust by playing the preceding missions skillfully enough. Or, the mushroom cloud sequence and Jackson's death may be unavoidable. I suspect it's the latter, but I don't know.)

From the MacTavish side, the two most memorable missions, by far, are played as flashback missions from the perspective of then-Lt. Price and his CO, Capt. MacMillan. Mission 13, "All Ghillied Up", have Price and MacMillan armed only with their sniper rifles and ghillie suits, sniping guards and evading patrols.

There was a particularly tough patch that I could not solve on my own. Price and MacMillan are caught in an open field by a patrol of close to twenty soldiers and two light armored vehicles. There are far too many 'tangos' to engage, so you have to crawl, ever-so-slowly, between lanes of soldiers and hope that they don't detect you. Oh, did I mention that this mission takes place in Pripyat, Ukraine? You've never heard of Pripyat? Perhaps not. But you've heard of the nearby nuclear reactor, Chernobyl, certainly. So, in addition, to dodging patrols, you have to listen for the sound of your radiation detector. Too many rads, and you're done.

As I said, I could not solve the open field patrol portion on my own. So I watched a walk through video on YouTube. Search for COD4 Walkthrough Attila16 and look for mission 13, "All Ghillied Up". Attila16 is able to masterfully negotiate the level, start to finish, in about 12:30 minutes.

I would also recommend watching the next mission, "One Shot, One Kill". This is the second mission you play as Price with MacMillan. In it, you appear to assassinate Imran Zarkaev as he is getting ready to sell stolen fissile material from the nearby, pilfered reactor. I know when I played the mission, I saw my shot hit, and heard MacMillan call the hit.

I say you appear to assassinate him, though, because he turns back up later on in the last mission of the game. I could not find any explanation for this. I need to do some checking on the 'net for any info on this. I hope there is an explanation. This was the only real serious continuity flaw I found in the game. The game and game play are still masterful, but this seems like a big event for devs Infinity Ward to have given no explanation.

From a performance standpoint, I had no real issues with running the game on my T7400 Core 2 Duo proc/Ge Force 8600 M GT 512 MB video-based rig. I did read the Game Spot COD4 tweak guide and did follow their suggestion to disable a few of the minor effects. Other than that, the game ran very well. Put it this way. It ran well enough that I was having a good enough time to finish the game.