This is almost exactly what I've always imagined the actuaries at work do when the rest of us aren't around. Start watching at about 1:30.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
President Obama still smokes. Shocking, isn't it, that as his day job has gotten more stressful (state legislator, to Senator, to President) he hasn't kicked the habit? Dennis Prager has an interesting theory. He believes most of us need a little vice in our lives, and if someone can use a minor vice, such as smoking or a glass of scotch, to avoid a major vice, like Dick Cheney's hobo-murdering sprees, we should go ahead and do it. If the president wants to take a few puffs, let him do it, just like Governor Sanford should be able to take a hike.
Posted by EE at 9:11 AM
For those who don't know, Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina, occasionally sneaks off and spends some time alone hiking when the state legislature wraps up its session. This time, he snuck off all the way to Argentina, and some fellow Republicans with axes to grind, along with he state's Democratic party, tried to make a big deal out of the trip.
I don't know about anyone else, but I find it really healthy that a state governor doesn't consider himself indispensable. We need more politicians who know that there is more to life than their office. If he needs solitude to re-charge, let him have it, and be glad you have a governor who knows that the world can go on just fine without him. Had there been an emergency during his absence, the state's laws allow for the Lt. Governor to make decisions. That's actually why they have a Lt. Governor in the first place. Unless his press conference this afternoon turns up something that hasn't been reported yet, I'm at a loss as to why this would hurt him politically.
**Ok, Sanford's press conference puts this story in a completely new light. Suffice it to say that I am far less positively disposed towards the governor's absence now. Still a fan of Obama being allowed to smoke though.
Posted by EE at 8:54 AM
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
The new U.S. commander in Afghanistan is finalizing a far-reaching change in tactics that will generally require U.S. troops taking fire in populated areas to break contact rather than risk civilian casualties, military officials said.
Hmm...Not to second-guess General McChrystal and his advisors, but something here doesn't compute. Won't this effectively cede cities to the bad guys? If the military's presumption is in favor of protecting civilian life over completing the mission, it seems like this policy will simply encourage the baddies to engage in more military activities in urban areas. Right now, as I understand it, (as as the article seems to corroborate) most of our fighting is done out in the back country. But, if they know the US military is allowed to use whatever means are necessary when in the countryside, where civilians are less concentrated and easier to avoid, what will keep them from shifting their operations into the cities?
Posted by EE at 4:50 PM
Monday, June 22, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
Obviously, this was just one of those things that happens, and not to belabor the point, but it does bear repeating. Can you imagine if President Bush did this?
Instead, reporters gush about how articulate, athletic, and just plain cool Barack "57 states arugala where's the door remember to duck I don't remember my committees neverending sentence" Obama is.
Posted by EE at 4:39 PM
The rocket carrying the Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LRO/LCROSS) lifted off successfully after several days. Assuming its budget doesn't get cut off (which in almost inevitable will), this is America's first step on a trip back to the moon, and then on to Mars.
Posted by EE at 1:46 PM
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Since I'm no expert, I have nothing very useful to contribute about the travesty "election" in Iran. For those who haven't been following it, imagine a scenario where the FBI is in charge of elections (the innocuous-sounding Ministry of the Interior controls elections and the country's law-enforcement duties), all candidates for Legislative or Executive office must be approved by the Supreme Court prior to running, and despite a 20% illiteracy rate, there are no punch cards or electronic voting. Instead you must write your candidates name. If you cannot do so, a helpful government volunteer will write it for you. In this already dubious system, the charismatic and popular challenger loses to the unpopular incumbent in the largest landslide in the country's history. Not only does the incumbent win in every district, he crushes all opponents even in their own hometowns. Of course, the results are also announced prior to the polls closing. The question is not whether cheating occurred. The only legitimate question is why they didn't even bother to pretend they weren't cheating.
Anyway, protests have been going on for several days now, and some experts think the government may actually be in danger. There has been some violence, although it has actually been fairly minor so far (by totalitarian standards at least). Meanwhile, president Obama has announced that he is "concerned". Way to lead!
Ok, that's about all I have to contribute, here are some people who actually know what they are talking about with more.
Posted by EE at 11:05 AM
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Since I can't think of anything better to say, I'll just echo Frank J. over at IMAO. If your society is contemplating a stab-proof knife (although, not to quibble with Frank, isn't this knife really just stab-resistant), it's actually a lot more dignified to just roll over and die as a civilization. What really saddens me though, is that according to the article, this was due to a recommendation by a group of physicians. It just goes to show that education and wisdom have little to no correlation.
Meanwhile over in Japan, the men are wearing bras and makeup.
Can we have a fundraiser to buy a copy of this book for every man in both nations?
You just know that somewhere up in heaven Winston Churchill and Hideki Tojo are sharing a drink and crying on each other's shoulder.
Posted by EE at 9:54 AM
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
The Ultimate Man's Survival Guide is now available online or at fine retailers near you. Divided into seven sections entitled: survivor, provider, athlete, hero, romantic, cultured man, and philosopher; the book teaches you everything from how to set a dislocated joint to picking out a good bottle of wine.
The author, Frank Miniter, was interviewed over at National Review, and made a very thoughtful comment that I wanted to share. When asked by NRO Editor Kathryn Lopez, "Does a man have to run with bulls in Pamplona to be 'manly'?" he responded as follows. "Of course not, but he does have to find a path to manhood. Cultures used to have rites of passage, physical tests of skill and courage boys had to pass to become men. Today we have ages instead of feats — when you’re 18 years old you can smoke, 21 you can drink — which are earned by living, not doing. This is why we have to search for our own hurdles to prove ourselves and thereby learn what we’re capable of and what we’re not. Learning our physical limitations is critical to becoming men, because when a man is faced with a real crisis — a car accident, someone attacking another, an injury — he has to have the skills and understanding of his strengths and weaknesses in order to keep his bearings and be the hero of the moment."
A lot of ink has been spilled about the slow death of masculinity in American culture, and I think that he hits on an important idea here. In the book Wild at Heart, John Eldredge makes the point that manhood is bestowed. Previous cultures had rites of passage, and even in America, you became a man in the eyes of the larger community by taking on certain responsibilities. Marriage, providing for a family, purchasing property, or serving in the military all combined to take the place of more primitive rituals. As these pieces of adulthood have been slowly dismantled (people marry far later because premarital sex and cohabitation obviate the need for marriage, children can be avoided with birth control, and dependants will be cared for by the state), society has no means left by which to determine manhood other than age.
The attack on manliness is undoubtedly in part an active one, as little boys are told to never fight, sit still, ignore their distinct nature, etc and older men are told that they offer nothing special to society while they see their gender ridiculed in the media. However, a big part of the problem is simple neglect. When men don't have manhood bestowed, they look for it in exaggerated caricatures of what they imagine manliness should be. Hence they seek affirmation through reckless sexual behavior, financial success at the expense of all else, drinking, etc. Society, especially among Christians who affirm a Biblical view of manhood and womanhood, needs to begin looking for ways to channel young men back into healthy paths to true manhood. Maybe learning to fight a bear while discussing the Epicurean ideal of the good life isn't such a bad place to start.
Posted by EE at 12:35 PM
Monday, June 8, 2009
In astronomy the Fermi Paradox refers to a question asked by Enrico Fermi with regards to the idea of advanced extra-terrestrial civilizations. Basically, based on the size and age of the universe, Fermi thought that there should be many advanced civilizations out there already. But if there are, why haven't we seen them? This question has been addressed in a multitude of serious and less-than-serious ways. Personally, my suspicion is that we're in the middle of an intergalactic wildlife park. Tourists can only enter if they make sure not to disturb the native wildlife (i.e. us). Ok, maybe not. But for those who search for intelligent extraterrestrial life, it is a serious problem.
This paper seems like a less-than-serious solution. Basically, it boils down to the idea that no civilization can sustain sufficient long-term rapid growth to outstrip humanity on its way to the stars. The authors claim to have examined civilizations here on earth and come to the conclusion that fast-growing societies usually lead to resource degradation and environmental damage. In other words, the faster societies grow, the more likely they are to damage themselves and hamper their long-term prospects.
Let's simply list some obvious objections. First of all, it seems a bit of a stretch to assess extraterrestrial civilizations based on what failings mankind may or may not exhibit. Secondly, why can't we assume that an alien society may have "grown up" on a significantly larger planet, or one with more accessible nearby neighbors capable of sustaining life? In that scenario, any destructive activities could be sustained for a far longer period of time without coming to grips with their ramifications. We also have to wonder why they need to operate with the same technology humanity uses. Perhaps they never had a period of nuclear alarmism like the 1960's and the entire planet is powered by sustainable fission or fusion reactors? Or maybe all of the habitable land mass is located close to the equator and their civilization isn't required to make the huge energy expenditures humanity finds necessary in order to regulate temperature.
Leaving aside all of those for a moment, the most obvious flaw is in the study's main assumption. While Easter Island may be a fun example for the author to cite, it seems like more realistic examples would be Europe and America. Speaking for my own continent, I'd like to point out that fuel efficiency here has progressed by leaps and bounds over the past 50 years, and I see no reason to assume that such advances will not continue. In other words, we are learning to do much more with much less all the time. Meanwhile, America's population has grown at an almost exponential rate during the last century, without America ever slipping from the number-one spot in terms of its quality of life, and the wealth of its citizens. Meanwhile, slow-growing nations see economic stagnation. (Although one can argue about which is cause and which is effect) And lastly, far from poisoning its environment, America and Europe are FAR cleaner now than they were 100 or 200 years ago. While no one would argue that neither continent has had any deleterious effects on its environment, the smog in London 100 years ago KILLED people, while America had far less forest than it does at present. And while we have obviously used up many natural resources, we are both far closer to cost-effective sustainable energy in the form of nuclear and solar power, and far better able to access resources like fossil fuels that would have been inaccessible even 30 years ago.
In short, the premise of this paper seems to be based on the kind of dismal neo-luddism that one sees far too often among environmentalists. Technological progress and the growth of manufacturing and population MUST inevitably be accompanied by increased human misery and damage to the earth in this mindset. In reality though, it is only as we become richer and move further away from subsistence-level living that we have the leisure to worry about things like our environment. There is a reason the US has such stringent pollution controls in place and China doesn't.
Posted by EE at 1:02 PM
How does the old joke go? "Let's close 'er down and see if anybody notices."
Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Executive Order to Reduce State Spending
Taking immediate action to reduce spending as the state faces a $24.3 billion deficit, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today signed Executive Order S-09-09 to eliminate funding for contracts entered into by state agencies and departments after March 1, 2009 for all goods and services excluding those necessary for public safety and to prohibit entering into any new contracts. Additionally, the order directs all state departments to develop and submit to the Department of Finance plans to reduce their future spending on contracts and purchases by at least 15 percent no later than 30 days after the adoption of the revised 2009-10 budget.
“I am committed to ensuring California lives within its means and runs as efficiently as possible,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “With today’s action, every state agency and department will scrutinize how every penny is spent on contracts to make sure the state is getting the best deal for every taxpayer dollar.”
In addition to today’s executive order and other measures, the Governor has taken the following actions to cut back on state expenses:
· In conjunction with the furlough order, state employees are taking a 9.3 percent reduction in work hours and pay.
· Issued an executive order in February 2008 to cut back administrative costs by 1.5 percent before June 30, 2008, saving $200 million.
· Issued an executive order in July 2008 targeting administrative savings of $190 million by June 30, 2009, with current savings at $180 million as of April 2009.
Text of executive order:
EXECUTIVE ORDER S-09-09
WHEREAS due to developments in the worldwide and national financial markets, and continuing weak performance in the California economy, the General Fund deficit for the 2009-2010 fiscal year is estimated to grow to $24.3 billion; and
WHEREAS the State Controller projects that as of July 29, 2009, California will not have the cash needed to meet all of its payment obligations; and
WHEREAS the projected budget deficit will require critical cuts to State programs and services, and additional borrowing from local governments; and
WHEREAS immediate action is needed to address the budget and cash crisis facing the State of California; and
WHEREAS immediate action to reduce current spending must be taken to ensure, to the maximum extent possible, that the essential services of the State are not jeopardized and the public health and safety is preserved; and
WHEREAS State agencies and departments under my direct executive authority must take all available steps to reduce their expenses to achieve budget and cash savings.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, Governor of the State of California, in accordance with the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the statutes of the State of California, do hereby issue the following orders to become effective immediately:
IT IS ORDERED that except for projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or projects funded by bonds, grants or projects specifically mandated by court orders, or public-private partnerships that require no direct state expenditures, any funds encumbered on or after March 1, 2009, for contracts entered into for which goods or services have not been provided or for contracts proposed to be entered into during the 2008-2009 fiscal year by State agencies and departments, regardless of funding source, are hereby disencumbered and the funds will revert to their original funding source if no legal liability will be incurred by the State. If a legal liability will be incurred by the State, approval to continue encumbering the funds must be obtained from the Agency Secretary and the Director of the Department of Finance.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that by 30 days after the passage of a revised budget for fiscal year 2009-2010, all State departments, regardless of funding source, shall submit a plan to their Agency Secretary that provides for a reduction of the amount of the department’s appropriation to be encumbered by new contracts, extended contracts or purchases from statewide master contracts in the 2009-2010 fiscal year by at least 15 percent, whether the reduction results from cancellation, suspension, renegotiation or otherwise.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that effective immediately and until a State department’s plan is approved by the Agency Secretary, a State department is prohibited from entering into any new contracts, amending existing contracts, issuing purchase orders for goods or services, or making purchases from statewide master agreements or leveraged procurement agreements for goods or services.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Director of the Department of Finance shall establish an exemption process regarding all contract cost reduction measures contained in this Order that Agency Secretaries and Cabinet-level Directors shall utilize to determine if an exemption is justified based on an emergent situation to preserve and protect human life and safety; avoiding significant revenue loss; achieving significant net cost savings; maintaining multi-year IT system and service contracts approved by the Office of the Chief Information Officer; or providing critical services and functions.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the services and functions of state government directly related to the preservation and protection of human life and safety, including but not limited to emergency and disaster response activities and the provision of 24-hour medical care, shall be deemed critical and exempt from this Order.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all Agency Secretaries and Department Directors shall take immediate action to implement this Order to reduce state expenditures.
IT IS REQUESTED that other entities of State government not under my direct executive authority, including the California Public Utilities Commission, the University of California, the California State University, California Community Colleges, the legislative branch (including the Legislative Counsel Bureau), and judicial branch, implement similar or other mitigation measures to achieve budget and cash savings and additional transparency in state government.
This Order is not intended to create, and does not create, any rights or benefits, whether substantive or procedural, or enforceable at law or in equity, against the State of California or its agencies, departments, entities, officers, employees, or any other person.
I FURTHER ORDER that, as soon as hereafter possible, this Order shall be filed in the Office of the Secretary of State and that widespread publicity and notice be given to this Order.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 8th day of June 2009.
Governor of California
Secretary of State
Posted by EE at 1:00 PM
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Monday, June 1, 2009
First of all, let me make sure I'm clear about this. The murder of George Tiller was a disgusting act of evil by an individual who deserves a long prison sentence.
Having said that, I wonder if all of the people who blame the pro-life movement for the actions of this disturbed man would be as quick to blame the anti-war movements for the actions of this one?
Posted by EE at 4:40 PM