Watched Obama’s speech

I didn’t really want to watch, I wanted to see the Cubs game but my father and step mother wanted to, so… I hear people raving about his speech, and it was a pretty good one. I did notice a few bones thrown towards those of us with more libertarian outlooks. He talked about personal responsibility, parental responsibility, the importance of reducing parts of the government that don’t work, and the freedom to work towards our own goals.

I read a Cato thingy about how the Democrats might be in a position to appeal to libertarians. According to their polling, up to 25% of people in the US have what would be considered libertarian tendencies (defined as wanting smaller government, fiscal responsibility, and strong civil liberties) even if they don’t consider themselves as such. That could make for a significant swing vote. Traditionally, libertarians have voted republican. Truth be told, there really hasn’t been a libertarian republican since Goldwater. The republicans have held onto the “smaller government” mantra for a while. They did, that is, until this president. I think W. has actually added more to the government than LBJ did, and that’s something. Add to that the ongoing social conservatism, and the absolute trampling of the constitution and civil liberties, and it’s not hard to to come up with reasons libertarians are a little dissatisfied with the republicans. The Democrats have held the high ground on so called social liberties (especially with gay rights), but have an awful record with other civil liberties like issues of gun control and other, more mundane liberties like what you’re allowed to eat (see the NYC ban on transfats and the busting of street vendors in San Jose for selling bacon hot dogs against city ordinance..). I do think those things have been overshadowed by little things like the denial of habeus corpus. So the dems reaching out to that group is, I think, significant. It isn’t just trying to look more centrist, they are actively courting the libertarian-minded voters.

I think it will be fun to watch McCain throw W. under the bus in the upcoming convention. It’s really his only chance as far as I can see. I’m not sure how the democrats can screw up this election, but we should never underestimate the incompetence of the democratic party…

Just remember this. As good as Obama’s speech was, it had no more significance than any other soliloquy given by any actor. Anybody can say anything. Anyone can promise anything. Talk is cheap, talk from politicians is worthless. I think the comparisons to Abe Lincoln are a little premature. Obama has yet to actually do anything, Abe has a pretty significant legacy. The appropriate response to Obama’s speech is, “Prove it.” He has promised the moon, with no downsides. He has laid out ideas with absolute certainty that he knows what is best and has taken all contingencies into account. In short, he made a very good POLITICAL speech, we should take his ability to do any of this stuff with many heaps of salt. Right now, he is saying what he needs to say in order to get elected, nothing more. Why would you trust him more than any other politician? He is what he is…

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My plans

Everyone keeps asking what my plans are. I have been a little vague, but things are looking like they’re coming into better focus. I would like to pursue the teaching English thing, overseas that is. I really enjoyed it. After being in a job that was not what I wanted to do, having a job that is fulfilling is pretty addictive.

Yes, I could go and get a sales job. If I got motivated enough (read, if I needed money badly enough) I’d do pretty well. There is always money to be made selling things, and I am very confident i could do it. I really don’t want to go back to that world though. I enjoyed teaching photography, the best part of the sales job was teaching people how to get the results they wanted, and teaching English was a blast.

My general plan is to stay stateside through the spring and then go somewhere. I already have an application in at a place in Turkey. A friend of mine (who came to Yemen after reading my blog) is teaching there already. So far, it sounds like an ideal set-up. You get the CELTA training from them plus it’s possible to take grad courses there as well.

It’s also possible that I might go get the certification first. That’ll take several thousand dollars, so we’ll see how the finances stack up. Speaking of finances, I may have to go get a job. I’ll worry about that once I’m done with the current project I’m working on.

So that’s my basic plan. I’m going to try to enjoy this place while I’m here, and I’m going to attempt to see my family as much as I can as well. I’ve learned to appreciate some things while I was gone 🙂

Vacation?

I’ll be going down to the outer banks next week. Rick has rented out a big beach house and there will be a gaggle of people there. This includes 5 kids. To be fair only 3 of them are really running around, but that will probably be enough 🙂 Anyway, I plan on having my computer with me so hopefully I will keep up with the blogging and maybe even get some writing done…

I’m surprised

I was doing a little reading about the differences between the Orthodox churches and the Catholic ones here and I found something that really surprised me. They do not believe in the concept of original sin! They believe that all things are born innocent and without sin. That has some bearing on how they view Mary, but I think that it’s a bit of a minor thing (as a non-Catholic).

I have to say, I think that it’s rather refreshing to hear that there are Christians that believe that we are born without sin. Are there any other churches that believe that? The article also does a good job in communicating the different “feel” to the theologies. I’m not sure which one I find more compelling, but it’s nice to see it explained so well. I wish the Orthodox were better known here in the states, I think that it’s a church worth looking into.

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A Strange Dream

I dreamt that I had come out of something, school, work, something or other and there was a table advertising free pancakes sponsored by the Republican party. I’m no fan of republicans, but PANCAKES! So I wandered over there and sat myself down. There were three older ladies there, very prim and proper, and they looked at me rather circumspectly.

I knew what I was in for, but I waited until the food was there. And like good waiters, they waited until I started eating to start in on recruitment. I don’t remember exactly what was said (you know how dreams are) but they amounted to complaining about the moral decay of the nation (an argument I haven’t really heard in a couple of years thank God), the importance of protecting America’s interests abroad, and the general faith of electing the right people to carry out the right projects.

I couldn’t help myself, I had to point out that the Democrats had just as much faith in that last thing as the Republicans. I then asked them what Barry Goldwater would have thought of that. I had fun telling them that I would have voted for Goldwater (especially considering his opponent) but the Republicans hadn’t produced another guy worth electing since then.

The ladies didn’t have any idea on how to respond since the current republicans (minus Ron Paul) are much more like the democrats than their historic record. Seriously, can you think of too many differences between W. and LBJ? Expanding wars, rapidly growing government, and most of all, an abiding sense that the government can “fix” any problems that came up.

This is the real reason I can’t get excited about this election. Both parties sound almost alike to me in most things. It also amuses me when someone bitches about how so and so in office is ruining things by his policies. It never occurs to people that someone they don’t like will eventually be in office. It also never occurs to people that the only sure fire way to avoid political policies that they don’t like is to make sure that whoever is elected has precious few opportunities to enact policy. Smaller government with less power is the way to avoid corruption and to avoid power creep, especially with the party you don’t like in power.

With my little speech over, I woke up. And then I went and made pancakes…

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HDTV. Really?

Since I’ve come back and started watching TV again, I’ve been stunned with the hype surrounding HDTV. I actually watch one, and it’s nice. There’s no denying the better picture but honestly, after the first couple of times I saw an HDTV program, I didn’t notice it any more. This seems like a real technical advance, but I don’t think it does much to improve the experience.

One thing that really does improve things is the surround sound that usually comes with the HDTV channels. That’s something I learned way back when I was selling surround sound systems. Even with a so-so TV, the experience could be dramatic with a good sound system. I have fallen in love with concerts on channels like VH-1, with the right system, it is amazing…

So when the time comes for me to buy a TV (it’ll happen eventually) I’ll look for the best deal I can, but I won’t obsess over the picture quality. I will get a nice sound system though…

I’m reading a new book

It’s a little light reading entitled “The Logic of Political Survival.” I had heard of this work before and it intrigued me. In it, De Mesquita et. al. tries to explain how bad policy is often good politics and how good policy is actually bad politics.

He takes a rather cynical view of politics (something that I can identify with) but it works rather well for explaining things. It turns out that if you see governments as essentially collecting taxes and then distributing them, you can make sense of what most governments do most of the time. This applies to the worst autocracies and dictatorships as well as to the highest functioning democracies in the world. It’s nice to see a theory that applies to all types of governments.

I have never really read any political science work before, but I’m diving into the deep end. Bruce De Mesquita is actually a controversial figure in this realm. As far as I can tell, he has gained this notoriety by actually using mathematics to formalize his theories. Game theory is very well known to economists, but it has come very late to the political science realm. Deep down, I wonder if the people that oppose this approach resist because they can’t handle the math. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened…

This is one of two political science books that I have wanted to read for a while. I own the other but have never gotten the chance to read it. “The Calculus of Consent; Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy” by Tullock and Buchanan (Buchanan won the Nobel prize for it) started the entire field of political economy. In short, they had as their premise that politicians are motivated not by altruistic thoughts but by self interest. Their ability to accurately predict how government bodies act pretty much proved that their approach is sound. It turns out that politicians aren’t saviors, who knew?

I think that books like this should be mandatory reading, especially during an election year. I’ll report back with any amazing things I learn as I read…

Life in general…

If you didn’t know, I have a gig scanning negs for a woman that my father knows. It’s interesting, her father was a historian of the sailing ships on the Chesapeake Bay. The oldest negs I’ve come across so far have been from 1936. There’s some nice stuff. That’s a good thing because there are 2500+ of these things, so I’m glad I enjoy seeing them. Unfortunately I have been forbidden to share them, so you’ll just have to use your imagination…

I’m getting stronger, I can now walk the 1 1/2 miles around the house without too much difficulty and even do it again later on at night. That’s a big improvement. I’ll keep working on that and my general strength.

I’ll need it too, the week after next i will be going down to Nags Head for a week. There will be 5 (5! What am I nuts?) kids there from the ages of 1 to 7 I think. It should be… interesting. Wish me luck…

Until then, I’ll just keep scanning away. There will be boats in my dreams pretty soon..

The Drinking age

A recent article in the Baltimore Sun (here) talks about how a bunch of university presidents want to lower the drinking age back down to 18. They have a handful of reasons. Binge drinking is a problem, but so are the activities that students do to avoid being caught on campus. Students go off campus to drink, and that is going to involve driving… One over-riding concern is that since drinking below the age of 21 is illegal, the college’s hands are pretty much tied when it comes to education. They can’t be real aggressive in outreach because it will look like they are encouraging under age drinking.

To me, this is the biggest problem with not only alcohol, but all drugs. Kids do all of them, but to come out and talk to them about it often makes some parents upset. There is an eerie parallel with birth control here… One thing that I did not know is that there is no national drinking age. Congress cleverly attached an “incintive” to the transportation bill. The states don’t “have to” have a drinking age of 21, but if they don’t they lose 10 percent of the money…

Anyway, I’m not sure that lowering the drinking age is a good thing or not. Certainly, there are, like all laws, unintended consequences that come along with this law. It would be a good idea to look into options, including lowering the drinking age. A big problem is that it is political suicide to even bring that up in many places. So we’re not likely to ever know if lowering the drinking age could alleviate the problems or not…

New blog!

OK, I’ve finally gotten a new, general blog. Since I’m not in Yemen anymore, I figured I needed a new one. Things will go on as usual, but I’ll put the music in the music blog instead of the general one. If something Yemen, middle east, Arab, or Islam related comes up, I’ll put it into the Blogging in Yemen blog. Enjoy!