Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Soccer Sucks

Them's Fightin' Words...

I tried, I really did. I lasted exactly 12 minutes on one game and about 7 on another. Bottom line: soccer sucks bigtime! I know I am an ugly American who just can't understand the subtle nuances of the "World's Game", but I'm sorry, soccer sucks.

I about puked after receiving the latest issue of National Geographic and it's gushing series of articles over the celebration that is soccer, but, frankly, it still sucks.

Years ago when my son was small I had him join soccer and hoped I would learn to appreciate the game. No, it sucked. In fact, that's probably the absolute worst introduction to the game. Watching 16 kids chase a ball around like a brood of ducklings following it's mother was as brutal to watch as it sounds.

What is the deal with not being able to use your hands? God gave us 4 limbs, not two. In America's favorite sports we are allowed and encouraged to use all of our of our God-given limbs. I'm am sure it takes great skill to be a top soccer player, but how would I know great talent if I saw it? Watch grown men run, kick ball, bounce ball off head and after that - run, kick ball, bounce ball off head. Dazzling demonstration of skill, no?

And what is with that goal? Personally I couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with a soccer ball, but these "skilled" players often go 90 minutes and never get the ball in the goal which is as big as... THE BROAD SIDE OF A BARN!

Needless to say soccer sucks. Give me NFL, College Hockey and Major League Baseball in that order any single day over World Cup Soccer.

Oh, did I mention that soccer sucks?


Monday, June 19, 2006

The Ultimate Insurance Policy

There is almost nothing I hate forking over my hard earned cash for than insurance premiums. It seems like such a racket, and it is. Insurance companies make piles and piles of cash. Even after devastating natural disasters when their outlays are messured in the billions of dollars they find a way of shoveling more money on those aforementioned piles. In fact, man-made disasters like the stock market crash of 2000-01 didn't slow them down a bit - they simply raised everyone's premiums to cover their poor investment decisions.

However, when there is an auto accident or hail destroys the roof of your house it is the insurance company that gets us over the hump. Rarely (ha, never) do I a couple thousand dollars laying around to cover the cost of a new quarter panel for the Lincoln Town Car I just rammed.

Insurance as a concept is brilliant, actually. By spreading out the costs over multitudes of payers the economic impact on any one individual claimant does not have to be personally or systemically devastating. But what about society as a whole? We live in an era in which we are so dependent on this societal machine to deliver our food, water and energy that any major disruption could be potentially disasterous.

The doomers in our midst (most hard core leftists) play the chicken little card so often that most of us just tune them out. We have good reason to dimiss them with a rolling of the eyes and a pat on their pathetic little heads while cooing a soft "there, there". They are almost always wrong. Why, just in the last few years we have seen massive disasters that have barely registered a blip on the day to day lives of those not directly involved. Sure the attacks of 9/11 have had wide ranging impacts on our country and the greater Middle East where the perpetrators originated from, but the daily routines of 99% of us has not been affected. Hurricane Katrina, the earthquakes in Iran, and Pakistan, the tsunami of '04, droughts and floods worldwide, the effects of the oil price shocks have not devastated the daily routines of most of the inhabitants of this planet. The doomers were wrong about the population bomb and mass starvation. They were wrong about Saddam Hussein's "nuclear winter" when he set fire to the Kuwaiti oil fields. They are proving to be wrong about George W. Bush as the anti-christ and they will be proven wrong on the disasterous effects of global warming.

What if, God forbid, a comet lands a direct hit on Earth, or a rouge state successfully detonates an EMP producing nuclear weapon (read Birdblog's essay on EMP) over North America or Europe? Unlike Katrina or 9/11 affecting the Gulf Coast or NewYork City these disasters would affect nearly everyone. Disruptions in food and water production and delivery would be felt almost immediately. If it happened to be winter in the northern hemisphere we would be unable to heat our homes. Needless to say our society would most likely crumble in the short term. In the case of a space born disaster like the comet strike the whole world would be plunged into chaos.

I am convinced that humanity would survive because unlike the dinosaurs and the millions of other species that have come and gone on this miraculous planet we have the ability to devise a concept as brilliant as insurance.

We have a written history and millions of librarys, museums and archives that would allow mankind to pick up the pieces and begin to rebuild the world. Thanks to some very forward thinking people there will be a resopsitory of seeds stashed in a very safe place so food production could resume.

I read with great interest an article in the Washington Post last week about the ultimate insurance policy: on the barren Norwegian outpost of Svalbard, the prime ministers of five nations and a small throng of other officials will lay the cornerstone for what will be, in effect, the Fort Knox of seeds.

While I have never heard of a Seed Bank before apparently some forward thinking people have. The concept is not new as I learned there are large national seed banks in many nations including the United States and China. This new facility will be for the benefit of all mankind. Currently 200 nations are on board, the US Senate has yet to ratify the treaty the Bush Adminstration signed, and the facility is slated to be running by 2007.

Perhaps the world should also consider building a facility up on the top of the world to house the equilvalent of the "world's Library of Congress" as well. Face it, what good are all those seeds if you don't know how to build a tractor and a plow???


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ya Sure Sweden, da Greatest Society

Socialism's shining star has lost some of it's sheen...

Many high school students head out into the world, college bound or not, convinced by their social studies teachers that Sweden is greatest society on Earth. Sweden is the model all socialists point to as the ultimate example of societal bliss. After being fed a steady diet of how bad America is with its history of slavery and its decimation of the native peoples of this continent Sweden in comparison looks pretty darn good.

But all is not well in the land of the midnight sun. Sweden the Model is showing signs of its age and the wear and tear of global economy that is stuck in high gear. Sweden is suffering the same malaise as the rest of Europe. The cost of cradle to grave socialism is wearing heavily on a country that is not economically dynamic in the least. The fact that 50% of the nations GDP is spent by the government just might have something to do with it...

Johan Norberg is a Swedish writer and an author of several books, including In Defense of Global Capitalism (2003). He has written a piece for the the's website that delves into the reality of the world's greatest socialist success story and I'm here to tell you it's not pretty - anymore.

What I find so interesting is how Sweden's social success was predicated on the exact attributes that American conservatives claim to be the real strength of the American model. These attributes being self-reliance, self-discipline, high productivity and efficiency. Sweden also kept its taxing mits off the businesses and instead taxed the worker to whom the social benefits were distributed.

The homogenus, hard working population, low immigration and steady as she goes big industry made it possible for Sweden to maintain a generous welfare system. That is changing in this rapidly transforming globalized world. In contrast America has a huge immigration influx every year. A population more diverse than anywhere else on the planet. We have an economy that is not in steady state and, in fact, transforms itself every 20 to 30 years. Yet we still maintain a social benefit system that spends trillions of largely unproductive dollars.

So, I guess what I am saying is that comparing Sweden to America is comparing bluberries to watermelons.

Johan Norberg doesn't make too many comparisons in his article, he merely explains what went right and what is now going wrong with the once famed Swedish Model. Here are a few instructive quotes from the article:

"After the recession of the 90's... Sweden retained the world's highest taxes, generous social security systems and a heavily regulated labor market, which split the economy: Sweden is very good at producing goods, but not at producing jobs."

"Sweden's true unemployment rate is still 12 percent... Moreover, the unemployment rate says nothing about another hidden labor problem: rampant absenteeism. Swedes are healthier than almost any other people in the world, but they are also out sick more often than any other people"

"Since the early 1980s, Sweden has received a large number of refugees from the Balkans, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, which has ended the country's homogeneity. Today, about one-seventh of the working-age population is foreign born, but no where near that proportion is actually employed."

"The Swedish model has survived for decades, but the truth is that its success was built on the legacy of an earlier model: the period of economic growth and development preceding the adoption of the socialist system."

"The real worry is that Sweden and other welfare states have reached a point where it is impossible to convince majorities to change the system, despite the dismal results. Obviously, if you are dependent on the government, you are hesitant to reduce its size and cost."

And finally:

"Radical reform seems far off. On the other hand, just like the step-by-step construction of the welfare state that slowly but steadily reduced the willingness to work and the sense self-reliance, incremental reforms to expand freedom of choice and reduce the incentives to live off fellow-citizens might rejuvenate these fundamental values and increase the appetite for reform."

If Sweden, the world's most successful socialist state is falling apart then why is there still such a yearning for it in the lefist heart in America. My guess is that the hatred (read jealously) of capitalism is far stronger than such an obviously failed ideology.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Oh The Possibilities... Welcome Al Fin!

You may have noticed that unlike many bloggers I have a relatively small... ...blogroll (what were you thinking???). A blogroll is that section on the left side of this screen labled "Recommended Sites". Since having a limited capacity to absorb information and less RAM and processing power than the average fruit fly I have kept my blogroll small because I actually read them all on a regular basis.

I recently stumbled across a new site that really impressed me. Al Fin's blog is extensive, intricate and inspiring. Now there's three adjectives you don't see together very often. He delves into many aspects of science and technology and it's relation to the human condition in ways I have never considered. In fact, he maintains an impressive blogroll of his own that will find you bumming all over the Internet in search of ideas and concepts you weren't even aware existed ten minutes before.

To be honest after clicking around on his site and sampling some of the links he provides I remembered the excitement I felt back in 1996 when I first discovered the Internet. I haven't had that feeling in a long time. After ten years the Internet has lost some of it sheen. It is a much a tool as it is a toy nowadays. Sites like Al Fin's spark the imagination and usher in a sense of optimism that mankind has not seen its best days, not by a long shot.

I know it seems hard to accept but the world is not going to hell in a handbasket - and things are getting better all the time. It may not seem that way, but it's true.

Please take a stroll over to Al Fin and get inspired!


Iraq is a Mess! Oh Really?

Fast on the heals of President Bushs' trip to Baghdad his distractors are calling it a stunt and asking why all the secrecy? If Iraq is going so well why has Bush, Rumsfeld and Rice all had to sneak in under a veil of secrecy? Well, my cynical friends, here's your answer: IT'S A FREAKING WAR ZONE!

Since the death of Zarqawi and the naming of the final to ministers in Iraq's new government there has been a lot to feel good about regarding the future of Iraq. Still the political left and their friends in the media continue unabated with their litany day after day of the mess George Bush has created. The conservatives and supporters of the President and his "vision" of a transformed Middle East are on the other side decrying the lack of balanced coverage.

Day after day CNN and ABC and the like show images of the burned remains of vehicles still smoking from the latest suicide attack, followed by video of distraught women and angry-looking men carrying coffins through the streets; and the sullen faces of coorespondents predicting civil war. Yet, in Basra in the south and the Kurdish areas in the north life is so much better than it has been since the 70's that the place is hardly recognizable.

It seems in their never ending zeal to denegrate Bush the media and the leftist cabal behind it cannot or will not fathom that the War on Terror and the Iraq war are historically significant - I'm talking about long history - a hundred years or more... The Islamic jihad has been waged against Western Civilization for decades and the powers that be treated it as if it were a pesky fly. It is obviously much more than that. President Bush, faced with a new reality after 9/11, recognizes that we have to deal with it harshly from a offensive perspective and Iraq is the keystone. Success hinges on Iraq. Ironically to save civilization it all goes back to where it all began - at the junction of the Tigris and Euphrates.

Writer and editor Amir Taheri, well known to readers in Iran, Europe and New York, sees it differently than the American and European mainstream media. His extensive knowledge of Iraq and it's tumultuous history helps put into focus just how much better life is and how much greater the future will be if Iraq is allowed to succeed along the path President Bush and the coalition has cleared for them.

I will highlight just a few excellent points from Mr. Taheri's recent article on's website. Here he is pointing to the evidence that the future in Iraq holds a promise that shows no bounds:

Since my first encounter with Iraq almost 40 years ago, I have relied on several broad measures of social and economic health to assess the country’s condition. Through good times and bad, these signs have proved remarkably accurate—as accurate, that is, as is possible in human affairs. For some time now, all have been pointing in an unequivocally positive direction.

The first sign is refugees. When things have been truly desperate in Iraq—in 1959, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1980, 1988, and 1990—long queues of Iraqis have formed at the Turkish and Iranian frontiers, hoping to escape....

...after the fall of Saddam... To the contrary, Iraqis, far from fleeing, have been returning home. By the end of 2005, in the most conservative estimate, the number of returnees topped the 1.2-million mark.

A second dependable sign likewise concerns human movement, but of a different kind. Pilgrimages...From 1991 (when Saddam Hussein massacred Shiites involved in a revolt against him) to 2003, there were scarcely any pilgrims... In 2005, the holy sites received an estimated 12 million pilgrims, making them the most visited spots in the entire Muslim world, ahead of both Mecca and Medina.

A third sign, this one of the hard economic variety, is the value of the Iraqi dinar, especially as compared with the region’s other major currencies. In the final years of Saddam Hussein’s rule, the Iraqi dinar was in free fall; after 1995, it was no longer even traded in Iran and Kuwait. By contrast, the new dinar, introduced early in 2004, is doing well against both the Kuwaitidinar and the Iranian rial, having risen by 17 percent against the former and by 23 percent against the latter.

My fourth time-tested sign is the level of activity by small and medium-sized businesses. In the past, whenever things have gone downhill in Iraq, large numbers of such enterprises have simply closed down, with the country’s most capable entrepreneurs decamping to Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf states, Turkey, Iran, and even Europe and North America. Since liberation, however, Iraq has witnessed a private-sector boom, especially among small and medium-sized businesses...

...according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, as well as numerous private studies, the Iraqi economy has been doing better than any other in the region. The country’s gross domestic product rose to almost $90 billion in 2004.

Taheri goes on to point out that Iraq actually did have a democratic tradition prior to the take over of a pro-Soviet regime in 1958. It may not have been a democracy in the tradition of America or England but to say democracy simply won't work in the arab world is defeatist and cynical.

But cynicism and mockery are the two greatest tools the leftists have. They use them whenever their arguments don't stand up (which is most of the time). They use them against religion, tradition, truth, beauty, America, apple pie and Chevrolet. Just watch a show called Comedy Central's Daily Show sometime for a regular dose of cynicism and mockery. Their favorite topic is George Bushs' war on Iraq. Don't expect to hear any good news there - about anything.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

"What College Is She Going To?"

Is College for Everyone?

It's graduation season. I just love this time of year- warm weather, long days and graduation parties - what's not to like. Graduation open houses give us a chance to see friends and family in a non-stressful setting (as opposed to funerals and weddings) and catch up with eachother. The children are growing up and your old friends growing older. Yet we older folks must keep the temptation to say "back in my day" at bay - and for God's sake we mustn't prattle on about our afflictions and the "procedures" we've had to endure. This day is all about the young and all about the future.

Inevitably someone is going to ask about your daughter who is now 20 and graduated 2 years ago.

"So, what college is she going to?"

"Well, actually, um, well, she is, um - she's not in college."

Suddenly, it is if you just said "my broker is EF Hutton, and EF Hutton says"...

There are audible gasps and you can see the eyebrows raise out of your peripheral vision. It's simply scandalous. Unheard of. It's just not right!

Is college for everyone? It seems to me growing up in a lower middle class household in the 60's and 70's that college was not necessarliy part of the evolutionary path toward a successful adulthood. Though even then we knew that succeeding college nearly always led to a nice, financially comfortable life. But the fact was that it was not affordably within everyone's reach way back then. It still isn't - in fact, it's ridiculously expensive.

Yet in today's world it is as if you are somehow less of a parent if your child is not in college at the comencement of the next graduation season. For two years now I have had to explain and defend my daughter (it's not that anyone is nasty about it, just shocked and a little disbelieving).

The bottom line is that a high school diploma is not going to be enough for real financial security. There is a need to learn a trade, develop a skill or earn a degree. However, college - a four year college - with it's big tradition and big price tag is not for everyone. Some sort of post high school education is a must.

When I look at myself and my 6 siblings (now all over 40 years old) it's no fluke that every one of us went to some sort of school or institute to get were we are today. Considering that only two went to college after high school it illustrates how important it is to get a formal post secondary education in a viable field. The really neat thing is that everyone of us is very successful at what we do. We may not all be rolling in the dough but none of us has to hang our heads either. Not a slouch among us.

That being said, believe me, I have been counciling my daughter along those very lines. She does understand that simply having a high school diploma is not sufficient. She does understand that going to school when she is young and still living at home is far easier than what me and most of my siblings did. I have urged her to consider pursuing a junior college for two years to see if it is for her before committing to a university. We have set aside "some" money for her and it will be there when she does decide what she wants to do.

But it is ultimately her life, and if she does it the hard way like I did is she wrong? Who is to say? Is it possible that there are kids in college right now because of their parents expectations? Possible? Probable. The trauma of high school for some kids must wear off before they dive head first into college. Face it, some kids are just late bloomers.