Sunday, September 30, 2007

$5000 for every girl and boy!

"The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money."

- Alexis De Tocqueville

HT BikeBubba for the quote

Power to the Consumer

If we want to fix our health care system, first we need to remove the barriers between consumers and their insurance. Second, their providers.

In small companies with newly-installed HSA's, even when the employer funds the deductible, I have already seen and heard of employees communicating with each other regarding costs and quality of service among health care providers. "These guys do that cheaper" or "this office actually starts your appointment on time so you can get back to work on time" etc.

It's amazing what a little free-market magic can accomplish.

Bob Braschler's search for cataract surgery was a real eye-opener. The Mayo Clinic wanted to charge him more than $20,000 for both eyes. Fairview Red Wing Medical Center quoted $18,000. Braschler finally settled on Minnesota Eye Consultants, which charged $10,000.

The baker from Red Wing, Minn., is just one example of how patients are shopping for medical care as they grapple with higher deductibles and co-insurance. A small but growing number of patients are calling multiple places to check prices before deciding where to go, something unheard of just a few years ago.

Hospitals are reacting in various ways. Most are adding staff to answer questions. They're trying to simplify pricing to make it less confusing. Some are even starting to drop prices to stay competitive.
It's no consumer revolution, but it may be the start of one.

Park Nicollet Health Services cut prices across the board by 10 to 15 percent in the past four years, bringing them closer to the discounted rates insurers actually pay, Chief Financial Officer David Cooke said.

Similarly, Children's has reduced prices for MRI and CT scans by 10 to 30 percent after patients called to complain that they were finding lower prices elsewhere.

In addition, hospitals are looking for ways to untangle their Byzantine pricing, which is designed to make sense to insurers and not to patients.

Children's says that it plans to start charging a flat fee for common procedures such as tonsillectomies, instead of charging for time spent in the operating room.

The Twin Cities' biggest hospital group, Allina Hospitals and Clinics, is talking about bundling care for chronic conditions. For example, the hospital might offer one price for a year's worth of diabetic care.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Greed is still Good

According to Fortune magazine, a sequel to the cult classic Wall Street is being written as we speak and it will star one of my all-time favorite actors Michael Douglas, which is good because without Douglas - don't bother.

Well, the wait is over. A sequel is in the works - with Douglas to star - and there have already been two different story lines developed for the film, tentatively called 'Money Never Sleeps.' And each speaks to how finance has changed since the original's release.

No mention of father and son Sheen, but Oliver Stone has opted out.

Stone, whose father's brokerage firm inspired the original, was involved in the sequel at first but pulled out to pursue other projects. In a script Stone conceived with the film's original screenwriter, Stanley Weiser, Gekko gets out of jail, sets up a hedge fund in China, and tries to reunite with his son. (For readers who never wore red suspenders, in the original, Gekko attempts a takeover of Bluestar Airline before being charged with insider trading.)

The current screenplay that is in development with 20th Century Fox is being written by former New Yorker scribe Stephen Schiff and is still a work in progress.

But Schiff says that he and producer Ed Pressman have met with moguls in London, sheikhs in Dubai, and hedge funders in New York to give the aging Gekko global flair.

The film at its debut, twenty years ago this coming December, opened to a lukewarm audience as moviegoers with a bent towards the financial world were still smarting from the October 1987 crash.

Similarly, the producers of the sequel are watching the markets currently to make sure not to make the same mistake twice.

Schiff is also waiting to see how the current unease in the stock market plays out. This is more than a plot point: Market jitters were faulted for the mediocre debut of the original. Released in the wake of the 1987 stock market crash, it grossed just $40 million as tales of corrupt financiers suddenly seemed passé. "I don't want to date the film," says Schiff of Gekko's new role. "With what's going on right now, the question is, Where will the unassailable money end up? It might not be hedge funds."

Interested in Wall Street movies? Also see Other People's Money with Danny DeVito.

And now for your viewing pleasure...


What's wrong with this picture?

Volkswagen Subscribes to Carbon Offset Scam

Carbon offset firms are popping up everywhere ready to take your money and cash in on the man-made global warming swindle. Now VW aims to offset your guilt with their own version.

VW gives up on used-car sales guy tactics like undercoating and gold packages in favor of Carbon Offsets!

Funds collected will be "put-toward re-forestation the lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley as a chosen means of carbon neutralization, aka the VW forest."

Global Warming hysteria is fast becoming big business. And an even bigger scam.

In some cases, people paying for carbon offsets to curb global warming might be buying good feelings and little else.

With a click, a credit card and $99, visitors can pay a Silver Spring, Md., nonprofit group,, to "offset" a year's worth of greenhouse-gas emissions. Whatever the customer put in to the atmosphere — by flying, driving, using electricity — the site promises to cancel out, by funding projects that reduce pollutants.

Sites such as this one, offering absolution from climate guilt, have created a $55 million industry that once would have been beyond the greenest of imaginations.

A detailed look reveals an unregulated market where some improvements bought by customers are only estimated, extrapolated, hoped-for or nil. Some offsets support projects that would have gone forward anyway. Others deliver results difficult to measure., for example, has advertised offsets that finance wind farms and tree-planting projects. But some wind farms said the donations haven't led to anything new. And the benefits from some tree projects were unclear enough that no longer uses them to back offsets.

...the Federal Trade Commission said it would look into whether consumers are being adequately protected.

For individual consumers, an offset can be a tempting alternative to a lifestyle makeover. People concerned about climate change could sell their cars and cover their roofs with solar panels. Or, on an offset site, they could become "carbon neutral" with a click.

Or so they think.

But scientists and researchers have begun to warn consumers that it's not that simple.

The Sierra Club advises simply avoiding offsets, unless you already have remade your life to be climate-friendly.

"We would recommend that, instead of taking that $100 and buying a carbon offset, that you" invest in something such as energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs, spokesman Joshua Dorner said.

Eric Clapton - Change The World (Live)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Hillary is the Tooth Fairy!

If you were thinking Hillary isn't a Liberal, fiscally at least, this will remove all doubt. Hillary wants to be the tooth fairy!

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that every child born in the United States should get a $5,000 "baby bond" from the government to help pay for future costs of college or buying a home.

Clinton, her party's front-runner in the 2008 race, made the suggestion during a forum hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus.

"I like the idea of giving every baby born in America a $5,000 account that will grow over time, so that when that young person turns 18 if they have finished high school they will be able to access it to go to college or maybe they will be able to make that down payment on their first home," she said.

I like the idea too. It would be neato! Gimme free money! "Hey kids, you don't have to work! Just vote for Democrats and you can just sit around and wait for your check!"

In fact...screw you Hillary!

Only $5000?!! You can't do anything with $5000! Make it $500,000! Why not? What's the difference?

Instead of giving our kids a small start on a home or an education, why not just give our kids enough for everything they will ever need? Make it $5,000,000!

We'll call it "no child left denied!" Now everyone can be rich and will never have to work! Just one requirement of them: they will all be required to vote Democrat. Only we will call it The Party at that point.

"Smmmmmackkkk!" Wow. Thanks for the slap on the face. I needed that!

...but since our government doesn't have 20 Billion Dollars a year (4 Million babies at $5K per) laying around, I think we should pass.

Where do these people think this money is coming from?

Many people, even with grown kids, or who didn't ever have children are happy to pay property taxes that go largely to pay for schools in their community because good schools means good property values.

Will people whose kids are grown (and missed out on this bounty), or don't choose to have kids find value in this?

Should our government be the tooth fairy? Leaving $5000 under the pillow of every girl and boy? Should our kids start out life on welfare? Does Hillary actually think we can just print more money?

Hybrid Tahoe

Finally! For months and months we've been hearing that the upcoming two-mode hybrid SUVs from General Motors will have better fuel economy by this or that percent. Today we learned from Automotive News exactly how much better they'll be. The 2WD version of the Tahoe and Yukon Hybrids will achieve 21 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway, while the 4WD version will get 20 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. For comparison's sake, the 2008 Chevy Tahoe 2WD gets 14 mpg city and 20 mpg highway from its 5.3L V8.

So let's say you drive all city miles, and are about average, 12,000 miles per year. If gas stays at $3 per gallon, You'd save $3,855 in gas over the five years you are likely to own one of these.

Stay tuned for how much of a premium GM is going to exact for the Hybrid version.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Is a Hillary Presidency really a Hill-Billy Presidency? (II)

From on oft source of insight, financial intelligence and good friend John H:

"We are well aware that some things presented in the press are opposite of truth:

Decades of war in Ireland is billed as Protestant vs Catholic, when it has been over land.

Decades of disagreement in the middle east is presented as the Palestinians laying claim to their supposed land, but was really a cold war against Jews and a distraction tool used by Arab governments over their economically impoverished people.

Maybe Hillary for President is just a conspiracy to have Bill, et. al. run the country. Sure we all think Hillary is smarter than Bill and we joke about it – I believe that’s a popular delusion.

Look at all Bill has accomplished and his resume compared to H.

I know our popular misconception is that “she is so much smarter”….But, no comparison in terms of achievements (whether you like Bill or not) is there?

Therefore, has H been a poster child for focus and an instrument of higher brighter powers that be? (All Feminists: Throw your tomatoes at me NOW.)

H is a great question answerer and speaker no doubt, but are all her policies /answers really her ideas?

Bill can't “run” again for President due to the rules.But wouldn’t you agree that today Bill is “liked” by enough people, and smart enough, and a great great orator, that Bill could win the election?

So H shall be the Queen, a figurehead ? And that gets Bill (the Prime Minister) in the White House.

I just think Bill is far more capable, and the entire Clinton machine is raring to go, would this just be a continuation of Bill’s reign from behind the scenes?

If Hillary does win the nomination (and not Edwards, who is actually the smartest of the democrats),

I urge us to consider this, just like I urged people to consider $75 oil when oil was $35.

But I have been wrong before."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Career Putz: Dingell

The Man-Made Global Warming movement is not about environmentalism. It is yet another excuse to raise taxes and wrest more control from the people in favor of the government.

Global Warming has NOT been proven to be caused by human activity and yet a 52-Year career politician, John Dingellberry, is proposing a 50-cent gasoline tax, and a "carbon" tax.

Get a job you putz!

I swear liberals have no other tools in their bags than taxes. Is it just me, or is even the title of this article infuriating?
I think I'm going to read Term Limits again. So satisfying...

WASHINGTON -- Dealing with global warming will be painful, says one of the most powerful Democrats in Congress. To back up his claim he is proposing a recipe many people won't like _ a 50-cent gasoline tax, a carbon tax and scaling back tax breaks for some home owners.
"I'm trying to have everybody understand that this is going to cost and that it's going to have a measure of pain that you're not going to like,"
Rep. John Dingell, who is marking his 52nd year in Congress, said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Mamas and the Papas - I Saw Her Again


That's a thirteen with twelve zeros behind it.

Social Security in $13.6 trillion hole

Social Security is rolling toward a $13.6 trillion shortfall, and the best solutions to close the deficit are higher taxes or reduced benefits, according to a paper from the Department of Treasury.

Projections in the report show that the Social Security trust fund balance will hit its peak in 2009 at a level of $99 billion and then cash flows will become negative after 2017. If no program changes are made, then all beneficiaries will have their benefits cut back by 25% in 2041.

However, a payroll tax hike of 3.5%, which would affect all current and future workers, would help close Social Security’s permanent financing gap. This tax increase would have to go up to 5.8% if it’s delayed until 2041.

Additionally, all retirees’ benefits would have to be cut by 20.4% in 2007 in order to keep Social Security permanently solvent.

Word to the wise: See the quote to the upper right by Curtis Carlson. Emphasis on "save as much as you can."

Sunday, September 23, 2007

After Innocence

After Innocence is a documentary that follows the lives of seven men who were freed from prison once exculpatory evidence was found or in once case the true perpetrator’s confession. In most cases, DNA evidence pulled from storage coupled with recent technological advancements were applied to exonerate the men.

Now free, these men thought life would get easier but many are finding it is not. Their records, after many years have still not been cleared, or if the option is available, it is economically impossible to pursue, and they have received nothing in the way of compensation for their wrongful imprisonment.

“I am one of the strongest human beings ever created. I know that now. And I say that without an ounce of ego because I paid for it.” This was Nick Yarris:

23 Years Wrongfully Imprisoned

In 1981, after one of the shortest murder trials in Pennsylvania history, Nicholas Yarris of west Philadelphia was sent to death row for the kidnapping, rape and murder of a Boothwyn, PA. resident. Nick spent 23 years on death row in solitary confinement and was the first death row inmate in Pennsylvania exonerated with the use of DNA testing. ON January 16th, 2004 Nick was released from prison and now speaks out around the world as an advocate against the death penalty. Nick is married to Karen Karbitz. They live in London and are expecting their first child.

It is also the story of the lawyers, working pro bono to free these men and who found as much reward having fought for their clients as their clients and their families experience having been freed.

The film introduces us to two attorneys that founded the Innocence Project which at the time of filming had freed 150 people through the use of DNA analysis. Great progress but also great frustration as DNA evidence isn’t available for many. There may be tens of thousands of people that are wrongfully imprisoned and will remain so.

Even when the liberating DNA evidence is found, it can still take convicts years to bring their case to court. In at least one case, the family members were more devastated, and their life and health more negatively impacted than the exonerees. In another, parents of one wrongfully convicted man spent over 150 thousand dollars, their entire retirement, to free their son.

There was even one case of an emotional reunion between a rape victim and the wrongfully convicted and exonerated man, who had served eleven years. The victim came to him seeking forgiveness and they became close friends.

While most of the exonerees were young and lacked significant financial resources at the time of their conviction, there wasn’t a preponderance of any one race - one was a police officer, another the son of a State Trooper.

It is also the story of how a group of these exonerees have with some success made it their mission to enact legislation to prevent wrongful convictions in the future and when they do occur, to allow for compensation and expungement of their records.

No matter how one may feel about capital punishment or our prison system, we can all agree that no one wants our system to imprison and consume resources incarcerating the innocent. It is a story of how our system has evolved from one of a presumption of innocence to a presumption of guilt – at least for some. After Innocence, a moving and thoughtfully produced film, won two awards at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.

In the words of one exoneree, Scott Hornoff, a police officer held mistakenly for six and a half years, “I still feel like everybody needs to hear about wrongful imprisonment because everybody is a potential juror.”

And everybody is a potential victim.

guerrieri della zanzara

I was biking to Excelsior yesterday on the trail and came across this Mosquito control helo gearing up for its dangerous mission above suburban lakes and streams.

There goes the neighborhood...

...our next door neighbor caught these guys sneaking around our back yard early the other morning.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Al Gore refuses to debate...

...but continues to eat!

Chief at Freedom Dogs has Al Gore pegged:

For some time now, Al Gore has declined the simple offer to debate with Dennis Avery. And this is about an issue that he contends is rock solid in his favor—"The debate is over."

Sounds like a slam dunk to me Al, all you have to do is show up once, make a fool of poor Dennis and hey then you've not only won the support of the academic left, but maybe some of the increasing number of scientists who oppose your beliefs.

Read more here at Freedom Dogs.

The Family Man

Nicholas Cage and Téa Leoni have great chemistry in a romantic comedy that inadvertently becomes a "message movie." Cage plays Jack Campbell who parlayed a one-year internship at Barclays in London into a smashing career as President of a prominent M&A firm. He has a Ferrari, a closet to die for, women fawning over him and a work ethic that excludes all else.

Just one thing. He had a love pact with his girlfriend Kate Reynolds, to return to her after the internship so as to resume their life together. Thirteen years later, Jack has his narcissistic self-centered lifestyle and Kate has mended her broken heart and moved on to manage a law office and is soon to move to Paris.

It's Christmas eve. Jack sticks his nose into an armed convenience store robbery to find the perpetrator is an angel of sorts, well played by Don Cheadle sent to give Jack "a glimpse" into what his life would have been had he come back to Kate.

He wakes up the next morning ala Groundhog Day in that very life to the sound of his two children, a big drooling retriever, and his beautiful but discheveled wife Kate next to him.

The Ferrari is now a minivan. (Which might lead the viewer to believe it's a horror film!) His two-thousand dollar suits are now felt plaid shirts and sweatpants. For fun he once ran with the bulls in Pamplona. Now? He bowls in a league with his best friend and everyman neighbor, played by one of my favorite supporting actors, Jeremy Piven. His penthouse is now a modest suburban home in New Jersey. His job? He sells tires at his father-in-law's store; Big Ed's. Retail.

This is a great story and may be Nicholas Cage's best comedic role. Téa Leoni is excellent as well. We have watched this film, a sort of Meet Joe Black meets Groundhog Day three times now and it is definitely one of our favorites.

Interesting trivia: Nicholas Cage at one point owned the actual Ferrari 550 Maranello, that appeared in the film.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Rasmussen Poll on Universal Healthcare

50% Favor Government Guaranteed Health Care Coverage.

See that's one weakness of democracy. As soon as the people discover that they can vote themselves money, democracies slide ever further into socialism. And you know what happens after that.


Remember the USSR?

However, there is hope: A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey also found that a plurality (43%) believe such a program would be better run by private companies than by the government.


Seventy-seven percent (77%) of liberal voters say that major changes are needed. Only 39% of liberals believe that Clinton is proposing major changes.

So, liberals think Hillary isn't liberal enough.

Other political challenges abound, especially among small businesses—60% of small business owners believe that a government mandate to provide healthcare coverage to employees would have a negative impact on their business and 57% favor taxing wealthier Americans to provide coverage for those without insurance.

Yep, it's always easier to spend someone else's money.

Sixty-nine percent (69%) of Democrats favor government guaranteed universal health care. That view is shared by 29% of Republicans and 48% of those not affiliated with either major party.

Democrats, by a 53% to 25% margin, believe such a program would be better run by the government.

Better than what? I just can't imagine why anyone could believe that! Give me one example of where that has worked before. Certainly our current system needs an overhaul but why do liberals always think the government is the only solution?

A question for anyone under 50 years of age: How would you like to be as confident about your health care as you are about receiving a Social Security retirement check some day?

Republicans (59% to 25%) and unaffiliated voters (49% to 27%) take the opposite view and believe the program would be better run by private companies.

...that's because Republicans for the most part are the employers, and Democrats are the employees. Remember this when you cash their next paycheck.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Audi's answer to the Mini Cooper

Based on the VW Golf/Rabbit/Audi TT platform, the 2010 Audi A1 "supermini coupe" will reportedly debut as a 2010 model. As gas prices continue rising, no doubt this segment will find more and more buyers in the US.

While this concept is probably not a good idea, as it will likely cannibalize sales from Audi's owner, Volkswagen, its hard to deny the merits of this unique and striking design.

This begs the question: why make this an Audi and not a VW? It should probably be a VW, not an Audi. No doubt it is an Audi to compete with with BMW's upcoming 1-Series and Mini Cooper.

But it won't compete with the 1-Series. Word is, due to its price point target, the A1 will likely be a front-driver and will not be offered with Audi's Quattro or the less expensive Volkswagen Synchro system.

All Audi's should offer Quattro as an option, especially if Audi expects this unit to compete with the 1-Series, whose rear-wheel drive will offer inherently better handling than any front-wheel drive Audi. Without Quattro, this model will dilute the brand.

Has Audi out-Mini'd the Mini?

That's probably a better question, as the Mini is also a front-driver. Time will tell.

More pictures here.

"She did what? Is she stupid?"

Legislation introduced by Sen. Klobuchar aims to end high termination fees and unexpected dead zones. Critics say it is overregulation.

As if having four carriers in town, T-Mobile, ATT, Sprint/Nextel, Verizon as well as resellers like Virgin, isn't enough competition to drive fees and coverage down and up respectively, Amy Klobuchar, assuming all more-pressing issues have been solved, is sticking her ignorant nose into the wireless business. It's not like we have an evil monopoly going here.

Why are there termination fees? Because if you haven't noticed, Amy, a cellular phone, even a very basic one, has an acquisition cost of a couple hundred dollars to the carrier. There is no free lunch and there is no "free" phone.

The carriers subsidize the handset in exchange for a one or two-year contract. Correct me if I am wrong, but I am pretty sure everybody knows this.

That is how carriers have made it possible for virtually everyone that wants one to have one nowadays.

If you don't like your carrier after you have fulfilled your contract, you can switch and even take your number with you. You can sell your old phone on eBay, sign a new contract, and get another "free" phone.

So, Amy, what will be the result of your ill-advised and asinine proposal (assuming it has a chance)?

Termination fees will be traded for higher activation fees and monthly access fees and equipment costs. Much higher equipment costs.

The Cell Phone Consumer Empowerment Act? Even the title sounds asinine.
Update: more from Kermit here.

Fifty Bips!

The Federal Reserve slashed the federal funds rate half a percentage point to 4.75%, in an attempt to address concerns over the subprime-mortgage crisis, a struggling housing sector and stock market volatility.

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve cut a key interest rate for the first time in four years, starting with an aggressive half-point move to prevent a steep housing slump and turbulent financial markets from triggering a recession. The action triggered a huge rally on Wall Street.

Sept. 18 (Bloomberg) -- The Federal Reserve lowered its benchmark interest rate by a half point to 4.75 percent, the first cut in four years, to protect the U.S. from sinking into a recession sparked by fallout from the housing-market collapse.

NEW YORK ( -- The Federal Reserve cut the target on a key short-term interest rate by a half of a percentage point Tuesday to 4.75%, further acknowledgment from the central bank that the mortgage meltdown plaguing Wall Street and Main Street could have a negative impact on the economy.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Deadly Video Game

Those that seek to challenge the American military should take heed of new technology that will reduce the political and human cost of waging war for the US as soon we may be able to defend ourselves with a substantially reduced use of soldiers on the front lines.

Specialist can pilot deadly Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV's) that can conduct surveilance or offensive missions including delivering laser-guided weapons accurate to within a meter of their target.

Army records first UAV kills

When Army scouts in Iraq spotted two men planting a roadside bomb Sept. 1, they called in a nearby Hunter unmanned aircraft, which dropped a laser-guided bomb and killed the two men.

“We had the first confirmed use of an Army weaponized UAV,” said Col. Don Hazelwood, project manager for Army Unmanned Aircraft Systems at Redstone Arsenal, Ala.

The Army is mounting precision-guided weapons on hundreds of unmanned aerial vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hazelwood said.

The MQ-5B Hunter will carry the laser-guided GBU-44/B Viper Strike, a 42-pound glide bomb with a one-yard wingspan that can strike within one meter of its aim point.
He said the Army has a human in the loop who decides when to fire a UAV’s weapons.

“The ground control stations are like a cockpit which does not need to be in the aircraft. The video goes into the brigade TOC [tactical operations center], so the same rules of engagement that any of our pilots would follow is followed by our pilots in the TOC,” Owings said.
(this system can) ...allow soldiers to see around corners, over hills and buildings, and into neighboring areas during combat, said one senior Army leader who recently returned from Iraq.

“We like the Hellfire, but we don’t like using it downtown or in built-up areas. It can blow out windows. We are there to not disrupt the population and we are very sensitive to it, so we have to be very sensitive to the munitions we use,” Hazelwood said. “The Viper Strike can still take out the same type of targets but does not have the same explosive effects.”

HT John H.


[rant]Can I just say that I am sick of seeing OJ Simpson on my TV screen. Why is this guy not in jail? Why do I have to look at him? Would somebody please just put this guy away?! Tax evasion? Unpaid parking tickets? Anything![/rant]

Editorial is Wrong on Education

Rash of referendums shows a need for more state support.


Minnesotans, in Governor Pawlenty's words, want government to function like our households are supposed to. We can't spend more than we take in. Minnesotans are starting to realize that throwing more money at our educational system is good money after bad. More money won't change the fact that our system is broken. That our educational system has fallen victim to the whims of our teachers unions, which have more lobbyists in St. Paul than any other entity, by far.

But wait. Didn't the 2007 Minnesota Legislature add $800 million to the $12 billion the state already spends on schools? If so many more dollars will be flowing into district coffers, then why the predictions of severe cuts? Hasn't this pattern repeated itself several times in recent years -- schools get more state money, but it is still not enough?

Over half of our State budget goes to education. It will never be enough for those that refuse to hold our teachers and our schools accountable for the culture in our schools and the results they are producing.

I am on the finance committee of a charter school and I can tell you that money is not the issue. This school meets or exceeds measured results against the benchmark of it's public peers. It has a disciplined environment, and makes due with less resources. Charter schools are starting to show that there is a better way, and are creating competition for their traditional public counterparts.

Many of the best students and their parents are looking for alternatives. Despite a mediocre facility and a lack of sports programs, our school now has a long waiting list.

Polls show that Minnesotans want increased investment in schools. They are unhappy with school cuts, and supported (in 2004 and 2006) legislative candidates who campaigned on greater support for K-12 and transportation funding. Still, last year, Minnesota voters rejected about 60 percent of the 74 excess-levy referendums that were on ballots across the state -- the lowest percentage of approved school levies since 1980.

I would love to see these "polls" and how this data is being interpreted.

Many voters, understandably nervous about their jobs and economic futures, don't want property-tax hikes. Rather, they look for improved school support from the state, where the cost can be spread among more taxpayers.

And they are right.

True to form, let's get someone else to pay! Liberals want good schools in their community but aren't willing to pay for them despite the fact that the quality of a community's schools is a primary factor in property values.

It's all coming out of the same bucket folks. If the state cuts aid to education, property taxes are going to go up. It misses the point in any case. The problem isn't revenue. It's lack of accountability in the system and rewarding it with more money will only perpetuate the issue.

The Media Unleashes on Fred

Fred Thompson has been in the race for a very short time and already the media is going after him. His Republican opponents as well, but that's to be expected. The "lazy" label means one of two things.

Either the media is trying to make the case that Fred doesn't want it bad enough or that they haven't found any dirt on him yet.

From Newsweek:

As Fred Thompson prepares to formally begin his campaign for the White House this week, after months of "testing the waters," the conventional wisdom in Washington is that Thompson doesn't want it badly enough, isn't willing to work hard enough -- put bluntly,that he is lazy. Thompson knows what people say about him -- and it bugs him, Newsweek reports in the current issue. "Fred was grumping to me about that the other day," Howard Baker, the former Tennessee senator and Reagan White House chief of staff who was one of Thompson's political mentors,tells Newsweek. "I told him, 'They've got to criticize you for something,and that's not a bad one, because you can disprove it'."

"He needs to show he has the appetite for a presidential campaign, and he hasn't shown that yet," says atop White House official who did not want to be named sticking a knife in the back of a fellow Republican. "It's the hardest work in the world. I'm not sure he wants to work that hard."

NY Times via the StarTribune:

So much for dispelling the idea that he is too lazy to run for president. For months, Thompson has fought off suggestions that he is not motivated enough to weather the round-the-clock campaign trail required of serious presidential candidates. (Or, as a recent headline in Newsweek put it, "Lazy Like a Fox.")

That may very well be the headline, but if you read the article it's less about Fred Thompson being lazy and more about him being a fox.

His critics, already pointing to what they call Thompson's skimpy Senate record, might find even more ammunition in his campaign schedule. In his second week as an officially declared candidate for the Republican nomination, Thompson has made a languid three-day swing through Florida ending Saturday with the candidate watching a football game in Gainesville. The pace has kept him on an air-conditioned bus far more often than he is actually campaigning.

Some audience members, in a crowd that easily reached into the hundreds, winced as Thompson sweated through the question-and-answer session.

"I'm surprised they didn't pull him out of there," John Chambers of nearby Punta Gorda, said after the speech ended. Suzanne Miranda, who watched the event from a lawn chair, said, "I felt bad for him."

Thompson later emerged from the bus clad in a clean polo shirt and appearing cheerful. When reporters pressed him for a reaction to the Newsweek headline, he laughed. Is the campaign trail grueling, he was asked?

"Does it look grueling to you?" he shot back. "It's uplifting!"

Minutes later, he climbed back onto the bus.

So Fred doesn't want it bad enough because he sweats when it's hot? and area of the country that averages around 80 degrees and 90% relative humidity this time of year? Because a few people felt bad for him as he stood in the hot sun?

C' can do better than that.

But then again: most political attacks -- aimed at defining an opponent before he can define himself -- the claim that Thompson has spent a lifetime skating by on his God-given talents is a little too easy, and more than a little wrong. In his long, meandering career -- as a young Tennessee prosecutor who won 14 of 15 bank-robbery cases, a twice --elected senator and Washington lobbyist, and an accidental actor who stars in one of the most popular shows on television -- Thompson has never lost a job, or a campaign, because of a lack of effort. "If I had to pick one thing that qualifies him to be president," says Baker, "it's this: he approaches things calmly, deliberately -- and he doesn't shoot from the hip."

While I didn't appreciate Fred's delay in getting into the race, now that he's in it's much too early to draw conclusions regarding the health of his campaign. He was high in the polls before he joined the race, and has stayed there. These next couple of months however will give us an idea if Fred can beat Rudy or not.

Royksopp-Remind Me

...anyone care to guess what popular commercial the radio-edit version of this song appeared in?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Beautiful Mind

This is the third time I have watched A Beautiful Mind and it is still one of my all-time favorite movies. A true story, it chronicles the life and love of Dr. John Nash, an equally gifted and tormented genius who as a graduate student at Princeton, painstakingly crafts a mathematical analysis of group behavior and motivation that in the years that followed, revolutionized economic theory, and impacted modern commerce, biology and many other disciplines.

A Beautiful Mind however is not about mathematics or even Nash's extraordinary accomplishments as a mathematician. It is a love story. A story of a man who overcomes seemingly indomitable demons with the help of his wife whose devotion is the only force equal to Nash's genius. Jennifer Connelly delivers a moving portrayal of Alicia Nash.

The payoff for A Beautiful Mind occurs in the last seconds of the movie and is one of the most moving endings to a film that I know of.

Russell Crowe's extraordinary performance as Dr. John Nash showcases why he is one of the best and most versatile actors of our time. Remarkably, it seems he is about the only artist in this film who didn't win an Oscar. He was nominated however, as was Jennifer Connelly, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and writer Akiva Goldsman, who all won Oscars for best supporting actress, direction, best picture and best screenplay respectively.

Here comes the Sun

It is ironic that the force behind global warming, the Sun, may also the solution to our dependence on foreign energy sources. Recent technological advances and legislative market manipulation may allow/force us to use solar power to generate electricity closer to the point of use. The fact that it may be a good investment, or at least is attracting venture capital, is more reason to watch for developments in solar energy technology.

This is significant because while there are many MMGW enthusiasts that decry a conspiratorial subversion of the electric car for example, the reality is there won't be a market for electric cars until these problems are solved:

1) Transmission losses of as much as 7%. Power generated far away from its point of use is transmitted in a manner that is inefficient. We either have to find a way to move electricity over great distances more efficiently or move the source closer to the point of use.

2) That power, at the other end of the outlet, is most often produced with the use of non-renewable energy sources.

3) Electric cars don't have the battery range yet to allow a majority of drivers to drive with comparable confidence and freedom.

I would drive an electric car as long as I could go at least a couple hundred miles on a charge. Otherwise it wouldn't work for my business. Unless...there were ubiquitous, cheap (or free) solar-powered charging stations at each end of each trip.

Recent developments in solar power technology solve some of the issues we face as it relates to our increasing need for cheap and politically-inert energy sources.

Whereas solar photovoltaic panels are installed directly on buildings and convert sunlight into electricity, solar thermal power is more complicated: it uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight and heat liquids, which are then used to drive turbines to make electricity. can be deployed on a large scale - big enough to light up shopping malls or towns, not just a home or a building.

Three large-scale solar thermal plants have been announced in recent months in California, the latest coming from a Silicon Valley start up called Ausra.

(Ausra) plans to build a 175-megawatt solar thermal power plant at an undisclosed location in central California.

"As soon as we can build solar power projects with the same cost of capital as building conventional coal or natural gas plants," ... "we'll deliver electricity at the same cost as coal."

...the fact that venture capitalists, utilities and start ups are pouring significant money into solar thermal suggests that this technology isn't smoke and mirrors.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Finding Neverland

Finding Neverland is the story behind the story of Peter Pan. Based on a true story, it follows a playwright, J. M. Barrie who we find smarting from the commercial failure of his last play. Pressed by his backer to write a better one, and fast, Barrie finds inspiration in the presence of his new-found friend and love interest Sylvia Llewelyn-Davies, a recent widow with four amazing sons.

Johnny Depp plays Barrie with such skill that one can't imagine this movie being possible without him. Kate Winslet, who I last saw in The Holiday also delivers another impressive performance as Sylvia. The show is completely stolen however, by little Freddie Highmore who plays Peter, the namesake for Barrie's legendary work. Dustin Hoffman adds gravity to the film, cast as Barrie's backer and local theatre owner Charles Frohman.

Magnificent sets coupled with special effects allow the viewer to realize Barrie's vision of Neverland both in his imagination and in the manifestation of his work.
We watched this film as a family, and if you haven't seen it yet, I would recommend it.

Born into Brothels

Zana Briski, a documentary photographer travelled to Calcutta, India to photograph prostitutes and found herself smitten with their beautiful and surprisingly resilient children. She decides to give inexpensive cameras and teach photography to a close-knit clan of about a dozen of them.

The result is a moving film chronicling Zana's crusade to break the chain, and free these little girls and boys from their would-be march into third-generation prostitution. It features their self-made photos of their lives and surroundings, subtitled dialogue, their struggles and accomplishments, and very little narrative.

Much of the film is comprised of random conversations with these children, ranging in age from about 8 to 13 years old. One beautiful little girl remarked that the older women ask her when she’ll "join the line"…"it won’t be very long."

Beautiful, smiling kids, playing in the streets and on the rooftops. There are no playgrounds, no green space. Despite the squalor, violence and abuse, they are delightfully happy, healthy kids. It was touching how the kids all support and comfort each other and amazing to see how siblings take responsibility for their younger ones if they lose their parents, or there parents are incapable of parenting. And there was a brave little brother that wants to take his little sister away from the brothels.

These children are all quite well aware of what their mothers do when they "work", often times in a room in their crowded, dirty flats. In many cases, older sisters, mothers and grandmothers all participate in what is for many families in the area, the sole source of their meager incomes. Not all of them are single, either, with their husbands either falling into drug addiction or promotion of prostitution, even selling their own little girls into the trade.

Violence, abuse and poverty overshadow their lives and yet these little kids are optimistic for their future, even the little girls' outlook belies their most assured slide into prostitution. They laugh together, they support each other and they hug and play together, not knowing any better. Not knowing how some other kids around the world live.

One little girl remarks with a big smile " comes to accept that life is full of sadness and disappointment." Another little boy after the death of his mother "There is nothing called hope in my future." And yet there was hope, thanks to their friend Zana, photographer turned missionary.

Zana fights to free these kids, especially the girls, from the throes of prostitution and lobbies officials to help her find boarding schools that will waive their usual policy of not accepting the children of criminals. Her travails on their behalf include seeking medical exams to prove none of them have HIV and securing a passport for one who won to an exhibition of photography by gifted children in Amsterdam.

To fund her efforts, she enlists the help of some of her colleagues in the photography business in an effort to sell the striking photos of these children. They appeared for auction at Sotheby's and one, "Girl on a Roof" by Suchitra appeared on the cover of Amnesty International's 2003 calendar. All proceeds went and continue to go the fund the children's eduction.

This Oscar-winning film is moving and well made, has very little dialogue, and is well coupled with native music from the region.


...a fool and his money?

Why make a limo out of a Ferrari. It's not a good Ferrari or a good Limo!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

You can have the Flag off my back...

On the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, students at one high school were not allowed to wear clothes with an American flag.

Both John Hawkins and Michelle Malkin, two conservatives I agree with 99% of the time, immediately jumped on this and decried the un-Americaness of this. Both harshly spat upon this school districts behavior as outrageous and beneath contempt. I even heard at least one conservative radio talkshow host do the same. Unfortunately I have to agree with the schools behavior, although they only got it right on accident….for the wrong reasons.

I didn't realize my old Ralph Lauren Chaps sweatshirt with the big American flag on it was verboten, but Kevin Ecker tells us why here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Where were you?

Everybody is blogging about 9/11 today which is only natural. We all want to remember that day, and commiserate a little. After only six years the fear and rage have faded almost completely on the part of the American people. That's probably a good thing, unless it means we have become less vigilant or have forgotten the heroes of that day, and of course the victims.

Events like these are always described as ones where you always remember where you were the moment they occurred.

I was in a conference room in a week-long training meeting in a two-story office building in Eagan right under a flight path to MSP. You get used to the planes flying directly as they come every few minutes, passing low enough that you can see the detail of the bottom of the jetliners if you are outside.

That Tuesday morning, someone ran into the room and told us to turn on the TV. We watched the first building on fire on a large projection-screen TV. When the second plane hit we all knew that this was the beginning of an attack on America.

The most eery and memorable thing about that day wasn't watching the buildings burn and collapse, as that didn't set in for a while. The most memorable aspect of that day for me was the connection of the attacks being captured on TV hundreds of miles away and the fact that all air traffic came to an abrupt stop here in Minneapolis.

Being that close to the airport, there is usually some sort of constant airliner-related noise, but on that day and into the night, the skies went eerily quiet when we stepped outside there in Eagan and that evening at home.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 put America on pause that day.

I will never forget the silence of the skies that day, which was only broken late that night when we heard a fighter jet high above our home. We were comforted knowing that our armed forces were patrolling while we slept with our families, grateful to be together that night.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Love at First Sight

Alfa Romeo C8 Competizione: $200,000
Only 90 will be available for sale in the US

Details at AutoBlog

Saturday, September 8, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth - reviewed

An Inconvenient Truth is less the expression of Al Gore’s concern for the environment and more the manifestation of his grief in having lost the most excruciating presidential election in modern history. Many of the world’s great creative works, be they writings, paintings or musical compositions, were borne of great personal loss. I believe An Inconvenient Truth was meant to be one such work. It was meant to be a legitimization of Al Gore. But it is neither.

Despite having a strong bias against the premise and the politics going in, I had high expectations that it would be an entertaining and well-made film. But it is neither.

Gore opens his slide show with “Hello, I’m Al Gore, the next President of the United States” which only the few remaining Gore holdouts could possibly find relevant or even amusing at this point in time, two elections hence.

Put aside the science, this film is not emotionally engaging or well crafted. It drones on, making the same points over and over. There is nary a scene that doesn’t show Gore’s visage in a thoughtful, contemplative moment, poking at his laptop, or at least the breathy, insipid and over-dramatic narrative of Gore trying to sound impassioned.

Agree with him or not, Michael Moore knows how to make a good film. Al Gore, not so much.

We are treated to utterly contrived scenes of Gore at his laptop, ostensibly spread sheeting data over the Internet he invented or having deep thoughts, deep sighs, or his clearly staged cell phone conversation with a clandestine special operative to substantiate some conspiracy. There are more than a few personal vignettes featuring his family or his father or his son or an overwrought anecdote about his childhood, his dog, or his pony, that a more assertive director would have left on the floor as they have no logical relevance. Transitions leading back to the main premise make this awkward and obvious – Al wanted to tell these stories no matter what.

What of the science? For that you can just as easily click on the Global Warming Label on this blog and find more than thirty posts debunking (or at least deriding) the so-called science underlying the man-made global warming movement, but here are some of the highlights of the film’s scientific shortcomings:

No film about Global Warming could be complete without reference to the Katrina disaster and the swarm of category five storms that were predicted to follow closely thereafter. Only they didn’t. Forecasts were lowered. The linking of Katrina to Global Warming has been discredited over and over.

Al Gore’s case for Man-Made Global Warming is this: The earth is warming (agreed). We are causing it (prove it!). Only he doesn’t. He offers example after example of proof that the earth is warming and that CO2 levels are moving up and down in lock step with the fluctuations over time. He fails to prove that the CO2 levels are the cause rather than the effect. He also fails to mention that of all CO2 emissions worldwide, the oceans of the world are responsible for almost 60 percent, respiration another 30-plus percent, fossil fuel use about four percent. That means less than 5 per cent of all CO2 emitted has anything to do with industrialization. And yet Al Gore trips over himself in asserting “Almost 30% of the CO2 that goes into the air each year comes from forest burning.” Clearly not true.

He uses a thousand-year graph of temperature and CO2 readings which is an inadequate time slice especially if one is knowledgeable about the cycles our earth has gone through well before man existed let alone became industrialized.

He then moves to a 650,000 year graph of temperature vs. CO2 levels and shows the correlation which actually makes the point of a skeptic because it begs the question, what caused the increases in CO2 before man was industrialized, and again, even 650,000 years is a small slice compared to the earth’s life.

He chooses his words carefully when he claims “there is not a single fact or date or number that’s been used to make this up that’s in any controversy” which may have been true when the film was made but is now known to be untrue.

As evidence that the earth is warming, Al Gore bombards us with graphics and photos showing glaciers melting and crashing dramatically into the ocean, raising sea levels and flooding New York, Florida and the Netherlands. The Netherlands!

Problem is, this still doesn’t prove that the less than five percent of global CO2 emissions attributed to industrialization are the cause. He goes on about birds and trees and caterpillars and pine beetles and mosquitoes, layer upon layer of circumstantial evidence tied to a warming earth as if piling it higher and deeper somehow undoes the position of the skeptics. Which is, that a warming earth causes levels of CO2 to increase and not the other way around. He moves on to show the effects of global rising temperatures creating new vectors for communicable diseases, floods, droughts, and all kinds of economic mayhem, as if an extreme extrapolation of the effects of rising temperatures proves that we are the cause.

Yet another detour in the form of a story from his childhood tobacco farm featured the tragic death of Al Gore’s sister from lung cancer. He then likens heavy human use of tobacco, despite the surgeon general’s warning of its cancer risks, to our denial of global warming. Just one thing. One has been proven. The other has not.

Much of the “hottest years in history” claims used in the film have been recently discredited. Compounding this fact is that temperature recording stations providing this data around the world have been shown to have recorded data that can no longer be held to be accurate due to the stations being moved, having population and industry built up around them, or even in at least one case having been installed on rooftops where air conditioning equipment had been subsequently installed nearby.

And now, back to the 2004 elections! A drawn out passage of media coverage and snippets of polling results and analysis depict the excruciating time when the presidential election was undecided in Florida. I literally said “What the hell is this?” It was so abrupt I almost thought my DVD player had skipped back to the beginning of the film.

Another awkward segway featuring a breathy, deflated Al Gore.

“Well that was a hard blow, but what do you do? You make the best of it. It brought into clear focus the mission that I had been pursuing for all these years and I started giving the slide show again.”

I really wanted to eject at this point but I persisted to no avail.

Gore derides a professor of his that doubted South America and Africa were once contiguous, which is now known to be true. Gore’s graphic fit the two together like puzzle pieces highlighting an enormous natural global upheaval that undoubtedly effected global climate and has been going on for millions of years and is not caused by man. Ironically, Gore derides skeptics that believe the earth’s minute temperature fluctuations and the resultant changes in climate are part of the earth’s cycles, which have been going on for millions of years, and are not caused by man.

Another and more likely cause of climate change is fluctuating solar energy levels, which also move in step with temperature changes, ice core data, tree rings, sea sediment samples and CO2 levels over time. But that correlated data didn’t make Gore’s super-sized graphs.

A “canary in the coalmine”, the supposed shrinking arctic icecaps has very recently been discredited, ironically by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and their recent report which I posted today.

Never mind the fact that scientists and the media including our own Pioneer Press have been reporting since May of 2005 that the Antarctic ice mass has been growing not shrinking.

Gore offers this: “A friend of mine once said in 1978 ‘if you see the break up of ice shelves along the Antarctic peninsula watch out because that should be seen as an alarm bell for global warming.’” Oh, the drama! We never learn who this friend is and he moves on any way.

Another dramatizing animation attempts to substantiate that there is a consensus among scientists regarding mankind’s role in global warming. This supposedly removes all doubt but has since been found to be completely without merit. Gore reads damaging memos issued between tobacco company executives leaked after the surgeon general’s cancer link discovery. He then recites a similar “memo” without attribution from someone somewhere regarding global warming as if the two were correlated.

He sites this quote to great audience laughter and applause “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it” – Upton Sinclair. Which belies the fact that the same holds true for thousands of scientists whose grants and salaries depend on the ongoing man made global warming movement.

Gore goes on to offer solutions. The Kyoto Accord for example, and lists the countries, like the US, that have failed to comply despite the fact that if every country implemented every element of the Kyoto Accord, there would be virtually no effect on worldwide CO2 levels as mankind is responsible for a small percentage in the first place.

Further, he asserts that “We can’t sell our cars in China today because we don’t meet the Chinese environmental standards.” A total lie. Ford, GM and Chrysler have been selling cars in China for years. In fact just last month, General Motors announced sales have topped one million vehicles sold in China.

Knowing An Inconvenient Truth had won an Oscar for Best Documentary I was hoping for an artful and engaging film despite being predisposed on the theories behind the movement. I tried to watch the film with an open mind. I was surprised by how the film established early on that it was as much about Gore’s political laments and memoirs as it was about saving our planet.

Having studied global warming arguments prior to watching this, the movement’s most prominent documentary, I found the film increasingly frustrating to watch as numerous assertions were presented as fact without substantiation while others were just plain lies.

More Global Warming Cooling

World Climate Report
The ice caps are melting – right? If you visit thousands of websites on climate change, watch Gore’s film or many similar documentaries, you would be left with no doubt that the icecaps are warming and melting at an unprecedented rate. However, with respect to Antarctica, you might be surprised when you examine what the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says in their 2007 Summary for Policymakers. Believe it or not, IPCC reports “Antarctic sea ice extent continues to show inter-annual variability and localized changes but no statistically significant average trends, consistent with the lack of warming reflected in atmospheric temperatures averaged across the region.” Furthermore, they note “Current global model studies project that the Antarctic ice sheet will remain too cold for widespread surface melting and is expected to gain in mass due to increased snowfall.”

The document is here. See page 9.

Rudy on Fred

For the Democrats, despite Oprah's best efforts to prop up Obama, Hillary's nomination is a foregone conclusion. I don't think that's a smart move for the Dems, because I don't think she can win. I don't think there are enough Americans, men or women, ready for a female President in a time of war. Women don't like her. Men even less. Furthermore, I believe there a lot of voters that wish nothing less than to see Bill Clinton as first lady.

I believe that the Republican race for the nomination is going to come down to Rudy and Fred, with Mitt a close third, although he has shown signs of life of late.

I was reading through the transcript of the Fox debates from the other night and found it interesting that Fred Thompson's candidacy was actually a question to the other candidates, despite Fred's late entry and resultant absence from the debate.

I found Rudy's answer a good preview of his strategy in combating Fred's candidacy:

MR. HUME: Mr. Mayor, your thoughts?

MR. GIULIANI: I like Fred a lot. I think Fred is a really, really good man. I think he’s done a pretty good job of playing my part on "Law & Order." (Laughter.) I personally prefer the real thing, and -- but I think Fred will add something to this race. But I think this is a nomination you have to earn, though.

Nobody’s going to give it to you; nobody’s going to glance it to you; nobody’s going to crown you.

You’ve got to go out there, like these gentlemen have done, and I’ve done. You’ve got to -- you’ve got to meet people in Iowa and New Hampshire and all over the country. You’ve got to work hard for this.

And finally I think it’s going to come down to experience. This is not a time that the United States should be electing someone who’s going to get on-the-job training. You need people with executive experience.

And my real concern is you have three leading Democratic candidates, none of which have ever run a city, a state or a business. (Cheers, applause.) And this is not -- this is -- America’s at war. America’s got some big problems. It’s not the time for on-the-job training as an executive.
Historically, it has been tough for a Senator to win the Presidency because your voting record is hard to dispute. Rudy makes a salient point in that Fred has no executive experience. Naturally, comparisons have been made between Thompson and Ronald Reagan, who also was elected to an executive office on the back of his notoriety as a celebrity but he was a Governor first, and of the state that contains Hollywood.

In any case, I'm glad Fred Thompson has officially entered the fray and look forward to seeing him go head to head with the other GOP candidates and ultimately Hillary if he gets that far.

Politics is full of surprises and upsets I am sure we have many to come in the race to next November.

Happy Anniversary Mrs. Roosh

...So tonight I'll ask the stars above, "How did I ever win your love?"

17 Years

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Why We Fight

Many movies romanticize war. This would not be one of them. It is the antithesis of that notion.

Why We Fight is a stirring documentary that chronicles the shift in America’s motivation for going to war since World War II. It opens with President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell speech wherein he warns the American people of the increasing power of the military-industrial complex, a phrase he coined, and the resultant shift in our nation’s motivation for making war going forward.

The filmmakers assert that the impetus for war since World War II has evolved from a collective and irrefutable national effort to save the world from evil forces and liberate its peoples from tyranny, to a military-industrial complex led by a select few, motivated by unbridled capitalism, that have wrested U.S. military power from the democratic process and have thereby relieved our armed forces of their accountability to the American people.

The film further asserts that the use and deployment of our troops in the interest of oil and imperialism has its roots in times before the Cold War and has become increasingly easier as the makeup of our military has become increasingly less middle and upper-middle class and more constituted of the economically disadvantaged. Furthermore, they are volunteers, not plucked from middle-class families via a draft. As such, our soldiers and their families lack political power and therefore are more and more expendable.

As war has become more profitable and less of a political liability, it has become more likely. A twenty-year veteran of service in the Pentagon offers “ If you join the military now, you are not defending the United States of America, you are helping certain policymakers pursue an imperial agenda.”

We have been lied to by every Presidential administration in every war in the last 50-60 yrs without exception and Congress has also failed us as they have also become beholden to the military-industrial complex. “Our society is a constant struggle between capitalism and democracy. Clearly capitalism is winning.”

As you might expect, much of the movie is set in and around the War in Iraq, the contemporary and most egregious manifestation of the film’s thesis. Interviewed officials assert that in fact Saddam Hussein did have weapons of mass destruction. How do we know this? Because we in fact have the receipts. Moreover, the current “Think Tank”, the most recent manifestation of the military-industrial complex, was in place many years before George W. Bush came to power and was equally responsible as the President for the war in Iraq.

There are statements and assertions by individuals in this film that clearly discredit and dishonor our soldiers. It was hard, at least for me, however to uncover a blatant liberal agenda in this film on the part of the producers. That is not to say that it by any means offers a balanced point of view.While a fair amount of scrutiny falls upon the contemporary George W. Bush, Vice President Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the movie strikes equally at Congress and implicitly at all administrations since World War II, including the Clinton administration. As such, I thought the producers were able to rise just barely above a pure political attack on the current administration.

Why We Fight has no love lost for the media, either, asserting the media is complicit, as they are also beholden to the military industrial complex and can not operate without access to those in power. Embedded journalists as an objective source of reporting in a time of war, as such, is a farce.

In the end, the producers compare our civilization to the Romans, who also sought to create a global empire in the interest of peace and the betterment of all peoples and in order to maintain it had to create standing armies, an evil which they posit George Washington specifically warned against.

While I do not have the capacity to adequately debunk this film in this space, I will say that Why We Fight is a well-crafted and powerful film everyone should watch, conservative or liberal, to check one’s enthusiasm for war, be vigilant of unchecked power and mindful of those in our government who would misdirect those that serve our country with honor or seek to operate without our knowledge or accountability.

My visit to The Bridge

Taken with a Nikon COOLPIX L10 5.0 MegaPixel Digital Camera 9/6/2007