Saturday, October 15, 2005

Just a Thought

A thought that wandered in while I was writing the previous post, but didn't really fit in:

If war is easy and peace is hard, then oppression is simple and freedom is complicated. Freedom is a fragile thing, supported by a trust in humanity that is difficult to build. Break the trust, foment fear, and freedom wears away. But how to build the trust in the first place?

Political, Economic, and Social Freedom

On October 15, Iraq will vote on its proposed constitution. This is seen by many as a sign of progress. Others see the continued attacks in Iraq and wonder how anyone could see “progress”. But it has me thinking about what constitutes (and what leads to) a stable and free society.

Democracy promotes political freedom. It gives people a say in the government. Democracy also tends to be more stable than other forms of government because the transition of power is usually non-violent. Because it is clear who the next leader is going to be and when they are going to take power, there is no need for people to take up arms and fight it out. However, even democracies can become unstable and collapse if there is unrest due to economic or social conditions or political corruption.

Capitalism promotes economic freedom. You can buy and sell whatever you want at whatever price the market will bear. In order for any economy to be successful, it must be flexible enough to adapt to changing demands and markets. This means the economy must have enough diversity so that if one sector fails, resources may be shifted to other, less trouble sectors.

Social freedom is the ability to participate in society without restriction. This last one is often the most difficult to achieve because it means changing more than just the law – it means changing minds.

To create a free and stable society, all three of these must be present to at least some degree. But to what degree? And in what order? If democracy comes first, will capitalism and social freedom follow? Should a secure and diversified capitalist economy be set up before the democracy to prevent the new government from collapsing under its own economic woes? Will a lack of social freedom for some groups doom a young democracy? Or should social freedom be introduced more slowly, as it was here in the United States (we didn’t start out with everyone being able to vote, after all), to prevent culture shock and a backlash against the new system? And can any freedom survive when people don’t feel secure?

I think that having any of these three freedoms can eventually lead to having more of the other freedoms. Give people the idea that they can control one aspect of their lives, and they just might get the idea that they should have control of other aspects of their lives. But what to plant can depend on where you are sewing the seeds, which means the growing pains will vary, too. The process is slower than we would like – growth takes time. Sometimes, it grows into things you might not expect. Other times, it may not grow at all. Only time will tell.

This wasn't nearly what I wanted it to be. But I think I had too many thoughts going through my head at once. These are the ones that made it on the screen.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

How Will a Woman Become President?

There's an op-ed in WaPo today that discusses the implications the new television show Commander in Chief and the Harriet Miers nomination. Money quote:

"Together the two events capture the uncertain position of women in public life today. This is an odd, transitional moment in which it is conceivable that a woman could become president despite her gender and evident that a woman was selected for the high court largely because of it. Neither situation is especially satisfying."

While I don't necessarily think that Miers was nominated because a woman was retiring and she was a woman (after all, Roberts was the nominated to take this seat first), I do find it distrubing that she seems to be less qualified than the previous nominee. And she appears to be a Bush fangirl. Or is that how all of Bush's advisors talk to him? They couldn't find someone more qualified? Or a least someone a little less... attached to the President? I thought conservatives were suppose to be against diversity for the sake of diversity. I... never mind. I'll just end up going into an uninformed rant.

So on to Commander in Chief. My sister was upset that Gina Davis' character, MacKenzie Allen, only becomes president after the current President dies. But frankly, that is one of only two ways that I see a woman becoming President in the next 30 years. The other would be if both major parties nominated female candidates (Hillary vs Condi, anyone?). And that year would still probably be the best year for a third party candidate since Teddy Roosevelt ran on the Bull Moose ticket in 1912. As far as we've come, I simply don't think we're ready to look at a man and a woman and choose the woman on her merits. Why? Well, there's a reason the show is called Commander in Chief. That is the great distinguishing characteristic of the presidency that no other political office in this country has - control of the military. Governors, Senators, and even Supreme Court Justices can't send troops in to battle (though they can send National Guard troops to help in an emergency, Governor Blanco). We're still arguing over whether women should be allowed on the front lines. So how exactly are we ready to put a woman in charge of the military? I'm not saying a woman can't do it, I'm just saying we're not ready to give her the opportunity to do it. Some day. But not today.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I'll Sleep When I'm Dead

And, apparently, I'll die sooner because I can't sleep. But you know me. I live dangerously.

How to Avoid the Bird Flu

For about the fifth year in a row, the bird flu is an impending threat. It could hit any minute. Really! We're not kidding this time! So here are some tips on how to protect yourself.

1) Keep you chickens clean. Don’t forget to wash them before each meal and after they’ve been playing with other chickens.
2) Don’t kiss your chickens. They don’t have lips anyway.
3) If your chickens get sick, kill one, stew it, and feed it to the others. This will help them feel better.
4) If a chicken sneezes or coughs on you, sacrifice the chicken to appease the gods.
5) Disease spreads more quickly in densely populated areas. Help control chicken overpopulation by eating more eggs.
6) And last but not least, get flu shots for you and your chickens. In case of a shortage, you can use the eggs the chickens produce to grow their own vaccines.

Just follow these healthful tips and you should have a flu-free season. Unless you come into contact with other humans. Then you're just screwed.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Quote of the Day - October 10, 2005

What you fail to realize is that I'm dragging mines!

- "Captain Taggart" aka Jason Nesmith, Galaxy Quest

Sunday, October 09, 2005

More Hurricane Weirdness

Well, I'm sure you've heard about Stan. Stan was actually deadlier than Katrina. This season may be the first time that five storm names have ever been retired: Dennis, Emily, Katrina, Rita, and Stan. Tammy just brought rains to the southeast. But now we have Hurricane Vince. Vince is the first tropical system ever to get a "V" name (in 1933, the only year to have this many storms, they didn't name tropical systems). Vince formed in 24 C waters (tropical systems usually need 26 C water to form). The historical map on Weather Underground is empty because no October tropical systems have ever passed within 600 miles of where it is at the moment. It's also very, very small, but has managed to become a hurricane. Even Jeff Masters is attesting to the weirdness of this storm. Portugal will get hit by Vince as either a tropical storm or an extratropical storm by Tuesday.

Wilma is the only name left on the list. After that, we're on to the Greek alphabet. Just 52 days left in hurricane season.

Random Silly Stuff

I'm in Virginia today, so I watched the debate between the gubenatorial candidates. Tim Kaine's eyebrow is freaking me out. The static picture simply cannot convey the freakiness of his left eyebrow. It reached nearly up to his hairline at some points while his other eyebrow remained comfortably just above his right eye. I began to wonder if perhaps his right eyebrow was paralyzed. Or perhaps his left eyebrow was possessed, feeding him the answers to the questions. It was utterly distracting. Perhaps it's best I'm no longer a Virginia voter.

On my wonderful 5 hour trip from D.C. to the western outskirts of the Richmond area Friday (the trip normally takes 2 1/2 hours, but Tammy sent everyone skidding into eachother, creating backups for miles), I called 511 to get traffic info. 511 is a voice activated information line you can call for traffic and weather conditions that the Virginia Department of Transportation set up. The voice recognition seems to work pretty well. You can specify roads or counties that you want to find road conditions for. When I called to see if there was anything specific holding up traffic and to see just how far the backup went, I got an incoming call, which I answered. When I was done, I called 511 again and got this answer.

"Thank you for calling 511 Virginia, brought to you by the Virginia Deparment of Transportation. I see that you called earlier. Would you like to pick up where you left off?"

I paused. "Um... Yes?"

And sure enough, it started listing the incidents it was listing before I disconnected the call. Good thing I was sitting still in traffic. That was freaky.