21 February 2011

Ramblings on the Yearning for Democracy and the Madness of Trade Unions

I must admit that I was a little slow coming around on the current series of uprisings in the Arab world as I wasn't really sure what to make of them. The first one, Tunisia, was easy enough to overlook as it involved a country that US Americans (to borrow a term from Ms. Teen South Carolina) generally have little reason to care about. Tunisia hasn't been the cause of many world issues, they aren't mentioned whenever we hear about nations that harbor terrorists, and their former leaders name was unknown to me (even though I am a regular listener to the BBC World Service that skews Africa heavy...his name is Ben Ali by the way). A nation in upheaval with the express purpose of dethroning a dictator seemed like a good thing, but it was seemed rather inconsequential to most of the world and an isolated incident...so I thought.

Then Egypt happened. The process in Egypt was well-reported and this one was more "meaningful" to much of the world as we know Egypt's importance in world history. In reality, more of the world probably cared because of the antiquities contained within Egypt, but at least we cared. Still, I find it very worrisome that a military government is in control in Egypt "temporarily" and that, very likely, this uprising in the name of Democracy will unsettle the Middle East even more as they are likely to elect a hardline Muslim government. I also found it unsettling that Egyptians overwhelmingly hate Americans even though they are ironically clamoring for the very thing they purportedly hate us for (shoving democracy down their throats). At my core, however, I am happy for a popular uprising that could lead to free elections.

The rapidity of the "revolution" in Egypt and Tunisia seems to have emboldened an entire region that is rife with dictators or other unelected heads of state. Bahrain has had days of relatively peaceful protests and have seemingly won a few concessions. They are merely seeking elections. Libya, on the other hand, have had days of violence and deaths, yet the yearning for democracy is so great that the people continue to risk their lives on a daily basis. I have the utmost respect for these folks and pray Ghadaffi falls quickly.

All this leaves me happy about the desire for freedom/democracy in these countries, but it also leaves me worried as I am afraid this will only serve to speed up the spread of radical Islam as these groups tend to already be fairly well organized in the region. I truly wonder what the majority of the protesters want (hopefully a moderate leadership structure), but I'm afraid what they want they will not get as the vacuum left by the absence of leadership could most easily be filled by a different type of elected (at first) tyrant.

Yet, in Wisconsin, we US Americans have a protest of large magnitude of our own. I find it a striking contrast to the protests that are going on in other parts of the world. In Wisconsin, elected officials (surprise, all Democrats) fled the state instead of performing their duties and voting for or against the measure. The reason being they knew they were going to lose but by fleeing they could postpone the vote. So, instead of letting democracy run its course, they chose to do a very dictator-like thing and forced their will on the people when the peoples' elected officials (representative of the electorate) found it necessary to enact cost cutting measures. This, in essence, was an act against democracy at a time when millions of Arabs are clamoring for just the right to elect an official! Sickening.

At the bottom of this problem in Wisconsin are public sector unions. What that means is that the unions are really lashing out at the very people that pay their salaries. They are saying that the people, through their elected representatives, do not know best. Like virtually everything the Democrat party does, it is elitist at its core.

So, let's us heap praise upon those in Arab countries that are shedding their blood in the name of democracy, and let us remember those Wisconsin politicians that cowardly left the state in a thoroughly un-democratic manner. May the very thing they apparently abhor, democracy, be the very thing that sends them back to private life. And may the most un-democratic institution imaginable, labor unions, be forever banished to American history where their initial purpose can be remembered in a positive light.

The rambling is now over.

25 January 2011

A Conundrum: Privacy vs. Investors Rights

Last week it was announced that Apple, Inc. CEO, Steve Jobs, had sought and been granted a leave of absence. This is the second year in a row Mr. Jobs has been on long-term medical leave to deal with issues that are apparently associated with pancreatic tumors. I say "apparently" because there is very little real information about his condition. This lack of information, alone, is quite amazing considering how beloved the man has become and the number of extremely devoted bloggers and fans that follow his every move.

This lack of information has real financial implications as the fortunes of Apple, more than any other company I can think of, rely heavily on the charisma of Mr. Jobs. How many folks who have only a passing interest in the electronics/computer industry stop down whenever Mr. Jobs, (arrayed in trademark blue jeans, black mock turtle neck, and tennis shoes) keeps his audience on edge as his new product introductions crescendo to a glorious finale with a great new product or feature? Thus, we should not be surprised that upon announcing his leave of absence Apple stock immediately declined. And, while the stock has far from tanked, there are many investors who are intently scouring data sources daily hoping to find a sliver of insight into Mr. Jobs' condition and prognosis.

All this leaves me in a philosophical conundrum!

I think it's fairly well known that I have some libertarian tendencies including the right to keep your private life private. I am especially fond of keeping medical records as private as an individual wishes (to the point I get uncomfortable when sports stars have their medical details so well chronicled in the press). But, in the case of Mr. Jobs, is it a "right" of investors to know Mr. Jobs' prognosis? I mean, his health is a critical piece of information that could affect many investors' decision of whether they wish to sell or retain their positions in the company! In fact, it could be argued that Mr. Jobs' ability to be present and involved in the day-to-day operation of the company is THE most important piece of investor information!

So, are there times when investors' rights outweigh the individual health information rights of key company figures? Down deep, I don't think so. I think it better to err on the side of caution and protect Mr. Jobs' health information if he so chooses. However, one thing is clear, Apple had better look to the future now and begin disconnecting their public image from that of Mr. Jobs (though I hope the man lives for many more years as I happen to really like the man).


08 January 2011

My Triumphant Return to the Blogosphere

Aloha blogosphere!

It's been quite a while since I published anything to my blog, for a number of reasons, but none of them more prevalent than all of my "free" time over the last few years being consumed by scholastic pursuits. But, alas, they are now behind me and I resolve to be more consistent in my blogging.

During my time off, however, I have been keeping a mental list of topics I would like to explore such as:

* Why do we Anglicize the name of so many cities in non English-speaking countries (for example, we call it "Florence" while it is "Firenze" in Italy).
* Cuban/American relations, how is anyone benefitting from the current foreign policy
* Why economists should rule the world (or at least those of the Austrian and/or Chicago school)
* My planned mid-life crisis
* The natural end to contemporary liberal political thought
* Monarchies...can we do away with them finally?
* What's so bad about a free market?
* A politically incorrect take on political correctness
* The magic that was the 2010 Texas Rangers season
* American public transportation
* Can we finally acknowledge it's time for the labor unions to give it up?
* How many poor folks in third world countries remain impoverished because of the American left
* Is the World Cup the finest sporting event on the planet?

So, while I simultaneously catch up on my reading list (I resolve to read at least one book per month this year), I promise to sprinkle a number of blogs as 2011 meanders along its path. If only my blog had any readers! :-)

29 December 2009

My Love/Hate Relationship With BBC World Service

Via the miracle of Sirius Satellite Radio, I have been an on-again/off-again listener to the BBC World Service. I absolutely love a number of aspects about the BBC; the depth to which they cover stories, the focus on news from places we, U.S. Americans to quote a former Miss Teen S. Carolina, normally hear nothing of (such as Africa), the specialty football shows (soccer to you U.S. Americans), and the perspective of non-Americans on world issues.

I also like the perspective the Brits bring to social issues as it gives an insight into where the U.S. is headed unless we dramatically change our socialistic/liberal ways. Even though I like the perspective from a cultural study point of view, it still drives me crazy sometimes and I have to steer clear of the BBC for a few days. That's where the hate part of the relationship comes into play.

Allow me to give two recent examples to illustrate my point:

1) A few days ago one of the shows had a guest on who was a Brit vacationing in Mumbai a year ago when the coward terrorists attacked the hotel and killed a number of individuals. This guest survived the harrowing attack by escaping through a window via bed sheets tied together. Unfortunately, the sheets broke and the gentleman fell quite a ways onto pavement below where he broke a number of bones and is now paralyzed from the waist down. The guest was on the show because he is leading the cause (that is well supported by the Brit politicians) to have the government provide monetary compensation for his pain and suffering. Don't get me wrong, I feel for the gentleman and believe he deserves compensation, but the British government (more appropriately, taxpayer) owes the gentleman nothing. Rather, the terrorists and their supporters are the appropriate ones to pay (or, if the Brit or Indian government ceased terrorists assets and gave it to him that would be appropriate). But, this gentleman went on for ages to much sympathy from the host and callers describing why the Brit government owed him. News flash, the Brit government didn't MAKE you vacation there dude!

2) Today, the Chinese executed a Brit citizen that had been caught and convicted smuggling 9 lbs. of heroin into China and the Brits are up in arms about it for various reasons. My problem isn't that the Brits are up in arms about it, but rather the fact that I learned during the talk show that the Brits consider drug addicts as being "disabled" and compensate them as they do other, more legitimate in my opinion, physical and mental disabilities. I couldn't believe my ears. Paying for drug addicts who CHOSE to take that first hit/snort/etc. to live off of the taxpayers dime? Seriously? What incentive do they have to get off drugs?

Both of these situations, and socialism/liberalism in general, are disturbing to me on numerous fronts. The trend of society shirking the notion of personal responsibility in favor of reliance on government scares me to death. Few seem to understand that reliance on government means reliance on taxpayers. Worse yet, those that do realize it believe they are "owed" something by their fellow man and feel justified in taking their tax dollars. All of this is voluntary relinquishing freedom in favor of "stability" that really isn't stability at all but imprisonment and enslavement to those in power. Scary.

Oh, and to be fair, my comments on socialism/liberalism isn't meant solely at the Democrat party. Many Republicans are no better in that they too want us to voluntarily give up freedoms, just in a different way and at a slower pace.

27 August 2009

The Beautiful Game

I grew up playing soccer in Casper, WY where it was a somewhat popular sport in the '80s. My first memory of fandom is the 1986 World Cup tournament when I spent the better part of three weeks camped out in front of ESPN watching the likes of Diego Maradona and Roberto Baggio ply their craft. With the move to Texas in 1988, my interest waned except for an occasional check-in on the US National team and the World Cup that rolled around every 4 years.

That passing interest was rekindled about two years ago when I was bored one day and found myself cruising through Youtube and somehow ended up on a highlight reel featuring Steven Gerrard, the brilliant Liverpool midfielder. I knew I was instantly hooked. In the last few years, I've become a close follower of the English Premier League, the Champions League, numerous national teams, and have a working knowledge of the Spanish Primera League and Serie A (the Italian League). I "get" why so many across the world (sans Americans) are infatuated with the "beautiful game." As a matter of fact, I join them in the infatuation.

I once heard someone, in describing the game, state that every trip down the pitch (field) is like a novela. While that might be hyperbole, there is an element of truth in it if you really pay attention to the game. It's a game of skill, imagination, strength, and incredible physical fitness. I'm not sure why Americans have not appreciated the game to any great degree, especially with so many kids growing up playing the game over the past two decades, but it probably has to do with the perceived lack of action brought about by the presence of few actual goals scored. I hope that changes over time.

So, how much of a soccer nerd am I? Well, I own a handful of jerseys that I've picked up off of eBay or while working in Ireland. I have a Fernando Torres jersey from the Spanish national team. I have Fernando Torres Liverpool jersey. I have a Peter Crouch Portsmouth jersey. And I have a long line of other jersey's I'm "watching" on eBay. While working in Ireland I seriously considered spending my free weekend riding the ferry across from Dublin to Liverpool in order to attend a match. I catch every match I can on espn360 and the ones I miss I catch the highlights on footytube.com after the fact. I'm on the soccer sites daily in the offseason to watch player movement amongst the teams (especially Liverpool as I have adopted them as "my team"). I'm a nerd. I admit it. But I have no plans of changing as I love the game.

For those that might have interest, google or Youtube any of the following to see the who's who of the soccer world:

- Fernando Torres (Liverpool striker and Spanish national)
- Steven Gerrard (Liverpool and English national)
- Carlos Tevez (Manchester City and Argentine national)
- Cristiano Ronaldo (boooo - Real Madrid and Portuguese national)
- Ronaldinho (flashy player that has seen better days, AC Milan and Brazilian national)
- Robinho (Manchester City and Brazilian national)
- Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentine national)
- Thierry Henry (Barcelona and French national)
- Kaka (Real Madrid and Brazilian national)
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Barcelona and Swedish national)
- Didier Drogba (Chelsea and Ivory Coast national)
- David Villa (Valencia and Spanish national)
- Wayne Rooney (Manchester United and English national)

If you want a few American names:

- Landon Donovan (plays for LA Galaxy, but will be playing in Europe next year no doubt)
- Oguchi Onyewu (plays for AC Milan in Italy)
- Michael Bradley (plays in Germany)
- Clint Dempsey (plays for Aston Villas in England)
- Jozy Altidore (plays for Hull City in England)