Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Ball Drop

Happy New Year!

Across the continental U.S. (and even farther out past Hawaii and Alaska) it takes several hours for our nation to celebrate the New Year. However, a lot of Americans count the ball drop in Times Square as an official passing of the old into the new year.

This is the 100th anniversary of the ball drop, which started in 1904 when Alfred Ochs, the owner of the New York Times, put on a fireworks display to welcome 1905 and celebrate the opening of the newspaper's new offices.

When city authorities banned the fireworks display on security grounds, the first ball was introduced -- a 320-kilo (700 pound) steel and wood sphere lit up with 100 light bulbs.

The Times Square ball has marked every new year since then, except in 1942 and 1943, when wartime regulations restricted lighting in the city.

In 1955, a new aluminum ball was unveiled and remained in use until the 1980s, the traditional ball came back seven years later, computer control started in 1995 and aluminum replaced by crystal for millennium eve in 1999.

This year's ball lights green and is made of 672 crystal triangles, weighs almost 500 kilos (1,100 pounds) and is lit by 9,576 energy-efficient light emitting diodes, which replace the halogen and strobe lights in last year's ball.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The War

I finally just finished watching Ken Burns' excellent documentary about World War II - "The War."

If you haven't seen it yet, you should.

"The War" exhibits the incredible attention to detail and quality that all of Ken Burns' stuff does (remember the Civil War documentary that came out a while ago that used Sam Waterson's voice with interviews of Shelby Foote? The was Ken Burns).

What really struck me about "The War" was the extent to which the US government under FDR was able to motivate and inspire the population through sacrifice and massive hardship and loss of life - for 4 long years.

During World War II the American government sent all the right signals to the people and provided the leadership that allowed our nation to marshal its great strength against tyranny.

It occurs to me that immediately after 9/11 - there was an opportunity to marshal that strength again against our current challenges. But that opportunity was wasted when the government asked people to "go shopping" and though people wanted to sacrifice and do something in the wake of those terrible attacks - the government pointed those eager to help to the malls.

As "The War" shows, government has the power to do better.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Larry Craig on the other side of the wall

Now that the Larry Craig saga has mostly stalled out (only pun in this post, I swear) - I wanted to point out something he talked about in attempting to defend himself through the whole ordeal.

During his October 16, 2007 interview with NBC's Matt Lauer, Craig explained his view that:

"Well-- it's always been a great privilege, Matt, to represent Idaho in Congress. And that's all I've really ever wanted to do is to go there, to be their defender, to be that wall between government and the citizen. Because government, as you know, can be very daunting to the average person."

This is why Larry is wrong: As Abraham Lincoln pointed out - our's is a government "of the people, by the people, for the people" - the belief that there needs to be a wall between people and their government does not scan. The government is the people, the people are the government.

Larry Craig is just getting in the way.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Symbols of Government

Some of you may have heard about Jim Broussard last week.

Jim Broussard is a U.S. Army Veteran who became angered after hearing that a business in his town of Reno, NV was flying the flag of Mexico above the U.S. flag.

Taking matters into his own hands, Broussard proceeded tothe business in question and with his US Army issued knife, cut down the flags.

Now, the debate over flag burning vs. freedom of speech has a long history and this episode only adds another chapter.

No matter where you come down on the debate, flags and other symbols of government are things that most people in this nation hold to be sacred.

Symbols of government is important because govenrnment is important.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

If government can help, Veto it.

These are the only two reasons I can think of that Bush why Bush vetoed the S-CHIP bill.

1) He does not feel that making sure sick kids have a way to see a doctor is an important priority...compared to say, what we're spending to be in Iraq for a few days.

2) He believes S-CHIP is a first step to universal health care for all Americans. If S-CHIP continues to be successful, then its possible it will set a precedent for other government programs that might help Americans stay healthy.

Either answer reflects some twisted values. I suspect all things being equal, Bush doesn't want kids to be sick. Which means his true motive is answer #2. If S-CHIP and other programs like it work, then it undermines the whole philosophy that government programs can't help people.

The truth is, government can and does help people all the time.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Wanted: Government

Regardless of where you come down on the Iraq debate, all sides seem to agree on one thing - the linchpin for American success in Iraq revolves around the ability of Iraqi leaders to get their government organized one way or another.

Even the highest ranking military officers admit that military force alone cannot provide a long term solution for solving Iraq's security woes. Rather, the only long-term solution is political. That is, Iraq needs government.

Next time somebody comes to you and starts espousing the merits of limited government. Ask them if they think the current government in Iraq is limited enough.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Lessons Learned

I bet you heard about the problem with the shuttle Endeavor's thermal tiles and that after an extensive analysis, NASA decided that the best course was to leave the tiles alone - that they would be ok. Ever hear what happened to the shuttle? Nothing. It landed safely on August 21.

It occurs to me that despite mistakes of the past, government does learn. Case in point - the shuttle. Following the tragedy with the space shuttle Columbia last year, NASA underwent a major re-haul in how they handle things when concerns about safety are raised. They changed their culture such that when a problem came up again, everybody had a voice - and the best course was chosen.

Think about other recent government mistakes...Hurricane Katrina - has any recent mistake been worse? The government still makes mistakes in the wake of Katrina - but at least some people were taking the threat of Hurricane Dean seriously. Its still not good enough - but government does learn.

The tragedy with the miners in Utah - how did government do there? Not very well. In the last 7 years there have been 8 major mine disasters. Seems like nobody in government is learning much there.

The point is - at least government has the capacity to learn...and that capacity makes it better than any alternative. Good government learns fast - that's when it really has the ability to help its people.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Cure

Interestingly, one of the Chinese words for "government" shares a root with a Chinese word for "to cure."

In early Chinese history, alchemists were some of the most important people around. They worked on formulas hoping to find the answer to eternal life, longevity...and seemingly by accident, discovered the secret behind gunpowder.

The work of these early chemists was greatly interwoven with other aspects of society. The solutions that these early scientists derived were synonymous with the Chinese view of government. That is, just as the right herb or tea can cure people's ailments, government has the power to cure society's ailments.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Postman

Over the weekend I caught a rerun of the 1997 movie "The Postman" starring Kevin Costner. I've seen the movie a couple of times, but it never fails to make me think about how the most basic institutions of government are so important to a nation.

The story is based on the premise that sometime around 2015 there are a series of events that leave the United States in anarchy with small communities besieged by clan based militias. Costner's character finds an old mail delivery truck, puts on a postal uniform he finds, and proceeds to start telling people that the mail is back in service. Before he knows it, the word spreads and pony express style post offices start springing up all over to the ultimate demise of the warlords and eventual restoration of the United States.

In today's world we take the mail for granted, but in George Washington's day it was one of the most important institutions of the land. Its worth remembering that a simple government service like providing mail service means so much. In that spirit, I recall the mailman's creed:

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Comrade Kim - You are not very good at your job

North Korea recently lost about 10% of their farmland to terrible floods. The North Korean government did not have the resources to feed their people before the flood - now its much worse.

North Korea doesn't have a government in any sense of the word, they have a dictator, a tyrant. So, their people suffer.

I can only hope that one day North Korea will have a functioning government - only then will the people of that country be able to prosper.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Free trade is a good thing, but it also illustrates how some government is better than others.

Sometimes it makes mistakes, but elements of the US government charged with keeping consumers safe work at it everyday. If there is lead on a toy that might make a child sick (or worse), they usually catch it.

Plenty of voices in the US are always complaining about too much government regulation. I would tell them that is fine as long as they are ok with their kids playing with this jeep.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

When Karl Rove stood in the Rose Garden yesterday with George W. Bush to announce his resignation, I couldn't help but notice that they both commented about looking forward to the day when they could leave government service and return to Texas. They both conveyed what a relief it would be.

Here is what I don't understand. If Rove, in his own words is so hip on having "the honor" of serving our nation - why is he so down on government. These guys pretty much have total disdain for government, yet they want to be a part of it.

This is the contradiction that vexes me.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

I just finished watching a documentary about Greg "Pappy" Boyington, a U.S. Marine Corps Pilot that flew as an ace during the Pacific Campaign in World War II

If you remember watching the old TV show "Black Sheep Squadron," Pappy is the pilot hero portrayed by Robert Conrad. It occurs to me that Boyington's story really illustrates the importance of the comeback.

At the start of World War II, Boyington was down on his luck, in debt, unemployed, and bascially at odds with the law. Instead of fold, he joined the flying tigers and fought off the Japanese in Burma.

After his stint with the Flying Tigers, we found himself back in the U.S. with his reputation in question. He wound up taking a job as a parking attendant for a while. Not giving up however, he wound up writing to the Secretary of the Navy and got himself reassigned back into the service.

For a while he was stuck in a series of desk jobs, but eventually convinced his superiors to let him assemble a group of pilots to form what would be called the "Black Sheep Squadron," which became famous during the push in the Solomon Islands.

Pappy was scheduled to be reassigned after one tour of duty, but wound up going over the heads of his immediate supervisors and convinced them to let him keep flying despite his unorthodox ways.

Boyington started to get tons of media attention has he neared the all time Ace record when he wound up getting shot down. All presumed he had been lost.

However after the War ended, he showed up in health and well in a Japanese POW Camp. He wound up traveling the U.S. to sell War Bonds, eventually Truman awarded him the Congressional Medal of Honor at a Rose Garden ceremony.

How about that for a series of comebacks?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Blessing of the Dogs at National City Christian Church - Washington, DC

Blessing of the Dogs National City Christian ChurchOn Thomas Circle10:00 AM - 10:20 AMSunday August 5, 2007

read more | digg story

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ever wondered how to make guacamole really easily and then keep it fresh? Check out my lens at squidoo: Easiest Way in the World to Make and Keep Guacamole

Monday, July 23, 2007

Riding the Metro in Washington, DC

An insider guide about the tips and tricks of riding the metro in Washington, DC.

read more | digg story

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Want to learn more about the US Mint's 2007 Little Rock High School Desegregation Dollar? Check out our new lens about this commemorative coin at

Monday, July 16, 2007

The US Mint is scheduled to release the 2007 Platinum Eagles on at 12:00 pm ET on Tuesday 7/17/07. The Platinum Eagles are issued in four sizes: one ounce, half ounce, quarter ounce, and tenth ounce, in both proof and uncirculated versions - so 8 different coins in all.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

We were saddened to hear about the death of Lady Bird Johnson yesterday - amazing to think the President Johnson's First Lady has been with us all this time.

Lady Bird's passing opens up 2 new coins to the Gold First Spouse series, which requires that First Spouse coins be released not before their passing or that of the predecessors: Lady Bird Johnson and Pat Nixon.


Saturday, July 7, 2007

Collectibles and antiques that people chase after are more than just things - across they span of time they remind us that progress is best achieved not by reinventing the wheel with each generation but rather by building on the knowledge gained by generations of the past.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

This summer is a movement in the House of Representatives that would require all U.S. Coins to have the phrase "In God We Trust" on either the reverse or obverse of all US coins. In theory, this might require a redesign of the Presidential Golden Dollar edge lettering.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Below is an article from Numismatic News...explains how quickly the First Spouse Gold Dollar sold out..

First Spouse orders at 25,000 first day of sale
The Mint says it accepted 25,000 orders from eager buyers in the June 19 sellout of the first two gold coins in the First Spouse series. The coins went on sale at noon Eastern Daylight Time on that date and they were sold out the same day.

Maximum sales of 40,000 coins were recorded by the Martha Washington and Abigail Adams designs. These were evenly divided between proof and uncirculated versions, according to Mint sales data.

Buyers were limited to five coins per household for each sales option for each design, making a maximum possible household order for each design 10 coins. No bulk orders were acceptd.

The Mint says the average accepted order was for three coins.

The speed of the sellout surprised the Mint. A spokesman said demand for the coins exceeded the Mint’s most optimistic forecast. Order fulfillment is on a first-in and first-out basis, and some Numismatic News readers reported receiving their coins as early as June 21. All are to be delivered by the end of August.

The Mint said 8 percent of the orders received were attempts to evade the household limits and would be cancelled.

Some 70 percent of the orders were taken online and the balance was by telephone. The Web site held up well, according to the Mint, though Numismatic News readers reported delays as long as half an hour.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Treasure is often carried on ships, and so are guns.

Ever wondered where the phrase "son of a gun" comes from? It turns out that during the Age of Sail when ships were in port and sailors went out to fraternize with the ladies, often the only privacy they could find was on the gun deck back aboard their ship.

If and when these ladies later found themselves with child, they would often apply to the Royal Navy for assistance for their newborn children conceived on ship. For liability reasons, naval records relating to these children often did not include the name of their father. Rather, instead of the father's name was listed the number of the gun to which the father was assigned, in order to help guard the father's identity.

Subsequently, sons of these sailors became known as "a son of a gun."

Friday, June 22, 2007

For those of you who haven't already heard - the U.S. Mint released its first round of Gold First Spouse commemorative coins on Tuesday and they sold out in about 2 hours! These coins are hot hot hot.....
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