Limited government in foreign policy

George Will defends President Obama against those who criticize him for not being able to control what is happening in Egypt:

In 1949, when communists came to power there [in China], America bestrode both hemispheres shattered from war. Americans thought that their nation was at the wheel of the world and that whatever happened, wherever, happened at America’s instigation, or at least its sufferance, or was evidence of American negligence.

It is a sign of national maturity – the product of hard learning, from Korea and Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan – that fewer American complainers are today faulting the Obama administration for not anticipating and shaping events in Egypt. Israel, which lives next door to Egypt and has an excellent intelligence service, did not see this coming. So, a modest proposal:

Those Americans who know which Republican will win next year’s Iowa caucuses can complain about those who did not know that when a Tunisian street vendor set himself on fire, he would set a region afire. From all other Americans, forbearance would be seemly.

It also would be amazing, because there is a cottage industry of Barack Obama critics who, not content with monitoring his myriad mistakes in domestic policies, insist that there must be a seamless connection of those with his foreign policy. Strangely, these critics, who correctly doubt the propriety and capacity of the U.S. government controlling our complex society, simultaneously fault the government for not having vast competence to shape the destinies of other societies.

via George F. Will – Egypt’s revolution to win or lose.

Real money for virtual Smurfberries

It’s a classic parental scenario:  the kid gets the parents’ credit card and buys stuff with it.  But today, the “stuff” exists only in virtual world.  Parents are up in arms about kiddy game iPhone apps that cost them real money:

Over the winter break from school, 8-year-old Madison worked to dress up her simple mushroom home on the iPhone game Smurfs’ Village. In doing so, she also amassed a $1,400 bill from Apple.

The Rockville second-grader didn’t realize the Smurfberries she was buying on the popular game by Capcom Interactive were real purchases, much like buying a pair of shoes from Zappos or movie tickets from Fandango. After all, lots of children’s games require virtual payments of pretend coins, treasure chests and gold to advance to levels.

But like a growing number of parents, Madison’s mom, Stephanie Kay, was shocked to find very real charges from iTunes show up in her e-mail box days later.

“I thought the app preyed on children,” she said. “Note that the Smurf app states it is for ages 4-plus.”

The games are part of a category of applications on Apple’s iTunes store that are free to download but let companies charge users for products and services when the application is launched. Following Apple, Google this week introduced these so-called “in-app purchases” for Android mobile phones and tablets, which experts say could create a new economy for newspapers, record labels and movie studios that have been struggling with ways to thrive online.

The in-app purchases have also catapulted children’s games such as Smurfs’ Village and Tap Zoo, by San Francisco-based Pocket Gems, into the ranks of the highest-grossing apps on iPods, iPhones and iPads.

But the practice is troubling parents and public interest groups, who say $99 for a wagon of Smurfberries or $19 for a bucket of snowflakes doesn’t have any business in a children’s game. Though a password is needed to make a purchase, critics say that the safeguards aren’t strong enough and that there are loopholes.

via In-app purchases in iPad, iPhone, iPod kids’ games touch off parental firestorm.

The article gives more horror stories.  But it raises in my mind a host of questions.

First of all, an eight-year-old has an iPhone?  And the apps are designed for children as young as four, and they have iPhones?

And a wagon of Smurfberries costs $99 and a bucket of snowflakes costs $19?  Where do those show up on the consumer price index?  Is the demand for those commodities so high that it is bidding up the cost?  Is there any way we could give parents relief by working on the supply side, say,  by manufacturing more of them?  Are Smurfberries generated by a program in China?

Is there an economics model that accounts for the pricing of commodities that do not actually exist?

New internet domains

So far internet domain suffixes are .com, .org, .edu, and nationality abbreviations, like .de for Deutschland and .au for Australia.  But very soon, they will multiply into a host of specific subject-specific domains:

The pillar of the basic Web address – the trusty .com domain – is about to face vast new competition that will dramatically transform the Web as we know it. New Web sites, with more subject-specific, sometimes controversial suffixes, will soon populate the online galaxy, such as .eco, .love, .god, .sport, .gay or .kurd.

This massive expansion to the Internet’s domain name system will either make the Web more intuitive or create more cluttered, maddening experiences. No one knows yet. But with an infinite number of naming possibilities, an industry of Web wildcatters is racing to grab these potentially lucrative territories with addresses that are bound to provoke.

Who gets to run .abortion Web sites – people who support abortion rights or those who don’t? Which individual or mosque can run the .islam or .muhammad sites? Can the Ku Klux Klan own .nazi on free speech grounds, or will a Jewish organization run the domain and permit only educational Web sites – say, remember.nazi or antidefamation.nazi? And who’s going to get .amazon – the Internet retailer or Brazil?

The decisions will come down to a little-known nonprofit based in Marina del Rey, Calif., whose international board of directors approved the expansion in 2008 but has been stuck debating how best to run the program before launching it. Now, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is on the cusp of completing those talks in March or April and will soon solicit applications from companies and governments that want to propose and operate the new addresses.

This week, hundreds of investors, consultants and entrepreneurs are expected to converge in San Francisco for the first “.nxt” conference, a three-day affair featuring seminars on ICANN’s complicated application guidelines. The conference’s Web site, which has a list of applicants, is not without a sense of humor: “Join the Internet land rush!” a headline screams, above a photograph of the Tom Cruise character galloping on a horse in the movie “Far and Away,” the 1992 film about giveaways out West in the late 19th century.

These online territories are hardly free. The price tag to apply is $185,000, a cost that ensures only well-financed organizations operate the domains and cuts out many smaller grass-roots organizations, developing countries or dreamers, according to critics. (Rejectees get some of the application fee returned.) That’s on top of the $25,000 annual fee.

via Rush is on for custom domain name suffixes.

Presumably, if we can get all porn onto a .sex or .porn domain, it would make it easier to block.  Do you see any challenges or unintended consequences for this?

SuperBowl had most TV viewers in history

There was a time when there were only four networks and the whole country came together to watch programs, like the last episode of MASH, in a vast communal experience.  Now with cable, satellite, and scores of narrowcasting networks, that time is over.  Except that the nation DID come together to watch the Super Bowl.  These two small market teams attracted the most viewers ever to a TV show:

History was made last night on FOX when Super Bowl XLV became the most-watched U.S. television program ever, and FOX became the first network ever to exceed 100 million viewers (100.9 million) for a night in prime time, according to fast-national ratings released today by Nielsen Media Research. The game, the outcome of which was in doubt until the final seconds, saw the Green Bay Packers defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 to capture the franchise’s fourth Super Bowl Championship.

FOX Sports’ broadcast of Super Bowl XLV averaged 111 million viewers and is the most-watched television program in U.S. history, obliterating the prior record of 106.5 set last year during Super Bowl XLIV by 4.5 million viewers and the 106.0 million for the series finale of M*A*S*H, which held the viewership record from 1983 to 2010.

via Super Bowl XLV Breaks Viewing Record, Averages 111 Million Viewers.

Why do you think the game scored such huge numbers?

You (already) are the salt of the earth

In Sunday’s sermon, Pastor Douthwaite made an important grammatical point.  You know in Matthew 5 where Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth” and “you are the light of the world”?  The verb is an indicative:

It’s not an imperative, a command. Jesus is not saying you have to, must be, or should be this – it is what you ARE.

It is what your Saviour has worked in you and made you by His grace.The challenge is to BE who you ARE. To live as a spiritual being and not just an animal who lives and eats and procreates. To live in the image of God and not try to be the image of others in the world – sports stars or celebrities or others we think successful. To live as one redeemed by Christ the crucified. That is a challenge because satan is constantly tempting you to BE something else, something less than you are, and making that less look like more.

But do not be fooled. You are more than all that. You are a child of God who has been illuminated in Holy Baptism. You are a child of God who has been salted by the Holy Spirit. That is who you ARE.

And so you are that which salts the earth.You are that which gives light to the world.That is your identity – and, your calling. It is part and parcel of your life in Christ. No one else has this calling. Only children of God in Christ Jesus.

And so enlightened by Him, Jesus says, BE who you ARE. Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

These words of Jesus today reveal that God has vested you with an incredible honor and purpose in life. That your life is not pointless or useless. That to be a child of God is not like standing on the corner waiting for the bus to heaven, but to be living, breathing Gospel.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church.

How do we salt the earth?  How are we already serving and having an influence by “being” rather than “doing”?  Similarly, Christians often talk about winning the world for Christ and that sort of thing.  But if He is Lord, isn’t He already reigning over the world?

Betraying Great Britain

A bombshell comes out of Wikileaks.  The Obama administration turned over secrets about England’s nuclear arsenal to the Russians:

Information about every Trident missile the US supplies to Britain will be given to Russia as part of an arms control deal signed by President Barack Obama next week.

Defence analysts claim the agreement risks undermining Britain’s policy of refusing to confirm the exact size of its nuclear arsenal.

The fact that the Americans used British nuclear secrets as a bargaining chip also sheds new light on the so-called “special relationship”, which is shown often to be a one-sided affair by US diplomatic communications obtained by the WikiLeaks website. . . .

A series of classified messages sent to Washington by US negotiators show how information on Britain’s nuclear capability was crucial to securing Russia’s support for the “New START” deal.

Although the treaty was not supposed to have any impact on Britain, the leaked cables show that Russia used the talks to demand more information about the UK’s Trident missiles, which are manufactured and maintained in the US.

Washington lobbied London in 2009 for permission to supply Moscow with detailed data about the performance of UK missiles. The UK refused, but the US agreed to hand over the serial numbers of Trident missiles it transfers to Britain.

via WikiLeaks cables: US agrees to tell Russia Britain’s nuclear secrets – Telegraph.

One might say, but these are our missiles we are giving to the Brits.  No, when we give them to the Brits, they belong to them.  And, at any rate, if our allies don’t want the Russians knowing something and have directly refused our request for permission to disclose it, sheer respect for the other nation would mean we should act accordingly.  How can this be anything but betrayal?

This is only the most serious example of a long list of diplomatic disrespect of Great Britain ever since the Obama administration took office.  Why are we doing such things to  our closest and strongest ally?


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