Palin for VP

It’s been official for several hours now.  Sarah Palin (Governor Alaska) has been tapped to be John McCain’s VP candidate.  I like the choice.  She’s got the right credentials, is young and energetic.  She was in my top 5 possibilities for the slot, and I see few downsides to her being on the ticket. 

 

Here’s the email release from the McCain campaign:

JohnMcCain.com

My Friends, I am honored to announce that I have chosen Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska as my choice for the Republican nominee for Vice President. As a father with three daughters, I can’t express how proud I am to choose the first female Republican Vice-Presidential nominee.

Sarah Palin is a trailblazer and a reformer. As the first female governor of Alaska, she challenged a corrupt system and has been a tireless advocate for reform – passing a landmark bill on ethics reform. She has taken on the old politics in Alaska and reformed the state’s energy industry. She rejects wasteful pork barrel spending. She’s fearless – exactly the type of leader I want at my side and the type of leadership we will bring to Washington.

My friends, together Sarah Palin and I make the strongest presidential ticket and I know that she joins me in asking for your support as we head into our Convention week in Minnesota. We’re shaking things up in this campaign – and Governor Palin and I are ready to bring real reform to Washington.

The polls indicate this will be a tight race as we head into the fall campaign against Senators Obama and Biden. I expect the polls to remain close all the way up to Election Day and that is why any help you can give today will go a long way to make history on November 4th.

You may already know that I have decided to accept federal matching funds for the final months of this campaign- keeping a campaign promise I made. But that means that August 31st marks the last day I can accept your primary contribution. Will you make an immediate donation of whatever you can give- whether it’s $50 or $500 to ensure Governor Palin and I win in November?

You can be assured that as President and Vice President, Governor Palin and I will always put country before all else. We are ready to lead and I ask that you join our campaign today. Your support is deeply appreciated.

Sincerely,

John McCain

P.S. I have chosen Governor Sarah Palin as my running mate and today we will hold a joint campaign rally in Dayton, Ohio. Please tune in to any of the cable news stations to watch this rally at noon eastern time. After watching the rally, I hope you’ll visit my website to financially support our ticket as we head into next week’s Republican Convention. Thank you.

 

Putin’s Paranoia

So, you think foreign personages and governments aren’t trying to infuence the US Presidential election?

Just look at the latest exposition from Soviet Russian leader Vladimir Putin.  According to Putin, the US orchestrated the conflict in Georgia.  To what end?  Why to give a Presidential candidate a “talking point” of course.  It was all done to take a slap at the Russians, and to give McCain a boost.  Uh-huh.  I think Vlad needs to stop reading disinfo.com every day.

This is patently ridiculous.  Only the Russians stood to gain anything from the conflict over South Ossetia.  The impact on the US election will be minimal, if any at all.  But the Russians stood to regain dominance in the region.  They stood to gain effective control over Georgia by splitting it in two, controlling the main road and rail ways across the country.  The Russians stood to gain effective control over the oil pipe lines running through Georgia. 

No, this has little, if anything to do with US politics.  This is all about classic Russian ambitions.  The dreams of empire, which did not die with the USSR, are still alive and well.  And with an ex-KGB thug like Putin in charge, the Russian’s have been rather active in re-establishing their control and dominance over the former Republics.  Georgia is not alone, just that they’ve been the ones to get the Poland-Czechoslovakia treatment so far.

The Russians have been pushing hard on many of the former Soviet Republics.  The Baltic nations of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania have all received heavy political and economic pressure from Moscow.  The Ukraine and Belarus have received more “active” pressures.  The Central Asian republics (Tajikistan, Khazhakistan, etc) have all been pressured by Moscow.  Their independence, their soveriegnty is irrelevant ot Moscow.  as far as the Kremlin nudniks are concerned, they’re all Russian possessions, they just don’t know it yet.

This policy is nothing new.  It’s old.  It goes all the way back to the time before there was a Russia, just warring Duchies and smaller kingdoms.  It begins with the ambitions of Novgorod and the Duchy of Moscow, and who would be the inheritors of the Byzantine Empire (setting aside Greece and Trabizond).  From then on, it has been about Empire, and expanding the empire.  Even under the defunct USSR, this was the policy, though expansion was often referred to as “buffer zones.” 

And this doesn’t even bring up the hypocrisy of Moscow as regards South Ossetia.  Compare what happened in South Ossetia with what happened in Chechnya.  Same thing, only the sides were drawn differently.  What Chechnya did was “illegal,” and “needed to be repressed.”  But the South Ossetians were “justified,” and “needed to be protected.”  So, aspirations of Chechnyians was not OK, but the aspirations of South Ossetians is OK.  The difference?  The Russians stood to gain from South Ossetia, and lose in Chechnya.

It should be noted that the EU, and its composite nations, have had a more active response to the Georgian crisis than has the USA.  They have taken a rather active stance in opposition to the Russian moves.  Well, except for the “old left” on the continent.  But this is only natural, as the EU borders Russia, and has some many deals in teh works with the Russsians.  In addition, the former Warsaw Pact nations, notably Poland, Hungary, and Romania, are all looking at the Russians anew in old ways.

And now the UN Security Council is meeting on the Georgian situation.  Not that anything will come out of that.  The Russians do have a veto there.  But it is an indication of what sort of hit the Russians will be taking for this.  It won’t just be the UN, or bad press.

The invasion of Georgia threatens a good deal for the Russians.  The natural gas/petroleum deal with Germany is up in the air.  Poland, which had been backing off the US missile defense plan, now has signed on.  The Baltics are ramping up their push to join NATO.  Georgia was on the verge of membership in NATO, which has also upset the EU.  The relations between Moscow and the former Soviet republics has taken a turn towards the tense.  They’re worried they may be next.  Former Eastern Bloc nations are looking to the EU and the USA to help fend off Russian expansionism.

Almost single handedly, Putin has pushed relations between Moscow and the world back 20 years, to the era before Glasnost and Perestroika.  Then again, you may be able to take the boy out of the KGB, but you can’t take the KGB out of the boy.

Obama to choose VP soon

If you haven’t heard this by now, you need to come out from that cave up in the mountains.  The current news cycle is so slow, that everyone is talking about this every 15 minutes on TV and Radio.  Then there are all the articles in print and on the web, and all the blather on talk radio.  When the biggest aspect is not who he’ll chose (that only gets mentioned twoce an hour), but that he’ll be making the first announcement via text message, it shows exactly how slow the news cycle is, and how desperate some outlets are to pump out any “positive” Obama story.

But enough of that.  Here are my top suspects for the #2 slot:

1. Joe Biden (D-DEL).  A veteran Senator, well rounded in the foreign policy arena.  He’ll bring much needed foreign policy experience to the ticket, and give voters a bit of reassurance about Obama’s general lack of experience.  He’s a good debator, and always comes prepared.  Downside is he’s from Delaware, and is not a dynamic campaigner.

2. Evan Bayh (D-IND).  Bayh could help deliver an usually “safe” Republican state.  He’s also young and energetic, which would emphasize the “change” meme.  Main problem here is the lack of a consistent policy between Obama and Bayh.  Bayh supports restrictions on abortion, and supported the War in Iraq. 

3. Wesley Clark (former General). Wes would bring a wealth of foreign policy experience, and an undeniably olid background in military affairs.  He has the name recognition, and “face time” from his stint as an analysist on CNN.  Darwbacks are that Clark has been terribly inconsistent in his views, doesn’t campaign all that well, and doesn’t draw much from centrist Democrats or Indpendents.

4. Tim Kaine (D-VA).  Kaine is similar to Bayh in that he’s “young,” is a Democrat in a typically Republican State, and has executive experience as governor.  problem here is he has no foreign policy experience, and has only been governor for 3 years.

5. Bill Richardson (D-NM).  Bill has a lot going for him.  A former governor, and cabinet secretary, plus has the military background.  Richardson would appeal to centrist Democrats, Independents, and even some Republicans.  Problem here is two fold.  First, he was running against Obama for the Presidential bid, and was a close Clintonista at one time.  Second is policy differences, notably on gun control (Richardson has supported 2nd amendment rights).  The “issue” of having a Black-Latino ticket is not the issue it’s being made out to be.

5A. Sam Nunn (D-GA).  Somehow I forgot that Sam Nunn was in consideration.  Correcting that error now.  Sam is a intersting choice.  He has the chops on foreign policy and defense, and has been out of Washington for a while now.  He’s also a Southerner, which will help Obama in Dixieland.  drawback is that he’s a boring speaker, and doesn’t translate well into the energetic cmpaigner and debator the VP usually needs.

6. Bill Nelson (D-FLA). Another Bayh type, a Democrat in a Republican state.  But his low key style may not translate onto the national stage.  Though he has experience on various Senate committees, it probably won’t be the reassurance about experience voters are looking for.

7. Kathleen Sebilius (D-KA).  an interesting option.  She has good executive eperience, and she’s popular in Kansas.  She’s crossed party lines before, so could help the “not politics as usual” refrain.  Biggets problme would be it would be a direct slap at Hillary Clinton and her supporters. 

8. Chet Edwards (D-TX).  Nancy Pelosi’s “dark horse.”  A 20 year House veteran is not going to help push the “change” meme.  Conflicting policy differences, such as drilling in the ANWAR, and on foreign policy and defense matters don’t help.  He’d be a symbolic choice only, as his district includes Crawford, Texas, where the Bush ranch is.

9. Hillary Clinton (D-NY).  She still has a shot, but it’s a long one.  Hillary is a good/bad choice.  She’s good in that it brings her, her organization, and supporters over en mass, with very few defections.  The bad is that she’s such a divisive figure on the national stage, and would energize the opposition beyond what anyone else could. 

10. Jack Reed (D-RI).  Has the policy balancing aspects Obama needs in foreign policy and defense.  But he’s from Rhode Island, is little known outside of New England, and doesn’t gnerally campaign well.

It’s not worth mentioning Chuck Hagel (R-OK).  While the possibility makes the talkingheads wag and weave and bob nonstop, it’s just such an extreme long shot as to be all but impossible.  It’s like when McCain’s name was floated as John Kerry’s VP candidate in 2004.  Hagel will not jump ship from the GOP to run with Obama.

Carl Yastrzemski

Carl Yastrzemski is in the hospital for heart bypass surgery.  He has undergone successful (so far) triple bypass surgery.  Red Sox nation I am quite sure is praying and rooting for “Captain Carl,” just as they did for 20+ years while he played for the Sox.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/baseball/mlb/08/19/yaz.hospital.ap/index.html

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20080819&content_id=3332233&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3542769

Yaz, as he is more popularly known, had a Hall of Fame career in Boston.  He’s also the last man to win the American League triple crown in batting.  He took over LF from another HoF’er, Ted Williams (no pressure there right?).  He was part of the “impossible dream” team in 1967.  He was on the AL pennant winning 1975 team.  He was a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee.

I had the priviliedge of meeting Yaz in 1990.  He was doing a book signing for his autobiography, “Baseball, The Wall, and Me” at the Boston U Bookstore in Kenmore Square in Boston.  He ended up staying over the posted times to acocmodate the crowd that had lined up to get thier copies signed.  He was perfectly personable to everyone who got to the table, from the rabid fans, to the casual fans getting the book autographed for a relative or friend. 

I got to see Yaz play at Fenway.  He was one of those Red So players I wanted to be like (but never did LOL).  It was Yaz, Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, and Freddy Lynn who I loved to watch play.  Too bad the pitching never matched up to the offense and defense (Bob Stanley not withstanding).

So here’s to hoping that Yaz make a full and complete rcovery, and will once again grace the crowds of Fenway and Cooperstown with his presence.

PS3 Game Review: Civilization Revolutions

Just one more turn, then I’ll go to work/sleep/feed the dog/feed the children/whatever.

Anyone who has played the various incranations of Civilization from Sid Meier know that phrase.  They’ve said more times than they care to admit to.  But such is the hallmark of a truly great game.  Many a player has turned that “just one more turn” phrase into several additional hours of game play, often at the epense of sleep/work/family/pets.  I know I did on several occasions.

As computer technology advanced, so did the games for them.  The first Civilization (CIV1), could fit on two 3.5″ disks (I still have a copy somewhere), and provided numerous hours of entertainment, bordering on addiction.  CIV II was the next step forward, and came on a CD.  Game play was enhanced with new technologies, better graphics, more Wonders, and all that.  CIV III was less of a step forward.  Game mechanics were improved, as was the interface, but new content was light.  Then came CIV IV.  This is a great game, but may be a little too over the top in terms of eye candy graphics.  It plays well enough, but I would have rathered seen more depth and detail added to the gamemechanics and in game aspects (technologies, wonders, units, etc), rather than having snazzy 3-D graphics that I usually turn off anyway.

But as things progressed, culminating with CIV IV, so did the complexity of game play.  With each CIV incarnation, micromanagement increased, as more depth and details were added.  CIV III began to give players more aids in this (auto assignments and such for each city by an AI “governor”), but in order to truly get the most out of your nation, you had to micromanage each and every city.  This could get very unwieldy if you have a large nation.  This became a turn off for many casual gamers, and neophyte gamers.  It wass too much all at once.

Enter the consoles.  CIV was ported over to the PSOne several years back, and it was so-so.  It tried to be the PC version on a console, but didn’t quite match up.  The controls were awful, and it was just too easy to skip over important things.  A good idea poorly executed.  Since then, true strategy games on consoles have been lacking.  And no, Command and Conquor is not a strategy game, it’s a tactical game, as are all the C&C clones out there.  Deal with it.

As the PC gaming world is losing its dominance to consoles, it’s only natural that Sid Meier and company (Firaxis), would make a console version of CIV.  But this time, rather than just porting over CIV IV (which I wouldn’t have minded), they instead made a console specific version, Revolution.  This is designed with the intent of introducing casual gamers, and the nwe generation of gamers to the CIV franchise.

As I was searching about for a new game to play, having finished off Oblivion (finally), and worked my way through GHIII, and all but finished Residnet Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, I needed something new.  It came down to a choice between GH:Aerosmith, and Civilization Revolution.  Not being a fan of Joe Perry’s solo stuff, I opted against GH:Aerosmith and instead went for CIV.  I’m happy with the choice.

First off, the game is not geared towards veteran CIV players.  It’s for players new to the franchise, and those who find the PC version too complex.  This is quick and dirty CIV, streamlined for the console generation.  This is not to say veteran players won’t get enjoyment or value out of this title, but they’re not the target audience (they’re all playing CIV IV already).  The manual is simplified, as it has to be put into the packaging for a console game, but what isn’t in the manual itself (which is quite alot actually), is easilly found in the in game Civiliopedia, which is far more appealing than what I’ve previously seen.

Now to the game itself..

The game features many of the improvements and features of previous CIV games.  Great leaders, nation specific units, nation specific bonuses, etc are all here.  The interface is intuitive, and easy to navigate.  You shouldn’t find yourself getting lost moving from unit to unit or screen to screen.  The game is visually nice, it’s easy on the eyes, and is not distracting.  Sound is good, but not spectactular.  The lack of real voices for the advisors is a bit annoying.  You can play with the sound off and not miss it.

The game play is quick.  And I do mean quick.  You can play a complete game from begining to end, in about 2.5 hours.  This is a necessary design decision, as generally speaking console players don’t always have the time to spend 12-18 hours playing a single game like this.  You can save games at any point, just as in the PC versions, but if you have the 3 hours or so to sit and play, it’s generally not needed (except to recover form a hang/crash).

The game speed is facilitated by a severe streamlining of some in game aspects.  The tech tree is sigificantly reduced, as are the numer of Wonders, and the over all number of unit types.  All the usual suspects are present, along with some nation specific units, but the variety and dpeth found on the PC versions is not here.  The simplified tech tree allows for greater tech rushes, and the interconnectivity of techs is greatly reduced. 

The number of over all turns seems to be reduced as well.  I’ve had difficulties in reaching the techs to the Space victory on every level (through King so far), except on Chieftan (easiest).  Combine this with some AI cheats, and some Wonders (notably the Ancient ones), are worthless before you start, as it takes too many turns to build them, and by the time they’re built, they’re already obsolete. 

The game map, and number of Civ’s is static.  Every game plays on the same size map, with the same number of Civs in play.  There is no ability to change these parameters as on the PC versions.  While this enhances the game play speed, it does tend to forcing players into certain specific game play styles, where conquest is the main option.

You can win the game in one of four ways: 1. Domination.  You take 4 of the 5 enemy capitals and you win; 1a. Domination.  You win by having the high score when the game ends; 2. economic.  If you hit 20000 gold in your treasury and build the Worl Bank Wonder, you win; 3. Cultural.  If you get 20 Great Leaders and Wonders, and build the UN Wonder, you win; 4. Space Race.  If you build the colony space ship, launch it, and it arrives safely, you win.  So far, I’ve managed to win every way except by space race.  Veteran CIV players will be pleased to note that the end game ranking screen is still here.  So far, by best was finishing ahead of Winston Churchill (and he may be the “top dog” on the console listing).

There are 16 different nations to play.  There’s a good variety, from the traditional (France, Germany, America, England), to the more recent additions (Such as Saladin and the Arabs).  Each nation gets various specific bonuses for each era in game (ancient, mideval, industrial, modern), and some get special units (such as German Panzers, or English Longbowmen), or special abilities (Roman 1/2 price roads, Mongols get barbarians to join them), which helsp to keep game play fresh.

Some of the old CIV quirks are still present as well.  Old hands will laugh merrily at the times when a lone archer unit would take out an army of tanks.  It still happens.  AI cheats are still in play as well, as you will notice how a 1-2 city nation will just be able to tech rush everything, or pour out units like a waterfall.  And of course, the AI is seemingly completely uneffected by the fog of war.  But that’s almost to be expected of a CIV title.

The static game map size is a major flaw in the game.  It just doesn’t allow for enough variation to keep more experienced players enticed.  So far, in about 12 games, I’ve seen only about 4 different map configurations.  Non-national placements, such as of barbarian villages, firendly villages, and ancient artifacts, are all fairly static as well.  after a short while, you’ll be able to guess where they are from your starting position.

I’m not sure that the tech times, and build times have been properly scaled to the faster game play.  It seems that early on, the truns take even longer chunks of years than in previous versions, which skews the game play towards the modern era.  This is espcially true of the Ancient Wonders, most of which become obsolete and useless before they can be built.  This was an issue in the PC versions as well, but it’s glaring on the console version.

The game could have benefited from having a slightly epanded game play.  Adding in about 15 more turns would have been good, and a slightly expanded tech tree would not have been amiss.  More customization options for map size, and number of opposing nations is needed IMO, but is probably lost on most of the console gamers out there (no offense).

Overall though, this is an excellent game.  It has all the addicting aspects of its PC cousins, but plays much much faster.  I found myself playing 3-4 games in a row, depsite the flaws.  The core of what makes CIV a great game, a classic even, is here, and that’s what matters.  If you’re a veteran CIV player, and want a quick and dirty game, this is worth it.  If you’re new to strategy gaming, this is an ideal title to get your feet wet with, or if you’re just curious as to what all the fuss is about.

 

8.5/10

Interesting History

http://edition.cnn.com/2008/US/08/14/spies.revealed.ap/index.html

This really isn’t anything new, as Julia Childs had mentioned her involvement in the OSS when she was still alive.  While she kept details to herself, her name appearing on the list of OSS operatives is no surprise.  What will be interesting is to see what duties and assignments these people had during their involvement.

I already knew about Moe Berg, the baseball player.  It is widely known that while US MLB players were touring Japan in the 30’s, Berg was assigned to make notes, and take pictures of interest to the US government.  Due to his “celebrity” status, and his role as a professional athlete, Berg was accounted a greater degree of access than most people would have received.

This should prove to be interesting reading once all the records are released by the National Archives.

Attention All NY Jets Fans

Just shut up.  You all are fast becoming as bad as Packer fans over Brett Favre.  Give it up already.  Yes, Favre will help your team.  Heck, you might even  snag a wild card in the AFC.  But you are not suddenly going to challenge for the AFC East title, or go to the Super Bowl.  The Jets are just not that good.  You still need a top notch defense, an offensive line, and a running game that will actually cause the other team’s defense to lay off rushing Favre every down.

The Jets may make 9-7 this year.  But 8-8 is more likely.  Favre has to learn the new system, learn the Jets “receivers,” and get comfortable with the O-Line (*snicker*).  It’s too much to ask from him.   Plus, he says he’ll only be with the Jets for 1 year (according to the Daily News).  Plus you guys had to release Chad Pennington, who while not a stand out QB, isn’t all that bad, provided he doesn’t have to throw over 15 yards.

Yes, it all sounds and looks good on paper.  But reality will set in.  The Jets just have too much to overcome on their own team, let alone in the division or the conference.  Enjoy the euphoria while it lasts.  It’ll all be gone by week 5.