Friday, August 31, 2007

Primary Election Dates Out-of-Control


Iowa and New Hampshire (and Wyoming Republicans), right or wrong (mostly wrong) have been the states that conducted the nation's first presidential primaries or caucuses. We now have Florida hoping to move to a late-January Democrat primary and Michigan who has moved to a mid-January primary election.

Back in June, I wrote on this topic. Given the selfish desires of some of the more important states hoping to trump the less important states, the two major political parties need to address this sooner as opposed to later.

History has shown -- part of the reason states desire to move up their primaries -- that after a few primaries, the party nominations are all but determined. The average American wakes up and says, "since when did we pick that person to be our party's presidential candidate?"

Consider the following: 1) The average American has no real interest in or knowledge of politics. 2) The average American voter has no real interest in an election years away (the media started this 2008 campaign in 2006.) 3) Who wants to study the candidates for an election ten months away (which will be the case in Michigan). 4) Who's to stop states from moving to December, November, October, etc. for their caucus or primary? Do you think Iowa or New Hampshire is going to "let is slide?"

I do like the so-called The American Plan (or the California Plan) for presidential primaries. Create a schedule that consists of 10 two-week intervals, during which randomly selected states may hold their primaries or caucuses, with a gradual increase in the total population of states and territories holding primaries/caucuses. This 20-week schedule is weighted based on each state's number of congressional districts. American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, which also send delegates to both national conventions, are each counted as one district in this system.

The American Plan seems to be fairer over time as it would give all states an equally influential role over time. The current system of Iowa/New Hampshire is weak; allowing other states to move ahead is even weaker.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Musharraf Agrees to Resign as Army Chief


Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has agreed to step down as army chief as part of a broad and once-unthinkable agreement being finalized with his chief political rival, Benazir Bhutto.
The agreement appears to permit Musharraf to continue as president and allow Bhutto to return to Pakistan after eight years of exile to try to win back her old job as prime minister, officials said. More broadly, the deal would fundamentally alter the political landscape in Pakistan, a top U.S. ally on counterterrorism but also a haven for al-Qaeda and other extremist groups.
This move, if it happen, seems to be a move to moderation. The combination of president and military leader is a wicked combination over the long haul. The problem with this Musharraf-Bhutto "alliance" is that they do not like each other. Musharraf will now be able to run for another presidential term after removing the uniform.

A stable Pakistan and a stable alliance with America is good for the world. Time will only tell how Musharraf will deal with this missing army title.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Senator Craig: "I Am Not Gay"


I could care less if Idaho Senator Larry Craig is gay or not. What I don't like is the hypocrisy and deceit. There are plenty of examples of this from both sizes of the aisle.

When this story broke, I had a few thoughts:

-- What is it with gays and public bathrooms?
-- Who would have know that there are a series of signals used to find potential public gay partners?
-- Why would a person admit guilt to disorderly conduct and tell no one, not his wife or even a lawyer?
-- Why would an innocent person later claim they made a mistake for pleading guilty to something he did not do?
-- This guy may claim not to be gay (though he probably is) but he said nothing about not being bisexual.
-- The guy is 62 years old; is he really that hard up for sex that he needs to go to an airport bathroom on a layover?

The Idaho Republicans will most likely deal with this within the party. There are plenty of capable and willing men and women that can win this seat in 2008. Senator Craig is probably stupid enough to think he owes it to his constituencies to run again. Ego aside, Idaho and the Republicans will handle this problem. Hopefully, the political life of Larry Craig is over and he can concentrate on his bigger, more personal problems.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Anna Politkovskaya's Killers Arrested

Anna Politkovskaya was a Russian journalist who recently focused her reporting on the wrecked villages and shattered towns of Chechnya. On 7 October 2006, the 48 year old journalist was shot dead inside her Moscow apartment building.

This week, investigators have arrested 10 suspects -- including five police and Federal Security Service officers and three Chechen brothers -- in connection with her murder.
Prosecutor General Yury Chaika, in announcing the arrests Monday, said Politkovskaya had known and met the person who ordered her killing and that her death was probably carried out on behalf of someone living abroad who wanted to discredit Russia.
Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika told reporters that one of the people arrested was an ethnic Chechen crime boss whose group had organized the assassination. Three former police officers, a police major and a member of the FSB, a successor agency to the KGB, were also arrested.

Higher-ranking Russian authorities hope to implicate Boris Berezovsky, an exiled Russian tycoon living in London, as the person who ordered Politkovskaya's killing.
Berezovsky is one of the most well-known "oligarchs," who made billions by privatizing Russian industry in the 1990s. He has been accused by Putin of trying to undermine his leadership at home and his image abroad. Russian officials have suggested that Berezovsky was also behind the fatal poisoning of former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko in London last November.

Before he died, Litvinenko blamed Putin for his poisoning and for the murder of Politkovskaya, which he was investigating at the time.

Putin condemned the Politkovskaya murder but added, "I think that journalists should know, and experts should understand, that her ability to influence political life in Russia was extremely insignificant."

Politkovskaya was the 13th journalist to be killed in Russia since Putin became president in 2000, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. None of those killings has been solved.
A new Russian law limits public discussion of extremist activities and gives law enforcement officials broad authority to suspend media outlets that fail to comply. Outside Moscow, reports of local authorities bullying or detaining journalists are routine.

We'll never know the level of involvement of the Russian government's highest authorities, including Putin, but one can only assume that they have blood on their hands.

Freedom of the press in Russia is something that will be a long time in coming. Perhaps for Politkovskaya's family, some justice has been served. But I think they know that all those involved will never face justice in this life.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Putting It Into Perspective...

On a day where the bulk of the media is focused on the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the Michael Vick guilty plea, another Hollywood loser reaching his personal nadir, there are more humbling concerns.

I think of those in the Midwest, including my home town, trying to clean-up after excessive flooding, the sad and seemingly never-ending tale of New Orleans two years after Katrina, and a young man, friend and neighbor fighting for his life in Primary Children's Hospital from bacterial meningitis.

Whether it is a car crash, a careless act, or unexpected medical situation, one never knows from one minute to the next what life has in store. One day you are hiking up a mountain and the next week, you are in the hospital clinging to life.

My thoughts and prayers are with Payton and anyone else suffering this day from life's wicked curve balls.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

NFL 07 Fantasy Begins


It is that time of the year again: NFL Fantasy Football. We held our twelve-man league draft today. Like I did last year, my league is based in central Ohio with my youngest brother serving as commissioner. I participated in the festivities via telephone. One of my brother's would call me a few draft selections prior to my selection, letting me know who was taken. I'd give them my pick, hang up, and we'd do it all over again, all sixteen rounds.

Here are my key guys, with my pick numbers in parenthesis:

RB (#3): Steven Jackson (Rams)
RB (#22): Thomas Jones (Jets)
QB (#27): Drew Brees (Saints)
WR (#46): Anquan Boldin (Cardinals)
WR (#51): Donald Driver (Packers)
Def (#70): Baltimore
RB (#75): DeAngelo Williams (Panthers)
K (#94): Nate Kaeding (Chargers)
TE (#99): Vernon Davis (49ers)

Others: WR Joe Horn (Falcons), RB Chris Henry (Titans), WR Ron Curry (Raiders), QB Jeff Garcia (Buccaneers), RB Maurice Morris (Seahawks), WR Rod Smith (Broncos), RB Lorenzo Booker (Dolphins).

Friday, August 24, 2007

Politics in Pakistan


After eight years, Pakistan's president General Pervez Musharraf is on that slippery slope of deciding whether he is a pro-democracy leader or a dictator.

His recent military actions, though possibly worthy actions, are starting to look more like a power grab. He has shown some aggression and has experienced some setbacks:

-- During the storming of the Red Mosque on 10 July, more than 100 people were killed.
-- A suicide-bomber on 15 July attacked an army convoy and killed at least 24 soldiers in Swat in North-West Frontier Province.
-- Militants detonated a bomb and then opened fire on a convoy near Miran Shah in the North Waziristan tribal area on the Afghan border, killing 16 soldiers.
-- Pro-Taliban militants in North Waziristan called off their ten-month-old peace deal with the government, forcing committed the army to withdraw [since then has redeployed two divisions to the area] and turning control over to tribal elders. They are to prevent Taliban and al-Qaeda forces sheltering in Waziristan from entering Afghanistan. 600 Pakistani soldiers died in military operations on the frontier.
--On 17 July 17, a suicide attack at an Islamabad rally held by the chief justice killed at least 16 people and wounded more than 40.

Musharraf also faces some political foes:

-- The Supreme Court of Pakistan decreed that Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister and leader of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Party, could come home from exile in London. Sharif was removed from power by a 1999 Musharraf-led coup.
-- Benazir Bhutto, the leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, is threatening to return to Pakistan from Dubai, where she fled in 1999 to evade corruption charges.

Musharraf wants to get re-elected but public opinion is looking unfavorable. He seems to think that he's the only one to control Islamic extremists and fight this war with Amerrica. He is a military man at heart. This has all the making of a transition to dictatorship.
We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bush Setting Expectations at VFW


Yesterday, President Bush delivered a speech in Kansas City, Missouri, to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention. The audience was a good one for the speech which is preparatory for the progress report on Iraq that he and his administration will present next month.

As the speech unfolded, it became obvious his writer did a decent job of trying to bring the conflict into Iraq into historical perspective -- Vietnam, Korea, Japan and WWII. His interpretation of history was opportunistic in some case, which would be expected from a politican. However, many of his points were appropriate.

Bush and his administration, the Congress and the the bulk of the American people blew it in when they gave support for a foreign war in Iraq. We picked a fight, not counting the full costs. We mislead ourselves into believing, at the time, Iraq had something to do with the global war on terror and the events of 911. Because we would not leave Saddam well enough alone, we created a hornet's nest. Now Iraq is front and center on the GWOT.

It took us over fifty years of fighting through the cold war to stop the spread of communism. However, I am not sure the GWOT is a battle that can be won over time. So when GW Bush says we will win, we very well may win (what I don't know), victory is never going to result in some treaty or symbolic event like "tear down this wall." There's never going to be an absence of people who wish to impose their ideology through terrorists actions.

Today, we find America unwilling to dig in for the long seige -- and that's what it will take in Iraq. Pulling out, while an option, is not a pretty one. It might save some American lives in the short term but hundreds of thousands of non-Americans will most likely lose their lives in the immediate aftermath. Long-term, a retreat only emboldens the terrorists. Over time, the lives of our European allies and future American may not be so secure.

War should never be viewed as short-term activity. The repercusions lasts for generations.

Bush will go down in history as starting the war, there will be plenty of future president and congresses whom will share in the long-term blame game.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

One in Four Adults Read No Books


According to a recent Associated Press-Ipsos poll: One in four adults say they read no books at all in the past year. Of those who did read, women and seniors were most avid, and religious works and popular fiction were the top choices.
The typical person claimed to have read four books in the last year — half read more and half read fewer. Excluding those who hadn't read any, the usual number read was seven.
I am not sure whether reading popular fiction really counts as reading, but we'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

For most, reading is a chore and not an enjoyment. Few are passionate about reading. My wife is a passionate reader. I am an avid reader. I read about a book and two dozen magazines each month. My reading is more along the lines of history, politics, economics, science. Rarely do I read novels, however I am thinking about hitting some of the classics. I actually have Moby Dick and War and Peace, among others, on the docket.

Bottom line: how do we expect our electorate to be informed about the issues and about the candidates, national and world events? Unfortunately for most, they rely on TV. And we call ourselves an advanced society... 25% of adults have read a book book... If you look at the best seller list, people read crappy novels and self-help books. All apologies to you adult Harry Potter readers, but the books are targeted at teens; and they are not all that well written (read the last three chapters, skipping hundreds of pages of dribble, and you have it in a nutshell).

Monday, August 20, 2007

Immigration Activist Deported to Mexico

Are we to feel bad for the woman who was deported back to Mexico after hiding out in a Chicago church for the past year?
Elvira Arellano, 32, arrived in Washington state illegally in 1997. She was deported to Mexico shortly afterward, but returned and moved to Illinois in 2000, taking a job cleaning planes at O'Hare International Airport. She was arrested in 2002 at O'Hare and convicted of working under a false Social Security number. She was to surrender to authorities last August but instead sought refuge at the church on Aug. 15, 2006.
No one is arguing that her coming here gives her a better opportunity for a better life than what the lousy, corrupt Mexican government offers its citizens. Just because she has taken a strong stance by defying the law does not mean we turn a blind eye. She's a felon. She violated our national borders and has stolen an identify, committing fraud -- posing as some she is not.

If America needs low-cost workers, then the immigration policy needs to be adjusted. America is not the dumping ground for everyone that does no like what the future has in store for them in their native country.

Instead of the open border and amnesty proposals of George Bush, his Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America cartel, and his strange liberal bedfellows, America ought to work on establishing U.S. - Mexican policies that holds the Mexican government accountable for the internal successes of it people. If Mexico had equitable policies and non-greedy leaders, Mexico would be a place for the Mexicans to truly call home.

Mexico's failure continues to be one of America's problem. Only a strong crack down and enforcement of America's existing immigration laws will prompt Mexico to address its internal policies. Watch how cutting off remittances hits the Mexican government's bottom line and see what the government does.

Michael "Dog Fighter" Vick Pleads Guilty


This guilty plea comes as no suprise:
Michael Vick has agreed to enter a plea of guilty to to federal charges related to a dogfighting ring and to accept full responsibility for his actions and the mistakes he has made. He wishes to apologizes again to everyone who has been hurt by this matter.
Like just about every liar and criminal, they blame everyone else except themself until they are backed into a corner. When the other three co-defendants have already taken pleas, he had no real option but to follow suit.

Vick has always been nothing more than a street thug with athletic talents. Up until recently he was a rich thug. Now he'll be a felon thug. He makes his little brother look like the good one.

The dogfighting offenses are punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, although federal sentencing guidelines most likely would call for less. It is unlikely Vick will every take another snap in the NFL, but you never know.

In the greedy world of professional sports and the lack of quality NFL quarterbacks could see Vick back in uniform in 2008 or 2009. However, a lifetime ban could be in the makings, not for the dogfighting rather the gambling.

I have never thought Vick was a good NFL QB. But putting the ball in his hands coupled with his athleticism made for exciting football.

UPDATE 8/24/07: Vick signed a plea agreement and the NFL has suspended Vick without pay indefinitely.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Natural Bridges National Monument


This past week, the last weekend before school starts for my children, we went to southeastern Utah for some hiking and camping.

We spent the first day and night in the Mule Canyon. The tourist display is right off the road; the good stuff is up the seven mile canyon on foot. It is an easy walk; you can go as far as your time allows. It is not a deep or spectacular canyon but it is interesting from a historical perspective.

The second day was spent in Natural Bridges National Monument. 99.999% of the visitors drive the upper road and look down at the natural bridges. (Natural bridges are formed by water -- a meandering stream that breaks through leaving the structure. An arch is formed by freezing and other natural forces where the surround rock exfoliates away leaving the arch.) We hiked the 8.6 mile loop starting from Sipapu Bridge, to Kachina Bridge, to Owachomo Bridge, and the two miles back to Sipapu parking lot. Aside from a pair USGS scientists looking for frogs and toads, we did not see a soul down below. It was a hot day and we did hike the last two miles without water. Natural Bridges is a great day hike, but plan on at least six hours. Be on the look out for a pictograph panel between Kachina and Owachomo Bridges.

On Saturday, we hiked the upper part of the Owl Canyon. We went as far as the second spill off. This is a spectacular canyon -- a steep decent (500 feet down) coupled with a nice meandering creek bed. For hearty hikes, doing the Owl and coming back up the Fish Canyon making a loop is a very long day hike for the very fit; better with a light overnight pack. Great Indian ruins. Climbing back up was not a simple task for a man who has seen better days.

I love southern Utah and is narrow and slot canyons...the beautiful shades of brown.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Temple Recommends With Barcode

Temple recommend holders have or will shortly go through a recommend replacement process. The Church has decided to place a bar code on every recommend. There was no detailed reason given for the rush replacement job other than for security measures.

Temple recommends get stolen -- the actual blank forms and the signed forms. The new program requires stakes to associate a worthy member with a particular code and to forward this electronically to SLC. If a recommend is not properly submitted to SLC, that recommend is supposed to be inactive or invalid. Likewise, any stolen form could not be used because the code as not activated. If a member loses a recommend, then as part of the replacement process, the old one is deactivated and a new one is activated.

This almost eliminates the ability for a member to get a quick turn around on a forgotten or lost recommend. This is the situation, for example, where someone travels to a temple to attend a wedding, forgot their recommend, calls the Bishop and Stake President to get a quick approval. This new program virtually eliminates this process.

However, there is nothing limiting a person from lending a legitimate, active temple recommend to another. There is no association of the recommend with the bearer. The new policy at the temple ensures the piece of paper is valid, not that the one possessing it is the one that was actually issue the recommend.

The system granting access to the Church's temples is built on honesty and leadership discernment. Sadly, problems involving lying, although minimal, do exist. Like most security programs, the few must pay the price due to the few. Chalk this up to growing pains, even in a church.

There may come a time where a picture ID is required to enter the temple. Perhaps future recommends will possess an embedded photo. Biometrics would be over kill, given the application, but you never know.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Security and Prosperity Partnership


In March 2005, under the approval of President Bush, Prime Minister Harper and President Fox, the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) was launched. The goal of this "entity" to increase security and enhance prosperity among the United States, Canada and Mexico through greater cooperation and information sharing.

At first glance, the organization's priorities seem like good ideas -- emergency management, pandemic controls, energy security, and border security and facilitation.

However, after further inspection, it undermines American sovereignty, national security and economic stability. Although the SPP denies it, the current administration favors the elimination or reduced U.S. border controls and encourage open migration. Likewise, they deny funds are being allocated to the construction of the NAFTA Superhighway system and other measures designed to create a borderless, open transit system within North America.

Nevertheless, Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va., introduced House Concurrent Resolution 40 earlier this year expressing congressional opposition to construction of a NAFTA Super Highway System or entry into a North American Union with Mexico and Canada.

The SPP says they operate with Congressional oversight, but there is no evidence supporting this. Although the president has power to make treaties, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, two thirds of the Senators present must concur. Likewise, the Congress shall have power to:
-- regulate commerce with foreign nations
-- establish an uniform rule of naturalization
-- provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions.

These powers cannot be assigned to some trilateral commission or partnership. The spirit of the law does not trump the rule of law.

The SPP is a dangerous organization that is looking out for its self-interest, not for America's.

Consider the following sources: Grassfire, Fire Society HERE and HERE, US Info, and Human Events.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Katrina Money, Recovery and Self-Determination


How often do you think about New Orleans and the victims of Hurricane Katria? Because I don't have any ties to the area, I admit that I only think about it when I read about it.

Lately, I have wondered why there has not been much weather news? With global warming I thought we were suppose to have an increased number of hurricanes. According to the National Hurricane Center's Tropical Cyclone Reports, in 2007, there have been three named Atlantic storms: Subtropical Storm Andrea, Tropical Storm Barry and Tropical Storm Chantal.

Some years there are more than an average number of storms, other years there are less. Nature is a one mysterious creature.

I was reading a series of articles in the August 20th issue of Fortune. I found it interesting that of the nearly $27 billion in federal aid allocated for housing and infrastructure projects, less than $6 billion has been spent. $11.6 billion has been allocated for housing and infrastructure development, $7 billion for levees, $6 billion for public assistance and community disaster loans, $1.2 billion for transportation issues.
"It's taking longer for the city to rebound than we expected," said KB Home CEO Jeff Mezger. One unusual problem: a severe shortage of plumbers. KB learned after it arrived that state law requires plumbers to complete more than four years of training before obtaining a license, and that Louisiana follows different plumbing codes than most other states. That means KB effectively can't bring plumbers from Houston, where it has an extensive contractor network.

The company promoted a bill in the Louisiana legislature to loosen the requirements. The state's Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association saw that the bill was killed
What we have ran into in Louisiana is government bureaucracy at all levels -- federal, state and city -- and protectionism to the detriment of society.

I also found it interesting to read that the recovery has been patchwork. Lakeview, Gentilly, Mid-City/Central City, Bywater and the Lower Ninth Ward are recovering slowly, some not at all. However East New Orleans, the most populous part of the city has some ravaged areas but the Vietnamese areas have been completely rebuilt.

I cannot help but think that many people and communities expect the government to do their bidding for them -- to give them the money or to rebuild it. Others seem to have taken matters into their own hands.

Although Louisiana is primarily Democratic in its politics, I can't help but give thanks that there are some down there that are self-motivated to realize their own destiny and not wait on some government entity to act, not a typical Democratic action.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Kings Peak - Uinta Mountains


On Wednesday afternoon, a group of young men and their adult leaders set off from Utah County for the tallest point in Utah: 13,528 foot Kings Peak in the Uinta Mountains.

We camped at the Henry's Fork campground Wednesday night. This provided a little altitude acclimation. On Thursday morning, we started up the Henry's Fork into the Henry's Fork Basin -- about a seven to ten mile hike (depending on where you camp). Most people camp at Dollar Lake (we did not). Dollar Lake is a perfect example of how not to practice Leave No Trace. The water is heavily polluted and there is toilet paper and its partner all over the place. It is a pathetic site. We camped elsewhere in a much more pristine environment.

On Friday morning, we headed for Kings Peak through Gunsight Pass. We took the "short cut" up and through the shoot -- not for the weak or weary. Once to Anderson Pass, it is up the alligator spine to the top. It is one boulder after another -- no real path, just up and up and up.

The hike back to base camp was along the same seven miles. For me, it went much better then the assent -- something about lungs and heart I guess. There are springs just below east Anderson Pass and just north of Gunsight Pass, which were needed and much appreciated.

We hiked back to Henrys Fork campground on Saturday mid-day. Thirty-three miles -- 9600 feet to 13,500 and back in three days. No rain (unbelievable). No mosquitoes (unbelievable). No lost boys or adults (expected, but not without a few miscues that could have been problematic).

We had 17 in our group. We all made it. See some photos (not ours) at Utah Pictures and the Utah Film Bank.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Bond's Hits #756

San Francisco Giants cleanup batter Barry Bonds hit his 756th career home run last night against the Nationals, surpassing Hank Aaron's major league record. The 435-foot blast to right-center off of lefthander Mike Bacsik (his father is Michael James Bacsik who face Aaron as a pitcher for Texas in 1976 when he was looking to hit 756) was followed by an on-field ceremony featuring Bonds's family, Willie Mays and a taped message from Aaron.

Aaron's message was classy. Bonds handled the situation with class. Two hundren years from know, the feelings that night will long be forgotton but I do think that the cloud of doubt during this steroid era will never be forgotten.

I was watching this one live with my oldest son in our living room. This was the one day this week I was able to watch Bonds bat. On a sentimental note, it was the last night our oldest son will be living at home. (He returned from his mission about nine moths ago; has been going to school, working and saving money; now he's moving out on his own -- which is a great thing.) So in the future, both he and I will know where we were when that record was broken. I also called up my dad and talked with him for a while regarding baseball and records.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Newsweek and Global Warming Hoax

I would consider the 13 August Newsweek cover story article "The Truth About Denial" a good example of poor mainstream coverage of the global warming topic.
Since the late 1980s, this well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks and industry has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change. Through advertisements, op-eds, lobbying and media attention, greenhouse doubters (they hate being called deniers) argued first that the world is not warming; measurements indicating otherwise are flawed, they said. Then they claimed that any warming is natural, not caused by human activities. Now they contend that the looming warming will be minuscule and harmless. "They patterned what they did after the tobacco industry," says former senator Tim Wirth, who spearheaded environmental issues as an under secretary of State in the Clinton administration. "Both figured, sow enough doubt, call the science uncertain and in dispute. That's had a huge impact on both the public and Congress."
Assuming there is some truth in this premise, which I don't, I do not understand why those belonging to the church of global warmers blash any oposing opinion.

The science is not final. Science is not a popularity contest. If nine out of every ten scientists who specialize in climatology and assocaited disciplines believe man has caused global warming, does that make it so?

If there is politics associated with the anti-man-caused global warming, there is more politics on the pro-man-caused global warming.

Anyone taking an opinion oposite to the liberals are as shuned as Christians in the MSM.

My position is that man should be a responsible steward on Earth. Those who knowingly polute, waste and fail to demonstrate prudent environmental behavior demonstrate ignorance and arrogance.

Monday, August 06, 2007

New Wiretapping Law

The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was supposed to regulate the way the government can listen to the private communications of American citizens. For the past few years, that law, seemingly, has taken a back seat to an administration bent on national security and eavesdropping.

It has always seemed logical to fix the existing law to address the changing dynamics of the enemy and their tactics, namely the advances in technology.
President Bush signed into law on Sunday legislation that broadly expanded the government’s authority to eavesdrop on the international telephone calls and e-mail messages of American citizens without warrants.

The new law for the first time provided a legal framework for much of the surveillance without warrants that was being conducted in secret by the National Security Agency and outside FISA.

By changing the legal definition of what is considered “electronic surveillance,” the new law allows the government to eavesdrop on those conversations without warrants — latching on to those giant switches — as long as the target of the government’s surveillance is “reasonably believed” to be overseas.

The new law, which is intended as a stopgap and expires in six months, also represents a power shift in terms of the oversight and regulation of government surveillance.

The new law [which is intended as a stopgap and expires in six months] gives the attorney general and the director of national intelligence the power to approve the international surveillance, rather than the special intelligence court. The court’s only role will be to review and approve the procedures used by the government in the surveillance after it has been conducted. It will not scrutinize the cases of the individuals being monitored.
The spirit of the new law seems to be right on. But the actual execution is always the thing that bothers me. I never like the defense that is you are not doing anything illegal, then you should not worry about your conversations.

Now, the federal government can basically tap your international phone conversation without any oversight. The phone companies must comply with the requests.

I would rather have some oversight -- a third-party that provides some check and balance to the administrative branch of government. The argument was that the process to obtain a surveillance warrant was to time consuming -- the bad-guys would get away. Doesn't it make sense to address the speed-of-warrant problem instead of tossing out any third-party monitoring like this law appears to do?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Baseball Records Weekend


This is one of those weekends that I am glad is over. I am one of those weird baseball fans: if a record is imminent, I need to witness it as it happens.

On Satuday, Barry Bonds (SF) had been sitting on 754 home runs for what has seemed like forever. Saturday, Bond hit 755, tying Henry Aaron's long-standing record. I'll probably not get to see his record-breaking 756 due to this week's evening schedule commitments.

(I want to go on record stating that MLB and the fans made Bonds. Collectively, they brought us to this point. It is likely that Bonds used steroids, etc. but baseball did nothing. The fans kept paying the high ticket prices and watching on TV. Disapprove or demand an astrics to the record or to the era, Bonds did achieve a great milestone. Many of the other players did the same thing. Who's to say that pitchers can't be helped with these drugs?)

Also on Saturday, Alex Rodriguez (NYY) hit his 500th home run. He is the youngest (32) to accomplish this goal. It is within his reach, if he has the desire and if he stays healthy, to pass Bonds someday.

Finally, tonight, Tom Glavine (NYM) won his 300 game. He is the 23rd pitcher in MLB history to achieve this. of the three records, this one is probably the most significant one because we may never see another one get close. Due to the way starting pitchers are managed, it is very difficult for pitchers to win 20 games in a year. It will take 15 wins a year for 20 years, and this is tough in today's game. There are only two current potential candidates: Randy Johnson (who may never pitch again due to his back surgery and age) and Mike Mussina.

I cheered them all but of the three guys, Glavine is the classiest.

True baseball fans love the numbers game. We love reading and knowing the statistics. My dad passed it on to me; I have passed it onto my sons. (My daughters have not caught the fever.)

Friday, August 03, 2007

Zogby Poll on President and Congress

In an online UPI/Zogby survey conducted July 13–16, 2007, including 7,590 respondents with a margin of error of +/– 1.1 percentage points, the findings are interesting in that they are better or worse than the MSM would have us believe.
A majority of American adults (54%) lack confidence in President Bush’s ability as Commander in Chief of the U.S. military. A majority (60%) said they do not trust the president’s judgment when it comes to the war, while 38% say they have faith in his military decisions.

Just 24% give the president favorable ratings of his performance in handling the war in Iraq, but confidence in Congress is significantly worse – only 3% give Congress positive marks for how it has handled the war. This lack of confidence in Congress cuts across all ideologies. Democrats – some of whom had hoped the now Democrat-led Congress would bring an end to the war in Iraq – expressed overwhelming displeasure with how Congress has handled the war, with 94% giving Congress a negative rating in its handling specifically of that issue.

Slightly more than half (54%) believe the U.S. should set a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, and 55% believe the U.S. should begin the phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of this year. President Bush has threatened to veto any bill that funds the war in Iraq that also sets a date to begin withdrawing U.S. troops, but 52% would disagree with a presidential veto, while 44% would approve.

More than half (55%) believe if the U.S. withdraws from Iraq that it will be considered a defeat, while 41% disagree.

Half of Americans (51%) believe the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq incites anti-U.S. sentiment and creates a greater likelihood of a terrorist attack within the United States. But 44% believe the U.S. troops in Iraq are fighting terrorists within Iraq so that the U.S. does not have to fight terrorists here at home.
As the political arena continues to focus on the 2008 presidential election, it will be interesting to monitor the sentiments of likely voters in September and October 2008. It should be much clearer at that time the role the war in Iraq and against terrorism will play in that election.

It is likely today that the Democrat candidate (most likely Hillary Clinton) will win the election. It is reminiscent of the 1976 election when Carter defeated Ford. It was impossible for Ford, who in the aftermath of Nixon and his pardon, to come close in that vote. It was obvious that whomever the Democrats nominated would win.

The one historical fact Hillary would be overcoming is a sitting Senator winning the presidency. As a member of the 3 percent favorable group, her task will be overcoming an overwhelming disapproval of her body of work; despite the fact she has no direct leadership on her resume.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

It Takes A Tragedy For Action


I work in the transportation industry. We try to help society by reducing car crashes through science and technology. There is a U-shaped curve with time on the X axis and crashes on the Y axis: our youngest and oldest drivers have the most crashes. The youth due to lack of experience and cognitive limitations, among other reasons; the elderly due to cognitive impairment and overall reaction-time limitations.

The only time lawmakers get involved is when something significant happens: a group of teens die in a crash or an elderly person kills multiple by mistaking the accelerator for the brake. There is no meaningful effort at the government level to reduce crashes; they give it lip-service on occasion.

Yesterday's tragedy in Minneapolis (we lived there for five years and drove over that bridge hundreds of times) with the collapse of southbound I-35 W over the Mississippi River during rush hour is one of those catalysts for Congress, the nation's governors who are ordering immediate inspection and a media barrage on the condition of America's bridges.
More than 70,000 bridges across the country are rated structurally deficient like the span that collapsed in Minneapolis, and engineers estimate repairing them all would take at least a generation and cost more than $188 billion.

That works out to at least $9.4 billion a year over 20 years, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Separately, the Federal Highway Administration has said addressing the backlog of needed bridge repairs would cost at least $55 billion. That was five years ago, with expectations of more deficiencies to come.

It is money that Congress, the federal government and the states have so far been unable or unwilling to spend.

"We're not doing what the engineers are saying we need to be doing," said Gregory Cohen, president of the American Highway Users Alliance, an advocacy group representing a wide range of motorists.
State and federal governments will never allocate the resources to address the nation's infrastructure problems. There are too many other programs competing for a limits supply of funds. Because no one can agree on the nation's priorities -- from fighting foreign wars to healthcare -- some money will be allocated so politicians can perform their expected CYA activities, hoping the real issues just go away or occur on someone else's watch.

Update: Less than 36 hours after the event, Drudge Report had no mention or link to a related story.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Choice In Education - Part 2

I am pro school choice. I am pro school vouchers.

The teachers' unions and their allies are against freedom of choice. They claim that their ability to teach will be undermined because taxpayers' money will be diverted to other options, including church-based schools, and that overall educational quality will decrease.

The real issue is that those who subscribe to our traditional education systems cannot admit there are better options. They cannot acknowledge that they do not address all of the requirements students and their families may have. That those unable to cover the full costs for private school, can benefit from financial help. That there might be better options for many.

Market forces should come into play when selecting education for our children, we certainly pay enough. If parents feel that the public school system in their area is underperforming, they should have the ability to migrate to another system that is performing. Perhaps the voucher system is just what the public school system needs -- a kick in the back side to streamline the bureaucracy and educate our children in order to make them better educated and better able to succeed in a competitive world.

The people at Choice In Education have done a good job summarizing the issues and presenting their case. In Utah, The Parent Choice in Education Act (House Bills 148 & 174) was signed into law by Governor Jon Huntsman on Monday, Feb 12, 2007. Opponents would love to scrap it.

The choice in education battle wages in most states. It will be interested to watch the voucher fight in New Jersey. As reported in the June 9th issue of the Economist:
Last July a group of parents in New Jersey filed a lawsuit against the state and 25 poorly performing districts. In Crawford v Davy they are arguing that since public schools deny students their constitutional right to a proper education, the court should refund their money so they can spend it at any school they choose. This is not the first attempt to use courts to permit the use of vouchers: similar efforts failed in Illinois and California, for example. But in New Jersey, such a suit might actually succeed. New Jersey's courts have no qualms about meddling in education — they have been doing so for decades.
I do not want judges writing school policy but if schools are underperforming, taxpayers deserve other options. Misuse of taxpayers money is theft. Many of our school systems have been stealing from the taxpayers for too long. Competition among schools is to be encouraged.