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Standing Out in the Cold





Updated: 2014-10-03T00:12:43.990-06:00

 



EffectiveUI Frisbee

2007-09-25T00:02:55.167-06:00

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If you consider how many hours they actually work -- for us -- how much do they make per hour?

2007-04-19T09:44:58.383-06:00

This is priceless. But don't get me wrong, this isn't about Democrats or Republicans -- I am confident that most people on both sides of the aisle are the exact same. What this is about is how horrific our lawmakers are these days. This goes right alongside the "Series of Tubes" speech -- by a Republican -- for direct examples of politicians vehemently supporting legislation that potentially has a profound effect on our lives without understanding some of the basic concepts concerning what is to be regulated in said legislation. With all the money we pay our politicians to represent us, you think they could afford to spend at least a few minutes learning the basics of whatever legislation they're going to talk about. Which happens to be one of the most important parts of their job. This is especially appalling when they spend so much time working for their own interests -- like getting re-elected. What are we paying them for if not to even understand the laws they are making? I'm afraid that nothing will change until the average voter pays more attention to these sorts of things and votes accordingly. If politicians' chances of getting re-elected had more to do with their job performance than speaking engagements and television commercials then maybe they would accomplish something that would make them worthy of the dignitary status they enjoy at aforementioned engagements.



Stupid Polls

2007-04-17T09:12:21.954-06:00

There is a headline on Google news today that states "Majority Expect US Will 'Lose' in Iraq." This seems like a fairly useless piece of information to me. The majority of Americans are not military strategists. Nor do they have any qualifications that would give their judgement on the situation in Iraq any merit. In fact, the majority of Americans are uninformed and apathetic and form their opinions only on what they hear on the morning/evening news or see in newspaper headlines. So, an equal but easier and cheaper to measure statistic would be, "Majority of News Stories Indicate US Will 'Lose' in Iraq."

The Iraq statistic has at least some meaning since public opinion actually matters in a country's decision and willingness to wage and continue war. I saw a laughable statistic the other day, I don't remember the exact headline but it said that the majority of Americans believed that politics played at least some role in the attorney firing "scandal." The majority of Americans have very little facts about said affair and even less knowledge about what is acceptable or scandalous therein. Again, the story may as well have read "Majority of News Stories Implicate Inappropriate Politics in Attorney Firings."

I've talked about this before, but it still baffles me. What is it about statistics that we, as a country, find so interesting? Is it that they're easily digested and have an air of legitimacy because they require some research and math to create? Or is it just the news agencies finding a cheap way to scare up a story when they don't have one? And do the news agencies not see the irony in polling people about opinions mostly formed based on the stories published by the very same news agencies? Or are they secretly mocking the American people? Or are they geniuses and killing two birds with one stone by polling to see how effective their stories are and then playing the findings off as a relevant statistic to make another story?



Lots of Money

2007-04-02T16:03:09.973-06:00

Whoa, am I posting again? I guess so.

I just have a quick question: what would happen if a presidential candidate donated their tens of millions of dollars to feeding hungry children, or curing AIDS, or developing alternative fuel sources even, rather than spending it on campainging? Do you think that the American people, and probably more importantly the media, would laud such an act of generosity enough to make it anywhere near as powerful as traditional campaigning? Or would it just spell the end of their hopes in this whoever-spends-the-most-money-wins political system we have today? It just seems like a really poor way to spend so much money. If the American people could elect a president without so much hype it seems like we'd have a lot more money to spend on a lot better things.



Congressmen as Presidential Candidates

2007-01-16T19:30:31.550-07:00

Get off my back, I'm busy these days.In the history of the U.S. 15 senators have become president. Only two -- Harding and Truman -- moved straight from the senate to the White House. And JFK is the only other to do it with less than 2 years between. Here's the link. So, its unusual for a senator to become president and the odds of a sitting senator becoming president are extremely low. 1 in 24.5, to be exact. That's pretty bad odds. There have been 17 presidents who were members of the House of Representatives. Most of those were senators or governors after being representatives, before becoming president. Only one, Garfield, went straight from the House to the White House. So why do congressmen keep getting nominations in presidential elections? Kerry, of course, is still a senator. Dole was a senator when he was nominated. Kucinich was and still is a member of the House. In the upcoming elections some of the big names being mentioned are Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain -- all are sitting senators. In honor of google allowing me to do so, I've compiled a spreadsheet of presidents and offices they've held -- only considering senator, representative, governor, and mayor -- here. Here are some interesting facts:No mayor has become president without being a governor -- this means odds are completely against Rudi, in this statistic, as much as I like him.4 presidents held only the office of representative6 presidents held none of these offices3 presidents have held only the office of senator9 presidents were only senators or were senator and representative20 presidents were governors -- counting governor of territories/possessions. 17 otherwise11 presidents only held the office of governor or governor and mayorAndrew Johnson is the only president to hold all four officesSo, it would seem that the best way to be president is to be a governor. It is historically impossible to become president only holding the office of mayor (or not being a white man, but that's tangential, I suppose) (Rudi Giulianni). The least likely candidate that still has a shot is only a senator (John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama). It is only slightly more likely that someone who was only a representative can become a president (sorry, Dennis). It is more likely that someone who has held none of these offices would become president as someone who is just a representative or senator, and as likely as someone who was both (John McCain). It is almost impossible for a sitting congressman to become president (Hillary, Barack, McCain, Kucinich). So, given these facts why do parties continue to nominate sitting congressmen? I guess eventually you beat the odds. However, as I mentioned earlier no one who is not a white man has won the president. The big names right now on the Dem side besides Edwards are not only sitting senators, but one is not a man and one is not white (I'll let you sort out which is which), that ought to sound some alarms at Dem headquarters -- trying to beat the odds in one category is courageous, trying to beat several statistics is daunting, at best. History is, of course, in the making. However, if I'm trying to win an election for my party I would definitely take the past into account, not just popular opinion. Of course, this is a very limited scope statistic, but I feel it is a fairly relevant one.So, will I vote for Rudi in the primary? Now I'm not sure... maybe I'll have to throw in with Romney. With this statistic, Edwards is the best candidate that I've mentioned on the Dem side -- do they have any governors talking about running? And I don't see Edwards beating Obama or Clinton. I guess it will be an interesting race, and its still early, so maybe we'll see a governor appear for the Dems later on, a-la Bill Clinton.[...]



I Still Hate Large Media Outlets

2006-12-21T11:23:08.361-07:00

I know we've been over this many times, but I haven't posted in awhile, so I figure this is as good as anything right now. Yesterday I saw a very large number of headlines that all said something like "Bush Defies Commanders, Orders Increase in Army Numbers." I watched the press conference with President Bush yesterday, and while stumbling painfully along as always, he explicitly says (paraphrased) "I'm not going to tell you today what my plan for Iraq is. I haven't made a decision about increased troop levels, but its something I am still considering." To turn that into headlines proclaiming that he has firmly made up his mind -- and "defied" his top commanders -- is silly and misleading. And I hate them for it. I just hate the way the news is distorted to make a more sensational story, as we have discussed before. And this is yet another blatant example. These are the people claiming to deliver the truth and facts to the American people.



SETI

2006-11-16T15:20:40.556-07:00

I recently read an article in Spectrum magazine about the ongoing search for extraterrestrial life. The idea behind most SETI (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) projects is we assume that if there is another intelligent civilization with technology at or beyond our level they might be trying to contact other life (us!) by sending out messages on electromagnetic waves. In the 60's until now these people assumed other civilizations would be using radio waves, and so have been searching radio frequencies with no real success. The article I read says the the search is now moving to optical light, another bandwidth of the electromagnetic spectrum, which is a more likely communications tool. I feel like I don't even need to mention the hubris involved in believing that other civilizations will be using the same technologies as us, but apparently I do since the SETI people are putting a lot of time and money into it.So lets put that arrogance aside and assume that alien cultures are using lasers to contact us. These alien cultures don't know that there is life on earth, or they would be trying to contact us much more directly. So, these laser messages are not going to be sent out to the earth constantly. Again assuming the aliens have the same types of technology as us, these beams will be sent out in the direction of different star systems that these aliens think might have life on them, each star system getting a message at a different time. Now, let's assume that they're sending the messages towards earth at all, which is not a trivial assumption, otherwise the whole issue goes away. So, every once in awhile the laser message is pointed towards our star system. What are the odds that at that time we have a clear line of sight to the alien star system? That some other planet or piece of space junk or the moon isn't in the way? Or the sun, even? Then, assuming that the laser actually reaches the earth, what are the odds that it hits a point on the earth were we have a receiver listening? We're talking about light year distances here, so a change of a few fractions of a degree at the sender translates to huge differences in hit location on the earth. Unless we put receivers all over the earth its almost impossible to believe that we will intercept such a message, if you can even believe that a message will hit the earth at all.But, lets be arrogant again and assume that we do receive a message. Then it will take us years, if not decades, to even recognize that it is a message. But lets assume that some day we receive a message, realize that it is a message, and even pinpoint where in the universe it came from. What now? What was all this about? I guess it proves that there is other intelligent life in the universe -- probably. But to really prove that, or do anything meaningful with it, we have to contact this life and communicate with it.So, we need to start beaming messages back to them. This is much easier than their task of beaming them to the entire universe because we know exactly where they are. So we can built a laser-message space craft and put it somewhere in space always transmitting right to their planet. Now, this planet will be at least ten light years away. That means that when we received the message it was already ten years old. When we send our message to them it will take 10 years for them to receive it, assuming that they receive it right away. Then, assume that they recognize our message and send one back. That takes another 10 years. So now its been 20 years since we first detected the message, and we get something back.Now what? What good is this? We have spent billions of dollars and who knows how many hours and we have proved that extra-terrestrial life exists. What does that matter? What can we do with that? We can communicate with this culture, you might say. Not likely any time soon. Assuming they even have the same concept of lang[...]



Cowards

2006-11-10T08:50:48.126-07:00

The state Legislature of Massachusetts is avoiding a divisive vote through every loophole they can find. In doing so they are hurting the democratic process in their state and in their country. Proponents of homosexual marriage rights have been relying on tactics like this in many parts of the country to allow their goals to be court ordered and deny the people in their districts the right to decide, much to their shame, in my opinion. I cannot accept that it would ever be better to bypass the democratic process to achieve the realization of a goal unless, perhaps, that bypass saves lives. I assume that they believe that once their desired interpretations of laws are on the books for awhile that people will just accept them. This seems unlikely to me. In the event that the general public does not simply start accepting these new rules, having them imposed without due democratic process only hurts your cause in the long run. This is a short-sighted tactic because although it realizes their goals quickly it cannot mean lasting results, nor can it foster any kind of acceptance by the public. If homosexual marriage proponents want homosexual marriage to be accepted by the country it has to be chosen by the country. It will not happen by force.

The Massachusetts legislators that voted for this recess most likely fall in to two camps: homosexual marriage proponents relying on the tactics I mention above, and politicians without the courage to follow the democratic process if it might hurt their political aspirations. Both positions are reprehensible. It is in the state constitution that the people deserve a vote on this issue since they have met the petition requirements. To deny them that vote for any reason is oppressive and wholly inappropriate for any legislative body.



Eliminating Moderate Representation

2006-11-08T20:25:39.009-07:00

I think that Joe Lieberman's resounding victory over Ned Lamont further proves a thesis I have believed for some time now: moderates don't vote in primaries. As I have said before, I believe that the majority of the country is fairly moderate, either left or right. Most people classify themselves as Republicans or Democrats, but few people are far from the middle of the political spectrum. However, politics is shifting further and further from moderate over the last several years, perhaps even decades. The populace remains moderate, but the candidates are increasingly fringe and radical. The best logical explanation for this that I can think of is that the moderates do not take part in candidate selection. Instead the radicals in both parties choose the candidates, selecting like-minded politicians. Then when the time comes for the election most Americans vote straight party line, putting the hard right or left candidate in power because they represent the party the moderate voter has chosen to be part of.

Lieberman was almost an example of this -- one that would have been unprovable had he respected his party's nomination of Lamont. He is viewed by the general public as moderate -- whether he should be or not is irrelevant, that's how he's viewed. The hard left saw him as too far right, and quite a bit too far at that. And they overwhelmingly rejected him in the primary. Had he accepted this we might never have known whether this was representative of most of Democrats in the state. However, Lieberman spurned his party and set off on his own believing, apparently correctly, that the people of Connecticut would favor him over Lamont, even if his party's primary did not. He was right and won easily. The majority of the Democrats in Connecticut did not vote for Lamont, they voted for Lieberman. I believe this is because the majority of Democrats in Connecticut believe themselves to be moderate, and so chose the candidate branded as moderate rather than the one branded as liberal, correctly or not.

I believe that the same scenario would play out across the United States in both parties if moderate candidates had the luxury of a wealth of money and media attention needed to run as independents. Instead most moderates never see general election after a primary defeat. And the result is that the majority of Americans are not accurately or adequately represented by the government. As far as I can tell there is only one way to change this: more people have to vote in the primaries. I don't know how to generate more interest, but we all should do whatever we can to encourage everyone we can to vote in the primaries to promote better representation by our government. That is my wide sweeping and vague charge to everyone in the country. That's all for now, I'll let you know if there's anything else I need you to do later.



Afraid

2006-11-08T20:08:31.583-07:00

I'm afraid about my future after the election last night. Not because Democrats are probably going to control both houses of congress, but because Colorado voted to increase its minimum wage to $6.85. I agree that minimum wage needs to increase, but on a national level. Changing it only at the state level seems disastrous to me. I cannot imagine the rationale behind such a short-sighted decision. Now I have to wait and hope that either the Federal minimum wage requirement quickly is raised to or above $6.85, or that the profit margin is high enough in Colorado that companies feel like its worth sticking it out even though they could be paying their employees less if they moved to a different state. I really hope that this doesn't destroy Colorado's economy, but I really feel like it could. And I doubt there's any chance of the Amendment being repealed in some kind of emergency vote, if there is even a provision for such a thing, now that Democrats hold both state houses and we have a new Democrat governor.

Speaking of the Democrats taking both houses last night, is it just me or were the Republicans of the last six years the worst majority ever? It seems like they still never got anything done, even with a solid majority. Plus the alienated a large chunk of their base, like me, by deciding that they didn't have to appeal to people anymore and sold out to the Evangelical right. Which backfired, since a lot of evangelical groups were talking about not voting to try to teach the Republicans some lesson. I don't know, I feel like they deserved to lose. I didn't vote for any Democrats, but I'm not that upset at their winning. To them I say congratulations, I hope you don't live up to your critics expectations. And please don't make Nancy Pelosi the Speaker of the House. Please.



MS Linux?

2006-11-09T12:29:55.610-07:00

Oh good, now Linux is going to be full of security holes and get viruses.



Israel's Current Dilemma

2006-11-03T15:38:29.808-07:00

The dilemma currently facing Israel that's all over the news is Palestinian gunmen using women, and sometimes children, as human shields. This as been an alleged tactic of such militants for years, but this is the first time, to my knowledge, that they have used this tactic so blatantly. According to this story, women formed a ring around a mosque to protect gunmen inside, believing that Israeli troops would not fire on women (unlike Palestinian suicide bombers who indiscriminately kill women and children). For once these women were wrong and the troops did fire and killed two of them and wounded several others.

This brings up an important ethical question. What is the right thing to do in such a situation? We have women serving in our armed forces, although never as active combatants at this point. But they are members of the military and legal combatants under international law, none the less. At what point do these Palestinian women cease to be civilians and start to be part of the opposing force? When do they become combatants? If "civilian" men were actively seeking to aid opposing troops in this way would they be valid targets? Is it right or good to treat women differently? What is the right way to respond to stop things like this from happening in the future? This is clearly a violation of the Geneva convention, but that doesn't really mean much to unnamed Palestinian guerrilla fighters. I don't think there is an easy answer to this question. It seems to me a moral dilemma, so I'm looking for input. If women, of their own free will, participate in activities to put themselves between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen -- not "suspected terrorists" or something like that, but men who are shooting at Israeli troops -- should they be valid targets for the troops? Is there some middle ground, where in this situation shooting the women should be avoided but if some get hit while aiming for the gunmen its okay? Or should they be treated as true civilians and be allowed to create no fire zones for militants to escape through? If so, why? Why should they be allowed to actively participate in paramilitary action without being seen as combatants? Where do we draw the line and what guidelines do we follow in such a situation? What should be the standards for our ethics in this situation?



That Pastor with the Homosexual Scandal

2006-11-04T16:21:26.501-07:00

Yeah, you've seen the headlines, "Pastor Resigns Amid Homosexual Sex Scandal" and the like. You know what I'm talking about. This is yet another example of media sensationalism that we've become so disgustedly accustomed to these days. To read the headlines you would think that he had been found out as a closet homosexual and resigned in shame. That may be the case in the end, but at this point you have one man making allegations and the pastor denying them, and the stepped down during the investigation by his church. That hardly matches the timbre of the headlines. I was just struck by headline after headline misleading people about this story, and felt it worth mention.

However, this version of the story offers some details that I find laughable. In it they report that the pastor "admitted today that he had purchased the illegal drug methamphetamine from a gay escort in Denver, but denied that he ever had sex with the man." They go on, "said he met with Mr. Jones and bought the drug. “I was tempted, I bought it, but I did not use it,” he said today. He said he threw the drug out shortly after buying it. “I never kept it very long because it was wrong,” he said." But in the end of the article is this, "Mr. Haggard said in a lengthy interview with KUSA that he had never used drugs of any kind and that he did not smoke or drink alcohol."

So... who do you know who has never used drugs, doesn't drink, and doesn't even smoke who would be "tempted" by an illegal drug offer enough to buy from some guy he doesn't know? That seems absolutely ridiculous. So, he may or may not have had sex with this man. I wouldn't be surprised either way. But he is clearly lying here. Well, maybe not. Sometimes people commit absolutely uncharacteristic felonies for no reason, I suppose. But it sure seems like there's a lot more to this story. Not that its any of our business or that it really matters to the vast majority of us. I just thought it was completely hilarious that he would admit to buying illegal drugs from a stranger but then try to play it off like it was just some freak accident and he threw them away and never looked back. Seriously, it made me laugh.

UPDATE:
Now Haggard, the pastor in question, apparently now is admitting that he paid for a message from a homosexual prostitute from whom he bought meth. Follow the logic from above with drugs, but instead apply it to messages from a prostitute -- who pays a prostitute for a message, anyway? I don't know why I find this whole situation so entertaining... I guess I'm becoming a typical American.



Where They Come From

2006-10-30T23:01:43.908-07:00

It is my opinion that since at least the 90s, probably long before, the average American knows who they are going to vote for years in advance of any election. It doesn't seem to have too much to do with ideology... in fact, I'm not really sure what it has to do with these days: you have big government Republicans and low tax Democrats, you have pro-war Democrats and pro-choice Republicans, and on and on. It doesn't seem like the people who make up the parties are all that different, which is probably part of the reason why most of the country is so evenly split in most recent elections. Charles has a post in which he discusses the possibility that there are a multitude of people who voted for both Bill Clinton and George W Bush. I guess its possible.

Here I'm going to go off on ideas that I don't have data for. It seems to me, despite Charles's post, that most people know who they are going to vote for well beforehand. So the deciding factor in who gets into office is who's party gets the best turnout. That being said, it seems logical for politicians to spend far more time and money motivating their own party rather than trying to convince undecided voters. I think that recent trends, such as incredibly negative campaign ads designed to show voters what a horrible person a candidate's opponent is, reflect this. The politicians try to prove to people that letting their opponent win will be a horrible thing, rather than trying to convince people that they are the better candidate. Since most people won't be changing their minds, its not worth the effort. You just need to sufficiently scare your party into voting to secure a win. And I think that means that politicians have lost their motivation to present themselves as, and possibly become, the best candidate possible. And I think that this is a horrible thing that is hurting American politics. I'm not sure exactly what the best thing is to do about it... and I'm about to go to bed. So maybe I'll think of something good to do about it later.



Marriage Issue

2006-10-28T20:27:46.974-06:00

I guess this is as a good a time as any to talk about the marriage issue facing the country today. Let me begin by saying that I do not understand the legal rationale for why the government recognizes marriage. To me it seems like an arbitrary set of rules that has long been desired and accepted by the people of this country. I feel that marriage is a religious institution and the government's recognition of it is strange. My dad, a pretty party-line Republican, says that the government recognizes marriage because its the fundamental unit of government, and he believes this is an adequate explanation. I disagree, cynically believing that there are as many destructive marriages as constructive, if not more. However, that may still have been the motivation of those who made the laws. Fine, that works. Others more pragmatically have suggested that supporting child raising is the motivation for the government's recognition of marriage. To this I say that not all married couples are raising children, and some that aren't married are. So it seems that child-raising status ought to be the measure then, not marriage.One way or the other, I'm not seeing much hard data on why heterosexual marriages deserve recognition by the government and homosexual marriages do not. It seems to me that if those opposed to homosexual marriage are correct and it violates the reason to recognize marriage or its bad for society that it should be a simple matter to prove their point. This is what I require to be convinced: a plain, rational reason why heterosexual marriages deserve recognition by the government and clear evidence that homosexual marriages do not. Saying that heterosexual marriages deserve recognition because they're "right" or because "that's the way its meant to be" are not good reasons. If someone was trying to get me to live with a law that prevented me from getting treatment I felt I deserved those reasons would only incite anger and resentment in me. I believe that our homosexual citizens, as full and equal citizens under the law as well as fellow human beings, deserve better.All that being said, I will be voting in favor of an amendment in Colorado that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Sound hypocritical? Here is why: I don't believe that the ends justify the means. I am not convinced that I should support government recognition of marriage at all. However, I do not believe that it should ever be right for a judge to change the law by reinterpreting what it means over a technicality when its obvious what the law originally meant. I firmly believe that the marriage laws that are now on the books were made with the idea that marriage would solely belong to one man and one woman. So my vote says this: "The laws we have on the books now are for marriage between a man and a woman. They may not be right, but we need to know exactly where we stand and those are the laws currently. Now that we've established that, we have the freedom and space to have a real conversation about whether these laws are the way they should be or whether they should be further amended, perhaps out of existence."Opponents of this amendment are trying to take a short-cut to government approved homosexual marriage by exploiting a lack of clarity in the laws. If they are successful then homosexual marriage may become a part of American government without the people ever getting a chance to debate and and discuss why it should or shouldn't be. It will sidestep all the channels that new laws are supposed to go through, and I feel this will be detrimental to society, perhaps homosexuals especially, in the long run. I believe that whenever we clearly know the intent behi[...]



Firefox 2.0

2006-10-24T21:07:31.195-06:00

If you haven't already done so, download and install Firefox 2.0. Besides being faster and more secure it introduces some really nice new features -- most everything from TabMix Plus. My favorite new functionality is the ability to have multiple tabs as my homepage, so whenever Firefox starts I have gmail, google news, and my Baylor email all up. Conveniently, and probably necessarily, Firefox 2.0 will keep most of your old plug ins, so the switch should be nearly seamless. But, best of all, Firefox 2.0 does not suck down obscene amounts of RAM! I would recommend moving to it if that were the only change they made, the rest is bonus in my opinion. Oh, and Firefox 2.0 is ready for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux so no matter what OS you're using you can download and enjoy Firefox 2.0 right now.



Queen

2006-10-24T14:07:27.336-06:00

Its amazing to me how much of good modern music (Radiohead, Muse, Death Cab For Cutie, Jimmy Eat World, Foo Fighters... that sort of thing) you can hear in Queen. It drives my wife crazy that I listen to Queen, and its true that they don't really sound like anything else I listen to -- on the surface. But in their music you can hear so much that wasn't being done by contemporary bands and so much that has been carried over into great music today. I love that about them. I think that it is a testament to their musical prowess. Its always amazing to me to look back at people/groups who were ahead of their time. Radiohead is the same way if you consider their music from the 90's and the way it affects music being made today, like Muse's. I like listening to Queen because I like hearing the foundations of the other music I love today, and its fun music that is unashamed to be ridiculous from time to time -- a distinction that is so uncommon in most music today. Whatever you think about Queen there are a few things I can say with certainty: Freddy Mercury was one of the most flamboyant homosexuals and best rock vocalists ever, and "Bohemian Rhapsody" is a work of genius.



Under God

2006-10-22T22:54:59.536-06:00

I was perusing "The Charter and The Bylaws of the Democratic Party of the United States" when I came across this phrase: "Under God, and for these ends and upon these principles, we do establish and adopt this Charter of the Democratic Party of the United States of America." Now, I'm not a person who really thinks that its that big of a deal that the pledge of allegiance says "under God," but I also wouldn't really care if the phrase were removed. When I found out that the phrase was added in the 1950's to combat Communism I felt that any argument about how it was connected to our founding principles became much weaker, and I pretty much stopped caring. However, many prominent Democrats didn't stop caring. I don't mind that they're upset by it and want it changed, but doesn't it seem logical that if it is an offensive phrase to them they would want it taken out of their party's charter? It just seems odd to me that they're fighting to take it out of a semi-official pledge that most people don't say after they are out of grade school and don't seem to mind at all that its part of the foundational document of their party. I know its different in many respects, but it still strikes me as odd.



A Horrible Idea

2006-10-06T08:48:52.490-06:00

Frank Lasee, a Wisconsin state representative from Green Bay, is advocating allowing teachers to carry guns at school in light of recent school shootings. Before commenting on the utterly lunacy of this proposal, it should be noted that, according to this interview with forensic psychologist Dr. Helen Smith, "we haven’t had that many particular school shootings. I mean, they’re definitely not accelerating." So we're not dealing with something new this year or looking at an increase in numbers. But even if we were, I cannot imagine an American classroom with an armed teacher. Can you imagine reading Shakespeare aloud in high school English while your teacher has a .45 strapped to her hip? I think it might be a bit of a distraction. How could we feel safe going to school or sending our kids to school if our schools are places where teachers need to carry guns? According to the above mentioned article, Pete Pochouski, Director of School safety, Milwaukee Public School said, "statistically, schools are the safest place for children." If that's true then Lasee's recommendation is even more ludacris. Perhaps even more important is the fact that teachers carrying guns, in my opinion, will be largely ineffective and probably more likely to cause harm than good. Can you imagine a teacher shooting at a student? Probably not likely. So maybe its not for stopping crazy students (the cause of most of school shootings) its just for stopping outsiders who come in like in the recent shootings in Bailey and Nickle Mines. I suppose its possible, but if a shooter grabs a student and uses that student as a shield do you think there are many teachers bold enough to take a shot at the aggressor? Most police officers wouldn't take the risk of hitting the student accidentaly, I can't imagine that it would be a good thing if a teacher did. Finally, adding that many firearms to a school environment in the hands of people whose primary concern is not the firearms is a very bad idea. We have had many cases in the past of police officers being shot with their own weapons. If a police officer can have his weapon stolen then I find it highly likely that the same could happen even to the most diligent teacher. So now you are introducing the possibility of arming an aggressor who might otherwise not have access to a firearm. Brilliant. This type of security at schools should be handled the same way it is everywhere else -- by police officers. If we don't have enough police officers to put enough in every school then we need to raise the pay of police officers so that more qualified people will want the job. If there isn't money to pay the police officers then we need to take some from the glut that is being given to mostly useless school bureaucracy. If there still isn't enough money then we need to raise taxes for it. It should be a priority. The safety of our children is one of the most important things for this or any nation. If the solution is having more guns on campuses then we need to do whatever it takes to provide that protection in the form of police officers.[...]



Please, Don't Encourage Them

2006-10-04T15:51:50.155-06:00

I know that people on both sides of the political fence are already talking about this, but I just can't help saying something. This line comes from a campaign ad for Minnesota Democrat Petty Wetterling that I read about here:"It shocks the conscience. Congressional leaders have admitted to covering up the predatory behavior of a congressman who used the internet to molest children."I realize that I have very little to say that hasn't already been said, but this particular quote seems incredibly horrible to me. My two problems with it: No one has admitted to covering anything up in regards to the Foley scandal, and Foley, as far as the public knows, never molested anyone. I'm not going to go on a tirade like Dean Barnett or others from the fairly far right about how this shows us something about the nature of Democrats or the left. I am not so partisan to believe that politicians on the right wouldn't do the same type of thing, in the right situation. This doesn't show us anything about the left in particular, in my opinion, but it does show us something about politicians. Its not something new, its just a reinforcement of what we already know. Apparently they will say whatever they believe most benefits them, even when it doesn't involve the facts quite correctly. Furthermore, this tells us something about the American public. Again, its not something new. This shows us once again that the American public, in general, is apathetic. It could not be advantageous for a politician to run an ad like this if the average American paid attention at least to the daily news reports. One doesn't need to dig past the headlines to read the Foley story, and even a cursory read over any coverage will show that at this point in time all we know Foley did is have completely inappropriate conversations over IM and email with teenagers. No molestation. And it doesn't take a whole lot of interest to find that no one is claiming to have covered up anything for him. So, maybe its the Senator's opinion that people covered up for Foley, but claiming that they have admitted so is paramount to slander. Perhaps she has her own definition of molestation that diverges from the normally accepted one, but levelling a molestation charge without any clarification is again disingenuous at best, slander at worst. This is an example of politician opportunism at its worst, and it saddens me and hurts my trust in politicians in general.On a connected note, it further damages his credibility, with me at least, that Markos Moulitsas links this ad without any mention of its inaccurate accusations. It makes me sad when people, politicians or otherwise, put their party above common decency. It doesn't matter to me if Kos believes that Republicans did cover up for Foley, he still should at least make mention of the fact that the ad goes too far in asserting that they have admitted such. Propogating political campaign lies makes the problem even worse, because now people who read Kos's blog and are somewhat interested, although not interested enough to read the news themselves, will assume that everything in the ad is true because Kos linked it without any cautionary note. It is a politician's responsibility not to lie in their campaign ads or any other time, it ought to be the responsibility of each of us not to propogate such lies when we come across them.[...]



A Moment of Truth?

2006-10-01T09:14:40.765-06:00

What will we, the US, do if it turns out to be true that Pakistan masterminded the Mumbai bombing in India? That would make Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism, which, under our current standing doctrine, would make them our enemies. However, there is some truth, although probably not as much as he would like us to believe, in Pakistan's President's words in regards to our "war on terror": "'You'll be brought down to your knees if Pakistan doesn't co-operate with you... Pakistan is the main ally. If we were not to be with you, you won't manage anything. Let that be clear. And if ISI is not with you, you will fail.'" So, what will we do? Will we, once again, allow our political and military needs to trump our stated standards like we did during the cold war when we supported and/or installed "benevolent" dictators? Will we give a free pass to anyone who gives us enough help in whatever we're most interested in at a given time? I don't expect that we will come down hard on Pakistan, and I am sure there won't be an regime toppling by the US there. But what should we do? Is there anything we can do that won't make us hypocrites without severing ties with a seemingly much needed ally in our current conflicts?



Closing

2006-09-29T07:53:48.762-06:00

Today at 11:30AM I am selling my house. I have had this house listed since March 24th -- almost six months to the day. I hate this house, due in no small part to the fact that it has been on the market for 6 months and I've had to pay the mortgage and maintain it during that time. I cannot express how excited I am to go to closing today. I hope I can refrain from dancing on the table.

In somewhat related news, the Dow Jones, and all other American stocks, has been making tremendous gains lately and is close to its historic high. I have no idea what this really means for the economy, but it sounds very promising. Is this another 90s? Probably too soon to tell, I'd bet. But I really don't know anything about economics except that Adam Smith wrote "Wealth of the Nations" about it and John Nash's "original idea" changed the way the world looked at economics. Can anyone with more insight give me some clue as to how significant the stocks' gains and (relatively) low gas prices (down to $2.09 in Waco!) really are?



MSM: An Inside Look

2006-09-26T15:09:25.235-06:00

I have grown out of using the term "liberal media" because I feel that it oversimplifies and is often a defense mechanism used by religious conservatives to discount anything they don't like on TV or in print. It seems like the kind of thing that can't really be discussed rationally anyway. However, Hugh Hewitt had a very interesting conversation with Thomas Edsall who now writes for The New Republic and was the senior political reporter at the Washington Post, where he worked for 25 years, until recently. He also worked at the Baltimore Sun for 14 years. I think everyone would benefit from reading the entire interview with the extremely honest Edsall. Here are some interesting parts:HH: A proposition. The reason talk radio exploded, followed by Fox News, followed by the center-right blogosphere, is that because folks like you have been the dominant voice in American media for a long time, and you’re a pretty thoroughgoing, Democratic favoring, agenda journalist for the left, and you’ve been the senior political reporter of the Washington Post for a very long time. And people didn’t trust your news product…not you, personally, but the accumulation of you, throughout the L.A. Times, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and they got sick and tired of being spoon fed liberal dross, and they went to the radio when an alternative product came along.TE: To a certain degree, I agree with that.HH: And so, why do you think it’s wrong, somehow, for people to want to hear news that they don’t consider as biased? I mean, that’s what it is. It’s just unbiased news is what people wanted. That’s why conservatives like me got platforms, and our blogs get read, and our columns get absorbed.TE: One, I don’t think it’s unbiased.HH: It’s transparent at least. Everyone has bias. I agree with that. Everyone’s got bias.TE: It’s transparent. Okay, that I would agree. And I agree that whatever you want to call it, mainstream media, presents itself as unbiased, when in fact, there are built into it, many biases, and they are overwhelmingly to the left.*****************************************HH: ... given that number of reporters out there, is it ten to one Democrat to Republican? Twenty to one Democrat to Republican?TE: It’s probably in the range of 15-25:1 Democrat.*****************************************HH: ...Your newspaper wrote that Evangelicals were ill-educated, and easily led. Remember that one?TE: That was one of the dumber things that’s been in the paper.HH: Yeah, but it was in the paper.TE: It was.HH: And it got past editors.TE: The only reason that the reporter who wrote it didn’t get in bigger trouble is that the editor who let it get by was someone of some prominence.HH: Oh, what was his name?TE: I’m not going to get into that, but it was someone of some power at the Washington Post, and there was no way they were going to mess with him.HH: And so, they didn’t really have an early warning system. My guess is, because in the newsroom, and the newsrooms which I have worked, and that’s primarily PBS…TE: I agree with you on this score, 100%.HH: It’s very anti-religion, isn’t it?TE: Well, it…certainly, they would let a quote by that, without, in many cases, without blinking, not recognizing that it was extraordinarily insulting.[...]



E85

2006-09-25T07:14:30.946-06:00

In this month's issue of IEEE's Spectrum magazine (I'm a nerd) in an article entitled "Stricter U.S. Gas Standards Stalled," I read this: "E85 is more expensive than gasoline, it provides inferior fuel efficiency, and it yields little if any reduction in greenhouse gas emissions." The article goes on to quote Reg Modlin, director of environmental and energy planning for DaimlerChryselr Corp., saying, "'there is currently little customer demand' for E85 vehicles." No kidding? People aren't demanding cars that run worse on more expensive fuel that is just as bad for the environment and can't be found at most gas stations? I wholeheartedly agree that we need to find an alternative to gasoline and petroleum products, especially in automobiles. However, it does not appear that E85 is a good solution, and I cannot believe that it has so many proponents. The article quotes people blaming Congress for not passing incentives and forcing infrastructure for the general lack of interest in E85. Usually I agree with anyone saying Congress isn't doing their job. In this case, however, I'm thankful that Congress hasn't stupidly signed away tax dollars to something that doesn't sound like its going to help us much anyway. My solution to the oil issue? Nuclear power, especially fusion. If we spent as much money on that as we do researching other alternative fuels we could probably come up with some pretty good ways to keep it safe. And with nuclear energy the power is so cheap that an electric car becomes economically feasible. That's environmentally and economically friendly.



After Bush?

2006-09-21T09:33:28.509-06:00

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has made a name for himself internationally with his strong anti-US rhetoric and, more visibly, his harsh, off the deep end criticisms of US President Bush. My question is, what will he do after the 2008 elections when Bush isn't the president any more? Defining yourself as the guy who said that George W. Bush is the devil seems like a short-sighted strategy, especially in the late months of 2006. Yes, Mr Chavez, we know you hate President Bush. We understand that you want to stand against the US and believe it is a threat to your country. Is there anything more than that? Are you offering some alternative philosophy or ideology? Do you have some reason that the US is wrong? What will you stand for after the 2008 elections when there is no longer the evil Bush to rely on?