Friday, January 30, 2004

A Criminal Waste of Space

I was directed to a blog written by a California Judge some time ago and I've been quite taken with his writing. (He's hilarious, frankly.) Justice William W. Bedsworth writes the blog called A Criminal Waste of Space and tends to write funny stuff about topics that cross his desk. His most recent is no exception. I call attention to it here because it's 1) of a political topic and 2) is so staggeringly unbelievable that you've just got to read it.

He writes about a recent measure passed in Bolinas, CA that reads, in its entirety:

Vote for Bolinas to be a socially acknowledged nature-loving town because to like to drink the water out of the lakes to like to eat the blueberries to like the bears is not hatred to hotels and motor boats. Dakar. Temporary and way to save life, skunks and foxes (airplanes to go over the ocean) and to make it beautiful.

Did it pass? You betcha - by better than 2/3 of the voting populace. Seriously, go read it for yourself. Justice Bedsworth just says it best.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Cornucopia of News Items

I've been out of town for some time and have only managed to get back into the swing of things this morning. Allow me to assure all of you that driving in a blinding blizzard with occasional bouts of sleet through half of Pennsylvannia is not to be considered a good time. A trip that normally takes us 6-7 hours took 11 hours and 30 minutes. Driving in bad snow is fatiguing enough, but adding a 2-hour backup due to an accident is just overdoing it. We're glad to be home.

Trouble @ the BBC
I see that there are some shake-ups going on over at the BBC these days, after the release of a report by Lord Hutton calling the BBC's reporting that the British government had "sexed up" its Iraq files with misleading intel in order to support its decision to go to war in Iraq "unfounded". The BBC's chairman, Gavyn Davies, resigned his position immediately following the release. Today, the BBC itself is reporting the second resignation resulting from that report, that of Greg Dyke, the BBC's director general. Tony Blair is calling for an apology from those who have accused him and I think he should get one. The BBC allowed itself to get editorial in its reporting - a failing we Americans know all too much about from our own news media - and if the BBC wants to repair its reputation, it should own up to the problem.

Update: Looks like the BBC's done just that. Blair has accepted and hopes both the BBC and the government can now move ahead.

It really is about oil!
Another shocker is the revelation from Iraq that papers from the Oil Ministry show that Saddam Hussein used oil to bribe top French officials into opposing the US-led Coalition war in Iraq. From the UPI article:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Documents from Saddam Hussein's oil ministry reveal he used oil to bribe top French officials into opposing the imminent U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
The oil ministry papers, described by the independent Baghdad newspaper al-Mada, are apparently authentic and will become the basis of an official investigation by the new Iraqi Governing Council, the Independent reported Wednesday.
"I think the list is true," Naseer Chaderji, a governing council member, said. "I will demand an investigation. These people must be prosecuted."

Certainly sheds a different light on French President Chirac's "moral opposition", doesn't it? Looks like it really was all about oil, just not from the side it was supposed to be.

Which founding father are you?

According to this, I'm:

More today as more comes up...

Monday, January 26, 2004

Out on the frozen road

Sorry I've not written. I'm stuck in the ice in northern Ohio. I should be back at a reliable connection by tomorrow note, so we'll see you there!

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Items from the State of the Union

(Apologies in advance that this took so long. Other matters intervened...)

OK, basic impressions: Definitely not the best nor the worst speech I've ever heard. I heard things I liked and things I disagreed with in there. Let's look at both of those in turn.

I liked the statement that America will never seek a permission slip to defend our security. I feel the same way. If we're all going to be honest here, I think it's safe to say that we all feel the same way. Who among us would have stood up and said we needed consensus from the League of Nations (example, only) to respond to the bombing of Pearl Harbor? No one, that's who. Is there anyone who seriously has issue with our military operations in Afghanistan? Not really. Sure, there were those who thought we were doing the wrong thing initially, but the fact is that Osama bin Laden was in Afghan territory, Al Qaeda was training there, and they were using Afghanistan as a base of operations. The Taleban were covering for them and offering them support. Those issues are not in dispute and America was completely correct in moving against them. Afghanistan is a better place for it today and I echo the President's remark that I am happy to be their friend. When all that was going on, I was working with a man from Afghanistan. He was there when the Soviet tanks rolled in and managed to get his family out to come to America. He was quite happy with America's actions and told me that he might consider returning home now that the Taleban were gone.

Ah, but what about Iraq. See, I honestly don't think anyone has a real problem with America using military force against those who threaten us. The issue is in 2 things: 1) Being sure that they are a threat and 2) how much threat do they need to be to warrant that kind of action. This is where we are all differing. Those that do not support the war are quick to say they support our troops, and they really do. They do not believe that Iraq constituted a threat worth fighting over. Those that support the war (and I'm speaking about Iraq, specifically) thought (and think) that Iraq did constitute such a threat. The oft-mentioned WMD is the key sticking point. The President said they had them and he wasn't alone. President Clinton said the same thing. So did numerous other experts in the years preceding both the war and President Bush's administration. Well, we haven't found them. The President said in the speech last night that reports show these programs were still in the making, if only on paper, and there have been "significant" equipment siezures that show the programs were ongoing.

I'm sure we'll have more arguments about what constitutes "significant." More on that issue at another time. Let's get back to the speech.

The President dealt with various criticisms about the Iraq actions but the point I thought scored best was about the suggestion that we need to internationalize our efforts. He proceeded to list over a dozen countries that have joined in the effort and that was a point I felt needed to be made. The media would have you believe it's the US against the world over there and that's just not true. The Brits, Japanese, Polish, Danes, Spanish and Italians all have troops in the theater and so do several others. It's a criticism that just doesn't resolve with the facts and I was happy to see it get called out.

I liked the concept suggested that kids that take more challenging courses in High School should qualify for bigger Pell grants. It's a nice incentive for taking the harder courses. Now let's discuss what qualifies as such a course and try to keep the law from including a grant to some small town in Wyoming to build a Ronald Reagan memorial. I also want to make clear that this law should discuss classes that qualify only without respect to any race, creed, geographic location, native language or anything else. If we all decide that Pre-Calculus qualifies then that's what qualifies, period.

I am cautiously approving of the inmate education suggestion he made, but there's too few details to really go into a discussion on it. I think there are several convicts that get released that honestly want to do things right and not go back to jail. I think that any help we can provide them can only help us as a whole and, therefore, is a good idea in general terms. Let's see some specifics before we go any further.

Now, let's talk about the things I didn't like. First, and most grating to me, it doesn't matter how often you say the economy's improving, it's a question of whether or not the improvement is really an improvement. Can you really say the economy is improving when 1) people are still getting laid off in droves, 2) the top worry most people have is whether their job is next on the chopping block, and 3) families are having to carry debt-loads that are breaking records in order to make things work? Every time he said it, I did a little wince inside. You have to keep listening and try to hold off the urge to start forming counter-arguments in times like those, but I was truly tested. After the speech, I finally hit on what the problem was: he, like most of the people inside the beltway, equate the DOW index with the economy. The Dow Jones Industrial is over 10K again, so the economy must be improving, right? Sorry, no. Thanks for playing. When more people are seeing economic improvement than aren't, you can say the economy has improved.

And about that immigration plan, boss. The President says he's not for amnesty. I say a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, or rotten in this case. I'm glad to hear him say it explicitly but now I want him to put the money where his mouth is. I am all for seeing a proposal on the issue but I would absolutely oppose any plan that allows people here illegally to stay. They can head back home and apply at the temporary worker stations if that's what they want, but they go home first.

The Patriot Act, as currently passed, is simply too broad and too easy to abuse. It needs to be allowed to die and, if the need is still there, new legislation can be crafted. But I heartily disagree with the notion that the Act must be renewed.

It's all well and good that we finally gave prescription drug coverage to seniors via Medicare. The method it's given is an abysmal mess and hardly something to be proud of. It needs work, Mr. President, and you should try to fix it.

I was curious that the newly announced space initiatives didn't merit a word in the speech. I would have thought that, having made such a wide display of approval just days earlier, he'd have at least mentioned it.

Lastly, I found Senator Kennedy's behavior during the speech to be juvenille, rude, and inexcusable. He and many others would have howled in anger had the President made similar eye rolls, head shakes, and generally disgusted and dismissive gestures during any speech he made. They would have been calling for his head and I think rightly so. You're supposed to be a leader, Senator Kennedy, and a professional. If you can't comport yourself in a similarly professional manner during someone else's recognized turn on the floor, then don't attend. You didn't further any of your causes by acting this way.

Now, I'd love to keep going over all this stuff, but something has been brought to my attention that needs my research even more, and it's a pretty chilling thing if true. More to come.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

State of the Union Address

Yes, I watched it. I found several interesting bits and some stuff I disagree with in it. I'm gathering up the necessary data to write about it and will drop it on here tomorrow morning. G'nite, America!

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Sux to be them...

No comment I can make about this story will do it justice. Moral to that story, take your keys to the car with you when you leave it, even if you have no pockets!

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Hamas tells their true goals

To be honest, when I read the story I tried very hard not to think too much of it. But the words of the leader of Hamas Mahmoud Zahar won't go away. Speaking in praise of the woman who blew herself up this past week in another Palestinian suicide bomber attack, he said:

"She is not going to be the last (attacker) because the march of resistance will continue until the Islamic flag is raised, not only over the minarets of Jerusalem, but over the whole universe," Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said.

(Emphasis mine, by the way.) If there's been any doubt at all, any attempt by apologists and American sympathizers to think that Hamas has any intention whatsoever of being a peaceful neighbor if only they are allowed their own State, this man's words should be all you need to refute them. There's no interpretive wiggle room here, folks. This guy sees any place and any people not flying the "Islamic flag" as a target. He clearly has no issue with continuing these tactics far beyond their alleged goal of a soverign Palestine. They don't even have that and already they're serving notice to the rest of us who choose to have different beliefs that we're next.

If these tactics are allowed to be effective, they will be repeated. Why waste money and time on armies and weapons or even diplomats and debate? Pick your next target, fire up some young folks who clearly don't get that they're being sent in only because their leaders can talk sacrifice but can't give over themselves and fire in the hole!. (And if their cause is so just and the sacrifice so proper, why isn't Mr. Zahar stapping 10 kilos of C4 to his ass and walking into a crowded restaurant?) They will keep coming and they'll keep finding idiot kids who believe them enough to blow themselves apart.

The Palestinian government should pay attention and start speaking up about comments like this. When the US becomes convinced that Hamas is the one calling the shots and the Palestinian govenment can't do squat about it, then my vote is to put them into the same category as the Taleban. A group harboring and aiding terrorists. They should be treated as the Taleban were and shown the same fate.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Like the man says...

Just saw a quote on another blog:

Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains.
-- Winston Churchill

Hey, I just report 'em...

No pleasing some people

President Bush yesterday paid a call on Martin Luther King's grave and, with King's widow at his side, laid a wreath there in remembrance. This didn't sit well with a crowd of protesters who shouted and jeered at the President and basically made it clear that they were offended that he had come. Of course, those same people would have been offended if he'd made no such visit because he was failing to show proper respect to Mr. King's memory.

A real lose-lose situation if ever there was one. The President handled it exactly as he should have. He stepped up, laid the wreath, sat in quiet contemplation (or as quiet as the shouting crowd would let it be), shook hands with Mrs. King and left. Sorry, folks, this time the class was all on the President's side.

You don't have to do things exactly as someone else would have done to respect that person. You don't need to follow in their footsteps precisely to value that which that person valued. Every man walks his own road, as it were, and as close as some of those roads parallel each other, they are still separate. What works for the one will not necessarily be the answer for another. Such is life. The protesters claimed that all Bush was trying to do was grab some of the black vote. Please. No one who thought about the issue for longer than 5 seconds would think that this President had a chance in hell of doing that. Given the exteme likelihood that either action - showing up or staying away - would offend the black community one way or the other, his chances of garnering some kind of political support for this was exactly zero. And still he went anyway. I think he did so for the obvious reason: he respects what Mr. King had to say and wanted to salute his actions and leadership. I view the actions of the crowd of protesters as the offensive, non-King variety. But there's no pleasing some people, and this too is a fact of life.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Moon, Mars, and Marriage

In yet another example of "good news, bad news" President Bush announced plans this week to push our manned spaceflight program back to the Moon and beyond, targeting a return by 2020. His proposal wants $12 billion over the next 5 years to pursue these ends. That's the good news. The bad news is in the same week, he proposed spending $1.5 billion in federal money to promote "healthy marriages", meaning that held between 1 man and 1 woman (human species, natch.)

I applaud this nation turning its attention back to space. I have long felt that we allowed ourselves to be distracted from the pursuit of space science and exploration and that we should refocus in that area. The President's proposal is a good thing in my book because it's actually a step toward that goal. Is it perfect? Likely not. First steps seldom are, and that's what we're doing here. This program is a "start from scratch" kind of thing and it should be. We would not be well served by building another Saturn V rocket and slapping an Apollo module on top as we did 30 years ago. We know much more and can build things with more of an eye toward our future than we could in those days, and the mission statement is so much wider than "get a man on the moon." Like the Wright brothers a hundred years ago, the Apollo program showed us it could be done. Now let's do it with today's technology. Building a permanent presence on the Moon is absolutely the way to go, too. Launching missions to further planets and moons from there will be far less expensive (in just about every sense of the word) than it would be from here. And it's someplace we can try out new techniques while remaining relatively close to help from either Earth or space stations.

Ah, then the bad news. It is my firm belief that the federal government should not involve itself in any way whatsoever in the institution of marriage, period. There should be no money spent - at all - promoting marriage as good, bad, or indifferent. I don't need the federal government to subtantiate my marriage, thanks. And my marriage isn't threatened, thanks for asking, by anyone else wanting to get married to anyone else, either. That includes two men, two women, two men and a woman, 8 women and 1 man, etc., etc., etc. (And for that 1 guy with multiple women, I don't wanna be you when a certain lunar cycle comes up, bud. Rent an apartment for a week...)

Every administration has good ideas and bad ones. This week showed 1 of each, and I'd be saying that regardless of who was in the White House.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Mortar shells found in Iraq have no chemical weapons inside

Fox news is reporting that the shells found a couple of days ago in southern Iraq do not have mustard gas inside. Appears that huge grain of salt I took with the news was warranted.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Saddam as a POW? What are they thinking?

In case you missed it, the US has declared Saddam Hussein a prisoner of war (POW). That entitles him to specific protections under the Geneva Convention, to which the US adheres. The question I have now is: why? It's not like we weren't treating him in accordance with the Convention anyway, but declaring him a POW limits the types of legal action that can be taken against him. As I read it, (and regardless of what the Pentagon is saying) the POW status makes it far more difficult to hand him over to the Iraqis for trial in their justice system. The Iraqi people are correct that this is a major concern.

I cannot see what advantage it give us to grant this status to Saddam. Unless they've done it as a condition of his starting to provide useful operational information, it seems a giveaway to me. And giveaways make me nervous. They also give rise to more conspiracy theories and there's already plenty of those.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Who Watches the Watchmen?

CNN is reporting on a Pentagon auditing group who, it has been discovered, spent over 1100 man-hours to alter their own files in order to pass an internal review! In short, they discovered they were getting audited, found out what files were going to be reviewed, and ran amok changing those files to pass.

The story quotes a senior official as saying a top manager at the New York branch hadn't been "forthcoming" and "acted inappropriately" to conceal information. It also said this guy had been given "appropriate disciplinary action" but didn't say what that action had been. I'd call that an understatement. This clown ought to be doing the "perp walk" on national TV with big, huge handcuffs on. Under the kind of political climate we're living in today, crap like this should be treated to brutally quick and unambiguous action that says it's not to be tolerated.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Iraq's WMD?

OK, BIG caveat here: we've been treated to so many "breaking news" stories about WMD in Iraq only to find out later they were old drainpipes or something that we should really, really not get too excited about these reports yet. That said, I do want to make sure to pass them on. Especially to a certain Lefty I know comes around here every so often. (He'll get that little tongue-in-cheek reference, I'm sure! Ha!)

First, it seems that a group of Danes have located what appear to be chemical-warhead mortar rounds in southern Iraq. The items are said to be something like 10 years old and were found wrapped in plastic and buried in a dried up marsh. The rounds reportedly contain blister agents and might even be leftover ordnance from the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980's. Testing should confirm most of that. The report says they found 36 such shells at that location. Now, that's hardly a huge stockpile. However, if these weapons were found there after all this time with all those people who were crawling all over the place looking for those weapons, then I think it's not unreasonable to conclude that there could indeed be more where these came from. Clearly people are losing sight of just how big that country is and how many places such weapons might be hidden.

A question I would pose to those people who are demanding that WMD be found in order to justify not tossing George Bush in jail is this: Clearly 36 shells aren't the "huge stockpile" we were led to believe were in Iraq. But how many such shells are required before we can all safely say that Iraq did indeed have WMD specifically prohibited under the UN and 1991 Coalition agreements? If these shells do prove to have blister agents in them, the argument that there were no WMD in Iraq will fall untrue. Will that be enough?

Also of note is a story listed over on ic Wales that quotes a Syrian dissident claiming that Saddam's WMD stocks were moved to Syria in the months just prior to the war. Said dissident even points out the 3 locations in Syria where the weapons were taken to. The cynic in me immediately says "Well, isn't that quite helpful and so convenient?" Prudence demands that we at least investigate. If those weapons were in Iraq and moved over there, then that's significant on many levels. Syria has denied on multiple occasions having helped Saddam's regime slip out from the Coalition forces. They have loudly denied having his weapons. I think we should see what we can do to verify those claims and the dissident report as well. Invasion? No. Not without some serious proof, and I mean proof this time. Not just some document from a guy who used to live in Syria and hates their current government.

However. If we have that kind of evidence that they are there, then I absolutely approve of doing whatever is necessary to get Syria to cough them up and do so now. If they do so, admit the complicity, and expell the former Hussein regime figures that may be hiding out in Syria, then they can get left alone to do their thing. Otherwise....

Well, let's see those shells get tested first and look into that dissident's claims. Steady, logical progression.

Government moving glacially? Not close to this home

The past 4 years in this county have been very trying for those of us in the eastern, more populous side. The Board of Supervisors, the 9-member elected governing body of the county, had been elected in 1999 to deal with the issues created with the runaway development that was then in full swing. Those of us living in the east were concerned about the horrific traffic snarls, housing costs, and the loss of open space. The newly elected board understood the problem, we thought, and promised to do something about it.

They did: they passed laws and programs that increased the density in the eastern side of the county in order to protect the rural horse country to the west. They put such onerous requirements on new businesses that they made executives rethink moving into the county. Several moved out or had to close under the weight of the new regulations. They ran out a rather large budget surplus and turned it into a deficit, raised the property tax rate, increased fees, cut services, decried the fact that we don't have enough money coming in, and then spent $8 million buying development rights from private landowners out west on property that had no development value. They bought a $28,000 kitchen for a small business in a western district saying it would be available for public use. No such use has been, to date, permitted. When the $8 million ran out, they siphoned off $900,000 from the "hotel tax" (a tax on hotel stays that was tagged to go to the Office of Business Development) and used that to buy more development rights. At their very last meeting last month, they snagged another $1.3 million from the fund to buy some more.

At that same meeting, they also granted tax-exempt status to the one-and-only business they brought into the county in 4 years, costing the taxpayers $6 million annually, projected, permanently. Where is that business locating? In a western district, of course.

The 5 eastern districts comprise more than 70% of the county's population, but take up less than 40% of the square mileage. Under the previous board, we only had 4 districts, which meant 4 of the 9 members of the board were covering that 70% of the county's people. Oh, but it got worse: of the 4 "eastern" supervisors, only 1 consistently voted in a fashion consistent with the stated, surveyed desires of the eastern constituents. The others voted to cram in the people over here in their own districts, yet spend money out west. What about mine? He's the guy who proposed buying the $28,000 kitchen. And what value was that kitchen to his constituents here? None. We've never seen it, no one but the business owners have actually used it, and they aren't talking about their usage.

You can imagine that I got very involved with the elections last year. I am proud to say that the candidate I worked for not only won this district, he was then elected by the board to the Vice-Chairmanship. The Chairman is a county-wide elected spot and it went to the incumbent who made it is mission in life to pass all those laws I mentioned. He won by 0.01% of the vote. He, of course, is acting like he won by 100%, but you'd expect that. Of the 9 members that were in place last month, only 4 are there today. What had been a case of seeing votes pass 8-1, 8-1, 8-1 with the sole voice on the Board speaking on behalf of Eastern interests being consistently crushed has suddenly become 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 with the former board members on the short end of the stick. Except the 1, of course. In the 1st meeting of the new board, there were 22 motions brought, debated, and voted upon, more than the previous board did in 6 months. Quite a number of them were redressing inequities.

The development rights program has been suspended. It's not necessarily a bad program, but we need to pay for other things first. Now we will. Construction into the center of the county, which had been completely opposed by the previous board, will be allowed now. One of the motions was to withdraw a restriction passed by the previous board that you weren't allowed to build a ballpark in a floodplain. A ballpark? The previous board said they would not approve building something that might just get flooded. It's a ballpark! What's the cleanup on that going to be? Paint some new lines, rake the sand and the field and you're done. We have literally hundreds of kids here who want to play in summer soccer and baseball leagues but can't because we've got no place for them to play. I've seen little league games being held in driving rainstorms because if you let weather cancel a game, there's no place open to reschedule. All year. We need these facilities and we can afford to risk that they'll get wet once in a while.

As soon as the local paper gets the story up on their website, I'll link to it. All in all, it's looking fairly good. I have sent in a note with both a "welcome" and a warning to my Supervisor, the new Vice Chairman. I've asked that he not get too brutal in his treatment of the former majority Supervisors. They certainly need to understand that it's not business as usual and that they need to get used to compromising on issues where for the past 4 years they've passed what they wanted and opposition be damned. It's not necessary to pound them into the ground, however. So far, they're being professional, which is already an improvement. Should be an interesting 4 years....

Thursday, January 08, 2004

More silliness about illegal workers

A story about Virginia's new license law which requires people to prove they're here in this country legally before getting a license showed an interesting comment in it that I have to comment upon:

The law, which took effect Jan. 1, requires people applying for a drivers license or renewing an expired one to prove that they are legal. For U.S. citizens, that means little more than presenting a birth certificate or passport. But foreign-born residents must present immigration papers that can take more than a year to get from the federal government.

The General Assembly passed the bill last year after reports that several of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists illegally obtained Virginia licenses and then used them as proof of identification at airports and flight schools.

Opponents argued that the law would make it difficult for illegal immigrants to work, drive legally or cash a check.

Yeah, as a citizen of this country, I need to be very concerned that an illegal immigrant be able to work, drive legally or cash a check. And doesn't that sound just ridiculous that we need to make sure an illegal immigrant can legally drive? I voted for this law when it came up and I was very glad it passed. Perhaps the other States in the Union should do the same.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Rewarding illegal immigrants? - Updated

Let's start off running: I do not approve of rewarding people who illegally enter the country by simply granting them legal status. I think it's counter-productive and, more importantly, a slap in the face to the people who have played by the rules to get legal resident status here. We have several friends out here who have spent 3-5 years in the process and are still waiting for their green card. Since they have followed the regs, I don't think it's out of line to ask that everyone else do the same.

Given the continuous support for such "amnesty" programs by the more leftwise segment of our political society and, now, the White House's proposal to implement a program to allow illegals to remain here, however, I must re-examine the issue. Could be I'm on the minority side of the fence in this democracy as regards this question and it behooves me to know that. If more of my fellow citizens want to proceed with this than don't, I will support it. I'd like to ask for a compromise, however, and I think even the staunchest proponent of this kind of program will have to agree with me when they've heard it. If we're going to allow people who illegally enter this country to keep their jobs and attain legal status, then we need to significantly speed up the process for people who are entering legally. Before we allow someone who ducked a fence in Texas last month to get his green card, I'd like to see my Brazilian friend who's been trying to get his for 4 years finally receive it. Or my Chinese friend who's been trying for 5 years. He's almost got it, but he gets annoyed at thinking that he's been jousting the government's red-tape dragon for that long and someone who basically cheated is going to do it in less than a year.

Assuming, of couse, the plan goes through. Details are limited so far.

The other thing I think we need to insist upon is that these illegals don't get paid cash under the table. It gets reported and taxed - all of it - so that these people will be paying the taxes they're supposed to be. One of the arguments I hear in support of these programs is that these illegal immigrants are paying huge amounts of taxes. I'd like to ask how they're tracking that, of course, and yet still tell me they can't find these illegals, but I'll pass that question along for now. Right now all I want to know is that we're going to be dilligent in making damn sure we don't give over the legal status without requiring they own up to their responsibilities.

Update: After some careful consideration and re-examination of the issues, I need to just say: I was right the 1st time. This idea blows so big they should call it a hurricane. Grant illegal immigrants some legal status? NO! No, no, no! Send them back to where they came from and let them apply to enter the country legally like all the other folks who have done so. If some employer "can't afford" to pay wages to legal residents and (gasp!) American citizens, well maybe that employer doesn't need to be in business.

And what's this crap about letting them stay so long as they're doing a job "no Americans want"? If the unemployment rate ever hits zero then you've got an argument. Until then, how about we find all those poor business owners who can't seem to find American citizens to take his jobs and we direct people who can't find jobs to his door? I'm not suggesting that every out-of-work PhD should be forced to mop floors the day he applies for unemployment benefits, but there's plenty of folks around here for whom that kind of work would be welcome. How about we make sure they get the chance before we let someone who violates the borders of the United States take the slot?

Don't just blog about it, folks, write your Senators, Congressional Reps, and the President to let him know where you stand. They say these guys take every letter they get on a subject and treat it as the opinion of 100 people. Be the centurion who stands up to be counted!

At least they're talking now.

I just saw this on the news: Pakistan and India are beginning a dialog to see if they can reach agreement over Kashmir. This is a good thing. If you're looking for a place on Earth near the top of the "most likely spot for the next nuke fired in combat", these 2 are your good bet. They both have the technology to do it and they're both aggressive enough to push the button. Anything that gives them a reason to back away from that can't be all bad.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Who's revisionist now?

After posting an ad equating Bush with Hitler, it appears that has pulled the ad without comment and is acting like it was never there. I first saw this on Citizen Smash and commented on the ad over there. I was about to blog on it myself when I noted that the ad was nowhere to be found on MoveOn. Without seeing it there myself, I didn't want to rage on about it only to find out later that it was never there. Well, it was there and it was in position #2. As point out by Daniel Drezner in comments back to Smash, the links for the ads show the index numbers and they jump now from 01 to 03. The ad indexed 02 - the Bush=Hitler ad - suddenly just isn't there any more. No comment from MoveOn or anything else. An apology, for example.

And lest you think that it only was this 1 time, they did it again. There's a second ad making the same comparison and they've pulled that one off too. Not before it was seen by a few thousand visitors, I'm sure, but it was in position 16 which is also missing.

I guess they're not so against pulling information off web sites as they sounded, are they?

Update: MoveOn has posted a response on their web site to this issue. For a reply titled that they "regret" the ads "slipped through", it sure doesn't sound regretful. They claim the RNC is looking to "smear" them by reporting the ads. That's hard to credit given the RNC is simply pointing out content that MoveOn chose to present on their own site. How is that a smear to point to an act that MoveOn decided to make on their own?

I do absolutely believe it was a decision, too. In their reply, they cite "more than 1500 submissions" were received. So how is it that these 2 "slipped" and all those hundreds of others that didn't win didn't? I recognize a deliberate act when I see one and this was deliberate. Did MoveOn's executive board approve the decision? I don't know. Perhaps MoveOn should submit itself for an independent investigation with full disclosure of everything found to the American people. Perhaps the executives should suspend themselves while that's done and, if complicity is shown, perhaps they should be indicted for defamation. Or, best of all, they should realize that there are limits to reasonable debate and concentrate on rational political discussions. Their all-too-obvious hate of President Bush is getting in their way.

Goodbye Windows 98

Well, it's been coming for some time, but Microsoft is finally declaring Windows 98 obsolete and no longer under active support. That means there won't be any further updates to the software, no security fixes, and no additions to supported hardware. This is MS's "little" nudge to say, "upgrade or you're on your own." As an IT professional, I understand this is the way it has to work but I know so many people still using that O/S that I know it's going to be a painful road. You can check out the support status of Microsoft's O/S's by going to and selecting your O/S choice. I note that Windows ME ran out from under "mainstream support" on 31 December, 2003 and will follow Win 98 into oblivion at the end of 2004.

Those of you still on Windows 98 should definitely take the time to perform a Windows Update before the 16th, however, since many of those support files may disappear from the site after the 16th.

If you're not stuck on Windows for some reason (for example, you're using an application that's absolutely critical to you and they only make it for Windows) then you should check out the possibility of using Linux. For better than 50% of the home users who don't do anything with their systems but connect to the Internet, get e-mail, IM, and write the occasional document, Linux serves just fine at a huge discount on price. Additional advantage is that you don't need to go upgrade your hardware immediately. Linux runs very well on machines that aren't considered cutting edge and its security is quite a bit better. All those MS viruses and worms are nothing more than a momentary annoyance to a Linux box. Read up a bit and see if it's for you. You've likely heard of Red Hat Linux and that's not a bad one, although they've announced recently that they're halting development and support of their desktop product in favor of their Enterprise stuff. I personally recommend Mandrake Linux but you might want to also check out SUSE Linux. They've recently been bought by Novell (formerly the market-share big-boy of the networking world) and will enjoy some corporate level support for some time to come.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Paths Divergent: 1 year and proceeding

It's been a year since I got the call. It was late but I was expecting it. I couldn't be there in Cincinnati but my older brother, my sister and my mother were there at my father's bedside as the final battles in his fight with cancer were coming to a close with the dreaded but expected results. I remember I was at my computer as I am now, studying for yet another test in my information systems career path. Dad was proud of me for my profession even though he swore he'd never understand it.

That's OK. I'd make a lousy jewelry salesman, Dad.

We went back to their home, of course, and saw to his final business. The funeral was pretty much as he wanted it - he'd had plenty of time to discuss it with my Mother, so the details to be decided weren't too many. For my own part, I was there when Mom was discussing the music to be played at the mass and she asked me to help her choose. My choice was one I'd heard him sing before and seemed to match his demeanor over those last months, "Be Not Afraid." I hope I can muster the same dignity when I'm staring down the short end of the barrel.

For weeks, it seemed, everywhere I went there was something right before my eyes that reminded me of him. The government office I was working in was on the same block as a home-made fudge shop. I had to stop walking that way for a while when it seemed I couldn't walk past it and not start to cry. He loved Washington, DC and there were so many places there I went past that had a memory of him. I can't imagine what my mother felt, living in the same house they'd been in for 25 years. I asked my father-in-law once during that stretch how long it had taken him after his father had died before that went away. The look on his face as he continued to drink his coffee in silence was more eloquent than any words. After a year, I understand completely what he was trying so hard not to tell me.

I don't regret anything about what my Dad & I shared. I told him everything I meant to and he told me he'd done the same for me. He told me he was proud of the man I'd become. He loved my wife as a daughter of his own and my kid, only about 18 months old when he died, was a joy to him. That's what I regret. She's talking so much better now and her imagination, as we chase monsters and kittens and whatever else her mind's eye brings up around the house, is something to behold. I wish he'd had the chance. As young as she is, I never held out any hope he'd see any of her children. I didn't think it'd be too much to think he'd see her get to the 1st grade. It's all those things that he'll miss seeing at my side that bring the tears to me again as I sit here. They'll come whenever I do this for some time to come, I think. As the years progress and I walk my own road having seen his take another direction, I can't help but wish...

I miss you, Dad.

Quick News Hits

Congrats to the NASA team for the successful landing of the Mars Rover, Spirit! It beamed back its first pictures within hours of landing, a significantly better start than the ESA Beagle.

Equally important to the world, the Afghan loya jirga has agreed upon a Constitution for their country. The delegates approved the 106-article document which sets up a bicameral legislature and a powerful president. There was some last minute hitches over a couple of things including the official languages and such but the delegates worked it though.

I have 1 more blog to do today and it should be coming up before noon eastern time. You'll understand.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Happy New Year with Predictions!

As promised, here's a wish for all of you to have a prosperous, happy new year. May 2004 bring you either what you wanted and didn't get in 2003 or the grace and fortitude to live with it. That's on my personal wish-list.

Also as promised, I'm here to make some predictions. Here goes:

  1. President Bush will win re-election by a large enough margin to quash any concern that he "didn't really win the election." That's regardless of which of the Democrats win their party's nomination.

  2. The CPA in Iraq will disband as projected and hand over power to their transitional government in the 1st bloodless transfer of power Iraq has seen in over 40 years. Coalition presence will decrease to the point where we'll have fewer than half of our current complement on station there by the end of the year.

  3. The DOW will continue to climb and will hold above 10,000 for better than 3/4 of calendar 2004. The Nasdaq will get over 2000 for better than half.

  4. I will reach my target weight of 175 pounds (US) and maintain it, rising by less than 5 pounds during next holiday season.

  5. Should prediction #4 fail to come to pass, I strongly predict my brothers will commence calling me "fat-ass" for most, if not all, of calendar 2005.

  6. I will pass the Cisco Certified Internetworking Engineer (CCIE) lab exam this year.

  7. Pope John Paul II will depart this vale of tears.

  8. The Justice Department will, under increasing pressure to actually do something, finally bring to trial some of the former Enron officers for multiple counts of fraud.

OK, how about some resolutions?

  1. See prediction #4 above. Weight Watchers, here I come.

  2. See also #6. If you know anything about it, you know that's gonna take me all year.

  3. I will try hang-gliding near Kitty Hawk.

  4. I will find a job and move to Connecticut or I will make my peace with living here.

  5. I will find a way to let my wife go back to school if she wants to.

We'll keep everyone advised. Regarding that weigh-in thing, I'm serious. Several of the men in my family made a Christmas pact to drop some serious weight. Between the 5 of us, we're looking to lose 240 pounds, so we're pretty much (as my brother put it) losing a family member. My official weigh-in is Friday morning, 2 January 2004. And yes, I will be blogging about it, so prepare to watch someone break down into tears over passing the Dunkin' Donuts on the way home. (Oh, the humanity!!!!)

Have a good one and we'll see all of you later this morning after I've oxidized some alcohol.