Wednesday, May 10, 2006

COPE with it- the web to be censored

The web, today a free-for-all, with equal access to sites about "sugar gliders" or "today's weather" is about to change thanks to the proposed Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act (COPE). Its no surprise that you'll still likely be able to access all those MSM sites containing essentially all the same information you can get on your free radio or cable television. What you might find strikingly different is that that unique and diverse sites you frequent to get the information you can get nowhere else, may get taken away. Seem counterintuitive to what you understand the world wide web to be? Where are the proponents of "diversity of viewpoint" in this argument? Check this out:
Proposed rule changes would tangle the Web - baltimoresun.com

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Who needs 'em?!

Absoutely unbelievable... If these people are heading back to NO, I wish the city good luck with its recovery. With citizens like that, there can be little hope of a successful recovery. People who are only looking out for themselves are not the type of people that are needed as the Crescent City looks to rebuild.

NEWS in MaineToday.com | Midday Report:

"Donated house found trashed"


By News 8 WMTW

BOWDOINHAM — A Dresden family is in shock after the Bowdoinham house they donated to a family who lost everything to Hurricane Katrina was trashed and abandoned.

Albert and Nancy Poisson decided to let William and Frances Gardner and their two daughters live in the house for a year, free of charge.

But last week, the Poissons found some of their appliances gone, their hardwood floor marked up and trash strewn throughout the house.

The Gardners are nowhere to be found.

Albert Poisson told News 8, 'I'd really like to know why. We would have let them go. There was no money involved.'

The Poissons found the Gardners through Catholic Charities of Maine, who said they have been unable to track the family down since they vanished last week."

Friday, October 07, 2005

Fairness to UAW Delphi Workers

Just to be fair to the United Auto Workers and their potential (sure bet) complaints about the latest release from Delphi- the top (21) executives will be receiving an increased severance package of 18 months pay and bonuses if they are terminated in the upcoming months.
That makes at least two reasons we might be suckers for buying american cars and putting up with such nonsense.

Why are the american auto companies going under?

Why are they going under and should we save them?

One reason they seem to be going under is that the UAW seems to have a stranglehold on them- that is at least until now. As one absurd example take the workers of Delphi, an auto-parts supplier, spun off of GM in 1999. Delphi is on the verge of bankruptcy and will go under without a major reorganization. Recently, according to Bill Vlasic and Brett Clanton of The Detroit News, the company has revealed what it will (allegedly) take in concessions from its unionized workers, to make it back to black. While surprising in the reports request of its workers, what is more revealing about the concessions is its showing of what the workers get now. It makes me wonder why I ever went to college, let alone graduate school. Among the reductions Delphi is seeking:
  1. Cutting the average wages for a skilled worker from $30.77 an hour to a mere $19; unskilled from $26.35 to $10-$12.
  2. Reducing the maximum vacation allowed from six weeks to a paltry four.
  3. Knocking the annual holiday schedule down from 16-17 days a year to only 10-12 (this is in addition to the six weeks of vacation they currently get!)
  4. The ability to not pay workers who have been laid off (what a novel idea!)
  5. Asking the non-salaried workers to take pensions equal to that of salaried workers
Is it any wonder that such a company would be going out of business? Or that the automaker would have a hard time producing cost competitive cars from parts produced by such a parts supplier? Where do I get in line for a job where you are getting paid in excess of $60,000/yr, with thirty days of vacation and an additional 17 days of holiday/yr? I'll take 47 days off each year, with pay, without doing any work. It'll be just like working in France. That means i'll be working, on average, 4 days a week, all year. Not to mention if I get laid off, i'll probably get my full pay and my full benefits. Oh, and my retirement, well it would be better than the salaried workers that supervise the company. Sign me up!

Don't misunderstand the unions- certainly there was a time when the unions were necessary to protect the trades-workers from unsafe and oppressive conditions. That time, for most industries (especially the auto industry) seems to have passed. The car buyers are now the only ones being oppressed. I truly am a 'buy american' type guy. I'll go out of my way (and a little extra $$) to purchase from the small, local, independent guy, rather than the big box retailer. And being from Detroit, I know we should all drive American-0r at least that is what I have been trained to think by all the UAW bumperstickers. But when you see the outrageous demands from unions on GM, Ford, and Chrysler, you really have to wonder. Should I spend my hard earned money on an american car that costs thousands more than a similarly equipped/more dependable/better resale import? That's money I could be putting towards my $50k student loan bill. And that's not considering the fact that I'll be working 20 days a year when the guy building my car, and making more than me, is kicking back on vacation.

Maybe that Corolla isn't looking so bad after all...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Eminent Domain for Avian (Bird) Flu Treatment

While much attention has come to the supposedly imminent death of up to 150million from the bird flu (avian flu) if it is able to mutate into a form capable of passing from human to human, comparatively less attention has been focused on what governments would/should do if such a devastating outbreak were to occur. One idea that has not thus far been mentioned, at least to my knowledge, is the possibility of any government worldwide to 'condemn' the intellectual property rights of the pharmaceutical companies that produce Tamiflu or Relenza. Without an extensive search, there appears to be little precedent for intellectual property eminent domain actions, however a fast spreading pandemic may be just the justification to push such an issue to the forefront.
The goverment is permitted to take private property under the fifth amendment, however it must pay just compensation. Typically (at least until Kelo) this occurred where a large public works project was prevented from completion by a few hold outs (think of the leverage a homeowner would have knowing the purchase of their house is the only thing from stopping the creation of an airport). The justification is that when the government needs to take your property for the general good, as long as it pays you the fair market value, the society comes out ahead.
Under the avaian bird flu scenario, millions of people could die without the proper proprietary medicines. If an outbreak were to occur today, the makers of the necessary pharmaceuticals could not create enough in time to supply the nation simply because of manufacturing limitations. Additionally, without knowing if an outbreak will actually occur, the corporations must hedge their bets and not produce too many doses or they risk losing substantial monies in wasted product. Furhtermore, it seems these companies would have an incentive to delay the release/manufacture of these medicines since the more individuals that get avian flu the more money they stand to make. Overall, the current situation creates a potentially inefficient market system.
Should an outbreak occur, a government may wish to try to exercise eminent domain over the chemical production of these two products. Doing so, the government could then license other pharmaceutical companies to increase production capacity. Such an action would prevent the patent holders from delaying the manufacture/release of the drugs and would solve any potential monopoly problems with corporations trying to negotiate with the original patent holders.

Friday, September 30, 2005

"Judicial Activism" Claim a Republican Thing?

Many, including Marci Hamilton of FindLaw.com, have claimed that the cry that judicial activism is creating a judicial system that has run off its tracks, is nothing more than a figment of the republican imagination. Well, apparently, either the oft-repeated cry is working, or the majority of the american people honestly believe its true.
A recent report by the not-so-conservative ABA Journal found that over half of the Americans surveyed are "angry and disappointed with the nation’s judiciary" and believe that " 'judicial activism' has reached the crisis stage." Furthermore, nearly half (46%) believed judges are "arrogant, out-of-control and unaccountable."
What may be the least surprising anecdote of the ABA Journal report is that some professors were caught off guard by these findings. Its no surprise to anyone with a conservative leaning who has gone to law school (indeed college at all), that the average ultra-liberal academe would be caught off-guard by such poll results.
Professor John O. McGinnis ties idea of judicial activism (meaning judges imposing their own personal views in place of a legal interpretation of the law) in nicely with the recent confirmation hearings of Judge Roberts, whereby some have tried to peer into Chief Justice Roberts own personal views, including attacks on his being a conservative Catholic. As McGinnis points out here, if the Senators (and the left movement in general) didn't believe that judges were imposing thier own personal beliefs into their decisions, it wouldn't matter what Chief Justice Roberts personal views are. Simply put, if judges did thier job as they were supposed to, merely interpreting the law instead of acting as a one man (woman) legislature, who cares what their personal beliefs are, it should only matter how qualified they are as a lawyer.


200 years and still true:
It can be of no weight to say that the courts, on the pretense of a repugnancy, may substitute their own pleasure to the constitutional intentions of the legislature. This might as well happen in the case of two contradictory statutes; or it might as well happen in every adjudication upon any single statute. The courts must declare the sense of the law; and if they should be disposed to exercise WILL instead of JUDGMENT, the consequence would equally be the substitution of their pleasure to that of the legislative body. The observation, if it prove any thing, would prove that there ought to be no judges distinct from that body.
Federalist #78


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Dover Intelligent Design Trial

Maybe someone with more intelligence can explain all this to me, but I really fail to see the basis of the lawsuit filed in the Dover case to prevent teachers from reading a statement about intelligent design (ID). The statemt reads as follows:

"The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin's theory of evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.

"Because Darwin's theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.

"Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, "Of Pandas and People," is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves. "With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the origins of life to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on standards-based assessments."
What is strange to me is that there would be any objections to this plainly true statement. The statement does not purport that evolution is a washed up idea, nor that creationism is true. In fact, despite the popular belief, creationism and ID are very different ideas. As I understand it, ID merely states:
1) biological systems, down to the cellular level are overwhelmingly complex (aka "specified complexity"),
2) evolution (darwinism) has no explanation for such SC,
3) it is possible that someone/thing of intelligence may have designed the complex systems that form the basis of biology.

Note that many try to make this out to be a "God-creationism" theory. The ID theory never postulates what/who the intelligent designer was. For all we know it could be green men from a distant galaxy or an intelligent can of creamed corn. Bottom line, the identity of the ID'er is not wrapped in the theory, it is only saying that due to the extreme complexity, it may be that there was some sort of intelligent design at work.

As a brief illustration, suppose you turned your television on a channel that is nothing but mere static. If you watched it diligently enough, and for a sufficient amount of time, you might catch a glimpse of a reconizable scene (say a logo you could recognize or even the set of a popular show). But suppose instead you saw a half-hour episode of I Love Lucy. Wouldn't it be clear to you that the thousands of frames of action, perfectly in sequence was not merely chance static? You would conclude that someone must have created the television show and then broadcast it on a channel you thought was merely static. Simply put, there must be the product of intelligent design. (We do this all the time in the SETI search. We listen to static from millions of light years away and look for patterns that we discern, could not be merely random signals, they must be of an intelligent design.)

Some in this trial have suggested the intent behind the statement was religion based. In fact, the reporters making those claims now refuse to testify as to the source of their statements, invoking their 1st Amendment rights (that's a whole different topic). Regardless of the intent, it is the statement alone that was supposed to be read to the children. Where is the religion in that? To my knowledge intent doesn't play any role in the establishment clause determination. The key elements are, where no sect preference is present, are
  1. it has a secular purpose,
  2. has a primary effect that neither advance nor inhibits religion, and
  3. it does not produce excessive government entanglement with religion.
So where's the beef?

It does have a secular purpose, namely to indicate there are holes in Darwin's theory of evolution (that is beyond argument, and, is also true of ID, and nearly every other theory- otherwise it would be a law); it does not advance nor inhibit religion (in fact, even if it were religious, wouldn't the denial of the mere pointing out that the theory has holes and that there is another theory be an inhibition of religion?); and there is no entanglement problem (even supposing the ID theory were religious, the teachers are not teaching ID, they are merely pointing out that the book exists with an alternate theory. Consider if ID were religious, wouldn't the fact that the library has it bring up establishment issues itself? And yet nearly any library carries a bible, a torah, and a Koran.)

So where's the problem? It seems its just that a bunch of atheists are really scared that if one of these kids should somehow decide to put down there video game controllers and really look into the issue, maybe even read the mentioned (not suggested) book, they might realize evolution doesn't completely add up. Think about it, here the so-called open minded proponents of the 'more scientific' theory are afraid of a little challenge to their idea.

Seems a little unscientific.



Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A New Supreme Court Justice Criteria (for John Roberts at least)

Much has been made of the manner in which President Bush has choosen his nominee (soon to be nominees). Efforts have been made to urge Bush to "consult" with the Democratic leadership. Going one step further, some have urged that consultation was an implicit part of the deal when the "gang of 14" reached their compromise. Did I miss something? President Bush wasn't part of the gang of 14 and he doesn't need to consult with anyone on the democratic side of the senatorial aisle as a result of that agreement. That agreement doesn't override the constitutional authority of the president to choose the SC justices "with the advice and consent of the senate."
Speaking of which, what about "advice and consent?" Well typically, that didn't include opposing someone simply because you didn't agree with their conservative/liberal leanings. After all, look at the replacement of conservative J. Byron White. White case critical votes against Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood. But when his spot opened up during the Clinton presidency, republicans knew the choice was Clinton's. They did suggest that Babbitt would have a difficult time getting through, but Orrin Hatch (a staunch Federalist- the group that has been much maligned for the last 5 years as a 'fundamentalist right wing' group) asked Clinton if he had considered Ginsburg. It's not as if Ginsburg was some fence-sitting lawyer who could fall either way, she was formerly general counsel for the ACLU- staking out a pretty clear position. Hatch's suggestion could be taken two ways: 1) he's the stupidest person on earth, or 2) he undestood that with the winner goes the spoils under our constitutional outline of the nomination process.
The bottom line is the democrats are wrong for asking the president to consider candidates that conform to the mold of the justices they are replacing. This wasn't a consideration for them when they replaced conservative and abortion opponent J. White with uber-liberal Ginsburg and it shouldn't be a consideration for them now.
They need to stop trying to impose a new criteria on the constitutional power of the president.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Interesting note on the Hurricane Katrina disaster response

Jack Kelly (Post-Gazette http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05254/568876.stm)

No shame
The federal response to Katrina was not as portrayed
Sunday, September 11, 2005

It is settled wisdom among journalists that the federal response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina was unconscionably slow.


Jack Kelly is national security writer for the Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio (jkelly@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1476).

"Mr. Bush's performance last week will rank as one of the worst ever during a dire national emergency," wrote New York Times columnist Bob Herbert in a somewhat more strident expression of the conventional wisdom.

But the conventional wisdom is the opposite of the truth.

Jason van Steenwyk is a Florida Army National Guardsman who has been mobilized six times for hurricane relief. He notes that:

"The federal government pretty much met its standard time lines, but the volume of support provided during the 72-96 hour was unprecedented. The federal response here was faster than Hugo, faster than Andrew, faster than Iniki, faster than Francine and Jeanne."

For instance, it took five days for National Guard troops to arrive in strength on the scene in Homestead, Fla. after Hurricane Andrew hit in 2002. But after Katrina, there was a significant National Guard presence in the afflicted region in three.

Journalists who are long on opinions and short on knowledge have no idea what is involved in moving hundreds of tons of relief supplies into an area the size of England in which power lines are down, telecommunications are out, no gasoline is available, bridges are damaged, roads and airports are covered with debris, and apparently have little interest in finding out.

So they libel as a "national disgrace" the most monumental and successful disaster relief operation in world history.

I write this column a week and a day after the main levee protecting New Orleans breached. In the course of that week:

More than 32,000 people have been rescued, many plucked from rooftops by Coast Guard helicopters.

The Army Corps of Engineers has all but repaired the breaches and begun pumping water out of New Orleans.

Shelter, food and medical care have been provided to more than 180,000 refugees.

Journalists complain that it took a whole week to do this. A former Air Force logistics officer had some words of advice for us in the Fourth Estate on his blog, Moltenthought:

"We do not yet have teleporter or replicator technology like you saw on 'Star Trek' in college between hookah hits and waiting to pick up your worthless communications degree while the grown-ups actually engaged in the recovery effort were studying engineering.

"The United States military can wipe out the Taliban and the Iraqi Republican Guard far more swiftly than they can bring 3 million Swanson dinners to an underwater city through an area the size of Great Britain which has no power, no working ports or airports, and a devastated and impassable road network.

"You cannot speed recovery and relief efforts up by prepositioning assets (in the affected areas) since the assets are endangered by the very storm which destroyed the region.

"No amount of yelling, crying and mustering of moral indignation will change any of the facts above."

"You cannot just snap your fingers and make the military appear somewhere," van Steenwyk said.

Guardsmen need to receive mobilization orders; report to their armories; draw equipment; receive orders and convoy to the disaster area. Guardsmen driving down from Pennsylvania or Navy ships sailing from Norfolk can't be on the scene immediately.

Relief efforts must be planned. Other than prepositioning supplies near the area likely to be afflicted (which was done quite efficiently), this cannot be done until the hurricane has struck and a damage assessment can be made. There must be a route reconnaissance to determine if roads are open, and bridges along the way can bear the weight of heavily laden trucks.

And federal troops and Guardsmen from other states cannot be sent to a disaster area until their presence has been requested by the governors of the afflicted states.

Exhibit A on the bill of indictment of federal sluggishness is that it took four days before most people were evacuated from the Louisiana Superdome.

The levee broke Tuesday morning. Buses had to be rounded up and driven from Houston to New Orleans across debris-strewn roads. The first ones arrived Wednesday evening. That seems pretty fast to me.

A better question -- which few journalists ask -- is why weren't the roughly 2,000 municipal and school buses in New Orleans utilized to take people out of the city before Katrina struck?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Initial Thoughts

I recently wondered what all this 'blogging' talk was about. Now its clear, its a bunch of people with too much time on their hands; instead of musing with their friends or other sympathetic coffee-shop patrons, they post their own maniacal thoughts on-line. Its cheaper and anyone can publish anything without listening to anyone else's thoughts on the topic. Kind of like a modern day soapbox speech while wearing earplugs.

And therefore you might ask yourself, what am I doing here? Well, following law school and accepting a fairly pretegious job starting which doesn't begin until 1 year from now, I have fallen into the cracks of society. Somewhere between immiently employable and hopelessly unemployable, I have landed at the local internet cafe. While productive segments of society slog through another day at their corporate jobs, I slog through hundreds of miles of the internet, searching for signs of hope that there is something I am qualified to do.

FOXSports.com - NFL- Ricky tackles topics like marijuana, more



FOXSports.com - NFL- Ricky tackles topics like marijuana, more: "...The interview had the flow of a Dolphins offensive series, meaning it proceeded fitfully, but Williams moved gamely from topic to topic:

- He said he doesn't miss marijuana.

'I can't do that anymore. I get tested twice a week.'

- He owes the Dolphins $8.6 million for breaching his contract by retiring last year, but said he doesn't know his financial situation.

'I have no idea. The way I live my life, if I have a place to stay and I have food on the table, I'm not broke....'"

***Really?!? No more marijuana? That's funny, if it is true he must have stopped just recently. A friend of a friend just sent around a photo that was taken in earlier this summer before he announced is "un-retirement" that seems to indicate he still liked to smoke pot. You be the judge:





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