Archives for the Month of March 2007 on Through the Magnifying Glass
$110,000 available for usg groups
Clearly, it's the highest ever amount made available to groups in one semester. Rollover from the Fall was a measly $16,500. At least groups are somewhat spending their money efficiently. Hope that continues.
Ignoring the federal debt cannot continue
The Comptroller General of the United States, David M. Walker, has been embarking on a campaign across the country, educating the public on the dangers of increasing federal debt.
Walker heads the General Accountability Office (GAO), and has visited college campuses, spoken to lawmakers in Washington, and toured 19 states in the last year and a half.
"If [the candidates] don't make [the debt] one of their top three priorities, in my opinion, they don't deserve to be president and we can't afford for them to be president," he told CNN.
The federal debt has soared during the last two decades -- from $2.13 trillion in 1986 to $5.22 trillion in 1996 and $8.51 trillion in 2006.
The federal debt now stands near $9 trillion.
He has also warned that if Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare are not reformed, expect an additional debt of $50 trillion during the next 20 years. Thus, a balanced budget would cease to exist for the considerable future.
Why is no one worried? Because interest rates are low. According to Christian Weller, senior economist at the Center for American Progress, "The budget deficit brought in all of this foreign cash, and that foreign cash basically washed into the credit market, [making] it easier for homeowners and for others to borrow money."
Alright, that's good, but can this last forever? Of course not. Would we expect countries like China and Japan to continue to buy up U.S. Treasury bills and bonds? Some may believe so because they do not want to see a U.S. economic collapse which would also severely hurt the international economy. Yet, some countries may not care about that. Both China and Japan hold vast reserves of foreign currency. Some would like to see a third-rate U.S. instead.
In any case, we cannot continue to have massive federal deficits. Everytime the national debt goes up, so does the interest on it. Over $400 billion of our federal budget was for the interest last year. Reform must be done on the three entitlement programs now to avoid financial disaster. Once that has been accomplished, we must focus on eliminating pork projects, inefficient programs, and better tax enforcement.
So far Democrats and Republicans have no concrete plans to offer for reforming our entitlement programs. The AARP refuses to consider any changes and are "willing" to let our children live in a bankruptcy world. Massive tax cuts are a thing of the past. So goes for massive tax increases. I am sure that substantial amounts of political capital must be spent to help keep our financial future intact.
EdmondSun.com - A trillion here, a trillion there
Sun-Sentinel.com - National Debt
Daily Reckoning - National Debt? It's Just 450 Billion Twenties
Salt Lake Tribune - Government needs to clean closets
The Conservative Voice - Goliath Debt Strangling U.S. Future
Update: SFSU College Republicans will not be punished
Update to my previous blog entry on the SFSU College Republicans being charged with a formal complaint to inciting violence and creating a hostile environment with the burning of Hamas and Hezbollah flags.
The University announced on March 19th that the College Republicans will face no punishment for hosting an anti-terrorism rally at which participants stepped on makeshift Hezbollah and Hamas flags.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) President Greg Lukianoff said, "We are relieved that SFSU has come to its senses and recognized that it cannot punish students for constitutionally protected expression."
SFSU President Robert A. Corrigan gave the good news to FIRE saying that "the Student Organisation Hearing Panel (SOHP) unanimously concluded that the College Republicans organisation had not violated the Student Code of Conduct and that there were no grounds to support the student complaint lodged against them."
WorldNetDaily - Students who 'desecrated Allah' acquitted
The Golden Gate - Flag-Stomping Rabble Rousers Found Not Guilty
FrontPageMag - Free Speech--But Only for Our Enemies
Four WWI veterans left...
April 6 will mark the 90th anniversary of the United States' entry into World War I.
Frank Woodruff Buckles, now 106 years old, joined the Army in 1917. He is one of four remaining veterans of "The Great War."
US loses top spot in technology
The United States has dropped to seventh in the 2007 World Economic Forum's "networked readiness index." The index measures the range of factors that affect a country's ability to harness information technologies for economic competitiveness and development. They noted the U.S.' low rate of mobile telephone usage, lack of governmental leadership in information technology, and the low quality of math and science education.
Nordic countries — traditionally strong in all surveys conducted by the Geneva-based Forum — dominated the top of the rankings. Denmark edged Sweden for the top spot, while Finland was behind in fourth.
Singapore, which topped the poll in 2005, was the top Asian nation in third. Rounding out the top 10 were Switzerland, fifth; Netherlands, sixth; Iceland, eighth; Britain, ninth; and Norway, 10th.
U.S. was first in last year's report.
Separate standard for Cubans
It would seem that U.S. policy favours Cubans being able to stay in the U.S. under the "wet feet, dry feet" policy.
A Cuban caught on the waters between the two nations (i.e., with "wet feet") would summarily be sent home or to a third country. One who makes it to shore ("dry feet") gets a chance to remain in the United States, and later would qualify for expedited "legal permanent resident" status and U.S. citizenship.
Yet 100 Haitian migrants reaching the Florida shore will be deported back to Haiti.
End Sanjaya Malakar's reign on Idol
Somehow viewers are just interested in looks, not quality. It was a shame when one of the best singers, Stephanie Edwards, was voted off the talent show. With his flowing, curly hair and smile, Sanjaya Malakar has been able to survive several rounds of viewer elimination.
Everyone agrees that he is not the best singer of the group, and some have wondered if Malakar won the competition, would he really receive a record contract? Would any record company want to get a guy who is already nominated by votefortheworst.com and is being promoted by Howard Stern? Even if such a contract was given, it will likely last for one album. Hell, I would give him a shot at a second album if his sales outpaces K-Fed!
But really, how far are people going to push it? By now, he has reached C-list cult status, and he's going to be one of those prima-donna's like other reality show contestants, asking for freebies, and trying to get into the VIP line for shows and night clubs. Of course, he will utter the words, "Don't you recognise me? I'm famous!"
Already, Simon Cowell went so far as to say if Malakar wins, he'll quit. On YouTube, one user is on a hunger strike and vows not to eat until the 17-year-old is ousted from the show.
But I think his new hairdo should be grounds for his dismissal.
Again, Senate Democrats Insert Pork into War Emergency Bill
What is the best way to force the President to sign a bill he so desperately wants, but cannot veto it because it will upset American voters? Attach some pork!
Again, in the Senate, the political party in charge, using the same tactics, have attached more than $20 BILLION in pork-related projects to the "emergency" war spending bill. It was supposed to be $102 billion for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Democrats have added $14 billion for Hurricane Katrina aid and more than $4 billion for "emergency farm relief."
This compares with the House Democrats putting at least $21 billion for spinach growers, peanut storage, and citrus farmers, and other pork-related projects.
Republican Senator Coburn
"Maybe this is what Democrats mean by ‘phased redeployment."
Senate Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.,
It is "common sense and good economics. Funding for the war is not the only critical need worthy of the supplemental spending." The war "must not obliterate every other concern."
If these are really critical projects that needed "emergency" funding, why include $100 MILLION for the Democratic and Republican party conventions? Of course, people would realised that this line item can be found under the section, "Katrina recovery, veterans' care, and for other purposes." Hmm, I guess conventions fall under "for other purposes."
And for some reason, the Capitol's guided-tour program needed $3.5 million in emergency funds, and somehow Nevada needed $20 million for infestation control. Are cockroaches invading Las Vegas? Ask Senator Harry Reid.
Better yet, there's a line item giving emergency funds for Christmas trees. Are they becoming extinct???
How can Democrats equate $24 million for sugar beets growers and $95 million for dairy producers with providing troops with needed ammo and body armour?
Oh wait... it's an emergency. Seems to me that the word "emergency" should be re-defined as "essential pork."
Example of Hoboken, NJ politics
One thing for sure, make sure your landlord is not Esmat Zaklama.
Traci Kuther is the owner of an apartment next door to Zaklama's building. The problems began in 2005 when water began seeping through her second-floor apt causing thousands of dollars in damages.
When she tried to get a plumbing inspector to take a look, the next door owner refused to give him access. It would seem that this act was not the only one that Zaklama has stopped or disputed.
Despite Kuther's efforts to remedy this situation through the city, they have not been helpful to her cause. The workers contracted to fix the water problem were not state certified and insured. Strangely enough, city officials did nothing when they were told about it.
For example, City Construction Code Official Al Arezzo allowed the workers to continue to repair the plumbing. The City Attorney, Joe Sherman, actually took the word of the construction official despite the absence of any certification and insurance.
This plus other situations dealing with health code and building violations have dragged this problem over a year resulting in thousands of dollars in legal fees.
"I have paid over $25,000 in legal fees and other expenses," Kuther said. "I have no choice, this is my home. I have to protect my family. I moved to Hoboken so we could have a beautiful home and the city is allowing Mr. Zaklama to keep his home in such a state of disrepair that our quality of living is being infringed upon."
After all this, the mayor, David Roberts, has jumped on board. Where was he before all of this? Maybe two or three news articles ago. His action? He ordered the assistant city attorney, Joseph Poganowski, to conduct an internal investigation.
Yet it seems Poganowski had prior dealings with Zaklama a few years back.
Will this problem ever get solved?
* * * * * * * * * *
The Hudson Reporter also has an March 25th article on the Garden Street housing situation. It is explains it more detail about the housing as well as the bureaucratic mess of the Hoboken City Council.
Clearly, as an anesthesiologist, he is probably paid pretty well. Why not have a good heart and attend to the residents' concerns? Imagine if he was asked if he would live in that building? I believe there was a movie where he was forced to live in one of his run-down properties for a week.
Hillary Clinton makes up excuses
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton dismissed any comparison between the firing last fall of eight U.S. attorneys with the replacement of 93 U.S. attorneys when her husband became president in 1993.
Her response: "That's a traditional prerogative of an incoming president."
But she said: "They should be given broad latitude to enforce the law as they see fit."
She also said: "I think one of the hallmarks of our democracy is we have a devotion to the rule of law."
So then we should expect all the Supreme Court justices to step down when a new President is sworn in. Or how about dismissing all 180+ ambassadors? Certainly, the President-elect wants to appoint his/her own people to those positions to maintain stability and loyalty.
Of course, she did concede the fact that she may likely dismiss all U.S. attorneys appointed by President Bush if she is elected to the presidency in 2008. Her excuse for that? She falls upon the usual reason that it is a traditional step in which presidents appoint prosecutors of their own party. She goes on to argue that Bush's dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys was an attempt to shift the balance of power towards the executive branch.
Any attempt to appoint political loyalists to federal positions of prosecutoral power is not promoting the enforcement of just law and due process. Such an attempt should be considered a step to enforcing the law based on the political party's interpretation.
I cannot deny the fact the president can dismiss an appointee at will, but when Mrs. Clinton talks about tradition, it should be known that Attorney General Janet Reno under former President Bill Clinton moved away from that tradition to dismiss all 93 attorney generals when they took office. Before this, Bush Sr., Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter, for example, never took such an action.
By dismissing all attorney generals, it causes a shakeup in the current federal investigations, and causes unnecessary suspicion when such investigations are covering politicians or influential people.
How can we resolve this? Such a position should be similar to the Comptroller General. Such a person is appointed to a 15-year term which guaranteees the person's protection against a change in administration and/or political party. The current appointee, David M. Walker, was selected by Bill Clinton, and he has continued to serve in that position under President Bush. His term ends in 2013.
I could wonder if Hillary wins the presidency, would she fire Walker?
In any case, her reasons are purely political, and I think making up excuses for her husband's actions does not cut it.
Great Elmo Impression
Open Skies agreement between US & EU is flawed
A new "open skies" aviation agreement between the United States and the European Union on Thursday will help lead to more competition and competitive pricing, but does not help reduce American protectionist rules currently in place.
Ultimately, the landmark pact will open Heathrow Airport to European and U.S. airlines wanting to fly the lucrative transatlantic routes. Before this agreement, there was an agreement between London and Washington where only two British and two U.S. airlines (BA, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines, and United) can fly the route. Currently, about 40 per cent of all transatlantic flights from Europe leave from Heathrow.
The new deal will allow European carriers to fly to the U.S. from anywhere in the European Union (EU). Restrictions on the number of U.S. airlines flying the other way will be eased. For London's Heathrow airport, any carrier can negotiate a deal for its scarce landing space. So for example, Continental can choose to fly a route to Heathrow, instead of London Gatwick. Delta or Northwest could try to apply for a route to the airport too. In reverse, BMI can now fly a route from the EU to the U.S., or Virgin can now choose to fly a route from Paris to New York.
With more airlines being able to fly routes from the U.S. to Europe and back, this should result in cheaper costs. European officials estimate that it will generate $16 billion in economic benefits and create 80,000 jobs.
Obviously, this should be all good news, but not everyone is happy.
First, British Airways, Virgin, American Airlines, and United will be the ones to lose out since their monopoly on transatlantic routes will be over. They had to know that this day was coming anyways.
Second, one part of the agreement favours America over the EU. U.S. airlines would be able to fly within Europe, but European airlines would not get that privilege. This means that a U.S. airline can land at any European city, pick up more passengers, and fly on to any other European city. Their European counterparts cannot. They can fly to any American city, but are forbidden from continuing to a second city.
Third, American protectionist policies remain in place. While American companies could buy European airlines up to 49% of any kind of stock, foreigners can only control no more than 25% of voting shares and 49% of total ownership. Essentially, it protects U.S. airlines from any foreign takeover.
Fourth, America's domestic airline market remains closed to European competitiors.
The UK was the only European country initially opposed to the open skies agreement but managed to secure two concessions for its approval.
One, the implementation of this deal will be delayed from October to March 2008.
Two, if the United States does not take further steps to open its airline market by 2010, the European Union can scrap the agreement.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
So U.S. travelers get to enjoy two years of possible lower prices and more competition. However, while price may be a major factor in selecting an airline to fly to Europe, airline loyalty and good quality service should not be left along the wayside. Discount airlines such as Ryanair have horrendous service, and if you think paying a ticket 50% cheaper for a discount airline is good, expect a lousy service in return.
As for British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, it is time for them to give up more slots at Heathrow and focus on producing more quality and competitive service. This is what consumers want.
As for U.S. regulators putting up roadblock after roadblock on Branson's Virgin America airline, it is a sign that this agreement may not be fruitful in the long term, or at least until 2010.
Cheapflights - Agreement on "open skies" finally reached
Financial Times - "Open skies" fares cut in doubt
LA Times - Partly Open Skies
TimesOnline - Open Skies "will not ease" merger
Telegraph UK - Open skies to US
MarketWatch - "Open Skies" could hasten airline mergers
Scotsman - UK wary as "open skies" pact nears
Aircraft Carrier USS Kennedy Decommissioned
I am quite fond of the aircraft carriers, so it's a bit sad to see another one of these grand ships being retired.
Today marks the end of 40 years of service this ship has given to the U.S. Navy. The Kennedy (CV-67) launched aircraft into hot spots around the globe during its service, including both Iraq wars. At 1,050 feet long, it carried a crew of about 4,600 and 70 combat aircraft.
The retirement of this conventional aircraft carrier will leave only the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63), the lone conventional carrier. Unfortunately, it is also scheduled for decommissioning in 2008.
This will reduce the active carrier deployment to 10. In 2009, the USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77) will be commissioned, followed by the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) in 2015.
No hotline between Beijing and Washington
It would be nice to have a red phone to Beijing. Just in case if you want to smooth out any misunderstandings.
Baghdad "As Safe" as Detroit
Republican congressman Tim Walberg of Tipton was quoted:
The returning troops he has talked with "indicate to me that 80 to 85 percent, in a conservative fashion, of (Iraq) is reasonably under control, at least as well as Detroit or Chicago or any of our other big cities. That's an encouraging sign."
In that case, I should expect a few suicide attacks, some public mall bombings, a couple of craters along the highway. Maybe one of the skyscrapers on fire.
Maybe he was watching too much Robocop.
Even cricket can get violent
While in London on a weekly assignment, we are in the midst of the Cricket World Cup. There are 16 finalists out of 97 participating countries.
The biggest highlight is the death of Pakistan's cricket coach Bob Woolmer on Sunday. At first, Jamaica police stated that he died of a heart attack. This happened after Pakistan lost to Ireland.
His wife and other sources believed that there may have been foul play. This was confirmed on Thursday when Police Commissioner Lucius Thomas said in a statement that the pathologist report found Bob Woolmer's death was due to "asphyxia as a result of manual strangulation."
Woolmer, 58, was found unconscious in his blood- and vomit-splattered hotel room in Jamaica on Sunday, a day after his team's upset loss to Ireland on St. Patrick's Day sealed Pakistan's ouster from the tournament. He was later declared dead at a hospital.
All the Pakistan cricketers were fingerprinted and interviewed.
Watch out for the balloon police
Let go a balloon in the sky, regardless of accident, you will be charged $250 for littering. A second balloon, it will cost you $500.
Who's the lucky state? Vermont.
All Charges Against Duke Lacrosse Players Dropped!
Thank goodness! Again, people should stop from jumping on the lynching bandwagon in the beginning of this debacle. I wonder how many regretted going against these three former Duke students.
* * * * * * * *
The long running debacle is almost over. Several sources have revealed that assault and attempted kidnapping charges still pending against Collin Finnerty, 19, of Garden City, N.Y.; Dave Evans, 23, of Bethesda, Md.; and Reade Seligmann, 20, of Essex Falls, N.J., will soon be dropped.
This ridculous hubbub started when Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong last year indicted the three former players with raping an exotic dancer hired to perform at an off-campus lacrosse party on March 13, 2006.
As such, the arrests caused much racial tension on campus, and resulted in the firing of Lacrosse coach Mike Pressler and the cancellation of last year's spring season. Seligmann and Finnerty were suspended (Evans had already graduated by the time the story came out), and Duke began a rigorous review of how alcohol on and around campus is treated.
Will this be made into a TV movie?
Will Mike Pressler file a lawsuit against Duke U for unfair dismissal?
Will we re-think the way white-on-black or black-on-white crime is committed?
This event unnecessarily damaged racial relations on campus. Will students, staff, and other folks who were against the players say they were mistaken and sorry?
Different Party, Same Tactics
When Democrats were in the minority, they criticised Republican tactics on the House floor especially on the way the GOP like to hold vote longer than the alloted time in order to round up enough support for victory.
Now in the majority and facing their first close vote with the $124 billion wartime spending bill, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) is leaving open the possibility that Democrats might extend the vote beyond the usual 15 minutes.
So Hoyer should remember his press release on July 8, 2004:
He railed against GOP leaders for extending a 15-minute vote to 38 minutes in order to defeat a spending amendment offered by former Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
"House Republican leaders proved once again today that they will stop at virtually nothing to win a vote, even if that means running roughshod over the most basic principles of democracy such as letting members vote their conscience and calling the vote after the allotted time has elapsed," Hoyer said.
"They ought to be ashamed of themselves, but when it comes to holding votes open and twisting the arms of their own members they clearly have no shame,’’ he went on. “These back-alley tactics have no place in the greatest deliberative body in the world. They might be the lifeblood of the tin-horn dictator, but not a world leader. It's an embarrassment.”
Getting sent home b/c of Tigger
A seventh-grader, Toni Kay Scott, was sent to an in-school suspension program called Students With Attitude Problems last year for violating a dress code. It seems she donned socks with the Tigger character from the Winnie the Pooh cartoons on them, along with a denim skirt and a brown shirt with a pink border.
But Redwood Middle School's policy requires students to wear clothes with solid colors in blue, white, green, yellow, khaki, gray, brown and black. Permitted fabrics are cotton twill, corduroy and chino. No denim is allowed.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in Napa County Superior Court by The American Civil Liberties Union and a law firm on the girl's behalf, alleges that the dress code is unconstitutionally vague and too restrictive.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
It would seem the dress code policy was thought up by some out-of-work fashion designer.
Cowardly vandals hit Congressman's office because of war stance
Republican Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan's 8th District got a scare last night when his Lansing office was severely vandalised.
Two security cameras were destroyed, the building was spray painted.
WXYS 7 Station reported that the vandals also spread red paint all over the 8th congressional district sign in front of the building, as well as on a sign that says "We Support Our Troops."
They also put a sign on one of the buildings windows that says Congressman Rogers has "blood on his hands."
Pictures of the vandalised office
Chief of Staff Andy Keiser Statement
"It is unfortunate that a few criminals decided to attack the 8th District Congressional office in the middle of the night. This is an office which provides mid-Michigan citizens with assistance regarding Social Security, Medicare, the IRS, Veterans Affairs and other federal agencies."
"The aggressive destruction of federal property and vandalism was a callous attempt to intimidate Congressman Rogers and his staff."
"We all are entitled to our own opinion on the situation in Iraq but we are not entitled to destruction of taxpayer property and intimidation of federal officials. With an office in Lansing, regular office hours throughout the district, rapid response to constituent concerns and a 24-hour online office, Congressman Rogers prides himself on his constituent service and ensuring all voices are heard. Despite this vicious attack last night, the office continues to serve constituents today and we encourage folks to continue calling the Congressman for assistance, appointments and other information they may need."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
We all have the right to protest decisions, but violence does not solve the problem. These actions committed by these vandals were cowardly acts and I hope they are found, arrested, and punished to the full extent of the law.
These acts are to intimidate and instill fear into Mike Rogers and his staff. If people are willing to tolerate this, it could lead to acts of violence against Mike Rogers and his family. Already, his home is under police guard.
Should protests reach a personal level? Is it right for protestors to camp outside of the politician's home, and harass him/her and the family wherever they go? Why have we brought ourselves to that level?
The case is being handled by the FBI, the US Capitol Police, and Lansing Police.
LG KE970 Shine around the corner
The LG KE970 Shine is LG's latest spinoff of the Chocolate. With the unique metallic exterior, this phone literally shines. Use the sleek jog-dial interface to quickly choose the option you need on the phone, and the 2.0 megapixel camera and Bluetooth give you all the connectivity you need.
It has not officially arrived in the U.S. It premiered in South Korea, and in the UK last month. It can operate in the 1900 Mhz zone so it can work in the U.S. Getting it unlocked is expensive, but who knows what changes need to be done in order to sell it for Verizon or Cingular. Call it a "downgrade." The Verizon LG Chocolate is no match for the European version, and the US version of the Shine might be a bit duller when it arrives.
Various sources suggest that "The Shine" will arrive later this year. The most likely vendor to sell this new line will be Verizon (given their good relationship with LG) despite their "inferior" UI code.
Imagine losing data worth $38 billion
In the financial industry, handling electronic data is high priority. I would hope that no one will encounter what this computer technician did at the Alaska Department of Revenue.
While reformatting the disk drive during a routine maintenance check, the technician mistakenly reformatted the back up drive as well and, suddenly, all the data disappeared.
But the dread didn't really set in until the department turned to its third line of defense, back up tapes that are updated nightly, only to find those tapes were unreadable.
Nine months worth of information concerning the yearly payout from the Alaska Permanent Fund was gone: some 800,000 electronic images that had been painstakingly scanned into the system months earlier, the 2006 paper applications that people had either mailed in or filed over the counter, and supporting documentation such as birth certificates and proof of residence.
The only backup left was the paperwork itself - about more than 300 cardboard boxes.
It took the department over a month. Half a dozen seasonal workers came back to assist the regular division staff and about 70 people working overtime and weekends re-entered all the lost data into the system by the end of August. Costs incurred... over $200,000.
Despite progress, Iraq misses target dates
In his remarks from the White House yesterday, Bush credited Iraqis with deploying 10 army brigades and nine national police brigades to the capital, and al-Maliki's Shiite-led government for allowing U.S. troops to go after Shiite militias as well as Sunni insurgents. He said the security push had already uncovered large caches of weapons and destroyed two major car bomb factories on the outskirts of Baghdad.
He also praised al-Maliki's government for making progress on a law establishing how oil revenue would be shared among the Iraqi people and on a promise of $10 billion in Iraqi money spent on reconstruction.
What he didn't say was that Iraq missed the Dec. 31 target dates to enact the oil law, as well as laws establishing provincial elections and reversing measures that have excluded many Sunnis from jobs and government positions because they belonged to Saddam's Baath party. The U.S. is also pushing for constitutional amendments to remove articles that the Sunnis believe discriminate in favor of the Shiites and Kurds.
* * * * * * * *
So how much flexibility are we going to give to al-Maliki's government? If they continue to miss deadline after deadline, it hurts our credibility.
Democrats resort to bribery in emergency funding bill
I do not care whether it's essential relief or assistance, it's an attempt to bribe our elected representatives to vote for a war funding bill.
House Democratic leaders knew it will be difficult to pass the $124 billion war funding bill, so they decided to attach numerous riders consisting of billions in federal funds for drought relief, agriculture assistance, levee reinforcement, and other pork projects.
At least a few Republicans and conservative Democrats who otherwise would vote "no" remain undecided, as they ponder whether they can leave on the table millions of dollars for constituents by opposing the $124 billion war funding bill due for a vote on Thursday.
Domestic spending in the bill reflects the pent-up demand from lawmakers who last year could not win funding for programs that had bipartisan support such as disaster assistance.
Can people say bullsh*t? What a lame excuse. If these domestic spending allocations are that important, why attach it as a rider to the emergency war funding legislation? Why can't it be introduced as a separate bill?
White House Response:
Denounced what it called "excessive and extraneous non-emergency spending." The statement dismissed provisions of the bill as "unconscionable," and said it "would place freedom and democracy in Iraq at grave risk" and "embolden our enemies."
Some examples of bribery:
For Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), there is $25 million for spinach growers hurt by last year's E. coli scare.
For three conservative Democrats in Georgia, there is $75 million for peanut storage.
For lawmakers from the bone-dry West, there is $500 million for wildfire suppression.
An additional $120 million is earmarked for shrimp and Atlantic menhaden fishermen.
For more than a year, Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R) has tried unsuccessfully to secure federal funds to prevent salt water from intruding on rice fields in his lowland Louisiana district. So it came as a surprise last week when Boustany found $15 million in the House's huge war spending bill for his rice farmers. He hadn't even asked that the bill include it.
* * * * * * * * *
Please, tell me this isn't vote-buying. It puts every elected representative in a difficult position because if they vote no on the war funding bill, they will be voting against drought relief and food assistance. Kinda reminds me of the movie "Smith goes to Washington."
Wild Brawl at High School Basketball Game
It has become apparent that the U.S. should separate fans into their own supportive sections, something that most of the UK and Europe has done to maximise security and protect the fans.
During a NYC basketball championship game between Lincon and Boys & Girls, a hard foul was committed on the court. Lincoln point guard Devon Petersen was then pushed by Boys & Girls' Frederi Nixon. However, Petersen went after Boys & Girls' Antonio Johnson, thinking he had shoved him. Referees separated the two players. So it should be over, right? Nope! Apparently, it ignited several fights in the stands.
This ridiculous melee even got the public address announcer to say "What the (bleep) is wrong with y'all? Come on!"
The huge brawl did not end there. It spilled into the streets, and the violence continued to Times Square and nearby subway stations.
The conduct of the fans has brought shame and dishonor to the game. Neither team should be accorded the championship trophy. They do not deserved it. The final score was Lincon 77, Boys & Girls 50.
Recommended Movie: Offside
Release Date: March 23rd, 2007 (limited)
Six Iranian girls disguise themselves as boys in order to enter Tehran's Azadi Stadium to watch the 2006 World Cup Asian zone qualifier between Iran and Bahrain. However, their presence is discovered and they are arrested one by one.
China will get there before the U.S.
NASA Administrator Michael Griffin told the House Science and Technology Committee that the Chinese will be able to put humans on the lunar surface "within a decade." Thus, they could arrive perhaps 2-3 years before a U.S. manned mission is sent.
Based on current level of funding, Griffin estimates that the U.S. will return back to the moon in 2019. A higher NASA budget could get the crews to the moon by 2017.
He compared the Chinese space program to NASA's Gemini program, which first flew four years before NASA landed a man on the moon in 1969.
* * * * * * * *
Let's see, Apollo Program started in 1961. Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969. So about 8 years. Today, it will take at least 10 years before U.S. astronauts can go back. If Griffin really believes that the U.S. is the leader in space in the world, this is really a poor example.
Quite a negative impact for the U.S. if the Chinese do get to the moon first.
A World Without America
First Fox News, now Colbert too?
Democratic Caucus chairman, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) has told new Democratic members of Congress to steer clear of Stephen Colbert, or at least his satirical Comedy Central program, "The Colbert Report."
What's next? The Daily Show?
Do I smell pork in that emergency bill?
What's the best way to spend wasteful money? Attach them as a rider to President Bush's request for "emergency" spending on Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush requested $105 billion. Congress is going to pass $124 billion. So what's the extra $19-20 billion in the bill?
Some examples... $74 million for peanut storage, $25 million for spinach growers, $100 million for citrus growers, $16 million to convert an old FDA building into more office space.
I thought Democrats were supposed to submit these projects through the normal appropriation process. Are these expenditures really critical?
Democratic House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer:
"We have provided all of the money the president requested- and more."
In response to Republican critics:
"They are a strange group to talk about buying votes," Hoyer chuckled. "This is the crowd that took pork barrel spending to new levels of irresponsibility."
So he's saying that Democrats are less worse?
I am guessing Democrats are not counting the money as part of their projected 2008 budget plans. Hey, if we do not count the emergency bills, the deficit is decreasing! Rubbish!
Different party, same face.
College Republicans on trial at San Francisco State University
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) reports that San Francisco State University (SFSU) is putting the College Republicans student group through judicial action for hosting an anti-terrorism rally at which participants stepped on makeshift Hezbollah and Hamas flags.
The problem is that the flags, made to look exactly authentic, had the name of Allah written in Arabic script. It was not done on purpose. The Arabic script is clearly found on these flags. The University has alleged that this sort of action was an attack on Allah himself. A student also filed a complaint against the group alleging "attempts to incite violence and create a hostile environment" and "actions of incivility."
FIRE has asked the University to call off the hearing. It has argued that "SFSU has a duty to uphold the First Amendment rights of all of its students, even if their expressive activity offends the religious sensibilities of some." The University has responded it will continue to investigate the complaint "to give all parties the confidence that they will be heard and fairly treated by a panel that includes representatives of all the University’s key constituencies."
* * * * * * * * * *
Was it an attack on Allah and the religion, or a protest against two groups, Hezbollah and Hamas, known for their terrorist activities and connections? Is there a difference between burning the American flag versus a Hezbollah or Hamas flag?
Obviously, it would be a clear distinction of an attack on the religion if the group members made flags with just the word "Allah" in Arabic script and stepped on them and burned them.
When Hezbollah and Hamas members are buring Israeli flags, are they targeting the country itself or the Jewish faith, or both?
A person burning any one of these flags should be intepreted as a protest against the terrorist organisation itself, not the religion.
It would seem the College Republicans at SFSU will be sanctioned given that their student government has already condemned their actions, and the hearing board may already be biased against them.
Even the ACLU is siding with FIRE on this. Despite the need to promote tolerance and nondiscrimination, the civil rights group still believes the First Amendment must be upheld. Any sanction by the University at the group will be a violation of freedom of expression.
Here are the flags
Firing all 93 US Attorneys? It has been done before. Ask Clinton.
Are politicians so dependent on the assumption that the public has an attention deficit disorder on issues or events that have happened more than a year ago? It would seem so in this case.
I find it amusing that Congressional Democrats are "outraged" with the Administration's decision to fire eight U.S. Attorneys and that Bush's involvement was unjust. Even wannabe Presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton blamed President Bush for "the politicisation of our prosecutorial system."
While the media, Democrats, and a few Republicans continue to criticise the Administration's conduct in this fiasco, we have to go back several years for a bit of rememberance. I am sure most people did not know that under former President Bill Clinton's term as President, former Attorney General Janet Reno fired all 93 U.S. Attorneys in March 1993.
That's right, Janet Reno, with the approval of the President, evicted all the attorney generals.
In response to the hoopla, President Clinton said it was perfectly ordinary. "All those people are routinely replaced and I have not done anything differently." But this was not true. The firing of all the prosecutors was unprecedented. Previous Presidents, including Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, had both retained holdovers from the previous Administration and only replaced them gradually as their tenures expired. This allowed continuity of leadership within the U.S. Attorney offices during the transition.
While it seems that the firing of these eight Attorneys was done quite poorly, the Democrats should not start firing off salvo after salvo saying this was all a Republican consipracy. They should ask Hillary about what happened in 1993 and decide whether to keep their mouths shut and remember to do some more research before making any more regretful remarks.
* * * * * * * * *
You can find quite a boatload of information when you search for Janet Reno and Attorney General firings. When former President Bill Clinton appointed Janet Reno as US Attorney General, she was the first woman to hold the post.
Normally, when control of the Administration changes from one party to the other, the old U.S. attorneys are replaced gradually. Thus, when Tom Corbett, chairman of the U.S.-attorney advisory committee, asked Miss Reno about the transition timetable on Thursday, March 18, and got no answers, he assumed there would be the traditional, slow handover. He reeled when, on Monday morning, Associate Attorney General Hubbell told him the attorneys would have to resign immediately. Literally. "[They] should be able to clear out of their offices over the weekend," one White House politico told Corbett. (Miss Reno was nowhere in sight.) Corbett had to fight just to get the attorneys an extra week to clear out.
The next day Miss Reno called for resignations. Jay Stephens, the U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., resigned that afternoon, commenting that he had been within thirty days of a "critical decision" about Rostenkowski. (Once Stephens left, the transition lost its urgency; some Republican U.S. attorneys are still on board.) The Illinois congressman may yet be indicted for his alleged abuse of the House Bank, but Stephens's hasty dismissal surely slowed the investigation, leaving Rosty, who loses his chairmanship if indicted, in place to steer Clinton bills through the House.
DePauw's Delta Zeta Gets the Chop
DePauw University's president ordered the Delta Zeta sorority Monday to leave its campus by September in response to a mass eviction of members that sparked allegations that only attractive, popular students were asked to remain.
School President Robert G. Bottoms told reporters at a campus auditorium Monday that the values of the sorority were "incompatible" with the 2,200-student private college in western Indiana.
Bottoms said the school was unhappy with Delta Zeta's policies and actions and with some of the postings on its Web site that disputed the controversy that followed the evictions.
"I came to the conclusion that our approaches to these issues are just incompatible," he said during a news conference.
Bottoms said in a letter delivered Monday to the sorority's national president, Deborah A. Raziano that beginning in the fall, the sorority would no longer be recognized as part of the Greek system at the school. He asked the sorority to leave the campus in Greencastle, 40 miles west of Indianapolis, before next fall.
Imams III: Lawsuit!
The imams just won't let this one die. The six imams who were removed from a US Airways flight in November say they'll will sue the airline for discrimination.
The whining Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) says it will provide details on the lawsuit at a Washington news conference.
Kucinich actually said something right
The cancellation in the past two days of two planned nationally televised debates because of candidates’ “scheduling conflicts” and unwillingness to participate smacks of “manipulation by some candidates who would rather run and hide than defend their records and their positions on the war,” Ohio Congressman and Democratic Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich said today while campaigning in Texas.
Of course I wouldn't support Kucinich's run, but he's pretty much right in that regard.
In response to the Nevada debate where candidates sidestepped the event because of Fox News co-sponsorship:
“If you want to be the President of the United States, you can’t be afraid to deal with people with whom you disagree politically,” Kucinich said. “No one is further removed from Fox’s political philosophy than I am, but fear should not dictate decisions that affect hundreds of millions of Americans and billions of others around the world who are starving for real leadership.”
Kucinich said “the public deserves honest, open, and fair public debate, and the media have a responsibility to demand that candidates come forward now, before the next war vote in Congress, to explain themselves.”
Quite true, but we have seen the past where all the presidential nominees and their campaigns, during the primaries and presidential races, make so many complex and burdening rules and regulations with the debates. It makes the whole thing a sham of the political process. Rehearsed questions and answers. The public is mislead and we get screwed in the end.
Nevada Democrats Chickened Out
What an awful shame... The Nevada State Democratic Party has decided to pull out of the presidential debate scheduled for August 14 in Reno. The debate was hosted by Fox News Channel, Fox News Radio, the Nevada State Democratic Party, and the Western Majority Project.
What's wrong fellow Democrats? Are you unwilling to be subjected to Fox News questioning? Never mind whatever conservative bias Fox News may have, but the unwillingness to tolerate and be able to respond to a large viewership who may have a different viewpoint is just sickening. It's like you want to deal with Chris Matthews or Keith Olbermann instead of O'Reilly.
I am sure if it was an event sponsored by MoveOn, no one would complained. If it were NPR, the liberals would start crying foul. Stop whining about it. To me, you just want to hear rehearsed questions and vague answers to convince the mob that you are electable.
Why is it necessary to eliminate last-minute provisions being inserted in legislation
So what's the big deal with the dismissal of eight US attorneys by the Department of Justice?
Well, for one thing, a last-minute provision was inserted to last year's re-authorisation of the USA Patriot Act at the request of the Justice Department.
It gives the president authority to replace a US attorney without going back to the Senate for confirmation.
No lawmaker noticed it when it passed.
No surprise there!
$3,400 to chat with Michael Jackson
Japanese fans have to pay 400,000 yen ($3,400 USD) to chat and take pictures with the so-called "King of Pop."
If he keeps this up, he can make a profit just by shaking hands and being in photos. But please, a waste of hard-earned money.
Bill: No credit cards for illegal citizens
A Republican representative from Tennesssee introduced legislation on Monday that would prevent illegal immigrants from receiving credit cards from American financial institutions.
The Photo Identification Security Act would require banks to use what Blackburn calls "secure forms of identification" to obtain credit. In a statement put out by her office, she says that Bank of America "has come under fire in response to reports that it allows illegal immigrants access to credit cards without proper documentation."
Bank of America spokesmen maintain that they follow the letter of the law in permitting customers to use the forms of identification permissible under the U.S.A. Patriot Act. That includes matricula consular cards issued by the Mexican government.
Fox News Conservative Bias? Oh really???
According to CBS News, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards won't participate in a debate co-hosted by Fox News and the Nevada Democratic Party, his campaign said, as party officials tried to settle a dustup over their partnership with the cable network.
Plus the fanatical MoveOn.org Civic Action says it has collected more than 260,000 signatures on a petition that calls the cable network a "mouthpiece for the Republican Party, not a legitimate news channel."
* * * * * * * *
So if Fox News the mouthpiece for the Republicans, I guess CBS, ABC, and MSNBC are the mouthpieces for the Democrats not to mention the New York Times and the LA Times.
One thing for sure, ratings for Fox News still continue to outnumber CNN and MSNBC viewers. The idea for the Nevada Democrats to pursue a partnership with Fox News is a step in the right direction.
Why are online activists and MoveOn followers so intent on shunning Fox News? My guess is that they are unwilling to listen to the other side.