Friday, July 22, 2005

London, Patriot Act, and New York

There are a few news items from the past few weeks that have driven me to a point of near-insanity. I have to vent somewhere, and that somewhere is here.

1. London Bombings/Shooting: London was hit twice and this morning they shot a man in a subway who was wearing a heavy coat in 70-degree weather and running from the police. Two things that make me crazy related to this whole situation:

One, the reporter(s) who kept asking Blair if his government/policies/mother/reading habits were responsible for the attacks on London. Now I'm no terror expert, but I would probably blame the bombings on THE TERRORISTS! Why do we have this agenda to find some reason for their insane hatred? Guess what- there is no reason. It's not 9/11, it's not Iraq, and if you think it is, you're ignoring all of the terrorist attacks that took place before those events by the same groups we're facing now. They hate us. They've hated us for years, they will hate us for years to come, and that's the end of it. Anything that they point to as "reasoning" is a smokescreen.

Two, the article on the shooting this morning indicated that police would have to justify shooting the man this morning and that certain people were nervous after the shooting. Let me save the police some time and handle this for them: THE IDIOT RAN AWAY FROM THE POLICE IN A SUBWAY WHERE BOMBINGS HAVE BEEN TAKING PLACE. Here's a simple formula: police + heightened security concern + request to stop = DO NOT RUN, STUPID. Now the nervous people can relax.

2. Patriot Act: The House came to its senses and passed the Patriot Act on to the Senate. The debate on this one was enough to send my blood pressure through the roof. If I hear one more politician proclaim that the Patriot Act turns America into a different country than they know, or some stupid statement to that extent, I will put my foot through the television. Guess what- this isn't the America you think you know, liberal politician. You think you live in a country, not to mention a world, where everybody will just get along and love each other and we can all expect to have nobody bother us or inconvenience us or make us uncomfortable. I live in a country where people next door may be planning to bomb a bus, or working on a plan to hijack another plane. They look like everybody else, they don't announce their intentions, and we don't know them until they strike- unless we can look into some of the things that the Patriot Act allows. Law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear from this act, and I would rather be uncomfortable (although who really cares if the feds look at their library records anyway) and alive than dead from the next attack.

3. New York Searches: New York police begin random searches today at transportation hubs. It's about time, people. Of course the New York Times got to the heart of the matter in an article from yesterday, when they pointed out that 1) people didn't like the searches and 2) no racial profiling would be allowed. On the first point, who cares? I like being alive. I think that trumps how much I may or may not like my bag being searched. And again, who really cares about this? Search my bag. I HAVE NOTHING TO HIDE. If you don't either, stop whining.

On the second point, why are we not profiling? Apart from all the rhetoric as to why profiling is evil, biased and generally not nice, no one has asked the million-dollar question- does it work? Yes, it does. I'm tired of this knee-jerk opposition to profiling that comes due to the fact that we have elevated "tolerance" and "diversity" to levels of importance higher than "life" and "safety." If white Americans of German descent were suicide bombing and plotting against the US, I would expect to be stopped more often, asked more questions, searched, whatever. As a law-abiding citizen who loves this country, I would not care. I don't care n0w when they search me at every airport I visit. I'm happy to prove to them that I have nothing to hide. If it keeps us safer, we should do it. If that means we search more people of Arabic descent than white people, so what? More Arabic people than white people are trying to kill us. I think it's biased to search more white people than would be representative of the percentage of white people in the terrorist pool. If 97% of known suicide bombers and terrorists are not white (or 80%, or whatever), only 3% of searches should be of white people. Any other approach is biased, in my opinion. But guess what- if they want to search me, I will gladly let them do so.

At the end of the day, freedom is at stake. Not the petty, self-centered personal freedom that we constantly hear about, but the freedom to live and pursue a safe, productive life. Those are the inalienable rights our founders spoke of, and those rights are the ones that we must protect first. Anything beyond that is a luxury, and at this point in history, our luxuries need to be re-examined and de-prioritized.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Quick Hits

Brief commentary on recent items:

No Filibuster: The Senate decided to stop acting like children and do their job (both sides of the aisle). We'll see how serious they are about that when Supreme Court seats open up.

American Idol: Finale tonight. Quote of the day from the NY Daily News site regarding the finalists: "She's a Nashville striver so ­plastic she makes Shania Twain seem like she was born in a holler. He's a should-be lounge singer who somehow mistook himself for a member of Lynyrd Skynyrd." That said, go Bo!

Star Wars Episode III: Saw it yesterday- good movie overall. However, the armchair philosophy is almost as painful as the lack of chemistry between Anakin and Padme. "Only the Sith think in absolutes." Isn't that an absolute statement? And if so, why are we to believe the Sith are evil? That's an "absolute" judgment that the Jedi Council made...

Hilton Overload: So now mother Hilton has a "reality" show trying to make the uncouth into socialites? If her daughters are any indication of the end result, I'll take my chances with the rednecks. I've never seen people so rich that have such a driving need to also be famous and/or relevant. Please stop supporting their complex.

Video Game Wars: Sony and Microsoft released solid info on their next-gen systems at E3. Will Sony be able to realize the specs they're touting? Will Microsoft capitalize on first-mover advantage and Christmas shoppers? Either way, the battle is heating up. My money's on Gates and company. This is what they do, folks. Get into the market, learn from their mistakes, buy innovation, and crush opponents. The only question is if it will take them one more go-round before they get it nailed.

That's it for now. Back soon with comic book commentary.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Economics of Oil

My economics post was delayed, but I offer it up now. I had my two last major graduate projects to handle Tuesday and Wednesday, but they are now behind me. So on to the economics of oil.

I have to speak to this topic because of some of the stupid things that have been said on the subject lately. Now I don't claim to be an expert on the oil industry, but I do have a pretty good understanding of economics and international trade. I give that disclaimer in case any of my statements do not apply as presented to the specifics of the oil of the industry. I imagine they do though.

1. Refineries aren't the issue. Saudi Arabia's spinmeister came out this week with the brilliant statement that shipping 10 or 20 million barrels of oil to the US wouldn't affect prices if we couldn't refine it. Sure, our refineries are old and need to be replaced or added to. I agree. But if that's the problem, how did those same refineries function two years ago when prices were half of what they are now? The problem is the price of oil per barrel, which is impacted by only two things- supply and demand. We know demand is higher. We know supply is not, at least not at a meaningful level. I think we can figure out the rest from there.

2. We need to stop burying our heads in the sand and start drilling it for oil. ANWR is not the answer, but it's a step in the right direction. The problem with ANWR is that the distribution infrastructure is not in place and will need to be developed for any drilling there to be profitable to the oil companies and beneficial to us. We need to be drilling the Gulf of Mexico. Lease Sale 181 opened some of the Gulf for oil leases, but the opened area was only 1/4 of the original size proposed by whom? That's right kids- the Clinton administration. Open up the Gulf for drilling. Distribution would be a dream and it's been estimated that the reserves under the Gulf are substantial. Environmentalists of course decry the "inevitable" oil slicks and pollution. Funny thing about oil slicks- they occur naturally as well due to seeping of oil and gas through natural fissures because of the pressure of the reserves. But we ignore that fact. We can't have it both ways, folks. We either have our happy environmentalists and our high oil prices (or expensive alternative fuels that are inefficient and underdeveloped at this point) or we have lower fuel prices and a stronger economy in which to develop alternative fuel sources. I'm not opposed to alternatives. I just realize that they'll take time and money to develop, and unless we do something about our current energy prices, we won't have much of either to work with.

That's my rant for the day. Back tomorrow.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Back from the Dead

Well, it's been a while. Graduate work snowed me under in the past several months, but the end is in sight. Two weeks from now I will have completed my program. Upon the recommendation of my best friend, I will begin requiring people to refer to me as "Master" until I decide to complete doctoral work. Why doesn't it work that way?

A lot to comment on and little time, but I'll begin with the new pope. This seems to be a great topic of interest and a divisive one, as should be expected when religion is involved. The Catholic Church has been getting some heat for instituting what is viewed as a "transitional" pope. However, I think they made a wise choice for several reasons.

First off, the church is in turmoil. There is a large divide between the traditionalist Catholics and the progressive Catholics. The progressives want standards changed and doctrine eased up, and the traditionalists want the church to take a stand against the relativism that is making headway into other religions. The next several years will be an important time in the church's internal debate and decision-making, and so it makes sense to put a leader in place who will not be there for several years and therefore possibly be required to change his stance on some of these issues. The change of leadership in a few years will provide a more natural transition in philosophy, if the church decides to become more progressive.

I also like picking a traditionalist pope. Until the church decides to move toward a more post-modern approach (if they ever do), they need to hold the line on doctrine. That being said, I hope they maintain the philosophy of upholding standards that they deem important. I do not agree with all of their doctrinal positions or beliefs, and I do not accept a large portion of Catholic doctrine. However, I respect the fact that they stand for absolute truth and have fought off the attempts from within the church to essentially make it easier to be Catholic. I believe that religion must be based on absolute truth for it to have any importance. Otherwise it's based on what I like today. What basis is that? Why bother following something that changes based on some whim or some cultural standard? The point of religion is to affect culture, not the other way around.

I don't think it should be easy to be Catholic, Buddhist, or anything else. I get annoyed with people who want to be called Catholic, Christian, Muslim, or whatever else but do not want to adhere to the core teachings of the religion or accept certain aspects of what they believe. If you want to form your own easier religion to follow, go ahead. Just don't expect true followers of the major religions to call you something you're not. Either get in or get out.

Enough for today. Regular postings resume as of now, so tomorrow will be economics and politics.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Four More Years

Ok, I've been snowed under for a while due to work and classes. However, I HAVE to weigh in on the election. Here's the good, the bad, and the ugly:

Good: Bush for four more years (my opinion, nobody has to agree), increased Republican control overall, and the passage of several "defense of marriage" referendums across the country. Finally conservatives are stepping up and voting on issues that concern them and even non-Republicans are weighing in on important issues, even if they deviate from the party line.

I also have to commend Kerry and his campaign for conceding today. There was the possibility of another debacle in Ohio this time around, and he took the high road. He could have allowed his lawyers to make a mockery out of our democratic process, but he did not. Regardless of my thoughts on his campaign, judgments, or whatever else, I respect his decision to be a bigger man than others may have wanted him to be.

Bad: The deep, angry divide between the right and the left in this country. Enough from people yelling about the draft that isn't coming, enough about people threatening to move to Europe. If you're so hate-filled that you cannot put your country above your politics, PLEASE leave. I'm tired of it. Also, the passage of so many amendments here in Florida. It seems like every national election, 25 amendments are made to the state Constitution. PASS A LAW PEOPLE! Expect more from your state legislature. Stop bypassing the system and forcing issues into the hands of the voters that they aren't prepared to make judgments on. We now have 7 or 8 (one too close to call) more amendments to the state Constitution. Good grief.

Ugly: Dan Rather. Boy, he's having a hard day today. His obvious bias last night and his visible agony over Bush's apparent victory (at the time) were just outstanding. I only tuned in for a short while, but Danny Boy was clearly having a hard time of it. Please go home and stop wasting airtime.

Edwards' denial of the facts. I know it was late, and I know there were still votes to be counted. Even so, his vows to "fight on" and his ridiculous performance overall were just too much. There wasn't a need for him to concede anything at that point, but at least tone down the cheerleading just a touch. Maybe I'm just burned out on his ridiculous, over-the-top presentation style and his Frankenstein-like marriage of annoying lawyer tendencies and male cheerleading mannerisms. Who knows?

So that's the run-down. Four more years to try and straighten out Iraq, Iran, North Korea, the economy, and social issues. Considering the progress President Bush has made in the last four years, in spite of obstacles that no President in recent history has faced, I'm encouraged.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Debate Number Two

With the second debate in the books, here are my thoughts on the evening.

Kerry: How obnoxious is his over-the-top pandering? How many times can he give noncommittal answers? I also disliked how he would continually turn his back on the audience in order to face directly at President Bush when answering questions. Talk to the people, Senator. Oh, and if he would have asserted how much he "respects the feeling behind that question" one more time, I would have puked in my living room. Somebody with absolutely no values that mean anything (we certainly can't make decisions based on our beliefs, although everybody does so every day of their life) whom has to assert that he even understands values when he sees or hears them is a little frightening.

My favorite Kerry moment overall had to be his answer to the abortion question, which was completely indecipherable. So how does he recover on follow-up? By arguing an extreme example that really wouldn't apply anyway (suggested parental notification laws have always had a bypass clause in cases of parental abuse). And what percentage of abortions are performed in those types of situations? The highest figure I've seen, which included rape, incest, and health concerns as reasons for seeking an abortion, was 7%. So Senator Kerry argues one of the more extreme examples and then states that "it's just not that simple." Why is this troubling? I can find a case like his on one side or the other of every controversial decision. If he won't decide on something because of the 7% extreme cases that don't fit the concept, he'll never be able to make a decision. The truth of the matter is that he'll only look at the extreme examples on the liberal side of the equation. That's what he is, after all. Liberal. No matter how much he runs from that label, it sticks in the end.

Bush: Bush focused a lot on Iraq, and unfortunately did not answer the last question on his mistakes in a satisfying way. Also, his assumption that it was a hit on Iraq may or may not have been accurate, but he sounded way too defensive jumping to that conclusion. That was a bad way to end what was an otherwise strong debate for the President. During the debate, he was mostly straightforward, was much more aggressive that in the first debate, and did a good job of talking to the audience and conveying his passion about what he does. Kerry once again seemed aloof and disconnected, which may just be his personality but which results in his speeches being about as compelling as the local farm report. Informational, yes. Emotionally or otherwise compelling? No.

My favorite Bush moment was of course the lumber statements. It was a perfect unplanned moment that showed his sense of humor and exposed Kerry's ridiculous statement for what it was- an obscure reference to an investment that Bush holds. Who here knows exactly everything they invest in (for those who invest)? Who here sees, every month, exactly what they earn from every investment? With 60-68% of Americans investing in the stock market in one way or another, my guess is very few. But according to Kerry, only the "rich" invest (therefore benefiting from the reduction in capital gains tax under Bush, which really helps all investors) and apparently they are personally familiar with every investment they have. How out of touch with America is this guy?

Tomorrow night's final debate should be fun. I'll be back once it's in the can.


Thursday, October 07, 2004

The Veeps Weigh In

After watching the Vice Presidential debate, I wanted to give myself some time to digest it before I posted. Digestion is now complete, so here's my take on the debate.

Cheney: Once again, Cheney impressed me. He has such a strong presence and such a calm confidence about him- you feel comfortable listening to him. I like that he exposed so many of the fallacies of certain Democratic claims (his 90% math lesson was a classic) and didn't allow statements with obvious false elements to slip by unnoticed. He hung in there with a guy who has an obnoxious habit of repeating the same thing over and over as if we're his average jury. He also avoided being baited too much by the Halliburton and voting record attacks, and pressed on with his own approach. Overall, I gave him an A.

Edwards: Too much for me. His slick, avoid the question and hammer home the same old line approach was too much for me to take. Come on- he responded to an attack on Kerry's "global test" comment by repeating (twice, I believe) "He also said he would not give countries veto power over our national security." Ok, so he said both. We know that. Guess what- it's either another flip-flop or he's lying about one of them. By Edwards' own logic, if he said it, it must be true. So which one will he do? Global test or unilateral authority? I think his record can tell us which one.

I also disliked Edwards' illustrations. Not only because they were oversimplified and insulting, but also because you got the feeling you were being coerced. I don't need a nice story about something. Give me facts, numbers, statistics, and let me make up my mind. This isn't court where the more you make the jury cry, the more money they give you. This is a national election. And speaking of court, did anybody else catch the fact that his solution for our legal environment involved not capping awards, but putting in place an elaborate process for qualifying lawsuits? Who do you think will pay for this process and who do you think will benefit from it? We will pay for it, and lawyers will benefit. Who else can qualify the validity of a lawsuit? This would equal a huge expansion of the legal system, which is the opposite direction we need to go.

Overall, I gave Edwards a B-, and it would have been lower except for his aggressiveness and charisma.

So that's my analysis at this time. I'll be back after Friday to review the next presidential debate.