Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Now the AG says it's Unconstitutional

California's Attorney General Jerry Brown once said he would defend Prop 8 against those who support gay marriage... but now he's changed his mind, saying it's unconstitutional. Whoa, really? Why?

"[U]pon further reflection and a deeper probing into all the aspects of our Constitution," Brown said during an interview, "[i]t became evident that the Article 1 provision guaranteeing basic liberty, which includes the right to marry, took precedence over the initiative.... Based on my duty to defend the law and the entire Constitution, I concluded the court should protect the right to marry even in the face of the 52 percent vote."

A popular vote is not the best way to guarantee equal rights because the majority is always going to win a popular vote. Had a popular vote been taken in the 1950s, racial segregation would probably have passed. Had a popular vote been taken about woman's suffrage, it also would have passed... because women couldn't even vote. Laws are created to protect minority groups—by "minority", I mean any group not in the popular majority, not necessarily racial minorities—and if 52% of voters think gays don't have an equal right to marry doesn't mean that isn't also unconstitutional.

I'm relieved a prominent lawyer has finally come forward to say something which I feel is so glaringly obvious. What's more is that he personally voted for Prop 8 and has since said he would defend Prop 8 in his role as Attorney General. Whenever a person absorbs new information, applies thoughtful reasoning and arrives at a conclusion contradicting their previous beliefs, changing one's mind isn't "wishy-washy" or being a "flip-flop"—it's called being enlightened. I admire those with the courage to stand by their convictions, especially when their reasoning is insightful and argued well, but I abhor those who remain opinionated in the face of abundant evidence to the contrary.

You've got to hand it to Jerry Brown. Not only did he arrive at a different conclusion, but a conclusion which completely contradicted his personal beliefs. Not only should this lend further credence to Brown legal argument, but it speaks to his integrity as a public servant. Brown might personally still object to gay marriage but, as a lawyer, he can't deny that it's unfair discrimination violating equal rights guaranteed in the constitution.

Full article below:
Jerry Brown urges court to void Prop. 8
By LISA LEFF
Associated Press Writer
Published: Friday, Dec. 19, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO -- California Attorney General Jerry Brown changed course on the state's new same-sex marriage ban Friday and urged the state Supreme Court to void Proposition 8.

In a dramatic reversal, Brown filed a legal brief saying the measure that amended the California Constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman is itself unconstitutional because it deprives a minority group of a fundamental right. Earlier, Brown had said he would defend the ballot measure against legal challenges from gay marriage supporters.

But Brown said he reached a different conclusion "upon further reflection and a deeper probing into all the aspects of our Constitution."

"It became evident that the Article 1 provision guaranteeing basic liberty, which includes the right to marry, took precedence over the initiative," he said in an interview Friday night. "Based on my duty to defend the law and the entire Constitution, I concluded the court should protect the right to marry even in the face of the 52 percent vote."

Brown, who served as governor from 1975 to 1983, is considering seeking the office again in 2010. After California voters passed Proposition 8 on Nov. 4, Brown said he personally voted against it but would fight to uphold it as the state's top lawyer.

The litigation over Proposition 8 is shaping up, Brown said, as a high-stakes conflict between the electorate's right to direct democracy and rights of minorities to equal treatment.

Brown submitted his brief in one of the three legal challenges to Proposition 8 brought by same-sex marriage supporters. The measure, a constitutional amendment that passed with 52 percent of the vote, overruled the Supreme Court decision last spring that briefly legalized gay marriage in the nation's most populous state.

Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, called the attorney general's change of strategy "a major development."

"The fact that after looking at this he shifted his position and is really bucking convention by not defending Prop. 8 signals very clearly that this proposition can not be defended," Minter said.

The sponsors of Proposition 8 on Friday argued for the first time that the court should undo the marriages of the estimated 18,000 same-sex couples who exchanged vows before voters banned gay marriage at the ballot box last month.

The Yes on 8 campaign filed a brief telling the court that because the new law holds that only marriages between a man and a woman are recognized or valid in California, the state can no longer recognize the existing same-sex unions.

"Proposition 8's brevity is matched by its clarity. There are no conditional clauses, exceptions, exemptions or exclusions," reads the brief co-written by Kenneth Starr, dean of Pepperdine University's law school and the former independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton.

Both Brown and gay rights groups maintain that the gay marriage ban may not be applied retroactively.

The Supreme Court could hear arguments in the litigation as soon as March. The measure's backers announced Friday that Starr, a former federal judge and U.S. solicitor general, had signed on as their lead counsel and would argue the cases.

The new brief provides a preview of how Proposition 8's supporters plan to defend the measure. It asserts that the Supreme Court lacks the authority or historical precedent to throw out Proposition 8.

"For this court to rule otherwise would be to tear asunder a lavish body of jurisprudence," the court papers state. "That body of decisional law commands judges - as servants of the people - to bow to the will of those whom they serve - even if the substantive result of what people have wrought in constitution-amending is deemed unenlightened."

Starr declined comment Friday, but co-counsel Andrew Pugno said the brief was filed in response to a question the court's seven justices posed to lawyers on both sides, not as an attack on the gay married couples. "The people passed Prop. 8," he said. "We are defending that."

Pugno called Brown's decision to challenge the voter-approved measure, as well as the argument advanced by the attorney general, "totally unprecedented."

"His legal duty as attorney general of the state is to defend initiatives passed by the voters," he said. "Oftentimes, attorneys general have defended measures they personally opposed."

Jesse Choper, a constitutional law professor at the University of California, Berkeley Boalt School of Law, said Brown has to show that there is a right to marry or to be free from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation that cannot be taken away by a constitutional amendment. "It is not an easy argument, but that doesn't mean it's not going to win," Choper said.

The cases are Strauss v. Horton, S168047; City and County of San Francisco v. Horton, S168078; and Tyler v. State of California, S168066. Link.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bad news for the Yes on 8 voters

I had another epiphany a few days ago about gay marriage, and it's extremely bad news for anyone against gay marriage in America...

A gay marriage ban is inherently discriminatory and—because the American constitution is based on total equality—gay marriage bans will eventually be ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. It's just a question of when.

Maybe it won't happen with the current Supreme Court, but it will happen. It has to.

So, bad news for everyone who voted "Yes" on Prop 8 this year: like all the male chauvinists who lost when women were granted suffrage, and like all the racists who lost when blacks were granted civil rights, you're also going to lose on this issue. Why? Because you can't stop progress. Some traditions become extinct because they ought to become extinct, and this is one tradition which deserves to die.

What drives me crazy about the Yes on 8 crowd is their oft-heralded refrain, the so-called "activist" judges. I have no tolerance for that nonsense—judges are lawyers who've been through law school, who preside over countless cases to rule fairly, and are best prepared to interpret what equality and fairness means in our constitution. If a judge deems a practice unfair, and an appeals judge agrees with him, it's time to STFU and move on.

On a side note, I continue to be amazed how some Christians, normally a group promoting equality and goodness towards all, are on the wrong side of history about this issue. Then again, Christians did start the crusades, among other perversions of the Christian teachings. I wonder if a Christian sect ever rationalized slavery due to the rules set up for it in the Bible (Exodus 21:7)?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Republicans. Terrorists.*

I once worked for a political advertising company doing campaigns for Democrats across the nation. We had this one East Coast Senator running on a platform promoting The Ten Commandments being posted in public schools within their state. I have pretty strong feelings about the separation of Church and State and was quite relieved nobody asked me to do any graphic design on her campaign because it might have gotten me fired. We all have lines in the sand and that's mine.

Advertising is about using images to evoke feelings, and those feelings can sway elections. If you crop a photo with enough space around a person's portrait, that person appears friendly, but if you crop the photo with no space at all, that same photo appears claustrophobic and makes the person appear threatening.

Given how powerful a single image can be, you can even cram a political mailer with dummy text and know that even a single unflattering image of your opponent can be enough to leave a lasting impression on undecided voters. Consider this last RNC mailer doing the rounds. Here's the front cover:



The use of the large word "TERRORISTS" in collage cut-out letters subconsciously paints a picture of kidnappers ransoming our children, and the image of planes in the background reminds us of 9/11. But who is this mailer for or against? Here's the inside:



Ah, well this mailer isn't calling Obama a terrorist, not really. But if you looked at this mailer across the room, you can't help but see a connection between Obama's picture and the word "TERRORIST". To understand the full context of the mailer, you have to read the mailer's finer print (the truth and accuracy of its statements are fodder for someone else's blog, I'm sure), but its tacit intent is self-evident: Obama is a terrorist. Governor Palin's speeches of late call Obama "palling around with terrorists". Her statements also do not explicitly claim Obama is a terrorist, but if you say "Obama" and "terrorist" enough times in the same sentence, the two ideas merge into an informal epithet: Obama the terrorist. Does that phrase sound like any other terrorist you know?

Obama's image in this mailer is also strikingly similar to another infamous black man hailed as a terrorist. And he was muslim. What a coincidence.



* The two are completely unrelated.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

October 15, 2008 6:58PM

While watching the third and final presidential debates tonight, I had a premonition at 6:58PM—beyond any doubt—that Barack Obama would be voted the next President of the United States. Two minutes later, I felt I saw the future unfolding.

McCain said he'd like to hear what kind of "fine" that "Joe the Plumber" would get under Obama's health plan and Obama responded "Zero", explaining that small businesses get an exemption under his plan.

Now look at McCain's face:


For most of the presidential debates, McCain has smiled or he's had his mouth closed. Instead, here he looks at Obama, nearly incredulously, as Obama flatly rebukes him, and then explains—with the usual Obama eloquence—the details of his health plan. It's hard to see on this clip, but in the video, McCain's face looked ashen, almost angry. All I could picture in my mind was McCain's spin doctors pulling out their hair, screaming at their TV sets for McCain to "reset" back to his pleasant happy face. Small moments like that leave a small subconscious impression which gently tips undecided voters towards the more affable candidate.

I guess a month from now it'll be easy to say how sure everyone must have been that Obama had it all sewn up so early, especially when you look at this election map where Obama is close to clinching more than the magic 270 electoral votes (thanks to NPR's interactive map):


However, there are several things which make this race uniquely advantageous for Obama to convert my strong hunch to certainty. Firstly, the candidate himself: he exudes confidence, charm, vitality, eloquence, hope, and he's remarkably intelligent. Secondly, he's running his campaign with virtual tools like Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter, and even sponsoring ads in video games. Thirdly, he's built a massive pro-active grass roots campaign (through those aforementioned virtual tools) from which he's consistently asking for donations. Fourthly, he's using those donations to force McCain to hemorrhage money to retain states he'd once taken for granted, and Obama's fiercely stumping in tossup states like Florida and Ohio. As of this writing, Obama is ahead in the Florida polls by almost 5 points. Since the margin of victory in Florida was so slim in 2004, there's a strong possibility Obama's fevered drive to register 500,000 new voters will flip Florida from red to blue. And everyone knows Florida is iconic in tipping the election.

I now hear that Obama has purchased a national half hour TV spot right days before the election... Obama beat the "unbeatable" Clinton simply by staying in the race long enough to let the voters get to know him. Given Obama's track record of political victories, one has to wonder if McCain ever really stood a chance at all.

So I'll bet money on it now—come January 20th, we'll have a President Obama in the West Wing.

Yes we will!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Pruden's Law

As I was watching the debates last night, I had to laugh when McCain invoked Ronald Reagan. Mine was neither a scoff nor derisive chuckle, merely an amused reflection. At the Republican debates, I remember how almost every candidate cited Reagan, much in the same way that Democrats cite Kennedy.

Even so, it makes me think of Godwin's Law:

As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

I'm not comparing anyone to Hitler, so don't even. But it does make me laugh how frequently Republicans invoke Reagan as, supposedly, a tactic to remind the Old Guard of the Jellybean Days. Meaning, "Vote for me... because I'm like Reagan!"

The intent of naming something is not simply to call attention to it, but to take away its power. At the beginning of any historical/political discussion, if someone were to say, "Okay, so we're going to defy Godwin's Law, riiiiiight?", then nobody wants to run the supertanker onto the beach.

If we were to do the same for Reagan, I'd call it Pruden's Law and define it thusly:
As a debate among conservative political candidates grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Ronald Reagan approaches one.

If any of you decide to add this to Wiki, call it Pruden's Law! Because you heard it here first.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The True Maverick

As you've no doubt heard, the Republican convention this year is using "maverick" to describe Presidential nominee John McCain.

Oh, no no no.

The term "maverick", is defined by Merriam-Webster's as "an independent individual who does not go along with a group or party". My computer's dictionary also defines it as, "an unorthodox or free-thinking person".

We all know why they're trying to tape this label on McCain—it's to hoodwink independent voters leaning towards voting for Obama.

Although Joe Lieberman is a close second, the only real "maverick" in this year's election—strictly according to the definition—is Ron Paul. I mean, his supporters held their own bloody rally! That's about as Maverick as you get. Just take a look at his voting record... he seems to vote fearlessly for either side of the aisle.

I'm not going to comment on his politics, but I will say this: although it's cool to be a maverick, acting like a maverick usually means you're on the outside looking in, and what good can you really do if you're out in the cold? A real maverick, in spirit, may tow the party line but stages a quiet revolution from the inside. Sure, Ron Paul has a certain allure for being an independent voice, but a little too independent for large swaths of Americans to throw their precious votes at him.

Still, nice try, Ron!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Back to chastity belts

I hope I'm not being an nobhead about this, but I can't help but wonder:

If Sarah Palin, the Republicans' nominee for Vice President, is a proponent of abstinence-only sex education...

...and her own 17 year old daughter is 5 months pregnant...

...what does that say about the effectiveness of abstinence-only sex education?

And can Palin say, with a straight face, that she isn't quietly questioning her approach to sex ed?

I respect those who stand up for their values, but you cross a line when you apply your values at the expense of real world facts. Sure, you can claim to be "right" by saying abstinence works, or you can prevent teen pregnancies by accepting that teenagers have sex as they've always done... and you can promote condom use.

Do you want to be right, or do you want your 17 year old daughter to accidentally get pregnant? Yes, the choices are really that simple.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Subsidizing a Healthier Nation

If you've been around long enough, you know I feel strongly about how bad America is about handling its waistline. My conservative readers are quick to remind me that we live in a free country with freedom of choice, that the citizenry always knows best how to manage their own life, and that government has no place in telling its citizens what to do.

And sure, that's a great theory, and true for a lot of things. Yet for weight control, I categorically disagree. Based on results—i.e., our shameful epidemic of obesity—Americans do not know how to manage their own weight. Yes, it's a free society and people are welcome to shoot themselves in the head if they really want to... just don't expect me to pay for the gun.

The problem with obesity is the suffocating health care costs which follow it. Obviously, obesity is not the singular cause for diabetes, but it is a disproportionately large factor in causing diabetes. If you smoke, eat high cholesterol foods, and are overweight... your chances of getting cancer, a heart attack, or diabetes goes off the charts. So these factors, together, are contributing causes to higher health costs. Which means taxpayers are subsidizing suicidal lifestyle choices by its citizens. When did this start becoming acceptable???

If you have private health care, and your poor lifestyle choices land you in the hospital with million dollar health care fees, game on—I have no problem with that. But the moment you ask me to start paying for your lung cancer operation because you smoked 2 packs a day for 30 years, or your quadruple bypass operation from a lifetime of eating red meat, or your stomach-stapling operation to manage your diabetes because you've been guzzling 40 oz. tubs of diet coke... yeah, shocker: I've got a huuuuuge problem with that. Conservatives who scream about lower government spending should be ahead of me in line about this injustice... yet they harp instead about "freedom of choice". Well, we tried freedom of choice for food and look where that got us—an obesity epidemic.

Nobody likes being told what to do. I don't think a government program telling people what to eat or when to work out would ever work. However, I do think circumstances can be shaped to give people sharper motivations to make better choices. My personal favorite has been a tax on fatty foods, the revenue of which would subsidize healthier foods: Big Macs get more expensive and healthy sandwiches get rock bottom cheap (that way the poor aren't punished because they can still eat cheaply, albeit better). Another option is giving tax credits to companies offering fitness programs to their employees—the payoff is a healthier and happier workforce who live longer (read: pay more taxes) and become more productive.

Still not convinced something like that would be financially viable? One company in Nebraska has been doing it for 16 years, and with impressive results. Their program sponsors a fitness program, including massages, pre-shift stretching, and quarterly checkups measuring weight, body fat, and flexibility. The prize is a 3 day company-paid trip to climb a 14,000 foot peak in Colorado. Of the 565 employees, 103 have qualified, more than ever before. Not only are the employees more fit, but the company pays about half the regional average in health-care costs, which is a savings of $2 million.

Morale of the story? It's cheaper to have healthier employees. Wow. What a concept. Imagine if we grafted that mindset onto an entire nation? How much money do you think we might save? More importantly, how much healthier, and how much happier, would we all be?

'Wellness' a healthy investment for company
LINCOLN, Nebraska (CNN) -- Lincoln Industries looks like a typical blue-collar plant -- workers cutting, bending, plating and polishing steel for products such as motorcycle tailpipes and truck exhausts amid the din of machinery.

But the 565-employee Nebraska company is different.

Lincoln Industries has three full-time employees devoted to "wellness," and offers on-site massages and pre-shift stretching.

Most unusual of all: The company requires all employees to undergo quarterly checkups measuring weight, body fat and flexibility. It also conducts annual blood, vision and hearing tests.

"When you get the encouragement from somebody to help you with nutrition and to help with a more active lifestyle, it makes it easier to be able to attain a lifestyle that most people want to attain anyway," says Hank Orme, president of Lincoln Industries.

The program has been in place 16 years.

The company ranks workers on their fitness, from platinum, gold and silver down to "non-medal." To achieve platinum, they must reach fitness goals and be nonsmokers -- and the company offers smoking cessation classes.

For employees, reaching platinum means a three-day, company-paid trip each summer to climb a 14,000-foot peak in Colorado. This year, 103 qualified, the most ever. And 70 made the climb.

For the company, the payoff is significantly lower health-care costs. The company pays less than $4,000 per employee, about half the regional average and a savings of more than $2 million. That makes the $400,000 Lincoln Industries spends each year on wellness a bargain.

"The return on investment is extraordinary," Orme says.

The investment in "wellness" pays other dividends, according to Orme. He says fitter workers are more productive, have better morale and are safer. As evidence, he points to worker's compensation claims. Ongoing safety training and an increasingly fit workforce have pushed worker's comp costs down from $500,000 five years ago to less than $10,000 so far this year.

Seven years ago, shift leader Howard Tegtmeier was in the non-medal category. The 49-year-old smoked, drank, was overweight and took 12 pills a day to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

"I just made the decision it was time to change my life, and the wellness program showed me ways to do that," Tegtmeier says.

Tegtmeier says he no longer smokes or drinks. His weight is down from 230 to 180, thanks to diet and exercise. His cholesterol and blood pressure are also down, and he says he no longer needs medication.

Tonya Vyhlidal, Wellness and Life Enhancement director, says Lincoln Industries doesn't pressure workers who don't want to participate. But sooner or later, she says, the company's "culture" attracts most employees to live healthier lives.

The company sponsors races, helps with gym memberships or exercise equipment, offers healthy choices in the vending machines and hosts classes on health and nutrition.

"There's a way to engage everyone. Even those that are really resistant," Vyhlidal says, adding that she'll offer employees suggestions based on what makes them feel fulfilled: "Do you like to ride a bike? Ride a bike. Do you like to cook? You may need a different cookbook."

This month, Tegtmeier and 69 co-workers climbed Mount Bierstadt, a 14,060-foot mountain. All of them reached the summit. It was Tegtmeier's fourth climb with the company.

"The view up here is wonderful," he said. Link.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Jibjab: satire done well

I love Jibjab—they realize poking fun at everyone is the best way to not appear partisan:

Friday, July 11, 2008

Who Killed The Electric Car?

Instead of getting this from your local library to watch for free, why not just watch this documentary here?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Well done, GM

Today Honda rolled out a zero emissions vehicle:

Honda's new zero-emission, hydrogen fuel cell car rolled off a Japanese production line Monday and is headed to southern California, where Hollywood is already abuzz over the latest splash in green motoring.

The FCX Clarity, which runs on hydrogen and electricity, emits only water and none of the gases believed to induce global warming. It is also two times more energy efficient than a gas-electric hybrid and three times that of a standard gasoline-powered car, the company says.

Honda expects to lease out a "few dozen" units this year and about 200 units over three years. In California, a three-year lease will run $600 a month, which includes maintenance and collision coverage. Link.

This strikes me as bitterly ironic since it was General Motors' EV1—the first legitimate zero emissions vehicle made in America—was decommissioned and shredded in 2003 because GM claimed the EV1's would never be profitable and it was "cheaper to sue the State of California to roll back clean vehicle regulations than it was to build electric vehicles." You can watch the tragic tale in the superb documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car?

Amazingly, it was the EV1's unexpected success which scared the Japanese into thinking they would lose an edge in the automobile wars... so the Japanese designed the first hybrid cars. So, okay, Americans ended up buying Japanese-made hybrids instead of American hybrids. We snoozed, we lost.

But we had a second chance to get it right—because hybrids still run on gas. We had the chance to resurrect and redesign a zero emissions vehicle using no gas at all. It is, in fact, what more and more American consumers have been crying out for.

And now the Japanese have beat us. Again.

So well done, GM. Thanks for shredding all your EV1's. That was really, really smart.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

War Veteran vs. Constitutional Lawyer

He did it. I'm actually too shocked to say much else. Obama achieved what was once thought impossible—he beat a brand name candidate married to a twice-elected President more popular after he left office than when he was sworn in. Hillary Clinton was deemed invincible.

Which implies that the person who outfoxed her had to be special.

The next stage of this astonishing political epic battle is pitting a Viet Nam P.O.W. against a former constitutional lawyer.



Yes, we did. And yes we can.

Friday, May 30, 2008

You cut the pizza, and I'll choose which slice you get

A day before the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee is set to determine how to seat the delegations of Florida and Michigan, the Clinton campaign's chief lawyer said the committee is compelled to seat both delegations fully and not award Sen. Barack Obama any delegates from Michigan. Link.

You have to wonder, would Clinton's campaign lawyer be insisting Michigan and Florida's delegates should be counted if it meant Hillary wouldn't get the nomination?

Michigan and Florida were told their votes wouldn't count before they moved their primary dates, but they did it anyway, so guess what? Their votes shouldn't count. Period. When broken, rules are designed to have consequences or there's no point in having rules at all.

Not to mention that if Obama knew the DNC might rescind back the rules, he wouldn't have taken his name off the ticket in Michigan. So if the DNC goes back on their word, how is that fair in any way to Obama?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ex-Press Secretary pulls the trigger

I'm a little shocked that a ex-Bush employee would slam his former boss as brutally as Scott McClellan does in his book coming out June 1st. This isn't typical from a President who surrounds himself with loyal followers, is it?

McClellan draws a portrait of his former boss as smart, charming and politically skilled, but unwilling to admit mistakes and susceptible to his own spin. Bush "convinces himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment," McClellan writes.... He also faults Bush for a "lack of inquisitiveness."

Some of my friends rail on Bush as ineffably stupid, even mentally unbalanced, but I feel that's disingenuous. Bush purposefully affects a folksy speech style more appealing to the common folk, which hints at a sensibility to the political landscape beyond the reach of your average nimwit:
[Kent] Hance's opponent in the general election [in 1978] was a young Republican businessman from Midland, George W. Bush. Hance portrayed Bush as "not a real Texan" because of his privileged upbringing and Yale education. Hance later said in an interview that after that election, Bush vowed that "he wasn't going to be out-Christianed or out-good-old-boyed again,"and developed the folksy image that eventually carried him to the White House. Hance is the only person ever to have defeated George W. Bush in an election. Link.

So Bush isn't just any dumb politician... he knows how to get elected into the White House, and that in itself ought to be the ultimate benchmark for not being be dumb or mentally unbalanced.

However, one can still have savvy in some areas and be remarkably wooden-headed in others. I speak specifically, of being open to new ideas... an area in which Bush seems deficient to a catastrophic degree, as the war in Iraq has proven.

I value those who stand by their ideas and "stay the course", but only if the data exists to justify their plan. If new ideas come along, better ideas, one would be silly to not examine them. And that's the most severe drawback to a "lack of inquisitiveness" and being "unwilling to accept your own mistakes"—you cannot adapt as circumstances change. It's fine and patriotic to back up your leader because he's your leader, but how far into a burning building are you willing to go before you question, and even refute, your leader's ability to see the surroundings as what they are?

Bush's legacy will be centered around that one foible: not seeing the world as it is, and being unwilling to admit he could be wrong about it. If there's one lesson I've learned, it's that we all need to be humble in the world, to examine all the data, to voraciously suck up as much information as possible before making any decisions, and be willing to change those decisions if credible contradictory data emerges... too many things are changing too quickly nowadays and deciding things will only be one way, forever, is a questionable strategy... and even a dangerous strategy for some.

This last bit by McClellan also caught my eye:
Former Press Secretary Scott McClellan ... "blames the media whose questions he fielded, calling them complicit enablers' in the White House campaign to manipulate public opinion toward the need for war."

To me, this is a perfect example of why liberal bias in the media is a conservative claptrap. To claim the media has such a liberal bias implies they'd be hypercritical of the Bush presidency, but then how could the "liberal" media have been enablers, too? You can't have it both ways.

Full article below:
Former press secretary's book bashes Bush

WASHINGTON - Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan writes in a new memoir that President Bush relied on an aggressive "political propaganda campaign" instead of the truth to sell the Iraq war, it has been reported.

The Bush White House made "a decision to turn away from candor and honesty when those qualities were most needed" — a time when the nation was on the brink of war, McClellan writes in the book entitled "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception."

The way Bush managed the Iraq issue "almost guaranteed that the use of force would become the only feasible option," the book contends, according to accounts Wednesday in The New York Times and Washington Post.

"In the permanent campaign era, it was all about manipulating sources of public opinion to the president's advantage," McClellan writes.

The White House had no immediate comment on the book.

In a surprisingly harsh assessment from the man who was at that time the loyal public voice of the White House, McClellan called the Iraq war a "serious strategic blunder."

"The Iraq war was not necessary," he concludes.

McClellan admits that some of his own words from the podium in the White House briefing room turned out to be "badly misguided." But he says he was sincere at the time.

"I fell far short of living up to the kind of public servant I wanted to be," McClellan writes. He also blames the media whose questions he fielded, calling them "complicit enablers" in the White House campaign to manipulate public opinion toward the need for war.

The book is scheduled to go on sale June 1. Quotes from the book were reported Tuesday night by the Web site Politico, which said it found McClellan's memoir on sale early at a bookstore.

McClellan draws a portrait of his former boss as smart, charming and politically skilled, but unwilling to admit mistakes and susceptible to his own spin. Bush "convinces himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment," McClellan writes.

He also faults Bush for a "lack of inquisitiveness." Link.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Attention Bush Supporters and/or Global Warming Doubters

Read this yesterday:

[President Bush] said more is known about global warming than when he first took office in 2001. Asked if it was real, Bush said, "Yes, it is real, sure is." Link.

Bush is the champion of many on the evangelical right, who also feel global warming is nonsense. So when President Bush—in theory, the most well informed man on the planet, but whose track record for obstinancy is Guinness-worthy—reverses his position on something as major as global warming, you would have to imagine it took a gargantuan stack of evidence to change his mind.

Again, I ask you: now that an oil man like President Bush has admitted his former position on global warming was wrong, how can anyone comfortably refute that?

Monday, May 12, 2008

1.8 miles & 14 minutes

A supertanker can carry up to 300,000 tons of crude oil and at a maximum speed of 18 miles/hour, its inertia is so strong that it can still take 14 minutes and 1.8 miles to perform a "crash stop" maneuver (from "full ahead" to "full reverse").


I think of supertankers on days like this when I hear that Obama has finally taken the lead in superdelegates, and everyone knows now that Hillary Clinton won't win the Democratic nomination... but here we are, watching the shore approach only a half a mile away and knowing a crash will be coming very soon.

Prediction: Clinton will drop out of the race on June 15.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Superdelegates, the horseshoe nail

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

The results after yesterday's Indiana and North Carolina primaries:


And here's where the delegate count was on February 12, the first day Obama substantially overtook Clinton in delegates:


I remember back in February how far-fetched it still seemed for Obama to win the nomination. His superdelegate count was still down by 78, a significant number. Since then, a change in the wind has moved things around because today, Clinton's superdelegate lead of 78 is now down to only eight. Not including Florida and Michigan, there are 795 superdelegates being tallied in the democratic primaries, meaning 277 superdelegates have remained undecided... and Obama is within only 189 delegates of winning the nomination.

On May 1st, longtime Clinton ally and Superdelegate John Andrew defected to Obama. As he switched flag colors, he loudly explained why:
At a news conference Thursday, Andrew said Clinton's support for a federal gas-tax holiday over the summer was symbolic of a poll-driven candidacy proposing something "politically expedient to give a quick pander to Hoosier voters," in contrast to what he called the "principled" campaign Obama has run. Link.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair became frustrated with Bill Clinton because he felt he could never get Clinton to commit to anything, and was relieved when George Bush was elected because when Bush said he would do something, he always followed through. So it seems there was a valid reason why Bill Clinton earned the term, "Slick Willy".

Can we really expect Hillary to be radically different than the man she married?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Stop complaining

In the United Kingdom, gas goes for $8.38/gallon and in Boznia-Herzegovina, it's $10.86/gallon—so keep in mind that the U.S. is ranked 111th for the most expensive gas. You might want to read what I wrote about oil prices two and a half years ago... because things could a hell of a lot worse.

Full article about U.S. gas prices here.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

I'm telling you: Obama = Superman

Barack Obama once said, "It seems like the longer we're in the race, the better we do." Which is why this doesn't surprise me at all:


Here's an excerpt from the article about it:

In late January, before Obama scored 11 straight primary and caucus victories, 56 percent of Democrats saw Clinton as the stronger nominee, compared to 33 percent for Obama. Now, Obama leads on that question, 56 to 43 percent....

The most encouraging sign for Obama is that many Democrats who previously saw Clinton as their party's best hope now give him that role. About one-third of them still prefer Clinton, but they have lost confidence in her electability.

"I would love to vote for Hillary," said Nancy Costello of Bellevue, Ky., one of the more than 1,800 randomly selected adults whose opinions are rechecked every few months. "I'm 67, and I'll probably never get another chance to vote for a woman."

But Obama now appears to be the stronger candidate, she said, and electing a Democrat in November is paramount. Link.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

April 13, 2029

Twenty one years from today, we'll know for sure if 99942 Apophis—a meteor a quarter of a kilometer wide—is going to collide with Earth in 2036.

To paraphrase the above article, if 99942 Apophis hits Earth, it would release more than 100,000 times the energy of the Hiroshima explosion with a blast affecting thousands of square kilometers: everyone on Earth would see the dust released into the atmosphere. (I actually wrote about Apophis some time ago.)

Sadly, we cannot wait until 2028 to act. If we did, it would already be too late. To design and test the necessary equipment to deflect an asteroid takes decades. And this should be a global mission because the potential consequences would affect everyone on Earth. Most scientists are waiting until 2013 to observe Apophis' pass and collect further data on its trajectory. After that, they'll know a lot more.

Below is the "path of risk" of the meteor's possible impact, which would mean 10 million deaths in Central and South America alone, not including the gargantuan tsunamis sure to hit North America's West Coast:


By 2029, Apophis will pass so close to Earth as to be visible to the naked eye. In fact, it will even pass beneath our geosynchronous satellites. If we're lucky, Apophis will miss a 600 square meter "keyhole"—if it passes through that keyhole, Earth's gravitational pull would alter Apophis' trajectory enough to swing back and hit Earth eight years later.

And if luck has anything to do with it, or if you're superstitious at all, you really don't want to know which day of the week April 13th, 2029 is.